repentance

Why the letters to the churches in Revelation are important (It’s about context)

As mentioned several times in this study, the common temptation in Revelation is to disregard the first three chapters. Either (a) the student will assign a deeper theological symbolism to the letters to the churches, or (b) skip them altogether. However, it is the letters to the churches that reveal to us the context of Revelation, and the Lord’s motivation for inspiring the book to be written.

To be honest, the word, “book,” is sort of a misnomer regarding Revelation. Like most of the New Testament, Revelation is a letter. It’s a letter dictated by Jesus, with observations by John, all under the inspiration of the Spirit, addressed to seven churches in Asia, (or, modern-day Turkey.)

With this being a letter from Jesus to seven specific churches, then we have a defined messenger, a defined message, and defined recipients. This means that Revelation is not a coded book of secrets about the future, but rather a direct message to churches about the coming of the Lord, and the preparations that need to be made in the interim.

With that in mind, we can interpret the book of Revelation by reading it as one of the members of those churches would have read it. They didn’t have hundreds of books on Bible symbolism and linguistic training. They took the words of Christ at face value, as we should also.

While there is some symbolic interpretation, the message Christ wants us to take is not one of prophetic knowledge, but one of repentance and faith. Therefore, the letters to the churches should be read, understood, and applied. They are one of the most easily understood and most important passages in Revelation.

With the message of Revelation being repentance and faith leading up to the return of Christ, the letters to the churches demonstrate sins that need to be set aside and repented from, and faith that needs to be applied. If we learn  or understand nothing else from Revelation, let it be the things the Lord wants us to do in light of these letters.

Jesus is coming quickly. Let’s be prepared.

God’s patience runs out

The church at Thyatira, like the other churches in Revelation, had a lot of things going for it… but one issue God took was the sin and immorality that was infiltrating the church. God allowed time for those involved to repent, but they didn’t, so the day of reckoning was coming. From this, we learn that now is always the time to repent.

When It Happens…

On Sunday, Sept. 16, 2001, there were very few empty seats in the churches across America. Over the prior week, Americans had seen the worst terrorist attack executed on the homeland in history. In the following days, we learned that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated by a Middle-Eastern terrorist group called Al-Qaeda, and that we were almost certain to go to war in the Middle East.

Middle Eastern wars and world wars have a way of shaking us from our slumber, because they have the potential to fulfill Bible prophecy, which means the end times could be near, and judgment is coming.

Believing the end may have been near, and that judgment was coming, Americans flocked to their local churches to learn whether the attacks of the prior week had prophetic significance, and to learn how close we were to the end.

Within two weeks, fears of the end had subsided, and church attendance slipped back to normal.

There is something about seeing prophecy fulfilled, or believing that the Lord’s return is imminent, that drives people to sudden repentance and religion.

Such was the case in Mark 1:1-15. Mark opens his account of the Gospel by quoting Old Testament prophecies about the forerunner to Christ. In verses 2-3, he writes:

As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

These verses, taken from Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1, promised that before Christ came, His messenger would arrive and call the nation to repentance. Mark then went on to discuss how John the Baptist fulfilled this scripture:

John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.

-Mark 1:4-5

Seeing the messenger promised in the scriptures, the people flocked to John the Baptist to be baptized with the baptism of repentance in preparation of the coming of the Lord. Not long after that, Jesus came, was baptized of John, went into the wilderness, and re-emerged preaching repentance and belief in the Gospel.

In recording these events, Mark makes two observations. (1) Those events indicated that the Kingdom of God was about to arrive, and (2) with those events having happened years prior to his writing, we are even closer to the day of judgment than we were before.

Thus, Mark writes his Gospel with urgency, quoting Jesus Christ as He called the nation to repentance.

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The words of Jesus in Mark 1:15 are not only the theme of the Gospel of Mark, but they are the sum of the Lord’s teaching. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”

The Lord warns us that the time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand.

What does it mean, “The time is fulfilled?”

If you have ever baked cookies, or even heated a frozen pizza in the oven, you have likely set a timer according to the instructions on the box. When that timer goes off, the time has been fulfilled, and your cookies or pizza is now ready.

When Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled,” He essentially said, “Time’s up! Time to repent. The Kingdom is here.”

We tend to live life as if we have all the time in the world to straighten out our Spiritual matters. Within two weeks after 9/11, we collectively decided that Jesus was not coming back, yet, and thus we quit going to church. We tend to put off Spiritual decisions, commitments to Christ, and resolve to take on those decisions on a more convenient day, which somehow never seems to come.

However, the day will come when our time will be up. And that day is closer than you think.

Whether Jesus comes back tomorrow, or whether he comes back next century, you are still closer than you think to judgment day, for scripture tells us, “It is appointed unto man once to die, and then the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).” While I could tell you stories of people who passed away unexpectedly before their time, the truth is, even if you live to be 100, the end of your life will arrive faster than you think. Consider how fast your life has passed by up until now.

