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Revelation 6 – Vindication is Coming!

Welcome to the beginning of the end of the book! Well…sort of. This is the beginning of the center of the book that builds towards the end. It is hard to lay out a definite structure to the book because each section is deeply connected to its surrounding context. Trying to break the book down into major and minor sections always proves hard to uphold because the book as a whole flows well from one section to another. Revelation can be broken down into basic themes but I’d stray away from any rigid organization of the book. Chapter 6 flows naturally from chapter 5 where Christ is the one who is “worthy” to open the seals. This transition begins the central section of the book – the seals, trumpets, and bowls.

The first four seals center on the depravity of mankind. The progression of the horsemen goes from conquest (the first seal) to civil war (the second seal) to famine (the third seal) to pestilence and death (the fourth seal). This is the natural progression of man’s inhumanity to man. Simply put, God allows human sin to come full circle, turn upon itself, and self-destruct.

The cosmic scene in the next two seals to come follows the four horsemen. The fifth seal moves from the devastation of the earthly scene caused by total depravity and focuses on the heavenly scene of the martyred saints who cry out for vindication and vengeance for the torment that has come on them from their oppressors. In the first four seals the sinners destroy themselves while the next three seals (the seventh being in chapter 8) the saints have been destroyed by the sinners. The focus of these chapters is quick to point out that the plea for vindication is quickly answered. When going through persecution, keep your faith because vindication will come.

At the end of this chapter there is a great scene where everyone goes into hiding trying to try and flee from the wrath that is coming. There are two mindsets in which to read this chapter and the wrath that is to come. You can read it in fear because you have been worshiping the wrong god and wrath is coming or you can read it with hope knowing that vindication is coming to the righteous who have been oppressed. One of my mentors summed up the Book of Revelation as this, “God wins! Pick a side. Don’t be stupid.” Depending on which side you stand determines whether or not this is a book of hope or a book of fear. Take heart! God is greater than those who oppress! Vindication is coming!

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2013 in Bible Blog, Revelation

 

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Hebrews 11 – Stones of Faith

In chapter 10, the readers are reminded to not look back to the old way of doing things but to look forward to what Christ has done. He did this once for all. We were baptized once for our sins. The Hebrew writer keeps giving the reminder to stay the course, don’t look back!

Hebrews 11 then begins with how we are able to look forward and not look back: Faith. Faith is what gives us the ability to move forward without looking back. I really like this translation of 11:1-2. “What then is faith? It is what gives assurance to our hopes, it is what gives us conviction about things we can’t see.”

Faith, for the Hebrew writer, is always in conjunction with hope. Faith is looking at God and trusting him for everything. Hope is looking at the future and trusting God for it. I’ve joked for a few years now that I am not an optimist but a realist. The more I joke about it the more I feel like it is true. I have little hope or faith in my fellow man, which means I am not much of an optimist. Before I get written off as a cynic, I look at history and see all of the advancements we have made and basically see that we have merely created whole new ways of killing each other and ways of blaming our problems on our parents. I’m playing this up a bit but what I want to communicate is that putting faith and hope in our fellow man will fail us. Putting faith and hope in our government will disappoint us. Putting faith and hope in the old way of doing things will always come up short.

Faith is defined in relation to hope because faith gives your hope assurance. It is one thing to hope for a better world, for new life beyond the grace, but unless you believe in the God who raised Jesus from the dead and conquered death then your hope is merely degenerated into optimism…which is why I’m a realist who believes in God.

It is by faith that we understand all things. It is by faith that we understand that God created out of nothing. One of my favorite questions I get asked is, “Where did God come from? What created God?” Those questions are based on an understanding we have within creation that everything has a beginning. The reason we think that way is because we have a beginning. Should this notion of “beginning” be applied to the being that created the world that holds that concept? We take it on faith.

The Hebrew writer establishes that faith goes back to creation and claims all the characters in Israel’s story going forward. I got to do some hiking in the highlands of Scotland back in ’04. The highlands are incredibly rugged mountains that are almost vertical in most places. When you look down below you see these amazing lochs (lakes) gathered at the base of the mountains winding around. The higher we got up the mountain the more I struggled with my steps. We weren’t doing switchbacks like most mountains. We were going straight up. At one point I realized that we were hiking on a stone path. This blew my mind but then gave me great hope. The realization that someone had not only been there before but had carried rock with them to pave the way for me gave me great hope. I can’t help think about that hiking trip when I read about these stones of faith that have been put in place.

On other backpacking trips I’ve been on there is a common sight that most people don’t notice unless they are looking for it. It is called a cairn. A cairn is a stack of rocks that someone has stacked up to mark the trail. These come in handy when you are in the basin of some mountains and you’ve gotten off the trial. You look out and look for a small stack of rocks marking the way. I’ve been on a number of trails where it is hard to see where the path is going and I look for the cairn. I’m thankful for the people who have gone before me to show me the way.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2013 in Bible Blog, Hebrews

 

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1 Corinthians 15 – What Will Be Resurrected?

Paul’s intro to the last section of his letter is quite the attention grabber. “Let me remind you of the gospel I preached to you” would kind of perk up the ears a bit since there is an assumption that you have forgotten the gospel. This gospel saves. You take your stand on it. If you do not hold on to it firmly, you have believed in vain. So…what is this gospel?

Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day. Up to this point in the letter Paul has been focusing on the cross. He does mention the resurrection back in chapter 6 but it is far from being his focal point. It seems as though one of the major problems in Corinth is that they have stopped believing in the resurrection (v12). If you do not believe we will be resurrected, you have let go of the gospel. So…what is the problem they are having with the resurrection?

Everything in the Christian message hinges on Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. If he didn’t resurrect then there is no gospel. If he didn’t resurrect then death has not been conquered and there is no hope. If he did not resurrect, then we will not be resurrected. If we do not resurrect from the dead then neither did Christ and we are left in our sins.

Jesus is the first fruit of the resurrection. Death came through Adam. Life comes through Christ. Christ conquered death in the resurrection, it will be fully destroyed at the end of time, and therefore there is no need to fear death because you are in Christ. If there is no hope in the resurrection then you should live each day as though it is your last because there is nothing to look forward to.

To deny the resurrection is to deny the gospel. Christ didn’t just die for our sins. He was also resurrected so that death would be conquered. So the question remains…what is the resurrection? Paul gives an analogy to seeds. The kind of seed that is sown is the kind of seed that will grow. The body, as we know it, is just the seed of what is to come. We cannot fully understand what the resurrected body will be but it will be a body nonetheless. All things became broken in the fall of mankind and all things will be resurrected again, each to its own seed. Humans will resurrect as humans, but perfectly as God intended. Animals will be resurrected perfectly as God intended them to be. Birds. Fish. Heavenly bodies. Earthly bodies. Etc. All we be resurrected into the glory of God, perfectly as He intends for them to be.

The seed of your body that was sown perishable will be raised imperishable, in glory, in power, and spiritual. This spiritual body is not to be understood as your soul being resurrected and your body staying in the grave. This is not what happened to Jesus when he was resurrected.

Paul ends by saying that flesh and blood, as we know it, cannot inherit the kingdom of God. We must be resurrected! We will be clothed with the spiritual body and death will be swallowed up in victory. Because death has been swallowed up and we will be raised imperishable, we are to stand firm, unmoved, giving ourselves fully to the work of the Lord because we know that all things will be made perfect, as our Lord is perfect. We do not labor in vein. We are victorious in Christ and death has no hold on us!

 

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