Revelation and Double Fulfillment

Revelation 17

Revelation 17 14 .png
Today is a bit longer. Please bear with me to the end.
Before we start this devotion, please go read Isaiah 7:14. 
Is that verse about Jesus? 
According to Matthew 1:23, the answer is a clear and resounding yes. Now, go back and read Isaiah 7:14, 16-17, 8:3-4, 10. It would seem that Immanuel is also a reference to Isaiah’s son, Maher-shalal-hash-baz, who is the child of a/the young woman, and his title (Immanuel) shows the people that God is with them (Immanuell literally means “with us is God”). 
I know that may be some new information for you, but this is what I want you to see : When Isaiah gave the Immanuel prophecy, he wasn’t JUST talking about something that would happen hundreds (700+) of years in the future. He was talking about something that was going to happen SOON, that would impact King Ahaz’s life in just a few years time. Did he speak about the future as well? Matthew says yes, but that’s not all he speaks about.
This bit of insight is helpful to have in mind as we read Revelation 17 (or if you have already read it, as you go now and re-read it). Many who read the text of Revelation focus on the future aspects of the book. When will it happen? (Some people say : “Always just around the corner!”) Who are Gog and Magog? (“Always enemies of our country, like Germany, China or Russia!”) Am I prepared? (“Buy your food kit now!”) But, just as the prophecies of Isaiah meant something for the people of his day, we MUST recognize that the prophecy and revelation of John meant something to readers of John’s day.
And John’s readers knew what he meant. There are things that are hard to understand about the scene he saw, but he made it clear enough that they would have understood at least SOME of it. The picture is of a prostitute/harlot/whore sitting upon a beast. She commits sexual immorality with kings, she rides upon a beast, gets drunk on the blood of the saints. She has many names.
Woman who rides upon the beast, through hints we see in this text, is Rome (and by extension, the Roman Empire). Rome is a city sat upon seven hills (v.9). Rome is the great city that has an empire over the kings of the earth (v.18). Rome, like Babylon the Great before her, destroyed the Jewish Temple, and therefore Rome was acting in the “spirit of Babylon”. (v.5) The sexual immorality committed by the kings of the Earth is their worship of the Emperor as “the son of the gods” and “god-in-flesh”, which was discussed in an earlier devotion on Revelation, when the author spoke about the imperial cult. (v.2) Most importantly for the first readers, this woman was drinking the blood of the saints; that is a poetic description of what they were experiencing under the persecution of Rome.(v.6) 
When John uses all these images, we are given a powerful picture of the spirit of any empire that moves against Christ. And that is true in every age and in every place where there are empires drinking deeply the blood of saints and worshipping that which is not God. What we must always realize is that both in the day of John and our own, the truth is that Christ will conquer them all. Verse 14 says “These will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will conquer them because He is Lord of lords and King of kings. Those with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.” 
Could there be another city that will sit upon 7 hills, with kings, and be Babylon the great? Maybe. All of Revelation 17 could happen again in the future, with other systems, empires, and rulers. But verse 14 will be always and forever clear : whoever makes war against the Lamb will be defeated. The Lamb will conquer them by his power.
 

Brothers and sisters, we stand with him. We are called. We are chosen. No matter the persecution of the Dragon, the Beast or the Harlot, let us remain faithful. (v 14)

 

Jake Ballard
(Jake Ballard is Pastor at Timberland Bible Church in South Bend, IN. He lives in the Michiana Area with his wife and daughter. If you’d like to say hi you can find him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jacob.ballard.336  You can also hear more teachings at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCs_awyI1LyPZ4QEZVN7HqKQ Otherwise, he is available on all hailing frequencies, by using the Palantir, and via carrier pigeon, though it’s getting colder in South Bend. God bless you all!)

With God or Against God

Revelation 13

Revelation 13 16 17 NIV

666! This number has been special in the minds of believers and nonbelievers alike for thousands of years. What exactly is this number meant to represent? What is the “mark of the beast”? Is the government going to try and put a microchip in my hand? What should I do?

 

There is much speculation about what the number 666 means, and it all comes from this chapter in Revelation; chapter thirteen. However, before we go wandering off to try and apply this number to our situation in 21st century America, it is important to try and understand what John is trying to communicate to his audience in 1st century Asia Minor. This is an important practice for reading any passage of the Bible, and I encourage you to do your research before applying it to yourself.

