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“In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’ This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: ‘A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'” Matthew 3:1-3
As we’ve already mentioned, family trees are incredibly important in understanding scripture. Not just the genealogies, but also knowing who is related to whom and how. The prophets foretold a forerunner that would do as John did [Isaiah 40:3 & Malachi 3:1]. But the gospel of Luke explains the miraculous details surrounding John’s cousinhood to Christ [Luke 1:5-25, 39-45 & 57-80].
Yes, John’s birth was also announced by an angel visiting his father, Zechariah, in the temple. As a sign for the unbelieving Zechariah, he was struck mute until the baby was born, and he obeyed by naming him John.
Surely John was raised on bedtime stories of God’s hand in his very own life from infancy. How he leapt with excitement in his mother, Elizabeth’s womb, in the presence of his savior Jesus who was in his mother Mary’s womb at the same time.
But we don’t know much else about John’s early years. Just that we he grew up began to baptize people in the Jordan river. He proclaimed the need for repentance. Why? Because the kingdom of heaven is near.
Some debate surrounds the phrase, the kingdom of heaven is near. What did John mean by this? Obviously, he lived and preached nearly two thousand years ago and the human race is still here. Not only that, but God did not come down and restore theocracy as the world government system. So why did John proclaim this message? Was he wrong?
Absolutely not. It wasn’t an end time message. He was called.
Called to let people know that heaven was walking among them at that time. That heaven had bent low and touched the earth in the form of his half-cousin Jesus Christ. People then, just as now, needed to get their hearts prepared to receive their savior. In so doing, we become the kingdom of heaven even while we still live here on earth.
The kingdom of heaven is still at hand. It comes to us in God’s Word, through the Holy Spirit and the accepting of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. When we prepare our hearts to receive Him, He can come and restore them. He reinstates our heavenly citizenship so that we can live eternally with Him.
Just like John, you and I have also been called to carry this message. Are you? Do you live and speak like the kingdom of God is at your fingertips and in your heart?
“In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:11-14
Without question, God is all-knowing.
Though indisputable, this fact leads to questions about destiny. More specifically, since God knows everything, are we therefore predestined to live and behave a certain way? Do we really have free will?
There are even scriptures that contain the word predestined from which many Bible believing churches have distilled doctrines concerning the predestination of who will be saved [Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:3-14]. Doctrines which are not supported in the overall scriptural context.
The Romans passage specifically states that those God foreknew–which is everyone since He saw/sees and knows everything and everyone from the beginning to the end—He proorisen which translates as both predestined and predetermined.
God determined right from Genesis 3:15 when sin entered the world [and actually from before the Creation when He knew exactly what would happen in His Creation] that He was going to redeem humankind–that is adopt us as His children–through Jesus Christ His Son [Romans 8:29]. He didn’t decide that everyone or only a select few were going to be saved. And though He does know who will ultimately reject Him, He doesn’t destine them to that choice.
Moreover, the Ephesians passage was specifically written to the church of Ephesus in Asia Minor, the Roman province that is modern day Turkey. The Gentile Christians there doubted many things about their salvation, and Paul wrote to assure them that God’s plan of redemption was for the Gentiles as well as the Jews through whom Jesus came.
The term predestination in verse 11 follows the verse 10 context of the mystery of God’s will–that salvation was for everyone, Jews and Gentiles alike–and it’s timely fulfillment in Christ.
God did precisely determine when He would send Jesus in the flesh to the world. And He knew exactly what was going to be happening in the world and who was going to be living here when He did. Just as He knows when He will be sending Jesus back to call us home and who will be living here at that time.
But God didn’t divinely intervene in people’s ability to choose so that He could force them to accept and follow Jesus and, thereby, be saved. He just already knew who would come to Christ of their own free will.
He doesn’t force His hand in our will today. And He won’t force His hand in the end times either. People have always been, are and will always be free to choose to accept or reject God.
The choice is yours, which will you choose?
