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The First Sight

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Revelation 4:11)

 

The book of Revelation puzzles many who read it. It seems strange and sometimes bizarre. Many avoid the book because the contents elicit fear about the predictions of things to come. However, the book of Revelation is the only book of the Bible that promises a blessing to those who read, hear, and apply its contents. “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” (Revelation 1:3).

Revelation opens with the last remaining apostle of Jesus, the Apostle John, “in the Spirit the Lord’s Day.”[1] The Roman government arrested and exiled John to the prison island of Patmos for preaching the disruptive Gospel of Jesus Christ.[2]

The initial recipients of the book were seven churches in Asia Minor: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.[3] To these, the risen Christ addresses individual letters.[4] These churches existed in John’s day, but because of the commendations and reproofs Jesus gives to these churches, some have seen in them patterns of each throughout church history.

John then describes his first glimpse of Jesus as though in a vision. This is not the Jesus John remembers during His earthly ministry. This Jesus is awesome to behold. John says, “And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength” (Revelation 1:12-16). The dazzling sight caused John to fall at His feet in awestruck fear, but that tender, familiar voice reassured him of the One he loved. “… Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Revelation 1:17-18).

John saw Jesus in the midst of seven lampstands holding seven stars in His right hand. Jesus explained to him that the seven lampstands represented the seven churches and the seven stars represented the seven angels, i.e., messengers or pastors, of the seven churches.[5] The image reminds us that Jesus dwells among His churches and that He keeps and protects the pastors of His churches in His right hand (a position of power). This should also serve as a warning to pastors. Just as Jesus’ right hand protects His messengers, He also has the power to crush the pastor that fails in his responsibility to Jesus’ Bride, the Church.

As noted earlier, Jesus dictates direct messages to each of the seven churches. Immediately following the last word to the church of Laodicea, John looks up and sees an open door in heaven and hears a sound (Greek: phōnē) like that of a trumpet that said, “Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne” (Revelation 4:1-2, emphasis mine).

Many see the Rapture of the Church in these verses. John is commanded to “come up here” and “immediately” he sees the throne of God for the first time. From this point forward, the Church no longer appears on earth until Christ returns with His saints in Chapter 19.

There are many who teach that the Rapture is not taught in the Bible. They correctly argue that the word “rapture” appears nowhere in the Bible. However, neither do the words bible or trinity, yet no one will argue that these concepts are not taught in the Bible. “Rapture” translates the Greek word harpazō into the Latin raptus meaning “to seize; to catch away or up; to pluck, pull, or take by force”. This is what happened to John. He was on the earth and “immediately” he was caught away into the throne room of God.

Jesus gave us the first promise of the Rapture before going to the cross. He said, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3, emphasis mine). Paul teaches of the time when the trumpet shall sound and our corrupt bodies will be changed in the twinkling of an eye. The dead in Christ will rise from their graves, and we who are alive will join them to meet Jesus in the air.[6]

John enters the presence of God and his first sight is the throne of God. The person seated on the throne appears not as a human or any other creature, but rather as a glorious splendor. Of Him, John says, “And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald” (Revelation 4:3). The Bible teaches that God has no human form, except in the form of Jesus. Jesus said, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24, emphasis mine). John was given a privilege that even Moses (or anyone else for that matter) was denied. Moses, who spoke with God face-to-face as with a friend,[7] wanted to see God in His glory, but God denied his request, “And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live” (Exodus 33:20, emphasis mine). Yet, somehow John saw God in all of His glory and did not die. In our corrupt human bodies, we cannot withstand the glory of God’s presence. However, at the Rapture, our bodies will be transformed in such a way that we can be in the presence of God in His full glory and not be harmed, just like John.

The scene overwhelmed John. There were lightnings, thunders, and voices. Around the throne of God, John saw 24 thrones upon which seven elders sat wearing white robes and crowns of gold.[8] Some suppose these represent the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles. Others suggest that they merely represent believers of all the ages. In either case, the white robes represent the righteousness of Christ conferred on them. The golden crowns are stephanos, which are “victors crowns” awarded to them for conquering sin, not through their own righteousness, but through the blood of Christ.

