Matthew 1 – Past Faithfulness

Read Matthew 1

Advertisements for Ancestry.com and other genealogy tools have risen in recent years.  People seem to be quite fascinated with the past and where they come from.  Yet, even knowing the many generations and some specific events that had to take place to bring about current reality, among the infinite amount of events that could have taken place, amounts to some “fascinating” research.  The past seems to have little to do with where we are and practically nothing to do with where we are going.

However, for the Hebrew tradition, a genealogy is not simply interesting research, it is a recitation of God’s faithfulness throughout history.  Whereas North American culture points us to the future as a way of “creating” our identity, Hebrew culture looks to the past for theirs.  We tend to look to who we are becoming as our identity (what do you want to be when you grow up?); the Hebrew people look back, through time and generations, to their creator for theirs.

I wonder if this is a better way to look at life and gain perspective on God’s faithfulness.  We always look to the future and find ourselves wondering, struggling with doubts about whether God will show up.  But what if we turned ourselves around?  Rather than focusing on an unseen future, what if we focused on a certain past?  God has proven Himself faithful throughout history, since the very beginning.  Like a child that, while venturing out, always looks back to her parents for reassurance, might we as Christians focus less on the unknown future and more on God’s faithful actions in the past to give us assurance?  Perhaps this is what David meant when he wrote in Psalm 37, “Commit your way to the Lordtrust in Him, and He will act.”



Isaiah 2:2-5 "Engage the Word"

01/03/2016 – The Word of God is transformative! When we engage it, when we listen for it and open ourselves to it, God will transform our lives! We are challenged to read the through the Bible!

Check out more at www.faith4today.org



Introduction to Matthew

The book of Matthew is the first of the four Gospels in the New Testament, telling the story of Jesus life, death, and resurrection.  Matthew is known as one of the three “Synoptic Gospels,” along with Mark and Luke, because of its agreement with Mark and Luke in timeline and content.  As we read through each of these books though you will notice that each one of them has a bit of a different point of view, in the same way that different people experiencing the same event would describe it with slight differences.  For the Gospels, these differences arise from the different purposes for writing as well as the audience that is being written to as you can see below.

 

As you can see from these two images while each of the authors wrote about Jesus, each Gospel has a bit of a different theme and direction to it.  Yet each of theme communicates the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel of Matthew’s theme is derived from the specific audience he is writing to.  Because Matthew is working to show the Jewish people that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the promised King from the line of David.  Matthew begins with a genealogy that proves Jesus’ lineage, being from the house of David, and uses phrases that would have been familiar to the Jews like “the Kingdom of Heaven” or “Son of David.”  He also uses the phrases like “to fulfill all righteousness” or other references to fulfilling Old Testament Scripture.

This does not, however, mean that Matthew restricted his writing to only Jews.  Many times it is recorded in his Gospel the outward trajectory of the Jesus from Jews to Gentiles, culminating in the Great Commission, Jesus’ parting words after His resurrection.



Luke 1:68-79 "Advent Peace"

In a season where the celebration of the holidays have taken precedence over the meaning and reason for their celebration, it is important for us to turn our attention to Christ, the Prince of peace. Today we explore some of the implications of the Peace of Christ in our lives.

1. Through Christ I have peace with God. I am forgiven (Romans 5).
2. Through Christ I am able to have peace with myself (Romans 8). I have not been given a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). “Let the Peace of Christ rule in your hearts…” Colossians 3:15
3. Through Christ I am called to show peace with others (Romans 12:18). We are bringers of Shalom.

-How can I be a “bringer of peace” this Advent Season?
-Who is God calling me to show His peace to in my life?
-What are places in my life that I need to let the peace of Christ in?



Deuteronomy 8:7-18 – "Eat, Drink, and Remember"

Thanksgiving Eve, 11-25-2015 – On Thanksgiving and throughout the holiday season we will have many chances to eat and drink and be filled.  But do we remember where our blessings come from in these times?  When culture and commercial would tell us we work hard to earn our own keep and deserve our own rewards, do we keep in mind the true source of our blessings?



