Monthly Archives: March 2018

God’s Last Revelation

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book:  If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book  And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life….                         Revelation 22:18, 19

The Bible is a holy book, so that we ought to treat with reverence even the pates on which it is written.  But one of the best ways to treat it respectfully is to write in it.  We may well take a pencil and underline certain words or phrases in the Bible, made notes in the margin of various verses, an write some of our own thoughts on the top of the page.  This is the way a Bible becomes more meaningful, useful, and precious.

Revelation is one of the books of the Bible with which we ought to use our pencil a great deal.  The most important thing is to divide the book, by ends of lines or numbers in the margin, into seven sections.  The book of Revelation is a series of seven sketches of the history of the world from different points of view.  So we have letters to seven churches, followed by the story of the seven seals, the seven trumpets, the battle of the dragon against a woman and her Child, the seven bowls of wrath, the destruction of the two beasts, and the grand finale after Satan is destroyed.

There are many details in this picture book which we do not understand.  But do not let that keep you from reading Revelation.  When we look at a large painting or a moving-picture, we do not look at all the little details, even though they are part of the complete picture.  So we should look at the last book of the Bible the same way we view a huge picture in an art gallery.  Do not worry about the meaning of every word.  Revelation is designed to give us a breath-taking glimpse of the greatness of God and the splendor of heaven.

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The Epistle of Love

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.           I John 4:7, 8

Usually we think of John, “that disciple whom Jesus loved,” as an individual who was very loving and kind by nature.  By nature he was nothing of the sort.  Jesus called him and his brother James by the nickname, “sons of thunder,” or what we could call “hotheads.”  On one occasion they were so angry that they wanted Christ to call fire from heaven down on some people who had raised their tempers.  And James’ and John’s mother had once asked Jesus if her sons could have priority over the other disciples and sit next to Him in the kingdom of heaven!

The point is that John, like all of us, did not just naturally love anybody, including Christ Himself.  Only God is capable of putting love in our hateful hearts.  That is why John wrote, “We love, because He first loved us.”  That is why John always refers to himself as that disciple “who Jesus loved,” rather than the other way ’round.  And that is why the Holy Spirit inspired John to write this beautiful book about love, that we might learn more to love one another, even as God “loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” What a different world this would be if all Christians would read I John 4 at least once every week!

But John was no preacher of milk and water sentimentality.  John does not tell us to love everybody.  The second great theme of I John is the warning to be on guard against false preachers and counterfeit Christians.  “Many false prophets are gone out into the world,” says John, “and this is the spirit of the Antichrist, who you have heard that is coming; and now it is in the world already.”  Are we able to tell a sound sermon from a false one today? Do you know what makes a man a “modernist”?

The Prophecy of Peter

But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.           II Peter 3:13

One of the arguments that demonstrates the Bible is the inspired Word of God is the fact that many of the prophecies in it, written hundreds of years beforehand, were exactly fulfilled, hundreds of years afterward.  Many of the prophecies are still going to be fulfilled in the future, just as surely as most of them already have been.  Jesus often reminded us of that fact.  He said, as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the second coming.

Peter makes this same comparison in his second Epistle, which might well be called a prophecy about the end of the world.  In his prediction we are told that the world is going to be destroyed, or purified, by fire, the same way it was once washed from its wickedness by a great flood.  But the remarkable thing about Peter’s prophecy is the terminology he uses to describe this future destruction.  Whether God will use what we call nuclear fission to destroy the world, or allow man in his madness to destroy himself by atomic explosions, we do not know.  But we do know that splitting atoms is as close to disintegrating matter as men can now come, and nothing generates such tremendous fire.  And two thousand years before Hiroshima, the apostle Peter, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes about elements being melted and dissolved, of fervent heat, and a great noise.  Most interesting of all, one of the very words that Peter uses is “uranois,” from which our uranium comes.

One thing we must always remember about prophecies in the Bible is that they are not history written beforehand, so we must not speculate as to dates or be dogmatic about details.  But after God’s predictions have come to pass we can always look back and marvel at their amazing accuracy.  Scoffers then are never able to say that they were never told ahead of time.

Peter, The Rock

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.             I Peter 2:9

Most Bible readers know that the name Peter means rock, just as petrify means to turn into stone.  It was a name that Jesus gave to Simon, one of His disciples, and Peter was proud of that name.

There is one large denomination that claims that the apostle Peter was the first pope, the cornerstone, so to speak, on which the whole Christian church has been built.  If Peter were here today, he would denounce such an idea.  The letter which bears his name in the Bible says that Christ is the chief cornerstone of the church, and all of us, including Peter, are living stones that are built upon Him.  (I Peter 2:5)

There was a time, of course, when Peter was far from being a rock standing firm for Jesus.  Three times he insisted that he did not know Christ and that he was not one of His disciples.  When Jesus predicted that this was going to happen, He told Peter that after he had become converted he should strengthen others through that experience, and that is what Peter is trying to do in this letter.