John then sees seven lampstands around the throne defined as the “seven spirits of God” Some suggest that these seven lampstands represent seven attributes of the Holy Spirit as described by the prophet Isaiah. “And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him [i.e., Jesus], the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD” (Isaiah 11:2, emphasis mine). We know that the Holy Spirit indwells believers and thereby indwells the Church. In the first chapter, John sees Jesus in the midst of seven lampstands, which represent the churches. Now, these same lampstands (i.e., churches) are seen around the throne of God. I see the lampstands representing both the Holy Spirit and the churches wherein the Holy Spirit resides. The attributes described by Isaiah certainly apply as well.

Around the throne is a crystal sea. It is difficult to know what John saw in this. It is all strange and wonderful and beyond words to describe. John could only relate what he saw by his limited earthly vocabulary. But then he sees four strange creatures full of eyes and with six wings each. One “beast” had the head of a lion, the second the head of a calf, the third the head of a man, and the fourth the head of an eagle.[9] The eyes represent the omniscience of God and the four different heads represent all of God’s creatures: wild animals, domestic animals, human beings, and avian life. All of God’s creation never ceasing to praise Him day or night “saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come” (Revelation 4:8).

John then observed that when these praised God, the 24 elders prostrate themselves and cast their victor’s crowns before the throne saying, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:11).

With the focus on the throne, John spots something new. “And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals” (Revelation 5:1, emphasis mine). By its description, we know that this “book” is actually a scroll – perhaps parchment – with writing on both sides, rolled up and secured with seven seals. Many suggest that this scroll represents the title dead to the earth and the kingdoms thereof. When God created the earth, He gave dominion over the earth to man whom He created in His image on the sixth day of creation.[10] However, man lost that dominion when he sinned in the Garden of Eden.[11] The dominion of earth transferred to Satan. Paul calls him the “god of this world.”[12] When Satan tempted Jesus, he offered Jesus the kingdoms of this world if He would only bow down and worship him. “And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it” (Luke 4:6, emphasis mine). However, his ownership is only temporary.

Then John saw and heard a strong angel proclaim, “Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?” (Revelation 5:2). And no one in heaven, on earth, or under the earth was found worthy to take the scroll and break the seals. The situation was dire indeed. All of God’s creation hung in the balance and there was no one to come to the rescue. John says, “And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon” (Revelation 5:4).

John’s tears were soon assuaged. “And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof,” John says, “And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth” (Revelation 5:5-6). John the Baptist saw this Lamb come to him to be baptized in the Jordan and proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He was slain on the cross, was buried in a borrowed tomb, and rose again on the third day.[13] Horns represent kingdoms and the Lamb has seven representing completion. All the kingdoms belong to Him. He is “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:16). Seven eyes suggest omniscience with all the attributes of the seven Spirits of God.

Only the Lamb, by virtue of His sacrifice, is worthy to take and open the scroll. “And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne” (Revelation 5:7). When the Lamb took the scroll, a great celebration broke out in heaven. The four living creatures and the 24 elders prostrate themselves before the Lamb. “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10).

Then the rest of heaven breaks out in praise, “Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever” (Revelation 5:12-13).

Worthy indeed! I cannot imagine how John must have felt at the first sight of heaven and the throne of God. I cannot wait to see it for myself!

The 14 chapters that follow bring us back to earth and the events that will transpire during the seven-year Tribulation. The scenes are horrific. However, the Church, the Bride of Christ, will not experience the horrors of the Tribulation. The Church, as we saw will be around the throne of God and not on earth. Will you be there or will you experience the horrors that are coming upon the earth? Your ticket out of here was purchased by Jesus more than 2000 years ago. All you have to do is accept it. Check out my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Revelation 1:10

[2]  Revelation 1:9

[3]  Revelation 1:11

[4]  Revelation 2-3

[5]  Revelation 1:20

[6]  1 Corinthians 15:50-53; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

[7]  Exodus 33:11

[8]  Revelation 4:4

[9]  Revelation 4:6-8

[10]  Genesis 1:26-28

[11]  Genesis 3

[12]  2 Corinthians 4:4

[13]  1 Corinthians 15:3-4

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All New Things

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. (Revelation 21:5)

 We have entered the new year, 2023. How does the future look? Do you think this year will be better than last?