Matthew 28:18-20 – "Go: Ends of the Earth"

When we talk about being sent out as Christians, our conversations invariably turn towards missions and missionaries.  Jesus sends us out in His name to “the ends of the earth,” but does that necessarily mean other countries or continents?  Or are we called to minister to people next door or down the street who are experiencing “the ends of the earth” in their lives right now?



Reflections on Reactions

There seems to be an overabundance of fear that has crept into the world in this last week.  I have seen it expressed in the news and especially on social media.  While the answers of what to do about this and that still seem to be points of discussion, or perhaps simply narcissistic, positional posturing with no real desire for dialogue or anything other than to dismiss the argument of the “other side” and prove that they are wrong at all costs.

While each “side” continues to try to proverbially bash the other over the head with Scripture to prove themselves, I am reflecting on what Jesus meant in Luke 12:49-53, about a house, a family, even parents and children that are divided.  I also wonder if there are places in Scripture that might offer us wisdom in how we should be conducting ourselves… in public… on social media… and in other forums where we have so readily thrown our Christian brothers and sisters under the bus.

While the book of Proverbs offers much wisdom, it is perhaps the words of James come to mind most readily for me:

James 1:19-20

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 

I wonder if too often we get caught up in the notion that we are adding to the “conversation” by constantly putting our views out there, dismissing the views of others.  Yet far to often we forget that the very meaning of “conversation” and “dialogue” is, by definition, an act of listening as much, if not more than you are speaking.  I think that if we are honest, we have forgotten how to do this.

Now we could blame social media, twitter, “liberal” or “conservative” media, cell phones, or any number of other things, and yet I think the simple fact is the only people we have to blame is ourselves.  Whether our intentions are good or not is besides the point really, we have taken the easier road of boastful and sometimes even arrogant statements about what we think (which is obviously right) and made sure that those who oppose our view know that they are wrong.  Our words are cutting, demeaning, and sometimes even dehumanizing.

We have been shouting at each other for so long in such a public venue that, rather than proving our point to anyone, we have collectively turned our Christian voice into nothing more than two people shouting into two empty rooms.  Instead of contributing a solution to the problem, both sides, whom I assume are well meaning, have only contributed to a stalemate in solving the real problems that do exist.  Instead we have, perhaps unknowingly, chosen to promote that which we feel is most important: Our Own Opinion.

We claim that we are “following in the ways of Jesus” who stood up against bigots and pharisees, and yet we fail to recognize that there is only one mention of Jesus going into a situation with “guns blazing.”  In every other situation it wasn’t Jesus who spoke first, but the others.  They asked their questions, made their statements, and said their piece and Jesus was willing to hear it.  Granted there was loving, and sometimes forceful correction that took place, and I think that is necessary for us today as well, however it comes in the midst of listening and loving those He spoke to, even if they were “spiritually blind.”

What would it mean to really listen to our brothers and sisters?

What would it mean to really look at the problems that others struggle with?

Maybe it would mean that we don’t so readily dismiss the legitimate fears of others surrounding refugees and terrorists…

Maybe it would mean opening our eyes to the real struggles of those forced from their homelands with absolutely nothing who simply want a safe place to exist…

Hopefully it would mean that we could, for a moment, stop proof texting our own arguments in Scripture and allow the Holy Spirit’s voice to speak to us… and through us… from God’s Word…

…a voice that calls us to “carry each other’s burdens” and to “keep the unity of the Spirit through the bonds of peace.”

I would not presume to know the solutions to the problems that we are currently facing in the world.  I don’t know how to take down ISIS or what to do with hundreds of thousands of refugees.  To be honest, I am still seeking to come to grips with the fact that several hundred (I think over 500 at this point) have died in terrorist attacks that we have heard about, and I’m sure there have been more that we don’t know about.  Women and children are still enslaved in the sex trade each day, humans sold into bondage.  Corrupt Governments in the most powerful nations in the world argue and bicker over everything under the sun, but the real needs of people, whether refugees or homeless veterans are not addressed.

