Tag Archives: grace

AN OFFER YOU CAN’T REFUSE!

“AN OFFER YOU CAN’T REFUSE!”
Revelation 22:1-21

(To listen to this audio message, please click here.)

Some time ago, my wife and I were invited to a birthday party. When I received the invitation, I had no idea what the evening would involve. All I knew was the location – a retreat center called Faraway on the Longbranch Peninsula. But the fact that we were going to be with friends made it appealing. So, we said, “Yes!” Then the evening arrived. To our delight, transportation was arranged for us, so that rather than driving ourselves, we were able to relax in the comfort of a friend’s “Caddy.” But there was more! Stepping out of the car, we found ourselves facing one of the most beautiful waterfront mansions we’d ever seen. The evening then began with a tour – delicate antique furniture, embroidered bedspreads from China, precious inlaid tiles in the bathroom. Each room was a masterpiece of interior design. Then dinner was served – one of the most delicious meals we’d had in months. It truly was an evening to remember.

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As I reflected on it, I couldn’t help but compare it to another invitation we have received. On this trip transportation is also provided; we will be surrounded by Christian friends; and we will dine in the most glorious mansion anyone has ever seen. But there will also be some striking differences. This time we won’t have to return home afterwards. For we will be at home forever! This time we can eat all that we want without worrying about our waistlines. And best of all, the Lord Jesus will be our host at this meal! As I reflected upon it, I wondered, how could anyone in their right mind refuse an invitation like this?

The invitation I’m referring to is the one given in this, the final chapter of Revelation. The key word here is “come.” This is not a new word in the Bible. When Noah finished building the ark, God invited him, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, and be safe.” When Israel turned to idols in Isaiah’s day, God urged them, “Come now, let us reason together, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.” When John baptized Jesus, he said of Him, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” Andrew and Peter wanted to know more. So, they asked Him, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” Jesus invited them, “Come and see.”

The Bible is full of invitations to “come.” But the invitation in Revelation 22 is unique. Actually, there are two invitations in this chapter. The first is Christ’s offer to sinners, “Come . . . take the free gift of the water of life.”

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The second is John’s reaction to everything he has seen: “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” Isn’t that a wonderful way to end such a serious book? For weeks, we have witnessed many terrible, heartbreaking truths. But now the curse of sin is lifted and “whosoever will” may come and freely enjoy the glory of God’s kingdom. No one need suffer the judgments mentioned in this book. That’s something people bring upon themselves because of their unwillingness to repent and turn to Jesus. Everyone is invited to enjoy the blessings of this offer. So, to help us understand what it involves, John emphasizes three key facts about it.

1. THE BLESSINGS OF THE INVITATION

Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young once sang a song about man’s craving to “get back to the Garden.” While we may not recognize it in ourselves, that desire is real! Every philosophical, political, or religious movement is nothing more than man’s feeble attempt to recover what was lost in Genesis 3. But the good news John announces in this last chapter of the Bible is that Paradise Lost will soon be Paradise regained! What we forfeited due to sin, God will restore by His grace. To illustrate that, John describes four blessings we will enjoy in the New Jerusalem.

First, the fullness of God’s Spirit. John says in verse 1, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city.” This is a physical manifestation of the Holy Spirit who is poured out on everyone who believes in Christ. One reason for this conclusion is the origin of this water. It comes from the throne of God and of the Lamb. Another reason is the promise of Jesus in John 7:37, ”If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me . . . streams of living water will flow from within him.” To what was Jesus referring? John explains, “By this He meant the Spirit, Whom those who believed in Him were later to receive.” In other words, just as Jesus will be the light of that city, so His Spirit will be our source of physical and spiritual life.

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Second, access to the Tree of Life. Verse 2 continues, “On each side of the river stood the Tree of Life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” Someone has said that the history of mankind revolves around three trees – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which brought death upon all of humanity when our first parents broke God’s commandment and ate of its fruit in the Garden. The second tree is the Cross of Calvary on which our Savior died to pay for our sins. The third tree is the Tree of Life that will grow along the River of Life in the center of the city. Those who have read Genesis 3 will remember this tree. For it was from this tree that man was banished. God posted cherubim at the east of the Garden with a flaming sword to guard the way to the Tree of Life, so that man could not eat of its fruit and live forever in his fallen condition.

Consequently, the presence of the Tree of Life in new Jerusalem is one of the strongest testimonies to God’s full forgiveness and our complete salvation from sin. For what was taken away from us because of sin now brings eternal life to everyone who enters this city. Other details about this tree are also interesting. One is its fruit. It bears twelve kinds of fruit, one for each month of the year. That means there will be food in heaven – delicious food, of which we can eat all that we want without any worries of getting fat. In fact, it is in eating this fruit that we gain power to live forever.

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Another detail is its leaves. It says they will be for “the healing of the nations.” What does this mean? Will there be disease in heaven? No, the word can be translated “health.” That is, just as its fruit gives life to all who eat it, so its leaves maintain the health of those already healthy. Finally, look at its abundance. Genesis makes it sounds as if there was only one tree of life in the Garden. But not in New Jerusalem! This tree will flourish throughout the city!

Henry Morris writes, “The tree is not rare but prolific, growing in profusion all over the world. In the New Jerusalem, it grows along the esplanade in the center of the golden streets and lines both banks of the cascading river. Presumably, outside the city, it grows along the shores of all the tributaries of the mighty river, as they spread out around the world. The need to continually partake of its life-giving fruit will be a testimony to the people of the New Earth that our Creator and Savior is Himself the source of life and breath and all things. This knowledge and requirement will never become a burden but will always remain a joy and a delight.”

Third, fulfillment in our work. People wonder, “What will we do in heaven? Sit around and strum our harps forever?” Certainly, music will play a major role in heaven’s worship. But John says we will also be busy doing other things. First, he says we “will serve Him.” What does that mean? Are we going to have to work in heaven? Yes and no. Yes, we will be actively engaged in serving Christ. That’s been our calling from the beginning. Genesis 2:15 says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Those who like to garden can appreciate what a pleasure that was, especially without weeds to frustrate their efforts. Thus, it will be on the New Earth! It will involve none of the drudgery involved in today’s work. For what turned man’s work into labor and sorrow was the curse. But Revelation 22:3 promises that there will no longer be a curse. Hal Lindsay says that the service we give to the Lord will be as laborious as a Bride making the bed for her new Groom on their honeymoon.

