I have taken a few weeks off from Revelation due to the holidays. This past week we began our Wednesday night Bible study once again and below is where we pick up. If you want to read my previous studies on Revelation just scroll down (quite a ways) and you can start from the beginning.
The Lamb has the scroll and five out of the six seals have been broken. The six seals are divided into two groups, the first group contains the four-horsemen of the Apocalypse. These horsemen are among some of the most recognized symbols in the book of Revelation and they have a wide variety of ways they have being interpreted. Most likely they represent God’s judgment, and the imagery in this passage is closely related to Zechariah’s vision in Ch.1:8 -17 and 6:1- 8. But, in Revelation the judgment corresponds with the rider and symbolize conquest, slaughter, shortage, and death. In Zechariah, the riders patrol the earth and in Revelation they release disaster on the earth. All the scenes depicted by the seals take place on earth except for the fifth seal.
The Great Earthquake
Vs 12 - 14: Sixth Seal – Opening of the sixth seal brings about an earthquake. According to Robert Mounce, “With the opening of the sixth seal the great cosmic disturbances which are to herald the last days begin.” The early readers probably would not take this to be a complete literal earthquake, because they were part of an established tradition that goes back to the OT as the prophetic portrayal of the day of the Lord. The earthquake was traditionally taken as a divine visitation being at hand. We see this over and over in the OT When God ascended Mt. Sinai, it was accompanied by an earthquake. In both Isaiah and Haggai they speaks of the earth shaking and people wanting to hide in caves from the terror that was about to befall. After the earthquake we are told the sun was blackened, the moon became like blood, and the stars fall from heaven like a fig tree sheds its winter fruit. The falling stars meant one thing to the ancient reader – the end has come.
Vs 15 - 17: Once again, this does not mean it will happen in a literal sense, but regardless whatever is depicted literally or metaphorically it will instill fear and terror to the world leaders, military leaders, and the most powerful people in the world that they would rather die than face the wrath of the Lamb. The day of the Lord will be a day of terror, fear, and dismay. We can imagine the great and powerful men and women of the world fleeing for their lives and crying for death rather than face the judgement of God and the wrath of the Lamb. But there is no place to hide. God’s judgment will be swift and just.
The wrath of God is a major theme throughout the NT. It is not personal revenge or vindication. It is not an impersonal retribution that will work itself out over history. It is the response of God’s holiness and to relentless and unrepentant sin.
The chapter ends with the rhetorical question, “who can stand?”. The beginning of the end is at hand.
Chapter seven is a parenthesis or break between the sixth and seventh seals. This chapter serves as an interlude before the seventh seal is broken. Some suggest that this interlude is intended to answer the question posed at the end of chapter 6, “Who can stand?”
It consists of two visions –
Vs 1: Four angels hold back the four winds of destruction. In Apocalyptic writing angels are pictured as the ones who are in charge of the forces of natures.
“Four corners of the earth.” – this does not insinuate that ancients thought the world was a rectangle, but probably is the same expression that we use today. The winds are held in check by the four angels until the servants of God are sealed.
Vs 2 - 3: “Angel ascending from the east.” This angel has the authority to restrain the four angels from releasing destruction. The angel was holding the seal of the Living God. This seal is probably a signet ring like those used by oriental kings to authentical and protect official documents. The seal or signet is the mark that is the name of the Lord and seals the 144,000. The seal or signet is a sign of ownership and ownership entails protection. It is a seal of protection for the believers of the coming judgment.
According to Robert Mounce, “The servants of God are not a select group singled out from among the rest to receive the seal of God. They are the full number of faithful believers alive when that event takes place.”
We will stop here and pickup next week as we will look at the 144,000 and who and what they represent.
Last week we began a new series entitled “Friends”. In this series we are looking at various friendships throughout the Bible. Last week I began with the most important friendship we can have and that is our friendship with Jesus. Not only is he a true friend to the end, but he defines and models what true friendship can and should look like.
Today, we are going to look at the unique friendship of David in Jonathan. This friendship was a complex relationship because there were many dysfunctions in the family because Jonathan’s father was a little on the crazy side. It was a controversial relationship because it pitted Jonathan against his father at times. Yet, all in all it was a consistent relationship that models what a loyal biblical friendship looks like for us today.
In all transparency this has been a difficult sermon to prepare, not because the content is difficult but because there is so much back story that is needed to fully understand what is going on and why this friendship is unique. So, at times, this will seem like a history lesson (which is important for context) and at times it will be an applicable message that will help us continue to seek out and develop healthy biblical friendships. With that in mind… Let’s dive in.
Israel Wants a King
Israel is a nation that was established by God. If you recall with me that back in Genesis God calls out and establishes a covenant with Abraham, the Patriarch of the nation. God promises him that “(He) will make (Abraham) the father of a great nation.” In establishing this covenant, He promises to lead Israel to the Promise Land, make their name great, and establish the nation as a blessing to all nations. God makes the promise, and He will keep it.
Fast-forward centuries later, God fulfills his promise and leads the Israelites to the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua. The rule of the nation was established, and it was going to be a nation governed by God (Theocracy) through chosen men and women who were appointed as judges.
The judges were raised up to be Israel’s saviors by a special empowerment of the Spirit of God. They functioned primarily as military deliverers, raised up to save the people from oppressing foreign powers (Judges 2;16). They served as leaders appointed by God to serve and protect the people of Israel. Notable judges include Gideon, Deborah and Barak, Samson, and Samuel.
During the time of the final Judge Samuel, the nation no longer wanted to be a nation ruled by God through Judges alone, they wanted a king. They wanted to be like all the other nations who were ruled by a king. In many ways the nation rejected God’s rule for the rule of a man.
(Read 1 Samuel 8:4 – 9)
Israel Gets a King(s)
In 1 Samuel 10 a man named Saul was anointed king of Israel. He had all the human qualities of a king. He was handsome, he was tall, he was the total package, but He was not a good king. He was disobedient to God on multiple occasions, very moody, and at times downright evil. His disobedience infuriated God, so God eventually rejected him as king.
(Read 1 Samuel 13:13 – 14)
In rejecting Saul as King, Samuel mentions that God will appoint one who has the heart of God to replace him. However, Saul continued as king (in title alone). During his reign, the Lord was against him and did not bless him. As stated earlier he had another man in mind for the job, his name was David.
The man (or should we say teenager) appointed to be king by God was a young shepherd boy named David. According to 1 Samuel 13 he was a man after God’s own heart. What does that mean? When we refer to someone who has a heart for something or someone, we generally are saying this person is passionate about something or has qualities of the person they have a heart for or after.
So, then what are the qualities of God’s heart? Exodus 34:6 – 7 gives us a glimpse. When the LORD met with Moses on Mt. Sinai in Exodus 34, Moses asks to see God’s glory. The LORD responded by telling Moses that nobody can see God and live. So instead, the LORD has Moses go into the cleft of a rock and says he will pass by him and he could see the tail end of his glory. In Gods passing He declares who He is. He is compassionate, gracious, patient, abounding in love and truth, and forgiving. I believe this to be the heart of God and a person who has the heart of God has these qualities. Thus, I believe David is a man of compassion, patience, love, truth, forgiveness, and grace. Eventually David becomes Saul’s armor-bearer, musician, and we are told that Saul loved David greatly.
We also know David was courageous. His courage is evident when he takes on the colossal Philistine giant. David bravely confronted and slew the giant known as Goliath (it is believed he was 9ft tall). David’s courage and strength did not come from a deep confidence in his fighting skills, grit, or talent; no, his courage came from the LORD. He was, after all, a man after God’s own heart.
David’s fame began to grow throughout the country, and this incensed Saul. He was jealous of David’s popularity, but he continued to love him as his own son. Speaking of sons, Saul had a son who was David’s best friend, his name is Jonathan.
David and Jonathan
1 Samuel 18:1 – 3
Vs 1: In this passage we see that Saul’s son Jonathan and the future king, David had a unique bond between the two of them. They were bound together in a close friendship. The Hebrew translation is, “the soul of Jonathan was bound with the soul of David.” The two have been and will go through so much together that these instances became and will continue to be bonding moments. This was a relationship of two valiant warriors brought together because of intense opposition. It is the kind of bond people experience when they go through distress, trauma, or life-threatening experiences together. Maybe you have experienced this in your life where you went through a hardship, difficulty or a deeply emotional event with another person and that hardship is what bonds or unites both of your hearts together. In fact, I have found that in hardships and distress my true friends rise to the surface and create life-long bonding relationships.
I have witnessed these types of relationships develop and thrive mostly in my early years of ministry. When I was a youth pastor there were many times the youth groups I pastored went on retreats, missions, or conferences. There were usually moments (that I called bonding moments) where kids would bond together after experiencing something holy together. This would happen often when kids would serve at a VBS in the inner-city of DC. The kids would serve these less fortunate children with a compassion and love that they never realized they had, and they would see the living conditions of some of these young children and hearts would be broken and knit together again as these teenagers would go through these life changing experiences together. Other times I would see lifelong friendships begin when a student would open up and share their hardships, or sinful actions with one another and bonds would form immediately.
So as David and Jonathan’s friendship grew and thrived from hardships and distressing experiences, so too can our friendships begin, grow, and thrive.
