REVELATION 8: The Mighty 7th Seal

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In the past seven weeks we have been in the book of Revelation. The book is about the importance and the work of Jesus after his resurrection. The gospels teach us about the message of Jesus while he walked on the earth, Revelation teach us about the responsibilities of Jesus after his resurrection.

In Revelation Chapters 1-3 we see the resurrected Jesus speaking directly to the Church, to let us know that from his heavenly location, he is still with us, guiding and guarding us. Then from Chapter 4 onward, we see the resurrected Jesus take up the responsibility of managing God’s endtime plans for the earth.

God’s plans for the earth have been in stages; before Jesus came to the earth, the plans ensured that Jesus birth and ministry were top priority. Everyone and anything that was going to be an obstacle, were taken out of the way. Once Jesus was born, crucified, and resurrected, God’s plans shifted to his endgame – closing out this world and preparing us for the new heavens and the new earth.

Revelation Chapter 4 onwards shows that the step by step execution of this endgame is in Jesus hands. He has the scroll with seven seals that contains the plans of this endgame; when he removes a seal, a major tasks takes place. By Chapter 7, Jesus has removed six seals, and now in Chapter 8, he removes the mighty seventh seal; when he did this, there was silence in heaven for a period (Rev. 8:1).

All that happens in Revelation Chapters 8-10 results from removal of the seventh last seal. Beginning from Chapter 11, Apostle John enters into another vision. The seventh seal released seven angels who released different plagues on the earth, the way Moses released ten plagues on Egypt. The impact of these plagues is that the earth begins to fail to support life the way it should. The goal is that humanity will see the writing on the wall that the end has come and turn their hearts to God.

Revelation 9:20-21 (The Living Bible) says: “But the men left alive after these plagues still refused to worship God! They would not renounce their demon-worship, nor their idols made of gold and silver, brass, stone, and wood – which neither see nor hear nor walk! Neither did they change their mind and attitude about all their murders and witchcraft, their immorality and theft.”

In spite of the earth failing, humanity just goes on in its pursuit of wealth at any cost, success at any cost, big building and construction projects at any cost. In the pursuit of our ambitions, Godly worship and values are thrown out of the window. In these times of huge uncertainty all over the world, have you paused to draw nearer to God, or just continue to pursue your ambitions at any cost?

May the simple truths of Revelation inspire us to godliness, Amen!

REVELATION 7 – The Church Past and Present Fully Protected

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To many the book of Revelation is a complex puzzle. Imagine that you find a letter, written in English, that your great-grand-father wrote to your great-grand-mother and she kept it. The letter is in old English so you can read it but there are words you don’t understand. How do you make sense of the letter?

It is by investigation and research – you will ask in the family and research old English words; you will want to know what the letter meant to your great-grand-mom and why she kept it. This is similar to understanding Revelation. We have to ask, what did Revelation mean to the early Christians who first read it? Why did they keep and pass it on to us. This is the path I follow in teaching Revelation.

In Revelation we see Jesus comforting the early Christians (Chapters 1-3). We see John taken in vision to the heavenly council in Chapters 4-5 where he saw Jesus given the sealed scroll, making him the appointed executioner of heaven’s plans for the earth after his resurrection. In Chapter 6 which we studied last week, we see Jesus removing the seals from the scroll, and the consequences on earth.

Chapter 7 follows from the removal of the sixth seal (Revelation 6:12-17), and the announcement that it is judgement season. On opening the sixth seal there was great panic among the powerful and the poor on earth. While this was going on, in Chapter 7 verse 3, the angels are told that no action should be taken until they “have placed the Seal of God upon the foreheads of his servants.”

How many are these servants? First is the symbolic number of 144,000 from Israel; inspite of Israel’s numerous failures to stay faithful, every Israelite who stayed true to God will be redeemed. Then John saw “a vast crowd, too great to count, from all nations and provinces and languages” who are also redeemed. At this time the gospel had not been preached all over the world, but John saw people from all over. To the early Christians this showed that the world was not ending soon.

