Consolations for Overcomers, Part 2

The consolations of God - Eleventh in a series

Repeating the question from the previous post: Can we find our own church in the ‘seven candlesticks’ of the Revelation? Is there a word or message for you?

Be wholehearted in your faith

The church at Ephesus had many good points: the congregation had labored for Christ, demonstrated patience and tested the spirits to prevent doctrinal errors. But they had left their first love. The Lord seeks wholehearted devotion; he is a jealous God (Ex 34:14). For any who love God best of all, striving continually to put first His kingdom and righteousness, standing against temptations to wander, there will be great reward: To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. (Rev 2:7)

Persevere

Smyrna was a special church among the seven; she had already entered into the season of tribulation. She was simply encouraged to be faithful unto death and would then receive a crown of life. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. (Rev 2:11)

Be pure

Pergamos suffered by location in an area where Satan had his base of operations, yet her members had not denied their faith even when some in their number were martyred. However, some practiced divination rather than presenting their need for guidance in prayer to God, and some subscribed to the Nicolaitans' teachings that opposed purity and degraded the Christian witness. To the repentant and To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. (Rev 2:17) In the ancient courts of justice the accused were condemned by black pebbles and the acquitted by white. (ref)

Beware of the occult

Thyatira was commended for her charity, service, faith and zeal. However, they tolerated a prophetess, 'Jezebel,' who seduced God's children to fornicate and to eat what was sacrificed to idols. She had been given opportunity to repent but did not, so she would be punished and those who followed her would "be killed with death." (Rev 2:23) “And all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts; and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.” (vs 23) From this verse we understand that the Lord sees our inner selves and whether we resist temptation or entertain sin. Overcomers will receive GREAT rewards: Power over the nations — And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father And I will give him the morning star. (Rev 2:27-28) Jesus is the morning star. (Rev. 22:16)

Revive!

Sardis was famous for works but Jesus saw a dead church; he could see through the reputation. She was exhorted to strengthen what remained and was about to die, and to remember all that she had received, and to repent. Otherwise his return to her would be as a thief in the night. Yet, he saw that some had not "defiled their garments" so they would walk with him in white. (Rev 3:4) He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. (vs 5)

Wait, trust and obey

Philadelphia had kept Christ's word; she would be helped to serve, and those of the synagogue of Satan which claimed to be Jews would bow to her and know Christ loved this church. She had shown patience, waiting on the Lord in tribulation, so in turn He would keep her from temptation, that is, a severe time of testing that would come, to try all who dwell on the earth. Yet, she was warned to hold on to her careful obedience to God. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. (Rev 3:12)

Be careful and wise; do not be deceived

Laodicea was a deceived church. She thought she was rich but was poor, wretched, blind, naked and miserable (Rev 3:17) and was advised to invest in purification by costly repentance and to earnestly seek God's righteousness. Christ would dine with any who heard his voice and opened the door to him. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. (Rev 3:21)

Objections to Christmas Answered

Thanksgivings on Special Occasions - Third in a series

Christmas originated as a way of lifting up God's Son as the Light of the world, to counter pagan celebrations. In 320 AD Pope Julius set December 25 as the official date of Jesus' birth; then the Emperor Constantine proclaimed it as an ‘immovable feast’ in 325 AD —so it does not change in date from year to year as Easter does. Constantine also decreed that Sunday would be the Roman day of rest.

Not all Christians today nor across the centuries have seen Constantine’s proclamations as binding, yet even after 17 centuries some still are honored. The U.S. established Dec. 25th as a federal holiday in 1887 after 14 states had made it a legal holiday. All non-essential government offices, schools, banks and many businesses close, giving families an opportunity to travel and have reunions. A good thing!

Nevertheless, in Daniel, we read: And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand… (Dan 7:25) This prophecy seems to say that the Antichrist will have the power to change or to erase ‘immovable’ dates.

U.S. law notwithstanding, some still object to celebrating Christmas. They object to the mention of the “mass” in the word Christmas. Mass is the Roman Catholic term for communion. Yet we all understand that Christmas celebrates Christ's birth. We use common terms such as ‘baptism’ with other denominations despite each having specific connotations. We also accept and use the word Sunday which has reference to the sun god's day, associated originally with pagan worship, as Monday was the ‘moon's day’ and Tuesday was named for the god of war, and so on.

Many festivals were celebrated at the time of the 16th century Reformation such as the feasts of the apostles, of Mary and others, and practices had been added to church life that encouraged superstitions and heresy. It was time for purification and revival; the Catholics agree here.

The church has re-formed and evolved over time in its understanding and practices. For example, the Trinity was defined in the third century, definitions of heresies were added at various junctures, the "full humanity and full divinity" of Jesus was established in the 5th century, and some things that were not part of the New Testament church have become usual, such as church buildings, creeds and confessions, tiny cups and miniature crackers for communion, baptistries, Sanctity of Life Sunday, handbells, and thanksgivings on special occasions.

Many of us object to the debauchery—the “extravagant merriment… bacchanalian lasciviousness’ in the season of Christmas. Merchandising and retail mayhem, puddings and candies, liquors, parties, jingle bells, ho-ho-ho, Secret Santas, gaudy decorations and blending the secular with the holy. Yet, there is also the divine joy of Christmas hymns, caroling, special decor, worship and family gatherings.

