Let Him Hear: Reading Revelation For Spiritual Growth #17

“Is your name written in the book of life?”

Questions such as this have been used as evangelism tools for decades. But what is the book of life? The common assumption is that if we have a place in heaven then our name will be listed in the book of life? We assume that life is talking about eternal life and the book of life is like a guest list at a concert that if our name is found there then we get in without any trouble.

When I read Revelation 20, I had an idea that maybe this book of life is something else entirely. Revelation 20, verses 11 and 12 state:

11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.

According to this, there are books used to judge besides the book of life. And, according to verse 12, these books contain our deeds. Could it be that the book of life is a recording of the things that we did that were life giving and the other books contain the things that we did that were death giving? Any time we worked on God’s behalf by fulfilling his purposes in our own life and in others; anytime we reflected Christ’s love, mercy, and compassion; anytime we lost our life to gain it and took up our cross. Could it be that the book of life is not a guest list into heaven but a recording of the times our actions matched the life of the Christ who is with us?

15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

The bottom line is, if our actions in this life are more about the things that kill -quest for power, sexual immorality, love of money, sensual pursuits, hurting others, and destruction then we certainly will not show up in the book of life. But, if our lives are more about the fruits of the spirit and sacrifice then that will not be overlooked and will be recorded in the greatest of all books.

Let Him Hear: Reading Revelation For Spiritual Growth #16

Here are the names for Jesus used in Revelation 19:

Lamb

Faithful

True

Word of God

King of Kings

Lord of Lords

Here are my reflections on these words:

Lamb – God’s sacrifice on our behalf. Given to death in order to remove the penalty due to us for our sin.

Faithful – He is who he says he is and has proven it over and over again.

True – All wisdom and all righteousness are found in him.

Word of God – God’s revelation to the Earth. To know the Word of God is to know God himself.

King of Kings – There is none greater. He has overcome the world and all of our allegiance belongs to him.

Lord of Lords – Our physical allegiance doesn’t just belong to him but also our heart allegiance.

Let Him Hear: Reading Revelation For Spiritual Growth #15

Chapter 18 of Revelation describes the destruction of the great city of Babylon. The chapter includes various types of people lamenting the loss of the great city. They say things like:

 “‘Woe! Woe to you, great city,
you mighty city of Babylon!
In one hour your doom has come!’ Revelation 18:10

All things come to an end. Even great cities, great nations, and great kingdoms. There was a beginning and God’s purposes will be fulfilled in the end. In our finite minds, we can’t perceive of great things coming to an end but that doesn’t change the fact that God is in control and he can bring down a great city in one hour’s time. Evil will be defeated and will no longer rule the earth. Satan may have influence and power now but there will come a time when even he and his tools of destruction will be brought down.

Come Lord Jesus

Let Him Hear: Reading Revelation For Spiritual Growth #14

My two Bible readings are coming together. I read Matthew for my weekly Sunday School class and I have been reading Revelation for the blog. Yesterday, in Matthew, I read about the Pharisees and the Sadducees asking Jesus for a sign from heaven. Jesus refuses to play their little game and basically tells them that they wouldn’t recognize a sign from heaven if they saw one. The Pharisees and the Sadducees were looking for knowledge about God not God.

Jesus knew this about the Pharisees and Sadducees and he cautions his disciples to not follow their ways of pursuing head knowledge without the heart change. Jesus knew that even if he brought down a sign from heaven, that it wouldn’t make any difference to his testers.

Then today, I am reading Revelation 16 and read about the seven angels pouring out the seven bowls of God’s wrath. As each bowl is being poured out, John, the writer of Revelation, tells us that there are people who are cursing God and refusing to repent of their deeds. These people have no doubt about who is reponsible for the plaques they are experiencing but that doesn’t turn their heart towards God.

You see, the people who are the subjects of God’s wrath are receiving blatant signs from heaven and instead of realizing that God is who he says he is and they better recognize this, they remain cold and hard toward God. There is no question in the minds of these people that God exist and that he is all powerful and in charge. Still, there is no heart change. Why? Because knowledge about God is not the same as knowing God; accepting him, following him, and worshiping him.

