I’ll Be Back

Revelation 22:20-21
“He who testifies to these things says, ‘ Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”

If you are anything like me, you have echoed the cry of John, from time to time in your walk with God. It seems whenever things become difficult, confusing or frightening, my heart cries out, “Come, Lord Jesus.” I realize, the only reason for His delay is His desire to see others come to faith in Christ. Peter wrote,

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

There is a day coming, in the not so distant future, when all the promises of Scripture will be fulfilled, and Christ will return for His church and set up His kingdom. As John sat incarcerated on the island of Patmos, his heart longed for the return of his Savior and Lord.

That being said, it has often struck me, that the final promise of Scripture takes us from the promises of the future, to those of the present. After declaring Christ will return for His church, John reminds us that we are living in a present state of grace.

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”

Grace can be defined as the giving nature of God. It i s expressed in His desire to save the lost, and to pour out lavish gifts upon His children. As we await the return of Christ, we live in the age of grace. The closer we get to the time of Christ’s return, the more difficult things will become on earth. As men harden their hearts to God, sin will increase and righteousness will become more and more scarce. It is vital to remember, although God will judge sin, it is His desire to save. The darker the background, the more brightly the message of the Gospel shines. Instead of becoming discrouraged by the present condition of things, let’s remember that it is in the heart of God to save. Let’s be busy praying for, and witnessing to, our friends and loved ones, until the day Christ calls us home.

Until He comes,

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Daniel 7- Are You Ready?
Daniel 8- History And Prophecy

New And Improved

Revelation 21:1
“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.”

Revelation 21 begins the final section of the book. Pastor, preacher, theologian, and early radio pioneer Donald Barnhouse put it like this, “In this chapter we see that the history of time is finished; the history of eternity is about to begin.” Just as Jesus promised, the heavens and earth have passed away, and in its place a new heaven and earth have been created. The word ‘new’ carries the idea of what we might call “new and improved.” Just as our heavenly bodies will be superior to our earthly ones, so will the new heaven and earth be far beyond anything we ever experienced here. John goes on to describe just a little of what we have to look forward to.

Heaven is a place where we will experience fellowship with God. No more will we look at God through the stained glass of human experience. Today our understanding of who God is, and how He feels about us, is often confused by the difficulties we face. Some, because of difficulties in their past, have a hard time relating to God as father. Others, because of pain, struggle to understand His love. The day is coming, when we will dwell with Him and see Him as He really is. This is the essence of God’s desire and man’s purpose. God desires to live in close fellowship with man, and man’s purpose is to be the people of God.

Heaven is a perfect community. All sin, and everything that defiles, is removed from heaven, and we will live in perfect harmony with one another. The idea of heaven being a lonely, isolated, and boring place, where we go through eternity as ghoulish figures without purpose, is totally foreign to the Bible. Heaven will be a place of community. We will sit together with the heroes of old, our saved friends, and our loved ones, and forever be in the presence of the Lord. Heaven will include feasting and celebrating, with those from every nation, tribe and tongue, as we experience glories that this life could never reveal.

John is reminded that entrance to heaven is solely for those whose names are in the Book of Life. The only way to ensure that your name is there, is by placing your trust in Christ for salvation. If you have never done so, pray right now, “Jesus I ask you to come into my life and forgive me of my sin. I want you to be my Savior and Lord.”

If you have prayed this prayer contact us at ccvb.net

Pastor Jim
Old Testament:
Daniel 5- Sky Writing
Daniel 6- Exonerated 05

End Of The Road

Revelation 20:12
“And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.”

Have you ever heard someone say, “All roads lead to God”?  While it is not true, according to Jesus Himself, that all roads lead to heaven, it is true, all roads lead to God. Whatever road you choose to travel in this life, it ultimately ends at the throne of God. John explains that he saw every person who had ever lived, the good, the bad, and the ugly, all standing before the throne of God and awaiting judgment for sin. There is no road you can travel that will not ultimately lead to the throne of God. Even those who stubbornly resist the Spirit of God and refuse to accept Him, will stand before this throne, along with those who refuse to believe He even exists. There is no way of escaping the throne, but there is a way of avoiding judgment.

