Tag Archives: Church

Philadelphia: The Great Little Church!

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

Study #7: ‘’Philadelphia—The Great Little Church”

Proverbs 30:26 raises a question: What is a coney? The verse reads, “Coneys are creatures of little power, yet they make their home in the crags.” Some versions translate it “rabbits” or “badgers.” But the best research indicates that this was the Syrian hyrax, a strange little rodent about the size of a guinea pig. Sometimes it is called a “rock rabbit.” But it is actually unrelated to any other animal. Its teeth and bones resemble those of a rhinoceros. But that’s as far as the similarity goes. The coney is a helpless creature—easy prey for hawks, snakes, and other predators. So how does this little fellow stay alive? That’s the interesting part. He hides himself in the crags of the rocks, often on the side of a cliff.

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Why are we to learn from this Proverb? That we too are weak, helpless, and vulnerable to spiritual attack. So how do we protect ourselves? The coney knows. The answer is by hiding ourselves in the cleft of the Rock—our Lord Jesus Christ.

You see, contrary to popular belief, it’s not bad to be weak, as long as you’re protected. And we are in Jesus Christ! Believing in Jesus does not eliminate life’s dangers, but it does make us eternally secure in the midst of them. In fact, the Bible says our weaknesses are an advantage in serving Christ. 2 Corinthians 12:9 is a good example. There the Lord tells Paul why he’s suffered what he has. “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” So Paul concludes, “I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” In other words, when we’re weak, we’re forced to depend on Christ instead of ourselves, and that’s where true strength is found. Hudson Taylor, the great missionary, wrote: “God uses men who are weak and feeble enough to lean on Him.”

But our primary example is the great little church of Philadelphia, described in Revelation 3:7-13. The city was 30 miles southwest of Sardis in Asia Minor and built in 189 BC by King Attalus of Peramum whose nickname was Philadelphia due to his special love for his brother. So that became the name of the city. It was also located in an earthquake zone with agriculturally rich soil because of the volcanic ash that was frequently deposited in the area.

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As for the church, Jesus said they only had a “little strength.” This was because they didn’t have the large membership or great resources of churches like Ephesus and Laodicea. But the truth is most of the great churches throughout history have not been large or wealthy. The churches of the great Puritans like John Robinson and Jonathan Edwards were churches of fewer than 200 people. In fact, 60 percent of churches in America today average 89 members. Because it is always just a remnant who truly love Christ and His Word. And yet, when welded to the iron bar of His strength, the copper wire of their weakness made the church at Philadelphia the most dynamic church in the Revelation.

The question is: Will we learn from them? Will we admit our frailty and rely on Jesus alone for our strength? To understand what made them one of the great little churches of history, there are four facts to recognize about them.

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  1. The Nature of Their Greatness

Jesus begins the letter like this in Revelation 3:7-8, ““And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”

Two things to notice here. First, notice how they were corrected. They weren’t, were they? Like the persecuted church of Smyrna, Jesus found nothing bad to say about them. Instead, He speaks words full of encouragement and blessing, reminding us how tender and compassionate our Savior is toward those who do their best for Him. Some of us were raised in negative households, where Mom or Dad always seemed to find fault with us. So it is difficult for us to think of God as being pleased with us. But He is, if we do our best for Him. He’s not a difficult Master to please. His expectations are always in direct proportion to the strength He gives us. “To whom much is given, much will be required.” But to those with only a little strength, only a little is expected of us. Psalm 103:13 is one of my favorite verses. “As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame. He remembers that we are dust.”

The second thing to notice is how they were commended. They were commended for keeping God’s Word. You see, we live in an age when the uppermost thing in people’s minds is not right, but rights. A woman’s fundamental right to choose. A pornographer’s fundamental right to free speech. A homosexual’s fundamental right to promote his lifestyle. Of course, the world isn’t so quick to fight for the unborn’s fundamental right to life or our fundamental right to protest on their behalf. Because it’s rights, not right, people care about, making many Christians wonder, “Should I even bother saying anything? And do I have the right to push my beliefs on the rest of the population?” The answer is: Not only do we have a right to do so, we have a fundamental responsibility to speak the truth in love. After all, how kind is it to quietly stand by while an unwed mother doubles her pain by taking the life of her unborn child? Or how loving is it to say nothing as the LBGT community shortens their lives by sexually dangerous behavior?

stand-firmSo I say, even if no one listens to us, we have a responsibility to take a stand not for what is politically correct, but for what is good and right and decent. Or as Jesus credits them here, “You have pleased Me by fulfilling your fundamental responsibility to keep My Word.

They also did not deny Christ’s name. Why does that matter? Because just as godly wisdom is found only in the Word of God, supernatural power is found only in the name of Jesus. Think back to the crippled man Peter healed in Acts 3. The Sanhedrin asked him, “By what power have you done this?” Peter replied, “Be it known to you all…that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth…this man stands here before you whole…Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

You say, “Isn’t that rather simplistic?” Just be faithful to God’s Word and God’s Son and God will bless?” I often meet that attitude in counseling sessions or planning meetings. People want to see change in their lives or growth in the church. But when you insist that they go back to square one and start again with holiness, honestly, and love, they’re angry.

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Like Namaan the leper, who was told to wash seven times in the Jordan River, they think, “It can’t be that simple! I’ve heard these things for years.” Yes, but have you been practicing them? Are you a doer as well as a hearer of the Word? My wife and I have made many mistakes, but 41 years later, I can testify that God has blessed us with more resources, more friends, and more family joy than we ever imagined. Simple obedience is the surest route to the blessing of God.

The truth is that it doesn’t take a lot of talent or charisma to be useful to God. In fact, those things can actually get in the way of serving Him. Instead, what we need do is give Him the little bit of strength we have, let Him match it with His greatness, and then explode it with divine power. That’s the secret to success with God. Determining to hold fast to His name and His Word no matter what comes your way. And that’s something you can do! You may have just a little strength, but a little is more than enough when God is involved.

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Someone has said, “The mighty oak was once just a little nut who held his ground.” That homey maxim is my philosophy of spiritual growth and ministry. Dig in your heels, hang on to God, and never let up until He blesses. The Philadelphians did that, and not only did they become one of the great churches of the Revelation, they are also the only church which has survived until today.

  1. The Source of Their Greatness

Each of the seven letters, you’ll remember, begins with a description of Christ intended to encourage the church in question. And this church is no exception. The only difference is that this description doesn’t come from the vision of Christ in chapter one. Why not? Because that was a vision of Christ preparing to judge the world. But the weak don’t need to hear about judgment. The unruly need to hear about judgment, but the weak need to be encouraged. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 says, “Admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, support the weak.” So, in order to strengthen their confidence in them, in verse 7 Jesus emphasizes three encouraging truths about Himself.

