Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Revelation 1:9-11

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9 I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, 11 saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.” ~ Revelation 1:9-11

John, the Apostle received Revelation one Sunday morning when he was on the island of Patmos, a tiny island four miles wide and six miles long, just off the coast of Turkey in the Aegean Sea. There, he was remanded to die because of his loyalty to and obedience to the Lord Jesus. He was a prisoner on the island, but his questions are answered when the revelation of the Lord begins.

Now, the theme of the book of the Revelation is the revealing of the exalted Son of God, amid the hardships that John was having to endure. This first vision of the Lord Jesus, along with all the rest of them in Revelation, was a tremendous encouragement to him and the persecuted believers who first received this great book. This vision of the Lord Jesus is not a future vision, it is a present vision. 

In v.9 we read, "I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ."

Here, John the Apostle identifies himself as our brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ. This means John was writing as an eyewitness who was also in the trenches of a battle which is a piece of cake for this God-man whom he lived with for the better part of three years. 

The tribulation of which John writes is not in terms of some defined period of time in the future, but, John, along with every other believer in Christ at that time, was undergoing persecution, yet, there is confidence in him because he has seen the exalted Lord Jesus Christ.

This is one of those big keys in life. They say, "Eighty percent of life is how we respond to the twenty percent that happens to us." When we have a hard time being weighed down by the hardness of life, and we are tempted to be defined by it, we can rise above it all after we have received a correct vision of the risen Lord of all. The key is seeking Him, practicing His presence every day, availing our souls to Him!

The kingdom of which John writes is not some future kingdom. No, he is writing in the present tense here. Even though we live in a world that has been turned upside down, the Lord Jesus is still on His throne, and, we will lack that proper understanding until we have decided that we are all in with the Lord Jesus. It took John quite a while to get to this point, but, we should not be surprised by the tremendous faith he is showing here for he has seen the Lord exalted high and lifted up above all.

By the way, we do not arrive at doing this. We will have our up days and we will have our down days. And, even the down days have their purpose in our lives.

The word patience in v.9 speaks of endurance and perseverance in difficult times. John had to go through tremendous persecution before getting to this point and subsequently writing this book. The fires had to burn hot for him to recognize that there was another who was in the fire with him.

In v.10 we read, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet."

Patmos was a barren place, a remote little island. It belongs to a group of about fifty islands in the Mediterranean. It is about ten miles long and about six miles wide. Isolation to such a remote island was a common form of Roman punishment. And if the crime was considered criminal, then he was a part of what we would call a chain gang. So here was ninety year old man, John, having committed in the eyes of Rome a criminal offense, breaking rocks on a rock of a penal colony.

Doomed to a rock of exile, the apostle soared on the wings of prophetic revelation to the very throne of God. Shut out from the world, he traversed the heavenlies, and in these bleak circumstances, John was given the most extensive revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. We gain the greatest knowledge of God through our deepest sufferings, if we are served by them rather than being a servant to them.

John wrote, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” John was empowered through the Holy Spirit to an experience that is beyond the normal senses. God supernaturally revealed these things to John on a certain Sunday morning. God's timing is always perfect. Have you ever noticed that some mail requires a signature, to be delivered? And likewise, some blessings or answers to prayer require a “spiritual address” before God will deliver them to us. We must develop the habit of cultivating an ever-increasing fellowship with God, so that we can handle the blessings when they arrive, be they good or bad.

In v.11 we read, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea."

Twelve times in this book, John is told to write something down. Once he is told not to write something down. He is commanded here to write this down and to send it to the seven churches which were in seven prominent cities in Turkey at that time. Historians tell us that these seven cities were centrally located for the most effective dissemination of information. There are no coincidences with God. If we were to study a map of Asia Minor, we would see that the order of these cities is the route that a messenger would take if he was going to visit all those places. As we go through this book, we are going to see God's great design and we will be convinced of His great sovereign control over the events of our lives, both good and bad. The key is learning to embrace Him through them both.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Revelation 1:7-8

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7 “Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and "every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen. 8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” ~ Revelation 1:7-8

Revelation is a book of unbelievable events that will scare the you know what out of all who will be on earth at that time. And yet, it is amazingly a book of tremendous hope and joy. It's ending will be incredible for all who have chosen to believe on the Lord Jesus. But, before we get into today's text, we must address the difference between the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ. 

All of the New Testament end times teachings are predicated upon a prophecy given in Daniel 9:24-27. In that passage, we learn that a four hundred and ninety year prophecy was given specifically for the nation of Israel. In fact, four hundred and eighty-three years of that prophecy has already been fulfilled. Read my blogs and/or listen to my podcasts on Luke 21 to get a fuller understanding of Daniel 9:24-27.

The only part of Daniel's prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27 that is yet to be fulfilled is the final seven years. And, that final seven year period of time most inaccurately call it "the Tribulation." Jeremiah refers to it as "a time of Jacob's trouble." This makes sense since Israel is Jacob in belief and Jacob is Israel in unbelief, and the design of the seventieth seven is to lead Jacob into faith of the Lord Jesus. No where in the New Testament is it called "the Tribulation." The Lord Jesus does call the second half of that seven year period "a time of great tribulation."

Now, before the seventieth seven begins, the Rapture of the church will take place. The Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ are NOT the same event. In fact, during the seventieth seven of Daniel 9, the church will not be on earth but will be in heaven. This is why the church is NOT mentioned beyond Revelation 4, because we will not be here on earth. We will be with the Lord in heaven.