 

John sees a vision of a terrifying beast that has ten horns and seven heads, and was like a leopard, with feet like a bear, and a mouth of a lion. It is likely that John is drawing these images from the Old Testament prophet Daniel, specifically Daniel chapter 7, where the prophet describes four great empires with beast-like imagery. Since Daniel described empires/nations with this imagery, it is likely that John also has a specific empire in mind with his description of this beast. Since we’ve already been told that this beast is responsible for killing the two Witnesses (11:7), John likely has in mind the nation of Rome, who was ruling at the time of his writing and was notorious for killing Christians during the empire’s reign.

 

John then sees a second beast, which is responsible for making the people worship the first beast. In the first century Roman world that John is writing in, there was a religious movement called “the imperial cult”, that was the fastest growing religion of the time. This religious movement encouraged, and sometimes forced, people to worship the Roman emperors as “gods”. If you do a little historical study on the imperial cult, you may be surprised at how much the whole New Testament addresses this issue.

 

This second beast forces the people to put a “mark” on their hand or forehead, demanding their allegiance to the first beast. If you don’t have this “mark”, you will be unable to do many things. This number is the number of “a man”, which is 666. This is in stark contrast to the “mark” (or seal) that God had already placed on his own people in 7:3. In other words, you are either with God or against Him.

 

While I don’t believe we have to worry about microchips in our world today, since that wasn’t the point John was making, we do have a responsibility of giving our allegiance to God in every decision we make. Think about each decision you make today. Is this decision honoring to God, or is it bringing glory to something else? Have you “marked” yourself with God’s grace, or are you seeking something else?

 

Talon Paul

Endure

Colossians 1

Colossians 1 24

I like to listen to audio books. Most of the books I read could be considered “self-help” or “Leadership” books. The one that I have just started in the last couple days is called “Can’t Hurt Me” by David Goggins. David is a former Navy seal and an ultra-athlete. The premise of his book is to have a mentally tough and disciplined mind that allows us to push through the worst experience’s life can throw at us. This idea of “Can’t Hurt Me” reminds me of what Paul said in Colossians 1:24-29

 “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh,  I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose, also I labor striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.

Here we see Paul bringing up a time where he had been persecuted for bringing the Gospel to the Colossians. Where he endured hardship while preaching fully the Gospel to them. He mentions in verse 27 “God willed to make known the riches of the glory” and also mentions “hope of glory”. I believe that this for Paul was meaning no matter what kind of tribulations, trials, or persecution he goes through Jesus also went through this, and God revealed the mystery of resurrection power to the world as well as the Gospel through Christ.

We will have days, often, that are going to be horrible from our perspective. Now I don’t know what David Goggin’s believes personally. However, if we adopt what I think David Goggin’s and Paul would say is a “Can’t Hurt Me” mindset, we can look forward to the resurrection and the kingdom of God.

Jesse Allen

Hardships

2 Corinthians 11

2 Corinthians 11 28

… in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

2 Corinthians 11: 27-28

 

2 Corinthians 11 portrays Paul’s passion towards the church and the sufferings that he went through to build it up. Living life as a Christian is not promised to be easy. Though we may not all face the sufferings that Paul faced in his ministry, we too may endure hardships throughout our lives. However, we can take heart as we know from Romans 5 verses 3-6 that “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Thankfully, in America we have the freedom to worship God openly. However, as we know, not all Christians are as fortunate and face persecutions daily. No matter what circumstances we face as we proclaim the name of the Lord and our hope in His coming Kingdom, may we remain firm in our faith and press on as we pursue a ministry that glorifies Him.

-Kayla Tullis

Paul Faces Felix

image (1)
Acts 24
When the Roman Empire conquered the Holy Land in the middle of the first century BC, it established its own rulers to ensure peace and cooperation throughout the region. The Jews have had a long history of revolting against their rulers (especially when they weren’t monotheists), so it makes sense that one of the main jobs of the regional Roman rulers was to keep Zealots (Jews who vocally, and sometimes violently, opposed Roman rule in their homeland) from causing too much trouble. Whenever any of these Zealots caused an uprising in a Jewish city, there were major consequences–sometimes death.
 So when in chapter 24, the attorney for the Jewish elders accused Paul of being a trouble maker who stirred up riots among the Jews, he was saying that Paul was not such a great guy and should perhaps be killed. He also claimed that Paul desecrated the temple–a capital offense. These religious leaders wanted Paul taken out.
As Paul stood to defend himself before Felix, the first of several Roman rulers who would hear his case, he was up against some serious allegations. But Paul was unfazed. He had just been assured by his Master that his journey would not end here. Paul spoke boldly in both the defense of his character and his faith. I think Paul would have done this even without that assurance because of where he had his focus. Paul’s eyes were fixed firmly on his savior and the future hope of the resurrection. This allowed Paul to operate without fear of death or retribution–to be at peace.
You may not live in a society where you must defend yourself or your faith in front of corrupt rulers. But perhaps someday you will face charges because of your beliefs. If that time ever comes, you, like Paul, can have a peace that passes understanding. Trust in God, rely on His promises, focus on His Son and the hope of the resurrection, and pray.
-Joel Fletcher

