Book of Revelation, Christ for Individuals, volume 2 of the Learn Christ Commentaries, Southern Baptist Convention, What Happened to God's People of the SBC

Number the People of God or Worship Christ, Revelation 4-7?

Chapter 3:  Number the People of God or Worship Christ, Revelation 4-7?

 

Before we thank God that we are not as the Mormons, the Church of Christ, the Roman Catholics, Jehovah Witnesses, and some non denominational churches who claiming to be the only Church and the only Christians have numbered the people of God in a circle about themselves; before we thank God that we are not as the hypocrites, the Jewish people of the First Century who also claimed to be and still do to be the elect of God in spite of the rejection of Jesus Christ, we should also consider our own guilt of a priority for numbering what we consider to be the people of God over the Worship of Christ.  This chapter explains that!

Church people like other people have the two great needs of (1) guilt relief and (2) self identity.  Even in the churches these needs are not met according to God’s ordained methods in the Bible: (1) confession and forgiveness of sin and (2) personal identification with Christ through repentance and faith.   Therefore you expect in the larger American society there must be substitute solutions for these two great needs.  Guilt relief can be found in the church when the appearance of relief is chosen over the reality by justification through attendance, and self identity rather than with Christ can be found by identifying primarily socially with the other members of the church who may or may not have properly identified with Christ or found proper guilt relief.

These artificial means of guilt relief and self-identity are enhanced by the pastor and the people when they like so many others in history attempt to number the people of God in a circle about themselves.  It seems pathetic to us who objectively witness it when a very small church has so rationalized in such a manner as to think they are the only people of God in the whole world.  Of course, Elijah felt the same way when things were not going so well; except he felt as if he was the people of God of one, one individual—

“Lord, they have killed the prophets, and digged own thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.  But what saith the answer of God unto him?  I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.  Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.”  (Romans 11:3-5  KJV)

“THERE IS A REMNANT”, that is what I mean when I say “Seven Christian Thousand”.  It may be six thousand, it may be eight thousand or nine thousand.  It is only that today as the today at the present time of which the Apostle Paul wrote in the First Century there is a small number of the real people of God as compared to those who call themselves the people of God, and the seven thousand Jews in the land of Israel during the time of Elijah only serves to remind us how small the remnant may be as compared to all those who claim to be the people of God. 27-1:  Worship the Almighty God on the Throne,  Revelation 4.

The theme of Revelation 4 is the worthiness of LORD God the Father to be worshipped, and is best expressed by the last verse of that chapter—

“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power:  for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”  (Revelation 4:11  KJV)

It reminds us of the Model Prayer where Jesus taught disciples how to pray to God the Father, beginning with “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name…” and ending with “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen.”

  1. The book of Revelation as other books of the Bible is a self revelation originating from God and delivered through the Lord Jesus Christ by way of some messenger. The Apostle John looked toward heaven, and “a door was standing open in heaven” (Rev 4:1).  John only heard a voice through the open door, saying “Come up here” and I will show you things that are going to happen in the future after this present time.
  2. The first voice John heard in Revelation 1:10 was the voice of Jesus, and turned to see Jesus standing in the midst of the seven lampstands, Who then delivered to John the messages to the seven churches. The “first voice”, also like a trumpet, from the open door of heaven is another voice (Rev 4:1), and the voice which identified himself in Revelation 19:10 as a fellow servant.
  3. The trumpet-like voice invites John to “Come up” in order what? To see “the things which must be hereafter” (Rev 4:1), the things of eschatology and the future. So that immediately after timely messages to the seven churches comes eschatology, seven as they are typical of all churches. {There were actually more than seven churches in the Asia Minor of the first and second century.} We can find a message for our church, denomination, and ourselves in the book of Revelation.  We are not trying to ignore eschatology as you see by the extensive discussion in the last chapter, but we are saying the first priority is a timely message from Christ to the churches and then eschatology; and then beyond that to a timely message from Christ TO INDIVIDUALS.  {Hence the volume 3 title, “Christ for Individuals”, in this volume of the LEARN CHRIST COMMENTARIES.}
  4. “immediately I was in the spirit” (Rev 4:2)—this is hard to understand, for John was already “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” in chapter 1.  It would naturally lead one to believe that this was a day after Sunday.  Recall that the Sabbath Day of the Old Testament became after the Resurrection the Lord’s Day of Sunday.  Sunday is really the new testament Sabbath; and by the way, according to Jesus, it is made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
  5. God the Father on the Throne: “behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne” (Rev 4:2,3):

(1).  The reflections of light from Him on the throne were so great that John could in writing only compare it with “like a jasper and a sardine stone”; and

(2).  The rainbow that surrounded the throne of God, obviously reflecting the grace of God, and it reflected like an emerald.  I believe God and heaven are much closer to earth than we can possible imagine, in another dimension that we can not see since the wavelength dimensions of our visual sight are very short anyway; and that this is the actual rainbow that we are seeing on the earth all the time.  After all, the Bible tells us that God sits on the circle of the earth, and that the clouds are His footstool.

  1. Worship God on earth as God is worshipped by the elders in heaven—”thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”: Revelation 4:4,5.

(1).  Here starts the numbering of God that is unique, or almost unique to the book of Revelation as first it is mentioned that around the throne are 24 seats and then exactly 24 elders in those 24 seats.  The number of leaders before the throne of God are exactly the number that God planned to be there, and that number is twice the number of God’s ordained leaders of the First Century:  there were 12 Apostles and there are 24 seats with 24 elders before the throne of God.

(2).  They were clothed in white raiment.  The white raiment obvious represents as we learn later in the book of revelation being washed white in the blood of the lamb.

(3).  They had on their heads crowns of gold.  This obviously represents the reward of God for their service and persecution; and with their position before the throne, also represents their leadership in heaven.

(4).  The sound was as awesome as the sight and sound of lightnings, thundering, and voices came out of the throne.

(5).  Seven lamps were burning in front of the throne which the Apostle John—and note only the Apostle John—identifies as “the seven Spirits (or spirits) of God” (Rev 4:5).  I emphasize that these are words from the Apostle John that he added when he wrote the book of Revelation, and therefore are based on some things that were explained later to him in the revelations of the book of Revelation.  Since we know that there is only One Holy Spirit of God, we are more inclined to lean toward “spirit” instead of the “Spirit” that the King James translators used.  Unfortunately there is only one Greek word, the word “pneuma” literally meaning wind, for both the Holy Spirit and other spirits like human spirits.

