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Author Archives: Kent Brown

About Kent Brown

I am the Associate Minister at the Northwest Church of Christ in Oklahoma City. I have a lovely wife, baby daughter and two year old son. I have a BA in Bible from Oklahoma Christian University and a Masters in Family Life Education from Lubbock Christian University. In March of 2011 my co-worker Ryan and I made a commitment to blog through the entire Bible in a year. The task proved to be both more challenging and more of a blessing than either of us expected. When we finished the year, we decided to continue to process of reading and writing about scripture daily. Now we are going to be blogging on a chapter of the New Testament each weekday and look forward to what God has in store for us.

Mark 13 – Context and a Pattern

Jesus starts out talking about the Temple and how it will be destroyed.  The Apostles ask when it will happen.  In response, Jesus goes on to warn the Apostles about trials and suffering they will undergo.  He also tells them, using apocalyptic prophetic style, what the signs are that this is about to pass.  Since we don’t ever use that style of speaking in grand images and pictures to depict things, especially God’s judgment, we often think this must mean the end of time.  However, verse 30 says plainly that all of this will come to pass before that generation passes away.  The reference to the abomination that causes desolation is from three different passages in the book of Daniel.  The mention of the sun and moon being darkened are from Isaiah.  Following on the criticisms of the Jewish leaders in chapter 12, Jesus is showing that they will not escape their failings.  God’s judgment will come as the prophets foretold in the past, and in that generation’s present.

…or is it?

Even though I understand that passage to refer to Rome’s eventual destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, it does still have value and significance for us today.  Daniel, Isaiah, and now Jesus all speak of times when God judges people and cultures who fail to be faithful.  These examples show us that God often works in patterns, doing in this day what he has done in times past.  But even those who are faithful will undergo trials, as Jesus plainly tells the Apostles in this chapter.  He tells them that they will be arrested, tried, and go through persecutions.  What’s important is to know that God is in charge.  He will take care of the Apostles when they undergo persecution.  Jesus is providing warnings to care for his people during the time of judgment to come.

God is in control.  Even when it seems like he isn’t, we have to know that he is.  He ends this section with a simple instruction, “Watch!” With all the questions currently circulation about the end of times, the wrong questions are being asked. It isn’t a question of “When” but of “Are you ready?”

I am comforted by v31. All kinds of things come along in life that demand your attention and we feel often demand our loyalty, this verse helps keep things in perspective. Heaven and earth, and everything in them, will pass away. All of your stuff will be kindling for the great big bonfire at the end. God’s Word will never pass away. If you find yourself being pulled this way and that by the things of this world that demand your attention, keep them in perspective.

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2013 in Mark

 

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Mark 12 – Them r Fightin’ Words

You can ask any kid who has grown up in church, “Why did Jesus die on the cross?”  They will almost certainly respond, “To save us from our sins.”  And this is a true answer, and one of great theological significance.  But sometimes when we read the Gospels, perhaps a more accurate answer to the question would be, “Because he ticked off the wrong people.”  

I can only imagine that there were times when somebody pulled Jesus aside and said, “Look, I like your stories and lessons as much as the next guy, but if you keep saying things like that to people like them…well…its things like that can get a guy killed.”  I can honestly say that I have never had opportunity to make somebody so mad at me that I could actually see in their eyes a burning desire to kill me.  I imagine it to be a very uncomfortable feeling.  Jesus felt that all the time.

This chapter begins with Jesus telling a story about a master who rents out his field and then sends his servants to gather the rent.  There are a lot of Jesus’ parables where he is subtle and has to explain them when he finishes.  This is not one of those.  Everybody knows what Jesus is talking about and who Jesus is talking about.  God left Israel as his steward in this world.  Among Israel were leaders who were made stewards of what God had entrusted them.  When God sent his servants (read prophets here) to collect what was due him, they abused and killed them.  Finally God is sending his son and you are going to kill him too.  Then God will come take away everything you have and give it to somebody else.

There’s no subtlety here.  YOU wasted what God gave you.  YOU refused to give God his due.  YOU abused and killed the prophets.  YOU are now going to kill God’s own son that he loves.  And God will take everything away from YOU and then kill YOU.