He begins, “These things says He who is holy.” Throughout the New Testament, Christ’s Deity is proven by the fact that like the Father, He is holy. In John 6:69, when His superficial disciples began falling away, Peter assures Jesus, “We have believed and come to know that You are the holy One of God.”

What does that mean? The word “holy” means to be separate and distinct. It is the opposite of the idea espoused by America’s unofficial religion – the New Age movement. According to the New Age movement, God is the divine “force” which binds the universe together giving it its unity and direction. Nor is there any distinction between God and His creation. God is in everything and everything is a part of God. And it is at this point that Jesus has given us a mandate to stand up and defy our culture, “No, God is not synonymous with His creation. He infinitely higher and holier than the things He has made.” Hebrews 7:26 says, “For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.” Christ is holy, and because He is, He cannot tolerate sin and demands holiness from His people. “Be holy as I am holy, says the Lord.”

Verse 7 continues, “He who is true.” There are two Greek words for “true.” Alethes, which refers to something true as opposed to false. For example, “The ocean is wet” is a true statement, whereas “The ocean is dry” is a false statement. But that is not the word Jesus uses. He uses Alethinos, which means the source of all truth. Jesus, in other words, isn’t just a person who tells the truth. He is truth incarnate, which means anyone who disagrees with anything He ever taught is by definition wrong. He is the standard by which every other thought or teaching is judged. You say, “That’s awfully narrow!” You’re right! It is. But this is who Jesus claimed to be—the only true revelation of God. He said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6). If that isn’t a cause for confidence, I don’t know what it.

Verse 7 adds, “He who has the key of David, who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens.” What does this mean? Jesus is likening Himself to Eliakim, the faithful treasurer of King Hezekiah, described in Isaiah 22. Eliakim held the key to the king’s treasury with the power to open or shut it at will. Now the Savior takes that Old Testament truth and applies it to Himself, saying, “I am the Greater Eliakim with the keys to Heaven’s treasures, so that whatever your need may be, I can supply it.” It is what Paul promised the Philippians when He said, “And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:19)

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Then, just to make sure we don’t misunderstand how important this is, Jesus continues in verse 8, “See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it.” Do you realize how powerful and encouraging that statement is to a struggling church? Think of the problems we face today—economically, politically, morally, spiritually—and realize, we as Christians have been called to do something about it. But how is that possible? Things are so evil, how can we ever hope to make a dent in them? The answer is that victory is not only possible, it is certain because of who holds the key. Every effort we make for Christ—every missionary effort, every witnessing effort, every Bible class taught, every prayer offered—has the potential of eternal life-changing success. Why? Because Jesus Christ has opened the door. Paul referred to this in his letter to the Corinthians. He wrote, “For a great and effective door has opened for me.”

Sometimes we talk about looking for opportunities to serve the Lord. But that’s a cop-out, isn’t it? We don’t have to look for opportunities. Why? Because Jesus has already opened the door. All we have to do is walk through it and take advantage of the opportunities that exist. Will you do that? Think about the unbelievers you know. Isn’t there at least one you could befriend for Christ? Or think about the pressing needs of our missionaries or other believers in your fellowship. Isn’t there are least one need you could meet? Remember, there’s no such thing as being over-qualified for the Lord’s work. If Jesus could wash feet, then what could possibly be beneath us?

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  1. The Threat to Their Greatness

You can see it in verse 11. Jesus warns, “Behold, I come quickly. Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” This is a clear indication that the Philadelphian had already earned a wonderful reward from Christ. There was nothing new or different they had to do. All they had to do was hold on to what they had. But that isn’t easy. For it is possible to serve Christ well, earn a reward, but then, because of lack of unfaithfulness, to drop out of the race before it’s ended and lose everything you’ve achieved. 2 John 1:8 warns, “Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.”

You say, “I didn’t think a Christ could lose his salvation?” You’re right. We can’t. Not if we have truly been born again. 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 assures us that even if our works amount to hay, wood, and stubble, and are burned up at the Judgment Seat of Christ, we ourselves will be saved as from the fire—if our foundation is Christ. It isn’t a matter of heaven and hell. It’s a matter of rewards. We’re warned that unless we’re watchful, we can lose our crowns. Or to be more precise, we can have them stolen from us. Who would do that? The enemy of our souls. Satan knows very well that he cannot take away our eternal life. So he settles for second best. He seeks to tarnish our victory by stealing our rewards. How? Through pride and complacency.

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I’m thinking right now of a well-known pastor who was heard to say many times over the years that the one area in which Satan would never trip him up was his sex life. And yet, it wasn’t long before he was caught having an affair with a woman he was counseling. Isn’t that tragic! To work hard for Christ, but then, because of a lack of watchfulness, to disgrace yourself, your family, and to lose everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve? But it can happen. Paul said it could happen to him. That’s why he wrote 1 Corinthians 9:27. He said, “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” So let’s take nothing for granted. Let’s hold fast to what we have, that no one may take our crowns. Or as Revelation 2:10 puts it, “Be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life.”

  1. The Rewards for Their Greatness

Given the faithfulness of the Philadelphians and the positive tone of this letter, it shouldn’t be a surprise to find this letter filled with promises. And it is!

A.  Vengeance

The first promise is found in verse 9 where Jesus says, “Indeed, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.” That is a promise of vengeance.

The Christians in Philadelphia were suffering severe persecution like the other cities in the region, but in their case it was instigated by the Jews. There was a large synagogue of Jews in Philadelphia who believed that Christianity was a blasphemous lie, and like Paul before his conversion, they wanted to destroy the church. But instead of giving in to bitterness, the believers simply looked to the Lord in faith. Why? Because of what we Christians have been taught for two thousand years now. Romans 12:17-19, “Do not return evil for evil, and do not take revenge, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine. I will repay, says the Lord.”

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It isn’t our job to get even with those who hurt us—parents, brothers, sisters, neighbors, friends, co-workers, fellow church members. For God promises that His judgments are much more just and satisfying. Here He promises that anyone who hurts us, mocks us, or takes advantage of us, because we’re Christians, will one day be made to bow before us in repentance. “Indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.” That should do away with the need for wrath and revenge, shouldn’t it?

B.  Deliverance

Next, Jesus promises deliverance. Verse 10 continues, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.”

This is one of the most important verses in the book of Revelation. First, Jesus warns that there is a period of judgment coming upon the entire earth, not just Philadelphia or the region of Asia Minor. What period of judgment is that? After all, no worldwide judgment against sin has taken place since the Genesis flood. But read the rest of this book and it becomes clear. He is referring to the Tribulation pictured in chapters 6 to 19.