I do not know how to deal with these things… what the answers are… how to begin to address them… so I will say nothing and just listen… I hope I will gain wisdom… and will continue to care for the least, the last, and the lost in any way that I can…

…but this one thing I do know.  I know that my Redeemer lives and one day He will stand upon this earth.  I know that He who is the first and the last is making all things new.  I know that Jesus Christ loved the world so much that He gave His life that we could live.

And I know that, in the midst of so much that would give cause for fear, for doubt, for hesitation, I can say with the Psalmist these words:

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.



Matthew 9:35-38 GO: Judea and Samaria (Our Communities)

Christians often hear messages about outreach and are told that we need to be “reaching out” to our communities. When Jesus sees the crowd following Him, he has compassion on them. Do we see our community the way Jesus sees the crowd? Do we have the compassion of Jesus for our neighbors and friends?



Ephesians 5:21-6:9 "Go: Jerusalem (Family and Work)"

We are called by Jesus Christ to “Go into all the world.”  Part 1 of 3 in our series entitled “Go” as we use Acts 1:8 to guide our conversation.  Jesus say, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea & Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  This week we will talk about our individual ‘Jerusalems,’ which we are interpreting, for this week, as our families and work relationships.



John 6:25-40 "The Bread of Life"

Too often we find ourselves looking for things in this world to satisfy our Spiritual hunger.  Jesus says, “I AM the Bread of Life.  They who come to me will never hunger, and those who believe in me will never thirst.”



Starting again

After a long hiatus from writing, I feel what I think is the urge to begin writing again.  I’m not entirely sure what this will look like yet.  However, one this I do know is that it will be on a different website which I am currently working on.  Once complete, I will transfer all of the work of this website to the new one (and will most likely close this blog down after a time).

During this time I will also be consolidating my writings.  Other posts from other blogs will be added to this site before it is all moved to the new one.

I am blessed by those who follow and comment.  I hope to be writing and interacting with you soon!



Day 365: Revelation 20-22; The New Heaven and The New Earth

As we close this journey that we began a year ago, we come also to the final scenes of John’s vision in Revelation, and the final goal of what God has been working towards since the very beginning of this story.  This vision, this end purpose, the final will of God which we see in Revelation chapter 21, is that which we are told about in both our reading today and also that which we have heard about for for the past 364 days.  God’s ultimate goal, God’s overall will for creation has always been reconciliation… and that is what we see here today, reconciliation and restoration… a return to Eden, to paradise, to a time when all of creation lives in the presence of God for all time.

You see, what we read here today is the second high point of salvation history, the first being the salvation brought through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  To think, though, that the scope of this salvation is limited simply to humans would be a gross understatement.  Sadly, however, this understanding of salvation is that which runs rampant in the church today and is perhaps a symptom some of the greatest misunderstandings of discussions about the end times and all that will take place.  For too often we’ve pared down Jesus’ salvation work to the saving of human souls so that they can go to heaven when they die.  Again, this is a sad understatement of God’s plan of salvation throughout the Bible.

This thinking, as I said, is held by many people and often leads to an “escapist” mentality of the end times.  Whether it be from natural death or the second coming of Christ, the prevailing opinion that seems to have taken mainstream Christianity by storm is that of the hope of “getting out of here” to be with Jesus.  Thinking like this has become rather prevalent in the idea of the rapture, the idea that Christian’s somehow get to be taken away from the earth in these last years so that they don’t have to endure the awful judgments and trials that are described in Revelation.  While one can understand the desire to not be around destruction of that magnitude, if indeed these are literal things that are going to happen on earth.