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Compare it to your hobbies. Most of us have activities we enjoy doing in our spare time – sewing, painting, reading, writing, playing an instrument. These activities are pleasant because there is no pain or stress involved in doing them. So, will it be in heaven! God will let you explore interests you had in this life, but never had the time or money to pursue. Or maybe He will give you brand-new talents you always wished you had and let you cultivate them for His glory.

By the way, this is one reason we can afford to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and forego other things we’d like to do. Personally, I would love to have season tickets to the Seattle Seahawks’ games, a summer cabin at the ocean, a boat to enjoy on the weekends, and every evening free to spend with my family. But, like many of you, I forego those things. Not because they are wrong, but because there isn’t time in this life to do both everything I want and everything I should. Does that make me sad? No, and why not? Because I’m going to live forever and have all of eternity to pursue the things I enjoy. In fact, given that this is the only life in which we can sacrifice ourselves for Christ, wouldn’t it be foolish to try to get everything I want today? Remember –

Only one life, ‘twill soon be passed; Only what’s done for Christ will last!

The second thing we will do is “reign forever and ever.” There’s no indication here over whom we will rule, but I’m convinced that these are more than idle words dropped onto the page. If John says that we will reign with Christ, then there must be someone who needs ruling. 1 Corinthians 6:3 gives us a hint, for there Paul writes, “do you not know that we shall judge angels?” Another writer suggests that there may be intelligent life on other planets that God will reveal in eternity. In his space trilogy, C. S. Lewis imagines Perelandra and Malacandra, two planets with intelligent creatures living on them who have not rebelled against the will of God. But, of course, the definite answer to this, like so many other questions, won’t be answered until we arrive in heaven.

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Finally, the presence of Christ. This will be our greatest joy in heaven. John says “we will see His face.” Theologians call this the Beatific Vision, for there is no sight more beautiful to human eyes than the face of God. You ask, “Is it the face of God the Father or God the Son?” Jesus answered this in John 14:8-9. Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus explained, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” Colossians 1:15 reiterates this. Referring to Jesus, it says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” God is Spirit, and therefore invisible. But that won’t detract from your heavenly joy. For in Christ “dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:9)

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Fanny Crosby, the writer of “Blessed Assurance” and many other great hymns, said she didn’t mind being born blind because in heaven, the first thing she would see is the face of Jesus. In fact, in giving her testimony at a conference where Dwight L Moody spoke, she shyly admitted, “There is a hymn I’ve written but never published. I call it my soul’s poem. I repeat it when my heart is troubled, for it brings comfort to me. She then recited it while the audience wept: “Someday the silver cord will break, and I no more as now shall sing; but O, the joy when I awake within the palace of the King and I shall see Him face to face, and tell the story – saved by grace!” At age 95, her wish was granted. She awoke in heaven and the first face she ever saw was the face of Jesus. Imagine her joy!

2. THE CONDITIONS OF THE INVITATION

John continues in verse 6, “Then the angel said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the profits, sent His angel to show His servants the things that must soon take place. Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.’” First, the angel emphasizes the trustworthiness of this invitation. In fact, he confirms the reliability of the entire Bible by emphasizing that the same God who inspired this book inspired the prophets of old. But, he doesn’t stop there. He goes on to pinpoint two conditions for enjoying the blessings of this book.

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The first is: Keep the words of the prophecy in this book. This means more than keeping a copy of the Bible on your bookshelf or nightstand. It means to stand up for the truth of this book and put it into practice. In fact, to demonstrate how vital our loyalty to this book is, John adds in verses 18-19, (Let the followers of Joseph Smith and other cult leaders beware!), “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the Tree of Life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”

This was a common practice of scribes when recording royal decrees. Anyone who added to the King’s words was warned that he would stand before the king in judgment. But this warning label is far more severe. John warns us that our very entrance into God’s kingdom is at stake, determined by what we do with this book. Will we believe it and obey it? Or will we ignore it to our eternal hurt?

The second condition is: Worship Jesus alone. John himself is corrected about this. He confesses in verse 6, “I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, ‘Do not do it. I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers, the prophets, and all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!” The only acceptable form of worship in heaven is that which is directed toward the Father and the Son. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” He also added in another place. “The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father. (John 5:23) John’s experience points out two eternal dangers that are at work today.

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The first is the danger of hero worship. Most leaders are by nature charismatic personalities. Otherwise, people wouldn’t be likely to follow them. But there is a danger in admiring them too much. And that’s what’s happening in Christian circles today. People are so hungry for someone to follow that they develop little fan clubs around their favorite religious artist or Christian speaker. And that’s wrong! Not only does it rob God of the glory that He alone deserves; but we inevitably discover that our idols have feet of clay. I once attended a Bible study where a woman said, “O, I don’t know what I’d do if I ever heard my pastor swear! I think I’d lose my faith!” And I thought, “Then get ready to lose your faith, sister, because I know some things about your pastor you’d never believe.”

The second is the danger of being carried away by emotion. One of my seminary professors used to warn us prospective pastors, “Gentlemen, do not entrust the ministry of the church to artsy people.” I wondered how he could be so harsh. But now I understand his concern. Human emotions are so powerful that unless brought under the control of godly wisdom, they can lead to all sorts of dangerous behavior – worship of angels, visions of giant “Jesuses, as well as unethical and immoral behavior. More than once I’ve heard Christians excuse their immorality by saying, “It feels so right; it can’t be wrong!” But that’s when we need to remember that Satan is an angel of light who can just as easily counterfeit our emotions to deceive us as he can false doctrine.

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3. THE ASSURANCES OF THE INVITATION

Finally, in verses 12 to 19, John moves from blessings and conditions to assurances of Christ’s return and our invitation to heaven.

His first assurance is that it is near. Three times in this chapter, Jesus promises, “I am coming soon!” One example is verse 12 where He promises, “Behold, I am coming soon. My reward is with Me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the Tree of Life, and may go through the gates into the city.”