Revelation 7:13-17 (The Living Bible) (shortened) says: ‘Then one of the twenty-four Elders asked me, “Do you know who these [redeemed] are… “No, sir,” I replied… “These are the ones coming out of the Great Tribulation,”… The one sitting on the throne will shelter them; they will never be hungry again, nor thirsty… For the Lamb [Jesus] standing in front of the throne will feed them and be their Shepherd and lead them to the springs of the Water of Life. And God will wipe their tears away.”

We see that when seal six was removed, the great judgement was announced, but the main action that took place was complete protection for God’s people from Israel and from among the gentiles with Jesus leading the way. These billions of redeemed people did not happen in a day, its been going on now for the past 2000 years. If we are celebrating Easter this weekend, it is because the resurrection of Jesus has made it possible for you to be among that vast crowd too great to count.

Lord, we see your plan of redemption; it seems slow, but we see the outcome, a people too vast to count; keep us in that number, Amen!

REVELATION 6: Understanding The Great Vision – Part 2

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The early Christians who read the book of Revelation were greatly encouraged by it. The Jesus they had known was a powerful teacher who lived and preached in Israel. They believed Jesus was the messiah of the world by faith, but now the book of Revelation, starting from Chapter 4 is showing Jesus determining the fate of the world. This was indeed a revelation of a new aspect of Jesus authority.

In Revelation Chapters 1-3 Jesus encourages the Church to remain faithful. In Chapter 4, Apostle John was shown a great vision starting with a council meeting in heaven. In Chapter 5, John saw that the council appointed the resurrected Jesus to execute heaven’s decisions on the earth. These decisions were in a scroll with seven seals; the decisions had been kept secret until the resurrection of Jesus.

In Chapter 6 Jesus removes the first to the sixth seal, the seventh is removed in Chapter 8. The first seal released a white horse carrying a king; the second seal released a red horse carrying a warmaker (warmonger); the third seal released a black horse carrying a trader (merchant); the fourth seal released a pale (or yellow-green) horse carrying death. The fifth reveals that God has not abandoned the Church; the sixth reveals that a day of judgement is coming even though it is not immediate.

It is worth noting Revelation 6:9-11 (The Living Bible) (shortened): “And when he broke open the fifth seal, I saw an altar, and underneath it all the souls of those who had been martyred for preaching the Word of God… They called loudly to the Lord and said, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge the people of the earth for what they’ve done to us? When will you avenge our blood… they were told to rest a little longer until their other brothers, fellow servants of Jesus, had been martyred on the earth and joined them.”

To the early Christians reading Revelation Chapter 6, it meant this world of troubles (red, black, and pale horse) is not ending anytime soon. It also showed them that in the midst of continued worldly chaos, firstly, they have a champion, the king on the white horse (the first seal), and secondly, they have not been abandoned despite persecution (the fifth seal), but they would have to be patient.

Lord, take away the fear and complexity we bring to Revelation; teach us its simple truths that bless our souls, Amen!

REVELATION 4-5: Understanding The Great Vision – Part 1

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Have you entered the office of a high government or business leader? I am sure there were symbols in that office to remind you that you are in the presence of a great person. It might be the many certificates of accomplishment on the wall, the awards and trophies won, the very expensive and specially made furniture, the pictures with important people, the flag and other government symbols. The great vision in Revelation Chapter 4 starts with a symbolic show of God’s power.

The great vision in the book of Revelation, starts from Chapter 4 and goes right up to Chapter 20. Thus, understanding this vision, especially the acts of Jesus in this vision, is important to understanding the book of Revelation. In the next 4 weeks, we will focus on understanding Jesus in the great vision.

In Revelation Chapters 1-3, Apostle John wrote seven letters to the Churches, reminding them that despite their persecutions, Jesus is with them and upholding them. Then in Chapter 4, John was told to come up higher, to be shown things that will happen after that period of persection. This was also a message to the Churches – persecution was not the end of the world, there is still much more to come.

