Revelation 1:3


(3) Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.

In James 1:22, the apostle admonishes us to be obedient doers, not just hearers, of the Word. In the context of this subject, it means acting and doing the commands so often embedded in the prophetic word. James’ command to act, rather than just to hear, is frequently echoed in prophecy, as in Revelation 1:3: “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words [logos] of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.”

The “and” in this verse is very important. God does not say that we are blessed simply if we hear and if we read. This is not to suggest that we should not study God’s prophetic word; of course, we should. All Scripture is given for our edification and our inspiration (II Timothy 3:16). It is all inspired for that purpose. However, we are to read or hear and to keep.

What do we keep? Do we keep predictions about horsemen and beasts? How does one do that? What we are to keep are those commands that are liberally sprinkled throughout the word of prophecy—in the book of Revelation and in the prophetic sections of the gospels and epistles, as well as in the prophecies of the Old Testament. For instance, the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 contain several commands to repent and repeated commands to overcome.

The prophetic word is not just a collection of mind puzzles that we are somehow supposed to unravel. God’s prophecies are not that at all, but they are calls for change. They are calls for our growth. Remember, the blessing comes to those who keep, who do what God commands whether or not we understand the details of the prophecy.

God is faithful. A Christian reading this passage a thousand years ago, who had no idea of what we know of history or of the technology that we understand now, could receive the blessing through obedience, just as we can. Again, knowing is not the issue, but obedience is.

The word “keep” is a command that appears ten times in the book of Revelation. It is the same word that is translated in John 14:15, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” We will notice just a few of its appearances. The first three are written to three of the seven churches: Thyatira, Sardis, and Philadelphia, respectively:

Revelation 2:26: “. . . keeps My works until the end. . . .”
Revelation 3:3: “. . . hold fast and repent. . . .” [Here, “hold fast” is the same Greek word as “to keep” in the other examples.]
Revelation 3:8: “. . . have kept My word. . . .”
Revelation 12:17: “. . . who keep the commandments of God. . . .” [This is written to the remnant of the seed, that is, to God’s elect.]

As we can see, God has sprinkled this command to “keep” all over the prophecies of Revelation.

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Luke 6:47-48


In this parable, Jesus describes one who hears His words and does them as a man who, when building his house, digs his foundation deeply and upon rock. When a flood threatens it, the house remains intact on its secure base.

Jesus’ metaphor in the parable is apt: A man’s character is like a house. Every thought is like a piece of timber in that house, every habit a beam, every imagination a window, well or badly placed. They all gather into a unity, handsome or grotesque. We decide how that house is constructed.

Unless one builds his character on the rock-solid foundation of God’s Word, he will surely be swept away by the flood now inundating the world. As I Corinthians 3:11 says, “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

Of the two builders in the parable, one is a thoughtful man who deliberately plans his house with an eye to the future; the other is not a bad man, but thoughtless, casually building in the easiest way. The one is earnest; the other is content with a careless and unexamined life. The latter seems to want to avoid the hard work of digging deep to ensure a strong foundation, and also takes a short-range view, never thinking what life will be like six months into the future. He trades away future good for present pleasure and ease.

The flood obviously represents the trials of life. Frequently, the trials of life descend upon us either through our own lack of character or because of events in the world around us. Is our house strong enough to withstand the onslaught of the horrendous events of the end time? Can it even withstand our own weaknesses?

John 1:14-17


(14) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (15) John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’” (16) And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. (17) For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Notice in verse 14 that Jesus is described as “full of grace”—suggesting lovingkindness and benevolent gifts—”and truth.” Then, verse 16 says that from that fullness of grace we receive grace. In other words, it is from our relationship with Him that we receive many beneficent gifts toward salvation.

Other Bibles translate the phrase “grace for grace” as “grace on grace” or “grace upon grace.” In a paraphrase, it may be rendered as “blessing after blessing.” The phrase pictures grace as if it were objects being stacked one on top of another or endlessly linked as if side by side.

As we have seen, our calling is an act of God’s grace, a gifting completely apart from any merit on our part. We tend to think of grace primarily in regard to justification and the forgiveness of sin, but that is far, far too limiting. John is showing us that our relationship with Godthrough Jesus Christ is a connection that supplies us with a continuous flow of grace, blessings, gifts, favor, powers, forgiveness, knowledge, understanding, wisdom, healings, protection, and more through God’s loving concern.

He is not supplying our every desire but our every need as His spiritual creation of each of us moves toward His conclusion. Again, remember that, for this truth to be more fully appreciated, it must be understood that He does not owe us one tiny jot or tittle of it. Just as surely as the manna physically appeared to the unconverted Israelites every morning in the wilderness and the cloud was in the sky by day and a pillar of fire by night, God is supplying our every need in relation to His salvation and purpose.

It is all freely given toward His glorification and His purpose of creating us to fill a position, a place in His Kingdom. The apostles used charis (“grace”) in many other situations, but they applied it most especially to mean the powers given by God to meet our spiritual needs.

