Symbols 

Revelation 12

The book of Revelation is filled with symbolism. Some of the symbols are easy to understand because they are explained in the text, itself. For instance, in Chapter 1 we see Jesus in the midst of the lamp stands, then we are told the lamp stands represent the churches. Here in Chapter 12, the imagery is a bit harder to deduce. We are told of a woman clothed with the sun, who gives birth to a male child. Next, a red dragon, with seven heads, who draws a third of the stars from heaven, and awaits the birth of the child, that he might devour him. If we take a few minutes to unwrap the text, we will find that most of the imagery is, in fact, explained for us. Verse nine reveals the dragon is Satan, which makes the stars he drags, a reference to his angels. Verse five disclosess the male Child would rule the nations, making this a clear reference to Jesus. We are told He ascended to the throne of heaven. In verse 17, Satan makes war with the remnant of her seed. It would seem then, this reference represents Israel and the further offspring of the woman, and the Gentiles, who come to faith during the tribulation.

Instead of becoming overly distracted by the symbolism, I think it is critical to catch what is happening here. Satan is seeking to oppose the work of Christ, and in response, the angelic forces are sent forth to withstand him. Here we read, Satan is cast out of heaven, and will soon be caged in the bottomless pit. Realizing his time is short, he begins an all out attack upon the inhabitants of the earth. In the midst of this battle, we are given one of the great lessons in how to overcome temptations and live godly in Christ Jesus.

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” Revelation 12:11

The blood of Christ was shed to provide forgiveness for all our sins. No charge brought against the Christian will stand in the court of heaven. Satan’s charges have already been answered at the cross. Instead of living in guilt and fear, we can live in confidence, knowing Christ has covered our sin.

The “word of their testimony” refers to the things that Christ has accomplished in their lives. One of the greatest weapons in our arsenal, is to look back at what Christ has already accomplished for us. Remembering yesterday’s victory can create confidence for tomorrow.

“They did not love their lives to the death.” The one who has surrendered all to Christ is indestructible, until Christ calls him home. Fear often keeps us from accomplishing what Christ has called us to. The cure for fear is trust. I was sitting with a friend recently in a quite volatile situation, when he remarked, “If you have to fear something, you might as well fear God.”

We have a great promise that one day the enemy of our souls will be bound up and cast into a pit. Until that time, we must fight. Trusting in the blood of Christ, the testimony of His Word, and the commitment we made to follow Him.

Pastor Jim

 

The Key 

Revelation 1:18
“I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.”

The final book of the Bible is aptly called Revelation, for it is a compilation of things that were revealed to John while banished to the Island of Patmos. In it, we will be given key insights into the future, but before the future is described, John takes time to describe Jesus. Instead of seeing the humble carpenter, meek and mild, John describes King Jesus in all His splendor and glory and refers to Him as “the ruler of the kings of the earth.” As ruler, Jesus declares He holds in His hands the keys to hell and death. As I read this, I have to ask, why would Jesus unlock the door to hell?

We have all seen the images of satan as the king of Hell, ruling over the fiery underworld. That image is not found anywhere in the Bible, but is taken from Greek mythology where Hades, the brother of Zeus, rules as a tyrant over the dead. The Bible paints an entirely different picture. Satan is not the king of Hell, but will be the chief prisoner. After all the havoc he has caused upon the earth, he will one day be bound and cast into the lake of fire. There he will forever pay for his rebellion against God, and the destruction he has caused mankind. The key in the hand of Jesus is used to unlock the door of hell to imprison the devil and his cohorts.

There is another reason why Jesus holds this key. The Bible teaches that, prior to coming to Christ, we are held captive to sin. Like a prisoner of war held behind enemy lines, we are bound in our sin and have no way of escape. Jesus holds the key; the way of escape out of sin and it’s penalty. Whenever, whoever, and wherever we are, when we call upon Christ, we are set free from sin, death and judgment, and given the free gift of eternal life. Jesus is the one who unlocks the door and sets us free.

Whatever sin may have its grip on you, if you cry out to Christ, He will set you free.

Pastor Jim

 

Pride Before A Fall 

Isaiah 14:13
“For you have said in your heart:
I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north; . . . ”

Here, in Isaiah, we are given the details behind Satan’s fall. Before his ruin, Scripture describes the devil as the mighty angel Lucifer, who served Jehovah loyally. Isaiah explains it was pride that turned Lucifer away from God in rebellion. This pride manifested itself in exalting his desires above the desires of God. That same sin has been stumbling the servants of God ever since.

