120. God in action!

[John 11]

What is a miracle? It is an event in the lives of men that can only be explained in supernatural terms. The official definition underlines the mystery aspect of a highly improbable or extraordinary event.

As the dictionary puts it: It is a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.

 A miracle is described as surprising and welcome, a positive outcome. It is the opposite of the crisis or circumstances that gave rise to the need for divine intervention. In other words, it is the inexplicable rectification of a catastrophic or heartbreaking situation.

A miracle is God in action. It is our loving Father, almighty creator-God, who intervenes and does the impossible for our benefit. A miracle is welcomed as a relief where relief was not humanly possible.

Miracles are answered prayers.

God is a mystery, operating in the unseen. Where shall we find Him and how will we “see” His action. God is the God of His people. We “see” Him active His community.

William Barclay explained how a certain Rabbi expounded the text in Deuteronomy 13:4:”You shall walk after the Lord your God.” He said that text commands us to imitate the things, which God is depicted as doing in scripture. God clothed the naked (Genesis 3:21); God visited the sick (Genesis 18:1). God comforted the mourners (Genesis 25:11); God buried the dead (Deuteronomy 34:6). In all these things we must imitate the actions of God.

In this section of John 11:17-27 we meet the household of Jesus’ friends in Bethany. Martha is true to character (Luke 10:38-42).  Martha loved action, and Mary sat still. Martha was up to meet Jesus.

When Martha met Jesus her heart spoke through her lips. Martha’s words were half reproach that came out in desperation and half with faith that is now so disappointed:

If you had been here,”she said, “my brother would not have died.”

Through her words she is asking: “Jesus, why are you late. If you had come when we sent the message, Lazarus would live.” Still there is faith in her words: I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”

Martha mentioned the general resurrection on the last day. It is very important words from Martha:

One of the strangest things in scripture is the fact that the saints of the Old Testament had practically no belief in any real life after death. In the early days, the Hebrews believed that the soul of every man, good and bad alike, went to Sheol or Hades. Sheol is wrongly translated Hell; for it was not a place of torture, it was the land of the shades. All alike went there and they lived a vague, shadowy, strengthless, joyless ghostly kind of life. (Psalms 6:5;30:9and many others). It is Hezekiah’s pessimistic belief that:

“For Sheol cannot thank You,

Death cannot praise You;
Those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your truth.(Isaiah 38:18).

In Psalms 16:9-11and 73:23-24 the Psalmist wants to believe that not even death can separate him from God. This immortal hope we find in Job. While facing all his disasters, Job cried out:

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;

And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God,   (Job 19:25-26)

In the time of Jesus the Sadducees did not believe in life after death, but the Pharisees and the great majority of the Jews did. Those who died saw God, and they refused to call them the dead but called them the living. Martha reached out in faith to this belief.

Jesus answered:

I am the Resurrection and the Life,” We have faith in Him for life. His life in us makes NO provision for death of any kind.

Not even a lifetime’s thinking will reveal the full meaning of this; but we must try to grasp as much of it as we can.[William Barclay]

Life is so much more than physical. Even if life is so hard, it makes it almost not worth living, Jesus can make him alive again.”

There is life to come. Death is not the end. Death is just a door into the invisible.

Physical death is the sunrise, the dawn of eternity.

It was the custom, especially for the women, to go to the tomb to weep on every possible occasion, for a week after the burial. Mary’s greeting was exactly the same as that of Martha.

We must remember that this would be no gentle shedding of tears. It would be almost hysterical wailing and shrieking, for it was the Jewish point of view that the more unrestrained the weeping, the more honour it paid to the dead.

Jesus was deeply moved in spirit. The word comes from the verbembrimasthai. It is used three other times in the New Testament. It means rather to rebuke, to give a stern order to.

Why the anger? It is suggested that the display of tears by the Jewish visitors to Bethany was sheer hypocrisy – artificial grief raised Jesus’ wrath. In ordinary classical Greek the usual usage of embrimasthaiis a horse snorting. Such deep emotion seized Jesus that an involuntary groan was wrung from his heart.

Here is one of the most precious things in the gospel. So deeply did Jesus enter into men’s sorrows that his heart was wrung with anguish.

John had written his whole gospel on the theme that in Jesus we see the mind of God. To the Greek the primary characteristic of God was what he called which means total inability to feel any emotion whatsoever. 

If we can feel sorrow or joy, gladness or grief, it means that someone can have an effect upon us. Now, if a person has an effect upon us, it means that for the moment that person has power over us. No one can have any power over God; and this must mean that God is essentially incapable of feeling any emotion whatsoever.

The Greeks believed in an isolated, passionless and compassionless God. 

What a different picture Jesus gave! God’s heart is wrung with compassion for the anguish of his people. God cares.

The usual Palestinian tomb was a natural cave or a space hewn out of the rock. The bodies were wrapped in linen but the hands and feet were enfolded in bandage-like wrappings and the head was wrapped separately. In front of the opening ran a groove in which a great stone like a cartwheel was rolled across the entrance to seal the grave.

Jesus asked the stone to be moved. Martha thought that Jesus wished to look on the face of his dead friend for the last time. She did not think this a good idea and pointed out that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. It was Jewish belief that the spirit of the departed hovered around his tomb for three days, seeking re-entrance. But after three days the spirit finally left. A decayed face was not easily recognizable.

Then Jesus spoke his word of command which even death was powerless to oppose. 

Lazarus came forth.It is weird to think of the bandaged figure staggering out from the tomb. Jesus told them to loosen the grave-clothes and wrappings and let him go. Most probably everybody around the grave stood stunned and just stared, not believing their eyes and not moving.

When Jesus spoke the power of God flowed through him.

Jesus spoke this miracle into being to honour God, just like Elijah when he prayed: “Answer me, O Lord, that this people may know that you are God”(1 Kings 18:37).

In the other three gospels there are accounts of people being raised from the dead: Jairus’ daughter (Matthew 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56) and the raising of the widow’s son at Nain (Luke 7:11-16). In both cases the raising followed immediately after death. It might be possible to believe that in both these miracles the person raised was in a coma.

Burial had to take place quickly in the hot climate of Palestine. Evidence in graves pointed to the fact that people were sometimes buried alive. It could well be that these were miracles of diagnosis in which Jesus saved two young people from a dreadful death.

But there is no parallel for the raising of a man who had been dead for four days and whose body had begun to putrefy.

The Sanhedrin was called to deal with the situation. The miracle of Lazarus forced their hand.

In the Sanhedrin there were bothPharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees were not a political party. They lived the law. The Sadducees were political. They were wealthy and aristocratic. To retain their wealth, comfort and position of authority, they collaborated with Rome. All the priests were Sadducees. They did all the talking.

They were notoriously discourteous. Their contemptuous arrogance is a stark contrast to the accents of love of Jesus. 

They were set on the retention of their political and social power and prestige. Jesus might gain a following and raise a rebellion against the government. Rome could never afford civil disorder and always quelled it with a firm and merciless hand. The Sadducees would be dismissed. It never even occurred to them to ask whether Jesus was right or wrong.

A man can set his own career before the will of God. 

History shows an example of dramatic irony. The Sadducees insisted that Jesus must be eliminated to prevent the Romans to take their authority away. In 70AD that is exactly what happened. The Romans besieged Jerusalem and left it a heap of ruins. How different things might have been if the Jews had accepted Jesus!

Caiaphas, the High Priest, made his very ironic, very true statement: Better that one man should perish than that the whole nation should perish.

The High Priest’s role was to ask God’s counsel for the nation. Moses told Joshua when he wished for God’s counsel he was to go to Eleazar the High Priest. (Numbers 27:18-21)

God can speak through the most unlikely people.Sometimes He sends his message through a man without the man being aware. He can use even the words of bad men.

Jesus was to die for the Jewish nation and the world.

By this time Jerusalem was beginning to fill up with people for the Passover. The Jews had to be ceremonially clean for the Feast. Any person would become unclean by touching a corpse. Purifications were carried out in the Temple.

One can just imagine the talk. The people knew what was going on. People are always interested in the man who bravely and stubbornly faces fearful odds. This was Jesus against the authorities.

The conclusion of the gossip was that Jesus could not possibly come to Jerusalem. He could not take on the whole might of Jewish leaders and political authorities.

But they had underrated Jesus. Nothing on earth would stop Him coming. Jesus came to Jerusalem openly. He drew attention upon himself with death-defying courage.

 

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119. Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?

[John 11]

It is the one certainty of life. Death follows every life on earth. For as long as man draws breath, death is the existential fact of life, mystified into fearful speculation and hesitant philosophical debate.

Death and the realm of death is a mystery that belongs to God. All that we have is the one-sided accounts of near-death experiences that provide a glimpse into something outside our realm of reality.

As we are so aptly instructed in Deuteronomy 29:29 (The Message):

God, our God, will take care of the hidden things but the revealed things are our business. It’s up to us and our children to attend to all the terms in this Revelation.

There is no doubt that life provides us with enough to take care of. Making a living, raising children with the values and courage to secure the next generation, caring for our earth and extend the hand of God in love to the immeasurable suffering and destruction around us, are more than enough for one lifetime of responsible living. How can we still worry about death?

But death comes, or rather strikes, daily. Sometimes it is anticipated in the elderly and enters slowly into the suffering of disease and weakness, with expectation and even relief. Accidents and crime shock and traumatize the loved ones when death is a painful punch out of nowhere, bruising our inner being with merciless irreversibility.

Death is part of life. Let us then listen attentively to the details of the encounters of Jesus with death, which was such an expected and terrifying cruelty of the young and old in Palestine of the first century.

Just the words He chose to describe the situation are indicative of the victory He brought. He always called death, sleep…

Lazarus and his sisters provided Jesus with a place to feel at home. Jesus said He had no home (Luke 9:58), but in Bethany He had a place of rest. These three people truly loved Him. There He found a place of relaxation and escape from the demands of the crowds.

The name Lazarus means God is my help. It is the same name as Eleazar (Aaron’s son), which is the Hebrew version. Lazarus fell ill, and the sisters sent Jesus a message to say that he is sick. The sisters’ message included no request for Jesus to come to Bethany. They knew that it was unnecessary; they knew that the simple statement that they were in need would bring Him to them.

It is sufficient that Jesus should know. Jesus would not ignore His sick friend. Jesus, on the other hand, was not alarmed. He knew He had the power to deal with anything. God’s glory had to be served.

The power of prayer is that you know He knows. The Bible says He knows everything – He knows before we pray. I can testify that over the years God knew better than me what I needed. Even my request is imperfect.

