Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Beginning of Eternity - Revelation 21-22 Part 2

Revelation chapter 22 begins:

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. The angel said to me, "These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place." (Revelation 22:1-6)

Here we are told that the Lord will heal us – love and joy will replace sin and misery. The curse will be lifted. The curse that we have all lived under since the fall will no longer exist – only blessing for eternity. Also notice that those who are in heaven have the Lord’s name on their foreheads – they believe in and love the Lord – they obey His laws and commandments. This is in contrast to what we are told in Revelation 13:16-17:

‘He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.’

The worldwide political beast will attempt to force everyone to believe its unbiblical doctrine. Instead of focusing on the Lord and His plan, those that accept the mark will be focused on the world and the ruler of this world – satan. Again, the mark relates to deep, spiritual issues. All of us will be forced to make a choice – accept the mark and receive temporary relief in this world and then suffer an eternity in desolation or refuse the mark, worship our Creator and receive persecution on earth – but spend eternity in His kingdom.

The next verses contain words from Jesus Himself:

"Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book." (Revelation 22:7)

"Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

"Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

"I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star."

The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” (Revelation 22:12-17)

We are once again told who will enter the kingdom and who will remain outside. Those that truly believe that Jesus died and was resurrected for them will have ‘washed their robes’. Once again we are told that this offer of salvation is available to all of us – a free gift from a gracious God.

The Bible concludes with these words:

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon."

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen.” (Revelation 22:18-21)

We have discussed this warning from Jesus in a previous post. Since this is of the utmost importance, I’d like to mention something else about this. It is made clear to us that we should not add to or remove anything from the Bible. Whoever does this faces the ultimate punishment – exclusion from heaven. So, how can we tell if a religion (even a religion that says it is Christian) in this world is a false religion that could deceive us? What is one, clearly defined method to determine whether a religion in the world has drifted away from the truth? It’s not hard - that religion will add to or remove from God’s word. Think about this from our enemy’s point of view – what would be the easiest and most effective way to deceive us? Take some of the Lord’s scripture and twist it into something unbiblical – mix the clean (biblical teaching) with the unclean (unbiblical doctrine) – confuse and deceive.

Remember, when Jesus was tempted by satan, what was one way satan tried to deceive our Lord? By trying to twist scripture for his own purposes. How did Jesus respond? With the truth of scripture – as it was intended. This is a lesson for us. If we are truly focused on and are following the Lord, His word will be written on our foreheads. His word will protect us against our adversary.

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."
Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written:" 'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'"

Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."

Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"

Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” (Mathew 4:1-11)

What has the devil offered you to follow him? Wealth? Power? Fame? Worldly glory? How did you respond? Did you respond as Jesus did? Did you reject him? Did you tell him that you serve the Lord? ....or have you accepted his offer? How's it working out? Remember, the devil is always scheming against us. He may offer us short-term gain, but the end result of his schemes will always be misery and destruction. We must reject his lies and focus on following the Lord.

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7)

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10)

Remember, this isn’t a personal attack against anyone, it is simply putting the Lord’s word into practice. So, which religions today add to or remove from the Lord’s word? We have already spent a lot of time discussing how the Papal system (Catholicism) has added to (many unbiblical docrines – worship of Mary, purgatory, Rosary, etc.), taken from (removed the 2nd Commandment) and changed the Lord’s Word (Sabbath). The Mormon religion has created its own book to coincide with the Bible (Book of Mormon). Jehovah’s Witnesses (The Watchtower Organization) use some verses of the Bible (Example: Revelation 14:1) for their own purposes, yet deny many other verses in the Bible (Example: the deity of Jesus, the person of the Holy Spirit) and have created some of their own unbiblical doctrines (Example: Jesus was an angel prior to coming to earth). Islam has taken some of the people and events of the Bible and incorporated the writings of Muhammad (Koran). All of these religions are disregarding one of the final messages (and warnings) of the Bible. Then there are those religions that have nothing to do with the Bible – Buddhism, Hinduism & Scientology are a few of them. Logic dictates that all of these religions cannot be true – only one can be true…or you may say that none of them are true. How can we know? By reading the Bible and praying. If you truly want to know the truth and know the Lord and are willing to give up everything in this world to find Him, He will reveal Himself to you. Remember, the Lord loves us and wants us to come to repentance and know Him. This is why we are given these warnings in His word – to show us the truth and help us overcome the world’s deception.

Remember these words from Jesus when He was asked about the end of time:

“…..many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.” (Mathew 24:11)

“For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible.” (Mathew 24:24)

We have been warned. There is only one true path of salvation. There is only one way to know God and to spend eternity with Him – Jesus Christ.

