Tagged: apostle Peter

The dead who die in the Lord – Revelation 14:13

Previously: This demands the perseverance of the saints – Revelation 14:12

The scripture

Rev. 14:13 – Then I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write: The dead who die in the Lord from now on are blessed.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “let them rest from their labors, for their works follow them!” (HCSB)

The dead who die in the Lord

This section ends with a voice from heaven saying, “Write: The dead who die in the Lord from now on are blessed.” This is followed by the Holy Spirit, who speaks, “Yes, let them rest from their labor, for their works follow them!”

crownCertainly, those who “die in the Lord” are blessed. Their names have been written in the Lamb’s book of life. The angels have rejoiced at their entrance into the kingdom. Jesus has gone to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house and will return to resurrect and glorify them. They will live forever with Jesus in the new heavens and new earth. Meanwhile, at the moment of death, they are absent from the body and present with the Lord. And they will be wherever Jesus is forever and ever. These are blessings for which every believer may rejoice for they are gifts of God’s grace, secured through the finished work of His Son.

But what does the phrase “from now on” mean? It cannot mean that those who previously have died in the Lord are lesser citizens of the kingdom or are denied the full benefits of eternal life. Nor can it mean that God withholds His promises from particular saints just because they lived in a different chapter of human history. Rather, the voice from heaven seems to be assuring those who remain faithful to the Lord during a time of extreme persecution that in death they are spared further suffering. Even more important, they are reminded that “their works follow them,” meaning they will be richly compensated in eternity for what they willingly sacrificed in time.

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The value of painful memories

sb10063626bc-001The Wall Street Journal recently reported that scientists have zapped an electrical current to people’s brains to erase distressing memories, part of an ambitious quest to better treat ailments such as mental trauma, psychiatric disorders and drug addiction.

Author Gautam Naik explains: “In an experiment, patients were first shown a troubling story, in words and pictures. A week later they were reminded about it and given electroconvulsive therapy [ECT], formerly known as electroshock. That completely wiped out their recall of the distressing narrative” – without erasing other memories.

At least two important questions emerge for Christians. First, if painful memories can be erased, should we seek this therapy? And second, in the afterlife, does God erase our most disturbing recollections?

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They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb — Revelation 12:11

Previously: A loud voice in heaven — Revelation 12:10

The scripture

Rev. 12:11 – They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not love their lives in the face of death. (HCSB)

They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb

LambVerse 11 reads: “They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not love their lives in the face of death.” There are two ways in which the “brothers” (v. 10) have achieved victory over Satan, according to the voice in heaven. Both of them involve death, a seemingly counterproductive way to win a battle – at least by the world’s standards.

First, the brothers conquer Satan by the blood of the Lamb. Satan’s desire to kill Jesus, or even to prevent his birth, is evident throughout scripture, most recently in Rev. 12:4 as the dragon is poised to devour the male child. Ironically, Jesus comes into the world to die, but on His terms, not Satan’s. There is a specific time and place for the Son of Man to give His life as a ransom for us. And when Jesus declares, “It is finished,” just before His death on the cross, He makes it clear that His purpose in coming to earth has been fulfilled. The apostle Paul summarizes this beautifully in 2 Cor. 5:21: “He [the Father] made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

For believers, the victory and the cross are inextricably bound. The apparent end of a radical rabbi on a hillside outside Jerusalem is thought by His enemies to be a magnificent triumph. Yet the bloody and gruesome death of Jesus of Nazareth is in fact the fulfillment of the Father’s eternal plan of redemption. Jesus may exult, “It is finished,” and be completely vindicated. Just as the high priest declares, “It is finished,” on the Day of Atonement when sacrifices will no longer be accepted, and just as the Roman general booms, “It is finished,” from his perch above the battlefield when he sees the enemy has been routed, Jesus shouts for all the world to hear that salvation has come to a lost and dying world because of His death.

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The slaughtered Lamb (Rev. 5:6)

Previously: The Lion from the Tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5)

The scripture

Rev. 5:6 – Then I saw one like a slaughtered lamb standing between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent into all the earth (HCSB).

John sees Jesus as “one like a slaughtered lamb” (v. 6). He stands near the throne and amidst the four living creatures and the elders. He has seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God. Is this really how the exalted Son of God looks – like a baby sheep with multiple horns and eyes? Of course not. John is using apocalyptic language to describe the same person he earlier depicted as having white hair, eyes like blazing fire, feet like fine bronze, and a mouth giving way to a two-edged sword (Rev. 1:14-16). So, what’s the significance of these new traits?

Let’s look first at the lamb. Jesus is called “the Lamb” nearly 30 times in the Book of Revelation. The Greek word literally means “a little pet lamb,” and the meaning becomes clear as we follow the lamb through scripture. Jesus identifies Himself to John as “the Living One” who was dead but now is “alive forever and ever” (Rev. 1:18). This is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The Lord’s Servant, as Isaiah depicts Him, is like a lamb led to the slaughter (Isa. 53:7), bearing the iniquities of all mankind:

He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities, punishment for peace was upon Him, and we are healed by His wounds. We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished Him for the iniquity of us all (Isa. 53:5-6).