A Spirit of Boldness

ACTS 8

Acts 8 4 (2)

There are many valuable lessons to be learned from Acts 8. Here are two that stood out to me:

1. Go forward in a spirit of boldness, not one of fear and timidity. If you know me well, you know I LOVE the movie The Princess Bride. (Yes, I realize this movie is now a classic!) Spoiler alerts ahead! If you have ever seen the movie, you will recall the scene where Wesley is leading Buttercup into the Fire Swamp and Buttercup fearfully exclaims to Wesley, “We’ll never survive” and Wesley replies to her, “Nonsense. You’re only saying never because no one ever has.” True to Buttercup’s fears, they encounter the widely known dangers of the Fire Swamp: fire, quicksand and R.O.U.S.’s (Rodents of Unusual Size). In reading Acts 8, especially on the heels of Stephen’s stoning that we read about in chapter 7, one might imagine an atmosphere of fear and timidity could have easily festered in the Christian community. In Acts 8:1 we read about a great persecution that began against the church. We read of Saul who was waging war against the Christ followers, going from house to house, dragging off men and women and putting them in prison. One might think Christians might have chosen to go underground and keep a low profile. As we continue reading the chapter, we find just the opposite to be true. Christians were scattered about because of this persecution, but we read in verse 4 that they continued to preach the word. In verse 5 we read how Philip went down to Samaria and proclaimed Christ. This wasn’t a clandestine type of preaching, his bold proclamation of the gospel was also accompanied by miraculous wonders such as healings and driving out of demons.

In John 15:20 Jesus tells us, “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” We are not promised a trouble-free life. Jesus assures us this life will bring us trouble and persecution if we follow him. What should our response be to persecution? Do we shrink back and try to keep a low profile? Or do we move forward with boldness like Wesley and Buttercup in spite of our fears? 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” Jesus assures us we will have trouble in this life, but we are never ever alone. He reminds us of this in John 16:33 when he tells us, “I have told you these things, to that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”


2.  Be sensitive to the leadings of the Holy Spirit. Your Christian life is unscripted. In many ways, it is a wild adventure. We have the most excellent advantage of knowing how the story ends and that the good guys do win after all, but there will be many plot twists in between. In verses 25-40, we read about how an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” There Philip sees an Ethiopian eunuch and we read in verse 29, “Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go up and join this chariot’.” We continue reading that Philip preached Jesus to the eunuch and the eunuch declares his belief that Jesus is the son of God and gets baptized by Philip. We later read that Philip gets snatched away by the Spirit to Azotus and preaches the gospel in all the cities on his way to Caesarea. Following the lead of the Holy Spirit means we will lead life unscripted and we will often be pushed out of our comfort zones. What is the Holy Spirit stirring you to do? Be sensitive, be open and be bold. A grand adventure awaits…

-Kristy Cisneros

God Makes Persecution Serve His Mission

Acts 8 4 (1)

Acts 8

  

After the stoning of Stephen not only is there immense sadness and persecution, but Saul is now on fire to destroy the church. Christians are scattered all over Samaria and Saul is literally hunting them down. Even when it seems all hope is lost, they do NOT stop preaching the word. God makes persecution serve His mission.

 

The lesson here is not just that God turns setbacks into triumphs, but rather, when we as a church become comfortable, don’t face adversity, and get used to feeling safe, we become stagnant. We need that constant push to keep us in motion.

Persecution can obviously have harmful effects on the church, but prosperity, if not properly checked, can create even more devastation. We are constantly praying for comfort and that’s okay, but maybe we shouldn’t be afraid to pray for God to move even if it leads to persecution.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10

 

Grace Rodgers