What is a Christian to Think? Developing A Biblical Worldview, Part 2, Why Worldview Matters? by Dr Bruce Logan

WHY WORLDVIEW MATTERS: Your Worldview Affects Everything!

In part one of this study, I briefly touched on a hodgepodge of culture and worldview related topics just as an introduction to the study.  In part two of this study, I will begin to examine more specifically this idea of worldviews in our politics and culture and consider the question of why understanding the idea of worldviews is so important, especially for the believer, and particularly in this culturally and politically polarized time that we find ourselves in America today.  But first, let me begin part 2 of this study by going into a little more detail about exactly what we mean by the term “worldview,” and why it is at the center of everything that is happening in our individual lives, our communities, in our politics, our Country and in our world.

For starters, as I stated in the previous article, everyone has a worldview, since all of us are faced with the deepest questions of the purpose and nature of human life. What is at stake is how we understand the world in which we live in general, and how understanding worldviews will help us to better understand or discern the cultural, political and spiritual ramifications of our time. This by the way, is not just unique to the Christian, but it is foundational for all, whether or not they are a believer or an atheist, and whether or not they know it, or can coherently articulate or not, what they believe and why they believe it.

Consider for example, many of the contrasting and conflicting beliefs regarding the many hot button issues, or the latest dominate media narratives of our day in our politics and even among Christian circles.  If you are looking at the issues objectively and critically, the first question that should come to mind is, how can two people look at the same news report for example, and one person or demographic will view it as “another example of America’s systematic racism,” while others can look at the same issue or story, and conclude that this is another example of “narrative shaping,” by the media, or this is an example of humanities depravity, and of why we need a Savior?  Or, as I asked in part one of this study, how can two intelligent, God fearing, bible believing Christians, look at the same passage of scripture, and arrive at two completely different interpretations of the passage?  The answer is simple. It is all about your worldview, or the lens, the glasses or the filter through which you view life and the world around you.

The understanding of the the impact and influence that our worldviews have on how and why we think what we think is critical, especially for the Christian.  This is true for a variety of reasons.  For starters, any objective social analyst would come to the obvious conclusion that the United States faces its fair share of moral and spiritual problems.  A very telling new research study from researcher George Barna of the Barna Group titled, “A BILICAL WORLDVIEW HAS A RADICAL EFFECT ON A PERSON’S LIFE.” In his research, Barna suggest that a large share of the nation’s moral and spiritual challenges are directly attributed to the absence of a biblical worldview among Americans.

In the study, Barna notes for example, “Everyone has a worldview, since all are faced with “the deepest questions of the purpose and nature of human life. What is at stake is how we understand the world in which we live.” This is a principle that is foundational for all, whether or not they know it or not, a Christian or Atheist, or whether or not you can articulate it.

Any objective social analyst would conclude that the United States faces its fair share of moral and spiritual problems. A new research study from Barna Group suggests that a large share of the nation’s moral and spiritual challenges is directly attributable to the absence of a biblical worldview among Americans. Citing the findings from a just-completed national survey of 2033 adults that showed only 4% of adults have a biblical worldview as the basis of their decision-making, researcher George Barna described the outcome. “If Jesus Christ came to this planet as a model of how we ought to live, then our goal should be to act like Jesus.

Sadly, few people consistently demonstrate the love, obedience and priorities of Jesus. The primary reason that people do not act like Jesus is because they do not think like Jesus. Behavior stems from what we think – our attitudes, beliefs, values and opinions. Although most people own a Bible and know some of its content, our research found that most Americans have little idea how to integrate core biblical principles to form a unified and meaningful response to the challenges and opportunities of life. We’re often more concerned with survival amidst chaos than with experiencing truth and significance.”

Not Just Any Worldview

The research indicated that everyone has a worldview, but relatively few people have a biblical worldview – even among devoutly religious people. The survey discovered that only 9% of born again Christians have such a perspective on life. The numbers were even lower among other religious classifications: Protestants (7%), adults who attend mainline Protestant churches (2%) and Catholics (less than one-half of 1%). The denominations that produced the highest proportions of adults with a biblical worldview were non-denominational Protestant churches (13%), Pentecostal churches (10%) and Baptist churches (8%).” [1]

The Difference a Biblical Worldview Makes

As I pointed out in the previous lesson, most people presuppose that the problems in America are social, racial, religious or financial.  While on the surface it is easy to see why people could probably make those arguments, however when you look at the big issues that we face more in depth and think through the issues more critically, you can make the case that at the root of the more polarizing ideological and philosophical differences that we face in American culture and politics are not so much sociological, financial or racial, but rather the differences in worldviews.

This is especially insightful when you consider the fact that our ideologies don’t just occur in a vacuum, but they are the result of our worldview.  In other words, your worldview will dictate your beliefs and your beliefs will then dictate your behaviors, responses, reactions, emotions, and choices in any given situation.  And then those behaviors, emotions, reactions, and choices that we display to the various stimulus we face, will ultimately testify to our worldview.

Worldview defined

In the simplest terms, our worldview can be defined as, a mental framework of ideas about the world and about life, the lens or the glasses or the filter through which one views and interprets the world around us, a comprehensive conception of the world through a specific viewpoint, your personal concept of reality, a theory of the world used for living in the world, the ideological framework which shapes a person’s view of reality, the overall perspective in which one sees and interprets the world and events. 

In short, our worldview can be succinctly seen as a collection of beliefs about life, religion and culture held by individuals or by groups, a philosophy, or the presuppositions that influence our outlook on life and how we perceive the world we live in.

To put it even more simply, your worldview comprises one’s collection of presuppositions, convictions, and values from which a person tries to understand and make sense out of the world and life.  In other words, every worldview starts with presuppositions, that is, beliefs that one presumes to be true without supporting independent evidence from other sources or systems.

To put it yet another way, your worldview can be seen as a set of glasses that you look through to bring what is happening in the world into mental focus.  If you like computers for example, you can think of your worldview as your operating system, the thing that converts your life experiences into the ones and zeros that your mind understands.  More simply, your worldview is your gut-level, instinctive responses to basic philosophical questions about life, the world, religion and politics, as well as the basis for your reactions to events and life’s circumstances. A comprehensive worldview is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the entirety of the individuals or society’s knowledge and point of view.  The beliefs, values, and behaviors of a culture stems directly from its worldview.

In summary, “Your worldview is the basis for everything.  It is the basis for how we see the world, what we think the world is, the decisions we make, the behaviors that we will choose, and the responses to other people’s behaviors, all stem from your worldviews.”  The word of God points out this aspect of human nature on several occasions, for example, we can point to such passages as: “Out of the heart the mouth speaks,” (Luke 6:45), and “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).  This is also why Paul challenged the Christians in Rome to “be transformed by the RENEWING OF YOUR MINDS” (Romans 12:2).  Because, it is our thought processes, ideologies, our paradigms or our worldviews that shape who we are, what we believe, how we vote in elections, and so forth.  And Paul was letting those new believers in Rome know, that in order to have the “Mind of Christ,” their needed to be a complete shift away from their old pagan worldviews, and a transformation to a biblical worldview.

Worldview Impact on the Culture

To state it frankly, your worldview impacts every level of the culture.  It is like the the foundation of a building. The foundation is unseen because it is beneath the surface.  Most people who live or work in the building could go through their entire lives and never even directly think about the foundation.  But yet, the building would not exist without that foundation.  But if the buildings foundation is flawed, then eventually, it will cause serious problems in the building.  The walls will eventually begin to bow and crack, the basement will begin to take on moister, which will lead to mold and multitude of potential health issues.

Similarly, if citizens who make up a given culture, have a flawed worldview, then just like a building with a flawed foundation, the culture will begin to buckle.  More specifically, everyone has a worldview as to what is right, wrong and how things should ideally function.  It includes basic beliefs and expectations and outlook on what is just, what is fair, what is right, and what is wrong.  We all have beliefs on things like what constitute a marriage, on race, on politics, Republican, Democrat, or Independent.

From a biblical perspective, as Paul said in Romans 12:2, disciple making involves a worldview change and not just external behavior changes.  In other words, without a worldview change, repentance and conversion in the biblical sense has not really taken place.  Furthermore, the Churches mission is to “make disciples,” and to IMPACT and INFLUENCE the culture, and not be impacted and influenced by the culture.

The importance of worldview on the culture at large can never be overstated.  Because every one of us, whether consciously or subconsciously have a worldview, or default presuppositions that  have been programmed into our minds over a lifetime of sensory inputs, from an ever increasing barrage of sources, that influence how we think, our outlook on life and our perceptions of what is right and what is wrong.

Whether educated or uneducated, religious or non-religious, rich or poor, black or white, male or female, good or bad, liberal or conservative, democrat or republican, Catholic or Protestant, evangelical or charismatic, we all have a belief system or way of looking at the world that influences how we think, how interpret life and how we react to various stimulus.

Putting it another way, an individual’s worldview is your “big picture,” or your harmony of all your beliefs about the world, your way of understanding reality and your basis for making daily decisions.  This insight therefore, makes your individual worldviews extremely critical in effecting our individual decisions and destinies.

This is something that can never be over stated.  Everyone has a worldview even if you do not recognize it or cannot explain what it is.  It describes our search for answers to life’s most important questions.  Your worldview affects the way you look at every issue of life including:  Life, death, politics, religion, parenting, education and so on.  And as I stated, your worldview glasses affect how you view certain events and how you respond to them.  If your worldview glasses have the correct prescription, then you will see the world accurately.  If they have the wrong prescription, your view of the world will be distorted.  And subsequently, because a home, a community, a church, or a country, are all made up of fallen individuals who all have these default presuppositions that impact how they see the world.

To re-emphasize a point that I made at the beginning of this article, I contend that most, if not all of the polarizing ideological and philosophical differences that we face in todays American culture and politics are not so much sociological, economic or racial, but rather the differences in worldviews is at the root of problem.  In other words, it is my assertion that when we evaluate the big social and cultural issues and challenges of our day from a biblical worldview, or through the lens of God’s word, we are then able to develop a much broader and more fully developed, big picture perspective on the issues that have America so polarized, along with the conflicts that we are seeing around the world than we will be able to discern what you can’t by viewing the world through a natural lens.

The Apostle Paul drove this point home in his first letters to the believers in Corinth when he said, But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. 15 Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others. 16 For, “Who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?” But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:14-16 NLT).  Simply put, those of us who have a biblical worldview, believes that God has given us a moral code of ethics, that a carnal minded person simply can’t comprehend.

This also means, that those of us who have a biblical worldview, discern many of our cultural crises issues through a different lens, than someone with a secular worldview.  For example, if you have a biblical worldview, you recognize right of the top, that when it comes to issues such as race for instance, that we actually don’t have a race problem, but rather, we have a SIN problem.  Meaning that we are all born with the Adamic fallen nature, which by the way, is why we needed a savior, why we needed a redeemer.  If we were all orange and purple, instead of black and white, we would still be having the same arguments.  Why? Because “we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

To state it more succinctly, a Biblical worldview is viewing the world, the beginning of the world, people in the world, the problems in the world, governments in the world, issues in the world, solutions for the problems in the world, and the future of the world through the lens or filter of God’s Word.  In other words, in a biblical worldview, everything you see should be viewed through the lens of Word of God.  A biblical worldview affirms that the world and our entire existence is the deliberate result of a divine Creator and the answers to the questions of, “what is truth,” can only be found in God’s word.

A Smorgasbord of Ideas and Cultural Influences

Worldviews are so much a part of our daily lives that whether we recognize it or not, we see, hear and react to our worldviews every day.  In fact, on a continual basis, we are faced with a smorgasbord of worldviews, all of which make claims concerning truth.  And whether we are cognizant of it or not, whether consciously or unconsciously, we are all challenged to sort through this assortment of worldviews from a plethora of sources.

For example, movies, television, the media, the entertainment industry, sports figures, music, magazines, newspapers, government, public education, academia, science, art, family, friends, co-workers, social media followings, and your religious affiliations if any, all either directly or indirectly have an impact in shaping our worldviews.

In other words, all of these sources, whether we realize it or not, have had an impact and influence on how we view the world, and how we view and react to the most polarizing elements of culture, religion and politics.  And if we ignore their significance or their impact on how we think and understand the world, we do so at our own detriment.

In simpler terms, our worldview is a view of the world and a view for the world.”  The proper worldview helps us by orienting us to the intellectual and philosophical terrain about us.  As believers in Christ, when navigating through and filtering all of the myriad of worldview influences that we are inundated with on a daily basis, many of which are stemming from some very subtle satanic influences, it imperative that we routinely filter all of this programming through the filter of God’s word.  Otherwise, it will be IMPOSSIBLE to be able have discernment and to know what is and what is not of God.

Here is the big problem however. Nonbiblical worldview ideas don’t just sit in a book somewhere waiting for people to examine them. They bombard us constantly from television, film, music, newspapers, magazines, books, social media and academia.  Because we live in a selfish, fallen world, these ideas seductively appeal to the desires of our flesh, and we often end up incorporating them into our personal worldview. Sadly, we often do this without even knowing it.

For example, most Christians would agree with 1 Thessalonians 4:3 and other Scriptures that command us to avoid sexual immorality, but how often do Christians fall into lust or premarital and extramarital sexual sin? Is it simply because they are weak when tempted, or did it begin much earlier, with the seductive lies from our sexualized society?

HOW DOES THE BIBLICAL WORLDVIEW ANSWER THE BASIC QUESTIONS OF LIFE?

A Biblical Christian Worldview (not intended to cover everything Christians believe!) shows us these answers to the following questions:

  • Who are we? Humans made in God’s image.
  • Where are we? In a beautiful though transient and fallen world.
  • What is wrong? Humanity rebelled against a creator.
  • What is the solution? The creator God has acted, is acting and will act to deal with evil set up by human rebellion and to bring the whole world to its true purpose, in a new creation resonating with God’s presence and glory.  This action is focused upon Jesus, His death and resurrection and the continued work of the Holy Spirit amongst God’s people i.e. those who have already been made part of God’s new creation by being placed in Christ instead of in Adam.

Seven Important Components of a Biblical Worldview

To further expand upon these basic worldview questions from a biblical perspective, seeing the world through the lens of a biblical worldview can be summarized in the following seven principles:

  1. God is the Creator of the world and rules this universe! (Genesis 1:1)
  2. The Bible is God’s Word for mankind and is completely accurate including matters of life and its origin. (2 Timothy 3:16)
  3. Because of God and His Word, absolute moral truth exists! (Psalms 102:25–27; Malachi 3:6)
  4. Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God and He lived a sinless life, died for our sins, was buried, and rose again from the grave three days later! (1 Corinthians 15:3–4; 1 John 4:9–10)
  5. Satan is a real being (not symbolic) and seeks to defeat God’s plan for man! (1 Peter 5:8)
  6. Salvation is obtained solely by individual faith in Christ’s work on the Cross and cannot be earned! (Ephesians 2:8–9)
  7. God is hand has been providentially sovereign over world history, and one day, when the “Fullness of Time comes, (Galatians 4:4)” Jesus will return again and set up His Kingdom here on earth.

To further expand upon these seven components, for those of us who have a biblical worldview, our concepts and perspectives about life, culture and even world history are seen through a biblical or divine providential lens which is based in large part on the following presumptions:

  • There are prophetic or divine providential links between God’s word and many historical and current world events, many natural events have been providentially orchestrated and guided by God.
  • God created the universe and the world is not the result of some random set of natural occurrences over billions of years.
  • God had a prophetic and providential role in history for a specific end time purpose.
  • And of course, ultimately that God’s Word is true and should be the sole authority for faith and practice for the believer.

HOW DO THE SCRIPTURES WE READ APPLY TO WORLDVIEW?

As Christians, all of our conclusions on doctrine, practice, what is right and wrong, and our positions on the many ethical issues, come from the fact that God created the world, then He created man in His own image and we are therefore accountable to God as to how we should live in this world. If we don’t really believe the truth of God and live it, then our witness will be confusing and misleading. Most of us go through life not recognizing that our personal worldviews have been deeply affected by the world.

Sadly however, through the media and other influences, the secularized American view of history, law, politics, science, God and man affects our thinking more than we realize. We then are taken “captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8). However, by diligently learning, applying and trusting God’s truths in every area of our lives we can begin to develop a deep comprehensive faith that will stand against the unrelenting tide of our culture’s nonbiblical ideas. In other words, when we capture and embrace more of God’s worldview through a study of His word, and trust it with unwavering faith, then we begin to make the right decisions and form the appropriate responses to some of the more polarizing issues of our day including questions of abortion, race, politics, family, politics, and so on.

Finally, the biblical truth of the matter is that Christians are called to honor God in every area of their lives.  Furthermore, engagement in the culture is actually the “prime directive” of the Great Commission.  Therefore, we should seek to submit everything to the Lord, including our political engagement.  In fact, engaging in politics is not only unavoidable, it is also an opportunity to obey God and show love to our neighbors.  In addition, American Christians, with our right to vote, have a unique opportunity and duty to affect the political process in a way that very few societies have had in the history of the world.  A biblical worldview is based on the infallible Word of God. When you believe the Bible is entirely true, then you allow it to be the foundation of everything you say and do.

Do you have a biblical worldview? Answer the following questions, based on claims found in the Bible and which George Barna used in his survey:

  • Do absolute moral truths exist?
  • Is absolute truth defined by the Bible?
  • Did Jesus Christ live a sinless life?
  • Is God the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe, and does He still rule it today?
  • Is salvation a gift from God that cannot be earned?
  • Is Satan real?
  • Does a Christian have a responsibility to share his or her faith in Christ with other people?
  • Is the Bible accurate in all of its teachings?

Did you answer yes to all of these?

If we don’t really believe the truth of God and live it, then our witness will be confusing and misleading. Most of us go through life not recognizing that our personal worldviews have been deeply affected by the world. Through the media and other influences, the secularized American view of history, law, politics, science, God and man affects our thinking more than we realize. We then are taken “captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

But the sad fact of the matter is that most Christians are severely underinformed regarding what the Biblical role that Christians should play in the culture, or the historical impact that Christianity has played on the world systems going back to the time after that hand full of disciples huddled in the upper room and were endowed with power from on high.  In just a few short years, that rag tag bunch of Christ followers went on to literally “TURN THE WORLD UPSIDEDOWN.”  In other words, they went on to impact that pagan Roman culture in which they lived, and because of their influence, over time, completely transformed the western world.

To that end, the goal of this series of articles is to help Christians filter through all of the many polarizing issues, candidates, and party platforms through a biblical worldview and encourage God-honoring, faithful political engagement.

  1. https://www.barna.com/research/a-biblical-worldview-has-a-radical-effect-on-a-persons-life/

What is a Christian to Think? Developing A Biblical Worldview – Part 1, What in The World is Really Going On? By Dr Bruce Logan

HOW SHOULD BELIEVERS MAKE SENSE OF AMERICA’S CULTURAL CRISIS?

During a weekend back in March of 1979, I went from a being drinking, partying sinner, to excepting the salvation of the Lord, that He provided for me on the Cross of Cavalry.  I remember having a bag of mamajuana in my sock, and going home and flushing it down the toilet, and then following that up by dumping all of my alcohol down the sink. The next day, I went to work and began to share my testimony with two Christian ministers, one named Rev. Ray Allen and the other named Rev. Rudolph Lott, both of whom would become great friends and mentors, who took me under their respective wings and both began to encourage and challenge me to start my Christian journey by becoming a “student of scripture.”  I remember how they would both challenge me almost daily, in ways that would motivate and inspire me to study, and stir up my ever increasing hunger for God’s Word.

In large part however, because of Rev. Allen and Rev. Lott, in just a few short weeks of my conversion, I went from someone who would make a beeline to the liquor store on payday, to someone that would make the local Christian book story his first stop.  During these early days of my Christian experience, Rev Lott gifted me with his personal copy of Survey of The New Testament by Merrill C. Tenney (that I still have by the way).  But it was shortly after that, when he gifted a copy of The Great Dispensational Truth by Clarence Larkin, and Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth, that I developed a special passion for the study of Bible Prophecy.  Even after a number of people including some ministers, were telling me to stay away from Revelation, I became more and more captivated with the study of prophecy the more I studied.

But what really took me over the top, was when I began to connect the prophetic dots of fulfilled prophecy, with actual secular history.  In other words, prophecy by its simplest definition, is “history written in advance,” or “prewritten history.”  To make a long story short, it was actually when I began to develop a passion for the study of what God’s word has to say about future events, or the recording of major historical events before those events would actually occur, and when I began to observe the amazing historical precession in which past prophetic fulfillments were so providentially and precisely orchestrated and fulfilled, not only did my passion for God’s word grow even more, but my overall worldview or belief that the bible is the divine word of God, and that it should be the only source for faith, doctrine and practice for the believer became forever solidified.

The Apostle Paul actually encapsulated this argument when he made the following historically encompassing, prophetic observation to the believers in Galatia: “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba Father” (Galatians 4:4-6).  

To put it simply, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, crucified on Calvary’s cross and rose again, it was not just by some random point in time in which God decided to send His Son.  But rather it was after centuries of providentially orchestrated historical alignments, such as for example, the known world primarily having Greek as the common language because of Alexander the Great, which made it much easier to spread the Gospel because of Greek being the common language that everyone understood.   Or, the Romans being the dominate power in the first century, who constructing roads throughout the empire, which had the unintended consequence of making it much easier for those early disciples to spread the message of the Gospel because they could travel on Roman roads that were originally intended for troop transport and for the movement of trade goods.  These, as well as other similar historical events, were a direct fulfillment of Daniel chapters 2, 7 and 8 specifically.

In other words, Jesus was not simply born on some random date, but rather, it was when the “fullness of time had come.”  Meaning that once all of the prophetic stars so to speak, were all aligned, or when all of the prophetic I’s were dotted and all of the prophetic T’s were crossed, and when everything that God had been providentially orchestrating since the Call of Abraham back in Genesis 12 was providentially aligned, by using fallen, flawed, sinful and depraved human beings in order to bring about His plan, God then said that now the fullness of time has come, to send my Son into the world THE FIRST TIME.

What Does all of this Mean for us Today?

Among bible prophecy students and teachers, there unfortunately has been a wide array of interpretations about various aspects of prophecy teaching, which sadly has been the excuse that most Christians have used as justification to steer clear of bible prophecy.  However, the one question that most bible prophecy teachers and students once had, in which there was broad agreement, was, “why is America NOT listed in the bible, either directly or indirectly, among the pantheon of End Times Nations?”  Every nation such as Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Babylon [Iraq], Persia [Iran], Gog and Magog [Russia], the Kings of the East [likely Asian Countries like China], and so forth are all specifically identified in scripture when it comes to end time events.

However, in spite of America becoming the greatest economic and military power in history, and the greatest friend to Israel, unless you can make the case that America is the Babylon [which by the way, is not a good thing], mentioned in Revelation 17, then there is no mention of America anywhere in scripture.  Which begs the million dollar question, WHY? The answer that many scholars have wrestled with is that, could it be possible America as we know it, simply won’t exist.  Does God have America on a short leash? Is America’s days numbered?  Are we being conquered from within?  Will America be conquered without a shot being fired from a foreign enemy?  Are we under divine judgement?