When we pray we expect the glory of God in action.

Upon hearing the news Jesus makes a statement. What a magnificent answer to the prayer of supplication this is!

This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.

Jesus talks of his glory in connection with the Cross. (John 7:39) When the Greeks came to Him, Jesus said: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23).

He talks about the kernel of wheat, which must fall into the ground and die. (John 12:16) John says that the disciples remembered what Jesus said about dying.

It is our dying to self that magnifies the glory of God’s redemption in our life.

The Cross was His supreme glory and the way to glory. To cure Lazarus was to take a step, which would end in the Cross. It did and He knew it.

Jesus accepted the Cross to help his friend. He knew the cost of helping. He was prepared to pay it. There was no other way to glory than through the Cross.

When He received the news about Lazarus, He stayed for two more days.

There are various reasons mentioned by some commentators:

Jesus waited so that when He arrived Lazarus would be indisputably dead. It would make the miracle all the more impressive. There was a superstition that the soul of the dead still hovered around the body for three days, seeking re-entry. Thereafter it left and death is fully acknowledged.

Jesus takes action entirely on His own initiative and not on the persuasion of anyone else. When He turned water into wine at Cana (John 2:1-11) Jesus’ first answer to Mary is: “Don’t bother about this. Let me handle it in my own way.” In John 7:1-10 it recounts Jesus at first refusing to go to Jerusalem and then going in his own good time.

Our prayer should be that we leave it up to Him to do things His way.

To go to Judaea at that time seemed to them, the surest way to commit suicide by church leaders. The disciples were shocked.

“Are there not,” he asked, “twelve hours in the day?” We live within the confines of time here on earth. It will be worth our while to note the great truths in this statement of Jesus.

A day cannot finish before it ends. The period is fixed; nothing will shorten or lengthen it.

There are twelve hours in the day. There is time for everything a man should do. There is no need to rush.

There are twelve hours but only twelve hours. A day cannot be extended. Time cannot be wasted.

There is time enough, but not too much. The time we have, must be used to the utmost. [See Pebbles 109: And you? What do you have to say?]

If a man walks in the light, he will not stumble; but if he tries to walk in the night, he will stumble. These words might have two meanings: on the surface and is true, and on another level which lies below the surface it is even more profound.

The Jewish day, like the Roman day was divided into twelve equal hours, from sunrise to sunset. The length of an hour varied according to the length of the day and the season of the year.

On the surface: a man will not stumble when the sun is shining, but when the dark comes, he cannot see the way. There were of course, no streetlights in country places. Travelling stopped at nighttime.

A man must finish the day’s work within the day, for the night comes when work is ended.

In a deeper meaning, John uses the words the dark and the night to describe life without Christ; a life dominated by evil as in the case of Judas: “So, after receiving the morsel, he immediately went out; and it was night” (John 13:30). Night is when a man goes away from Christ and when evil reigns.

The threat of time is at the heart of the Gospel. A man has only so much time to make his peace with God through Christ. We have the limited time of this life to do God’s work.

Time has in it two tones of truth: the glory of being in time and the tragedy of being too late.

In the section of John 11:11-16 we see that Jesus’ conversations always follow the same pattern. Jesus says something, which sounds quite simple. His saying is misunderstood, and he goes on to explain more fully and unmistakably what he meant.

Jesus says: Lazarus is sleeping. To the disciples that sounded like good news. Sleep is good medicine. The word sleep has always had a deeper and a more serious meaning. Jesus said of Jairus’ daughter that she was asleep (Matthew 9:24); at the end of Stephen’s martyrdom we are told that he fell asleep (Acts 7:60). Paul speaks about those who sleep in Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:13) and of those witnesses of the Resurrection who are now fallen asleep (1 Corinthians 15:6).

So Jesus had to tell them plainly that Lazarus was dead. It was a good thing, because it would produce an event, which would serve their faith.

The final proof of Christianity is the sight of what Jesus Christ can do. Words may fail to convince, but there is no argument against God in action. The power of Jesus Christ has made the coward a hero, the skeptic a man of faith, the selfish a servant. The plain fact of history is that the power of Christ has made the bad good. The redemptive power of the Gospel cannot be denied.

We should be a living proof of his power. Our task is to demonstrate in our lives what Christ has done for us.

As a great scholar once said: “I do not like crises; but I like the opportunities which they supply.”

At that moment the disciples might well have refused to follow Jesus. They realized that going even close to Jerusalem would mean certain death. It is the lone voice of Thomas that says: “Let us, too, go that we may die with him.” 

All Jews had two names – a Hebrew name by which a man was known in his own circle and a Greek name by which he was known in a wider circle. Thomas is the Hebrew and Didymus the Greek for a twin. So Peter is the Greek and Cephas is the Hebrew for a rock; Tabitha is the Hebrew, and Dorcas the Greek for a gazelle.

Thomas displayed courage. In his heart it might not even have been courage, but loyal despair. However, Thomas was determined – he would not quit.

Real courage means being perfectly aware of the worst that can happen, even being sickeningly afraid of it, and yet doing the right thing.

 

Death swallowed by triumphant Life!
Who got the last word, oh, Death?
Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?

(1 Corinthians 15:55, The Message)

118. I am a sheep.

[John 10]

Do you know about sheep? They are peculiar animals; very different from cattle. Since the earliest times the Hebrews were sheep farmers. When Jacob and his family moved to Egypt in the famine and Joseph was second in command of all the land of Egypt, they received land away from the Egyptians and their cattle.

And the men are shepherds, for their occupation has been to feed livestock; and they have brought their flocks, their herds, and all that they have…. that you may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.”(Genesis 46:32-34)

Jacob’s family lived in the land of Goshen, a very fertile land in the eastern part of the Nile delta.

The Egyptians were mostly cattle farmers. They looked down on sheep farmers. Sheep feed on the whole grass plant and pull it out root and all. The shepherds often moved their sheep to a variety of pastures. Agricultural researchers recommend grazing the picky grazers like horses and cattle first and following with the less picky grazers sheep orgoats. Cattle typically tear off large mouthfulsof forage.

Sheep usually follow the rest of the flock. They are notorious to follow each other into danger. The shepherd sometimes trains one of them to follow him and knows the rest will follow.

Here in John 10 Jesus talks about the lost sheep of Israel for whom He came. Thereafter His ministry was opened up to include everybody.

The disciples had to go out to Israel first (Matthew 10:5-6; 15:24).

Jesus was known to reach out to the Gentiles:

  • He healed the servant of the Roman centurion (Matthew 8:10)
  • He spoke to the woman at the well in Samaria (John 4:40)
  • He said that the descent from Abraham was no guarantee into the Kingdom (John 8:39)
  • He healed a Samaritan leper who turned around to say thank you (Luke 17:18-19)
  • He told the story of the Samaritan traveler who showed mercy (Luke 10:37)
  • He welcomed many people from all directions (Matthew 8:11; Luke 13:29)
  • He commanded his disciples to go out to all nations (Matthew 28:19)
  • He is the light of the world (John 8:12)
  • He loved the world (John 3:16)

In Jesus the world can be one and all nations like brothers.

Unity is only possible when we know His voice and follow His voice.

We go out to teach others to know His voice so that they can follow Him. We do not teach church doctrine. We teach people to listen for His voice.

The church of Jesus is the flock. It is that invisible body of people in this world whose hearts are set on Him and His teachings. It has nothing to do with organized religion. We are the Kingdom of God on earth. We are united by choice not by chance.

The passage in John 10:17-18 tells us so much about Jesus.

He lives in full obedience, even unto death. Sonship to Him was nothing but obedience in the highest sense possible.

Jesus views the Cross as the path to glory. He never doubted His death, but also never doubted His resurrection. He had full confidence in God. He has not missed His destiny, as He was willing to pay the price. There is no easy way to greatness.

His death was not a condemnation by the people. He could have called heavens hosts as His defense. He was accepting death fully  (John 19:10-11). He was never a victim to His circumstances. He chose the Cross. He did not lose His life, He gave it.

In the next passage we see that the dilemma of the people is as real today as it was at that time. Is Jesus a madman or the Son of God? There is no escape from the choice. Jesus spoke about God in a way that could not be ignored.

He is not a madman.  His teaching is the only hope for this world.

His deeds are to bring comfort and restore brokennessfor others – a madman would not open the eyes of the blind.

The effect He had on people saved millions upon millions of lives. He makes the bad good. He makes the foolish wise and the destitute hopeful.

The Festival of the Dedication in Jerusalem is sometimes called the Festival of Lights (Hanukkah) celebrated for eight days in December.

The origin of the Festival of the Dedication lies in one of the greatest times of ordeal and heroism in Jewish history. There was a king of Syria called Antiochus Epiphanes who reigned from 175 to 164 BC. He was a lover of all things Greek. He decided that he would eliminate the Jewish religion once and for all, and introduce Greek ways and thoughts, Greek religion and gods into Palestine. At first he tried to do so by the peaceful penetration of ideas. Some of the Jews welcomed the new ways, but most were stubbornly loyal to their ancestral faith.

In 170 BC Antiochus attacked Jerusalem. It was said that 80,000 Jews perished and thousands sold into slavery. A small fortune was stolen from the Temple treasury. It became a capital offence to possess a copy of the law, or to circumcise a child. Mothers who did circumcise their children were crucified with their children hanging round their necks. Temple chambers were turned into brothels.  Finally Antiochus took the dreadful step of turning the great altar of the burnt-offering into an altar to Olympian Zeus, and on it sacrificed a pig to the pagan gods.

It was then that Judas Maccabaeus and his brother arose to fight their epic fight for freedom. In 164 BC the struggle was finally won; and in that year the Temple was cleansed and purified. The altar was rebuilt and the robes and the utensils were replaced. It was to commemorate the purification of the Temple that the Feast of the Dedication was instituted.

It was told that when the great seven-branched candlestick was relit, only one container of unpolluted oil could be found. The vase was sealed with the ring of the High Priest. There was only oil enough in that vase to light the lamps for one single day. Miraculously it lasted for eight days, until new oil had been prepared according to the correct formula and consecrated.

In this atmosphere Jesus utters one of the seven I AM sayings: I am the Light of the world.There is no one else ever to say these words. He is the light in the darkness of political strife, emotional upheaval and the maze of uncertainty that mark life on earth.

There on the porch of the Temple of Solomon where the rabbi’s often met their students the question was put to Jesus.

Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” (John 10:24)

It was the genuine heart’s cry of longing or a trap for Jesus to utter heresy and blasphemy. Jesus answers what He so often told them.

