Day 363: God is the Victor

Zechariah 9-11Revelation 20

Passages of Scripture – like those we are reading today – remind me of my limited human understanding. Faithful and sound biblical scholars disagree over how to interpret the first 10 verses of Revelation 20. Zechariah 11 is probably one of the least understandable chapters in all of the Bible! But in spite of my limitations, by God’s grace, I see Him in these chapters…

I see His promise to judge His enemies and protect His people (Zech. 9:1-8).

I see His promise to send a peaceful King – one who rides on a donkey – to save His people (Zech. 9:9-17).

I know (from our privileged perspective of living in the church age) that when Christ came, He destroyed the power of Satan and has absolute authority over the earth (Luke 10:18; Matthew 28:18; Revelation 20:1-3).

And I know from the book of Revelation that God is the victor. Satan is restrained (20:1-3), he will surely be defeated (20:7-10), and the redeemed rule with Christ (20:4)!!

All the other details of when and how I will leave for the scholars to debate. I will choose to rest in the goodness and sovereignty of our Lord. I will thank Him for dying in my stead. And I will pray for the grace to be a light to the unbeliever.

I can’t imagine what it will be like on that final day when the books are opened. I pray that my children’s names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. I pray for the strength and grace to overcome and be welcomed into the Lamb’s presence. I know that I have done nothing to merit salvation. Most of all, I’m thankful for His grace.

Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus, Come!

Disclaimer: I humbly and cautiously offer an interpretation of the book of Revelation based on my Reformed understanding of Scripture, an Amillennialist eschatology, and a heavy reliance on the book, Revelation, The Compassion and Protection of Christ by Dr. Paul Gardner.
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Day 356: Two Beasts

Micah 6-7Revelation 13

Two beasts…one affects nations and governments; the other deceives the church. Both beasts are given their authority by the dragon, by Satan himself.

The background for the first beast comes from Daniel 7.

The first beast resembles all four beasts that Daniel saw emerge from the sea before the Son of Man appeared (Dan. 7:1–8, 21). As those beasts symbolized kingdoms (Dan. 7:17, 23), so this beast, a composite of them all, represents every human empire—Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, and their successors—that demands absolute allegiance and trust, enforcing its demand with coercion (ESV Study Bible, Study notes re: Revelation 13:1-2, Crossway).

I believe the first beast is still active today…in obvious world leaders who brutally kill Christians as well as in the subtle influences of Humanism. The first beast is among us, but even more dangerous is the 2nd beast…

If the first beast lies behind secular powers who strive to overthrow all that is Christian, the second beast comes as a prophet drawing people towards worship.  In other words, this beast targets people within the church itself (P. Gardner, Revelation, pg 183).

Both beasts are disturbing parodies of Christ. The first beast’s “mortal wound which was healed” is a twisted echo of Christ’s resurrection (13:3, 12). And the 2nd beast looks like a lamb, but speaks falsehood (13:11, 14).

The beasts are the Satanic influences in our world. In light of such fierce opposition, John exhorts the church to endure (13:10).

We can endure because God has given us hope. Our hope is in the promises of God – that He will gather His children in the last days and usher us into His Kingdom forever. There, we will live in peace and perfect relationship with Him and one another. This is our hope. This is our future!

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea.
You will show faithfulness to Jacob
and steadfast love to Abraham,
as you have sworn to our fathers
from the days of old (Micah 7:18-20).

Disclaimer: I humbly and cautiously offer an interpretation of the book of Revelation based on my Reformed understanding of Scripture, an Amillennialist eschatology, and a heavy reliance on the book, Revelation, The Compassion and Protection of Christ by Dr. Paul Gardner.

Day 355: The Victorious Church

Micah 3-5; Revelation 12

The power of God’s word…

The prophetic words of Micah 5 combined with the vivid images of Revelation 12 swirl together to form a dramatic climax!

The Baby defeats the dragon.

Israel bears a Son ( Micah 5:3; Rev. 12:1-2). The dragon stands, waiting for the child to be born, so he can devour it (Rev. 12:4). But the child is more powerful than the dragon because the child is the child of God.

She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne (Rev. 12:5).

And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth (Micah 5:4).