In years past, the idea that the country that rose to become the leading economic and military power in history, the country that won the second world war against the German’s and the Japanese, the country that was first to put a man on the moon, and later won the cold war, could no longer exist, was a concept that was unfathomable just 20 years ago.  Sadly however, if the current direction and state of affairs and the rapid pace in which events are unfolding are any indication, the signs are pointing to some very ominous outcomes.  Which brings about the ultimate question which is, what should be the response and reaction of the Christian Church in America? Should we be allowing our narrative to be framed by the secular media, or should our narrative be framed by the world of God?

Normally, you would think that if you are a Christian, the answer to that question would be obvious.  Of course, transforming our minds to be aligned with scripture should be the believers default setting.  But sadly, especially when it comes to issues of politics and culture, because of the ever increasing onslaught of information that we receive from a multitude of sources including the media, schools, academia, pop culture, pro sports leagues, and all of the various social media outlets, somehow the dictates of scripture have been lost, or at the very least, severely watered down.

So again, what should believers think about the state of the culture, and what should be the response and reaction of the Church in America today?  How should we view the many cultural, social and economic controversies that plague society?  Is the problem just as simple as, America is just “systematically racist?”  Is police brutality against blacks the problem?  Is “income inequality the problem?  Is the problem just as simple as, America just now simply beginning to suffer the consequences of slavery?  Could any or all of these be at the root of America’s problem?

How about some of the other term du jours that we are inundated with such as, progressive, justice, inequality, fairness, microaggression, or white privileged? Are these the problems that we as Christians be preoccupied with? Should these be the topics that should dominate the messaging from America’s pulpits?  In this series of lessons on religion and politics, I will explore these and other questions from a biblical perspective, as well as, identify and examine the contrast between a biblical worldview and the worldview that has been dominating the narrative for the past several years.

The Biblical Truth is that We are Not Fighting Against Flesh and Blood

First of all, as believers it must be understood that ultimately, Satan, sin and the Adamic fall are at the root of all the worlds sickness, disease, and all other societal conflicts.  Jesus said, “The thief cometh not, but to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:10).  Here, Jesus was pointing out the fact that the actual conflict against humanity was actually being orchestrated in the spirit realm before it was ever manifested in the natural.  In other words, there are demonic forces unseen to the natural eye, but yet are just as real as the natural people and things that we physically see every day.  Paul confirmed this when he said:  “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph.6:12).

It is evident that The Holy Spirit through Paul wanted to convey to us that although we live in the natural physical realm, our true enemy resides in the spiritual or unseen realm.  However, possibly the most familiar but yet descriptive example of this are the accounts given in the Book of Job.  The Bible says that Satan stood before God and accused Job of only being righteous because of the hedge of protection that God had around him.  Satan went on to insinuate, that if God were to remove the hedge of protection from around Job, that he would subsequently curse God to his face.

Consequently, God gave Satan “limited permission” to test Job by taking away the things that were precious to him:  His servants, livestock, house, and most of all, his sons and daughters.  Nevertheless, The Bible says, “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly” (Job 1:22).  This account goes on to reveal Satan’s difficulty in accepting Jobs victory.  He went before God a second time in order to accuse Job once again.  This time he suggested to God that if he would allow him to afflict the body of Job, then he would surely curse God to His face.  God once again granted Satan permission to test Job.  However, this time he was only permitted to afflict his body, but he wasn’t allowed to take his life.

Subsequently Satan, “Smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.” (Job 2:7).  However, in spite of this incredible ordeal, Job was still able to say, “My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go: My heart shall not reproach me so long as I live” (Job 27:6).  How wonderful it would be if all God’s people could strive to grow to the point where we can endure the hardships and trials with the same determination, fortitude, and tenacity that was exemplified by Job.

However, it appears that the Lord saw fit, for the benefit of all generations to come, to test Job in this way and then to record the experience in a book in order that people throughout history could learn this very important revelation about the inner workings of the spirit realm.  The account of Job teaches us that whatever difficulties and trials we experience in this life they were first “orchestrated in the spirit realm before they were ever manifested in the natural.”  It is therefore important that we learn from the experience of Job, that Satan is the originator of all sickness, disease and destruction among men.

The fact of the matter is that the Bible makes it clear that not only is Satan the originator of all sickness and disease, but he is also the author of all the death and destruction the world has experienced and is now experiencing.   To underscore this concept, let us hear what the writer of First Kings has to say in the account recorded in 1Kings 22:19-37.  According to the Bible, Ahab had been receiving false predictions from his prophets concerning the outcome of the Battle against the Syrians at Ramoth-Gilead.

Then Micaiah (The True Prophet of God) decided to reveal to the King the true vision from God regarding the battle’s outcome.  He says:  “Hear thou therefore the word of the Lord:  I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left.  And the Lord said, who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth Gilead?  And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner.  And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him.  And the Lord said unto him, wherewith?  And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.  And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so.  Now therefore, behold the Lord hath Put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil concerning thee” (1Kings 22:19-23 KJV).

 According to this narrative, Ahab chooses not to adhere to the voice of God, instead he listened to his lying false prophets who were being influenced by a lying demonic spirit and went to the battle and was subsequently slain there.  This example is another clear demonstration of how the events that led to the death of King Ahab were first coordinated in the heavenlies before the battle ever transpired here on earth in the natural world.  There are many other examples in the Word of God that illustrates the operation of Satan and demonic spirits on the Human experience (See: Daniel 10:1-21 or example).

There are also, many other Biblical examples concerning spiritual warfare that I won’t deal with here, however, I will be referring to later in this series of lessons.  Nevertheless, it is important that you understand that the foundation of this study, is the fact that at the end of the day, the “root of the problem” is that we are in a spiritual battle and not a black and white battle.  And that our “adversary the devil” is coming like a roaring lion, seeking whom he can devour.”  And the only way to wage a triumphant battle is to first recognize who the real enemy is, and to identify his strategies. Or as the Apostle Paul pointed out in his second letter to the believers in Corinth, “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us, or we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11 KJV).  In short, it is only when we have an understanding or a mental framework of the enemy’s tactics, can we effectively go on the offensive using the weapons of war God gave us which is the Word and the Spirit of God.  Consequently, the purpose of this series of lessons will be to uncover the “subtle satanic plot” to orchestrate the breakdown of our society, and to give the believer insight that you sadly won’t get from the normal sources of information.

A Cultural Tug of Wars 

Now with all of that as an introduction, when it comes to the subject of religion and politics, it would be the understatement of the century to point out the obvious fact that, we are living in a time of acute political and even religious polarization, exacerbated every election cycle by a 24-hour barrage of candidate advertisements on every communication platform.  Racial tensions, political unrest, as well as, divisiveness over hot button and polarizing issues such as: immigration, abortion, the police, the economy, the education system, the role of Government, gay rights, the Black Lives Matter movement, professional athletes kneeling for the National Anthem, the Constitution, debates over first and second Amendment rights, Republican Vs Democrat, Liberal Vs Conservative, Trump Vs Biden, and on and on it goes.

Just stop and think for a moment.  In just about a four month period, in the midst of all of the already seething political divisiveness and cultural polarization, America has gone from what many economist admit, was a season of extremely robust economic and job growth, with record low unemployment, including record low minority unemployment.

But in just four months later, we are experiencing the economic and social ramifications of a worldwide Covid-19 pandemic.  In addition, during that same 4 month period, not only do we have over 40 million newly unemployed Americans, but we are seeing waves of rioting and social unrest all across the country that was triggered by the death of African American George Floyd by a white police officer.  And that is on top of all of the other all ready seething societal divisiveness that has already been confronting America for years.

More specifically, in America today, we are arguably experiencing, from the standpoint of just the sheer volume of divisive issues, one of the most polarizing political, cultural and societal dysfunctional periods in our history or at least since the pre-Civil War era.  Today, America is divided on just about every imaginable cultural, sociological, religious, political, and financial front including:  race, the role of religion, the role of the Federal Government, the Constitution, sexual orientation, the use of the military, taxation, education, energy and so one.  Astonishingly, this divide has become so wide, that many are going as far as having heated debates and confrontations over something as fundamental as what constitutes a family.

However, this divide has never more apparent than it has been since the 2016 Presidential election, in which America experienced arguably the single most socially and politically divisive and polarizing presidential elections since the election of Abraham Lincoln.  On one hand you had the prospect of electing the very first female President on the heels of the very first African American President; while on the other hand, you had the billionaire businessman and reality TV personality with absolutely no previous political experience.  When the results broke that the underdog billionaire Donald Trump had shockingly defeated Hillary Clinton, a firestorm of divergent emotions erupted around the country.  Emotions that ranged from jubilation and relief, to outright hysterics, with many going as far as believing that the world as we know it is coming to an end. A large portion of the African American community for example, feared that the days of slavery were about to return, while others feared that we were about to enter into another Nazi regime.  Protests of, “Not my President” erupted around the country, and calls for impeachment were already being made even before the inauguration.

So, why all of the divisiveness?  Why all of the wide range of emotional reactions? Why is there so much division even in the Christian community?  How did we get here? Shouldn’t the Church be the “light that shines on a hill?”  If not, why not?  In short, what in the world is really going on?  What should be the believers view of politics?  And how should Christ’s Church view and react to the culture war that is taking place in America and-around the world?  Let’s begin to explore these questions by first defining our terms.

Culture Wars

First of all, when we use the phrase, “Culture war,” what exactly does that mean?  Simply stated, the idea of culture wars refers to the struggle between two sets of conflicting ideas and moral values.  As it relates to modern American political thought, this clash or conflict of ideas and values are considered by many to be traditional or “Conservative” versus those ideas considered being liberal or “Progressive.” 

These conflicting ideas involve principles that are relative to the many ideological and philosophical arguments and viewpoints that one believes to be true about various issues that include, society, life, culture, politics, race, and religion, as opposed to others with different viewpoints. (1).

The expression culture war entered the vocabulary of United States politics with the publication of Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America by James Davidson Hunter in 1991.  Hunter perceived a dramatic realignment and polarization that had transformed United States politics and culture, including issues such as: abortion, federal and state gun laws, global warming, immigration, church Vs state, First amendment interpretation, privacy, recreational drug use, the makeup of the Courts, homosexuality, and the definition of marriage and family.

“The heart of the culture war argument,” Hunter writes, “Was that American public culture was undergoing a realignment that, in turn, was generating significant tension and conflict. These antagonisms were playing out not just on the surface of social life (that is, in its cultural politics) but at the deepest and most profound levels. Thus, underneath the myriad political controversies over so-called cultural issues, there were yet deeper crises over the very meaning and purpose of the core institutions of American civilization. Behind the politics of abortion for example, was a controversy over a momentous debate over the meaning of motherhood, of individual liberty, and of our obligations to one another.  Behind the contentious argument about the legal rights of gays and lesbians was a more serious debate over the fundamental nature of the family and appropriate sexuality.” (2)

Ultimately, people on the competing sides of this cultural conflict use many of the very same terminology such as: justice, human rights, civil rights, liberty, equality, fairness, tolerance, respect, inclusiveness, and so on.  Sadly however, the competing sides of the culture war differences, have markedly different concepts on what those words actually mean and how they should apply in our daily public life.  Regardless of one’s perception or which side of the conundrum you may be on regarding America or its politics, the one fact that was made abundantly clear during the 2016 campaign is that there is a serious cultural, ideological and philosophical tug of war going on for the future of America.

At one end of the philosophical rope are those who think that America is increasingly on a death spiraling path of becoming a secular nation.  And a complete secularized America would essentially mean that religion will no longer have any significant social and cultural significance in society, which in turn has helped to lead us to a society where faith has lost much of its cultural authority, which in turn has caused the Church to have little or no social and cultural impact and influence.  Those pulling on that end of the cultural rope, hold to the view that the only way to reverse, or at least slow down this disturbing trend is to align with the Republican party which is perceived to be friendly towards faith and safeguarding or “Conserving” the Constitution and particularly the First Amendment which assures freedom of religion.

More specifically, many people on this “Conservative” end of the rope, are those who believe that the Bible and divine providence are at the root of America’s founding and that we must return to and “conserve” those founding principles and motivations if the country is to survive as we have known it.

Those who maintain this perspective, go on to assert that just as in biblical times, when it came to the birth and miraculous growth of America, God providentially chose to work through flawed and sinful men who just like all of us, who were all products of the Adamic fall.  And it was these flawed Adamic individuals whom, in spite of all of their flaws, God nevertheless providentially used them in order to fulfill a much greater purpose in the founding and forming of America.

Those who have this worldview, believe that just like in the historical cases of Greece and Rome, and the events surrounding and leading up to Christ’s first coming, or “when the fullness of time had come,” God providentially orchestrated the founding and growing of America for a specific purpose, which is ultimately will have laid the historical and global framework in which when the “fullness of time will come,” the Trumpet will sound, the Rapture to take place, the anti-Christ will be revealed, and the end time tribulation will commence.

However, at the same time, there are those on the other end of the philosophical rope who reject any suggestion that America has any sort of providential founding, and instead view America simply as a “racist, bigoted, homophobic, xenophobic and misogynistic country,” that only came to become this great economic and military power because of slavery and exploitation.  And because of this fact, American needs to be “Fundamentally transformed” into a more secular or “Postmodern” country where socialism replaces capitalism, where reality is a “social construct,” and where truth is a construct that depends on one’s personal cultural paradigm in which words like inclusion, fairness, tolerance, and acceptance have become code words that are actually intended to undermine God’s word and make Christianity obsolete.

Adding to this cultural conundrum between these two sides, is the fact that those who reject the idea of America being formed by an act of Divine providence, almost unanimously point to the fact that because many of the framers who pinned the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were slave owners, thereby viewing their writings and statements such as, “All men are created equal and endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights,” as being written by hypocrites, thereby negating any possibility that they could have been providentially used by God as instruments in which He used for a much greater, providential and prophetic purpose for America.

And then of course, there are those who are in the middle of the rope who embrace certain elements of both sides of this argument and who are attempting to pull both ways by advocating some of the secularist’s positions on one hand, while still embracing some traditional biblical values and paradigms on the other hand.  In other words, there are those who on one hand, believe in the socialists advocation of social reforms such as, more control and regulations from by the Federal Government, guaranteed free college and free health care, while at the same time, reject the secularists advocacy of such ideas as redefining what constitutes a family, and ideas of “Gender identity,” and other non-biblical secularist policies that are advocated under the heading of “the progressive agenda.”

Sadly, the toxic tone and extremely partisan nature of our political system, along with the mostly one sided narratives from all of the purveyors of information and narrative shaping such as, the media and pop culture personalities, discourage many Christians and Pastors from studying what the Bible teaches about what should be the believers mindset on issues pertaining to government, as well as, taking the time to consider just how the Word of God should inform one’s view of culture and politics from the perspective of a biblical worldview.

But what in my opinion, is the most troubling problem of all, is the fact of how and why a large majority of Church leaders, black and white alike, are adopting the world’s narrative of what exactly is the nature of societies problems, and the world’s narrative of how we should respond to it.

To put it more bluntly, far to many Christians and Church leaders are getting more of their worldview, or their narrative framing from CNN than they are getting it from the Word of God.  In other words, they are allowing the main stream media, either consciously or sub-consciously, to dictate what the narrative should be instead of the Bible.  And that is providing if they have even being seriously engaged with the issues at all.

Thus, it is no surprise that withdrawing from the political engagement has become a temptation for many Christians in the pew.  After all, at the end of the day, if God is sovereign and controls the heart of the king (Prov. 21:1), many will ask themselves, do we really need to get involved in the messy world of politics?  And because of the fact that political engagement can be so divisive, shouldn’t Christians abandon politics and direct their energies toward more spiritual pursuits?

The problem with that line of reasoning is that regardless if believers are engaged or not, and regardless if Christian leaders are getting their marching orders from the Word of God or from CNN, the consequences, the impact and influence of politics and legislation on the culture, regardless if it is pertaining to issues of taxation, education, race, energy, regulations, immigration, new government programs, foreign policy decisions, First and Second Amendment decisions, Judicial appointments, and so on, are all going to have a direct or indirect impact on every single American, believer and non believer alike FOR GENERATIONS TO COME.

Now, I will be unpacking this issue of “The Law of Unintended Consequences” in the next couple of lessons, but for now, what is even more disconcerting than the lack of political understanding and engagement among God’s people, and what actually prompted me to begin this series of articles, is the irrational and undiscerning mindset that says that everything that we are dealing with currently, such as, all of the race issues, the crime, and even including the impact of a WORLDWIDE pandemic and the subsequent fallout, is either all Trumps fault, or it is all because of “income inequality,” or “systemic racism spearheaded by Trump.”

All of these narratives, especially the “it’s all Trump’s fault narratives, presupposes that we didn’t have race issues and crime before 2016, or that Covid-19 is the first and only pandemic that we have ever had.  Furthermore, how this secular narrative has been so embraced by many in the Christian community including many Christian leaders and Pastors, without any critical or rational thinking, or biblical discernment is the most disconcerting aspect of all.  Because for the believer, if we do not have a biblical paradigm or perspective on the world, then it will not be possible to have discernment of the “signs of the times.”

To bear this out, Jesus made one of His many sharp reprimands to the Pharisees and Sadducees (who where the religious rulers) after they attempted to challenge Him by asking Jesus for a sign from heaven. Jesus had been performing miracles and signs, healing the lame, the blind, the sick, and twice feeding thousands of people with a few loaves and a few fish. (These signs are recorded in the two previous chapters Matthew 14 & 15).

The Lord proceeded to give them a stern reproof when He rebuked them with the following criticism: He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed” (Matthew 16:2-4 KJV). Notice that He calls them “hypocrites” and “an evil and adulterous generation.” They can discern the sky and predict the weather, but they can’t observe the signs of the times.

There is a lesson in this for all of us today who profess Christ.  Are we looking at the world around us with open and objective eyes? Can we see most people seeking God?  Or are the majority drifting away from him?  Do we observe many following righteousness? Or are the many becoming more and more godless, walking the dark and heathen ways? Do we discern the signs of the times?  Can we mark what is Satanic and what is of Christ?  In short, are we viewing the current culture wars, economic crises, pandemic, racial tension, and the overwhelming political polarization through a biblical lens, or through a secular lens?  And especially when it comes to the area of politics, voting and our overall engagement with the culture, how do we DISCERN what we should believe and which direction we should go?

So, Where Do We as Christians Begin and What and How are We to Think? Answer: It all Begins and Ends With the Battle for Worldviews!

Most people presuppose that the problems in America are social, racial, religious or financial.  While on the surface it is easy to see why people could probably make those arguments, however when you look at the big issues that we face more in depth and think through the issues more critically, you can make the case that the polarizing ideological and philosophical differences that we face in American culture and politics are not so much sociological but rather the differences in worldviews.  This is especially insightful when you consider the fact that our ideologies don’t just occur in a vacuum, but they are the result of our worldview.  In other words, your worldview will dictate your beliefs and your beliefs will then dictate your behaviors, responses, reactions, emotions, and choices in any given situation.  And then those behaviors, emotions, reactions, and choices that we display to the various stimulus we face, will ultimately testify to our worldview.

Worldview defined

In the simplest terms, our worldview can be defined as, a mental framework of ideas about the world and about life, the lens or the glasses or the filter through which one views and interprets the world around us, a comprehensive conception of the world through a specific viewpoint, your personal concept of reality, a theory of the world used for living in the world, the ideological framework which shapes a person’s view of reality, the overall perspective in which one sees and interprets the world and events. 

In short, our worldview can be succinctly seen as a collection of beliefs about life, religion and culture held by individuals or by groups, a philosophy, or the presuppositions that influence our outlook on life and how we perceive the world we live in.

To put it even more simply, your worldview can be seen as a set of glasses that you look through to bring what is happening in the world into mental focus.  If you like computers for example, you can think of your worldview as your operating system, the thing that converts your life experiences into the ones and zeros that your mind understands.  More simply, your worldview is your gut-level, instinctive responses to basic philosophical questions about life, the world, religion and politics, as well as the basis for your reactions to events and life’s circumstances. A comprehensive worldview is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the entirety of the individuals or society’s knowledge and point of view.  The beliefs, values, and behaviors of a culture stems directly from its worldview.

To put it more succinctly, “Your worldview is the basis for everything.  It is the basis for how we see the world, what we think the world is, the decisions we make, the behaviors that we will choose, the responses to other people’s behaviors, all stem from your worldviews.”  The word of God points out this aspect of human nature on several occasions, for example: “Out of the heart the mouth speaks,” (Luke 6:45), and “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).  This is also why Paul challenged the Christians in Rome to “be transformed by the RENEWING OF YOUR MINDS” (Romans 12:2).

Case in point, as I alluded to earlier, how is it possible for two intelligent, individuals who both love God can be so radically different in their conclusions on certain issues?  For example, how is it possible that two people can hear any number of the hot button words that dominate our narrative such as, “equality, fairness, inclusion, and justice,” but yet adopt two radically different interpretations and understandings of what those words mean and how they should apply in our political and social structure.  Or, from a religious perspective, how can two bible believing Christians, look at the same passage of scripture such as Matthew 25:31-40 for example, but yet, arrive at two radically different interpretations and applications?

Well the answer is simply that it is all about our particular system by which we interpret the world, or in the case of interpreting scripture, known as our worldview, or the lens in which we view the world, or thru which we interpret scripture.  In other words, every one of us, whether consciously or subconsciously have default presuppositions that  have been programmed into our minds over a lifetime of sensory inputs, from an ever increasing barrage of sources, that influence how we think, our outlook on life and our perceptions of what is right and what is wrong.

Whether educated or uneducated, religious or non-religious, rich or poor, black or white, male or female, good or bad, liberal or conservative, democrat or republican, Catholic or Protestant, evangelical or charismatic, we all have a belief system or way of looking at the world that influences how we think, how interpret life and how we react to various stimulus.

Putting it another way, an individual’s worldview is your “big picture,” your harmony of all your beliefs about the world, your way of understanding reality and your basis for making daily decisions.  This insight therefore, makes your individual worldviews extremely critical in effecting our individual decisions and destinies.

This is something that can never be over stated.  Everyone has a worldview even if you do not recognize it or cannot explain what it is.  It describes our search for answers to life’s most important questions.  Your worldview affects the way you look at every issue of life including:  Life, death, politics, religion, parenting, education and so on.  And as I stated, your worldview glasses affect how you view certain events and how you respond to them.  If your worldview glasses have the correct prescription, then you will see the world accurately.  If they have the wrong prescription, your view of the world will be distorted.

A smorgasbord of ideas

Worldviews are so much a part of our daily lives that whether we recognize it or not, we see, hear and react to our worldviews every day.  In fact, on a continual basis, we are faced with a smorgasbord of worldviews, all of which make claims concerning truth.  And whether we are cognizant of it or not, whether consciously or unconsciously, we are all challenged to sort through this assortment of worldviews from a plethora of sources.  For example, movies, television, the media, the entertainment industry, sports figures, music, magazines, newspapers, government, public education, academia, science, art, family, friends, co-workers,  social media followings, and your religious affiliations if any, all either directly or indirectly have an impact on our worldview.  In other words, all of these sources, whether we realize it or not, have an impact and influence on how we view the world, and how we view and react to the most polarizing elements of culture, religion and politics.  And if we ignore their significance or their impact on how we think and understand the world, we do so at our own detriment.  In simpler terms, our worldview is a view of the world and a view for the world.”  The proper worldview helps us by orienting us to the intellectual and philosophical terrain about us.

