Friday, December 16, 2016

"COME"

Finally we have arrived at the very last words of the book of Revelation and, in fact, of the entire Bible. These last words can actually be summed up in a single word. “Come.” 

First, a Few Words of Caution

There is also a caveat in this final portion of the book. John writes, “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19 NAS).

These are cautionary words and should be heeded. It may seem a rather obvious warning to those who follow the Scripture, but because so much of what is written throughout the book of Revelation is not completely understandable to us, it sometimes becomes very tempting for those who study it to substitute that which is beyond our ability to comprehend with their own ideas about what must happen. It is a short step between theorizing what a particular passage may mean, and assuming that we have a particularly accurate insight that others do not have. 

An Invitation

But that warning aside, the concluding remark of our revealed Scripture is one of invitation. The message is: “Come.”
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Saturday, December 10, 2016

THE ROOT AND THE STAR

The way in which Jesus identified himself more than any other in the New Testament was by calling himself “The Son of Man.” We probably would not think that this would necessarily be so. The struggle that Jesus had with the people of his day was not to convince them that he was a man, just as were they, but that he was also God. Nevertheless, although he spoke many times and in many ways of his special relationship to the Father, never did he refer to himself directly as “The Son of God.”

It is not that he was trying to keep this aspect of his life a secret. He did many things to demonstrate that he truly was from heaven. He performed healings and fed people, and did deeds that were direct fulfillments of Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. Other people recognized this and even called him “The Son of God.” When they did, Jesus never denied that he indeed was the Son of God. Rather, he affirmed to them that what they said was true. 

Jesus Presented as the Son of God

And many others did ascribe divinity to the man Jesus. His disciples did, the people who saw the miracles that he did recognized him as divine, even on occasion demons called him the Son of God. Even the very first and last testimony about Jesus while on he was on the earth was the fact that he was the Son of God. When the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she was to have a baby, he told her that the child would be called the Son of God.

Gabriel said to Mary, “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end” (Luke 1:31-33 NAS).

 That is how Jesus came into the world. Then, when he was put to death near the end of his earthly presence, and when the centurion who had been in charge of the crucifixion of Jesus realized what he had done in killing him, he said, “Surely this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54). 

Jesus Presented as the Son of Man

However, Jesus preferred to call himself the Son of Man.
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Saturday, December 3, 2016

WORKING FOR THE KINGDOM

The ways that we work in this world are pretty well defined. The goals that we have as individuals in deciding what our work is to be are also usually quite well established – we all seek to find a job that we like, one that we are good at, and one with which we can make a decent living. Some people may include the words fulfilling and satisfying in this description of finding good work, as in having a fulfilling career.

I purposely did not use these descriptions, because they are more subjective in nature. The work that is fulfilling today, may become frustrating tomorrow. That which began as being satisfying and challenging, ends up being boring and disappointing. This should not surprise us about our work experiences, because that is the extent of any reward that the world can give us. Everything in the world fleeting. It is all just temporary.

The poet Robert Frost wrote about this as illustrated to us in nature itself: 

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay. 

King Solomon also came to the conclusion in life that “nothing gold can stay.” He tried every means to find a lasting satisfaction in his work, but found that every sense of fulfillment was fleeting. Here is what he said: 

I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees… I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces…And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil.

Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 2:4-11 ESV) 

A pessimistic attitude, no? Not really...(to continue reading, press the READ MORE button below)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

"MY REWARD IS WITH ME"

Jesus said this: “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.” (Revelation 22:12 NAS).

When Jesus speaks of bringing his reward, what is it that he means? Other Bible translations use the word recompense instead of reward. The two words in some ways may be synonymous, but in my way of understanding, the word reward has a meaning that makes it seem more like winning a prize. Recompense, on the other hand, seems more to me to carry the meaning of compensation for work done or for service. It is the second of these that is closer to the meaning that Jesus intended.

“I am bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done” (ESV).

At another time, when Jesus was with his disciples, he told them this: 

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. (Matthew 16:24-27 NAS italics mine). 

It is clear that at least here, Jesus is talking about payment, as we would normally think of when we think of earning a wage. Indeed, this is very close to the meaning of the word that Jesus spoke in our verse in Revelation 22:12. The very literal meaning of the word (misthos) actually is “wages.” James uses the very same word when he speaks of the pay or the wages for the laborers (James 5:4). 

