RSS

Category Archives: Bible Blog

Mark 11 – Behold The Servant King!

You see crowed gathering. You feel the excitement all around you. As you follow the crowds out of the city you begin to hear chants and cheers of acclamation. Finally, you arrive at a vast parade. The army comes first. You hear the thunder of hoofs as the cavalry marching by. Banners fill the sky. The army has been victorious and the king has returned. You see him in the distance. He’s dressed in his finest robes standing tall on his chariot. His best horses lead the way. This is a victorious king displaying his power for his people to take pride in. This king is displaying commanding message to the world that he is mighty and no one will stand in his way.

This is not the entry Jesus makes into Jerusalem when he comes as king. This is not the kind of king Jesus is. The world expects pomp and circumstance but much like Jesus’ birth (and unlike Baby George who was just born into the British Royal Family) he enters Jerusalem humbly as a servant king. While they shouted “Hosanna” they would have marveled at the king of king Jesus was depicting himself to be. Nonetheless, Jesus was in fact depicting himself as king.

He goes into the Temple to clear it out. There was an expectation that the would-be Messiah would restore the Temple. Throughout Jewish history different people who tried to establish themselves as rulers or thought they were the Messiah did what they could to restore the Temple. Herod the Great built the Second Temple so that the Jews might accept him as their king. Jesus clears the Temple to vividly proclaim that he is king. He continues to proclaim that God is for all people, all nations. The part of the Temple he cleared was probably in the gentile section where they often had a market for those needing to make sacrifices. Jesus demonstrates that he is a king who cares about all people.

This is why the first question asked of him is what authority he has to do these things. The first accusations against Jesus after he is arrested have to do with his actions in the Temple (Mark 14). What he is doing in the Temple is not just throwing a holy temper tantrum. He is provocatively demonstrating himself as king. When asked about his authority for doing these things he puts them in a bind that produces the profound answer “We don’t know.” It is these actions that will lead Jesus directly to the cross.

This chapter sets the stage for the next few chapters to follow. If there was one thing to take away from this section, it is that Jesus does not do what the world expects him to do as king. Jesus continually turns the world’s expectations on its head and shows us a new way. We are followers of the Servant King. We are citizens of His Kingdom and we are called to look like our King.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 25, 2013 in Bible Blog, Mark

 

Tags: , , , ,

Mark 10 – The Blind Man Sees and Receives Sight

Mark chapter 10 is the end of a larger narrative that began in chapter 8:22. This central narrative of Mark begins and ends with blind men receiving their sight. The first blind man, as you may remember, gradually received his sight, first seeing men blurry as though they were trees. This first man received his sight gradually. The second man in 10:46-52 gains his sight immediately and as the bookend to this section he provides a contrast to the other stories found in chapter 10.

Chapters 8-10 are composed of three stories of Jesus proclaiming that he must suffer and die and then he turns to his disciples and tells them that they must do the same. They continually fail to understand who Jesus is and therefore continue to misunderstand what Jesus calls them to do. These three passion predictions by Jesus climax with James and John requesting that they have seats of honor when Jesus comes in his glory. The other apostles became indignant with them, not because they were any different than the Sons of Zebedee but because they too wanted the power that came with being close to Jesus. It is obvious that none of them understood who Jesus was.

Bartimaeus, the blind man at the end of the chapter, though he is blind, saw clearly who Jesus is. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem (10:32) when he came to Jericho (about 15 miles away). When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was near he began to call out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The people around him rebuked him but his faith led him to call out to Jesus all the more. When Jesus called him over, he threw his cloak aside. This may not seem like a major detail but his cloak was probably laid across his legs to catch any money that people might toss his way. Is throwing his cloak aside, scattering the coins he would have to live off of, demonstrating that he has a better understanding for who Jesus is that the rich young ruler?

When Jesus called him, he went with blind abandonment; casting his belongings aside, jumping to his feet, he went to Jesus. The blind man staggering towards the voice of Christ is reminiscent of the demon-possessed boy’s father who went to Jesus and said, “Lord, help me overcome my unbelief!” (9:24). When he reached Jesus he was asked the same thing Jesus asked James and John, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man asks for something the apostles thought they already had, the ability to see. When Jesus tells him that his faith has healed him, he immediately received his sight and “followed him on the way.” Some translations (like the NIV) translate that he followed Jesus “along the road.” The New Revised Standard Version (along with the KJV) better capture the imagery that Mark is painting by translating it as “the way.” The early church was called “The Way” before they were called Christians (Acts 9:2). Bartimaeus, who was able to see Jesus for who he is and received his sight at the gates of Jericho, was the first person Jesus allowed to follow him of the people that he healed.