Eve sat alone one day in the shade of the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’. Her whole life had been spent enjoying the benefits of being in a relationship with the Lord. All that changed when she began to desire that which was forbidden. It was not long before that desire led her to exalt her ways above the ways of God.

David, staring out the palace window, was struck by the beauty of Bathsheba. Years of faithfully following and serving Christ, were suddenly in jeopardy, as his heart began to long for the wife of another. Once his own ways were exalted above the Word of God, it was only a matter of time before desire became action, and his life took a downward turn.

Achan is not nearly as well know as Eve or David, but his life similarly illustrates the danger of exalting our ways above the ways of God. Achan dwelt alongside Joshua as Israel entered the Promised Land. Upon entering the city of Jericho, God gave instructions concerning the spoils of war; Israel was not to loot the defeated city. Achan however, saw three items God had forbidden, and desired them for himself. Once his desire took root, it was not long before he took hold of that which was forbidden, and it cost him his life.

We could go on and on with story after story, of those who chose to exalt their own ways above the ways of God, only to find their lives were destroyed as a result. It is worth noting, Eve, David and Achan, not only brought ruin to their own lives, but also negatively impacted the lives of their loved ones. Perhaps the words of James best expresses the danger of placing our own desires above the Word of God,

James 1:14-15
“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death.”

Every time we sin we are exalting our way above he ways of God. It is for this reason Jesus declared that in order to follow Him, we must deny ourself. Instead of doing what seems right in your eyes, or what your emotions are driving you towards, take time to consider the ways of God and exalt His word above your ways.

Pastor Jim

 

Wrap It Up 

2 Corinthians 4:3-4
But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”

A few years ago we purchased a pool table for the kids as a Christmas gift. Because of the size of the table it was not practical to wrap, so we set it up in the middle of the living room, threw a table-cloth over it and set our breakfast on it. Our disguise worked. The kids went about the morning without even noticing there was a huge gift right under their noses.

Paul writes, God has given us the precious gift of eternal life. A gift received by recognizing we are sinners, and placing faith in Christ. A gift that results in having our sins forgiven, being made right with a Holy God, and having our lives transformed from the inside out. This precious gift, that is so easily received, is sitting right in front of everyone, yet many fail to see it. The reason they fail to see it is because the Gospel has been veiled to them by the devil.

“But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe…

The word veiled, also translated hidden or covered, comes from a word meaning to hide. Webster defines the word veiled as “disguised or obscured by a covering.” God, because of His love for us, sent His Son to make a way for our sins to be forgiven, and to give us eternal life. He placed this message in the hands of His followers, who continue to herald it around the world, in their homes, schools, and places of work or leisure. Even though the death and resurrection of Jesus were public events, the Bible is the greatest selling book of all time, Christians are in every corner of the world, and the Gospel is preached on the airways and internet, still, many fail to see their need for Christ. Paul explains it is because the god of this world (Satan) is blinding their eyes and obscuring the message of Christ.

Just as the ministry of the Christian is to declare the good news of salvation, the ministry of Satan is to obscure it. He desires to cover up the Gospel message, and make it look like something it is not. He has used many different coverings to hide the Gospel. Some have been blinded with pleasure. They think coming to Christ will mean missing out on the real “fun in life.” For others, he uses fear. They are afraid of what will happen to them if they release control of their lives, and put it into the hands of Christ. Still others are blinded with hurt. They have had difficult experiences in life, causing them to question if there really is a God who loves them.

When we look at our friends, loved ones, or our circle of influence, and see those who have yet to receive or surrender to Christ, we must understand it is because their minds have been blinded and the Gospel veiled. Rather than being discouraged or repelled, we ought to pray. Our prayers ought to be specifically for God to remove the blinders from their eyes, so the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ could shine on them.

As you seek to invite your friends to Christ, church, or an outreach event, pray that God would remove the veil, that they might see Christ as He really is, and invite Him to reign in their hearts and lives.

Pastor Jim

 

Slippery Slope 

Psalm 73:2
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped.”

This psalm is the personal testimony of a man who almost fell away from the Lord. When he speaks of slipping, he is not talking about a little slip, but rather about throwing in the towel, and giving up on following the Lord.

