No episode today, folks. See you Monday!
The Book of Revelation is regarded by most people as the most difficult to understand book in the Bible, and to be sure, there are many passages within its pages that we can only guess at their meaning. But there is much we can learn, and as a matter of fact, chapter 1, verse 3 promises blessings to those who study it.
The author is the apostle John, who was imprisoned on the island of Patmos, just off the coast of Greece.
John is either shown a vision of Heaven, or he is taken there. We can’t really tell from his description.
And when he is there, a voice tells him to write down what he sees. When he turns to see who was speaking to him, he sees someone who looked like a son of man. He didn’t know who it was, and no wonder. John says, “He was dressed in a long robe with a gold strip of cloth around his chest. 14The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow. His eyes were like a blazing fire. 15His feet were like bronze metal glowing in a furnace. His voice sounded like rushing waters. 16He held seven stars in his right hand. Out of his mouth came a sharp sword that had two edges. His face was like the sun shining in all of its brightness.”
What would you do if you saw something like that? Probably what John did. He fainted.
But this awe inspiring person puts his right hand on John and said, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18I am the Living One. I was dead. But look! I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys to Death and Hell.”
It was Jesus! And he told John not to be afraid. Despite His appearance, despite the fact that He holds the keys to Death and Hell, He tells John not to be afraid.
If we are in Christ Jesus, if we are His, we have no cause for fear. We don’t need to fear what is in the past, we don’t need to fear what is in the present, we don’t need to fear what is in the future. We are His. We are in Him, and He is in us. And greater is He that is in us than he that is the world.
Do not be afraid.
What do you think?
May God bless the reading of His Word.
A house is just a house until someone lives there, and then it becomes a home. A sanctuary is just an auditorium until the people of God are there, and then it is a house of worship. And the Temple was just a big, albeit beautiful building until the presence of the Lord filled it.
All of the years of promise are now fulfilled as the cloud representing the presence of God filled the place, and Solomon must have become overwhelmed with emotion as he saw this miraculous event take place. His prayer was one of joy, and awe, and gratitude, and yes even concern for the people that God gave him to lead and care for. You can hear Solomon’s tender heart for them, can’t you?
Solomon wasn’t puffed up with pride and power. He truly felt a burden for their welfare.
Would that our leaders today would take a lesson from Solomon.
What do you think?
Jude is another one chapter book, and it’s written by another of Jesus’ step-brothers, although it’s possible that, because of the way the Greek language uses the term “brother”, he might have been a cousin. But like James, he doesn’t claim this blood-relation connection with Jesus. He is satisfied with identifying himself as a servant of Jesus Christ.
This book is another epistle, or letter, and its intended audience is the church in general, not a specific church.
It’s amazing, isn’t it, how a letter written about 2,000 years ago sounds so current?
Jude talks about the importance of standing up for the faith. Never has it more important to do that than it is today, when Christianity is under attack every time you turn around. I’ve heard it said that Christianity is always only one generation away from extinction. If we don’t stand up, if we don’t share our faith with the next generation, there will be no one to share the Good News of a Risen Savior.
But of course we know that God has promised to always have a remnant in each generation, so that won’t happen. But that does not take away our responsibility to heed what Jesus said just before he ascended into Heaven. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 So you must go and make disciples of all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And you can be sure that I am always with you, to the very end.”
This is the great commission. This is the job he gave to each of us. He didn’t say to do this when it is easy, or convenient, or politically correct. There was no opportunity given for a way out of doing everything we can to accomplish the job. We must do what Jesus said.
And Jude spoke, as others did, about false teachers. But here, Jude talked about those who abuse God’s grace and excuse sexual sin. Doesn’t that sound familiar? Today they say, “How could a loving God condemn me for who I love? This is the way He made me.” Which addresses the point Jude made about how they “do what comes naturally to them”.
Listen, it might “come naturally” to me to have multiple women. But that is not God’s plan, and I chose to follow God’s teaching about marriage and I am joyously faithful to one wife.
Jude encourages the believers to remain in God’s love. To pray with the leading of the Holy Spirit and to live lives that please God, and praise Him for who He is, and praise Jesus Christ our Lord.
Jude’s message was written to the early church, and the church of today, without a doubt.
What do you think?
In the last chapter we learned that Solomon took seven years to build the Lord’s temple. And in this chapter, we find that once God’s house was built, Solomon began building a place for himself.
This structure took thirteen years to complete. You might think he took more care on his own house, or that it was more beautiful or elaborate. No. I don’t think so. He took less time to build God’s Temple because he felt that God deserved a beautiful place, and he pushed hard to get it done as soon as possible, while still adhering to high standards of craftsmanship and God’s very explicit instructions on how it was to be done.
