Monday, September 30, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 8, The Garden Of Eden

The creation is complete and God has made the first human being out of the dust of the ground. God now places this man in a particular location on the earth.

"Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there He put the man He had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground---trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." (Genesis 2:8-9) God created man with the free will to choose for himself whether or not to serve Him. There are two very important trees in the middle of the garden, and we will study them later on in Genesis, but for now we will just keep in mind that there would be little point in giving man the right to choose if he never had any choices to make.

"A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates." (Genesis 2:10-14)

It has so far been impossible for anyone of modern times to pinpoint the location of Eden. The locations of the Pishon and Gihon rivers are unknown; they have not existed for a very long time. In addition, some geologists believe that the rivers we call the Tigris and Euphrates now may not be the original Tigris and Euphrates since they are having problems reconciling the current Tigris River with the statement that it once ran along "the east side of Ashur". The topography of the world now is likely quite different than it was then. We don't know what changes came about as the result of the great flood. We don't know how many rivers have changed their courses over time. We don't know how many rivers have run completely dry or have been diverted underground. Satellite images show an ancient fossil river in the area where the Pishon was said to be, but there is no visible evidence of a fossil river that might have been the Gihon, so determining the place where all four rivers of Eden would have branched out from one single river has proven to be impossible. Eden is generally accepted by many scholars and geologists to have been located somewhere in the Middle East; other than that we can't accurately speculate.

"The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.'" (Genesis 2:15-17) Adam was free to eat of any other tree, including the tree of life. This may explain why the lifespans of the early characters of the Old Testament were unusually long. Something in this fruit may have affected Adam and his offspring throughout several generations. If man had never fallen from grace, he would have apparently lived forever, but instead he ate the forbidden fruit and death entered the world. It's important to note that God didn't say that Adam would fall immediately dead the instant he tasted the wicked fruit. The warning is far more dire than having just one person drop dead upon biting into the fruit. The warning is that eating the fruit will bring death into the world, and death is something the world had not experienced and was not created to experience. The warning is that eating the fruit will pollute everything that exists and that the fall of man will take the entire creation down with him.

Why did God create human beings with the ability to choose whether or not to serve Him? We don't have a clear answer to this question. When we did our study on Revelation, we spent some time speculating that it may not be possible to create beings with the amount of intelligence we have without also giving these beings free will. In other words, we would have been smart enough to know we didn't have the ability to make choices. In fact, why give us the intelligence to reason things out if we weren't capable of making any decisions we weren't programmed to make? It would have actually been wasteful to make our brains as sophisticated as they are, and I don't believe God is ever wasteful.

But I think also something deeper is going on here. If we never had the opportunity to choose to love God, could we ever have had a real relationship with Him? If we had never sinned and needed a Redeemer, could our souls ever have experienced the overwhelming and glorious joy that we feel when we are filled with gratitude and awe over what our Redeemer did for us? I don't think we could have related to our Creator in a way that satisfies both us and Him if we had been incapable of doing anything of our own free will---if we were programmed only to do and think and say certain things. In that case, we would only have been able to do what we were told, and although we would have been able to perfectly obey God's laws, how would that have been valuable to Him? The Lord Jesus said even if we kept all the commandments and never once sinned against God, we would still be unprofitable servants. (Luke 17:10) A profitable servant is a servant who does more than he has been told to do. A profitable servant goes above and beyond. How do we go above and beyond? When we choose to make God the Lord of our lives. When we choose to do what's right even when it would be easier to do what's wrong. When we go against our fallen nature and when we go against the carnal culture of this world, we are giving valuable service to our Lord.

Do you want your spouse and children and family members and friends to love you because they have to or would you prefer them to love you because they want to? It wouldn't be very satisfying if your spouse loved you only because he or she had no other option. The reason becoming engaged is so exciting is because our significant other has chosen us out of all the other people in the world. The reason being in a long term marriage is joyful is because our spouse has chosen to remain with us and stay faithful to us even though they could have chosen otherwise. If we loved God only because we had to, there would be no joy in that for us or for Him. God created us to experience joy and fulfillment and satisfaction. No true and lasting joy and fulfillment and satisfaction can be found in a life apart from Him. Satan has offered us many substitutes but they always fall short. They always lead us down a path of dependence on the wrong things, down a path that causes us to crave more and more of what is numbing us to the reality that we are not being satisfied at all. This is why we serve the false gods of money or possessions or unhealthy relationships or the type of ambition that focuses only on ourselves. This is why we fall into obsessions and addictions. This is why we engage in behaviors that harm our physical bodies or our mental health. God created us for fellowship with Him. If we have that, then anything else good that happens to us is the icing on the cake. If we don't have a relationship with our Creator, no amount of anything else will ever fill the emptiness in our souls.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 7, Created From Dust

In today's passage the author of Genesis backs up to provide us with more details of the creation story.

"This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens. Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." (Genesis 2:4-7) In Genesis 1:11-12 we found the Lord commanding the earth to bring forth vegetation on the third day of creation. All plant life may have begun as seeds in the ground since we are told in today's passage that the plants had not yet sprung up before the creation of the first human being. God didn't allow the vegetation to get out of control before He created man. Adam wasn't placed in a thick jungle that he had to cut his way through with a knife. He didn't have to chop trees or clear the ground. Instead God placed him on the scene at exactly the right time in order to maintain the beauty of the garden.

Verse 7 tells us that God created man from the dust of the ground. That ought to humble us. We sweep dust up from our floors and our porches. We wipe dust off our shoes when coming into the house. We spend a lot of time during our lives ridding our homes and vehicles of dust. We place no value on it and yet so often human beings who are made of this substance dare to live in opposition to the Creator. Who does man think he is when he defies the living God and refuses to live by His laws? As the Lord will say later on to Adam after Adam sins against Him, "Dust you are and to dust you will return." Who does man think he is when he boasts that he will put on his own impressive defense before the great Judge someday without Christ on his side? No wonder the author of Hebrews issued this warning: "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (Hebrews 10:31) The God we will face someday is the God capable of scooping dust of the ground and creating a living being with an eternal soul. We don't want to stand in His courtroom without Christ on our side.

We are made of this earth that we inhabit. We are made of a substance that we constantly try to eliminate by sweeping and dusting and vacuuming. Yet there is hope for us, lowly as we are, because Christ came in the flesh and took on our image so He could present an acceptable sacrifice on our behalf to God. As the Apostle Paul says: "The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second Man is of heaven...And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly Man." (1 Corinthians 15:46-47,49) Christ came from heaven to bear our image so that someday we can bear His image.

We are made from the dust. Someday our bodies will return to dust. And in between these two events we will do disobedient, sinful, and shameful things. Knowing that we have sinned and fallen short, the worst decision we could ever make is to refuse to be reconciled to our Maker through the only sacrifice of atonement that is acceptable in His eyes: through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who had committed no sins but who made Himself a sin offering for us so that we could receive righteousness through Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21) We are made from a substance that has no value to us---dust---and yet the dust that we are can be transformed into something so beautiful and so precious that the Son of God thought we were worth dying for. He saw what we were, but at the same time He saw what we could be. Because He loved us, He thought we were worth dying for. And our only chance of ever reaching our potential, of being what God wants us to be, of being anything but worthless dust of the ground is through Him: "Christ...the hope of glory". (Colossians 1:27)

Saturday, September 28, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 6, The First Sabbath

We wrapped up our study of the six days of creation yesterday and now the author of Genesis says, "Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array." (Genesis 2:1) Studying the days of creation this week has done a good job of reminding me just how powerful our God is. It's possible to become too chummy and casual with God, forgetting how holy He is. It's possible to neglect spending time with God, forgetting how much we need His power just to keep on breathing. Genesis reminds us who we are dealing with: the God who spoke everything into existence out of nothing, who perfectly planned every atom and molecule and cell, who created DNA, who finely tuned everything in the universe specifically to support human life. Though the Lord is our friend and He wants us to bring our troubles to Him, keeping the creation story in mind reminds us that He's not our buddy to whom we moan and groan about our bad days, but that the purpose in bringing our concerns to Him is to acknowledge His power and to respectfully request He use that power to intervene in our situations. Reading the Genesis story also helps us to remember that to neglect our relationship with God is to neglect the most awesome experience any human being can ever have.