The Ol’ 9 to 5

When I was going to the university, I also worked part time in a factory. There, every two weeks  on a Friday, my foreman would walk around the factory floor with a handful of envelopes. One by one he would stop at each work station and hand the man or woman working there one of the envelopes that he carried with him. My own work station was near the end of the long building, and I could see him stop at each place as he made his way down the building. Each worker would brighten a little when he handed them the envelope, and very soon rip it open to look inside.

What was in there? It was their wages, of course. It was payday! We had worked for two weeks and now we were to be rewarded for that work. 

The Day that Jesus Comes Around
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Friday, October 28, 2016

"I AM COMING QUICKLY"

(I am currently writing a series on the last two chapters of the Bible. These chapters are the only two in the entire Bible that are dedicated exclusively to telling us what eternity will be like for the believers in Christ)
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“Behold, I am coming quickly,” Jesus told John. “Blessed is he who heeds the prophecy of this book (Revelation 22:7 NAS).

John wrote these words some two thousand years ago, and Jesus has not yet come. This is not our idea of the word “quickly.” Nevertheless, there are very many of us who still take Jesus at his word and believe he is returning, just as he promised multiple times in the Bible. Are we foolish to do so?

There are people who ridicule these words of Jesus. Perhaps you have not heard anyone mock this statement outwardly, but certainly, the priorities of the lives of many people demonstrate that they do not believe what Jesus said. This should not be surprising to any of us. After all, we were told by the Apostle Peter that we might expect this to happen.

Peter said, “Know this first of all, that in the last days scoffers will come with their mocking, following after their own sinful desires. They will be saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? Ever since the ancestors died, everything continues just as it was from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4).

Peter’s response to these doubts is that the people who think in this way, simply do not consider the entire scope of the history of the earth into their view of reality. Not only is this assessment of the history of the earth wrong, it is an assessment of pessimism and doom, as voiced in the book of Ecclesiastes: 

   All the rivers flow into the sea, yet the sea is not full.
   To the place where the rivers flow, there they flow again.
   All things are wearisome; man is not able to tell it.
   The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear filled
 with hearing. 

   That which has been is that which will be,
   And that which has been done is that which will be done
   So there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:7-9 NAS) 

New Things Under the Sun

The true fact is however, everything has not continued as it was from the beginning.(to continue, press READ MORE below)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

THE REVELATION

(I am currently writing a series on the last two chapters of the Bible. These chapters are the only two in the entire Bible that are dedicated exclusively to telling us what eternity will be like for the believers in Christ)

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We are coming near to the end of the book of Revelation – indeed to the end of the entire body of the revealed word of God. John is preparing to conclude his writings of what will become the final book of the Bible. From this point in the book of Revelation, verse six of the twenty-second chapter until the end of the book, John tells us no more of what he has seen in this vision of the new heavens and earth, or more of what he saw in the New Jerusalem. This final portion of his book can be considered an epilogue of his vision.

In verse six, John writes this: “He said to me, ‘These words are faithful and true.’”

To know who the “He” is, that is, who it was who told John that the words are faithful and true, we must return to what we might call the prologue of these two chapters, when John first began to have his vision of heaven and of the throne room of God. There, the one speaking is identified as the “Alpha and the Omega,” the same way that Jesus identified himself in the very beginning of the book of Revelation (1:18). The Alpha and the Omega are the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet, and by identifying himself as these letters, Jesus is indicating that he is the beginning of all that there is, and he is also the conclusion of it all.

John wrote of Jesus in the beginning of his vision of the throne room of God, “He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new…Write, for these words are faithful and true’” (Revelation 21:5 NAS)

This twice repeated phrase by the one who sits on the throne, “These words are faithful and true,” speak of the certainty of what John saw. (to continue, please press the READ MORE button below)

Friday, September 30, 2016

TO SEE THE FACE OF GOD

(I am currently writing a series on the last two chapters of the Bible. These chapters are the only two in the entire Bible that are dedicated exclusively to telling us what eternity will be like for the believers in Christ)***********************
There are two simple phrases in the fourth verse of the twenty-second chapter of Revelation: “They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.”

To the old man John the Apostle, who saw this vision of heaven and who wrote these words, the fact that the people of God will actually see the face of God in the New Jerusalem was an astounding revelation. We know this because twice, in his earlier writings, John had stated, “No one has seen God at any time” (please press READ MORE below)

Friday, September 16, 2016

SLAVES FOREVER

(I am currently writing a series on the last two chapters of the Bible. These chapters are the only two in the entire Bible that are dedicated exclusively to telling us what eternity will be like for the believers in Christ)***********************
As we considered what was happening around the throne of God, we saw worship as it is expressed in many ways. One of these ways was by being a faithful steward of what has been entrusted to him. Worshiping God through service.