Solomon was willing to wait longer for his own place.
I wonder how things might be different if we all put God’s honor above our own comfort.
2 John is addressed to a very special woman and her children. She is loved by John and many other believers. And John asks her to continue in loving. He is aware of her children and the fact that they are living according to God’s laws, which include loving one another.
And then John warns her about false teachers. He tells her to be careful, and not let them destroy all that they have worked for, and to not even invite them into her home or even greet them, because doing so helps them with their mission.
And on this point I would like to say that this is how I deal with Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons who come to my door. I don’t invite them in and I don’t even engage them in a conversation. I take the teaching of 2 John verses 10 and 11 seriously. I simply tell them that I’m not interested and say goodbye. I don’t even say, “Have a nice day.”
“But Steve,” you say, “Don’t you tell them why? Don’t you try to show them the truth?” And my answer to you is, “Rarely.” You see, these folks are generally very well trained and prepared, whereas I’m just doing my normal Saturday activity of preparing all the media and tech for Sunday worship at my church. I’m not in the mind set to debate, and the truth is, these folks aren’t interested in having an honest conversation. They have a set agenda, and a ten minute talk on my front porch is not going to change that agenda.
Remember, in almost every case, you have to have a relationship with someone before you can really have a meaningful discussion about faith. And I have had these conversations with friends who were Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon. It’s not that I am against engaging them in conversation, but when they come to my front door, I take 2 John very seriously.
Now, 3 John is addressed to a man named Gaius. There seem to be several men with this name in the Bible, one of whom was Baptized by Paul. We don’t really know anything more specific about this Gaius, except that John considered him a dear friend.
John commends Gaius for the good reports he hears about him, and for the fact that he supports those who travel about, preaching the Gospel. It is a good thing to support missionaries. Even though we may not personally go out to preach the Good News, our support for them makes us an important part of the team.
Then John has a warning against a man named Diotrephes, and good words about one named Demetrius. John says, “Never imitate evil, but imitate good. The person who does good is from God. The person who does evil has never seen God.”
So we must be aware of those around us, and watch to see what their fruit is.
What do you think?
So now it’s time to build the temple. David couldn’t do it because he was a man of war, even though God gave him the plans…the specifics on how it should be built. God told David that his son would be the one to build it, and now this promise is set to be fulfilled.
King Hiram of Tyre was not a Jew, but it does appear as if he had become a believer in the one true God. It’s very likely that this was a result of his long friendship with David. Solomon contracted with King Hiram to be the supplier of lumber and some of the labor for the temple.
It’s interesting to note that the Tabernacle, or temporary dwelling place of God, had been built only by Jewish hands. But the Temple was to be built by Jewish *and* Gentile hands, which is appropriate because the Temple really is a type, or example of the church, which is made up not of buildings but of individual believers of every ethnic and national background. In addition to that, every believer is the temple of God, as the Holy Spirit dwells in each one of us.
As you might expect, there are many features of this temple that is to be built by Solomon that are symbolic. Just a couple of examples are 1) The walls are lined with cedar wood, which has a rich and beautiful aroma. Heaven itself is rich with the wonderful presence of God. 2) The interior of the Temple was overlaid with gold, the most valuable and beautiful material there was at the time of the construction of the temple. Even the floor was gold. According to Scripture, the streets of Heaven are paved with gold.
Everything about the temple was to be made according to very specific instructions. Size, material, shape, color…no detail was left to chance. This is a reflection on God, the ultimate Creator. When He created the universe, there was a plan for everything, and nothing was made by chance.
We will hear much more about the building of the temple in the coming chapters.
As in chapters 1-3, there are many great truths taught in today’s chapters. But chapter five, verses 16-18 need a closer look, I think.
Let me read it to you again. “If you see another believer committing a sin that doesn’t lead to death, you should pray that God would give that person life. This is true for those who commit sins that don’t lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I’m not telling you to pray about that. 17 Every kind of wrongdoing is sin, yet there are sins that don’t lead to death.
18 We know that those who have been born from God don’t go on sinning. Rather, the Son of God protects them, and the evil one can’t harm them.”
So what is this sin that leads to death, and the sin that does not lead to death?
I read several commentaries, and as is often the case with these difficult passages, there is some disagreement among scholars. But let me give you my understanding of the passage in a somewhat simplified way. Which works since I’m a simple guy.
To give these verses context, in this passage John is talking about prayer. He’s talking about how God hears the prayers of the believer, and how, if we ask according to His will, He will grant our prayers.