Vs 3 - 4: Jonathan makes a promise or a covenant with David. We are unsure of the type of covenant or what the covenant entailed, but we see that he made a covenant with David because of his great love for him. This is the second time in this passage we are told that Jonathan loved David as he loved himself. He then confirmed the covenant by giving David a gift that included all of his military gear.
(Read 1 Samuel 19:1 - 7)
Jonathan and David also had an interesting and dangerous relationship because their friendship could ultimately lead to David’s death. Jonathan’s father had an unhealthy dysfunctional relationship with David. It was a love/hate relationship. As mentioned before Saul was jealous of David because of his success and partly because I think Saul was going a bit crazy as well.
In this passage Saul tells Jonathan and his men to find David and kill him. This poses a problem for Jonathan because David, as you know, is his best friend.
He convinces his father to not kill David because he has been a faithful servant and a valiant warrior for his father. Jonathan’s loyalty to David goes deeper than his loyalty to his father. Saul promises to not kill David and his life is spared.
(Read 1 Samuel 20:1 – 9, 30 - 34)
Overtime this friendship was not only dangerous to David, but it becomes dangerous for Jonathan as well. Jonathan tried to convince his father that David had done nothing wrong and that he should not kill David. Once Saul saw Jonathan’s loyalty to David, he became furious and threw his spear at his own son. Jonathan was loyal to David and loved him as his own brother. Since the bond was so strong Jonathan felt compelled to uphold this friendship, even if it meant defying the will of his father. Jonathan had integrity. He could have easily taken the side of his father and remained faithful to his will to kill David, but Jonathan loved David and he made a promise to David. He was a man who kept his word.
Jonathan and David were friends for life. Unfortunately, Saul’s hatred for David rages for a long time and ultimately tragically concludes when David and his sons was slain by the Philistines. When David heard the news of his fallen friend he mourned and wept for a day and he wrote a lament for Saul and Jonathan found in 2 Samuel 1:19 – 27.
As we have seen in this message what true friendship looks like I have picked out three qualities of David and Jonathan’s friendship that we can emulate in our own friendships today.
Qualities of Friendship
David and Jonathan modeled a true friendship that we all should all want to pursue or have in our lives. We see in these two men they had a genuine and bonding love for one another, remained loyal in all circumstances, and was a friendship that was rooted in integrity.
 Biblical Studies Press. (2005). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press.
Friendships are vital. I think it is safe to say that we all highly value friendship, relationships, and being loved in some capacity. In fact, we are created to be relational people. God designed us with the innate desire to connect with others. We crave community, relationships, and belonging so much so that many seek their identity in these things.
Today we are starting the new year with a new series entitled “Friends”. For the next six weeks we will be looking at various friendship relationships found in the. The Bible has much to say about friendship, but more so it SHOWS us what biblical friendship looks like. My hope and prayers are that as we go through this series, you too, can gain a better understanding of biblical friendship and most of all seek out healthy friends in your lives no matter what age or stage of life you may be in.
A Personal Friend
I have talked about Thom Potts in some of my past sermons. He was my best friend. I realize none of you have ever met Thom, but he was a unique person. He was the kind of guy that every pastor should have in his life; because he provided so many stories to tell to last a lifetime. He was also the kind of friend every pastor should have because he was truly a friend and he kept me grounded in ministry.
I don’t know if he ever realized it or not, but Thom impacted so many lives positively, including mine. I would bet that many of us probably do not realize how many lives we impact positively. In fact, many of us will go to the grave thinking that we made no significant impact in this world, society or in people’s lives and that is unfortunate. However, I believe when we receive the promise of eternal life, then and only then will we see what true impact we have left on others.
Thom fought his battle with cancer for over 20 years and eventually from a worldly perspective he “lost” the battle. On August 21st, 2009 Thom went home to be with the Lord. In the last years of his life we lived hundreds of miles apart but still we remained great friends until the day he died. I was asked by Thom’s wife to “say something” at his funeral to which I complied. When I sat down to write out my thoughts, the first dilemma I faced was how do you say something concisely about a man who has impacted my life so greatly? In fact, Thom was one of two individuals (with the exception of God) that I attribute my coming to know Jesus. So, I wrote an essay of sorts titled, “Life Lessons from my Best Friend.” I will share it you one day. But for today I am so glad I have the memories I have with one of my best friends.
Look at all the Lonely People
I mention that are all created for and crave relationships. However, one of the most unfortunate ironies for people today is that many people are surrounded by other people but are lonely. We do life with, play and work with people all the time, yet according to an NPR survey of 10,000 Americans, 3 out of 5 people are lonely. The article says, “Pervasive loneliness ‘has widespread effects,’ says Bert Uchino, a professor at the University of Utah who studies relationships and health. ‘It's strongly linked to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression…”
The report found several factors that were linked to increased feelings of isolation in 2019. Loneliness appeared to be more common among men. The survey found 63% of men to be lonely, compared with 58% of women. Social media use was tied to loneliness as well, with 73% of very heavy social media users considered lonely, as compared with 52% of light users.
But feelings of isolation were prevalent across generations. Gen Z — people who were 18 to 22 years old when surveyed — had the highest average loneliness score on the 80-point scale (about 50), and boomers had the lowest (about 43). We might think of older people as being the loneliest, but this pattern is actually consistent with results from other studies, says Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a psychology professor at Brigham Young University. "We need to recognize that no one is immune," she adds.”
Then March 2020 comes along and now many more Americans are facing loneliness during a pandemic. In a TIME, magazine article titled, COVID-19 Is Making America’s Loneliness Epidemic Even Worse. The author writes, “Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, public-health experts were concerned about an epidemic of loneliness in the U.S. The coronavirus has exacerbated that problem, with most face-to-face socializing for people still under lockdown orders indefinitely limited to members of their own households. For the 35.7 million Americans who live alone, that means no meaningful social contact at all, potentially for months on end.”
This all seems depressing doesn’t it? If my intention was to make you all feel good about yourself and society then I am failing miserably. Can there be a light at the end of the tunnel? Of course, and this is why we are going to look to the Bible for hope in loneliness and a better understanding of true friendship.
Jesus, the Friend
Often when we look for a friend, we probably look for someone who brings joy to our lives, a person who may have similar interests, and isn’t high maintenance. Granted sometimes people come into our lives who are high maintenance, have interests and desires contrary to yours, and aren’t the most joyful people to be around. But yet, we find ourselves in relationship with them. They can turn toxic quickly. However, we can also gain some great insight when we look at the relationships Jesus had with his disciples to see how He defines and models friendship.
Jesus the Perfect Friend (John 15:12 - 15)
Read John 15:12 - 15
Vs 12: Jesus gives the disciples commands that they must obey in order to remain in his love. He starts with the command, not suggestion, to “love one another as I have loved you.” What does this kind of love look like? How does Jesus love you? You and I are able to love because Jesus showed us proper love. Jesus shows us how to love through his sacrifice on the cross of Calvary. His love wasn’t just an example, it was love displayed and showed. Jesus gave his life on the cross because of his great love for you and me and he displayed this love through his sacrifice
Jesus opens our eyes to the truth of love as an act of sacrifice and obedience. Sadly, our society has cheapened the act of love by defining it as an intense emotional attraction and feeling you have towards someone that just happens naturally.
D.A. Carson writes in his commentary of John, “genuine love for God ensures genuine love for his Son, who is the focal point of divine revelation; that genuine love for the son ensures obedience to the new commandment, the commandment to love. By an unbreakable chain, love for God is tied to and verified to love for other believers.”
Vs 13: Jesus lays out the standard for love the disciples should have for each other, and this kind of love also refers to Jesus’ love shown for the disciples through his death on the cross. So, is Jesus saying that in order to show the greatest love to our friends we must be willing to die for them? Or on the flipside, when Jesus tells us to love our enemies does this same rule for love apply?
Vs. 14 - 15: It is here that Jesus is not so much saying that in order to be a friend you must be willing to die for them (but he also isn’t saying that we shouldn’t) but instead he is lovingly informing the disciples that they are now no longer considered servants, but they are now friends if they obey this command of love. Now, this command to sacrificially love is not what makes them friends; it is what distinguishes them as friends. They are his friends because of his great love on the cross of calvary. In response to this great love is obedience. Clearly, this type of friendship cannot be reciprocated. The disciples (or us for that matter) cannot say that Jesus will be their/our friend if he does what they/we say. We can’t declare or demand obedience from Jesus, as he does with us, in order to be called his friend. No, Jesus’ friends are the objects of his love and as a result of his love are obedient to him thus making us his friend.
This is what makes Jesus the perfect friend. He doesn’t call you or me friends because of being a good “friend fit” or because we have certain qualities that appeal to Him. We are his friends because “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” And “If you love me, you will keep my commands.”
Jesus the Friend of Sinners
Read Matthew 11:19
In this short verse we learn something about Jesus that brings comfort and peace to so many. In this we read that Jesus was indeed a friend to the sinner. This was controversial in Jesus’ time and in some ways remains controversial today. It is deemed controversial solely because of the interpretation. It is important for us to understand that when Jesus was called a friend to the sinners it does not mean he condoned their lifestyles or partook in their sin. We see time and again Jesus encountering sinners and showing them love, mercy, and even grace. However, we often overlook what Jesus says or what happens to the sinner as a result.