This confuses people. “After all,” they think, “it’s been 2000 years since Jesus made this promise. If He was coming soon, why hasn’t He arrived yet?” The answer is found in the meaning of the word “soon.” The word means “suddenly.” Jesus wasn’t promising that He’d come immediately. He was warning us that when He does come, it will be suddenly and without warning. It is what Paul meant when he said that the Day of the Lord will come without warning “like a thief in the night.” In other words, when the things predicted by this book begin to happen, they will happen rapidly, leaving no time to repent. So, repent now!

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That also helps to explain Jesus’ statement in verse 11: “Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.” Jesus isn’t advising people to continue in sin and be lost. The Bible says He is not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance. The point here is that when He returns, there won’t be any time for repentance. Those who have chosen to be holy will continue to be holy forever, whereas those who refuse His invitation will be lost forever. So, again, the time to repent is now, not then!

My next-door neighbor told me about an experience he had. He was helping his friend repair his roof when suddenly a piece of lumber knocked him off balance and sent him crashing to the ground. The fall fractured his collar-bone and nearly broke his neck. I asked him, “What did you learn from the accident?” He said. “I learned one thing for sure. I’ve always heard that a person’s life flashes before their eyes at a moment like that. But that isn’t true! I didn’t have time to think about anything. If I hadn’t known the Lord, I could have died and been lost forever! I realized that the time to make your peace with God is now!”

His second assurance is that it is free. Verse 16 says, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright Morning Star.” And then He adds in verse 17, “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let them take the free gift of the water of life.” In other words, there is absolutely nothing you and I can do to earn our way to heaven. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Titus 3:5 adds, “Not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to His mercy, He saved us.”

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In fact, notice how the Bible ends in verse 21. John says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.” That’s very different from how the Old Testament ends. There Malachi warns that Elijah is coming and will “strike the earth with the curse” unless his readers repent. The Old Testament speaks of law and judgment, but here we read of grace. Why? Because it’s only through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that anyone can be saved. Salvation is a free gift of God that can only be received humbly by faith.

Yet, even though salvation comes freely to us, it came at a high price to God who gave the life of His Son to purchase our salvation. Furthermore, there is often great soul-searching and spiritual wrestling before a genuine commitment to Christ is made. Some Christians give people the impression that all they have to do is bow their heads, say a quick prayer, and “presto- chango,” you’re on your way to heaven. But that is not true. Verse 17 says it is those who are “thirsty” who may freely drink of the water of life. That means there must be a genuine recognition of our need for Christ and a sincere hunger for the salvation He can give us, in order for the change to be real. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” Jesus said, “for they shall be filled.”

By the way, be sure to notice from whom the invitation comes. John writes, “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’” That’s a reminder of our partnership with God in the work of evangelism. The Spirit is God, and He faithfully does His part by convicting the people of sin and drawing them to Christ. But we, the Bride of Christ, also have a part to play in the salvation of others. We are to be witnesses to Christ and invite others to believe in Jesus as often as we can.

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Or put another way, William Carey’s pastor was wrong! When the great missionary suggested taking the Gospel to India, he was abruptly told, “Sit down young man. If God chooses to convert the heathen, He will do it without the help of you or me.” But that’s bad theology! Here God reminds us that if someone gets into heaven, it will be because we’ve invited them. We are tools of the Holy Spirit, and our words, if they are God’s Words, have great power over people. Therefore, whatever the Holy Spirit accomplishes, He will accomplish through us. “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’” Therefore, prayerfully look for someone who needs that invitation and extend it to them today.
Remember, there are only two things that you can take to heaven with you: 1) Your Christ-like character developed over a lifetime; and 2) Another person with whom you have shared the Gospel and invited to heaven.

(To download this written message and its discussion questions, click here.)

 

WHEN NIGHTMARES COME TRUE: The Trumpet Judgments of Revelation 8 and 9

Revelation: Because the Time Is Near

Study #13: “When Nightmares Come True: The Trumpet Judgments of Revelation 8:1—9:21″

(To listen to or download the audio version of this lesson, click Audio.)

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1988 was the year Time magazine marked the beginning of the end. Every year until then, the magazine celebrated the New Year by naming a man or woman as their person of the year and printing their picture on its cover. But in 1988 they departed from tradition and named “Endangered Earth” as Planet of the Year.

They then invited thirty-three scientists and political leaders from 10 different countries to a 3-day conference in Boulder, Colorado, asking them to come up with a plan to save Planet Earth. Pointing to the destruction of the world’s rain forests, the depletion of the ozone layer, droughts in our own Southwest, and killer hurricanes in the Caribbean, Time concluded: “For decades, scientists have warned of the consequences of all this profligacy. No one paid attention. This year the earth spoke, like God warning Noah” of the Flood to come.

Lester Brown of Worldwatch, warned, “We do not have generations, only years, to turn things around.” John Eddy of the Corporation for Atmospheric Research agreed, “We’ve got to get the earth into intensive care, to monitor the vital signs of our planet.”

Of course, since then, fears have skyrocketed. Now there’s the concern of global warming, the melting of the polar ice caps, mammoth earthquakes, and dozens of other signs that the end is near. All of which is promoted by Hollywood on both the big and small screen in post-apocalyptic films and television shows like “The Fifth Wave,” “I Am Legend,” “Oblivion, and “The Last Ship.”

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But our question in this study is not what scientists and politicians think about things, but what does God say in His Holy Word? Are we, as Barry McGuire sang in the 1960’s, on “The Eve of Destruction?” The Bible says, “Yes,” not because of man’s abuse of the planet, but because of his rebellion against God. In Revelation 8 and 9, the Lord Himself describes the future of our planet, and the news is not good. The environmentalists’ worst fears are realized. Earth is devastated by plague after plague, leaving it virtually uninhabitable.

But the cause is not global warming, as some predict; it’s Jesus Christ, our Creator, who has reserved the right to judge this world in righteousness–a reminder that more important than our environmental efforts is the need to prepare ourselves body, soul, and spirit for His Return. To see why that’s important, let me emphasize three facts about His judgment.