To follow Jesus along “The Way” you must first have sight to see who Jesus is. We often desire Jesus because of the benefits we gain from following him. We desire his salvation but we don’t want to follow him on “the Way.” He called his disciples (and us) to follow the way of service in a world that promotes claims for power. The disciples time and again were blind to who Jesus is and were left confused by Jesus’ call to become servants and slaves to one another.

When the Sons of Zebedee make their request to Jesus he responds by asking, “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” One can’t help but be reminded of the cup of the Lord’s Supper and of Baptism. These are the two earliest elements tied to Christian faith. We think of the cup as a remembrance of what Jesus did on the cross for us, and our Baptism for our sins being washed away. When we only think of this we are solely focusing on what Jesus provides for us. We quickly forget what Jesus has called us to: to be self-sacrificial and servants to all. The Cup and Baptism are continual reminders for the life that Christ has called us to live.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 24, 2013 in Bible Blog, Mark

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Mark 9 – Help my Unbelief!

Jesus takes his inner circle with him up on the mountain where he would be transfigured before them. Peter doesn’t know what to make of this event so he just says what he thinks is best. What better place to be then with Elijah, Moses, and the Messiah! While Peter is fumbling over his words, God gives him a divine “SHHHHH!” and then confirms that this is His Son so they should listen. There is a lot of speculation as to what is going on here in this passage. There may have been debates between the early church and the Jews about Elijah’s appearance before the coming of the messiah and this story addresses that. One thing I take away from this story is that while there is a lot of emphasis placed on Moses and the Prophets, God emphasizes that it is His Son that they should be listening to. After the cloud lifts, Jesus remains and the others are gone again. We need to know the voice of Jesus well and listen for it. We need to continually listen to what is being said about Jesus and make sure it lines up with who Jesus is.

Why couldn’t the disciples drive the demon from the little boy? They didn’t pray. I don’t think Mark is giving us a formula for exorcisms but is reminding us that faith and prayer have to go hand in hand. We continually see Jesus modeling both in his life. When Jesus questions the father on the boy’s condition the father says, “If you can do anything…” Jesus’ reply is great! “If you can?!” Jesus then reminds the man that all things are possible for one who believes. The man then replies with something we should all remember, “I believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” We all live and function under the impression that we believe. The reality is that if you take a moment to examine you’re life you will find that your dependence is in a lot of things other than Christ. Help our unbelief! We continually worry about each day as though God does not exist in our day. Help our unbelief! We worry about the economy. Help our unbelief! We fail to see those around us in need because we are concerned about our own well-being. Help our unbelief! We worry about governing authorities forgetting that we have a King and a Kingdom that the gates of hell will not overcome. Help our unbelief!! We have a God who spoke everything into existence, who has not given up on His creation, and who has conquered death for us yet we continue to live terrified of death and do our best to figure out of to get out of this life alive. Lord, help our unbelief! We need to continue to live out our lives in faith and continually pray allowing our interactions with God to shape who we are.

From there, Jesus separates himself with his disciples from the crowds so that he can teach them. All throughout the Mark’s gospel, and in the other gospels as well, there is an emphasis that Jesus wants his disciples to understand what he is teaching even when they are in the minority of understanding who Jesus is. This is a good reminder to Christians who are continually in the minority. Jesus calls us to live a certain way that puts us in the minority of understanding. This way of life is embodied in his death. Jesus is a different kind of king. He is the servant king who came to destroy Rome by allowing himself to be crucified. This is the life Christ calls his followers to live out. The disciples demonstrate their struggle to understand this through their arguing over who is the greatest.

Jesus talks about welcoming “little ones” and not causing them to stumble. Between these comments about the “little ones” John tells Jesus that someone was driving out demons in his name but they were told to stop since they weren’t part of the Jesus club. Jesus, still holding on to the child, reminds them that the kingdom is for everyone and not just his special group of disciples. If they are doing the work of Christ then you should be careful to not get in the way. If you do cause someone, a follower of Christ, to stumble then it would be better for you to take on a milestone and drop yourself in the sea. We need to be careful of our arrogance in dealing with others who bow their knee to Christ.

