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“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” Revelation 21:8
Because the Word is double-edged [Hebrews 4:12], scriptures often list those who will not inherit the kingdom of God in contrast to those who will [i.e. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-25]. Just as light would not be understood without the contrast of darkness, the life that God desires for us is not always clear to the human mind without looking at that which is in opposition to God’s will.
Since God is holy–meaning no impurity or sin is in Him–and since He is the sovereign of heaven–the authority before whom we will stand judgment–it is imperative that we understand what God expects of us, both to do and not to do.
So why does cowardliness make the list? Remember that this letter of Revelation is being circulated among the churches in the Roman province of Asia Minor. Jesus, through John’s writing, tells the churches that they were going to face persecution, hardship, imprisonment and even death for His name’s sake [Revelation 2:3 & 8, 9-11 & 13; 3:8-9]. In each instance, if they held boldly to their faith, if they did not cower from the physical, social and cultural threats of the world [Matthew 10:28], they would be called victorious and receive the inheritance of eternal life. We are not of those who shrink back from the world in fear, renouncing our faith to save our skin [Hebrews 10:39]. Rather we are to stand firm in our faith [1 Corinthians 6:13; Ephesians 6:11-14], boldly proclaiming salvation through Jesus Christ. The cowardly turn their back on God when times get tough. They do not acknowledge Jesus before others; in turn, they will not be acknowledged before God [Matthew 10:32-33].
Obviously, those who do not believe in God will not be saved. For it is, by grace we are saved through faith [Romans 1:5 & 5:2; Ephesians 2:8]. And even if we continue to struggle against sin we can experience God’s grace and, by faith, salvation in our lives. But if we do not have faith, then we will never see heaven.
Vile means morally corrupt. Since morals–standards of belief and behavior–are established by God who is holy, corrupted morals are anything that deviate from His norm. It makes sense then that those who buy into Satan’s lie that we can be our own God and make our own morals [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14], will never inherit the kingdom of God.
This corrupted moral system includes murdering, any sexual behavior that deviates from God’s plan of one man and one woman within the confines of marriage for life, trying to summon magical powers rather than rightly seeking the power of God, creating images of false gods and praying to/worshiping them, and telling lies. Many of these were addressed in the well-known 10-commandments [Exodus 20:1-17]. All of these are natural desires of sinful people, but can be overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us, and are completely forgiven us through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Who is God in your life? You or God? Not sure? Well, whose standard of right and wrong are you living by? Yours, the world’s or God’s?
“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never will never be thirsty.” John 6:35
In the Levitical sacrificial system, the thanksgiving fellowship offering required making a variety of breads to share with God [Leviticus 7:11-15]. It was a time of reconciling sinful man with our holy God in anticipation of the day when our sins would be forgiven and we could daily fellowship with Him for eternity–heaven.
It’s no coincidence then, that Jesus called Himself the bread of life [John 6:35] or that He referred to His crucified body as bread broken for us [1 Corinthians 11:24]. Jesus was prepared lovingly by the Father to be the bread God offered as the one true fellowship offering for all time.
Give thanks! God made us. He loves us. And He wants to restore our relationship to Him so that we can live for eternity the way He intended. He made the way through His son Jesus, and all we have to do is believe on Him [John 3:16].
God is actively pursuing the hearts of every man, woman and child at all times. But we should just as actively be pursuing the heart of God. Those who hunger and thirst for the things of God will be filled with them and be blessed by them [Matthew 5:6]. This is not a physical desire to eat and drink. This is referring to the appetite of the mind, emotion and soul.
When we hunger to know Jesus, the bread of life, He shows Himself to us. When we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive them [1 John 1:9]. By faith in Him, we have eternal life [John 3:16]. He indwells us with His Holy Spirit so that we may live our lives in the power of God Most High [Acts 1:8]. When we thirst for eternal life, we ourselves do not rest until we take hold of it.
This drive for truth and righteousness results in finding them both. It is not a surface kind of hunger and thirst, it can only be satiated by digging deeper into the things of God, becoming more and more like Him with each passing day.
