Thursday, May 13, 2021

Revelation 2:8-11

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8 “To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. 9 I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. 11 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.” ~ Revelation 2:8-11

Life is best understood when we see the two realms: the visible and the invisible. And, in order to understand the invisible, we must be well-versed in the Scriptures. In this invisible realm much is happening that impacts us who live during what theologians call the church-age. Whereas Revelation 1 gives a description of John's first vision of the Lord Jesus, the entire church age which began in Acts 2, and is yet on-going, and is described in little detail in Revelation 2-3. 

In Revelation 2-3 we have seven messages from the Lord Jesus to seven different churches. Five of these seven churches received very harsh words from the Lord Jesus. Two of them did not. In the case of these two, the churches at Smyrna and  Philadelphia, there are no harsh words. These two churches had not given in to the pressure of persecution.

Smyrna was one of the major centers of emperor worship in that day. As early as 26 A. D., during the reign of Tiberius Caesar, a temple had been erected to the emperor, and thus the Christians of Smyrna were confronted with the challenge annually to choose between saying, "Jesus is Lord," or, "Caesar is Lord." This meant that a great deal of pressure and persecution came upon this church because of their unwillingness to say "Caesar is Lord." There was also a large community of Jews within the city who were hostile to the Christian faith, as we will see.

In v.8 of today's text we read, "To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again."

Smyrna means "myrrh." It is a very fitting name because myrrh is a perfume, the fragrance of which is released by crushing. Here was a church that was being crushed through persecution. It was tough to be a Christian in Smyrna because they had to live constantly between two extremes. There was within the church a rich and loving fellowship, but outside, in the city, they faced continuous cruel and persistent hostility.

Notice how the Lord reveals Himself to them, "the First and the Last, who died and came to life again." Those are extremes: First and last; death and life. The Lord Jesus presents Himself as the Lord of the extremes. And, He is Lord of all visible and invisible forces.

In v.9 we read, "I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 

The Greek word used for afflictions here pictures the crushing, unending pressure upon these believers in Smyrna. Then, the Lord Jesus says to them, "I know your poverty." Smyrna was a prosperous city, but it may have been that their poverty was caused by the persecutions the Christians there were experiencing. Their homes perhaps had been pillaged; their possessions taken from them. This was common in the early church in times of persecution. Yet, the remainder of the first half of v.9 we read, "Yet you are rich!" In spite of their suffering, their fellowship was deep and meaningful. This is what persecution does, it causes the persecuted to draw closer to one another because there is the deeper need for one another.

Riches and fame do not make us happy. The true riches of this life come from a heart that is being given to the Lord. In return, the heart experiences the filling of God's grace and love. In this context, deep relationships are formed with others and they become most dear and precious to us. This was the experience of the church at Smyrna.

In the remainder of v.9 we read, "I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan." 

There was a smear campaign going on against these Christians in Smyrna. Lies were being told about them. And, because they refused to visit the pagan temples, or to acknowledge the pagan gods, they were called atheists. 

The synagogue there in Smyrna celebrated the fact that they worshipped the one true living God. Yet, they had rejected their Messiah; and in rejecting their Messiah Judaism demonstrated that it was as Satanic as emperor worship, or the worship of any other false god, or any false religion. They disdained Christ, therefore, they disdained God.

In v.10 we read, "Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown."

The church at Smyrna received the greatest amount of persecution because they held true to the Lord much longer than the others. This, by the way, is the first mention of the devil in the book of Revelation. The Lord acknowledges that He who is the First and the Last is going to allow this to happen. The devil will put some of them in prison which were some of the most terrible places where prisoners were faced with the threat of execution at any moment. 

Tests like these are designed or allowed of God to strip us of the superficial supports that we have been leaning on and to show us how much we have truly learned to rely upon the grace and the strength of God. 

The words "ten days" indicates that it is the Lord who is sovereign over the events of our lives. We do well to pray for protection but if the Lord allows persecution, we do better to pray that His will is done in and through our lives. 