Indeed, that is what John now says in his commentary of the Lord’s throne: …The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him” (Revelation 22:3 NAS).

Along with all of the voices around the throne, the service given to God the king is also worship to him. This worship is being carried out by the bond-servants of the king. Some Bible versions simply say “servants” instead of bond-servants. Actually however, rather than either the term bond-servants or servants, the word would be better translated as slave. However, I could only find two Bible versions that used this word instead of servant or bond-servant.

The Greek word in this case is doulos. The word really does mean slave. The word doulos is derived from yet another Greek word that means to tie or to bind. A doulos (if we can put it that way), is one with no rights of his own and truly is simply the property of his or her master. He is a true slave.

However, the word slave has an extremely negative connotation to us, and rightly so. The history of slavery in our own country is evidence enough of the horrors of this practice. Of course, our country was not the only one in the world to practice slavery, nor was that the only time in history when it was done. Men and women have misused and abused other men and women with slavery throughout history and on every continent. Even with the abolition of slavery, the consequences do not soon disappear, nor easily so. The effects of the slave practice can continue to bring harm to relationships for generations even after the actual slavery has ended.

It is no wonder to me that Bible translators decided not to use the word slave in this context. However, in some ways it is unfortunate that they did not. The differences between a slave and a servant are actually quite significant. (to continue, press the READ MORE button below) 

Servant or Slave?

As servant is a respectful position in our thinking – a gentleman’s gentleman, if you will. English literature especially has many stories concerning a man of high standing and high society who has a servant who takes care of him. In many instances, these are stories where the servant is actually the one who seems the more competent, and he is constantly keeping his master out of trouble of repairing the master’s mistakes.

A servant also has a private life. He receives a wage, he can own property, and he can decide to terminate his employment as a servant at any time. He makes his own decisions. He is independent concerning his personal destiny.

This is not so with a slave. A slave has no rights. He has no form of independence. A slave can be bought and sold. A slave cannot even claim a right to his own children over the desires of his owner. The owner of a slave can take the slave’s own small son and sell him to the highest bidder on the auction block.

This is the ugly side of slavery. Quite frankly, since this has been the history in this and other countries, this is what we think of when we think of slavery. As I said, it is not wonder to me that the Bible translators did not use the word slave when speaking of our relationship to God. 

A Slave Has Something a Servant Does Not

But by instead using the word servant instead of slave, look what they have missed. If the slave is owned by someone who loves him even more than the slave loves himself, a slave will be cared for in every aspect of life. His home will not be a hovel, but it will be a dwelling where the slave can live in happiness with his family. With a loving owner, the slave does not have to worry about the security of his children or worry about the needs of his family. They will always have good food to eat and good clothing. If they should get sick, they will receive the best care.

“Ah,” but you say, “All of this sounds very nice, but this slave still has no rights of his own. He does not have the right to make an independent decision apart from his owner. And freedom,” you say, “is everything.”

What you say about a slave is true. But with the slave of God, he does not enter into this relationship with God unwillingly. No one has come into his village in the middle of the night and taken him away in shackles by force to be loaded onto a ship and sent to a land far beyond the sea. A slave of God has not been forced to be God’s slave against his own will. He or she does so willingly, of his or her own decision. 

How to Become a Slave of God

There is a beautiful picture of this given to us in the Old Testament. In early Hebrew society, although the people did have slaves, there was a provision in their laws that if a man buys a fellow Hebrew, that person would be considered the master’s slave, but this relationship was only to last six years. On the seventh year, this slave was to be set free. Not only this, but he was to be set free with many provisions of food and animals in order that the one-time-slave could begin his new life.

However, there were cases where the man who had been the slave was so well treated by the master, and so loved by him, that the slave did not want to leave. He did not want to choose to live as a free man, but rather to remain as a slave forever in the house of his master.

If this was the case, then the slave was to stand next to the door of the house and put his ear up to the door. Then, the master of the house was to take an awl and pierce it through the earlobe and into the door, thus leaving the slave with a pierced ear. I suppose the imagery here was to show that, since the door was the place of exiting the house, the slave instead shows that he is pegged to the door, and would not go out of the house. This could be the case not only with male slaves, also with the female slaves (Deuteronomy 15:12-17, Exodus 21:5-6). 

The Question is – a Slave to Whom?

