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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.)

Laodicea: The Nauseating Church of the Revelation

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(To listen to or download the audio message, click Audio.)

Study #8: ‘’Laodicea—The Nauseating Church”

Some time ago, Newsweek magazine printed an article called “The Super-Churches of Houston.” It was an analysis of a trend that is becoming more and more common among the mega-churches. The direction is towards ecclesiastical entertainment centers that not only offer Broadway quality musical productions as worship services, but also multi-million dollar sports complexes and huge professional staffs who provide everything from exercise classes to meal services.

One church boasted 17,000 members and a budget of over $10 million. At the time of the article, they were nearing completion of a facility featuring two full-size basketball courts, a roller rink, six bowling lanes, four glassed-in racquetball courts, a suspended jogging track, saunas, whirlpools, and a restaurant called “The Garden of Eatin.” Their pastor explained: “There’s a phenomenal amount of money here, and that makes for a catalyst to do great things for the kingdom of God.” His associate added, “America does things in a big way, and the Lord is not going to be left in the backseat.” Of course, their crosstown rival wasn’t either. Their plans? A $34 million facility with two more bowling lanes than the first church and a state-of-the-art sports complex out-rivaling all their competitors.

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What do you think of this trend? More importantly, what does Jesus think about it? Is He cheering them on to ever greater levels of bigness?   Or is He about to judge them for their pride? The late Ken Chafin, pastor of Houston’s second biggest church, gave his opinion. Refusing to be caught up in the competition, he said: The super-church cult is tied to something larger. It’s tied to the success syndrome of American business. Its pastor is like the chief executive of a large corporation, growth is the bottom line, and that puts extreme pressure on the church to measure itself with a different measuring stick than God.”

Why mention this trend? Because most churches want to grow. The question is: What kind of growth do we want, and what methods will we use to accomplish it? When we started our fellowship, we could have tried to attract people from other churches. But we didn’t because that’s sheep-stealing and superficial growth. Instead, the people we’ve added have come the old-fashioned way—by one sinner telling another sinner where he found spiritual food.

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There are two extremes to avoid when it comes to growth. One we discovered in our study of the church at Sardis—no growth. Why didn’t they grow? They were dead, and dead· things do not grow. But the other extreme is just as bad, and that’s the problem exemplified in this study—superficial growth. The church of Laodicea was the super-church of its day. They were big, active, and wealthy. But in the things that mattered, Jesus called them “poor, blind, and naked.” Let’s find out why by looking at the problem of this church.

  1. THE PROBLEM

The most striking thing about this letter is its lack of commendation. In each of the other letters, Jesus found something to praise. But not in this one! For there was nothing good to say about this church.

A.  Hinted at in the Description of Christ

You can see a hint of their problem in verse 14. Jesus begins with a description of Himself intended to challenge their behavior. He begins, “These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God.”

“Amen” is a very significant word in the Bible. Jesus used it in the Gospels whenever He introduce a key thought or emphasize His point. “Verily, verily I say to you.” That’s the word “Amen.” “God said it. That settles it. The matter is beyond dispute!” Yet I want you to notice, this is more than a loud “Amen!” tacked onto the end of a sentence. This says that Jesus is the “Amen.” What does that mean? It means, as 1 Corinthians 1:20 says, that all the promises of God are “yes” and “amen” in Jesus Christ. Or to say it another way, not one word of this Book will ever fail. Why not? Because Jesus Christ is the guarantee and fulfillment of it all. Why was that important for the Laodiceans to remember? Because lukewarm Christians do not take the Word of God seriously. They may give mental assent to the major teachings and warnings of the Bible, but they compromise in those “gray areas” which they consider nice but not necessary. After all, a little bit of carelessness and neglect never hurts anyone. Or does it?

The story is told of an ocean liner that sank off the coast of Ireland. Divers were sent down to investigate how the tragedy happened. One item recovered was the ship’s compass, inside of which they found the tip of a knife. Apparently, while cleaning it, one of the sailors had broken off the point, which then lodged inside. It was just a little thing, but sometimes that’s all it takes to throw a life off course—just a little bit of spiritual unfaithfulness and neglect.