This last bit about cutting off limbs that cause us to stumble is a hard one that I’ve heard a lot said about at different points in Bible classes. We don’t take it literally but often use it as analogy for how we should get rid of things in our lives that cause us to stumble. This time when I read this passage, it occurred to me that the context seems to be about the Christian community and how we respond towards one another. Could Jesus be saying that it would be better to remove those who are causing others to stumble from the community? The hope would be that they would realize that their actions are wrong and change. Is it better for some to be cut off from the church so that they don’t drag others down? These would be drastic circumstances but should they be considered?

 
2 Comments

Posted by on July 23, 2013 in Bible Blog, Mark

 

Tags: , , , ,

Mark 3 – Which Family Are You Glorifying?

The beginning of chapter 3 really belongs with the section before in chapter 2 where Jesus is presented as Lord of the Sabbath. What I love about this story in the beginning of chapter 3 is that he really doesn’t do any work. He simply tells the man to stick his arm out. He doesn’t really even work on the Sabbath but he follows up his claim in chapter 2, “the Sabbath was made for man, not mad for the Sabbath” with the question of which is lawful on the Sabbath, “to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” Jesus continues to poke holes in their understanding of the Sabbath.

Verses 7-8 makes very clear that Jesus’ fame as a miracle worker as well as a preacher was spreading throughout the region, to a wider extent than that of John’s fame, due to the miracles that he is working. This list of places where everyone is coming from, Jesus will go on to preach in those places (except for Idumea). The point of these geographical references demonstrates that people are coming from all directions: north, south, east, and west, to reach Jesus. At this point the people don’t seem to be “following Jesus” in regards to being his disciples but more so in regards to chasing after him because they have a magical view of him. They believe that if they only touch him they will be well. This leads Jesus to having his disciples prepare a boat so that he can escape the crowed pressing around him. Jesus will still take time to heal many of them but the emphasis seems to be on the word that he has to speak. Remember that preaching and teaching is his primary mission (see 1:38), rather than healing.

Impure spirits force the people they inhabit to fall before Jesus and proclaim that he is the Son of God. Jesus quickly silences them. Why? Some have suggested that the timing of this proclamation is wrong but that doesn’t seem to suffice. It would seem that an endorsement from impure spirits would not be good for one’s ministry. No matter what the reason is, Mark is showing a great irony here that those he came to combat are saying the right things while those he came to save will accuse him of being “possessed by Beelzebul.”

Jesus called the twelve to him to appoint him. Jesus went up on a mountainside to do this. The setting for this appointment is presumably meant to be reminiscent of the setting at which Israel was constituted a people (Ex. 18-19). This sentiment is paralleled where Jesus calls the disciples to him up on the mountain in Matthew 5 to give them the law (the Sermon on the Mount). He calls them so that they can go and do the things that he has been doing: preaching and driving our demons.

Jesus is accused of having a demon, being out of his mind, and his family comes to take charge of him. The actions of an individual in those times had great implications on family. They were afraid of the embarrassment Jesus might cause them because of the things the leader of the people were saying about him. They set out to protect their family honor not realizing they are rejecting God. Jesus offers that all who do God’s will are his brother, sister, and mother. This invitation is open to his family as well. Jesus makes very clear that he is only interested in bringing honor to God and not what his family thinks is honorable. This would have been a powerful reminder to the hearers of Mark’s Gospel who would have quite possibly been receiving the same kind of pressure from their own families who had not accepted Jesus.

We live with this kind of tension as well. We are called to glorify God by doing His will while our country, culture, friends, family, place of business, etc. wants us to glorify them. We continually need to make sure which family we are in and which family we are seeking to glorify.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 11, 2013 in Bible Blog, Mark

 

Tags: , ,

Mark 2 – Jesus Changes How We View the World

The Jews lived in a time of anticipation. Most of their practices and rituals were done in regards to anticipation. The order of the Jewish day was evening morning. Their day started when the sun went down and they went to sleep. They anticipated that God was going to do something. The Sabbath and fasting were times of anticipation as well. God was in control. God was going to do something. All of these things were to be a continual reminder of God’s work to be done in the world. There is a lot more to these practices but I’m oversimplifying for the point of these passages.