In John 8:1 – 11 a woman was caught in adultery and brought before Jesus. He responded to the crowd, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.” Nobody did. Jesus asked her where her accusers were. She acknowledges they left. Jesus tells her he does not condemn her either… BUT “go and sin no more.” Jesus shows mercy and forgiveness, but he also calls for the sinner to stop living in sin.
We see a similar situation with Zacchaeus the tax collector. Jesus goes to his house and in this encounter, Zacchaeus acknowledges his sin and offers to make right by giving back four times what he stole from others.
This type of relationship and transformation happens with Saul who later becomes Paul when he encounters Jesus on the road.
Jesus was a friend to the sinner, but his friendship demanded change. None of We hear story and story of people from all walks of sinful life talking about how the Savior has shown them mercy, grace, and forgiveness. All of us should rejoice in knowing that Jesus is a friend to sinners because then it shows that our Savior cares enough for his creation that he is willing to redeem us even while we were sinners. However, we must not remain in our sins and we must live in be obedience to the savior.
So, what is our takeaway from today? I realize that I have been all over the place in the message. The point I want to make though is friendship is important and the most important friendship you can have is one with Jesus. Friendship with Jesus results in a radically changed life and a radically changed life has radically changed relationships. I conclude with a few applicable thoughts on friendship.
Now, I know that when some of us reflect on our past or current friendships they may stir up some sort of positive or negative emotion. My prayer is that everyone in this room would have a healthy biblical friendship that they can lean on to get them through day-to-day life. But I do want to conclude by saying that the only friendship that is fully satisfying and life-giving is your relationship to Jesus Christ. He is the ultimate friend who will never let you down and will bring peace, joy, and fulfillment in your life.
It is hard to grasp that this is the last Sunday of 2020. As we come to the close of this year, I have decided to preach a “one off” sermon. I guess technically it is not a one off since it is a series that we will pick up throughout the year (and maybe longer). There are times throughout the year where Pastor Sam and I have decided that we would take a week to preach whatever we like as we transition from one sermon series to the next. This is one of those weeks. Today I will start a series from the book of 1 Thessalonians chapter 1and we will come back to at various throughout the next year.
Purpose of the Letter
The Epistle of 1 Thessalonians is a letter the Apostle Paul writes to the Church in Thessalonica. The church is believed to have been a mixed local congregation made up of a few converted Jews and many Jesus believing former pagans. It is believed that it was a predominantly Gentile congregation; so, it is assumed that they were young in faith and unfamiliar with Jewish traditions and more specifically Christianity. Almost immediately after its establishment this young congregation faced persecution from both unbelieving Jews and Gentiles which was not uncommon at this time.
Paul’s reason for writing this epistle was to encourage this young congregation. Unfortunately, the apostle was unable to properly disciple this group of believers because of his premature departure from the city due to a riot (Acts 17) so he may have been afraid that they would not stick with the faith during their intense persecution. Initially Paul had wanted to visit the believers of Thessalonica, but he was hindered. Since he was hindered, he sent his travel companion, the young pastor Timothy, and upon his return to Paul he gave him the great news that all was well at the Church of Thessalonica. Timothy not only reported about their faithfulness in the midst of persecution but also that the church was in fact thriving amidst persecution.
City of Thessalonica
At the time of Paul’s letter (50 - 60 AD) the city of Thessalonica was a large port city located on Aegean Sea and had a population100,000 to 200,000 people and it was the capital of Macedonia. It was a wealthy commercial center due to its location on a harbor. It was a religiously diverse city which meant that it had “something” for everyone. It was a prominently pagan city and represented traditional Greek worship and philosophical thought, Roman imperial worship (Caesar worship) and the city housed a couple of temples dedicated to the Egyptian gods Osiris and Isis. There was also a sizeable Jewish community in the city so, naturally there was a synagogue as well. The Apostle Paul had planted the church of Thessalonica (as a result of preaching in the synagogues) but as previously stated was forced out of the city prematurely due to a riot that was the result of Paul preaching the Gospel thus, he was not able to return.
Imitators of Christ
Read vs 1 - 10
Vs 2: " We always thank God for all of you, making mention of you constantly in our prayers."
Paul begins his letter much like his other Epistles by telling the recipients of the letter how thankful he is for them and that he is praying for them. Prayer is such a powerful tool, and it is one we do not utilize nearly as often as we should. I am as guilty as the next person concerning neglect of prayer, but it is one primary avenue that God has given us in keeping in communication with him and we, like the Apostle Paul, must be disciplined in maintaining this line of communication. I often think God must be in heaven scratching his head in wonder as to how we must be disciplined to make time for him. If you are anything like me I can sometimes get so consumed in life that I forget to talk to the Creator the one I claim matters most in life and I forget. I forget!? I am baffled as to how often I neglect the primary source of power in my life simply because I either forget, I don't want to, or I think I don't have the time.
The reality for many of us who neglect prayer is we aren’t so much forgetful as we don't feel like praying every day. I sometimes don't make time to pray. I sometimes think prayer boring. Nevertheless, I claim it is one of the most important and necessary disciplines of every believer’s life. God constantly reminds me of the words and actions of Paul in this first part of Thessalonians.
In Paul’s life I'm sure when they were put in prison for a crime they never committed the last thing they "felt" like doing was praying... But that's what they did. I'm sure when the mobs were surrounding them and beating them they didn't have the time to pray... But that's what they did. I am also sure that there were times when they would have rather been out doing something other than praying... But praying is what they did. WHY? Because it was their lifeline and they saw the value of prayer. That's where I want to be in my walk with the Lord.
Vs 4: " For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you,"
How is that for reality? For we KNOW that God has chosen you. Do you understand this and believe it? God. Chose. YOU!
Surprisingly, people have problems grasping and believing this truth of God’s election. There are many people who do not like the idea that they had no part to play in receiving Christ. They believe that they chose Jesus and not the other way around. I think people hold this view because they feel that by God choosing them, they lose the freedom to have a will of their own. However, Jesus says in John 15:16, " You did not choose me, but I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you." It cannot be more plainly than this. God chose you unto salvation. He gave you the faith to believe and as a result we are saved and redeemed by God’s grace. Since this is true, because of God’s grace we are truly free to choose; how so?
Vs 6: " and you yourselves became imitators of us and of the Lord when, in spite of severe persecution, you welcomed the message with joy from the Holy Spirit,"
The evidence of salvation in a person is a changed life. Paul writes to the Thessalonians that after they received the Gospel by word and through the power of the Holy Spirit, they became imitators of them (Paul and his travel companions) and ultimately imitators of Jesus Christ. There are a number of times in the Bible where Paul tells his readers, "Imitate me". Most of the time he writes, "Imitate me and imitate the Lord." He actually equates the two. He essentially says, "If you imitate me, then you imitate Christ." Seems kind of prideful, doesn’t it? I do not think Paul is being prideful or exalting himself by saying these things. I think he was simply saying, "Do as I do because I am imitating Christ."
Vs 7: “As a result, you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.”
Affliction and joy; these are two words that you rarely see together in a positive manner. A general study through the book of Acts would lead you to see one common denominator throughout; and it is joy amidst trials and persecutions. We see many examples throughout Acts where the Apostles receive a beating and leave a city rejoicing because they were considered worthy of the cause. We see in some accounts that Paul and Silas were singing in the prison... Singing??? There are so many times that we read the believers rejoiced after or during trials and persecution.
The early church has set a great example and precedence when it comes to having joy in the Lord. We should also imitate the Thessalonians and no matter what we face, we would want to receive the word of God with joy of the Holy Spirit.
Vs 8: “For the word of the Lord rang out from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place that your faith, in God has gone out. Therefore, we don’t need to say anything.”
It is important to be a church that preaches and lives out the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, too many churches spend much of their time, energy and resources trying not to be too "churchy". So many work hard to try to be a "cool" or "relevant" place to go where people don't feel like they are in church. Some churches do not want to be too preachy because it will not attract people. They want to remain “positive” and “encouraging” at all costs, which is not always wrong. However, some go so far as to eliminate words like sin, salvation and Hell because those are archaic, negative or "not relevant" in this postmodern society.
Jesus' plan for the Church was/is much simpler than what it has become. People often think of the church as the building and forget that the Church is not necessarily a physical place, but a gathering of fellow believers who set out to live and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For me personally, I would rather Southside Church be known as a body of believers who "ring out the word of the Lord" instead of being a church consumed with building maintenance, marketing and "keeping up with the times” all the while neglecting the Word of God.
Vs 9 - 10: “for they themselves report what kind of reception we had from you: how you turned to God from idolsto serve the living and true God and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.”
This is another quality about the Thessalonians that I admire. They turned from idols to serve the "living and true God." They were not star struck with royalty and celebrities. They didn't allow money or possessions to rule their lives. They had forsaken all of this for the living God.
Since the Thessalonians have turned from idols and worshiped the "living and true God" they now anticipated Jesus' return. They were living with the hope that Jesus would return soon and they anxiously awaited the day. I can understand how they felt. I look forward to Christ's return as well.