Are you so interested in God proving himself to you that if he did you wouldn’t know the difference? Are you blinded by a desire for signs and wonders and missing the person of Jesus wanting to work in your heart and turn you into a new creation?

Let Him Hear: Reading Revelation For Spiritual Growth #13

A modern Western worship team leading a contem...

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When you think of Revelation, you probably think of dragons, multi-headed creatures, blood, apocalypse, battles, destruction, and earthly disasters. But one thing I have noticed is there is more worship in Revelation than anywhere else in the Bible short of Psalms.

Being a sports fan, I recognize this kind of worship. It is the worship of a victor. The kind of worship reserved for those who have conquered and showed great ability to overcome a foe. It is the kind of worship that confirms that God is truly the best and greatest and that there is none like him.

Worship songs in modern American culture are often love songs with God’s name in place of a lover’s name. This is a nice sentiment but I don’t see that played out very often in scripture. The worship we see taking place in heaven is in response to God’s glory and holiness and not as much his love. The angels and those singing praises to God in heaven are not singing love songs but are singing shouts of victory and reverence to a holy and awesome God.

“Great and marvelous are Your works,
O Lord God, the Almighty;
Righteous and true are Your ways,
King of the nations!

“Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy;
For all the nations will come and worship before You,
For Your righteous acts have been revealed.”

(Revelation 15:3-4)

Worship God today because of his greatness, because of his amazing works, because of his creation, because of his righteousness, and because of his mighty power?

Let Him Hear: Reading Revelation For Spiritual Growth #12

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and hold fast to the faith of Jesus. (Revelation 14:12)

I am starting to train for a marathon in December. I believe that I can train my body to handle the rigors of 26.2 miles but what I am worried about is the mental strength needed to run for 4+ hours. I suspect that one strategy for me will be to focus on my form as I run. I could challenge myself from one block to the next to focus on one aspect of my running form and then switch to another aspect on the next block. This will give my mind something to do and establish the base for maintaining a proper running form.

In the verse above, there is a call for endurance among the saints. How is this endurance supposed to come about? From keeping the commandments of God and holding on to the faith in Jesus. The commandments of God are like our running form and as long as we maintain our form and believe that Jesus will see us through we can have the endurance needed to withstand whatever catastrophes come our way.

“Lord, help us keep your commandments so that we can persevere through dark times and crisis. Give us other brothers and sisters in Christ who we can draw strength and encouragement from. Keep our faith strong in your Son. Thank you for how you watch over and protect us. Amen”

 

Let Him Hear: Reading Revelation For Spiritual Growth #11

I believe that I am strong in my faith and that there is nothing that will shake my faith in God and my commitment to Jesus but when I hear about stories of martyrdom or persecution I often wonder if I have what it takes to withstand bodily harm or loss for the sake of my faith. In Revelation 13, in the midst of talk about terrible beasts, we see a familiar refrain – “Whoever has ears, let him hear.” Then these words:

If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints. (Rev. 13: 10)

When I read this, I was reminded of my fear that I would lack perseverance and strength in the midst of hardship. The words of scripture, though, call me to perseverance and endurance. Scripture doesn’t sugar coat anything as it describes the potential for harm that is imminent for those described in Revelation. So, how do I overcome my fear?

The Lost Dogs are a band that I have listened to for 20 years. A few years ago, they wrote a song called “Get Me Ready” and it is basically a prayer for God to prepare us for whatever will happen to us, both good and bad. As simple as it sounds to pray for God to prepare me for the future, I hadn’t considered it as an answer to my fears until I heard this song. Now I reference the lyrics all the time and it gives me comfort simply to rest in God’s ability to prepare me for what is in store for my life. I may not ever face persecution or harm because of my faith but as long as I pray for the Lord to make me ready, I know that I will have what it takes to face even the severest of crisis.

Here are the lyrics and a link to the song:

http://grooveshark.com/s/Get+Me+Ready/2D4qBG?src=5

Get me ready for the empty pocket
Get me ready for the money
The dirty bomb and the nuclear rocket
Get me ready for milk and honey

Get me ready for the Tribulation
Get me ready for the Rapture
For whatever evil situation
and whatever good comes after

Get me ready for it
Get me ready for it
Get me ready for it

Get me ready for hate and love
For a devil or an angel
For the vulture or the holy dove
For the banquet or the empty table

For long life or early grave
For the cross or for the bliss
To be a free man or a shackled slave
For helping hands or the Judas kiss

Get me ready for it….