The creation itself tells us a story. It tells us there is a God and it tells us that He is unimaginably intelligent and mighty. The Apostle Paul said that, even if a person had never heard of the living God, that person would still be without excuse for not believing in God because the creation itself testifies to the existence of a Creator. "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities---His eternal power and divine nature---have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." (Romans 1:20) We can't see God but we can see God's works. His works tell us that nothing is impossible for Him. His works tell us that He is the giver of life. His works tell us that He is divine and beautiful because the things contained in our universe and the things that inhabit the earth are beautiful. Look around you at the sunrise, the trees, and the animals today. How righteous and holy and beautiful must the God be who made all these?

Look at yourself in the mirror and see how God put you together limb by limb, giving you a mind that thinks and that feels emotions, giving you eyes that see, giving you a mouth that can speak, giving you ears that can hear. Then say what King David said when he pondered the work God put into creating human beings: "I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well." (Psalm 139:14) Our modern culture---no doubt by instigation of the evil one---has tried to tell us we are not fearfully (awesomely, reverently, astonishingly, magnificently, beautifully) and wonderfully made. Our culture tells us we have to be a certain height or weight or body shape in order to feel good about ourselves. This is not so! As we've been studying this week, we are made in the image of the living God. We are beautiful. We are precious. We are loved by God. We can't always be certain of the feelings or the motives of every human being around us, but we can always be certain that God loves us because He proved His love by doing everything possible to redeem us from our sins. "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him." (John 3:16-17) If this isn't love, then I don't know what is, and it tells us everything we need to know about the loving character of God and it tells us everything we need to know about how precious we are to Him.

Now that God has finished His creation work, He rests on the seventh day. "By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work." (Genesis 2:2) God didn't rest on the seventh day because He was tired. "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom." (Isaiah 40:28) God rested on the seventh day to signify that the creation work was complete.

There was no more to be created. God had made everything He intended to make, so He rested on the seventh day. But He has not been resting ever since, because there are other types of work to be done. He is working in your life and in my life. We can be sure of this because the Lord Jesus said while He ministered to people on earth, "My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I too am working." (John 5:17) There are those who are willing to acknowledge the existence of a Creator but who do not believe He personally intervenes in the lives of human beings. The Bible does not present a God to us who is not involved in the lives of human beings. God didn't complete His creation work and then say, "My part is done. I created the universe, set all things in motion, and put laws in place to keep everything working as it should. The creatures will now fend for themselves." No, God works. We know He works because His Son says He does. The God who never becomes weary and who never sleeps is continually on the job watching over us and interacting with us.

Besides resting on the seventh day to signify that the creation work was complete, the Lord rested on the seventh day as an example for us to follow. Human beings get tired. We need rest and recreation and an opportunity to recharge our batteries. Working animals need this too, which is why God said that the animals weren't to work on the Sabbath either. If He had not put these laws in place, countless numbers of human beings and animals would have been worked to death by those in authority over them. It is very detrimental to our physical and mental health to work seven days a week. God created every cell of our bodies and He knows exactly what we need, so He instituted the Sabbath. "Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating He had done." (Genesis 2:3)

God rested from "the work of creating He had done", not from everything else. Right here on September 28, 2019, "in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose". (Romans 8:28) God is actively working in the lives of believers. He is actively working in the lives of unbelievers as well, for as long as they have breath in their bodies He is dealing with their hearts in His office as God the Holy Spirit, urging them to come to repentance and to come to faith in God the Son. There is not a human being on the face of the earth with whom God is not interacting in some fashion every single day of their lives.

Knowing all this, let's look back to the words of King David who praised the God who so fearfully and wonderfully made him, the God who had His eyes on him every second of his life.

"You have searched me, Lord, and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, You, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and You lay Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast." (Psalm 139:1-10) God is close to you, closer than you even know. He knows everything about you, the good and the bad, and He loves you anyway. He's willing and eager to be the Lord of your life and your Helper and Defender.

Friday, September 27, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 5, The Six Days Of Creation, Part Three

On the sixth day of creation, after making all the land animals, the Bible tells us: "Then God said, 'Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.'" (Genesis 1:26)

To whom is God speaking when He says, "Let us make mankind in our image"? In my opinion He is speaking to the other two persons of the Holy Trinity: God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. If He were only saying, "Let us make man," He could have been giving instructions to any created being residing in heaven with Him. The angels, for example. But He clearly says man is to be made "in our image". Nowhere in the Bible are we told that we are made in the image of angels. Instead we are told that the angels are "ministering servants sent to serve those who will inherit salvation." (Hebrews 1:4) There is no indication in the Scriptures that anyone other than God is able to create life, so I think since He uses the plural words "us" and "our", He can only be speaking to the other two persons capable of creating life with Him.

Do I fully understand the nature of the Holy Trinity---how there is only one God and yet that one God exists in three persons/holds three offices/performs three ministries? No. Do I understand exactly what it means that we are made in God's image? No. We could spend a great deal of time puzzling over these things and not come to any firm conclusions. Scholars throughout the ages have been unable to puzzle these things out. I think that, in the here and now, these are things we must accept on faith. Then someday when we see our Redeemer face to face, we will understand.

"So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female He created them." (Genesis 1:21) The author of Genesis goes out of his way to repeat the fact several times that we are created in the image of God. No other creature can claim this great honor, not even the most intelligent of animals, not even the highest-ranking angels of heaven.

Just as He did with the animals, God blesses the humans. "God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground." (Genesis 1:28) God isn't giving man license to do as he pleases with the created world. The dominion that the Lord bestows upon mankind is an enormous and solemn responsibility. We are to rule over the world and the animals just as the One who created us in His image would rule over it. Would God be cruel and neglectful toward the animals He so lovingly made? Would He carelessly manufacture goods in such a way as to pollute the air and the water? Would He extract fossil fuels in a way that presents a danger to life on earth? Would He ruin the habitats of millions of animals? Would He engage in industrial practices or hunting practices that cause entire species to become extinct? As those who have been made in the image of God, and as those who have been tasked with such a great responsibility, we should seek to carry out the duties of our dominion in a way that doesn't disrespect our God.

I want to stop here for a minute to mention how deeply the Lord comforted me earlier this year with the passage of Genesis we're studying today. For the fourth time in my life I had to have a dearly loved dog put to sleep. Not once has a dog of mine ever passed peacefully in its sleep. I've always had to make the heartbreaking decision that there are no good days left ahead of them and that it's more merciful to let them go. Every time I find myself in that situation, I feel like I'm playing God. I feel like I don't have the right to make a life and death decision for my pet. I didn't create dogs; God did. I didn't give life to the animal kingdom; God did. It feels wrong to me when I have to take steps to release them from their suffering. But back in January, when I had to let my sixteen-year-old pup Buffy go, the Lord brought to my mind the words of Genesis 1:28. He reminded me that He gave mankind dominion over the animal kingdom. This means He trusts me enough to allow me to make heart-wrenching decisions for the pets He has placed in my care. This means that---uncomfortable as it may make me feel---I do have the right and the authority to release a terminally ill pet from this life. I was given that right and that authority by God Himself. God did not give us the right to mistreat the animals, but He did give us the right to make thoughtful and humane decisions regarding their welfare. If any of you have ever had to make a decision like this, or if you ever have to make such a decision in the future, I hope the words of verse 28 will comfort you as they've comforted me.

It was God's best plan from the beginning that man would not eat the animals and that animals would not eat each other. He never wanted any of us preying on each other. "Then God said, 'I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be used for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground---everything that has the breath of life in it---I give every green plant for food.' And it was so." (Genesis 1:29-30) Before man fell from grace, nothing on earth ate meat. I'm not a vegan or a vegetarian and I'm not telling you that you will be holier if you become a vegan or a vegetarian. It's not a sin to eat meat because after the great flood God gave man permission to eat meat in Genesis 9, perhaps because something about the environment had changed so drastically that man (and many of the animals) could no longer obtain enough nutrients from vegetables and fruits. The great flood came about because of man's appalling sinfulness. Every bad thing that has befallen humans and animals in this world is a result of man's depravity. But God has promised to reverse the polluting effects that sin has had on this world.