There are a lot of "theories" on how and when Christ will return. There are the Pre-tribulation view, Post-tribulation view and the Mid-tribulation view (if you want to know what these words mean you look them up or search them on Google). Theologians have argued for years about how and when Christ will return. But the God’s honest truth is we don't know when or how Jesus will return. God's word says, only God knows the day, the hour and the time. People get all up in arms arguing about when, where and how and the truth is we need to stop divisively arguing and debating and focus on living our lives as though Jesus may return any day. This is all we know… Jesus will return some day (as the Bible says) and it will be a glorious day for the believer.
I have covered a lot of ground this morning so I have a few points to highlight so you can easily apply this first chapter to your life personally. They are as followed…
I pray that I can live my life for Christ that I could be an example to others and to live a life pleasing to him that I could encourage others to imitate all I do because I imitate Jesus Christ. What does that look like for me? What does that look like for you? How would living this way change the way you live your life now? If you knew people were watching you (and they are) and using you as an example what would you and I do different? Would it change the way I talk? Would it change the way I treat others? Would it change the way I drive? The answer is yes, it should and would. So may we all strive to live lives where imitate Jesus everyday?
We are in the final week of our four-part Christmas series entitled THE REAL MARY. This series is designed for us, as evangelicals, to gain a biblical view of who Mary, the mother of Jesus, was and how the nativity story should give us a proper perspective and understanding as to who she is and what transpired that first Christmas. So far, we have seen Mary as the willing servant, the obedient follower, and last week we looked at Mary’s encounter with the Shepherds.
Today I will conclude our series as we will look at one more significant aspect of the biblical Christmas story. Once again I will not focus primarily on Mary but I would like to look at our final encounter from a different perspective… today we will look at Mary’s encounter with the Magi.
In Matthew 2 we are introduced to a group of people known as the Magi, or more commonly known as “the three wise men” as they came to Jerusalem to see this new King. These visitors of Mary and Joseph are believed to be and often portrayed in the Nativity story as three kings or three wise men, but the truth is we do not know how many there were, and they were almost certainly not kings. There were definitely three gifts given (thus why we some believe there were three of them) but there was probably a larger group present.
Who were the Magi? Why were they following a star? What were they expecting to find as they sought this king of Kings? These are some questions I will answer today in our time together. “The Magi of old were a class of priests among the Persians and Medes, who acted as the king’s advisors, and cultivated astrology, medicine, and occult natural science. They are frequently referred to by ancient authors.”  The Magi also possessed occult skills in interpreting dreams. However, Matthew’s Magi do not interpret dreams, but they do discern and decipher the stars (or at least one), and they are from the East. Whether ‘the East’ from which they came is Arabia, Babylon or elsewhere is uncertain. Regardless the Magi of the Gospel of Matthew are regarded positively as they are the ones who receive guidance from God, and they are not adversaries to be dealt with. It is incorrect to read off this description any assessment of astrology, either positive or negative; the interest we have in this is account is elsewhere and it concerns the star and the child.
Matthew 2: 1 - 6
Vs 1: The Magi came to Jerusalem seeking a king who was prophesied to be born. Interestingly they were familiar with the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah. Even though they were pagan priests who had little regard for the Jewish God they had an interest in this particular prophecy because the prophet Daniel was a prince and the chief among this very class of wise men. Daniel’s prophecies were made known to them; and the calculations by which he pointed to the very time when Christ would be born became, through the book of Daniel, a part of their ancient literature.  For informational purposes or for the curious a reading of Daniel 4 gives insight as to how Daniel was in fact the “chief prefect over all the wise men or Magi of Babylon…”
Vs 2 - 3: The Magi came to Jerusalem following a star. They went to King Herod to inquire of this child’s whereabouts. This concerned Herod because this “so called” King who was to be born had the potential to put his “job” in jeopardy. Many people in Jerusalem didn’t think he (Herod) deserved to be the king since he was not from the lineage of David.
Vs 4 - 6: When Herod heard about this child king he inquires of the Chief Priests and they come to the conclusion that this King the Magi sought was to be born in Bethlehem. (according to Micah 5:2).
Matthew 2: 7 - 12
Vs 7 - 8: So, Herod meets with the Magi secretly to commission them to find this child so they would return to tell him where this king was. In Herod’s response we can see his devious nature as he blatantly lies to them and tries to use them for his advantage. We find later in the reading that Herod plans to have the child king murdered, but at this point he tries to convince the Magi to find the child and let him know where he is located, so he could “worship him.”
Vs 9: The Magi followed this star in the sky. Since they were star gazers, this came natural to them. As they followed the star it rested over the house Mary, Joseph and Jesus were in.
Vs 10 - 11: When they arrived, they “were overwhelmed with joy”. Some translations say, “They rejoiced with very great joy.” These pagan star gazers came seeking the Messiah and alas they found him. When they entered the house, they saw Mary and Jesus and their first response was worship. Matthew writes, “and falling to their knees they worshiped him.”They bowed down and worshiped him. The Greek word for bowing down means “to fall down, throw oneself to the ground as a sign of devotion, before high-ranking persons or divine beings.” The Magi knew they they were in the presence of greatness as they worshiped him and then gave their gifts.
Ironically, as Warren Weirsbe writes, “The magi were seeking the King; Herod was opposing the King; and the Jewish priests were ignoring the King.  The people most likely to seek the king of the Jews could care less and the people least likely to seek the King of the Jews fall down before him and worship Him.
Little Baby Jesus
Contrary to what most believe and have been taught the Magi did not visit a baby lying in a manger with the shepherds on the night he was born. Matthew tells us the Magi visited the child in a home. The way the story is told certainly sounds like everything happens one event right after the other in one night. Truth be told the Magi had to travel from a far distance, they went to Jerusalem first to find out where the King was supposed to be born and then travel Bethlehem. In a few verses (vs 16) we are told Herod had all children from the ages of one to two years old murdered. So, this would suggest the Magi visited a child who was probably 1 to 2 years old (probably 2 years).
The Significance of the Gifts
Vs 11: The Magi come bearing gifts. There is significance in the symbolism of the gifts themselves. They opened their treasures and gave the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
All three of these gifts were ordinary gifts given to a king. So, all of the symbolism points to Jesus as the King, the Deity, The Priest and the Savior. Most likely at the time they didn’t bring these gifts with these thoughts in mind, but it is suggested that they were costly gifts and would have been sufficient to fund the upcoming trip Mary and Joseph had to make to Egypt. Either way they, along with shepherd’s who had visited previously all understood that a King had been born and this King was truly be the savior of the entire world.
There is something important in the giving of the gifts… We see the Magi worship the Messiah and then offer him their gifts. I see this as significant because before we can truly give our gifts and talents to the King, we must start with worship and then offer them up as an act of worship.
What Can We Learn from the Magi?
I find it fascinating as we look at what the Magi represent to us in the Christmas story. In the Gospel of Matthew, the Magi come seeking the “King of the Jews” so they could come and worship him. So far in the birth of the Savior of the world was a story for the Jews. But once the Magi enter here in Matthew, we see the story open up for the Gentiles as well. In the Magi Jesus is not only the King to the Jews but he is also the King to all nations as these Gentile (even pagan) priests from the East come to visit AND worship the Messiah. Matthew through the Holy Spirit thought it was significant to begin his Gospel account by writing about these gentiles and how God ultimately accepted their worship.
So, what is our takeaway for today? We have seen by their response the Magi knew they were in the presence of a King and we see this simply by the way they inquired about him (“Where is he who has been born king of the Jews”) and their response to the presence of the King was appropriate (and falling to their knees, they worshiped him) and by the costly gifts they brought him. Unlike the Magi, we do not come and offer kingly and expensive gifts to the Lord or lords; instead, we offer a more costly gift, our lives as living sacrifices (offerings) to him and we seek His “presence” in our lives. We understand that when we come into the presence of the King, we should respond by falling down and worshiping the king and giving ourselves as offerings to Jesus as this the greatest gift God desires from us.
In return, the life he gives us and the presence or Spirit in us is indeed the greatest gift we can receive from Him this Christmas season. We are confirmed once again that Jesus is not an exclusive Messiah who is only to be worshiped by the Jewish people, the privileged, the powerful and the pious. He is the King of all nations, both Jew and Gentile, young and old, rich and poor, we all have the honor and privilege of worshiping the humble Son of God who came to take away the sins of the world. He is the Savior of all who come to worship him and put their complete faith and trust in him. We see that if God accepts the worship of Pagan Priests who offer themselves fully to him, He will accept the worship of anyone of us who comes to worship him.
As I conclude today, I leave you with a question… Are you like Herod who deems himself the only worthy and rightful king and who does not want to have anyone else to have control or placed on the throne other than himself? Or are you like the Jewish Chief Priest who, even though he knew a Messiah was coming, he chose to ignore this truth and go on with business as usual? We know the Chief Priest never fully acknowledged that Jesus was and is the True Son of God? He was hard hearted and an enemy of the Savior. Or will you be like the magi who will leave all behind and seek after the King and Savior and offer to him the greatest gift you can give (yourself) as a means of worship and offer yourself to him in humble adoration? Will you acknowledge that He is the true King of your life and worthy of all praise, adoration and worship?
Smith, W. (1997). Smith's Bible dictionary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Wood, D. R. W. (1996, c1982, c1962). New Bible Dictionary (713). InterVarsity Press.