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But He doesn’t stop there. He goes on to make a promise to the Philadelphians which applies to believers in ever age and every kind of church. We know that because the letter again ends with the call, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Rev. 3:13) This is a promise that those who truly love and believe in Christ will be removed from the earth before this hour of trial begins. After all, what bridegroom wouldn’t rescue His bride from disaster if He could. Certainly our Heavenly Bridegroom will. Two facts make this clear:

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First, the preposition “from.” Some versions translate it “out of the hour of trial.” That is the most accurate rendition. For the Greek word ek means “out of” and comes from a root word meaning separation. This indicates that Christ isn’t merely going to protect His Church in the Tribulation; He is going to keep us “out of” it. In fact, those who teach that the church must go through the Tribulation, but be protected by Christ in the midst of it, have problems explaining what follows in the rest of the book. Later chapters reveal that those who come to faith in Jesus Christ during the Tribulation will not be protected from persecution, but will be martyred for their faith.

Second, Jesus says that this hour is designed to “test those who dwell upon the earth.” This phrase is used 10 times in Revelation and always refers to unbelievers, not believers. So, if you think the church might go through the Tribulation, the question you must answer is: Why? What purpose would be served by it? The answer is: No good purpose. This is an hour intended to test “earth-dwellers,” not those whose citizenship is already in heaven.

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In fact, what is striking is how often we have read the word “church” and “churches” in the first three chapters. I counted 19 uses of the word, and in each case the church in on earth. However, once we come to chapter 4, there is never again any mention of the church on earth, because the church is now safe in heaven, represented by the twenty-four elders worshiping before God’s throne. Of course, this is not to suggest that the church will escape all tribulation. In John 16:33, Jesus clearly warned, “in the world you will have tribulation.” But what we won’t go through, if we’re genuinely saved, is the Tribulation. The definite article indicates a very specific time of trial from which we will be delivered—“the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world to test those who dwell on the earth.” (Rev. 3:10)

C.  Permanence

Third, Jesus promises the church permanence. Verse 12 adds, “He who overcomes, I will make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more.” This alludes to the tradition of the Philadelphians who honored their heroes by carving their names on the pillars of their temples. In our case, there will be no physical temple in the New Jerusalem, for Revelation 21:22 tells us that Christ will be the only temple we need. But He will memorialize our good deeds. How? By giving us a status that will cause others to look up to us.

And He promises that we “will go out no more.” That phrase had special meaning for the Philadelphians. Built in an earthquake zone, the citizens spent much of their lives getting in and out of town. An earthquake would strike and the people would run for safety. Then the trembling would stop and they’d return and rebuild their homes. In fact, we’re told that in 17 AD a major earthquake struck the area, destroying 12 cities including Sardis and Philadelphia. Another earthquake destroyed Laodicea in 60 AD.

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So this is a promise of peace and permanence. It is what David sang about in Psalm 23: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

D.  Acceptance

Finally, Jesus promises us three new names: “And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of Heaven from My God. And I will write on Him My new name.” What do these three things signify? Acceptance and belonging. Just as an earthly bridegroom gives his name to his precious new bride, so Jesus will give us His new name, signifying forever that we belong to Him.

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So let me ask you. How strong are you? Chances are, not very. Because what God so often chooses are the weak things of this world to shame the strong. Which means that, despite our outward appearances, most of us are weak, sensitive, and vulnerable. But that’s OK as long as you’re protected. And we are! How? The coney knows. By placing our lives in the care of Jesus Christ. That gives us safety and strengthen for whatever He asks us to do today, and courage and hope for what we face tomorrow. So stay close to Christ. He is our Rock!

(Thanks for studying with us! To download the written lesson, click Written. To download the Powerpoint slides for teaching, click Slides.)

 

Revelation Study #2: “See the Glorified Jesus”

Study #2: Seeing the Glorified Jesus (Rev. 1:12-20)

(To listen to the audio message, click this link – Revelation 1:12-20. To download the audio, right click the above link, choose “save link as,” give it a name, and save it to your computer. You can then burn a CD of it. To download the written message, right click this link, Written Message, choose “save link as,” give it a name, and save it to your computer. You can then email it to a friend. Help us get the word out! Jesus is returning soon, and we need to get ready! If you are a teacher, and would like to use these notes and our Powerpoint slides to teach the Book of Revelation to your group, click this link – Slides.)

_MG_4670_HDR-1What is the most beautiful sight you have ever seen?  The Grand Canyon?  A Hawaiian sunset?  The artwork of Italy?  Dr. Magherini, head of the psychiatric hospital at Florence warns that too much beauty can overwhelm us.  She says, “Some tourists fall to the ground with heart palpitations thinking they’re having a heart attack. Others suffer from delirium or disorientation. But what they’re really having could be called a ‘brush stroke.’ Mix one tired and lonely tourist with a heavy dose of Michelangelo, throw in a fresco by Giotto and a Bernini statue or two, and presto! You have a victim of art illness.”  But she says most victims recover quickly. “All they need to return to normal is a heavy dose of the familiar and the mundane.”

That is fascinating for two reasons: 1) It shows how accustomed we are to the ordinary. 2) It gives us a glimpse of how you and I would react if we witnessed the truly glorious. After all, if people faint from seeing something as mundane as Michelangelo’s David, imagine how we’d react if we came face to face with the Risen Christ!  Revelation chapter 1 is a case in point.  John the apostle has been banished to the Isle of Patmos for preaching the Word of God, when Jesus suddenly appears to him—altogether holy, glorious, and beautiful.  How does John react?  He says in verse 17, “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead!” Why? Faced with the majesty of the All-Glorious Jesus, the only thing anyone can do is fall at His feet in worship.

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In this, our second study of the Revelation, John pulls back the veil and reveals the Lord Jesus as He really is.  No longer is He the meek and mild Savior; now He is the All-Glorious King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  As John tells us what he saw, let the majesty of Jesus fill you with awe.  Four facts stand out about Him in Revelation 1:12-20.

  1. His Position

Verse 12 begins, “Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me.  And having turned, I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands One like the Son of Man.”  Two things to notice here.  First, notice what John sees when he turns toward the voice speaking to him.  He sees seven golden lampstands.  What do they possibly represent? There is no need to wonder because Jesus explains it in verse 20, “The seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.”  That’s a fitting symbol for a church, isn’t it?  For just as a lamp is not the source of the light it gives off, but gets its flame from the oil burning inside it, so you and I have no glory of our own.  Instead, where do we get our light?  We get it from Jesus, the Light of the World who commanded His disciples, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  So yes, Jesus is the Light of the World, but it is through the churches, His lampstands, that He makes His glory known.

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That raises the question.  What kind of light are you giving off?  Is it bright enough for others at your workplace to see?  Or what about your neighbors?  Can they see the likeness of Jesus in you?  Several years ago I met with our church’s nominating committee to consider new elders and deacons.  Someone suggested the name of one of the sharpest and most successful men in our congregation.  But right away someone nixed his nomination.  Why?  They said a friend of theirs ran a store in town and whenever this man came into his shop, he acted like a “jerk,” cursing about this or that.  The friend said, “If that’s what the people at your church are like, my family and I will never attend one of your services.”  Anyone, of course, can have a bad day.  But apparently this was a habit, reminding me that people are watching! And if we say that we are Christians, they’re expecting to see a reasonable likeness of Jesus Christ in us.