Imagine for example, an apple sitting on a table that is seen by several people.  A botanist sees the apple and his immediate inclination is to classify it.  A grocer sees the apple as an asset and his first inclination is to sell it for a profit.  A child sees the apple as lunch or a snack and eats it.  In other words, how we look at any situation is influenced by how we look at the world in general or the lens through which you view the world in any given situation.  In short, while we tend to debate many of the particular issues that have kept us so divided, the elephant in the room, or the true debate that has gone pretty much under the radar, is much more of a worldview debate than it is a debate about our given or particular pet topic.  In other words, rather than debating a particular political or religious disagreement, the more significant or practical question that should be considered is, what is the worldview, or the philosophical and ideological perspective that brought you to your particular conclusion on a given issue in the first place?  

Finally, and most importantly of all, what are the long term consequences of our worldview, or the decisions that we make, not only as individuals, but as a society at large?  In this first of a multi-part series of lessons on Politics, Religion and a Biblical Worldview, I touched on a hodgepodge of related topics just as an introduction to the study.  In part two of this study, I will begin to examine this idea of a biblical Vs secular worldviews in our politics and culture more closely and more specifically.  I will also explore some of the consequences of past legislative decisions that impact us today, and why Christians in particular. need to be more informed and engaged.

  1. The Culture War, www.Culture-war.info.
  2. James Davidson Hunter, Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America Basic Books 1991.

We are in the End Game, An Introduction to the Book of Revelation, Part 9, A New Heaven and New Earth, by Dr Bruce Logan

BEHOLD, ALL THINGS MADE NEW

The Bible is a spectacular piece of literature, even If you are someone who does not believe anything written in it.  It was penned by at least 40 traditional authors and written in three different languages, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. However, what is more remarkable yet, is the story that the Bible tells.  The Bible tells the epic story of God and His creation, His blessing, the temptation, sin, exile, the promise of restoration, salvation and the ultimate fulfillment of the promised restoration.

For those of us reading the word of God today, we have the advantage of knowing that the entire Old Testament narratives was leading to Jesus.  All in all, it is an epic book telling an even more epic story, which begs the question, how does it all end? That, my friends, is the question we will be examining in this final installment of our mini-series on an introduction to the book of Revelation.  We are going to conclude this study by focusing on the very end-of-the-end of the most epic story ever told.

At this moment, humanity and the whole earth is cut off from the full life of heaven.  I don’t think we have to look too far before we can confirm this by mere observation. Rampant Crime, immorality, rebellion, greed, cruelty, diseases, racial polarization, anarchy, and selfishness abound in America and around the world.  To use a biblical metaphor, creation groans like a woman in childbirth. This travailing of course, is the result of the original sin in the Garden of Eden.  However, the fall of man did not stop God’s purpose for man, but rather, simply delayed His plan.

God from the very beginning after the fall, promised that one day He would bring restoration and redemption back to the world and defeat the enemy (Genesis 3:15).  To be more specific, the fall of man did not cause God to change His eternal purpose for man.  Instead, God began to providentially orchestrate and facilitate His plan to turn the defeat of sin, into the victory of man’s eternal redemption.  The plan that involved the virgin birth, death, resurrection and soon return of His only begotten Son, the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the establishing of His eternal Heavenly Kingdom here on a future renovated earth.

The plan that will also include the gathering of the saints of God who have been redeemed out of the Human race and who will “reign and rule” with Christ throughout eternity (See: Daniel 7:18).  And it is this big story of the fall of man and God’s big redemption and restoration plan for the human race as well as the planet itself, that we see revealed, developed, unfolded, and ultimately fulfilled in the pages of the Bible.

 Genesis Vs Revelation

Before I continue however, I think that it would be helpful to review some facts that I pointed out in the part one introduction to this study.  First of all, it is important that the student of scripture recognizes that the Bible is much more than a mere collection of inspirational stories.  To the contrary, the Bible is both one book and many books.  The word “bible” comes from the Latin “biblia,” which simply means “books.” In other words, there are 66 books in the Protestant Bible, so one could say that the Bible contains a library of books.  Within these books are dozens of interconnecting stories that are all leading to one huge climatic event which is told in the Book of Revelation.  Simply put, the Bible in addition to being a collection of sixty-six books, is also one book, because it tells one big story, God’s story.

In Genesis we find the beginning of this big story, which begins with God creating the Heavens and the Earth, then creating Adam and Eve and giving them dominion over His creation with one stipulation.  They were not to eat of the fruit of one particular tree.  However, the serpent was able to deceive man, causing him to disobey God, thus breaking the fellowship that God had with man, and thus man was expelled from the Garden and death and sin was officially now the result.

Nevertheless, because of God’s grace, mercy and love that passes all human understanding, He began to put in motion a systematic plan that would eventually restore that broken relationship and return God’s creation to the His original intent.

Now, for many people, when reading the Bible, it’s easy to get caught up in the multitude of details, the hundreds of characters, events and the many inspirational stories on one hand, while on the other hand, failing to pay attention to the One Big Story that is being told, or the big picture that is being painted about God.

Bible scholars have a name for this One Big Story, it’s the “meta narrative.”  This “big meta narrative” is all about “the whole universal plan of God worked out through his creation. Key aspects of the narrative at this top level include:  the initial creation itself, the fall of humanity, the power and ubiquity of sin, the need for redemption, and Christ’s incarnation and sacrifice.” 1

Other names for the One Big Story include “the story of redemption,” “redemptive history” or “salvation history.”  Therefore, it is essential that the bible student when reading and studying the Bible, always keep this One Big Story in mind, when connecting the dots, because everything that happens in the Bible after Genesis 3:15, (especially after Genesis 12) is either directly or indirectly related to this one big meta redemption narrative.

To further expand upon this bible meta narrative, let’s first consider some of the parallels between the Genesis, the first book in this big picture story, and The Book of Revelation the final book of the Bible.  For starters, Genesis and The Book of Revelation represent the “LENS” through which we can understand the entire bible.  (“Till Heaven and Earth pass away, not one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away, till all things are fulfilled” Math. 5:18).

Genesis 1:1-21 In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters.  In Revelation 21:1-2 John writes, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”

Creation and New Creation
One powerful example of the connection between Genesis and Revelation, which by the way, ties this big meta narrative together, can be seen in a comparison between Genesis 1-3, which tells us about the Creation of the heavens and the earth, and Revelation 21-22, which talks about the New Creation of the New Heavens and New Earth.

Simply put, in the description of the New Heavens and New Earth in Revelation 21-22, over and over again you have echoes of what occurred in the creation of the heavens and earth Genesis 1-3:  
• In Genesis 1:4, there is a division of light and darkness; in Revelation 21:25, there is no night.

• In Genesis 1:10, there is a division of land and sea; in Revelation 21:1, there is no more sea.

• In Genesis 1:16, the rule of the sun and moon is described; in Revelation 21:23, we learn that there is no need for the sun or moon.

• In Genesis 2:10, we are told about a river flowing out of the Garden of Eden; in Revelation 22:1, we are told about a river flowing from God’s throne.

• Genesis 2:9 describes the Tree of Life in the midst of the garden; Revelation 22:2 describes the Tree of Life throughout the city.

• Genesis 2:12 tells us that God and precious stones are in the land; Revelation 21:19 tells us that gold and precious stones are throughout.

• God walks in the garden, among His creation as described in Genesis 3:8; Revelation 21:3 states that God’s dwelling will be with His people.

• Following Adam and Eve’s sin, Genesis 3:17 states that the ground itself will be cursed; in the New Creation, there will be no more curse (Revelation 22:3).

• As a result of sin and the curse, life in creation is characterized by pain and sorrow (Genesis 3:17-19); in the new creation, there will be no more sorrow, pain, or tears (Revelation 21:1-4).

• Additionally, the sin results in death, described as a returning to the dust (Genesis 3:19); in the New Heavens and New Earth, there is no more death (Revelation 21:4).

• Adam and Eve are banished from the garden, and cherubim guard the entrance to it (Genesis 3:24); angels actively invite into the city in Revelation 21:9.

There are actually many more points of comparison that could be made, but suffice it to say that in the book of Revelation, God reveals to us the full circle or culmination of His redemptive promises that He had been providentially orchestrating since He called out a man named Abraham.  In Revelation 21 and 22, John is clearly describing the eternity that God’s people will spend with Him in the New Heavens and New Earth in language that echoes back to the story of creation and fall in Genesis 1-3.  In making these connections between Revelation and Genesis, John is making a significant and profound theological point: the creation that God created good but that was tainted by sin, He is going to redeem, recreate, and perfect!

After the great white throne judgment (which we just saw at the end of chapter 20), Christ’s reign as king on earth is fully established in that everything has been made holy. Sin and corruption are things of the past. Here in chapter 21, we see a glimpse of the eternal kingdom of God, and it appears to be a whole newly created world, as the old world was destroyed (Revelation 20:11).  The new earth will be the eternal dwelling place of believers in Jesus Christ. The new earth and the new heavens are sometimes referred to as the “eternal state.” Scripture gives us a few details of the new heavens and new earth.

Introducing the New Heaven, New Earth, and New Jerusalem (Rev 21:1-11)

The previous chapter has concluded with the image of final judgment. Satan has been thrown into the lake of fire. All the dead are standing before the throne and the books were opened. Those whose names were not written in the book of life were also thrown into the lake of fire, where they along with Satan are tormented day and night forever and ever (20:10,15).

Our context is the end of time when Christ returns and final judgment has occurred.  In John’s vision of this great restoration, he saw a new heaven and earth, which is a clear reference to the very beginning of the biblical narrative:

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second deathOne of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal” (Revelation 21:1-11).

John now turns our attention to a description of the renovated heavens and earth.  John tells us this heaven and earth is “new” which tells us that it is different, or changed from the heaven and earth with which we are familiar.  This new world no longer has “seas”.  This new world will no longer feel the presence of the lost, nor will it experience the unrest and upheaval of sin upon it.

John now sees a new heaven and new earth because the first heaven and first earth had passed away. We saw the first heaven and earth pass away in Revelation 20:11.  The time of this physical earth is now completed.  It has been burned up (2 Peter 3:10).  Now the new heaven and the new earth have been ushered in.  John is going to be told what this new heaven and new earth looks like in verses 3-8.

John sees a heavenly city descend to this New Earth.  This city is the dwelling place of God come down to the earth.  It represents God’s presence being given to the saints to enjoy Him for eternity.   This city is said to be very beautiful, like a bride that is prepared for marriage.  John describes God’s relationship with His people in this wondrous city.   God will be with them, they will learn of Him, worship Him, and serve Him.  John also tells us that the results of sin will be done away.  There will be no more crying, sorrow, or pain.  God promises to make an entirely new type of existence for His people.  It will be like nothing we have ever experienced on earth.  This is a promise that we can rely upon.  We can know with certainty that this wonderful eternal existence awaits the people of God.

In the new heavens and new earth, Scripture says, there are seven things notable for their absence or seven things that are “no more”:
• No more sea (Revelation 21:1) 
• No more death (Revelation 21:4) 
• No more mourning (Revelation 21:4) 
• No more weeping (Revelation 21:4) 
• No more pain (Revelation 21:4) 
• No more curse (Revelation 22:3) 
• No more night (Revelation 22:5) 

In other words, the new earth will be free from sin, evil, sickness, suffering, and death. It will be similar to our current earth, but without the curse of sin.  It will be earth as God originally intended it to be.  It will be Eden restored.  The Lord then extends an invitation for all of mankind to come to Him and enjoy these blessings that await His people.  Those who come to Him will be victorious overcomers in this sinful world, they will inherit these eternal blessings and will enter into a family relationship with Him as the children of God.  However, those who reject this invitation and choose to remain in their sinfulness will face a horrible eternity of separation from God and torment in the Lake of Fire.

It’s an all-new Garden of Eden, the paradise of eternal life with God! This is an image of the Old Testament prophetic echoing all the way back to the first pages of Genesis. He saw the tree of life there, accessible to all and eternally yielding fruit.  It could do this because its roots had access to the eternal river of life, which can dispense nourishment to all the new creation because it flows from the presence of God himself.  However, in John’s account of a garden, humanity wasn’t represented by a couple.  Rather, John describes seeing all the nations there, working to cultivate the garden as Adam and Eve did in Genesis.  For John, the fulfillment of God’s purpose through Jesus would result in the  restoration of humans to their place as co-rulers of God’s world, ready to work with God to take creation into uncharted territory.

But it’s not just a return back to the garden; it’s a step forward into a new Jerusalem, a great city where human cultures and all their diversity work together in peace and harmony before God. John first described the new creation as a marriage of heaven and earth. Heaven is represented as both a city and a bride, coming down out of God’s heavenly domain and landing on earth, much like the staircase Jacob saw in his dream. John called the city-bride a “new Jerusalem.” It was so marvelous that he could only describe it regarding brilliant stones.

A major feature of the new earth will be the New Jerusalem.  John calls it “the Holy City, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband” (Revelation 21:2).  This glorious city, with its streets of gold and pearly gates, is situated on a new, glorious earth. The tree of life will be there (Revelation 22:2).

This city represents the final state of redeemed mankind, forever in fellowship with God: “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  His servants will serve him. They will see his face” (Revelation 21:3; 22:3-4).

But arguably, one of the most spectacular aspect of our eternal city, is it’s massive size.  The following images gives us a basic frame of reference of the sheer scope and magnitude of this city when it comes down to earth:

These images gives a sense of the sheer size and scope of the city.

The city’s exact dimensions are measured by an angel and reported to be 12,000 stadia, the equivalent of 1,400 miles or 2,200 kilometers, in length, width, and height (Revelation 21:15-16).  Even more astounding is the city’s 1,400-mile height.  We don’t need to worry that Heaven will be to crowded. The ground level of the city will be nearly two million square miles. This is forty times bigger than England and fifteen thousand times bigger than London. It’s ten times as big as France or Germany and far larger than India.  But remember, that’s just the ground level.

Dr. Henry Morris, founder of The Institute for Creation Research made some interesting calculations concerning the New Jerusalem: Henry Morris estimates that the total population of the world, past, present, and future, will be about one hundred billion. If 20 percent ultimately become residents of the New Jerusalem, then the city will have to accommodate twenty billion people.  If residences occupy 25 percent of the space in the city (leaving 75 percent for avenues, parks, public buildings, and other areas), then each residence, or cubical block, would be about one-third of a mile on each face of the cube.  Compare one-third of a mile, or 1,760 feet, to the width and depth of lots (which might range anywhere from 60 to 250 feet) on which homes are typically built today. Obviously, there will be more than ample room for all who will live in the New Jerusalem.  Given the dimensions of a 1,400-mile cube, and assuming that the city will consist of multiple levels, and if each story were a generous twelve feet high, the city could have over 600,000 stories.  If they were on different levels, billions of people could occupy the New Jerusalem, with many square miles per person. (2)

John is invited to come and see the bride that has prepared to join her husband in marriage and live eternally with Him.  This bride is the wondrous city that now awaits His presence and the presence of His people.  John is taken to a high mountain that overlooks this glorious city.  He sees God’s glory enlightening the city as a clear Jasper stone which is symbolic of the Lord holiness and sinlessness.  This entire vision emphasizes the changed eternal world and the many eternal joys that await the people of God as they dwell in this city.

No Need for Sun or Moon – No Night (21:23-25)
The New Jerusalem will have no need of the sun or moon to light the city; the Shekinah Glory of God will light the city. This doesn’t mean there will be no sun or moon, the text simply says there will be no need for the sun and moon as sources of light for the city. In fact, there will be no night in the Eternal Order.  We won’t need to lock our doors at night. The gates of the city will never be shut; there will be no need because there will be no night and there will be no criminals or criminal activity so much of which happens under cover of darkness.

Nothing Unclean (21:26-27)
Finally, no person or thing which is unclean, impure or evil will ever enter the New Jerusalem. Instead, those who were kings on the old earth and Gentile saints (better translation than “nations”) will bring glory and honor to the city. Only those written in the Lamb’s book of life will dwell in the city.

Finally, in verses 1-5 of chapter 22, the things John is shown reveal that the things lost in the Garden of Eden will be restored in the New Jerusalem.

PARADISE RESTORED (22:1-5)

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 22:1-5).

The same angel that showed John the New Jerusalem, then shows him a river of the water of life.  The river was crystal clear, for there are no contaminants or impurities in heaven.  The water is indicative of the living water of Christ, and, thus, it is pictured as emanating from the throne of God and the Lamb.  He is the source of the living water.  Those who drink of it in this life by putting their faith in Him will have access to Him and to the river forever (John 4:10, 7:38).

God’s throne will be present in the New Jerusalem.  Thus, at least in a way, heaven will have come to earth in the most complete way.  The New Jerusalem descended to earth from out of heaven, and God dwells here on earth in the Heavenly City.

Jesus’ prayer of His will in heaven being done on earth (Matthew 6:10) has some fulfillment in the church age, even more during the millennial kingdom, but its ultimate fulfillment here.  The river of life is in the middle of the street, which is of gold, for it symbolizes that life goes out from Jesus as promised to all in the city forever and ever.  The tree of life on each side of the river adds to this imagery and reinforces the fact that eternal life is assured.

Eating from the tree of life back after the fall turned out to be a disaster for the human race (Genesis 3:24), but eating of the tree of life in eternity is a guarantee of eternal bliss and satisfaction.   The trees are seen producing twelve different kinds of fruit throughout the twelve months of the year.

Thus, there is a sense of time in eternity, but it just goes on forever and ever.  It doesn’t get boring or dull, for there are always new things to enjoy, learn, and explore.  Thus, there will always be more things to glorify God for.  This might be hard for people to understand because sinful pleasures get old and less satisfying with time (Hebrews 11:25).  However, as the ever-yielding and multi-yielding tree of life suggests, godly pleasures are always new, fulfilling, satisfying, and eternally worth enjoying.  Just as love within marriage grows deeper as both learn how to love one another better with time as God enables, enjoying God will only get more wonderful with time.

The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  People from every tribe, tongue, and nation will be there in this heavenly glory, and God will wipe away every tear and every sorrow (Revelation 21:4).  There will be no brokenness, disability, or frailty in heaven, for Jesus will make all things new.  The minds of the redeemed will be made new also, able to enjoy God forever and fixate upon His glory.  All the remnants of sin, death, and pain will be lost forever.  Relationships will be made whole, and joy will be made full.

John and the Angel

The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.” “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll.” I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!” 10 Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near. 11 Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.”

The angel told John that the words that he has heard and the visions that he has seen are indeed faithful and true because they are given by God.  God sent the angel to John to show to him and to the saints of God in John’s time, in the present time, and in the time of the end what would take place.  God didn’t leave people without a warning for the end, nor did He leave His people without a reason for hope in the end.  He, the same God Who hinted at these future events as He spoke through the prophets of old (Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and others) has spoken in this revelation to John concerning the times of the end.  These events will take place soon and not eons of time in the future.

The timeline of Scripture is but thousands of years, and Jesus’ return is imminent.  Believers are to live eagerly awaiting and anticipating the return of Jesus.  Even though they do not know the hour or day (Matthew 24:36), they know the season, and the signs of the times are coming true with great rapidity (Matthew 24:4-14, Daniel 12:4).  Jesus will be back soon, and a blessing will be upon those who listen to and heed the words in this book.  A curse will be upon those who reject the truth of Jesus and who add or take away from this book (v. 18-19).  God wants people to hear the truth about His Son and to be prepared for His return.

Interestingly, in verse 8, John echoed what he said in chapter one that he is the one who heard and saw this revelation from God.  He is a credible witness, for he is the same man who walked and talked with Christ when He was on earth the first time.  He saw Him die and then saw His resurrected body.  He saw Him ascend into heaven, and he was part of the apostles who helped lay the foundation of the early church (Ephesians 2:20).

John made the same mistake twice (Revelation 19:10) of being so overwhelmed by the angel that he bowed before him.  The angel quickly rebuked him and told him not to worship him but only God.  Angels are also servants of God and servants of the saints.  They are not to be worshipped.  That John was open and honest about his own errors also lends veracity to his testimony. He faithfully related the events exactly as they happened, even when it cast himself in a poor light.  Jesus Himself testified to the truthfulness of this prophecy (v. 20).

John was then told not to seal up the words of the prophecy as if they could be filed away indefinitely and rendered useless, irrelevant, and not immediately applicable. The reality is that the time of Christ’s return is near such that those of John’s day and of the present day need to study this vision and be prepared for Jesus’ return (see also v. 16).  The message of verse 11 is not that Jesus doesn’t want people to repent (2 Peter 3:9).  Rather, the idea is that justice is coming.

Heaven rejoices when a sinner repents, God is glorified when the righteous serve Him, and there is also joy in heaven when God’s just wrath is finally poured out.  Verse 11 is a call and desire for the end to come so that all will get their just due and be recompensed according to their deeds, the righteous to life and the wicked to hell (v. 13).  As Isaiah 3:10-11 says, “Say to the righteous that it will go well with them, For they will eat the fruit of their actions. Woe to the wicked! It will go badly with him, For what he deserves will be done to him.”

The Epilogue: Invitation and Warning

12 “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.  14 “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.  16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you[a] this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”  17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.  18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll. 20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. 21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

In verse 12, Jesus tells John that He is coming quickly (see also v. 7 and 20).  His return is not way off but nearer than most people think and recognize.  People need to take heed to the words in this book and consider where they stand in regard to eternity.  Christ will judge every man according to what he has done (Romans 2:6).  The only hope of being found by God as righteous is to trust in Christ for forgiveness and to turn from sin to life (v. 14).  He is the eternal God with no beginning or end, and He will have the final say.

This means judgment is sure for unbelievers, but eternal life is equally sure for believers.  Believers also can be excited about eternal rewards on account of their faithfulness (2 Corinthians 5:10, 1 Corinthians 3:10-15).  Thus, there is great hope for believers, and they can be excited that His return is sooner rather than later.  Their coming inheritance should motivate them to purify themselves as He is pure (James 4:8) and to want to use every opportunity to advance the kingdom of God on earth (1 Corinthians 9:24, Proverbs 11:30).

Jesus wants people to understand that the only way to gain entrance to the glory and paradise that is heaven is to wash their robes in His blood by confessing Him as Lord (Romans 10:9-10) and trusting in Him to forgive them (1 John 1:9) and make them new in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17).  That is how they can enjoy the fruit of the tree of life and have eternal life with Jesus in heaven forever (Revelation 22:2).  That is the only way that they can gain entrance to the New Jerusalem.  Those who are outside of heaven are those who did not trust in Christ for salvation, and they are not known as belonging to Christ and as those who are pure in Him.