Matthew 24:14


(14) And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

In his book, Of God and Man, theologian Aiden W. Tozer could clearly see what the priority of the church should be in this regard: “The popular notion that the first obligation of the church is to spread the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth is false. Her first obligation is to be spiritually worthy to spread it.”

First things must come first. Spiritual preparation mustprecede physical activity. God sanctified Jesus Christ to do what He did, and yet He still went through thirty years of preparation before preaching for three and a half. Not all of us have the exact sanctification. Not everyone has been set apart to do what Paul did, or what Peter did, or what John did. They received a specific calling, a specific sanctification to do what they did. God directed these men as He saw fit, and they submitted to Him. Nevertheless, He does not direct everyone to do the same thing. There are many offices in God’s House, and many functions within the Body of Christ (see I Corinthians 12:1-11, 28-30).

However, if we have been called by God, we have been given a general sanctification (I John 2:27). We have already been set apart from the world (John 17:6). What is more, we are being sanctified (Hebrews 2:11). We are being purified and having God’s character and nature created in us. This is the work that the Creator is doing. This is what Tozer called being “spiritually worthy,” and what we call “go[ing] on to perfection” (Hebrews 6:1). This is the foundational, underlying, core responsibility of each of God’s children, regardless of whether another, more specific sanctification is added to it.

Discover God’s Grace


We conducted ourselves in the world . . .by the grace of God.

2 Corinthians 1:12

Is God’s grace really sufficient in times of trouble? Can it sustain us in the midst of life’s storms? Yes but to be honest, sometimes it’s hard for us to

rely on God’s grace instead of ourselves. We think we have to have control of our lives, and we believe the responsibility for shaping our future is in our hands.

When troubles come, therefore, we resist them instead of depending on God to see us through. Alexander Maclaren, the distinguished British preacher of another generation, once wrote, “What disturbs us in this world is not trouble, but our opposition to trouble”

Put God to the test when troubles come. He won’t let you down. In the midst of a painful illness, Paul begged God to intervene and take it away. But God replied, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9). It was sufficient for Paul, and it will be for you.

Amen.

The Truth about Truth


Nehemiah 12:1–13:31; 2 John 1–6; Psalm 115:1–18

John the Evangelist’s letter to the “elect lady” presents a picture of joy and hope, as he “rejoiced greatly to find some of [her] children walking in truth, just as we were commanded by the father” (2 John 4). One word keeps reappearing in John’s letter, focusing his message: truth. John says that he loves the elect lady and her children “in truth” (2 John 1). He says that all who know the truth also love them. His reason is simple: “the truth … resides in us and will be with us forever” (2 John 2). When John speaks of truth, he’s referring to Jesus (John 14:6).

After his initial greeting, John goes on to express his wishes: May “Grace, mercy, [and] peace … be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Son of the Father in truth and love” (2 John 3).

In acknowledging the source of truth, John acknowledges his connection to it. All believers live in truth because they are linked to God, who is the Truth. He is the source for all they do (that is godly), all they are (that is holy), and all that they will become (that is virtuous).

In a few brief statements, John teaches us an important lesson: God is the source of all the goodness in the world. Even in acknowledging others, we must acknowledge Him. If we’re to discuss truth, then we must talk about Him.

The elect lady that John addresses is not only truthful she also leads others to the truth. When we act to encourage someone to work toward who they’re meant to be, we need to follow her example. We need to first lead them to truth: God.

What is God teaching you about truth? How can you live it?

The Story behind the Story


Ezra 7:1–8:36; 1 John 4:1–6; Psalm 107:1–22
The Bible is full of unexpected moments. Some events seem almost coincidental, where people are in the right place at the right time. This is exactly the case with Ezra.

In ancient times, it was unusual for a king to honor a foreigner with a decree. It was even stranger for a king to offer his own wealth to help such a foreigner. Yet that’s what happened to Ezra: King Artaxerxes of Persia sent Ezra, and any Israelite willing to go with him, to his own land (and the people living there) with the blessing of silver and gold (Ezra 7:11–28).

The Bible doesn’t give the reason for Artaxerxes’ spontaneous generosity. He may have been motivated by politics, trying to gain the allegiance of the Israelites, govern the population in Babylonia, or inhabit a new land to control the native people there. Yet the most convincing reason for his actions seems to be that his heart was moved.

While the text doesn’t explicitly say, it appears that Yahweh motivated Artaxerxes to do not only the right thing, but the selfless thing. For at least this brief moment, Artaxerxes was compassionate and empathetic. He understood that God’s people needed to practice their religion freely and worship Him in their own land.

Ezra’s involvement in these events wasn’t a matter of chance. God intended for him to be there, in that moment, to do that work. His providential work was part of every step.

How have you been intentionally placed to do God’s work? What influence can you use for His kingdom?