  1. Worship God as all living creatures of heaven and earth worship God: Rev 4:6-9. It does not matter so much what the living creatures, unfortunately called “beasts” in KJV, look like as the fact that  all the living creatures besides humans here on earth are worshipping God.  To really pray from the heart the “thy will be done on earth” part of the Lord’s Prayer (more appropriately called he Model Prayer), we should be worshipping God more nearly the way He is worshipped in heaven.  God could use more of our thought time, more consistent time talking to Him, and much less time–like zero—taking His name in vain.}
  2. They keep up this tireless worship of God both day and night and forever; and
  3. They say: “Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.”  (Rev 4:8)  This is the same Alpha and Omega of Revelation 1:8 that John moved forward after the giving of the whole book and immediately after John talks about Jesus Christ. You see these words about Jesus and God the Father are preliminary summaries of the main messages of all the book of Revelation as is of all the books of the Bible.
  4. This is glory, honor, and thanks to the God Almighty on the Throne from all living creatures not human.
  5. It is glory, honor, and thanks to the Everlasting God. By the way contrary to the way of much of the “praise” worship and songs, Jesus never taught people to pray to Him, only to God the Father through Jesus.  And since praise must be a aspect of prayer and worship, this is inappropriate.  Also Jesus taught to pray without vain repetition as the heathens do, and notice some of these simple praise songs which repeat three or four words over and over.  That fits more in the vain repetition category, and less in the pray with understanding category. This should also eliminate that vain babbling of so-called tongues in worship as Paul was particularly talking about this matter in Corinthians when he wrote that we are to speak in the church with understanding (that is, so others can understand) and pray and sing with understanding).  On the first day of Pentecost after the Ascension of Jesus, when the Jews from every country of the Roman Empire spoke in tongues, it was not unknown tongues.  It was the tongue  of a certain country.  In other words if some Jews were there from Spain, they heard in Spanish; if from France they heard in French, et cetera.  Of course, the really unsound doctrine of this charismatic movement in worship is that it tries to make this emotionalism of speaking in truly unknown tongues synonymous with Sanctification.  Sanctification is not that easy.  According to the sound doctrine of the Bible in spite of popular practices otherwise, sanctification is the third aspect of salvation after initial belief and new birth whereby the Christ follower becomes more and more like Christ until at the Second Coming, “we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.”  This sound Biblical sanctification takes hard work, thus the Apostle Paul says “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”.  Would that it could happen instantly at one worship service or evangelistic meeting or even each Sunday, but that is hardly consistent with the Bible.  And what you will most generally find is that this kind of worshipper quickly forget during the week as far as real life changes, what happened to them during that worship.  It is an unsound doctrinal substitute for the sound doctrine of the Bible.
  6. It is synchronized with worship from the leaders. Andrew Blackwood wrote a wonderful book on public prayer entitled LEADING IN PUBLIC PRAYER in which he offers this abbreviation to remember the Biblical aspects of proper public prayer, ATCSS.  It stands for Adoration of God, Thanksgiving to God, Confession to God of sin, Supplication to God for such basics as daily needs, and Submission to the will of God.  You can follow those aspects through the Model Prayer, and it would also be a good basis for your daily personal prayer, expanded of course, and put in your own words and thoughts.
  7. Worship God as all living creatures and leaders in heaven worship God: Revelation4:10,11

“The four and twenty elders fell down before him that sat on the throne, and worshiped him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power:  for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”  (Revelation 4:10,11  KJV)

(1).  God the Father created all things of heaven and earth; and

(2).  All things were created for God the Father.  The ultimate purpose of the Christian calling is to glorify God, thus W. O Carver calls his commentary on Ephesians,  THE GLORY OF GOD IN THE CHRISTIAN CALLING.  Ephesians is the best, short book of the Bible to cover all aspects of the Christ life, both BIC (before in Christ) and AIC (After in Christ), and besides my own commentary on Ephesians, ONE COMMENTARY ON EPHESIANS, it is one of the best. Anyway “great things He has done”.

3-2:   Worthy is the Lamb of God, the Christ, to be Worshipped, Revelation 5.

Oh yes, don’t misunderstand, Christ is to be worshipped.  This chapter is outlined as follows:

(1) The need for someone to open the book that was in the right hand of God the Father, Revelation 5:1-4:

(2) The Lamb of God takes the book while all living creatures around the throne of God worship the Lamb, Revelation 5:5-10;

(3) Thousands of angels join in this worship of the Lamb, Revelation 5:11-12; and

(4) All living creatures of the universe of heaven and earth join in the worship of the Lamb, Revelation 5:13,14.  How did they worship Christ?  With a new song with many different words and much meaning for understanding!

3-3:  Correlation of the events from Jesus of Matthew 24 with the Seven Seals on the Book of Revelation 6.

It actually takes six chapters for the Lamb of God to open all seven seals of the book, Revelation 6-11; but six of the seals are opened in Revelation 6, and then the seventh seal is opened at the beginning of Revelation 8, but it takes 8-11 to discuss it since that seventh seal has seven trumpets.  Revelation 7, after the first six seals and before the opening of the seventh seal, is an important insert about God’s numbering of His own people.

As is the nature of prophesy throughout the Bible where high points are given by one Prophet then elaborated on by another Prophet, Jesus as recorded in Matthew 24 gives the high points of the future with seven aspects of the Time of Sorrows, and in the book of Revelation these are expanded into the Seven Seals on the Book with the Seven Seal having seven trumpets.

The disciples asked Jesus privately about eschatology—

“Tell us, when shall these things be?  and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?”  (Matthew 24:3  KJV)

First, the beginning of the Time of Sorrows:  Matthew 24:4-8.

Then the continuation of the Time of Sorrows: 24:9-14.

Then the Abomination of Desolation of Daniel, in 80 A.D. the destruction of the Temple, Jerusalem, and for all practical purposes the Jewish religion of the First Century: A.D.:  Matthew 24:15-20.

Then Great Tribulation of believers:  Matthew 24:21-13.

A Final Tribulation on all flesh and on the universe shortly before the Second Coming:  Matthew 24:29.

The Second Coming of Christ:  Matthew 24:14-31.

One place that the Apostle John moves progressive revelation on eschatology forward, based on and going beyond what Jesus taught in Matthew 24 is in allowing us to see these six categories as continuing events.  Of course, you must remember that the book of Revelation is coming from the Ascended Christ so that Jesus the Ascended Christ is elaborating on what Jesus the Son of God taught before His crucifixion and resurrection!  Events of the beginnings of sorrows continue while the time of sorrows goes deeper, the destruction of the temple continues as destroyed while the tribulation of the First Century takes place, also the time of sorrows; and so on through the six categories:  (1) The Beginning of Sorrows; (2) The Continuation of Sorrows; (3) The Abomination of Desolation; (4) Great Tribulation on flesh only; (5) Final Tribulation on the universe and flesh, and (6) The Second Coming of Christ with the Gathering of the Elect. We will briefly compare the six categories of Matthew 24:4-8, the beginning of sorrows, with the six categories of the six seals of Revelation 6:1-10. To summarize the six seals of Revelation 6:1-10:  (1) white horse rider with bow and power to conquer; (2) red horse rider with power to cause a world war; (3) black horse rider with famine; (4) pale horse rider with power od Death and Hades; (5) the souls under the altar slain for the word of God given robes; (6) The Great Day of the LORD with the shaking of the whole universe.

Matthew 24:4-8                                            Revelation 6:10-7:17

  1. The beginning of sorrows 24:5-8 1.  white horse rider with power to conquer:  6:1,2
  2. Continuation of sorrows 24:9-14                         2.  red horse rider with power to take away peace from the earth:  6:3,4
  3. Abomination of Desolation 24:15-20                    3.   the black horse rider of famine and hunger in Jerusalem   6:5,6
  4. Great Tribulation on flesh only 24:21-13               4.  pale horse with power to kill one fourth of population 6:7,8
  5. Last Tribulation on flesh   24:29                          5.  The Cry of Martyrs during the tribulations     6:9-11, 7:1-17
  6. The Day of the LORD and Lord 24: 5.  The universe crumbles and men cry for relief     6:12-17

Should it be a surprise that we have a one to one correlation between the events of Matthew 24 and the six seals of Revelation 6.  You see how easy it is if we keep Scripture, including the book of Revelation, in the total context of the Bible.  The beginning of sorrows finds expansion in the first seal as the rider on the white horse with a bow went out to conquer; the continuation of sorrows correlates with the rider on the red horse who has the power to take peace from the earth; the rider on the black horse that delivers famine and hunger is an expansion of what happened in Jerusalem during the Abomination of Desolation, the period the Romans surrounded and then destroyed Jerusalem,  as a quart of wheat sold for a day’s wage.