The prophet Isaiah foresaw the day in which God would restore the world to its former Eden-like state. Isaiah knew a day was coming when no human or animal would ever prey on another living creature again and he said, "The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox." (Isaiah 11:6-7) The Apostle Paul, through inspiration from the Holy Spirit, spoke of a day in which the creation would be redeemed, "The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the One who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God." (Romans 8:19-21) When man fell from grace, he took the created world and the animals down with him. The pollution of sin filled the earth and affected everything on the earth. But the righteousness of God will restore all things to their original state of perfection and glory. Those of you who studied Revelation with us will recall that when the Lord Jesus Christ reigns over the earth forever, we will revert back to a vegetarian diet. The curse of sin will no longer be present. Sin itself will no longer be present. This world will be perfect and beautiful and peaceful.

As God completed the sixth and final day of creation, He looked upon it and was satisfied. "God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning---the sixth day." (Genesis 1:31) God does everything well. It was man who ruined and perverted the perfect world the Lord placed him in. This is yet another example of our inability to achieve righteousness on our own. We can't make it through a day without messing up somehow. Without the Lord, we will never be all we were intended to be. Without the Lord, we will never achieve righteousness. He is the One who does all things well. Without Him we are nothing.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 4, The Six Days Of Creation, Part Two

In our passage today we study the fifth day of creation and the first half of the sixth day of creation.

"And God said, 'Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.' So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, 'Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.' And there was evening and there was morning---the fifth day." (Genesis 1:20-23) This is the first time we find God blessing anything He has created. He didn't bless the sun or the moon or the stars. He didn't bless the vegetables or the fruit trees. He only blesses the living creatures.

God didn't create all the animals on the same day. He created the animals that would most closely associate with humans---the land animals---on the same day He created humans. We see this as we take a look at the first half of the sixth day of creation. "And God said, 'Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.' And it was so." (Genesis 1:24) Dogs, my favorite little creatures on earth, were made by God the same day He created human life. The Bible doesn't say whether God blessed these land animals but I assume He blessed them the same way He blessed the fish and the birds. He wanted the land animals to be fruitful and multiply just as He wanted the fish and the birds to be fruitful and multiply.

There are various churches who hold "blessing of the animals" services. One of my local churches holds a service like this once a year and I've heard a few people make remarks about how stupid they think it is. God didn't think it was stupid to bless living creatures. In my opinion, if you want to take your pets to a blessing service, there's nothing wrong with it. God though the living creatures were worth blessing. He loves and cares for the creatures He made. He knows we care about our pets and He is concerned with anything that concerns us, which is why He has good things to say about those who properly look after their animals: "The righteous care for the needs of their animals." (Proverbs 12:10a)

"God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good." (Genesis 1:25) I can't help picturing God standing back and viewing His work with a smile of satisfaction on His face. Everything is ready now for the creation of mankind. Conditions are perfect to support human life on earth. This has been His ultimate goal all along. Long before He spoke light into darkness, He intended to create you and me.

Tomorrow we will study the remainder of the sixth day of creation, but for now let's stop and consider that the creation of land animals and the creation of human beings were part of the same work done on the same day. Together they represent the crowning glory of God's creation efforts. Tomorrow we will see God giving mankind dominion over the animals, but this dominion is to be taken very seriously and reverently. We will be called into account for how we have treated our fellow creatures. The Lord said that the righteous person cares for the needs of his animals; this means that the person who is cruel and neglectful is unrighteous. Our holy God has promised to judge all unrighteousness, so have no fear that God won't judge those who have been cruel and neglectful to the animal kingdom. Have no fear that God won't somehow, someday make all things right. In tomorrow's study we are going to take a look at God's redemptive plan for man, for the animal kingdom, and for the natural world itself.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 3, The Six Days Of Creation, Part One

In our first two days of this study we've talked about the eternal existence of God and about two theories regarding the age of the universe. Today we begin our look at the six days of creation.

"Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." (Genesis 1:2) In the original text, the Lord is "brooding" over the waters. This lends His a protective quality to His actions by comparing them to what a "brooding" hen does. A hen who sits on her eggs to keep them warm and to protect them is doing this so that they will hatch successfully and bring new life into the world. She is creating an incubator effect with her body heat and she is warding off predators by her presence. The Spirit of the Lord, while He brooded over the formless and empty earth, was creating the perfect atmosphere to successfully bring forth life.

"And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light." (Genesis 1:3) When God speaks, things happen. When He commanded light to shine out of darkness, the light had to shine.

"God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light 'day', and the darkness He called 'night'. And there was evening, and there was morning---the first day." (Genesis 1:4-5) Did God need day and night? No, but He knew our human bodies would need them. He gave us the daylight hours in which to work and He gave us the nighttime hours in which to sleep. Our human bodies have to sleep, so here in these verses God is preparing the earth for us, even though He hasn't created us yet.

"And God said, 'Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.' So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault 'sky'. And there was evening, and there was morning---the second day." (Genesis 1:6-8) It appears that at one time the entire earth must have been covered with water. Verses 6-8 may mean that God left some of the water on the earth but stored some of the water in the clouds. Or these verses may mean that at one time there was a thick vapor canopy surrounding the earth, as some scientists believe. This would mean that God left enough water on the earth to form the oceans and rivers and streams, and that He also lifted enough water into the atmosphere to create the right conditions for the early world to become a lush tropical paradise.

Now God takes the liquid remaining on the earth and forms bodies of water with it, exposing areas of usable ground. "And God said, 'Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.' And it was so. God called the dry ground 'land', and the gathered waters He called 'seas'. And God saw that it was good." (Genesis 1:9-10)

There is dry ground at this point and it's time for vegetation to spring forth. "Then God said, 'Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.' And it was so. The land produced vegetation; plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning---the third day." (Genesis 1:11-13) The vegetables and fruits need to be able to keep on reproducing so they can provide food for the animals and humans God is going to create, so God made certain that the vegetables and fruits contained seeds.

"And God said, 'Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light to the earth.' And it was so." (Genesis 1:14-15) There has been controversy over these two verses regarding the order of creation. Some have questioned how God could have created plant life before He created the sun and the moon and the stars. However, the Jewish Talmud and many Christian physicists and scientist state that the sun and moon and stars already existed but could not shine on the earth until God separated the waters and lifted the vapor canopy high enough into the atmosphere. This explanation helps us to reconcile verses 14-15 with verses 3-5 where we already found God creating light and creating the daytime and the nighttime. The vapor canopy would have been thick and heavily condensed when it lay upon the earth, but lifting it high into the atmosphere would have served to spread it out and thin it out so that the heavens could be seen from the land. If this is so, then the author of Genesis is describing the phases of creation in the order in which they would have appeared from the vantage point of earth.

The author now moves on to describe for us the heavenly bodies that would have become visible from earth. "God made two great lights---the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning---the fourth day." (Genesis 1:16-19)

Tomorrow we will study the creation of all living creatures, both animal and human. We close today by explaining why the author of Genesis refers to each day as "evening and morning". This is because, although a secular day runs from midnight to the next midnight, the Jewish religious day runs from nightfall to nightfall. For example, the Jewish Sabbath begins on Friday evening and ends on Saturday evening. There are exceptions to this rule, such as days when fasts are observed. Fasts begin in the morning, not in the evening.

A good example of the Jewish day beginning in the evening is found in the gospel accounts of the crucifixion. Jesus died on the cross at 3pm. His friends had to hurry to get His body to the borrowed tomb of Joseph of Arimathea before the Sabbath began at sundown. This is why we consider Jesus to have been dead for portions of three days. He died on Friday at 3pm and was placed in the tomb before Saturday began at sundown. This means He spent the final hours of Friday in the tomb. He spent all of Saturday (from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday) in the tomb. He spent up to half of Sunday in the tomb (from sundown on Saturday until the early morning hours of Sunday). We don't know the exact time the resurrection took place because the tomb was already empty when the women arrived on Sunday morning to bring burial spices. No one saw it happen, not even the guards who had been standing by the tomb's entrance ever since the stone was rolled across the doorway to seal it. The time of the resurrection is not what's important; what's important is that the resurrection took place. The tomb, thank God, is still empty. And because it's empty, we have a living hope that can never be taken away from us. "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." (1 Peter 1:3)

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 2. When Was The Earth Created?

Before we get much deeper into the creation account contained in the book of Genesis, we are going to briefly look at the two most popular theories about when the earth (and the entire universe) was created. These theories are known as Young Earth Creationism and Old Earth Creationism. These theories are fascinating to study, but the truth is we simply don't know when or how everything that exists in our universe was created. We must keep in mind that knowing the answer to our questions about how and when the creation began is not as important as knowing the awesome and mighty God by whom all these things were created.