Let us take a sober look at conditions worldwide. North Korea is testing nuclear ballistic missiles and threatening South Korea. China continues to build up its military and threatening the tiny island nation of Taiwan. Iran is within weeks of enriching weapons-grade uranium and continues to threaten Israel and the United States. Russia relentlessly batters the sovereign nation of Ukraine without regard for millions of innocent Ukrainian citizens. Russia, Turkey, and Iran along with their allies are amassing armies and military equipment in Syria and setting the stage for the Gog of Magog war against Israel described in Ezekiel 38-39. The wars and rumors of wars Jesus predicted are all over the world.

Violence permeates the entire world. There are riots in China, Iran, Russia, France, Brazil, and many other nations. Here in the United States, violent crimes go unanswered. Jesus said the last days would be as in the days of Noah,[1] which were days filled with violence.[2] Jesus also said that the last days would be as the days of Lot.[3] Those days were characterized by rampant sexual deviancy.[4] Consider what goes on today with the LGBTQ+ movement and their agenda to pervert innocent children with their drag queen shows that they conduct with children. What are the parents thinking! Children are being trafficked for sexual purposes to deviants and perverts, and if that is not bad enough, abortion continues to rise even with the reversal of Roe v Wade.

On top of all of that, economies are failing all over the world. When that happens, evil leaders become desperate and look to war in order to distract their people from their sufferings. Vladimir Putin has openly made threats of nuclear attacks on any nation that opposes his advances on Ukraine. North Korea, China, and Iran echo their own threats. Meanwhile, the Globalists, many of whom are powerful people in our own government, lick their chops like buzzards circling a dying corpse, eagerly waiting on the demise of the nations so they can come in, “build back better” and install a New World Order.

Our world is sick and getting sicker by the day; 2023 offers no hope for improvement.

What follows, I wrote two years ago with a few changes to bring it up to date.

I am not a pessimist, but I do read what the Bible has to say about the end times. If the Bible is true (and it is), things will get worse before the Lord returns. Jesus said, “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:6-8, emphasis mine).

Does that not sound familiar these days? So, do not expect 2023 to get better; it will only get worse. Now, what do we do in light of this dismal outlook; crawl under a rock and hide away? NO! We face the future with the assurance that God has all things in His control.

 What Does God Have to Say About It?

As Moses prepared Israel to enter the Promised Land, a new land filled with giants, dangers, and unknowns, he encouraged them not to fear because God was with them. “Behold, the LORD thy God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 1:21, emphasis mine). As Israel prepared for battle against their enemies, the priests were to encourage the people, “And shall say unto them, Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; For the LORD your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you” (Deuteronomy 20:3-4, emphasis mine). The unknown is frightening, but God promises to go with us and even to fight our battles,

So, “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Deuteronomy 31:6, emphasis mine). When we attempt to face challenges on our own, WE WILL FAIL, but God will never fail us or leave us alone.

God has unlimited resources. When Syria harassed Israel, their efforts were constantly thwarted because God, through Elisha, warned the king of Israel before every attack. The king of Syria suspected that he had a spy within his ranks, but one of his servants told him about Elisha the prophet who warned the king of Israel ahead of every attack. Therefore, the king of Syria sent an army and surrounded Elisha’s house. “And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? And [Elisha] answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (2 Kings 6:15-17, emphasis mine).

“And David said to Solomon his son, Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the LORD God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD” (1 Chronicles 28:20, emphasis mine). David referred to the Temple Solomon would build. Solomon had the promise that God would not abandon him until the work was complete. Today, believers are the “living temples” of God (1 Corinthians 3:16). As long as God lends us breath, we have work to do “for the service of the house of the LORD.”

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness … For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” (Isaiah 41:10, 13, emphasis mine). When we trust God, He is our strength and our help, He sustains us and holds our right hand.

 Jesus said, “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7, emphasis mine). God cares for all of His creation, even those we would count as insignificant. He knows us intimately, even to the most minute detail – the number of hairs on our heads. Since God cares so much for common sparrows, how much more does He care for those created in His image?

What Can We Do?