Even more important, however, is where Jesus is in relation to the lampstands.  Verse 13 says He is “in the midst of them.”  This signifies two truths about Him.  First, His presence with us—that He will never leave us nor forsake us, but is with us until the end of the age.  For even though Jesus has ascended to His throne in heaven, He is still with us in the Person of His Holy Spirit.  And not only is He with us, He’s watching us.  This is the point of Revelation 2:1, which says He “walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.”  This is not a leisurely stroll He is describing; it is our Commander-in-Chief inspecting His troops, listening to our worship, watching the way we do business, and examining the thoughts and intents of our hearts.  Even in the heated atmosphere of a business meeting, we need to remember that Jesus is with us, watching what we say and how we say it.  So be careful what you say and do!

Second, it emphasizes His centrality.  Throughout the book of Revelation, Jesus is pictured at the center of everything.  Here He walks in the midst of the seven churches.  In chapter 4, He is the center of Heaven’s worship.  In chapter 6, He becomes the source of the world’s future judgment.  And in chapters 21 and 22, He becomes the Light and Temple of the New Jerusalem and the new heavens and the new earth where righteousness dwells.

So an appropriate question to ask is:  Is Jesus Christ the central focus of your life?  If He is, what difference will it make?  Certainly, it will lead you to spend daily time with Him in Bible study and prayer.  It will also make you more faithful in serving the church to which you belong. But most telling of all, it will affect the decisions you make as a mother, a father, a student, an employee, a neighbor, and a citizen.  Simply stated, when you realize that Jesus is present in every part of your life, it will radically transform how you think and what you do.

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Are you familiar with this illustration from Campus Crusade?  The first circle represents a person who has given Christ center place in his life.  Self has been dethroned and Christ is in charge, bringing him joy and fulfillment by putting all things in their proper order.  But there is a second possibility for the Christian, illustrated by the second circle.  Christ is in this person’s life, but He is not in control.  Self is on the throne making the decisions.  As a result, life is filled with chaos, frustration, and discouragement.  Everything is out of order. Why?  Because you and I were never designed to be the masters of our lives.

Which circle represents your life?  The good news is nothing prevents you from enjoying the abundant life Jesus came to give you.  All you need to do is yield to Him the same place He enjoys throughout creation.  Will you step down from the throne of your life and give Jesus control.  My prayer is that you will do that right now in the quietness of your heart.

  1. His Appearance

Verse 13 continues, He was “clothed with a garment down to the feet, and girded about the chest with a golden band.  His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; He feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace.”

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Bible commentators disagree about the meaning of Christ’s clothing.  Some say it is a symbol of His priesthood.  Others say it pictures His kingship.  I think it is a symbol of both. Like Aaron the high priest (Exod. 28:34), Christ does wear a robe reaching all the way to the ground.  But, unlike Aaron, His waistband is made of gold, not purple or scarlet, indicating that Jesus is our royal high priest.  Therefore, as Hebrews 7:25 puts it, He is the guarantee of “a better covenant” than Aaron.  Because “He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them.”

Doesn’t that make you feel secure?  Jesus offered Himself as the complete payment for your sins, crying out from the cross, “It is finished!  Paid in full!  Nothing more need be done!”  But He also loves you so much that He is praying for you before the Father’s throne, ensuring that nothing will ever steal your salvation.  It reminds me of Jesus’ words to Peter before his temptation and fall.  “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you like wheat: but I have prayed for your, that your faith should not fail.”  If you are a disciple of Jesus, that is what He is doing for you each and every moment of your life as your royal high priest.  He is at the Father’s right hand praying for you, that your faith may not fail.

Notice also the color of Christ’s hair.  Verse 14 says, “His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow.”  Again scholars disagree.  Some say it is a symbol of His purity or wisdom.  Surely both are true.  But Daniel 7:9 gives the best explanation for this symbol. In describing the Messiah, it says, “His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool…I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated.” This, then, is a picture of Christ’s eternity, ruling forever and ever as our Lord and King.

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Have you recognized this about Christ?  That He is God in human flesh? Most religious people are happy to call Jesus a great teacher or a mighty prophet.  Mahatma Gandhi, the holy man of India, openly declared his admiration for Jesus and said he was glad to give Him an equal place with Buddha, Confucius, and Mohammed.  But he said, “I cannot place Jesus Christ on a solitary throne.”  Yet, that’s what Jesus demands.  He demands that we give Him the throne of our lives.  For He is more than a prophet or a teacher.  He is God incarnate, co-equal with the Father and deserving of your worship and obedience.  Jesus said in John 8:24, “If you do not believe that I AM (the Old Testament name for God), you will die in your sins.”  So bow your heart to Him today.  Remember Doubting Thomas’ reaction when He saw the Risen Christ.  He fell at His feet saying, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)  You need to do that.  You need to recognize who Jesus is and give Him the worship He deserves.

Verse 12 adds, “His eyes were like a flame of fire.”  What does this mean?  Revelation 2:23 unlocks the mystery. Something we discover as we study this book is that each description in chapter 1 is repeated in one of the letters to the churches, emphasizing an attribute of Christ they were forgetting.  So how does Jesus describe Himself to the compromising Christians in Thyatira?  Revelation 2:18-25 says, “These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire…and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.”

This is a symbol of His perfect knowledge and judgment.  Often we fool ourselves pretending that Christ doesn’t notice the little compromises we make with sin—things we read, things we watch, the ways we talk, and the ways we spend our money.  But we’re wrong! As Hebrews 4:13 reminds us, nothing escapes His notice, for “all things are naked and open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.”  So the challenge is to hide nothing from our Savior, but to confess all our sins to Him, asking for forgiveness and the grace to begin again. Do you know the song we teach children in Sunday School? It’s true for adults as well.

O, be careful little hands what you do. O, be careful little hands what you do. For the Father up above is looking down in love. So be careful little hands what you do!

There are other verses to it as well.  “O, be careful little eyes what you see.  O, be careful little ears what you hear.  O, be careful little lips what you say.”  The point is: Someone incredibly holy is watching over us who cares about everything we do.  So, in a grown-up way, we need to ask ourselves, “How will this look to the One with eyes like a flame of fire?”

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Notice also Christ’s feet.  Verse 15 says, “His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace.” In other words, they’re red hot and ready for judgment.  That is what furnaces picture in the Bible.  They are symbols of judgment.  Remember the fiery furnace into which Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were cast?  The same is also true of feet.  The way that a conquering general demonstrated his power and victory over an enemy was by placing his foot on his neck.  Is there anything more like that mentioned about the feet of Christ in the book of Revelation? Yes!  Notice what Revelation 19:15 says the feet of Jesus will do.  First, it says He will rule the nations with a rod of iron, and then it adds, He will “tread the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.”  To sum up, then, what does Christ’s appearance to John picture for us?  His eternal power and glory as earth’s coming King.  Now notice a third fact about Him.

