The Knowledge of God – F260

2 Peter 1:2-4 – “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3 for His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 Through these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world on account of lust.” 

Today I want to focus on knowledge, the knowledge of God which is a foundational principle of our spiritual growth. So, how do we gain knowledge about God? That’s where the Bible comes in. 

1. George Muller, who established many orphanages throughout England, said… “I believe that the one chief reason that I have been kept in happy useful service is that I have been a lover of Holy Scripture. It has been my habit to read the Bible through four times a year; in a prayerful spirit, to apply it to my heart, and practice what I find there. I have been for sixty-nine years a happy man; happy, happy, happy.” 

2. Ronald Reagan said, “Within the covers of one single book, the Bible, are all the answers to all the problems that face us today—if only we would read and believe.” 

3. Missionary Amy Carmichael said, “Never let good books take the place of the Bible. Drink from the Well, not from the streams that flow from the Well.” 

4. And this may be the most direct, author unknown, “A Bible in the hand is worth two in the bookcase.” 

If you don’t hear anything else I say today, get this: Let’s make 2021 the best year ever in your spiritual growth by reading the entire New Testament. That is the reason I have organized this Foundation 260 initiative. Let’s read the New Testament together. 

I don’t think there is anything more basic to knowing and loving Christ, and obeying him, than to hear God speak to us though his Word and then to speak back to him with the prayers and praises and obedience which flows from our hearts. 

The reason for that is because it is so plain that today God reveals himself to us by the Word.  

  1. The living Christ in his bodily form is not here. He has ascended and taken his place at the right hand of God.  
  1. Neither are his inspired prophets and apostles here. God has ordained for himself to be known primarily by the Word that was recorded from those prophets and apostles—especially those who knew the Lord himself in his physical form—and preserved what we need to know in this book. 

But let’s face it, reading through the entire Bible or even committing to reading a daily portion can be difficult. It can be a struggle to stay with it every day. That’s the way it is with most new things that we make a commitment to start; fitness, exercise, college, dieting. We begin with enthusiasm but somewhere along the way we give up. We lose focus, the excitement wanes. 

We may feel that we don’t have the time for reading the Bible every day.  But Dr. Tony Evans reminds us that we always have time for what is first on our list. The question then becomes: Is the Bible first on our list? 

Why is the Bible important? 

1) The Bible is enduring and lasting. (Because God is enduring) – Psalm 119:89 says: “Your Word, Oh Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” Isaiah 40:8 tells us, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God stands forever.” 

We live in changing times. Fads come and go, social mores change and we tend to drift away from God’s Word and lean more toward society and the culture around us.  

But the Word of God is enduring! Isaiah contrasts it with flowers and grass. Flowers and grass may be here today and we enjoy them, but we know that they are short-lived. Their beauty is fleeting. The same is true of us, our time on earth is short. Our earthly “wisdom” is usually shortsighted. God’s Word endures and stands firm in the ups and downs of life. 

The purposes of God, as published in these sacred writings, will never be stopped (cf. Matt. 5:18; 24:25; Mark 13:3; Luke 16:17). Remember the words in Isaiah 55:11, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” So, the Bible is enduring, but it is also trustworthy… 

2) The Bible is trustworthy (Because God is trustworthy) – Psalm 111:7 says, “All he does is just and good, and all his commandments are trustworthy.” In Ezekiel 12:25, “For I am the Lord! If I say it, it will happen.”  

God will fulfill what he says. He will honor his promises. He is faithful and just and we can depend on what he says. You can build your life upon the foundation of the Bible. 

In our world it can sometimes be very difficult to find a trustworthy and reliable person. Whether a car mechanic or a doctor or a plumber, a trustworthy person can be hard to find. People often go back on their word. They fail to live up to their commitments. Have YOU ever been burned by an unreliable person? Have you put your trust in something or someone and they let you down? Most of us have and that makes us a little hesitant to trust. But God has always been and always will be faithful, and because he is faithful, his word can be trusted. Since he has been faithful in the past, he can be trusted to be faith in the present.  

Why am I challenging you to read the Bible? 

Let’s start with the negative: we don’t want to be ignorant of what God has told us.  

  1. Paul often warned his readers that he did not want them to be ignorant about important subjects, like when he wrote to the Romans in 11:25 pleading with them not to be ignorant regarding the dealings of God with Gentiles and the nation of Israel. 
  1. He warned the Corinthians repeatedly about not being ignorant of several different theological subjects. He said in 1 Corinthians 12:1 “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant.” He was also disappointed with them regarding their divisions in the church and he was saddened that they were still needing milk like infants when they should have been pressing on to more substantial “meaty subjects.” 
  1. He warned then not to be ignorant concerning the schemes of Satan (2 Corinthians 2:11).  
  1. He warned the Thessalonians to not be ignorant concerning Christ’s second coming (1 Thessalonians 4:13) 

The writer to the Hebrews grieved over their lack of spiritual progress in Hebrews 5:11-12 – “There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. 12 You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.” 

Jesus rebuked the Sadducees for their lack of Bible knowledge, like in Matthew 22:29 – “Jesus replied, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God.” 

Likewise, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees in Matthew 12:3 by saying, “Have you not read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry?” 

God speaks to us through his Word and we dont want to be unaware of what he is saying to us. That is why it is important that we spend time reading His Word. 

Now let’s look at some positive reasons: 

Reading God’s word gives us: Education, Endurance, Encouragement and Hope. 

Look at Romans 15:4 – “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” 

The Scripture is given for our EDUCATION. That presupposes that we will not only be reading the Bible regularly but that we will also be studying it for ourselves. We can’t rely exclusively on the teaching of others. We need to be in the Word ourselves. Reading, meditating, and memorizing, and digging into the parables and the narrative sections and the doctrine and the theology. We need to be listening to God speaking through his Word. 

The Bible is given for us to ENDURE – We need to read God’s Word in difficult times. When the news is bad. When things are not working out like we had hoped. We don’t need endurance when times are good. Contained within the pages of the Bible are stories of endurance. Check our Hebrews 11 and read about the Hall of Faithfulness.  

These are stories of men and women whose faith endured in the midst of difficult times. We have wonderful records of the prophets who endured all sorts of treatment and lack of results for their effort.  

And coming to the New Testament we see Jesus who endured ill-treatment and abuse and yet he endured. And going further we observe the Apostles and the early church who through faith in God and his Word, they were able to persevere when the whole world seemed against them. 

Knowing the Bible gives us ENCOURAGEMENT – Many times I have been encouraged by the Scriptures and I’m sure that you have as well. There have been times when it seemed like just the right verse came along at the right time to lift me up and to help me keep going. I don’t see how lost people are able to deal with tragedy and difficulty. How does a person who does not know God deal with loss, suffering, and hardship? Many turn to alcohol or drugs or other forms of abuse to deaden the pain. But those things don’t solve the problems, do they? In fact, they make the problems worse. 

When I am feeling down, I know that I can turn to God’s Word and be lifted up out of that pit. But I need to be regularly in that Word in order for the Holy Spirit to bring out the help that I need.  

Finally, knowing the Bible gives us HOPE – You can live for weeks without food. You can go for days without water. But how long can you live without hope? Ken recently reminded us of the words of Dostoevsky who said, “To live without hope is to cease to live.” Shakespeare said, “The miserable have no other medicine, but only hope”  

Theologian Ken Boa wrote, “People cannot live without hope. Throughout history, human beings have endured the loss of many things. People have lost their health, their finances, their reputations, their careers, even their loved ones, and yet have endured. The pages of history books are filled with those who suffered pain, rejection, isolation, persecution, and abuse; there have been people who faced concentration camps with unbroken spirits and unbowed heads, people who have been devastated by Job-like trials and yet found the strength to go on without cursing God and dying. Humans can survive the loss of almost anything – but not without hope.” 

We live by hope, and when hope is gone, endurance and joy and energy and courage just evaporate. Life itself begins to fade. When hope goes, we start to die. One of the most profound proverbs of the Bible says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12). 

Romans 15:13 says, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit..” 

Maybe you agree that having the habit of daily Bible reading is a good idea. Maybe you struggle with being able to carry it out long term. In the past maybe you have started out well only to struggle somewhere along the path. 

In previous years, we have challenged you to read the whole Bible in a year. That may be nothing new for you; I’ve begun to read the whole Bible in a year on many occasions… the emphasis is on “begun.” But with all the best intentions, we sometimes aren’t able to finish the whole Bible in a year.  

This year, let’s try something different. Rather than focusing on reading through the Bible in a year, let’s focus on getting to know the God of the Bible. Let’s not read these chapters to check it off our reading list but focus on what God wants to teach us through our daily reading.  

Foundation 260 is all about reading a chapter a day, focusing on that one verse a day that jumps off the page for you, reading Monday through Friday. The New Testament has 260 chapters, and when we read 5 chapters a week, we cover the entire New Testament in the 52 weeks of 2021.  

You can do this on your own, if you choose. I have a few helpful tools in the foyer.  

Or, you might prefer the accountability of reading with other people who will challenge and encourage you to keep up with your reading, and also rejoice with you as you share how God is speaking to you through reading the Bible. Here is a link to join my Monday group.

There is a YouVersion App with an F260 reading plan, what could be easier? You can invite your friends to read with you and to hold each other accountable. I have also developed a few tools to help you succeed. 

1) This one explains the process and gives a lot of information to help you dig into the text.  

2) This one is the reading plan itself, reminding you what you will read each week to stay on track, and  

3) This one is the monthly reading and application guide to record your reading and actually write down what God is teaching you each day.  

This next year, won’t you join me in reading through the New Testament? We all understand that Bible study is so important, but hearing God speak is even greater.  

Let’s do this in 2021. Will you make the commitment to be a part of Foundation 260? Will you read the text each day? Will you join or start a group to discuss what God is teaching you?  

Let’s pray about it. 

Lord Jesus, we need to hear from you. We confess that we have not advanced toward maturity as we first hoped, and that we have become distracted and stagnant in the worries and cares of this life. Father, help us to make this commitment in good faith, and help us to trust you to keep us on track, because you have said through your Word that, “…I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” Father, we cannot do this on our own, and it would be futile to try to make it happen, but with all praise going to YOU, we can do this together with your help. Lord Jesus, speak to us, and make our lives useful to you. AMEN 

During this next song, seek God’s direction about your involvement in the challenge. 

I won’t shame anyone who is not ready to make this commitment, but perhaps you have been waiting for such an opportunity to do something like this. So, if you are on board with F260, would you stand up right now and show this congregation the desire of your heart to take on this challenge.  

Seriously, if you’re not ready to do this, I understand, people around you understand. Please don’t stand up if you need more time to consider this commitment.  

Closing Remarks: Find out more at the church website, come up and talk to me about it, join the group through the church groups app, and let’s make 2021 the best year ever for your spiritual growth. 

Church is a Team Sport

Below are my notes from Jim Putman’s book called, Church is a Team Sport. Buy this book!

In Church Is a Team Sport, Jim uses the analogy of coaching and teamwork to show how God built Real Life’s team from two couples to over eight thousand people in eight years—all in a northern Idaho town of ten thousand people.

When he started Real Life, he wanted to get back to the primary task of the church—making disciples. Many churches assume they can make disciples incidentally, but Real Life makes disciples intentionally.

Real Life’s vision is to fulfill the Great Commission. Following are some of the unique ways they are accomplishing this vision.

Disciple Making. Their vision to make disciples is the determining factor in everything they do. Most churches make it one of many emphases, hoping disciple making will take place by osmosis. At Real Life, however, if an activity does not contribute to making disciples, it takes a backseat.

A Relational Context. Real Life makes disciples in a relational context. That means making disciples in small groups. They believe that you can’t make disciples in a vacuum such as a class where you just pass on information.

Unity. Disunity in the church drove Jim Putman from the church and the faith of his father. When God led him to start a church, he resolved that unity would be a core value. Real Life focuses on the basic doctrines of the Bible but will not get sidetracked with peripheral issues.

Ministry. Ministry takes place in small groups, but it does not stop there. The church meets the needs of hundreds of needy people every month.

Evangelism. Evangelism is a natural outgrowth of all the things mentioned above. Because people get help in their small group, they naturally tell their friends. Every event sponsored by the church has the purpose of introducing people to Christ and making disciples.

Leadership Development. Because the goal is making disciples, Real Life is always looking for new leaders.

Teamwork. The name of the book hints that a winning team is the defining work of a coach. At Real Life they have one goal—winning. Winning is defined as making disciples who are like Christ. Every player is important.

Innovation. For Real Life innovation is not doing something that no other church has done. It is getting back to the basics and living as disciples. I have been surprised at their willingness to change.

Jim Putman is a coach at heart. He is a leader of people, and they follow him.

Here is a bit about Jim’s call to plant a church…

I hated the idea of church planting. The instant they asked me if I had an interest in planting this new church, those memories flooded my mind, and I rationalized there was no way this was from God. Even if I were to plant a church, I would never do it alone.

I remember thinking, Lord, if you want me to come to this place, you will have to change my heart. I also told God, even if He did change my heart, He would have to do a miracle.

On October 18, 1998, we had our official first service. It was a glorious day—and everything that could go wrong did. We had a single guitar, a bad sound system, ministry equipment that was built by hand, homemade signs, and bulletins that looked amateurish. It may not have looked good, but we had the Lord, each other, big dreams, and most of all, we had a simple biblical plan that was reproducible.

We continued to trust God for our needs. After that first year, we had grown to about five hundred people. We needed three services.

In three years, God had grown His new church from four families to 2,300 people!

We had always done things in small groups, because this was the only place that could provide the care we felt people needed.

We were overwhelmed. The largest church any of us had ever been in was three hundred. None of us had ever done what we were doing. I had never been a senior pastor.

We had a value system that drove everything we did. We believed in relationship and shepherding—in discipling those we won to the Lord.

One of the staff said, “What’s up with you?” I explained I had finally called all the people and now I had to write a sermon. His question: “Why are you doing all of that?” I told him that a pastor is supposed to pastor his people. My co-worker said something that still sticks with me. He said, “No, your job is to make sure people are pastored. You always talk about raising up people to do what you do; now let us do what you do.” Our team realized that we were at a crossroads.

Each team member had to make a decision. I was beat; our staff was exhausted. We had a choice to make. If all we looked at were the numbers, we’d say the success was killing us. But we knew in our hearts this wasn’t success. We were on our way to losing. We were becoming a show.

Since two of our church values were to raise up leaders and to pastor our people, we had to make a decision. If we could not or would not do this anymore, then we had to change our church’s purposes, which we had written on the wall and in our weekly bulletin. It had become obvious that we could not do it the way we had done it anymore.

The next Sunday, as a leadership team we stood in front of our people and explained our dilemma. We outlined the two options, reminded them what we had believed since the beginning, and told them what choice we had made. We would not seek to be like other big churches. We honestly shared our hearts and our convictions, and we let them know we were tired and needed their help if we were to be successful in the next step.