When Babylon conquered Judah, Nebuchadnezzar carried away the Jews in three deportations. Nebuchadnezzar set Gedaliah as governor over Judah after the third deportation to Babylon. They were going into captivity. In that circumstance, the people are encouraged to “fear not,” accept the situation, and it would be well with them. “And Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan sware unto them and to their men, saying, Fear not to serve the Chaldeans: dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you” (Jeremiah 40:9; 2 Kings 25:24, emphasis mine). God promises to be with us even in difficult situations.

Jesus said, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28, emphasis mine). The Greek word translated “fear” (used twice in this verse) is phobeō, from which we get the English word “phobia.” Strong’s defines it this way: “to frighten, that is, (passively) to be alarmed; by analogy to be in awe of, that is, revere: – be (+ sore) afraid, fear (exceedingly), reverence” (emphasis mine). With that in mind, Jesus says not to fear or be frightened of those that can kill the body – that would include COVID-19. Rather, we should “revere” the One who ultimately determines our eternal destiny.

When Jesus selected His disciples, Luke records the account this way: “And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men” (Luke 5:10, emphasis mine). The world may be falling down all around us, but we are not to “shelter in place.” Jesus gave us the “good news” for us to share with those around us.

Jesus also said, “And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:29-34, emphasis mine). We are not to be overly concerned with our material needs. Jesus promises that God will provide what we need.

 “For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation [i.e., behavior/conduct] in Christ” (1 Peter 3:12-16, emphasis mine). When we are secure in the Lord’s care, we can be confident to face whatever the future may bring. When others see our confidence, they will want to know the reason for it, and we need to be prepared to give an answer.

 Conclusion:

We cannot stop 2023 from coming. We cannot alter the circumstances that 2023 will bring. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, emphasis mine). However, we can control our own outlook when we place our trust in God knowing that all things are under His control and that He cares for His own. Again, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27, emphasis mine). Ultimately, we have the promise of eternal life with Him in a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1-5).

Notes:


[1]  Matthew 24:37-38

[2]  Genesis 6:13

[3]  Luke 17:28

[4]  Genesis 19:5

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The Fullness of Time

Adoration of the Child

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.  (Galatians 4:4-5)

It’s that time of year again; Christmas is in the air. Regardless of your perception of Christmas – it’s too commercial, it’s under attack, it’s just a pagan celebration dressed up in Christian garb, etc. – it is altogether appropriate that Christians set time aside to commemorate the first advent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

At this time we remember the miraculous conception and birth of God made man (John 1:14), but too often our focus shifts away from the significance of that event to the sappy sentimentality of the Nativity scene. As sweet as the image of a cuddly infant lying in a feeding trough adored by loving parents and worshipped by shepherds and wise men may be, the fact remains that this baby was God clothed in human flesh. The thought that the Creator condescended to take the form of His fallen creation (Philippians 2:7) to redeem as many as would receive Him (John 1:12), should leave us awestruck.

This was no afterthought on the part of God. In my article, “Why Satan?,” I address the issue of why God allowed sin in the first place, but along with the possibility of sin, God provided a way out (Hebrews 4:3; Revelation 13:8). From the very beginning there was the promise of a Savior (Genesis 3:15). Eve understood this promise, and at the birth of her first-born she rejoiced, “and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD” (Genesis 4:1). The literal translation of the Hebrew actually says “I have gotten a man Yahweh (the Lord).” She believed that she had given birth to the Savior according to the promise of God. But the time was not right. God wanted His creation, man in particular, to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28; 9:1). Abraham “Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be” (Romans 4:18).  That promise was not only for Abraham, “But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:24-25). For “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). So, when the time was right, God entered the world He created (John 1:3) as a helpless baby – fully God and fully man – to give up His life to buy back and restore His fallen creation. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Very soon, at the fullness of time, He will return for His own as He promised: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3). So, regardless of your perspective on Christmas, as Christians it is a good time to remember that baby in the manger was God who came to die for us that we may live with Him, and soon we will be with Him.

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The Peace of Jerusalem

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. (Psalm 122:6)

In Sunday School, our pastor is leading us through a study from John Owen’s book, Rules for Walking in Fellowship.