We live in a different time. A time that has been redefined by the resurrection. When does our day start (Think about before we had clocks)? It starts when the sun comes up. Christ has risen. A new day has dawned. The reason Christians began meeting on Sunday instead of Saturday is because Sunday is the first day of the week. The day Jesus was resurrected. The first day of the new creation. When Christ came, redemption came with him…the very thing the Jews were anticipating. He is the new wine to be poured into new wineskins. Let him make you new. He is the Lord of the Sabbath. The anticipation of God acting is fulfilled in Christ. We are no longer in a time of waiting because Christ has brought about redemption for a creation that is broken. We live in a time of doing because Christ has already begun God’s work of redemption and he has called us to join him.

Crowds flock to Jesus because of what he is doing to redeem this brokenness. They don’t just come alone but they bring their friend. I love that in the first story, it is because of the faith of the guys carrying the paralyzed man that Jesus forgave him of his sins. How awkward would it be then to have Jesus turn around to the crowd, look at the teachers of the law, and address the things in which they were thinking? In case there was any confusion as to who Jesus is…he asked which would be easier, “to forgive or to heal?” He then heals the guy as well. Jesus didn’t just come to bring redemption of the brokenness of the body but also redemption of the brokenness of souls.

Jesus gives us a different way of looking at the world. He turns the social order on its head. I don’t think I ever recognized that when Jesus called Levi he was in the middle of walking and teaching a large crowd. As a great object lesson as to what he is all about. He stops and calls the tax collector in front of everyone. He came for the sick…not those who think they are healthy. The sooner we realize our brokenness the sooner we will turn to the doctor.

Jesus came to turn the world on its end. To show God’s people what God intended His creation to look like in the first place. He reminds us that those who are despised by society can be taken in, redeemed, and transformed into His likeness in order to change the world. When I read passages like these I have to ask myself if I have too many Christian friends. Am I befriending the people Jesus hung out with in order to be a presence of peace in their lives?

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 10, 2013 in Bible Blog, Mark

 

Tags: , , ,

Mark 1 – Mark Gives us the Good News

Welcome to the last book we are blogging on in this stent! It is has been a fun ride and Kent and I are in discussion as to what we are going to do next. We might be open to some suggestions if you have any. First, we blogged through the entire Bible in a year. That was a huge undertaking and while it was beneficial, Kent and I decided we wanted to focus more deeply on the New Testament. Over the last year (and some change) we have blogged through the New Testament a chapter at a time. We broke the Books up so that periodically we would come back to the Gospels from time to time. We decided that instead of ending with Revelation, we would end with the Gospel of Mark.

Before jumping into Mark’s Gospel, I’d like to provide some historical background that I hope you find enlightening. These are things we don’t normally talk about so I wanted to share. Mark was widely regarded by the early church as the authentic voice and interpreter of Peter. The earliest evidence that Mark wrote this Gospel was set forth by Papias (c. 60-130), the bishop of Hieropolis in Phrygia, in the vicinity of the New Testament Churches of Colossae and Laodicea. The earliest tradition surrounding Mark’s Gospel was that:

–       Mark interpreted Peter accurately

–       Peter was Mark’s chief access to the recollections of Jesus

–       Mark did not record the tradition “in order”

–       Peter presented the Lord’s teaching as the situation demanded, but with no intention of giving a connected account of the Lord’s discourses

–       Nothing crucial was distorted or omitted

Decades after the death of Papias, Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215), who lived in an entirely different place, in Egypt, reconfirms the tradition that Mark was the reliable interpreter of the narrative of the Lord attested by Peter.

The implications of this history is that the leaders of Alexandria known to Clement assumed that Mark had been associated with Peter over a long period of time, that Peter was aware that Mark had written down Peter’s narrative for distribution, and that Peter had no objection to his doing so, although Peter did not directly promote it himself. Mark is portrayed as responding to the requests of many believers to write out Peter’s widely recognized and authoritative public teaching about Christ while Peter was at Rome.