Now, the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus will happen at the end of the seventieth seven and it will have an universal impact. According to v.7 of today's text, "every eye will see him." In Matthew 24:30 we read, "At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory." Interestingly enough, when the Rapture takes place only believers will see the Lord Jesus and the rest of the world will wonder what happened to all of the Christians.

It will be at the end of the seventieth seven of Daniel 9 that the people of Israel will recognize the Lord Jesus coming in the clouds. In v.7 of today's text we read, "every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth will mourn because of him."

This is a reference to a prophecy in Zechariah 12 where we are told that when He appears those who pierced him shall look upon him and shall mourn for him with a great mourning. Then they shall ask him, according to Zechariah 13:6, "What are these wounds in your hands," and he will say, "Those which I received in the house of my friends."

In v.8 we read, "I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."

It is said that prophecy takes up one-fifth of the Scriptures.  Of that one-fifth of the Scripture that speaks of future prophecy, one-third of that refers to the second coming of Jesus Christ.  Some have calculated that there are over six hundred and sixty general prophecies, three hundred and thirty three about Christ, one hundred and nine fulfilled at His first coming, two hundred and twenty-four at His second coming. So the Bible has much to say about His second coming. 

Of the forty-six Old Testament prophets, less than ten of them speak of His first coming; thirty-six of them speak of His second coming. There are over fifteen hundred Old Testament passages that refer in some way to the second coming of Jesus Christ. One out of every twenty-five New Testament verses directly refers to the second coming of Jesus Christ.  For every time the Bible mentions the first coming of Christ, it mentions the second coming eight times. For each time the atonement is mentioned once, the second coming is mentioned twice. The Lord Jesus refers to His second coming twenty-one times, and over fifty times we are told to be ready for His return.  

In Acts 15:14 we read, “And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,” and here he quotes out of the Old Testament from Amos and Jeremiah, “After these things I will return, and I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen, and I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, in order that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name,’ says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.”

God will snatch up the church off of the earth and then He’s going to return at the end of the seventieth seven of Daniel 9 and He will establish His millennial kingdom on the earth, and in that kingdom all nations will be under the rule of Christ. There will be peace on earth, but the ultimate end will come at the end of that one thousand year reign of Christ on the earth.

I trust, my friend, you have trusted in the finish work of the Lord Jesus on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins. If you have, you need not worry about being on earth during the seventieth seven of Daniel 9. And, if you have trusted in Him, let me encourage you to get busy telling others who know Him not about the wonderful good news of the Gospel. And, when you do so, ask God to lead your hearers from the darkness into the kingdom of the light of the Son.

Monday, May 03, 2021

Revelation 1:4-6

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4 John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. ~ Revelation 1:4-6

The Apostle John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, the brother of James, and the son of Zebedee, was the writer of the book of the Revelation. He wrote this book toward the end of his life around AD 95, and he wrote it to a series of seven churches located in a Roman province we know today as Turkey.

In v.4 we read, "John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne."

In the opening of today's text, God begins with grace and peace. In this book that unfolds the wrath of God is unleashed upon rebellious man who would not have this God-Man to rule over them, God extends His grace and peace for a final time. Grace or God's unnerved favor is extended to all who are willing to receive this free gift of forgiveness of sin and a personal relationship with the very truth Himself. And, the product of this received grace is that we have peace with God. And, this peace with God renders in the life of the believer the peace of God. And, it is this peace of God that enables the believer to navigate this wearisome world with all of its trials and pressures.

Seven is the key number of the book of the Revelation, and, it is a symbol of completeness. The seven spirits mentioned in v.4, are also referenced in Revelation 3:1, where we read, "To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars."  We also find the seven spirits mentioned in Revelation 4:5, where we read, "From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God." And finally, in Revelation 5:6, we reads, "Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth."

In the book of the Revelation, John never refers to angels as spirits. Given their connection to both God the Father and the Lord Jesus, and the function of these spirits, it's better to take this as a reference to the Holy Spirit. The number seven is a number of divine perfection or completeness. Just as the seven churches here represent, in one sense, the complete church of the Lord Jesus, the seven spirits represent God's perfect Spirit. The seven spirits, therefore, speak of the Holy Spirit in His fullness. It was the Spirit of God who gave us this book in the completeness of His being.

In v.4 we discover the first set of three threes. Of the Lord Jesus Christ, in v.4 we read, "who is, and who was, and who is to come." He has no beginning, nor does He have an ending. These three phrases merely underscore the deity of the Lord Jesus.

In v.5-6 we read, "and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen."

In these two verses are two sets of three that tell us something unique about the Lord Jesus. The symbolic significance of the the number three is it is the number of established testimony. When the seraphim in Isaiah 6 cried out “Holy! Holy! Holy!”, their testimony is established beyond doubt. When the Lord Jesus rose on the third day, the testimony that He had truly beaten death was certain.

In v.5-6, there are two sets of three that describe the Lord Jesus Christ. In v.5 He is the "faithful witness," indicating everything He says is true. The fascinating thing about this word is that the Greek word is martus, from which we get the English word “martyr”. So a “witness” is someone who testifies to the truth of the Lord Jesus, even if necessary, with His own life. The Lord Jesus did this very thing. He testified and testifies of the truth of God, even giving up His life to stand by His message.