  1. His Power

We immediately see a hint of this in verse 15, where John says, “And His voice was as the sound of many waters.”  I learned the meaning of this while visiting Narada Falls with my family.  Compared to Niagara Falls, Narada Falls is a baby waterfall.  But still I found as I stood in its spray, all other sounds were drowned out by the roar of its waters.  So it is with the voice of Christ.  When Jesus speaks, all other voices lose their impact.  At creation, He commanded, “Let there be light!”  And there was light.  At Bethany, He shouted, “Lazarus, come forth!”  And a dead man came hobbling out of his tomb.  But the greatest display of His power will be at His second coming.  Jesus said, “The hour is coming…when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God…and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” (John 5:25-29)

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Today our ears are assaulted by the foolish babble of arrogant men trying to impress ud with their wisdom.  But one day soon Jesus will return, and when He speaks, all other voices will be silenced in His presence.  “For,” Isaiah 11:9 says, “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”  In other words, what Jesus says will be the only topic of interest in that day.  So let me ask you.  Whose voice are you listening to today?  The voice of the political pundits and late night comedians?  Or are you faithfully studying what God says in His Word, eagerly responding to the promptings of His Holy Spirit?

Notice also how John describes Christ’s hand.  The hand of God is a symbol of His power.  Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.”   But here John also emphasizes its contents. “He had in His right hand seven stars.”  To what does this refer?  Verse 20 explains, “The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches.”  What is that about?  Who are the angels of the seven churches?  The Greek word angelos simply means messenger.  It can mean a heavenly messenger if the context warrants it.  Or, as in this case, because of the context, it refers to a human messenger.  After all, what would be the purpose of writing letters to angelic beings?  For example, Revelation 2:1 says, “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write.”

So, if these are not heavenly angels, what are they?  Most Bible teachers agree that it is a reference to the pastors of the seven churches.  I like what the late J. Vernon McGee wrote: “I like to think that it refers to the local pastors. It is good to hear a pastor called an angel; sometimes we are called other things.”  If this does refer to the pastors of the churches, it should be a great encouragement to church members. Why?  Because of where they are—right in the center of Christ’s hand.  Which implies that as faulty and flawed as we are, Christ is in control of us, and when you pray for us, your prayers make a difference.

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Next John says there is a “sharp two-edged sword” coming out of Christ’s mouth. This refers to the power of God’s Word.  Ephesians 6:17 calls it “the sword of the Spirit,” our weapon for destroying Satan’s lies.  Hebrews 4:12 adds that it is “sharper than any two-edged sword.”  But the word for “sword” is different in this passage.  It refers not to the small sword used by Roman soldiers in hand-to-hand combat, but to the large two-handed sword used to decapitate the leader of a defeated army.  As such, it signifies the complete and final victory of Jesus Christ over all His enemies. This is something that will come about not by some great excruciating effort on His part, but simply, 2 Thessalonians 2:8 says, “by the breath of His mouth” and “the brightness of His coming.”  Revelation 19:15 adds, “Out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations…”

Finally, notice how John describes the face of Jesus. He says that looking into the face of the glorified Christ is like staring into the “sun shining in its strength.”  Have you ever tried that? To stare into the brightness of the sun?  How long could you do it?  It’s actually not a good idea because it can damage your eyes.  But that is what the disciples saw on the Mount of Transfiguration.  (Matt. 17:2)  Jesus was transformed before them, so that “His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.”  It was so overwhelming that the disciples, like John here on the Isle of Patmos, fell on their faces in worship.  Why?  Because the face of Christ is simply the most glorious sight that human eyes can see.  Revelation 20:11 says it will be so glorious that heaven and earth will flee away from Him in terror.

But that is not His desire for us.  Instead, His desire is to comfort the Apostle John saying in verse 17: “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen.”  Maybe this is what John was looking back on when he wrote, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears is not made perfect in love.” Just as comforting is His statement, “I have the keys of Hades and Death.”  In popular culture, the devil is in charge of hell.  But Jesus corrects that misconception.  The truth is that the devil is just a creature, whereas Jesus is the Creator in control of everything that happens in His universe.  Therefore, if we belong to Him, we never need fear death or hell again.

Those of you involved in jail ministries can appreciate this.  Once that door clangs shut behind you, you want to be sure the jailer remembers you and that your name is on his list. Why? Because he is the only one with the authority to let you out.  Similarly, we who belong to Jesus Christ don’t need to fear death anymore.  Why not?  Because He holds the keys to both death and hell.  And finally, consider one more fact about Christ.

  1. His Assignment

In verse 19, John is given an assignment: “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.”  To miss what John is told here is to fail to understand everything else that is written in this book, for this is the key verse and outline for everything that follows.

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To summarize it, John was told to write about three things: (1) “The things which you have seen.” This refers to his vision of the glorified Christ in chapter 1.  (2) “The things which are.” This refers to the events of the seven churches which he will address in chapters 2 and 3.  This part of the outline will be helpful when we try to decide when Jesus is returning for His church—whether it’s before or after the Tribulation—for in chapters 2 and 3, much is said about the church on earth.  But in chapter 4, when John writes about (3) “the things which will take place after this” (the third division of the Revelation), nothing more is said about the churches on earth.  This should make us wonder.  If the church is still on earth during the Tribulation, why is there nothing more said about it until the Bride of Christ is mentioned in Revelation 19:7-10?

One other fact I must point out, though it is not found in chapter 1.  While there is only one revelation in this book—the Revelation of Jesus Christ—there are actually two prophecies.  Revelation 1:19 records the first prophecy, which is a chronological account of the Church Age, the Tribulation that follows, and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. An outline looks like this:

Prophecy #1—Revelation 1:19

  1. The Things Which You Have Seen—Revelation 1
  2. The Introduction to the Revelation—1:1-11
  3. The Vision of the Glorified Christ—1:12-20
  4. The Things Which Are—Revelation 2 to 3
  5. The Letter to the Church in Ephesus—2:1-7
  6. The Letter to the Church in Smyrna—2:8-11
  7. The Letter to the Church in Pergamum—2:12-17
  8. The Letter to the Church in Thyatira—2:18-29
  9. The Letter to the Church in Sardis—3:1-6
  10. The Letter to the Church in Philadelphia—3:7-13
  11. The Letter to the Church in Laodicea—3:14-22
  12. The Things Which Will Take Place After This—Revelation 4 to 11
  13. The Worship of the Church in Heaven—4:1-11
  14. The Seal Judgments—5:1—7:14
  15. The Trumpet Judgments—8:1—11:14
  16. The Return of Christ and the Hallelujah Chorus—11:15-19