It should come as no surprise that the Pharisees, Sadducees, and teachers of the law now launch a full campaign to destroy Jesus’ reputation first, and when that fails they begin trying to trap him legally.  Eventually they will just arrest him, make up charges, and use the force of their political influence to push through his execution.

So having just been told God was going to take everything from them and kill them, they begin an attempt to trap him.  Look who the religious leaders send here: Pharisees (loyal to Israel and God) and Herodians (loyal to Herod and Rome).  They ask if it is right to pay taxes to Caesar.

Jesus has several options here:  1.  He can say you should pay the Temple tax and not Caesar.  This would obviously land him in trouble with the Herodians and the Roman authorities.  Jewish leaders who opposed paying taxes were generally treated badly by Rome.  Hint: This can get you killed.  2.  Jesus can say they should ignore the Temple tax and pay Caesar.  This would discredit Jesus’ ministry.  You can’t very well claim to be the Messiah when you disregard the Temple, God’s authority, and cow to Rome.  And it would certainly upset those who hold the Temple and its leaders in high regard.  Hint: This can get you killed.  3.  Jesus can suggest paying both, but to the poor huddled masses who he so often had compassion on, this would be a huge burden.  One they could not bear.  4.  Jesus can brilliantly reply that they should give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.

In doing so, Jesus first instituted the separation of church and state.  Just kidding.  I think.  Mostly it functioned as great rhetoric.  Imagine if you were a Herodian, who supported Rome.  You would hear Jesus’ words and think, “That’s right.  Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s…but wait…he just made it sound like what is owed God is of greater significance.”  You would be disarmed and yet be left scratching your head.  On the other hand, if you were a Pharisee who despised Rome, you had no argument against Jesus’ response.  You couldn’t say that the money wasn’t Caesar’s; his face was on it and you had brought along his supporters who would willingly turn on any opposition.  Jesus shows his great political and rhetorical acumen in this situation.  Certainly, Jesus sprung the trap but only the religious leaders got caught in it.

He proceeds to do this over and over again throughout this chapter, culminating in a poor widow who placed two small coins in the Temple offering.  Jesus praises her for her radical generosity.  One can’t help but notice the contrast between the petty and self-righteous faith of the religious leaders and the genuine and sacrificial faith of this poor woman.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2013 in Mark

 

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Mark 8 – You HAVE to Get This!

So In Mark 6 Jesus fed the multitudes with five loaves and two fish.  There were twelve baskets leftover.  In Mark 7, they panic when Jesus walks by their boat (on the water) during a storm.  Mark says that they clearly haven’t learned the lesson from the bread.  Apparently the Apostles are supposed to be learning to put their faith in God and quit paying so much attention to the obstacles.  In Mark 8 Jesus decides to give them another chance to get the lesson and he now feeds four thousand with seven loaves and a few fish and has seven baskets left over.

So after a quick argument with the Pharisees Jesus and the Apostles get on a boat and they realize that the Apostles forget to bring lunch and there is only a single loaf of bread.  As Jesus begins teaching the about how they need to be different from the Pharisees and Herod, he uses leaven as an illustration.

At this point, some Apostle says to another, “What’s he talking about with this leaven of the Pharisees

BREAD? BREAD? You think I am worried there isn’t enough BREAD!?!?

stuff?”  Somebody replies, “I think he is upset we forgot the bread.  I mean, how can this many of us eat with only one loaf of bread?”

At this moment Jesus’ head explodes.  I can’t even imagine what went through his head in that moment.  He cannot fathom that the Apostles are failing to learn the lesson of the bread.  So now we review:

Jesus:  Remember when I fed five thousand with five loaves?  How much was leftover?

Apostles:  Twelve baskets.  (This is one thousand people per loaf)

Jesus: Remember when I fed four thousand with seven loaves?  How much leftover?

Apostles: Seven baskets.  (This is only 571 people per loaf.)

Jesus: If I wanted us to eat, don’t you think I could come up with something out of that one loaf?  I mean, on my worst day that’s enough to feed 571 people so that should cover the dozen or so of us.

Jesus knows that he is eventually going to leave this group of men and women to trust that God will provide for them no matter what their eyes tell them.  They must learn to trust God to overcome any obstacles.  As it stands, all they see is obstacles.