And so the battle rages on… The dragon, who was not able to destroy the Child, turns his vengeance on God’s children (Rev 12:12-1317; Eph 6:10-12). But just as God rescued His people from the hands of the Egyptians and protected and provided for His people in the wilderness, so He protects His church in these last days.

For even though the battle still wages, the battle has been won.

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death (Revelation 12:10-11).

The martyr’s cry is the call of victory against the devil and his schemes. For death is not the final defeat – but the beginning of life born anew to those who love the Lord, their God!

We are living in the last days – in the days when God’s message of salvation is going out to the nations! A time where we enjoy great joy and peace in the presence of our King – a time that is not yet fulfilled. We live in the church age – in the “now and not yet” which is prophesied in Micah and Isaiah!

It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the Lord
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and it shall be lifted up above the hills;
and peoples shall flow to it,
and many nations shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between many peoples,
and shall decide for strong nations far away;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore (Micah 4:1-4; Isaiah 2:1-4)

…we will walk in the name of the Lord our God
forever and ever
(Micah 4:5).

Disclaimer: I humbly and cautiously offer an interpretation of the book of Revelation based on my Reformed understanding of Scripture, an Amillennialist eschatology, and a heavy reliance on the book, Revelation, The Compassion and Protection of Christ by Dr. Paul Gardner.

Day 352: God’s judgment on the Nations

Obadiah 1Revelation 9

Obadiah is a judgment prophesy against the nation of Edom – which lay to the Southeast of Judah. Edom sat idly as Judah was destroyed by the Babylonians and then gloated over Judah’s demise. God warned that their evil treatment of His people would be returned to them on the Day when all the nations will be judged…

For the day of the Lord is near upon all the nations.
As you have done, it shall be done to you;
your deeds shall return on your own head (Obadiah 15).

Revelation 9 describes the precursor judgments leading to the terrible final judgment which will come on “the day of the Lord.”

In verses 9:1-2, Jesus gives the key to one of Satan’s angels to open the abyss, the place where God confines all that is evil and demonic. The Beast comes out of the abyss later in Revelation and ultimately, the abyss is the place where Satan is permanently confined (20:3). The abyss is so horrible that even demons beg Jesus not to send them there (Luke 8:31)!

As the abyss is opened, demons are released to torment the unbelievers on the earth. In many ways, these judgments are the fulfillment of many of the prophesies (including Obadiah) describing God judgment of “the nations.” For in the Old Testament, “the nations” was sometimes used as a collective symbol for all of those outside God’s Covenant love. “This judgment upon [the unbelievers] will work as the plagues worked in Egypt. On the one hand they call out for people to repent, for they have nowhere else to turn. Yet on the other hand, when they have nowhere else to turn they would still rather choose death than repent […] Only those who are sealed by Christ will not be affected” (P. Gardner, Revelation, pg. 136).

When the sixth trumpet is heralded, 1/3 of mankind is killed, and those who are left, refuse to repent. “The irony is that they continue to worship the very beings whom God has released to bring judgment upon them. In their lack of repentance, they confirm the justice of God’s judgment” (P. Gardner, Revelation, pg 138-139).

These passages reveal that God has granted Satan great power, but God’s sovereignty overrules as Satan only manages to torment his own followers! Those who belong to Christ are protected and sealed by God’s greater power, so Christians have nothing to fear from Satan – even in death!

We are reminded of God’s sovereignty and rule at the end of Obadiah when we read the promise that God will restore the land, and redeem His people. He will rule “and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s” (Obadiah 21)!!

God has always ruled, but His redemptive reign will be consummated at the heralding of the 7th trumpet when Christ will come again in glory!

Disclaimer: I humbly and cautiously offer an interpretation of the book of Revelation based on my Reformed understanding of Scripture, an Amillennialist eschatology, and a heavy reliance on the book, Revelation, The Compassion and Protection of Christ by Dr. Paul Gardner.

Day 283: The weapon of Truth

Job 18-19; Ephesians 6:10-24

Yesterday’s reading in Job marked the beginning of another round of “speeches” from Job’s “friends.” Eliphaz spoke in Job 15, and it’s Bildad’s turn in Job 18. Both men continue their assault on Job – accusing him of being wicked, vile and corrupt (Job 15:16; 18:5).