Cathy Layman | Times Photo xxxxxx: William Stender III will be featured in some upcoming episodes of Salvage Code Red, a series of 6 shows which will be shown on National Geographic channel soon. He's holding a ship's compass, one of the latest trinkets he's pulled off the bottom of the sea at the Straits of Gibraltar. Date taken Thursday, February 4, 2009

Cathy Layman | Times Photo
Date taken Thursday, February 4, 2009

Verse 14 adds, “These things says the Faithful and True Witness.” Why emphasize that? Because this was a church full of hypocrites. You hear that sometimes, that the church is full of hypocrites, but in this case it was true. The members claimed to be Christians, but their lives said something different. Jesus talked about this in Matthew 7:21. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

And He continues, “These things says the Beginning of the creation of God.” Jehovah’s Witnesses love this verse. In fact, I’ve found it’s one of the first things they point to in denying the deity of Christ. “See,” they say. “Jesus is not Jehovah God. He’s only a created being!” But that’s not what the verse means. It means just the opposite. The word “Beginning” is the Greek word arche and  should be translated “the Originator or Beginner of the creation of God.” It’s emphasizing that Jesus is the Creator of the universe, that “all things were   made by Him and without Him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:3)

Why was that important for the Laodiceans to hear? Because they thought they had it all together, and they prided themselves on it. They prided themselves on their wealth. They prided themselves on their success. They prided themselves on their intelligence. So Jesus reminds them, “The only reason you enjoy any of these things is because I, your Maker, gave them to you. And I can take it away in a moment. Because I’m the Origin of it all!

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We need to remember that too! Think of how much we enjoy. Certainly far more than the Laodiceans ever dreamed of having – cell phones, hot and cold running water, televisions, fast food, automobiles, word processors, hot tubs, RVs. Every creature comfort we could want and more! And that’s dangerous. Because when you have so much, why do you need God?

Some of you may have read about the eagle that attacks seals. The bird swoops down and fixes its claws in the creature’s back, pulling it to shore and killing it. But sometimes the seal proves too strong for the bird, and with a mighty lunge heads for deep water. The eagle shrieks and struggles to release its grip, but the helpless bird is slowly pulled beneath the waves to its death. That’s the way it is with the things of this world if we become attached to them. They drag us away from Christ towards spiritual and sometimes eternal disaster.

B.  Stated Plainly in the Correction of Christ

You say, “l am not sure I see all of that in these few phrases. Then read on in verse 15 where Jesus corrects them, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.  So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”

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Christ found two major faults in this church. The first was lukewarmness. That was a concept the Laodiceans could immediately understand. The neighboring cities in the Lycus River Valley were Hierapolis, known for its hot spring with its reputed healing qualities. Colossae, on the other hand, was located at the foot of the mountains, enjoying cool and refreshing water. But Laodicea had no water supply of its own. They had to pipe in mineral water through two underground aqueducts from miles away, which made it almost undrinkable by the time it reached them.  In fact, those who visit the spring today say it tastes so bad that their immediate reaction is to spit it out.

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What does that supposed to represent? Some say “cold” refers to unbelievers, “hot” to Spirit-filled believers, and “lukewarm” to carnal Christians who are no longer living for Christ. But there’s a problem with that interpretation. It is this. Jesus said He was about to vomit these people out of His mouth. But that is inconsistent with other things Jesus said to His followers. Listen, for example to John 6:37. “All the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means (That is the strongest negative statement available in the Greek language, meaning “I will never, no never”) cast out.”

Then you ask, “who is He talking to?” The unbelievers in the church, which was the majority of the congregation. They professed to be Christians, but had never committed their lives to Christ. You say, “Is that possible? Can a person faithfully attend church and still not be a Christian?” Of course, the devil himself often visits churches, and we know that he is not a true worshiper of God.

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In fact, I grew up in a church like this—with a membership of over a thousand very nice people who believed in God, but never was there any emphasis on the Gospel. Rarely did anyone mention sin or that Jesus had died on the cross to pay for them. Nor do I recall even one time hearing someone say with conviction, “I believe Jesus rose from the dead!” The only time I heard the gospel was during a confirmation class I was taking. One of my friends asked the minister, “But how can I be sure that I’m going to heaven?” His answer was John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Other than that, I never heard God’s plan of salvation. Nor did the other members of the church. And how can anyone be saved without hearing the Word of God? We believed in God and professed to be Christians, but how many had faith in Jesus Christ? I didn’t. And that’s scary! Attending church for years and still not being right with God because you have never invited His Son into your life and yielded your heart to His Holy Spirit.

Earlier I quoted Matthew 7:21. Now let me quote the next verse, Matthew 7:22. Jesus added, “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers.’”