But, then John includes this statement.
So my understanding of what John was saying is this. If we see a Christian brother or sister sinning, we should pray for them, that God would forgive them. A person who is living for Christ, who loves the Lord, will sometimes sin. We all do. But since we *do* love God, the blood of Jesus covers that sin. And the Holy Spirit *will* speak to our heart and we *will* confess that sin to God and ask forgiveness. This is a sin that does not lead to death, because as we read in the last episode, God is faithful and just to forgive us when we confess.
However, a person who rejects God, who has no relationship with Jesus, is already condemned to death. His sin is a sin unto death already. John is, in this passage, telling us that we should not pray that God would forgive them, because for God to so would be asking Him to circumvent His justice. Scripture says that without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin. Believers are covered by that blood, but those who reject Christ are not, so they cannot be forgiven, and we should not ask God to do so.
We can, however pray that they would soften their hearts and come into relationship with God through Jesus so that *all* of their sins will be forgiven.
Does that make sense?
What do you think?
Well as chapter three begins, we see a couple of things that could be of concern.
First is his marriage to Pharaoh’s daughter. Jews were not to marry non Jews, or they might draw them away from God. Many scholars believe that she must have embraced Judaism. In addition, some think that this is the bride that Solomon wrote about in the Song of Solomon, which we read in episodes 287, 290 and 293.
The other thing that was not quite right was his offering sacrifices at places that were not officially sanctioned. The reason given is that the temple had not yet been built, but it would have been better if he had gone to the place where the Ark of the Covenant was, which is what David had done. Solomon seems to be given a bit of latitude though, because he truly did love the Lord and followed David’s rules, which were of course based on God’s Law.
Now, we see that God loved Solomon by what he did for him. God asked what He could give Solomon, and of course Solomon’s answer was the best possible answer. It demonstrated his love for God and the children of Israel. He asked for wisdom so that he would be able to lead them well. And God was so pleased with this that He gave Solomon a supernatural wisdom, plus riches and honor, with the promise that if he continued to obey His laws and commands, He would give him a long life.
And it’s interesting to see what Solomon did next. He went to where the Ark of the Covenant was and offered sacrifices there.
Next we see a demonstration of Solomon’s wisdom. As we read the account, we look back and say, “Yes, that was very insightful of him.” But put yourself there, without the benefit of knowing how the story ends up. What a quandary that was! Imagine the horror of everyone there when he asked for the baby to be cut in two! Everyone was horrified, except for the woman who was lying. Solomon knew that the true mother would never let her baby be killed like that.
So we’re told that Solomon was wiser than anyone. How marvelous it must have been to have a king with such wisdom.
What do you think?
This book is one of three epistles, or letters that are attributed to John the apostle, who wrote the Gospel of John. He is the disciple that is often called “John the Beloved” because it is thought that he is the one referred to six different times in the Gospel of John as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” He is also the disciple who was with Mary at the foot of the cross, an into whose care Jesus gave Mary.
And as an side, of course, the word “Gospel” means Good News! Isn’t that right, Chuck Tomasi?
The letters were not written to a specific church, but were intended to be circulated around to all the churches. It was to help them and encourage them in their devotion to Jesus, to remind them that false teachers would be around, and to emphasize that their love of God and people was paramount, especially other believers.
John begins chapter one much like he did his Gospel. He refers to Jesus as the Word, and he affirms that the Word has existed from the beginning. And he says that he, John, personally saw and heard Him.
He says that it is through Jesus that we can have a relationship with God, and that when we have that, we have a relationship with other believers.
This is important because if we say we believe, and yet don’t love each other, we are fooling ourselves.
And then at the end of chapter one we read one of the foundational truths of the Gospel. John writes in verse nine, “God is faithful and reliable. If we confess our sins, he forgives them and cleanses us from everything we’ve done wrong.” Of course, God sets a high standard for us, but He knows how weak and fallible we are. But because of what Jesus did on the cross, this forgiveness is available to all who believe.
And in the opening verses of chapter two, John continues this thought. And this one just blows me away. Did you know that you are a topic of conversation between Jesus and the Father? You are. And I am. Listen to this. John writes: I’m writing this to you so that you will not sin. Yet, if anyone does sin, we have Jesus Christ, who has God’s full approval. He speaks on our behalf when we come into the presence of the Father.”
When you and I sin, Jesus looks at the Father and says, “Forgive him, Father. I already paid for that sin with my blood.” What better advocate could there possibly be? Such Good News!
Of course, there are a lot of golden nuggets of truth in these first three chapters, but I’m going to leave you with that last one.
What’s your favorite thought from today’s reading?