Owen was by common consent the weightiest Puritan theologian, and many would bracket him with Jonathan Edwards as one of the greatest Reformed theologians of all time. Born in 1616, he entered Queen’s College, Oxford, at the age of twelve and secured his M.A. in 1635, when he was nineteen. In his early twenties, conviction of sin threw him into such turmoil that for three months he could scarcely utter a coherent word on anything; but slowly he learned to trust Christ, and so found peace. In 1637 he became a pastor; in the 1640s he was chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, and in 1651 he was made Dean of Christ Church, Oxford’s largest college. In 1652 he was given the additional post of Vice-Chancellor of the University, which he then reorganized with conspicuous success. After 1660 he led the Independents through the bitter years of persecution till his death in 1683. —J. I. Packer[1]

In our pastor’s absence, I was asked to bring this Sunday’s lesson from the book. It is indeed a very good lesson entitled “Bearing One Another’s Burdens,” which is the 15th chapter in Owens’ book. At the end of the lesson, Owens gives directions on how to apply the principles in the lesson. For the first direction, Owens says, “A proper valuing, strong desire, and high esteem of the church’s prosperity, in every member of it (Ps. 122:6)” – (emphasis mine).

I do not know a lot about John Owens other than he was and is a highly regarded reformed theologian and Puritan preacher. I do not know what his views were on eschatology (the study of end times), however, in the quote above, his use of Psalm 122:6 in connection to the church is misapplied.

I do not want to disparage such a great man of God as John Owen, but the verse, when taken literally as it should be, is speaking of Jerusalem not the Church. A parallel between Jerusalem and the church can certainly be drawn here in the form of allegory, but to make a direct connection cannot be supported if one takes the words of Scripture literally. Jerusalem/Israel is not the Church, nor is the Church Jerusalem/Israel.

In Owens’ defense, he was living at a time when Israel did not exist and had not existed for over 1500 years. Many theologians of that time believed that God had rejected Israel for their rejection of their Messiah and that the Church had replaced Israel. However, not all theologians took that position. Those that did not hold to that “replacement theology” believed that God would restore Israel in the end times. They came to this conclusion from the clear, literal teaching of the Old Testament prophets. I do not know to which camp Owens belonged, so I will withhold judgement.

I will, however, attempt to point out the error in “replacement theology” as concisely as possible. When one studies the Old Testament prophets, one quickly finds God’s repeated promises to (1) scatter Israel to the four corners of the earth, (2) to draw them back into their own land, (3) to restore the nation of Israel once again, and (4) to save the remanent of Israel in the “latter days.” The following is just a small sample of God’s promises to Israel.

And the LORD shall scatter you [Israel] among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the LORD shall lead you. (Deuteronomy 4:27)

And it shall come to pass, that as the LORD rejoiced over you [Israel] to do you good, and to multiply you; so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nought; and ye shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest to possess it. And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone. And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the LORD shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind: And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life: In the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even! and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see. (Deuteronomy 28:63-67)

And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. (Deuteronomy 30:1-6)

And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:2-4)

The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God. For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return: the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness. (Isaiah 10:21-22)

Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him. (Isaiah 43:5-7)

Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim. Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the LORD hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted. But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. (Isaiah 49:12-16)

No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD. (Isaiah 54:17)

And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves. (Isaiah 61:4-6)

Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children. Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the LORD: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? saith thy God. Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her: (Isaiah 66:8-10)

At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart. In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers. (Jeremiah 3:17-18)

I will scatter them also among the heathen, whom neither they nor their fathers have known: and I will send a sword after them, till I have consumed them. (Jeremiah 9:16)

And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD … Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, The LORD liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land. (Jeremiah 23:3-4; 7-8)

There are more. Ezekiel 36 speaks of the scattering and regathering of Israel to and from the nations. Ezekiel 37 presents Israel as a valley of dry bones that God brings together and raises up into a mighty army. In that chapter, God also promises that the “two sticks” (Judah and Israel, the divided kingdoms) will reunite as one.

All of these prophecies deal with the nation of Israel, not the Church. Why is this important? It is important because the integrity of God is at stake. If God can break His covenant with Israel, what guarantee is there that He will keep His promises to the Church? Face it, the “Church” these days these days is not a pristine virgin!