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Their first fault was that they were spiritually lukewarm. Their second fault was that they were spiritually proud. In 60 AD, just 30 years before this letter was written, the province of Phrygia was struck by a devastating earthquake. But guess what! Of all the cities in the region, only Laodicea was able to rebuild itself without the help of Rome. How? Because of their money. Laodicea was a major banking center, bringing the city enormous wealth. And they took pride in that fact. But, unfortunately, so did the church. They looked at their resources and said to themselves, “We are rich and have need of nothing! Not even Christ.”

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How could that be? How could a Christian be so influenced by the world that he finds his value and significance in something other than Christ? Friends, it happens all the time, and not only in Houston. Rightly understood, this is the challenge of the ages. To find our security and significance in Christ alone. But how many of us truly do that? Not many. Most of us spend most of our time in a mad pursuit of recognition and image thinking, “This is what makes me matter! This is what makes me valuable!” When, in fact, Christ may be saying to us, “You are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” Jeremiah put it in poetic terms. Speaking for the Lord, he wrote: “For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn for themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

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The superficial nature of our growth came to mind when reading about the Queen Mary, once the largest oceangoing vessel on earth, now a floating museum in Long Beach, California. Those who’ve seen it know how impressive it is! But before her conversion, something interesting happened to her. They removed her smoke stacks for painting, and when they set them down on the dock, what happened? They crumbled. Why? Because there was nothing left of the ¾ inch steel from which they were made.  All that remained were thirty coats of paint that had collected over the years. That’s the danger we face if what we’re concerned about is what others think of us. The danger is that we can have an impressive outer image, but empty be on the inside. Because we’ve never allowed Jesus to remake us from within. But He has a remedy.

  1. THE REMEDY

And here I want to keep it simple and straightforward, because it is easy to make the solution more complicated than it is. The Savior says in essence, “You need to be real. You need to exchange your hypocrisy for three genuine articles.” First, you need to replace it with—

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A.  Genuine Faith

Verse 18 continues, “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich.” What’s Jesus talking about? Here is a case when it’s helpful to compare Scripture with Scripture, for 1 Peter 1:7 explains it like this. He says, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Instead of working like crazy to solve all your problems and merely confessing Jesus as your Savior, you need to accept your hardships as opportunities to trust Christ as your problem-solver and thereby grow strong in your faith in Him. Proverbs 3:5-6 say, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”

B.  Genuine Righteousness

Verse 18 continues, “And white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed.” This was something else the church would have immediately understood, because one of the major industries in Laodicea was garment-making. The sheep raised in the area produced a high quality wool that was raven black and glossy. But Jesus corrects them, “What you need are new garments made not from black wool, but of pure white linen.” What does that represent? The righteousness of Christ. Revelation 19:8 says of the church, “To her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white, for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints.” Of course, our righteousness is a derived righteousness, in that it doesn’t come from us. It is given as a gift to those who put their faith in Christ. “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Rom. 4:5)

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Colossians refers to the same thing. Paul urges us, “Put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator.” We are to put on the character of Christ like a beautiful new garment. You say, “I’ve been trying to do that. I’ve been trying to be like Christ for years.” I know. That’s the problem. You’ve been trying. The good news is you don’t have to try anymore. What you need to do is accept the righteousness of Christ by faith. How?

The Bible says there are two steps. First, you need to take off the old. What many believers try to do is wear two coats at the same time. They try to put on the new coat of Christ’s righteousness over the filthy coat of their self-righteousness. But you cannot wear both. To wear the coat of Christ’s righteousness, you have to quit trying to patch up that smelly coat of self-effort, because that will never be accepted in God’s presence. You have to recognize your ragged garments, ask Christ to remove them, and then trust Him to give you the coat of His righteousness as a gift.

C.  Genuine Insight

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Verse 18 adds, “And eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.” That was the third industry for which Laodicea was famous. It was the site of a medical school that boasted an eye powder which could heal all sorts of visual problems. And Jesus agrees. You need an anointing, but not of eye powder. You need the anointing of My Holy Spirit, so that the eyes of your understanding may be opened and you can understand the things of God.

Let me liken it to a visual problem I have. Doctors call it color deficiency. It used to be called color blindness. But that’s no longer considered polite. So now I’m color deficient, which means there are some colors in the spectrum I cannot see. The primary colors I recognize—red, blue, yellow, orange. But many of the shades—pinks, purples, greens, browns—are hard for me to distinguish. Why? Because there is something lacking in my rods and cones. And something similar can be said of the unbeliever. You can talk to him day and night about spiritual things, and he just doesn’t get it. Why not? Because he does not have the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

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  1. THE PROMISES

You might assume from all the harsh things said to this church that Jesus doesn’t like them. But nothing could be farther from the truth! He assures them in verse 19, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore, be zealous and repent.” Why? Because of two wonderful promises He makes to them in verses 20 to 21. The first is directed to unbelievers in the church.