Interestingly, Polycarp was the elder of this very church at Smyrna. In 155 A. D., at the age of 86, he was sentenced to death by being burned at the stake for his faith. He had refused to say, "Caesar is Lord." When he died he gave an eloquent testimony to his love for Christ. As a teenager he had known the Apostle John, and had probably heard from his lips the truth recorded here in Revelation.

In v.11 we read, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death."

All of these churches received this same message. "The second death" here is explained in Revelation 20-21 where we are told plainly that it is the terrible lake of fire, the symbol of the final judgment of those who refuse the gospel of the grace of God. It is prepared for the devil and his angels, but it will be shared by those who choose the devil's way. They will be separated forever from God, tormented in spirit and soul, pictured by the torment that fire gives to the physical body.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Revelation 2:7

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“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” Revelation 2:7

The thesis statement for the book of the Revelation is discovered in Revelation 1:19 where the Lord Jesus told the Apostle John to write down three things: The things which you have seen which are covered in Revelation 1; The things which are which are covered in Revelation 2-3; And, the things which will take place after this which will be covered in Revelation 4-22. Today, we continue in the second division of the book of the Revelation.

The Lord Jesus begins our text by saying, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." He is saying to those who are willing to listen to the voice of the Lord, listen more. He knows that there is a huge difference between hearing and listening. When we listen, we potentially grow in great wisdom. And, when we grow in wisdom, our spiritual peripheral perspective broadens and we begin to see things as He does.

In the previous verses in this chapter the Lord Jesus commends and corrects the church at Ephesus. And here in v.7, He gives this admonition to listen. The Ephesians hated sin in others, but in themselves, it appeared to be a different story. Understanding the danger of leaving our first love and giving our hearts to something else other than Christ is dangerous because all our other relationships are predicted on who we give our hearts to the most.

I'm sure you have seen the illustration that depicts two people grow closer to the Lord, and the closer they grow to Him they grow closer together. So, the pathway to any better relationship is learning to give our hearts to the Lord more and more with each passing day because He is the source of all wisdom.

This admonition to listen underscores the fact that the Lord speaks to us often everyday. He speaks to us through His word in tandem with His Spirit. The question is, "do we have an ear to hear Him?" We must make conscious decisions daily to listen to Him, and we must expect Him to speak in all of our circumstances, both in and through the good and in and through the bad. The key is expecting Him to speak, anticipating His voice and then hear to the point of following His lead.

The second sentence in today's text reads, "To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God."

The tree of life, you will remember, was in the Garden of Eden at the beginning of time. It was the tree that Adam and Eve were free to partake of until they rebelled. After that, they were excluded from the Garden, lest they should eat from the tree of life in their sinful state and remain that way forever. Interestingly, the tree of life appears again in Revelation 22. There we see the new heaven and the new earth, and the tree of life is in the midst of the city. It's twelve fruits, one for each month, is the food for the people of the city.

The Lord Jesus Christ is Himself the tree of life. If we think of Him much and draw strength from Him daily, we will find ourselves internally strengthened to meet the pressures and the battles we face each day. We feed upon the tree of life by listening to what He says. And then, being defined by what He says, we will soon discover that our spiritual lives are flourishing. We will grow strong through the pressures and struggles that come our way in a given day.

Today's text ends with a promise: “To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life.” The word “overcomes” literally means to win in the face of obstacles. In John’s writings it is used in reference to the Lord Jesus overcoming the world (John 16:33; Rev 3:21), believers overcoming the devil (1 John 2:13-14), believers overcoming false teachers (1 John 4:4), and the faith of believers overcoming the world (1 John 5:4-5).

There are seven uses of “to him who overcomes” in the seven letters of Revelation 2-3 (Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21). That is, all the seven messages to the seven churches include a reference to the one who overcomes. All seven refer to something which could happen in the future, not something which has already happened in the past. All seven messages challenge believers to become and/or to remain victorious in our works. All seven are directly tied to another statement found in all seven letters, “I know your works” (Rev 2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15). Works, not faith, is the issue the Lord has with the seven churches.