Then, we shared the plan. We would become completely small groups driven. We would spend our money on pastors who could disciple and release, rather than hire people who focused on the worship service. We would de-emphasize the show and focus on shepherding, discipleship, and relationship. We let them know they would have to step up and become ministers, not spectators—after all, this church is called Real Life Ministries (RLM), and we must all be ministers. The people went nuts. They gave us a standing ovation!

We concentrated on building leaders. Instead of merely feeding those who had been Christians for years but had never really grown up, we were going to force those who stuck around to grow up and serve.

We would be taking a chance. We knew that. Most of these men and women had never done anything but sit in a church pew, if they had been in church at all. Most had no training, no history of service, and certainly no experience in church leadership.

A LOOK AT THE EARLY CHURCH – During this time I had been reading the first few chapters of Acts in a new way. I was thinking about what starting a church must have been like for them. In the upper room, on the day of Pentecost, there were 120 people. By the end of the day 3,000 had gathered. What did the disciples do? How did they handle what must have been such utter chaos and confusion?

The early church was organized chaos. As I continued to study, I remember thinking, I see us in here! We can relate to these circumstances. We understand being overwhelmed. It gave me a picture of what we could look like. If God could use green, confused people in the first century, He could do it here and now.

We moved for many reasons. The foyer had come to resemble a mosh pit before and after services. Our children’s ministry could not squeeze one more child in. It could easily take thirty minutes to park and then even longer to get into the building. New and unsaved people were turning around and going home. We watched them in frustration as they circled the parking lot in their cars and left. We wanted to reduce the number of weekly services because our staff was exhausted.

We added one truly new component. We developed a way to track our people’s attendance in services and small groups. We wanted to know that our people were okay. We called it the C.A.R.E. Tool—Caring for All, Reaching Everyone. It took cooperation from our people and a computer system that could track attendance.

People don’t want to be a number. People want to be loved and affirmed and trained. A good shepherd chases the strays because he loves them. If they get away, it won’t be because he simply let them go.

When we first started, we put whoever we could find into leadership. Now, our leaders are coming from within the system. Our apprentices see a model to follow, and they are following and implementing our values. Our most effective small group leaders often became community coaches of six to ten small group leaders. Some have become elders in our church and others have come on staff.

God has indeed worked here at Real Life Ministries. He loves to use people who are clueless so He gets all the credit. It would be foolish to say this story has happened as the result of any one person. God wanted a church here and He acted. He is awesome! He is holy. He is unstoppable. All we can do is hold on and pray.

I believe a change is needed. The average church in America, as it is currently put together, is failing. This book will challenge you to rethink the box you were handed by those who taught you. As a leader, you are God’s coach, and He wants to use you to lead His team to victory. This book will also challenge you to discover a “new” way to find true victory.

I called my dad to gloat with the proverbial “I told you so.” Instead of responding the way I anticipated, my dad said something I will never forget: “Jim, I think you should get involved there and let the Lord use your abilities to fix some of the problems rather than point at them.”

That night my father called. “I have been thinking a lot about what you said. Jim, I want to give you an analogy I have been reflecting on. A healthy lake has water coming in and water going out. If no water continuously comes in, then the lake dries up. If a lake has water coming in but no water going out, then the lake floods and kills everything around it.”

You have choices to make, Jim. God is asking you to give. Instead of pointing out all the blemishes on His bride, the church, I believe God wants to use you to help clean her up.”

It’s God’s team, these are God’s people, I thought. As I traded in the mats and ball fields for the church boardrooms, I found something I did not expect. I found people who not only couldn’t play together but didn’t know how to play at all—a losing team. Over the years, it’s been disappointing to see God’s teams (the church) all over the country doing things that a good high school or college coach would never allow on a sports field. Many of God’s teams have created playbooks that were not approved by The Coach, and as a result we have lost more than we should have.

As I listened, I realized that these people, though they loved God, were not a team with a mission. They didn’t have a common view of what winning even was. They were not in agreement about where to go, so they were not going anywhere. As near as I could tell by their conversations and actions, their goal was to keep their people comfortable.

With no vision, the people had stopped moving toward anything meaningful; rather than fighting the enemy, we were fighting each other. I think the worst thing was to see that people just didn’t seem to care anymore. There was this sense of complacency that permeated every aspect of the church.

Some of the coaches I met with had given up altogether and were biding their time, waiting to retire. They were not conquering the enemy, battling in the trenches for the souls of men; they were just surviving. Many a well-meaning pastor told me that I was far too idealistic. They had once been that idealistic, but they had learned what I would learn soon enough—to lower my expectations. Many of the younger ambitious pastors were using their churches as stepping-stones to other, bigger ministries. It was a career for them and they wanted to reach the top.

I heard a lot about the show on the weekend, how to use video projectors, or how to tweak the worship service to really draw a crowd. The buildings I visited were probably full on the weekend, but they were like cemeteries during the week. As I walked away from those many meetings, I once again believed that the team was losing in most places.

George Barna, a Christian pollster who researches the church in America, sheds some light on the matter. His group has found that an incredibly small number of people expect to have an experience with God at church.

SO WHAT IS A CHURCH? – As I am sure you have noticed already, I believe that the church is supposed to be a collection of transformed individuals molded by God into a team.

GOD’S DEFINITION OF A CHURCH – When I say these kinds of things, people ask me how I define the word church. When I speak of church, I mean a body of believers working as individuals and together as a team to achieve the Lord’s goals. God’s plan is to glorify Himself through this team. As individuals we minister wherever we work and live. We use our talents, gifts, and resources to minister in our communities in ways that can be done only as a collective force. Our winning team reaches the world with the message of the gospel and then disciples those who have been won to obedience and replication.

DEFINING TERMS: WHAT IS WINNING? – During a game, coaches and players are constantly looking at the scoreboard. They want to know what the score is because game strategy changes based on that tally. If their team falls behind, they double their efforts and change the game plan. As the clock winds down, those on the losing team become more desperate. The intensity heightens during the last few minutes of the game.

Jesus will always take us as we are, but He will not leave us that way. He will start the process of unmaking what we have become so that He can remake us into something useful for His purposes. God’s plan was to disciple us through the Word, through His Spirit, and with the guidance of His coaches. In this discipleship process, He gives us teachers (coaches) who will help us understand what it means to follow Him. He also gives us His Word as a guidebook so that we can understand the game. He gives us teammates who help us win this game that can only be won as a team. He gives us the Holy Spirit who guides us into His perspective of life and eternity. He gives us His heart to care about what He cares about, his eyes to see what He sees, and His power to do what He would have us do.

So what is winning? Many think winning is about numbers. We want converts, they say. Wrong! Winning is making disciples— converts who are discipled onto God’s team and taught to take part in Christ’s mission. Numbers don’t mean much unless you are counting the number of people being transformed by the Holy Spirit. Disciples are those able to stand up under the pressure of the world. They are able to share their faith unashamed. They are filled with the fruit of the Spirit, which results in increased relationship with others and glory to God.

According to the Barna Research Group, there are about 360,000 churches in America. Current numbers tell us that only 15 percent of these churches are growing, and only 2 to 5 percent of the churches are experiencing new conversion growth.

The statistic that breaks my heart is the one Josh McDowell gives in his book The Last Christian Generation. In it he reveals that 85 percent of kids who come from Christian homes do not have a biblical worldview. Most of them are leaving the faith between ages eighteen and twenty-four, never to return.

We are told to teach those we baptize to obey all that is commanded. First we make converts, secondly we make disciples. So how is the team doing with those who have been converted? How is the church doing with those who are supposed to be Christians? When you look at the statistics for those who do go to church, you will see very little statistical difference between the churched and the unchurched when it comes to giving, the divorce rate, and views on morality. While part of the battle may be getting them to church, the greater task lies in what to do with them once they come to church.

Only 51 percent of pastors questioned had a biblical worldview.

Barna went to people in the congregations of those pastors who did have a biblical worldview and asked the same questions. Less than one in seven had a biblical worldview. In other words, though the pastor believed and taught biblical truths, the congregation did not share those views.

Let’s sum up what we see on the scoreboard. As we look at what is being produced in America’s churches, I see nothing like what was intended by our Lord. American Christians are not on a mission. They look far more like the world than they should. They live the same way and chase the same things. Their marriages and families look the same. They are biblically illiterate and care little about sharing their faith with others. Churches are producing people who do not and cannot share the gospel. You tell me, how are we doing? What’s the score?

HIS TEAM WINS! – In Matthew 16, Jesus tells Peter, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (v. 18). When I compare this statement with the church in America as a whole, I am left with a problem. Since I am a black-and-white kind of guy, I can only come up with two alternatives. Option 1: Jesus is a liar because the gates of hell are prevailing against the church. Or option 2: The church that is being prevailed against isn’t Jesus’s church at all. Jesus did not promise the gates of hell would not prevail against a church but that it would not be able to stop His church.

It is better to have no church in an area than to have a church that makes Jesus look powerless and irrelevant.

Another reason a team might lose is found in 1 Corinthians 9:22–23. Paul makes it clear that he will do whatever it takes short of sin to reach the lost. He says it this way, “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”

There are many other reasons a team might fail, but let me just mention one more. Some of the coaches of God’s teams have decided that they don’t want to use the Lord’s playbook, the Bible, anymore. They are more interested in hearing the praises of men, culture, politicians, etc., than they are the praises of God.

A coach is expected to lead. It is part of the job. We do not pay for our kids to play in a sport where there is little control and leadership. We don’t want our kids to dictate the pace or the schedule—we want them to learn, to improve.

PLAYER OR COACH? – When I was a player, I had a player’s mind-set. I wanted to compete at the highest level, so I concentrated on acquiring and honing the skills and stamina that I would need to win on the mat or field. My focus was on my position, and I hoped everyone else would carry their own weight. If each part of the team did their job, we would win. When I became a coach, my job was no longer about what position I was going to play; I was no longer going to play a position. My job was to develop people so that they could play their positions or wrestle their weights. It was no longer about what I would do on the mat or field. It was about what I could train the athletes to do in their moment of decision.

There is nothing worse than having a player in a coach’s position.

WHAT IS A COACH? – Just as a coach can hurt the team by not understanding his role, a pastor can hurt the church for the same reason. God has given His coaches a job description in Ephesians 4:11–13.

This passage tells us that the job of a pastor has two parts. First, they are to prepare or equip God’s players to play, or in biblical terminology, to serve one another and reach out to the world. Secondly, pastors are to lead their people to become unified. No team, no matter how great the players, can win if they are not unified. The team must have the same goal, the same language; they must have a common understanding of the part they play; and they must work together to achieve that goal.

Pastors are taught that if they have (1) good preaching, (2) good worship, (3) good children’s ministries, and (4) good location, they will have a big church.

As a result of a pastor’s “show” mentality, many Christians have come to believe their job is to attend the show.

The Scriptures tell us that we are to be part of a team that works together to achieve God’s purposes. We don’t go to church; we are the church. In a church you are invited to volunteer; on a team you are expected to play a part.

A coach’s job is to make sure everyone understands his obligation to the team. A coach makes sure every player understands what “the Owner” requires. The One who bought us for a price expects us to play. Winning is not gathering a crowd. It’s raising, training, and releasing a team.

THE PAID-PLAYER MENTALITY – Let me point out again that somehow pastors have come to believe that they are the paid players, and the people who attend are the fans. Game day is Sunday and the building is the arena. People in the area will follow the best team in town, so ours better be the best. The elders or board members are the general managers and owners who watch to make sure the people are getting what they pay for.

When the paid-player mentality guides the church, everything becomes a show, and soon they think they have to have a whole cast of paid professionals to create little spectacles for their assigned demographic groups.

They scour the land to steal a great player from another team, while their best players are being scouted as well.

Because the show is so important, they spend most of the week developing the next show and have little time for relationship with the people in the church.

THE POWER OF RELATIONSHIPS – As Real Life grew, we came to a real crossroads. Our small band of leaders and I believed in shepherding our people. We believed in relationship, in real discipleship, but we had grown past our ability to do that successfully in the way we had in the past.

Conversely, if you love your people and help them grow in their relationship with Jesus and find relationships with others on your team, people will put up with less because they know they are loved. If people know they are loved, and have been affected by your mission, they will be more likely to get involved in it.

DITCHING THE SHOW MENTALITY – God’s idea of a coach is one who creates a system that develops people into great players.

However, a good coach develops a way to turn those he gathers and leads into great players. He creates a way to guide them into their position on the team. Every person is a player. Success is creating a team that can work together. Success is finding and developing players who will later become coaches themselves.

When I look at churches filled with people who have come to watch the show and I don’t see any intentional attempt to move people into the discipleship process, it saddens me. A congregation that is informed about the game is not the same as a congregation that is committed to learning how to play the game.

So the goal of a coach is to follow God’s guidance toward creating a team that can win. A winning team is one that reaches the lost and makes disciples who can disciple others. The goal of winning is not to fill stadiums with fans; it’s not about numbers, unless what you are counting is the number of godly disciples. Life change is the goal.

You find out what a person values by how he treats people who can’t add value to the person’s reputation or success.

Great coaches have something special that many knowledgeable leaders lack. The Bible uses a word that I think describes a great coach perfectly—shepherd.

We forget that the devil now sees the one we just baptized as an enemy. This is not like a physical game we might play, where at worst we get hurt accidentally and need medical attention. Satan is not happy about losing that person to Jesus.

We often don’t understand that we just got this new believer into a war they are not equipped to fight. They don’t know the rules, or the weapons available, or even how to use them.

Every player needs to go through a process of learning that will eventually lead him or her to become fully equipped to play the game. The coach’s job is to guide the rookie by creating a climate of shepherding. We teach them and allow them to make mistakes. We must disciple our people. It starts with taking responsibility not just for winning the lost but for shepherding them too. The pastor can’t do this by himself. Part of his job is to create a shepherding environment where everyone is challenged to shepherd others and win the lost.

Jesus gave us the example of a true shepherd when He gave up His life for us. In Acts 20:28, Paul tells the elders to shepherd the flock of which he had made them overseers. He reminds the leaders in that passage that the sheep were purchased by God.

God describes His expectations of a shepherd in Ezekiel 34:2–10:

We see God judging the shepherds because they failed to fulfill their responsibility—they had not fed the sheep but only themselves.

In Ezekiel 34, the sheep were not cared for. When they were hurt, they were not nursed back to health. When they strayed or were lost, the shepherd didn’t look for them. They became food for wild animals. This is what happens in the church when God’s people are not shepherded.

Unfortunately, sheep stink, bite, and wander, and they can be stubborn. Yet God expects shepherds to care for His flock.

Many pastors teach but are not around when the sheep need help. Granted, a pastor can’t do everything, but his responsibility is to make sure all the positions on the team are filled.

Every coach needs to have a game plan for shepherding the hurting and chasing strays. We are often like the hired hand Jesus talks about. When the wolf comes, we run or ignore the plight of the sheep because we don’t really love them.