A.  To Unbelievers

He says in verse 20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” This is one of the most beautiful yet controversial verses in all of Scripture. Millions of soul-winners have used it over the years to invite their friends to accept Jesus as their Savior, while other Bible “experts” smile knowingly and say to themselves, “That’s fine, if you want to use it that way. But that’s not the right interpretation. For this wasn’t written to unbelievers; it was written to a church.” And in so doing, they rob the soul-winner of one of the most powerful tools in his spiritual arsenal. I myself have had people tell me I can’t use this verse like that.

So who is right? The soul-winners! Two facts make this clear. First, the context. Our study has shown that though this was a promise to the church of Laodicea, most of its members were unbelievers who professed to be Christians, but had never opened their hearts to Christ. Furthermore, where is Jesus in this verse? He’s standing outside the door, clearly indicating that He is neither in their lives or inside their church. However, His gracious promise is if just one person in the church opens her heart to Him, He will come and have fellowship with them.

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So let me encourage you, my dear evangelistic friend, use this verse as freely and as often as you like. For it was written with your ministry in mind. In fact, the word “dine” in this passage is the Greek word for the last meal of the day, implying what? That the time is short for receiving Christ. So feel free to use every chance He gives you to tell others about Him. Of if you yourself have never received Christ as your Savior, please open your heart to Him today!

Perhaps you’ve seen the painting by Holman Hunt with Christ standing outside a home, gently rapping on the door. But there’s something unusual about the door. The handle is on the inside, reminding us that Christ will not force His way into our lives. If you want Jesus in your life, you must invite Him to come in. How can you do that? In prayer. Say something like this—

Lord Jesus, I need You in my life. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins and rising again to give me new life. I open the door of my life and invite You to come in. Please forgive me and make me the kind of person You want me to be. I turn from my sins and trust You as my Savior. I pray in Your name. Amen.

B.  To Believers

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Finally, Jesus promises us that if we make room for Him in our hearts, He’ll make room for us in heaven. Verse 21, “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” You may feel small and insignificant right now, but you won’t for long. For the Bible promises, “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.”

Some time ago, I read an article about the residents of a Florida apartment building who awoke one more morning to a terrifying sight just outside their windows. The ground beneath the street in front of their building had literally collapsed, creating a massive depression called a sinkhole. Tumbling into the ever-deepening pit were automobiles, sidewalks, and all manner of goods from nearby businesses. The building itself would obviously be next to go.

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Scientists say that sinkholes occur when underground streams drain away in times of drought, causing the ground at the surface to lose its underlying support. Suddenly everything caves in, leaving people with the terrifying feeling that nothing—not even the earth beneath their feet—is trustworthy. Sadly, there are many people whose lives are like that sinkhole. They have accumulated a plethora of possessions as well as important assets like academic degrees, work experiences, influential friendships, and physical beauty or strength. But they discover too late that their inner world is on the verge of collapse.

That was the case in Laodicea. On the surface, they looked substantial. But underneath, where only Jesus can see, they were “miserable, wretched, poor, blind, and naked.” Don’t make that mistake! Ask Christ to give you “gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover the shame of your nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”

(To download the written form of this lesson, click Written. To download the Powerpoint slides for teaching this lesson, 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.)

In our last study, I mentioned a common misconception many Christians have about the Virgin Birth. They think it was by being born of a Virgin that Jesus was kept from inheriting our sinful human nature.  If you haven’t read that lesson, please take a few moments to do so.  You can find it just below this one.  Now, in this short study, I want to explain the first reason Jesus had to be Virgin Born.

Reason #1: To Fulfill Old Testament Prophecy

According to the Population Reference Bureau, the number of people born since the beginning of time is approximately 108 billion.  But God promised that one (and just one!) of those babies would become the Savior of the world.  Scholars call it the proto-evangel—the first preaching of the good news by God Himself.  When did He make this declaration?  From the very moment of man’s fall into sin! Wasn’t that gracious of God?  To turn man’s most evil deed into a promise of forgiveness and salvation! Speaking to the serpent (possessed by the devil) who had deceived Eve and led both her and Adam to sin, the Lord God said:

“Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” Genesis 3:14-15 ESV

OXYGEN Volume 09Two facts are obvious.  A human Savior would crush the work of Satan while suffering in the process.  But the second fact is equally gracious.  Though it was the woman who first opened the door to the devil, it would be through the seed of the woman that mankind would one day be saved.  Notice! No mention of the man’s seed is made. This is the first hint in Scripture of the Savior’s Virgin Birth.

