Seeing God Through the Psalms
Today we begin our month long journey through the Gospel of John. Come along with us as we will be reading, reflecting and praying our way through the book.
In The Beginning
I know when we read these words “In the beginning,” we immediately think of Genesis 1:1 when God created the heavens and the earth. I’m not so convinced that’s what John is talking about here. For one thing, the literal reading is “In beginning”, not “in THE beginning.” But He says, “In beginning.” I think that John is not talking about a particular moment, but assuming timeless eternity. In other words, he’s saying, “In the beginning, when there wasn't any beginning, the Word was there.”
Now, how do we explain that? How can we explain what we can’t even understand? We are too limited in space and time to try to perceive eternity. Who can understand, before beginnings ever began? But that is what John is saying. In fact, one translation says, “When the beginning began the Word was already there.” I think that’s what John is saying. Now, that’s easy to read, but it’s difficult to conceive.
Jesus is the Word. The word “Word” denotes the essential word of God, i.e., the personal wisdom and power in union with God: His minister in creation and ruler of the universe, the cause of all the world’s life both physical and ethical, which for the procurement of man’s salvation put on human flesh. Jesus is the final and complete revelation of God.
Notice, it does not say that the WORD came into being at the beginning but that the WORD was in the beginning as a pre-existent being. All things came into existence through Christ.
The point is that the WORD possessed all of the characteristics and attributes of Deity. This does not say He was “a god” or that He was the Father. Rather, the passage states He who existed from the beginning was no lesser being, such as an angel, but Deity.
Jesus was the person of the Godhead that created the design of the Father.
Prayer: Lord You are more than we can comprehend. But, is by faith we see. You are mighty and our Creator. You have been and are always there. You will never leave us. Thank you! Amen
The End of God’s Revelation - Revelation 22
We’ve come to the end of our month, the end of Revelation, and the end of God’s book. It’s good to pause and consider – this is how God chose to end His revelation, His message to us. There’s something special about how the Bible begins, and how it ends.
Revelation 22 takes us back to the glorious scene of Heaven. What we see in this last chapter of the Bible takes us back to the first 2 chapters of the Bible. The images of Heaven reminds us of what we saw in the garden of Eden. There’s the river (v. 1), there is the tree of life (v. 2), and there is no more curse (v. 3). The perfect picture of fellowship with God in the garden, destroyed by sin, has now been restored. Once again man is with God, now face to face (v. 4). And this perfect relationship, this perfect fellowship, this perfect habitation will last forever (v. 5).
In v. 6 the book transitions to it’s conclusion. The words given to John were “faithful and true” (v. 6) – John, and those who heard these words could trust in the message. God would answer the affliction on His people. Those who overcame with the lamb would be victorious.
Revelation concludes with the reassurance that Jesus was coming quickly. It is stated 4 times (v. 7, 10, 12, 20). The coming Jesus is referring to isn’t the second coming. It’s in reference to the judgment He has spoken of throughout this book – the answer to the cries of the martyrs. It is Christ’s message to the churches (v. 16). And those who hear Christ is coming soon reply, “Amen, come Lord Jesus” (v. 20). Christians then, as Christians today, look for and long for the coming of Christ – the temporal judgment then only points to the ultimate victory to come!
Well, we’ve made it through Revelation. This whole month we’ve been reading about this book, and the fitting question is, “now what?” What is our “take-away” from this book?
Remember, there is a dragon at war with God’s people. He was then, he is today. He will use whatever he can to win the battle over your soul.
Remember, you are not alone in your suffering. Others have faced hardship for their faith in Christ. They have remained faithful. They overcame. So too can we.
Remember, God hears our prayers. God knows what’s going on here on earth. He sees our struggles. He understands our pains.
Remember, God expects us to overcome (21:7). Endure. Be strong. Hang in there. Be faithful. Look to Jesus. Overcome this current crisis, realizing the momentary suffering won’t compare to the eternal reward for those who stand with the Lamb.