Sometimes, shepherding means getting dirty. People’s lives are messy, and it takes time for the Lord to clean them up. Too often our lives are so busy that the only people we can see ourselves working with are those who won’t take much time. We don’t think in terms of relationship; we think in terms of information.

Volunteer organizations are unique. People do not have to follow. You can’t hold a paycheck over their head. You don’t have the power to make them do anything. If you want to lead a volunteer organization, you have to understand people will only follow if they want to. They will only follow if they believe you care for them.

Most of us think this means writing better sermons, but you have heard the true statement that “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” A leader must be someone who knows his sheep and understands their needs. He leads them, teaches them, and models for them how to serve God and others. There is mutual accountability and trust. The shepherd knows when his sheep have succeeded, and he celebrates with them. He knows when they feel defeated and need encouragement and support. He grieves with them, and when the sheep wander, he does all he can to get them back on track.

When a church becomes a shepherding community, when they care for the needs of others, when they help people beat the habits that have always beaten them, when they dare to be real, others can’t help but notice. They see joy and a change in the person they have always known, and they become interested—even excited. At the very least, they keep watching.

Churches often have stated goals but behaviors that circumvent or work against them. For instance, we might say we want to reach the world, but we do things that keep us from being in contact with the world we want to reach. We plan an outreach, but it is really designed to attract people who already think like us (other believers). We don’t know how to relate to lost folks, so we pray and expect that God will bring them to us.

REACHING OUT WITH BRIDGES – At Real Life we do a variety of special outreach events. We call them bridges. They are designed to meet unsaved people in a place that will allow them to be comfortable.

A good outreach event always bridges people to the next step in the process. We know the goal is to see them become disciples who can disciple others. Our goal at the outreach event is to make sure they are invited into the next step in the process. We must have a process in place to take them to that next step.

However, public displays of emotion can be something many shy away from because of their upbringing, so lighting matters. I believe the darker the better, because it makes people feel alone with God. The more they are made to feel like they are the only ones there, the more they may worship publicly.

Every message must motivate people to action. Every sermon must encourage believers to live an authentic lifestyle of love.

We also have the people who were a part of their conversion baptize them. This promotes what we believe about every person being a player, a priest, a minister, with the purpose of declaring the praises of Him who saved us.

During our worship service, we have something we call directed prayer. It’s a time where we have someone on stage direct the thoughts of those in the service to a particular person or thing.

Most of our decision cards come in after directed prayer and communion and before the message. At first this puzzled me because I wanted the message to inspire people to make decisions. Yet what I’ve found is that when you allow people to spend time with God in worship and prayer, reminding them during communion of what Jesus did for them, the Spirit convicts them and they make decisions.

THE INVITATION – Though many make decisions before the sermon, we believe that an invitation ought to be given every time we get together in a service. We do this in two ways. First, we have a card in every bulletin where people can either write a prayer request or ask to receive a call from a pastor.

Many people come forward after services also. Our staff, elders, and prayer team members pray with them or share God’s plan for their lives with them.

Every week we encourage small group participation, because it’s not God’s plan for them to be loner Christians.

If they don’t come, you know there can only be a few explanations: (1) they found water somewhere else; (2) they were attacked by a wild animal or are sick; or (3) they broke through the fence and are lost.

In our bulletins and on our walls, we advertise different ministries and events for people to check out. These are connecting points where people can find places to serve, places to learn, and places to form relationships.

One of the things we have learned over the years is to use the worship service as a time to promote and praise what you value. If you value service, then praise service. If you value decisions for Jesus, praise those who help people make decisions. If you want people to get connected, then make sure you speak about it often. If you value discipleship, emphasize discipleship. What you value you promote.

Every program’s leadership must understand its dual purpose in the context of the goal: winning the world for Jesus, one person at a time, and making disciples in a relational environment.

A ministry in our church is a part of the process or system we use to meet God’s goal.

Programs are a strategy used in the game; they are not the game! Someone with a program mentality is only interested in their own program. They think if they create it, people will come, and when they come, that’s it. Job well done! They are satisfied when someone comes to their programmed event as a spectator.

Every leader in our church understands they are in a shepherding community. They understand they are part of a network of shepherds, all working together to care for the flock. If one of their sheep strays, we will do everything we can to bring them back.

Programs must be about more than just performance. We are instructed to use our gifts and talents to glorify God.

Every coach, no matter what the level, has a two-tiered job to do: (1) develop skilled players that understand their positions and (2) coach them to play well together.

Typically, a high school coach is responsible for overseeing a program that extends from the little kids’ age group to the high school varsity program. He aligns all the coaches throughout the age groups to produce athletes who understand the style of play expected when the athlete hits the varsity program.

A college coach also develops players, but he deals with athletes who already have a skill base developed by past coaches and experiences.

I believe most leaders of churches behave like college coaches, looking for stars that can be plugged in immediately with little or no development. Jesus, on the other hand, taught His future coaches to work like good high school coaches.

Consider the people Jesus chose to follow Him. Almost every disciple was unprepared and unqualified. Jesus loves to use people others would bypass. He loves to develop people to be more than anyone thought they could be so He gets the glory.

If you develop them, they can be great players and eventually great leaders. If you expect to receive skilled players out of the blue, you will usually be disappointed.

If you want to be a great coach, you must look at what great coaches do. The best way to become like them is to watch them, listen to them, and mimic them. Jesus is the best example of what it means to be a great coach. He gave us a picture of real discipleship that works.

When I give this scenario to loving parents and they imagine it happening to their child, it makes their blood boil. Of course they would never stand for such a thing. Why do we react so adversely to this but allow the same type of thing to happen in our churches every week? The people in our pews are struggling with the most important subject there is—salvation. We stand in front of them for forty minutes a week and describe on the big screen what it takes to solve life’s biggest problems. We don’t have time to tutor them, and we don’t raise up people who do. Is it any wonder why our people can’t answer the easiest of biblical questions?

As a teacher, I learned to value small class sizes. A good teacher, in the right setting, can get to know each student. In other words, in a “relational environment,” a teacher can really teach each student. The teacher can discover what learning style a student has, how a new principle applies to a student’s life, and when a student isn’t getting it. A good teacher will also recognize when a child is going through a difficult time outside the classroom and can come alongside the child and help them deal with the life issue immediately.

When dealing with our children, we often hear that character is caught, not taught. Jesus modeled everything from how to deal with enemies to how to deal with sinners.

Few of us have accountability in our relationships. It takes time to build a relationship, especially one that allows others to know us well enough to speak truth to our hearts. I have seen many pastors fall because they hid from those who could help them in times of weakness.

Jesus modeled effective discipleship for us through building relationships. He could call His disciples on the carpet when they got it wrong. He encouraged them and provided a safe place where they could voice their shortcomings and ask for help. He had a small group of men He could really know and thus keep accountable. Once again, real discipleship happens in small groups.

A discipleship environment must include authenticity. Churches can be full of pretentious people trying to make an impression. If everyone is a fake, there can be no accountability. Church relationships are then shallow and superficial. Discipleship must provide a safe place to share your struggles without rejection.

Before people will be real, they must see their leader be real. This doesn’t mean we constantly air our dirty laundry, but we let others know that we struggle, we fall, and we keep trying.

If our goal is to make disciples who can disciple others, we must release them into the field of ministry. Jesus modeled this when He sent out the seventy-two to preach in the area towns. He then brought them back to debrief their experiences.

We learn by doing. The job of a disciple maker is to teach and release so that those being taught can truly learn.

In the same sense, the job of a coach is to provide a place for the athletes to practice what they learn and eventually do it in their own life.

Jesus calls us to follow Him and take up our cross daily. God’s Word tells us to seek after His kingdom and His righteousness, and to stop chasing the things of the world. Instead, some try to take the gospel message and package it in a way that is compatible with the American lifestyle and culture, regardless of whether it’s what God wants. We must reach people where they are, but that doesn’t mean we make it easy for them to stay there.

Pastors are trying their best to preach the gospel but are employing a model for discipleship that doesn’t work. As a result, they are producing the wrong product—church-attending Christians who live like the rest of the world.

The result of the discipleship process in a community is growth. When a church works as a team, they develop people—people who look like Jesus.

THE DEFINITION OF A DISCIPLE – The first question is “What is a disciple?” To answer this, we point them to Matthew 4:18–20

First, a disciple is one who has made Jesus the Lord of his or her life. Jesus said, “Come, and follow me.” He is the leader. We must be committed to being the followers.

Second, a disciple is one who has entered a process of relational discipleship with other maturing Christians. Jesus invited His disciples to be in relationship with Him. It was the primary way He shaped them.

Third, a disciple is one who is becoming Christlike. He or she has begun a process of change that is orchestrated by Jesus. Jesus said, “Come, follow me, and I will make you” . . . into something.

Finally, a disciple is one who is committed to the mission of Christ. Jesus said that He would make us into “fishers of men.” When we spend time with Jesus, we start to care about what He cares about.

AN INTENTIONAL PROCESS FOR REPRODUCING DISCIPLESHIP – The second question we are often asked is “What is the reproducible process you use to make disciples?” We call it the Share, Connect, Minister, and Disciple process, or S.C.M.D. for short (see pages 157–58).

Share We call the first stage the Share phase. Share-level people are those who have either not accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior or have accepted Him but have not been connected to other believers.

Connect Once disciples have entered the Connect phase of the process, the leader and the group they connect with will inspire, teach, and model for them what it means to love God and others.

Minister People who are properly connected and have the right heart will eventually start to move into the Ministry phase of discipleship. In this stage they will start to see things as God sees them, because they are connected to Him.

Disciple Finally, the young disciples will move into the last stage of the discipleship process. We call this the Disciple phase. In this stage the disciples learn not only to minister to those around them but to train others to do the same thing.

COACHING PRINCIPLES In wrestling, I had kids at all different levels on my team. My job was to figure out where each guy was and put together a plan to help him attain the next level of his development. I did not train each guy the same way, because what would help one person would hurt another. By the same token, what would help one might bore another to death. A good coach develops a plan that helps each person attain the next level of their development and then helps his coaches understand the process so they can develop the ability to do the same with others.

The team at Real Life created a way to help leaders recognize where people are. The key is to ask questions and listen—to listen to the phrase from the phase. Remember, the phases in the process are Share, Connect, Minister, and Disciple. At each phase of the process, people say things that tell us where they are. Once we know where they are, we as leaders can help get them what they need for growth.

SHARE-LEVEL PEOPLE There are different kinds of Share-level people—the unsaved and the saved. When unsaved people are at the Share level, we know what they need—they need salvation, they need the gospel.

Share-level people who have been believers for a while are a little trickier to understand. They may have “prayed the prayer” years ago and may even know the Bible inside and out and have all the right answers, but they are missing the will of God by not being connected and involved.

CONNECT-LEVEL PEOPLE – Connect-level people are those who have moved into a group led by a Disciple-level person (best-case scenario). They are in a relational environment for the purpose of discipleship.

MINISTRY-LEVEL PEOPLE – Remember, a Ministry-level person is one who has made the transition from “I” to “others.” They will seek to do what they do so that God will be glorified. They are also interested in serving in a ministry for more than what they can get out of it.

DISCIPLE-LEVEL PEOPLE – Before too long, people in the Ministry level will desire to do more than care for a need. They will begin to ask questions like, “Who can I get to help me reach more people in this ministry?” When we as their Disciple-level leader notice Ministry-level people desire to train others, it’s time to help develop a strategy.

Notice that our goal is to raise up those who can make disciples. Disciples learn as they go. They do not have to be perfect to get into the game, because perfection is not possible.

Our method for raising up people is through small groups. In those small groups, our leaders have access to people. They can start to know them well enough to really teach them, and they can see their talents and walk beside them as they develop them.

Notice a few things. First, Disciple-level people see the need to grow a ministry they are passionate about. Second, they notice that the ministry could expand if they had help. Third, they notice the gifts and passions of someone else who could play a part in the ministry. Fourth, they are willing to invest in another who they see needs to be trained.

CATCH AND RELEASE: THE KEY TO GROWTH – We have all heard the saying, “If you give someone a fish, you feed them for a day; if you teach them to fish, they will feed themselves for life.” The main objective of discipleship is to bring everyone to the Disciple level where they have learned to minister with another purpose: to train others to do the same things they have been taught to do.

A WORD OF CAUTION – As we put this plan together, it was never our intention to build a comprehensive process for discipleship. People are so different, as are their needs, backgrounds, and leadership and learning styles. Our goal was to try to put together a process that would give people a place to start. Our heart is to see people discipled.

THE FUNNEL CHART – Our church has put together this chart that attempts to lay out our entire strategy for others to see and understand. The 101 (Share Level) Class teaches them what we believe about salvation, basic theology, church structure, and philosophy. The 201 (Connect Level) Class gets them connected if they are not already. It teaches them the basics of discipleship, what a disciple is, and where they are in the discipleship process. The 301 (Ministry Level) Class explains what a leader in our church is expected to do. The job description and expectations of a leader are clearly explained. We have all our leaders go through the 301 every year. The 401 (Disciple Level) Class teaches ministry skill sets to our leaders as well as deeper spiritual and theological truths. As we discover weaknesses, we create new classes that we add to the 401 Class list. Every road leads to a small group where our people learn to actually live out the truths that our classes teach. They become small churches within the church.

As we walked back to the locker room, some of my teammates came running over, laughing and shoving each other. They wanted to know where we were going for pizza. I wanted to smack them! But then I realized they were the guys who never got to play. They were the ones who sat on the bench, along for the ride. Sure, they were bummed not to get another weekday off of school, but it occurred to me: those on the bench have little at stake in how the team does. Their heart and soul are not as involved; they are spectators in uniforms.

They don’t care when the team loses because it wasn’t something they invested in, and I don’t mean just financially. They don’t participate in any ministry; they haven’t invested their personal time physically or emotionally. They have put forth no effort caring for others. They have nothing at stake!

This is often how many churches deal with their people. Many of God’s coaches have no playbook to give the potential players that may come to their teams. They let people do what they want or, just as bad, they let them do nothing, just sit and watch the coach perform.

IT STARTS WITH THE COACHING STAFF – When we first started conferences at Real Life, we thought that the reason most churches failed was their methodology. We found instead that the first problem was a lack of unity in the leadership.

FROM THE STAFF TO THE PLAYERS – Once the leadership is on the same page, it is essential that you put together an official playbook all the players can read and understand. In our church it is the 101–201–301–401 classes. We took the names from Saddleback Church in California and changed the content to fit who we are.

Church life is the same. If the leadership of a church has agreed upon a system but cannot get the players to run by the plan, that team cannot win. People choose a church based primarily on the one that meets their needs. They come with expectations and demands. Many have come from other churches that ran a different system or no system at all. They may not bring you their playbook, but they definitely run by their own set of understandings and expectations.

Once again, the leadership must intentionally bring the team together. A good coach must have a way to bring the new players on board and keep the existing players inspired—all going the same direction. There must be a common language, a common goal.

