Saturday, December 03, 2016

Revelation Advent -- December 3

“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation.

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” (Revelation 3:14-22, ESV)

Laodicea was a prosperous city in Asia Minor, now modern day Turkey. The city had an important black wool trade along with other businesses that frequently transacted larges amounts of money. It was about 12 miles west of Colossae and 5 miles south of Hierapolis. It was founded over three hundred years previously by Antiochus II Theos in 261-253 BC. The people of the city were hard working, self reliant, and were very successful on their own. This is evident because in 60 AD Laodicea was completely destroyed by a strong earthquake. Tacitus reports in his history how Laodicea refused aide from the Romans to rebuild and rebuilt their city entirely by their own means. The people worked hard, prospered, and were not dependent on anyone. The city was not only known for its businesses, but it was also a cultural, scientific and sports center. It has temples, theaters, and a stadium. It also had an aqueduct, which carried water from hot mineral springs five miles south of the city. The disadvantage was that the water tasted tepid, unlike to hot springs of nearby Hierapolis, or the clear cold water of Colossae. Laodicea had a renowned medical academy and had many well known doctors, including an ophthalmologist. The church in Laodicea was a microcosm of the city. The members were wealthy, prosperous, and able contributers to the city's economy and life.

As Christ looks at this prosperous city and church, what does he see? The description of Laodicea is ironic. Physically it is prosperous, energetic, builds great wealth. Spiritually it is poor. The church is neither energetically for Christ nor against Christ. They are as bland as their tepid water. Economically they are rich, but spiritually they are poor and wretched. They do not energetically store up their heavenly treasures. While their knowledge of medicine is great and they are famed for they knowledge of eyes, they are blind.

It is interesting how Christ describes himself to this church. This gives us a clue where the Laodicean church is lacking. Christ calls himself the "amen," "the faithful and true witness," and "the beginning of God's creation." In other words, Christ's words are absolutely true, unchanging, throughout all of time from the beginning to the end. The unstated contrast is that the Laodicean church does not unflinchingly hold to the truth and to Christ.

But the church is not lost. Christ tells them how to find their way. They need to buy their gold from Christ along with his white garments. The white garments are the garments made by Christ's death pays and covers the nakedness of their own unrighteousness. The gold is the Christ's righteousness that is given to the believer who has nothing to offer for her or himself.

How do you get these garments and gold? The very fact that Christ is reproving them is evidence that he loves them and has not given up on them. They are to listen to his knocking and open their life to Christ and he will dine with them. Eating and feasting is a happy activity where they will share in the delights of knowing Christ that they will experience by opening their lives to Christ. Those that dine with Christ will be the ones who conquer. They will sit with Christ and the Father at the thrown of grace. But note, they will conquer as Christ conquered. Christ conquered through perseverance and through death. This is not a conquering the world generally expects. It is, in many respects, and ironic conquering -- losing their life to find it.

I live in a wealthy part of my city, state, country and world. In fact, most who are reading this blog have the material wealth that resulted in the education and access to technology to read this blog. For each of us, it is tempting to build upon our wealth, either in things, such as houses, cars, household goods, media, etc. We are the envy of most of the world that is materially impoverished. We are the envy of kings in centuries past by the comforts and plenty we have at our disposal. Yet are we truly spiritually rich? Are you dining with Christ, intimately and faithfully sharing your life with him? Are you conquering through self denial and ready to die for Christ and his people? If not, listen to Christ's knocking at your life. If Christ is reproving you for your life and you hear his knocking, know that Christ's discipline of you is evidence of his deep and tender love for you. Open your life to him and dine with him. He will give you the white garment that covers your sinful, naked life, and gold you'll be able to store in heaven.

Take time to read about the other churches in Revelation 2 and 3. These also give insight

Friday, December 02, 2016

Revelation Advent -- December 2

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength... As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. (Revelation 1:12-16, 20 ESV)

John's vision continues. John is not seeing things as they actually physically are. He is seeing symbolic, figurative pictures. A pattern seen over and over in Revelation is that a visionary image is given and there is an explanation of the image. Among the images are lampstands and stars which, we are told, the churches and the angels of the churches. We see the imagery of Jesus. These are rich images that allude to the richness of the Old Testament. What do we learn from this image of Christ? Many things:

Son of man -- Jesus is the end times Son of man of the Old Testament visions of Daniel. He is the one that will set things right at the end of the age. He will come with power and authority.

Clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash -- Jesus is the royal ruler of heaven and earth.

The hairs of his head were white -- White hair denotes age and wisdom associated with age. Jesus is very wise.