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  1. HOW JUDGMENT IS INTRODUCED IN HEAVEN

In a previous study, we learned that the opening of the seventh seal marks the midpoint of the Tribulation and the releasing of seven trumpets of judgment. Now we see that for ourselves. As Jesus breaks the final seal, seven trumpets are handed to seven angels who are about to blow destruction on the earth. And yet, before they do, three merciful events take place in heaven.

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First, there is silence in heaven for about half an hour. Revelation 8:1 says, “When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.  And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.” What is the significance of this silence? John doesn’t say for sure, but I think it’s the “calm before the storm.” In fact, what’s ominous about it is that it’s preceded by billions of saints and angels singing God’s praises around His throne. But when the final seal is opened, heaven falls silent in recognition of the terrible judgment about to strike the earth. It is a moment of reverential silence for God’s majesty and sorrow for those who are about to die.

Second, incense is offered on the altar, meaning that we the Church are praying again. Verse 3 says, “Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand.” For centuries the church has been praying, “Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” But sometimes we wonder if our prayers are doing any good. “After all, the world doesn’t seem to be getting any better!” But here we see that our prayers do make a difference! In fact, not one prayer prayed for the coming of God’s kingdom is ever forgotten by God. He stores up every prayer in heaven and will suddenly answer at the opening of the seventh seal.

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Warren Wiersbe warns, “Like it or not, the prayers of God’s people are involved in the judgments He sends. The throne and altar are related. The purpose of prayer, as is said, is not to get man’s will done in heaven, but God’s will done on earth—even if it involves judgment. True prayer is serious business. So we had better not move the altar too far from the throne!”

Finally, the third thing that happens before the seventh seal is opened is that thunder and lightning pour forth from God’s throne. Verse 5 says, “Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake. Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them.” These final phenomena are not intended to injure anyone, since they do not proceed from the trumpets. Instead, they’re a final warning to those on earth to repent before judgment falls.

The Apostle Peter reminds us, “God is not willing for any to perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Ezekiel 33:11 adds, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die?” says the Lord. The truth is, judgment is coming and sinners will be punished. But we can be pardoned of our wrongs, if we recognize our sinfulness and turn to Christ in faith. That’s how judgment is introduced in heaven. Now notice—

  1. HOW JUDGMENT IS ENACTED ON EARTH

Trumpet #1: 33% of Earth’s Vegetation Destroyed

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Verse 7 describes the blast of the first trumpet. “The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down on the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.” This is reminiscent of the seventh plague in Egypt. When Pharaoh refused to let God’s people go, hail and fire rained down from heaven and destroyed every man and beast left outdoors. But this plague is immeasurably worse, for it falls not on one nation, but on the whole earth, consuming one-third of the trees and all the green grass.

This Greek word for trees refers to “fruit trees,” which means that the world’s fruit production will immediately be cut by 33%. The destruction of all green grass will also bring an end to the world’s daily industry, cripple the world’s meat industry, and destroy the wheats and grains that give us our daily bread. Add to that the fact that 25% of the pharmaceuticals in use today contain ingredients derived from wild plants, and it means the new diseases  unleashed at this time will have little chance of being cured. Even now environmentalists worry about the medical repercussions of the world’s rain forests being destroyed. Biologist Daniel Jantzen of the University of Pennsylvania warned, “I know of three plants with the potential of treating AIDS. One grows in an Australian rain forest, one in Panama, and one in Costa Rica.” Add to this the fact that trees are the world’s oxygen-producers, and it means that mankind is in serious trouble.

Trumpet #2: 33% of Marine Life Destroyed

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Verse 8 continues, “The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.” Exactly what this mountain is, John doesn’t say. It could be a comet, an underwater volcano, or something the world has never before seen. But it brings with it three disasters. 1) A third of the saltwater is turned to blood. This reminds us of the first plague in Egypt, which turned the Nile River to blood and caused all of the fish in the river to die. 2) A third of the creatures in the sea die. Whether this is due to a great explosion or the pollution of the waters with blood, the fishing industry will find itself on the edge of collapse, especially when—

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3) A third of all ships are destroyed. According to the most recent statistics, there are 87,483 ocean-going merchant ships and naval ships on earth. Imagine the economic shock waves if 29,000 of them were suddenly sunk! And what about their cargo? Some of you remember in 1989 when the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound spilling hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil, killing thousands of oil-soaked birds, polluting the coastline, and closing fisheries. That was the result of just one oil spill. Try to imagine the environmental impact if 1/3 of the world’s oil tankers were ripped apart at the seams all at the same time!

Trumpet #3: 33% of Freshwater Destroyed

Verse 10 adds, “The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water— the name of the star is Wormwood.  A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.” Job 9 says that God has named all His stars, one of which is called “Wormwood.” Its mission? To fall to earth at the blast of the third trumpet and poison the freshwater of the world.

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The National Geographic lists 100 principal rivers on earth, ranging from the Amazon (4,000 miles long) to the Rio de la Plata (150 miles long). These and the countless streams, lakes, and springs comprise the lifeline of humanity. But at the falling of “Wormwood,”1/3 of them will become undrinkable. In fact, that’s what “wormwood” means. It means “undrinkable,” but many thirsty people will die from trying to do so, because there is no other source of freshwater available.

How could Wormwood be a literal star? If it were, wouldn’t that mean the end of the earth? Not necessarily. Evolutionary scientists have postulated for years that what killed the dinosaurs was a giant meteor that struck the earth 70 million years ago. Besides, if a meteor entered earth’s atmosphere, chances are it would split into countless pieces, raining down its poison on all the rivers and lakes of the world. But given that this is a supernatural judgment, we don’t have to understand how He will do it, for “with God nothing shall be impossible!”

Trumpet #4: 33% of Light Darkened

Verse 12 adds, “The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night.”

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This is similar to the ninth plague of Egypt, when darkness fell upon the land, except in this case darkness covers the entire earth and lasts not three days, but until the fourth bowl judgment in Revelation 16, when the sun’s power increases scorching everyone who continues to reject Jesus Christ. Nor can this darkness be attributed to an eclipse, because it also affects both the moon and the start. Instead, it’s the cosmic phenomenon of which both the prophets and the Lord Jesus spoke. Joel wrote, “I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.”