Rather, they are known and measured by their deeds which include sorcery, immorality, idolatry, murder, and lying.   They lie because they are children of the devil (1 John 3:10), and they love and enjoy the wickedness that they do.  Their sin defines them, and it is who they are and what they do (1 John 3:8-9).  They have no part with Jesus in heaven, and their only chance is to repent while they are still alive on earth.  After that, it is too late.

Finally, a critical test of salvation and genuine heart change is how a person receives the Word of God.  Some people add to the Scripture or read their own interpretation or agenda into it.  Others ignore certain verses because they are difficult, they make them uncomfortable, or they do not resonate with the culture of the day.  Others come up with revelation outside of the Scripture and use it to, as they say, rightly interpret the Scripture.

Any form of adding or taking away from the Scripture is a sign of a lack of faith and a heart that is held captive by the devil (Matthew 5:18, Luke 16:17).  Those who can’t accept the Scripture at face value even though God has promised that His Word will endure forever (1 Peter 1:25) will find themselves outside of the gospel and salvation.  They will have no part in eternal life and the New Jerusalem.  In God’s mind, His preserved Scripture is sufficient to save (Luke 16:29-31), and it should be heard, listened to, and received.

Jesus testifies to the veracity and integrity of this prophecy, and He reminds both believers and unbelievers alike that He will return to the earth soon.  There are not millions and millions of years to sort things out, nor is there some netherworld or purgatory for a second chance to repent.  People must make a choice before they die, and their eternal fate will be judged accordingly.  The response of the believer to Christ’s promised imminent return should be, “let it be, come soon, for You are Lord, Jesus.”  Eternal life is a weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17) that far outweighs the entanglements (Hebrews 12:1) and passing pleasures of sin (Hebrews 11:25).  His pleasures endure forever (Psalm 16:11), and they are worth persevering for in faith no matter the cost (Luke 14:25-33).

Finally, John’s closing benediction is to pray that the grace of God will sustain believers in faith and that they will keep their focus toward the glory of the coming age.  It is also a petition and prayer for unbelievers to respond to the grace of God and be saved.  God wants none to perish, and He will keep spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth, even during the tribulation period (Revelation 14:6-7).  He is a gracious God, and believers everywhere ought to echo John’s prayer for grace to come to more and more.

 

  1. (Douglas Stuart and Gordon Fee, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, p. 91).
  2. Quoted by Charles Ryrie in Revelation- Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Everyman’s Bible Commentaries) (Kindle Locations 2161-2169). Moody Publishers.

We are in the End Game, An Introduction to the Book of Revelation, Part 8, The Second Coming of Christ, by Dr Bruce Logan

REVELATION 19 and 20 – THE RETURN OF THE KING

What Does the Bible Say about the Second Coming of Christ and His Millennial Reign? 

A Brief Summary

People are often surprised to learn that references to the Second Coming outnumber references to the first coming by a factor of eight to one. Scholars have identified 1,845 different biblical references to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  In the Old Testament, Christ’s return is emphasized in no less than 17 books, and in the New Testament authors speak of it in 23 of 27 books.  Furthermore, the New Testament mentions His return in 7 out of every 10 chapters.  In other words, 1 out of every 30 verses in the New Testament proclaims that Jesus Christ is coming back to this earth.

One day Christ will return to earth in all His glory as the Judge who will right every wrong in our world. This event is mentioned throughout Scripture, particularly in the New Testament.  It will occur after the Tribulation, when Christ defeats the Great Dragon, and before His one-thousand-year reign on earth.  Beginning in Revelation 19, The Lord reveals to John, several details about His return.  Let’s take a closer look at what the Bible says about the Second Coming.

For starters, just to add to the above references regarding the second coming of Christ, The Lord Himself referred to the Second Coming 21 times.  Even more significantly, the very last lesson lesson that Christ taught His disciples prior to His sufferings, was the Mt Olivet discourse in which He shared with them a detailed outline of the events that will lead up to and include His second coming.

As they were leaving the Temple Mount, one of the disciples remarked about how beautiful the buildings were with the rich adornments from gifts given. Jesus replied that not one stone would be left on another (Matthew 24:1-3).

This answer staggered them to the core. They thought that He was talking about His return at the Second Coming, so they asked Him as to what sign would be given them to recognize the timing of His coming.  However, Jesus in this particular instance was referring to the destruction of the temple that happened in 70 A.D.  However, in His reply to their question as to what sign will precede His Second Coming, He proceeded to prophesy not just about the destruction of the temple, but He also gave them a detailed lesson regarding His return as the King of Kings.

Now if this is not evidence enough to convince every believer about the importance that the Scriptures place on the second coming of Christ, then consider the following: Not only was Christ last sermon prior to His suffering was about His second coming, but the very last thing that the disciples heard as Christ was ascending back up into heaven, was two angels admonishing them about their Lord’s return.

As they were staring in absolute amazement as they watched Christ being supernaturally transported back to heaven, two angels stood by and said to them that “this same Jesus that you see go up into heaven, will one day come back in like manner” (Acts 1:11).

Amazingly, this small group of Christ followers, would eventually be responsible for going from a small group of scared and confused individuals, to going out and “turning the world upside down,” and literally changing the course of history.

In just over thirty-years, in spite of unimaginable persecution and suffering, they was able to begin the total and complete transformation of western history, in large part, because of the promise and anticipation of Christ eventual return.

Furthermore, the prominence of Christ’s return in Scripture is an indication that this event is important to God, and as a result, it should be equally important to believers of all ages. In addition, the second coming of Christ is predicted throughout the Bible wherever you look.  In fact, it’s even prophesied in the book of Genesis. Did you know that Enoch predicted the Second Coming of Christ?

Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones 15 to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (Jude 14-15).

This verse is interesting for providing a quote from one of mankind’s earliest patriarchs, Enoch. Jude relates a statement made by Enoch concerning the fate of the ungodly apostates. Although Enoch was not a writer of Scripture, the Holy Spirit guided Jude to quote from Enoch, who lived before Noah’s flood (2 Peter 1:21). Genesis 5:24 credits Enoch with walking with God before God took him away from earth, apparently without dying, to be with the Lord. Enoch’s prediction is quoted in verses 14 and 15 as a prophecy that is fulfilled. Enoch predicted that the Lord will return to earth with a myriad of “holy ones.” This seems to refer to angels and raptured Christians (Matthew 25:31; Colossians 3:4).

Jude reminds his readers in verses 14 & 15 that Enoch had prophesied judgment would come upon apostates. This quote was taken directly from the Book of Enoch: Enoch 1:9 And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of His holy ones to execute judgement upon all, and to destroy all the ungodly: And to convict all flesh of all the works of their ungodliness which they have ungodly committed, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.  The bible does not record this prophecy of Enoch in any other place, but the fact that Jude was inspired by the holy spirit to write this down indicates that it is the truth.

REVELATION 19 SUMMARY

In Revelation Chapter 19, the world is beginning to prepare for both the wedding of the Lamb and the battle against evil.  Rev 19:1 After these things, I heard a great voice (singular: Heb. Equivalent – Kol) in heaven, a multitude (plural) were shouting, Hallelujah (Shine out Praise to the Lord) Salvation and k’vod (glory), and honor and power be unto HaShem (YHVH: Merciful) our G-d (Elohim: Judge).  John’s vision regarding the power of God was so overwhelming and righteous that the four beasts and the 24 elders prostrate themselves before the His throne, who has already slain the whore of Babylon.  John heard voices as great as thunder praising God with endless “amens” and “alleluias” as the bride of the Lamb readied herself with immaculate raiment.

SUMMARY OF Revelation 19: 

1.  The Lord praised for His great victory over the powers of darkness (Rev 19:1-6)

Revelation 19 begins with a universal rejoicing among the heavenly host and the set apart ones at the destruction of the great harlot Babylon, the resurrected ancient city at the centre of the beast’s empire (19:1-10).  “After these things” means after the events of the city of Babylon’s destruction recorded in chapter 18.  Immediately following the defeat of the powers of darkness, we see a heavenly scene of praise and honor being given to the Lamb for His great victory.  During this time of praise, all the saved and the angels of heaven have a part in rendering songs of praise to the victorious Lamb.   Their songs include the greatness of the Lord, the reasons for His judgments with a great emphasis on His holiness in judging those who were rebellious against Him.

 2.  The Lord’s relationship to His people – The Marriage Of The Lamb (Rev 19:7-10)

The scene next shifts to the Marriage of the Lamb, which is a symbolic representation of the Lamb and His people being prepared to spend eternity together.  We are told that the saints (the wife of the Lamb) have made themselves ready.  This is speaking of the saints continuing faithfulness to Christ during the time preceding the second coming of Christ.

Christ gives to His bride robes of white symbolizing His righteousness being placed on their account, as well as their lives of faithfulness on His behalf.  Perhaps these robes also symbolize the visible representation of His righteousness, their newly received glorified bodies which will be the visible proof Christ’s righteousness.

Much like a marriage is the beginning point of the groom’s and bride’s intimate lifelong relationship, this marriage between Christ and His bride symbolically signals the beginning of their eternity together.

 3.  The Lord’s relationship to the lost – His return and The Battle Of Armageddon (Rev 19:11-21)

In this section of Revelation 19, the initiation of the Lord’s relationship to lost mankind is presented.   We see Christ at His second coming described in great detail.  The symbolism of His appearance and actions reveals that Christ is faithful, holy, ultimate authority holder, righteous, revealer of God to man.  Although all of these truths, and others, are presented in His description, we are also told that it is impossible to come to a complete understanding of His greatness which is shown by the name He possesses that no man can know.

Christ, at His second coming, is seen returning with His saints, who are described in this vision as “armies” which are in heaven.  Keep in mind, as Christ first appears in heaven, He will take His saints up to be with Him, graciously give them glorified bodies and then begin His descent with them following Him.  As Christ continues His descent the fowls of heaven are invited to prepare for a feast which will be made up of the corpses of the enemies of Christ which will be available to them following Christ’s complete victory over them.  Their death is symbolizing the completeness of their defeat, while their bodies lying unburied points to their shameful lifestyle they have lived.

Those opposing Christ are the powers of darkness made up of Satan, His kingdom (both political and religious aspects), demons, and lost mankind.  They all are found being opposed to Christ and in rebellion against Him at His coming.  As Christ simply speaks they are defeated (His words are the sword that is seen coming out of His mouth bringing them to defeat).  At their defeat, Satan’s kingdoms are cast into the Lake of Fire which will be their dwelling place throughout eternity.   The remaining lost are seen being brought to death by Christ.  Their bodies are consumed by the birds as a declaration of shame and their rebellious rejection of Christ, leading to their eternal separation from Christ.

What Is the Battle of Armageddon?

The last part of Revelation 19 is devoted to the Battle of Armageddon, or “the supper of the great God” (vs 17).  In short, Revelation 16:16 describes what happens after God pours out the sixth bowl of wrath (one of the many plagues that permeates the Revelation narrative). The antichrist gathers “kings” in a placed called Armageddon. These kings, loyal to the antichrist, will gather their armies to wage war against the people of God.

The word “Armageddon” occurs only once in Scripture.  It is the name of the place where the greatest battle of all time will be fought.  We see hints of this war in Revelation 16:14 and in Revelation 20:7-9, where Satan gathers enemies from the four corners of the earth (in essence, everywhere). They’ll surround the armies of Israel and their remaining allies, but fire from heaven will consume them.

Next comes the description of the white horse and its rider Who is Faithful and True (19:11-13). Then the hostile powers (enemies of G-d and His people) gather to fight against the conquering Messiah (19:19).

Finally comes the defeat of the opposing forces, the casting of the beast (Seat of power of the evil empire) and its false prophet (Anti-Messiah) into the lake of fire (eternal punishment) and the slaughter of those who remain (19:20-21).

John’s amazing vision in this section that describes the long-awaited second coming of Jesus Christ, represents a moment of incredible triumph and a culmination of all of the prophecies pertaining to God’s ultimate plan of restoration of humanity back to God’s original plan prior to the fall.   Jesus’ first arrival on earth was humble (Luke 2:7) and involved His sacrificial death on a cross (Philippians 2:8).

His return on the other hand, is neither humble nor meek. Christ is described as a royal conqueror, wearing a robe dipped in the blood of His enemies, at the helm of the armies of heaven.  Now displayed as the “King of kings and Lord of lords,” Jesus will single-handedly obliterate the earthly armies which have amassed against Him (Isaiah 63:3). This results in the damnation of the Antichrist and False Prophet, who become the first two beings cast into the eternal lake of fire (Revelation 19:11–21).

These events mark the end of the tribulation, and the beginning of the millennial kingdom: a thousand-year reign of Christ on earth. Chapter 20 details this era of the end times. This will be followed by a last-ditch Satanic rebellion, a final victory, and the last judgments on mankind.

 

Introduction

Revelation 20:1-10 says, “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

The events of chapter 20 logically follow those of chapter 19 in that it begins with a continuation, or to be more precise, the concluding or climatic scene of the Battle of Armageddon.  At the end of chapter 19, Christ has returned to utterly destroy all those who had opposed Him. In particular, we saw God deal with the two human members of the unholy trinity, (1) Antichrist and (2) the False Prophet.  Now, chapter 20 begins with God dealing with the final member, Satan himself.  This is the natural result of Christ’s victory over sin, as He begins His undisputed reign on earth with the Millennial Kingdom, which will conclude with the final judgment of sin.

In Revelation Chapter 20, John saw an angel come down to earth from Heaven. In his hands, the angel held a great chain. With the chain, the angel bound the devil and kept him captive for 1,000 years.  The devil was then thrown into the great abyss where he was to remain locked and sealed away. The devil would not be able to cause mischief for 1,000 years. But when the millennium is finished, the devil will be set free for a short period of time.  John then saw those persons that were given the ability to judge. He also saw the souls of the many martyrs for God. In the afterlife, these martyrs took their place beside Christ and they were able to reign with Him for 1,000.

As I just mentioned, according to John in Revelation Chapter 20, Satan will be released at the end of the 1,000 year prison sentence. He will be allowed to deceive and bring havoc among the nations of the earth.  He will amass an army from the numbers of people that he has deceived.  Satan will also march his army towards the people of God and surround the city in which they live. God will protect the city by raining fire down upon the army of Satan. The devil will then be thrown into a lake of burning sulfur. He will be tormented there for all eternity along with the false prophets.

The resurrection and judgment of the wicked dead people will follow at the great white throne judgment of God (Revelation 20:11-15).  At the beginning of the Millennial kingdom, all the righteous people have been raised from the dead, and those living, both Gentiles and Jews, who survived the great Tribulation period will enter the Millennium in their natural bodies and will perform natural functions in that Millennial kingdom. Only those who are wicked will still be in the grave and not resurrected during the Millennial kingdom period.

Indeed, the Millennium (also known as the Millennial Kingdom) is the 1,000 years reign of King Jesus Christ on Earth after the great Tribulation period and before the great white throne judgment of God (Revelation 20:11-15). Lord Jesus Christ will reign as king over Israel as well as all the nations of the world (Isaiah 2:4; 42:1). The world will live in peace (Isaiah 11:6–9; 32:18), Satan will be bound for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:1–3) and everyone will worship God (Isaiah 2:2–3). The purpose of the 1,000-years reign of King Jesus Christ is to fulfill promises God made to the world that cannot be fulfilled while Satan is free and human beings have political authority. Some of these promises, called covenants, were given specifically to Israel. Others were given to Lord Jesus Christ, the nations of the world and creation of God. All of these will be fulfilled during the 1,000 years reign of King Jesus Christ on Earth.

The millennium is a literal period of one thousand years that will follow the return of Jesus Christ as Messiah. It has to do with a literal millennial reign of Christ and the saints that will accompany Him from heaven to earth. The millennium will witness the final fulfillment of the hopes and dreams of humanity.  When Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace rules from the Throne of David, we will finally enter into the Age of Redemption.

After the glorious Rapture of the Church (“Bride of Christ”), after the seven years worldwide tribulation period, and after the second coming to Earth, Lord Jesus Christ will reign in His Millennial kingdom. The coming literal kingdom of King Jesus Christ to this Earth will be the most blessed time this world has known since the Garden of Eden. Many Edenic features will characterize this Millennial kingdom. All the unrepentant rebels who rebelled against God and Lord Jesus Christ during the great Tribulation period will be gone. Antichrist and the False Prophet will be languishing in the terrible lake of fire and sulfur. Satan will be bound for 1,000 years in the fiery bottomless pit so he cannot tempt people during the Millennial kingdom period.

This will enable King Jesus Christ to enforce His worldwide 1,000 years reign of peace and righteousness. Together with His holy Angels, King Jesus Christ will have the glorified Saints (Raptured and Resurrected Saints) in their new glorified bodies to help Him enforce His worldwide 1,000 years reign of peace and righteousness. It will be illegal for potential law breakers, criminals and other people who may want to corrupt society to ply their evil trades in the Millennial kingdom. Therefore, the coming Millennial kingdom will be a time of unprecedented prosperity, when everyone will have his or her home. The curse on the Earth will be lifted by King Jesus Christ and the ground will bear incredible harvests. Cheating and war will be non-existent, so people will enjoy the fruits of their labors.

SUMMARY OF CHAPTER 20:
  1. The Binding of Satan (Rev 20:1-3) – John sees an angel sent from God proceed from heaven.  This angel possesses control over the bottomless pit and a great chain that will be used to bind Satan and cast him into the bottomless pit (Lake of Fire).  Satan’s imprisonment would last for the length of the 1000-year time period.

Satan and his work is revealed through the use of 4 titles.  Satan’s temptations are used to fascinate and mislead mankind (Dragon), he knows mankind’s weaknesses and shortcomings (Serpent), he accuses God’s people of wrongdoing seeking to bring them under the condemnation of God (Devil), he is the enemy of God constantly opposing Him (Satan).

2. The 1000 Year Reign (Rev. 20:4-6) – With the imprisonment of Satan completed, John sees the saints enjoying the 1000 years with God.

3.  The Great White Throne Judgement (Rev 20:7-10) – After the 1000 years are completed, John then sees Satan released from the bottomless pit.  Even after his imprisonment, Satan continues to have a desire to rebel and oppose the works of Christ.  In this case, he desires to lead mankind in a worldwide war against the Lord.  John then jumps ahead and sees the end result of their judgment… fire devours them, removing them from the New Earth, and then Satan and the lost are committed to the Lake of Fire for an eternity.

Who Will Be Judged?

The following will be judge at the Great White Throne Judgment: 1. The Unsaved Dead of All Time.   2. Satan 3. The Fallen Angels.

  1. The Judgment of The Lost Symbolized by A Court Trial (Rev 20:11-15)

A second set of symbols that are used to describe the final judgment of the lost is presented as a court trial where guilt and punishment are decided.  The Lord Jesus glory is shown as He sits on a shining white throne.   Jesus’ identity is confirmed when we are told the One of the throne is the same one “from whose face the earth and heaven fled away.”

Next, John sees the lost stand before the Lord awaiting judgment.  We are told that Christ will use “the books” (the 66 books of the Bible) and the book of life to complete the judgment process.  The books of the Bible will be used to judge men’s works, thereby assigning guilt to them, and the book of life will be used to see if Christ’s blood has covered those sins and paid their price.

Of course, all the works of the lost will be found sinful, which will render them guilty in God’s sight.  Then their names will be missing from the book of life, clearly revealing they owe the sin debt that they have accrued.    This will result in all of them being sent to the Lake of Fire for an eternity.  We are told that the sea will give up the lost who were lost at sea, emphasizing that, no matter what may happen to the physical body, whether lost at sea, eaten by a sea creature, or decaying in the depths, the Lord is still quite capable of resurrecting the body and reuniting it with the spirit.

We are also told that “death and hell” gave up the dead and then were ultimately cast into the Lake of Fire.  This would appear to teach us that, following this resurrection of the lost, no longer will the bodies and spirits of the lost be separated from each other.  As complete beings, made up of both body and spirit, they will stand before the Lord in judgment and be consigned to the lake of fire for an eternity.

Results of Final Judgment

The following are the results of God’s final judgment upon His creation:

1. God Accomplishes His Plan

God’s plan for time and eternity will be finally accomplished. All things that He planned and purposed for humanity on this earth are now completed.

2. Justice Is Finally Served

Every wrong will now be righted. The justice that did not take place here on earth will finally occur.

3. Christ’s Ministry Is Complete

The ministry of Jesus Christ will have been completed. All things which He set out to do are now accomplished. When He came the first time, He completed the work that God the Father had given Him. There are still things that are to happen before this final judgment. All these are accomplished at the Great White Throne.4. The Goal Of History Is Met

Paradise lost in Genesis will be regained. Sin will be eradicated and righteousness will flourish. History will reach its goal.5. All Humans Are Held Responsible For Their Actions

Humans will be held responsible for the deeds committed in this life. Everyone will be fairly.

Finally, we are told that this represents those who have partaken of the second death, which is the eternal separation of man from God’s presence throughout eternity.

Summary

We can conclude the following about the Great White Throne, or final judgment:

  1. After the thousand-year period of peace the Millennium there is a final rebellion against God. Once the rebellion is crushed there is a final judgment of the wicked.
  2. Those at the Great White Throne judgment include all the unbelievers from the beginning of life here on the earth.
  3. Satan will be judged at this time as well as his fallen angels.
  4.  The final judgment will culminate God’s plan for this earth.
  5. After this judgment eternity begins.

Although the Book of Revelation is founded upon historical circumstances in the Roman Empire, addressed to seven particular historical churches (Revelation 1-3), there is wisdom and encouragement for all the saints in every period of the last days before Christ returns.  In the Book of Revelation, we not only see the triumph of God’s purposes and power, but the great and powerful coming of our Lord and King Jesus Christ- – this is the church’s great hope!

The book powerfully lifts the eyes of the saints to see above the problems and afflictions of this world.  In order that we may know God’s perspective on circumstances in our lives; that is, to see God and his sovereignty; the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world; the saints who have been bought with the precious blood of Christ are now ruling with Christ; to see the devil, sin and death are conquered ultimately, and the Lord Jesus Christ is lifted upon his throne and all his enemies are made to be his footstool (1 Peter 1:3-18) (1 Peter 1:3-18; Revelation 4-5).  This book is a blessing for those who read it (Revelation 1:3; 22:7,14).

 

We are in the End Game, An Introduction to the Book of Revelation, Part 7, The Great Tribulation Period, by Dr Bruce Logan

What does the Bible say about the Great Tribulation?

When we left off last time in this introductory overview of the book of Revelation, the church was in heaven and Christ had received the seven sealed scroll, followed by an eruption of heavenly praise that ensued as chapter 5 closes out.

Now, as we enter into chapter 6, Christ begins to open the seals, one seal at a time.  With the opening of each seal, an initial series of judgments will begin to be unleashed upon the earth which will continue over the following 7 years.  This period is known as the 7 year tribulation period.

As part of his vision on the Isle of Patmos, the Apostle John was given a prophetic front row seat for these yet futuristic events in which he goes on to describe in panoramic detail.   John also goes on to inform us that this 7 year period will be climaxed  by an accelerated chamber of horrors commonly known as the “great tribulation”, which will make the previous horrors pale by comparison.

So, as we embark upon the next 14 action packed chapters, we will get a glimpse into the future destiny of planet earth and the ultimate culmination of God’s redemptive work in the earth throughout history.