John’s point is that the victory achieved by the very fact of new birth makes obedience to God’s commands an achievable goal. According to Genesis 2-3, Eden was the created paradise of God on earth. According to Revelation 22, Heaven is the paradise of God above. As we’ll see when we go through the other messages, this is where the slide starts with leaving our first love. 

The promise here is to the Ephesian conqueror is the first of the seven promises, and, like the rest, pointing us to the return of the second Adam, and to paradise regained. It comes from Him who holds the seven stars in His right hand, and walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands. Here, as in several other places, Christ is at once the promiser, the promise, and the thing promised.

Everything connected to life is comprised in Jesus Christ—. "In Him was life; and the life was the light of men." He is the bread of life; the water of life; He is life itself; He is eternal life. The tree of life represents Christ Himself. He is the fulfillment of all our longings. Pursue Him and cling to Him, daily.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Revelation 2:4-6

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4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. 6 But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. ~ Revelation 2:4-6

As we have considered, the Lord Jesus addressed seven different churches in Revelation 1-2 with a message for each. The first church He addressed was the church at Ephesus which had a terrific start to their walk with the Lord Jesus. In fact, the Lord Jesus commends them for their works, labor, patience, and that they could not bear those who were evil. At this point, though, they are about forty years removed from all of their revival-like beginnings. 

In v.4 of today's text we read, "Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love."

The Church in Ephesus was one of the best churches, if not the best church in history. Yet their hearts had become cold. The honeymoon had ended. They were like the young man who courted his girl until he married her and then he stopped courting her. The Church in Ephesus had become numb to God and spiritually indifferent.

In v.5 we read, "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent."

The first generation Christians in Ephesus were, for the most part, gone. The church there still had strong traditions but not the intense love for the Lord Jesus. If we are going to stay vital in our love for Christ, we must do three things in order to avoid the spiritual blahs.

First, we must always remember why we were drawn to Him in the first place. He rescued us out of our miserable need and He paid the penalty which had separated us from all that is truly substantive. This, in turn, made us very grateful. Losing sight of all of this causes our hearts to get blah. Perhaps, this is one of the many reasons He gave us the Lord's Supper.

It is when we remember His intense love for us that we are poised to do the second thing to keep us abiding with the Lord. We must repent from self and turn back to Him. The Greek word for “repentance” is metanoia, which literally means to “change one’s mind.” This is not a fickle thing, the way we might change our mind about just anything, then change it back again. This is a transformation of mind and posture, providing an entirely new way of viewing the Lord, self and the world. 

Biblically speaking, true repentance can only come about as a result of the inner work of the Holy Spirit. It is a must to understand that repentance is not the cause of our justification before God, it is the fruit of it. When the Holy Spirit brought us to faith in Christ, He convicted us of our sin, and the fruit of that conviction is repentance. 

Now, repentance, reveals that our faith in Christ is genuine. We do not repent just because we hate our sin, but also because we love the Lord. At the same time, as we turn away from our sin in disgust, we’re turning toward Him in worship and love. And, repentance isn’t just a one-time thing. It’s not something we do once at the beginning of our Christian lives and then move on from it. It’s a daily discipline; a way of life. We will never be so free of sin that we can be free of repentance

The third step in regaining our heart for the Lord Jesus is to repeat the deeds that we did when our relationship with Him began. When we became believers in the Lord Jesus, we could not read the Bible enough. We experienced an insatiable appetite for the Word of God. That appetite was for none other than the Lord Jesus Himself. When the day comes that this desire for Him and His word wains, watch out because we may be in danger of leaving our first love.

This loss of first love became widespread in the early church after the apostles passed away. During that time the churches drifted away from heart-felt ministry to the world and became involved in doctrinal controversies and theological discussions, pounding out the teaching of the church on the anvil of controversy. They were moral, but increasingly losing the heart of the Lord Jesus for them. 