Smith, W. (1997). Smith's Bible dictionary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. "An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire 'BE' series"--Jkt. (Mt 2:1). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
We are in the third week of our four-week Christmas series entitled THE REAL MARY. This series is designed for us, as evangelicals, to gain a biblical view of who Mary, the mother of Jesus, was and how this biblical view should give us a proper perspective and understanding as to who she is.
There have been men and women throughout history who were ordinary people who went on to do extraordinary things in their lives for the glory of God. Men like A.W. Tozer, D.L. Moody, G. Campbell Morgan, George Mueller, and Charles Stanley all really had no formal training in ministry, but they all became some the most well-known and respected teachers of God’s Word in history. They were simple men who were filled with the Holy Spirit and sought to be used by God.
Today as we continue our series I am going to spend some time in Luke 2:8 – 20 as we look at Mary’s visit from the shepherds. In all transparency I will spend most of our time together talking about the shepherds and then concluding with Mary’s response. My goal is to remind us once again how God so often uses ordinary average men and women like you and me to accomplish his extraordinary will and purpose, especially in the Nativity account. We certainly see this truth today as I talk about the shepherds as they meet the young, new mother Mary. To outline the message for you I will focus our time together on these five talking points…
Luke1: 8 – 20
The Job of Shepherding
Shepherding is one of the oldest occupations in history. It is believed to have its beginnings about 6,000 years ago in Asia Minor. In many societies shepherding was important to the economy. However, the occupation of shepherding was also considered a lowly job and Shepherd’s themselves were looked down upon as lowly and insignificant. They were largely nomadic and lived solitary lives away from society.
According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, “The duties of a shepherd in an unenclosed country like Palestine were very onerous. “In early morning he led forth the flock from the fold, marching at its head to the spot where they were to be pastured. Here he watched them all day, taking care that none of the sheep strayed, and if any for a time eluded his watch and wandered away from the rest, seeking diligently till he found and brought it back. In those lands sheep require to be supplied regularly with water, and the shepherd for this purpose has to guide them either to some running stream or to wells dug in the wilderness and furnished with troughs. At night he brought the flock home to the fold, counting them as they passed under the rod at the door to assure himself that none were missing. Nor did his labours always end with sunset. Often he had to guard the fold through the dark hours from the attack of wild beasts, or the wily attempts of the prowling thief.”
What Do the Shepherds Teach Us About Christmas?
Vs 8: When Jesus’ birthday is not – On the basis of the statement that the shepherds were living out in the field, keeping guard over their flock at night it is often suggested that Jesus’ birth took place in early spring, since it was only at lambing time that shepherds stood guard over their flocks in the field. Luke says nothing about the actual date, and it remains quite unknown December 25th was not chosen until around 306 to 377 A.D, which was the time of the emperor Constantine. Luke says nothing about the actual date, and it remains quite unknown Many believe that December 25thwas chosen as the date to celebrate Christ’s birth because it coincided with the Roman pagan festival Saturnalia and Christians could celebrate Jesus’ birth without fear of persecution.
Vs 11: Their faith – Christmas can be considered a time for renewing our faith in Jesus Christ. It is a time where we can reflect on the wonderful gift of Jesus Christ that God gave to us and the hope of his eventual return. We see in the shepherds their great faith. They knew something was special about this baby – Their encounter with the Angel convinced them to leave the place where their sheep were and guide them to the town of Bethlehem. I am sure they did not fully know what they were looking for, all they knew was an angel proclaimed this good news to them and they set out to search for this baby who is slated to be King.
Why Did God Bring the Good News to the Shepherd’s First?
We are not certain why God chose to reveal his message of hope and salvation to the shepherds. We do know that Jesus is often associated with shepherds, shepherding, and sheep throughout the N.T. and this is significant because...
1. The Shepherds lived In Humility: When the angels visited the shepherds, he revealed the grace of God toward humanity. Shepherds were considered outcasts in the Israelite society. Their work not only made them ceremonially unclean, but it kept them away from the temple for weeks at a time so that they could not be made clean. Thus, they were not well educated in the word of God. For unknown reasons Shepherds were not allowed to testify in court, yet God chose them to be witnesses to testify the birth of the Savior of the World.
2. Jesus is the Good Shepherd: Jesus is described as the good shepherd and he is called this because he lays down his life for the sheep. Any good shepherd will risk his life for his sheep. He will fight off beasts; he will rescue them from dangerous places, and he would be willing to die to keep his sheep safe. However, Jesus is not just saying that he is just willing to risk his life for his sheep he follows through with action. When he says he lays down his life this is a matter of what is going to happen not what might happen. He appoints his life for the sheep, and he WILL die for his flock so they may be redeemed. He is not willing to give his life as an example of his love; it is love in action. He lays down his life to save his sheep who are in mortal danger. He will lay down his life so his sheep can live.
3. Jesus The Lamb of God: John the Baptist calls Jesus the Lamb of God twice in John 1 (vs. 29, 36). In the first instance John calls him “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”.
John1:29: Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world
What Can We Learn from the Shepherds?
Vs 19: “But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them.” I cannot begin to imagine what was going on with Mary as all this transpired. By the wording Luke chooses to use, I would say that he could not as well. What does he mean? According to the NET Bible, “This suggests more than remembering. She is trying to put things together here.” Can you imagine how she felt, what she was trying to comprehend, and what the future will look like for her and her son? These are certainly things she would consider and put together in her heart.
As we close our time together observing the Lord’s Supper let us consider, ponder, and meditate on all that God has done for us. As children of God, He has given to us the greatest of gift of life by grace and grace alone. As we ponder and meditate on this truth let us put together in our hearts the call of God on our lives. What is it that he has or is calling you to do for His glory?
 Easton, M. G. (1893). In Easton’s Bible dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers.
 Morris, L. (1988). Luke: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 3, p. 101). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
 Morris, L. (1988). Luke: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 3, p. 101). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
 Liefeld, W. L. (1984). Luke. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 845). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.
 Biblical Studies Press. (2005). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press.
We are in the second week of our four-week Christmas series entitled THE REAL MARY. This series is designed for us, as evangelicals, to gain a biblical view of who Mary, the mother of Jesus, was and how the biblical view should give us a proper perspective and understanding as to who she is. Last week I talked about Mary as the willing servant. We saw that her encounter with the angel Gabriel gave us a glimpse into the heart who Mary was as I noted that she was just an ordinary girl who submitted to God and was chosen by God to do something extraordinary for the Kingdom of God. There was nothing special, humanly speaking, about her but she was the recipient of God’s grace as she was told that she would give birth to the savior of the world. As we concluded our time together last week, we read that Mary declared, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it happen to me as you have said.”
The Nativity begins and ends with worship. From the moment Mary received news from the Angel Gabriel to the moment the Magi visit the child king the nativity is enveloped in worship, and first passage we will look at today proves the point. Luke 1:46 - 56 is called “Mary’s Magnificat”. The word “Magnificat” is the Latin word for glorify. This is Mary’s song or poem she sings after talking to Elizabeth in response to receiving the news from the Angel Gabriel. Mary’s sings in the presence of Elizabeth a response to the news that she is the one chosen by God to give birth to the savior of the world and her response was worship and praise. This poem is structured like a Jewish psalm and is drenched with praise to God. The inspiration for Mary’s words came from 1 Sa. 2:1–10, which is the song Hannah sang after God had given to her a son named Samuel. Mary praises God for choosing her to be the one to bring the Messiah into the world. The song is shaped around Mary’s exaltation of God.
Luke 1:46 - 56
Mary begins by praising God for who He is…
Mary then praises God for what he has done…
Worship is Followership
When we look at Mary’s song, we see it is a song of praise and worship to God. Mary has committed to fully submitting her life to God in worship. In regard to worship our hearts are formed by what we worship. The question I ask you is, “What or who do you worship? Who or what are you following?” The obvious Sunday School answer is, “I worship and follow Jesus.” However, if you truly get to the heart of the matter and you are truthful with yourself and look at what you spend your time, energy and resources on would your answer really be “Jesus”?
When I look back on my life before I became a fully committed follower of Jesus, I undoubtedly idolized music and musicians. For most of my life I was a regular church attender. I went to Sunday school as a child, and youth group as a teenager. However, from the moment I saw Peter Criss from the rock band Kiss singing the song “Beth” at the young age of six, unbeknownst to me, I was sucked into the world of idol worship. My childhood and teenage life consisted of countless hours listening to music and dreaming about becoming a rock star. When I got my first electric guitar at the age of thirteen, I diligently practiced for hours on end, and spent my hard-earned lawn mowing money on guitar lessons. From the moment I awoke in the morning to the time I fell asleep at night I was either listening to or playing music. When I joined my first band as a senior in high school, I would spend hours upon hours practicing with the band, perfecting my technic as I learned how to play multitudes of songs. Music was such an idol to me, I neglected the most important things in my life like school, family, and my very shallow to non-existent spiritual life.
I became a committed follower of Jesus around the age of 22 and I thought at the time I could mix my passion for (worship of) music with my commitment to Jesus Christ. It didn’t take long for me to realize (ironically in the middle of a song I was performing onstage) that my love for music trumped my love for Jesus. It was at this point I quit performing in my band and dedicated my life to following Jesus whole-heartedly.