Revelation 5:1-5 (The Living Bible) (shortened) says: “And I saw a scroll in the right hand of the one who was sitting on the throne, a scroll… sealed with seven seals. A mighty angel with a loud voice was shouting out this question: “Who is worthy to break the seals on this scroll… I wept with disappointment because no one anywhere was worthy… But one of the twenty-four Elders said to me, “Stop crying, for look! The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, and proved himself worthy to open the scroll and to break its seven seals.”

John is in the throne room of Heaven, he has seen many royal symbols reminding him of the power and greatness of God; now the vision moves to why that council meeting was happening. Important decisions about humanity have been made by the council, is there a minister with the qualifications, experience, and character, to carry out the decisions? YES, the resurrected Jesus is worthy to handle this!

Everything else that happens in Revelation till Chapter 20, is about Jesus removing one seal after the other. Each time Jesus removes a seal, instructions are given to the angels to make things happen on earth. To the early Church, they see Jesus the great wise King, the master, the leader, in charge of their destiny, in charge of the destiny of the world. This is the ultimate message of the book of Revelation.

Lord, continue to give us clarity to understand Jesus in Revelation, Amen!

REVELATION – Jesus Determines the Life of the Church – Part2

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I completed my undergraduate studies when the mobile phone and emails, were not yet common place as they are today. I was far away from my parents; communication between me and my mother was through letters. While her words of wisdom inspired me, the most joyful thing was knowing that she cared a lot.

We have lost the joy of writing and receiving letters from those we love In our culture today. Instant messaging means the waiting, the anticipation, and the expectation that goes with writing and receiving love letters is gone forever. So, when we read the letters of Jesus to the seven Churches in Revelation Chapters 2 and 3, we don’t see the relief, the excitement, and the joy it gave to the Churches.

The Church leaders and Church members not just in the seven Churches mentioned, but in all of the Churches everywhere at that time, and all of the Churches from that time to the present, have drawn courage and joy from the letters. All the seven letters follow a similar pattern; there is a positive feedback, a comment on what is not going right, an exhortation to do better, and the re-assurance of rewards.

Revelation 2:1-7 (The Living Bible) (shortened) states: “Write a letter to the leader of the church at Ephesus and tell him… “I write to inform you of a message from him who walks among the churches… “He says… I know how many good things you are doing… You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. “Yet there is one thing wrong; you don’t love me as at first! Think about those times of your first love… and turn back to me again… else I will come and remove your candlestick from its place among the churches… “Let this message sink into the ears… To everyone who is victorious, I will give fruit from the Tree of Life in the Paradise of God.”

The first letter was to the Church at Ephesus; the city was part of the Roamn empire back then, but is located in Turkey today. The next letter was to Smyrna, then Pergamos, then Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Apostle Paul helped establish the Church at Ephesus and taught there for three years; many magicians there became Christians and burnt their magic books (see Acts 18 and 19).

Timothy was the pastor in Ephesus (see 1 and 2 Timothy); the Church was spiritually strong (see book of Ephesians) and stayed strong till Ephesus was destroyed about 150-200 years after Revelation was written. The Church survived Roman persecution, and was a great light to the early Christians. The Ephesian Church no longer physically exist today, but its light continues to shine through the Bible.

The other six Churches no longer physically exist too; those cities were also a part of the Roman empire back then but are now part of Turkey. We know more about the Church in Ephesus than any of the others. Protestant Church tradition says Apostle John took Mary the mother of Jesus and they both lived and died in Ephesus. The light from the Church in Ephesus continues to bless us because Jesus has preserved their light. How about you, would your light still shine, lomg after you are gone?

Lord, lead us in love, preserve our light, long after we are gone, Amen!

REVELATION – Jesus Determines the Life of the Church – Part1

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Barely twenty years after the resurrection of Jesus, the Church was experiencing severe persecution from Emperor Nero of Rome. This continued for several years even after Nero had died. The early Christians needed to know when this would all end; they needed to know if Jesus was still Lord of lords and King of kings.

