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Sunday, March 31 2019

As followers of Christ, our hearts hurt to see others fall away from the faith. What did they not know, believe, or practice? What shame upon on us if we do not finish making disciples by teaching them and we do not continue living as disciples by observing all that Christ commanded.

            When Christ rose from the dead and was about to ascend into Heaven, He left instruction for the disciples to make disciples by teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded (Matt 28:19–20). When Paul faced His death, he instructed Timothy to continue in what he learned by knowing the sacred writings and all the God-breathed Scriptures that profit for doctrine and equip one completely for every good work (2 Tim 3:14–17). As Peter came near to death, he wrote the churches throughout the Anatolia to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18 ESV).

            The common instruction through the Scriptures is that Christians are to grow by remaining in God’s Word. Jesus revealed, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31a–32 ESV). That freedom is to be free from the slavery of sin (John 8:34–36). How can the followers of Christ abide in His word? The apostle Paul noted that he wrote Scripture for believers to read and know the mystery of God revealed by the Holy Spirit to His apostles and prophets (Eph 3:3–5).

            As disciples of Christ, believers should commit scriptures to memory upon the heart so as to meditate and dwell upon God’s Word (Heb 8:10). “Let the word of God dwell in your richly” (Col 3:16a). The Psalmist expressed, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps 119:11). How else is the mind to be renewed and the life transformed? The apostle encourage, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2 ESV). Anyone who wants to see transformation in their life must commit the Word of God to their hearts and minds.

            How can Christians encourage one another to keep reading the Word? They all need the encouragement of other believers (Heb 3:13; 10:24). With 260 workdays in the year, Christians can at least read 5 chapters a week and read all 260 chapters of the New Testament in a year. People keep what they learn when they use what they learn. The Christian needs to share their reading, study, and memorization with others whether they meet with brethren in the church or with others at work or in the community. Sharing what you read with others is going to make disciples and open doors for others to understand the gospel and obey it. Furthermore, Christians can share their reading and study with their family encouraging salvation and growth. In fact, the overflow in one’s own life will make a great difference.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Ps 1:1–3).

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Thursday, March 28 2019

“Is there an afterlife?” Everyone faces this question when a person considers one’s coming death. Many people conclude with a pagan picture of afterlife thinking that they will be spirits living in ghostly bodies and in a state or place of heaven much like Elysium believed by the ancient classical world.

            How real is eternal life and the world to come to you? Many of the descriptions of the heavenly kingdom and eternal life have become unclear. Do you look forward to being transformed into a glorious body to live in a heavenly kingdom (Phil 3:20–21)? Christians should anticipate the one hope of eternal life by the redemption of the body (Rom 8:23–25; Eph 4:4).

            Many if not most believers are hesitant of what to accept as literal or figurative in the Book of Revelation. Revelation includes promises to the faithful including the gift of a morning star (Rev 2:17, 28; 3:5). Is the text describing reality? Sadly, many revert to the common perception of “heaven” within their imaginations. However, knowledge and understanding of other books of the Bible help readers to understand Revelation especially its picture of eternal life. Biblical texts like the Epistle to the Hebrews describe the reality of the heavenly country.

            In Revelation 20, John saw earth and heaven move away (Rev 20:11). After God’s judgment of the world, He also saw “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21:1). According to Hebrews, the heavens and earth will perish and yet change (Heb 1:10–12; cf. Rom 8:19–23). Hebrews calls this “the world to come” (Heb 2:5; cf. 6:5). Peter predicted the new heavens and new earth when he described the reality of the Creation, the Flood, the coming destruction of the heavens by fire, and fire exposing the earth (2 Pet 3:5–12). Peter added in declaration, “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet 3:13 ESV). The reality is that God promises a better country that is heavenly for the faithful to live eternally (Heb 11:16; cf. 2 Tim 4:18; 2 Pet 1:11).

            John also reported of the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming out of heaven from God (Rev 21:2, 10–14). Hebrews affirmed that God has prepared a city for the saved (Heb 11:16). Revelation symbolically describes the city as Christ’s bride, the church, and yet alludes to a real city. John saw the city surrounded by 1,380 miles of walls foursquare and made of reddish jasper with 12 open pearl gates, and within its streets of glassy gold, the river of life flowed through the middle and the tree of life bore its fruits on each side (Rev 21:15–22:4). Revelation captures the glory of God’s eternal city whether the details are figurative or not. The reality is that God has a city for His people. According to Hebrews, Abraham looked forward by faith to “the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb 11:10). The writer encouraged Christians as they have come “to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,” where angels are in festal gathering with God and Christ (Heb 12:22).

            Jesus will bring His people into His glory (Heb 2:10). For this reason, Revelation displays the wonder of God’s promises in astonishing words, and texts like Hebrews attests to the reality of God’s eternal blessings. All of this is recorded for the earnestness and full assurance of hope until the end (Heb 6:11–12). “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Heb 10:22–23).

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Tuesday, March 19 2019

Everyone wants to see justice done. Many people wonder about the justice of God. However, no one can escape God’s just wrath without Christ appeasing justice and making one just before God (Rom 3:23–25). God’s justice toward all does not negate the Christian from desiring justice toward the wicked. The Book of Revelation teaches believers how God brings judgment.