Therefore, we need to place urgency upon our Spiritual lives, and bring ourselves into alignment with the will of God sooner rather than later.

After pointing out the time-sensitive nature of our Spiritual lives, Jesus then called us to repent.

To repent means to change your mind regarding your sin, abhorring the sins of the past, and making the changes in your life so that you never go back into that life of sin. This goes beyond sorrow for sin. It includes a decision, and a change to never allow yourself to be owned by that sin again.

This practice is commonly seen by alcoholics and recovering drug addicts. Sorrowful for the way they’ve destroyed their lives with drug/alcohol abuse, they resolve to never allow that to happen again. Therefore, they avoid certain places, people and things that could trigger a relapse. The repentant sinner would do well to follow this pattern.

Jesus then called us to believe the Gospel.

The Gospel is defined as how Christ died for our sin, according to the scriptures, was buried, and rose again, according to the scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Our hope, our confident expectation of salvation and heaven comes not from anything we’ve done, or overcome, but rather what Christ did on the cross. His death on the cross paid our sin debt and cleansed us from all unrighteousness. Being willing to completely trust that, we place our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.

Christ called us to repent and believe, and so we should. Our salvation experience is not only a life-changing event, it is a total life change.

Seeing then that our time is short, and Christ called us to repent and believe, we should do a self-assessment. Have you repented and believed? Are you saved? Are you different now than you were before?

If the answer to any of those questions is “no,” then it is time to get right with the Lord. Go to Him in prayer. Confess your sins to Him. Ask forgiveness. Trust Him to save you based on His work on the cross. Then, as you arise from that prayer, make the changes in your life to leave sin behind.

If you need encouragers to rally around you during this time, we’d love to help at Life Point Baptist Church. Contact us, or come visit our services. We’d love to be there for you during this important time.

Putting the past where it belongs

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The Lord hath been sore displeased with your fathers… Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Turn ye unto me, … and I will turn unto you, saith the Lord of hosts.

-Zechariah 1:2-3

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be the child of a notorious criminal?

What would it be like to be the child of Lee Harvey Oswald, John Wayne Gacy, Al Capone or Charles Manson?

Think about it. Wherever you went, your father’s name and sins would come up, no matter how hard you tried to separate yourself from his dubious legacy. You could have become a successful businessman and philanthropist, but the second anyone figured out who you were, they would suddenly act awkward, or want to talk to you about your father’s legacy, and what it’s like to be the son of ___________.

What a tragedy for an individual to be doomed to the dark legacy of the sins of his father. Such was the case for the people of Israel during the return from the Babylonian exile. As spoken by the prophet Zechariah, “The LORD hath been sore displeased with your fathers.”

The good news for Israel was that God would not define them by the sins of their fathers. After telling them that He had been “sore displeased” with their fathers, the LORD exhorted the nation of Israel to “Turn ye unto me.” If they did, He would turn to them.

The LORD offered Israel a fresh start. He would cleanse them of their sin, and allow them to become His people, and He would be their God. This was good news for them, and it’s good news for us.

Just as God did not define Israel by the sins of their fathers, neither does He define us by the sins of our fathers. You family heritage does not define you. God created you in a unique way, giving you your own identity and choices.

Therefore, you are not hindered from entering God’s Kingdom just because you come from “a long line of losers.” Furthermore, you are not guaranteed entry into God’s Kingdom just because you come from a family of Spiritual giants.

Every man will stand before God alone on judgment day, with no one to hinder him, and no one to help him, with the exception of Jesus Christ our advocate. Therefore, the LORD says “Turn ye unto me.” This is God’s way of exhorting us to repent of our sin and trust Jesus Christ as our personal savior.

Just as we are not defined by the sins of our fathers, we are not defined by the sins of our past. The people in Zechariah’s day may not have been involved with the idolatry that resulted in the Babylonian exile, but Israel the nation was. Nevertheless, God offered the nation a new start that would come by their repentance and faith.

Like Israel, we can find ourselves in a state of disarray as a result of sinful choices we’ve made. We can find ourselves being chastised by God, reaping the consequences of our choices, and in an overall state of despair.

The promise that God made to Israel also applies to us. “Turn ye unto Me, and I will turn unto you.”

God allows us to reap the consequences of our actions in order to teach us to turn away from sin. If we learn that lesson, and turn from our sin and put our faith in the Lord, He turns to us. When He does this, He delivers us, restores us, and reconciles with us.

As He promised, “Turn ye unto Me, and I will turn unto you.”

When you turn to the Lord, He turns to you, which means that He becomes your champion and your advocate. He restores you, protects you, cleanses you from sin, and blesses you. It’s a promise.

So, as you “consider your ways,” repent from any sin that has infiltrated your life, and renew your faith in the Lord. He will respond to you, and bless you.