We start with a Joining the Team class that is offered every month. Our 101 class is designed as an overview of our playbook.

We share with them that Jesus also tells His future team that the message will not be delivered powerfully or effectively if the team will not work together (see John 17).

We tell them, “At Real Life, people must agree to this playbook and our unique execution of the plays if they want to be involved on the field with this team.” They must sign a covenant and agree to the code of conduct given to us by God in his ultimate playbook, the Bible.

After our people attend the 101 class, the next step is the 201 class. This class explains the discipleship process to people who more than likely have not understood what a disciple is.

At Real Life, every leader including myself, our staff, and our elders must take our 301 (Ministry-level) class every year. Our new leaders will take it as they take on leadership responsibility, and our existing leadership is brought back to the fundamentals of our team by repeating the class yearly.

The goal is not to come up with something new but to commit to the things that have made us a winning church.

Every year a good coach takes his team through the fundamentals again.

If your church is like ours, some of your people grew up on other teams. We are not naïve enough to believe that one class will undo all of the habits and beliefs people hold.

At Real Life we take our leaders through ongoing training, our 401 (Disciple-level) classes. Our goal is to continue their education by teaching skill sets they will need to pastor and lead their individual groups. These classes may teach them to defend the Scriptures, help them learn to facilitate a group more effectively, train them in entry-level counseling, or cover things like hospital visitation.

Obviously, classes alone are not enough. One of the other things we do is preach a series on RLM’s goals every year. The goals are then taught in our small groups with curriculum that corresponds with the sermon series.

Every week I remind those who come how important it is to be connected in a small group. It is the place we get pastored and discipled. We also show a video of the previous week’s baptisms in each service. It’s one more way we remind our people why we exist: to reach the world for Jesus.

To further honor and inform our leaders, I send out a leadership email that shares upcoming events and points of interest. They have earned the right to know before anyone else because of their service.

The job of a leadership team in a church is to guide the team to a God-glorifying, biblical vision. The job of a coaching staff is to make sure that everyone is running the same play at the same time and that everyone knows the goal of the team and is able to state the goals effectively.

Each believer has a function that is essential to the success of the mission. We must be unified to win, just as a team of talented individuals cannot win without teamwork.

It sounds simple, but there’s a problem. We have an enemy seeking to push each individual to the top. Pride is the ally of the enemy.

The first is accountability. A leader who has free rein to do what he wishes is in a dangerous situation. Power without accountability corrupts.

Second, many leaders working together can see more than one can alone. Some pastors have elderships where they surround themselves with those who see things the way they do or those who will give in when pushed. This is foolish. Scripture tells us multiple counselors give wisdom.

Third, when the congregation knows there is a team working together for their best interests, it gives them a sense of security, much like a child with two parents who love and respect each other and the child. Multiple leaders provide the church with stability.

Finally, with a joint leadership team you are promoting what you value by your example.

SERMON CLUB – Every week at RLM, a good portion of the staff meet with me in Sermon Club. We generally work on the sermon a few weeks out. Doing that allows time for our other ministries to find or develop dramas, videos, or props that will help drive the message home.

Sermon Club is my answer to several problems related to preaching.

1. My goal is to prepare disciples who can disciple others. Sermon Club gives my staff, some of whom are future preachers, a chance to see how a sermon is created.

2. Sermon Club is an answer to my sermon preparation problem. How can I create good sermons in less time so that I can spend more time with the flock and have more time to disciple future leaders?

3. These meetings also give me an opportunity to hear about the cares and concerns of people from the congregation.

4. Perhaps one of the most valuable aspects to this method is the varying perspectives. Individuals share what they think would be the best way for me to speak to people in their demographic and ministry groups.

5. A coach must make the team feel valued. These meetings are a great place for me to reinforce to the team that their opinions are important and can make a difference.

6. By the end of Sermon Club, we have created something we worked on together. I’ve modeled teamwork and I let the congregation know that we came up with this message together so they don’t give me too much credit.

I was in the office working on the next sermon series, tired as usual, when one of my close friends and staff members came in to see how I was doing. I told him I was tired, and he asked if he could share something with me. He said some things I didn’t really want to hear. He shared that I was not living out my own philosophy when it came to preaching. He asked why I wasn’t raising up people to do what I was doing. He told me I was losing my joy, and I was at risk for burnout.

I believed in the philosophy of raising people up, but my actions weren’t reflecting it. I needed to live what I believe.

I decided to make some changes. I went to my staff and asked some of them to start team teaching with me.

This accomplished several goals: the congregation got used to hearing another perspective, and they saw that I approved of the person speaking with me; it saved my voice; it allowed others to see that these guys could answer questions and pastor them as well as I could; and it allowed my staff the opportunity to speak in front of large crowds.

When we started training leadership from other churches, we thought we’d find the biggest need would be new methodology. We were wrong. The greatest need was for unity.

William Wallace asked the clans to unite, but all they would do was squabble. They had the ability to take their country back from the British tyrant Longshanks, but they didn’t.

The job of the leader is to unite the clans, the team members. A good coach unites his team leaders with a common vision, but he also must bring his team together into a relationship that resembles godly, loving, nurturing, Christian fellowship. Relationships are like ropes that tie people together. The more ropes, the more stable you’ll be on the side of the mountain you are climbing.

Bickering among team leadership or staff will destroy a team.

When there is strife between brothers, God won’t accept a sacrifice, let alone bless the church. How can we expect to win or go forward if God isn’t blessing us?

As disciples, our job is not only to transfer information about the definition of love but also to model love in our actions. People need living models of what love looks like.

If Christian leaders, supposedly committed to Jesus and to His ways, empowered by the Holy Spirit, cannot stay in relationships, then what hope do our new believers have?

GOD’S LEADERS NEED ENCOURAGEMENT – Encouragement is another reason relationships are a must for God’s leaders. We are in a spiritual fight.

Pastors are often expected to be people who have already arrived instead of fellow travelers. Many times the congregation does not feel that way, but somehow the pastor believes they do.

These fears cause people to live in the dark. The devil loves the dark because he can play with our minds there.

My sociology teacher told me Christianity was responsible for the Inquisition, the Crusades, and many other evils in the world. Biology taught me that I was the product of a natural process of evolution. Philosophy taught me there were many roads to heaven, and it was my choice, because I was the ultimate decider of truth. I came away believing God was a crutch for broken people, and since I wasn’t broken, I didn’t need Him, if He existed at all.

I will never forget what he said. “Son, you are not an intellectual. What you are saying is foolish. An intellectual is one who studies both sides of the issue, then makes an informed decision. You have not studied the claims you have just made. You’re merely quoting other men who have not studied the claims that someone else made to them.”

My father replied, “Jim, you are a coward. You have made some big claims. Back them up! If you study this subject and find I am wrong, fine. I will accept that and respect you for doing the research. But if you do not study, I will think you are afraid.”

Unity mattered to me. One of the arguments I would use on Christians before I became one was, “You people can’t even get along with each other. If Jesus said He came to bring peace, then He must be a liar.” Non-Christians notice church splits, angry words, and denominational differences. I used to say, “If Jesus can’t keep His word down here, how can I believe He has something better after I die?”

There are many issues we can highlight that fit into the same discussion: eternal security, eschatology, the gifts of the Spirit, and more. Can you be saved, no matter what side of the debate you take on these issues? If the answer is yes, let’s concentrate on things we can agree on and get the work of the church done.

The goal of Scripture was not to get Christians to fight each other.

Though we allow differing opinions without judging someone’s salvation, this doesn’t mean that as a church we don’t set policy for our people to adhere to as members of the team. In our 101 class, I make the statement that we will not allow non-salvation issues to become something that divides the team.

Though you can believe different things about non-salvation issues, the unity and the direction of the church must be preserved.

When a different coach teaches something that is not heresy but is different from what we teach, we say, “That is great for that team, but our team has a playbook, and we stick to it so we can be unified.”

As a leader, never give a false picture of another’s view or make someone appear to be stupid. Give an accurate, balanced account of both sides. It is best to allow someone you respect, but who differs with you on a subject, to share his or her perspective.

Spirit-filled Christians should fight only the fights that God wants them to fight. We don’t fight because we love to, only because we have to. One fruit of the Spirit is peace.

Remember, the goal of God’s team is to win. We win when we attack the culture with our thinking, energy, resources, and abilities. The goal: to take territory from the enemy. The objective: souls restored to their Creator. God’s team, the church, is not just hiding out from the enemy. In coach’s language, we are trying to build the program. We are trying to recruit new players for the team.

Jesus makes it clear that we are to look out for and care for the hurting. Scripture tells us that pure and undefiled religion is to care for the widows and orphans. Jesus said that to care for the least is to care for Him.

REACHING YOUR COMMUNITIES – I have four recommendations for church leaders who want to reach their communities. These recommendations come from my own experience at Real Life.

First, pray that God will reveal to you how He would have you reach the area where you live.

Second, vision-cast as a leader the idea that God has given you a mission and every person is an important part of it.

Third, as you do this, people will start to share those dreams with you and the leadership. New ideas for outreach will rise to the top. Your job is to figure out which are Spirit-led ideas.

Fourth, you must take the ideas that are given and discern if the need is real or imagined.

Remember, the job of a coach is to get other gifted people to play the positions they are gifted for. If the coach is busy playing all the positions, he won’t have time for anything new.

As you start to reach out in your community, remember that the end goal is to bridge your people to the discipleship process. If all you do is move people from the world to the church service, you have fallen short of discipling those you attracted.

Your job is to make sure that a process is developed that takes people from the world all the way to maturity through relationship and service.

If we have the “we have arrived” attitude, it won’t be long before we become complacent. Worse yet, we may begin the downward spiral of self-destruction; pride comes before a fall.

An accurate and honest assessment encourages better leadership. In order to improve, constructive criticism is essential. When we accept our faults correctly, as something that can be changed, rather than seeing ourselves as complete failures, we are able to grow.

A TEST IN PERCEPTION – Not long ago we developed a test for individuals to figure out where they were weak so they could improve. This test evaluates people in eighteen areas of leadership competency. We call it The Summit. The Summit is not an evaluation you give yourself; rather, it is the result of feedback from those who know you best: your co-workers, those you lead, your friends, your family, and your spouse; some may even go to the elders of the church.

We see why the devil works against God’s plan for resolution so aggressively. He doesn’t want God’s team to improve. He likes bitter roots to grow up in hearts and in churches. He hates unity; he loves factions and splits. He wants us to self-destruct in the locker room before we hit the field!

PROMOTING HONESTY AND RESOLUTION – If a culture of resolution is to be created, it starts with the leader. The leader must lead the way by dealing with issues immediately, lovingly, and truthfully. The leader must also allow others to confront him or her.

Before changing an organization, some of us need to become coaches who can be followed.

Change takes time, especially if you serve in an older church. A rapid change could cause a church split or worse, even if the newfound truth is what the church needs. It’s important to get the rest of the leaders on board so they will understand why change is needed.

He needs to include these leaders and allow them to be a part of the change.

Before you attempt to change a church, you must have God’s help. Prayer is essential to implementing change in the church.

To implement change you must eat, sleep, and drink the vision.

Be sure to include your whole leadership team when it comes to the creation of a new plan. It is essential that they know why you need to change.

Don’t forget to count the cost of the plan to your congregation. Be ready for those who will disagree. Take your ideas to the next level of leadership and then to the congregation.

If you’ve done all you can to change the church, but there’s a significant number of leaders opposed to the direction you feel led to take, be careful. God’s reputation is at stake, and when Christians fight, it causes unbelievers to reject Jesus.

Of course, change can’t be implemented when a leadership is divided in purpose and direction.

Some allow those with money to control what happens because of fear of lost income. Remember, it’s God’s church and He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Do what is right and He will provide.

I want to be able to say like Paul, I have fought the fight, I have finished the race, and now I have a crown waiting for me. Let’s give our all on the field and teach those who follow us to do the same.

Coach then said something that has stayed with me over the years: “Most people will never be great at anything. They have no desire to do more than just get by. They will never even try to do something great, because they don’t care about anything enough to put it all out there. Others like the idea of being great, in your case becoming an All-American. They like the thought of the glory, they like the idea of wearing a national champion letterman’s jacket, and they also like the thought of being interviewed for the paper or on television. Many of you like the dream, but I know that not many of you will do what it takes to be great. It will take too much sacrifice.

As I look back on that day, I learned a very important lesson. Greatness costs, sometimes more than we want it to. Coach was wrong. We ended up with only twenty-three when it was all over, but all twenty-three won the national team title.

Now I look back, and I know that I learned what it means to put everything you have into something and to see others do the same. But now I also feel kind of silly. I was willing to work that hard for a crown that would not last. I was willing to commit myself to something that very few would care about later.

As the ceremony below was being ignored, I gathered the guys and asked them why they were not paying attention to the old guys who were being honored below. They said things like, “We don’t know them” and “We don’t care.” I asked them why they were working so hard for something that future young wrestlers, just like them, would not care about either.

I then asked them what they were going to do with their lives that future generations would respect, unlike what was going on below.

We all like the idea of winning but aren’t willing to commit to the lifestyle.

As I watch God’s players, I often wonder, “What is their mission? Do they have one at all?” They show up for the team meeting and cheer with the crowd, yet they have no intention of finishing what they started. They like hanging around the team, being associated with the players, but will never do what it takes to win.

First, people leave because they were never really committed to the team and the mission in the first place. It was a good idea, but it was a conditional commitment. They were not committed to the coach as the authority, rule maker, and expert, and they had not decided that a wrestler was really what they were. In the spiritual realm, many have not really accepted the spiritual reality that Jesus is Lord, that the Word is the rulebook, and that there is a war going on. They go to church but are not part of the church. They believe in Christ but are not Christians. They like the idea but are not committed to the lifestyle.

Second, people leave because of an unwillingness to sacrifice personal desires to attain the goal. A good example for a wrestler would be food. Some wrestlers are not willing to give up what they want to eat for what they should eat so that they and the team can win. Nothing great happens, in sports or in the church, without great discipline.

Third, people leave because they are unwilling to do what they don’t want to do. There are times when you must push yourself beyond your comfort zone. You must run when you don’t want to. You must lift when you don’t want to. You must keep going though every part of you says stop. How many Christians are willing to expend a similar amount of effort for God?

Fourth, people leave because the going gets tough. I watched wrestlers who had won championships in high school quit because they could not immediately win in college. They did not see losing as a lesson that if learned well could propel them to greatness. Christians too can learn from their failures, but often they walk off God’s team, despondent and forever defeated.

God honors commitment. God doesn’t always use the most talented, but He does use the most committed.

In this battle we are in, we don’t have the option of quitting. How can we quit, knowing what Jesus has done? How can we quit when we have peered into the spiritual world and know people are at risk of going to hell?