Perhaps thats why, immediately after Peter professes his belief that Jesus is the Messiah, that Jesus tells them that he will be taken to Jerusalem and killed and resurrected on the third day.  Of course, Peter only sees the obstacle in this.  Jesus, however, tells Peter that he is thinking only of human concerns and not the things of God.  

One of the hardest things for me to do is to see things God’s way and not my way.  I always want plenty of time to plan, to count the cost, to trust in my own ability to overcome what obstacles are ahead of me.  And there is value to that, even in scripture.  But there is something to be said for trusting always that God will help me overcome whatever obstacles are placed before me.

Like the Apostles, I desperately need to learn the lesson of the loaves if I am going to be a part of growing his Kingdom and doing his work in the world.  I need to trust in his power and not mine.  I need to put my confidence in God ahead of my fear of whatever the world puts in front of me.

 

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2013 in Mark

 

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Mark 7 – What I Do and Don’t Know

I wish I had more time to actually study all of the complexities of this chapter, but unfortunately I don’t.  There’s going to be a bookmark in my Bible on this page until I sit down soon and try to educate myself out of some of my confusion here.  But I still won’t pretend that I think I understand everything going on here.

Here’s what (I think) I know:

Mark has to actually explain in detail why the Pharisees are upset because he thinks its so ridiculous that it won’t make sense without explanation.  It’s also important that they question why Jesus doesn’t follow “the teachings of the elders.”  It’s clear that the rules Jesus’ followers aren’t adhering to are man-made regulations.  On the other hand, Jesus responds by saying, “You don’t even follow the teachings of Moses and the laws of God.”  Nice rebuttal.  He goes on to talk about how cleanliness of heart, mind, and soul is what matters to God, not dirty hands or dishes.

In the story of the woman in Tyre, most of it confuses me and will be in the “things I don’t know section.”  Following up on Mark 6, I wrote there about how Jesus gave and gave and gave to other people to what had to be the point of physical and emotional exhaustion.  We see the result of that here as he tries to slip unnoticed into a house, but of course, he is found out and must go back to healing.

Jesus then goes to the area of the Ten Cities, or Decapolis, where he heals a man who is deaf and unable to speak.  Jesus heals him.  Fun fact: the Decapolis is the same region that Jesus sent Legion to go evangelize after he got rid of his demons.

Here’s What I Don’t Know:

When Mark is writing about Jesus’ comments on how nothing outside of the body can make you unclean, Mark specifically says that in saying this Jesus was calling all foods clean.  The food codes were part of the Old Testament law.  It would seem that Jesus was negating part of the law.  However, in Matthew 5:17-20, it is clear that Jesus did not come to destroy the law and that he intended none of it to fall away until everything “is accomplished.”

My best theory: Mark is writing this Gospel in the time after the church has learned that the food laws no longer apply to Christians.  As he is writing, he is trying to show that Jesus’ comments here apply to the new Christian understanding (given to Peter by God) that the food laws no longer applied.

Jesus has healed Gentiles before without insulting them or calling them dogs.  However, in this case he seems to do so.  When the woman acknowledges his comment but replies in faith, Jesus is impressed and grants her request.  I am not sure why Jesus would say what he said to the woman, even though it is true.

In the story of the deaf and mute man, I have no idea what Jesus is doing.  Just a few verses ago he cast

Instructions for a “wet willie” or “How to heal a deaf man?”

out a demon long distance without even being told which direction the girl was.  Now he sticks his finger in the guy’s ears, spits, and touches his tongue in order to heal him.  In another situation Jesus said that there was a demon that could only be cast out by prayer.  Is this some kind of illness or demon that could only be cast out by poking and spitting?  Is Jesus simply demonstrating something?  I don’t know what that would be.  It’s an odd moment that is right up there with the time Jesus used spit to make a mud pie to place on a man’s eyes to heal his blindness.  I don’t know what’s going on, but it is completely clear that Jesus does know what he’s doing.

Honestly, I think it’s important to recognize that the Bible isn’t always straight forward.  Sometimes it’s weird, complicated, or difficult to understand.  Usually not.  But sometimes.  And we shouldn’t always feel the need to say, “Well I know exactly what that means and there is no question about it.”  Sometimes we need to recognize that God is bigger than us and does things differently than you or I would.  And that’s okay.  It’s part of what makes him God and us…well, not God.  And we need that humility.  I know I do.