In v.5, the Lord Jesus is also called "the firstborn from the dead." This is a reference to His resurrection. He has conquered our greatest enemy: sin and death. And, in v.5, the Lord Jesus is also called "the ruler of the kings of the earth" which means He has ultimate control over all of the rulers of the earth. No leader does anything in this world unless He allows it. And, we know that all things work together for the good of those who are learning to give our hearts to Him. So, the Lord Jesus is the truth teller, the life giver, and the law maker

The last sentence in v.5 is the first doxology of the book. There is also a threefold division here: He loves us, He has freed us and He has made us kings and priests

Everything in the life of the believer in the Lord Jesus ought to be based upon His love for us. It is the most amazing thing, that we who know in our hearts that we are faithless and foolish and often arrogantly sinful and selfish, yet He loves us with a never-ending love. This is why John refers to himself in his the gospel which bears his name as the disciple whom Jesus loved.

Every description we find here not only speaks of who the Lord Jesus is, but to be more precise, what He does or has done for us. This third triad is inextricably linked to the first and second triads. 

He has freed us from our sins by his blood. The cross of Christ was implied in the title “firstborn of the dead”, but here it is made explicit for the first time in this letter. The love of the Lord Jesus is not only proven in the lengths to which He went for us, but also the heights to which we have been liberated by His suffering and sacrifice. He has broken the shackles of evil on our lives. The penalty of sin has been paid. And, one day we will be freed from the presence and the power of sin. He has, through His blood, washed away our sinful condition, and now God sees us through the perfect lens of His Son.

But more than that He "has made us to be a kings and priests to serve his God and Father." A priest's work is to heal the sense of alienation which people feel toward God. Sinners feel estranged from God. In the Old Testament, the priests explained the meaning of the sacrifices and thus brought people near to God through the many sacrifices made. Of course, all those sacrifices were designed to point us to the Lord Jesus. Having experienced God's forgiveness and a personal relationship with God, as believers in the Lord Jesus, we are able to help others out of their agony, and through their lostness, to realize that God longs to heal their alienation. To accomplish this work the Lord Jesus has made His followers "kings and priests." 

All of these themes are the very ideas that will be developed in our study of the book of the Revelation in the coming weeks that are ahead. It is reassuring that in this volatile world, in this world which seems to have gone over to the side of the evil one, that the Lord Jesus is really in control. And, in this great book of the Revelation, we are given a look into how it will all end. And, we are on His side, the winning side, because the Lord Jesus loved us, freed us from the penalty of our sin and has made us priests unto our God.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Revelation 1:1-3

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The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. ~ Revelation 1:1-3

Today, we begin a study of the book of the Revelation. This book is hard to understand, but it is impossible to forget. It is not an accident that this is the last book of the Bible for it brings themes that are found throughout the Bible and brings them into focus.

The thesis statement for Revelation is found in Revelation 1:19 which reads, "Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later." The outline of Revelation is what you have seen (Revelation 1), what is now (Revelation 2-3), and what will take place later (Revelation 4-22).

In v.1 we read, "The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John."

The word, "revelation" is the Greek word apocalupsis which means an unveiling, an uncovering, someone made visible, the shining forth of a person for all to see, the appearing, the arrival, the manifestation of Jesus Christ. Throughout this book we will discover many mysteries made clear. This is why this book begins with that word, "revelation" which is the unveiling of the mysteries found in the rest of the Bible that have to do with the end times and the revealing of the Lord Jesus Christ at the end of time.

Though there are no direct quotes from the Old Testament in the four hundred and four verses of the book of the Revelation, there are no less than two hundred and twenty-five of them that have some reference to or connection with Old Testament prophetic truth. The relationships are not in terms of quotations but in terms of connections and references.

The Apostle John wrote the book of the Revelation in AD 95, during the reign of the Roman emperor Titus Flavius Domitian. The emperor had demanded that he be worshipped as “Lord and God,” and the refusal of the Christians to obey his edict led to severe persecution. Tradition says that it was Domitian who sent John to the Isle of Patmos, a Roman penal colony off the coast of Asia Minor. This being the location of John’s exile, perhaps it is not surprising that the word sea is found twenty-six times in this book.

The word used here for "servants" is the Greek word doulos which is the word for a willing servant. This book, the book of Revelation was written for those who are willing because we will need a willing heart in order to understand and to give ourselves to the teachings of this book.

John writes, "The revelation from Jesus Christ." This unveiling is from the one who spoke everything into existence. He is the very one who redeemed us from the clutches of sin and death through His sacrifice made on the cross so long ago. This God-man, according to v.1, sent an angel to the Apostle John. In those words "to show" there is a hidden message. It is actually one Greek word which in English should be translated signified, or, made known by signs or symbols. This is one of the first things we need to know about the book of the Revelation. It is a book largely of symbols which are difficult to understand. 

The book of Revelation has strange beasts and fearful scorpions and many other weird persons and animals that appear, but they are symbols of something real and literal. And, almost all of the symbols of the book of the Revelation are given to us before in the Bible. This is why it is wrong to read the book of Revelation without reading first the whole Bible. If we start with the book of the Revelation we will soon be frustrated, because if we read the book of the Revelation without reading the whole Bible, we will not understand the symbols. The symbols are given in Genesis through Jude. 