With Thanksgiving behind us and the celebration of the birth of Christ looming, hold on to an attitude of thanksgiving. Earnestly seek God. Hunger and thirst for more of Him each day. Get in His Word. Pray. Give thanks to Him in all things. Daily.
What desires drive your life? Do you recognize God pursuing your heart in your life? Are you persistently pursuing God’s heart?
“When the neighboring people bring merchandise or grain to sell on the Sabbath, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on any holy day. Every seventh year we will forgo working the land and will cancel all debts.” Nehemiah 13:22
Christmas. Wait! We just put the turkey away. But that doesn’t matter so much in American culture. For years, people have commented on how Christmas gets earlier every year. How stores start putting up displays as soon as Halloween is done–seemingly skipping Thanksgiving altogether–or even as early as midsummer.
A few years ago, the Black Friday sales–so named because it is the day that carries most retail businesses out of the red of debt and into the black of profit for the year–were offering their sales at earlier and earlier morning hours, so that customers could extend their bargain shopping day. People camped out in parking lots and on sidewalks to be the first in the door to get a deal before stock disappeared.
Not long after that, early morning got backed up to midnight. So then people left their Thanksgiving celebration almost as soon as the turkey was cleared from the table to go wait in shopping lines. And this year, the sales are backing up again–some to the dinner hour of 5:00 or 6:00pm and some even earlier. If the trend continues, then it won’t be long before retailers forget about Black Friday and just overtake Thanksgiving Thursday entirely.
And people let them, because they keep showing up to shop at whatever hour the sale is held. Christians included.
In the book of Nehemiah, however, we see that the returning Israelites recommitted to honor the Lord’s commands about keeping Sabbaths, holy days and jubilee years the way God intended. They weren’t to work. And they weren’t to shop, which would cause other people to have to work on a day that was meant for human rest and giving God honor and thanks for His provision.
This is not to say that Christians should boycott the Black Friday shopping tradition. In Paul’s day, people were struggling to draw a line with their newfound freedom in Christ. We have the free will to do anything, they said, but, he reminded them, not all things are beneficial and we should not allow anything but Christ to master us [1 Corinthians 6:12 & 10:23].
Rather, in all things, we should participate out of a God-fearing heart, seeking His wisdom in how–and probably about when–we shop as well. For the sake of space, we’ll only mention two things here.
Remember to keep the appointed holy days holy. Separate. Special. Rest and relax with family and friends where possible. These times are so very important to our physical, spiritual and emotional well being. They are also important to our children and how they view life and the world. And many have turned the Black Friday shopping into a family event. So it can be an extension of a good time spent well together.
Debt. God does not look with favor on debt, because it binds us up, keeps us from being free to truly live, love and serve Him. But God does make allowances for debt in scripture, with the caveat that we pay back what we owe. And it is in our best interest to do so quickly. Keep short accounts with God and man. So if you are out Black Friday shopping, remember to stay within budget–and hopefully to create a budget to begin with that won’t break your bank for the year while you help retailers dig out of their debts.
Are you committed to observe God’s days God’s way? Do you live financially in ways that please God?
“These are the regulations for the fellowship offering anyone may offer to the Lord: If they offer it as an expression of thankfulness, then along with this thank offering they are to offer thick loaves made without yeast and with olive oil mixed in, thin loaves made without yeast and brushed with olive oil, and thick loaves of the finest flour well-kneaded and with oil mixed in. Along with their fellowship offering of thanksgiving they are to present an offering with thick loaves of bread made with yeast. They are to bring one of each kind as an offering, a contribution to the Lord; it belongs to the priest who splashes the blood of the fellowship offering against the altar. The meat of their fellowship offering of thanksgiving is to be eaten on the day it is offered; they must leave none of it till morning.” Leviticus 7:11-15
Throughout the Old Testament, the Israelites were bound up in a sacrificial system that was designed as a divine awareness campaign [Romans 7:7-8]. It is so easy, as sinful humans, to walk around believing that we are right and everyone else is wronging us. But under the Mosaic law each person had to analyze themselves, they had to consider their actions and their motives, then offer sacrifice according to the measure of their wrongdoing.