The book of Genesis is going to tell us that the Lord created the universe and everything in it within six days. Young Earth theorists believe that the six days of creation were six literal 24 hour days. This is because Genesis uses the Hebrew word "yom" to mean "day". In almost every instance where the word "yom" is used in the Old Testament, it appears to indicate an actual one-day period. (The New Testament was written almost entirely in Greek, though its authors occasionally use a Hebrew or Aramaic word, so we aren't using the New Testament as an example of what a day means.) The Hebrew word itself, when used outside of the Bible, can mean either a literal day or a period of time. It can be used interchangeably with words such as "age" or "era". We often use the English word "day" in this same manner. For example, we might refer to the years of our youth as "back in the day". Or we might use the word "day" when speaking of things that are going on in our world in modern times. For an example of this, I recently said to my husband regarding the upcoming presidential election, "I never thought I'd live to see the day when socialists could run for office in America." Obviously I didn't mean one single day when I made this remark; I was referring to the period of time in which certain political beliefs have begun to gain popularity.

So does the word "yom" in Genesis refer to an actual 24 hour day? There is good evidence to support that this is what Moses (the author of Genesis) intended, considering that the Bible's use of this word throughout the Old Testament refers to an actual day. On the other hand, we don't know how long a day was when the earth was first formed and when the earth began to orbit the sun. Was the earth's orbit the same as it is today or did it take some time for everything in our solar system to come into the alignment with which we are familiar? Depending what method the Lord used to create the planets, it may have taken a great deal of time for the earth and the other planets to spin into their more-or-less round shape and to contract into their permanent mass. The size, shape, and weight of the earth would affect how long it takes to make a complete turn as it orbits the other words, it would affect how long a day actually was during the early years of our solar system.

Young Earth theorists speculate that human beings were placed on the earth around 6,000 years ago. They estimate this period of time by adding up the generations of Bible characters who lived before Christ, then they add to this the years that have passed since the crucifixion of Jesus. However, some Bible scholars say that it was the habit of people during Old Testament times to leave out of genealogies the names of various ancestors who lived shameful lives. It was also habitual for a person to call himself the "son" of his most respected ancestor, thus skipping over the generations in between.

Young Earth theorists often try to explain away the science that appears to back up the Old Earth theory by saying that the Lord caused the earth and the universe to appear old. I don't know whether we are living on a young earth or an old earth, but this isn't a good explanation for why everything around us appears to have had its beginning in the very ancient past. God is not deceptive. I can't imagine Him causing everything around us to appear old if it is not actually old. A better explanation would be that conditions in the early universe caused things---let's say the formation of the various layers of rock which geologists say took billions of years---to form at a much more rapid rate than they do today. That would cause the earth to look far older than it is. Another good example would be the formation of things like coal or oil under the surface of the earth. These are believed to have taken billions of years to form. If this is not so, then something about the early universe caused everything in it to form at an extremely rapid pace so that it could all come into existence within the years in which the Young Earth theorists propose for the time the universe has been in place.

The Old Earth theorists believe that God created the universe and everything in it way back in the very distant past and that there was a long lapse of time before He placed human beings on the earth. This allows for the billions of years which scientists say were needed for the stars and planets and solar systems to form. This would allow time for the fossil fuels to develop. This would allow time for conditions on the earth to become absolutely perfect to sustain human, animal, and plant life. If Old Earth theorists are correct, then their theory lines up quite nicely with the scientific "big bang" theory, for suddenly something came out of nothing. There would have been a dark void, then the Lord said, "Let there be light!", and in one split second a massive explosion occurred in which light, matter, space, and time were born. Everything needed to create the universe and all that is contained in it would have sprung forth in that instant.

The Old Earth theory is in conflict with the six days of creation indicated by the words of Moses, so this is a problem. This conflict can be reconciled only if we do not consider "yom" to mean a literal 24 hour day, or if the early days our earth experienced were not 24 hour periods but were instead much longer, or if the Lord allowed the universe to exist for billions of years while conditions on it became perfectly right for the existence of human beings. There are problems in reconciling the time of man's sojourn on earth with the apparent age of the remains of human beings that have been found all over the world, unless early conditions on the earth caused things to look much older than they are or unless our methods of calculating age (the Carbon 14 dating method, for example) are entirely in error.

If God created the universe billions of years ago but only created man on the earth 6,000 years ago, what was He doing during that long span of time? We have to keep in mind that God is not governed by the laws of time and space which govern us. He has existed for eternity, long before the universe was created. Because He is not of our universe, He is not subject to the laws of our universe. God may move back and forth throughout time, working things out according to His will. While the planets spun into existence or while the dinosaurs roamed the earth, He may have moved forward in time to set various circumstances and opportunities up for you and me in our present day. He may have been busy lining the things up which are necessary in order to work all things for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28)

We could spend a great deal of time being puzzled about how and when God created the universe and everything in it. We could be like the Grinch and "puzzle til our puzzlers are sore". It's fascinating to think about these things, but God didn't explain all this stuff to us in detail because the theme of the Bible is not how and when God created all that exists. The theme of the Bible is man's fall from grace. The theme of the Bible is about man's broken relationship with the Creator and how man can be reconciled to his Creator. The Bible doesn't discuss how the universe was formed or how old the earth is. The Bible doesn't talk about the dinosaurs or about any other things that existed before the creation of man because these things have nothing to do with the redemptive plan of God for mankind. Would discussing the dinosaurs help us recognize our sinful state and turn us toward our Savior? Likely not. Would explaining to us in detail how God brought everything out of nothing help us live holy and honorable lives? Probably not, because we'd get so caught up in studying the science of God that we'd neglect forming a relationship with God.

As we continue on with our study, we must content ourselves with knowing that although God hasn't told us everything we want to know, in the Scriptures He has told us everything we need to know.

Monday, September 23, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 1, In The Beginning...God

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1)

When we look back as far as the human mind can imagine, God is already there. He was already everything He is today and He was everything He ever will be. For mankind the beginning begins at the creation; for God there was no beginning. He has always existed and He always will. He once described Himself to Moses as, "I am who I am," (Exodus 3:4) and we are going to take a look today at what this means because I believe the words someone uses to describe himself tells us a lot about him.

In Hebrew the Lord was saying to Moses, "Ehyeh aser Ehyeh". These words sound very enigmatic when translated into English, but by looking at them in the original language we form a better idea of who God says He is.

1. This phrase "I am who I am" or "I am the I am", as it is sometimes rendered, means something like "the being one" or "the self-existing one" in the original Hebrew. God has always existed, He exists now, and He always will exist. No act of creation was necessary for Him to begin existing. He needs nothing from anyone or anything in order to exist; He is self-sufficient. All the power necessary for Him to create the universe and to keep it running is generated by Himself. And yet, a Being this unimaginably powerful wants to have a relationship with us. Nothing that ever happens to us should make us feel more honored than knowing that the "I Am" loves us and wants a personal relationship with each of us.

2. The phrase "I am who I am" indicates an unchanging character. God is who He has always been and God is who He will always be. In a world of constant change, this should be a comfort to us. God won't love us today and hate us tomorrow. God won't feel warm toward us today but cold toward us tomorrow. God won't make a promise to us today and break it tomorrow. He says of Himself, "God is not man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind." (Numbers 23:19) "For I the Lord do not change." (Malachi 3:6a) We can rest safely in the hands of an unchanging God.

3. "I am who I am" in the original Hebrew is suggestive of One who is the source of all that exists. Every atom, molecule, blade of grass, and hair on our heads was created by the power and energy of God. God spoke and something came from nothing. It was dark, then light. It was a void, then it was filled. All that is on the earth, under the earth, in the seas, in the air, and in the heavens was made by God through His will, His purpose, and His choice.

4. "I am who I am" also indicates a self-sustaining energy. God needs no outside source of energy in order to keep going. He never gets tired or sleeps. "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom." (Isaiah 20:28) God never runs low on power. We never have to worry that His grace won't be sufficient or that His arm is too short to save us. "He will not let your foot slip---He who watches over you will not slumber." (Psalm 121:3)

God is who He is. Period. He will not debate this issue with us. He will not relinquish one smidgen of holiness or righteousness in order to fit into some kind of box we've tried to construct for Him. God will not compromise His character. He will not change His laws to suit the whims of mankind. He will never sink down to our level but instead He calls us to step up higher. God will never be someone He is not, but He will also never stop reaching out to us in mercy. As long as we have breath in our bodies, God is offering us mercy and forgiveness and a relationship with Himself.