I won’t continue to go into the detailed history of Mark but the tradition passed on through Irenaeus (c. 115-202), Origen (c. 185-254), Eusebius (c. 263-339), Athanasius (c. 296-373), and Augustine (354-430), who after three centuries of this longstanding tradition that the Holy Spirit had supervised the accurate transmission of the gospel tradition from the eyewitness apostles to the consenting church, wrote that Mark and Luke “credibly received accounts with which they had become acquainted in a trustworthy manner through the instrumentality of actual followers of the Lord as he manifested himself in the flesh, and lived in the company of those disciples who were attending him” (Augustine, Harmony of the Gospels 1.2).

The reason I feel the need to share all of this before even getting into Mark’s Gospel is because we live in a time where the validity of the Gospels come into question often. “There were many other gospels in the early church that did not make it into our Bibles because the church picked which ones best fit their agenda.” I’ve heard comments like this, and variations of it, a number of different times. The reason the Gospels we have made it into our Bible, which was compiled in 325, is because of these traditions and the writings that date back to the earliest centuries. There were other “gospels” at the time but most of them were debated against widely by the Church Fathers and do not carry with them the kind of tradition that the canonized Gospels carry.

So…what you are about to read (or have just read) are the stories from Peter’s mouth written, interpreted, and distributed by Mark.

Mark begins his Gospel with “the good news about Jesus the Messiah.” When we hear Gospel or “good news,” we often think of Jesus’ death and his resurrection. When Mark sets out to record the “good news” of Jesus, he sets out to give an account of the life Jesus lived as well as the death and resurrection. It is easy for us to fall into the trap of merely thinking of the “good news” as just being about our salvation. The reality is that Jesus lived a life and the life he lived is important for us to know about. It is important enough that the early church went to great lengths to pass on these stories so that we might have them today. As we read the “good news” in the Gospel of Mark, lets remember that we read of the life Jesus lived and has called us to emulate.

Mark doesn’t waste any time jumping into the story of Jesus. He isn’t doing this to say that Jesus’ baptism wasn’t important or that the temptation of Jesus wasn’t important. Jesus begins by saying, “The time has come…the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Believing the “good news” is to walk as Jesus walked and to live as Jesus lived. He then turns and says to Simon and Andrew, “Come, follow me,. And I will send you out to fish for people.” They immediately responded by following Jesus.

I love Jesus’ first miracle in Mark. He drives demons out of a man because the demon was announcing to everyone who he is. Jesus sternly tells them to be quiet but the news spread over the whole region of Galilee quickly. Jesus continued his healing ministry but would not let the demons speak because they knew his identity. Stop for a minute and think about that. Jesus did not allow demons to speak because they knew who he was and where his power came from. Jesus tried to keep his healing abilities quiet but when you’re healed, you can’t help but tell others about it. The result…so many people wanted Jesus that it became difficult to get around.

Jesus could have easily stayed in one place, set up shop, and spent all of his time healing people. I want to end today’s post with pointing out something in the life of Jesus we often overlook. Jesus went off to a solitude place to pray. When his disciples came to him to tell him that he is being sought after he said that they must go on because he needs to preach other places also. The example we see here is that Jesus was prayerfully in tune with what he was supposed to be doing and didn’t get wrapped up in the pressure of one good work. Jesus demonstrates that living a life of peace requires times of prayer in solitary places. Go and do likewise.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 8, 2013 in Bible Blog, Mark

 

Revelation 21 – “Heaven is Great but its Not the End of the World”

We’ve read of the destruction of Rome, the destruction of earthly kingdoms, earthly rulers, and of all that is evil. What is next? What is there to look forward to? We try to find comfort where we live and in our leaders but we are assured that these things are temporary…no matter how great they might seem. To put hope in the governments and ideals that surround us where we are is to put hope in something that is temporary no matter how great it may seem. These chapters are sobering reminders that we are not at home here. We turn the page from the destruction of all things and open a new chapter that reveals life, true life. Life that is worth hoping in. Life that is worth living out the reality of now as we anxiously await its coming. We turn to Revelation 21 to see what this looks like.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth…and there was no longer any sea.” I’m a mountain man myself but the sea is a close second in things I love about the beautiful world we live in. It may sadden us to read that there will no longer be a sea. I got to sail this past summer for the first time. The 25’ catamaran I was on was fast as it cut through the Caribbean. I felt alive. Why would there be no more sea? The sea, for the ancient world, is where evil spawns. We see the beast come from the sea. While it is something to enjoy while sitting on a beach or sailing, it is a terrifying thing to be sailing in a storm or to have a tsunami kick up a horrifying wave. The sea is relentless. The fact that there is no more sea means that evil has been conquered.