Nevertheless, despite stories like this, we have such a negative view of slavery in our society that even with thoughts of a benevolent master who will provide for one’s every need, many say that they would still prefer to choose their independence over slavery, even if it is slavery to God. Servanthood perhaps. They might agree to be called a servant, but not a slave. Although Bible translations may use the word servant in place of the Greek word for slavery, this is not the option God puts before us.

What we sometimes do not understand is that there is no such thing as true freedom in this life. The concept of true freedom is just an ephemeral illusion. The promise of independence and freedom was how Satan tempted Adam and Eve. He told them that “they would be like gods,” knowing good and evil and able to choose their own way. Even in the very act of choosing as they did, although their own wills certainly were involved in this decision, their choice was not completely independent. They followed what Satan told them to do. They believed him and obeyed him, but instead of finding freedom, they found bondage.

Jesus told this to the Jews one day. “Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin,” he told them (John 8:34).

The Apostle Paul taught the same thing. He said, “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16 NAS)

So then, as much as some would like to think that they are independent beings and under no authority in their spiritual lives, it seems that there is no such thing as complete freedom and independence of thought. In the Garden of Eden, when Satan tempted Adam and Eve with thoughts of independence, rather than finding freedom, they found instead slavery to sin. Instead of fulfillment in their love for God, they found emptiness in loving themselves. God had placed them in a garden, and they turned it into a desert.

This is our condition without Christ. We like to pride ourselves in being able to make up our own minds about things. We like to think that by our own force of will we can control our lives. Perhaps we are even able to do this in some minor ways. But these modest victories in small things only serve to hide the fact that without Christ, we are slaves to our own private passions and to our own special weakness of character. 

Freedom for the Slave

However, in the midst of all this dark talk of slavery, there are some other words of Jesus that shine like a ray of sun through an opening in the dark clouds overhead. “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36 ESV).

This is what we have been waiting for! Words of true freedom! A way in which we can be free of our present struggles and inward battles! How is it that we get there?

Contrary to what you may think, the path to freedom is not by throwing off all that would shackle us. It is not by forcefully proclaiming that no one owns us and that we are our own free beings. Ironically, the road to freedom is by way of slavery. When Jesus said that the Son would make us free indeed, this was not a call to independence. It was instead a call to slavery.

Remember that Jesus also told his disciples “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

Jesus is speaking here of a total surrender. It is, in other words, a call to slavery. For many, this is too much. Our freedom is too important for us. From our perspective, it is difficult for many to understand why any man or any woman would choose slavery over freedom.

This slavery however, is slavery with a promise.

It is interesting to me that Jesus said that it was the “Son” who would set us free. He is speaking of course, about himself. However, he spoke in the third person, referring to himself as “the Son.” By doing this, Jesus introduces the subject of the freedom of sonship. The full statement of what he said was “Everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34-36 NAS).

The Slave Who is a Son

Paul made a similar observation and made a similar comparison of a child. In Galatians 4:1-7, he spoke of a son, living in the house of his father. When boy is a lad, he may not appear to be any different than a slave. The child has no real freedom to make his own decisions about his day. He is told when to rise and he is told when to go to bed. He is given tasks to do during the day and has no choice whether he will or will not do them. He simply obeys the instructions given to him. In fact, in the day when Paul was writing and when most wealthy families had slaves, the son of the master was sometimes even put under a slave. It was sometimes the household slave that gave instructions to the son of the master.

However, despite the appearances of the life of the small child and that he is even under a slave, it remains that he indeed is the heir of his father’s wealth. The time is set by his father as to when he will receive that inheritance.

Sons and Daughters

What we see in this statement of Jesus is the combining of the ideas of slavery with one who is a son. As somewhat of a side note, I want you also to understand that he is also talking about daughters here. I know that some women take offense at the male dominated language of the Bible, and I can understand this. But it is helpful to remember that most of this is merely a reflection of the society in that day. In the mentioning of sons, implied also in this is the daughters. We may wish that it were not like this, but people tend to write according to the custom of the day. In these present days, when I write something, I try to be more inclusive by sometimes including both genders, but I have to say, doing so also is a little cumbersome. It sometimes makes the sentence long and difficult to follow.

Sometimes in the Bible we see both. Isaiah writes the words of the Lord when he says, “Do not fear, I am with you. I will bring your offspring from the east, and gather them from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’  And to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar, and my daughters from the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 43:5-6 NAS).