I will never forget the time Coach Owen walked up to a junior high wrestler who was incorrectly doing the move just demonstrated. He kindly tried to correct the kid, but the boy would have none of it. I could not believe what I was hearing. This kid told Coach Owen that he did not do it that way. He had a way of doing things that worked for him. He wasn’t going to change, even though he was absolutely wrong. That kid had the opportunity to be coached by a person who had shaped national champions, but he would not listen because he thought he knew better. The kid’s explanation was that it had worked on all the little kids he had wrestled. Coach tried to explain to him that it would not work on an experienced, older wrestler. The kid refused to listen, so Coach just moved away to work with someone who would listen.

I believe God gives us those who can help us if we are willing to learn and listen. God wants His team to take new ground, which means we will have to learn and grow.

He is looking for coaches who will stick around no matter what. In 2 Chronicles 16:9, Scripture tells us, “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” He doesn’t need excessive talent. He likes to use little people to do big things.

The church world recognizes that biblical literacy is at new lows. We recognize that few have a biblical worldview, and few know what to do about it. The old way of teaching the Bible is less effective as our culture becomes more visual—more story driven.

We are using Orality as the basis for teaching in our small groups. Orality is a method of using stories as the main vehicle for teaching the Bible in the discipleship process.

All of our people can tell a Bible story and ask good questions. It leads to better participation and better learning.

An Outline of Daniel

DANIEL
The Man of Vision

It is interesting to note that the Jews placed Daniel is in the book of Writings, rather than the Prophets.

Daniel in Babylon – Daniel 1:1-21

  1. Selected: How Daniel came to Babylon – Daniel 1:1-7 (Daniel’s Resolution)
    1. Conquered: Nebuchadnezzar over Jehoiakim – Daniel 1:1-2
    2. Captured: youths without defect – Daniel 1:3-5
    3. Candidates – Daniel 1:6-7
      1. Hebrew names: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah
      2. Pagan names: Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshech, Abed-nego
  2. Steadfast: Daniel turns vegetarian – Daniel 1:8-16 (Daniel’s Recommendation)
  3. Statesman: God’s gifting and Their rise in favor – Daniel 1:17-21 Daniel’s Reward)
    1. Knowledge, intelligence, dreams, visions – Daniel 1:17
    2. Presentation to the king – Daniel 1:18
    3. Daniel and the boys are 10 times better – Daniel 1:20
    4. Daniel continued until the first year of Cyrus – Daniel 1:21

Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream of a Statue – Daniel 2:1-49, 7:1-28

  1. The Frustration of Nebuchadnezzar – Daniel 2:1-13
    1. The dream received by Nebuchadnezzar – Daniel 2:1-6
    2. The dream revealed by Daniel – Daniel 2:7-13
  2. The Revelation of God – Daniel 2:14-30
    1. The dream replied, the prayer of Daniel – Daniel 2:14-23
    2. The dream recounted – Daniel 2:24-30, 7:1
  3. The Interpretation of Daniel – Daniel 2:31-45
    1. Chronology: The dream recited – Daniel 2:31-35, 7:2-14, 21-22
    2. Theology: The dream revealed – Daniel 2:36-45, 7:15-20, 23-27
      1. Neo-Babylonian empire (Nebuchadnezzar): 612-539 BC
        1. The head of gold – Daniel 2:32 * and lion – Daniel 7:4
          1. Lion: king of beasts
          2. Eagle: king of birds
          3. Gold: most precious metal
        2. Nebuchadnezzar’s empire, the head of gold – Daniel 2:38, 7:17
      2. Medo-Persian empire (Cyrus the Great): 539-331 BC
        1. Breast/arms of silver – Daniel 2:32 * and bear – Daniel 7:5
          1. Bear is inferior to the lion – Daniel 2:39, 7:17
          2. Raised up on one side
          3. Ready for attack
        2. One horn being most powerful
        3. Three ribs in its mouth – Daniel 7:5, 8:4
          1. West: Babylon conquered by Cyrus
          2. North: Lydia conquered by Cyrus
          3. South: Egypt conquered by Cambyses
      3. Grecian empire: 331-323 BC
        1. Belly/thighs of bronze – Daniel 2:32 * and leopard – Daniel 7:6
          1. Four wings: swiftness in conquering
          2. Four heads: the generals after Alexander
            1. Ptolemy I – took Egypt (South)
            2. Philip, Cassander, Antigonus – took Macedonia and Greece
            3. Seleucus I – took Syria (North)
            4. Lysimacus – took Thrace & Asia Minor
        2. Inferior but will rule over all the earth – Daniel 2:39. 7:17
      4. The Selucid Empire: 312-65 BC
        1. Leg/iron, feet/clay – Daniel 2:40 * diverse – Daniel 7:7, 19
        2. Strong as iron, later divided – Daniel 2:41
        3. Different than all the others – Daniel 7:23
        4. The ten toes and ten horns – Daniel 2:42, 7:7
          1. Kings are successive and not simultaneous
          2. Alexander conquered the world at age 33
          3. He died in 323 and signaled power struggles
          4. Horns and toes understood in relation to ancient Palestine
          5. This history is explained in Daniel 11:5-35
          6. The identification of the tens
            1. Seleucus I uproots three horns – Daniel 7:8
              1. Antigonus: Macedonia/Greece
              2. Ptolemy I: (323-285 BC): Egypt
              3. Lysimacus: Thrace & Asia Minor
            2. The seven remaining horns
              1. Seleucus I Nicator 312-280 BC
              2. Antiochus I Soter 280-262 BC
              3. Antiochus II Theos 262-246 BC
              4. Seleucus II Callinicus 246-226
              5. Seleucus III Soter 226-223 BC
              6. Antiochus III Great 223-187 BC
              7. Seleucus IV Philopator 187-175
            3. The little horn is the antichrist: Antiochus IV Epiphanes 175-163 BC
        5. The stone – Daniel 2:35, 7:27 * is Christ
        6. God’s kingdom – Daniel 2:44 * and Ancient of Days – Daniel 7:9
  4. The Prostration of Nebuchadnezzar: the dream and its effect – Daniel 2:46-49, 7:28
    1. Daniel’s God is worshipped by Nebuchadnezzar – Daniel 2:47
    2. Daniel is promoted – Daniel 2:48 * and alarmed – Daniel 7:28
    3. Daniel remembers his homies – Daniel 2:49

The Fiery Furnace, Test of Faith – Daniel 3:1-30

  1. Conspirators: the King’s Command – Daniel 3:1-7
    1. The project – Daniel 3:1
    2. The politicians – Daniel 3:2-3
    3. The proclamation – Daniel 3:4-5
    4. The penalty – Daniel 3:6-7
  2. Informers: the Chaldeans’ charge  – Daniel 3:8-12
    1. The report: the accusers tell the king – Daniel 3:8-12
    2. The reasoning: the kings gives a second chance – Daniel 3:13-15
  3. Transformers: the Children’s Confidence (the Hebrews Stand) – Daniel 3:16-30
    1. The demonstration of faith – Daniel 3:16-18
    2. The assurance of faith – Daniel 3:19-23
      1. The king enraged – Daniel 3:19
      2. The boys directed, into the extra hot furnace – Daniel 3:20-23
  4. Rescuer: The vindication of faith (the Lord’s Man) – Daniel 3:24-30
    1. The discovery – Daniel 3:24-25
    2. The deliverance – Daniel 3:26-28
    3. The decree – Daniel 3:29-30

Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream of a Tree – Daniel 4:1-37

  1. The Dream Described – Daniel 4:1-18
    1. The prologue, the king’s announcement and praise – Daniel 4:1-3
    2. The large and strong tree – Daniel 4:4-12
    3. The angelic lumberjack – Daniel 4:13-17
    4. The plea of the king – Daniel 4:18
  2. The Dream Interpreted – Daniel 4:19-27
    1. Explanation: pride will lead to judgment – Daniel 19-26
    2. Exhortation: repent and avoid judgment – Daniel 4:27
  3. The Dream Fulfilled – Daniel 4:28-37
    1. Pride: refusing to repent – Daniel 4:28-30
    2. Punishment: twelve months later comes insanity – Daniel 4:31-33
    3. Praise: his reasoning returned, honors God – Daniel 4:34-37

Belshazzar’s Feast – Daniel 5:1-31

  1. Belshazzar’s Contribution to the Feast: Unrestrained sensuality – Daniel 5:1-4
    1. The ball: thousands of people invited – Daniel 5:1
    2. The gall: using the sacred temple items – Daniel 5:2-4
  2. God’s Contribution to the Feast: The wall – the handwriting – Daniel 5:5-6
    1. The hand – Daniel 5:5
    2. The horror – Daniel 5:6
  3. Daniel’s Contribution to the Feast: The call – Announcement of doom – Daniel 5:7-29
    1. The call for the magicians – Daniel 5:7-9
    2. The queen calls for Daniel – Daniel 5:10-12
    3. Daniel’s explanation – Daniel 5:13-29
      1. Reputation of Daniel – Daniel 5:13-16
      2. Explanation by Daniel – Daniel 5:17-24
      3. Interpretation through Daniel – Daniel 5:25-29
  4. Darius’ Contribution to the Feast: The fall – Destruction of Babylon – Daniel 5:30-31

Daniel with the Lions – Daniel 6:1-28

  1. The Work Crisis: total integrity (an Evil Plan) – Daniel 6:1-3
  2. The Prayer Crisis – Daniel 6:4-17
    1. The plot – Daniel 6:4-9
      1. The search – Daniel 6:4
      2. The solution – Daniel 6:5
      3. The subtlety – Daniel 6:6-9
    2. The prayer (a Kneeling Man) – Daniel 6:10-11
    3. The prosecution – Daniel 6:12-17
  3. The Faith Crisis (a Heavenly Ban) – Daniel 6:18-28
    1. The protection – Daniel 6:18-23
      1. The king’s concern – Daniel 6:18
      2. The king’s cry – Daniel 6:19-22
      3. The king’s command – Daniel 6:23
    2. The proclamation – Daniel 6:24-28
      1. The accusers fate – Daniel 6:24
      2. The announcement that God is over the nations – Daniel 6:25-27
      3. The achievement of Daniel – Daniel 6:28

The Vision of Four Beasts – Daniel 7:1-28, 2:1-49
This is the First Year of Belshazzar’s Reign

  1. A Vision of World History – Daniel 7:1-8
    1. A lion-like beast – Daniel 7:1-4
    2. A bear-like beast – Daniel 7:5
    3. A leopard-like beast – Daniel 7:6
    4. A ten-horned beast – Daniel 7:7-8
  2. A Vision of Heaven – Daniel 7:9-14
    1. The Ancient One – Daniel 7:9-12
      1. Who it is: God himself – Daniel 7:9
      2. What happens – Daniel 7:10-12
        1. The river of fire – Daniel 7:10a
        2. The thousands of angels – Daniel 7:10b
        3. The millions of people – Daniel 7:10c
        4. The beast sent to hell – Daniel 7:11-12
    2. The Messiah – Daniel 7:13-14
      1. Who it is (first reference to Messiah as Son of Man) – Daniel 7:13
      2. What happens (given eternal, glorious kingdom) – Daniel 7:14
  3. A Vision of Saints on Earth – Daniel 7:15-28
    1. The four beasts in general – Daniel 7:15-18
      1. Their rise (Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome) – Daniel 7:15-17
      2. Their replacement (giving way to God’s kingdom) – Daniel 7:18
    2. The fourth beast in particular – Daniel 7:19-28
      1. The confusion: Daniel wants more info – Daniel 7:19-22
      2. The clarification: the facts about the beast – Daniel 7:23-27
        1. It will devour the earth – Daniel 7:23-24
        2. It will defy the Most High God – Daniel 7:25
        3. It will be destroyed by the Most High – Daniel 7:26-27
      3. The consternation: Daniel is alarmed – Daniel 7:28

The Ram and the Goat: (in Aramaic) – Daniel 8:1-27
This is the Third Year of Belshazzar’s Reign

  1. The Vision – Daniel 8:1-12
    1. The tw0-horned ram: able to defeat enemies – Daniel 8:1-4
    2. The one-horned male goat – Daniel 8:5-8
      1. Destruction: attacks the ram – Daniel 8:5-7
      2. Death: goat dies and replaced by four – Daniel 8:8
    3. Another creature coming from the goat – Daniel 8:9-12
      1. Conquests: he invades and occupies much of the Holy Land – Daniel 8:9-10
      2. Contempt: he even challenges God – Daniel 8:11-12
  2. The Interpretation – Daniel 8:13-25
    1. A regular angel – Daniel 8:13-14
      1. Question: How Long? – Daniel 8:13
      2. Answer: 2300 days – Daniel 8:14
    2. A ruling angel: (Gabriel himself – Daniel 8:15-19) – Daniel 8:15-27
      1. The ram: Medo-Persian empire – Daniel 8:20
      2. The goat: Grecian empire – Daniel 8:21-22
        1. The great horn: Alexander – Daniel 8:5, 21
        2. The great horn broken: Alexander died – Daniel 8:8, 21
        3. Four horns: Egypt Syria Macedonia Asia – Daniel 8:8, 22
      3. The little horn: Little horn: Antiochus IV Epiphanes – Daniel 8:8, 23-25
        1. Attempted to Hellenize the Jews
        2. Erected statue of Zeus in temple
        3. Sacrificed a pig on the altar
        4. Forbade circumcision
        5. Destroyed all OT books he could find
        6. Judas Maccabeus defeated the Syrian army
          1. Led revolt against Seleucid Empire (167–160 BC)
          2. The Jewish feast of Hanukkah commemorates the restoration of Jewish worship at the temple in Jerusalem in 164 BC.
        7. Tribulations are described in Hebrews 11:34-39
        8. He was the “antichrist”
        9. He performed the “abomination of desolation” in 167 BC
        10. Cast down: destroyer, persecutor – Daniel 8:10, 24
        11. Remove daily sacrifices: he did – Daniel 8:11
        12. 2300 days: many days of peace ends 171 BC – Daniel 8:14, 26
        13. Sanctuary closed: purification in 168 BC – Daniel 8:14
        14. He shall be broken: he died in 163 BC – Daniel 8:25
  3. The Effect on Daniel – Daniel 8:26-27
    1. Keep secret, it pertains to many days in the future: 400 years in the future.
    2. Daniel is exhausted and sick for days: there was none to explain it.