3-4:  Seven Christian Thousand.

It is in Revelation 6:9-7:17 that we see the primary theme of the book of Revelation as we witness the three ways in which Christ and God the Father number their own people:  (1) First the martyred souls under the altar who are told to be patient until the number of those to be so martyred is complete; (2) Then 144,000 Jews from the twelve tribes of Israel; and (3) The vast multitude from every nation that no man can number. That is no really many Jews among the people of God is the Jews of each generation that were truly of the remnant, or people of God, was only seven thousand like God said during the time of Elijah.  If you divide seven thousand into 144,000; or— 14 X   7  equals    20.57  generations.

From Earthquakes to Final Tribulation. 

Notice also that the sixth seal of Revelation 6:12-17 goes all the way from the simple earthquakes of the beginning of sorrows to the sun darkened of the Final Tribulation that is on the whole universe as well as man—

“For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?”  (Revelation 6:17 KJV)

“…(all men living) hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains…”  (Revelation 6:15  KJV)

“And the heaven departed as a scroll”  (Revelation 6:14  KJV)

“And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth…”  (Revelation 6:13  KJV)

“the moon became as blood”  (Revelation 6:12  KJV)

“the sun became black as sackcloth…”  (Revelation 6:12  KJV)

“And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake…”  (Revelation 6:12  KJV)

Considering these in reverse order, or in the original order of Revelation 6:12-17, what you have is:  (1) The lesser earthquakes of the beginnings of sorrows to at the end of time becomes one great earthquake that shakes the whole earth; (2) The sun becomes dark just as predicted by Jesus and by the Old Testament Prophets as an event before the Great One Day of the LORD and Lord; (3) Also the moon ceases to give light; (4) The stars fall from heaven, another event before the Great One Day; (5) The old heavens began to pass away in preparation for a new heavens; (6) The whole old earth is shaken in preparation for the coming of the new earth; and (7) This is the One Great Day of the LORD and Lord.

Satan.  We already know from the clear teachings of II Thessalonians that Satan has been bound for a figurative one thousand years since the first Day of Pentecost after Christ’s resurrection.  That is when the Holy Spirit came in great power putting a restraint on the successful works of Satan in terms of sin, righteousness, and judgment.  As Paul tells, when the Holy Spirit is withdrawn at the peak of the increase in lawlessness, then Satan will be empowered to do all his dirty works.  It is much like the happenings between God, Job, and Satan as recorded in the book of Job.  God gave Satan permission to take away Job’s possession, family, and his health.  In the case of the release of Satan, God for a short time gives Satan the leeway (with the Holy Spirit removed) to harass the whole globe as he did Job.

The Prophet. Another thing that the book of Revelation demands in the way of last events is a last False Prophet to support the last great world leader, the son of perdition, who is also under the control of Satan; and while the Mormons are by no means the only group that could supply such a False Prophet, they are a good example of one of several such good groups.  Each President of the LDS is considered God’s modern day Prophet on earth so much so that any time he speaks on secular or religious matters it is revelations from God.  Well, one of those Prophets, Brigham Young, according to the criterion established by Moses in the book of Deuteronomy for a false prophet is a false prophet.  If he foretells something as Brigham Young was foolish enough to foretell that men were on the moon, which was proven to be false when the Astronauts landed there. and it doesn’t come true, then he is a false prophet.

The Son of Perdition. While there are several sons of perdition mentioned in the Bible including Judas, and meaning that these are men under the control of Satan, the ultimate son of perdition like the ultimate false prophet is reserved for the last events of the last times; and the Apostle Paul writes of this son of perdition in II Thessalonians 2:1-5.

From this passage and from the total context of the Bible the dominant theme of eschatology must be kept in mind of the ONE DAY OF THE LORD AND Lord.  Sometimes you do not get that impression from reading books on last things nor even listening to sermons or lessons, but for every one time that matters like a thousand years, the battle of Armageddon, Satan, and the False Prophet and Man of Perdition are mentioned, the One Day of the Lord is mentioned at least ten times.  There is no more consistent theme in all the Bible other than on God Himself, on Jesus and salvation, than on the subject of the One Day of the Lord.  And it is with the subject of the One Day of the LORD and Lord that Paul in II Thessalonians 2 also mentions the Man of Perdition.

“Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to him, that you may not be quickly shaken from you composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.”  (II Thessalonians 2:1,2  NASV)

The sequence of primary last events are here—

  1. The Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
  2. The Gathering of Christians to Him that are alive at His Second Coming.
  3. The One Day of the Lord when all these things will happen of the Second Coming, the gathering of Christians, and judgment on Satan, the Man of Perdition, and the False Prophets with all unbelievers. Some people think that hell is horrible; but there is something far worse than hell about which the last chapters of Revelation tell us.  We are told that death and hell are cast into the lake of fire and brimstone with Satan, the False Prophet, and the Man of Perdition.
  4. The One Day of the LORD and Lord preceded by an Apostasy of Christians. “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first.” (II Thessalonians 2:3  NASV)
  5. Then the Son of Perdition is revealed which the NASV calls the “man of lawlessness” and “the son of destruction”.

“…and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.  Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?”  (II Thessalonians 2:3b-5  NASV)

What we learn here about the Son of Perdition as foundational for the more we will learn in the book of Revelation—

(1).  False worship sets the stage for him to exalt himself above those false objects of worship.

(2).  He leads in the ultimate deception as he takes the primary seat of honor in the very temple of God.

(3).  He displays himself as God!

Honesty Versus the Lie.   Every time an individual or a group of individuals in a church or any other organization contribute to a lack of honesty, to half-truths, distortions, and lies {the Mormons with their four Bibles that distort truth and sound doctrine are not the only ones, only the best example of the worst unsound doctrine}, they are also contributing to the release from bondage of Satan to again deceive all the nations as he did the Roman Empire in the First Century.  Seem strange, then read again II Thessalonians 2 where the mystery of lawlessness is at work centered around the believing of a Lie.  Evidence of the big lie comes when churches or other organizations like that of Sardis have a reputation of being alive while the reality is that they are dead.  It can also happen to an educational institutions, a state, or a federal government.  It can happen to any leader, secular or religious, as a divergence develops between their reputation and the reality. Here as an aspect of sin or lawlessness, we are dealing with what Elton Trueblood calls “intellectual honesty”.  It is a lie when appearance is promoted through PR that is a distortion of reality.

You see the reason the reputation can be so different from the reality is that while man looks on the outward appearance, God looks on the heart of an individual or organization.  The way of the world is the way of appearance.  The way of God is the heart.  The way of the world is the appearance of the building and the organization, the way of God is the inward motivation and strength of the spirit.  This is the reason Jesus said, “Judge not by appearance; but judge righteous judgment.”