John records that a book was opened which contained a list of all the sins that each person had ever committed. One sin is enough to condemn, and every sin is recorded. However, there is a second book; the Book of Life, which contains the names of all who have received Christ and His forgiveness of sin. Those whose names are in the Book of Life have had all the charges against them erased. Paul put it like this,

Colossians 2:14 “. . . having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

The most important decision you will ever make is the one regarding Jesus. If you choose to accept Him as Savior and Lord, your sins will be forgiven and you will be excluded from judgment. If you choose to reject Him, for whatever reason, you are left in your sin. One day you will stand before the throne of God and the book of deeds will be opened, read, and you will be sentenced. It seems like a pretty straightforward decision. Joshua put it like this;

Joshua 24:15 “And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Pastor Jim
Old Testament:
Daniel 3- What Would You Do?
Daniel 4- He Reigns

Wedding Day

Revelation 19:1
“After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Alleluia!’”

Revelation 19:3
“Again they said, ‘Alleluia!’”

Revelation 19:4
“And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne, saying, ‘Amen! Alleluia!’”

Revelation 19:5
“Then a voice came from the throne, saying, ‘Praise our God,’

Revelation 19:6
“Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!”

Revelation 19:7
“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come,. . .”

In Revelation 19, the scene in heaven is one of exuberant praise. We read of a great multitude joining in worship, and giving glory to the Lord. While there are many reasons to worship God, their praise stems from the fact that the marriage supper of the Lamb has come. To help us understand the relationship we have with God, the Bible uses a number of illustrations. We are referred to as the ‘children of God’, the ‘body of Christ’, the ‘church’, or ‘assembly of those who have been called out of the world’. Perhaps the most intimate of all is when the Bible refers to the Christian as “the bride of Christ.” Paul wrote to the Corinthians,

“For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:2

In ancient Jewish culture, the greatest of all celebrations was the wedding feast. The same is often true today. Being a pastor, I have an interesting perspective at weddings. As the congregation turns to watch the bride enter the room, I usually turn and look at the face of the groom. It is amazing to see his face the moment he sees her, and watch him fill with joy. There are times when the joy becomes so great, tears fill his eyes. In those times, I cannot help but think of the joy in the face of Jesus, when He is finally reunited with His bride; and we will forever be with the Lord.

In ancient times, when a man and woman committed to marry one another, they would be betrothed. Betrothal, unlike engagement, involved being legal bound. It was not something that was cast aside on a whim, but would require a legal document in order to bring it to an end. When you received Christ, you were betrothed to Him. While the wedding day and it’s celebration remain in our future, we are bound to Him by love. He is in heaven, anticipating the day when we will be united with Him. We should live on earth with that same anticipation.

Pastor Jim
Old Testament:
Daniel 1- Start To Finish
Daniel 2- Kingdoms Will Rise And Fall

 

Book Of Life

Revelation 17:8
“…And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world…”

As the angel explains the images John sees, he makes reference to the Book of Life. This book is mentioned again, in Revelation 20:15, as the guest list of heaven. All, whose names are written in this Book, will have access to heaven; those who do not, will be cast out to eternal judgment. If there is one thing you want to be certain of in this life, it is that your name is in the Lamb’s Book of Life. The question is, how do we get our names in that Book?

The Bible is very clear. Salvation is received free of charge, when we put our trust in Jesus Christ. It is something that cannot be acquired any other way. Jesus declared, He is the way, and no one could go to heaven apart from Him (John 14:6). Therefore, it is clear, our names are placed in the Book of Life when we put our trust in Christ for salvation. Since Jesus said He knows those who are His and no one can snatch them out of His hand (John 10:27-28), we conclude that our names are not written in pencil, ready to be erased at our first failure or doubt. They are written in permanent ink; we might even say, they are written in the blood of God. That being said, there is another interesting thought presented by the angel, as he refers to the Book of Life.

“…whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world…”

The angel suggests our names were actually written in the Book of Life from before the foundation of the world. Before we existed, before we sinned, before we cried out to Christ for salvation, our names were already written in the Book. This suggests that God has every intention and desire that you and I should go to heaven. Jesus said He was preparing a place for us (John 14:3), and all we need to do to ensure our arrival is put our trust in Christ. How tragic, that some resist the grace of God, ignore the message of the Cross, deny the pleading of their loved ones, and end up with their names removed from the book; all because they were unwilling to bend their knee in surrender to Jesus. The only thing that can remove your name from the Book is a failure to accept the forgiveness Christ provides.

Don’t let that be you.

Pastor Jim
Old Testament:
Ezekiel 45- Government
Ezekiel 46- Changes

Armageddon

Revelation 16:16
“And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.”