This is the God with whom we must deal. This is the God who steps out of eternity past to meet us here, in the beginning of man's sojourn on earth, in the book of Genesis. God is the "being one" who has no beginning or end, who needs no outside source of power, who sustains Himself and all creation, who is so high above us we can't fathom His thoughts, but who desires to know and be known by us. Everything that pertains to an abundant and satisfying life is found in Him.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 86, Conclusion

As we conclude our eighty-six day journey through the book of Revelation I'd like to thank everyone who joined in this adventure with me. The Lord promised us a blessing for reading and keeping the words of this book in our hearts, and He always does what He says He's going to do. I already feel blessed to have been a part of this study.

In our final segment of this book the Lord Jesus begins by saying: "Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with Me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." (Revelation 22:12-13) When the Bible began, the Lord was there, having existed throughout all eternity past. As we come to the end of the Bible, the Lord is there, and He is going to exist throughout all eternity future. There has never been any other Lord and Creator and there will never be another. Because of this, He is our only hope and source of mercy and salvation. As the He said to the people of Israel through the prophet Isaiah: "This is what the Lord says---Israel's King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from Me there is no God." (Isaiah 44:6)

When the Lord Jesus says He is going to reward each person according to what they have done, He isn't preaching salvation through works. He's asking us, "Have you accepted Me---the first and the last, the only King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty?" Salvation has always been by faith and it always will be by faith. Of course we will naturally live holier lives and want to perform good works in the name of Christ after we give our hearts to Christ, but the only "work" that counts when it comes to salvation is whether or not we've made Jesus Christ the Lord of our lives. Do we believe He is the Son of God who came in the flesh and paid for our sins on the cross? Do we believe He died and rose from the dead? Do we believe He is with God the Father right now, making intercession continually for those who are His?

The Lord continues, "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city." (Revelation 22:14) How are we washed clean? By the blood of the Lamb, by the blood of the One in whom we have placed our trust.

Who will not enjoy the beautiful eternity that the Lord has prepared for those who love Him? Those who have rejected His free pardon of sin. Those who preferred idolatry---be it the literal bowing down to false gods or the idolatry of the heart that says, "I will do what I want. I will answer to no one. I will be a 'god' to myself." The Lord makes this clear by speaking of those who sealed their eternal fate by choosing to serve anything and everything but Him. "Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood." (Revelation 22:14-15)

The reference to "dogs" is not a reference to the furry creatures we know and love. In John's day this was a term the Jews would have used for pagan idolaters who lived in unclean ways. The Lord is saying that those who spent their lives doing the things described in verses 14 and 15, and who never repented of these things and turned to Him for salvation, won't be with Him and with His people in eternity. No one who preferred idolatry over serving the living God will be in His presence. Neither will those who chose to immerse themselves in occult practices. Neither will those who lived lives that served the flesh by engaging in any and all of the sexually immoral deeds that suited their carnal natures. Neither will those who lived lives of crime or who took the lives of others. Can idolaters, occultists, sexually immoral persons, and criminals receive salvation? Of course they can if, during their lifetime, they repent and turn to the Lord. But the Lord is speaking of those who never had any interest in repenting of their sins and in allowing Him to be their Redeemer and Lord.

"I, Jesus, have sent My angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star." (Revelation 22:16) The late Dr. J. Vernon McGee, pastor and author and the founder of the Thru The Bible Radio program, says of verse 16 in his book Revelation: Volume III: "Have you noticed that the bright and morning star always appears at the darkest time of the night? Its appearance indicates that the sun will be coming up shortly." When the Lord Jesus Christ came into this world in the flesh, it was after four hundred years of silence from God. During those four centuries no prophets were called by the Lord. No fresh word came from the Lord at all. That was a dark time, but sometimes silence achieves what words do not. Then suddenly, out of the silence and the darkness, the light appeared. The Messiah was born. Here at the end of the book of Revelation, after studying some very dark and dreadful things, the sun comes out. Night will never fall again, so the Lord refers to Himself as the morning star. The sun has come out and it's going to shine forever.

The Holy Spirit who dwells within us longs for the Lord's kingdom to come. Our spirits are in agreement with Him. We want see our Redeemer face to face, and we want the dark deeds of this world to come to an end, and we want the eternal kingdom of joy and peace to begin. "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let the one who hears say, 'Come!' Let the one who is thirsty come, and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life." (Revelation 22:17) The Holy Spirit and the spirit of each of us who has been redeemed add our "amens" to what the Lord is saying. He has said, "I am coming soon!" And in response to that we answer, "Amen! Yes, Lord! Come soon!"

"I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll." (Revelation 22:18-19) According to the way the original Greek text is written, the Apostle John appears to be the one who adds this warning, though some scholars disagree and feel the Lord is speaking these words. I think John is the author of this warning but that he is speaking on the authority of a minister of the word of God, for any word given by the Lord is to be taken exactly as it is, without alteration. From Genesis to Revelation, God has said exactly what He meant to say. If any extra words needed to be added to the holy Scriptures, God would have added them. No unnecessary words are contained in the holy Scriptures because if they didn't belong there God wouldn't have put them there. We are not to take His instructions and add rules and regulations that are of human opinion and origin. We are not to take the message of the Lord and start removing the parts we don't like or don't want to obey. Doing any of these things is capable of rendering the gospel message ineffective and hindering someone from coming to know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior.

Woe to anyone who hinders someone from coming to the Lord! Our job as believers (who have all been commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ to share the gospel with the world), is to present the word of God exactly as it is, without adding manmade rules and laws to God's rules and laws and without taking anything away from the gospel message. Any doctrine that does not proclaim what the Bible actually says (that we are sinners, that we need a Savior, that salvation is obtainable only through Jesus Christ because He is the only way to the Father) is a false doctrine---and woe to the teachers of false doctrines. To them God will add the plagues described in Revelation and from them will be taken their share in the tree of life and in the Holy City.

"He who testifies to these things says, 'Yes, I am coming soon.'" (Revelation 22:21a) The Lord is so faithful to us and is so patient with our weaknesses! He knows we need to hear His promises repeated to us over and over again. He knows what it's like to live in this fallen world and to walk through this world in a human body that is prone to fear and doubt and discouragement. Over and over again throughout the Scriptures He speaks words of hope to us. Time and time again He encourages us to hold on.

What does our spirit say in response to His repeated promise that He is coming soon? "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus." (Revelation 22:23b) Amen! Come soon, Lord Jesus! We can't wait to see the face of our Redeemer! We can't wait to be with the One who loved us so much that He took on mortal flesh and walked the dusty roads of this world, and who endured human hardships, and who experienced rejection and betrayal, and who died a torturous death on a cross while He literally became sin in our place and took our shame and punishment upon Himself. There is no greater love than this, and we long for the day when we will forever be with the One who loved us more than He loved the glory that was His in heaven and who loved us more than He loved His own life.

My spirit, which has been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, joins with the Holy Spirit who dwells within me and says, "Amen! Come soon, Lord Jesus!" The bride wants nothing more than to be with her Bridegroom, and then for His eternal kingdom to come, and for the entire creation to be redeemed, and for all who belong to the Lord to dwell in peace with Him forever.

John concludes with this benediction: "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen." (Revelation 22:21)

How do we obtain peace with our Creator? Through Christ alone. How do we obtain mercy, forgiveness, and the redemption of our souls? Through Christ alone. We close our study with the link below which is to a worship song that presents the gospel message to us, the message that salvation is found in Christ alone. There is no better time than today to make the Lord Jesus Christ the Lord of your life if you have not already done so. He is coming soon.
In Christ Alone

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 85, A Book For Our Times

The angel who has been speaking with John reminds him that we are living in the last days that are leading up to the last days. The Lord could call His church out of the world at any moment, and then the events of the Great Tribulation would commence. The book of Revelation is a book that is vitally important and relevant for our times.
"The angel said to me, 'These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent His angel to show His servants the things that must soon take place.'" (Revelation 22:6) The words contained in the book of Revelation are useful for instruction, for warning, for leading unbelievers to repentance, and for reassuring believers about our glorious eternal future with Christ.