Even the Apostle Paul, who is often accused of being chauvinistic, at one point actually amended an Old Testament quote to include the daughters when he quoted God as saying, “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me” (2 Corinthians 6:18).

I am sorry if you are offended by the constant reference to sons, but I hope that this whole matter does not detract from what we have to learn about this teaching of slaves and of sons (and of daughters). 

The Transformation from Slavery to Sin to Slavery to Righteousness

Despite all of our high-sounding talk of personal freedom, once we understand that there is no such thing as complete independence, we can begin to understand how we can at least control under whom or under what we will put ourselves as slaves. It is time to move beyond our arrogant ideas of self-determination. The simple fact is, it is as Paul has said, we are either slaves of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness” (Romans 6:16).

Slaves we may be, but we do retain self-determination in choosing upon which of these paths we will follow in our lives. It is our choice.

The Apostle Paul puts it in these terms. “Those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5 NAS).

By referring to the flesh, he means those things that are destined for death. It is only the Spirit of God who can give us direction for life and for peace. It is our choice which direction we are to go. If we live according to the flesh, we will die, since that is all that the flesh has to offer. But if we are learning to live by the Spirit of God, we will find life and peace. This is life and peace not only for today, but for eternity. The flesh only can give us death. It is the Spirit of God who writes “eternal life” onto the DNA of our own spirits.

Here is how Paul continues: “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:14-15)

The word “Abba” is Aramaic for “Father,” and it is an especially close and endearing term. It is somewhat like a child may say “Daddy” or “Pappa.” Paul purposefully inserted this Aramaic word in his Greek text because he wanted to demonstrate the closeness of our relationship with God. Paul further says, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16-17a).

This is what it means to be slaves of righteousness. Slaves we are, but it is slavery with an inheritance. Like the son who may appear to have a life no different than a slave, God has destined us for great things. We are daughters and sons by adoption. We once were slaves to sin, but God has purchased us and made us slaves of righteousness.

We were purchased, by the way, for a very high price. This fact alone demonstrates how much God values us. It shows us how much he loves us and how he intends to extend his inheritance to us. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 NAS) 

Praises in the Throne Room of God

And now in Revelation we read that in the throne room of God, the slaves who are also sons and daughters will serve him. Along with the Seraphim, along with the angels and the elders who are praising God, and along with the martyrs and the multitude who are singing their praises, the slaves of God will be serving him. It means only that we will worship him by being good stewards of what he has given us. We will recognize him as the origin and originator of all things. He is the creator of all that there is. 

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:1-3 ESV)

Saturday, September 10, 2016

IN THE THRONE ROOM OF GOD

(I am currently writing a series on the last two chapters of the Bible. These chapters are the only two in the entire Bible that are dedicated exclusively to telling us what eternity will be like for the believers in Christ)
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In the same breath as saying that there will be no longer be any curse in the New Jerusalem, John tells us that the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in that city.
All throughout history, thrones have been the customary places where kings would sit and oversee their kingdoms. Although the thrones in different lands have also differed in appearance, the position and meaning of the throne has crossed many cultural barriers and has existed in many cultural settings and societies.
 
Concerning the throne room of God, there are several places in the Bible where we read of it. Of course, no one who has lived on earth has actually been in God’s throne room and then returned to describe it to us. All of the accounts in the Bible are from visions that were given to prophets of God. When we read these accounts, I am not certain if it is helpful thing to draw upon our own ideas about what we think a throne room is like to help us to picture it, or if it is better if we try not to put our preconceived ideas about what we already think that we know about throne rooms.
 
Sometimes, when we read words written by prophets, it is difficult to know exactly where the literal ends and the metaphor begins, or the other way around. Generally when I read the Bible, I am a literalist. I try to take what is written in a literal sense. This is my default position. However, I also understand that much is written that is intended to be metaphorical and should be taken figuratively. The difficulty sometimes comes in knowing which is which.
 