Recently, I had the privilege of standing on Tel Megiddo, the ruins of the ancient city of Megiddo. It overlooks, what is often referred to as, the valley of Armageddon. The experience was almost surreal. As I stood there, contemplating the events described in Revelation 16, I could see smoke rising in the distance, from tires being burned in protest to the fighting in Gaza and southern Israel. The silence of the moment was suddenly interrupted as the entire valley was filled with the roar of an Israeli fighter jet flying past. It was not difficult to imagine what the scene will be like when men gather in one last effort to eradicate God. Hundreds of years before Revelation was written, the Bible prophesied of this event.

Psalm 2:1-3
“Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us.”

I have always looked at this as the epitome of folly. Men, in rebellious pride, gather to do battle with God, who loves them so much He gave His own Son to save them. Up to this point in Revelation, judgment has been poured out in measures. We read of a fraction of the population being judged, allowing for the remainder to respond to the mercy of God. Yet, we also read time and again, that the inhabitants of the earth refuse to repent. Instead of being drawn to God, many become hardened toward Him. That hardness ultimately reveals itself in mobilizing for battle, to rid themselves of the influence of God, once and for all. In light of this, the second Psalm closes with some valuable advice.

Psalm 2:12
“Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.”

Instead of hardening our hearts to God, because of the things that we do not understand, or the raw deal we feel life has dealt us, we should accept His merciful plea and draw near to Him. Much of the difficulty we ascribe to God, is actually an extension of His loving kindness, seeking to draw us into relationship with Him.

Will you draw near to Him today?

Pastor Jim
Old Testament:
Ezekiel 43- Dedication Day
Ezekiel 44- Service

 

Praise Him

Revelation 15:3-4
“Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty!
Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints!
Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy.
For all nations shall come and worship before You,
For Your judgments have been manifested.”

IMG_4241.jpgWhile the tribulation continues on earth, John’s attention is drawn once again to the scene in heaven. The contrast alone should be enough to persuade us to surrender to Christ. Earth is experiencing the wrath of God, while heaven is being filled with sweet and continuous praise. Those who have been rescued from the tyrannical reign of the Antichrist stand before the throne and worship.

One of the evidences that a person has met Christ and been set free from sin is a desire for worship. While it is not required to fall on our knees, lift our hands, or even sing loudly, it is hard to imagine a person who has been impacted by the love and mercy of God who will not offer the loudest praise. Just the other night in our worship service, I noticed one young lady who humbly turned, faced her chair and knelt in worship. She has been growing so much in her relationship with Jesus of late that she could not resist the desire to bow in worship. I think we can learn a lot from the praise song of the redeemed found here in a Revelation 15.

““Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty!”

Their praise stemmed from focusing upon the works of God. As they stood before the Lord, they recalled the way in which they had been redeemed. Since these are tribulation saints, we know they had neglected the things of God for most of their lives and ignored the gospel. Still, the persistent love of God hunted them down and won them over. They, like we, could look back to the cross, where the love of God was poured out to redeem them from sin and give eternal life. Reflecting upon the work God has done is vital to a life of praise.

“Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy.”

As important as it is to look back upon the works of God, it is also vital that we look up to the person of God. He is worthy of the highest praise for what He has done, and also for who He is. Their praise stems from remembering three things about the nature of God. First, He is just; second, He is the king; and third, He is holy. All of the judgments of God are just. We often accuse Him of being unfair, however when His judgment is finally meted out upon a Christ-rejecting world, we will see how mercy and truth have met one another, and how righteousness and peace have kissed.

“For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested.”

Finally, their worship includes an understanding of the promises of God. The judgments that the Word of God has warned about are finally coming to pass. Peter speaks of those who mock God because He waits so long  to execute judgment; failing to recognize it is His mercy which holds back His judgment. One of the best ways to increase a heart of praise is to focus upon the promises of God. Too often, in dire circumstances, we look only to our surroundings, instead of looking into the promises of God. The saint who trusts the promise over the circumstances he faces, or the emotions they stir up, is the saint whose life will be filled with the loudest praise.

Pastor Jim
Old Testament:
Ezekiel 41- The Meeting Place
Ezekiel 42- Getting Dressed

 

A Safe Place

Revelation 14:1
“Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty- four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads.”

The tribulation years will be the most difficult time period the earth has ever known. Any hardship we have ever experienced, will pale by comparison, to say the least of the trials during those few years. It is prudent that we each do everything we can to avoid being left here when these events begin to transpire. The way out is to trust in, and surrender to, Christ as Lord and Savior. If you have not yet made the decision to receive Christ, stop reading and pray. Invite Him to forgive your sins and be your Lord.