Remember, God wins. Christ is and will ever be victorious. You can win your battles today in Christ. You can overcome Satan and his attacks, in Christ. You can stay true to the end, and be welcomed into God’s glorious abode, in Christ. You can claim the victory in Christ.
“Thank You God for Your revelation. Thank You for this wonderful message of hope and victory. Thank You for hearing our prayers. Thank You for providing us hope and strength for our times of struggles. Thank You for Christ who gives us the victory. Help me today to overcome the temptation to quit and give in. I know I can find my strength and my help in You. Lord, I long for the day You return. I sing and dream of how wonderful Heaven will truly be. Until then I live for You, and will work for You, and will fight the good fight – claiming the victory only found in You. All praise and glory belong to You, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the alpha and omega, the Lamb of God.”
What Makes Heaven, Heaven? - Revelation 21
The book of Revelation was written to Christians undergoing severe persecution. So, it’s message was written in symbols in order to comfort the believers, while concealing its truths from their enemies. So, it is already a very symbolic book—written in pictures, metaphors and similes.
When we come to chapter 21 we have the added problem of, “How do we describe heaven?” Just imagine that! Imagine trying to describe calculus to a three year old. How will you do that? Or maybe a better illustration is this: Consider trying to describe Hawaii to a man who has lived his whole life on the barren ice of Antarctica. How are you going to describe the feel of the sun, the sound of the waves, the smell of the sand, and the shape of the palm trees?
That is John’s daunting task. The pictures he uses are not literal, but they do describe the characteristic of a real place.
Let’s begin with this initial and foundational question, “What makes heaven, heaven?” There are those who take a “man-centered” view of heaven (Anthropocentric). These are the people who think of heaven in terms of “my friends, and my family.” They will say, “If I get to play golf all the time, that will be heaven. Heaven will be an endless massage with ice tea and chocolate.”
This man-centered view of heaven is prevalent even among those who would call themselves Christians. For many people, what makes heaven, heaven, has to do with our senses, our earthly pleasures, and our earthly relationships.
These descriptions of heaven end up being nothing more than projections of our own values; a form of escapism that has nothing to do with reality.
The Bible presents an entirely different view of what makes heaven, heaven. It says, “God’s presence is what makes heaven, heaven.” This is a “God-centered” view of heaven (Theocentric). Heaven is not the projection of our greatest wants. Heaven is an expression of God’s very nature! Now, that is a very different way of thinking of heaven. A very Biblical way of thinking of heaven.
Did you notice in our reading that God is at the center of everything with regard to heaven? Revelation 21:3, “I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them.’ ” What makes heaven, heaven, is that God is there! In heaven, God ‘s the light in which we live, the throne before which we bow, the temple before whom we worship, the name we have written on our foreheads! What makes heaven, heaven, is His presence there. As Paul would say in Philippians 1, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, and that is far better.” (Phil. 1:23). What makes heaven, heaven, is the presence of the Lord.
Those who love Christ long to go to heaven because Jesus is there; because God is there. You see, our view of heaven tells us a lot about the focus of our lives. If we don’t think much of the Lord here, then our view of heaven is going to be very man-centered. But, if our lives are full of all the Lord has taught, all the Lord has done, and all the Lord is doing, then we will long to be with Him. A heaven that has nothing to do with Christ is a heaven of your own imaginings, and has nothing to do with the heaven the Bible speaks of. For the heaven the Bible speaks of centers around the Lamb that was slain and the worship of God Almighty and His Son Jesus Christ.
It is because God is there that heaven is a real place. It is because God is there that heaven is such a beautiful place. It is because God is there that heaven is beyond human imagination.
The End of Evil - Revelation 20
In the past few chapters of Revelation we’ve been reading about God’s judgments against the enemies of His people. In chapter 17-18 Babylon the great met her end. In chapter 19 the two beasts were defeated. That leaves one last enemy – the one who is behind all this evil – the dragon.