Therefore, because God is faithful, He will keep His promises to Israel and to the Church as well. Israel and the Church are two separate entities, but salvation is the same for both. When the psalmist, David, says “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” there is only One Peace that can effectively apply and that is the Prince of Peace, the Lord Jesus Christ.[2]

So, in a way, Owens was correct in applying the psalm to the Church by way of allegory, but not in a literal sense. We are to pray for the “Peace of Jerusalem” because only He can bring true peace to the world. When we pray for the “Peace of Jerusalem,” we pray that the Lord will soon come and set up His kingdom on earth. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). As for the Church, the kingdom, in part, has already come and dwells within the heart of every believer and the Church as a whole by way of the Holy Spirit who gives us peace. Then, one day, perhaps very soon, we will enjoy His physical kingdom here on earth along with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I can hardly wait!

Dear reader, do you know the Prince of Peace? If not, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  About | John Owen

[2]  Isaiah 9:6

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Mine!

The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts. (Haggai 2:8)

We have all experienced watching toddlers at play before they learn to share. One will grab a toy that does not belong to him, but he likes it and assumes possession. Another child sees the same toy, wants to take possession of it, and the fight is on. “Mine!” They both cry. Eventually, a grown-up has to step in and attempt to teach the youngsters how to share.

We grown-ups can sometimes behave the same way with the things God has blessed us with. We assume that because we worked to earn the money to buy those things, they belong to us. We think, “Mine!” Then, there are those who do not work and covet the things of those who do, and they think, “Those should be mine!”

God looks down on His children (by that I mean all of His creation, not just “His Children,” i.e., Christians) and says, “No. Mine!” He is Creator of everything – the earth, all the creatures that dwell on the earth, the plants, the seas, all of the mineral wealth of the earth, all of the heavenly bodies and all the wealth they contain, and every human being that has ever walked or will ever walk on the earth. Since He is Creator of all, that makes Him owner of all. We do not own anything. As Klaus Schwab might say, “You own nothing; now be happy.”[1]

Thankfully, God is not Klaus Schwab, nor does He share the attitude of the elitist World Economic Forum (WEF).[2] God does indeed own it all. “For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof” (Psalm 50:10-12, emphasis mine). “Thy silver and thy gold is mine; thy wives also and thy children, even the goodliest, are mine” (1 Kings 20:3). “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, emphasis mine).

Unlike the WEF, God wants to share His wealth with His creation. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and [fill] the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:26-28, emphasis mine).

God made the earth and everything in it and outside of it before He created man. He made all of this for us. “For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:18, emphasis mine). He made it all. He owns it all, and He put man in charge. Then man blew it, but that is another story.[3]

So, what about all of “my labor” to get all of “my stuff”? As Barack Obama once said, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”[4] BHO had the right idea, but the wrong conclusion. The “somebody” to whom he referred is the government. However, the fact is that the “somebody” is God, and He does that for all of mankind. Jesus said that God “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).

God created mankind in His image.[5] Therefore, we have life, abilities, talents, skills, creativity, ambition, motivation, etc. All of these come from God. Also, because He gave us dominion over the earth’s resources, we benefit from the “gifts” of others. For example, “my pickup” was designed by an engineer. The materials to construct it came from the earth and were fabricated and assembled by those having those kinds of skills and talents. It was delivered to the dealership by those who operate trains and drive trucks. It was sold to me by a person talented in filling out detailed paperwork. I earned the money to purchase it by using the skills God gave me to serve my employer, and so on. It all belongs to God, and He has shared what belongs to Him to bless me and you.

So, you can recognize that you actually own nothing, and you can be happy knowing that all that you have comes from a generous heavenly Father. Our part is to be good stewards (i.e., managers) of the blessings God has placed in our care. They all belong to Him. They are not ours.

Dear reader, if you do not know this generous God, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  “You Will Own Nothing and Be Happy,” Klaus Schwab – America Out Loud

[2]  The World Economic Forum (weforum.org)

[3]  Genesis 3

[4]  ‘You Didn’t Build That,’ Uncut and Unedited – FactCheck.org

[5]  Genesis 1:26-28

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