But jumping ahead to Revelation 10, we find the second prophecy of this book.  John is told to eat the “little book” that lies in the angel’s hand.  This is all that remains of the seven-sealed scroll that Christ has opened.  When he eats it, he is told, “You must prophesy again concerning many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.”  This is a characteristic of Jewish writing.  Having given a chronological outline of the last days, John is now told to go back and fill in the details.  In other words, chapters 12 through 22 is a topical study giving us details about characters and events like the Beast and False Prophets, the Bowl Judgments, the Battle of Armageddon, the Return of Christ, the Thousand-Year Kingdom, the Judgment of Satan, and the New Jerusalem. Here is an outline:

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Prophecy #2—Revelation 10:11

  1. War in Heaven Between Lucifer and Michael’s Angels—12:1-17
  2. The Beast and the False Prophet—13:1-18
  3. The Lamb and the 144,000 on Mount Zion—14:1-20
  4. The Bowl Judgments—15:1—16:21
  5. The Judgment of Religious and Political Babylon—17:1—18:24
  6. The Return of Christ to Earth—19:1-21
  7. Thousand-Year Kingdom of Christ and Great White Throne Judgment—20:1-15
  8. The Advent of the New Earth and the New Jerusalem—21:1—22:21

It happened one spring day just prior to the Civil War.  A young man stopped by Wrothy Taylor’s farm looking for work.  The farmer knew nothing about him except his name was Jim and he claimed to be a hard worker.  So he gave him a job milking cows, cutting fire wood, and doing other odd jobs.  Jim ate in the kitchen, slept in the hayloft, and as summer passed, found himself falling in love with the farmer’s daughter. So he summoned up the courage and asked him, “Mr. Taylor, may I marry your daughter?”  “No,” was his reply.  “You have no name, no money, no prospects for the future.”  And he roughly sent him away.  Thirty-five years later, the farmer decided to build a new barn.  So he tore down the old hayloft where Jim had slept.  And there wouldn’t you know it, the farmer found that Jim had carved his full name on one of the rafters—“James A. Garfield”—who went on to become the 20th president of the United States.

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We tend to overlook the meek and humble, regardless of what might lie beneath the surface. That is especially true of the One many of us worship today.  For 20 centuries, mankind has seen Him as the ever-patient Lamb of God, slain for sinners.  But that perception is about to change.  Jesus is coming soon, and when He does, we will see Him in all His glory.  What will be our reaction?  We will fall on their faces in worship, confessing that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.  But it will be too late for salvation then.  Today is the day of salvation!  So if you have not yet given Him center place in your life, do so today.  It will bless you both for time and all of eternity!

(The next study? The letters to the churches in Ephesus and Smyrna.)

COUNTING DOWN THE DAYS

A short excerpt from “Guideposts Magazine” tells this story. You’ll like it. It’s a good one. The author writes, “One hot summer afternoon, my wife and I were invited to a swimming pool party by some friends. As I stood on the diving board, I felt as free as the breeze, when suddenly a frantic voice rose above the din crying out, “My baby! He’s at the bottom of the pool!” No one did anything. People just stared at the woman.

When I saw what looked like a motionless form beneath the water, I dove in, and a baby was there. I swept him off the bottom and laid him on the deck. He was blue and wasn’t breathing. Nor did he have a pulse. So I started CPR praying, “Dear God, help me do this right.” At last the little boy coughed. A breath came, then another. He was going to live. An ambulance was called, and while we waited, I asked the others, “Why didn’t you do something? Why did you ignore that mother’s cry for help?”

1“We didn’t understand her,” they said. “What do you mean? Didn’t you hear her screaming for someone to help her baby?” “No,” they said. “She was speaking Spanish, and none of us could understand her.” “What do you mean, Spanish?” I said. “I heard her screaming in English.” “We didn’t,” they said. “All we heard was Spanish.” “To this day, I’m still bewildered because I don’t speak a word of Spanish either.”

God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform; He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm. You fearful saints, fresh courage take. The clouds you so much dread are big with mercy and shall break with blessings on your head.” We serve an amazing God! He’s amazing in His power, amazing in His wisdom, amazing in His mercy. In fact, if not for His love and His desire for us to know Him, we wouldn’t be able to understand a thing about Him. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

You see, if it were up to us to figure out God, we would never know Him. For how can the finite mind of man ever hope to know the infinite mind of God! We just don’t have the equipment to do that. But then, God hasn’t left us to ourselves. He became one of us in the Person of His only begotten Son, died on a cross for our sins, drew us to Himself through the work of His Spirit, and revealed His plans to us in His Holy Word.

That’s the focus of this study. Our passage is Daniel chapter 9 where we find one of the most powerful prayers ever prayed as well as one of the most pivotal prophecies in all of Scripture. As we study it, what I want to emphasize are three amazing attributes of the God we love. The first is the intimacy of His friendship.

Prayer_Daniel_study1.             The Friendship of God

Daniel has been cultivating a friendship with God all his life spending time in prayer and Bible reading three times a day every day. By the way, if that hasn’t been your habit, start now, not because you ought to but because you’re missing out if you don’t. You know that great feeling of taking time for yourself and relaxing with a cup of coffee and a good book? Now imagine letting Holy Spirit join you in that because that’s what a quiet time is—taking time to rest in God’s presence reading a few verses from the Bible and talking to Him about your needs. Do that once a day and it’ll change your life!

In this case, what Daniel was studying was the prophecy of Jeremiah where God promised that in spite of His people’s sin, He’d forgive them and bring them home from 70 years of captivity in Babylon. And as he rereads the passage, he suddenly realizes—have you ever had that happen, rereading a passage of Scripture you’ve read before and suddenly something leaps out at you that you’ve never noticed? That is the Holy Spirit at work in your mind—and suddenly, as Daniel reads this passage, he realizes that the 70 years are almost over. So what does he do? He goes to prayer and asks God to keep His promise. And God answers way beyond his expectations!

1 John chapter 5 wasn’t written yet; but it was still true both then and now. “And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” Isn’t that an amazing promise? I’d say that’s a verse worth memorizing. What do you think?

One of the best examples is right here in Daniel chapter 9. He says in verse 20: “Now while I was speaking and praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and presenting my supplication before the Lord…while I was still (praying)…the man Gabriel (at least he looked like a man), whom I had seen in the vision previously, came to me in my extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering. He gave me instruction and talked with me and said, ‘O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding.’” The moment Daniel started praying, God answered by sending Gabriel to him, the same angel who later appears to the Virgin Mary. How long did that take? I timed it at home to see how long it takes to read his prayer, and guess what! It took me 3 minutes! 3 minutes for Gabriel to arrive in answer to his prayer!

11As Gaebelein, the German pastor put it, “Heaven is not far away. There is no space and distance for God. The moment we pray in the Spirit and in His name, our voices are heard in the highest heaven.” Why? Because we’re His children—princes and princesses of the Most High King! So take advantage of it! For the Bible says, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us!”