Now, the author of the book of the Revelation is not John the Apostle, as many suppose, though John is certainly involved in the writing of this book. The author is God himself! Notice the words, "The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place." This book began with God the Father as its author. He revealed the book to his Son. It all began in the mind of the Father and then was revealed to the Lord Jesus, his Son.

In v.2 we read, "who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ."

In Matthew 24:36 the Lord Jesus said that though He understood many of the events of the last days, He did not know the time when it would all happen. He said that knowledge belonged only to the Father. Now, of course, risen and glorified, He knows all these things, but at that time He did not know. It had not yet been revealed to Him when these events would occur. But now, the Lord Jesus has given it to an angel who in turn makes it known by symbols to John the Apostle. No other book was given in quite this way. It comes from the mind of God the Father, through the agency of the Son of God, to an angel of God, and thus to the Apostle John, the writer of this book.

In v.3 we read, "Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near."

To those who read, who hear, and who take to heart this prophecy, there is a special blessing for them. This word "blessed" is the Greek word, makarios, which was the name of an island off of Greece. This island was known as the blessed island because it was self-contained. The residents didn’t need to leave the island in order to get their needs met. The island offered everything that they needed. 

The natural resources of the blessed island were so thick, so rich, so fruitful, and so productive that everything they needed to enjoy their lives was already built-in. The inhabitants of the island were self-sustained and self-contained without having to run to another island to get their needs met. The blessed island provided everything they needed.

Just being in the Kingdom with the King ought to be enough, but one of the ways we know that we aren’t blessed yet is that we leave the island to find satisfaction. When we need more than Him, we must be careful to make sure that we are in Him. When we have come to know Him, we discover that He is the end of the road for our wants and desires. This is the promised blessing to us as we study this book we know as the Revelation.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

2 Timothy 4:19-22

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19 Greet Priscilla and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus. 20 Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus. 21 Do your best to get here before winter. Eubulus greets you, and so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers and sisters. 22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you all. ~ 2 Timothy 4:19-22

Today, we come to the end of our study of 2 Timothy. The Apostle Paul is in a Roman prison and he is accentuating all who were of help to him and all who were not so helpful to him. We all need one another and there are times when we help one another tremendously, but we must never forget that our hope is in the Lord and not in man. People will let us down but the Lord will always prove to be faithful. As long as our eyes are on him, we can't go wrong. Herein is one of the major difference between walking in the Spirit and walking in the flesh.

In v.19 we read, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus.” 

Priscilla and Aquilla was a couple who is mentioned six times in the New Testament. Paul met them in Corinth in Acts 18, lived with, and worked with them. According to Acts 18, they left Corinth with Paul and went to Ephesus. When Paul wrote Romans about six years later, they were living in Rome, according to Romans 16:3, but they left under persecution of the Jews by Emperor Claudius. And when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians likely from Ephesus, according to 1 Corinthians 16:8-9, they had a church in Corinth in their house. At this point in their lives, they were living in Ephesus, perhaps due to persecution. Wherever the Lord needed Pricilla and Aquila, He sent them, and, they went and they were useful in the spread of the Gospel.

And then there’s the household of Onesiphorus. As is pointed out in 2 Timothy 1:16, Onesiphorus came to Rome, found Paul in prison, and was an encouragement to him. Having been so helpful to Paul, he greets the family of this courageous man who had passed away before Paul wrote these words. 

In v.20 we read, "Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus." 

Erastus ministered to Paul and had been around for quite a while. He was sent by Paul to go to Macedonia to help the young believers there. Erastus was an old friend of Paul and Timothy, and he is now following up the work in Corinth. And, Corinth was a difficult place to serve. 

And then there was Trophimus who was an Ephesian according to Acts 21:29. He had been at Troas with the apostle, and he carried an offering to the needy Christians in Jerusalem. He was there when Eutychus fell out of the window and was resurrected. He was the unwilling cause of Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem, according to Acts 21. At the writing of 2 Timothy, Trophimus was in Miletus and he was sick. He was just thirty-six miles from his home, but he was too sick to get there. 

In v.21 we read, “Do your best to get here before winter. Eubulus greets you, and so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers and sisters.” 

The Apostle Paul wanted Timothy to travel before winter because if he waited beyond October it would have been too dangerous on the seas to travel. And then the Apostle Paul closes the epistle out by writing, "Eubulus greets you, and so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers and sisters."

Eubulus, Pudens and Linus were Roman Christians, part of the church in Rome. Linus was one of the leaders in the church at Rome. Since his name appears between Pudens and Claudia, it is thought that perhaps he was the son of that couple, Pudens being a male name and Claudia a female name. They, perhaps, were the parents of the man who turned out to be the first Elder of the church in Rome. 

In v.22 we read, "The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you all." 

The last words of the Apostle Paul were his personal farewell, used at the end of his letters to prove it was of him. I wonder if Timothy ever made it to Rome before Paul's death. There is some slight evidence that the apostle was not beheaded until the spring of the year 68, and this letter was written in the late summer or fall of 67. If Timothy had made it to Rome before that time he could have spent several months with Paul.

It is quite fitting that this letter ends with "grace." In a fallen world, populated by selfish, lost, fearful, and rebellious people, grace is the one thing that everyone needs. And we can only give it to someone else when we have first been given it, because we can't give away that which we don't have.