If their light is diminished by one-third, it could mean that daylight will only be two-thirds as bright as now—like reading by the light of a 60-watt instead of a 100-watt bulb. Try that tonight and you’ll see the difference. Furthermore, the night will be a third darker than it’s ever been before, throwing the world into a panic. It will also create an energy crisis as the demand for electricity and other light sources increase. And it will lead to an unprecedented crime wave. Jesus warned, “Men loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.” The truth is most major crimes are committed under the cloak of darkness. So, if it remains dark all day long, imagine the immediate rise in robberies, vandalism, rape, murder, and other violent crimes!

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That, then, is how judgment is introduced in heaven and enacted on earth. Now let’s spend our last few minutes noticing how the suffering is exacerbated by hell.

  1. HOW JUDGMENT IS EXACERBATED BY HELL

In verse 13 we find yet another evidence of Christ’s mercy. Before He allows the final blasts of the last three trumpets, He sends an angel to warn the world of greater judgment to come. Some versions translate the word “eagle” instead of “angel.” Warren Wiersbe says this may be the living creature before God’s throne with the face of an eagle who is now sent on a final mission of mercy. John says, “As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in midair call out in a loud voice: “Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!”

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The word “woe” is a strong word in Greek—a loud verbal warning that something terrible is to follow. The fact that it’s repeated three times emphasizes that the last three trumpets will bring on the most terrible suffering mankind has ever known. And yet, how many listen and repent? Not many. Why? The explanation is found in the phrase, “inhabitants of the earth.” This means more than “people who live on the earth.” The phrase is used 12 times in Revelation. Each time it describes a kind of people—those who love this world and give no thought to heaven to come. They will therefore die in their sins. In this study, we’ll look at the first two “woes,” because the third “woe” doesn’t come until Revelation 11.

Trumpet #5: Demonic Locusts

Revelation 9:1 begins, “Then the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him.” Who is this “star?” Verse 11 is clear. He’s an angel—“the angel of the bottomless pit,” indicating hell is his home. Have we met him before? Yes, he is the evil one described by Jesus when He said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” (Luke 10:18) At his initial rebellion, Lucifer lost his place as a covering cherub (Ezek. 28:14) who guarded the holiness of God. But according to Job 1 and Revelation 12, he still has access to heaven. He is the accuser of the brethren who accuses us “before our God day and night.” But at the midpoint of the Tribulation, that will end. Lucifer will be permanently banned from heaven, leading him to torment mankind in ways that defy description.

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The torment begins when he is given the key to the bottomless pit. You see, contrary to popular belief, the devil is not the king of hell. Nor does he enjoy unlimited power even in that evil place. For before he can release the demons from the “bottomless pit,” what must happen? Jesus must hand him the key. (See Revelation 1:8.) What then comes out of this pit? Two things: 1) Smoke “like the smoke of a great furnace.” This is a sober reminder to those who scoff at the idea of a literal hell, for both Jesus and John describe it as a “furnace of fire.” In fact, the smoke of this furnace is so severe it pollutes the air and further darkens the sun, which was already darkened by one-third at the fourth trumpet.

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2) Locusts sent to torment mankind. Joel warned in his prophecy, “Blow the trumpet in Zion . . . Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the Lord is coming . . . a day of darkness and gloom . . . a people come, great and strong, the like of whom has never been; nor will there ever be any such after them . . . surely nothing shall escape them. Their appearance is like the appearance of horses; and like swift steeds, so they run. With a noise like chariots over mountaintops they leap, like the noise of a flaming fire that devours the stubble, like a strong people set in battle array. Before them the people writhe in pain; all faces are drained of color.”

Revelation 9:7 adds, “The appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle; and on their heads appeared to be crowns like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men.  They had hair like the hair of women, and their teeth were like the teeth of lions.  They had breastplates like breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to battle. They have tails like scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men for five months.”

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Who or what are these locusts? The descriptions make it clear that they are not ordinary locusts. First, they have a king, something Proverbs 30:27 says is untrue of ordinary locusts. Second, they have stingers in their tails, something else normal locusts do not have. Third, they do not devour vegetation. Instead, verse 4 commands them not to “harm the grace of the earth or any green thing.” For the purpose of their existence is to torment those who reject the Lordship of Christ. What, then, could these locusts be? Demons! That’s evident not only from the identity of their king. The Bible often calls demons “the devil’s angels.” But it is clear from their origin. They come up out of the “bottomless pit.” What is the bottomless pit? It is the prison where Satan will be “jailed” for a thousand years during Christ’s millennial kingdom on earth (Rev. 20:3), and it is also the place where millions of fallen angels, who have never been allowed to roam the earth, are being kept until Tribulation. Peter explains, “God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness . . . reserved for the judgment of the great day.” (2 Pet. 2:4)

It’s frightening to realize that right now, hidden somewhere in the depths of the earth, are millions of vicious demons about to be unleashed on this earth like a massive plague of locusts, tormenting all who reject the love of Christ.

Finally, notice their power. Verse 3 says, “And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. And their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man. In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them.”

Satan is a con artist who tells us that sin leads to happiness. But here is another example of how sin leads to suffering. His demons are not allowed to kill those on earth (Satan can only do what Jesus allows), but are allowed to torment men for five months. This is the normal lifespan of a locust (May to September). How do they do this? With scorpion-like stingers in their tails which inflict such unbearable pain that the victims will want to die, but be unable to do so.

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Hal Lindsey comments, “The sting will be so painful that men will wish they could die. History records that ancient Roman soldiers were famous for their ability to take pain without flickering an eye. But when several of them were stung by scorpions in the desert of Egypt, they screamed and writhed in pain. Scorpion stings are among the most painful wounds a person can endure.”

Finally, notice with me the sixth trumpet judgment and the suffering it brings.

Trumpet #6: Demonic Horsemen

Verse 13: “Then the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar that is before God, one saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.’ And the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released, so they would kill a third of mankind. The number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them. And this is how I saw in the vision the horses and those who sat on them: the riders had breastplates the color of fire and of hyacinth and of brimstone; and the heads of the horses are like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths proceed fire and smoke and brim-stone.  A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which proceeded out of their mouths. For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents and have heads, and with them they do harm.”