The Lord Himself speaks now in agreement with the angel: "Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the prophecy written in this scroll." (Revelation 22:7) We were promised a blessing in Revelation 1:3 for reading the words of this prophecy and for keeping this message in our hearts. "Keeping" the message means believing in it and meditating upon it and allowing it to minister to us according to God's will. No time spent in any book of the Bible is ever wasted, but He promises a special blessing for reading and for keeping the message of Revelation in our hearts.

The angel has testified to the truth of the words of this book. The Lord Jesus has added His testimony to its truth. Now John adds his own testimony that he personally was told and was shown all the things contained in the book of Revelation. "I, John, am the one who saw and heard these things." (Revelation 22:8a) The law of Moses stated that anything accepted as fact in a court of law had to be "established by the testimony of two or three witnesses". (Deuteronomy 19:15) Here we have the ultimate authority, the Lord Jesus Christ, giving His testimony along with an angel of high rank and the Apostle John. If we can't believe the testimony of these three, then it's doubtful we could be convinced by anyone.

John finds himself overwhelmed with emotion due to everything he has seen and heard. As he did once before in Revelation, he falls to his knees. "And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, 'Don't do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!" (Revelation 22:8b-9) John knows this is an angel. He knows that human beings are to worship God alone, but I don't think he intends anything blasphemous or disrespectful when he bows before the angel. The angel is speaking to him on behalf of the Lord, and in John's mind I think that in bowing before the angel he is bowing (by association) before the Lord since it is the Lord's message the angel is relating to him. The angel, like all the angels who remained faithful to the Lord, points worship away from himself and toward the Lord. This angel serves the Lord and that makes him a fellow servant with John, so he's saying something like this: "Servants do not bow to fellow servants but only to the Master."

"Then he told me, 'Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near.'" (Revelation 22:10) We've studied the book of Revelation along with the prophecies from the book of Daniel regarding the end times. The book of Daniel, however, was sealed until after the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ. The book of Daniel could be read and discussed, but it was difficult to make sense of it in its day. This is why it's said to be "sealed". It's not that the words couldn't be studied, but that many things had to come to pass after Daniel's lifetime before people could read about the visions he was given and be able to understand them. Daniel himself didn't understand them, for the Lord told him that the words were sealed until the end. But ever since Christ ascended to the Father we are living in an age when the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation are relevant and timely. As the angel says, "The time is near." This could mean that Christ will call His church out of the world in our lifetime. Or it may be a hundred or more years in the future. But relatively speaking, in view of how long man has existed on the earth, the end is very near. Only a short time remains in which people can make a decision for Christ. While it's true that many will come to faith during the Great Tribulation, Christians will be persecuted like never before during those years. Wars, calamities, and famines are going to take place on the earth. No one in their right mind would want to endure the Great Tribulation. Making a decision for Christ now makes a person a part of the church, His bride, and Christ is going to take His bride out of the world before the darkest days ever known fall upon it.

A day will eventually come when a final choice has been made and there is no turning back. If a person dies without Christ, he faces the judgment without Christ as his Defender. The words the angel speaks next confirm the permanence of a decision for or against Christ. There are no "do-overs" after death. If we leave this mortal life having known about but having rejected the love and mercy and redemption of Christ, there remains no further sacrifice capable of redeeming us. There's nothing more that can be done for us than that which Christ has already done. So the angel concludes his speech by reminding us of the eternal consequences of our decisions. "Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy." (Revelation 22:11) There comes a point when the Lord says in regard to what we have chosen for ourselves, "So be it." The Lord has done everything that could possibly be done to demonstrate to us that we are sinners in need of a Savior. He provided the sacrifice---the only acceptable sacrifice---for our sins. If we reject everything He has said and done for us, nothing remains but for him to say, "Have it your way. So be it." In speaking of the judgment that awaits those who reject the Lord, the author of Hebrews asks, "How shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?" (Hebrews 2:3) Or as Dr. John Walvoord, one of the most highly respected scholars of Biblical prophecy puts it, "If the warnings of the book are not sufficient, there is no more that God has to say."

Monday, September 16, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 84, Eden Restored

After being shown the beautiful New Jerusalem in our passages of the last several days, John says, "Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations." (Revelation 22:1-2)

This river is going to contain the purest water man has ever drunk. These trees growing along the sides of the river will provide the finest food man has ever eaten. I don't think we will have to eat in eternity, but we will be able to eat just as Christ was able to eat in His resurrected body. (Luke 24:42) I don't know about you, but it comforts me to know we are still going to eat in eternity. Human beings tend to celebrate the things of life with food. This is one of the ways we observe holidays and birthdays and weddings, by gathering together for a meal. It seems fitting that we will still be able to gather together to eat and celebrate our perfect and eternal existence with the One who made all of this possible.

There was a tree of life in the Garden of Eden, but after Adam and Eve sinned against God, their access to the tree was blocked. Perhaps only the thing worse than being a sinner is being a sinner who lives forever in an unregenerated, unredeemed human body. The Lord cut off their access to this fruit and, although they lived a very long lifespan as did many of their early descendants (Adam lived to be 930 years old according to Genesis 5:5), eventually the effects of the fruit of the tree of life wore off. As the eternal kingdom begins, all of us who have put our faith in the Lord will have bodies like His, and I don't think we will have to eat in order to live. But we will be able to eat and enjoy it in a celebratory way.

John says the leaves of the trees are for the "healing" of the nations. The word translated into English is the Greek "therapeian" from which we derive the word "therapy" or "therapeutic". No one is going to be sick in the eternal kingdom; the Lord has already said so. If no one is sick, then no one needs to be healed, so the English translation of the word "therapeian" is a bit misleading. The leaves of the trees are going to be therapeutic for the nations of the world. Something about these leaves is going to enhance life on earth, and John doesn't explain to us how and why. Dr. John Walvoord, one of the leading experts on the book of Revelation, says of this passage: "The leaves of the tree promote the enjoyment of life in the New Jerusalem, and are not for correcting ills which do not exist." (From The Revelation Of Jesus Christ, page 330.)

The earth will be a perfect world, as if the entire planet has become a Garden of Eden, because the world won't be polluted by sin anymore. "No longer will there be any curse." (Revelation 22:3a) The ground was cursed because of Adam's sin. He introduced something into the environment that wasn't present before, and after his fall from grace he had to toil to make crops spring up from the ground. He had to work hard in order to eat and in order to provide food for his family. But here in Revelation 22 sin no longer exists. Where there is no sin there is no curse.

"The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants will serve Him." (Revelation 22:3b) We won't have to work in order to eat but we will have things to do. When I was a child I used to worry about what eternity would be like because I could only imagine myself being bored if I had to sit forever on a cloud playing a harp. I'm not sure where I got the idea that that's what it would be like, but the idea didn't appeal to me. We are going to have duties to perform in eternity, but those duties will be pleasant. They will be a joy. We will take delight in serving our Lord. John doesn't describe for us what our duties will be, but we can be certain we won't ever feel like we sometimes do now when we drag ourselves out of bed on Monday morning to go to a job on an unrestored earth that is still under the curse of sin. Whatever our tasks will be, they will be enjoyable and we will feel honored to perform them.

"They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads." (Revelation 22:4) We have seen several instances in Revelation of people having names or seals on their foreheads. The Tribulation saints were given the seal pf God on their foreheads. The followers of the Antichrist could take his mark on their foreheads. We don't know what it means when John says we will have Christ's name displayed on us in this fashion, but in the Old Testament the priests wore a golden headband that said, "Holy to the Lord." This marked them as being consecrated for His service. Since we have been promised we will be a kingdom of priests for our God (1 Peter 2:9, Revelation 1:6) what is indicated here may be that we will be adorned with a beautiful headband that proclaims us to be forever consecrated for the Lord's service.

"There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever." (Revelation 22:5) Night on the earth has so often been a lonely time or a frightening time. More crimes are committed during the night. Sick people are more likely to die during the night. The troubles of our lives seem worse during the night. No matter how difficult our problems are, we can get a better handle on them during the daylight hours. It's the nighttime hours that are the hardest to get through. In the kingdom of our Lord, night will never fall again. No dark deeds will ever be done. No one will ever again slip from life at the midnight hour. No lonely tears will ever fall again between sunset and dawn. We are going to be living in an eternal day on a world where nothing bad ever happens. This alone ought to make us want to give our allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ. As my pastor is fond of saying, it would be worth following Christ just to experience this paradise for two weeks. How much more will it be worth following Him to experience this for eternity?