We see the ultimate the appearance of religion versus the reality as we listen to what Jesus had to say to religious leaders about the First Century Hebrew religion—

“Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.  But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”  (Matthew 15:7-9  KJV)

  1. Since this was a quote for Isaiah, it was the indictment of God against the Hebrew religion years before it took place; and it figured in significantly to the rejection of Jesus by most of the Jews.
  2. They were practicing vain worship. Isn’t that horrible to assemble sabbath day after sabbath day, to speak the name of God, and to even proclaim that it is in the name of God; and for it all to be vanity.  Worthless worship!
  3. The mouth and the lips of the worshippers were speaking the right words, even the appearance of the words was right; but their hearts were far away from God.
  4. Along with vain worship was the teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

The doctrines of the Bible had been subverted into the commandments of men.

3-5:  Exegesis of Revelation 4-7.

4:1   John saw a door standing open in heaven.  The eternal secrets of heaven were about to be revealed.  John is going to be told what shall happen “after these things”; but what has happened after the things?  Only the things of the problems in the seven churches, and this interpretation is verified by the words with which this verse starts—”After these things…”  You see these problems in the Christian churches were as much revelations of secrets as the seven seals and seven trumpets to follow, because these churches and Christians did not realize that they had these problems.  Only whole church thought it was alive and was dead, had a reputation among many churches of being alive; but the secret revealed to them is that they were dead.  Another had left their first love, the original concept of the God of the Bible, and did not know it.  One thought it was rich, but it was poor; and so on…

4:2   The Throne is important, sitting in heaven; for when the old earth passes way and the new earth comes with the New Jerusalem, this same throne of God will be lowered with the 1500 mile high city and God on that throne.

4:3   Even as much of the news of the new earth has the appearance of jasper, clear and sparkling so the God the Father who sat on the Great White Throne had that appearance.  It is the appearance of purity and righteousness.

4:4   You can see that the new Jerusalem is going to be a place where God and the 24 elders rule all nations as the new Jerusalem is going to be lowered to earth.  That is, it will close the gap between heaven and earth!

4:5   The seven “spirits of God”, spirit not Spirit, are the spirits of the prophets, the spirits of the angels.

4:6-8  All living creation is represented in the four living creatures, like a lion, a calf, a man, and an eagle; and the point is that all living creation worships the Almighty God.

You know that even as seven represents completion so the opening of the seventh seal on the book of heaven will wrap up all the events of Matthew 24 and of history.  The Seventh Seal in short is the Second Coming of Christ; but the story of the end is spread out in that there are seven trumpets to be sounded, in that history is reviewed from beginning to end from the perspective of God and of God’s heaven!  After this review of history from the perspective of God, the Sounding of the Seventh Trumpet of the Seventh Seal is the Second Coming of Christ.

The first six trumpets represent the Judgements of God against the earth in answer to the prayers of the saints—

“And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.  And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.  And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.”  (Revelation 8:1-4  KJV)

Recall that the original prayer of the souls under the altar of Revelation 6:10 was, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?”  (KJV)

As the first angel sounded the first trumpet fire and blood was cast upon the earth destroying one third of the trees and all the green grass; as the second sounded a mountain size ball of fire was cast into the sea destroying one third of the ships and one third of the life in the sea; at the third a bitter star poisoned the fresh water of earth so that many died; at the fourth trumpet the light of the sun, moon, and stars was darkened by one third; at the fifth trumpet the angel of the bottomless pit is released with his scorpions to torment men that who do not have the seal of God in their foreheads—”They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss, his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon”  (Revelation 9:11  NASV); at the sixth trumpet an army of two hundred million which killed one third of the men on earth; and at the sounding of the seventh trumpet the kingdoms of the earth become the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 11:15-19).

How do these seven trumpets of the seventh seal compare with the broad outline of eschatology of Matthew 24?  After the Abomination of Desolation of 70 A. D., Jesus tells of:  (1) A Great Tribulation on flesh only but so terrible that if it were not shortened no flesh would survive; (2) The arising of many false Christs and false prophets; (3) The death of many men as carcasses for the gathering of the eagles, another great tribulation but this time one that affects the environment as well as flesh; (4) The shaking of the heavens with lessened light from the sun, moon, and stars; (5) Second Coming of Christ in power and glory; and (6) The angels gather the elect of God together from heaven and from earth.  And once again you see how the aspects of each category spill other from one sequence in history to another as first there is a great tribulation on flesh only which took place in the First Century, and indeed had already begun to happen in the history of Revelation where you find the martyred souls under the altar, similar to the Great Tribulation of the very last days that is on the universe and flesh.

You also see how the seven trumpets are simply more details on the eschatology of Jesus of Matthew 24.  Also the aspects of the fire and brimstone of the seven trumpets elaborate on the earth melting with a fervent heat of the Apostle Peter and of II Peter 3:

“But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men….But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements of the earth shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”  (II Peter 3:7,10  KJV)

The fervent heat starts on earth as the first trumpet of the seventh seal sends hail and fire to earth that burns all the green grass and one third of the trees; the heat gets hotter as with the second trumpet the mountain of fire affects the ocean life and ships; a burning and bitter star falls into the fresh water at the sounding of the third trumpet; and the heavens began to be effected— sun, moon, and stars—with the fourth trumpet; with the fifth trumpet as the bottomless pit opens to let out the angel-king, more of the sun, moon, and stars are darkened by the smoke from the bottomless pit; and from the army of two hundred million came fire that destroyed one third of the men living on earth.  This is the Greatest Tribulation on the universe and man for which the Great and shortened tribulation was only a foretaste.

The Apostle Peter in reference to why God was withholding the sounding of the seventh trumpet with the end of time and the Second Coming of Christ writes about the patience and mercy of God—

“But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one days is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”  (II Peter 3:8,9  KJV) Yet during the judgments from the sounding of the fifth trumpet rather than repent as God is seeking by the delay in final judgment, they continued not to worship God!

3-6:  Patience and The Thousand Years.

Although we will encounter the famous one thousand years of Revelation in Revelation 20, so called by many as the “millennium”, since the Bible has so little to say about this “one thousand years” with references only in Revelation 20 and here in II Peter 3:8,9, it behooves us to take note of what Peter writes in progressive revelation before the Apostle John writes Revelation and Revelation 20.  Peter is making a point of the patience of God, and that to God one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like one day. However, in spite of this Bible relativity whereby to God one day can mean anything from a day to a thousand years and vice versa, I think we should take the thousand years during which Satan is bound as literal, starting when Satan could deceive the nations no longer when the influence of the Roman Empire was destroyed in the world, or approximately somewhere between 400 and 1400 A.D.  Since I think that Joseph Smith had to have supernatural help in the generation of so many lies, distortions, and half-truths as are represented in the three unique Bibles of the Mormons, I think Satan had to be released somewhere before or about the time of the famous golden plates on which was recorded the book of Mormon.  That would mean that Satan had to be released somewhere before 1820.  If we speculate Satan’s release as approximately 1800, then one thousand years before this would be at approximately 800 A. D. when Satan is bound in that he can no longer deceive whole nations.  (Satan was not bound in that he could no longer deceive individuals, only nations!)  I like this date of approximately 800 since it places it closer to the destruction of the Western Roman Empire than to the destruction of the Eastern Roman Empire.  After all, since Christ told us that no man knows the exact time, what we are doing is using God ordained signs in the book of Revelation and in the rest of the Bible to speculate.  It is the trends that we must look for that will conclude the end of time.  The two great and detrimental trends of rejection of the knowledge of God and of the increase of intellectual dishonesty in lies, half-truths, and distortions.