Daniel’s prayer highlights one of the most important truths we can take into our minds, and that’s the friendship of God. Abraham is another example, for what did God do just before He destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah? He told Abraham about it, so he could pray for his nephew Lot. And the same is true of us! Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for everything I’ve heard from My Father, I’ve made known to you.” And that’s Gabriel’s purpose here. In fact, that’s the purpose of all prophecy—God sharing His heart and plans with His friends.

My friend Mark didn’t appreciate this. Mark is the friend from college who led me to faith in Jesus Christ. So we got together some time back to catch up on what the Lord was doing in our lives. I mentioned that I was studying prophecy and was excited about the Lord’s return. His reaction: Why are you wasting time doing that? Don’t tell me you’re one of those Christians who thinks the Lord is coming back in our lifetime!” And when I said, “I think He may,” he got even more irritable. So rather than ruin our time arguing, I changed the subject.

But so often that’s the reaction you get when you talk about prophecy. People rolls their eyes and think you’re naïve and irrelevant. “After all, what’s that got to do with me?” Friends, I hope you don’t feel like that, because not only does this prophecy have a great deal to do with you and me; it’s also the King of the Universe sharing His heart with us His friends.

2That’s the first truth revealed in this passage—the intimacy of God’s friendship. The second truth follows in verses 24 to 27, and that’s the faithfulness of His promises.

2.             The Faithfulness of God

Daniel has been studying prophecy and realizes that the time is short. So he kneels in prayer and not only asks God to keep His promise, but to show him if there’s a role he’s to play in it. Remember! Cyrus the Great is about to conquer Babylon and is going to need some trusted advisers who know the culture and language of Babylon.

So guess who he’s going to enlist as one of his chief counselors! That’s right! Daniel who will show him his name in the book of Isaiah where it says that he, Cyrus, will be the king who gives the decree that God’s people can go home and rebuild their Holy City! All of that is in Daniel’s mind as he goes to prayer. In response, God not only gives him assurance of their present deliverance, but one of the most pivotal prophecies in Scripture, describing the final salvation of His people, both nationally and spiritually.

3But before we get to that, let me say this very kindly. It takes patience to understand this prophecy, just as it does all the prophecies of the Bible. That’s intentional on God’s part. Prophecy is God sharing His heart with His friends. So He makes us dig a little knowing that we who love Him will make the effort, whereas those who don’t won’t bother no matter how important it is.

I’ll never forget working with a history teacher years ago and trying to share my faith with him by telling him about the prophecies fulfilled in the book of Daniel. I thought he’d be interested because it had to do with history. Not a chance! He had no interest whatsoever because he didn’t have a heart for God! As 1 Corinthians 2 explains, “The natural man does not welcome the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he understand them, for they are spiritually discerned.” But you can understand them because you have both the Spirit and a heart for God.

So let’s take a few minutes to try to understand what Gabriel is saying. Verse 24: “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.”

5The first detail to notice is the number “seven” which is the number of completion in the Bible. God completed His work of creation in how many days? Seven! Jacob worked for Laban how many years before he could marry Rachel? Seven! There were how many years of plenty and how many years of famine in the land of Egypt? Seven of both! And how many times did the children of Israel march around the city of Jericho on the seventh day before the walls came “tumbling down”? Seven! The examples go on and on.

That same thing is true here. Gabriel says there will be seventy more “sevens” before God completes His work of redeeming the nation of Israel.  Your Bible may read “weeks” instead of “sevens,” and that can be confusing. But much of the confusion can be overcome if we understand that the Hebrew word here is Shabuwa which means “a heptad” or group of seven. It’s similar to our word “dozen,” which refers to any group of twelve things – a dozen donuts, a dozen eggs, a dozen cookies, etc. So in order to avoid confusion, from this point on in our study, I will use the word “sevens” instead of “weeks.”

In this case, Gabriel says that God’s work of redeeming Israel will be completed after “seventy sevens,” or 490 if you multiply the two figures together. “490 what?” you ask. In this case, he is describing not 490 days, but 490 years. If you consider what Gabriel includes in the time frame here – the rebuilding of the city and temple of Jerusalem, the atonement of Christ, and the end of sin – it is clear that these things could not and were not fulfilled in just 490 years. 

In fact, to make it easier to understand, Gabriel breaks the “70 sevens” down for us starting in verse 25. He says, “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven ‘sevens’ and sixty-two ‘sevens’; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.” The first seven ‘sevens’ or 49 years, then, was the amount of time it took the people of Israel to return and rebuild their city and its temple. That was then followed by an additional sixty-two ‘sevens’ or 434 years of waiting during which God seemed to be silent because there were no more prophets sent to them until John the Baptizer began to cry out in the wilderness, “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand!”

4So add those two blocks of time together (seven “sevens” and sixty-two “sevens”) —remember I said we’d have to do some thinking here—and what do we get? Sixty-nine “sevens” or 483 years before Messiah would appear. Harold Hoehner, a professor at Dallas Seminary, wrote a book about this. Using the Jewish calendar of 360 days and starting with Cyrus’ decree in 444 B.C., that the city of Jerusalem should be rebuilt, he added 483 years to it and pinpointed the exact day on which this prophecy was fulfilled—March 30, 33 A.D! Do you know what happened on that day? The Lord Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem on a donkey offering Himself to the nation of Israel as their long-awaited! God’s Word was literally fulfilled down to the very day. In fact, the Jews could have set their watches by it, if they’d had watches in those days.

Then what happened? Verse 26 says, “After the sixty-two ‘sevens’ the Messiah will be cut off (the phrase means to ‘execute’) and have nothing.” Did that happen to Jesus? It did. The crowd that cheered for Him on Sunday turned against Him and called for His execution on Friday leaving Him with absolutely nothing, not even the clothes on his back! The Roman soldiers gambled for his clothes, and Jesus was made to hung naked upon the cross. In fact, He was so poor that He also had to be buried in the borrowed tomb of a friend named Joseph of Arimathea.

The prophecy continues, “The people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.” “Wait a minute!” you say. “Didn’t we just read about Messiah coming and being ‘cut off’?” You’re right! We did. “Then who is this second prince?” He’s the false prince and counterfeit messiah who will come from the same people group as those who destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple. Do you see that in the verse above? The people came first and their prince comes later. We’ll learn more about that in verse 27.

5But first, who were the people that destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple? Four Roman legions under the command of Titus, who burned Jerusalem to the ground in 70 A.D.! In fact, it is interesting. When Titus marched into Jerusalem with his armies, he ordered his soldiers to leave the Temple intact. But one soldier, acting on impulse, threw a torch into the sanctuary to get a better look at its treasures. That caught the tapestries on fire, and the building was soon a raging inferno, which fulfilled a second prophecy. All that decorative gold in the Temple soon melted and ran down into the cracks in the floor. So when it finally cooled, the soldiers literally overturned every stone to get at it, not only fulfilling Daniel’s prophecy that the Temple would be destroyed, but also the words of Jesus who said, “Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.” (Luke 21:6)

The Word of God is alive and powerful and absolutely trustworthy, not one word of it ever failing to come true. So believe in it and trust it more than you ever have before, both for your salvation and for every other need in your life.