According to the prophetic scriptures, the tribulation period will be a time of trouble and difficulty that has never before seen on the earth. A period that will ultimately lead up to the return of Christ, the defeat of the anti-christ forces at the Battle of Armageddon, the casting of Satan into the bottomless pit for one thousand years, and the establishment of His Kingdom and a one thousand year millennial reign.  This seven year period of time, will bring an unprecedented time of trouble for the whole world. (Note particularly: Mathew 24:21; Daniel 12:1-2; and Joel 2:2).  There never has been, nor will there ever again, be a time like it.

So, in this lesson, instead of a verse by verse exposition, I would like to share just a brief overview or summary of this period, with the hopes that it will inspire and motivate you to begin your own personal study, as well as, possibly encourage more pastors to begin to unpack Revelation to the congregations.  Because considering all that is happening in the country and in the world currently, their may have never been a period where understanding the signs of the times might be a more relevant topic than right now.

Just to put this period into a little more perspective, Dr Paul Benware succinctly summarizes this period in the following observations: “God’s wrath will be poured out in a most powerful way during those seven years.  In giving us the basics of the judgments of God’s wrath, the Apostle John records, in Revelation, that there will be 19 specific judgments. 

These judgments are said to be “birth pains” indicating that after they begin, they will grow worse and worse and closer together as the seven years proceed along.  This lets us know several basic points: (1) that the majority of judgments take place in the latter part of the Tribulation, and that (2) the last judgments will be worse than the initial ones.  These 19 judgments will devastate the world. Body counts are given for 2 of the 19 judgments (the 4th Seal and the 6th Trumpet)

In these two judgments, 50% of the population of the earth dies.  But when we look closely at the rest of the judgments, it is quite clear that the death toll far exceeds 50%.  We are probably not too far off by saying that 80-85% will perish.  So if the Tribulation begins with the population of the earth being 7 billion, then those that die under the wrath of God will be around 6 billion.  All that in 7 years.

But death will also come at the hand of Satan. Satan will use the Great Harlot (Revelation 17), and and the Antichrist (Revelation 13) to shed the blood of millions of God’s people.  This incredible loss of human life coupled with unprecedented earthquakes (two of them that move the entire crust of the earth), burning of earth, destruction of the oceans and fresh water sources will make this the worst period in all of human history.  It is no wonder that Jesus observed that unless God had limited this time to just 7 years no human being would be left standing (Matthew 24:22) (paulbenware.com).

A summary of the events of the end times commonly known as the “Great Tribulation.”  

From the account of events in Revelation chapters 6-19 we can see that the Great Tribulation has three stages:

  1. The first stage is marked by the breaking of seven seals in heaven.
  2. The second stage is marked by the blowing of seven trumpets in heaven. This is a period where the beast will be in contention with the “second fruits;” or those who were not caught up in the rapture but now realizes their mistake and have chosen now to serve God. This stage ends in the reaping of the “second fruits” up to heaven and Satan being thrown out of heaven and down to earth.
  3. The third stage is God’s outpouring of wrath over Satan, the beast, and the Antichrist and their followers. It is marked by the emptying of seven bowls of wrath over the earth.  After this, Jesus Christ returns to earth with His followers, marking the end of the Great Tribulation and ushering in the Millennium, a thousand years of peace.

The seven seals

In Revelation 5, we read about a scroll bound with seven seals. When Christ opens these seals, the Great Tribulation starts.  Each seal corresponds to a specific judgement during this first stage of the Great Tribulation.

In Revelation 6:1-8 we read that the first four seals broken unleash four riders on the earth to conquer and spread war, famine, and death. This corresponds closely to what Jesus says in Matthew 24:6-8.  After these spirit powers are unleashed, the fifth seal is broken and many Christians will be killed and martyred for their faith (Revelation 6:9-11; Matthew 24:9).

It is clear that the conditions on the world will have fallen to an all-time low. People will be ruled by hatred and pride. Christians will be persecuted and killed for their faith, lawlessness will abound, and false Christs (Messiahs) and false prophets will rise up (Matthew 24:10-28).

The sixth seal broken will herald the arrival of earthquakes and cosmic disturbances. The sun and stars will go dark and the moon will become like blood (Revelation 6:12-17 and Matthew 24:29).   After this takes place, Matthew 24:30 tells us that the Son of Man will appear in heaven and all the tribes of the earth will mourn.

The seventh and final seal will then be broken. In Revelation 8:2 we see that seven angels are given seven trumpets and in verse 6 they are preparing to sound them.  The blowing of these seven trumpets will unleash even more events that will take place which see a significant escalation of the cataclysmic events seal judgments.

Understanding the Parenthetical Periods of the Tribulation Narrative

To fully understand the tribulation narrative, it is important to be aware of seven “parentheses” or parenthetical pauses in the narrative that occur between chapters 7 and 20.

Chapter seven is the first of these parenthetical pauses, coming between the sixth and the seventh seals and reveals other things that are happening during this period of time.  Briefly, these parenthetical interludes in the narrative are are:

 (1) The ministry of the 144,000 (Revelation 7:1-8)              

 (2) A multitude, saved during the Tribulation Period (Revelation 7:9-17).

 Looking ahead, the second parenthesis, coming between the sixth and the seventh trumpet judgments, reveals what else is happening during the period of time of these trumpet judgments. 

 (1) The “small scroll” (Revelation 10:1-11)  

(2) The Two Witnesses (Revelation 11:1-14)

 The third parenthesis, coming between the seventh trumpet and the vial judgments, reveals seven personages:

(1) The Sun Clothed Woman (Revelation 12:1-2)            

(2) The Dragon (Revelation 12:3-4)                

(3) The Man Child (Revelation 12:5-6)                    

(4) The Archangel (Revelation 12:7-12)                          

(5) The Jewish Remnant (Revelation 12:13-17)                            

(6) The Beast out of the Sea (Revelation 13:1-10)                                                                                                   

(7) The Beast out of the earth (Rev. 13:11-19-18)

The fourth parenthesis, also, coming between the seventh trumpet and the seven vial judgments, reveals certain events, that take place during this period of time that, are not included in the telling of the “trumpet-judgments.”

(1) The Lamb on Mt. Zion (Revelation 14:1-5)         

(2) The Three Angels (Revelation 14:6-12)                      

(3) The Blessed Dead (Revelation 14:13                                 

(4) The Harvest and Vintage (Revelation 14:14-20)  

 The fifth parenthesis, coming between the sixth and seventh vial judgments, reveals what else is happening during the period of time that these judgments are being poured out.  

Three unclean spirits (Revelation 16:13-16)        

The sixth parenthesis, coming between the 2nd and the 3rd doom.

The seventh parenthesis, coming between the 4th and the 5th doom reveals:

(1) Satan bound (Revelation 20:1-7)      

(2) The First Resurrection (Revelation 20:4-5)                     

(3) The Millennium (Revelation 20:6)                

(4) Satan loosed for a little while (Revelation 20:7)

These parenthetical passages or interludes in the narrative, simply, contain additional illustrative information about things that will transpire, but were not contained in the revealing of the seal, trumpet or vial judgments. However, understanding the reason for these parenthetical-interruptions is necessary in order to bring the bible student current on what else is taking place during the same time of the revealing of these judgments in the Revelation.

The seven trumpets

The seven angels mentioned in the breaking of the seventh seal in Revelation 8:6 were given seven trumpets. Each trumpet blown brings a new wave of disaster to the earth. This next stage of the end times is God’s judgment on the earth, but God’s wrath is still mixed with grace, so those who were not along in the rapture can still turn to God and get grace. These will not be counted in the first fruits, the bride of Christ, but will have the opportunity to repent and become martyrs for their faith. These are the “second fruits” of God’s harvest.

Since the Bride has been raptured there is no longer anything holding back the beast and the Antichrist from taking full power. The Antichrist spirit that has been present since the days of the apostles (1 John 4:3), will finally take a physical form and the man Antichrist, the lawless one, will rule over the whole earth and persecute those who were left behind but still serve God (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12).  He will try to force everyone to take the mark of the beast (Revelation 13:16-17), which shows that the bearer has rejected God and worships the beast. Without this mark nobody will be able to buy or sell.

Parenthetically, (or my personal interlude) while many people have mention the future mark of the beast in conversations through the years, but this event happens to be a much more important development than most Christians realize.  In order for the anti-christ to unleash the 666 WORLDWIDE ECONOMY, there will have had to be a major cataclysmic event or rapid series of events that will have the current worlds economic system destroyed.  This of course, will simply organically lead to the rise of some future charismatic leader to arise to save the day with the promise of economic salvation. 

This is also why it is very important as believers, that we DISCERN the signs of the times when it comes to any disruption in world economies such as is currently taking place with the WORLDWIDE corona virus shut down.  Virtually overnight, economies of countries around the world, including the United States, came to a standstill because of the pandemic.  So, it shouldn’t take much imagination to envision what could happen the world economic systems after millions of Christians suddenly disappear of the face of the earth without a trace, and followed up the the seven seal judgments.

The first four trumpets sounded will herald the destruction of a third of the trees and all the grass, a third of the sea, a third of the sea creatures and a third of all ships. A third of the fresh water on the earth will become poisonous and bitter and a third of the sun, stars, and moon will be darkened (Revelation 8:7-13).

The fifth trumpet unleashes hellish locusts from the bottomless pit to torment mankind (Revelation 9:1-12). They are led by the “angel of the bottomless pit” called Abaddon or Apollyon (Revelation 9:11).

At the sound of the sixth trumpet four angels are released to go over the earth and kill a third of mankind by fire, smoke, and brimstone. This is God’s last chance given to mankind to come into heaven before He pours His wrath and judgment over the earth. Unfortunately, it is written that the rest of mankind still do not repent of their sins, meaning that they had been given yet another opportunity to do so (Revelation 9:13-21).  God also sends two witnesses to earth to prophecy.  They will be killed for their testimony and then resurrected by God and taken up to heaven (Revelation 11:1-14).

The seventh trumpet is then sounded and loud voices in heaven cry out The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Revelation 11:15).

It is clear now that everyone who has accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior will be in heaven. This includes the bride of Christ, the martyrs, and the heroes of the Old Covenant. All of God’s different servants will now be gone from the earth and gathered in heaven.

The next chapter in Revelation describes a war in heaven. The angel Michael and his angels cast Satan and his angels out of heaven and down to the earth, once and for all (Revelation 12:7-9).

These passages indicate that in Revelation 12 most likely describes a future event during which Satan and his followers will be completely expelled from heaven (Revelation 12:6). This seems to suggest that this will take place at approximately the midpoint of the tribulation period. Satan and his fallen angels will have only three and a half years to attack God’s people. Verse 12 notes, “But woe to you, O earth and sea,  for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

Chapter 12 relates several highly symbolic visions, which introduce figures critical to the end times:

  1. First is a woman, representative of Israel.
  2. Second is a red dragon, identified with Satan.
  3. Third is a male child, who is Jesus Christ. The red dragon seeks to devour the woman’s male child, but God caught the child to His throne, referring to the ascension of Jesus after His resurrection. The passage then continues to describe a war in heaven between Michael and Satan, here Satan becomes the fourth key figure, which results in Satan’s complete and total eviction from heaven. Satan attempts to destroy Israel, most likely through an armed invasion, which is supernaturally defeated by God through an earthquake. The fifth main figure is the collective ”offspring” of the woman. These events are given further details in passages such as Ezekiel chapter 38.

Satan in this passage is referred to as “the dragon,” which is further clarified in verse 9.  Satan appears in Scripture as the perpetrator of evil and everything that is opposed to God.  Ephesians 2:2 refers to him as “the prince of the power of the air.” We can readily understand why conflict between Michael and Satan breaks out in heaven.  The conflict between good and evil rages today, as Satan attacks believers (1 Peter 5:8). Using trials, deception and temptations, he tries to render believers spiritually ineffective.  Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians 12:7 a thorn in his flesh, some kind of severe personal trial, which he calls “a messenger of Satan.” Ephesians 6:10–12 reminds us that we are engaged in a vicious warfare with the Devil and his demonic followers.

The seven bowls of wrath

Now that God has gathered all His servants from the earth and placed them in heaven, there is no place in heaven for Satan and his evil hosts anymore. They are banished to the earth with all those sinners who refused to repent time and time again. Now God is in a position to empty out His wrath and judgment over the earth, against the beast and all those who have worshiped the beast.

Seven angels are given seven bowls of wrath, each of which unleashes a plague on the earth. The first bowl sends out loathsome sores to all who have the mark of the beast (Revelation 16:2).  The second and third bowls turn the seas and the waters to blood (Revelation 16:3-4).  The fourth bowl gives power to the sun to scorch men (Revelation 16:8-9) and the fifth bowl fills the world with darkness and pain (Revelation 16:10).  It is written in Revelation 16:11 that “they did not repent of their deeds.”

The emptying of the sixth bowl causes the river Euphrates to dry up to prepare the way for armies from the East, which some scholars surmise that this eastern army will either be an Asian coalition, or an alliance between China and Russia.  At the same time, the beast and the Antichrist begin to gather their armies together at the place in Israel called Armageddon, in preparation for war with God and His people, the Jews in Israel (Revelation 16:12-16; Ezekiel 38 and 39).  They will war against Israel and they will seem to be winning (Micah 4:11).  Jerusalem and the Jews are under tremendous pressure as it appears that the Antichrist and his armies are victorious.

Then the measure is full and it is time for the seventh and last bowl to be emptied, which signals the conclusion of the Great Tribulation. A loud voice cries out from heaven, “It is done” (Revelation 16:17).  There is an earthquake that is mightier than any earthquake that has happened before, cities fall, and islands and mountains disappear. Great hail falls on mankind and men blaspheme God (Revelation 16:17-21).  Now God’s wrath has been poured over the earth. This is the moment for Christ to come down from heaven, seated on a white horse with the armies of heaven behind Him.

The armies of the beast and the Antichrist cannot stand before Him. They are defeated once and for all and He delivers the Jews who were in great distress. Then their eyes will be opened and they will realize that the promised Messiah is Jesus Christ whom they crucified, and repent (Revelation 19:11-21; Zechariah 12:8-11).  The Antichrist and the beast are cast alive into the lake of fire for eternity and Satan is bound for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-3).  Thus begins the Millennium, a thousand years of peace.

God’s mercy

We can see that at each stage of the end times God gives new opportunities for people to repent and come to Him. But the glory and the reward given will vary significantly. How foolish and proud it would be to ignore God’s grace when it is given and then to have to suffer through the Great Tribulation and try to squeeze into heaven at the last second before the end.

“We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says: ‘In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:1-2).

God has given us this time of grace now so that we can be along in the bride of Christ, the first fruits, and those who will receive the greatest reward in heaven! Think about it: not only is the bride spared from the horrible events when God’s bowls of wrath are poured out, but she is also given the greatest reward in heaven! An eternity at the side of Jesus Christ, her Lord and Savior! Are you responding to God’s call in your heart? Are you preparing yourself to be Jesus’ bride? Are you making use of the time, or is God’s grace in vain? Now is the time of grace. Now is the time when God can and will help you!

Finally, as you launch into your own personal exploration of this amazing book, always remember to be a Berean:

 

We are in the End Game, An Introduction to the Book of Revelation Part 6, After These Things, by Dr Bruce Logan

The Things Which Shall Be Hereafter

Chapter four of the book of Revelation represents a dramatic change, in which we now move to the third division of the book.  If you will recall, in Revelation 1:19, we learned from the Lord Himself, the proper divisions of the Revelation. There John the Apostle heard the Lord say to him, “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now, and what will take place later (or after this)”.

It is very important to observe these three divisions because by understanding this chronological outline, and understanding the fact that this third section of the book is pointing to events that God revealed to John that for us, are still yet awaiting future fulfillment, will greatly enhance your ability to interpret and understand Revelation.  In other words, by viewing Revelation sequentially, it is only reasonable to assume, as I will briefly develop here, that “the things which take place after this” which includes Revelation chapters 6 through the end of the book, describe events that will occur after the age of the Church on earth.

The key phrase that links the third part of the outline in Revelation 1:19 with the beginning of Revelation 4:1, is the phrase, meta tauta, “after these things,” which occurs in both verses.  In other words, Revelation 4:1 uses this grammatical link to connect with the third part of the outline in Revelation 1:19.   Beginning with Revelation 4:1,  John clearly says that in the vision in which God is revealing to him, Heaven now becomes the focal point:  “After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven” (Revelation 4:1).  In essence, after the age of the Church on earth, in chapters 4 and 5, attention is shifted from earth to heaven.

With that backdrop, before moving forward in our study, in  order to put this all into perspective, I think that it will be helpful to do a quick review of the significance of the study of bible prophecy, as well has an overview of the divine outline of Revelation, because beginning at Revelation chapter 4, everything that John sees are events that are yet awaiting future fulfillment:

What is Prophecy?

Simply put, prophecy is “history written in advance” or pre-written history.  In other words, when we study past important historical events such as, the American Revolution, the Civil War or the Protestant Reformation, we are learning about these events AFTER these events actually occurred.  When studying prophecy on the other hand, God who “knows the end from the beginning,” allows us to get a glimpse into the future hundreds and sometimes thousands of years before the events actually take place.

Why study bible prophecy?

  • There are 404 verses containing over 800 allusions from the Old Testament.
  • In the Old Testament, there are 1,845 references to Christ’s rule on earth; 17 OT books give prominence to this event.
  • Of the 216 chapters in the New Testament, there are 318 references to the Second Coming of Christ; the event is mentioned in 23 of the 27 books.
  • Nearly one-third of all of the old testament prophecies are yet awaiting future fulfillment.
  • For every prophecy relation to Christ’s first coming, there are 8 that reference His second coming.
  • Revelation presents the climax of God’s redemption plan for man.
  • It is the consummation of all things.
  • Prophecy encourages Godly living– when we do not intentionally think about our eternal future it becomes easy to believe that this earth is all there is, which leads to sloppy spirituality and unrighteous living (1 John 2:28-3:3).
  • Prophecy gives hope and comfort– we remember that our current troubles are only temporary and a day is coming when all troubles will cease; the best is yet to come (Revelation 20-21).
  • Prophecy warns to flee from the wrath to come– knowing that an eternity in Heaven or Hell is real should motivate us to live Godly lives, and share the way to Christ with others (Romans 1:8).
  • Prophecy Verifies the Bible as the Absolute Word of God – Prophecy is God’s signature on world history, and on the future of the world. It should be no surprise that the Holy Bible is the only religious book in the whole world with even a word of prophecy.
  • Prophecy Reveals God’s Providential Plan – The Lord created the world and set time and history in motion. Many people may think that he has left off attending to the happenings in the world, but in reality, He is overseeing and working through all the affairs of mankind to perform his providential plan of the ages.
  • Prophecy Alerts us to the “Signs of the Times” – Without the Lord’s conveyance of Bible prophecy, we would have absolutely no idea how close we might be to the Day of the Lord.
  • Our Lord Placed a Great Deal of Emphasis on the Prophetic Scriptures: The very last message that Christ taught prior to His crucifixion was the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24 & 25); then, the very first lesson that He taught His disciples after His resurrection was explaining all of the Old Testament Prophetic Scriptures concerning Himself (Luke 24:44-48), and finally, at Christ’s ascension back up into Heaven, the final admonition that the two Angles gave His astonished disciples was that, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11)which of course, was a prophecy concerning Christ’s second coming.  So, with the overwhelming amount of emphasis that the word of God has devoted to the subject of prophecy, it would just stand to reason that we as Christians not continue to completely neglect and dismiss a subject that God has placed such a priority, especially in light of current events .

First, John was told to “write what you have seen.” That covers the vision of chapter one. What John the Apostle saw was the Lord himself walking in the midst of his churches. Then he was told to write “what is now.” That occupies chapters two and three, i.e., the letters to the seven churches which is a sweeping prophecy of the present age of the church. Then he was told “write what will take place after this.” It is to this third division in which we now arrive in chapter four of our study, which gives us a panoramic view of the beginning of what will take place after the church age or after the rapture of the church.

AN OPEN DOOR IN HEAVEN

We move now to the third division of the book.  As I mentioned previously, chapter four of the book of Revelation represents a dramatic change.  Chapters 4 and 5 record glimpses into Christ’s glory.  We will see into the throne room of heaven, where God is seated on the throne and directing all of the future events that are to occur.   We are now approaching the main body of the Book of Revelation itself and the numerous visions which it presents for our consideration.  Revelation 4:1–6 describes the apostle John’s experience of being in the Spirit and being transported to heaven. There, he sees the radiance of God which John describes as precious jewels.

John reports in the opening verse of Revelation 4 that he saw a door open in heaven and heard a voice beckoning him to come up to heaven. From heaven’s vantage point, John would witness future events.  Upon his arrival in heaven, John saw God. He was sitting on a throne surrounded by twenty-four other thrones.  A sea of glass lay in front of God’s throne, and four living creatures were beside the throne. When the living creatures ascribed honor and praise to God, the elders who occupied the twenty-four thrones fell down and worshiped God.  They cast their crowns before Him and praised Him.

The Throne Room of Heaven

Several things need to be noted before we discover what the Church will encounter in heaven. First; there is an open door (4:1). God wants us to know what is happening in heaven while there is tribulation on earth. Next, through the open door we see worship. That will be the primary activity in heaven.

The One John saw seated on the throne in verses 2-3 could only be described by comparison to earth’s most beautiful objects, like precious stones such as jasper and Sardis. These were the first and last stones on the high priest’s breastplate (Exodus 28:17-20) and picture the One who is Himself the first and last. Revelation 3:21 has Jesus promising the over-comers the right to sit with Him on the throne; and we know the Spirit is standing before the throne. So, the whole Godhead-Father, Son, and Spirit-is found on the throne in heaven.

Just as a side note, it is important to keep in mind that regarding the symbolism used in the book of Revelation that has been used as an excuse by many Christians over the years to ignore or dismiss Revelation because of their perceived difficulty to understand, John was probably doing his best to describe and verbalize what he was seeing.  In other words, John’s vocabulary probably didn’t have the words to even begin to understand and describe the symbols that he was actually seeing.  However, to his credit, John did his very best to impress upon us the wonders indescribable wonders that he was seeing.

This is actually in keeping with the admonition the Apostle Paul gave in his first letter to the Christians in Corinth in which he said that, neither eyes nor ears have seen or heard, nor even have imagined, the things that God has prepared for those that love Him.

To put it simply, it is impossible for we has humans and in our natural human understanding to be able to comprehend what things are like in the spiritual realm. And that is in spite of the fact that we have two thousand years of amazing advancements in technology that John in the first century wouldn’t even have been able to even begin to comprehend.

The Silence Concerning the Church in Chapters 4-19
Revelation chapters 4-19 talks about one thing in its entirety, which is tribulation on earth. Everything from chapters 6-19 is about judgment that is going to come upon the earth. And here is the most amazing thing about those chapters:  Not once is the Church mentioned.  If it were on earth during a time of judgment like the coming Great Tribulation it would be mentioned.  And if it is not on earth, then Heaven is only one place it can be.