On the other hand, if you know exactly what’s going on in any of these stories, please let me know.

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2013 in Mark

 

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Mark 6 – A Disappointing Chapter

Jesus’ life was hard.  And I am not talking about how he didn’t have a wife, kids, a home, or a comfy job with a steady income.  And we all know that the Jewish leaders disliked him and were always picking fights with him and criticizing him.  This chapter shows that even the “good guys” were a drain on Jesus.

Chapter six starts with Jesus’ homecoming.  After travelling around and preaching in different places, he heads home for some time with friendly faces.  Sometimes you just want to go where people know, where people are all the same,  you wanna go where everybody knows your name.  And yet when Jesus goes home he finds one of the least receptive audiences of his entire ministry.  And its almost understandable.  Its one thing to be told that a stranger from way over yonder is the Messiah.  It’s another thing to be told that the guy who used to cause mischief with you as a kid and who learned Torah with you in Sabbath School is now telling everybody he is the Messiah.  It’s a tough pill to swallow.  But since there is no faith in Jesus, his ministry almost stalls out, so he sends out the 12 to go into the villages and see that the work of the Kingdom is still done.  But Jesus’ visit home wasn’t a great homecoming.  They weren’t putting up any signs that read, “Nazareth: Home of Jesus of Nazareth.”  Redundancy aside, they weren’t proud and they didn’t have any faith.  And it amazed Jesus (not in a good way).

Disappointing.

In the middle of this chapter John the Baptist is beheaded by Herod as a party-favor for a dirty dancer.  This passage is gut-wrenching.  John was in prison and was brought out to give speeches to entertain the court.  And his life is taken only to further amuse the court.  One of the greatest prophets in history is killed and not even for a good reason.  It certainly doesn’t reduce the great value of John’s life or his ministry, but it’s a painful story to read.

Disappointing.

Now the disciples come back from their mission trip and report of all the great things they have done.  They have had great success and can’t wait to tell Jesus.  And remember, that by success I mean that they preached a message of repentance while casting out demons and healing people.  Serious success.  Miraculous stuff.  But before they finish their mission report they are interrupted by great crowds and Jesus turns to the Apostles and says, “Feed them.”

Does Jesus think that Peter, James, and John secretly have a year’s supply of food hidden in their coats?  Or perhaps some outrageous amount of money.  But even with the money, there aren’t Walmarts or food trucks back then.  There’s a serious supply problem.  Clearly Jesus is instructing them to do something miraculous.  Keep in mind, they are in the middle of telling Jesus about the miracles they performed on their mission trip when Jesus interrupts them with these instructions.  Their response shows nothing but a lack of faith and an unwillingness to open their minds to what God is trying to do through them.

Disappointing.

After some time in prayer, Jesus is walking on the water and is about to pass by the Apostles (apparently he didn’t want to rejoin them just yet but planned to meet them on the other side…awesome).  He gets in the boat and calms them down because they are all riled up and scared.  The waves are stilled.  The winds are calmed.

Then Mark tells us “The didn’t understand about the loaves.”  Huh?  What does bread have to do with storms at sea?  The Apostles continue to see obstacles instead of opportunities.  They see fear where they should see power.

Disappointment.

And then come the crowds.  They were sick, broken, exhausted, hopeless.  Then Jesus comes and gives them healing, wholeness, life, and hope.  Jesus gives and gives and gives.  Can’t you just imagine him yelling “Take, take, take!  I can’t keep giving.  I am out.  I have nothing left.  Leave me alone for one day!”  But he doesn’t.

Mark shows us in this chapter that Jesus truly was a fount of living water and that all of those who came to him could drink forever.  He never stopped giving love, compassion, patience, life, health, wisdom…he gave, and gave, and gave.  Until people took it all.  And even then…he gave up his spirit.  Even in the face of a seemingly endless line of disappointments, even from the ones who should have been there for him the most.