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The sixth trumpet releases four angels who are bound at the Euphrates River. They can’t be good angels, since there is no good reason for a holy angel to be bound. Instead, they are four super-demons who will lead an army of death across the earth! Why are they bound at the Euphrates River? Historically, the Euphrates is the natural boundary between Asia and the Middle East—a barrier that any conquering army would have to cross. But more important than that, it has an age-old spiritual significance. This was the sight of the Tower of Babel and Babylon, the “mother” of idolatry and false religion. Indeed, Revelation 18:2 says that during the Tribulation, Babylon will again become “a habitation of demons, a prison for every foul spirit.” The point is, somewhere right now near the ancient city of Babylon, there is a group of demons waiting to be released, so they can lead an army which shall destroy mankind.

What army will they lead? Some say this is a symbolic reference to Russia’s invasion of Israel in Ezekiel 38-39. Others say they’re “the kings of the east”—200 million Asian soldiers who cross the Euphrates to fight in the final battle of Armageddon. But I believe when the plain sense of Scripture makes good sense, we should seek no other sense. Therefore, since nothing in the context suggests a human army (the description sounds demonic), I believe  like the first trumpet judgment, this is another attack by an army of demons who have been bound until now. How many in their army? John is precise. The Greek literally says, “10,000 times 10,000 times 2” or 200 million demonic horsemen. And then, to make sure we don’t spiritualize it, he adds, “I heard the number of them,” indicating that the number is to be taken literally.

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Imagine the destruction that would result if 200 million additional demons were allowed to join forces with the powers of evil already at work in the world! John describes their impact in verse 18 to 19. He says it will lead to three more deadly plagues—fire, smoke, and brimstone. The result will be the death of another third of mankind. In Revelation 6:8, John said one-fourth of humanity would die from the first four seals. In Revelation 8:11, he said “many” more will die. Now, as a result of these plagues, a third of the remaining population will lose their lives. This means at least half the world’s population, or using today’s statistics, 3.5 billion of the 7 billion people on earth will die by the end of the sixth trumpet.

But the saddest fact is how the survivors respond to these judgments. You would think that five months of torment would drive unbelieving sinners to their knees in repentance. But such is not the case. Verse 20 says, “The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.”

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Their sins explain their lack of repentance. “Magic arts” is the Greek word pharmakia from which we get our word “pharmaceuticals.” In other words, the war on drugs will be lost. Those who remain alive will give themselves wholeheartedly to their addictions, seeking escape from the reality of God’s judgment. And in doing so, they will open themselves up to demonic possession becoming slaves to the millions of demons that have been let loose on the earth.

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Now think back on the judgments you’ve read about. It may seem fantastic, but every word is true and about to take place. Will you be prepared for it? Have you bowed your heart in repentance and receive Christ’s gracious gift of salvation?

The story is told of a prince traveling through France who visited the prison at Toulon where the most hardened criminals were kept. Because of his nobility, he was allowed to release one of the condemned men. So he went from prisoner to prisoner, inquiring why they were there. All claimed to be innocent insisting they were there by mistake. Only one admitted his crime. “My lord, as much as I long to be free, I’m guilty. I’ve committed many crimes and have nothing to say except I deserve to be here.” The prince listened and then in a loud voice shouted, “You miserable wretch! You should not be here among these ‘honest’ men. You are bad enough to corrupt them all.” Then, turning to the officer in charge, he commanded, “This is the man I’ve chosen. Release him at once!”

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The same is true of you and me. We have sinned many times and in many ways. We deserve judgment. But God in His mercy is willing to pardon us, if we confess our sin and turn to Jesus in repentance and faith. So, if you haven’t done so, turn to Christ today. Why face God’s judgment, when you can be forgiven and free!

(To download the written version of this study, click Written Message.)

I’ve Gazed Upon The Face of God

GoodNews_cvr-500x706I have good news for you. It turns out the bad news we’ve been hearing about marriage the past 30 years is a myth. We’ve been told, for example, that 50% of all marriages end in divorce and that the divorce rate of those inside the church is the same as those outside the church. Isn’t that right? And yet, according to a new book by social researchers, Shaunti Feldhahn and Tally Whitehead, who’ve been conducting a scientific study of the subject for the last 8 years, it turns out that 72% of everyone who is married today is still married to their first spouse, and the chances of your current marriage succeeding increase by 25% to 50% if you go to church together. Hence, its title – The Good News About Marriage, for it means that getting married is one of the best decisions you can make in life!

Think of what you gain when you marry. The Bible says the two become one, which means a second person is added to the equation with strengths you don’t have and completing you in a way no friend could. For example, when I married Cheryl, I gained a better half who is kinder and more sensitive than I with years of experience as a pastor’s daughter, which I didn’t know I’d need at the time.  I didn’t plan to be a pastor. But God had other plans and gave me the ideal wife not only to be my partner in ministry, but an expert money manager who’s stretched every cent of the modest salary I’ve earned as a pastor, kept us out of debt, is the best mother our girls could have, and a beautiful companion who has filled my life with joy the last 40 years. I got the whole package when I married her.

hope-of-glory-dolores-develdePerhaps you’re wondering where I’m going with this. The reason I’m emphasizing the benefits of marriage is because that’s the picture the Bible paints of our relationship with Christ. It likens it to marriage calling Jesus our Heavenly Bridegroom and the Church His Bride. And just as in marriage, the moment we are united to Him by faith, we gain what was previously lacking in us. In fact, in His case, He gives us everything we need and more! We share His glory, we receive His grace, and we meet God for the first time in our lives.  For “we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:20-21) That’s our outline, then, if you’ll open your Bible to John 1:14-18 — just 5 verses, but 5 eternally important verses!

And like every verse in John’s Gospel, they’re intended to accomplish his goal as stated in John 20:31, “These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

Read the passage.  Then we’ll see what it means.  “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, ‘This was He of whom I said, “He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.”’ For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”  The question we want to answer, then, is: What are the benefits of meeting Jesus?