Now, this is my story. My intent is not to say that rock music is bad, and you can only follow Jesus if you denounce rock -n-roll. That is not the point at all. My point is you worship what/who you invest in and submit to.
Have you ever thought this about Mary? When you think about it, the mother of Jesus also needed to submit to her Son, who was her Lord and Savior. Let that sink in for a moment. While you’re letting that soak in, turn to John 2: 1 – 5.
John 2:1 - 5
Vs 1: “a wedding took place in Cana of Galilee.” This was probably a wedding for a relative of Jesus’ or a close friendsince Mary was there and Jesus and his disciples were invited as well. The disciples in attendance were Jesus and most likely the five Jesus had with him who were Andrew, Philip, Peter, Nathaneal and the unnamed disciple (probably John). It is plausible that Mary could have been in charge of some organizational aspect of the wedding since she was the one concerned about the wine running out. This may have been her responsibility, or she could have just been concerned about the bridegroom and did not want to see him embarrassed or worse yet humiliated. Whatever the reason she went to Jesus with her concern and let him know the wine was gone.
According to historians “Wine in the ancient world was diluted with water to between one third and one tenth of its fermented strength, (i.e. something less strong than American beer). Undiluted wine, about the strength of wine today, was viewed as ‘strong drink’, and earned much more disapprobation (disapproved)”.
Vs 3: “They don’t have any wine.” Mary comes to Jesus with her concern for the wine shortage and there are a number of possible reasons she went to him.
The last, I believe was probably be the most credible. Mary knew there was something special about her son and she knew God was going to do great things through Him. After all, she was the chosen virgin to give birth to the Savior of the world. He was the Messiah; certainly, He could do something about the wine shortage.
Vs 4: “What has this concern of yours to do with me, woman?” At first glance Jesus’ response to his mother seems a bit harsh and disrespectful. However, the word “woman” is a form of address, in Koine Greek it is a way of speaking politely to a female person: In Jn 2.4 Jesus uses this word to address his mother courteously. In some ways it could be synonymous to the word “Ma’am”. When he says, “what does this have to do with me?” or “What business is this of mine?” or “Why are you involving me?” is a minor rebuke. In some ways Jesus, lovingly, is declaring to his mother that he is not under human authority (including his mother), any person’s agenda, or is not going to be manipulated into doing something (being a Genie of sorts). This isn’t rebellion against his mother, he is only stating a very important thing, His only bidding is to do the will of the Father.
From this point on Jesus had to start distancing himself from his mother. I can’t believe how difficult that would have been for Him or for her to accept. However, Jesus couldn’t allow himself to be so closely attached to his human mother because his bidding was to do all the Father had told him. From a human standpoint it is hard to imagine, but from an eternal perspective it was necessary. Mary, like everyone else needed to come to him for salvation. She had no special privileges and Jesus certainly was not distancing himself out of callousness, in a way he was distancing from her for her own good. In light of the cross his distancing was necessary.
Vs 5: “Do whatever he tells you.” As a mother she was obedient, and she trusted her son, so she says to the servants to do what he says. Her response shows that her gentle rebuke was taken, and she trusted Jesus was going to take care of things. D.A. Carson writes of this encounter “In short, in 2:3 Mary approaches Jesus as his mother and is reproached; in 2:5 she responds as a believer, and her faith is honored. She still does not know what he would do; but she has committed the matter to him and trusts him.”
When Jesus performs this miracle of turning water to wine it has a significant truth about God. So many commentators, theologians, preachers and Christians in general focus so much on the symbolism of the water and the wine and they miss the true point of this miracle. Not only does Jesus provide wine for the wedding guests, he supplies them with the finest of wine (the best) and gives it in abundance. We see here God’s grace in action. Did Jesus do this for Mary? Did he do it for the guests? or did he do it for the groom? I don’t think he did this miracle for any of these people. The purpose of this miracle was to reveal his glory so the disciples would believe in him and glorify God. It wasn’t about taking care of the guests, it wasn’t about being obedient to his mother, it was about showing a little of His glory so his followers would believe and testify of who He really is. It’s ultimately about God’s glory and grace. We see so much grace in this account, as Jesus essentially says, “I am not under any human authority nor will I be used as a Genie to give you what you want. But because God ultimately wants to be the source of all of your joy and because of my Father’s great love for humanity I will do as you ask.”
As I look over this passage, I conclude
So, we can conclude that since the original Christmas began with worship then the Christmas, we celebrate nearly 2000 years later should also begin with worship. We can remain in this season with thankfulness, praise and worship of King Jesus as we hold onto the promises He made that “whoever believes in me shall not perish but have everlasting life” and his imminent return is at hand.
What Does This Mean for Us Today?
The sad thing about Christmas is we often spend so much time preparing for, buying gifts or attending family gatherings that we begin to worship Christmas and not the Savior who represents Christmas. When we focus all of our attention and time preparing for the holiday and not on the Holy one, then we have turned to idolatry. Everything Jesus did was to show the glory of the Father. God delights in giving us good things, but he doesn’t give them to us for our benefit… He gives good things for His glory. In this wedding account we see Mary was concerned that the wine had run out. The groom will be embarrassed, the people will be angry, and Mary may ultimately look bad because this was her responsibility (if not her, someone was going to be blamed for the shortage). Jesus ultimately said, “Humans cannot tell me what to do because I am doing the will of the Father. However, because the Father has great love for you and wants to be the source of joy in every person’s life, I will take care of the issue… ONLY so I/God can be glorified and so people will believe.” If Jesus’ sole purpose in life was to show the glory of God and draw others into his presence… How much more so with us.
It is not a regular practice for a Baptist Church to, or better yet, an evangelical Pastor to preach a series on the Virgin Mary. I would be willing to bet that even mentioning the words “The Virgin Mary” you already have some mental picture or association of her, and it probably is not a positive one. There are many reasons why evangelicals do not talk much about Mary.
However, when you look at the Protestant and the Catholic views of Mary you will see that both have a misunderstanding of who she is. One side does not appreciate or revere her enough and the other appreciates and reveres her too much. My hope for this series is to gain a proper and biblical view and understanding of Mary, the mother of Jesus. I think it is time for us to be honest in our perception of Mary. We do know that she is a special woman. She is the mother of Jesus. She is the one God chose to bring the Savior of all into this world. However, Mary cannot save us, but she can point us to the Savior.
In this four-week series my prayer and goal is to look at who Mary is and what she represents to us as Christians. In this series we will look at Mary the willing servant, the worshiping follower, the caring mother, and the courageous woman. It is time we gain a proper and biblical perspective of Mary the mother of Jesus.
Mary the Willing Servant
Luke 1:26 - 38
Vs 26: “In the sixth month”- This is sixth month of Elizabeth’s (Mary’s cousin or aunt) pregnancy.
“The angel Gabriel was sent by God…” The name Gabriel in Hebrew means “Man of God”. According to the Bible he is the angel who brings revelation or messages. In Jewish noncanonical writings (Enoch) he is referred to as one of four chief angels (Raphael, Uriel, and Michael). In these writings he described as an intercessor, destroyer of the wicked, one who is set over all powers, and sits at the left hand of God (according to Luke 1:19 He is the angel who stands in the presence of God). Michael and Gabriel are the only two angels mentioned in the Bible and Gabriel is God’s messenger to execute His will on earth.
We also know him as the angel who appears to Daniel when the LORD instructs him to give Daniel clarity to the message he received.
He appears to Zechariah, Elizabeth’s husband, in the previous verses to give him the message that Elizabeth is pregnant with a son. Six months later he appears to Mary to tell her she will give birth to Jesus Christ.
Nazareth is a small town about 70 miles north of Jerusalem. It is surrounded by three sides of a hill making it a town located in a valley. Trade routes would pass nearby the town, but never through it. The town lays outside of regular Jewish life, so it was not a city that was viewed as favorable. Nazareth is the place where Jesus grew up.
Vs 27: “To a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph” – The word virgin is the Greek word Parthenos which means an unmarried virgin female of marriageable age. Both Matthew and Luke state that the young girl was a virgin at conception and remained a virgin through carrying Jesus to full term.
She was engaged to Joseph who was “of the house of David”. This is significant because this was a clan who was in the tribe of Judah, and we are told in the prophecies of the Messiah, that he would come from the lineage of David.
Vs 28: “Greetings favored woman!!” God has chosen Mary specifically. She is the direct recipient of God’s grace, not the bestower. There is nothing in the Bible that indicates there was something uniquely special about Mary, thus we see her as a recipient of God’s grace in its full effect. God chooses or favors her directly from grace. What we do know about Mary is she is an ordinary young girl, and that is it. God did not favor her because of some special trait or ability. He simply chose her because that is who He chose. However, we should note, she is a model saint as she receives the grace.
“The Lord is with you!” – Some translations add, “blessed are you among women.” The angel spoke this to her because, as we will see, Mary is frightened by this encounter with the angel.
Vs 29: “But she was deeply troubled… wondering what kind of greeting this could be.” This is strange because it does not say that she was troubled or afraid because an angel appeared before her (which would have been understandable) but it says she was troubled with the kind of greeting it was. The only thing I can equate this with is that sinking feeling one gets when a boss, supervisor, or a leader calls and says, “Hey Jeff, can you come to my office later today? I would like to talk to you about something.” It is in these moments that the mind starts to race, and you think, “He wants me to come into work on Saturday” or “Did I do something wrong?” or worse, “Am I going to get fired? Can’t he just tell me what he needs now?”