“I who speak to you am He.”(John 4:26)

 “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.”(John 9:37)

He says clearly that His sheep will know His voice. (John 10:26,27)

Jesus promised eternal life. The physical death is just an entrance to more of the new dimension with Him. Nothing would snatch them from His hand (John 10:29-30).

Jesus trusted His father above all. He knew it didn’t matter how scattered the flock was, His Father had control and would not let anyone slip.

 …for He God Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!] (Hebrews 13:5-7, Amplified)

We have God-confidence. Jesus is faithful.

Jesus is God – here He says it. He also prays it in John 17:1 and 20-22.

Through love we are one with God in Jesus. Love implies obedience. Oneness is not philosophical or metaphysical. It is relationship.

[John 13:34; 15:10; 14:21, 23-24.]

This statement of Jesus that He is one with God, made the Jews very angry. They picked up stones to stone Him (10:31). Blasphemy was punished by stoning (Leviticus 24:16). Jesus argued amid the hostility. He is not afraid of the arguments in a heated atmosphere.

He does wonderful things. His deeds could only come from God.

Jesus said that He was consecrated by God for a special task. He is holy – set apart for a specific purpose. God sent Him as messenger from heaven. (Psalms 82:6, Exodus 21:1-6. Also Exodus 22:9; 22:28)

He tests the people to judge His deeds not His words. The fruit of His life speaks louder than words about Him. Deeds are beyond arguments.

Jesus was not stoned that day. His execution was planned and marked on the calendar of heaven. He needed quietness before the struggle. He had to meet with God before meeting men.

He went to the place where John baptized, where He was baptized. There He heard the voice of God strengthening Him and confirming Him. His baptism was one of the supreme experiences of His life.

Jacob went back to Bethel (Genesis 35:1-6).

The people remembered John and what He said about Jesus. Many believed when they remembered the words of John.

Jesus was even greater than John said He would be. He never disappoints. The Jews saw in Jesus the man John predicted He would be and many believed.

Many great men with great futures messed it up somehow and were a disappointment to many. Jesus is God. He comes with the full guarantee of heaven.

He can never and will never disappoint. In Him the dream comes true.

 I am a sheep – I will follow Him.

 

 

 

By the way…words of life.

Dear Pebble pals,

I would like to share something very personal with you.

I would like you to think about the following. We will continue our study of the Gospel of John next week.

We are in the midst of the most important weekend of the Christian calendar. For years I have asked the Lord to teach me something new about the Cross every Easter. This year and the end of last year has not been smooth sailing and many things happened that I could never have foreseen.

For many reasons I have been more away than home since we celebrated the start of 2018.

I would like to share one event with you and the circumstances around it, as a testimony of the work of God in our lives and especially His perfect timing. I am deeply convinced that next to the Word of Scripture itself, the most powerful words in this world are those of a testimony of grace and outcome.

On February 11 this year my sister died. She is much older than I am, but we were very close. I am the youngest of four siblings. We had two brothers. My one brother died years ago in a freak accident at the age of 31. My eldest brother is closer to my sister in age and I know he misses her very much. We all serve God with conviction and commitment. Sometimes when we got together it was like a blessed church service as we shared the wonder of God’s work and grace in our lives.

My sister had several health challenges in her life, amongst others breast cancer at the age of 35 when her two boys were just seven and five years old. She fought bravely and with radical surgery that left her quite scarred, she has lived cancer free to the age of 75.

Throughout last year we noticed that she walks slower and becomes more and more inactive. It was worrying and I know she tried to walk more and move more to fight the tiredness and sluggishness that she was experiencing. She lost her husband in 2011 and was living alone in a cottage in a beautiful retirement village where she could take walks, close to shops where she could shop for herself.

One day towards the end of September last year she went to the Mall nearby to do grocery shopping. She said she decided to walk through the whole Mall for exercise and then do the shopping and drive home. She did it all and was approaching her car with a supermarket cart in the undercover parking garage when everything went black.

The next part of the story has to be told by the two testimonies that I am going to include for you. It is written by people who are called angels in our family, sent by God to be at the right time at the right place to do what it took to save my sister’s life for an extension of only four months, during which she could enjoy all her children and the rest of her family over Christmas and New Year.

The first account is the husband and the next one is that of the wife of the same event. He is writing the letter to my sister’s sons.

I am writing this letter to record something that can be passed on to your children and your children’s children.

 This is not a mystical story of fantasy but an account of how God works in our lives, and if you doubt there is a God then try and analyze the possibility of this account being coincidence. Your mother and my wife were players in God’s plan that you all would have the time over Xmas to get together as a family almost like there was unfinished things God wanted answered.

 I am a Scot and was brought up leaning slightly to the right as a “Presbyterian” with both my feet planted firmly on the ground and definitely not belonging to the group who analyze our daily living looking for miracles, and God’s signs, so it is only fitting that I should write this account.

 Starting at the beginning, and looking at the events leading up to my wife and your mother getting together, has to be looked at in detail to begin to understand the exquisite timing and finite detail that was in place.

I am not a lover of modern technology and my fancy I-phone was giving trouble. I had to revert to shouting as no one could hear me. My wife insisted I get it seen to, and as there was a I-phone shop in the Mall, off I went. The Mall is a real mess and the underground parking is badly lit and very, very confusing and I ended up parking miles away from the shops which did nothing to alleviate my already short fuse. I patiently stood in a queue like a lost sheep. When I eventually got to the front of the queue, I was told that I needed to make an appointment.

 Needless to say this did not end well and I stomped out telling everyone who was prepared to listen that I was moving my loyalty to Samsung.

 It took me over an hour to find my car and by that time I was a wreck.

Where are we going with this screed well have patience and all will be revealed.

 The next afternoon my wife insisted that I go back and get my phone repaired. I was not prepared to admit that to go back to that hell hole was bordering on me going insane and I asked her to please come with me. We have a mature relationship and I was told in no uncertain manner that she had better things to do than hold my hand in the underground car park.

 In the next few moments the power drops out at the house. My wife is interrupted in her work and I haven’t left. We stay in a fancy estate and seldom have power problems but on this occasion we had two in quick succession and after the second one it didn’t come back on.

 Once again I ask in a pleading voice for her to consider my plight and come with me to which she concedes providing I behave myself.

 Normally a trip to the Mall is solid traffic and takes up to 50 minutes, but on this day and at this time there was no traffic and we flew there. We had stuff to deliver to our daughter, which I wanted to deliver first but my wife insisted we go the Mall. To try and make her understand why I was gone the whole afternoon the day before I wanted to show her exactly where I went in to the underground car park and just how confusing it is.

 As I went down the ramp your mother was pushing her shopping trolley along in front of me and as I looked she fell. Of all the people in the Mall to be in the right place at the right time my wife is by far the person you want as she takes over and has a God given talent for knowing what to do in a stressful situation.

 Both of us were concerned about security as these circumstances lend themselves to unscrupulous criminals taking advantage. My wife had started CPR, which she is very proficient at, and I was trying to get help from the centre. After 10 minutes plus and no life signs I told my wife that I thought it was over and nothing could be done. Still she persevered and one of the highlights of my life was to see your mother come back to life, flicker her eyes and the colour come back into her cheeks.

 No words can express when you are in the presence of God and the crowd gasps at the miracle we were witnessing. Time stood still for me as I looked in wonder as my wife and your mum started to talk. When you read of the miracles that Jesus performed it doesn’t quite sink in but on this day it really sunk in and all of us felt the presence of God.

 To finish this account of one of the most beautiful things that I have been privy to see, I feel it was a privilege and honour. I know that whatever the reason for the extension of her life for a few months, it was God’s desire that she spend the time with you.

 She now is by God’s side.

 Finally try and work out the odds leading up to our meeting your mum at that exact time with all the background. You cannot rationalize it and let the doubting Thomas’s try and fathom it out.

 We thank you for inviting us to the funeral and I could not but help thinking that this was a joyous occasion and that she would have agreed whole heartedly with the gathering of the family with fond memories.

 What a pleasure it was to be a small part in God’s plan.

 

The following is his wife’s account of the same event.

God has a PLAN!

Sometimes God uses us in really amazing ways.  I was used by God just recently.  And trust me, I was worse than Jonah.  I ran and ran.  God won the battle with me and this is the story.

It was a Monday last year in late September.  My husband has an I-phone and every day I marvel that a person more unsuitable to this type of technology was persuaded to think he could master this device.  Shows how branding and advertising really pay off!

To get to the story.  His phone was giving him a really hard time.  I suspected a software upgrade was required.  Anyway the whole of the Monday he yelled into his phone.  I suffered this throughout the day.  Eventually, I said ” Sweetie, please go into town and get it fixed.” If you know anything about our nearest Mall, it is a nightmare. The road from our house to the mall is around 24 kilometers of which six kilometers were under construction for the past two years.

So off he went.  After about two hours I got a frantic phone call.  (He had used my car).  “What is your car registration number?”  I gave it to him.  “I have lost the car” he said.  “The parking is chaos and under construction and I have been walking around for the last hour and I can’t find it”

Now there are six brand new parking levels, none of which are marked or signposted and no entrances are yet marked.  It is still under construction.

“Call the security guards and they can help you,” I suggested.  Around 7 pm that night he arrived home. He was in a truly foul mood.  And, you guessed it, the phone was still not working.  That is a story for another day.

Tuesday he yelled into the phone.  Actually he couldn’t hear anyone and they could not hear him.  Wednesday was unbearable.  He yelled and yelled.

On Thursday morning I woke up to no electricity.  This is a very rare occurrence where we live.  I was not in the best of moods as I had listened to yelling for three days solidly and now I could not do my work.  This was really the last straw.  I did all the tasks that did not require any electricity.  (Walk the dogs, make breakfast on a gas stove, make beds, dust, mop etc.).

By 9am the electricity was back on and I could get onto my computer and work. I also had curtains to finish for my daughter who was expecting her first child.   So I worked solidly with my husband yelling around the house.

We have lived here for five years and we have never had two power failures in one day.   It just does not happen.  I had finished my work on my computer and I was just settling down to do my work on my sewing machine.  My husband appeared behind me.  “Please come with me to town”, he said.

“I need to sew and finish these curtains,” I said.  Just as I said it the power went out again.

“Well,” said my darling husband.  “Now, will you please go with me”.  “All right,” I reluctantly agreed.

We loaded washing into the car that I had done during the week for my other daughter whose husband had an accident and broke his neck a few years ago.  She and her husband are always so cheery that I love to help them in these small ways.