However, what is very clear here at the end of Revelation is that this escapist mentality is not what is described in the vision that is given to John.  In fact, it is not what has been shown for us throughout the whole of Scripture.  When sin entered the world, all of creation was affected, and the effect was systemic.  From that point on, God has been working His will through the people that He has called, to bring about the restoration of all creation, so that all things would be reconciled to Him.  How do we see this?  Because what is described to us in these final chapters is that of Heaven coming to a renewed and restored creation.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.  The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

There are several characteristics of this New Heaven and New Earth that we see here.  We hear the voice from heaven saying that “The dwelling of God is with men.”  More than this, in the words that follow John describes the New Jerusalem as being without a Temple.  This is interesting because the Temple was THE center of Jerusalem and the center of all religious life for the Hebrew people.  However, when the New Heaven and the New Earth are present, and God is dwelling with people, there is no need for a center of Worship because God will be the center of worship.  Jesus is the light and there is no need for the sun.  In short, God is the source of everything, the sustaining force of all that will be present in this new Eden.  I think this is even more interesting because this has been the Hebrew view of reality all along.  God is the center, the source, the completion of all being.  As John writes, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

From the beginning to the end, all things have been and continue to be through God.  He is the sustaining force of all creation and at the same time is working to redeem it, restore it, and reconcile it back to Himself.  This is the end of the story, the true end of all things… the conclusion of our journey both through Scripture and in life.  This is the fulfillment of the Covenant, the completion of the people being God’s people and He being their God.  This too is the truest and fullest realization of the Kingdom of Heaven as it comes to earth when the true King comes in all of His glory, splendor, and majesty on the day that only the Father knows.  Maranatha!  Come Lord Jesus.

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

(I would like to mention, that the articles that I am referencing as “related” are those that have been suggested by wordpress and do not necessarily support of coincide with the beliefs that I hold or write about.  I neither cast my unknowing support to them nor do I say that they are wrong, simply conversational partners in this journey through the Scriptures.)



Day 364: Revelation 17-19; The Fall of Babylon and the Marriage Supper

In many ways, today’s reading has a lot to do about sex.  At first glance this seems rather odd to us as we have been talking about the end times and all that is to come, and suddenly we are talking about a prostitute and a great beast and all the sexual immorality of the earth.  But, if we think back over the course of our reading of Scripture again we will remember that God and the prophets often refer to Israel’s idolatry as a form of spiritual prostitution, and God often relates their running after God to the same idea as adultery.  The vision we get of Israel is of a young woman that the Lord saved from her misery, pulled her out of the proverbial mud, cleaned her up and adorned her with white robes as a bride.  However, this bride was unfaithful to Him, going off and prostituting herself to other gods.  At times the prophets said that she would welcome in anyone that she encountered on the street corner.  This is how bad things had gotten in Israel, yet even in that God still welcomed her back.

We get a lot of this same vision today, however we see it on a much grander scale applying to the people of the world.  They have gone off and prostituted themselves to the beast, to the antichrist and opened themselves to him.  The reason that sexual imagery is used here, I think, is to communicate the depth of personal giving that is taking place in the hearts of those who follow the antichrist.  Not only do they sin by not listening to  God and not living in the way that He would have them live, they have given their whole selves up to the antichrist in the way that God so desires them to turn to Him.  It is this depth of knowing, this depth of giving that conjures up images of marriage and sex, the deepest self giving that we know as humans.  It is important to note here too that, as detestable as this sounds, even John marveled at the beast and the prostitute which I think goes to show how incredibly enticing this will be.  While I don’t know about what this is or could be actually pointing to, but I know that there is a sinful lifestyle out there that, though we may condemn, we also often stop to take a second look.  We too must be careful because the beast is out there seeking whom he may devour.