John doesn't go into a lot of detail when he describes what eternity will be like for those who have placed their trust in Christ. I think he didn't have the words to describe what he saw. Have you ever had something so wonderful happen to you that you felt you couldn't tell someone about it in a way that could make them picture it? I think that's what has happened to the Apostle John. No words he can think of are able to do justice to what he's seen. He leaves a great deal of things "undescribed" because he simply can't describe them.

The Apostle Paul either had a vision of heaven or actually went to heaven after he was attacked in the city of Lystra and then dragged outside the gates and pelted with stones until he was either dead or near death. He himself said he wasn't sure if he actually died or just experienced a vision. I tend to believe he had what we refer to in our day as a "near death experience" in which his soul actually left his body for a few seconds or minutes. He never went into detail about what he saw and I think that's because he couldn't. He had no words capable of adequately describing it. Anything he said about heaven would have fallen so far short of what he actually experienced that instead of trying in vain to tell us what he saw, he said that the human mind can't conceive the things God has prepared for those who love Him. (1 Corinthians 2:9) I'd be willing to bet John felt the same way when he observed Eden restored on the earth with the Lord ruling over the world. No human mind could picture the things he saw. No human tongue could put them into words. We can try to imagine what eternity with our Lord will be like, but it will be so much more than anything our minds can envision. After all, we are dealing with the One who "is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine". (Ephesians 3:20)

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation, Day 83, The Light Of The World

The Lord Jesus Christ said of Himself, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12) Today we learn that not only will there be no temple in the New Jerusalem, there will also be no need for the light of the sun or the moon or electric bulbs, for the One who is the light of the world will our light.

"I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord Almighty and the Lamb are its temple." (Revelation 21:22) In the Old Testament the Lord instructed the people of Israel to construct the tabernacle so He would have a place to meet with them. He said to Moses, "Have them make a sanctuary for Me, and I will dwell among them." (Exodus 25:8) This tabernacle in the wilderness, and later the temple at Jerusalem, were a continual reminder to the people that God was holy and different and separate from them. They had to approach Him with repentance and offerings and sacrifices. At all times they were aware of God's perfect and righteous nature and their own fallen natures. They were thankful that God allowed them to come into His presence to have their sins forgiven and their prayers heard, but there was always a distance between them and the Lord.

Later, after Christ gave His life and rose from the dead, the Holy Spirit began to indwell believers, thus making the bodies of believers the "temple of God". (1 Corinthians 6:19) We are able to commune with Him more personally and intimately than anyone of Old Testament times ever could, and yet as long as we live in these mortal bodies we are still prone to making mistakes. And as long as we live in these physical bodies we don't see our Redeemer face to face. But someday there will be no barriers of any kind between us and our Redeemer. There will be no need for us to go to a temple to pray and bring offerings and ask for forgiveness. We will never sin again. Every sin we ever committed will be forgiven and put behind us forever. We will behold the face of our Redeemer for all eternity. Why have a temple when our God is right there in front of us?

A few days ago we discussed the fact that in the eternal kingdom we will no longer have hospitals, funeral homes, or cemeteries. It looks like we won't have electric bills either because the Lord Himself, who once spoke, "Let there be light!" into the darkness and nothingness that existed before the universe began, will be the light. "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there." (Revelation 21:23-25)

Some scholars take this passage to mean that the sun and moon won't exist anymore. The entire creation has been remade by this point, so there may not be a sun and moon, but John doesn't say that they no longer exist, just that their light is not needed. The light of our Lord is so bright that the sun and moon are put to shame. His glory eclipses all else. Throughout the ages there have been pagan religions whose followers worshiped false gods of the sun and moon. In the eternal kingdom no one will even notice the sun and moon anymore, so great will be the light of Christ. Throughout the ages there have been idolaters who fashioned false gods out of gold and silver and precious jewels, but as we learned yesterday, the streets of the New Jerusalem will be paved with gold and the foundations and walls of the city will be laid with the finest of gemstones. Objects that once were worshiped or considered precious will be as common as concrete and blocks and wood. Never again will anyone bow to a golden idol. Never again will anyone carve a gemstone into the shape of a false god. The Lord alone will be worshiped as He should be---as He always should have been.

Christ will reign over the world from the New Jerusalem. His bride (the church) will live there with Him. But the Old Testament saints, those who came to faith during the Great Tribulation, and those who came to faith during the Millennium, who are living all over the world, will be free to come and go from the beautiful city. "The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it." (Revelation 21:26) The New Jerusalem, the great city that is 1,400 miles long and 1,400 miles wide, will be the world capitol. It will be the holy city. Naturally every citizen of the earth will want to visit it whenever possible.

The Jerusalem that is in the world today has seen many wars. Blood has been shed on its streets. Cries of grief and despair have gone up from its dwellings. Prayers have been prayed in Jerusalem for deliverance from persecution and for vengeance upon enemies. Such things can't be said about the New Jerusalem. "Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life." (Revelation 21:27) John isn't suggesting that sin and shame still exist in the world. He's rejoicing in the fact that not only has the entire earth and its atmosphere been made new, but that the capitol city where our Lord is seated on the throne is a place that has never known sin or shame or death or despair. No blood was ever shed on its streets. No cry of alarm has ever been sounded from its walls. No bitter tears have ever fallen inside its dwellings in the night. None of these things will ever happen there. The gates won't ever be shut because no threat exists. No sin will ever enter the city because no sin exists. As the Lord said earlier in our chapter, "There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Revelation 21:4) Where there is no sin, there is no death, no disaster, and no despair. Sin is dead. Death is dead. But we will be alive with Christ forevermore. Amen!

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 82, The New Jerusalem, Part Two

We are in the second half of John's description of the enormous eternal city that he refers to as the "New Jerusalem". Where will the New Jerusalem be located? The Bible doesn't say. To me it makes sense that it would be located where Jerusalem is now. The site of Jerusalem has had religious significance all the way back to the first book of the Bible. The Jerusalem we are familiar with is the Jerusalem that is connected with God's redemptive plan for mankind. It was in this area on Mount Moriah where Abraham intended to offer his son Isaac to the Lord in the belief that God would immediately resurrect Isaac from the dead. (See Genesis 22:1-19 along with Hebrews 11:17 while keeping in mind that God never intended for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac but that He was using this as an opportunity to increase Abraham's faith. Abraham needed his faith increased in order to become the father of a great nation and in order to increase his faith in the coming Redeemer---a faith he was then able to pass along to his descendants.)

The Lord Himself chose Jerusalem for the location of the temple. King David amassed much of the wealth and materials needed for his son Solomon to construct it. The presence of the temple made Jerusalem the religious capitol of the Jewish people.

Jerusalem is where the Son of God taught in the temple and it is where He was rejected, crucified, buried, and resurrected. It seems logical that the New Jerusalem would be located at the site of the city that is so closely connected with the Lord and with the eternal redemption we have through our faith in Him. Some scholars have suggested that the New Jerusalem is a planet that will come down and orbit the earth, since John said in our passage yesterday that he saw it "coming down out of heaven from God", and while this is an interesting theory I don't feel that it holds much merit. The Lord promised long ago that His Son would rule over the nations from the throne of David. I think this is a literal promise and that Christ will rule over the nations from a specific location in a world that has been restored and made perfect. The restoration of the earth is a promise that is literally coming true here in Revelation and I feel that all these other promises regarding the eternal kingdom are to be understood as taking place on the earth.

I can't help longing for the day Isaiah foresaw when he said of the holy government of Christ: "For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6) We have a presidential election coming up next year and debates are already taking place among the candidates who are running for the nominations of their political parties. I rarely watch the debates because they tend to make me anxious and uneasy. The candidates often attack each other personally and they interrupt each other and talk over each other in a rude and irritating manner. Someday we won't have to deal with this anymore. We won't have to choose or elect any political candidate ever again. The One who chose us and left all the glory of heaven to offer His life for us will be our perfect and eternal King. The precious Son of God will be the head of the worldwide government. Everything He does will be absolutely right. We will joyfully submit to Him as our Lord and King because He has redeemed us from our sins and because He has granted us eternal life in His presence. We won't be bowing our knees to Him because we are forced to bow; we will be bowing our knees because of all He has been and forever will be to us: a wonderful Counselor, a mighty God who has done great things for us, a Father figure who loves us and wants the best for us, and the One who gives us peace in our hearts and peace with our holy Creator.