While the first part of the chapter gets the most attention, and is the focus of many different end time theories, the main thought of this chapter is simply: Satan is defeated.
His end is announced in v. 10: the devil…was thrown into the lake of fire, there to be tormented day and night. Satan, the accuser (Rev. 12:10), has now himself been accused. Every time Satan reminds you of your past, remind him of his future.
The chapter ends with the book of life being opened (v. 12). All those whose names were not found in the book of life were also thrown into the lake of fire (v. 15). Chapter 20 describes all the enemies defeated: Satan, the wicked, even death (v. 14). Chapter 20 points us forward – there will be a day when all will stand before the thrown, with the book of life opened, being judged for the things they’ve done. This chapter is both comforting and sobering. Evil will be punished – God wins. Yet remember, we will all one day stand before the throne. Will our names be found in the book of life? As we sing, “There’s a great day coming, when the saints and the sinners will be parted right and left, are you ready for that day to come?” Everyone on God’s side wins – are you on God’s side?
Victory - Revelation 19
How will it all end? That is the question everyone wants toknow. Revelation 19 is about victory, triumph and praise. It is a scene of exultation. John hears praise of God coming from heaven four times (Rev. 19:1,3, 4, 6). This is heaven’s alleluia and it will be sung for these reasons.
First, God has judged His enemies (vs. 1-4). This song emphasizes that God is true and righteous. Also, that he is to be glorified by His judgments.
Second, God is reigning (vs. 5-6). God has been reigning. Evil men have had their day. Now the time has come for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Third, the bride is ready ( vs. 7-10). Before we can appreciate this we need to consider three aspects of an ancient Eastern wedding ritual that are distinct from modern Western customs: (1) the marriage supper, (2) the bride, and (3) the garments she wears.
Prior to the marriage supper, a public betrothal is made which was regarded as more binding than our modern custom of engagement. When the time arrives for the marriage to be consummated, the groom, arrayed in his best attire and accompanied by his friends, forms a procession and goes to the home of his betrothed where he receives the bride and then brings her to his own home (Matt. 25:1-13). The usual festivities lasted seven days or longer.
The second custom to be understood is the fact that the one who was espoused (betrothed) was considered to be the bride of the groom even before the marriage supper (Deut. 22:23-24). For example, Mary was called Joseph's wife when she was betrothed to Joseph before they came together in sexual union. (Matt. 1:18, 20).
Among the Jews, the betrothal was so far regarded as binding that, if marriage should not take place, because of the absconding of the bridegroom or the breach of contract on his part, the young woman could not be married to another man until she was liberated by a due process and a paper of divorce (ISBE III: 1997).
During the betrothal period the groom pays the dowry to the father of the bride, and he prepares for the wedding feast wherethe marriage will ultimately be completed.
The church is currently "espoused" (betrothed) unto the Lord” (2 Cor. 11:2); therefore its relationship to Christ is that of a wife (Eph. 5:22-33; Rom. 7:4). In the Old Testament the nation of Israel was espoused unto the Lord (Jer. 2:2, 32), thus the relationship shared with Him was often referred to as a marriage (Isa. 50:1; 54:5-7; Ezek. 16). The analogy of the Lord with His people of the New Testament era is expressed in the same terminology. Therefore the church is the bride of Christ (John 3:29; Rev. 21:9). Christ has paid the dowry for the church; He has bought His bride with His own blood (Eph. 5:25; Acts 20:28). The actual occasion of the perfect union with Christ, the complete and final blessed consummation of the church with Christ, is reserved until after the final judgment day. This great union is described in chapters 21 and 22. During the betrothal period the bride must make herself ready by arraying herself in righteous apparel.
Fourth, Christ will return (vs. 11-20:3). He is King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16). His judgments are righteous altogether. Whoever or whatever the beast is that opposes Him and His people will be defeated.
How will all this turn out? God wins! So can we. No wonder there was a great multitude in heaven singing Alleluia!