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2013 in Mark

 

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Mark 5 – The Contagious Messiah

In Jesus’ day there were some people you just didn’t touch.  They were “unclean.”  And if you touched somebody who was unclean then you became unclean.  Their vileness was understood to be contagious.  Much of this was set up the in priestly codes of the Old Testament and was still faithfully practiced in Jesus’ time.  Unclean people couldn’t touch other people or touch food that other people would eat.  Some had to live outside of the city (lepers and dangerous demon possessed madmen).  And certainly none could enter the Temple.  They were outsiders who were locked out of every social group, often with little hope of becoming a fully functioning member of society again.  Others, like a woman on her period, were only unclean for a short time and were then clean again.  That is, unless she bled for years.  You don’t touch pigs or dead people.  They are all unclean.

And there was one thing that all good Jewish people knew, if you touch an unclean person (or sometimes even touch something they touched) then you “caught” their uncleanliness.  It was extremely contagious.  And then you would suffer a short period of being unclean, often a day, before you could be made clean again.

And yet what do we find in Mark 5?  Jesus is in the presence of a demon-possessed madman.  And what’s worse, dangerously close to pigs (most unclean animal ever).  Jesus is touched by a woman who has been bleeding for years, an exile because of her illness, and she is healed.  Jesus goes into the bedroom and touches Jairus’ dead daughter and she wakes up.

In each of these stories, Jesus comes in contact with the unclean.  As a good Jewish teacher, he should have shoo’d them away while turning up his nose and chastising them for not warning him in advance of their unclean state.  He should have run to the nearest wash basin and cleaned his hands just because they were close to him.  After all, that’s how others would have acted.  But not Jesus.  The most striking of these stories has to be the woman.

For 12 years she had been bleeding.  Blood outside of the body was always unclean.  She would have lost everything.  She couldn’t prepare food for others.  She couldn’t hold hands with her family.  Nobody could have embraced her or even gently comforted her during her illness.  She couldn’t go to Temple to worship, even during the festivals when everybody went.  She gave everything she had to try to get better and had only gotten worse.  There was no hope…until she saw Jesus.  Suddenly hope emerges.  Maybe he could heal her and she could have her life back.  But could she risk asking?  What if he refused to touch an unclean woman like every other person had for a decade?  Perhaps she could just touch his outer garment.  He might not even notice.  Of course, if he noticed he might be enraged to find out he had just been made unclean.  But she had nothing left to lose.  She had to try.  She couldn’t let hope pass her by yet again.  And as she pushed through the crowd, making many unclean and frustrated, she reaches out, touches his cloak and feels her body become whole again!  She was healthy!  She could actually live again!

Then she hears his voice yell out, “Who touched me?”  Fear.  Anguish.  Shame.  Could she run?  No.  She had to tell the truth to the man who had given her hope.  He had given her life back.  So she clings to his feet and tells him the truth.

And waits for his response.

“Dear woman, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace.  You are freed from your suffering.”

Joy.  Gratitude.  Hope.  Life.  Health.  Peace.  Joy.

You see, where the world saw people who were contagiously unclean, Jesus reach out and touched them.  But what is really remarkable is not that Jesus didn’t “catch” their uncleanliness.  What is remarkable is that Jesus was so full of life and goodness and God that when he touched them they “caught” what he had.  They became clean.  He wasn’t just immune to their brokenness, but his contagious goodness and wholeness infected them and healed them.

We live in a world today where too many Christians won’t touch the unclean people because they fear they are contagious.  We might catch what they have.  So we build barriers between ourselves and them.  We live in sterilized worlds where we don’t even come in contact with the unclean.  We are safe.  The problem is that God has put Jesus’ goodness inside of every one of us through his Holy Spirit and he has told us to go touch all of the unclean people so that they can be infected with his contagious goodness that lives in each one of us.  And if we won’t go out and touch them and give them the life found in the contagious Messiah, then they will live for years like Legion, fighting against the chains in the cemetery.  They will be like the woman who gave everything trying to find hope for a decade.  They will be the man who is losing his daughter and doesn’t know where to turn.  They need a contagious Messiah.  And that hope, joy, goodness, life, and salvation lives in us.

Will you take the risk to touch the dirty people and infect them with the love of Christ?