  1. You Share His Glory.

The last two weeks our study has focused on the Word or Logos, which in Greek philosophy was the principle on which all of creation rests; to the Jew, on the other hand, it was the revelation of God contained in the Holy Scriptures, both of which are true in part. But here John reveals something new and surprising. The Word is not an impersonal force or a writing; it is a Person, the Eternal Son of God who, according to verse 14, “became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

2To understand what he means, notice 3 key words with me. The first is “flesh” referring to the very weakest aspect of our personality. This is the part of humanity of which Jesus warned, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Paul added, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwells no good thing.” So how could God possibly become a man? As the Greeks said, the body is too corrupt and God is too holy for the two of them to come together.

By the way, many who call themselves Christians believe the same thing, that Jesus couldn’t possibly have had the same kind of body as ours. He must have had a perfect body like Adam before he sinned. But that isn’t true. In order to take our place as our Savior and sympathize with us as our Great High Priest, Jesus had to be like us in every way—except one. He was without sin.

I mention that because sometimes you’ll read in one of those books by someone who claims to have visited heaven that Jesus appeared to them as a bright light leading them through a tunnel to heaven. That’s nonsense! John says the Word became flesh, at which point Deity and humanity were forever fused together in One Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully man. His humanity never diminishes His Deity nor does His Deity ever overpower His humanity. He is now and forever 100% God and 100% man.

celestial-christ-print-8x10-2042915That means when you see Jesus in heaven, He’ll look exactly like He did when He appeared to His disciples following His resurrection. He’ll have a real human body you can see and feel and hug—a body which is fully human and yet glorified and without sin—just like the bodies you and I will one day enjoy.

The second word to is “dwelt.” “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The word is skenoo which means “to pitch a tent or set up a tabernacle.” What does that bring to mind? John is alluding to the Tabernacle in the wilderness where God first dwelt with His people. And yet, like many other objects and events in the Old Testament, the Tabernacle with all its offerings and furnishings was intended to be a type of Christ to come who dwells, not in a tabernacle made by hands, but in a resurrected and glorified body.

In fact, one of the things we learned when we studied the Feast of Tabernacles is that most Bible scholars agree that Jesus was probably not born on December 25, when most of the world celebrates His birth, because it’s unlikely that the shepherds would have been out in the fields keeping watch over their sheep with snow on the ground. Instead, given the fact that John the Baptist was born 6 months before Jesus during the Feast of Passover, it’s likely that He was born in October during the Feast of Tabernacles. Which would be fitting, wouldn’t it? For the Light of the World to be conceived at Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, and pitch His tent with us during the Feast of Tabernacles!

3But the most important word is “glory.” “We beheld His glory.” Again, the first time His glory was revealed was as a blazing fire hovering over the Tabernacle called the shekinah glory. Shekinah simply means “His presence,” which is so glorious that no one could enter the Tabernacle until it subsided. That, John says, is what he saw in Jesus. “We saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” The most obvious time is when he, Peter, and James were with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration. Suddenly His body was transformed before them, and “His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light,” so that they all fell down before Him in fear. In fact, it was so glorious that Peter was still talking about it 30 years later in his letter to the churches. “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales,” he says, “when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eye-witnesses of His majesty…when we were with Him on the holy mountain.”

the-transfigurationBut it wasn’t only on that occasion. It was something they witnessed on a daily basis. For example, on the next page Jesus will perform His first miracle by turning the water into wine, and John will say, “This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.” Nor was it only in His miracles that they saw His glory. They also saw it every day in His words, His wisdom, His teaching, and the brilliant manner in which He answered the perplexing questions they perpetually asked Him. To quote the temple guards who returned to the priests empty-handed, having failed to arrest Him as they were sent to do, “No man ever spoke like this man!”

But it was seen most clearly in His kindness and compassion. This week I read the story of a pioneer in the treatment of catatonic schizophrenia, one of the most severe forms of mental illness. Day after day patients would lie curled up in the fetal position on their beds, neither moving, speaking, or acknowledging anyone else existed, until a new doctor moved onto their ward. There he set up his cot and lived among them. Sometimes he’d even take off his jacket, crawl into bed, and gently wrap his arms around them. That one wordless expression of love was often enough to bring one of them back to the world of the living.

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So in Christ, God moved into our world and dwelt among us, even dying on a cross to pay for our sins.  And in that also, John says, “We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” And that can’t help but change you!

In the case of Moses, the skin of his face glowed with the glory of God whenever he met with the Lord in His Tabernacle. So he would cover his face with a veil, so that the people wouldn’t be afraid to come near to him.

mosesfacemountain-632 But in our case the change is far greater. In fact, one day the Bible says it’s going to change us forever. 1 John 3:2, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him just as He is.” But we are not to wait until then for the change to take place. If we love Him, we’re to let His glory begin changing us even now. 2 Corinthians 3:18, “But we all with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

Picture1What do you get when you meet Jesus, then? You share His glory, a glory that He has shared with the Father since before time began.

  1. You Receive His Grace.

Verse 14 continues, “And we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” And he adds in verse 16, “For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.”

Here we come to the most beautiful word in the New Testament—charis. In Modern Greek it means “charming.” Can you think of anyone like that? We have several people in our fellowship like that. Marty is a very charming woman. That’s why we like to have her welcome us to our meetings. Herman is also a very charming man. That is why so many attend his small group.

Disney-princes-make-hot-cover-models-like-Prince-Charming-GQBut the word in the New Testament is even more beautiful. It means “grace, favor, and undeserved kindness.”  Think, for example, of someone who’s earned your anger, but instead of retaliating, you’re kind to them. That’s grace.

I can think of one time when I was very gracious. Our daughter Heidi was 6 years old at the time. She and Becca were up early – about 6:30 in the morning. It was my day off, so I was sleeping in. But the girls knew it was OK to get up and watch TV, as long as it was our approved list. All of a sudden, boom! I heard a crash from the other room. Running to see what it was, I found the television set in the middle of the floor with its head smashed in. Heidi was frantic, not knowing what to do. She just kept saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, Daddy,” sure she was going to get punished. She’d tried to turn the television set on its stand so they could see it better and accidentally knocked it onto the floor. But I couldn’t punish her for that. Instead I hugged her and said, “Don’t worry about it, Honey! You’re more important to me than a TV set. I’m just glad you’re OK.”