Sometimes the prophet will say what he saw “looked like” something that we know, or it “had the appearance” of something in our experience. This tells me that there is some figurative language here. The best that I can tell you about this is that I believe that my method is the best, that is, to try and first take things literally. But the very best is to ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into understanding as to what these words need to say to you. (press the READ MORE button below to continue)

Saturday, August 20, 2016

THE RIVER OF LIVING WATERS

(I am currently writing a series on the last two chapters of the Bible. These chapters are the only two in the entire Bible that are dedicated exclusively to telling us what eternity will be like for the believers in Christ)
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We come now to some of the most beautiful words written in the Scriptures. At least this is my opinion. Up until this point in the last chapters of the Revelation, John’s description of the city of God was from an external view. He was standing on the mountain and watching the city as it descended from heaven. Now however, just as the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel was shown the temple first from the outside, and after that entered into the very sanctuary, John also now enters the New Jerusalem. He now begins to describe what he saw on the inside of the city of God. It is probably my favorite passage in the entire Bible: 

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, and flowing down the middle of the great street. On either side of the river grew the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
There will no longer be any curse, and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it. His bond-servants will serve Him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.
And there will no longer be any night. They will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them, and they will reign forever and ever.
And he said to me, “These words are faithful and true.”
The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show to his bond-servants the things which must soon take place. (Revelation 22:1-6 my own paraphrase). 

The Water of Life

The subject of the water of life is a common one in Scripture. Jesus used it often in his teaching. My mind immediately goes to the account told to us of one hot day when Jesus sat in the shade of a tree near a well of Samaria. The well was outside of the city of Sychar. The disciples had gone into town to get some food, but Jesus chose to remain at the well to rest and to wait for them to return.(to continue reading, please press the READ MORE link below)

Saturday, August 6, 2016

NO MORE NIGHT

(I am currently writing a series on the last two chapters of the Bible. These chapters are the only two in the entire Bible that are dedicated exclusively to telling us what eternity will be like for the believers in Christ)****************************
NO MORE NIGHT

The very first thing that John said about the city the New Jerusalem when he first saw it was that it shown with a great brilliance. Then, after writing about some of the other aspects of the city as we have read, he now returns to that theme of the light of New Jerusalem. John writes, “The city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Revelation 21:23 NAS).

The verses in this section have led to a few people teaching some misconceptions about eternity. The first of these misunderstanding concerns questions about the sun and the moon. Because of what John said, some people teach that there will be no sun or moon at all in the new creation. I will get to that point in a moment.

First however, I would like to mention another misunderstanding that some people have about this section. This misconception is that John is speaking merely in a figurative manner, and that the subject at hand is not actually speaking of a physical light at all. The thinking concerning this is that since John was living in the day before artificial lighting for the streets of cities, when darkness came, people usually went nowhere. In those days and in those places, with darkness came insecurity. That is why the cities of his time had walls with gates that they closed at night. The people did not want invaders to have the chance to enter their cities under the cloak of darkness. Families also closed themselves inside their own homes.

In those types of environments, there is a special feeling of sequestering and even shielding oneself in protection. About forty-five years ago, I lived in a village such as this in a rural area of India. It was not such a small village. If I recall correctly, it had a population of about 50,000 people. We did have electricity in the village, but it came on only occasionally during the day. Usually, shortly after dark, it was always shut off. There were no streetlights, so the village lay in complete darkness at night except for whatever light might be coming from the moon and the stars and from the oil lamps inside of the dwellings.

When darkness began to fall, everyone knew that they should be getting home because soon the electricity would be off, and no one wanted to be out in the streets at night. It was not that it was particularly dangerous in that village. Certainly, I never felt insecure there, but it was just very disorientating to be out wandering the little pathways in the darkness. After it became dark, everybody just stayed in their homes, or perhaps visited in a neighbor’s house.
(Please click on READ MORE below)

Friday, August 5, 2016

NEW BOOK - HE BUILT WITH STONES


A Story of the Swedish Emigration Years Of the Late Nineteenth Century

Anders Johansson was on a journey in the late 1800s. Anders was a young stonecutter from Sweden, a stone mason. Coming from a childhood of sorrow and of uncertainty, he picked up the craft of stonecutting and worked to perfect it so that he could become secure in his life. His journey to achieve security led him to various parts of Sweden, and finally overseas. At the end of his travels, however, Anders discovers something even more satisfying than the security that he had worked so hard to achieve. He also discovers something about himself, and comes to realize an entirely unexpected goal.

Unfortunately, this book is out of print. The publisher who first published this book went out of business.
However, I still do have a good number of books in stock. If you write to me at: donaldrhody@gmail.com, I will tell you how you can get one.

Eventually, I will republish this with Spirit†Hill Publishing
 
 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

THERE WAS NO TEMPLE

(A Continuation from the pervious post - Here Comes the Bride)
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It was then that John noticed something else unusual about the city. This time it was not for what the city had, but for what it did not have. “I saw no temple in it,” John says. The absence of a temple indeed would be unusual for John, since the temple of the New Testament times was almost synonymous with the city of Jerusalem. To travel to Jerusalem was to go to the temple.