Daniel’s Earnest Prayer (the 70 Weeks) – Daniel 9:1-19
The Chapter Describes Two Time Periods: Historical, and Prophetic

  1. Insight – Daniel 9:1-2
    1. Daniel understood the desolation would come to an end as in the captivity – Jeremiah 25:11-12
    2. What will happen at the end of the 70 years?
  2. Intercession – Daniel 9:3-19
    1. Sin: the confession of Israel’s sin – Daniel 9:3-11
    2. Suffering: the consequences of rebellion – Daniel 9:12-14
    3. The request: the contention of Daniel – Daniel 9:15-19
  3. Instruction: (Daniel and Gabriel) – Daniel 9:20-23
  4. Interpretation – Daniel 9:24-27
    1. The details (70 sets of 7, 490 years) – Daniel 9:24
      1. First period (49 years, Jerusalem rebuilt) – Daniel 9:25
      2. Second period (434 years, Messiah will be crucified) – Daniel 9:26
      3. Third period (7 years, great tribulation?) – Daniel 9:27
    2. The intended target times?
      1. The time of Antiochus Epiphanes
      2. The first coming of Christ
      3. The second coming of Christ
    3. When does the author begin his calculations?
      1. The year after Jerusalem’s destruction (586 BC)
        1. 49 years later Babylon fell (539-538 BC)
        2. Cyrus allowed the Jews to return: the decree
        3. Zerubbabel could be a prince – see Luke 3:27
        4. Joshua was the High Priest – see Zechariah 6:11
      2. The year of the decree to return (458 BC)
        1. The letter of Artaxerxes – Ezra 7:7-11
        2. One 69 week period (not 7 and 62 weeks)
        3. The end of 69th is around the incarnation
      3. Target time is the second coming of Christ
        1. The gap theory: premillenial dispensationalism
        2. The period of time between weeks 69 and 70
        3. Reason: Matthew 24 (Mark 13) must take place
        4. The 69 weeks – Daniel 9:25
          1. Gap – Daniel 9:26
          2. Future – Daniel 9:27
      4. Target time is the first coming of Christ
        1. There is no distinction between 7 and 62 weeks – Daniel 9:25
          1. Decree under Ezra, not Nehemiah – Ezra 7:7-11
          2. Decree was 458, not 445 as in – Nehemiah 2:1
          3. End of 7 weeks is 409, nothing happened
          4. 69 weeks ends with Christ’s ministry
            1. AD 25-26
            2. 483 actual solar years after decree
          5. Objections
            1. Putting 69 weeks together – Daniel 9:25
            2. Which Artaxerxes?
        2. Jesus ministry was 1/2 week, death in AD 29
        3. The prince of Daniel 9:26 is Titus the destroyer AD 70
        4. Christ removed need for sacrifices – Daniel 9:27
      5. Target time is the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes
        1. The entire passage is a reinterpretation of the 70 years of Jeremiah 25 and 29 as applied to the time of the suffering under Antiochus
          1. The word “restore” in Daniel 9:25 fits Jeremiah
          2. Life of returnees was difficult – Ezra 4:1-24
          3. The fall of Jerusalem came in 587 BC
          4. The captivity started in 586 BC
        2. The seven weeks refers to the Babylonian exile, 70 years.
          1. The ending would be in 537 BC
          2. One week calculation: 7 x 7 is 49 years
          3. Cyrus allows, but did not decree, Jews to return as in Nehemiah 2:1-8
            1. Decree – Ezra 6:3, 7-8 was about the temple
            2. Letter – Nehemiah 2:1-8 was building the walls
            3. Isaiah 44:28 says Cyrus will rebuild Jerusalem, see Daniel 5:13
          4. Zerubbabel led the first wave in 536 BC
            1. He was an anointed one Matthew 1:12-13
            2. He was a prince Haggai 1:1
          5. Joshua was the High Priest Ezra 3:2 and a colleague of Zerubbabel Haggai 1:1
        3. The 62 weeks refers to the three returns
          1. This time was longer than the captivity
          2. It was a troubled time – Daniel 9:25
        4. After the 69 weeks: Jews in control and worshiping in relative freedom
          1. The anointed one cut off: not same as – Daniel 9:25
          2. Legitimate line of priesthood cut off
            1. Joshua, the brother of Onias III, took the Greek name Jason and became High Priest by corruption (2 Macc 4:7-15)
            2. Later, Menelaus became High Priest by outbidding Jason by 300 talents of silver (2 Macc 4:23-24)
            3. Payment was demanded and Melelaus stole from the temple
            4. Onias III was faithful and exposed Menelaus
            5. Onias III was assassinated in 170 BC
          3. People of the prince: army of troops
          4. The prince who is to come is Antiochus IV Epiphanes: “desolations” refers to him
          5. Its end shall come with a flood: both the prince and the destruction – there’s hope!
          6. The strong covenant with many – Daniel 9:27
            1. Many Jews adopted false religion
            2. They removed proper sacrifices to God
            3. Sacrifices ended Dec 15, 168 BC
            4. Maccabean victory on Dec 25, 165 BC (3 years and 10 days)
          7. Abominations: Zeus Olympius in the temple whereby Antiochus became the desolator
          8. The decreed end of Antiochus – Daniel 9:27
            1. Complete destruction on him
            2. Curse of the Jews poured on him – Daniel 9:11
        5. The vile person has come to an end (climax of book)
          1. Daniel 9:26-27
          2. Daniel 11:21-45
        6. The book gives a basis for hope
          1. Through Scripture (Jeremiah)
          2. Through prayer
          3. Through confession
          4. Through faith
          5. Through revelation

Prelude to Prophecy – Daniel 10:1-11:1

  1. Daniel’s circumstances – Daniel 10:1-4
    1. Duration of his fast (three weeks) – Daniel 10:1-3
    2. Location of his fast (banks of the Tigris River) – Daniel 10:4
  2. Daniel’s collapse (and an angel appears) – Daniel 10:5-17
    1. The radiance: the vision of the man in fine linen – Daniel 10:5-6
    2. The reaction: Daniel feels weak, friends see nothing – Daniel 10:7-8
    3. The reassurance: the prayer was heard from the beginning – Daniel 10:9-12
    4. The revelation: instruction for the future – Daniel 10:14
    5. The resistance: the delay was due to angelic warfare – Daniel 10:13, 15-21
      1. Hostility (Michael delayed) – Daniel 10:13a, 15-20
        1. He was hindered by a demonic leader in Persia – Daniel 10:13a
        2. He will be hindered by a demonic leader of Greece – Daniel 10:15-20
      2. Helper (Michael) – Daniel 10:13b, 21
  3. Daniel’s convalesce – Daniel 10:18-11:1
    1. Gradual strengthening – Daniel 10:10, 16, 18-19
    2. More angelic warfare – Daniel 10:20-21
      1. The prince of Persia continues
      2. The prince of Greece is coming
    3. Daniel is an encouragement and protection for Darius the king of Mede – Daniel 11:1

A Vision of Kings – Daniel 11:2-12:4

  1. Persia (four kings) – Daniel 11:2
    1. Cambyses (son of Cyrus): 530-522 BC
    2. Pseudo-Smerdis (Guatama): 522 BC
    3. Darius I: 522-486 BC
    4. Xerxes (Ahasuerus of Esther): 486-465 BC
      1. Most powerful and affluent
      2. He fought the wars against Greece
  2. Greece (a mighty king) – Daniel 11:3-4
    1. The mighty king is Alexander the Great: 336-323 BC
    2. The four winds are generals after Alexander
  3. Egypt and Syria – Daniel 11:5-20
    1. The players – Daniel 11:5
      1. Ptolemy I Soter (South): 323-285 BC
      2. Seleucus I Nicator (North): 312-280 BC
    2. The alliance – Daniel 11:6
      1. Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285-246 BC) gave his daughter, Berenice, to marry Antiochus II Theos (262-246) to end a war between them.
        1. Antiochus II must divorce Laodice
        2. Any son of Berenice would become king
      2. The agreement did not last
        1. Ptolemy II died in 246 BC
        2. Antiochus II took back Laodice
        3. Laodice distrusted Antiochus and poisoned in attempt to
          have sons on the throne
        4. Laodice has Berenice and her son
    3. The retaliation – Daniel 11:7-8
      1. Ptolemy III Euergetes (246-221 BC) brother of Berenice, succeed his father
      2. He fought Seleucus II Callinicus (247-226 BC)
      3. Ptolemy III would have overrun the north if not for an insurrection back home
    4. The seesaw struggles – Daniel 11:9-20
      1. The latter is Seleucus II Callinicus went to invade Egypt (242 BC) after he regained power in Asia, the event being disastrous – Daniel 11:9
      2. His sons – Daniel 11:10
        1. Seleucus III Soter (226-223 BC) murdered
        2. Antiochus III the Great (223-187 BC) campaigns against Ptolemy IV (219 BC) and capture of a great part of the south.
        3. The enraged king of the south – Daniel 11:11 * is Ptolemy IV Philopator (221-205 BC) conquered the north in 217 BC but did not take the whole kingdom – Daniel 11:12
        4. After an interval – Daniel 11:13 * refers to 12 years of virtual peace
          1. Antiochus III raised a greater army than he previously had and attacks
          2. Ptolemy IV died and 5 year old Ptolemy V Epiphanes became king (205-181 BC)
          3. Many will come against him – Daniel 11:14
        5. Antiochus III take advantage on the infant king Ptolemy V – Daniel 14-16
          1. In league with Philip of Macedon (men of violence) to attack Ptolemy V
          2. Antiochus takes the south in 198 BC
          3. He who comes against him: is Antiochus III
          4. The Glorious Land: is Palestine (Sidon)
        6. Antiochus III set his face toward Egypt – Daniel 11:17
          1. He did not attack but brought terms of peace, through a marriage
          2. The daughter of women (the essence of femininity) is
            Cleopatra, the daughter of Antiochus III
          3. She was betrothed to Ptolemy V (197 BC)
            1. Antiochus III wanted influence
            2. Cleopatra was loyal to the south
        7. Antiochus III turns toward the coastlands – Daniel 11:18
          1. He controlled most of Asia Minor by 196 BC
          2. He met the representative in Rome who counseled him to leave Asia Minor alone.
          3. He told the Romans to stop interfering in Asia Minor just as he was not to touch Italy.
        8. The breaking point was invading Greece – Daniel 11:19
          1. He began the Greek invasion in 192 BC
          2. He was stopped by the Romans in 191 BC at Thermopylae
          3. The commander who put a stop to him is Lucius Cornelius Scipio (190 BC)
            1. Defeated 80,000 men at Magnesia
            2. Humiliated and ruined him as far as Europe and Asia Minor.
            3. The Romans demanded indemnity and he returned home to plunder his own territories and temple of Bel (187 BC)
        9. In his place – Daniel 11:20
          1. The son of Antiochus III was Seleucus IV Philopator (187-175 BC)
          2. The sent oppressor is Heliodorus, the Prime Minister of Seleucus IV as told in 2 Maccabees 3:1-40, or is a Roman tax gatherer
          3. He spent most of his time raising money to pay off his father’s war debts
          4. Seleucus IV was assassinated by Heliodorus by conspiracy, not face to face
  4. Antiochus Epiphanes (an evil Syrian king, 175-164 BC) – Daniel 11:21-45 (see next section)
    1. Captive: he was a hostage in Rome since 189 BC
      1. According to a treaty signed by his father, Antiochus III the Great in 198 BC
      2. Seleucus IV wanted him released and Demetrius, the rightful heir, the son of Seleucus IV took his place
      3. Epiphanes (God manifest) vs. Epimanes (madman)
    2. Craftiness: he took power through flattery and intrigue – Daniel 11:21-23
      1. He rushed back to Antioch when he heard of his brother’s death – Daniel 11:21, 23
      2. It was Onias III, the rightful High Priest (170 BC) Daniel 11:22
      3. He was one to understand riddles – Daniel 8:23
    3. Conquests: he captured powerful strongholds – Daniel 11:24
      1. He plundered his own people.
      2. He wanted to remove any thought of God from the Jews and replace it with Greek Culture
      3. The great comfort to hear “but for a time”
    4. Confrontation – Daniel 11:25-30
      1. With Egypt – Daniel 11:25-27
        1. Advantage in the death of his sister the queen, Cleopatra in 172 BC.
        2. Her sons (Philometor and Physcon) were both minors so the kingdom was run by two eunuchs named Eulaeus and Syrian Lenseus (26) those who eat his rich food.
        3. They convinced Philometor to go in battle, and the Alexandrian nobles set up Physcon as their king.
        4. The two kings: Philometor and Antiochus, his uncle – Daniel 11:27 Antiochus wanted his loyalty when he made Philometor the real king, But to no avail: the schemes failed.
        5. The “end” refers to Antiochus not lasting.
        6. His return to his own land with much plunder – Daniel 11:28
          1. Angered at not taking Egypt.
          2. Three envoys from Rome were coming.
          3. Disturbance by Jason’s attempt to retain the priesthood.
          4. Antiochus killed many Jews to prove he was still in power.
          5. He plundered the temple on his way back to Antioch.
      2. With Syria – Daniel 11:28-30
        1. At the “appointed time” means God in charge and this invasion was not as successful.
        2. The “ships of Kittim” are the peoples of Cyprus or the Mediterranean, or possibly refers to the Romans.
        3. He will be enraged and take it out on the Jews back in Jerusalem – Daniel 11:30.
        4. Some faithless, Hellenistic Jews will side with him.
    5. Cruelty: a hellish hatred of Israel – Daniel 11:31-35
      1. Desecration of the temple – Daniel 11:31
      2. Removal of sacrifices – Daniel 11:31
      3. Abomination of desolations – Daniel 11:31
      4. He will sway many people, even Jews – Daniel 11:32, 34
      5. Many will resist him – Daniel 11:32-33
      6. A “little help” refers to the temporary successes of the Maccabean revolt under Mattathias and his son Judas (1 Maccabees 2:15-28, 42-48, 3:11-12,23-26, 4:12-15)
    6. Wickedness: he claimed to be Theos Epiphanes – Daniel 11:36-39
      1. He took the place of God
      2. The temple was dedicated to Zeus
    7. Character: a summary of Antiochus Epiphanes – Daniel 11:40-45
      1. After the fourth beast and kingdom
      2. The king of the south is Ptolemy VI
      3. The king of the north is Antiochus
      4. An all-out attack with chariots…
      5. The “countries” refers to those between Syria and Egypt
      6. They will enter Palestine – Daniel 11:41
      7. Mentioning of Edom, Moab and Ammon
        1. Surprising since using their common name is not customary
        2. Especially since Moab was not a nation until the time of Antiochus.
        3. Moab and Ammon are mentioned as taking up arms against Judah following Antiochus’ policies (1 Maccabees 5:3,6)
        4. These are traditional enemies of Judah & included by scribes
      8. Reference point of Hellenizing Jews as in – Daniel 11:39 not being dealt with as severely as those loyal to God
        1. Daniel 11:37-39 * enlargement of 36
        2. Daniel 11:41-45 * enlargement of 40
        3. Daniel 11:42 * explanation – Daniel 11:40
      9. Rumors from east and north – Daniel 11:43-44
        1. Libya is west of Egypt
        2. Ethiopia is south of Egypt
        3. Representing the remotest parts of the Egyptian empire
        4. Compared to – Daniel 11:29-30 * in wrath
      10. Between the seas and mountain – Daniel 11:45
        1. Antiochus IV actually died in Persia in 164 BC (1 Maccabees 3:31-37, 6:1-16)
        2. His defeat was determined and he will come to an end and his defeat is immanent.