I have found that when I am at this point, the Lord is faithful to cause or allows things to happen which shock my heart back into beating for Him. It is a subtle thing but it can happen to any of us. And, He is gracious to keep our hearts from wandering too far from Him. If we are wise, we will recognize what is happening and we will turn back to Him.

In v.6 we read, "But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate."

After the correction in v.4-5, the Lord Jesus now comes back to commending the Ephesians again. He does this both as an encouragement and also as a challenge to not just hate sin in others. Before we get to hating the sin in others, we must hate sin in us enough to turn away from it or it will destroy us.  

The Nicolaitans were false teachers who led the people into destructive sin. They taught that our freedom in Christ gave us license to sin. They taught that through sexual activity and superior knowledge one could ascend to a state of deity. Of course, this is false teaching. And, it is obvious that the history in the city of Ephesus and the Ephesians' worship of Diana had infiltrated the teachings within the church. For Diana was the Roman goddess and protector of childbirth.

Finally, we are at our best and most spiritual when we are most dependent upon the Lord God. Andrew Murray once said, "Strength is definitely required to live the Christian life. However, not the strength that comes through self-exertion; but the power that comes from yielding to God, who strengthens those who acknowledge their weakness and dependence on Him."

  

Monday, May 10, 2021

Revelation 1:20-2:3

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1:20 The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. 2:To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. ~ Revelation 2:3

These seven churches are carefully selected and representative of all types of churches down through church history. This is to say, there are only seven types of churches that exist at any one given period of time. Every church can be recognized as one of these seven at some particular moment of its history. 

These seven churches are called "lampstands" because they are light-bearers. No church is the light, but each are expected to bear the light. The light, of course, is the truth as it is found in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

In Revelation 2:1 we read, "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands."

Each letter is addressed to the angel of the church. This word angel appears many times in the book outside these seven letters, and in every case it refers to a heavenly being. It is suggestive here that each church has an angel who is responsible for guiding the human leadership of each.

Throughout the Scriptures, leadership is always in the plural -- elders of churches. But, in Revelation 2-3, there is no human leader addressed. It is sent to the angel of the church, the one  is responsible to help the human leaders of the church to know the mind of the Lord. 

Of the seven churches addressed in Revelation 2-3, five of them had a mix of good and bad behavior. As we work through these seven messages, five of the churches will need correction, and two of them, Smyrna and Philadelphia, will not need correction. 

We find here in these seven messages the same format used, the Lord Jesus commends them, then He issues a word of correction. That is the order He follows in all but three of the churches (in Smyrna and Philadelphia He found nothing to correct; in Laodicea He found nothing to commend). 

The first church addressed was the church at Ephesus which began in Acts 19, when the Apostle Paul visited them during his third missionary journey. The church at Ephesus was the church at its best. It was located in the city where we saw religion at its worst. Ephesus was the center of heathen idolatry. Pagan practices there were more degraded than in any other place. 

In v.2 we read, "I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false."

After the Gospel came to their city, the church in Ephesus embraced the word of God and they subsequently turned from idols, the occult, black magic, and immoral practices. In fact, they burned their magic books at a tremendous price, putting the idol makers of Ephesus who made the silver idols out of business, creating a riot in the city when the union of idol workers found out about it. The church in Ephesus was born out of a great revival.

In addition, the Ephesians were known for their good doctrine which meant that their faith was well defined and well defended. They did not run after every theological fad that came along. They examined the teaching to determine whether or not it was consistent with the Scriptures. They also openly opposed false teachers.

They were known for their commitment to the truth. They took their faith seriously and they put it to work. They witnessed, they labored and they ministered to human needs. They helped the downcast and ministered to the homeless and outcasts of society. They were busy in ministry, continually working, and our Lord commends them for all of this. 

In v.3 we read, "You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary." 

The believers in the church at Ephesus were determined to persevere in their faith. They persevered in their faith because the faith had persevered in them. They not only took a hold of the truth but the truth took a hold of them. The Ephesian church was the most prominent of all the seven churches addressed in Revelation 2-3 because it was the mother church to the other six. This group of believers were strong in the faith because their trials served them in their walk with the Lord. The trials drove them to the Scriptures which drove them to God. And, as a result, they loved people with the truth. This is our calling: to know Him and to make Him known.