The ride to the Mall would always be around 50 minutes to one hour because of the road works.  We flew to the Mall in under 20 minutes.  As we turned into the road for the Mall, my husband asked;  “Shall we drop off the washing first”.  “No,” I said.  “Go straight to the Mall and we can drop off the washing afterwards”.

We turned into the Mall and he went to the same entrance where he had parked on the Monday. In the far distance, I saw a lady pushing a trolley.  She was walking extremely slowly.  I admired the beautiful way she held herself and she was beautifully dressed.  Then my attention was drawn back to assist in looking for a parking bay.

“The lady has fallen,”  yelled my husband.  I looked forward and she had indeed fallen straight backwards and was lying immobile on the road.  Two security guards rushed up, grabbed her by her arms and started dragging her along the road.  I jumped out of the car and raced up to them.  “Leave her,”  I yelled.  They put her back down on the road.  When I reached her, she was clearly dead.  Her eyes and mouth were open. Her pallor was dreadful.  She was a deathly grey colour.

My husband, who had pulled the car alongside got out and looked down as she lay there. “She is gone,” he said.

I knelt down and felt for a pulse. Nothing.  I put my ear on her face to feel for breath. Nothing.  I don’t know what made me do it.  I pulled her head back gently, pinched her nose and gave her a deep breath.  I then started pressing down on her chest doing compressions.  I was counting.  At about 20 compressions, I breathed again.  Still nothing.  I carried on. By this time a crowd had gathered around.  They were all watching.

I saw one man in the crowd filming me as I came up to give her another breath.  “Stop him,”  I asked my husband.  He walked over and spoke to the man.

Another man sidled in on his haunches.  “Give me her jewelry and I will look after it,”  he said.  “Sir,” I said.  “If you can’t help me, go away”.

I gave her CPR for about 15 minutes.  She was completely unresponsive.  My husband kept telling me that she had gone.  Suddenly a light came on in her eyes and she gave a very gentle little sigh.  “I have her back,”  I said.  I carried on the compressions as her heart was still very fluttery.  I was then asking about the paramedics.  Nothing.  I could hear sirens but they were a long way away.

A little lady came along to me and said: ” I am the hairdresser from the shop above, can I help.” I asked her to look for the lady’s cell phone in her handbag which was next to me.  “Take it up outside” as there was no signal in the parkade.  “Look for any number that she dials a lot and call it.”  Ask for her details.  My husband was nowhere to be seen and I presumed that he had gone out to get a signal to call the paramedics.

I continued with the compressions.  When I felt her heartbeat settle down, I turned her into the recovery position.  I had been talking to her all the time.  I continued talking to her but she was unresponsive for about another 10 minutes.  I remember saying things like “don’t worry sweetheart, you are going to be all right”.   I had kept talking.  Now with her eyes closed I saw the tears on her cheeks.  She whispered:

“Where am I, am I at the airport?”

” No” I replied,  “you are in a parking lot.”

“In Canada” she asked.

“No” I replied ” In the Mall.  What is your name?”  I asked her.

She gave me her name.  She opened her eyes and stared into mine.  I continued talking to her softly telling her the ambulance was on its way.  I could hear sirens blaring.

By this time my husband was back and I asked him to get me something out of the car to put under her head, which was at a very strange angle to the ground.  He got me some of my daughter’s washing.

Then finally the paramedics and ambulance arrived.  I immediately got up and told them that she had had no vital signs for approximately 15 minutes and that I had continued CPR for the entire time.  I told them that she had collapsed about 45 minutes before. They nodded and took over.  They put her on a defibrillator and oxygen.  My husband and I moved off and went to our car.  We waited and watched from a distance.

A young woman who had been watching the whole thing came over and grabbed me and gave me a huge hug. “I have never seen anything like that.  Are you professionally trained?” she asked.  “No,” I said and did not elaborate.  “You saved her life.  It is a miracle.” She stood there with her arms around me crying.  I really felt small.

God was the only way that she survived this.  Yes I knew what to do, but if God did not have a plan for her life, I could not have saved her.

The paramedics were busy with her for a long time.  In the meantime her cousin who had been called by the hairdresser arrived.  Such a really lovely person.  I asked her where they were going to take her.

My husband and I left and went upstairs and got a cup of coffee.  I was emotional, filthy from the parkade and I was doubtful that she would make it.  So very sad.  I phoned the hospital the next day and asked if she had survived.  Yes, was the answer.  I asked if I could visit her and they told me she was in ICU but that I was welcome.

I went to visit her in the hospital that day.  When I walked in she said to the doctors and nurses.  “This is my angel I was telling you about.  She saved my life.”

Now I really felt small.  ” No, I said, I am flesh and blood and worse than Jonah and the whale. I did not want to go to town, but God even put the lights out to make me go and be at your side.”

We both smiled.  “You are my angel” she insisted.

Tragically she passed away four months after the incident.  However, she did spend wonderful quality time with her family who all flew in and spent Christmas with her.

I visited her a number of times in hospital where she underwent major heart surgery.  She was a truly beautiful soul and I will always think of her with love in my heart.

 

 

My dearest readers,

Isn’t this story something wonderful and beautiful? From my side, God gave me the privilege to be with my sister often during this time of illness, even though I live overseas. We always buy our tickets on sale and plan far ahead. I was with her through her surgery and again in January this year for three weeks before she died. I was less than 12 hours home, when I received the news of her passing.

Through all the tears, I felt the grace and the peace that surpasses all understanding. Our God reigns.

 

In that day sing to her,

A vineyard of red wine!

I, the Lord, keep it,
I water it every moment;
Lest any hurt it,
I keep it night and day.             (Isaiah 27:2,3)

 

 

 

 

 

105. The One and Only, the One in All.

The package deal, is what we want. We have so many things pre-packaged. Somebody else thought long and hard and put things together to serve a combination of needs. Some may call it a hamper, some may call it the full meal deal, some may call it a wrap up – whatever the goodies inside may be, it is an effort to meet more than one need in one container tied together.

Here in John 5 we start with one of the first longer discourses of the Fourth Gospel. John writes his interpretation of what Jesus meant in all the words spoken to His disciples over the many months of His three-year ministry. John wrote to establish Jesus as the true Messiah, the Promised One, the Lamb of God, the Light of the World and every other title that could have been expected by Jews as well as Gentiles. His writing comes with a half a century of Holy Spirit insight in the life of Jesus, which he witnessed in person.

The passage (5:19-47) is packed with good things, explaining the superior and excellent good news, which is the answer to every query about life all contained in one man, Jesus. He is the only ONE you will ever need.

SON OF MAN

To the Jews who heard this passage it meant that Jesus is the Messiah.

  • Son of Man is a title we hear in Daniel (7:1-14). THE Son of Man – not a son of man.

The visions of Daniel were all about the cruel and ruling empires:

the lion with eagle’s wings was Babylon, the bear with ribs, devouring the nations was the Medes, the leopard with four wings and four heads was the Persians, and the fiercest of beasts with the ten horns and iron teeth was the Macedonian Greeks under Alexander the Great. They will all will pass away. All this cruel and savage reign, that could only be described in terms of beasts, will be replaced with a gentle and peaceful human.

In the coming of Jesus humanity was brought back to its original created purpose.

Between the Testaments there arose a whole literature, which promised the golden age to come in which the Jews called the Messiah the son of man. Jesus called himself the Son of Man. It is a clear claim to be the Messiah.

  • Miracles of healing are associated with the Messiah. (Isaiah 35:6 and Jeremiah 31:8-9).
  • Raising the dead is something that God alone could do . Only God could kill and make alive. Death is in God’s hands. (Deuteronomy 32:39; 1:17, 1 Samuel 2:6, 2 Kings 5:6)
  • Final judgment was also ascribed to the Messiah.

For Jesus to speak like this was an act of the most extraordinary and unique courage. He must have known well that to make claims like this would sound like blasphemy to the orthodox Jewish leaders and the consequence was death. Any man who listened to words like this had only two alternatives – he must either accept Jesus as the Son of God or hate him as a blasphemer.

Jesus’ obedience to the Father is not based on equality or submission of power; it is based on love, as ours should be.

Jesus was confident in his identity – against all the forces of Jewish orthodoxy. He was completely fearless. He could be misunderstood; His words could inflame and endanger His life. He knew full well.

It is more important to fear God than men.

God through Jesus is the giver of life. Not possible to live fully without God. Jesus changes our lives on the deepest level possible, both in this world and the world to come. He is the ALL in one for ALL times.

JUDGMENT

He judges. Jesus’ life and words are judgment in itself. Through Him, judgment of personal sin is solved. To accept Him is life, the ultimate way to peace and happiness. True judgment, how Jesus judges, only happens in full harmony to the will of God. (5:30)

I used to fear judgment. I often wondered how I can relax in the Gospel message if it speaks of judgment. My own sinfulness, especially the realisation of my own unworthiness, made me worry about a judging God.

God comforted me in my fears and revealed to me how this world needs judgment. We cannot confront sin and evil without the clear direction of what is good and right. That is judgment. God’s judgment is the solution to our broken world. It makes it better, not worse.

For us it is difficult to judge fairly. We suffer pride, prejudice, jealousy, intolerance, contempt, ignorance and self-importance. Have you ever seen court procedures and the paperwork involved? It takes thousands upon thousands of pages to come to a conclusion.

God alone is perfect. He knows everything. He judges from perfect love, sitting on the mercy seat.

Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13)

Unsupported evidence by only one person is unacceptable (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; 2 Corinthians 13:1). A man cannot state his own case. It is his word against another. We are so privileged to have our case stated by Jesus. He is the Son of Man and have received the authority to judge from the Father (5:26)

SPIRITUAL DEATH

When Jesus was persecuted, He received honour in His suffering and opened up the path of honour through suffering to all of us. It does not matter what life throws at us – Jesus was there and promises hope and salvation from the worst. It is an unquenchable hope and an unconquerable certainty. Amid all the persecution of the early church they never doubted Christ’s ultimate victory.

Jesus is life and He is life now. Without Him death has already in this life, become a reality. We can live with dead works and dead thoughts. This is the core of the Gospel – spiritual death.

Life is promised by a new relationship with

  • God: fear becomes love, distance becomes intimacy;
  • fellow man: hatred becomes love, selfishness becomes service, and bitterness becomes forgiveness;
  • self: weakness becomes strength, frustration becomes achievement and stress becomes peace.

To be spiritually dead means to stop trying to be good. This life is a constant forward push. We can either slip back or move on. To have no courage means slipping back. Spiritual death is to stop feeling, become insensitive, comfortable with evil, with no compassion and a mind shut to truth. Nothing new can change the thinking or learning of such a man and that leads to a blunt conscience. (The best description of the spiritually dead while in this life is found in Ephesians 4:17-19)

This life determines eternity. The hour is now. Our new life in Jesus is for NOW. (5:24,25)

Jesus talks about another witness – meaning God. (5:31-40)

He cites John the Baptist who bore witness to Him.

