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

 

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

 

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

 

Get Out 

Revelation 18:4
“And I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.'”

As John begins to describe the fall of Babylon the Great, he hears a cry from heaven calling the people of God to come out, and no longer share in its sins. Babylon here is referring to more than a city in modern Iraq, it refers to the world system that is opposed to the ways of God. The call then is for the people of God to leave the ways of the world, to live in step with the ways of God. This is not a one time call, but is repeated time and again within the pages of your Bible. We were saved, not to continue in a destructive lifestyle, practicing the things that Jesus died to free us from, but to live a new life on a higher plain, where we seek in every area of life to bring pleasure to God.

Galatians 1:3-4 “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,  . . .”

Christ died, not only to forgive sin, but to provide deliverance for all who come to Him. When we put faith in Christ, the chains that once bound us to a life of sin have been broken. We no longer have to be like shrub in the desert, barely surviving in life, but we can be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, bearing fruit in its season.

Have you come to Christ? Have you asked Him to wash you of your sin and give you new life? That is the first step; the second is to come out of the world and stop partaking in practices that do not please Him. Don’t wait another moment,

“Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.”

Pastor Jim

 

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

 

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

 

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