Get me ready for the signs and wonders
For the absence and the silence
For the sunshine or the rain and thunder
The age of peace or the times of violence

For doubt and faith, for fear and hope
For the curses and the blessings
Smooth sailing or the sinking boat
For the trials and the testings

Get me ready for the broken hearted
the down trodden, deaf, blind, dumb and lame
the growing numbers of friends departed
for those who love you
or those who curse your name

Lord, get me ready to see your face
or get me ready to face you
For your justice, love and infinite grace
Get me ready (for it)
Get me ready (for it)
Get me ready to embrace you

Let Him Hear: Reading Revelation For Spiritual Growth #10

Teddy Bear

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A false narrative about God that James Bryan Smith mentions in his book, “The Good and Beautiful God“, is that of a “teddy bear” god. This is a god who is soft on sin and not willing to judge and certainly not likely to send anyone to hell. This false narrative is an overreaction to the “angry God” narratives that present God as mostly angry and desiring to strike humans down whenever he feels like it.

Anyone who takes the “teddy bear” God narrative obviously has not read Revelation. In chapter 11, a great battle breaks out between the Angel Michael, and his angels, and a dragon, which is Satan. Satan is eventually defeated and hurled out of heaven and into the Earth.

In Revelation, we see a God who takes unbelievable steps in ridding the Earth of sin and destroying that which is against Him. There is no soft and cuddly images in Revelation except when you look closely and realize that God is doing all of this for us. His love is so great for his people that wars break out on our behalf, God’s son take the throne of the Earth so we can reign with him, and those who want to destroy God’s people are themselves destroyed. We do nothing except remain obedient; God handles the rest. If you don’t see love in this then you are missing the meaning of the word.

Let Him Hear: Reading Revelation For Spiritual Growth #9

Double chromatic harp, built ca. 1890 by Henry...

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Many think Heaven will be an eternity’s worth of  standing in one spot singing 18th Century Hymns over the backing of 17th century instruments. The only variation will be a spare harp or two.

From what I have read in Revelation so far, this isn’t the view of Heaven that I see. In chapter 11, there is a trumpet and loud voices screaming, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.” Then the 24 elders fall on their face in worship and before this worship time is over the Temple of Heaven opens up and there is “lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a severe hailstorm.”

I have never been in a worship service that included screaming and thunder and a severe hailstorm. I am starting to envision these heavenly worship services as a cross between a Premier League soccer match and a natural disaster in which no one gets hurt. The vague notion of harps, and tinkling instruments and lame singing gets squashed by the images of heaven we see in Revelation. Again, it reminds me of what I miss when I don’t read my Bible and I let false narratives tell me what heaven is like and what my Lord is like.

Thank you, Lord, for your word and your revelation of yourself with in it.

Let Him Hear: Reading Revelation For Spiritual Growth #8

As I have stated before, I am taking a laissez faire approach to reading Revelation. I am less concerned in discovering all the secrets found in the language and prophesy than I am simply reading it and listening what God wants me to hear. In Revelation 10, the writer, John, sees a mighty angel who calls down the “seven thunders” and with it the final stage of God’s judgement. John, being the good writer that he is, wants to record what is about the happen but a voice from heaven tells him not to write anything down and to be okay with letting the “mystery of God” be fulfilled when the time comes for it to happen.

I wonder how many people who are obsessed with Revelation pay attention to this part? The message is clear. The final stage of judgement from God is to remain a secret and a mystery.

So, anyone who claims to have all the answers regarding God’s judgement and the end of time are claiming more than is allowed of them by God. Scripture, in this chapter, is intentionally withholding information from us. This is designed by God and we should accept it and be comfortable with it. It should not bother us that we don’t understand everything about scripture and about God. Even John was not asked to understand all that he saw, he was just asked to write it down and send it to the seven churches. In the same way, we are just asked to read and pray that God will reveal to us what he wants us to understand.