He talks about a lamp that burns and shines. A lamp is lit, it does not light itself. It is “borrowed” light. The light comes from another source – fire or electricity. The message of John is warm; it was a guide to repentance. A light is temporary; it burns out. John decreased while pointing the way. A true witness burns itself out for God.

Another witness besides John is the witness of Jesus’ works. When John enquired from prison if He is truly the Messiah, Jesus answered that His works will testify as to His authenticity. His works also points to God. God is the supreme witness.

Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. (1 John 5:10)

The Jews were adamant that God is invisible and that no man has seen God, not even Moses (Deuteronomy 4:12). They believed God was only in the conviction of the mind and Jesus expresses that in this passage. It is God’s witness in our hearts regarding Jesus.

SCRIPTURE

To the Jews the Scriptures were everything. Jesus was evident in the Old Testament. They were the best Bible students in the world and they rejected Him – how come?

Here the word for Scriptures is graphe which means autobiography. The Bible is a document written by a divine author by the hands of humans. It is regarded as the eternal voice of God to communicate His character.

How do we read the Bible? With a closed mind, not to find God, but to support an argument? God is revealed throughout history as speaking through the Scripture, but also acting! The Bible is a record of God in action. It is not the words that are holy, it is the story it tells which is holy.

There is only one way to read the Bible and that is with Christ revealed in every chapter. He is the supreme revelation. The Jews were worshipping God’s words alone and not His actions. The words cannot give life; it is the One who speaks them that gives life.

The purpose of the words of Jesus is so that you might be saved. It is all for us, not His own glory that He speaks. He says: I love you and I want to save you.

Before and after Jesus there was a stream of impostors claiming to be the Messiah. Why did they even consider these impostors? Usually a false prophet speaks according to man’s desires. They promise empires, government and material prosperity. Jesus came with a Cross. Jesus died and lives on. The impostors all died and disappeared.

The scribes and the Pharisees desired the praise of men. Everyone recognized them by the way they dressed and behaved; they prayed a certain way; they loved the respectful greetings on the street. They were fully devout, but did not hear the voice of God and did not recognize Jesus. Why?

If a person measures himself by his fellow men, he will not hear God speak.

Jesus points out that Moses writes about Him (5:46). If you read the Scriptures you will find Jesus revealed. Moses himself would have condemned them all. They attached all this value to Moses and did not recognize the One of whom he spoke.

The greatest privilege of the Jews became their greatest condemnation. They had knowledge to no avail. When we have the knowledge, we have the responsibility of acting on it.

 

Dear Pebble pals,

I am travelling for the next month and will be back just after the middle of February. I know that a break brings new inspiration and perspective.

May God bless you richly for seeking Him in His Word. Remember He is always active where we read with a heart focused on Him.

Malachi 3:16-18.

85. Word, Light, World, Darkness.

We have said it already. It is written in the volumes of history. His words stand firm and unchallenged.

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying,

“I am the light of the world.

He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Many people have come and gone, claiming to be God, to be the Messiah, to bring salvation, healing, meaning to life and other benefits. Just Google the list of Messiah-claimants in Judaism, Christianity and Islam – it is long and tiresome. None of those names have endured even a fraction of the time that the name of Jesus has.

No-one in the history of all mankind has ever said: I am the light of the world.

The word light occurs in the Fourth Gospel no fewer than twenty-one times. Jesus is the light of men. The calling of John the Baptist was to point men to that light which was in Christ. Twice Jesus calls himself the light of the world (John 8:12, John 9:5).

This light can be in men (John 11:10), so that they can become children of the light (John 12:36), “I have come,” said Jesus, “as light into the world” (John 12:46).

  • Jesus brings the light, which puts chaos to flight. He is the one person who can save life from becoming chaos.
  • Jesus brings light, which shows things as they are. It strips away the disguises and concealments. It shows people and circumstances in their true character and values. It is light that reveals truth.
  • Jesus brings guiding light – a light that brings certainty and confidence. Doubt and confusion flee when He is crowned the King of your life.

Darkness in the world is as real as the light (John 1:5).

The unconquerable light will in the end defeat the hostile dark. John is saying: “Choose your side in the eternal conflict and choose right.”

It is men whose deeds are evil who fear the light (John 3:19-20). The man who has something to hide loves darkness. Darkness is used symbolically. It also indicates blindness. Jesus says: “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness” (John 8:12).

Without Jesus Christ a man cannot find or see direction for his life.

“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came, while it was still dark, John writes in John 20:1. He describes the atmosphere before the news of the resurrection as dark to contrast the magnificence of life.

He tells how Judas dipped his hand in the bowl with Jesus and then went out to do his dark work.  Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately. And it was night. (John 13:30).

Although men through all the ages did all they could to obscure and extinguish the light of God in Christ, they could not quench it. In every generation the light of Christ still shines in spite of the efforts of men to extinguish the flame.

Darkness will never win. Darkness might be symbolical, but you cannot hide from God. God is also in the darkness. Wherever you may find yourself and may feel it is too dark, too evil, too far away from light – God is there to hear you cry.

 So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was. (Exodus 20:21)

Within the first five verses of this Gospel we see a culmination of every philosophy, every concept of deity, every confusion of thought as well as logical thought plus all the Roman, Greek, Persian and Egyptian models of gods and their functioning. John states the boldest statement in all of history – Jesus is the One everything points to and the answer to every possible question and argument ever.

John the Baptist was witness to the Light, just as we are witnesses, not the light itself. (John 1:6-8)

For 400 years the prophetic voice was silent until John the Baptist. It seems that certain people were so fascinated by John that they gave him a higher place than he ought to have had.

John denies that he is first and declares that he must decrease while Jesus increased (John 3:25-30). Jesus was more successful in his appeal to men than John was (John 4:1). The people said that John was not able to do the things that Jesus did (John 10:41).

This Gospel warns greatly against the following of a mere man, instead of following the risen Christ. The true prophet will always point to Jesus. He emphasizes that John the Baptist was only a witness.

We know Jesus is the Christ by various witnesses. There is the:

  • witness of Jesus himself. “I bear witness,” he said, “to myself” (John 8:18). “My testimony is true” (John 8:14).What Jesus was in himself was the best witness that his claims were true.

 

  • witness of his works. He said: “The works which the Father has granted me to accomplish … bear me witness” (John 5:36).

“Believe me for the sake of the works themselves” (John 14:11). One of the condemnations of men is that they have seen his works, and have not believed (John 15:24). No man could have done the mighty works that Jesus did unless he was closer to God than any other man ever was.

 

  • witness which the Scriptures bear to him. Jesus said: “Search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me” (John 5:39). “If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me” (John 5:46). It is Philip’s conviction that he has found him of whom Moses and the law and the prophets wrote (John 1:45).

 

  • witness of the last of the prophets, John the Baptist. “He came for testimony to bear witness to the light” (John 1:7-8).

 

  • witness of those with whom Jesus came into contact. The woman of Samaria bore witness to the insight and to the power of Jesus (John 4:39). The man born blind bore witness to his healing power (John 9:25;John 9:38). The people who witnessed his miracles told of their awe at the things he did (John 12:17).

 

  • witness of the disciples and especially of the writer of the gospel himself it was Jesus’ commission to his disciples: “You also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:27). And the Spirit is the witness, because the Spirit is the truth” (1 John 5:7). Spirit brought God’s truth to men, and the Spirit enabled men to recognize that truth when they saw it.

For us: God will always give us confirmation with a witness. Be aware of unconfirmed prophecy. God will show you. His path is not darkness and uncertainty.

“One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established. (Deuteronomy 19:15)

1:9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

There are two Greek words for true: alethes and alethinos. The first one means true as opposed to false and the second one means real as opposed to unreal. He uses the second as it is explained: answering to the perfect ideal, and as opposed to all more or less imperfect representations. [Ellicott].

John states his case like a lawyer so that there is no doubt who Jesus is.

There are partial lights and there are false lights; and men follow them. Jesus is the only genuine light, the real light to guide men on their way. Jesus is the dawn in a dark world.

Knowledge of Him could drive away the shadows of doubt. By His coming the people could know God; a mystery no more. When Jesus came men saw what God is like. The guessing was over. The light had come.

A new power came into life. It was the answer to despair. Jesus showed the right way and how to walk in it. The way was made clear. He made the impossible possible.

The darkness and terror of death was engulfed in His promise of life eternal. The ancient world feared death; it was torture by whatever gods there were. Jesus showed that death was only the way to a larger life.

The ancient world was exclusive. The Jew hated the Gentile and held that Gentiles were created for no other purpose than to be fuel for the fires of hell. The ancient prophet, Isaiah, saw that Israel’s destiny was to be a light to the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6). The Romans feared Christianity because it robbed them of their exclusiveness.

Our world in confusion and strife has only one solution – to believe in Jesus and be united in love. Any other unity and peace are impossible.

Jesus as a man and His doctrine were unique and a welcome relief from the terrifying uncertainty of ancient gods and the search for knowledge of the mysteries of life.

Where is He today? He is the guiding light, the only source of peace and truth. He is real life. He is victory over the darkness.

By grace and the cross – He is mine! Have you made the step into life – true Life?

 

 

 

64. Where do you write a naught?

What is a lifetime these days? What is there in our lifetime that lasts throughout? Change comes so quickly. Looking back over just the last five years of any life, so many things have changed. It is hard to keep track of the transformation of many aspects of our circumstances, people in our life and the course of events.

What about a thousand years? Would anybody like to weary your thoughts with possible events over a time period of a thousand years? I think we are already struggling to figure out a hundred years, that only a few very strong humans reach.

So what is the mentioning of a millennium to us? A thousand years is well out of our reach as a life span, and really hard to imagine.

I remember so well, discussing figures and numbers with my mother. She was a businesswoman and worked in an era without computers and spreadsheets. She made her own spreadsheets, sometimes pasting sheets together to make bigger pages for an overview of the calculations. It was easy to put an extra naught in or leave one out. I think she realized a mistake in one of her many little sums, when she philosophized over naughts in general.

It matters where you put the naughts in your life, she said. Naughts before the one means nothing. Naughts after the one, multiplies quickly. Make sure to put your life’s naughts (own little efforts) after the One. When we “calculate” our life, it is only what comes after the One, written in the shape of the Cross of Jesus, that counts.