To be clear, the law and sacrificial system were never meant to provide forgiveness for sins, just to make people aware of themselves from an eternal perspective [Acts 13:39; Romans 8:3; Hebrews 10:4].
But there was also a sacrificial offering prescribed for those who wanted to give thanks to God. A variation on the fellowship offering–in which man could commune with the God from whom he was estranged–the thanksgiving offering required the making of bread. Yeast-free loaves both thick and thin. Thick yeasty loaves. Each with a variation on the use of olive oil. [It makes me imagine being in a French bakery!] Think of how wonderful all of this fresh baked bread smelled, all warm and crusty on the outside, soft and butter-melting on the inside–though they probably didn’t do the butter thing at that time.
The command is to prepare loaves–plural–but only to share one of each kind with the priest making the blood-offering at the altar. So where does the rest of the bread offering go? And what about the meat from the animal whose blood gets sprinkled?
Well, fellowship meant truly that. The people prepared their gifts to eat with God. He wasn’t-and still isn’t–aloft and untouchable, though He is holy and sovereign. To bring a fellowship offering was to share a meal with God. Though He Himself is not flesh and blood, so His representative, the priest, ate the thanksgiving meal in God’s stead.
In this way, the people were reminded of the guilt of their sin and how it separates them from God. They were also shown that God wanted to make an offering on their behalf–an offering to reconcile Him to them–so that, one day, all humans everywhere could fellowship with Him the way He intended from the Creation. It was a time of divine thanksgiving as well as for those who wanted to actively give thanks to God for His goodness in their lives. God rejoices when we, His beloved Creation, draw near to Him with thanksgiving.
The law and the sacrificial system no longer regulate our behavior, but God’s desire to reconcile and commune with His Creation is unchanging.
Have you an offering of thanksgiving for God? Will you draw near to Him during this time of corporate thanksgiving to fellowship with your heavenly Father?
“And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, ‘Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.’ Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.” Revelation 19:17-21
An angel calls all of the scavenging birds to a great feast that contrasts to the marriage supper of the Lamb. It is the bitterness of sin juxtaposed to the sweetness of salvation–many will choose to perish. Kings who have become drunk on their own authority. Generals, their captains and their soldiers who fought for the things of earth in the name of the kings of the earth. And all people–regardless of social status–whose name is not written in the Lamb’s book of life [Revelation 13:8].
Unlike the mythological phoenix, new physical bodies will not regenerate from the ashes and dust to which we return [Genesis 3:19]. Only spiritual bodies will live in the new heaven and the new earth [1 Corinthians 15:42 & 52]. So flesh will be no more.
As we make choices in life, it is wise for us to remember that we are all appointed to die once and after that to face judgment [Hebrews 9:27]. The things of earth bring us much trouble and ultimately will pass away [Matthew 6:19; 1 Corinthians 3:12-13; 1 John 2:17]. Our physical bodies too will pass away [John 12:24; 1 Peter 1:24].
How much more dreadful for those who resist God to the end. Who stand against Him in the battle of Armageddon, siding with the enemy–Satan’s unholy trinity of self, antichrist and unholy prophet. Like the enemies of any bloody rebellion, there will be no peace in their passing, no body to return to mourning loved ones. Like the soldiers who fell in the No-Man’s-Land between the trenches of WWI, there will be no way to intercede and rescue those who wage war against God without also bringing death on oneself.
Armageddon will be a point of no return, a line that, once crossed, can never be undone.
But for many, they have already chosen a path of no surrender and, therefore, no return. Many have already decided that they would rather live this life denying and defying God, than to worry about the things to come [Revelation 1:19].
Refusal to acknowledge God is a choice. Surrender is a choice.
Which path have you chosen [Matthew 7:13-14]?
“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’ (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)” Revelation 19:6-8
Again, heaven resounds with the call to praise. From the living throne of God. From the twenty-four elders. From the angels. And from the great multitude of the redeemed. All praise God for being Lord–that is Sovereign ruler–and for being Almighty–that is all-powerful, none can stand against. He reigns. He alone is the authority and government over everything and everyone that is. Always has been. Always will be. And there is nothing false or corrupt in Him.
