Monday, 30 May 2011

How long..??

As we reach the vision of the bowls of God’s wrath poured out on the earth in our series on the Book of Revelation, I am convinced of the value of systematic expository preaching. Otherwise, who would ever choose to preach on this? Yet Marcus did a superb job this morning drawing out the true significance and importance of God’s wrath (see the download on the King’s website). No one should ever enjoy preaching on such a subject but a failure to preach it is to ride roughshod over God’s word and God’s character. He is Holy, awesomely so, and he is just. Were he less than perfectly just then he would not be worthy of all adoration and praise, there would be no guarantee of ultimate justice in the world, and Christ’s work of atonement for our sins would be devalued.
As we said at the start, the Book of Revelation has not been given to tickle our fancy but to strengthen our hearts and John’s first readers, many of whom were suffering terribly at the hands of their Roman persecutors would have been crying out to God “How long O Lord must we endure this suffering at the hands of evil men? When will justice come?”
In fact this vision of the 7 bowls of wrath gives the answer to the cry of the martyrs: “They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” ” Rev 6:10

How long? How long do we have to put up with injustice and suffering, with wanton wickedness and might-is-right arrogance? The question echoes down the centuries and across cultures, begging to be answered. Will it always be like this or will wrongs one day be righted?

This vision is all about a new exodus that is coming. The sight of what appeared to be “like a sea of glass like crystal” is the heavenly analogy of the Red Sea. This identification is confirmed by the mention of the new “song of Moses” that follows and the contents of the bowls of wrath that so closely resemble the plagues that God brought on the Egyptians as they hardened their hearts against God’s people and purpose.
Quite what the various plagues are referring to is unclear but there is no mistaking the awful, hellish torment that God’s justice will, and has already begun to bring upon a world that resists and opposes him. But God will bring an end to injustice, relief to the suffering on that Great Day when King Jesus appears... Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. Rev 19:11. That last battle (if it can really be called a battle because as soon as Jesus appears it is over!) is said to take place at ‘Armageddon’ (ch16v16) which in Hebrew means ‘mount of Megiddo’ and is where righteous Israelites was attacked by wicked nations. Like the place name ‘Babylon’ so ‘Armageddon’ does not refer to a specific geographical place but the whole world.

Yet amidst all this talk of wrath and judgment there is heard a song of worship, the song of the Lamb, because just as the first exodus was only made possible by the offering of the passover lamb, so too the last exodus - the redemption of a great multitude form every tribe tongue and nation - is only possible because Jesus the Lamb of God, paid in full the price our sins.

And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” Revelation 15:3–4

It was for good reason that we called this series 'Living Life with Heaven;s Perspective'


Sunday, 15 May 2011

Life is war..

That’s not all it is, but for the Christian it certainly is that, as was made clear from the next vision in our series on the Book of Revelation that we studied this morning. Satan has declared war on the church and is angry. He is angry because of the triumph of the Cross, his having been thrown down, and in the sure knowledge of his impending doom (Rev 12v12 &13).
As I Twittered earlier in the week - Satan troubles us, not because he is strong, but because he has been defeated and knows that his time is short. But he is still angry and seeks to intimidate and deceive God’s people. That’s why Peter says in his letter written to Christians facing persecution: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. ” 1 Pet 4:12.

Having been thrown down, Satan presently seeks to work, as it were, hand in glove with as many authorities and world powers as will give him room to pull their strings. (apologies for mixing the metaphors of glove & string puppets!). 666 is the number of humanity (man was created on Day 6) and can refer to worldly authorities in Nero’s Rome or London, New York, Beijing - anywhere and everywhere that satan finds opportunity to targets his anti Christ agenda.