The Apostle Paul had something to say about this increase in dishonesty with a corresponding rejection of the knowledge of God, and identified the trends as the “latter times”.  (This “latter times” reminds you of what Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 4.)

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.”  (I Timothy 4:1-3  KJV)

Notice that on the positive side that those “which believe” are also those who “know the truth”; and that with a seared conscience, seductive spirits, and faith departure also comes “lies in hypocrisy”.  (Since we know which denomination called by them a Church abstain from meats and forbids to marry, we also know which Church besides the LDS is active in “lies in hypocrisy” with the seared conscience, faith departure, and seductive spirits and doctrines of devils.  Also recall that it is devils that are being worshipped in Revelation 9:20 that keeps them from repenting in spite of the torments of scorpions from hell of the fifth trumpet, and in spite of the slaying from the army of Satan of one third of mankind.

Table 3:  The 4 Phases of History in Revelation Based on the

Teachings of Jesus in Matthew 24.

Beginning of Sorrows

Matthew 24:5-8

Great Tribulation

Matthew 24:9

Period of Offences

Matthew 24:10

The Falling Away

Matthew 24:11-14

1. Many False Prophets Come. False Prophets
2.  Many Deceived. Many Offended Falling Away
Betray One Another Lawlessness Abounds
Hate one Another Man of Sin Revealed
3.  Wars and rumors of wars Lovers of self and money Holy Spirit withdrawn
4.  Nation against Nation Despisers of good Satan released
5.  Famines Battle of Armageddon
6.  Pestilences Love of many waxes cold
7.  Earthquakes Shaking of heaven and earth
Great Tribulation from the World and Satan Turn Away from the truth and turn into fables Physical tribulations from God in Final Tribulation
Abomination of Desolation Form of godliness  (religion) with inward power of God Elements melt with fervent heat
Great Tribulation shortened for sake of Elect Blasphemers, proud, arrogant, and trouble makers Gospel to every nation
False rumors about the Second Coming Second Coming of Christ and great gathering in the clouds

 NOTE:  This message/chapter is Chapter 3 of the Learn Christ commentary, volume 2 entitled “Christ for Individuals”.  If you wish you can free download this chapter, Number God’s People at

www.biblecombibleman.com/NumberGodsPeople.pdf.  

 

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Friends of Jesus in this Age of the Bible and Computer, What Happened to God's People of the SBC

Open Letter to the SBC on “Confusion in the Congregation”.

NOTE:  This SunGrist blogger while knowing it is impossible to say it as thoroughly from the Bible and as eloquently as my former Pastor and the Preacher that licensed me to preach at Bellevue Baptist Church in 1957, efforts are made hear to share some things that the Dr. R. G. Lee, former President of the SBC might say to the Pastor’s Conference and Convention meeting in Dallas this week.  We already know what he predicted for leadership to follow in his own church and for the SBC, for in his book Bread from Bellevue Oven, there is one message entitled the “Menace of Mediocrity ” where Dr. Lee says “times will get so bad that wrens will make prey where eagles dare not perch”.

 

CHAPTER 24      Confusion in the

Congregation

In John 13-17 Jesus did not spell out in so many words what Friends have come to in the Comfort of the One-ness.  Jesus left that to the Apostle Paul, the Apostle called out of due time; and although the 11 Apostles voted to elect Matthias to fill the slot vacated by Judas Iscariot, Jesus had in mind another Apostle to be His chief editor of the New Testament.  It was so important to the work of the kingdom of Christ and of God, that Jesus Himself, the Ascended Christ, made a visual appearance to Paul on the road to Damascus, and then met with Paul in Saudi Arabia for a personal period of instruction. {And by the way, as far as we know from Scripture, Paul is the only Apostle that Jesus after Ascension met with. Of course, there were also the meetings with the Apostle John on the isle of Patmos.}  Recall, however, that Jesus said in the 13-17 passage that there were many other things which He needed to tell the Apostles, but they were not ready for them yet!

Jesus said:

“I still have many things to say to  you, but you cannot bear them now.” (John 16:12)

Jesus said them to Paul, and Paul wrote 14 books of the New Testament and sponsored through John Mark and Dr. Luke 3 others; and in the writings of Paul you find a lot on “One”, but based on a past knowledge of the Old Testament which he re-read at Tarsus for 7 so-called silent years when he came to summarize what Jesus had taught him in the first 10 letters in the famous book of Ephesians, you really see a lot about ONEs and the one baptism.  However it is in Hebrews with the focus on Hebrews 12, that we truly come to identify exactly the One-ness as the kingdom of Christ.

CONFUSION, THEN AND NOW, IN THE CONGREGATION

When we preach, speak, or prophesy in the church, the Bible says in Corinthians, it is either to “edify”, “exhort”, or “comfort”.  We should not speak in the church or to the church unless it is to edify, exhort, or comfort.  On many special occasions like a funeral we come to comfort; and we hardly know whether the life of a loved one or the Bible messages is more comfort.  Such a noted life, lived seriously for Christ and for so many years, is a comfort to the family.  Certainly to family and friends alike, that life has been an exhortation, a building up for us by example, and a comfort to us in the best of church membership.

However, we do have Bible treasures in earthen vessels, and however inadequate from the human standpoint, we do know that Bible like that in Hebrews chapter 12 is more than adequate for the comfort of such a special assembly. As you listen for a few minutes on “Comfort in the Kingdom” no uncertain sound will you hear these comforts like also mentioned in First Corinthians 14 where there can be confusion without a certainty in the sound.  Although not nearly as beautiful as the music or as distinct in the sound as a trumpet, you will find many positive and straightforward words of comfort this morning from the Bible.  The Bible comforted your loved ones, I know that; and it can comfort you even as it comforted them.  Even if you do not choose to accept the same Bible truths for comfort, you can accept some comfort by the acknowledgment that your loved one found comfort in such Bible passages as Hebrews 12:18-29.

  1. The subject of Hebrews 12 is the Unshakable and Eternal Kingdom of God and Christ.

There are shakable kingdoms, and then there is the one unshakable kingdom. Kingdoms have come and gone throughout history, from Nineveh to Babylon, to the United Kingdom of David, to the split kingdoms of Israel and Judah, to Persia, Greece, and Rome.  Some like Rome have lasted hundreds of years and seemed invincible, but now are only the subject of history books and of sites to visit ruins, testifying again to the shakable nature of all kingdoms except one. In more modern times, it was the kingdoms of Spain and Portugal who led in the exploration of the new world; then Great Britain and France with their colonization, and finally the United States which recently has looked more and more shakable, having lost so many of the recent wars fought.

  1. There is a brief moment of confusion in climbing the vast peaks of the Comforts of Hebrews 12 even as the children of Israel with which Hebrews 12 starts had moments of discomfort in climbing Mount Sinai before the comforts of the message from God Himself came; and I must add in all intellectual honesty that the congregation before Mount Sinai never overcame the discomforts of the loud sounds of the voice of God and the loud trumpet, nor overcame the sight of the fire and smoke and lightnings that surrounded the presence of God on earth with His feet on the Mount; nor did they overcome the taste and smell of the smoke, nor the touch of the mountain itself as they feared knowing as God promised that man or beast if he touched the mountain past a certain identified point would die.  Never in history had the great God of this universe, the only God and Creator made Himself available to a whole congregation like this; the people were keenly aware of this, and they were afraid.  In fact, the Bible tells us in Hebrews 12:21,that when God made this special appearance on earth, that the sight was so terrifying looking up at Mount Sinai where God stood that Moses Himself was terrified.