This was the setting when Jesus visited Apostle John, in a vision on the island of Patmos. The island was a Roman hard labour prison camp where John was locked up because of his Christian faith. Things do not happen by accident; John was likely praying about the persecution of the Church and looking for answers. No surprises then that the first issue Jesus addresses is his relationship with the Church.

Revelation 1:9-20 (The Living Bible) (shortened) states: “It is I, your brother John, a fellow sufferer for the Lord’s sake… I was on the island of Patmos, exiled there for preaching… It was the Lord’s Day and I was worshiping, when suddenly I heard a loud voice… When I turned… behind me were seven candlesticks of gold… among them was one who looked like Jesus… He held seven stars in his right hand… I fell at his feet as dead; but he laid his right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid… Write down what you have just seen… The seven stars are the leaders of the seven churches, and the seven candlesticks are the churches themselves.”

John saw Jesus holding seven stars and walking among seven candlesticks of gold; John was told the stars are the leaders of the Church, the candlesticks are the Churches. The clear meaning is that Jesus is here, involved in the life of the Churches and their leaders. Why seven stars? In the Bible, numbers have symbolic meaning – seven means completion; seven Churches stand for all the Churches in the world.

To the severely persecuted Church, seeing Jesus among them was comforting and encouraging. Jesus was not just among the Churches, but in the next Chapter, Jesus sent messages to the Churches. Reading these messages was like serving water to someone who had been travelling in the desert and starving for water.

Revelation Chapters 1-3 focus on earthly matters about the Churches. Revelation Chapter 4 and after address heavenly concerns, from a past-present-future approach. We will continue with Revelation Chapters 2 and 3 next week, and in two weeks time look into the exciting heavenly vision that starts in Chapter 4.

Lord, help us see Jesus in Revelation, Amen!

Book of REVELATION – a love letter from Jesus

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Psalm 23 is probably the most cherished chapter in the Bible to many of us. Why would it not be? David starts it with “The Lord is my Shepherd, I Shall Not Want”. David then go on to speak about God’s protection over him even in the most dangerous situations. David writes “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies”. The Psalm is so comforting, so reassuring, so loving.

The book of Revelation has a similar purpose like Psalm 23. It is a book of comfort, reassurance and love from Jesus to the Church at a time when the Church was going through fierce persecution, torture, and death at the hands of the Roman empire. Many don’t know this because Revelation is usually taught when there is a crises like the war in Ukraine, and the focus is on the angels, and wars, and monsters.

Revelation was written to comfort Christians not to scare us. Fierce Roman persecution started barely twenty years after Jesus resurrected, around the year AD 50. This continued up to the year AD 100; Rome was ruled over this fifty year period by Emperors Nero, then Vespassian, then Titus, then Domitian – these men were brutal. It was during this painful time that the book of Revelation was written.

Revelation 1:1 (The Living Bible) says: “This book unveils some of the future activities soon to occur in the life of Jesus Christ. God permitted him to reveal these things to his servant John in a vision; and then an angel was sent from heaven to explain the vision’s meaning.”

Revelation 1:2-3 continues: “John wrote it all down – the words of God and Jesus Christ… he heard and saw. If you read this prophecy aloud to the church, you will receive a special blessing… Those who listen to it being read and do what it says will also be blessed. For the time is near when these things will all come true.”

Revelation reveals the activities of Jesus during that difficult time for the Church. When reading Revelation, focus on the activities of Jesus; when discussing and teaching Revelation, focus on the activities of Jesus. REVELATION SHOWS THAT JESUS WINS – this message encouraged and strengthened the Christians under Roman persecution. In the coming weeks, we will study Jesus in Revelation.

Lord, bless us as we study the book of Revelation together, Amen!

Understanding the End-Times and Last Days

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As with every major war, the invasion of Ukraine is causing many to ask once again, are we in the end-times, are we experiencing the last days? I have been asked this question in the past week, and here I share Biblical insight on the issue.