The apostle Peter writes:

For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things, like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the times for you …” (1 Peter 1:18-20).

John’s view of Jesus as a slaughtered lamb is not to be taken literally but conveys to his first-century readers – and to us – the key truth that Jesus’ suffering and death is both a great sacrifice and a great victory. God became flesh and died for us, defeating Satan and his works and reclaiming all that was lost in Adam’s fall. How vulnerable, how defenseless Jesus made Himself for us – just like a sacrificial lamb. Yet God the Father was “pleased to crush Him” (Isa. 53:10). Jesus, in His humanity, “learned obedience through what He suffered” (Heb. 5:8). And, “for the joy that lay before Him,” Jesus “endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne” (Heb. 12:2).

One other note: It is significant that the resurrected and glorified Jesus bears the marks of His crucifixion. John’s description of Him as “a slaughtered lamb” (v. 6) is consistent with Zechariah’s prophecy of the glorious appearance of the Messiah, who has been “pierced” (Zech. 14:10). It’s also in tune with Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, in which He invites followers like Thomas to both examine and touch His wounds (John 20:27). But why does Jesus retain earthly scars when we are assured perfect bodies in the future? Two reasons seem clear. First, Jesus’ scars are an everlasting testimony of His sacrifice for us. Second, we are cautioned that many false Messiahs will arise; when Jesus returns, His crucifixion scars will identify Him as the true Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). Surely John’s description of Jesus as a slaughtered lamb resonates with believers of all ages.

But what about the seven horns? In scripture, horns symbolize great power. David pens these words after the Lord rescues him from his enemies: “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my mountain where I seek refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation” (Ps. 18:2). In Daniel’s vision of the four beasts (Dan. 7), the 10 horns on the fourth beast symbolize 10 kings. And in Zechariah’s night visions, he sees four horns, symbolizing the power of Israel’s enemies (Zech. 1:18-21). No doubt, the seven horns on the slaughtered lamb in John’s vision portray the full power of deity that resides in Jesus.

Finally, we read that the Lamb has seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent into all the earth. As we learned earlier, the phrase “seven spirits” ties back to Rev. 1:4 and may be translated “the seven-fold Spirit,” likely a reference to the Holy Spirit. Christ has “received the Holy Spirit without measure, in all perfection of light, and life, and power, by which he is able to teach and rule all parts of the earth” (Matthew Henry, Re 5:6-14). The emphasis here seems to be on Christ’s place in the Godhead and His authority as the One who has all the fullness of the Spirit (see Isa. 11:2-5). The number seven represents fullness or completeness; it is the number of God. No doubt the Lamb’s knowledge and authority extends through all the earth.

Warren Wiersbe summarizes well the portrayal of Jesus as the Lamb: “The description of the Lamb (Rev. 5:6), if produced literally by an artist, would provide a grotesque picture; but when understood symbolically, conveys spiritual truth. Since seven is the number of perfection, we have here perfect power (seven horns), perfect wisdom (seven eyes), and perfect presence (seven Spirits in all the earth). The theologians would call these qualities omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence; and all three are attributes of God. The Lamb is God the Son, Christ Jesus!” (Re 5:1).

Next: Worthy is the Lamb (Rev. 5:8-10)

Isaiah 8: Prepare for War, and be Broken

Listen to a brief introduction of Isaiah 8

Download a free worksheet for further study


Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment

Part 2: Historical Interlude

Part 3: Salvation

Chapters 1-35

Chapters 36-39

Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

Chapter 8 takes place during Ahaz’s reign, after Assyria has defeated Aram and Israel. This should have prompted Judah to turn to God, but instead Ahaz orders his priests to conform their temple worship to the practices of the pagans in Damascus.

Key verse:

Isa. 8:13:  You are to regard only the Lord of Hosts as holy. Only He should be feared; only He should be held in awe.

Quick summary:

The armies of Assyria are about to pour into Judah, flooding the nation up to its very head, Jerusalem. The people are instructed to abandon their fear of men like Rezin of Aram and Pekah of Israel, who terrorize Ahaz but soon will be dead, and instead put their trust in God, who will be a refuge to those who turn to Him.

Take note:

Isaiah describes the Lord as a sanctuary for those who trust in Him, but “a stone to stumble over and a rock to trip over” for those who persist in rebellion against Him (v. 14). Peter quotes a portion of this passage, referring to those who reject Jesus as Messiah (1 Peter 2:8), as does Paul in Rom. 9:33.