The Holy City, New Jerusalem, prepared as a beautiful bride now comes down to earth, God’s creation. God’s dwelling place has been restored to the earth He created as He intended it to be in the beginning. When God created the earth, He intended to dwell with His creation. When sin came into the world, God and creation became separated. Throughout scripture we see God pursuing His creation and dwelling amongst His people in limited ways, awaiting the day when He and His creation would be joined together again. First in the tabernacle, then in the temple, in the Church (the Holy Spirit within us), and finally when all has been conquered, God will restore His creation to how He intended it to be and dwell again with His creation. “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” I began asking the question in high school, “Why would God put us here on earth if He intends for us to be with Him in heaven?” Revelation 21 and 22 points us to the answer. God is finishing what He started in His creation, making all things right again.

The Christian walk is not one about going to heaven someday but one of heaven coming to earth to redeem its brokenness. When we receive the Holy Spirit we enter into a time of “already but not yet.” We have the reality of heaven within us, and where we go we take that reality with us. Where Christian live the world should look drastically different. We don’t “do good deeds” in order to “go to heaven when we die.” We do good deeds because we have heaven within us and we make this the reality wherever we are. When we see the brokenness of this creation we redeem it for God because that is what God is doing and would have us do. We give food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothe the naked, love the unlovable, etc. all because the is what God is doing with the brokenness of creation. We make this the reality where we live while we await God doing this fully in the end. We live out our baptism daily, the death, burial, and resurrection, putting to death the brokenness of the old creation in order that it will be resurrected when Christ returns.

In his book Surprised by Hope, N. T. Write articulates this reality well:

“What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether. They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.”

One of the biggest realities that should to be emphasized and reemphasized is that “there will be no more death.” Why do we have hope in this life no matter what the world, governments, and rulers throw at us? Death has been conquered. Nothing can be taken away from us because we have life in Christ. The resurrection is our reality. All that has the seed of God planted within it will be planted in the New Creation and made new again. Praise God that death has been conquered in Christ and all things will be made new again. Praise God that He desires to be with His creation. Praise God that he would remove death from us so that we might be made new. Hope in God not in the things of this world. There are plenty of things that are good here but don’t mistake them as God.

I want to end as Kent did yesterday with my continuing assessment of Revelation. I got this from Randy Harris who is a professor at Abilene Christian University. God wins! Pick a side. Don’t be stupid.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 3, 2013 in Bible Blog, Revelation

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Revelation 19 – King of Kings and Lord of Lords

The scene of Revelation 19 is one of celebration, of worship; a genuine response spilled out by those who truly understand the victory of God. I once heard worship defined as our natural reaction to who God is and what He is doing in this world. For worship to not be our natural reaction is to realize that we truly don’t understand who God is and what He is doing in this world. What we see in Revelation 19 is an outpouring of praise for God. Not because they have to. Not because that is what they are created to do. Not because they hope it brings them into His favor. They worship because in the fall of Babylon they see the great victory that God has. They see how mighty He is. They see that all that is destroying the world is being dealt with. Their overwhelming response from deep within them is to worship God.

“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God!”

The twenty-four elders and four living creatures fell down and worshipped God in agreement with the great multitude. All who are servants of God are invited to take part in this celebration, both great and small. In response to this invitation, there is a roar of praise rushing down like water:

“Hallelujah! For the Lord God Almighty reigns!”

The Church, the Bride of Christ, has made herself ready. This is time for celebration! The Lamb and His Bride are going to unite. The angel turns to John and tells him to write down that those who are invited to this great wedding are blessed. In this moment, John is surrounded by praise rushing down and falls to his knees to worship as well. The problem is that he has mistaken the one who has revealed God to him as the one to be worshipped. I don’t think we should take away that John worshipped an angel. In this moment, John represents the struggle that we often have of worshipping the messengers of God while thinking we have worshipped God. The humility of this angel is a good reminder to continually point people to God when they stop to praise us for how God has been revealed through us. We need to continually listen to God’s voice so that we know the difference between His voice and the voice of His messengers.