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
Since time only exists for Creation–aka we human beings and our environs–God sees, knows and understands our chronology, but it doesn’t apply to Him. Meaning, if we were to draw a timeline on a piece of paper–as C.S. Lewis explained–God would be like the paper. The timeline of human existence from beginning to end is fully contained in God, but He Himself exists outside of and is wholly unaffected by our linear frame of reference. He can see the beginning and the end, and every moment in between.
In ancient Greek, this kind of time was referred to as chronos [hence words like chronology, chronological and chronicle.] It is sequential. Exact. Measured and quantifiable. However, there was a second term for time as well, kairos.
Kairos time is qualitative–meaning its measure is in quality, value rather than number. Also, used as the word for weather, kairos time referred to an auspicious time for action and decision. The crucial moment when conditions are exactly right to decide and to act for the most effective outcome.
God reaches into our chronological beings, working kairologically. That is, He doesn’t make His decisions based on a clock or a calendar or after a preset passage of time. Rather, He wills and acts when the conditions of hearts and minds, the condition of world history, the condition of sin have come to the most optimum moment.
And being omniscient, that is all-knowing–seeing everything that has happened, is happening and will happen–He is not slow in keeping His promise to send Jesus again to the earth [Matthew 24:6]. On the contrary, in His infinite love and mercy He is patiently waiting for that precise moment of optimum conditions so that as many people as can come to know Him and accept Him as Lord and Savior will do so, thereby receiving eternity.
We must be so careful not to transfer our understanding of chronology onto our kairos God. To judge Him in human terms is to misunderstand Him entirely. And all who bind their understanding of God to human time, struggle to reconcile the two in their mind. Ultimately, many get frustrated in this struggle and lose faith in God. Remember, just because we cannot fully understand, does not in anyway diminish the truth of who God is. Hold tight to your faith [Hebrews 10:23]!
Is your life and faith bound up in this chronos world? Will you let God begin to reveal His everlasting kairos nature to you through His Word?
“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” Revelation 22:17
God’s Holy Spirit desires Christ’s return and the advent of the New Heaven and the New Earth. The bride of Christ–His church preparing herself for the wedding feast of the Lamb in heaven [Revelation 19:7 & 21:2]–longs for that day. If God’s Spirit indwells us [Romans 8:9-17; Galatians 5:16-25], if we have truly accepted Christ as our bridegroom [Isaiah 61:10 & 62:5; Jeremiah 2:2; Matthew 25:1-10; Revelation 21:9], then our spirit cries out, Come, Lord Jesus, come!
So great should our joyful anticipation be for the return of Christ and our heavenly home, that those around us hear about it. The Good News should overflow our lips like a spring fed cup–because our lives are so finite like the cup and God’s love so infinite like a constant spring. Our joy should be a very good kind of contagious, so that those around us will not only hear but desire to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior–that all the world will call out to Jesus to, Come!
Come into our hearts. Come into our lives. Come into every ounce of our being. Everything we say and do surrendered to Christ alone. Come. Return to take your people home. Return with your glorious light and free us from the darkness of sin , sorrow, suffering and death. Come, Lord Jesus, come!
Blessed–extremely and eternally joyful–is everyone who hungers and thirsts for righteousness [Matthew 5:6]. For Jesus is our righteousness [1 Corinthians 1:30], and He freely fills us with that which we could never attain for ourselves [Isaiah 64:6].
The translation of, wishes…free gift, here comes from the Greek, dorean–freely. A better translation of this idea would be, Let the one who is thirsting come, let him who desires take the water of life freely.
Freely. No one makes Jesus do what He does for us. No one made Him die on the cross. No one makes Him forgive us for our sins. No one makes Him stand before the Father in our stead, covering our sins with His own righteousness, holding the door open to eternal life. He wants to do it. Freely.
And we are free to choose to accept or reject this gift, freely given to us. Generously lavished without interference, limit or restriction on those who accepting find. We are not forced to accept Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf or the eternal life it brings. Neither are we limited in the abundance of life we receive, nor are there restrictions on who may receive this gift.