Damascus and Samaria fall (Isa. 8:1-8)

Isaiah is instructed to write on a large scroll the name of a son who would be born to him and his wife. The son’s name is announced even before he is conceived to emphasize the certainty of his birth and the inevitability of the national calamity his name describes. Maher-shalal-hash-baz is the longest personal name in the Bible. It means “quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil.” Soldiers are known to shout these words to one another as they sweep down on their defeated foes. Remembering the prophecy of the fall of the Aram-Israel alliance (Isa. 7:4-9), Isaiah’s listeners understand the significance of his son’s name as they watch for the imminent defeat of Judah’s neighbors.

Isaiah’s wife is called “the prophetess” either because she is the wife of a prophet or because, like Isaiah, God has gifted her with prophetic abilities. The Bible does not record any instances in which she prophesies, although some commentators believe this is the best interpretation of her descriptive name. In less than two years – nine months for the pregnancy and about one year of the child’s infancy – Assyria will plunder Damascus (Aram’s capital) and Samaria (Israel’s capital). Many scholars say this happened in 732 B.C., indicating that Isaiah’s prophecy is given in 734 B.C. When the alliance falls, Judah should turn to the Lord, as Isaiah urges. Instead, one of the two witnesses (v. 2), Uriah the priest, follows Ahaz’s orders and changes the temple worship to conform to the pagan practices of Damascus.

The term “these people” in verse 6 could refer to Judah, which rejects God and will come to experience the brutality of Assyria. More likely, however, the phrase describes the northern kingdom, which turns its back on Judah – “the slowly flowing waters of Shiloah” may be a reference to Jerusalem – in favor of an alliance with Aram. As a result, “the mighty rushing waters” of Assyria will sweep through the northern kingdom and ultimately destroy Judah as well.

A believing remnant (Isa. 8:9-22)

Though Judah almost would be defeated by the Assyrian invasion, Isaiah urges the people not to be afraid because they will experience victory. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck comment: “The great truth of chapters 7-9 is that God was with Judah…. Even though the nations would raise a war cry and prepare for battle against Judah, they would not succeed. They would be shattered, a fact stated three times in verse 9 for emphasis…. Because God has promised to be with His people they were to have faith in Him no matter how bad their circumstances” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1051).

Despite God’s promise, many in Judah refuse to trust in Him, and the Lord warns Isaiah not to be like them (v. 11). The Lord will be a sanctuary for those who believe in Him, but “a stone to stumble over and a rock to trip over, and a trap and a snare” to those who reject Him (v. 14). Peter quotes a portion of this verse, referring to those who reject the Messiah (1 Peter 2:8). This is a subtle but important reference to the deity of Christ and the unity of the triune Godhead. Along these lines, it is interesting to note that Heb. 2:13 ascribes the words in Isa. 8:17c-18a to Christ. While the immediate context indicates that Isaiah is speaking these words and referring to the children God has given him as signs, in the larger context Jesus (Immanuel / God with us) has placed these messages on Isaiah’s lips. Perhaps more important, since Jesus is the eternal Son of God who took on human flesh, the writer of Hebrews points to the common humanity Christ now shares with those who trust in Him.

For Isaiah to “bind up the testimony” and “seal up the instruction,” he is reaffirming his dependence on God and inscribing His word on the hearts of His followers. D.A. Carson calls verses 16-18 “a kernel of immense promise. With the expression my disciples, God introduces a new definition of his people and their relation to him…. Isaiah’s responsive faith (17) speaks for such, and the little group of v 18 is seen in Heb. 2:13 as typical of the church gathered around Christ” (New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, S. Is 8:16).

These disciples stand in stark contrast to the people described in verses 19-22. They practice what God prohibits (see Deut. 18:9-12). Instead of prophets, they seek out mediums. Instead of teaching, they embrace gibberish. And instead of the living, they desire guidance from the dead. No wonder there will be “no dawn for them” (v. 20). An interesting side note about the spiritists (necromancers) who “chirp” in verse 19: Faint chirping, as of birds, generally is ascribed to departed spirits in biblical times. By ventriloquism soothsayers would cause these sounds to emerge from the grave. Basically, it is all smoke and mirrors. That may be the reason the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, translates the word “spiritists” in this verse as “ventriloquists.”

The result of all this, according to Isaiah, is that the people who reject God’s message will end up wandering, dejected and hungry. Rather then acknowledge the error of their ways, they will look up and curse their king and their God, a response that foreshadows the reaction of the Antichrist’s followers to the judgments of God in the last days (Rev. 16:11). Ultimately, those who reject God see “only distress, darkness, and the gloom of affliction (v. 22).

Closing Thought

Gary V. Smith comments:

These negative experiences teach a positive lesson. People need to pay attention to God’s revealed will and follow it, as Isaiah and his followers did. This obedience leads to a faithful relationship of respect and awe before the presence of a holy God, as well as hopeful waiting for God to act and confident assurance in his plan (8:17). Temptations to follow the false messages of proud political leaders, secular materialistic philosophies, and misguided religious leaders will be less attractive when people put them under the scrutiny of divine truth (8:20) (The New American Commentary: Isaiah 1-39, pp. 232-33).

Copyright 2008 by Rob Phillips