So we are again contemplating numbers in this 20th Chapter of Revelation. The whole idea of reigning for a thousand years finds its basis in Jewish beliefs. The “doctrine”, if one could call it that, was greatly varied and changed from scholar to scholar as they reached prominence in society and social status amongst the leaders.

The origin of this doctrine is not specifically Christian but is to be found in certain Jewish beliefs about the Messianic age, very common in the century before the birth of Christ.

Before Jesus was born, scholars felt that this world was so incurably evil that the Kingdom of God could never finally come in this realm. So there emerged the conception that the Messiah would have a limited reign and that after his reign the final consummation would come.

Some of the ancient scholars see history as a series of weeks. There are seven weeks of past history. The eighth is the week of the righteous, when a sword is given to the righteous, sinners are delivered into their hands, and the house of God is built. In the ninth week the evil is written down for destruction, and righteousness will flourish. In the tenth week comes judgment; and only then comes the eternal time of goodness and of God.

In Psalms 90:15: Make us glad as many days as You had afflicted us, and as many years as we have seen evil. It was, therefore, held that the period of bliss would correspond with the period of affliction.

Even more popular was the notion that the age of the world would correspond to the time taken for its creation and that the time of creation was 6,000 years.

A thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday. (Psalms 90:4)

One day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (2 Peter 3:8)

The ancient Jewish scholars taught that each day of creation was a thousand years. It was, therefore, held that the Messiah would come in the sixth thousand of the years; and the seventh thousand, the equivalent of the Sabbath rest in the creation story, would be the reign of the Messiah.

On the basis of this passage of Revelation, Millenarianism was very widespread within the early Church, but never universal.

It was Augustine who dealt Millenarianism its deathblow. At one time he himself had been a Millenarian. He longed for spiritual blessings. A summary of Augustine’s position: “He had learned to see in the captivity of Satan nothing else than the binding of the strong man by the stronger than he which the Lord had foretold (Mark 3:27; Luke 11:22); in the thousand years, the whole interval between the first Advent (birth of Christ) and the last conflict; in the reign of the saints, the entire course of the kingdom of heaven; in the judgment given to them, the binding and loosing of sinners; in the first resurrection, the spiritual share in the Resurrection of Christ which belongs to the baptized” (Augustine: The City of God 20: 7). Augustine spiritualized the whole idea of the Millennium.

The everlasting dominion (great rock) that was prophesied in Daniel 2:44 and 7:14 and 27 is the kingdom that was confirmed by Jesus in His first words of ministry. Matthew 3:2 – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

One can safely accept the interpretation that we are living in the symbolic millennium, a time period ruled by Jesus, the expected Messiah, introduced by Him when He lived on earth. John wrote to include all the legends and teachings of the Jews that made them blind for what really happened. He collected all the beliefs and even superstitions about the Messiah, to submit them once and for all to the coming of Jesus.

Psalms 50:10 says that the cattle on a thousand hills belong to God; and Job 9:3 says that a man cannot answer God once in a thousand times. Thousand is simply used to describe a very large number.

The serpent is that ancient enemy of the human race, who, in the shape of a subtle snake, deceived the first parents of mankind, and brought sin and death into the world, with an incalculable train of evils attendant on them. The devil is the malicious and false accuser of God’s saints. Satan is the grand adversary both of God and man. All these names for demonic manifestations are mentioned in 20:2.

The abyss is a vast subterranean cavern beneath the earth, sometimes believed to be the place where all the dead went, sometimes seen as the place where special sinners were kept awaiting punishment. It was the abyss which the devils feared most of all. In the story of the Gerasene demoniac the request of the devils was that Jesus would not command them to leave the man and to go out into the deep, that is, the abyss (Luke 8:31).

A seal is set on the chasm to ensure the safekeeping of the prisoner, just as the seal was set on the tomb of Jesus to make sure that he would not escape (Matthew 27:66).

The loosing of the Devil meant a testing-time for Christians. There are times when a testing-time is essential, if the reality of the faith is to be preserved. Both he who dies for Christ and he who lives for Christ will receive his reward. Those who have been loyal to Christ are to receive the privilege of judgment.

 The thrones are those of the 24 elders, the church made up of the 12 tribes, our Jewish heritage and the 12 apostles. The elders are mentioned four times in Revelation. They are representative of the church in heaven and on earth. (Daniel 7:22,27, Matthew 19:28, Luke 22:30, Hebrews 12:1,2)

 Beheaded is a symbol of the martyrs or anybody suffering for the Gospel.

Judgment from a throne is an idea, which occurs more than once in the New Testament. Jesus is represented as saying that, when he returns to sit on the throne of His glory, his twelve apostles will sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28). Paul reminds the litigious Corinthians that the destiny of the saints is to judge the world (1 Corinthians 6:2) Again we do not need to take this literally. The idea is that the world to come will redress the balance of this one. Even now, we know the truth, since we know Jesus, the Truth. We have to discern and judge daily in a world of deception and betrayal.

Death has no power over the saints. Physical death is the gateway to the everlasting. (20:6)

Priest means a bridge-builder according to the Latin, pontifex. The priest is the builder of a bridge between God and man. Those who have been loyal to Jesus Christ have the right of free entry into the presence of God and they have the privilege of introducing others to Jesus Christ.

The church will reign with Christ. In Christ the most ordinary man becomes a king and priest (1 Peter 2:9).

In the next verses a final rebellion is described (20:7-10). Satan wants to hasten the day of battle to limit the scope of salvation, but God controls the times. Four corners means worldwide.

A final attack on Jerusalem by hostile nations is one of the standard pictures of the last times in Jewish thought. We find it especially in Daniel 11:1-45 and in Zechariah 14:1-11.

The picture of Gog and Magog is found first in Ezekiel 38:1-23 and 39:1-29. The Gog of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and of Tubal, is to launch the great attack upon Israel. The enemy is to be utterly destroyed in the end. In Jewish thought it came to stand for everything that is against God. The rabbis taught that Gog and Magog would assemble themselves and their forces against Jerusalem, and would fall by the hand of the Messiah.

 It is not a physical military battle. The battle is spiritual. We live in the spiritual dispensation after Jesus’ ascension. The physical Jerusalem has been replaced by the new Jerusalem, the church of Jesus.

In the last verses of the chapter (20:11-15), the final judgment is described.

We shall all stand before the judgment seat of God. (Romans 14:10)

We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:10)

These scriptures confirm the unity of God and Christ. The concept of Trinity makes them one God. This notion is very important to the Jews. One of the core scriptures of old Hebrew teaching, central to Jewish religious principle, forever contrasting them to the many idols of the pagan nations around them, is Deuteronomy 6:4:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!

 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away (Revelation 20:11)

 Heaven and earth will pass away, was a phrase used by Jesus to illustrate the everlasting quality of His words in Mark 13:31. See also 2 Peter 3:10, Psalms 102:25-27.

There are two kinds of books that are mentioned in Revelation: the book that records and the Lamb’s Book of Life. In Daniel 7:10 the books were opened. Man writes his own destiny. Man’s choices itself are a judgment. We rejoice in the opening of the books. The names of the people who talk about the Lord are recorded to become the jewels, the precious possession of God. (Malachi 3:16-18)

 The books of God are mentioned often in Scripture. Moses is willing to be blotted out of the Book of Life, if it will save the people (Exodus 32:32). The prayer of the Psalmist is that the wicked will be blotted out of the Book of the Living and not written with the righteous (Psalms 69:28). Isaiah speaks of those who are written among the living (4:3). Paul speaks of his fellow-labourers whose names are in the Book of Life (Philippians 4:3). It is the promise of the Risen Christ to the Church at Sardis that the name of him who overcomes will not be blotted out of the Book of Life (Revelation 3:5). Those whose names are not written in the Book of Life are given over to destruction (Revelation 13:8). The idea behind this is that every ruler had a roll-book of living citizens under his control; and, of course, when a man died, his name was removed from the roll. Those whose names are in the Book of Life are those who are (spiritually) living, active citizens of the kingdom of God. Nothing, not even death, can remove our names from the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Although a saint (born-again child of God) is physically dead, he is still living and active in the invisible kingdom of God.

The sea gives up the dead is to be understood in the light of the ancient world’s view on burial. A proper burial was of the utmost importance, otherwise the soul wanders. Anybody who died at sea was not deemed buried. John comforts the people and states that it doesn’t matter how you died or had a burial or not, you are covered under God’s jurisdiction. Satan can claim no one, even if they were not properly buried.

Death and Hades were seen as the temporary abode of the dead till the final judgment. When Jesus was resurrected it has been emptied. All the dead in Christ are with Him.

According to one commentator: “these voracious monsters who have themselves devoured so many are in the end themselves destroyed.”

Praise God!

 

 

61. The woman rules the mountains

We hear a great deal about women in our society today. Rightly so. I look back in history and understand the obsession with equality. Since the earliest times and over many centuries women have been treated appallingly, oppressed and abused. Although Eve was made for Adam as a wife and the other half of mankind, things quickly deteriorated into the pattern of the pagans, including polygamy.

So God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27)

The promise of a great nation and many descendants came to Abraham and his wife Sarah. When they acted to “help” God’s plan along, the slave woman Hagar was humiliated and driven out of the household. God blessed Ishmael. He became a great nation and lived in hostility with his brother just as the prophecy over his life stated in Genesis 16:9-12. The son of the promise still came to Sarah, the recognized wife of Abraham, as God promised.

God always honoured his institution of marriage. In the geneology of Jesus Solomon is called the son of David by Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah.

Throughout the Old Testament, women were treated as inferior to men, having no rights at all. In spite of this, Biblical history is full of strong women, in political as well as spiritual leadership. It is a thrilling study to research the strong women of the ancient nations, like Deborah in the time of the judges and Hulda, the prophetess in the time of Josiah. Take a closer look at Proverbs 31 and see an accomplished career woman with a husband and children who support and encourage her.

Jesus came to change all this. He acted liberally regarding women in society around the first century. The mere fact that he talked to a woman at Jacob’s well in Samaria must have been quite a story and enough to condemn him by the church. Many Pharisees were called the bleeding Pharisees. They were not allowed to even look at a woman passing by in the street. They would then, very piously, close their eyes and bump into walls and pillars, picking up scratches and bruises in the process.

Women played an important role in the life of Jesus and the early church. Priscilla was one of the leading theologians in the church as seen in Acts 19. Many scholars are of the opinion that she might have been the author of Hebrews and withheld her name for fear of discrimination about the fact that she was a female in leadership.