Vs 30: “Do not be afraid” – The angel assures her that there is no need to be afraid. God is with her and he has chosen her to be the recipient of God’s grace thus he has chosen her to be a vessel through whom he works to bring about His will of redemption.
Vs 31: “Listen” – The Angel tells her why she is highly favored. His wording is remarkably similar to the prophetic “virgin” passage found in Isaiah 7:14. She is going to conceive a child, a boy, and his name is going to be Jesus. The name Jesus was a common name in the OT and it remained a popular name through the first century. We see from Matthew 1:21 the meaning of his name indicates that he will save people from their sins. The Greek form of the name Iēsous, which translated into Latin is Jesus, is the same as the Hebrew Yeshua (Joshua), which means “Yahweh saves” (Yahweh is typically rendered as “Lord” in the OT).
Vs 32 – 33: The angel continues to proclaim the destiny, if you will, of her son. He will be called the son of the Most High, He will be the Son of God. He will be a King, like David over the house of Jacob, thus pointing to his relationship with Israel. He will reign as King forever because his Kingdom will remain forever. All these expressions point to Jesus being the long-awaited Messiah even though the angel does not say this directly.
Vs 34: Some think Mary’s response “How can this be?” is a bit puzzling because obviously Mary was betrothed to be engaged and having a child after she was married is certainly not out of the question. All Mary knew so far was she was going to have a child someday. Up to this point the angel did not give clarification as to how or when the pregnancy was going to happen. So, some have suggested, and I agree, that Mary saw this encounter and promise as an immediate conception. This was not something, obviously, that was not going to happen a year or two down the road.
Vs 35: For whatever reason Mary questioned the angel, and he responded with an unusual answer. He indicates that this will not be an average pregnancy and birth. First, she will not conceive by natural means. She will conceive supernaturally by the Most High. “The Most High will overshadow you.” The word for “overshadow” (episkiazō) carries the sense of the holy, powerful presence of God, as in the description of the cloud that “covered” (“settled upon”) the tabernacle when the tent was filled with the glory of God.
Vs 37: “For nothing will be impossible with God.” When reading this account, to the human mind it does not make logical sense at all, but God works beyond our logic. He does not need to be logical in his workings because He works outside of our realm. Once again as I have shared many times Isaiah 55:8 – 9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,and your ways are not my ways.” This is the Lord’s declaration. “For as heaven is higher than earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” God does not need to do things conventionally. He works and moves on His terms, not ours, so when we do not fully understand how something so illogical or incredibly impossible to some is, we need to be reminded of Isaiah 55:8 – 9 and that nothing is impossible with God.
Vs 38: We now see Mary’s true heart and character. We see that which I believe, makes her special and unique. She replies, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it happen to me as you have said.” In her response she acknowledges her position as a servant to God and then proclaims her faith as she submits her will and life to God. She understood what was going on. She knew her fiancé could potentially divorce her, her reputation would be marred, her son would be ridiculed and ostracized, and she knew the potential and the consequences of being accused of adultery in this Jewish society. Yet she accepted the call and submitted to God.
As we have looked today at this marvelous encounter between Mary and the angel Gabriel we can look at the crux of what transpires and ask ourselves what can we learn from this encounter?
 Biblical Studies Press. (2005). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press.
 Liefeld, W. L. (1984). Luke. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, pp. 831–832). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.
Last week we began our two-week study in the Epistle of Jude. This is a short letter (25 verses) written to Christians. It was written from a Jewish point of view, so we conclude that it is written to either solely Jewish Christians or a mixture of Jewish and Gentile Christians who also had an understanding of Jewish traditions. It was written around the mid-60’s A.D. by a person named Jude and was most likely the brother of Jesus.
The purpose in writing this letter was to issue a response and a call to the recipients of this gathering of believers to contend for the faith as false teachers had infiltrated this group.
So far, in our short study in Jude we have touched on the two main points of this letter.
First, Jude urges his readers to contend or fight for the faith (do not tolerate false teaching in the body of Christ fight for the truth) and second, to stand strong for the Apostolic teachings of Jesus Christ (The Gospel - His life, death, resurrection, eternal life, sovereignty etc.)
Motivations of an Apostate
Vs 8: These false teachers had similar, if not the same qualities, as those previously mentioned (wolves in sheep’s clothing). These individuals, however, relied on their dreams to be their guide and claiming them to be from God. The word for dreams is interpreted as a filthy dreamer. This is one who is fascinated with sensual images thus leading to a sinful course of behavior. They were using their dreams and interpretations as ways to…
These false teachers spoke haughtily against God and they did not know the power they were dealing with. In their self-centered living they probably unbeknownst to them thought themselves to be higher than God. Jude says this kind of arrogance is foolishness.
Vs 9: Even the Archangel Michael was not so arrogant as to speak an evil word about one who would have been a contemporary or equal to him. Michael probably could have engaged in a battle with Satan as the two are equal, but instead he does not even hesitate to give the battle over to the Lord. So, instead of engaging in battle with Satan, Michael admonishes this battle to Jesus.
Scholars generally agree that this story was taken from an apocryphal (something that was made up or fictional but circulated as true) book titled The Assumption of Moses. According to this story there was a battle between Satan and Lucifer over the body of Moses after his death. We have no more information about this conflict, but we do know that when Moses died, the Lord buried him, and no one knew where the sepulcher was located (Deut. 34:5–6). This was purposeful on God’s part because there would have been no doubt that people would have made a shrine out of his sepulcher thus tempting them to fall into idolatry; so, God kept the information to Himself. Perhaps Lucifer was privy to this information and tried to claim Moses’ body for himself. Inasmuch as Satan does have a certain amount of authority in the realm of death, he may have felt he had a right to interfere. It is unsure why Jude chose to use this apocryphal writing to make his point, but he does.
Vs 10: Jude continues to write that these false teachers “blaspheme anything they do not understand” (i.e., God, Jesus, salvation, angels etc.) and this is their ultimate destruction. Their understanding is deprived of reasoning and they think based upon their animal lusts, instincts and pleasures, which is their nature.
Vs 11: “Woe to them” Jude does not have hostility and anger towards the false teachers; instead, he has pity on them because he knows they walk according to their own self gratification, greed, ambition and arrogance. They do not have the Spirit of the Living God in them. Everything they do is for their own personal gain. They will do or say whatever they want without moral regard or ethics in order to get what they want. Jude equates them to Balaam (Numbers 22) a prophet who takes money from the Moabite king Balak in exchange for placing a curse on the Israelites (Balaam’s own people). He also associates them to Korah who tries to usurp Moses’ authority in the desert, and he tried to start up a revolt against him and Aaron (Numbers 16).
Vs 12 - 13: Like Balaam and Korah these false teachers are “dangerous reefs”, which is a metaphor of men who damage others morally and secretly because of their conduct. They are dangerous individuals who can cause harm without others knowing it. At their love feasts (which would include the Lord’s Supper) they would only seek to watch out for themselves. They had no regard for the others present. They would go and indulge in gluttony and self-gratification with no regard to the fellowship of the saints.
These false teachers are like…
Vs 14 - 15: This section speaks of the Second Coming or Second Advent of Jesus Christ. Jude quotes from the Jewish text Enoch 1:9. It speaks of a time when the Lord executes judgment. The ungodly will be convicted of their blasphemous deeds they have committed, and they will be held accountable for the words they spoke. Those facing conviction or judgment include…
a.Grumblers – Those who complain against God.
b.Malcontent – Those who are not content with their place where God has placed them.
c.Those following after their lustful desires.
Vs 17: “But you, dear friends, remember…” Jude brings the topic of this letter back to the believers. He spent the past eleven verses reminding the readers about the consequences of sin. He tells them, “remember what was predicted by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We know he is talking to believers now because he calls them “dear friends”. The word “remember” means to be reminded, bring recollection or be mindful of. This is an active thing. The believers are told to make a conscious mental effort to forget all the false teaching they have received and remember the predictions and promises of God.
What are the predictions and promises Jude is speaking of?
Vs 18 - 19: The first promise is that Jesus will come again. We are told in the last days there will be men and women who will try and infiltrate the church with heresy. (Acts 20:29-30, I Timothy 4:1 - 4) and this will be a sign that the end is near. Many people use this verse to suggest that the second coming of Christ is at hand because it speaks of godless scoffers, those who cause division, and immorality as being prominent in the world and we certainly are living in this kind of climate in the world today.
I am not necessarily a prophecy buff. Personally, I believe that godless scoffers, divisive people and and immorality have been running rampant for centuries. So, I cannot say with any authority that the ungodly state of the world right now is sure proof that the return of Christ is at hand. I can, however, say with authority that we are closer to the return of Christ today than we were yesterday or even in 65 AD. I believe the Bible teaches that the return of Jesus is imminent (it is looming, and it could happen at any time and any moment) but we do not know the day or the hour that is why Jesus gave us some sound advice in regard to his Second Coming (Matthew 24:36 – 44). We are indeed living in the last days. When Christ died, rose from the dead and ascended to heaven was the beginning of the end of days. The return of Christ is something believers long for and anticipate, but for the scoffer, immoral and unrepentant it is a fearful and looming event that will come about.