 


Friday, May 07, 2021

Revelation 1:17-19

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17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. 18 I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death. 19 Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this. ~ Revelation 1:17-19

We continue today in the first vision of the Lord Jesus that God gave to John, the Apostle. John was given this vision in order to set everything straight from the beginning that the Lord Jesus Christ is preeminent over all, and having believed in Him, John is going to be okay, as well.

Today's text begins with, "And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last." 

When the Lord Jesus walked the earth, generally people didn’t fall to the ground before Him because His glory was veiled by His humanity. But to see Him with His unveiled glory not shielded is shocking. In fact, it was so shocking to John that he fell at the feet of the Lord Jesus as if he were a dead man.

In response, the Lord Jesus does three things. He first laid His right hand upon John. Throughout the Bible it is clear that the right hand is the hand of power and authority. It is also the hand of favor, and the Lord Jesus is saying to John through His right handed touch, "Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last."

"Do not be afraid," is the most often repeated command in the Bible. God knows that most often we are motivated by our fears more than anything else. This, of course, is not healthy for us. You will remember that after sinning, Adam and Eve were separated from God, and they, out of fear, hid from Him. They hid because their theology had been changed and they saw God for whom He was not.

You see, John the Apostle, is setting the stage here for this warrior who has already won all battles with evil. And, since He died for the forgiveness of our sin and we have believed, we have been included by Him in His family and we have no need to fear Him or anyone else.

In v.18 we read, "I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death." 

Since the Lord Jesus conquered our greatest enemy, sin and death, by raising from the dead, He is alive forevermore. There will never be a moment when we need Him and He will not be there, for He holds the keys of Hades and of Death

In v.19 we read, "Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this."

Revelation 1:19 is the thesis statement for all of the book of the Revelation. The Lord Jesus tells John to write down three things: The things which you have seen are covered in Revelation 1. The things which are will be covered in Revelation 2-3. And, the things which will take place after this will be covered in Revelation 4-22.

The focal point of this future look is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s why this book is called the Revelation of Jesus Christ. In fact, He is the focal point of the entire Bible. He is seen throughout the Old Testament as He was personified and prophesied. We saw Him in the gospels as He came into the world and lived His life in humility, died, and rose again, and ascended back into heaven. In the epistles, the apostles have written about the meaning of His life, ministry, death, and His resurrection. All of that is past and present. The book of His Revelation takes us into the future.

As we study the book of Revelation, we are going to see the glory of Christ, because this is the revelation of His glory. As we look in the mirror of the book of the Revelation, it will reflect to us the shining glory of the Lord, and that reflection will transform us into His very image from one level of glory to the next as the Spirit of God applies it to our lives. So, you are and I am in for a life-changing experience. Are you glad that you are all in?

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Revelation 1:12-16

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12 Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. 14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; 15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; 16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. ~ Revelation 1:12-16

We return to the first vision that God gave to the Apostle John who was held as a criminal on the isle of Patmos for his love and loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ. John, at this point, had his back to the voice that was now speaking with him. And, in v.12 we read, "Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands."

This lampstand is like the Menorah mentioned in the Tabernacle in the book of Exodus. It is a picture of the ministry of the glorified Son within His people, the church. The voice is of the risen Christ. Instead of seeing the risen Christ, John first sees seven golden lampstands which are described in Revelation 1:20 as the seven churches. So, this is a vision of the Lord Jesus in the midst of the seven churches.

These first golden lampstands provided light in the Tabernacle. This is a reminder that believers in Christ enjoy His presence and His light as we traverse this wicked world. We do not worship some crucified martyr. We have continual communion with the living Christ. Knowing that He is actually with us everyday and enables us to stand tall in a world that is out to put out our flame for Him.

In v.13 we read, "and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band."