John goes on to describe what the beautiful city looks like: "The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass." (Revelation 21:18-21) In yesterday's passage we studied the measurements of the city and learned that the city is approximately 1,400 miles wide and 1,400 miles long. Imagine the tons of precious jewels it will take to lay the foundations of a city this large! Imagine how tall and deep these gates of pearl are! Imagine how much gold will be used to pave this many miles of streets! John is describing the New Jerusalem for us as best he can, but the beauty of this city is something we can't begin to comprehend until we see it for ourselves. In our current world system we place a lot of value on owning and wearing costly metals and precious stones. But in the Lord's world system those things are going to become basic building materials. The purest gold in existence is going to be under our feet because our joy won't be measured by material possessions. Our joy will be in at last beholding our Redeemer face to face in all His perfection and glory and holiness, and in living forever in a world where there will never again be sadness or sickness or death.

There is an enormous difference between the New Jerusalem and ancient Jerusalem. There will be no temple in it. Join us tomorrow to learn why.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 81, The New Jerusalem, Part One

We are studying a passage today and tomorrow that involves a beautiful eternal city called the "New Jerusalem". I'll tell you right off the bat that I am not certain exactly what the "New Jerusalem" is. This passage is apparently difficult for a lot of Bible scholars and theologians and evangelists to understand as well, because when I was doing my research on it I found a variety of theories. One thing most of them seem to agree on is that this holy city will be a heaven on earth. We've already seen the earth turning into a paradise now that Satan is banished forever and now that sin is no more. The New Jerusalem is going to be the capitol city of the perfect paradise that this world will be when Christ reigns over it eternally.

Here is what John says about this city: "One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, 'Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.' And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God." (Revelation 21:9-10)

Up until now only the church has been called the bride of Christ, so we know that the New Jerusalem is very closely connected to the church---so closely connected to her that the term "bride" can be used interchangeably for both the church and for this new city. Most of the mainstream scholars whose commentaries I consulted agree that this city is identified with the bride of Christ because it is the city in which Christ's bride will dwell with Him forever. The Lord Jesus is going to reign over the world from this city, and since husbands and wives live together in the same home, the Lord Jesus and His bride the church are doing to live together here. Any man who loves his bride wants her to be with him, and the Lord loves His bride with an everlasting faithful love. Any man who loves his bride wants to provide her with a nice home, and the Lord is providing His bride with the most beautiful home any woman has ever lived in.

John describes the beauty of this city. "It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." (Revelation 21:11-14) The culmination of everything contained in the Old and New Testaments is symbolized here. Both the nation of Israel and the church are symbolized because all believers are of the same family. "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28) There once was a great chasm between Jews and Gentiles because most Gentiles were idolatrous heathens before the advent of Christ. The two groups did not associate with each other. But after the advent of Christ, untold numbers of Gentiles came to believe in the one true God. In this way the Bible tells us that Christ "made the two groups one and destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility"/ (Ephesians 2:14) The church is made up of both Jews and Gentiles who have placed their trust in Christ.

Now John tells us the size of the city. "The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and as high as it is long. The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits thick." (Revelation 21:15-17) I didn't know the size of a stadia or a cubit so I needed some help figuring out how large this city is. According to several sources on the internet, 12,000 stadia would be just under 1,400 miles. So the New Jerusalem is a square city that is 1,400 miles wide and 1,400 miles long. For comparison, the United States measures about 1,582 miles from top to bottom and about 2,680 miles from side to side. (Please note I am not saying that the New Jerusalem will be in America. I do not think it will be. It makes sense that it would be located in the area of the world where Jerusalem is now, although some scholars have made other interesting suggestions that we'll look at tomorrow.) I am using the United States as an example because we are all familiar with what the map of the United States looks like. If we drew a square in the middle of the United States that is 1,400 miles in length and 1,400 miles width, it would almost completely cover the map of the United States vertically and over half of the map horizontally. This is an enormous amount of land mass! This is going to be the largest city ever to exist. One commentary stated that the dimensions of the New Jerusalem are comparable to the size of the moon. Imagine how many people could live on the moon if it had the same atmosphere and vegetation as the earth! This is how many people are going to be able to live in the New Jerusalem!

We are going to look at the remainder of John's description of the city, along with various theories about it, in tomorrow's study time because it is too much material to cover today. So join us tomorrow as we take a look at the city in which we--- the church---will live with our Redeemer forever.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 80, A New Heaven And A New Earth

The Lord promised through the prophet Isaiah, "See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind." (Isaiah 65:17) In today's passage this promise is fulfilled.

"Then I saw 'a new heaven and a new earth,' for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea." (Revelation 21:1) It is the Greek word "kainoj" which is translated as "new". According to Strong's Greek Concordance, this word means "fresh, of a new kind, unused". I don't know whether the earth as we now know it will be destroyed and remade or whether it will simply be transformed. Scholars are divided in their opinions on this.

The word John uses for "heaven" is the Greek "ouranoj" which is most often defined as "the sky", meaning the atmosphere that surrounds the earth. So now that sin is no more and death is no more, the world and the atmosphere around it become a paradise that resembles the Garden of Eden but is far superior because now the Lord dwells physically with His people forever, and His people live forever, and never again will a tempter enter paradise, and never again will mankind fall from grace.

This remaking of the earth includes the elimination of the oceans. The majority of the earth is currently covered in water, and the habitable land contains a population of 7.7 billion as of September 2019. But in the eternal kingdom the whole world turns into habitable land. As we discussed yesterday, all the graves are empty by this point in Revelation and another grave will never be dug, so now that sickness and death no longer exist there is no need for things like cemeteries, hospitals, nursing homes, doctor's offices, and pharmacies to take up space. If the amount of usable land we have today is supporting 7.7 billion people, just imagine how many redeemed saints of the Lord will eternally inhabit a world that contains nothing but good usable land.

"I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband." (Revelation 21:2) We will discuss the new Jerusalem in further detail when John describes it later in Chapter 21. Since Christ returned to earth, He has been ruling over it from the old Jerusalem. The old Jerusalem is the city where He was rejected by most of the religious leaders of His day. The old Jerusalem is where He was put on trial, beaten and mocked, condemned to death, and nailed to a cross. The old Jerusalem is where He was placed in a borrowed tomb until He rose in victory early on Sunday morning. Christ isn't going to rule over the earth eternally from the old Jerusalem. He's going to be enthroned forever in a completely fresh and new Jerusalem where His blood was never shed and where no one ever blasphemed His name.

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and will be their God. 'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Revelation 21:3-4) The voice from the throne quotes a passage from Isaiah 25 where the Lord speaks of a new day in which He will rules over a world from which death has been abolished.

Have you ever cried or mourned? Have you ever been sick? Have you ever lost a loved one to death? Have you ever thought about or feared your own death? Well, imagine a world where these things don't exist. Imagine a world where such things never enter our minds. Imagine a world where we eternally behold the face of the One who loves us so much that He gave Himself for us so that we could be with Him forever in immortal bodies that are impervious to illness and death. Of course we won't shed any more tears; there will be nothing to cry about.

"He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!' Then He said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'" (Revelation 21:5) This world we live in often feels like a weary wilderness filled with woes. Just yesterday in the United States we solemnly remembered all those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks. No wonder the Lord tells John, "Write this down," when He speaks of the day in which He will make all things new. He knows we need a hope to hold onto. He knows we need reassurance that things won't always be like they are today.

"He said to me: 'It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be My children.'" (Revelation 21:6-7) What makes us victorious? Our faith in Christ. This is the only real victory there is. Faith in Christ gives us victory (forgiveness and mercy and redemption) over our sins. Faith in Christ gives us victory over death, for we who are His will live eternally with Him. Faith is what makes us the children of God and guarantees for us an awesome inheritance: "Now if we are children, then we are heirs---heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ." (Romans 8:17a)

I don't fully understand how Christ is going to help us come to terms with the things in our lives that have hurt us, or how He will help us to forgive and forget everything that's gone wrong in this present world, or how He is going to make all things new and set everything right. But a family member posted the following quote sometime back and I saved it because it reminded me of Revelation 21. I'd like to close our passage today with this quote. The person who penned this quote doesn't understand how the Lord is going to do all the things He's promised, but he believes the Lord will do all these things, so he says: "I believe, like a child, that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage. In the world's finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, for all the blood they've shed, that it will make it not only possible to forgive, but to justify all that has happened with men." (From The Brothers Karamazov.)