We must be reminded … We are in the last days so we must be on guard, ready and openly sharing the Promise that is in Christ.
The second is the promise of life everlasting to those who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. The Bible explicitly declares the Promise of God through Jesus Christ. We are reminded in John 3:16 that Jesus Christ willingly gave His life on the cross. Contrary to what many of us have learned, Jesus was not murdered by the Jews or the Romans. He willingly laid down his life for humanity. Sure, the Jews and Romans were the ones who beat him, degraded him, mocked him and put the nails in His hands and feet, yet the Bible tells us Jesus GAVE UP his Spirit. He was the one who told death that he was ready… not vice versa. He gave up his life so that “whoever” (by the calling and quickening of the Holy Spirit) believes (puts their faith and trust) in him shall have eternal life. Eternal life… This is the gift and the promise. I don’t think that the promise ends there. The promise goes beyond getting saved and inheriting eternal life. Jesus says in John 10:10, “A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” This means our salvation is not only a future event, but it includes life here on earth. Abundance means excellent or superior. In Jesus Christ we have excellence, we have an extraordinary life, we have much more than what the rest of the world has. We have a superior life here on earth with the promise of an even better eternity in Christ. We have an abundant life because Jesus willingly gave his life for humanity and was raised from the dead for our justification (Romans 4:23 – 25). This superior life comes at a cost, one we are never able to repay… fortunately we do not need to repay it we need to receive it.
Vs 20: According to the Believers Commentary our goal “is to stay close to the Lord and live in unbroken fellowship with Him.” We are called to Persevere! This means that no matter what life throws at us we need to stay near to Jesus and stay the course in fellowship with him. How do we persevere?
Vs 24 - 25
Jude concludes his letter with exuberant praise for the Lord, who alone could keep the readers from being deceived. Victory over apostasy is found in Jesus Christ who is able to keep us from stumbling, and it is in him that we are presented blameless to the Father.
This well-known benediction contains a wealth of spiritual truth for the believer to receive. If we want to keep our feet on the ground spiritually, walk straight, and not stumble, then we must yield ourselves fully to the Savior. He alone is able to guard us, but we must “keep ourselves in the love of God” (Jude 21). There is only one God and He has acted redemptively by sending his Son Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Jesus is our mediator he is our bridge that has made a way for humanity to have access to the Father. Because God has provided a way for us since ALL glory, majesty, dominion and authority belongs to Him from eternity past, to present, to eternity future. This morning may conclude as we magnify and glorify our God and King together? May we proclaim His kindness to all humanity and live an abundant life in Him and in expectation of what is to come.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. "An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire 'BE' series"--Jkt. (Jud 8). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997, c1995). Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments (Jud 20). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1997). The Nelson study Bible : New King James Version. Includes index. (Jud 24). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. "An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire 'BE' series"--Jkt. (Jud 24). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
Opening of the Seals
The Lamb now possesses the scroll and in this chapter the seals are broken, and they are they are divided into two groups, the first group is four and the second is a group of three. The first set contains what we have come to know as the four-horsemen of the Apocalypse. They are among some of the most recognized symbols in the book of Revelation and they have a wide variety of ways they have being interpreted. Most likely they represent God’s judgment and the imagery is closely related to Zechariah’s vision in Ch.1:8 -17 and 6:1- 8. In Revelation the judgment corresponds with the rider and symbolize conquest, slaughter, shortage, and death. In Zechariah the riders patrol the earth and in Revelation they release disaster on the earth.
All of the scenes depicted by the seals take place on earth with the exception of the fifth seal.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Vs 1: The Lamb (Jesus) is the one who is worthy to open the scroll and to bring about set in motion the conclusion of human history. Upon opening the first seal one of the four creatures around the throne of God calls out to the first of four riders of the apocalypse. The call to “Come” is intended for the horsemen, but some translations may read “come and see” and this is interpreted by those who believe the invitation to come is for John.
Vs 2: First rider – riding a white horse with a bow and a crown. Some interpret this rider as Jesus since the rider in chapter 19 is on a white horse and is described as Jesus. However, the rider of ch. 6 and the rider of ch. 19 as the two riders have little in common with the exception that they are both riding a white horse. The rider in Ch. 6 carries a bow and wears a crown (victor’s wreath) and the rider in Ch. 19 wears many crowns and carries a sharp sword. The rider of Ch. 6 is a conqueror and the rider of Ch. 19 is in the context of righteous reckoning or judgment.
The more prominent and common interpretation of the rider identifies him as a conqueror and of military. In the OT the bow usually symbolizes military power. There has been some speculation that this rider represents a feared invasion from beyond the boundaries of the Roman empire. Some compare them to the Parthians as they were the most renown archers of ancient times and they were known for riding white horses. In A.D. 62 Vologeses (the king of Parthia) defeated the Roman army and this caused the West to fear an all-out invasion. Regardless the white horse and rider most likely refers to military conquest in general.
Vs 3 – 4: Second seal – Red (some versions say fiery red) horse and a rider who is given a great sword and given permission to take peace from the earth and slay one another. The color red corresponds with the mission of the rider and that is to bring carnage and slaughter. According to Mounce, “His mission is to remove peace from the earth and allow people to turn their destructive instincts upon one another… (it ) would be quickly understood in John’s day, well acquainted as it was with rebellion and civil disorder. In a single year, a.d. 68–69, Rome had been ruled by four different emperors. It is reported that in the thirty-year period prior to the reign of Herod the Great (67–37 b.c.), more than one hundred thousand insurgents died in revolutions and rebellions in Palestine alone. Anarchy and bloodshed are harbingers of the end.”
Vs 5 – 6: Third seal – Black horse and a rider with a pair of scales in his hands. The voice from the midst of the living creatures announces prices of scarcity or famine. These common items, wheat and barley, will sell at inflated prices.
Denarius = A Roman silver coin equivalent to a day’s wages of a working person. One has to work a full day in order to pay for barely enough for himself. The price will be inflated 10 to 12 times what it should be.
The rider on the black horse is commonly symbolizes famine. Famine was normal in ancient times when after warfare as invading armies would live off of the lands they conquered.
“Do not harm the oil and the wine!”: There are varying interpretations of this statement.
Vs 7 – 8: Fourth seal – Pale horse and it’s rider’s name was Death and Hades followed him. Power is given to this rider over a fourth of the earth, thus giving them the power to bring about death to one quarter of humanity. He will kill based on the four disastrous acts of Ezekiel 14:21: sword, famine, wild beasts, and pestilence/plague.
Mounce sums up the meaning behind the actual Four horsemen of the Apocalypse and their deeds as, “Reviewing the various interpretations assigned to the Four Horsemen tends to rob the contemporary reader of the dramatic nature of the vision itself. It is good to place oneself back in one of the seven churches and listen to the visions as they are being read. Instead of discussing the probable significance of each of the four colored horses those first listeners would undoubtedly have recoiled in terror as war, bloodshed, famine, and death galloped furiously across the stage of their imagination. Visions at best are to be experienced rather than analyzed. Those who approach Revelation with a sympathetic imagination are most apt to understand its true meaning.”
The Martyred Saints
Vs 9 – 11: This is the second part of the division of the seals. The first division comes with the four horsemen as they are released to ride forth and now the scene changes.
Fifth Seal – reveals an altar and under it are the souls of those who were martyred for their faith in Christ or trust in Jesus Christ. They ask how long until their blood is avenged and the answer seems to be, things will get worse before they get better. In God’s time He will pour out his wrath
The altar – Probably refers to both the altar of burnt offerings (sacrifice) and the altar of incense (prayer) and is most likely a culmination of both.
In OT testament sacrifices the blood was poured out at the base of the altar of the burnt offering. The blood contained the life, or souls, of the flesh. The martyrs were under the altar is a way of saying that their premature deaths on earth are from the perspective of God a sacrifice on the altar in heaven. It may also suggest that the altar is the place where the martyrs receive safety.
These faithful individuals gave their lives for the glory of God. They ascend to heaven through suffering and death. This should show to us that there is no guarantee that our lives will be any different. Christians are promised eternal life for their faith in Jesus Christ, but we are not promised protection from pain, suffering, and death. I hear people often say that they wish that Jesus would just take them away (maybe rapture) from troubled times to escape difficulty, suffering, pain, and even piddly inconveniences. Contrary to popular thought and teaching God is not concerned with our modern comforts and easy living. If anything, Jesus promised the opposite in life. As believers we should expect persecution, suffering, and tribulation in this life.
Vs 10: “How long before you judge and avenge our blood…” This is not a request of revenge from a personal perspective, but out of concern for the reputation or glory of God. The martyrs do not have the attitude of many who relish in knowing that one day that those who reject Jesus will be punished in eternal hellfire. It is not based in vindictiveness like Tertullian who writes of how he will laugh and exult at the last judgment as he sees the proud monarchs groaning and weeping in the lowest abyss of darkness, and the magistrates liquifying in fiercer flames than ever kindled against Christians.
Vs 11: Each of the martyrs is given a white robe. Some interpret this to mean spiritual or glorified bodies. However, in Revelation white robes are symbols of blessedness and purity.
There are still others who will be joining them as the persecution continues on earth.
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