Except that it is received freely, just as it is given freely. No coercion. Just the purely loving response by grace through faith of accepting God’s gift of our own free will [Ephesians 2:8].
Have you freely accepted God’s grace? Does your soul cry out, Come? Does your joy overflow into the world around you so that they desire to know Him too?
“The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty. ‘Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.’ Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.” Revelation 16:12-16
The mighty Euphrates, fourth river of Eden [Genesis 2:14], covenanted border of the Promised Land [Genesis 15:18; Exodus 23:31; Deuteronomy 11:24; Joshua 1:4; 1 Kings 4:21 & 24]. In modern times, the Euphrates appears to be nowhere near Israel’s borders, running instead from Turkey across Northern Syria and through Iraq. Only for a short time under the reigns of King David and his son Solomon did Israel’s territory extend all the way east to the great river [1 Kings 4:21; 1 Chronicles 18:3].
Still, it is significant that the river is removed altogether when the sixth bowl of wrath is poured out. With it, God’s covenanted Promised Land with the Israelites is without border, a border that delineated both divine protection and spiritual alignment in scriptures. Jacob fled from his father-in-law into the country of refuge across this river [Genesis 31:21], while enemy kings are noted as having come from beyond the river [1 Chronicles 19:16; Isaiah 7:20].
God’s hand of protection is removed from the earth along with his mercy [Isaiah 11:15; Jeremiah 46:6] to prepare for the final war–Armageddon. A demonic spirit comes out of Satan, his antichrist, and the false prophet, each one. The frog-like demons represent unclean spirits, since the frog was considered an unclean animal. They aid with the deception of the antichrist and the false prophet, and help unite the governments of the entire world against their Creator God.
Armageddon likely is a re-pronunciation/respelling of Har Mageddon, meaning the mountain of Megiddo. Throughout history, the plain of Megiddo, located in the main pass that runs northeast through the hill country between Sharon and Jezreel, was a frequent battleground because of its strategic location [i.e. Judges 5:19; 2 Kings 23:29; 2 Chronicles 35:22; and in modern times–1468 & 1917].
Just as Jesus’ return to rapture the church to heaven will be like a thief in the home of the unsuspecting [1 Thessalonians 5:2 & 4; 1 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3], so will his appearance at the last battle be like a thief to the earthly governments who have fallen asleep, those who have not only denied God, but forgotten Him. There is a difference. But Jesus is warning them that, Hey look, you’re going to be defeated by virtue of aligning yourselves with the unholy trinity, but you don’t have to shame yourselves in the process. Be ready.
This can also be taken as reminder to believers to be ready for His return. Jesus coming will only seem like a thief in the night to the unsuspecting. We not know the exact day or the hour [Matthew 24:36], but we can see the signs of the times, recognize that it is near, and be ready for His return [Matthew 24:1-35].
Do you know the signs of the end times? Study God’s word to understand them better. Do you see the signs all around? Is your heart prepared so that Jesus’ coming does not take you by surprise?
“Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: ‘Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.’ So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, ‘Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.’ I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. Then I was told, ‘You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.” Revelation 10:8-11
The thunderous heavenly voice from verse 4 speaks again. This time instead of telling John to seal up words, the voice tells him to prophesy.
First, however–in his vision–he is to approach the Christ-like angel and take the scroll. John, demonstrating a proper fear of the Lord, asks rather than takes in his own power. The angel gladly hands over the scroll, with the command that John is to eat it.
This sounds strange to us. Who would eat a thirty foot roll of parchment paper? But John–in his vision–does just that. The prophet Jeremiah speaks of eating the word of the Lord that came to him, and they were his joy and delight [Jeremiah 15:16]. God also commanded the prophet Ezekiel in a vision to eat a scroll rather than to be hard-hearted and rebellious like the Israelites to whom God was sending him [Ezekiel 2:8-3:3].