The people to whom Peter wrote this first Epistle were being shaken in Satan’s sieve the same way Peter once was.  They were being tortured and tormented for being Christ’s disciples.  They were going through literal “fiery trials,” for some of them were burned at the stake.  Satan was a real roaring lion in their lives, for some of them were thrown alive to wild animals.  Some were suffering subtle pressures and temptations, as many Christians are today in their jobs, their businesses, and even in their homes.  To all of these Peter writes encouragement to stand strong, cling to Christ, to be like a rock.

Christian Hebrews

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another…                    Hebrews 10:24, 25

Some of the most lovely passages in the Bible are found in the book of Hebrews, written to Jewish Christians.  The most famous chapter, of course, is the well-known roll call of the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11, listing some of the Old Testament believers who trusted in Christ, “Seeing we are surrounded with so great a cloud of witnesses … let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and perfecto of our faith.”  (12:1)

The unknown author of this beautiful book constantly emphasizes how much better off we are in the New Testament than even such outstanding saints as Moses, Abraham, and others.  They lived in the shadows, and we have the full light of God that shines in the face of Jesus Christ.  Their worship consisted of sacrifices of dumb animals, but Christ, the true Passover Lamb, has been once sacrificed for us.  They could approach God only through the priesthood, and even the high priest was admitted into the symbolic presence of God only once in a whole year, but we can come boldly unto the throne of grace at any time, knowing we shall receive mercy and find grace for every need.

One thing that Hebrews repeatedly warns us New Testament believers against is slipping back into the formalism of the Old Testament.  It is something all of us have to beware of.  We like to have something between us and the holy God.  We are fond of things.  And so our worship gradually becomes more elaborate, liturgical, and with pictures of Jesus in church, thoughtlessly sung doxologies, etc.  Be careful that your service of God today is sincere.

Practical Religion

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.          James 1:27

If there is any book of the Bible that almost everybody ought to be able to understand, it is the practical Epistle of James.  It talks straight from the shoulder.  It is a book for the work week as well as for proper deportment in church.  It talks about money and travel, elders and sickness, rich people and poor, horses and tongues, swearing and praying.

It is a stimulating thought to remember that James was a half-brother of the Lord Jesus Christ, and must have heard many things that Jesus said in the thirty years they lived together.  An interesting exercise is to check all the verses in James’ little letter that sound like something which Jesus said in such places as the sermon on the mount.  “Let your yes be yes, and your no, no” is an exact duplication of one of Jesus’ teachings.

At one time James did not believe in Jesus as the Son of God, and it was not until after Christ’s resurrection that he was converted.  How he must have blushed, in looking back upon his boyhood, to remember how often he had sinned against his Savior-brother by means of word and act!

James was talking from personal experience when he wrote that we are not to envy riches and rich people, since he came from a poor family  himself; and that we must not neglect widows and orphans, for he came from that kind of a home.

James’ Epistle is the kind of a book that we ought to read by ourselves repeatedly many times a year.  Religion is not going to save any of us.  James makes it even stronger than that when he says, “If a man says he has faith, but has no deeds, can that faith save him?”  (2:14)

Personal Letters

…I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.     II Timothy 1:12

It is a privilege to be allowed to share a personal letter that someone has received.  When we put our thoughts down on paper, we often lay bare our real selves, our innermost feelings.

God has allowed us to share some of the apostle Paul’s most intimate experiences by including in the Bible the letters he wrote to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon.  It is rather interesting that Paul wrote letters to exactly seven congregations, the figure that the Bible usually associates with the Church.  But beside these we have letters like those which we write to our family or friends.  In these letters Paul talks about Timothy’s mother and grandmother; about the books and coat he wants Timothy to take with him when he comes.

These are the Bible books that you can curl up with and read at one sitting, for fundamentally God has written them to you, personally.  They deal with conditions that exist nowadays, for when you read our Scripture passage for today (II Timothy 3:1-7) you see that it is talking about such modern matters as juvenile delinquency, crooked politics, money-madness, pleasure-loving, religious formalism, slander magazines, and sex perversion.

Another feature of these books is that in them we get a great deal of material for our church order, the good government of our congregations.  Paul wrote these letters to coach the your pastors, Timothy and Titus, in the operation of their new churches, and so much of these three Epistles is quoted in the forms for installing elders, deacons, and ministers.  The Bible has something for every conceivable situation, to supply every need. “All Scripture is inspired of God, and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for discipline, for instruction in righteousness.”  (II Timothy 3:16)