So from here we see an angel that is calling out and declaring the fall of Babylon.  Now, in Hebrew literature, Babylon is the symbol of all evil, idolatry, and eternally the enemy of God.  This started being true in the Exile, when the Babylonian army destroy the Temple in Jerusalem.  From then on, they were labeled as the enemies of God.  Some have taken these references to Babylon to mean that, in the last days, the antichrist will actually seek to rebuild the city of Babylon and will rule from there.  I don’t necessarily agree with this notion, though I don’t see it as being out of the realm of possibility either.  Remember that this whole time we have been talking about the fact that these Scriptures do not necessarily denote a series of events, but rather a broad brush stroke of what is to take place before all things come to their already given conclusion.  Babylon, like the beasts and much of the other vivid imagery may just be an image, a grouping of the enemies of God.  In this instance, the angel is communicating to us that the enemies of God have fallen, no longer to rise.  This could mean spiritually there is no turning back for them, or it could mean that in this instance they are truly defeated.  In any case, what we see is that “Babylon,” despite all of her good looks, fine clothing and jewelry, and all that she offers to entice the people of the earth, at some point this will come to an end, that she will not do business anymore, and that the true lie of all she does will be exposed.

For this, all those in heaven rejoice!  Not simply because the truth of Babylon has been exposed to the whole world, but because God has judged her accordingly and she is indeed fallen.  Later we see Jesus coming on a white horse and throwing down Satan, the beast, and capturing him.  All of heaven rejoices at this happening!

Finally today, we get a chance to talk about the marriage supper of the Lamb.  This is an image of a great feast that will take place in heaven with all believers, those whose names are written in the book of life.  Jesus invites everyone to His table, all those who believe in His name are welcome there.  When we celebrate communion together as a church, not only “do this in remembrance” of Jesus’ last supper, but we do it in anticipation of this event that will take place in the future as well!  There will be a time when Satan is defeated and sin is no more and all those who believe in the name of Jesus and have been saved by grace, through faith in Him, will sit down at His table and feast with Him!  What an exciting prospect to be a part of this some day!  This is what we look forward to at the end of time, being in the presence of our Savior and Lord, sitting and eating at His table, being free from sin, death and persecution forever and ever, amen!

(I would like to mention, that the articles that I am referencing as “related” are those that have been suggested by wordpress and do not necessarily support of coincide with the beliefs that I hold or write about.  I neither cast my unknowing support to them nor do I say that they are wrong, simply conversational partners in this journey through the Scriptures.)



Day 363: Revelation 13-16; The Beasts, The Mark, and the Bowls of Wrath

Today we get the dubious pleasure of meeting more beasts and seemingly crazy images that John is being shown in this vision.  Right off the bat we meet two beasts.  The first one is a beast the arises out of the Sea and has many of the same features as the dragon from yesterdays reading.  In fact, the dragon gives in the power that it has and “his throne” on earth.  There have been many interpretations about what this image means.  Some have interpreted it as a symbol of the Roman empire and its rule in the world.  At this time the Roman empire was heavily persecuting Christians throughout the known world, times were rough and the empire itself probably seemed like a beast of sorts, trying to stamp out the Christian movement while it was still in its infancy.

Other’s have seen this beast as the antichrist, a false messiah that will show up in the world speaking great words and drawing many to himself as he has great authority on the earth.  This has been interpreted to signify a particular human or perhaps a government and perhaps even a corporate institution that will both wield authority and also set itself up as a sort of “savior” of the world.  Like we have held all along though, this Scripture is not meant to point out any one specific thing as being exactly what John is seeing here, but rather to serve as a warning, like Jesus’ words in Matthew 24, that there would be those that would come that would try to draw people, especially believers away from God.

We also meet the second beast today, one that rises out of the land.  Where these beasts come from are rather significant in the Hebrew worldview.  Remember that water symbolizes death and chaos, from the time before creation was created.  It was out of the swirling waters of nothingness that God created everything and it is out of this same chaos that the first beast comes from.  However the second beast is one that arises from creation itself, from the land that has been long plagued with sin.  Perhaps this represents a different nature to this second beast.  It is clearly seen that this second beast has a direct impact on the relationships of people as well as commerce and even the ability to live and make a living.