The King Deliverer – Daniel 12:1-4

  1. This is connected to the beginning of chapter 10
  2. If the student sees Antiochus Epiphanes in the previous section, you will see him here.
    1. This is either the end of Antiochus or the end of time: remember the timeless nature of apocalyptic literature.
    2. What will happen to those slain by Antiochus?
      1. Suffering – Daniel 12:1
      2. Separation: Many (why not all?) will be raised – Daniel 12:2
        1. Earliest reference to resurrection from the grave
        2. The only reference to everlasting life in the OT is here – Daniel 12:2
      3. Shining: like stars – Daniel 12:3
      4. Shame – and contempt on those who turned from God to Antiochus IV
      5. Sealing: the words – Daniel 12:4 * as in – Daniel 8:26, 9:24, 6:17
      6. There will be frantic search for an explanation – Daniel 12:4

A Vision at the River – Daniel 12:5-13

  1. Two others standing on each side of the river – Daniel 12:5
  2. A man dressed in linen – Daniel 12:6-13
    1. Above the waters means superiority
    2. How long? – Daniel 12:6, 8:13
      1. Wonders: the activities of Antiochus – Daniel 11:36 fearful and monstrous things
      2. The answer – Daniel 12:7
        1. Three and one half periods of time (years).
        2. The time from the stopping of sacrifices and the rededication of the temple was three years and 10 days.
        3. The Jews power being destroyed – Daniel 12:7
    3. Daniel still does not understand – Daniel 12:8
      1. The death of Antiochus IV will not bring peace although Antiochus V did allow religious freedom.
      2. The answer – Daniel 12:9-13
        1. Rehearsal of the vision – Daniel 12:10-11
          1. Antiochus – Daniel 11:33, 35
          2. 1290 days in Revelation 11:3, 12:6 * Revelation 12:6 is 1260 (plus 30 more days)
            1. Discontinued sacrifices
            2. Re-establishment of worship
            3. Deliverance from persecution
          3. 1335 days (1290 days plus another 45 days)
            1. Rededication of temple?
            2. Beginning of righteousness?
        2. Blessing – Daniel 12:12
        3. Promise – Daniel 12:13
          1. Live your life and don’t worry
          2. You will die but will be raised
          3. What an end to a book of hope!

Language of the book:
Hebrew = 1:1-2:4a, 8:1-12:13
Aramaic = 2:4b-7:28

A lot of the historical information is from John Joseph Owens in the Broadman Commentary, Vol.6, 1971, pp.373-460. Some outline is from the Ryrie Study Bible.

The Revelation of John

REVELATION

This is from my personal reading and study of the Book of Revelation. A must-read book on this subject is Ray Summers commentary on The Revelation, Worthy is the Lamb.

  1. The prologue (Revelation 1:1-20)
  2. Seven letters to seven churches of Asia Minor (Revelation 2:1-3:22)
    1. Ephesus – The careless church (seaport) (Revelation 2:1-7)
    2. Smyrna – The crowned church (dead 600BC-AD290) (Revelation 2:8-11)
    3. Pergamum – The compromising church (library) (Revelation 2:12-17)
    4. Thyatira – The corrupted church (huge ovens) (Revelation 2:18-29)
    5. Sardis – The crippled church (1500′ plateau) (Revelation 3:1-6)
    6. Philadelphia – The committed church (door) (Revelation 3:7-13)
    7. Laodicea – The comatose church (aqueducts) (Revelation 3:14-22)
  3. A vision of heaven (Revelation 4:1-11)
  4. The seven seals are opened (Revelation 5:1-7:17)
    1. The scroll in heaven (Revelation 5:1-14)
    2. The six seals opened (Revelation 6:1-7:17)
      1. Retribution (Revelation 6:1-8)
      2. Response (Revelation 6:9-17)
      3. Redemption (Revelation 7:1-17)
  5. The six trumpets are blown (Revelation 8:1-9:21)
    1. Preparation (Revelation 8:1-6)
    2. Desolation (Revelation 8:7-13)
    3. Liberation (Revelation 9:1-21)
  6. A testimonial interlude (Revelation 10:1-11:19)
    1. The testimony of the mighty angel (Revelation 10:1-10)
    2. The testimony of the two witnesses (Revelation 11:1-14)
    3. The testimony of the elders (Revelation 11:15-19)
  7. The seven signs (Revelation 12:1-15:8)
    1. The terrible trio (Revelation 12:1-13:18)
    2. The voices of victory (Revelation 14:1-15:8)
  8. The seven bowls are poured (Revelation 16:1-21)
  9. The reign and ruin of Babylon (Roman Empire) (Revelation 17:1-20:15)
    1. Desolation: the scarlet woman (Revelation 17:1-18)
    2. Destruction: Rome’s allies and municipal Rome (Revelation 18:1-24)
    3. Disclosure of Babylon’s Conqueror (Revelation 19:1-20:15)
  10. The Lamb and eternal destiny (Revelation 20:11-22:21)

KEY THEMES

  1. Babylon
    1. The fall – Revelation 17:1-18:24
    2. The origin – Genesis 11:1-9
    3. The seven laments – Revelation 18:1-24
  2. Plagues
    1. Compare the ten plagues of Egypt to the ones in – Revelation 16:1-21
    2. This section is refers to the exodus – Revelation 15:2-4
    3. This is a vision of judgment, while Exodus is one of salvation.
  3. The Tree of Life
    1. The Bible starts in the garden – Genesis 2:8
    2. The Bible ends in a garden – Revelation 22:1-5
  4. The Lord Jesus Christ
    1. Note all the names and titles of Jesus in the book.
    2. Note especially the title Lamb: refer to John 1:29-37; Hebrews 9:1-28; 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19
    3. Come Lord Jesus:
      1. Lord = His majesty
      2. Jesus = His humility

COMMENTARY

I. The prologue (Revelation 1:1-20)

  1. The title (Revelation 1:1) the Revelation, singular
  2. The author (Revelation 1:1-2, 4, 9; 22:8) God Himself through John
  3. The readers (Revelation 1:3-4) read aloud in the churches
  4. The dedication (Revelation 1:4-6) Father and Son, the one returning is the same one who died for their sins, and..
    1. The seven spirits of God: (Revelation 1:4; 4:5; 5:6; Isaiah 11:1-2). The spirits of the Lord, knowledge, understanding, wisdom, counsel, might, and worship.
    2. The trumpet: (Revelation 1:4, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 1 Corinthians 15:52)
  5. The theme (Revelation 1:7-8) He is coming with the clouds
  6. The occasion: The first vision of Christ (Revelation 1:9-18)
    1. What John heard (9-11) loud voice as a trumpet, telling him to write of that which he sees
    2. What John saw (12-16) seven golden lampstands, with the Son in the middle (symbolic of value, purity, strength)
    3. What John did (17-18) fell at His feet in awe
  7. The outline (Revelation 1:19) write the things which you have seen (chapter one), the things which are (2-3) and the things which shall take place (4-22).
    1. It is a Christ-centered book
    2. An open book (Revelation 22:10)
    3. A symbolic book
    4. A prophetic book
    5. A blessed book (Revelation 1:3, 14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6, 22:7, 22:14)
    6. A relevant book
    7. A majestic book
    8. A universal book
    9. A climactic book
  8. The introduction to the churches (Revelation 1:20)
    1. Seven stars are angels (or pastors?) of seven churches
    2. Seven lampstands are seven churches

II. Seven letters to seven churches of Asia Minor – Revelation 2:1-3:22

  1. Ephesus – The careless church (seaport) Revelation 2:1-7 – The temple of Artemis, the goddess of wild nature, involved fertility rites with hundreds of sacred women. It also contained a great theater (Acts 19:27-29).
    1. Approval (Revelation 2:2-3, 6)
      1. A serving church: doing God’s work and activities
      2. A sacrificing church: laboring, to the point of exhaustion
      3. A steadfast church: patience, endurance under trial
      4. A separated church
        1. From false doctrines: examining visiting ministers as in (2 John 7-11, Acts 20:28-31).
        2. From false deeds: Nicolaitans were a Gnostic group that taught one could worship Caesar in the flesh and Christ in the Spirit.
          1. The word literally means “to conquer the people” or lord over them.
          2. They initiated the separation between clergy and
            laity, not taught in the NT. All of God’s people are
            kings and priests (1 Peter 2:9, Revelation 1:6) and have equal access to God through the blood (Hebrews 10:19-22).
      5. A suffering church: bearing burdens without fainting
        1. Accusation (Revelation 2:4) return to your first love
          1. What we do for the Lord is important, but so is why we do it.
          2. They left the devotion to Christ which characterizes new believers: fervent, personal, uninhibited, excited.
          3. Life becomes routine when the honeymoon is over.
          4. It is possible to serve, sacrifice and suffer for Christ, yet not really love him! They maintained their separation that they forgot about adoration. Labor is no substitute for love.
          5. Paul emphasized “love” to the Ephesians, at least twenty references, and it must be pure (Ephesians 6:24).
        2. Admonition (Revelation 2:5-7) the lampstand will be taken away unless we follow the three instructions he gave:
          1. Remember: keep on remembering, what we have lost and cultivate a desire to regain that communion.
          2. Repent: change our minds and confess to the Lord (1 John 1:9)
          3. Repeat: the first works, which suggest restoring the original fellowship that was broken by our sin and neglect. The church that loses its love will soon lose their light, no matter how doctrinally sound it may be.
  2. Smyrna – The crowned church (dead 600BC-AD290) Revelation 2:8-11 – Once rebuilt, Roman Cicero, claimed the city was the first of Asia in beauty and size, much beauty due to its orderly arrangement. The “crown of Smyrna” was a well-known phrase, referring to the public buildings on top of Mt. Pagos, the city’s Acropolis. The arrangement looked as if the city was a statue sitting with her feet in the sea, and her head rising to heaven and crowned with a circle of beautiful buildings.
    1. Approval (Revelation 2:9) enduring poverty and slander of the Jews, who were a large and influential community in the city and contributed to the city’s beautification. Unwillingness to say, “Caesar is Lord” would mean unemployment and poverty. Their suffering for Christ only made them more rich (2 Corinthians 6:10, 8:9). A true Jew was not one physically or racially, but spiritually (Romans 2:17-29). Any religious group that does not acknowledge Jesus as God’s Son is acting contrary to God’s will.
    2. Admonition (Revelation 2:10-11) No words of accusation for Smyrna!
      1. Satan will have some of them thrown into prison 10 days,
        symbolical for a complete but brief period of time. The important thing was faithfulness, standing true to Jesus no matter what might threaten us.
      2. The “crown of life” refers to the winners wreath and they could be overcomers and victorious Heb 12:1-3 and they would never face the awful judgment to come, second death, which is the lake of fire – Revelation 20:14, 21:8.
  3. Pergamum – The compromising church (library) Revelation 2:12-17 – The library was second only to Alexandria (Mark Anthony later sent it to Cleopatra as a gift). Our word parchment comes from Pergamum. It was also known as the city of the sword in the ancient world. The throne of Zeus was located on the mountain top in the city.
    1. Approval (Revelation 2:13) Christian witness near Satan’s throne, yet remained true to Christ. They refuse to say, “Caesar is lord.” The symbol of Jesus (with a sword) would comfort the people because a sword was the symbol for the Roman proconsul. It was important that the church fear Christ’s sword than the proconsul!
    2. Accusation (Revelation 2:14-15) Satan had not been able to destroy them.
      1. False teachers circulated
        1. Teaching of the Nicolaitans: ruling over people – Revelation 2:6
        2. Teaching of Balaam (idols, immorality) also meaning, “lord of the people.”
          1. Balaam was a true prophet who prostituted his gift.
          2. God turned the curse into a blessing (Numbers 22-25) but Balak invited the Jews to worship and feast at his pagan altars.
          3. The Jews fell into a trap and became “good neighbors” but they began to compromise, yet Antipas refused.
      2. Fornication of saying, “Caesar is lord” cost them their crown. Pergamos means “married” reminding us that we are the bride of Christ and must remain pure (2 Corinthians 11:1-4).
    3. Admonition (Revelation 2:16-17) Many Jews believed hidden manna had disappeared to be presented once again in the Messianic age. The white stones were used in local elections, and sentencing (white is innocent and black was guilty) so John is stressing the reward of possession and entrance into the Messianic age.
      1. Present judgment: they would feel His sword
      2. Present appeal: to the individual “he who has an ear…”
      3. Present approval: declared righteous in Christ – white stone
  4. Thyatira – The corrupted church (huge ovens) Revelation 2:18-29 – The picture brings to mind the blazing fires of the brass and bronze ovens. The longest message was sent to the smallest town. It was a military and commercial center with many trade guilds. The city boasted of their temple to Apollo, their sun god, which explains why Jesus introduces himself as the Son of God.
    1. Approval (Revelation 2:19) Their work was stronger than the first. They were and busy bunch involved in sacrificial ministry for the sake of others. They were characterized by faith, love and patience, so they were not guilty of mere religious activity.
    2. Accusation (20-23) Allowing false prophets – Jezebel – a new word from the Lord, the authority of cults, claiming to know the deep things (secrets) of God (24) The seductive teaching of Jezebel was similar to that of Balaam, since she taught believers to compromise with the Roman religion.
      1. Ephesus was weak in love, yet denounce false teachers
      2. Thyatira was growing in love, yet tolerant of false teachers and it was also unwilling to repent in its pride.
    3. Admonition (Revelation 2:24-29) They will have no burden, must hold fast, and they will share in the Messianic rule. Jesus is the bright “morning star” Revelation 22:16 and the reference in Revelation 2:28 would suggest that the people are so close that they actually belong to him. Lucifer in Hebrew means “brightness, bright star” which reinforces that the church was following the depths of Satan, where the church on the other hand would share the Morning Star.
  5. Sardis – The crippled church (1500′ plateau) Revelation 3:1-6 – It was a fortress city, wealthy and would need to defend itself often. The rock on which the upper city rests was limestone, subject to erosion. Cyrus found an eroded hole and led his soldiers under the wall into the heart of the city. The people of Sardis were proud and careless. History was repeated in 230 BC when Antiochus the Great of Syria captured Sardis by attacking the unguarded mountain side of the city. Great churches need a warning about living in the past: most going through stages of a man, a movement, a machine and then a monument. They were in the monument stage and there was still hope because Christ is the head of the church.
    1. Accusation (Revelation 3:1b-2) deeds were passive and not active and have not reached their completion (sanctification). They fell to invaders twice due to passivity. They were not aggressive witnesses: there was no persecution because there was no invasion of enemy territory.
    2. Admonition (Revelation 3:3-6) The Son of Man will come as a thief. White garments of purity. There is a faithful remnant even in a dying church, where there’s life there’s hope. Also, the book of life seems to represent the tax ledger that has Persian origins. It will be a list of the true believers who persevere to the end Luke 10:20.
  6. Philadelphia – The committed church (door) Revelation 3:7-13 – The city was named after Attalua II (159-138 BC), who was called Philadelphus because of his love for his brother, Eumenes. This city, along with Sardis, was destroyed in an earthquake in AD 17. Tremors continued for a long time and people refused to re-enter the city. They chose to live in tents outside the city walls. The city was also the doorway to bringing the Greek culture to the Barbarians. There was great success that by AD 19, Greek became the dominant language in the area.
    1. Address (Revelation 3:7b-8) Before it is a great missionary opportunity Acts 14:27, 1 Corinthians 16:9, 2 Corinthians 2:12, Colossians 4:3
    2. Admonition (Revelation 3:9-13) Some of their efforts have been forceful, a little power, and they needed greater dedication. They are in need of perseverance. Jesus gives promises to them:
      1. He would take care of their enemies (9)
      2. He would keep them from the hour of testing, which has been interpreted to mean from the great tribulation (10) Hold fast or their crown would be taken away.
      3. He would honor them (12) The overcomer will be pillar in
        the temple (important person, vs. simply a supportive and stable part of the structure).
  7. Laodicea – The comatose church (aqueducts) Revelation 3:14-22 – The city was founded by Antiochus II (261-246 BC), and named it for his wife, Laodice. The city was well known for its banking and manufacturing, like wool. There was also the medical school there, known for its ear medicine and eye salve. It was quite a wealthy town, and seemed to host the weakest church. There is no praise for Laodicea.
    1. They lost their vigor (Revelation 3:16-17a) Their works were as their city water supply, lukewarm. There were aqueducts to the hot springs, 95 degrees F, and by the time the water reached the city two miles away, it was lukewarm. Temperatures in the church:
      1. A burning heart, on fire for God – Luke 24:32
      2. A cold heart – Matthew 24:12
      3. A lukewarm heart – Revelation 3:16
        The church cannot be a closed system, independent from Christ (John 15:5) and Jesus was on the outside wanting to get in Revelation 3:20.
    2. They lost their values (Revelation 3:17b-18a) The church bragged about being rich. John warns them to buy refined gold and wear white, (which corresponds to the city’s claims to fame). Perhaps the church needed some persecution since they were too comfortable (1 Peter 1:7).
    3. They lost their vision (Revelation 3:18b) They also should use the eye salve, from their medical school, due to their blindness. Peter teaches that when a believer is not growing in the Lord, his spiritual vision is affected (2 Peter 1:5-9).
    4. They lost their vesture (Revelation 3:17-22) Salvation means Christ imputed righteousness to us; Sanctification means that his righteousness is imparted to us, made a part of our character. They thought they were clothed with splendor when they were really naked!
      1. Explanation (V3:19a) God loves and reproves even these lukewarm
      2. Exhortation (Revelation 3:19b) Be zealous and repent, stir up the fire
      3. Invitation (Revelation 3:20-22) The Lord will come in and dine with them if they would only let Him do so. Those who persevere until the end will sit on the throne with Christ. He speaks to the individual: if any man…