That being said, Chapter 14 gives a glimpse into the life of 144,000 believers, living and serving God through these dark times. It is particularly striking to me, that these individuals have the seal of God on their lives which, among other things, is certainly a seal of protection. With all the opposition to Christ and His followers, these believers remain untouchable as long as they “follow the Lamb wherever He goes.” (Rrevelation 14:4) Their lives serve as a great example that the safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.

I am reminded of David as he walked into the valley to face Goliath. Unarmed and untrained for battle, there was no safer place for Him to be than face to face with the giant. I think also of Gideon, with only 300 men at his side, and facing an army too large to number, he was both protected and victorious in battle. Conversely, I also think of Jonah. He was a man who knew the danger an Israelite would be in if he walked into the city of Nineveh. Unwilling to yield to the way of the Lord, he found himself in even graver danger.

While we are not to live foolishly, seeking adventure for adventure sake, we must not let the fear of the unknown or the threat of the “what if” keep us out of the center of God’s will for our lives. Just as these men were marked by God, and protected until it was time to call them home, so is the child of God who is walking in the will of God. We need never fear as long as we are following the Lamb wherever He goes.

Pastor Jim
Ezekiel 42- Getting Dressed

New Temple

Unknown-1.jpegEzekiel lived in Babylon as a prisoner of war. The nation of Judah had rebelled against Babylonian occupation and this rebellion cost them dearly. In 587 BC the city of Jerusalem and the Temple of God were burned to the ground. What had once been a glorious structure representing the majesty of God was now nothing more than a pile of rubble.

One can only imagine the joy that Ezekiel must have experienced when he was taken in a vision back to the Promised Land where he watched as a new, even more glorious temple was erected to reach the one that had been leveled. This visions provided hope against hope of the future plans that God had for His children.

After Ezekiel’s time had passed a man named Zerubbabel would lead thousands of Jews back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. The basic structure they built would still be standing five hundred years later when Christ arrived. As amazing as this was, the promise Ezekiel received was of a yet future temple that would be erected after Christ returns to set up His kingdom on earth.

What a blessing it is to know that know matter how dark things may appear we can trust that the purposes of God will be completed.

Pastor Jim

The Mark

Revelation 13:1 
“Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.”

Keep in mind as you read through Revelation, John is seeing the events on earth from a heavenly vantage point. Instead of the glamour of wealth and power, John sees what God sees, a hideous beast filled with blaspheme, violence and hatred. It seems as though the entire world is enamored with this ruler. Like Haman of old, in the book of Esther, the world has found a common scapegoat in the believers, and their hatred streams forth in persecution. As a means of both coercion and identification, the beast requires a mark to be given to every person. Without this mark, survival will be difficult, and persecution guaranteed. This mark is later identified as being a series of numbers.

Revelation 13:18 “Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.”

In light of Biblical prophecy, we are living in very interesting times. This is particularly true as it relates to this identification mark that will be used for commerce. Up until recent times, all trade was done either through bartering goods for services, the use of coinage or currency backed by the nation, or in certain cases, a credit system based upon personal recognition and collateral. We have, in recent times, moved into an entirely new way of commerce; it is a credit system based on a series of numbers that identify the individual. I have found, over the years, as I travel, I have become more and more comfortable with this system, I rarely ever have cash. I have even traveled outside of the country without cash, relying entirely on the credit system.

That being said, I want to be clear, the current numbering system we use, is in no way the mark of the beast. I would even go so far as to say, an imbedded chip, under current conditions, would not be the fulfillment of this prophetic picture. This is pointing to a time during the tribulation, when the Antichrist has come to power and demands, in addition to whatever else is worshipped, he be worshipped as god. Those who will bow to him (like the Romans of ancient times bowed to worship Caesar) will be given a mark that allows them to buy and sell. Any who refuse will be persecuted and martyred.

After the last hundred years of human history, with all its violence, persecution, inhumanity and leader-worship, it is not hard to imagine a time when a ruler will come to power with such charisma he will be able to woo the hearts of mankind to bow before him as more than a man, but a human savior. While these things are fascinating to examine, they are really written as a means of warning, so we might escape these events. The secret to avoiding such a hellish calamity is to put trust in Christ, and be delivered from the tribulation that will be poured out upon the earth.

If you have not yet trusted Christ for salvation, do so now. Pray in faith,”Lord Jesus I ask you to forgive my sin, enter into my life and help me to follow after you.” If we can be of any help contact us at church@ccvb.net

Pastor Jim
Old Testament:
Ezekiel 37- Dem Bones
Ezekiel 38- Under Attack