Heidi 4But she did worry because later in the day as we were riding together in the car, she turned to me and asked me, “How much is a new TV set, Daddy—about $4?” That’s how much she had saved in her piggy bank. “No,” I said. “Probably more like $400.” “Oh,” she gulped.” “But you don’t need to worry about that, Honey.” I said. “It isn’t your job to pay for things like that. It’s my job as your daddy.” At that she took a deep breath, sighed, and began to relax. She also snuggled up to me and said, “I love you, Daddy.” And I said to her, “I love you, Heidi.”

By the way, you know the only thing I regret looking back on that? That I wasn’t gracious in a thousand other ways was well. Because that’s the greatest gift you can give another person and the best way to show them that Christ is real. For it’s in Him, John says that grace and truth have been “realized.”

That doesn’t mean there wasn’t grace in the Old Testament. There had to be or no one would have been saved. But “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord,” as did Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and all the other Old Testament saints. But the most prominent thing about the law was its strict judgment and warnings of death. Whereas Jesus is “full of grace and truth…and of His fullness,” John adds, “We have all received.” Isn’t that true? Wasn’t He gracious to you even before you began to follow Him? Oh, now you know to ask Him and trust Him for your daily bread. But He has always been good to you, every day of your life!

5Notice also how much grace is available to you! John says: “Of His fullness we have all received;” which means it’s infinite, for according to Colossians 2:9, “In Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,” so that whatever belongs to the Father, belongs to Him, for He and the Father are One. Furthermore, John says what we have received “grace upon grace” meaning that the supply is unlimited and unending. You ask for grace in time of need, He gives it to you, and more grace instantly fills the vacuum like the widow’s oil in the days of Elisha that kept flowing as long as she had vessels to hold it. It’s grace after grace after grace without end. That’s why the Lord could say to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you,” and why He urges us to come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. “His love has no limits. His grace has no measure. His power no boundary known unto men, for out of His infinite riches in Jesus, He giveth and giveth and giveth again.”

Notice one more thing before we move on. Notice that He is full of grace and truth. Why does John mention that? Because you can’t have one without the other! To receive His saving grace, you have to believe the truth about Him—that He is the eternal Son of God who was in the beginning with God and shares the very essence of God with the Father. For as gracious as He is, He can’t give you His saving grace unless you’re willing to believe the truth about Him! But once you do, amazingly gracious things happen to you.

As we learned last week, whoever receives Him, to them He gives the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, which means all your sins—past, present, and future—are forgiven forever, your name is written in heaven, and an everlasting home is reserved for you in God’s kingdom. Talk about grace. That’s the summit of grace! How it works, no one fully understands. But that it works, I know for sure because I’ve received it, and that’s something no one can take away from me. So if you’ve never asked for it before, ask Jesus to give you the faith to believe in Him this very moment, and His promise is, “He who comes to Me, I will never, no never cast out.” (John 6:37)

DrawMeClose2_Soft_Edge You share His glory. You receive His grace, and—

  1. You See God the Father.

Verse 18 says, “No one has seen God at any time.” That phrase is emphatic. “No one has ever, at any time seen God.” But is that true? Moses, for example, saw the afterglow of God’s glory as He passed by, but he didn’t see His face. In fact, there’s some question as to whether or not the face of God the Father can ever be seen. For, as Jesus said to the woman at the well, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” 1 Timothy 6:16 adds, He “alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.”

Perhaps you’re worrying and disappointed about that. Does that mean, then, that you and I will never see God? No. John clarifies it here. He says, “No one has seen God at any time,” but then he immediately adds, “The only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”

Phillip worried about that, you’ll remember. Having heard Jesus say, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Me,” he begged Him, “Show us the Father, and it is enough for us!” Jesus replied, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me?’” To see Jesus, then, is to gaze on the face of God and behold the most glorious sight human eyes can see.

Jesus-Face-Paintings-01But you say, “I don’t understand! How can Jesus reveal God to us?”  There are two reasons: 1) He is the Son of God who is forever “in the bosom of the Father.” That’s a Hebrew expression referring to a son who is especially close to and loved by his father. Think of Isaac, the son of Abraham, whom he loved with all his heart. That same phrase is later used to describe the Apostle John, Jesus’ closest friend who leaned upon his bosom at the Last Supper.  But here it’s used of Jesus of whom the Father declared from heaven two times during His ministry on earth (first at His baptism and later on the Mount of Transfiguration), “This is My Son the Beloved One, in whom I am well pleased,” for everything Jesus did and said was a perfect reflection of who His Father is and was.

But even more important is the second reason John gives. He is “the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father.” You may notice in the margin of your Bible that some of the more recent manuscripts read, “Only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father.” And if they’re correct, that no poses no problem for us, for in Hebrew thought, a son shared all of his father’s attributes, meaning that just as God the Father is all-powerful, eternal, all-knowing, and every-present, so is Jesus the Son, for He and the Father are and forever have been two Persons sharing the One Divine Essence.

If that translation bothers you, don’t let it. Because what the oldest and most reliable manuscripts say is “the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father.” You see just as bird begets bird, lion begets lion, and man begets man, what God begets is God. So that Paul could say without hesitation, “He is the image of the invisible God,” and “in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form!” In other words, when you see the face of Jesus one day in heaven, what you’ll be gazing at will be the face of God Himself, the most glorious sight human eyes can see, and that will change you immediately and forever!

1So let me ask you as I draw this study to a close, would you like to share God’s glory, be a recipient of His grace, and gaze upon His glorious face? Then meet Jesus, the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father. How? You don’t get it by trying harder to believe or do good works. It comes to you as a gift of His grace. “For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God not works, lest anyone should boast.” So stop trying and start trusting. Call out to Him in helpless childlike faith. Little children are helpless to care for themselves, aren’t they? So are you when it comes to God’s glory and grace. So call out to Him with me right now in helpless childlike faith, and His promise is: “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”

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