Together these three, the dragon, the beast from the sea, and the beast from the earth have been called the “unholy trinity.”  This is a direct opposition to the Triune nature of God, and these three directly oppose God.  In some ways this makes sense in that the dragon is seen attacking the woman, trying to thwart the overall plan of God, the beast from the Sea comes from the same place that we see John talk about Jesus, the Divine Word made Flesh, coming from in the very beginning.  The second beast then would be in contrast to the Holy Spirit, working within the hearts of humanity, working against their relationships with each other and with God.  While this is an interpretation, the number that is given for this seems to coincide with this a bit.  John gives the number 666 as the mark of the beast, but also says that understanding this number calls for wisdom.  It could mean a lot of things, but the significance of the three numbers that are all one less than seven, a number representing the divine, does seem to suggest something.  The three numbers often represent God, the three persons of God, and the number seven represents wholeness or completeness.  It would stand to reason then, that God’s number could easily be 777.  With that being said, the number 666 represents imperfection, only an attempt to be divine, to have any sort of power.  It is only with the One True God that the fullness and completeness of Divine power, love, and grace and be seen.

Finally today I want to draw our attention once again to the working of God’s wrath in Revelation 16.  These are very powerful images that come to us, visions of God’s wrath being poured out on the earth from bowls.  In some ways it is very difficult to even read about and these images bring to our minds questions about how the God of Love could do such things.  Once again I think it is important to remember that God’s love is actually the source of God’s wrath.  When sin entered the world, all of creation was corrupted and set on a path of sin.  From that time on, oppression and injustice were present.  We see this throughout history and especially when it comes against the people of God, the wrath of the Lord is kindled.  This isn’t judgment out of anger, it is the deep deep passion of God’s love for His creation that has been aroused to righteous anger.  The Lord is indignant because all He has created which He loves so much is being torn apart by sin.  As we read about these bowl judgments we see that it is said time and again that people would not turn to God, that instead of repenting they would curse God and not worship Him.  Ultimately this is the goal of God’s wrath and judgment upon creation; it was when He was judging Israel, it is now, and it will be when these come to pass in whatever form they come in.  God is trying desperately to get the attention of those who refuse to follow Him and in so doing He is also punishing the sin that has plagued all of creation.

Unfortunately, these are not things that we often here anymore.  We talk a length about the love of God and the compassion that He and stuff.  These are all well and good… however it leaves a lot of questions to be answered when we read of God’s judgment on creation.  The fact of the matter is that God is a God of love, but He is also a God of justice and we have to hold both of these things in His hand.  We like to think that everybody is just going to be happy in the end, but as that end approaches there will be those that won’t be happy about it, those that have chosen to reject God and oppose Him.  While there will be ample time for them to repent, with lots and lots of warnings as we clearly see here, there will be a time when the end will come and the choice to oppose God and refuse Him will be final.  Again this is unfortunate; my heart aches even as I write this, but it is the reality that we are presented with in Scripture… no matter how much we don’t want to hear it.  Jesus Christ offers us the hope of salvation by grace alone through our faith in Him.  All we need to do is accept Him as our Lord and Savior and believe in His Name.  We never know how much time is actually left which means that we need to be sharing the Gospel of Grace with everyone all the time!

(I would like to mention, that the articles that I am referencing as “related” are those that have been suggested by wordpress and do not necessarily support of coincide with the beliefs that I hold or write about.  I neither cast my unknowing support to them nor do I say that they are wrong, simply conversational partners in this journey through the Scriptures.)



Day 362: Revelation 8-12; Trumpets, Witnesses, and a Great Battle

We talked a bit about judgment and wrath yesterday, however we did not speak of one important aspect to God’s wrath and God’s judgment, something that I think needs to be mentioned here as we continue in our journey to the end of all things.  If we think back to the prophets, we see the warnings of the impending doom that come from the mouths of the prophets, warnings of the judgment AND a call to turn to God, to repentance so that the judgment may be averted.  While many of these images are unique to the book of revelation, they do hold similarities to those warnings spoken by many of the prophets about the judgment that would take place on Israel, Judah, and Jerusalem.  Here too we see God working to get the attention of all people, working to call them to repentance that they may turn to Him and be saved.  The image of the trumpets then, is not one that is so strange as trumpets and horns have been used throughout the ages to communicate with and get peoples’ attention.