One final message concerning false religions. The Bible and all truth flows from one source – God. False religion (all of its many forms) and all lies present in the world flow from another source – Satan. We’ve mentioned before that Satan has used the same deceptive techniques for thousands of years for one reason – they work. God tells us that He desires our hearts, a relationship with us – Satan sets up religions concerned with man-made rituals to shift our focus from God to the rituals themselves. God tells us to humble ourselves and rely on Him and His knowledge and wisdom, Satan sets up religions that are full of worldly pride and glory that are concerned with worldly pursuits. God gives us His Holy Word to teach us, guide us and correct us – Satan sets up religions that pull us away from Scripture or religions that tell us there’s no need to read Scripture ourselves – he will translate it for us. God tells us to establish a relationship with Him through the sacrifice of His Son and through prayer to Him only – Satan sets up religions that insert themselves in place of Jesus Christ – salvation through works (works that they create), prayer to idols (in many forms) and through religious rituals. God makes it clear in His Word how we should live our lives and what is required for salvation – faith in His Son. Satan creates religions that add to and delete from God’s Word in an attempt to confuse and deceive. There’s a little bit of Scripture in this religion – that makes it Godly…right? Wrong. Why does God tell us that there is only a remnant on earth that has remained true to Him when there appears to be billions of Christians on the earth? Because many of us have allowed the world, and ultimately Satan, to tell us it’s ok to make subtle changes to God’s Word and what is required of us – yet God never changes – and His Word never changes. If you are involved in a religion that mixes the clean (God’s Word) with the unclean (unbiblical teaching in its many forms), then you are believing Satan’s lie that it’s ok to change what God has given us. It has never been ok – and it never will be. God has made this crystal clear.

“Her priests do violence to my law and profane my holy things; they do not distinguish between the holy and the common; they teach that there is no difference between the unclean and the clean; and they shut their eyes to the keeping of my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them.” (Ezekiel 22:26)

“They are to teach my people the difference between the holy and the common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean.” (Ezekiel 44:23)

I mentioned earlier that Satan uses the same tactics over and over. Let’s go all the way back to the garden of Eden and look at an example.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"

The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' "

"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:1-5)

Notice carefully how Satan deceives. God made it clear that Adam and Eve must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He did not disguise this command or try to deceive – it was made clear and Adam and Eve understood this. What does Satan ask? ‘Did God really say…” He gets you thinking by questioning the truth of God's Word…and you start to forget that God has made it clear. Instead of focusing on God, His love and His commands, you start listening to the lies and the truth begins to get suppressed. You start thinking that it would be nice to have this or do that….and you forget what God has told you. Satan will not only get you thinking about ways to be disobedient – he will outright lie to you. He will tell you it’s ok to disobey God – just as he told Adam and Eve. Verse 5 gives us the most important piece of information about how Satan operates and our world today.

Again, pay close attention to what Satan says:

"For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:5)

What is the bait (temptation) that is cast in front of Adam and Eve? You will be like God. You can obtain Godly power. So, if we see a religion in the world today that offers us the ability to be God, a God – or to be like God – what is the source of this offer? The source of this lie is Satan. The same source it has always been. He made this offer to Adam and Eve and he offers us the same false promise today. Which religions make this false promise? Scientology and Mormonism are two - but there are many throughout the world that tell us that we can eventually attain God-like knowledge and/or power. How should we respond to a religion or religious person who tells us that we can be like God? In the same way Jesus responded:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Phillipians 2:3-11)

Humility is one mark of a true follower of Jesus Christ. Pride and arrogance are marks of false prophets and false religions. Do we glorify God or ourselves? True believers don’t want to be like God – we worship Him. We don’t want worldly power and glory for ourselves – our focus is on praising the Lord and building His Kingdom. We don’t chase after worldly wealth – whatever is given to us is used to glorify Him. This world offers us nothing except the opportunity to serve the One who created us. Satan and the world make lots of promises to us – but they can keep none of them. God offers us salvation if we will humble ourselves, believe in His Son and follow Him – and He is always faithful. Each of us must choose who we believe and who we will follow. Each of us must take a hard look at our lives and ask - ‘Who am I listening to and following? Am I on the narrow path that leads to life or the broad road that leads to destruction? Have I allowed myself to be deceived by the enemy?

All of the prophecies we have discussed on this blog are not fearful to the spiritually mature (wars, beasts, death, weather, false prophets, false religion). They are signs that have been told to us for generations. Signs that point us to one event - the return of Jesus Christ for His faithful disciples. These signs tell the spiritually mature that He is right at the door. We must endure for a little while longer.

Are you ready for His return?

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