Both John and Ezekiel said the scroll tasted sweet like honey, and honey is often the figurative standard in the Bible, indicating just how pleasant something really is. However, the pleasantness may not necessarily end well. In John’s case, for example, his stomach churns in his gut, aching, no doubt. The angel warned him ahead, but he still obeyed the command to eat.
So feeling sick to his stomach, he receives the command to prophesy again. The cross-reference notes in my Bible connect this command to Ezekiel 37:4-9, in which Ezekiel–in a vision–sees a valley of dry bones and is told to prophesy to the bones. He does, and the bones come together and grow back into perfectly formed, healthy human beings. John may be being commanded to speak life into the coming days of the end. The ever-intensifying tribulation will claim a massive death toll, and yet there are those who will find eternal life even now.
The specific command to prophesy concerning many peoples, nations, languages and kings likely means that all of these will bow and acknowledge God as God and Jesus as Lord [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10]. Many before the rapture of the church, and some in the midst of great tribulation. How difficult it will be for them in those days. But how joyous to know that eternal life, free from any more tears or pain or fear of death, is still available during these dark hours [Revelation 21:4].
The word of God is double-edged [Hebrews 4:12], both tasting sweet and leaving that sour feeling in the pit of the stomach. Like our Creator, as humans we don’t want others to have to perish [2Peter 3:9], but many choose this end. Our salvation tastes sweet, while the stubborn refusal of our closest friends and family can sour our stomachs. What a mercy to know that even in the end of the age, God will extend His hand of mercy. He will raise up prophets to speak life into the dry bones of those who will endure the tribulation.
But what if they gave their hearts to Him today? What if you spoke that life to them now?
“Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, ‘There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.” Revelation 10:5-7
Oaths are not common in our modern American culture. We often see them only in pomp and circumstantial events like presidential inaugurations and courtroom witness stands. But once upon a time, oaths were common, everyday practice. You see an oath is basically a weighty promise. Today people sign contracts and all kinds of other paperwork acts to affirm their intentions. If broken, contracts can bring legal action against the person who failed to honor the commitment.
In the Bible, the right hand–which was used to swear the oath–carried significance. It embodied the character and authority of the person. Abram raised his right hand and swore on God the Father before the King of Sodom [Genesis 14:22-23]. The song of Moses sings of God raising his right hand to swear on heaven [Deuteronomy 32:40]. When this Christophany lifted his right hand heavenward and swore an oath on God the Father, Creator of All, it packed a power punch into the promise of the Godhead Three-in-One.
After seven seals and six trumpets with an interlude for this angelic Christophany, straddling land and sea, the end will come swiftly–without delay. In the days leading up to the sounding of the seventh trumpet, God’s great mystery will be accomplished.
What is this mystery? During the time of this writing, mystery cults abounded in the Roman provinces, such as Asia Minor where this book circulated. Ephesus notably dealt with the mystery cults which the apostle Paul addressed in his epistle to them. Primarily, the mystery cults claimed to have secret knowledge of the workings of the world, of principalities, and of God Himself. If you weren’t in the cult, you had no hope of understanding the mysteries of the world. But Paul said that God’s great mystery was that the Gentile believers were coheirs with the Jewish believers and that God had always intended it to be that way [Ephesians 1:7-10 & 3:2-6]. A huge shock to the religious devout of that day.
Here in Revelation, however, we read that God’s mystery will be accomplished in the days before the seventh trumpet, which would be days of loud anguish, or certain tribulation. One commentator suggests that this refers to God having won the victory over the forces of evil and reigning forever and ever. Later, this passage seems to confirm this viewpoint [Revelation 10:11].
As believers, apocalyptic literature like this Revelation 10 passage is interesting or maybe even intriguing. We like to read it and consider what it might look like, maybe debate with others about differing ideas. But we do so from a place of considerable comfort, knowing that we enjoy the security of either having been raptured by this point or having been sealed by God. Either way, we have nothing to fear. Many, however, still do not know God or the good news of Jesus Christ. Many still fear this mystery unaware.
Do you know someone who needs to know God? Are you willing to push through your own temporal fears to bring the truth of eternity to them?