The Bible in Hebrews states:

“And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.'”  (Hebrews 12:21)

  1. Now, our confusion is somewhat different from that congregation in front of Mount Sinai on that historical special assembly in that we come to quite a different but awesome reality. That awesome reality is not apparent in the introduction to the passage of Hebrews 12:21 as all four physical senses—sound, sight, taste, touch–are evident from God on Mount Sinai; nor is the confusion of Hebrews 12:18-29 further alleviated, at first until you think more deeply about it, in verses 22-24 although we begin to feel comfort as such positive spiritual realities are mentioned as:
    • the New Jerusalem, the city of the living God;
    • the heavenly Jerusalem which the book of Revelation tells us will be lowered down from heaven to become the New Jerusalem on earth with the New Israel and the New Earth under the new heaven; {is that not right, are you not able to immediately picture what these realities are even though you do not know what we are coming to as the overall great reality, much greater than the congregation before Mount Sinai}–and the list goes on:
    • an innumerable company of angels, you know automatically that this is the great number of the legions of angels Jesus will bring with Him at the Second Coming in order to conduct the Great Gathering of souls from the four corners of the earth–stop a moment, while it is true this great legion of angels will come to do the bidding of Jesus at the Second Coming, in reality in the comfort of these benefits of Hebrews we are talking about realities and comforts that we already have {the passage does not say “what are we coming to” in the future but rather “what have we come to” right now}, so that presently we must consider later how these legions of angels as ministers of God and God’s will help us now;
    • to the total church body of which all believers, past and present are a member, the church of the Firstborn, the assembly written in heaven {just those eternal words cause comfort to arise in our heart, although we still do not know what Paul is taking us to}. However he through the Holy Spirit continues to pile up the realities of comfort in spite of some confusion. It is much like life in the midst of the trials and battles where the noise and the sight of the battle is finally overcome in moments of vision and the music of comfort with such realities; and I must add right now, that these are not spiritual realities for the future, these are present realities.  What we are coming to under the leadership of the Spirit and Paul is a great summarizing reality that presently exist, is already ours here on earth, and which can comfort any believer right now because you do not have to wait for it.

Rapidly let us complete the list of smaller comforts in order to comprehend the large encompassing reality of the kingdom of Christ.

(5).  “to God, the Judge of All”:  you see God already exist and lives and knows and watches and loves and yet makes preparation for Judgement.  About the only aspect of the kingdom where God knows and Judges is that the evidence of His judgement as far as the separation of the your loved ones and the goats, the tares in the churches from the wheat in the churches is not yet evident.  However, once again, like all the other benefits, it is a present judgment that has already happened.  With your name written indelibly in the Lamb’s book of life in heaven, you do not have to wait for God to make a final decision; of course, we will all feel better when we find ourselves there, and Paul does add “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

(6).  “to the spirits of just men made perfect”:  {Once again this is men, women, children, and youth as “men” is generic for male and female.}  Oh yes, God is a Living God of the Living.  He had to remind Moses of that.  People who die and have died in the Lord are still living with God.  God is the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob:  the God of the living Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob.  The God of the Living parents, friends, and some fellow church members who appear to us as having fallen asleep.

(7).  “to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant”:  I think I heard an “Amen” Jesus is alive.   Jesus Mediating work is alive as right now He is at the right hand of God the Father on the Great White Throne, making intercession for our sins and continuing to wrap up the administration of the New Covenant for the New Earth and the New Jerusalem.

Third, Okay, has the confusion of Hebrews 12:18-29 been overcome as to what we have come to.  We knew at the beginning that we have not come to Mount Sinai like God’s people in the wilderness.  We have a list of aspects now of what we are coming to, knowing that whatever this great and present entity of comfort to us is, it has to include:  (1) New Jerusalem, (2) the heavenly Jerusalem,

(3) lots of powerful angels that can carry out the will and ways of God and Christ, (4) the one church or body of Christ, (5) God with an emphasis on the God of Love as also a Judging God, (6) to many saved and justified human spirits that have been perfected, (7) to Jesus and the New Covenant.

Well, maybe not quite all the confusion is gone until we see it in the writing of Hebrews 12:18-29, so that we should quickly go to the next to the last verse, verse 28 of the passage and of Hebrews 12.  THERE FOR OUR COMFORT IT IS IDENTIFIED AS TO WHAT WE HAVE COME TO INSTEAD OF MOUNT SINAI.  WE HAVE COME TO THE UNSHAKEABLE AND ETERNAL KINGDOM OF CHRIST AND OF OUR GOD, a kingdom already here on this earth now; and a kingdom once for all established by Christ on earth when He came the first time to live and work.  This is it!   Listen to the words carefully.

The Bible reads in Hebrews 12:28a:

“therefore…therefore, I pause….there is a great conclusion to follow, and here it is, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken….” Granted we don’t have all the benefits yet; but “we are receiving”.  We are in the very process while still here on earth of receiving the kingdom benefits. We are coming to what we are already receiving, that is, “a kingdom which cannot be shaken”.  Mount Sinai was shaken; Moses and the children of Israel were shaken; the whole earth at the end of this Age with the heavens is going to be shaken.  However the eternal kingdom of Christ is a reality that can not be shaken since it has in it the eternal God the Father and the eternal Lord Jesus Christ!

  1. Even as we can not fully appreciate what we have come to in the unshakable kingdom without comparison to the fear and confusion of the first people of God at Mount Sinai, so also we can not appreciate the present realities of our unshakable kingdom until we also see how shakable this kingdom and kingdoms of earth that we live on and with are now.

(1).  Paul uses the reality of the historical Flood Judgement of God one time before as an example for future shaking when he reminds readers of the reality of the Great Flood on earth that destroyed all men, women, and children except 7 people with Noah.

(2).  Paul uses a quote from Haggai 2:6 in the Old Testament to describe the reality of a great shaking of this present earth and the heavens.

(3).  Paul with the help of the Holy Spirit, and with prior teachings from the Ascended Christ in Arabia, gives the God and Christ authorized interpretation of the “shaking” and the “yet once more” found in Haggai 2:6.  Don’t you just love the comfort of knowing truth which comes so clearly when we allow the Apostle and Prophets, like this in Haggai and Hebrews, to explain the Old Testament quotes.  You just know not only is “no Scripture of any private interpretation”, but also that you just read the authorized interpretation.  Admit it, there is a lot of comfort in that also!  In short what it means is:  all things we see on earth that are the creations of man, that is mammon that is made with the hands of man, is going to be shaken to the point of destruction–Peter would call it the elements melting with a fervent heat; and what remains of the old earth and old heavens in the new heavens and the new earth is going to be the unshakable kingdom of God!

“therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken….” {bottom line and bottom subject of Hebrews 12 and in particular the passage of 12:18:29}

(4). Now if you needed anything else, and no doubt many do, in order to appreciate the shakable nature of this earth and the kingdoms of this earth, you must along with your concept of God as love also appreciate that “our God is a consuming fire”; and a consuming fire God is a God of Judgement as well as love and justice.

