John had been caught up into heaven to see “what must take place after this” (Revelation 4:1). As a fellow suffer with the churches to whom he writes, he will encourage them with the true story, the grand drama, that God reveals in the scroll held in his right hand. That drama begins to unfold as the Lion-Lamb takes the scroll and begins to break its seals, one by one, as John records in Revelation 6.
Ask the right questions. Understand where you fit in the grand drama that the Lamb unfolds. The seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3 have been reminded of their sufferings and warned of more trials to come. But along with that is the assurance that in Christ they overcome. John writes, not just for those seven churches, but for the church of all time, for you today as well. We may be curious about the future, but John does not write simply to satisfy curiosity. He is not writing future history in puzzle form to be deciphered by those who are smart enough. He writes to encourage the church. He uses word pictures to show the unfolding of God’s plan and to show you how you are connected with it—where you fit in the story. Continue reading “How Long?”
How does a baby learn to talk? By listening and responding to parents. How do we learn to communicate with God? By listening to what he says to us and speaking back in word and song. Revelation 5 is a wonderful example. And the great reason we have for praising God is the triumph of the his Son, the Lamb of God.
Sing because… Sing because God is God. The God who made you in his image speaks with you and listens when you speak. Appreciate the sovereign power of God. To a church suffering under persecution, faced with the claim that Caesar is Lord, Christ gives John (and you) a glimpse of the throne room of heaven. It is clear who sits on the throne. You need that reassurance as you face a world that is unfriendly to the gospel. Don’t get the impression that the church has suffered some massive defeat if bad laws and regulations are passed. The world around you may be in blatant rebellion against God, but he hears your cries. Creatures in the presence of God must worship. Continue reading “The Triumphant Lamb”
You live in a world in which difficult and unexplained sufferings strike God’s people. Sometimes it’s persecution for the sake of Christ. Sometimes it is the difficulty and tensions which arise simply because you are God’s people living in a sin-cursed world. Jesus’ message to the churches in John’s day are words to people caught up in similar situations. What do you need to see when things seem unexplainedly difficult? Read Revelation 4 (and 5).
Be aware of what you cannot see. Come through the door with John. Some of the believers in the seven churches had suffered for the sake of Christ, scorn from neighbors, economic loss, persecution, and even martyrdom. John will be shown “what must take place after this,” but the focus of the vision is not a detailed map of the future, but rather a throne, and One sitting on it. John sees a throne. Around it is a rainbow. The promise of Genesis 9 still stands. God is faithful to his Word. Continue reading “What Do You Do in the Presence of God?”
We may be nearing the peak of the influenza season. But our North American society also has a problem with affluenza, combining affluence with influenza, “the negative psychological or behavioral effects of having or pursuing wealth, as irresponsible acts and feelings of self-doubt or guilt.” The term had not yet been coined when Jesus told John what to write to the church at Laodicea, but it could be used to describe the problem that plagued that church, Revelation 3:14–22. If you don’t think affluence is affecting our culture, this Lord’s Day is Super Bowl Sunday—with 30 second TV ads selling for $5,000,000…because we buy what they are selling.
What is the problem? Beware of the poverty of riches. The letters to most of the other churches (except Smyrna and Philadelphia) contain warnings about shortcomings or sins in the church. All the preceding six contain some measure of praise, even if it is only to a few (Revelation 3:4). But Jesus has no words of commendation or praise for this church. It is a letter of warning—though it does contain a call to repentance and holds out an offer of grace. The city of Laodicea was wealthy. An important trade city, it considered itself self-sufficient. When damaged by the same earthquakes that had devastated Philadelphia, it declined aid from the emperor, choosing to rebuild on its own. The city was noted for making black woolen garments. It had a medical school, where physicians had written about ophthalmology, and may have produced eye salve for treatment. The church at Laodicea reflected the atmosphere of the city. It considered itself wealthy and self-sufficient. This seems to be not just a pretense, but the way the church actually saw herself. But Jesus sees below the impression. He describes the condition of her heart: wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. The church believed herself to be affluent. But Jesus says she is sick. Continue reading “Affluenza”