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2013 in Mark

 

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Mark 4 – The Chapter that Started This Blog

It’s been over two years and 660 blog posts since Ryan and I started blogging through the Bible.  In some ways, that journey began in Mark 4.  During a sermon series on how all Christians should seek to connect, grow, serve and go, I spent one week talking about the need to grow in our faith through learning about the Bible.  The two best ways to do this are by 1. reading the Bible and 2. discussing it in community.  During that sermon, I mentioned that Ryan and I would begin a blog where we would daily (or close to it) write about the Bible.  Since then, the blog has had over 36,500 views.  

The primary passage I used in that sermon was Mark 4.  I talked about the different types of soil that the seeds fell on.  However, Jesus didn’t consider a metaphor that would fit most of the people in our world and even in the church today: people who don’t even put seed in their soil.  If you remember the parable, Jesus explains that “The seed the farmer plants is God’s message.”  In our world today it seems that each passing generation, there is less and less commitment to reading the Bible or studying it in groups.

It’s not unusual for me to be teaching a Bible class and have somebody say, “Somewhere in the Bible, I am not sure where, it says…” and then they quote a line from a song (usually a Christian song) that is found nowhere in scripture.  If you look around the room, several people will be nodding and often somebody will add, “Oh yeah, I think that’s in the book of (insert their best guess here).”

There’s a strong desire among young generations in the church today to be genuine in their faith, to live our their faith in sacrificial and often radical ways.  It’s a great push towards being fruitful.  And yet, what fruit are they producing if they aren’t putting the seed of God’s word in their hearts and minds?  I am afraid that Christianity, if it continues to practice the love of Christ without the word of God as the foundation, will become a community of people who won’t know who God is or who He is truly calling them to be in the world.  Jesus ended his great Sermon on the Mountain by telling people that if you aren’t basing everything in your life on the teachings of Jesus then you are like a person whose house is built on shifting sands.

The word of God matters.  It tells us who God is.  It tells us what God has done.  It introduces us to the person Jesus and an entire way of living that he both demonstrated and proclaimed.  It calls us to a way of living in community that tears down barriers and provides ways for brothers and sisters in Christ to build one another up.  It promises us eternal life and then challenges us to bring that life into this world today.  But it doesn’t always happen the way we want it to or that we think it should.  So if you don’t read God’s book then you will probably make some bad assumptions.  You might make some bad decisions.  We need God’s message.  Its the seed that when planted in a soil that is ready can produce a crop one hundred times more than was planted.

Do you read your Bible and allow God to produce a crop in your life and in your world?  Do you challenge others in their understanding of God’s word and allow them to challenge you in yours?  I hope you do.  Having spent the last 2 years reading daily and writing about it has helped me to grow tremendously in my own faith and relationship with God.  And if you aren’t letting God’s word get planted in your heart and your mind, then you will end up a barren field.

 

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2013 in Mark

 

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Revelation 22 – The End (Evil Undone)

Does Revelation 21-22 fit what happened in Rome two thousand years ago?  Or does the book now speak of the final judgment to come?  I think that the answer is both.  It’s hard to say that it has no relevance to the Roman situation since we are told yet again in 22:7 that this return will come very soon.  Remember how in Revelation 20, we talked about the idea that Satan will have times in the future that he will regroup and return to try to destroy the people of God.  In a similar way, there will be time after time that God will rescue his people and let them join his victory.  In that way, the book of Revelation is a pattern that is repeated throughout history.  It makes sense that in the final Judgment Day that it will be a more complete version of what God has been doing all along.

Revelation 22 has many beautiful images of how the remaining damage that has been done by evil will now be completely undone.  The image of crystal clear water pouring forth for the people of God is an image of life.  Some think this indicates the Holy Spirit while others are reminded of Eden’s rivers or Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman that he would give her living water.  What’s clear is that this water is a source of life and blessing.  Those who drink it will never thirst again.  The tree of life reminds us of Eden, where God’s garden provided everything humans could want, before death or sin ever entered the creation.  And not just any fruit, but 12 kinds of fruit for each month (12 times a year).  Again, the number 12 reminds us of God’s people and we are supposed to realize that God is feeding his people and providing for them abundantly.

The curse will be lifted.  The curse immediately leaves me thinking of men working the land for food and women having pain in childbirth, but Revelation 22 doesn’t connect the lifting of the curse to either of those aspects.  Immediately after the curse is lifted we are told of an intimate relationship between God and his people where they can see his face and his name is upon their foreheads.  This is the fulfillment of communion and the relationship that is desired.