  1. We Begin to Feel the Comfort in Hebrews 12 as some of the confusion dissipates.

Roman Numeral Two:  Now, we can appreciate the comfort in the first part of Hebrews 12, the Hebrews 12:1-17 passage.  And I think we will realize to the point of comfort that Hebrews 12:1-17 is an elaboration of the kingdom.  What was listed as specifics in Hebrews 12:22-24 as present realities of the unshakable kingdom of Christ and God has previously been words of comfort in more detail in the first part of Hebrews 12 even as the whole book of Hebrews about Christ, the Falling Away, and the New Covenant of salvation has been preparation for Hebrews 12 itself.  {Yes, Paul the lawyer steeped in the word of God and the teachings of Jesus and with the guidance of the Spirit was also a lawyer like logician in the use of reasoning and the intellect.}

  1. We derive further comfort from the realization that the Cloud of Witnesses of Hebrews 12:1,2 is the same general assembly of the Firstborn of our list of comfort of Hebrews 12;22-24:

“therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

We are not alone as a practitioner of the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: we are not alone in the faith of sound doctrine and in the stand of faith for a sound doctrine.  We have Jude and many others enumerated in Hebrews 11 as our witnesses to Contend for the Faith.  Although sometimes in our beliefs which must separate us from the majority, and even more so as we go deeply in the time of THE FALLING AWAY beyond the Perilous Times separate us from even church members, we must feel like the Prophet Elijah as times had become so bad in the falling away of Israel than Elijah thought he was the only true follower of God that was left.  God had to assure him that there is were seven thousand left who had not bowed their knees to Baal.  As the United States follows the example of Israel and comes down to only seven thousand believers in the whole nation, perhaps you will know none of them and become lonely; and at that time the Comfort of Hebrews 11 and 12, and the Comfort specifically of the great cloud of witnesses gone before will be increasingly a comfort to you.

(1).  The Comfort of Elijah.  The Bible tells us that Elijah was a man of like passions as we are, and he prayed that it might not rain on the earth for three and a half years.  We have the Comfort that we can pray like that and get real results.

(2).  The Comfort of Abraham.  When God made Abraham the father of many nations, Abraham was made our father of faith.  Like Abraham, we believe in God through faith.

(3).  The Comfort of Jesus.  Later we will see in Hebrews 12 how that since Jesus endured such hostility of sinners while on earth, that we must expect the same thing; but we know that not only did Jesus go through the same things that we do–there hath no temptation taken you but such is common to man; but God is faithful who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able, but will with the temptation provide a way of escape that you might be able to bear it”–and beyond that, Jesus is at the right hand of God making intercession for our sins.

  1. The Comfort of Jesus as the Author and Finisher Our Faith of Hebrews12:2 is the Jesus, Mediator of the New Covenant, of Hebrews 12:22-24. While we are on the subject of Comfort from Jesus, let us go on to the Comfort that we receive from Jesus being the Author and Finisher of our Faith; and in order to appreciate this you must see how Jesus existed as a person of the Godhead long before He walked on this earth.  In fact, Jesus already existed when God the Father and God the Holy Spirit created the heavens and the earth.  As a matter of Biblical fact, Jesus Christ was the mediating cause during Creation. One Bible scholar has given this definition of the Trinity: “God the Father the originating cause; God the Son is the mediating cause, and God the Holy Spirit is the effecting cause.”  You see that in reverse in prayer.  You see that moving forward in salvation as God the Father thought up salvation, God the Son wrought salvation in His death on the cross, and God the Holy Spirit effects salvation in the life of the individual believer.  You also see it as true in Creation. God the Father said “let there is be light”, “let there  be firmament in the midst of the waters”, “let the earth bring forth living creatures”, and etc.  “let there is be…let there be…let there be”–sometimes I wish we could have heard the sound of heavens as God spoke those words but we like the children of Israel at Mount Sinai could not stand the sound.  Jesus the Mediator could stand the sound and whatever God the Father said, Jesus became the mediating cause in the works of Creation.

(1).  Now the same Jesus with the power to create and sustain all the universe is also THE AUTHOR of our SALVATION.  Jesus wrote the book on Salvation if you want to put it somewhat crudely…but true.  It was Jesus that provided the whole story of salvation: the story of how God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself; the story of how the power of God overshadowed the virgin Mary and that person who was born of this was born of the Spirit of God, was the Son of God; the story of how Christ subsequently taught and performed miracles and of these signs of faith from God that none other can duplicate or ever will; the story of how Jesus did on the cross for the sins of the world–no one took His life against His will but according to the will of Jesus and God; and the story of how Jesus arose from the dead on the third day thereby becoming the Firstborn from the dead.

(2).  It is difficult to separate Jesus the Author from Jesus the Finisher of our Faith.  Somewhere in the Gospel story of the Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ back to the right hand of God the Father to ever live to make intercession for our sins, Jesus passed from simply being the author of our salvation to being the author and Finisher of our salvation.  For example, shortly before the crucifixion Jesus told His first disciples, and subsequently the message was recorded also for us to read in the Bible…Jesus told His disciples that when He was gone He would send another Comforter, the Holy Spirit to take His place on earth and to do His work.  That is obviously part of the finishing work of Jesus as the Spirit of God convicts the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment; as the Holy Spirit teaches us all things and brings things to our remembrance; as the Holy Spirit gives us a spirit not of fear but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind; and many other benefits of Comfort from the Holy Spirit which were mentioned in the last chapter.

  1. The Comfort of Chastening from God the Father of Hebrews 12:5-11 is the way that the just men of the list are made perfect. We however must hasten on to cover quickly the other comforts of Hebrews 12; and on how there is a Comfort of Chastening from God the Father you need to hear from the Word of God :

“And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: ‘My son {wow, what a blessing to be called by God the Father, “son”}…My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD {capital letters like this are always for God the Father}…the chastening of the LORD, not be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.”  If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there of whom a father does not chasten?  But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.  Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect.  Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?  For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit {you see the Comfort of Chastening is for our benefit, for our PROFIT, and what that profit is specifically comes later in the passage–it is in order that there might be PEACEABLE FRUIT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS in our lives}…that we may be partakers of His holiness {that makes it worth it, doesn’t it to have chastening…that is indeed comfort to know that chastening is God’s means for us to become partakers of His Holiness.}  Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

You see that is another way to look at the Comfort of Chastening: that is our Trainer to make us partakers of the Holiness of God, to bring in our life the Peaceable Fruit of Righteousness.  “No cross, no crown” were the words from William Penn.  Or as someone said, “all sunshine makes a desert”.  We need, in short, the Comfort of Chastening from God the Father Himself; and further we need to be reminded that much of this chastening comes from the hostility of sinners.  You see part of the context just read of Hebrews 12:5-11 is the introduction of Hebrews 12:3 and 4:

“For consider Him who endured such HOSTILITY FROM SINNERS against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.  You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.” 

  1. The Comfort of Correct Choices, that is “make straight paths for your feet “of 12:12-15, is the same straight path that leads to eternity in the “heavenly” Jerusalem of the List.

Once again I wonder if any words could express it more eloquently on the Comfort of Correct Choices than the Apostle Paul and the Spirit of God do on Hebrews 12:12-15.

“therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.  Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled…”

(1).  This is akin to what I like to call my “smart” lecture: do what is smart by choosing straight paths for your feet.  The way you walk and live is up to you, and consists of many individual choices that can be called the choosing of straight paths for your feet.  In other words, chose paths to walk at each intersection or decision point that are consistent with the best that you know from the Bible, the best you know of the example of Jesus and the cloud of witnesses that have gone before you.

(2).  This choosing of straight paths for your feet is both preventive medicine and healing for your physical body: (1).  It is a cure for hands that hang down and for feeble knees; (2) It keeps what is lame from being completely dislocated; and (3) it provides for the healing of the lame limbs, the arms that hang down, and the feeble knees.  What do you think of this?  I hope the exhortation of the first chapter in Isaiah 43: they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.”  The waiting on the LORD God through Jesus Christ and in prayer and in Bible reading and study is the equivalent of making straight paths for your feet.

(3).  Pursue peace with all people.

(4).  Pursue holiness without which no one will see the Lord.  There is a way to walk in a straight path, to walk toward the holiness of God and Christ.

(5).  Watch carefully that you do not fall short of the grace of God.  In other words do not fall short of full salvation.  In other words, do not fall away from God and Christ although there is will inevitable come the general apostasy of the Falling Away from God and Christ. {Note that this is not a falling away from the churches and denominations; no doubt attendance will increase as people see the other approaching signs of the end of time, it is a falling away from sound doctrine, a falling away from God and Christ.}

(6).  Don’t let any root of bitterness cause trouble among your religious associates, and a root of bitterness can cause many to be defiled by unbelief, and be lead astray.

  1. The Spiritual Blessing of Esau and Eternity, which may trade for morsels of bread, is the City of the Living God, the New Jerusalem of the List of Blessings. Since so much has already been said about the Church of the Firstborn which is the same as the City of the Living God, the New Jerusalem, the unshaken kingdom, and the Mount Zion, we will not dwell on this portion of Hebrews 12 except to quickly enumerate the stages of Comfort.

III.  Comfort!  Another Enumeration of the Benefits of Kingdom Citizenship.

This is what you have come to!   This is where you are if you are a believer among the fruit that remains.  These are more things of encouragement that will comfort you along the way to becoming a Friend of Jesus!

(1).  You have come to Mount Zion and the City of the Living God.  Now this a city to seek for, and the great cloud of witnesses of the Bible that have gone before us by the way they lived and acted showed that they had found no permanent city on earth.  They bore testimony to the fact that they sought “an eternal city whose builder and maker is God.”

(2).  You have come to the heavenly Jerusalem.  Remember that the Apostle John saw a new heaven and a new earth, and he saw the city of the heavenly Jerusalem being lowered to the earth from heaven after the old earth and universe were destroyed by a consuming fire and the new heaven and earth had been created by God.  I suspect that since John said that “there was no more sea”, the new earth will be where the waters existed before the consuming fire melts all the elements of the earth.

(3).  You have come to an innumerable company of angels.  Jesus told his disciples during the period of His crucifixion that at any time he could call a legion of angels to His rescue; and at the birth of Jesus, it was announced of the birth of Christ by a host of angels; but the real home of the angels–an innumerable company of angels–is in heaven where the Church of the Firstborn is also located.

(4).  You have come to the General Assembly and Church of the Firstborn who are registered in heaven.  Don’t place your faith and salvation in trust of any local church or denomination: place your faith in Jesus and in the Assembly of the Firstborn that is registered in heaven.  It is not any church membership or registration here on earth that you should be concerned about; but rather in the registration in heaven.  The Apostle John told in Revelation how there is a book in heaven called the book of life in which is written all the names of those who have truly believed in Christ, and that book if the registration book for the CHURCH, the Assembly of the Firstborn in heaven.

(5).  You have come to God, the Judge of all.  Last week President Reagan was buried, one of the most powerful and respected men of our time; but God judges all, the Presidents, and ex-Presidents, men of status and wealth, and men of poverty and middle class.  God judges all men according to the same standards of holiness and according to their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  The great separation will happen at that time as the believers receive a resurrected body like Christ, and the unbelievers are consigned like Satan to the lake of fire and brimstone.  Later we will read in Hebrews 12 how our God is a consuming fire.  Yes, God is love and holiness; but God is also a consuming fire.  God is patient and has been patient; but the ultimate day of justice comes at the end of time.  The Bible tells us about these unbelievers of all times that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

(6).  You have come to the spirits of just men made perfect.  You see this the cloud of witnesses enumerated in Hebrews 11 like Abraham, and Moses, and Elijah.  They obeyed God’s method and plan of salvation rather than trying to work up their own salvation: that plan is justification by faith.  It is like the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans under the inspiration of the Spirit of God: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel {or for any other nation or individual} is that they might be saved; for they being ignorant of God’s righteousness and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted unto the righteousness of God which is by faith”.   You will certainly want to join them in the Assembly of the Firstborn by faith.

(7).  You have come to Jesus, the Mediator of the New Covenant.  Paul has elaborated in the preceding chapters of Hebrews how Jesus is the author and finisher  of the New Covenant.  The New Covenant that was promised to Abraham through His seed which is one, that seed being Christ; and the new covenant is very similar to the New Testament, that is that Jesus by His blood or His death on the Cross provided a way of salvation for all that believe.  “If you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead and confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus Christ, you SHALL BE SAVED.”

Confusion Created by the “Heaping Up” Of the Falling Away

I wish we could say that none of our leaders in the SBC, conservative Bible churches, or among the fundamentalists leaders who took over the SBC are in the Bible warning about the Falling Away–in other words teachers and preachers that are heaped up in pulpits and classes and on TV who will tell people what they want to hear.  Yes, read II Timothy 4:4,5 carefully.  It states that church members after they have come to the point of no longer enduring sound doctrine–and I hope you see we are already there–”out of their own desires” will they heap up to themselves teachers with itching ears.  They fill the pulpits and classrooms with what they want, not what they are led by Christ and the Spirit to call and appoint.   This heaping up has two aspects:  the heaping out of the church, pulpit, and classrooms of teachers of sound doctrine; and the heaping in of itching ears teachers who will speak what the congregation wants to hear.  Now, if you think your church or denomination is bankrupt of such heaping in and heaping out in the heaping up process, then you are deceiving yourself; for there is no way that any church or country can escape the inevitability of the world wide Falling Away.  Bottom line what this is saying is that your pastor or Bible teachers are making contributions to the “heaping up” process, and therefore of the Confusion in the Congregation.  In fact like the children of Israel who did not want to listen directly to God, your people prefer to listen to their pastor who will most often tell them what they want to hear!  And at heart much of the confusion which we find in congregations of the Southern Baptist Convention today, with all the fighting and continued warfare, come from decades of pastors soothing the congregations with words like “patience, it will all be okay”.  Fighting and a spirit of fighting has never been good; and pastor James reminds us where fighting and warfare really come from, not from some noble cause like the fundamentalists would have you believe, but “from the spirit within us that lusteth to envy.”  (James 4:1-6) Where envy is allowed to dominate, confusion is in the congregation; where the fighting spirit has gained control confusion is in the congregation; and where you see the heaping up of teachers with itching ears, you know that more confusion is on the way!

You are welcome to free download a copy of this chapter/message in PDF at http://biblecombibleman.com/ConfusionInCongregation.pdf .

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