This chapter ends with the rider on the white horse who is called “Faithful and True.” His name is the Word of God. He has a name written on him that no one knows. The armies of heaven follow behind him on white horses wearing white. There are meanings behind all of the imagery here but I am completely at a loss. The main point that needs to be heard here is that all of the nations will fall at the hand of the rider on the white horse. All kings, generals, and the mighty will not be able to stand up to him. Where do you put your hope, in this nation or in Christ who is victorious? The Kingdom of God is bigger than the nation in which you live. We cannot confuse our nation with the Kingdom of God. The King will be victorious over the nations. He is King of kings and Lord of lords!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 1, 2013 in Bible Blog, Revelation

 

Tags: , , ,

Revelation 18 – Alas, Babylon! The Great City has Fallen!

We are continually reminded throughout Revelation that heaven is in control. Out of heaven comes an angel who illuminated the earth by his splendor. The world formerly was illuminated by the splendor of Babylon but has now become overshadowed. Like the mighty Titanic, no one ever thought Babylon would have ever fallen. People placed their hope, value, future, and identity in Babylon and now it is gone!

Babylon is significant for the Jews because when they were taken into captivity by Babylon many of them just accepted their new fate and stayed there. They adapted to their new surroundings and acted as though they themselves were from Babylon. The voice in verse 4 calls these people out of Babylon. Those who loved this great city of Babylon will mourn for her loss. With the loss of Babylon they too have lost all things. They have placed all of their value in this great city.

What kingdom do you live in? You are currently an exile in a foreign land, a resident alien. Every country that is not the Kingdom of God is Babylon. Have you decided to become a citizen of the place where you find yourself? Or, have you held on to your true identity as a citizen of God’s Kingdom? We continually have to evaluate our actions as well as the actions of the culture in which we reside. Have we assimilated? Do we look like everyone else around us? We are not concerned with Babylon because we are from a place that is greater. Alas, Babylon! The great city has fallen!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 28, 2013 in Bible Blog, Revelation

 

Tags: ,

Revelation 12 – God Wins! Pick a side…Don’t be Stupid!

My Grandmother and I had a very unique relationship. She and I often discussed spiritual matters. She prayed for me to be a minister when my parents found out that they were having a little boy. She was a prayer warrior, gentle, caring, kind, and embodied the servant heart of Jesus. She was a saint of a woman. I thought I might be bias in my view of her but the packed chapel at her funeral told me I had a pretty good view of her.

When she was nearing the end of her life she and I would have very serious conversations about God, the church, spirituality, and what happens when we die. One day she had tears in her eyes as she looked at me and said, “Ryan, I don’t think I’ve been good enough to go to heaven.” I looked back at her, smiled, and said, “Of course you haven’t!” This response came as a shock to her and I finished, “If you could be good enough, Christ died for nothing!” She smiled back at me after being reminded of the grace and hope that we have in Christ.

I thought of that moment when I read Revelation 12. The woman represents the people of God. She represents Israel who brought Christ to the world and she represents the Church who continues to bring Christ to the world. The dragon wants to devour the baby. After giving birth, Jesus was taken up to sit on the throne with God and the woman went to the wilderness where she might be taken care of by God. The woman does not take care of herself but God takes care of her.

The dragon pursues Jesus to heaven and war breaks out. Satan is defeated and cast down to earth. “The blood of the Lamb triumphed over him.” The victory has already been won but the devil is still chasing after the woman’s offspring, the Church. This is the persecution the church undergoes. At the time in which this was written the Christians undergoing persecution would have felt like they were losing but they are reminded that they in fact have already won in Christ.

This victory has nothing to do with anything we have done. We cannot earn this victory or really even do anything to bring it about. Christ is already victorious! Too many Christians live in fear of the Church being overcome by the devil. Too many live in fear that they are not strong enough to fight Satan. Too many live in fear that they aren’t good enough to make it. Christ is victorious! Submit to his reign! Stop doing it on your own and give yourself to Christ.

I used to read this passage as an event that actually took place historically. I guess it could have…but that isn’t the point. The point is, when you look around and it seems like we might be losing, we aren’t. Christ has already won. When you think that you aren’t good enough, you aren’t. Christ made you good enough. In short…God wins. Pick a side. Don’t be stupid.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 17, 2013 in Bible Blog, Revelation

 

Tags: , , ,