His eyes were like a flame of fire -- Jesus sees everything and nothing misses his penetrating gaze. He purifies. His eyes burn away sin. Who can stand before Christ? Only those who have been cleansed by being freed from their sins by his blood.

His feet were like burnished bronze -- This is Old Testament imagery of a warrior.

His voice was like the roar of many waters -- as Have you ever stood before a huge waterfall, such Niagara Falls? The sound indicates great, overwhelming power. Jesus' voice has that kind of power.

From his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword -- We are reminded that the word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword. Jesus' spoken words cut away sin, defends the weak and cuts down the arrogant.

His face was like the sun shining -- This is Old Testament imagery of a strong and victorious warrior.

Each of these images are metaphors that paints a picture of who Jesus is. This powerful, wise, warrior-king walks among the lampstands, his churches. Christ intimately loves his church, comprised of individual churches throughout the world, and cares for them. We see the kind of care from the symbolic description of Christ. He fights for his churches, provides wisdom, and rules his churches as an exceptionally wise father. In the next couple of chapters we see how Jesus' penetrating gaze sees all in each of the churches, the good and the bad, along with the promise of great rewards for those who persevere. Where each of the churches are weak, the images of Christ in this vision shows the kind of strength he gives to those churches. At the end of Revelation we will see the purified church, referred to as the bride, standing in the new heavens and earth.

Christians are not to live in isolation. We are called to live and serve in the bride of Christ, the church which is comprised of local churches throughout the world. Christs cares for believers especially through the churches. Christ uses each of these attributes of himself and more to tend to his churches. Christ gives encouragement to churches on the good they are doing and admonishes the churches on their failings, all the while strengthening the church through his encouragement and power. In every area of weakness in the churches, Christ various parts of his attributes to best strengthen those churches.

Two thousand years ago the eternal Son of God came to earth and dwelt among the human race. He now reigns from heaven and walks among the individual churches. As you worship with you church you are interacting the the Lord that walks with and cares for your church. Christ's usual means of caring for you is through his church.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Revelation Advent -- December 1

John to the seven churches that are in Asia:

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:4-6, ESV)

John is writing to seven churches in Asia Minor. Click on the satellite photo on the left to get a larger picture of the region and location of the seven churches. But John is not just writing to these particular seven churches in history, John is also writing to all the churches throughout history after Christ's first coming until Christ's second coming in glory and power. Not only is John writing to churches collectively, but John is writing to Christians individually that make up the church.

From the first we see symbolism in play in Revelation. The number seven is used both literally because there are seven real churches Revelation is addressed to. But seven is also figuratively -- seven represents the full or complete number and hence indicates Revelation is written to the full church. Seven is also used to refer to the Holy Spirit ("seven spirits who are before his throne"). In this sense, seven only has figurative significance. The language of Revelation is symbolic imagery. We need to keep that in mind as we read and listen to the book.

John tells the seven churches, and also to us that we have grace and peace from God. We often forget the magnitude of this news. We deserve God's wrath for our sin, but instead we have grace and are at peace with God. We are freed from our sins through Christ's death which is the basis of our being at peace with God. This is great news!

There is more great news. God the Father reigns from his throne, Jesus has conquered death and being the first born implies we will follow in his steps. Further, Jesus rules the kings of the earth. No matter what we see in the world, Christ is ruling over the kings of the world. Not only that -- we rule also. All who belong to Christ are a kingdom of priests, we are intermediaries between God and the human race. This is a high calling.

God is ruling now. Christ has conquered death. We live in God kingdom as priests. We have been given great grace. As we go on in Revelation we will see how God reigns and how we conquer.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Revelation Advent

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John ... (Revelation 1:1, ESV)

I will do a Revelation Advent series for each of the days of Advent.

We live in what the Old Testament called the last days. Christ has broken into the world in his first advent and is ruling. The effects of his rule are seen everywhere, if you have the eyes to see. Before Christ's first coming the knowledge of God was largely limited to Israel. But after Christ's first coming the gospel has gone forth the entire world.

The apostle John, the author of the Gospel of John, wrote Revelation. He tells us that the things in Revelation will take place soon -- and indeed it does. The churches in Asia Minor were about to face strong persecution under Rome. The church of Christ since Jesus' first coming faced both great success and horrific persecution. But as we will see, the people of God persevere to victory. It is not a victory by conventional earthly standards. It is an ironic victory where believers overcome through endurance, suffering, perseverance, and even death. But God will win, and all believers win through Christ.

This advent series will select various passages that give a flavor of the entire book of Revelation, climaxing at the ushering in of the new heavens and earth, the eternal kingdom of God where we will see God face to face.