The idea of living in a perfect world is one of many evidences of eternity in the hearts of humankind [Ecclesiastes 3:11]. It is something that many desire, though not at the expense of their freewill.
The thing about heaven is that our freewill will not be forfeit, it will be restored to its originally created intention. It will be predicated on a reverence for God that fills our heart to overflowing. That reverent love will extend to our fellow humanity and the rest of the new creation exactly as it was always meant to be on this earth.
For this reason, we will rejoice. Everything about the truth of God and creation and life and death and sin and forgiveness will be perfectly understood [1 Corinthians 13:12]. We will see God and know Him for who He truly is, just as everything that we have hidden away about ourselves will also be seen in the light of truth [Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10].
But as the bride of Christ, He has been preparing a home for us in His heavenly inheritance [John 14:2]. Like Hosea’s wife, Gomer, we were estranged to our betrothed, breaking our commitment to honor and cherish God alone above all else, but He will forgive our wayward hearts if we ask [Isaiah 54:5-7; Ephesians 5:31-32] and He does so joyfully. For He has never stopped loving us, despite our wandering, unfaithful ways [John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9]. He has never stopped seeking our hearts and calling us back to Himself. He has never chosen another to replace us.
And even though we wallow in the filth of this world, by faith the good things we have done in this life–though they are filthy rags against His holiness [Isaiah 64:6]–will be counted to us as righteousness, and He will clothe us in the finest white garments that ever were [Revelation 3:5 & 18, 7:9]. He will throw a reception feast unparalleled on this earth with the faithful as His honored bride [Matthew 22:2 & 25:10; Revelation 2:17].
Extremely joyful–aka blessed–are all those who have received His forgiveness in this life, for they will be the honored, faithful wife that Christ brings with Himself to this banquet before the Heavenly Father.
Will you be counted among the faithful? Have you received the forgiveness of Christ for your sins? Is He the Lord of your life?
“Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said: ‘With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again. The music of harpists and musicians, flute players and trumpeters, will never be heard in you again. No workman of any trade will ever be found in you again. The sound of a millstone will never be heard in you again. The light of a lamp will never shine in you again. Your merchants were the world’s great men. By your magic spell all the nations were led astray. In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth.” Revelation 18:21-24
Perhaps this is the same mighty angel who asked to know who was worthy to open the seven-sealed scroll [Revelation 5:2]. Picking up the donkey millstone [Matthew 18:6; Mark 9:42] to represent the sinking of Babylon is significant. It is better to meet this end by our own choosing, than to lead the faith of others–and children in particular–astray.
Jeremiah prophesied this millstone sinking [Jeremiah 51:63]. And Revelation assures us that once Babylon, and all that she represents, have been destroyed, the sinful systems of the world will never rise again. No music, career, daily chore or light will come from those who made their homes in false religion and sinfulness, though once earthly fame abounded therein.
By Babylon’s deceptive promise to influence fortune and fate–for that is what the rebellion of sorcery and witchcraft is–many, many, many lose their way on the straight and narrow [Matthew 7:13-14]. Our flesh is weak and easily tempted to behave according to our sinful nature [Galatians 5:19-21]. But by His spirit in us, God calls us to overcome the fleshly temptation and sin in our lives, just as He overcame this world [Genesis 4:7; 1 Corinthians 10:13; John 16:33].
All those who live by the world’s ways, bear the bloodguilt of the prophets, saints and martyrs. That is, if we live like the world, sinning against God, then we are guilty of the world’s bloodshed because we are a part of those who oppose God’s people.
But those who–by faith–live by God’s word, will be forgiven the guilt and penalty of their sin, and will be counted among the just and the righteous by God [Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Hebrews 10:38]. They will be like a city on a hill whose light shines for all to see the truth of their way in the darkness [Matthew 5:14].
Are you bearing your own sin and guilt and that of a complicit world? Or have you been saved through faith by grace?