God’s grace is the most powerful force in the universe. It reaches us where we are and takes us where we need to be. God's grace transform us at the heart of who we are as human beings, and it prepares us to be like the Lord Jesus, loving and true.

Being strong in God's grace requires of us to exercise ourselves by it so that we can be strong. We have to work at it, being made daily cognizant that God is for us through the merit of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. And, nothing else. And, our badness can not subtract from Christ's applied perfection. And, because of this, we can trust Him. As a result, we are learning to let go of self, of doing things our way, and of depending on our own resources. As we do, depending on God instead, we will grow stronger in His grace.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

2 Timothy 4:14-18

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14 Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. 15 You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message. 16 At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. 17 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen. ~ 2 Timothy 4:14-18

Alexander was the one who probably betrayed the Apostle Paul into the hands of the Romans, for he did a great deal of harm to Paul and he strongly opposed his message. The phrase, "did me a great deal of harm," was a phrase that was frequently used in Greek for an informer. This Alexander is the same as the one in 1 Timothy 1:20 who was a leader in the church at Ephesus who was a false teacher. He is, also, the same Alexander of whom Paul wrote, "I have delivered him to Satan that he may learn not to blaspheme.

In the second half of v.14 we read, "The Lord will repay him for what he has done." This is an excellent example of how to deal with those who mistreat us; we let the Lord handle them. No sinner will ever get away with his sin. No person who opposes the Gospel of Jesus Christ will ultimately succeed. The truth will always win. The Apostle Paul didn't give safe haven in his soul to bitterness. It was Nelson Mandela who once said, "Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die." Reacting to anyone out of our flesh (the sinful desires that we still have within) is not a wise thing to do for the flesh always delivers destruction when fed.

In v.15 we read, "You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message."

Everyone in ministry has these kinds of people in our lives. There will always be those who attack us, who try to undo what we do, oppose our teaching, who want to make us appear as fools, or  as liars. And, they will serve us if we let me.

The codfish is famous for its taste and highly desirable, but they are difficult to get to market fresh. When codfish were first being shipped, they froze them. They noticed that the flavor was lost during shipping. And, someone came up with the idea to put them in tanks and ship them in actual seawater. Even then the codfish would arrive at the market three or four days later, and would have lost much of their flavor and had become mushy.

Finally, someone came along to solve the problem. The cod were placed in the seawater tank with a couple of catfish in the tank with them. The catfish is the natural enemy of codfish. During shipping the catfish would chase the codfish all around the tank the whole time, and when the fish arrived at market they were as fresh as newly caught, with no loss of flavor or texture. You see the catfish kept the cod from becoming stale. The same is true for us who suffer the ills of those who want to hurt us. We must be careful to see that even the catfish in our lives are even a blessing from God for they remind us of our utter need for the Lord.

In v.16 we read, "At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them."

When the apostle was brought up for his hearing, no one stood up for him; all forsook him. This was a very dangerous time in Rome. The Emperor Nero was noted for his vindictiveness. If anybody even appeared to be against him, Nero's assassins were all throughout the city, ready to take the man's life. Evidently no Christian was ready to risk his life by standing up for Paul, so he had to face this preliminary hearing all alone. 

But, we are never alone. According to Hebrews 13:5 we learn that God has promised, "I will never, never, ever, under any conditions leave you nor forsake you." This was Paul's experience, according to v.17. The presence of the Lord Jesus with him and beside him, Paul says, gave him strength to proclaim the Gospel. 

In the second half of v.17 we read, "And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth." This is a proverb much like saying, "I was delivered out of the jaws of death." The "lion" here is a reference to Satan, the schemer behind all the false charges that were laid against Paul, the one who had weakened the courage of the Christians so they dared not stand up along with the Apostle Paul. 

In v.18 we read, "The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen."

Nero may have put Paul to death on earth, but that will not in any way remove him from the kingdom of heaven and the fact that right now he is with the Lord proves the point. Paul's death at the hands of Nero only opened the door to heaven for the Apostle sooner. On the basis of the Lord’s present work, the Apostle Paul had hope for the Lord’s future work. And, Paul was rescued from the lion’s mouth.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

2 Timothy 4:11-13

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11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. 12 I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. 13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments. ~ 2 Timothy 4:11-13

We jump back into Pauls' conclusion of his last letter. In v.11 we read, "Only Luke is with me."

Luke is only mentioned three times in the New Testament,  Colossians 4:14, Philemon 24 and here in today's text. Though he is only mentioned in just three passages, Luke is a dominant character in the New Testament. He wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. Fifty-two chapters of the New Testament were penned by Luke. 

God seems to use the obscure for his greatest work. Throughout the Bible God often selects the weak, outcast, over-looked, and powerless to accomplish his purposes. Have you ever considered the fact that David was the runt of the litter? David's father, Jesse, thought so little of David he wasn’t invited to the initial meeting with Samuel to determine who would stand up to Goliath. David wasn’t just obscure to his nation he was obscure to his own family.

This obscure young shepherd stepped up to slay the giant in the name of the Living God. David was born into a time of national discouragement and stress. He is known and celebrated as the greatest king of Israel. But, his family didn't recognize him as such. David was different from the other seven sons of Jesse. They didn't identify their brother as set apart for God's purposes. David didn't let his family's ignorance become an obstacle. He would eventually be described as a man after God's own heart.