However, it was immediately quite clear to John why there was no temple in the New Jerusalem. In the same breath he says, “For the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”

This is understandable to us in a spiritual sense, since the temple in the Old and the New Testament was a place where Jews would go to worship God. God was unseen to the people, and intangible, except for the times early in their history when he revealed himself as a blazing fire or as a cloud. The Jews had been taught that the temple was the dwelling of God. Even God himself had indicated this. At Solomon’s dedication of the temple that he had made in Jerusalem, the glory of the Lord came and filled the temple to such an extent that even the priests could not enter it (2 Chronicles 7:1-2). 

Two Words

It is significant to know that there are two different Greek words in the New Testament that are both translated simply as temple in the English. The first is the word hieron, which has at its root a word to indicate something that is set apart or sacred, as an actual temple building made of wood and stone would be. It was not a multipurpose building. It was set apart and dedicated to use for worship. The other word is naos (from naiō – to inhabit). This is a word that refers to an inner but unseen spiritual life that is within a person or even an object, such as the life that is within the buildings of the temple.

These two words often seemed to be used interchangeably in the New Testament. It may be much the same as when we use the word church. When we commonly speak of the church, such as, “This morning we are going to church,” we mean it in terms of the church building. However, we also know that any building made of bricks, wood and glass is not the true church, as when the Bible speaks of the church.

The true inner life of the church is the lives of the believers in Jesus. Sometimes people refer to this as the invisible church, since it is the true church which cannot be seen and is in other ways mostly intangible. However, this is the true inner life of the church of Jesus Christ which does not depend upon a building. The actual life of the church resides in the believers, not in the building.
(please press READ MORE below)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

BREXIT AND BIBLICAL PROPHECY

One day, after Jesus made a rather vague reference to future events, the disciples asked him a question for which they probably wanted a straight and forward answer.  They asked Jesus, “Tell us, when will these things be and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3 NAS).

It is a question that many of us still ask today. It is not so curious that we should want to ask this question. Sometimes, political and social events in the world take turns that are highly unpredictable and even upsetting. These frightening developments make us all wonder if they are perhaps harbingers of the end of the age and the return of Jesus Christ.

The disciples did not exactly get a straightforward answer to their question. What they got was instead a series of parables to help them (and us) determine the social and political atmosphere that will be present in the days leading up to the end of the age. I am not going to go through all of those parables right now, for that is a lengthy process and I have done that in other places (see the book, Watching for the Day).

There are only two statements of Jesus that I want you to take away with you today. First of all, in speaking about the social and political atmosphere in the end times, Jesus said of the initial stages, “All these things are merely the beginnings of birth pangs” (Matthew 24:8 NAS). The second statement of Jesus is one with which he concluded two of his parables, “Be on the alert, for you do not know the day [nor the hour] that your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42; 25:13). 

A New Word

As you consider these two statements of Jesus, please now consider a word that has been introduced into the English language: Brexit. Although it is a very new word in our English vocabulary, almost everyone already knows what it means. If you do not, do a quick google search on it.

In fact, if you are a Christian, and to make your search more interesting, in the search bar type: “brexit and biblical prophecy.” You will find out not only the meaning of the word, but a whole host of people who claim to be Bible teachers and who will tell you exactly how Brexit was predicted in Biblical prophecy and how it signals that Jesus is coming back very soon. Often there is a postscript saying something to the order of, “Please send me some money so that I can get this message out to millions of people!”

Then, after you have done your internet search, step back and let the words of Jesus return to your thinking. “All these things are merely the beginnings of birth pangs. Be on the alert then.”

Despite my cynicism for some of the people who claim to know exactly how Brexit fits into Biblical prophecy, I do not deny that I also believe that what is currently happening in Britain and in Europe is significant in terms of events surrounding the question that the disciples asked Jesus, “What will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?” (To continue reading, please click the READ MORE button below)

Sunday, June 26, 2016

THE DEMONIAC

In Luke chapter 8, we have the unusual story of a demonized man who was living in the tombs of a cemetery in the land of Gerasenes. This was a man who was driven by the demons within him. The man was obviously mad. He went around naked, and in some ways terrorized the people of the city. The townspeople had tried to control this demoniac, even putting him in chains and shackles and under the watch of a guard. However, apparently given tremendous strength by the demons, the man broke the chains and ran into the desert, driven there by those same demons. This apparently had happened more than once. The demons in the man (for there were more than one), seemed to have had complete control over the man, seizing him and making him to do things that the man did not want to do. 