I’m kind of at a loss for words in what to write next.  As we are walked through the judgments we see a great number of people dying and horrible natural disasters.  There is this meteor that falls into the water of the earth called “wormwood” which is the  name of a very bitter plant.  It could be representative of the bitterness of God’s judgment.  We also see that only a portion of the world’s population was killed, which means that there are limits to the judgments that are being poured out, at least for the time being.

There is really so much to write about here in these five chapters, we see a number of angels and demons working in different ways.  The demons seem to be working to torture and tempt those still on earth, working against God to continue to keep humanity on its destructive and sinful paths.  The Angels also seem to be at work, warning humanity of its impending judgment, carrying out the work of the Lord.  We also see that there are “witnesses” that show up as well.  In the “Left Behind” series these witnesses are Elijah and Moses who come back to earth with supernatural powers.  Actually, many of the signs that they do are indicative of the things that both did while they lived on this earth.  They were also present at the transfiguration of Christ before He journeyed to Jerusalem and to His death.  It could also be symbolic of the witness of the Word of God to the people, the two could simply represent the Old and New Testaments.  In any case, these join with the work of the Angels and that of the believers in declaring the Word of the Lord and warning humanity of the impending judgments and encouraging them to believe in Jesus.

Finally today we come to a somewhat extended narrative in this vision about “the woman and the dragon.”  There is a lot that takes place in chapter 12 and we will be revisiting it in further chapters as well.  John says that “a great sign appeared in heaven.”  This sign was that of a woman that was dressed like the sun, and had a great deal of imagery about her that is similar to one of the dreams of Joseph way back in Genesis 37.  It is enough to say that with this imagery, most people think that she is representative of the people of God.  In fact, we have talked about Israel being represented in the Bible as a woman adorned for her bridegroom, who is God.  Here she is pregnant and gives birth to a Son, another image of Jesus present in Revelation.

The dragon is also there, ready to snatch up the baby, who we are told is “the one who is to rule all the nations…”  Many people associate this dragon with Satan, with the different heads and crowns and horns to represent his earthly rule over the kingdoms of the world.  Some have also seen this as an image of the Roman empire, or perhaps corrupt world governments in general throughout history.  However, what we see is that the powers of evil were working against the plan of God, trying to prevent the coming of Jesus and the salvation that He brings.  We saw this with Herod at Jesus birth and we tend to see it often in our lives with those that persecute Christians and repress the freedom to worship God.

The deeper imagery here is revealed in verse seven of chapter seven, of a great war that is going on between the angels of God and the dragon, the evil powers that would seek to enslave and destroy all things.  While we may be naive as to what is going on all around us, there is a great war that is being waged between good and evil, between God and Satan.  This is something we tend to dramatize, glorify, and even over emphasize.  I think though that the point here really is that we need to make sure that we are aware of what is going on around us in our world today.  Satan would have us believe that he doesn’t exist, that demons don’t exist, and that he is not working against us to bring about our destruction.  What John is showing us here is that there is definitely more to this world than what we see with our eyes.  This doesn’t necessarily give us the right to start attacking corrupt governments, destruction groups, or evil people, but rather to pray against them, pray for them, and ultimately trust that God is on our side and that He is fighting for us.

We see clearly that the dragon is defeated here.  He has been thrown out of heaven and though he is still on the earth seeking those that he may devour, his doom has been sealed and his final defeat assured.  It is only a matter of time really, which is yet another thing that John is communicating here.  Has he had been encouraging the churches with his letters, so to does he encourage them now by laying out this vision that we might persevere with the assurance that the end of this story has already been told, and that our victory is assured in Jesus Christ the only true King and ruler of this world.

(I would like to mention, that the articles that I am referencing as “related” are those that have been suggested by wordpress and do not necessarily support of coincide with the beliefs that I hold or write about.  I neither cast my unknowing support to them nor do I say that they are wrong, simply conversational partners in this journey through the Scriptures.)