So how are Christians to respond to this? Well that same vision, as well as telling us that the accuser has been thrown down and that his time is short, also tells of Christ’s care and love for his church, so we should be very encouraged! But in that same passage the Holy Spirit twice says to us: ‘Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints’ (ch13v10, ch14v12). We’re not to fear or be intimidated, but we are to wake up to the fact that we are at war, that we have an enemy whose is scheming against us, that we are wrestling against principalities & powers, and that we are called to stand firm, endure and not drift with the spirit of the age.

John Piper in his book ‘Don’t Waste your Life’ writes about the peacetime mindset: ‘In peacetime we tend to ask, What can I do to be more comfortable? To have more fun? To avoid trouble and, possible, avoid sin?... This way of life is utterly inadequate to awaken people to the beauty of Christ. In wartime we ask different questions. We ask: What can I do to advance the cause? What can I do to bring the victory? What sacrifice can I make or what risk can I take to ensure the joy of triumph?

And what promises there are throughout the Book of Revelation for those who will adopt a wartime mindset, resist the ‘spirit of the age’, take their stand against satan’s taunts & temptations and conquer in Jesus’ name:
“Conquerors will march in the victory parade, their names indelible in the Book of Life. I’ll lead them up and present them by name to my Father and his Angels. Rev 3:5 (The Message)


Sunday, 1 May 2011

Before the last trumpet sounds...

We looked today at the vision of the 7 Trumpets in Revelation chapters 8 & 9. The last time we heard 7 trumpets in Scripture, they were in the hands of 7 priests when, led by Joshua, they marched around the city of Jericho for 7 days, then 7 times on the 7th day, sounding their trumpets and bringing about the downfall of Jericho leaving the way open for the passage of the people of God into the Promised Land. Undoubtedly this memory was in John’s mind as he saw this vision.
In language reminiscent of another key moment in Israel’s history, the Exodus, the trumpets announced the tragedies and demonically inspired torments that inflict people on the earth in these last days. How true the symptoms ring with what we so often witness around us: ‘...their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone. And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them..... They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people ... They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, (meaning ‘destruction’) and in Greek he is called Apollyon (meaning ‘destroyer’) Rev ch 9.
Don’t we see the handiwork of the destroyer, satan, at work in our day, shattering dreams, dashing hopes and tormenting people’s minds so that they even contemplate ending their own lives?

It is against this backdrop that we read in chapter 10 of an important interlude, a pause before the sounding of the last trumpet. It is a pause that is motivated by God’s grace. Here in these last, urgent days, a message of hope is held forth in the form a small open book. For me there can be no doubt that this speaks of the Gospel which, as John ‘eats it’, is a sweet as honey, but leaves a bitter taste in his stomach as he is burdened with an evangelist’s calling to share its content with an often unreceptive world.

This interlude develops further with attention now on the church, God’s temple and dwelling place, which is measured as a sign of God’s protection - he knows all who are his! Then, in the imagery of the Two Witnesses, the church is commissioned and given authority to go two by two in the spirit and power akin to that of Moses and Elijah and preach & prophesy this message of God’s grace to the nations!

We live in days of God’s grace when whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. These are Gospel days, urgent days, when, in the midst of turbulent times God is not silent but is speaking not only through creation, and through the trials of life, but supremely through the Gospel - the Good News of Jesus. And it the church, you and I who have been entrusted and empowered to declare it and make Jesus known!
There is a limit to the number of these days of God’s grace (1260, see below!!). One day the 7th and last trumpet will sound, announcing both the end of the Gospel age and the arrival of King Jesus!

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matt 28:19-20


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Additional note:
The 1260 days in ch11v3 is the same as the 42 months in ch11v2 and the 42 months in ch13v5, and is the time that satan is allowed to threaten & oppose the church. It is also the same as the period of time through which God promises to nourish the church: ‘for a time, and times, and half a time. ch12v14 (2.5 years).
Personally, I do not think that the number of 42 weeks is literal but figurative for the period of tribulation repeatedly prophesied by Daniel (7v25, 9v27, 12v7, 11-12). This is half of 7 years, which suggests a period cut short by half. It is these last days.