Possession

Although I have lived in some places where it was said that there were many people who had demons, I have never seen a situation such as this one. We sometimes speak of people as being possessed by demons, and even in many Bible versions, the word used is possession. It says that the man was possessed by the demons within him. From this translation, we get the idea that the demons had ownership over the man and that he had no independence at all, or any will of his own. But possession is a strong term to use in translating this. The word that is used is actually a primary root (in Greek) that means simply “to have.”

However, perhaps even more important than the translation of the word is how we think of this situation in terms of ownership. It was the man who had the demons, not the other way around. It was the man who was in possession of the demons, not the demons who possessed the man. Although in the case of the demoniac of Gerasenes, the man seems to have been almost completely under the control of the demons, he was still the one who had ownership over his body. He still was in control of an independent will, although, for so long had he given demons reign of his actions, he had all but forgotten how to exercise his own will. But even with this, a person will always retain his ability to choose or not to choose, as clouded as that distinction may appear.

In some ways, it is not unlike a chemical addiction that some people have. These addicted ones become so dependent upon the drug that it is actually difficult to tell whom or what is in control. Our bodies can become so addicted, that to not have the chemical would mean death. In cases such as this, it would seem that the drug is the one in control.

This is a terrible situation and I am not trying to pretend that it is not sometimes extremely difficult, but despite how it may seem, the person is still the person. It is not the chemical that is the person. Our free and independent will is something given to us by God and it cannot be taken away by a demon, or a drug, or anything else. (to continue press the READ MORE button below)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

NEW BOOK

In the past couple of years I have been working on an historical novel based on the Swedish emigration years of the late 1800's. It has just gotten published and you can order a copy by clicking on this link: HE BUILT WITH STONES

Below are the first couple of pages:
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ANDERS JOHANSSON
It was almost startling how early in the day the darkness came. The time was only about 3:30 in the afternoon, but already it was difficult for the man walking in the failing light of evening to make out the trail back to the small cabin that he was renting. In addition to the falling darkness, what made his walking even more difficult was that there was snow on the trail. The snow had been packed hard by many footprints and had become very icy.

As the man picked his way through the dark shadows of nightfall, he stumbled once on a limb that had broken off a tree and was lying in the darkness across the path. The icy trail made regaining his balance difficult, but despite his foot slipping from under him a little, he finally did manage to right himself and keep from falling all the way to the ground.

The walker was a young man of about twenty-six years old. His name was Anders Johansson. The place was in the midlands of Sweden. More specifically, it was in the province of Värmland. The year was 1876.

The darkness coming at this premature hour of the day had taken Anders almost by surprise, as if it were something out of the ordinary. But Anders knew that the early sunset should not have been unexpected. It was winter, and at these latitudes, the daylight hours were always fleeting at this time of the year.

Nevertheless, every winter Anders seemed to be taken aback by the untimely sunset. The reason that he was caught unawares by it was because of the stark contrast between the winter and the summer months. In the summer, the situation was just the reverse. The sun barely even set below the horizon in the summer, and true darkness only lasted a couple of hours. But now, in the winter, there were a mere five or six hours of daylight, making the day seem almost over as soon as it had begun.

Anders reached the front step of his humble cabin and stomped his boots to get rid of as much snow as he could before opening the door. He lived alone, so there was no warming and cheering fire waiting for him in the hearth. No smoke coming out of the chimney. The inside of the cabin would be cold. In fact, once he stepped inside, it seemed even colder inside the cabin than it did outside. It wasn’t really, but when one enters a house in the winter, almost instinctively he expects it to be warm. When it is not, the coldness seems all the more intense.

Every evening that winter, when Anders returned to his cabin and felt the coldness even inside, his thoughts returned to another winter, just a few years earlier. In this region of Sweden, that winter of the past was now remembered as “The Winter of the Great Hunger.” He had barely survived that year. Many people he knew did not. Even some of his own family had almost succumbed to the starvation of that winter.

Anders shivered inside of the cold cabin, but it was not only the temperature that made him tremble. Despite the fact that that winter of hunger was some years in the past, the memory of it still made him shudder.

Just as the early darkness caught him a bit unawares, so did these nagging and distressing remembrances of that frigid winter of starvation. Anders had not thought much about it in the winters that immediately followed it, only in that he was glad that it was over. However, this year, he was almost haunted by the memories. He did not know why those thoughts suddenly made a return, nor could he shake the visions of the past that came to him.