Permit me to start off with this illustration; I enjoy going on long road trips, sometimes involving 12 hours of driving, with my young family during holidays. To cope better during the 12 hour trip, I break it down into 4 stages, each stage of the trip lasting 3 hours. This means that after every 3 hours of driving, we take a break; we stop, and let the kids out of the car to stretch their legs and run around.

During the first stage or first 3 hours, we are all very excited; during the second and third stages of the journey, the kids are tired and bored; then in the last stage or last 3 hours, the endgame, we are thankful that it will soon be over. The Bible teaches that God’s engagement with humanity has been in stages.

In Heberews 1:1-2 (Living Bible) we read: “Long ago God spoke in many different ways to our fathers through the prophets, in visions, dreams, and even face to face, telling them little by little about his plans. But now in these days he has spoken to us through his Son to whom he has given everything and through whom he made the world and everything there is.”

This same Hebrews 1:1-2 in the King James Version (KJV) reads: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things…”

“These last days” is a stage in God’s plan – it is that stage where God’s engagement with us is no more through Moses, or Samuel, or Elijah, or John the Baptist, but through Jesus alone. We are in the last days, or last stage, or endgame of God’s plans, because there is nothing else after this other than the judgement.

The coming of Jesus put us into the endgame of God’s plan of salvation. So, we have been in the end-times or last days for the past 2000 years. The war in Ukraine, or a big earthquake somewhere in the world, did not put us into the end-times; from the moment Jesus came, we entered into the end-times.

May the Lord give us clarity in our understanding of the end-times, Amen!

Praying for Peace in UKRAINE

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War is always a tragedy, people suffer hunger, pain, sorrow and death. Unfortunately, humanity have not found, or perhaps choose to ignore, ways to solve our problems that do not include war. There are about 40 wars going on around the world today, and sadly the war in the Ukraine is the latest one.

In our world today, the fact that we speak so many different languages introduces an element of us against them, in all we do. Those who speak Greek think they who speak Swahili, are different and cannot be trusted, so we “fight to protect our interests”.

Whether we speak Greek, Swahili, English, or Lingala – our basic need for food, clothing, shelter, love and warmth is the same. We achieve more through cooperation and collaboration than through conflict and war.

A day is coming when there shall be no more war (Isaiah 2:2-4), because all humanity would live in unity, speak one language, serve one righteous King, and turn all our weapons of war into producing food for all. Before that day comes, let’s pray for peace in Ukraine and other troubled places around the world.

Let’s pray especially for leaders as 1 Timothy 2:1-3 (The Message Bible) counsels: “The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.”

Lord, hear our prayers for peace in Ukraine and in our world today, Amen!

MOSES – the Greatest Old Testament Builder

Moses – Sculpture at the US House of Representatives

When we think of great Old Testament characters, we think of father Abraham, King David, Daniel in the Lions den, Queen Esther. We sing songs to father Abraham, we sing several songs from the Psalms written by David. We sometimes skip Moses; we don’t know where to place him. Lets learn a little more about Moses.

Before Moses, knowledge about God, was passed on by mouth, through stories the elderly told the younger generation. Moses was the first to write it all down as a document to be read and taught to the people regularly. In the 40 years he spent in the palace in Egypt, he learnt to read, write, and prepare official documents. This knowledge served him well as a nation builder, and as God’s first writing prophet.

At the transfiguration in Luke 9:28-31 (NIV) we are told: “About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure,[a] which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.”

Wow, just before the crucifixion of Jesus in Jerusalem, we see Moses and Elijah, join him in the place of prayer to discuss the crucifixion. Why was Moses there? Yes, he died at the end of book of Deuteronomy, but here we see that he is alive and well in heaven, and with Elijah, are part of God’s most trusted inner circle. These are men and women (like Anna in Luke 2:36-38) who fully understand God’s plan.

Moses training, caring, and love for God resulted in leading Israel, and most importantly produced Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. God used Moses to build a firm foundation for fulfilling his plans on earth. The Judges, Kings, and Prophets of Israel built on the foundation laid by Moses.

May the life of Moses inspire us to build with God, Amen!