What about the seventieth “seven”? Has that been fulfilled yet? No. That’s still future. You see, something unexpected happened when Israel rejected their Messiah. God’s time clock for Israel temporarily stopped leaving one more “seven” to be fulfilled. And it will be fulfilled right on schedule just as the first sixty-nine “sevens” were fulfilled!

6How do we know when it begins again? Verse 27 says, “He will make a firm covenant with the many for one ‘seven’.” In other words, God’s prophetic clock for the nation of Israel will begin ticking again when a Roman prince signs a peace treaty with Israel for a period of seven years. That has never happened at any time in history. There has never been a prince rise out of the region that Rome once ruled, promising peace to Israel. “Nor will that ever happen!” you say. “There will never be peace in the Middle East!” Not genuine peace perhaps. But that is what he will promise. In fact, that’s how Orthodox rabbis say they will recognize the Messiah when He comes. He will bring peace to Israel and the conditions under which they can rebuild their Temple. Unfortunately, he won’t be the true Messiah; he will be the antichrist who betrays them in the middle of the last seven years and tries by the power of Satan to destroy the Jewish people once and for all.

Verse 27 says, “He will make a firm covenant with the many for one ‘seven’ but in the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate.” Do you realize that none of this was possible just 70 years ago? Because for 1878 years, there was no Jewish nation! Israel did not become a nation again until May 14, 1948. Furthermore, prior to 1945, all of Europe was involved in a great war, making a European union over which the antichrist could rule absolutely impossible. But what was impossible then is more than possible today!

Alan Franklin, editor of “The Free Press” and a frequent guest on “Christ in Prophecy” said this in a recent message. “In Europe the Roman Empire has returned. At Christ’s First Advent, Rome was ruling the earth, and when He comes back, Rome will be ruling again.” José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, said it this way: “Sometimes I like to compare the EU to the organization of an empire because we have the dimension of an empire.” Very understated but that’s what they intend to do.

6In fact, here are their stated goals and the way they plan to do it: 1) Move the headquarters of the United Nations to Europe and replace America as the leader of the world; 2) Bring all of Europe under one jurisdiction making it one great super-nation with one central bank and one central court of justice; 3) Expand their jurisdiction into North Africa and the Arab nations as Ancient Rome once did; and 4) Eliminate the borders, so there’s no distinction between Europeans, Africans, and Middle Easterners. Their goal is to unite all of Europe under one central rule which is highly bureaucratic and has absolute power.

How likely is all of this to happen? Just as likely as the first sixty-nine ‘sevens’ were fulfilled! Both the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation say that there is a day coming when the whole world will united together under a final dictator known as the beast or antichrist. How soon that happens is something that God alone will decide. He can allow it to happen very soon, or He can hold it off for another hundred years. But even now I think we see the stage being set for it. In fact, having lived in Europe from 1995 to 2000 and having made more than a dozen ministry trips to Europe since then, I can tell you that their goals are well on the way to being realized. Did you know, for example, that 75% of the laws made in Europe today originate not in the individual countries but in the European Parliament where there’s virtually no debate and members rarely understand what they’re voting for? Sound familiar?

Of course, all of this talk about the antichrist and his reign of terror can cause a great deal of anxiety, can’t it? But we don’t need to be anxious, if we are trusting in Jesus, for we are His beloved, and He always looks out for those He loves. In fact, it’s my belief that the Lord will remove His Bride from the world before the last ‘seven’ begins. For the seventy ‘sevens’ are about Israel, not the church! And just as there was no church on earth when the first sixty-nine ‘sevens’ were took place, I don’t believe the church will remain on earth when the seventieth ‘seven’ is fulfilled. After all, remember who we Christians are! We’re the Bride of Christ, and what kind of Husband would He be not to rescue His Bride from danger? That’s “Job 1” for a Christ-like husband – protecting his wife from harm.

Now on to God’s amazing grace. The first great truth about Him is the intimacy of His friendship; the second great truth is His faithfulness to His promises; and the third great truth about Him is His amazing grace towards those He loves.

73.             The Amazing Grace of God

Two examples are found right here in our passage. The first is written between the lines in verse 27. It’s that long, gracious gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks that Daniel wasn’t told about at the time. In fact, it isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Old Testament, but it’s on virtually every page of the New Testament. For what took place immediately following Christ’s death for our sins and before the antichrist could appear? Something incredibly gracious! God opened the gates of His kingdom to us miserable Gentile sinners and welcomes us to become fellow members of His family and one day walk the streets of New Jerusalem with great Jewish saints like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Sarah, Ruth, and Esther, Moses, David, and Daniel.

That’s what’s written between the lines here in verse 27—the great age of God’s grace in which we now live, which has lasted almost two thousand years and during which time both Jew and Gentile can become brothers and sisters in Christ and members of God’s forever family called the church. That was the gracious secret God kept to Himself in the Old Testament. But now that Christ has shed His blood for our sins and miraculously risen from the dead, He wants everyone in every place to know about it.

Paul explains the secret in Ephesians 3:4-6. By the way, that’s he means by “mystery” in these verses. He’s talking about something incredibly wonderful that was kept secret in times past, but is now to be made known to every person in every place under heaven. He says, “In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.”

bigstock-Pause-D-Button-8446993Do you realize what he’s saying! He’s saying that the reason God punched the pause button on His prophetic clock and made the Jewish nation wait two thousand years for their kingdom to begin was to allow enough time for you to be born, give your heart to Christ, and win the rest of your family to Him as well. Isn’t that amazing grace! God did that because He has loved you from eternity past and wanted you to be His child!

Finally, one last comment about verse 27: God is also going to be incredibly gracious to the nation of Israel, who rejected His Son at His first coming and will turn to antichrist when he appears. Jesus said to them, “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.” (John 5:43) Consequently, what does the Jewish nation deserve? Whatever antichrist does to them! But that’s not what they get—at least not those who resist him. They get salvation both nationally and spiritually.

Verse 27 concludes, “On the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.” In other words, the antichrist, not Israel, is the one that’s destroyed and punished forever. And Israel? Both Daniel, Zechariah, Paul, and Jesus Himself say that it’s at that moment that the Lord Jesus will return from heaven and all Israel will be saved. That’s grace!

So if you’re in need of love and compassion, look no farther than the Lord Jesus Christ because He is here and He has loved you from time began. You’re going to see that portrayed at the Lord’s Table tonight. So as I bow my head and close this time in prayer, open your heart to Him and ask Him to come into you and fellowship with you, and He will! For He is your friend, the Friend that sticks closer than a brother!

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