The book ends with several promises that all of this is true and will soon come to pass.  The letter, as soon as John finished it, was not to be kept secret, but sent throughout the churches warning them.  While some have said that Revelation uses images to keep Romans from understanding it, these final verses seem to contradict that.  There is an invitation that those who are outside the gates might listen and “come.”

At the end of the day, every single one of us has a choice.  This is good news and bad news in this.  The bad news is that God will honor our choice and give us what we ask for.  The good news is that God will honor our choice and give us what we ask for.

My prayer is that God will give me rivers of crystal clear, life giving water.  And my prayer is that you will ask for the water too.  Because that water washes all the pain of the dragon and the beasts away.  It heals.  It gives life.  It fills you with the love of the one who created love.

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2013 in Revelation

 

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Revelation 20 – Still a Picture

So up to this point in Revelation we have continued to recognize we are looking at pictures.  We see a red dragon, recognize that its a symbolic picture and seek to determine what truth is behind the picture.  We see a beast, recognize that it is a picture, and seek the truth behind the picture.  So now, we read about 1,000 years and a dragon and thrones, its a figure, an image that indicates a truth.  It’s also fitting that this is the conclusion of what we have been talking about (the fall of Rome) rather than something new.  

The first three verses show that Satan has indeed been defeated, is now chained and captive.  His defeat is complete.  Rome is destroyed.  The persecutor is no more.  Then verses 4-10 tell us what happens to the saints.  Although they suffered for a time, they have seen their enemy destroyed by Jesus and they now join him on thrones.  They are safe and secure from all alarms.  There is no more reason to fear or suffer.

The 1,000 years is not something that can be shown on a calendar.  Its a symbolic figure.  10=completeness.  10x10X10=1,000 or very complete.  So what we see here is that after the time of destruction of Rome is complete there will come another time when Satan will return to have another go at God’s people.  When?  Sometime.  Where? Somewhere.  The point is that although God defeated Satan and Rome, Satan will continue to wage war against the saints.  That’s why this book continues to matter to us today.  We need to know what the saints learned in Rome, that God will be faithful and will bring them through whatever trials face them.  God is greater than any force against us and God will be victorious and we can share in his victory.

However, the victory isn’t for everybody.  Now the celebration earlier in the chapter was figurative so this judgment is as well.  This judgment is still against Rome.  It’s telling us that Rome and the enemies of God and his people will suffer utter, irrevocable defeat.

I close with Ryan’s oft used assessment of Revelation because it certainly fits here as in other places: God wins, pick a side, don’t be stupid.

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2013 in Revelation

 

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Revelation 17 – Great Prostitute

There are many theories about who the prostitute is in chapter 17, but what makes the most sense to me is that the book is continuing with its discussion about the fall of Rome.  In addition to being consistent with the rest of the book, there are other clues that fit with Rome being the harlot.

  • She sits on seven hills (17:9)
  • She rules the earth in John’s day (17:18)
  • She is a terrible persecutor of the saints (17:6, 18:20-24)
  • She is the leading commercial power on earth (18:3, 11, 15-19)
  • She is supported by the military power of Rome (17:3,7)
  • She is destroyed by her own military power (17:16-17)

For a discussion on the heads and horns, check out the blog on Revelation 13.  It appears that the book has been moving through the seals, trumpets, and bowls, with pauses for comfort and anticipation between each up to this point.  Now that we know that Rome is destroyed, the book is going to take a step back and actually give us a better explanation about how that is going to actually take place.  This explanation takes the form of the Harlot sitting on the beast.

I think it’s worth noting that most of the destruction that befalls Rome comes from it’s allies.  In other words, the chaos and destructive nature of evil will eventually cause the forces of evil to turn on itself.  In contrast, the Kingdom of God, the Church, is called to be a unified and coordinated community that works together to promote goodness and righteousness and justice throughout the earth.  So whenever you see the Church bickering, in conflict, and chaotic, what you are seeing is God’s people behaving like the forces of evil in this world.  And when that happens, I think we need to take a hard look in the mirror and get back to being the people of unity, grace and love that God calls us to be.

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2013 in Revelation

 

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