Objections are sounded against “adding to the Bible”– which Scripture forbids – (Deut 4:2; Prov 30:5-6; Rev 22:18) and degrading the worship of God:

  • “All modes of worship must be expressly sanctioned by God's word, if they are to be considered legitimate. Since Christmas observances, and other ecclesiastical festivals, are not commanded in the scriptures, they fail to meet divine approval, even if there were no additional objections to them." (Presbyterian Heritage Publications)
  • “The sons of Aaron are … condemned for bringing strange, or ordinary fire to God's worship; as doing that which God had not commanded, and yet had not otherwise forbidden... And this is the very plea which we make against ceremonies of human institution, in God's worship." (William Ames (1576-1633), prominent English Puritan)
    • “The strange fire of Nadab and Abihu was fire that did not come from the brazen altar; therefore, it is a type of failing to worship God on the ground of the shed blood of Christ." (ref)

Celebrating the birth and incarnation of the Lord at a special time of year as a tradition does not add "strange fire" that is, a different definition of what it means to be saved. Rather, it focuses us even more on Jesus Christ as Lord, born of a virgin, the Word made flesh.

Despite the commercialization, Christmas offers opportunities for evangelism that don't exist otherwise, and helps to teach church history and important facts about Jesus. Any special church service such as on Christmas Eve or Day can become a time for outreach.

Not all Christians celebrate Christmas, and no one should be forced to. Each year I look forward to Christmas, and celebrating it does help me to worship.

This blog series will continue some time in the New Year, DV, Deo Volente, God willing. Merry Christmas!

Three rebellious types

Jude - Seventh in a series

Three rebellious types are outlined in Jude 5-7, and verse 8 pegs each of the types. This is a history lesson to refresh the memories of those who "once knew this" (Jud 1:5), that is, Jews who would recall their Scriptures, so it seems likely that Jude wrote to fellow Jews who had claimed Jesus Christ as their Messiah.

It is important for any with prior Bible knowledge to remain mindful of truths he or she has known and to build on them daily; otherwise we will become as those who forget and shrink back (Deut 4:9, 23; 6:12; 8:11, 19). But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul. (Heb 10:39)

The three rebellious types are:

  1. The Israelites of Exodus who "believed not"
  2. The angels who broke from their appointed realm
  3. The Sodomites of Sodom and its surroundings.

In reverse order, verse 8 describes each type: they

  1. defile the flesh
  2. despise dominion
  3. speak evil of dignities.

These descriptions are like "Wanted" posters for the rebels who have crept in to the church. If we can identify the outlaws in our midst, we can avoid being taken as their hostages. So, let's take a close look at each one.

Jude 5: I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.
Israel's exodus from Egypt was accomplished by a series of miraculous judgments, ranging from swarms of frogs, lice, flies, locusts and grievous hail to massive darkness, and worse, that did not affect the Jews but only the Egyptians. Then, their journey across the dry river bed of the Red Sea whose waters engulfed the pursuing army; the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night that led their way; heavenly food rained down for sustenance; water pouring out of a rock for their refreshing — what privilege!

Even so, while Moses was on Mt. Sinai communing with God for forty days, they turned to worship a golden calf made from jewelry they had been given by the Lord as their plunder of the Egyptians for repayment after serving as their slaves. For this rebellion, 3,000 were killed, and none of the generation that continually doubted were permitted to enter Canaan. (Num 14:22, 23; 1 Cor 10:1-5)

Jude is saying that these Jews are analogous to those who witnessed the miracles of Jesus and either saw Christ or knew those who encountered him after his resurrection. How many miracles does one need to experience to secure his faith? Those who have stood near to Wisdom and Light will be judged more severely. (Mat 12:42) This is pointed at the intruders and to any believers who might be drawn away by their provocations.

In Jude 6 we read: And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
This verse may refer to Genesis 6 where the extreme evil in the world that was wiped clean by Noah's flood is explained thus: And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose… (Gen 6:1-4) There are varying views on this passage. Some commentators state that the "sons" referred to were Seth's lineage, but others point out:

  1. Cain's progeny could not have had all the good-looking gals,
  2. the same term is used in Job to describe the angels including Satan (Job 1:6),
  3. the unions produced giants, and
  4. the wickedness on the earth became so massive so quickly that a nearly universal elimination of humankind was necessitated.

We cannot know how the angelic intrusion into earth's marriage beds was "fleshed out" so to speak, but Jude makes plain that God has power to put an end to all such rebellion. Likewise, for any Jew or Gentile who either grew up or came to understand the boundaries of God's laws and then broke away and began tempting others to depart from God's dominion and join in their rebellion, condemnation is assured.

Some commentators explain that Jude 6 refers to the angels who accompanied Satan in his rebellion. (Isaiah 14:12-14; Rev 12:4). On the other hand, the Revelation passage could have reference to Genesis 6. In the Bible, some mysteries are not fully explained.

The connection to Genesis 6 is supported by 2 Peter 2:4, 5, For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast [them] down to hell, and delivered [them] into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth [person], a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly... This seems to associate the chaining of the rebellious angels to the time period prior to the great flood.

Jude 7 states: Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
This reference makes plain that the infiltrators of the Christian fellowship were sexual offenders in some aspect. They are described as lascivious (Jude 1:4) and as filthy dreamers (Jude 1:8).

All sexual sin explodes in a flood of tears for the repentant, and a raging, eternal fire for the reprobate.

Attention Readers

Have you visited the Biotech Blog on this website? Find information and resources to help you think about biotech as a Christian.

During the summer of 2017, I explored the topic of kidney donation. Is it right for a society to permit that? To encourage it? What do you think? Read the Live Kidney Donation Series!

Should you sign your driver’s license to be an organ donor? Is cremation OK with God? Do these practices undermine the Christian doctrine of the Resurrection?

Learn more. The conscience cannot function without facts.


Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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