Job laments in Job 19:13-20 that he is utterly alone – that everyone has abandoned him. And Job still struggles with the false notion that God has rejected him in anger (Job 19:11)…

BUT.

There are hints of hope in Job’s laments. The first we find in Job 16:19-21, “Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and he who testifies for me is on high.” This hint of hope is stronger in Job 19…

I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me (Job 19:27)!

Oh, this is the grace of God!! That Job could lift his eyes and find a glimmer of hope – a truth to sustain him. The Lord has upheld Job (Psalm 37:24). He has given him hope. And because Job continues to find his only hope in the Lord, Satan has been defeated!!

Job didn’t know that his true adversary was Satan!

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).

Ephesians 6 instructs us how to stand against Satan’s schemes. We are to put on “the whole armor of God.” Everything in this armor is held together by the “belt of truth” (Ephesians 6:14).

Truth was Job’s defense against Satan’s attack and it is our defense as well. We are to remember God’s truth… that He loves us and is Sovereign and Good. The righteousness we receive from Christ shields our hearts (6:14). Our faith in God’s truth is what extinguishes Satan’s attacks (6:16). And our salvation protects our minds from believing a false gospel (6:17). Our only offensive weapon against Satan is God’s word (6:17), which is…TRUTH. Satan is the father of lies. Truth is both our protection and weapon against him.

I pray God’s truth becomes as precious to me as my very life. So that I might say with Moses, “They are just not idle words for you – they are your life!” (Deut. 32:47).

Day 278: The “Who” outshines the “why”

Job 4-7

The first of Job’s three friends speaks in Job 4-5. It would have been much better if all three of them would have just kept silent (as they did in Job 2)!

Eliphaz clearly believes in God and understands glimpses of God’s character. I’m sure he means well, but his words are filled with false assumptions and presumptuous claims. But most damaging, he places his own observations and dreams above the truth of God’s word.

For example, in Job 4:7-11, Eliphaz makes sweeping generalizations when he says that the innocent never suffer – only the evil are destroyed. Later he presumes that God is “disciplining” Job (5:17-18) and promises that God will restore all of Job’s blessings if Job learns from the Lord’s reproof. Eliphaz even goes so far as to suggest that Job is a “fool” (5:2-6)!

Poor Job. He has lost everything, and now he must deal with disappointment in his friends (Job 6:14-21).

But the hardest thing that Job has lost is his belief that God loves him.

The arrows of the Almighty are in me, my spirit drinks in their poison; God’s terrors are marshaled against me (Job 6:4, NIV).

Ironically, it is because of God’s great love for Job that God has entrusted him with this trial! Satan suggested that Job’s love for God was really just love for his blessings – not for God, Himself. So God has entrusted his beloved Job to stand firm in this test to prove to Satan that God, alone, is worthy of our love.

And Job’s only comfort through this trial is that he has not “denied the Holy One” (Job 6:10).

So even though Job has sunk into complete despair and is devoid of all hope, he is standing firm in his faith in God. Satan has not won!

But here’s where I relate to Job the most… Job magnifies his pain because he seeks to know the “why” behind the suffering. How many of us have echoed Job’s question to God in the midst of suffering?? “Why me, Oh Lord??!!”

Why have you made me your target? (Job 7:21)

In Frances Bennett’s bible study on Job, (Job, Lessons in Comfort; CEP, 2009), she asserts that we must not seek after the “why” of suffering but the “Who.” She writes, “God teaches from Genesis to Revelation that all we really need to know is Who.”

Job has temporarily misunderstood God. He has assumed that God doesn’t love and care about him. This false belief has led him into hopeless despair. He needs to remember Who God is – and then the why of suffering will fade in the splendor of God’s character!

*Anything I’ve written about these chapters in Job, I have learned from Frances Bennett’s excellent teaching in her bible study on Job. I highly recommend her to you: Job, Lessons in Comfort.

Day 277: God of all Comfort

Job 1-3; Galatians 6

For my sighing comes instead of my bread,
and my groanings are poured out like water (Job 3:24).

This, friends, is grief. Job has lost everything.

When he lost his possessions and children, he said, “Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

When he lost his health, he said, “Shall we receive good from God and not receive evil?” (Job 2:10).

But now, after time has settled in, and the reality of his loss becomes heavier, Job curses the day he was born (Job 3:3).