But that raises a question:  With so many people having been born into the world, how would we who need a Savior recognize Him if He came? Even if the estimate of the Population Reference Bureau is inflated, it is clear that billions of souls have been born into this world.  For example, today we are told that there are over 7 billion people living on earth.  And you can be sure the same serpent who deceived Eve would love to deceive us into believing in the wrong one.

To make it clear who the Savior is, God came up with a foolproof plan. He chose a man named Abraham and his family (called the Hebrews or Jews), gave them His moral law, entrusted His promises to them in a sacred book called the Bible, and after hundreds of years of using them to prepare the world for His coming, He sent us His Son, the long-awaited Savior through the womb of a Jewish virgin by the name of Mary.  Over 60 major prophecies were fulfilled at the first coming of Jesus, many of which were beyond His control. For example, Genesis 12:1-3, 2 Samuel 7:12-13, and Micah 5:2 said He would be a descendant of Abraham and David and be born in Bethlehem, a little town 6.2 miles south of Jerusalem.

But the clearest identifier and the most amazing prophecy is the one found in Isaiah 7:14, written 700 years before the birth of Christ.  In a time of war when the survival of the royal line of David was in question, God promised King Ahaz, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”

This is a prophecy which has been continually attacked by critics of the Bible.  They argue that the Hebrew word for “virgin” (almah) can mean young woman instead of virgin.  But this is quickly corrected if you consult the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible made 200 years before the birth of Christ. For the Greek word chosen by the Hebrew scholars to translate almah is parthenos which is only used to describe a virgin, that is, a young woman who has never had sexual relations with a man.

But what seals the deal and ends all argument is the fulfillment of this prophecy described by the Apostle Matthew.  Four times in five verses, he assures us that Mary was a virgin, that no man was involved in the birth of Jesus, but that He was conceived by a miracle of the Holy Spirit.  I have underlined the key phrases.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.  But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”  Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”  And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.” Matthew 1:18-25

Luke’s account adds further support. He says it was to a “virgin” named Mary that Gabriel appeared and revealed that she would give birth to the Savior.  But Mary was confused, giving further proof of her virginity.  She humbly asked the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”  The angel explained, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:26-35

Why, then, is the Virgin Birth important?  It proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the one and only Savior of the world is Jesus born, as the Bible promised, to a virgin named Mary two thousand years ago in the little town of Bethlehem.

Of course, deceivers abound.  Did you know, for example, that Jesus’ life both began with a lie and ended with a lie?  In order to explain away the miraculous birth of Jesus, His religious enemies spread the rumor that He was illegitimate, that Mary was impregnated by a Roman soldier passing through the village of Nazareth.  We see a hint of this in John 8:41 where His enemies scoff, “We were not born of fornication.” I have underlined the word “we,” which is an emphatic pronoun in the Greek language by which they compare themselves with Jesus.  In other words, they are saying, “We weren’t born of fornication like you were!”

What was the lie told following His resurrection?  Matthew 28:11-15 records it. In order to keep the people from believing in Jesus, the chief priests and elders bribed the Roman soldiers who guarded His tomb to say that His disciples came by night and stole His body while they slept.  How implausible!  Roman soldiers risking the death penalty by sleeping on guard duty?  And twelve cowardly disciples able to overpower a squad of seasoned soldiers?

But people believe what they want to believe.  If you are willing to accept the Virgin Birth of Christ, there is more than enough evidence to rely on.  But if you have made up your mind that you do not want to believe, the devil will be glad to plant enough doubts in your mind that you will find it difficult if not impossible to believe. Don’t let him do that to you!  After all, what is left to those who reject the Virgin Birth of Jesus?  Nothing! No forgiveness of sins and no assurance of salvation!  For if Jesus is not Messiah, no one is.  Only He has the credentials to be Savior of the world.  The Apostle Paul offers this assurance in Galatians 4:4.

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

Reread the passages I have cited and be fully assured.  Jesus is the one and only Savior to whom you can turn this very moment to forgive your sins, to comfort your heart, and to answer your prayers.  Bible prophecy assures us of it.  That is the first reason the Virgin Birth matters.  In our next study we’ll take a look at a second and even more important reason.