Christ Gave Himself for You

Sometimes a weather person on TV seems to be filling air time. But, were you in North Carolina today, there would be a different tone as Florence moves inland. The language becomes terse, almost telegraphic. He or she is trying to convey the essential information you need—because your life depends on it. In Galatians 1:1-5 the Apostle Paul is terse—because eternal issues hang on what he says.

Listen to Christ’s messenger. This is a “not” letter from the apostle. An apostle is a “sent one.” His authority is not his own but that of his sender. An insult to an ambassador is an insult to the country which sent him. Paul’s apostleship was not from man. the source of his authority was not human, contrary to allegations made by false teachers in Galatia. (Note that Paul does not hesitate to stress the negative when necessary.) Paul’s apostleship was not even by man. Man was not even the means of commissioning Paul. Paul is countering allegations of having a derived apostleship, see 1:11-2:21. Paul defends his apostleship because that is a vector of attack by false teachers against the gospel. “May God send us men who are not deceived, men who will respond to the forces of unbelief and compromise…. The Epistle to the Galatians is a polemic, a fighting Epistle from beginning to end. What a fire it kindled at the time of the Reformation! May it kindle another fire in our day—not a fire that will destroy any fine or noble or Christian thing, but a fire of Christian love in hearts grown cold!” (J. Gresham Machen, Machen’s Notes on Galatians, p. 8). Continue reading

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Come, Lord Jesus

Come can be a very friendly verb. “Come in!” welcomes a person who is not sure of how he will be received. “Come with me, we’ll take care of that,” assures someone that a friend is helping her. Come is a crucial concept in Revelation 22:16–21, as we come to the end of our study of this book of Scripture. The conclusion invites, even urges you to come to Jesus. And it calls you to join in a prayer for him to come.

Come to Jesus. Come to the water of life! Revelation 22:17 extends an invitation to anyone who need forgiveness to come. The invitation draws on the one extended in Isaiah 55. Notice the repeated invitation, even command, to come. Buying without money seems contradictory, but the focus in on the rich grace of God. It is totally undeserved, unearned. And it echos and extends the cry of Jesus in John 7:37–39. Water of life here in Revelation is not a substance, but a person. The invitation is to come to Jesus himself, the Savior, the one who, by being slain and rising again in the place of his people, has purchased their redemption. He has not only reconciled us to God, more importantly, he has reconciled God to us. If you have not yet come to Christ, respond to this invitation. Entrust yourself to him. And if you are in Christ, keep on coming. We do that as we keep coming to him in the Lord’s Supper. Coming to Jesus involves more than just praying a sinner’s prayer. It requires a life of commitment to him. Salvation is based totally on his work in your place, but it also calls you to keep every word that comes from God’s mouth. The warning about not adding to or subtracting from the word of prophecy is place in this context. “[Revelation] is not a book of riddles but a proclamation of the Great King. The end echoes the beginning. The Great King binds us to His covenantal Word. We live by faith alone, by grace alone, by Scripture alone.” (C. Vanderwaal, Search the Scriptures, Vol. 10, p. 111). Continue reading

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Don’t Add or Take Away!


In 1982 the Reader’s Digest published a condensed Bible, with Old Testament books shortened by about 50% and New Testament books by about 25%. Excluded from the version was Revelation 22:18–19, which a spokesman for the magazine described as sort of an ancient copyright indication. The text is far more than that, however!

Beware of tampering! This warning is for you. Some have suggested that the text was a warning to scribes copying the document to take care. If it were, would any scribe have dared to make a copy?! Rather, the warning is addressed to those who hear the words of this prophecy. It draws on the blessing of Revelation 1:3. The warning addressed the original hearers and readers of the book. As John wrote, inspired by the Holy Spirit, the warning extends from the first century down through the ages. While the warning is part of the Book of Revelation, it applies to all of Scripture. “[T]he warnings in 22:18–19 are directed not primarily to those outside the church but to all in the covenant community, as the warnings of Deuteronomy were addressed to all Israelites. Those who do not heed the warnings profess to be Christian, but their allegiance to other gods betrays their confession.” (G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, p. 1152). Continue reading

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The Time Is Near!

We have cringed at attempts to predict the date of Christ’s return. Without making predictions, news of wars and increasing wickedness draw remarks like, “It really seems as though the time is soon.” Yes, we ought to be looking for Christ’s return, but remember also that believers in every age since the Ascension, have made similar remarks. What does Jesus say about his return in Revelation 22:6–11? What should you be doing? How should you live?

Worship God! See the wonder of John’s revelation. John has witnessed and recorded for you truly unique events. He has portrayed God’s fierce anger against those who have rebelled against him and who have harmed his people. He has shown you the struggle in heaven between the dragon and Michael and the angels. You have seen, through John’s eyes, the fall of Babylon and the punishment of the dragon, the beast, and their followers. You have seen the splendid beauty of the bride of the Lamb, the new Jerusalem, the wonder of the new heavens and earth. What John writes is faithful and true. It is true because it is God’s revelation. Daniel 2:45 assures king Nebuchadnezzar that the interpretation is sure. Likewise, John has not simply been writing his thoughts, but has been recording what God has revealed to him—for the church. John has been in the company of powerful angels. It is perhaps understandable that he seems to mistake one of the angels for the Lord himself, and falls at the angel’s feet to worship. John had done something similar in Revelation 19:10. Continue reading

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The Garden-City

If you could pick the ideal place to live, what would it be? A city, with all of the art, culture, and other advantages? Someplace totally out in the wilderness, off the grid? Revelation 21 describes a magnificent city, but chapter 22:1–6 describes the same city in terms of a garden. The new Jerusalem is a garden-city!

Come to the tree in the garden. The magnificent city is also a garden. Revelation 22:1–6 is closely connected with Revelation 21. What is a magnificent city is also a garden. But it is not just any garden. As you read about the river and the tree of life, you see that this is patterned after the Garden of Eden. Eden, however, was not intended to be a permanent state. Adam and Eve were to be fruitful and multiply, to have dominion, and to subdue the earth. Had Adam not sinned, he would not have simply sat under a fruit tree waiting for it to fall into his hands. He would have been busy. The bounds were to be extended. He was to move beyond a time of testing to enjoyment of the Sabbath rest into which his Creator and Lord had already entered. That goal of moving on to perfection was there before the fall and before redemption. Where Adam failed, the Lion-Lamb has overcome. The result is the holy city, the new Jerusalem, the bride of the Lamb, which is not only a city, but also Eden perfected—without a serpent and without the possibility of sinning. Continue reading

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