            John’s Revelation depicted the first-century enemies of the church as two beasts. One is is “the Beast” a ruler of Rome and the other beast is “the False Prophet,” the false media promoting worship of the Beast (Rev 13). Because of their wickedness upon the earth, a voice called for God’s wrath to pour upon the earth (Rev 16:1). Plagues described as 7 bowls of wrath came upon the earth. God’s justice came upon the people who worshiped the Beast and bore the mark of the Beast (16:2). In the third plague, an angel declared, “You are righteous, O Lord, The One who is and who was and who is to be, Because You have judged these things. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, And You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due” (Rev 16:5–6 ESV).

            After enduring the plagues, the wicked did not repent and glorify God but cursed God (Rev 16:8–9). Likewise, humanity endures today the consequences of sin and many curse God instead of turning to God. In the fifth plague, God exercised His wrath against the throne of the Beast plunging his kingdom into darkness. That wicked kingdom gnawed in anguish, did not repent, and cursed God again (16:10–11). The faithful can expect that many in the world would rather rail against God than submit to God’s love and justice.
            Satan, the Beast, and the False Prophet deceived the kings of the nations to go to war for threat from the east (16:12–14). Their army of the nations assembled at Armageddon meaning “Mount Megiddo” (16:16). The valley of Megiddo is notable for its fertility providing crops and for being a place of battle. Most notably, Mount Carmel overlooks the valley and is where God demonstrated His power by consuming Elijah’s offering with fire and allowing Elijah to slaughter 450 prophets of Baal (1 Kgs 18). God’s justice comes to those in obstinate rebellion.

            The nations gathered for war at Armageddon, but God gathered them for judgment. John reported that a great earthquake from God concluded the Battle of Armageddon before it started. In this symbolic presentation, God overcame the nations and the city of Rome (Rev 16:17–21). Furthermore, John saw the city of Rome as a prostitute drunk on the blood the saints and witnesses of Jesus (17:1–2, 7, 18; cf. 18:24). As the nations with the Beast made war on Jesus, Christ conquered them as the Lord of lords and the King of kings (17:14). God put it into the hearts of the nations that their kings turn against Rome to devour and burn Rome (17:16; cf. 18:8, 17–18). Rome falls by the violence it stirred (18:21).

            In Revelation, John revealed Christ leading His army to Armageddon where Christ came conquering with a sword from His mouth and ruling with a rod of iron (Rev 19:11–16). The Beast and the armies of the nations that gathered for a battle never engaged, yet God had already won. Christ’s army captured the Beast and the False Prophet and cast them into the lake of fire (19:17–21). “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31).

            Living by faith through difficult trials includes trusting and having confidence in God who will work justice now and on judgment day. No matter who is ruling in this world, “Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments” (Rev 16:7).

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Monday, March 04 2019

The novella, “The Wreck of the Titan,” eerily depicted an account of an ocean liner striking an iceberg and sinking in the north Atlantic 14 years before the actual sinking of the Titanic. The author, Morgan Robertson, denied any extrasensory knowledge of the future but perceived the probability of such an accident from his maritime knowledge. Some people have tried to predict the future. Most have failed. Some predict in vague words so others reinterpreted in hindsight.

            The predictions of the Book of Revelation are so astounding that opponents of the Bible assert that a man named John must have written the book after the historical events that it claims to predict. Revelation predicts a great persecution of the church, tribulations upon the rulers of Rome, and the Beast ruler who would persecute Christians and justly die.

            In Revelation 11, John revealed that the nations would trample the holy city outside of the temple (Rev 11:2). In AD 70, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the physical temple. However, John prophesied that the nations would not destroy the temple of God. John must have referred to this temple as God’s people — the church. In Revelation 1, John revealed that the churches form a kingdom of priests meaing from the Greek word for priest that they must serve in a temple (1:6). The Scriptures reveal that the church is now the temple of God (1 Cor 3:16–17; Eph 2:19–22; 1 Pet 2:5).

            The Book of Revelation prophesied of the destruction of Jerusalem and yet gives no indication that the Romans had already destroyed the physical temple. No New Testament book revealed that Jerusalem’s destruction had already occurred during or before its writing. Any book of the New Testament with modest length would most likely have mentioned this event if written after AD 70, because Jesus predicted the destruction of Jerusalem in detail (Luke 21; cf. Matt 24; Mark 13).

            The destruction of Jerusalem was no small event. The Emperor Domitian honored his brother Titus for his siege of Jerusalem by constructing “the Arch of Titus” to commemorate the conquest. That arch stands today. The first-century Jewish historian, Josephus, was an eyewitness and recorded the destruction of Jerusalem in detail for the Romans. Christian writers would not likely have ignored the event when they believed Jesus predicted it. In the fourth century AD, the church historian, Eusebius, recorded that all Christians escaped the destruction of Jerusalem because of Jesus’s prediction.

            No one can predict the future without a supernatural guide. No other religion or text have made such predictive claims. Unbelievers go to great lengths to try to explain prophetic predictions away. However, critical scholars admit that Jesus did predict the destruction of Jerusalem. They recognize that Jesus asked His disciples to pray the event not come in winter when Jerusalem’s destruction occurred in August indicating that the event had not yet occurred by the writing of the Gospel of Mark (Mark 13:18). Furthermore, the Book of Acts concluded before Paul’s death in AD 65 — five years before the destruction of Jerusalem. Acts dates its prequel, the Gospel of Luke, to about AD 60–62 confirming Jesus’s predictions of Jerusalem’s destruction that Luke recorded from witnesses in Luke 19:41–44 and 21:5–24.

             Those honestly seeking the truth are amazed at the revelation of God. Therefore, Christians can stand with boldness and declare the course of history has fulfilled God’s predictions in the Bible. “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Rom 11:33)

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