Today we have the feminist movement active in the Western world. They rant and rave about every possible inequality. It is obvious that they work towards a society where women would take the lead as the stronger sex, refuting centuries of opinion to the opposite. In so many dramas and TV series, the women are the judges, advocates, doctors, government ministers and presidents, leading pathetic men who cannot make decisions without them. Why can’t the strong women become the humble, wise male heroes of whom history and society are full? They act like the men we all hate – rigid and loud, shouting down opposition and violently dealing with it.

Here in Revelation is the ultimate woman of our nightmares. She is sitting on a scarlet beast, the colour of brothels, suggesting she is a harlot herself, deceiving with her female wiles. The phrase: She sits upon many waters denotes the confusion and chaos of the nations of the earth (17:15). The harlot is clothed in royal colours, attractive and authoritative. She is bedecked in jewels, gold and pearls, suggesting money and luxury, symbolic of the allure of riches. She looked very attractive – even John was stricken with wonder (17:6).

Babylon was built on the Euphrates river and is the symbol of all evil and sin. The nations are drunk with her wine, suggesting they want more and more. Money, sex and power rule the world in its many manifestations on many levels of life. She rules in the desert with no possibility of a harvest or fruit, just hunger and thirst. Her name is a secret. She is worshipped by so many who do not even know they are bowing down to her rule. Sin can be a variety of things and even very unique and secretive – known to only those involved.

The people are bedazzled by evil (17:8). Evil should be identified and rejected. It is a beast that is not always easy to see clearly. We need the wisdom of Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to discern and resist. The angel had to tell John the secret meaning of the woman. Sin does not look like sin! You need insight and warning.

The golden cup is mentioned in Jeremiah 51:7 as a symbol of power.

Babylon was a golden cup in the Lord’s hand, that made all the earth drunk. The nations drank her wine; therefore the nations are deranged.

She had a name on her forehead (17:5)

MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, 
THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS
AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS
OF THE EARTH.

Rome’s prostitutes had a frontlet with their names. Today the pimps have their sign tattooed on sex slaves. Even the wife of Claudius, an emperor of Rome, Messalina, served in the brothels of Rome for money. Into this horror, Christianity was born and men converted to chastity as opposed to instant and always available sexual pleasure. Disciplined moral behaviour is a miracle of the Cross. Secular society has not changed much. Our community is permissive and evil and the church can only stay standing in the power of the Cross.

The word “mystery” is, perhaps, part of the name. It serves as a prefix which tells us that the name is not literal, but symbolical.

For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. (2 Thessalonians 2:7)

She is drunk with the blood of the saints – the cruel spirit of hounding and harassment marked pagan Rome. She is always set on destroying the church with merciless persecution throughout the centuries.

Woman sits on the beast of blasphemy and idolatry and it happens when her power and her allure are called salvation. So many seek redemption in the idols of money, power, sex and even sacrifice children to it.

The beast on which she sits has seven heads and ten horns depicting power. The angel describes the beast as the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

In the victory of Christ the beast that was, in other words that had in successive ages been seen in the great world-powers, is slain, or, as the angel expresses it, is not. But though he is not, he will show signs of vitality. He will rise into temporary power. He shall come up out of the abyss. The march of his power, however, is only a march to perdition. He will be utterly destroyed (17:8)

The seven mountains mentioned in 17:9 are the “mountains” of society as a whole and has been identified by some scholars as Religion, Family, Education, Government, the Media, the Arts and Business. It suggests complete control of the beast over society.

For us, the mountains will dance – rejoice, Church of the living Christ!

“For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace;

The mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. (Isaiah 55: 12)

Kings that have fallen could be Rome and subsequent empires. Seven kings depict a complete number of persecuting forces.

The one hour mentioned in 17:12 denote the time of the bloody struggle within Rome during the civil war of June 68AD – December 69AD.

Sin was often symbolized by cities like Nineveh in Nahum 3:4, Tyre in Isaiah 23:16-17 and even Jerusalem in Isaiah 1:21 and Ezekiel 16:15. Hosea’s life is a metaphor for the fornication of God’s people with a harlot and God’s unfailing love to win them back.

The desert is a place of visions for so many faith heroes like Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist and Jesus. It suggests distance from the city of confusion, with silence, focus and protection. When we find ourselves in the desert of the rule of the harlot, our God is there to make rivers and pathways in the wilderness. Our provision is at the table set before us and in the face of our enemies, in the valley of the shadow of death (Psalms 23).

The beast is on the way to destruction (17:11). He is on the losing side. We have hope for deliverance from the Creator and His creation.

 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. (Romans 8:19)

The Lamb will conquer and those loyal to the Lamb with Him. The church will share His victory (17:14) Victory comes by the Cross and the Crown of Jesus.

The harlot will be devoured by fire. It is the same punishment prescribed for the daughter of the priest who has been found guilty of sexual immorality (Leviticus 21:9). Her own lovers will turn against her. There is no loyalty in evil; no honour amongst thieves.

The purposes of God are active and victorious even if it looks like the purposes of earthly kings and evil. God is always working for the good of mankind. (Romans 28:8 and Nehemiah 13:2.) These scriptures are pillars of encouragement to be remembered in all trials and tribulation.

The last verses of this chapter (17:14-18) are a summary of the message of Revelation.

For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. (17:17)

 

 

53.My strength, my song, my salvation.

All things God made are good. Creation is a wonder to be studied and appreciated every day. We, the children of Adam, have never stopped naming and labeling the wonders God made for us to sustain our life and enjoy. Our process of naming and labeling is what we call science and it is a source of awe and inspiration to any child of God, confirming the splendour of creation. Nature is an amazing and inexhaustible source of life and stimulation. Japanese researchers have established that just a 15 minute daily walk amongst trees, could reduce tiredness and improve mental health significantly.

In the previous chapters we came under the impression of nature’s participation in the judgment of sin. Nature is fully synced with God and His plan and “waits” for the revelation of His fullness in renewing the earth.

For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. (Romans 8:19)

The fifth trumpet is sounded in the heavens with awful intensity. It is announcing something beyond nature – the demonic. The abyss (reservoir of evil) is opened to release superhuman terror. In the ancient world, stars were regarded as living beings, celestial and divine in nature, but here they are described as evil. The fallen angel is Lucifer, known as the morning star and the leader of worship in heaven.

The abyss was regarded as the intermediate place of punishment for fallen angels, false prophets, satan, all demons and the beast – all things evil. (Revelation 9:1,2,11,11:7, 20:1, 20:3). The final place of punishment is the lake of burning fire and brimstone (Revelation 20:10,20:14-15). The abyss was part of the creation story. It was seen as the primeval waters mentioned in Genesis 1:6-7. It is the abode of God’s enemies. (Amos 9:3, Isaiah 51:9, Psalm 74:13) The prisoners in the pit are the disobedient hosts of heaven. (Isaiah 24:21,22) It is a place of horror and separation from God and therefore chaotic.

Smoke depicts deception. Deception is the act of propagating beliefs in things that are not true, or not the whole truth. It is a concept that presents itself as truth. The sun of truth that should bring light is darkened by the smoke from the pit. The atmosphere is changed into oppression and depression. It is when the “Sun of Righteousness” shines “with healing in His wings” that we are saved from deception. (Malachi 4:2)

Clear and wise vision is needed to expose deception. Through smoke one cannot see clearly. Vision and breathing are impaired. The revelation of Jesus is truth and the breath of God is the Holy Spirit. This is the core message of Revelation: Jesus as the king of heaven and of our hearts and the revelation of truth and clean air to breathe by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit changes the atmosphere in which we live, regardless of our circumstances.

The invasion of locusts is a symbol of destruction and described in Joel 1 and 2. Locusts bring starvations and destruction. Nothing escapes the utter devastation of locusts on the march.

The commentators agree that according to the natural characteristics of locusts Joel and Revelation are not exaggerating. The devastation they cause is beyond belief. All grass, bark of trees and every living thing are stripped away. Locust has the head of a horse, illustrated by their German (Heupferd) and Italian (cavaletta) names. In Hebrew they had five names:

gazam – shearer – destroys vegetation

arbeh – swarmer – immensity of the numbers

caal’am – swallower or annihilator

hargol – galloper – speed

tslatsal – creaker – sound

They are loosed to attack men without the seal of God on their foreheads, not the vegetation of the earth. The terrors are not literal; demonic torment is being described. Demonic locusts have the power of scorpions added. They hurt with extreme pain, but cannot kill. Death will be seen as escape, but not available. God alone has power over death and life.

When we look around us the torment of the demonic in our society is vicious and merciless. Often death looks like the only way to escape the pain.

Five months are the life span of locusts. It is only a limited time of destruction allowed. They are being described as something coming from a sci-fi movie. They resembled:

  • horses equipped for battle – ready for a fight
  • golden crowns – wealth and luxury
  • hair like women – the adultress luring the church into sin somewhat attractive like all evil. Harlots of ancient times showed hair to attract. Married women had to cover their hair to show commitment and fidelity to one man.
  • tail – to sting and hurt with agony and distress. A scorpion is the symbol of excruciating pain – Luke 10:19.
  • king whom is called in Hebrew Abaddon (destruction), and in Greek Apollyon (destroyer-king).

In the aguish of sin the people will wish for death, but cannot die. (Job 3:21, Jeremiah 8:3)

The horror mounts in 9:13-21. Demonic torment is not to destroy but to lead to repentance. It is only in the deepest darkness and pain that some will turn and acknowledge the power of salvation and redemption.

The locusts destroy but cannot kill. In Luke 10:19 Christ gives us power over all.

Listen carefully: I have given you authority [that you now possess] to tread on serpents and scorpions, and [the ability to exercise authority] over all the power of the enemy (Satan); and nothing will [in any way] harm you. [Amplified]

Serpents and scorpions are symbols of demonic activity. That is what we are seeing around us in the world today – this present age. It is as Paul says:

You were following the ways of this world [influenced by this present age], in accordance with the prince of the power of the air (Satan), the [the unbelieving, who fight against the purposes of God]. (Ephesians 2:2, Amplified)

The voice from the four horns of the golden altar depicts divine displeasure. It indicates that that the sins of men must have been very great, when the altar, which was their sanctuary and protection, called aloud for vengeance. (Benson Commentary)

The four angels bound at Euphrates could be the four sultans living east of the former Roman Empire around the eleventh century. The Euphrates river was the border of Israel and later the Roman Empire with the rest of Asia. The angels might be from the distant lands outside Israel. (Countries have angels – Daniel 10:13).

The most dreaded warriors in the world were the Parthian cavalry who lived on the other side of the Euphrates. They were extremely effective soldiers for killing. Jews were familiar with the concept of angels carrying out punishment.

