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Around the Throne

This was the hardest diagram for me yet (of the now five I’ve posted). What is most obvious is that this heavenly vision is focused around the thrones around the throne (since some form of throne is used nine times in these five and a half verses). I’ll aim to finish the rest of chapter four next week.

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A Knock at the Door

Here’s the final four verses of Christ’s message to the Laodicean church. (See the first four here.)

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Not Hot Nor Cold

Back again with a diagram of the first half of The Amen’s message to the lukewarm Laodiceans in Revelation 3:14-18. Verses 19-22 will come soon, as in next week, Deo volente.

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I started diagramming Christ’s message to the church in Philadelphia last week (Revelation 3:7-9), and here are the final four verses of the paragraph (verses 10-13).

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I’m going to try something I haven’t done before, which some of you will not care to read, and some of you may not be able to read. Others of you may have nightmares harkening back to junior high English classes.

My favorite thing to do for Bible study is diagram the sentences, in the original language when possible. Here’s the first three verses of the next paragraph I’m preaching in Revelation, Christ’s message to the angel of the church in Philadelphia.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Walking among the Lampstands

In John’s vision of the Lord, he saw one like the son of man in the midst of the lampstands (Revelation 1:13). When John wrote the words of Jesus to the Ephesians, Jesus identified Himself as the “one who walks among the seven golden lampstands” (2:1). Jesus is with His body, He is among His church in her various locations. He is present. This also means that He knows what’s happening.

After identifying Himself, in every message to each of the seven churches Jesus says “I know.” He knows their endurance, tribulation, poverty, location, faith, service, reputation, and above all, He knows their works. He knows what is good; there is something good named for six of the seven. He knows what is bad; He calls five of the seven churches to repent.

I’m open to the idea that there is an angel of the church in Marysville, though we don’t have an inspired letter addressed to us. Yet by way of application we are still a lampstand, and Christ is present among us. We are a supernatural organism, an outpost of the heavenly realm. For the saved, we are filled with the Spirit of Christ. He dwells in us and among us. And He knows.

Perhaps what we need to repent of is low levels of love like the Ephesians. Perhaps it is the photo negative of Ephesians, and we need to repent of not fighting for the truth. Maybe we are compromising with the syncretistic ways of the world, and find it easier to be quiet rather than to conquer. Jesus knows our corporate problems, and He knows your heart. Make it right with Him.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Worthy Is the Lamb

Thirty times in the book of Revelation the apostle John refers to Jesus as the Lamb. Far more than any other NT author, John apparently loved that title for the Lord.

In a heavenly vision, “I saw a Lamb standing as though it had been slain” who was worthy to take and open the scroll (Revelation 5:5-6). John described as the heavenly chorus said with a loud voice:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12)

Coming to worship, John beheld “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb,” … “crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'” (Revelation 7:9-10).

When John saw faithful Christians defeat the accuser, the ancient dragon, he said: “they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives to death” (Revelation 12:11). In the final battle, John foretold that God’s enemies “will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is the Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).

Here we are in His name. The Lamb was slain for us. Let us eat and drink together because He has conquered sin and death, and we conquer in Him.

Lord's Day Liturgy

The Apocalypse

In a few weeks I plan to start teaching verse by verse through another book of the Bible: the book of Revelation. There are good reasons to study The Apocalypse on Sundays, and I’ll probably explain some of my intentions in the introductory message. I’m telling you know, ahead of time, not just so that you can make plans or prepare arguments (one way or another), but so that you can be excited.

On a higher level, God also reveals many things He plans to do and often some of His reasons. God does not only tell us what was and what is, but also what will be. When the Lord sent a prophet with a word, and that word came to pass, the Lord demonstrated that His Word is trustworthy. That He knows the end from the beginning distinguishes Him from other gods (Isaiah 46:10). It also shows God’s nature as a God who communicates. So prophecy, including future plans, causes us to worship God. For those who hear and keep His Word, it also causes us to be excited.

Think about Isaiah 53 from the perspective of Isaiah’s original audience. We know who the Suffering Servant is. We know His name: Jesus, the son of Mary, from the city of Nazareth. But what the Israelites knew around 700 B.C is that they were sinners, that they were in a cycle of sin and then in need of sacrifices to cover their sins. Though the promised deliverer in Isaiah 53 did not fit all of their expectations, and even though He didn’t come for about 700 years, they had every reason to be excited for His coming.

We worship the Lord because of who He is, what He has done, and what He has said about tomorrow. Don’t be anxious. A farmer is not pessimistic about all the seed deaths in his field, he knows those deaths will make for an abundant harvest. Listen carefully to the word of the Lord about the future, and believe.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Savior of the Nations

It is worth returning regularly to John’s vision of the throne and the Lamb in Revelation 5. We are reminded what the Lamb has done and what He is making. In doing so we are also reminded of what we are part of.

John saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, and four living creatures and twenty-four elders who were singing a new song.

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain,
and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
(Revelation 5:9–10)

What He has done is lay down His life to pay our ransom from captivity to sin. We owed righteousness and we had none to our name. He spent Himself on behalf of those the Father gave to Him. What He is making is a kingdom of lesser kings, those who will serve Him with responsibilities to rule.

And He redeemed people, we might say, from every county, state, and country on earth. He’s saving from all kinds of cultures, languages, and families. His His goal is a unified body with each part working properly so that it builds itself up in love. His blood overcomes family feuds and sibling rivalries and generational wars.

Thou; the Father’s only Son,
Hast o’er sin the victory won.
Boundless shall Thy kingdom be;
When shall we it’s glories see?
(“Savior of the Nations, Come”)

We eat and drink together not only to remember that this will happen, but our eating and drinking together is evidence that it is happening. It is good news for all people. Savior of the nations, come!

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Eyes to See

We learn much about seven churches’ problems in Revelation 2-3. Five of the seven addresses include the command to repent, by the way: Ephesus for lost love, Pergamum for failing to confront false teachers, Thyratira for allowing sin in the church, and Sardis for sleeping. But the last church addressed, the lukewarm Laodiceans, may be the closest parallel to us. Their presumed spiritual prosperity was really poverty, and Jesus implored them to be zealous and repent.

How can we fix our broken hearts, our broken churches, and our broken culture? Is it possible for our souls to be spiritually rich and righteous? Is it possible for our churches to be spiritually hot and bright lights in our culture? The answer is a resounding Yes! And what we need is repentance.

Things are not good, yet we are indifferent, and worse, ignorant of our indifference. We often fail to see sin for what it really is. Sin deceives us, offering us substitute, short-term joy of second-rate quality. Our churches suffer as a result. As our personal interests are worldly, so are our corporate programs. As our souls are apathetic, our local bodies grow perilously anemic.

We need a change. We need repentance. We need Augustine. Similar to today, “The congregations who heard Augustine preach were not exceptionally sinful. Rather, they were firmly rooted in long-established attitudes, in ways of life and ideas, to which Christianity was peripheral” (Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo, 247). He “preached to men who thought they knew what the Christian life consisted of” (ibid., 244).

Maybe more than anyone else in church history, Augustine of Hippo wrestled with blinding, joy-stealing sin. He was afraid to let loose of his lusts for fear that he would lose joy.

But in his Confessions, Augustine described God’s sovereign reproof and loving discipline that lead him to repentance. We will consider his life and his teaching, throughout this continuing series, as someone outside our century, who may give us perspective and remedy for the problems in our own day. By God’s grace, we may have our eyes opened. Or, as John wrote in Revelation 3:22,

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.