Luke was obscure and yet he was a constant companion to Paul, faithfully at his side. He was with Paul on his second missionary journey in Troas and Philippi. He joined Paul at the end of his third missionary journey and went with him to Jerusalem. He was with Paul on the ship that crossed the sea and was wrecked, and he was with Paul in both of his imprisonments. 

I find it amazing that God included a man who was a doctor to be a faithful companion to the Apostle Paul. The Lord knew Paul needed one. After all Paul was beaten with rods, stoned, whipped, and was shipwrecked. In the end, Luke was the only person by the side of the Apostle Paul. Luke was a picture of faithfulness.

Then in v.11, the Apostle Paul requests, "Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry." This is the same Mark who just seven years before this had left Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. In fact, the Apostle Paul wrote Mark off as useless for desertion. This is the same Mark who wrote the Gospel according to Mark. It is obvious that he, also known as John Mark, was now back into good graces with the Apostle Paul.

For me, one of the greatest joys in ministry is to see those who have suffered setbacks, restored. The restorative process often takes quite a bit of time, but if said person is the Lord's, God will see fit to restore him, if he is willing. This willingness of heart is crucial. Our failure can so discourage us that we do not want to be restored, thinking we do not deserve it. But, this is when we are best prepped to be used of God. I believe that the church discards too many people who have failed "too badly to be used of the Lord." This is far from the truth, for we all have failed miserably, even though we have not failed as egregiously as others. This merely reveals our poor theology because all sin is a violent rebellion against God.

There are a few stages involved in restoring someone back to usefulness. The first is to get rid of those things that aided our fall. Just like sanding down a piece of furniture, God has to strip away everything that isn’t what He intended for us. He has to remove every lie and false identity that we have protected. Sometimes this process is painful and slow, but God is a master craftsman. He knows how to gently and safely remove the stuff out of our souls, while leaving us structurally sound.

Before a builder can start adding to a house, he must make sure there is a strong foundation to build on. God is not a cheap handyman who cuts corners. When He decides to build something, His masterpiece will last the test of time. After the removal of the lies that we once believed, the Lord begins to replace them with truth, and by doing so, he begins to shape our identity in Him, so that we develop a strong foundation in His love. And, the truth is forged deeply in us through those arduous moments, however, since we are convinced of the Lord's goodness, we give ourselves to Him to do what He will. This is one of those blessings that comes out of even our failure.

Finally, as we learn to get ourselves out of God's way, He begins to fill us with Himself, and we begin experiencing His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness and self-control. Oh, the reassurance of His expression not only to us but through us. This is the most satisfying because His is the life that we have always been searching for. The sad part of it, is we have had to go through the most intense pain to see Him for who He is. I praise God for my many pains for they have led me to Him who is true and good and artistic. In Ephesians 2:10, He calls us His masterpieces. I like that and the pain is well worth it.

In, v.13 we read, "When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments."

Since the Apostle had left his cloak at the house of Carpus, he requests that Timothy bring it with him. A cloak was a heavy blanket-like garment made out of wool with a hole in it like a huge blanket. You just put it over your head and it kept off the rain and kept out the cold, and you could even use it like a bed. You just fold yourself in it, almost like a sleeping bag. And winter was coming and the dungeon was dark and cold, and he needed his cloak.

The scrolls were probably copies of certain Old Testament books, and the parchments were blanks on which the Apostle was planning to write upon. The point is he wasn’t finished reading, writing and studying. We must never come to the place where we cease to do these things, even when we know that we are about to die. Like Paul, the Lord desires to use our lives to be of an encouragement to others. The question is: Are we willing to be used of the Lord for the benefit of others? Only those who have experienced Him are in the position to do so. Seek Him today while He may be found, my friend.

Monday, April 26, 2021

2 Timothy 4:9-10

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9 Do your best to come to me quickly, 10 for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. ~ 2 Timothy 4:9-10

As Paul faces the last days of his life, as he closes out his last epistle, as he writes his last paragraph, people are on his mind. These were the people who made up his life, the people who shared his ministry, the people who were essential to everything that he did. What we have in these final verses of this last letter of Paul is his heart for people.

Years ago I heard Billy Graham say, "There are two things in this world that will last forever: the word of God and the souls of people. We must find creative ways to bring them together."

In v.9 we read, "Do your best to come to me quickly." 

This request of the Apostle Paul was made of Timothy who was Paul’s true son in the faith. Paul identifies Timothy as his spiritual son in both the first and second epistle written to Timothy. And the Apostle wanted to see Timothy once more before he dies. 

Paul writes, "Do your best to come to me quickly." This Greek phrase means to be in a hurry, to be fast, to get to Rome as fast as he could do so. Paul expresses an urgency here, because Paul didn’t have much time before he was to die. It is one of the richest things that we will ever know in this life when God gives us the privilege of a companion, of a confidante, someone whom we can truly trust. 

It has been calculated that we only maintain a few real confidantes throughout our lifetime. And, loneliness, is bad for our health. Studies have shown it increases inflammation in our bodies and weakens our immune systems, which can lead to many illnesses. 

In the first part of v.10 we read, "for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica."

The first time Demas is mentioned in the Bible is in Colossians 4:14 where he is mentioned as one of the most intimate companions of Paul. It is obvious that while Paul was writing Colossians from prison in Rome, Demas was there. He had been with Paul for some time. In the letter written to Philemon, Paul refers to Demas as a fellow worker. He was a partner in Paul's suffering to some degree, and I'm sure that he was a partner in prayer. 