The Spirit of God Transfer from Earth to Heaven
In Revelation 2-3, the Holy Spirit was in the midst of the churches on earth. But in Revelation 4:5 we find that the Holy Spirit is now in heaven before the throne of God. Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 that someone who is now restraining “the lawless one” will be “taken out of the way.” The lawless one is obviously the man of sin, or Antichrist; who will have free reign during the Tribulation period. The Restrainer is the Holy Spirit who works through the Church (salt and light) on earth. But when the Holy Spirit; and wells, is taken out of the way, literally all hell will break loose upon earth.  This complete worldwide, unrestrained and unencumbered evil that will be unleashed on earth, can only happen because the Holy Spirit and the Church have been removed.

A phrase John uses seven times in chapters 2 and 3 is, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (3:6). But when that phrase is used in Revelation 13:9, it has changed: “If anyone has an ear, let him hear.”  The Spirit is no longer speaking to the Church on earth, rather there is an invitation to “anyone” to grasp the message being given.  Another important clue is how God is referred to in chapters 4-19.  The name by which Christians refer to God is “Father,” (Matthew 6:9).  But in Revelation 4-19, God is never called “Father.” He is referred to as God, Lord, Almighty and other non-personal names by which He was known in the Old Testament. Why? Because His children are no longer addressing Him from earth; they are with Him in heaven.

THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH

Just briefly, the mysterious event known as the Rapture, is most clearly presented in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, in which he encourages the grieving Christians that, at the “great snatch,” they will be reunited with those who have died in Christ before them.

In verse 17, the English phrase “caught up” translates the Greek word, which means “to seize upon with force” or “to snatch up.”

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not precede them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Although the Rapture is not specifically mentioned in the book of Revelation, it is dearly alluded to in the transition from chapter 3 to chapter 4. It is the only explanation for how and why the venue of Revelation moves from earth to heaven. Several facts help us establish the truth of our assumption:

As we can see from the above passage, while the word “Rapture” is not mentioned, the mysterious event known as the Rapture is most clearly presented in the above passage from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, in which he encourages the grieving Christians in Thessalonica that, at the “great snatch,” they will be reunited with those who have died in Christ before them.  The disciples of Christ who have already died will be resurrected first, and will be joined by those who are still living in Christ. They will all be raised up together in incorruptible bodies to meet Jesus in the air.

“For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality”  (1 Corinthians 15:52-53).

Just briefly, consider the following parallels and similarities between Revelation 4:1-2, 1 Corinthians 15, and 1 Thessalonians 4:

  1. A Voice of the Lord: Revelation 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:16.
  2. A Trumpet of God sounding: Revelation 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 15:52.
  3. A Change from physical to spiritual: Revelation 4:2; 1 Corinthians 15:52-53.

The Aftermath 

Parenthetically, it is important to point out the fact that, immediately after the Rapture, there will be a brief period from the Rapture to the start of the Tribulation will undoubtedly play an important role in establishing the Antichrist’s reign. All born-again believers will have disappeared. Considering the millions of Christians who will be raptured worldwide, the devastation to the economies, militaries, and social structures of nations could be potentially significant. If the Rapture were to occur today, the United States would be particularly affected, as would South Korea, Canada, and other countries with large numbers of born-again Christians.

Generally, the Rapture and the resulting calamities will send the world reeling. Recent and current history teaches how unruly people can become when the infrastructure they are so used to collapses, even for a brief time.  Ask any New York City resident who endured the summer of 1977 when the electricity went out for two days. Looting, robberies, muggings, and the like became epidemic. The Rapture of the church will more than likely produce even worse events around the world.

Political and Economic Systems

But even closer to home, let’s consider also for example, the current WORLDWIDE Covid-19 pandemic that has had such an calamitous impact on world economies.  But even more significant, especially as it relates to the aftermath of the rapture, is the speed in which this pandemic effected the entire world.  Virtually overnight, countries around the world, including the United States, which also happens to be the greatest economic force in the world, simply shut down their economies because of the pandemic.  If the impact of the corona virus can send turmoil into the worlds economies with such speed and impact, what will happen with the sudden loss of millions of people? Worldwide economic collapse will undoubtedly be the result.

Finally, imagine what the would will be like once all of the “restraining forces” (i.e. the church and the Spirit of God) have been suddenly removed from the earth, and the subsequent evil that will be unleashed unleashed on those who are left behind.   in addition to economic and military chaos and upheaval, the Rapture will also undoubtedly cause political turmoil that will make the political polarization that we are currently experiencing, pale by comparison.  If the Lord were to remove His church from the earth today, the United States would be among the countries most heavily affected. Many Christians hold positions of importance in every segment of American society.  Not to mention the many christian pilots who will be in mid flight when they are suddenly snatched away, or the millions of Christians will be driving in their cars.

In short, the Rapture will leave the U.S. critically and more than likely mortally wounded and possibly reduced to a second-rate power. With the United States crippled economically and politically, many political changes could occur across the globe virtually overnight.  Which is why I also have been encourage anyone who will listen, that as we navigate through this Covid-19 pandemic and the corresponding responses by our government and media, believers especially should never loose sight on the impact on the economy.  While I am fully aware of the controversy and emotions that get stirred when the subject of the economy arises, nevertheless, not for any endorsement of your favorite political party or allegiance, but to be able to DISCERN the signs of the times, and to be able to observe what is proving to be a prelude of things to come.  In other words, believers in Christ should never loose sight of the “BIG PICTURE.”  Because when the anti-christ is revealed after the rapture, one of the first things on his agenda will be to get a handle on the collapse of the worlds economies, hence 666.

Finally, to be fair, there is a segment of christian scholars who reject the idea of a “pre-tribulation rapture” as I have just outlined but instead, ascribe to a “mid-tribulation rapture” interpretation.  Now there are a number of reasons for this disagreement, but to encapsulate, much of their disagreement centers around something that the Apostle Paul said to the Christians at Corinth concerning the second coming,  “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52 NIV).  Mid-tribulation proponents argue that this passage is a reference to the 7th trumpet judgment recorded in revelation 11:15.

However, while I can agree that this rational could provide a substantive argument, but for the reasons that I have already highlighted, as well as, many other reasons that I could point out, I believe that the mid-trib hypothesis can’t be conclusively proven biblically.  For one thing, the mid-trib supposition  leaves you with more questions than it provides answers.  But the main reason why I have difficulty with the mid-trib premise, can be summed up with a key statement that Jesus Himself made regarding His second coming.  While giving His Olivet Discourse, Christ pointed out the following: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matthew 24:36 NKJV)

In essence, if the mid-tribulation rapture idea was the correct interpretation, then in theory, believers would be able anticipate the rapture pretty much down to the day.  Now, there are many other reasons, why I would disagree with my mid-trib rapture brethren that I won’t go into in this article, but suffice it to say, Christ return is imminent, and He will come like a “thief in the night,” and “at a time that we THINK NOT”

Chapter 5 – The Lion, the  Lamb, and the Scroll

The events of Chapter 4 have to a great degree has served as an introduction the Chapter 5 and the events which are to follow from this throne of judgment. In Revelation 5:1, after describing the awesome view of the throne of God with all of the activities surrounding it, John’s attention is drawn to the Father on His throne.  In the Fathers right hand is a scroll, with writing on both sides. And that scroll was sealed with seven seals. The Lamb appears and receives the scroll. The “strong angel” proclaims a question in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll?”

John is in despair that no one in the throne room comes forward to open the scroll and deal with its contents. Scripture declares that no human is worthy, we are all unworthy.  The strong angel then declares that the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and the Root of David, He is able to take the scroll.  Then, in a glorious addition to the appellation of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Jesus is now identified as the “lamb as it had just been slain.”

In a nutshell, the opening of the scroll in chapter 5, is to bring a release from the curse on the earth and on humanity that has existed since the fall in Genesis 3.  It is at this point that we will begin to discover the visual depictions of the successive unfolding of a series of increasingly catastrophic judgments that will be unleashed here on earth and upon all those who have rejected Christ and who are left behind on earth after the Rapture.  In other words, the opening of the seven seals of this scroll that is introduced in Chapter 5, puts events into motion that will ultimately lead to the return of Jesus Christ to defeat Satan at the battle of Armageddon and the setting up of the Kingdom here on earth.

This passage ends with a series of praises and responses.  Following the receipt of the sealed book (scroll) by the Lamb, the four beasts and 24 elders (the redeemed of God) fall to their knees in worship and submission to the Lamb. The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures sing a song praising Jesus for His worthiness to enact God’s judgment. In response, a mind-boggling number of angels respond by praising Jesus. This praise is then echoed by every creature in creation: “in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them” (Revelation 5:9–14).

He is the One that has secured their eternal blessings. In response to their appreciation for His work on their behalf, the redeemed begin a song of honor and praise for their Savior.  In that song, they directly link the work of Christ with His worthiness to receive the scroll.

Basically, they are singing that because Christ was faithful to the Father and willing to give His life for those He loves, He alone deserves to rule the events of the world leading up to eternity and to bestow upon His people the eternal blessings He has acquired for them.  As their song continues the heavenly angels and finally the entire creation of God joins with them in this song of appreciation, honor and praise for the Lamb who has done so much for them.

After seeing Jesus take the scroll, John will begin to describe the judgments which follow. These “seal judgments” will be described specifically in Revelation chapters 6 through 8. The seventh seal includes the judgments contained in the seven “trumpet judgments,” which begin in chapter 8.

Chapter 6 begins with the Lamb opening the seals on the scroll, one seal at a time.  The opening of the scroll begins the period known as Daniel’s 70th week, or the seven-year tribulation period.  A period that will be characterized by unparalleled horror and destruction on the earth.

The aftermath of the Rapture will produce a horrific time on earth. The Lord Jesus Himself called it “great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Mt. 24:21). It is with thanksgiving that born again believers can rest in the knowledge that God will not allow His church to go into that terrifying period of unparalleled suffering. “For God hath not appointed us to wrath but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Th. 5:9). If you are a believer, you will not be around for the “aftermath of the Rapture.” If you are not a believer in Jesus as Messiah and Savior, you need to become one. You can come to Him now. He is waiting.

And finally, I would like to encourage all to always remember to strive to be a Berean:

 

 

 

 

 

We are in the End Game, An Introduction to the Book of Revelation Part 5, The Seven Churches of Asia Continued, By Dr Bruce Logan

Welcome back to part five of our Introductory study of the Book of Revelation.  In the previous lesson, we took a look at the first three churches which were: Ephesus, Sardis, and Pergamum.  In this lesson, I will be concluding our overview of chapters 2 and 3 which are the letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor by taking a look at the final four churches which are: Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.  And again, before I continue with this study, I need to reiterate that it is not my goal here to do an exhaustive study on the Seven Churches nor the Book of Revelation itself.  Rather, my aim is to prayerfully, share just enough nuggets that will inspire and motivate you to develop a hunger and a thirst to begin a journey into the riches and depths of God’s word for yourself.   With that, let’s first less consider this quick review of some of the general background information that we have discussed so far about the seven churches:

There are Four Distinct Levels of Application to Each Letter:

  1. These were seven literal church communities that existed in the first century that were dealing with very real issues and circumstances that these letters addressed head on. Which means that these letters had very valid local applications.
  2. Each letter ended with the admonition of: “he that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit has to say to the Church[es]” churches being plural. In other words, every church was to pay attention to the messages in each letter. Which means that the messages in each letter, were not only meant to have local application for the church in which the letter was addressed, but they were intended to have application for all of the churches that existed at the time, as well as every church in history, up until and including modern day. It is important also to note, that every church in history, will have ELEMENTS of each of these seven letters, contend with. Some to more or less extent than others.
  3. In addition to corporate applications, each of these letters also contain PERSONAL applications for every believer on an individual level. In short, God selected these seven congregations to give timeless instruction for His people throughout the centuries, both collectively, as well as, individually.
  4. And finally, and somewhat controversially, many theologians believe that these seven letters in the order that they are given, include the lay out of the chronological history of the church age. Now while I won’t be going into a lot of detail about this idea, I will however just note, that the premise of this argument centers around the question, “Why these particular seven churches?”  In other words, there were over 75 church communities at this time and some were in the general vicinity of the seven churches. For instance, Colossae was only about five miles SE of Laodicea. There was also such locations as, Corinth, Thessalonica, Galatia, Antioch, and so on. So, why did God choose these particular seven churches and not any of the others?  The argument is that if you trace Church history beginning at the first century, you will see a pattern that chronologically mirrors the messages given in these seven churches. While this is an argument worthy of follow up, there are many bible teachers who reject this view as over spiritualization of the text. Now like I mentioned, I won’t be going into much specific detail on this aspect at this time, but I may come back to it in some future study.

 

The Churches report card – Each letter Contains these 7 elements or reports:

1. Name of the Church.
2. Description or title that Christ chooses for Himself.
3. Exhortation.
4. Concern.
5. Exhortation.
6. Promise to the Overcomer.
7. Closing phrase: “he that has an ear, let him hear, what the Spirit says to the churches”.

 

ThyatiraThyatira The Adulterous Church (Revelation 2:18-29)

Thyatira (modern Akhisar, Turkey) is the fourth church to receive a message from the risen Jesus. Thyatira is mentioned in Acts as the hometown of Lydia, and later one of the main churches of Asia Minor.  According to Luke’s account, Paul shared the Gospel with Lydia, a woman from the city of Thyatira in Asia Province who had relocated to Philippi. She had a business dyeing and selling purple fabrics (See (Acts 16:13-15).  The dyeing of fabrics with a purple dye made from the madder root was a major part of the economy in the area of Thyatira, and bringing this industry to Macedonia was probably a lucrative business decision.  Paul may have visited Thyatira and brought the Gospel there during his 3-year stint in Asia Province, most of which was spent in Ephesus (Acts 19:10, 20:31).  Now located inside modern Akhisar, about 40 miles southeast of Pergamum and on the road to Sardis, this was the 4th destination of the 7 letters of Revelation.

In the greeting Jesus declares himself to be the Son of God. Thyatira was the smallest city/town to receive a letter and it is probable that the church there was also quite small in number. Despite this, Thyatira receives the longest of the seven letters. The commendation given to the church recognizes their deeds, love, faith, service and perseverance.  Additionally, it is stated that they are doing more now than at first. This would indicate that while they may not be large numerically, they are growing spiritually. Their ‘doing’ involved their faith and love leading to service and deeds.

Nevertheless, as with the other churches there is a problem with false teaching and this led to eating food sacrificed to idols and sexual immorality. 1st century Thyatira was primarily a pagan city, similar to others in the Roman Empire, but the letter to the church there contained a specific warning about a false, self-proclaimed prophetess that John calls “Jezebel.  So, in spite of their positive characteristics, Christ yet condemns them for what is evidently rampant immorality in the church that was spearheaded by this prominent female figure that Jesus referred to as Jezebel.   The tone used when speaking of Jezebel would tend to lead to the conclusion that she was a real person who was actively promoting herself as a prophetess and using this to lead others away from sound teaching. There is the possibility  however, that Jezebel was an allusion to the evil, pagan Phoenician queen of ancient Israel associated with harlotry and witchcraft (Revelation 2:20; 1 Kings 16:31; 2 Kings 9:22). The “deep things of Satan” may be a reference to the practicing of mystery religions, which were considered “secret” and only special initiates were allowed to learn and participate in the rituals (Revelation 2:24).

The specific deeds that were called out were spiritual adultery and and the worship of idols.  Whether this women was real or allegorical, the key message is that false teaching was not only being practiced, it was being tolerated. The use of the word ‘tolerated’ would give the impression that the church knew the teaching was wrong, but still allowed it to be taught.  Jesus warns the church that punishment will come and that it will be a witness to all the churches that he searches the hearts and minds of those who profess his name. The warning is clear, Jesus sees beyond the outward appearance and understands the inner thoughts.

The Threat of Death (Revelation 2:22-23)

This warning is not just to the prophetess but also to “those who commit adultery with her.” They would find themselves in “great tribulation” unless they repented of their immorality.

The Message to the Christians (Revelation 2:24-25)

The message for those that stood their ground and did not engage in the cult of immorality is to “Hold fast what you have till I come” (verse 25.)

The Message to the Conquerors (Revelation 2:26-29)

This is a message to those who would choose to remain faithful to Christ “until the end”. Christ promised that they would reign and they would be raptured.

Sardis — The Dead Church (Revelation 3:1-6)

Sardis (modern day Sart), south and slightly east of Thyatira, was a very ancient city, becoming the capital of the Lydian Kingdom in the 7th century BC but existing centuries before that (Herodotus, Histories). This kingdom of Lydia said to have invented coinage, and the “Lydian stater” is famous as the earliest type of coin ever discovered (Herodotus, Histories; Xenophanes of Colophon).

The wealth of Sardis came from the fertile farmland outside the city, the textile industry, and the Pactolus river which provided water and contained gold dust, or more specifically an alloy called electrum (McRay, Archaeology and the New Testament). Located on a major highway from the Aegean coast which provided access to the east, the city was a stronghold in ancient times. The citadel of Sardis had been known as a place of military fortitude, even being described as “the strongest place in the world,” although history shows that the city was defeated on several occasions (Polybius; Strabo, Geography; http://www.sardisexpedition.org/en/essays/about-Sardis).  During the 1st century, the city had a gymnasium, a theater (about 20,000 capacity), a stadium (12,000 or so spectators), an aqueduct, public baths, temples to Augustus, Tiberius, and possibly Vespasian, and a famous temple to Artemis that was still in ruins and being rebuilt during the 1st century.

With this church there are no commendations; Christ begins immediately with a denunciation: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” The church was full of what we today would call “nominal Christians,” Christians in name only.  In other words, the church was filled with unsaved people going through the motions of religion. There were many tares among the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30)).  Jesus then calls them to repent of their sin: “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you received and heard; obey it, and repent” (Revelation 3:2-3a).

To “wake up” means to start paying attention to their need of salvation, to stop being careless about their heart’s condition before God.

Jesus notes the judgment that would take place if they did not repent: “If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you” (Revelation 3:3b). A dead church, and one unrepentant in its deadness, will be disciplined by Jesus Himself.
After the warning, Jesus encourages those in Sardis who had remained faithful: “Yet you have still a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy” (Revelation 3:4(. The faithful remnant had not soiled their garments (participated in sin).

Jesus makes a final promise to the believers in Sardis: “He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels” (Revelation 3:5). The overcomer will receive a white garment (a token of righteousness), he will never have his name removed from the book of life (a promise of eternal security), and he will be confessed by Jesus in heaven (Luke 12:8).

Historical evidence would seem to suggest that the church at Sardis apparently followed the instructions of this letter, since Christianity persisted there through the Byzantine period. Melito, who wrote an apologetic defense of Christianity to the famous philosopher emperor Marcus Aurelius, in addition to several other scholarly works such as “On The Passover,” was probably the foremost bishop of Asia Minor in the 2nd century AD while he lived in Sardis and led the Church there.  The earliest known church building at Sardis, however, dates to the 4th century, after Constantine legalized Christianity and possibly after Theodosius made it the official religion, since in the time of the early Church, the Christians at Sardis must have met in private houses as was common throughout the Roman Empire (4th century Byzantine Church “E”).

In summary, Christ gives five specific directions for the church that is dead.

  • Be Sensitive to the Inroads of Sin in the Church (verse 2)
  • Be Supportive of Those Who Remain True to Christ in the Church (verses 2, 4)
  • Be Submissive to the Control of the Holy Spirit in the Church (verse 3)
  • Be Subject to the Authority of God’s Word in the Church (verse 3)
  • Be Sorry and Repent for the Sin of the Church (verse 3)

There is hope for those that do what Christ has directed. He promises eternal life for those that repent and submit to Him (Revelation 3:5). 

 

Philadelphia — The Faithful Church (Revelation 3:7-13)

Philadelphia (“brotherly love/friendship,”) of Lydia, the sixth city addressed in the letters to the 7 churches in Revelation, is the city about which least is currently known due to the limited amount of archaeological remains recovered from the site (Revelation 3:7-13). Philadelphia, which is the only church of the seven that is not criticized for anything (Revelation 3:7-13), was near the Cogamus River and Mount Tmolus, which was situated on the imperial military route west to Rome, while to the east, the highway led all the way to Susa from Sardis, meaning the city would see regular visits from soldiers, travelers, and merchants (Jeffers, The Greco-Roman World; Thorpe, “Philadelphia”).

An inscription found in the ruins suggests that Philadelphia was founded at least as early as the 2nd century BC during the reign of King Eumenes II of Pergamum, who named the city after his younger brother, Attalus II, who was called Philadelphus in honor of his love and loyalty to his brother the king.  The soil around the city was renowned, leading to the production of exceptional grapes and wine (Strabo, Geography). Because the main industry was wine, it has been suggested that Dionysus was the main deity of the city. Yet, the image of this god only appears on a few coins from Philadelphia, and none of those date to the 1st century AD (1st century BC, 2nd and 3rd century AD). In 92 AD, Emperor Domitian issued an edict for Asia Province, which required many vineyards to be cut down and replaced with corn, which probably severely damaged the economy of Philadelphia.

Jesus affirms the church’s positive actions: “I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name” (Revelation 3:8).

Christ commended the church in Philadelphia for four things:

  1. They have an open door,
  2. They have a little strength,
  3. They have kept the Word of God,
  4. And they have not denied the Lord.

Jesus affirms the church’s positive actions: “I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name” (Revelation 3:8). The church of Philadelphia was weak in some respects, yet they had remained faithful in the face of trial. Because of this, the Lord promises them an “open door” of blessing.

Jesus’ letter then condemns the enemies of the Philadelphian believers: “I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars, I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you” (Revelation 3:9). Those who persecuted the believers (the persecutors were religious hypocrites in this case) would one day realize Christ loves His children. The church of Philadelphia would be victorious over its enemies.

Jesus encourages the Philadelphian believers regarding His future coming: “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown” (Revelation 3:10-11). The church’s faithful endurance would serve as a blessing. Jesus would take them to be with Him before the coming tribulation (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). He also exhorts them to remain faithful, because this would lead to rewards in the afterlife.

Jesus provides a final promise to the believers in Philadelphia and to all believers: “Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down from out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name” (Revelation 3:12).  So, those who struggled with weakness Jesus makes everlasting pillars in the house of God. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).  Jesus’ words of comfort certainly would have been a blessing to the Philadelphians who had faithfully stood for Christ in their pagan culture. His words continue to serve as an encouragement to faithful believers today.

 

 

Laodicea — The Lukewarm Church (Revelation 3:14-22)

The city of Laodicea, currently located in modern Turkey, was situated in the Lycus valley, about 45 miles southeast of Philadelphia and about 100 miles east of Ephesus.  Laodicea was about 10 miles Northwest of Colosse and about 5 miles south of Hierapolis, the other two cities in this famous first century triangle of ancient wealth.  “Along with Colosse and Hierapolis, Laodicea was one of the cities in the fertile Lyous valley.

Laodicea was annexed by Rome in 133 BC, and because of its location on the main trade route of Asia minor, it became one of the riches cities in the area.  Because of banking, agriculture, its marble trade, its famous glossy black wool industry, (whether dyed or natural in color is not known), and its famous medical school, and its unique water aqueduct system, Laodicea became one of the most important and prominent cities in the area at the time that John wrote Revelation. The great Roman road stretching to the inland of Asia from the coast at Ephesus ran straight through its center, making Laodicea an important center of trade and communication.