His condition began when he bought into the lies of the devil. Jesus exposed who Satan really is when He described him as the father of lies. His lies are always the same. He brings into question the goodness of God, and makes sin look like something it is not. He did it to Eve, when he convinced her that God forbid the fruit in order to keep something good from her; persuading her that the fruit was the secret to really enjoying life. He did the same with the Psalmist, when he convinced him that God was keeping good from him, and those who rejected the Lord, were the ones who were gaining in life. From this skewed perspective, he describes the ungodly, “Behold, these are the ungodly, who are always at ease; they increase in riches” (Psalm 73:12).  He also spoke of the sinner as having no pain in death, great strength, no sicknesses, and living in abundant riches; all of which was and is completely untrue.

When the devil makes us think God is keeping good from us, he can also convince us that life is better away from the Lord; that is when we start to make compromises. We allow things into our lives that we had once laid down at the cross. Those things do give an immediate sense of pleasure, but like all sin, the pleasure is soon gone. We are then left ensnared in something that is robbing us of the abundant life Jesus provides. As scary as this may be, there is a solution.

The Psalmist declares, “Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart” (Psalms 73:1). He was rescued when he remembered the goodness of God. When he took his eyes off others, and put them back upon the Lord, he was reminded of the character of God.

Just as it is in the nature of the devil to lie, it is the nature of God to give good things to His children. James reminds us that every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17). Because He is good, He can only do what is good. In fact, the term ‘God’ is derived from an old word meaning ‘good’. Paul explained, having given us His only Son, He will freely give us all things (Romans 8:32). God will hold back no good thing from His children. If there is something I desire, and do not have, it may simply be that having it would not be good for me. It is so easy to lose perspective and begin to see the world through the eyes of the Psalmist. Thankfully, he explains what led to the lies being uncovered.

He declares, “When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me— Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end.” Psalms 73:16-17

The sanctuary was the meeting place with God, where the people of God gathered, and the truth of God was declared. If you are struggling, tempted to go back to the things of the world, rather than forward in your relationship with the Lord, get to the sanctuary. Get around the people of God, where the Word of God is being declared, and let Him remind you of His goodness.

Pastor Jim

 

The Cunning Beast

Genesis 3:1
“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, “You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?”‘”

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/b9a/30989304/files/2015/01/img_1286.jpgThe scene in the garden quickly shifts, and we find Eve face to face with great temptation. This text not only explains how sin and death entered the world, but also serves as an illustration of the temptations a believer will face. The first thing to note is how the devil is described, he is called “cunning.” It is important to remember, whenever facing temptation, that every word out of the mouth of the devil is designed to deceive. Jesus called him the father of lies (John 8:44), so we should expect that he will twist the words of God, in order to lead us astray. As their discussion continues, we see three key truths about temptation.

First, we find the devil questioning the goodness of God. He implies that God is keeping something good from Eve. He suggests all the good stuff in the garden has been forbidden, and it is only the leftovers they are allowed to enjoy. In thousands of years, Satan has yet to change his game plan. He is still causing the Christian to doubt the goodness of God. Whenever we are facing temptation to sin, we think sin will bring us life. We forget it is the father of lies who is suggesting that sin will make us happy, while the God of love and grace, warns us that sin leads to death.

Second, notice that Satan calls into question the Word of God. God had promised death as a result of disobedience, while Satan promises life. He is still doing that. Whenever we come face to face with a warning, or even a promise from Scripture, it is not long before our mind is filled with doubt. We wonder if that promise is real, or if it applies to us, or if God is real, or if the Bible really means what it says. Paul explained the reason for our doubt: Satan is shooting fiery darts into the mind of the Christian (Ephesians 6:16). We might call these “darts of doubt,” whereby the devil is seeking to get us to question the promises of God. Once we doubt the validity of the Word, we are one step closer to disobedience. Keep in mind, billions and billions of graves scattered across the planet prove that God tells the truth, and Satan is a liar.

Finally, Satan is cunning and knows just what chord to strike. After questioning the goodness of God, and the Word of God, he goes after Eve’s desires. He promises she will become like God. We read further, that she saw that the tree was good for food, pleasant to the eyes and desirable. The Bible speaks of easily besetting sins. Those are the sins into which you are more prone to fall. James reminds us, when we are tempted, we are drawn away by our own desires (James 1:14). Because there are certain sins we are more prone to fall into than others, we need to be on guard. Eve fell because she was not on guard. We find her near the tree she was told to avoid, having a discussion about fruit that was forbidden, as well as facing it all alone. If we play around with temptation, we will always end up giving in. The key to victory is to build walls that will keep us from falling. Two such walls are confidence in the promises of God, and companionship with the people of God.

Let’s take to heart the failure of Eve, that we might have success as we seek to live for Christ in this New Year.

Pastor Jim