Demas departed because he loved this world. The verb used for love here is agape. In other words Demas was more committed to the comforts of this world than he was to his friend.

The verb, "has deserted me," starts with a root verb meaning to leave, and then Paul compounds it by adding two prepositions at the beginning of the word, which makes it doubly intense in its action. It not only gives the idea of leaving but desertion in the midst of a dire situation, leaving at the most-inopportune time. 

Desertion is always tough for anyone, especially when we are doing the will of God. However, I have always found that human desertion makes me appreciate God's faithfulness a whole lot more. In fact, desertion has been used of God to make Himself more known to and by me. It is the design of human desertion that we might be driven to the Lord most out of necessity.  Sometimes, I have discovered, I would not have been so eager to go to the Lord as fast and ardently, had it not been for the desertion of a dear friend.

Demas went to Thessalonica. He is listed in Philemon v.24 with Aristarchus who according to Acts 20:4 was a Thessalonian. So maybe, Demas was going home, to his comfort place. But the point here is not so much where he went but why he went, and why he went was because he loved the comforts of this world most. 

Comfort is the number one god of Americans because we have a poor definition for it. We think comfort is a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or dis-ease. You see, we have been trained by the wrong definitions of comfort. When we have the wrong definition of comfort, we become comfortable in our disfunction. God says in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 that pain is a step in the process of being comforted by Him. We try to avoid pain and trouble but pain is an absolute necessity for us to be in the position to be comforted by the God of all comfort.

In the remainder of v.10 we read, "Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia." 

We know absolutely nothing about Crescens. Evidently he was a fairly-capable man, and I say that because Paul sent him to Galatia. And, you'll remember that Galatia was an area in which Paul had labored extensively. He went there on his first missionary journey, his second missionary journey, and on the third one as well, each time going back to Galatia. 

The fact that Crescens was sent to Galatia could indicate that he had the capability to work with a strong church, that he himself therefore must have been a man of some kind of strength. Yet, he is absolutely unknown. We know nothing about him; this is the only time his name is ever mentioned. And so he represents what we call the faithful unknown, who make up the ranks of everybody’s network behind the scenes. The quiet unknown hero who comes along in spiritual maturity and strength to stand behind someone and do the work unseen. 

And, then there is Titus, whose name appears thirteen times in the New Testament, had gone to Dalmatia. Titus thrived in the area of a new challenge. After Paul had evangelized an area, he would send Titus back into that area to identify and build up the leaders, so that they could be used of the Lord to carry on the work in those cities. When Paul wrote Titus, Titus was on the island of Crete where Paul, by the way, had preached. 

Dalmatia was on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea, north of Macedonia. Paul had preached in Dalmatia, according to Romans 15:19, so the Gospel had been introduced in that area, and that was a perfect setting for Titus to go in and pull it all together, strengthen the church, and build the leaders. 

This underscores the fact that we all have individual, daily callings from the Lord. All of life's experiences are used of the Lord, along with our strengths and interests and gifts to accomplish why we are on this earth. And, we do not know how today will unfold, but, that is the excitement of the Christian life is that God is sovereign and He knows all that awaits us today. At the end of each day, we should be able to say, "Wow, look at what the Lord did today in and through my life." Life is worth the living because it all affords us the opportunity to know Him and to make Him known.

Friday, April 23, 2021

2 Timothy 4:8

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Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.  ~ 2 Timothy 4:8

In 2 Timothy 4:6-8 the Apostle Paul gives us an overview of God's activity in his life, present, past and future. Having considered v.6-7, today, we consider v.8, where we learn of that which the Lord had in store for Paul in the future.

In the first part of v.8 we read, "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness."

The phrase "there is in store for me" means safely deposited with God. This phrase includes a present tense verb, meaning that it is secure continuously into eternity. God can make that promise because it is a promise conditioned upon the righteous life, death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The believer is eternally righteous because the ledger of Christ has been added to his right standing before God.

"The crown" that the Apostle speaks of here is stephanos which was a reference to the wreath placed on an athlete's head after a victory in some kind of an olympic event. This crown was usually woven like a garland out of some kind of a plant. 

The Apostle Paul identifies this crown as the crown of righteousness. Though he had the gift of imputed perfection of  the Lord Jesus applied to him, this speaks of complete and experiential righteousness, living in the presence of pure goodness. This righteousness means all is well and nothing is out of place. This word describes a state of being free of sin and death.

In 2 Peter 3:13 we read, “According to His promise we are looking for the new heavens and the new earth in which righteousness dwells.” 

Righteousness, as in the absence of sin, will endure. Revelation tells us there won’t be any unrighteousness in heaven, none at all. Heaven will be righteousness perfected. So, the Apostle Paul is looking then at the reward of his life which is eternal righteousness which was earned by the Lord Jesus on his behalf.

When we get to heaven we will never be tempted to sin. We will never again know an evil thought. We will know absolute perfect and eternal righteousness. That’s what we all long for. Like Paul, our greatest battle against self will be over. This is the righteousness that the Apostle Paul writes of here in v.8.

The words "that Day" is the day when all that is now invisible to man, realities which cannot be discovered by the scientific mind, will be made visible, and all the earth will see what has been there all along. That is the great Day toward which we are moving, a moment when time gives way to eternity, when all the waiting ends, when "time shall be no more." We will no longer be locked into having to wait for this righteous eternity to happen. 