“That the city’s banking assets were noteworthy is evidenced by the fact that Cicero cashed huge bank drafts in Laodicea. So wealthy was Laodicea that after the great earthquake of A.D. 17, which destroyed it, the people refused imperial help in rebuilding the city, choosing rather to do it entirely by themselves.

“Laodicea had a famous school of medicine; and a special ointment known as ‘Phrygian powder,’ famous for its cure of eye defects, that was either manufactured or distributed there, as were ear ointments also. Near the temple of the special god associated with healing, Men Karou (who later became identified with Asclepius), there was a market for trading all sorts of goods” (Ramsay, Seven Churches, p. 417). Zeus, the supreme god, was also worshiped in the city” (Expositor’s).

Christ used each of the things that Laodicea was famous for as analogous to the Church at Laodicea’s depraved condition. However, with all of Laodicea’s wealth and prosperity, it was there unique water extraordinary aqueduct system that drew the strongest parallel or analogy to their spiritual condition.  The Laodicean water system was actually a marvel of engineering, piping in water from springs nearly 5 miles away.  But the biblical insight comes when you contrast the water at Laodicea with the HOT springs of nearby Hierapolis and the COLD mountain water of nearby Colosse.  By the time the water reached Laodicea with its aqueduct system, the water was always lukewarm, or neither cold or hot, and filled with mineral deposits, which probably made the water unpleasant to drink.

It was with this backdrop that John delivered that famous warning from Jesus to the church in Laodicea, ” I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot, I wish you were one or the other, either cold or hot, but because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth, you say that I am rich and have acquired wealth and am in need of nothing, but you do not recognize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich, and white clothes to wear so you can cover your shameful nakedness, and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see (Revelation 3:17-18).

The Laodicean church was lacking in every way.  It was a compromising, conceited, and Christ less church and Christ said that it made Him sick (Revelation 3:16).  In fact, contrary to the other six churches, the Laodicean church has nothing to commend it.  Jesus begins the message with condemnation.  Jesus emphasizes their “lukewarm,” apathetic nature three times.  As a result of their ambivalence to spiritual things, Jesus would have nothing to do with them. He would “spit them out,” as the people of Laodicea would spit out the tepid water that flowed from the underground aqueducts to their city. With their apathy came a spiritual blindness; they claimed to be rich, blessed and self-sufficient. Perhaps they were rich in material things. But, spiritually, the Laodiceans were in a wretched, pitiful condition, made all the worse in that they could not see their need. This was a church filled with self-deceived hypocrites.

Jesus calls the Laodicean church to repent of its sin: “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see” (Revelation 3:18). Their material wealth had no eternal benefit, so Jesus commands them to come to Him for true, spiritual riches (see Isaiah 55:1-2). Only Christ can supply an everlasting inheritance, clothe us in righteousness, and heal our spiritual blindness.

Having gotten their attention, Jesus then explains why He described their spiritual condition as lukewarm. “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (verse 17).  Christ’s words showed them that He knew that the citizens of their city were wealthy, they had at least twice declined the government’s help to rebuild their city after an earthquake and had rebuilt it with their own funds. Yet this wealth had blinded them from seeing their true spiritual condition. The culture of the city had infiltrated the church, and the members didn’t know how spiritually wretched and weak they were.

To heal their weak spiritual condition, Jesus said, “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see” (verse 18).  Christ’s threefold prescription to cure their condition paralleled the physical circumstances that had apparently deceived them. Consider the following:

  • Although there was much gold in the city, the riches that really matter are spiritual in nature—knowing and practicing God’s truth (1 Peter 1:7; James 2:5.
  • Although Laodicea had a reputation for producing excellent-quality garments from the wool produced in the area, the Bride of Christ will be dressed in “fine linen, clean and bright” representing “the righteous acts of the saints” (Revelation 19:8).
  • Although Laodicea produced medicine for healing various eye ailments, the most important things we need to see are spiritual. Throughout the ages Satan has “blinded” the minds of most people (2 Corinthians 4:4).  This blindness “is taken away in Christ” (2 Corinthians 3:14).

Jesus then tells the Laodiceans that He has given them this strong correction because He loves them and wants them to “be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19). Of course, God’s love extends to all humanity. He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Wrapping up His message, Jesus then explains that He is standing at the door and knocking, meaning that He wants to come in and dine with them (Revelation 3:20).  After such strong correction, it is especially poignant to note that God wants sinners to repent and will quickly forgive their sins if they do. Concluding with encouragement, Jesus reminds them that if they overcome, they will rule with Him (verse 21). When the messages to the churches of Revelation 2-3 are viewed as a chronological development of the Church, this passage also indicates that the return of Christ is near.

And finally, like all the previous messages, Jesus says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (verse 22). This message, as well as all of the others, is still important for Christians today.

We are in the End Game, An Introduction to the Book of Revelation Part 4, The Seven Churches of Asia, By Dr Bruce Logan

Welcome back to part four of our Introductory study of the Book of Revelation. In this lesson, I will be overviewing chapters 2 and 3 which are the letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor. But first less consider this quick review:

In the Book of Revelation, John under the influence of the Holy Spirit, gives us a panoramic view of the return of Christ, the establishment of God’s Kingdom, and the culmination of God’s wonderful and merciful plan of redemption for the human race who had originally fell in the Garden of Eden.

In other words, Revelation is the culmination, the climax or the consummation of God’s epic redemption story that began in the Book of Genesis and is still ongoing now.  The story that involved the birth, sacrificial death, resurrection, and His glorious SECOND coming.  And in the climactic scene, we see the NEW Jerusalem and the NEW Heaven and NEW Earth, in which there will be no more sorry, no more pain, and most importantly, no more death.

The Book of Revelation also assures us of a future that is better than the past or the present. God has a glorious plan for His people. And those of us who are believers in Jesus Christ, will enjoy life forever in a place called Heaven. It will be life eternal with Christ in a matter and a state that will actually be incomprehensible to our current natural human understanding.

And finally, while there are several admonitions in the bible that encourage believers to read and study God’s word, and the corresponding blessings, The Book of Revelation is also the only book in the Bible that promises a special blessing for those believers who reads the book, understands it, and then does the things that are written in it.

The Author

John exiled to the Isle of Patmos. A small island in the Aegean Sea about 13 miles in size, about 71/2 miles long, and 6 miles wide at its widest point. Patmos was a Roman colony that was used for banishment of political prisoners or people who were considered to be a threat to the empire (IF THEY WEREN’T EXECTUTED FIRST).  In 86 AD, Empire Domitian, a Temple was built to Domitian in Ephesus, and the citizens were ALL required to MAKE SACRIFICES to Domitian in the Temple.  In 94 AD, (the 14th year of Domitian’s reign, word got back to Domitian that THESE CHRISTIANS refuse to obey, and the leader was this guy named JOHN, [who was THE BISHOP of Ephesus at the time]. John was then banished to Patmos, and THREE YEARS LATER in 97AD, John received the Revelation.

Purpose and Theme of Revelation
• The purpose of the Revelation is to jolt those Christians who are compromising with idolatry out of their spiritual anesthesia so that they will perceive the spiritual danger they are in and repent.

• It is also designed to comfort and encourage the faithful, witnessing church in its struggle against the forces of evil.

• Assurance is given that: God sees their tears (7:17; 21:4);

• Their prayers rule the world! (8:3-4); death ushers them into a glorious heaven (14:13; 20:4);

• Their final victory is assured (15:2); their Christ lives and reigns forever, who governs the world in the interest of His church (5:7-8);

• And that He is coming again to take his people to Himself (chapters. 21-22).

• The ULTIMATE THEME of the book is the victory of Christ and of His church over the dragon (Satan) and his helpers. The theme is stated in 17:14: “They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with Him are called and chosen and faithful.”

The Divine Outline of Revelation

We also learned that God intended for His people to read and understand the book [Revelation 1:3], and that there is a THREE PART OUTLINE, or THREE SECTIONS that the book of Revelation is divided into [Revelation 1:19-20]. To put it another way, The Book of Revelation is the only book which also has a divinely inspired outline included.  Jesus Himself has provided the key to the structure of the book:

He told John to write:
1. the things which thou hast seen, and
2. the things which are, and
3. the things which shall be hereafter.
The “things which thou hast seen” refers to the vision of our risen Lord just experienced previously in Chapter 1.
The “things which are” refers to the seven churches which were existing at that time in Chapters 2 and 3. Interestingly, the Lord’s letters to the churches in these two chapters are the most relevant part of the book for you and me today.
The “things which shall be hereafter (meta tauta)” refers to the remainder of the book.

The Things Which Are: The Letters to the Seven Churches [Chapters 2 and 3]

 

 

The Seven Churches of Revelation refer to seven churches referenced by location in Asia Minor in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. The Seven Churches of Revelation, also known as the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse and the Seven Churches of Asia, are seven major literal churches of early Christianity that had been started by the Apostle Paul during one of his three missionary journeys recorded in the book of Acts.  All of these were located in Asia Minor, or present-day Turkey.

Historically these locations were considered major cultural hubs for various reasons such as trade, military and hedonism. The seven Churches are named for their locations. The Book of Revelation provides descriptions of each Church. In these chapters lie both a correction and a warning to believers within the church but also words of praise as God understood what they were going through and provided them with encouragement.

These particular seven churches may have been chosen to receive Christ’s apocalyptic message because, geographically, the churches were located along an established, circular trade route that brought together the most populous and influential parts of the province. Once the apocalyptic message was given to the churches in these prominent cities, the message would spread to the Christian communities in the rest of the province.  Although the seven letters in Revelation are tailored to the named churches, these churches and their stated deficiencies can symbolize all churches in one respect or another. The instruction given to Revelation’s congregations, therefore, is valuable to Christian congregations today.

It is interesting to note, while most Christians know Israel as the “Holy Land”, fewer know that Turkey has more Biblical sites than any other country. Over 60% of all places mentioned in the Bible are located in Turkey, also known as the Second Holy Land. This includes the sites of the Seven Churches of Revelation.

Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7) – The church known for having labored hard and not fainted, and separating themselves from the wicked; admonished for having forsaken its first love (2:4).
Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11) – The church admired for its tribulation and poverty; forecast to suffer persecution (2:10).
Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17) – The church where ‘Satan’s seat’ or ‘throne’ is; needed to repent of allowing false teachers (2:16).
Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29) – The church known for its charity, whose “latter works are greater than the former;” held the teachings of a false prophetess (2:20)
Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6) – The church that has a good name; cautioned to fortify itself and return to God through repentance (3:2-3).
Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13) – The church steadfast in faith, that had kept God’s word and endured patiently (3:10)
Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22) – The church that was lukewarm and insipid (to God) (3:16).

There are Four Distinct Levels of Application to Each Letter:

  1.  These were seven literal church communities that existed in the first century that were dealing with very real issues and circumstances that these letters addressed head on. Which means that these letters had very valid local applications.
  2.   Each letter ended with the admonition of: “he that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit has to say to the Church[es]” churches being plural.  In other words, every church was to pay attention to the messages in each letter.  Which means that the messages in each letter, were  not only meant to have local application for the church in which the letter was addressed, but they were intended to have application for all of the churches that existed at the time, as well as every church in history, up until and including modern day.  It is important also to note, that every church in history, will have ELEMENTS of each of these seven letters, contend with.  Some to more or less extent than others.
  3.  In addition to corporate applications, each of these letters also contain PERSONAL applications for every believer on an individual level. In short, God selected these seven congregations to give timeless instruction for His people throughout the centuries, both collectively, as well as, individually.

4.  And finally, and somewhat controversially, many theologians believe that these seven letters in the order that they are given, include the lay out of the chronological history of the church age. Now while I won’t be going into a lot of detail about this idea, I will however just note, that the premise of this argument centers around the question, “Why these particular seven churches?”

In other words, there were over 75 church communities at this time and some were in the general vicinity of the seven churches. For instance, Colossae was only about five miles SE of Laodicea. There was also such locations as, Corinth, Thessalonica, Galatia, Antioch, and so on. So, why did God choose these particular seven churches and not any of the others?

The argument is that if you trace Church history beginning at the first century, you will see a pattern that chronologically mirrors the messages given in these seven churches.  While this is an argument worthy of follow up, there are many bible teachers who reject this view as over spiritualization of the text.  Now like I mentioned, I won’t be going into much specific detail on this aspect at this time, but I may come back to it in some future study.

The Churches report card – Each letter Contains these 7 elements or reports:

1. Name of the Church.
2. Description or title that Christ chooses for Himself.
3. Exhortation.
4. Concern.
5. Exhortation.
6. Promise to the Overcomer.
7. Closing phrase: “he that has an ear, let him hear, what the Spirit says to the churches”.

A Quick Historical Overview of Each Church

As the first chapter of the book of Revelation explains, the apostle John was given a vision of end-time events leading up to the return of Jesus Christ.  Part of the instruction that John received was: “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” (verse 11).  The order of these cities in modern-day Turkey corresponds to “the route along which a courier from Patmos [where John received the vision] would have carried the scroll” (ESV Study Bible, Revelation 2:11).  Over these next two lessons, I will take a take a quick overview of some of the background of each of the seven churches, beginning with Ephesus, Smyrna and Pergamos:

Ephesus The Loveless Church (Revelation 2:1-7)

 

First-century Ephesus

Located near the mouth of the Cayster River and the island of Samos, Ephesus was called “the first and greatest metropolis of Asia” by the Romans. “With an artificial harbor accessible to the largest ships, and rivaling the harbor at Miletus, standing at the entrance of the valley which reaches far into the interior of Asia Minor, and connected by highways with the chief cities of the province, Ephesus was the most easily accessible city in Asia, both by land and sea.

“Its location, therefore, favored its religious, political and commercial development, and presented a most advantageous field for the missionary labors of Paul. The city stood upon the sloping sides and at the base of two hills, Prion and Coressus, commanding a beautiful view; its climate was exceptionally fine, and the soil of the valley was unusually fertile” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1939, “Ephesus”).

By the time Paul arrived in the 1st century AD, Ephesus was the capital of the Province of Asia, had an estimated population of about 200,000, and was one of the greatest cities in the Roman Empire, eclipsed only by Rome and Alexandria, with Antioch and Corinth close behind (Strabo, Geography; Acts 18:19, 19:1).  The city was well-known for its temple of Diana and for its theater—the largest in the world, seating 50,000 people. Given its prominence, it was not surprising that a number of Jews resided in the city. Since it was a major center of travel, the apostle Paul came through the city; and in keeping with his custom, he “entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews” (Acts 18:19).

Paul then left Priscilla and Aquila in Ephesus while he went to Jerusalem to observe one of God’s holy days. A gifted speaker named Apollos soon came to the city and began to speak accurately and boldly “the things of the Lord” (verses 24-26). Assisted by the husband-wife team of Aquila and Priscilla who gave him a more accurate understanding of God’s way, Apollos “vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ” (verses 28).

After an initial visit, Paul went back to Ephesus in about 52 AD during the reign of Claudius, making it his temporary home (Acts 19:1-20:1). During his approximately 30 years of traveling ministry, Ephesus was one of the places in which Paul stayed the longest time. On his second visit to Ephesus, Paul lived there for over 2 years and 3 months, perhaps 3 years in the Province of Asia (Acts 19:8-10, 20:1, 31). In this premier city of Asia, Paul brought the Gospel, taught extensively, helped start the local church, mentored church leaders, performed miracles, opposed paganism and magic, wrote 1 Corinthians, and may have even faced wild beasts in the arena (Acts 18:19-20, 19:8-20:1; 1 Corinthians 15:32; 1 Timothy 1:3; 2 Timothy 4:12).  A tradition suggests that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians from the “Paul Tower” near the harbor, but even if he was imprisoned for a short time in Ephesus, it is more likely that he would have been in a house arrest situation similar to Rome.

The church of Ephesus 

The initial visit by Paul to Ephesus and the powerful preaching of Apollos marked the beginning of the Church of God in Ephesus (called simply the “church of Ephesus” in Revelation 2:1). The next time Paul came through the city, he found that some people, including “about twelve” men, had become disciples (Acts 19:1, 7).  Paul then spent three years in Ephesus (Acts 20:31)—a comparatively long time compared to the lengths of his stays in other areas—preaching the gospel. He began by first speaking in the synagogue and then later teaching daily in the school of Tyrannus “so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10).

Several notable events took place in Ephesus. “Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them” (verses 11-12). These miracles and an attack by an evil spirit against someone other than Paul attempting to cast it out created quite a stir.

As the Bible explains, “This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed” (verses 17-20).

When Paul arrived back in Ephesus in about 52 AD, there was already a small Christian community developing. Ephesus, as the largest and most important city in Asia Minor, preoccupied with wealth and steeped in paganism, would present obstacles for the Christians and the spread of the Gospel, but ultimately the church there would become strong.  As was his typical practice, Paul went to the synagogue to teach and reason that Jesus was the prophesied Christ, building on the knowledge of the Bible that the Jews and God fearers there had (Acts 19:8).

The message to the church of Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7)

Analyzing this instruction from Christ, we note that Jesus told the members at Ephesus that He knew their works, patience and attitude toward those who practiced evil—an apparent characteristic of the Nicolaitans. Christ knew that a great work had been done in their city and that they had been an example to all of Asia. He also acknowledged that members of this congregation had seen through the words of false teachers claiming to be apostles and had remained faithful to God.

In other words, the Church of Ephesus, had many positive qualities; Christ commended them in five specific ways—they were, dynamic, dedicated, determined, disciplined, and discerning (Revelation 2:2-3).  But verse 4 reveals where they went wrong. “Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” Everything about the Ephesian church looked good on the outside, but inwardly they had heart trouble. Their devotion to Christ was waning.  However, after praising the church of Ephesus for the good works it had done, Jesus then told them that He had something against them. They had lost their “first love” (verse 4).

The meaning of “first love” in this passage (Revelation 2:4) is more than likely that the zeal and commitment to God these first century Christians had when they initially learned of God’s way of life.  As the congregation began in Ephesus, it must have been exciting for these members to see the miracles that God performed through Paul and to witness the powerful impact the preaching of the gospel had upon their city and the region. As the scriptural record explains, “all the Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus” heard of these miracles and many burned their books on magic and turned to God (Acts 19:17-20).  What often happens, even with believers today, is that over time, we have the natural human tendency to become to become complacent and apathetic.  Especially, if you reside in an area in which there is prosperity and life is good, which was the case in Ephesus, which was a major metropolitan and economic hub in the first century.

Smyrna The Suffering Church (Revelation 2:8-11)

First-century Smyrna

Acts 19:10 suggests that the church there was founded during Paul’s third missionary journey. Smyrna sat 35 miles north of Ephesus, built near the ruins of an ancient Greek colony destroyed in the 7th century BC. Lysimachus, one of Alexander the Great’s generals, rebuilt Smyrna as a new Hellenistic city in the 3rd century BC. The city was later established as a Roman commercial center with a port on the Aegean Sea. Scholars believe the city grew to about 100,000 by the time of the apostles Paul and John.  Due to the fact that the port city of Izmir houses the second largest population in Turkey today, the site of ancient Smyrna has been little excavated. Excepting the agora, theater, and sections of the Roman aqueduct, little remains of the ancient city.

Similar to Ephesus, Smyrna had many visitors. Boasting an excellent harbor and the beginning of a well-traveled road to the interior, Smyrna regularly had travelers passing through it. This great trading city, founded by Alexander the Great, continues to this day as the modern Turkish city of Izmir with a population of approximately 2.8 million.  In Roman times, Smyrna was considered the most brilliant city of Asia Minor, successfully rivaling Pergamos and Ephesus. Its streets were wide and paved.

It was celebrated for its schools of science and medicine, and for its handsome buildings.  Among them was the Homerium, for Smyrna was one of several places which claimed to be the birthplace of the poet.  “On the slope of Mt. Pagus was a theater which seated 20,000 spectators. In the 23 AD year a temple was built in honor of Tiberius and his mother Julia, and the Golden Street, connecting the temples of Zeus and Cybele, is said to have been the best in any ancient city” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1939, “Smyrna”).

Smyrna was a beautiful, wealthy city, but it was also an official site of emperor worship, resulting in a close association with Rome. Emperor worship consisted of acknowledging Caesar as lord and burning a small amount of incense to him. Worshiping the emperor was required for voting, owning property, and trading in the market. In some instances, non-worshipers were persecuted.  Smyrna also was the home for a huge Jewish synagogue and its participants partook in persecuting believers.

The church of Smyrna The Suffering Church (Revelation 2:8-11)

Smyrna along with Philadelphia, were the only two churches that did not receive any condemnation, rebuke or warning from The Lord. Yet, little is known of the first-century congregation that met in Smyrna. Other than the references to this church in Revelation 1:11 and Revelation 2:8, the Bible offers no additional information. Historians, however, offer some interesting insights regarding Polycarp, a student of the apostle John and the one who later became the bishop of Smyrna during the second century, and Polycrates, a younger contemporary of Polycarp who served as the bishop in Ephesus.

Two well-known historians of the early centuries, Ignatius and Irenaeus, said that Polycarp was taught by the apostle John. His link to the apostolic age is clearly evidenced in the difference between the Christians in Asia and those in Rome over the observance of Passover, one of God’s annual festivals.  The leaders of the congregations in Asia, led by Polycrates, decided that they would remain faithful to the practice they had received from the apostles of the first century.  Explaining their decision, Polycrates wrote the following to Victor:

“We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord’s coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who fell asleep in Hierapolis; and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter, who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and, being a priest, wore the sacerdotal plate.  He fell asleep at Ephesus.”  Because of his defiance to the Roman edict, Polycarp would eventually became one of the more famous early Christian martyrs when he was burned at the stake.

The message to the church of Smyrna

In the letter to Smyrna, John remarks that the Christians in Smyrna have experienced oppression and that they are “poor” but also rich, alluding to the reputation of the city as pagan and wealthy (Revelation 2:8-9).  The letter then goes on to mention blasphemy by Jews who are actually part of a “synagogue of Satan,” and in the future that some of the Christians will be thrown into prison, but that they must be faithful until death (Revelation 2:9-10).

Written during the time of Domitian and Christian persecution, the church at Smyrna faced even more opposition than most, due to the strong influence of emperor worship in the city, which at that time was required by law and punishable by imprisonment or death. An interpretation of the reference to the “synagogue of Satan” is tentative, but it may refer to Jews who not only opposed Christianity, but also participated in the imperial cult. Like many other cities of Asia Minor, there was a significant community of Jews, including at least one synagogue (Revelation 2:9; Josephus, Antiquities).

Unfortunately, many of these Jews were fiercely opposed to Christianity, and just as Paul and his friends had been opposed and attacked by Jews in other cities, the Christians in Smyrna also faced persecution from not only the pagans, but the Jews. Polycarp, who was the Bishop of Smyrna and who had known and been taught by John the Apostle, was martyred in Smyrna at the instigation of Jews in about 156 AD (Martyrdom of Polycarp; Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History). The 2nd century Church bishop and apologist Irenaeus was born in Smyrna, and knew Polycarp in his youth, although he relocated to Lyon in Gaul to lead the local church there.

