May 17, 2023
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING:
“Then one of the elders asked me, ‘These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?’ I answered, ‘Sir, you know.’ And he said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’” (Revelation 7.13-14)
TODAY’S REFLECTION ON GOD’S WORD:
As in the words of the infamous SNL Church Lady, “Up to Heaven; down to hell. Up to Heaven; down to hell.” When all things are said and done, there are only two directions to go which are the possible destinations of “Where are we going?” And while we are directionally challenged to truly speak only in terms of “up or down,” we dare not forget the true direction is the destination. The first stop is before the Throne. It truly makes sense that when Jesus shared His revelation with John, the “what comes next” was in a place where the Throne of God existed before him. Yes, there were candlesticks, elders, angels, a sea of glass and one who walked through the candlesticks in that place. But, the central focus was nothing less and nothing more (what could be more) than the Throne of God. In the words of Isaiah the prophet, “Before me I saw One who was high and lifted up whose train filled the temple.” Before that moment, John was led to the “city gate” which opened up to the 7 Churches of Asia Minor. The descriptors of those seven churches spoke of “what is right” and “what is wrong” in each one of those communities of faith. It was a judgment, a discernment. It was an accountability whose opportunity for repentance still existed. It was an accountability of the “line drawn in the sand,” to borrow from the proverbial Alamo moment of decision. From that point on there were only two realities and two destinations. One destination was “into the Valley of the Shadow of Death.” The other was “through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.” For some, and sadly the greater majority, that Valley (let’s imagine it is the Valley of Hinnom or as the prophets declared as in Jeremiah- The Valley of Slaughter) of the Shadow of Death would be their eternal “resting” place. It was a place of false worship, idolatry, the machinations of sinful living which included the horror of the murder of babies and children for the sake of “making peace” with false gods and bad leadership. There is no wonder why Jesus would reaffirm with His disciples, “Peace, My peace, I give to you and not as the world gives peace. True peace comes only from Me.”
Why the Throne? From there all things are made known and visible. It is only from God’s perspective of “in all, through all, with all, over all and above all” that the truth of what lies in the heart of every person and the consequences of that truth is authentically “revealed.” God, the Three in One, is the light of the world which the darkness cannot consume nor overcome. So, Jesus declares even now as He did in the Upper Room, “Do not be captured by fear. Rather, trust in Me for I AM overcoming the world.” The images of the burning candles, the shimmering sea, the glory of God, the cloudless day and the double-edged sword all allude to the reality of “All things will be made known. What is hidden will be revealed for there is nowhere that the Word, the Presence of God, is not bringing to light the truth of the knowledge of good and evil.” Didn’t we learn that from the story of the Garden of Eden? When Eve and then Adam ate of the fruit which God placed before them with His Word, “Of every true in the Garden, you may taste of its fruit. Yet, this ONE is forbidden to you as it will bring death into your lives if you eat from this tree.” And God was not merely speaking of physical death, although He may have well blessed Adam and Eve with eternal life on earth as was enjoyed in Heaven. God was speaking of the death of both “body and soul” which was, is and will always be His providence to declare. Thus, we are given the teaching of “Do not fear those who can kill the body; rather, fear the One who holds in judgment both body and soul.” Mighty ones of God, there is no doubt that we must always consider the ramifications of our discontent which leads to disobedience which leads to disaffection. We do not move God from us. We move ourselves further from the favor of God and put it out of our reach. No matter how He may interject into the world the offer of “true peace” and the blessings of “true life,” it seems that in the desire to be one’s own person, people turn their faces away just as a baby and small child turn away from the hand which feeds them. Paul declared “When I was a child I thought like a child, I spoke like a child and I acted like a child. But to be a man, I had to put away those childish tendencies.”
Why am I presenting this reflective perspective to you at this point in discussing the Book of Revelation? It is simply that we (as believers in Jesus as the Christ who is God’s only begotten Son through whom we have been given the forgiveness of our sins, the invitation to take up our cross and follow Him and the Holy Spirit who dwells in us to give us wisdom and on us to give us strength) must stop thinking, speaking and acting like children. We dare not assume the posture and posturing of denial that things are not so bad and the of hope that things will get better just because we say so. There is no power to the idol of “Entitlement.” The inevitable day before the Judgment Seat of God is inevitable. We cannot wish it away, think it away, legislate it away, pray it away nor ignore it. We must, as David declared would happen by trusting in the Good Shepherd, pass through it with the strength of God’s Word and the promise of faith, hope and love. We see this in Revelation 7 as the saved of earth are gathered from the clutches of death which result in “holding fast to the faith that has been given.” In that faith, the gospel of Jesus the Christ is preached, taught, practiced and even died for in every nation to every tribe in every tongue. Our confession is intended to be our profession. While we can confess our sins and the saving grace of God in Christ, we must profess that Jesus is the Christ and the validity of our own experience in believing in Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. What does the Word say if it does not say “What is impossible for humankind [to be free of sin and the eternal grave] unequivocably possible with God.” The way has been prepared. Now is the time for us to prepare for the way to “where we are going.” The choice has been made as to the options. Our choice is which option shall we choose.
A PRAYER FOR TODAY:
You are our God and we shall be Your people in spirit and in truth. Continue to dwell among us. Let the revelation by Your Holy Spirit inspire us to greater service in a more refined identity. We do not live as ourselves for ourselves. Rather, we live in Christ as He lives in us. We declare it with all the elders and angels in Heaven, saying “Holy, holy, holy is He who was and is and is to come.” In Jesus’ name we live, serve and pray. AMEN.