This crown of righteousness will be for all who have longed His appearing. Literally, this crown of righteousness is for those who love His presence and appearance. The Apostle uses the word agape to describe our love for His appearing. The greatest single mark of a true believer in Christ is his commitment love for this one who laid down His life for us. 

When we became Christians, we began to love God. We don’t always do what’s right, but we love God because He loved us first. His love has been deposited into our being via the Holy Spirit. We can't help but love Him. The reward of eternal righteousness is promised to all those who have loved His appearing.

There is nothing better than the story of the Lord Jesus' appearing, of the relief He brings to our spirit, the lifting of the load of guilt, the healing of our inner lives. To love His appearing means to live in the light of His coming, to live as if He were coming today. All this, Paul says, will occur at that one day. This is the mystery that will usher in eternity. 

The Christian life is entirely different than anything this world has to offer. It is not a mere philosophy of being good to your fellow man. It includes that, but that is not all of it. It is not merely good teaching about some of the intricate mysteries of life or about what happens after death. It is that which centers on one Person, the Lord Jesus Christ. And, He is the One who is the heart, the soul and the glory of the Christian faith. The anticipation of this hope of seeing Him is the ultimate of all anticipations, and we wait patiently. His appearing will be glorious for then we will know righteousness in its fullness.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

2 Timothy 4:7

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I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. ~ 2 Timothy 4:7

Many consider 2 Timothy 4:6-8 to be the epitaph of the Apostle Paul who lived his life allowing God to do great things through Him while on this earth. These three verses chronicle for us the works God accomplished in Paul in the present, in the past, and what He will accomplish for him in the future. Having considered v.6, the present, today we consider the words of v.7.

In the beginning of v.7 we read, "I have fought the good fight." The phrase "I have fought" is a perfect tense verb which describes completed action in the past with continuing results today, indicating that all the way along the Apostle Paul remained true to the Christian faith.

As Paul looked back on his life, he had no regrets. That which God called him to do, he did. And so, he faced death with  complete satisfaction. He faced death triumphantly being confident that he had completed all that God intended for him to do.

The word "fought" we have considered before in 1 Timothy 6:12 where the Apostle Paul uses the Greek word from which we get our English word agonize. Whereas in 1 Timothy 6:12, the Apostle was challenging Timothy to agonize through the battle for the truth, in today's text, Paul is saying, "I have agonized." The idea is the Apostle Paul used excessive effort and energy in his struggle for the truth. The Apostle didn't call others to do something that he didn't do himself. He learned this from the Lord Jesus Himself. In all actuality, we are not the ones who render the outcomes, God does, and Paul understood this principle well. This is one of the greatest marks of a leader. 

In this struggle that we are engaged in, we fight against lies, the father of lies and his cohorts. But, our greatest battle will always be against self. Battling against our own flesh (the sinful desires within us all) takes up the majority of our time, for the enemy is cunning and he knows when we are onto his schemes. So, he adjusts and uses that which we mistakenly have trusted all of our lives, our natural impulses he uses to try to trip us up.

It is only as we engulf ourselves in God's will that we are enabled to see the enemies diabolical plot. Then we will be engaged as we ought. It is then that we will stop looking for scapegoats and be used of God to trust Him fully, choosing to fight His way and in His strength. 

Once we understand that, we will be ensconced in the most important battle of all times, the struggle for the advancement of the Kingdom of God in the hearts of people. And, once we know that our biggest battles are against self, it is then that we will engage effectively and we will see as God sees and we will fight as He fights, with eternities values in view.

We continue to read in v.7, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race." 

The Apostle Paul was self-discipline enough to finish the race. In Hebrews 12:1 we read, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." 

There are two things that knocks us out of the race: The first is our hindrances, which are the unnecessary baggages that we all have in our souls. Things like our pursuit of the American Dream, or our advancement in this world in one way or another or what others think of us. Things that aren't necessarily sinful in and of themselves but are distractions to the goal. We must set as our goal, the Lord Jesus and His leading in our lives and then everything else will take care of itself.

The second thing that will knock us out of the race is sin. We get off course because we bite off the fruit that God has not deemed for us. At the root of this is covetousness. At the root of all sin is wanting that which was not intended to be ours. 

At the end of v.7 we read, "I have kept the faith." 

The faith refers to the will of God as learned in the Word of God. We are committed to the war because the Word of God calls us to it. The Word of God defines the battle as the will of God for us. "I have kept" is the verb guarded. The Apostle Paul reminds us that the purpose of the battle is to protect the Word of God. And, the best way to protect the Bible is by hiding it in our hearts through memorizing it, and then, by living according to its teachings.

The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword. It has the ability to cut between bone and marrow and it has the ability to discern between what is going on in our soul and spirit. The Bible is the instrument in the hands of the God with a two-edged action. It strips off the false. And, if we seek to obey it, we shall discover that it exposes the entrenched power of the flesh in our lives, and it exposes all pretense. 

The Bible not only exposes the false, it unveils the true. When  we get to the place of honesty with ourselves, God's Word will deliver the message we have always long for: the idea that we need no longer fight a battle that is already lost, but we can start living out of the battle that was won on the cross of the Lord Jesus. His victory is realized as we come to the end of self and choose to be defined by His definitions of all things.