The wording of the message to the church of Smyrna is: “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: “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.

“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death” (Revelation 2:8-11).

Be Fearless

“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer” (Revelation 2:10).  Because Christ is Lord over all of life’s circumstances, we have nothing to fear. Paul wrote that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:35-39). Fear is a natural human response, but we live supernatural lives through the power of Christ in us.

Be Faithful

“Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). Given the intensity of the persecution in Smyrna, I believe Christ was saying, “Yes, you may lose your life for My sake, but be faithful until the end.”

Pergamos The Compromising Church (Revelation 2:12-17)

Pergamum was an inland city located in western Asia Minor, first mentioned by Xenophon in his time with the Ten Thousand mercenaries in the service in of Cyrus the Younger about 400 BC, but at this time it had not yet become a significant metropolis (Xenophon, Anabasis). Centuries later, after its growth and development into a prominent city and capital of a kingdom, Attalus III, ruler of the Kingdom of Pergamum, granted his entire kingdom to Rome upon his death in 133 BC, and the city became the capital of the Province of Asia (Strabo, Geography). ). By the time John wrote to the 7 churches of Asia Province near the end of the 1st century AD, Pergamum, the 3rd city to be addressed, was no longer the capital, but it was still the second most important Roman city in Asia Minor behind Ephesus, and probably had a population of over 100,000 inhabitants (Revelation 1:11, 2:12-17; Pliny, Natural History). Pergamum had a community of Jews from at least the 1st century BC, but no evidence of a synagogue has been found, and nothing directly relating to Jews is mentioned in the letter to Pergamum (Josephus, Antiquities; inscriptions and artwork found at the city).

During the Roman period, Pergamum was built on a two-tiered acropolis, with the remainder of the buildings west and south of the acropolis. The acropolis, where most of the temples were located, also had a theater of 80 rows with a seating capacity of 10,000, which is known as the steepest theater in the ancient world. Temples and shrines on the acropolis were dedicated to Dionysus, Zeus, Athena, the kings of Pergamum, the Emperor (Trajan, but there was a temple of Augustus somewhere), Demeter, and Hera.

The main temples and gods at Pergamum are also known from coins of the city, which depict Zeus, Dionysus, Asklepius, Athena, and the deified Emperor. On the acropolis, in the 2nd century BC King Eumenes II had the famous Pergamum Altar constructed, which was U shaped and one of the largest altars in the ancient world, measuring 112 feet by 118 feet, and 40 feet high. The grand altar was carved with depictions of mythological scenes about the Olympian gods, Giants, and Telephus, the legendary founder of Pergamum (Strabo, Geography).  Although it is unclear if the altar was dedicated to a particular deity, it appears to have been associated with Zeus, or possibly Zeus and Athena (Lucius Ampelius, Liber Memorialis).  Sacrifices were made at the altar, but little else is known about its specific use in antiquity (Pausanias, Description of Greece).

The message to the church of Pergamos (Revelation 2:12-17)

Pergamos was nicknamed “Satan’s City.” The Christians in Pergamos were surrounded by pagan beliefs and practices. In spite of their faithfulness in some areas, the Christians in Pergamos had compromised their faith. They had allowed idolatry to creep into their congregation.  In the letter to Pergamum, some of the members of the church there are reprimanded for the teaching of Balaam, sacrifices to idols, and immorality, which were all related to paganism (Revelation 2:14). The verb typically translated as “to eat things sacrificed to idols,” composed of the elements “idol” and “sacrifice,” may be rendered as “memorial meals for the dead,” which were a typical ritual in Hellenistic and Roman paganism (Kennedy, “The Cult of the Dead at Corinth”). The “immorality” cited could even refer specifically to spiritual harlotry, or worshipping false gods in addition to or instead of Jesus Christ, the true God (cf. Old Testament usage).

Regardless, some of the Christians in Pergamum were participating in pagan rituals and the worship of false gods, which were apparently practices that the sect of the Nicolaitans taught (Irenaeus, Against Heresies; Tertullian, Against Heretics).

In the closing section of the letter, the ones who “overcome” will have a new name written on a white stone, which contrasts with the temporary nature of parchment which the city was so famous for (Revelation 2:17).

In the 3rd century AD, an earthquake severely damaged Pergamum, and the city was also sacked by Gauls.  No significant building was done after this time, and therefore many of the Hellenistic and Roman period ruins were very well preserved.

In closing this first half of a two-part lesson on the seven churches of Revelation Chapters 2 and 3, I would like you to keep in mind that it is not my intention with these lessons to do a thorough verse by verse exegisis of Revelation.  Instead, it is my prayer that you will receive just enough to motivate and inspire you to begin your own individual journey through the book of Revelation, and become captivated like the Bereans and develop as I have, a hunger for searching for yourselves, the awesome richness of God’s Word.

In the next lesson, I will briefly examine the final four of the seven churches: Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.

 

 

 

 

We are in the End Game, An Introduction to the Book of Revelation Part 3, The Divine Outline, By Dr Bruce Logan

Welcome back to part three in my introductory studies of the book of Revelation.  As I mentioned in the first two installments of this introductory study of the Book of Revelation, this book is sadly and unquestionably the most controversial and neglected book of all of the sixty-six books of the Bible.  This is sadly the case in spite of the fact that Revelation is the only book in the Bible that opens with a promise of a special blessing for those who reads, understands and does the things that are written in the book.

So why is arguably one of the most, if not the most, important book of the bible so neglected and so controversial? Some say that because of the nature of symbolic and allegorical literature, and centuries of vastly differing interpretations and approaches to understanding Revelation, it has just been decided by most Christians that the book of Revelation is one of the hardest books of the bible to understand therefore, it has just simply been avoided.

The truth is that anything is as hard as you want to make it, but the book of Revelation is readily understood when you make a determined effort accompanied with spending time in study.  Furthermore, when you simply consider the fact that in the opening verses, God promises a special blessing for those who reads it, is a clear and irrefutable indication that it was God’s intention that His people read it and then also, to UNDERSTAND it.  Simply put, many of the fanciful interpretations offered for this book down through the years, can be reigned in by the simple process of carefully observing what the book offers in the way of explaining the meaning of symbols.

In other words, as we will begin to see in more detail in this and in upcoming lessons, there are hermeneutic principles (or rules of interpretation) that should be universally recognized.  And when these principles or laws of interpretation are understood, understanding Revelation becomes much more clear.  And again, first and foremost among these principles of interpretation, is to allow scripture to interpret scripture.  Or more simply put, when symbolic or allegorical language is being used in the book of Revelation, the interpretation of that symbolic language explained internally, or within the text itself, and not subject to “private interpretations” or imaginative suggestions by allegorizing expositors.

So, the objective of this lesson, is to unpack the opening of Revelation and at the same time, I want to begin to dispel the myth that Revelation is just too difficult.  I often like to use a personal example of something that I experienced several years age.  When I was a college freshman, I enrolled in a freshman math class.  Little did I know, that the class was actually a college level algebra class.  Well, to make a long story short, being that I had not taken algebra in high school, I was like a dear in the headlights sitting in that class.  After a few class sessions, I dropped out of that class, and enrolled in a remedial math class that the college offered.

Subsequently, I learned that there were FORMULAS or PRINCIPLES that had to be understood in order to solve algebra problems.  Once I understood the formulas, I then enrolled back into that freshman math class and did very well.  In that same way, there are formulas or hermeneutical principles of interpretation, that are important when it comes to understanding Bible in general, and the book of Revelation and bible prophecy in particular.   And when those principles are understood and applied, then understanding the book of Revelation becomes much easier and much clearer.

And while the purpose of this series is not to do a verse by verse exposition of the book, but rather to encourage, inspire, and motivate you to develop a hunger for the book, especially in light of everything that we are facing in today’s world.  I do however, want to emphasize one principle for interpreting prophecy in particular that is essential.  Peter in his second epistle points out that “no prophecy of scripture is of any PRIVATE INTERPRETATION” (2 Peter 1:20).

From Peter’s admonition, combined with the fact that God promises a special blessing to those who reads and does the things that are written, and the fact that by definition, prophecy is “prewritten history,” I think then, that it is safe to assume that, RULE #1 is the fact that the keys to interpreting the book of Revelation are self contained either in the biblical text itself, or in past history relating to prophecy that has been previously fulfilled.

In other words, it is important that the student of prophecy avoid the urge to superimpose his or her traditions, or presuppositions onto the text, but instead, allow the text to interpret itself.  In short, because of the symbolic and allegorical nature of many of the passages, it has led to a myriad human or private interpretations that has contributed to much of the confusion, controversy and neglect of the book.   And as you will see just in this introduction in Chapter one, that those keys or the formula are given to us directly and specifically right there in the biblical text.

The Introduction

This book is called sometimes the Revelation and sometimes the Apocalypse. It begins with the words “The Revelation of Jesus Christ,” which mean not the revelation about Jesus Christ but the revelation given by Jesus Christ. The Greek word for revelation is apokalupsis, which is a word with a history.  Apokalupsis is composed of two parts.  Apo means “away from” and kalupsis  “a veiling.” Apokalupsis therefore, means an unveiling, a revealing.

The book of Revelation begins with a theme of events that will take place in the near future. Jesus Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, “who is, who was, and who is to come.” God in his infinite wisdom chose John to reveal His son and the plan that He has orchestrated in order to bring the age of man to a close and His eternal Kingdom and restoration of the Earth to pass.  In other words, in this opening introduction to the Book, God makes it clear that it was not His intent to hide things from His people, but rather to reveal them.  This is not to say that there are not things that are difficult to understand, in the book.  This is especially true for unbelievers.  However as believers, we have to always keep in mind that this Revelation was not given to unbelievers, but instead, it was given to the “His servants” to read and understand.

I will never forget the occasion that launched me into my love for Revelation and the study of bible prophecy in general.  Very early in my Christian walk, I asked a minister, “what would be a good book in the bible to start reading?” He immediately recommended the book of John.  Which by the way, was not a bad recommendation.  But then he followed that up by saying, “whatever you do, stay away from  the book of Revelation.”  Later, out of curiosity, I opened Revelation to try to understand why he went out of his way to steer me away from Revelation.  And just three verses in, I read that I would be blessed if I read it.

Well to say the least, I begin to intently study the book.  And to my absolute astonishment, my studies began taking me on a journey through the entire bible, all the way back to the beginning in Genesis.  I began to see that the bible was much more than a collection of sixty-six books full of inspirational stories.  I began to see that the bible is actually one big story of redemption.  And the climax to the story, is recorded in the book of Revelation.  Not only that, but through the years, studying Revelation and prophecy in general, has shaped my worldview, which in turn has helped me gain a different perspective or level of discernment on many of the events happening in the world today.  In other words, by having a biblical worldview, or by seeing history and current world affairs through the lens of God’s prophetic word, as opposed to a secular or worldly lens, it completely changes how you see and understand things like the rise and fall of world governments, economies, modern politics, media reports, and so on.  Talk about a blessing!

The Transmission of Revelation

The Revelation of Jesus Christ was given to John by God “to show his servants what must soon take place.” The Book of Revelation is the culmination of the prophecies about the end times, beginning with the Old Testament after the Fall (See: Genesis 3:15, 12:1-3).  In this first chapter God gives John and the church a vision of the majesty of Christ’s mission within the Church and what John observed beginning with the letters for the seven churches of Asia.  Or to be more specific, as you can see from the chart below, God gives the revelation to His Son Jesus Christ, who in turn, gives it to the Apostle John through His angel, to show to Christ’s servants.

The Seven Blesseds in Revelation

Just as a side note, there are seven blesseds in the Revelation:

  1. There is the blessed we have just studied (Revelation 1:3). We may call it the blessedness of reading, hearing and obeying the Word of God.
  2. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth (Revelation 14:13). We may call it the blessedness in heaven of Christ’s friends on earth.
  3. Blessed is he who is awake, keeping his garments (Revelation 16:15). We may call it the blessedness of the watchful pilgrim.
  4. Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9). We may, call it the blessedness of the invited guests of God.
  5. Blessed is he who shares in the first resurrection (Revelation 20:6). We may call it the blessedness of the man whom death cannot touch.
  6. Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book (Revelation 22:7). We may call it the blessedness of the wise reader of God’s Word.
  7. Blessed are those who do his commandments (Revelation 22:14). We may call it the blessedness of those who hear and obey.

Such blessedness is open to every believer.

The Historical Setting

Traditionally, the book of Revelation has been ascribed to the apostle John, son of Zebedee (Matthew 4:21), “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:20; 13:23; 20:2), and no creditable argument has been put forward to dispute his authorship. When it was written about AD 95, he would certainly have been a very old man, but by all accounts, the apostle John lived to be nearly 100 years old, dying a peaceful death in the area of Ephesus sometime during the reign of the Roman emperor Trajan (ad 98-117).  John informs us that he “was on the island that is called Patmos” (Revelation 1:9), a small, rocky Aegean island just west of due south from Ephesus, employed as a prison or place of exile by the Roman emperors. Most prisoners were required to work the quarries and mines on the island, but John’s advanced age may have allowed him to avoid such backbreaking labor.

He writes that he was exiled there “for [because of] the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ,” an indication that his preaching had come to the attention of the Roman authorities, and judgment had gone against him. It is likely that John had spoken against the emperor cult (the worship of the current Roman emperor as a god, a practice that reached its height under Domitian, AD 81-96), and his exile rather than execution can only be attributed to Jesus’ prophecy of John not facing martyrdom (John 21:22). The apostle perhaps remained on Patmos for less than two years, as such exiles were routinely released upon the death of the emperor who had exiled them.

The apostle is giving the reader vital information about the time setting of his vision and thus the true application of the book of Revelation. Through the agency of God’s Spirit, John received a vision of end-time events and related material that reveal to the church a unique understanding of the day of the Lord. Though couched in late first-century terms and allusions, Revelation is first and predominantly about the time of the end, when God through Christ will intervene in world affairs and establish His Kingdom on the earth. Most of its prophecies are only now beginning to be fulfilled or are still awaiting fulfillment in years just ahead. In a sense, the book of Revelation is as current as today’s newspaper even better, because we have it in advance!

Jesus Christ in the Midst of the Seven Candlesticks: One Like Unto the Son of Man

“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, 11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. 12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; 13  And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle” (Revelation 1:10-13).

We are now approaching the main body of the Book of Revelation itself and the numerous visions which it presents for our consideration.  The book of Revelation begins with a vision of Christ, and will conclude with a theme of events that will take place at some point in the future.  Jesus Christ describes Himself to John as, the “Alpha and the Omega, who is, who was, and who is to come.” God in his infinite wisdom chose John to reveal His risen Son and the plan He has to bring the age of man to a close.  In this first chapter God gives John and the church a vision of the majesty of Christ’s mission within the Church and what John observed beginning with the letters for the seven churches of Asia.  In the first part of the first main vision, which extends to the end of Chapter 3, is where John sees a vision of the risen Lord.

In the midst of the lampstands John saw one like a son of man.  And the first thing that should jump off of the page if you are critically examining the text, is that the interpretation of John’s opening vision, is contained directly in the text, thereby eliminating any need to superimpose any human interpretation to the passage.  The whole vision in Chapter 1, can be divided into two main parts. The first part is covered by our passage, which contains the vision of the glorified Christ walking in the midst of the golden candlesticks and commissioning John to write the things which he saw [Vs 11].

The second part extends to and includes Chapters 2 and 3, which contain the seven-fold message of the Lord which John must deliver to the seven churches located in Asia.  Now as I will go into in more detail in part 4 of this study, these were seven literal cities with real Christian communities, that had been started by the Apostle Paul during his three missionary journeys recorded in the book of Acts, with real histories, with real issues, that actually existed in the first century or at the time of John’s vision.

The Divine Outline of the Book of Revelation

Revelation 1:19-20 Provide the THREE PART OUTLINE For the Book that John was instructed to write:

Revelation chapter 1 concludes with verses 19 and 20 which gives us the outline or the cypher key for interpreting the remainder of the Book.  And again, you can readily see that the interpretations are embedded directly in the text.  Thereby, completely eliminating the need for our human doctrines, traditions, theories and presuppositions.

THE OUTLINE
What John Saw and Wrote Down

Chapter 1
Have Seen (PAST or The Things in Which John has Seen in the Chapter 1 vision)
Jesus died, buried, risen, glorified

Chapters 2-3
What Is Now (PRESENT in the first century)
The time John lived in as he was writing the book of Revelation between 95 and 97 A.D, leading up to the present where we are still in the Church Age, until the Church is taken out of this world at the Rapture.

Chapters 4-5, 6-19, 20, 21-22
What Will Take Place Later (FUTURE)
Rapture, Tribulation, 2nd Coming, Millennial Kingdom, New Heaven & Earth.

Chapter 4 – The Rapture occurs when a door is open in heaven and John is told, Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.

Chapter 5 – The Scroll with 7 seals is open in heaven by the Lamb of God kicking off the 7 year Tribulation period.

Chapters 6-19 – The Tribulation, The Great Tribulation, and the 2nd Coming happen.

Chapter 20 – The devil is thrown into the Abyss and Jesus rules for 1,000 years from Jerusalem with his Church.

Chapter 21-22 – All of God’s people live happily ever after in the new heaven and new earth with Jesus.

Finally, I want to close this lesson by taking this opportunity to reemphasize something that is vitally important to remember as you strive to deepen your understand of how to interpret Revelation.  John closes chapter one by writing down the precise interpretation of the visions that he had just seen.  Notice that the interpretation of the Seven Stars and the Seven Candlesticks are precisely given in the text itself.  There is no vagueness, nor is there any ambiguity.  The interpretation is clear: “The mystery of the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven candlesticks are the seven churches” (Revelation 1:20).

Now of course, another major aspect of biblical interpretation does come into play here.  And that aspect concerns what I call bridging the  linguistic gap.  In this case, we have to understand what was meant by the word “Angel.”  The Greek word for angel is “Messenger.” In biblical text, depending on the context, could either mean and angelic or a human messenger, again depending on the context.  In this case, the word Angel is an obvious reference to the human pastors or the main message or bishop of each of the seven congregations.  We can safely presume that because it is not likely that John was given the vision by an actual angelic messenger to write down for another angelic messenger.  Therefore, angel in this context is obviously referring to human messengers.

Unfortunately however, in spite of the clarity given in the text, there will always be those who will yet insist upon superimposing their human private interpretations onto the text.  But I would like to close by admonishing you to observe the literal system of interpretation which centers around resisting the urge to insert the human element, and instead look for answers and interpretations to troubling or confusing passages of prophetic text either directly in the text itself, or in related prophecies (or histories) that has already been fulfilled.  Or to put it more simply, while extremely controversial and even looked down upon in some circles, the literal method or rule of interpretation simply says in a nutshell, to view all of Revelation as literal, UNLESS the passage or context makes it obvious that the language is allegorical or symbolic in nature, in which case, you seek to find the interpretation of the allegorical or symbolic text either somewhere in the immediate text, somewhere else in scripture, or a literal prophetic fulfillment somewhere in past history as in the case of Revelation 17:10.  This system does not mean that you will be 100% accurate, 100% of the time.  But what it does mean, is that you will have the best chance of avoiding the human element and many of the fallacies that has led to so much of the controversy over the years.

The Book of Matthew Bible STUDY Challenge – Part 3 Update

God bless to those of you who have accepted the thirty-day Book of Matthew bible study challenge. I pray that you have been receiving new insights and appreciation for the Book of Matthew, as well as, for God’s word in general. I thought that I would take this time to do a review and introduction to the Book of Matthew with some helpful charts and background information pertaining to some of the big picture questions that I suggested that you look out for, as well as, certain specifics points of study that I suggested that you consider. For example, what was the purpose of Matthew’s Gospel? And what was the historical context?

   

Matthew wrote to a Jewish audience, who needed conclusive evidence that Jesus was their true Messiah that their Old Testament prophets had promised. It was absolutely essential, that Christ’s genealogy was specifically established before He could be accepted as their true Messiah. Matthew therefore, provided as evidence the tracking of Christ’s genealogy back to Abraham.  The Gospel of Matthew is an extremely significant book because it helps us to transition from the Old Testament to the New Testament. Matthew is also especially important because it helps us to understand how the entire Old Testament leads up to the promise and the Person of Jesus Christ.  Like the other gospels, the main purpose of Matthew was to record the life and teachings of Jesus. It is important to note also, that Matthew was an important source of information regarding the life and ministry of Christ in the first century, because he was actually present for the events in which he described, thereby being able to give an eye witness, firsthand account. Therefore, Matthew’s record carries a high degree of historical reliability.

Historically speaking, many scholars believe that Matthew wrote his gospel shortly after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. That would put the time of his writing somewhere between 37 to 40 years after the resurrection. The world in first century Palestine was complicated both politically and religiously. Primarily because of the ministry of the Apostle Paul, Christianity had grown rapidly after Christ’s resurrection. In addition, the early Christians had been dealing with heavy persecution by the Jewish religious elite which included, physical violence, as in the case of Stephen for example, and imprisonment (See: Acts 7:54-60). But at the time of Matthew’s writing, Christianity was just beginning to spread beyond Jerusalem. Which meant that now, they were beginning to experience severe persecution from the Roman Empire.

Finally, Matthew was writing to an audience, many of whom were probably not yet born during Christ’s life on earth, and who needed encouragement to stay the course during an ever increasing weight of persecution. It is important to note also, that Mathew wasn’t just writing history, he also had a theological objective for his writing. Matthew needed to show the Jewish people of his day that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah, the long-awaited King of God’s chosen people, the Jews. And while by this time, the Church was comprised of both Jews and Gentiles, it the Jewish remnant who was Matthew’s primary audience at the time.

In addition to the historical and prophetic component, Mathew also painstakingly wrote about Christ’s specific teachings. Particularly His teachings regarding “The Kingdom.” The Gospel of Matthew can be divided into five major theological teachings, discourses, or sermons. Taken together, these discourses represent the main body of Jesus’ teaching during His public ministry:

1. The Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7). Often described as the world’s most famous sermon, these chapters include some of Jesus’ most famous teachings, including the Beatitudes.
2. Instructions to the twelve (chapter 10). Here, Jesus’ offered crucial advice to His main disciples before sending them out on their own public ministries.
3. Parables of the kingdom (chapter 13). Parables are brief stories that illustrate one major truth or principle. Matthew 13 includes the Parable of the Sower, the Parable of the Weeds, the Parable of the Mustard Seed, the Parable of the Hidden Treasure, and more.
4. More parables of the kingdom (chapter 18). This chapter includes the Parable of the Wandering Sheep and the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.
5. The seven woes (Chapter 23). This chapter describes Christ’s seven scathing rebukes of the Pharisees prior to His arrest and trial.
6. The Olivet Discourse (chapters 24-25). These chapters are similar to the Sermon on the Mount, in that they represent a unified sermon or teaching experience from Jesus. This sermon was delivered immediately before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion.
In addition to the key verses described above, the Book of Matthew contains two of the best-known passages in all the Bible: The Great Commandment and The Great Commission.