This was it. This was all he could bear. And Satan waited – and watched – and hoped that he had taken away the thing Job cherished more than God.*

But that was impossible, because Job loved God above all else. And because of Job’s love for God, the thought that God, Himself, might have forsaken him… well this was Job’s hardest trial.

For Job didn’t suffer because of his sin. And Job didn’t suffer because of someone else’s sin. He suffered to prove his loyalty to God.

How do we reconcile God’s goodness with the heavenly conversations recorded in Job 1 & 2? How does Job wrestle with these same doubts? This is the crux of Job.

But sprinkled through Job’s test of faith in God’s goodness are lessons in comfort. The word “comfort” finds its roots in the Latin words meaning “with strength.” So we must not mistake comfort for removing the pain. Sometimes the best comfort comes from finding truth in the midst of the pain. For instance, God knew Job’s limits. And he refused to let Satan overstep those limits. This is a comforting truth. Job’s friends come and sit in comforting silence (Job 2:11-13). Even Job offers comfort to his wife, in the form of a gentle rebuke (Job 2:9-10). But ultimately, it is Job’s hope in God that provides him the most comfort (Job 3:23).

Paul, in his final words to the Galatians, gives specific ways to comfort those around us who are suffering…

restore him in a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1).
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).
let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10).

Do you see God’s comfort in the pages of Job? I do. I am comforted that God limited Job’s afflictions. I am comforted that God gave room for Job to grieve. I am comforted that all suffering doesn’t come from sin – but that my response in the midst of it could thwart the plans of Satan and bring glory to God! I’m comforted that God had a purpose for Job’s suffering that transcended Job’s lifetime and ripples into our hearts today. I’m comforted by God’s sovereignty, his authority over evil, and yes, His goodness. For even in the midst of suffering, God is still good.

*Job, Lessons in Comfort, by Frances Poston Bennett, pg 24

Day 259: The Lord of angel-armies

Daniel 10-12; 2 Corinthians 2

In today’s reading, it’s as if a curtain is parted between the physical and spiritual realms. And through this sliver of an opening, we see things too wonderful for us to comprehend! Daniel’s eyes were opened so that he could see fully into this spiritual world and he was so terrified, he couldn’t speak!

Surely, we underestimate the struggle for power that takes place in the spiritual realms. But Daniel 10 reminds us of the mighty warrior-angels who fight for God’s glory and people continuously!

In Chapter 11-12 we read the message revealed to Daniel by the angel… a most extraordinary description of the future. Amazingly, historians can confirm that every detail of Daniel 11:2-35 has been fulfilled (11:35 -12:13 looks further into the future). This is jaw-droppingly extraordinary…so extraordinary that some liberal scholars believe these verses could only have been written “after-the-fact!”

Now hear this…if you were Daniel listening to the angel account for the next hundreds of years of kings and conflicts, what would you think? I know what I would think…God is in absolute control! He has a plan, and He has appointed the time for the end – when all suffering will cease!

But we are not there yet…

We live in a time of great suffering and anguish…a time of natural disasters, world tyrants, persecution, fleeing refugees, disease, and emotional turmoil. Yet, in all these circumstances God can be glorified especially as the world sees the church act sacrificially to help those in need.

This is where the physical and spiritual realms collide in our world. Satan schemes to cause conflict and disunity among God’s people to destroy our witness in this world!

Paul refers to Satan’s work in today’s reading from 2 Corinthians 2:5-11… An excellent summary of this passage is found in the ESV Study Bible:

“The majority in Corinth had expressed their repentance by punishing the leader of the rebellion against Paul. Paul now calls them to follow his own Christlike example toward them by extending mercy to the offender, lest Satan have his way once again in the church” (ESV Study Bible, Crossway).

Satan seeks to tear apart the church. Every church split is a victory for Satan. Every person who calls the church hypocritical is a victory for Satan. The spiritual realm is alight with the battle for God’s glory on earth. Angels are not cute little keepsakes – they are warriors – fighting the demons of the air for God’s name’s sake!

We, too, are called into this battle for God’s glory! For whom do you fight? We fight for the sure victor…we fight for the Lord of angel-armies, the Lord of hosts!

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing (2 Corinthians 2:14-15).