The Lord Jesus is pictured as the king clothed in a garment or a robe reaching to His feet. Kings wore such robes. This is significant because this accentuates the kingly role of the Lord Jesus in our lives. But, if we are not hailing Him as our king, we will miss the point. As our king, the Lord Jesus is over all kings and He is ALL powerful and omnipotent. There is no one more powerful now nor will there ever be anyone who is more powerful than the Lord Jesus whose kingdom will never have an end.

In v.14-16 we read, "14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; 15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; 16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength."

Here, the Apostle moves from the person of the Lord Jesus to His physical appearance, His head, His hair, His eyes, His feet, His voice, His right hand, His mouth, and then His face. It is at this point that the Apostle John is not seeing His clothing. He’s gone from the lampstands to the clothing to the very features of the One who overcame sin and death. And here, he sees Him primarily in His purifying work among the church.

John saw the wisdom of white-hair and the burning penetration of Christ's eyes, and he saw coming from His mouth the invincibility of the word of God, represented in the two-edged sword. He saw the Lord Jesus ministering to these churches, correcting them, counseling them, and encouraging them. God must first work in our lives, forging the depths of His wisdom into our lives before we can be used in the lives of others in this world.

The Lord Jesus is pictured here as the warrior who wins the war. Christians everywhere ought not to be overwhelmed by fear, whatever the circumstances, because it is not up to us to win this war. The battle is the Lord's, and all we have to do is to abide in Him and to be faithful to His call on our lives.

The word white in v.14 gives the picture of a blazing fire, so hot it is pure white. John, the Apostle, sees the glory of the Lord here and is captured by it. This is a symbol of eternal purity which demonstrates the utter dependability of His truth. In the end, He will conquer and vanquish all enemies to His holy and totally good kingdom.

And then at the end of v.14 we read, "and His eyes like a flame of fire." John saw the blazing, white, shining glory of Christ, and coming out like two lasers, one from each eye. John is describing the holy, exalted Lord with searching, penetrating gaze, looking to the depths of His people. When Christ moves through His church in His holy glory, His penetrating eyes see absolutely everything. And His vision is perfect and accurate. There is nothing hidden from Him whatsoever. And, think of it, He knows us better than we do ourselves and He still loves us and He still likes us.

In v.15 we see His feet are like like burning bronze when it has been caused to glow in a furnace. This is a very clear reference to His judgment. Anytime anybody came before the king, the king always, in ancient times, sat on an elevated throne. And when a criminal came in to be sentenced, he was always below the feet of the king. He would bow down and look up to the feet and then the throne and the body and then the head.

The feet of the king was the symbol of his authority. And here, we find the Lord Jesus with red-hot feet, moving through His church to exercise His sanctifying authority and judgment. 

And, when He spoke, according to the latter part of v.15, it was like the crashing of the surf against the rocks of an island. This is not a helpless lamb who has come for the slaughter to pay the price for mankind's sin, this is a warrior who will come to demolish the unwilling and rebellious rejectors of His kind grace.

In v.16 we read, "He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength."

The right hand is the hand of power, might, and authority. And, He controls the seven stars which represent the leadership of the each church in His hand. And, this all powerful One is there to protect His church for the sharp two-edged sword signifies His judgment. 

In Revelation19:15 we read, “Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.” The Lord of all has a sword, and He wields it in defense of His church. And He fights the battle from the inside out. As always, He starts with the heart and He uses His word to do the work of eternity in the hearts of all.

At the end of v.16, John now sees the Lord Jesus as the blazing sun. The point is that the Lord shines in His church and He shines through His church. We who love Him reveal His glory to the watching world. In fact, in Judges 5:31 we learn that the faces of those who love the Lord will shine like the sun and this is linked to the idea of judgment in the very same verse which supports the interpretation of the two-edged sword as a sword of judgment to protect the church from destruction by its enemies.

Finally, James Stewart once said, "Behind Calvary's cross is the throne of heaven." The beauty of it all is that the same sovereign God that could have prevented all evil is the very sovereign One who sustains the soul in it. He sustains us so that we may enter into a personal relationship with the know Him and to make Him known.

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.