A third of mankind depicts a limit to the destruction. Looking back in history, the fall of the Turkish Empire, ruled by sultans, following the Roman Empire, comfortably fits into this description of the sixth trumpet. Their rule was “bound” by the river. They never extended into Israel or Europe because of the strong rule of the church in Europe and the crusades into Jerusalem, but established a false religion in the east. As quoted from Matthew Henry’s Commentary:

 The sixth angel sounded, and here the power of the Turks seems the subject. Their time is limited. They not only slew in war, but brought a poisonous and ruinous religion. The antichristian generation repented not under these dreadful judgments. From this sixth trumpet learn that God can make one enemy of the church a scourge and a plague to another. The idolatry in the remains of the eastern church and elsewhere, and the sins of professed Christians, render this prophecy and its fulfilment more wonderful. And the attentive reader of Scripture and history, may find his faith and hope strengthened by events, which in other respects fill his heart with anguish and his eyes with tears, while he sees that men who escape these plagues, repent not of their evil works, but go on with idolatries, wickedness, and cruelty, till wrath comes upon them to the utmost. (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary – my emphasis)

Benson’s Commentary meticulously follows the years of the conquests to underline the detail of this prophecy in the history of the Turks and the Greeks. For myself, I have to restrain my interest in the historic detail, which thrills and captivates me.

The more important theme here is that evil is under restraint – the concept of limitation. The presence of the church contains evil. Jesus gave us authority over evil as quoted above from Luke 10. We keep the destruction at bay and with our armour in Christ bring down the principalities and powers of darkness. This is our true calling.

The number of the cavalry is depicted as something beyond counting – twice ten thousand times ten thousand, which calculates as two hundred million.

 The chariots of God are myriads, thousands upon thousands;

The Lord is among them as He was at Sinai, in holiness.  (Psalm 68:17)

They were armoured in the colours of flames; fire and brimstone coming out of their mouths always a symbol of evil and destruction. The horses have heads like lions and tails like serpents. Serpent-tails bring hurt and harm.

The revelation of evil serves to clear the way for repentance. Harm and hurt must be brought to the Healer. His Grace is always available, even for last minute repentance and desperate pleas for mercy.

So often God is blamed for all the bad things in the world, without any personal knowledge of Him or turning to Him. The wickedness of idolatry is so deep and deceptive that idolaters refuse to repent in spite of the overwhelming evidence of God’s displeasure with them. (Psalm 115:8; 135:18). The unfortunate effect of sorrow and distress is in some people the hardening of their hearts.

The last verses of this chapter sounds like a lament from heaven, mourning the unbelief of the people, while stating the facts of worship to the demons and idols of gold, silver and bronze that cannot see, hear or walk and the sins of murders, sorcery (drugs and intoxication), sexual immorality and robbery.

I thank God for the details of the vision that help me to understand the overwhelming evil in the world today and the consequences of destruction and disease. Just a glance at the statistics of STD’s as one example of immorality, is shocking. The general recommendation to avoid these diseases, is having one partner or complete abstinence.

What a privilege to live in the realm of the Kingdom on earth, to know that there is a better life where my value as a person is not determined by my participation in the life of destruction. We, as children of God, can live in the shadow and protection of our almighty Father and stand against the devastation.

Let us sing the ancient Song of Moses: (Exodus 15)

“I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously;

The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea.

“The Lord is my strength and my song,

And He has become my salvation;

This is my God, and I will praise Him;

My father’s God, and I will exalt Him.

47. Heaven is here.

There are so many movies and books with the word “heaven” in the title. In colloquial language it depicts a place of perfection and peace for one day after death, the ultimate Utopia, open for Christians only, and amongst a few Christians, maybe even accessible to some denominations only! The simple definition in Merriam Webster: the place where God lives and where good people go after they die according to some religions; something that is very pleasant or good, sums up our first response to a query about heaven.

In the full definition we might come closer to more concepts attached to the word: the expanse of space that seems to be over the earth like a dome; the dwelling place of the Deity and the blessed dead.

Just a little further in the same dictionary I found a very satisfactory definition of the heaven I think is real. Here it is:

a spiritual state of everlasting communion with God; a state of thought in which sin is absent and the harmony of divine Mind is manifest. In short: heaven is where God is and hell is where God is not.

We might think that heaven is a far place somewhere in this vast universe where all the splendour of Revelation is experienced. I think there is such a place. I also think heaven is right here where I cannot see, all the splendour displayed in the presence of God in my heart, my life and my mind, whenever I am so submitted to the Holy Spirit to “see” with my spirit. Just think for a moment where John was physically when he described the majesty and brilliance of the vision.

Roman prisons or prison colonies, like Patmos, were often the prelude to death and John is banned under the particularly cruel and crazy Dominitian. Miraculously, Nerva, the next emperor, recalls a great deal of Dominitian’s ridiculous laws and John survives to write his vision. He must have “felt” very far from heaven, and still experienced so much in his spirit.

In that moment, after hearing the commendations and the condemnations to the churches, John is called higher. He is called through an open door to heaven, not only a vast place of beauty, but particularly the Throne Room of the Most High. In his description he employs every image, symbol, metaphor, parable, known fable and superstition of the ancient world. For him it is of utmost importance to get the message through in simple, understandable language, at the same time not losing the overwhelming magnificence of the vision.

How many times are we besieged with stress and circumstances, feeling weighed down by this world. Listen to the call that John received: Come up here, and I will show you…

To be with God in His presence is the answer to a crushing, evil world, which seizes us into discouragement and despair.

A heavenly perspective lifts us up from confusion into communion. Praise and worship is vital in our prayers. It will lift us up to receive insight so that the things of the earth and our struggles grow “strangely dim” as the old song says.

Three doors are mentioned in these first chapters of Revelation:

  • Door of opportunity – to Philadelphia (3:8)
  • Door to the human heart – to Laodicea (3:20)
  • Door of prophetic revelation – (4:1) to reveal the knowledge of God. The heavens are opened to bring revelation through vision; to look into the unseen.

the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. (Ezekiel 1:1)

Jesus talked about the heavenlies in Matthew 18 and meant the unseen around us, not a far away place. Distance in the godly realm is a mystery, but God is never late, so distance does not matter. It is a non-issue. It might feel as if we are waiting long for prophecy to be fulfilled but our assurance from the Word is that is will come. The promise holds the people together and encouraged. (Habakkuk 2:2)

The heavens are opened for the descent of the Spirit just as it happened at the baptism of Jesus (Mark 1:10). The heavens are opened to reveal the glory of God just as it was promised to Nathanael in John 1:51.

God on the throne is mentioned in every chapter except 2,8 and 9. It was a common image in the Old Testament: 1 Kings 22:19, Psalm 47:8, Isaiah 6:1 and served as symbol of the majesty of God. The trumpet was always a call to attention that could not be ignored.

There is no attempt to describe God. He has no human shape. He is depicted with light as in Psalm 104:2 and 1 Timothy 6:15,16: He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.

The light is reflected in precious stones as mentioned in Ezekiel 28:13 and the precious stones of the breastplate of the high priest in Exodus 28:17. It is the foundation of the holy city in Revelation 21:19.

Jasper was translucent. It could be that the jasper is a diamond, bright and pure. Sardius is blood red, speaking of wrath and the green emerald is a symbol for mercy. It is the dominant colour of the rainbow, a sign of covenant promise and faithfulness.

There was once a testimony of a vision of heaven that said the colours have fragrance. It stayed with me. How much more is there to experience in countless dimensions and sharp, divinely enlightened senses?

The 24 thrones with elders depict the 12 tribes and the 12 apostles, the Jews and the church – clothed and crowned. Some commentators suggest it might be only the church and the apostles multiplied by the double anointing that is well known throughout Scripture.

Their white clothes is a symbol of robes washed in the blood of the Lamb in the colour of heaven and golden crowns that represent every precious blessing and victory in Christ.

Thunder and lightning are always associated with the majesty of God’s awesome wonder and power and associated with the presence of God. (Ezekiel 1:13, Psalm 77:18, Job 37:4. Exodus 19:16.)

The seven lamps are the seven Spirits. It speaks of the fullness of the Holy Spirit and completion of God’s purpose through His spirit.

Lamps of fire or torches were always the symbol of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2, Luke 3:16.) Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

The sea of glass is described as a crystal sea. In ancient times glass was usually dull. Clear glass was almost like precious stone. The combination of the concepts of the sea (vast and unconquered) plus crystal (clear, light and precious) describes God as unapproachable and distant in all His majesty to emphasize holiness. He is never familiar. (Exodus 24:10.)

Psalm 36:6: Your judgments are a great deep.

The living creatures are full of eyes, a richness of insight and watchfulness. They know everything, nothing is hidden.

And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:13

The four living creatures are described as cherubim (plural in Hebrew/ singular= cherub). They are the highest ranking celestial beings. Their wings cover the mercy seat in the Tabernacle and the Temple. It is no surprise to find them here at the Throne; in worship without ceasing. They have functions. They hand the bowls of wrath (15:7) to the angels.

They are symbols of: majestic courage (lion), strength (ox), intelligence (man), speed (eagle); noble, strong, wise and swift. All of nature and man comes together in praise to God. (Psalm 102:22)

Their being and working are all in praise of God. Worship is to live in obedience. All the time, everywhere, they exist to worship.

Some commentators see the symbolic emphasis of the four Gospels in these living creatures. In Matthew the emphasis on Jesus is as a descendent of the tribe of Judah as is represented in the genealogy in the first chapter – the lion. In Mark the emphasis is on the humanity of Jesus – the man. In Luke the focus is on the sacrificial death of Jesus – the ox and John is like no other in describing Jesus as the answer to the world in every way possible, addressing the philosophy and intelligentsia of the time. The eagle has a unique perspective and can look into the sun without blinking.

Worship is an awareness of who God is. His holiness, omnipotence and everlastingness always cast a new perspective in worship. It is when the elders rise from their knees, that they constantly see a new reason to worship, casting their crowns continually; submitting and relinquishing all that has value before God in full submission and total surrender.

It is only by Holy Spirit insight that – He can reveal to you personally what the crown is that you have to throw down – disobedience, holding on to treasure, ego, ambition, tradition, superstition…

A heavenly perspective in our life is a treasure worth holding on to. It changes our thinking, renews our minds and makes us strong.

Lord, that I may see you on your throne, ruling over my life from your majesty and splendour, the goodness of your character and the source of love.

What can man do to me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Record in Revelation is NOT chronological. It is a record of events.