III. A vision of heaven – Revelation 4:1-11 – Believe in God… (John 14:1) Power – Song of creation that will move into a Song of re-creation, redemption (Revelation 5:9-10)

  1. The Throne (Revelation 4:1-3) which is the key word in this chapter. A door standing open in heaven, and the voice speaks (Revelation 4:1)
    1. On the throne – God Almighty: John is in the spirit and God (who cannot be seen) is upon the throne (Revelation 4:2-3a) Jasper and Sardis in appearance (white and reddish).
    2. Around the throne – a rainbow: it circles the throne like an emerald (3b) (Genesis 9:12-17) represents hope.
  2. The Throng (Revelation 4:4-8)
    1. Around the throne – the 24 elders (Revelation 4:3-4, 6-7) The old and new Covenants: twelve tribes and twelve apostles. Later John will see the names of the 12 tribes on the gates of the new city and the apostles on the foundation (Revelation 21:12, 14). White robes and palm branches represent victory. Also, The four living creatures around the throne (6b-8) God is surrounded by His creation. Full of eyes represents divine sight and wisdom. There is a hymn of praise to a Holy and Powerful God.
      1. Lion: wild creatures
      2. Ox: domesticated creatures
      3. Man: intelligent life
      4. Eagle: flying creatures
    2. Out from the throne – storm signals (Revelation 4:5a) lightning/thunder represent God’s displeasure (Exodus 19:16).
    3. Before the throne – seven Lamps and a sea (Revelation 4:5b-6a) Lamps stand for the Holy Spirit, for throughout the Bible, fire has stood as a symbol of the Spirit of God. The sea has represented an uncrossable divide (especially to a man exiled on an island), or standing for Gentile nations (Isaiah 57:20; Revelation 17:15) which looked like crystal (sea = separation) Revelation 21:1.
  3. The Temple Comparison
    1. Earthly Temple – Heavenly Sanctuary
      ===================================================
    2. Holy of Holies – The throne of God
    3. Seven branched candlestick – Seven lamps of fire
    4. Bronze altar – Sea of glass
    5. Cherubim over the mercy seat – Four living creatures
    6. Priests – Elders
    7. Brazen altar – Altar (Revelation 6:9-11)
    8. Incense altar – Incense altar (Revelation 8:3-5)
    9. Ark of the covenant – Ark of the covenant (Revelation 11:19)
  4. The Theme: adoration to the throne (Revelation 4:9-11) A hymn of praise to the creator, not the creature (idolatry) Today the creation is groaning, then it will be glorious.
    1. Living creatures give glory, honor and praise to Him
    2. The 24 elders fall before Him on the throne and cast their crowns before the throne.

IV. The seven seals are opened – Revelation 5:1-7:17

  1. The scroll in heaven (Revelation 5:1-14) Believe also in Me (John 14:1) Love – song of re-creation comes out of the Song of creation (Revelation 4:11)
    1. The scroll (Revelation 5:1) a book written inside and on the back (whereas nothing more could be added) sealed with seven perfect seals: which could be God’s redemptive history; or the title deed to creation, for Christ alone is the rightful heir (Psalm 2:8, Hebrews 1:2). Satan offered Him the world in return for one act of worship, but Jesus won the right to receive the scroll when he gave himself on the cross. Jesus is our Kinsman-Redeemer (Leviticus 25:23-46, Jeremiah 32:6-15).
    2. The search (Revelation 5:2-5) to find someone to open it
      1. The strong angel: “Who is worthy to open it?”
      2. No one in heaven, on earth or under earth was able to open it or even look at it.
      3. John begins to weep aloud (as a hurting child) until an elder stops him.
      4. Behold the Lion of Judah, from the root of David: He has overcome, so as to open the book
    3. The Savior (Revelation 5:6-7) worship him because:
      1. Who He is (Revelation 5:5-7) The Lion of the tribe of Judah, A Lamb standing as if He were slain (7 horns 7 eyes) divine power and sight (1 Kings 21:11; Zechariah 1:18) Strength and bravery turns to absolute goodness (Lion – Lamb)
        1. Slain: sacrifice for sin – 1 Peter 1:18-20
        2. Lamb: savior – John 1:29, Genesis 22:7, Revelation 5:12 offering salvation through the person and work of Christ.
        3. Lion: sovereignty, courage and dignity Genesis 49:8-10
          bringing judgment
      2. Where He is (Revelation 5:6a)
        1. He is in heaven: not the manger or in Jerusalem
        2. He is in the midst: between the throne and the elders
        3. He is at the throne: taking back his glory from his earthly humiliation and earthly life.
      3. What He has (Revelation 5:6b) Seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth
      4. What He does (7) He took the book from Him on the throne.
    4. The song (Revelation 5:8-14)
      1. What He does (Revelation 5:8-10) incense represent prayers – Psalm 141:1-3 – The redemptive mission of Christ brings men into proper relationship with God. He experienced the same sort of death as the martyrs.
        1. It is a worship song (Revelation 5:8) they fell down
        2. It is a Gospel song (Revelation 5:9a) His redeeming work was for all mankind because He was slain.
          1. For individuals (Galatians 2:20) crucified with Christ
          2. For families (Exodus 12:3) Passover
          3. For the nation (Isaiah 53:8, John 11:49-52)
          4. For the world (John 1:29)
        3. It is a missionary song (Revelation 5:9b) John 3:16, Matthew 28:18-20
          1. Common ancestry: tribe
          2. Common language: tongue
          3. Common race: people
          4. Common government: nation
        4. It is a devotional song (Revelation 5:10a) Christ’s redeeming work brings about a royal priesthood of believers. They have direct access to the Father.
        5. It is a prophetic song (10b) Christ will reign on earth
      2. What He has (Revelation 5:11-14) Thousands of angels join in the fourth hymn of praise to the Lamb.
        1. He is worthy because He was slain: willing to follow the will of God and complete His mission.
        2. He is worthy to receive gifts of power, wealth, wisdom and might. Similar attributes are given to God in a later worship scene (Revelation 7:12).
        3. He is worthy to receive the praises of the creation because He carried out God’s purposes.
        4. Every created being joins in on the fifth hymn of praise. The throne represents the very presence of God.
  2. The six seals opened (Revelation 6:1-7:17)
    1. Retribution – Revelation 6:1-8
      1. White horse – conquering (Revelation 6:1-2) A victorious Roman general would often ride on a white horse during the victory parade. The bow was the weapon of warfare.
        1. Every stage has been set with its conquerors, from Alexander the Great to Hitler.
        2. The futurist will see this as the anti-Christ.Abuse of political power: as Satan tempted Jesus
        3. Desire to control other people: conquering them, as the Romans had enslaved millions
        4. The desire for a crown often motivates the conqueror: to be worshipped, the praise in the victory parade.
      2. Red horse – warfare (Revelation 6:3-4) the expected follower of the white horse. Pride and individual greed pushed conquerors on to the brink of war. Jesus spoke of the cycle of wars and rumors of wars (Mark 13:7).
        1. The Christian is called to peacemaking
        2. The Christian needs to be the salt of the earth
        3. Jesus stood against the armed forces of Rome and called His men to be peacemakers.
      3. Black horse – famine (Revelation 6:5-6) History has shown that after every major war there was famine on the earth. A quart of wheat selling for a day’s wage, and the daily ration for a Roman soldier of the first century. The average man would have to feed his entire family on the same amount. The church must address the problem of hunger in our world.
        1. Action must replace love, brotherhood and fellowship
        2. Christian concern loves the subject doing the action,
          involvement in feeding the world (James 2:16).
        3. It is easy to give some money, yet it is difficult to pick out a person in need and help them
      4. Pale horse – death (Revelation 6:7-8) the color of a corpse on the battlefield. The underworld was a source of fascination for the Greeks and feared by the Hebrews. Sheol was a shadowy existence of your former life. Later the Hebrews developed a belief in life after death. This horse is expected after the other three, a timeless cycle.
        1. The victorious Lamb in the midst of the horsemen
        2. We need not fall under the forces of evil at work
    2. Response – Revelation 6:9-17
      1. Martyrs – How long O Lord? (Revelation 6:9-11) Those dead due to their faith under the altar of sacrifice. An attitude of revenge? More of a wrath against sin being essential to righteousness.
      2. Many believed that the original model for the temple was in heaven.
      3. The sacrifice would be killed and the blood was thrown against the base of the altar (Leviticus 4:7, 17:11).
      4. The blood of the martyrs is thrown against the base of the heavenly altar, and they cry out for justice.
      5. The Greek word translated as “witness” is the English term “martus”. To give a verbal witness was to risk your life on what you believed.
      6. God will not judge the world until the martyr’s number is complete (11) perhaps impatience
        1. The proclamation of the witness – Revelation 1:9
        2. The struggle of the witness – Revelation 7:14
        3. The victory of the witness – Revelation 7:9-10
      7. Earth-dwellers: physical disturbance preview – Revelation 6:12-17
        1. No part of God’s creation escapes judgment
        2. No person escapes God’s judgment: people would rather turn on, than turn to, God.
        3. “Wrath of the Lamb (16) seems a paradox
        4. Parallel to Jesus prophetic words
          1. Matthew 24 – Revelation 6
          2. False Christs (4-5) – White horse rider (1-2)
          3. Wars (6) – Red horse (3-4)
          4. Famines (7a) – Black horse (5-6)
          5. Death (7b-8) – Pale horse (7-8)
          6. Martyrs (9) – Martyrs under altar (9-11)
          7. Chaos (10-13) – Chaos (12-17)
  3. Redemption – Revelation 7:1-17
    1. Sealing of all believers on earth (Revelation 7:1-8)
      1. 144,000 from 12 tribes: identification with Christ. The number 10 – completeness; The number 12 – wholeness makes 12 X 12 X 10 X 10 X 10 = 144,000. John borrows the idea from the Exodus where the plagues came upon the Egyptians and not the Israelites. Here in Revelation, the blood of the Lamb is placed on the foreheads of the believers to protect them from the coming trumpet judgments, although it does not protect them from the need to suffer and die for their testimony. The seal marks the person as redeemed.
      2. Problems with literal interpretation of Jews:
        1. Levi included when they received no inheritance (Numbers 18:20-24, Joshua 13:14)
        2. Joseph named but not Ephraim, who is usually connected with his brother Manasseh.
        3. Dan is omitted here, yet included in Ezekiel’s list for a piece of the land (Ezekiel 48:1) Suggestions have been made that Dan led in idolatry on many occasions (Leviticus 24:11, Judges 18:1-31, 1 Kings 12:28-29).
        4. The NT constantly breaks the barrier between Jew and Gentile, so why here?
        5. All are marked in Revelation 22:4.
    2. Protection of all believers in heaven: from plagues but not the need to suffer and die for their faith (Revelation 7:9-17)
      1. Their description
        1. They are accepted: standing before the throne and the lamb, having been rejected on the earth (Revelation 7:14)
        2. They are joyful: singing praises to God (Revelation 7:10)
        3. They are rewarded: the privilege to be before the
          throne and serving Him (Revelation 7:15)
      2. Their details
        1. White robes: victory and purity (Revelation 7:9, 13)
        2. Palm branches: victory (Revelation 7:9)
        3. No more hunger and thirst (Revelation 7:16a)
        4. No more heat (Revelation 7:16b)
        5. The Lamb has become the Shepherd (Revelation 7:17)
          1. Walking: guiding
          2. Watering: providing life
          3. Wiping: tears of pain, fear and remembrance

V. The six trumpets are blown – Revelation 8:1-9:21

  1. Preparation – Revelation 8:1-6
    1. Silence (Revelation 8:1) in heaven for 30 minutes
      1. Half-an-hour space of silence as symbolical of delayed judgment, God bringing it in his own time, brought out by the angels restraining the four winds (Revelation 7:1-3).
      2. Silence may be used for dramatic effect. John has already seen the instruments of judgment, the demand for judgment, the terror of the approaching judgment, and the provision for God’s people during the judgment. Anxiety sets in as to what is next.
    2. Supplication (Revelation 8:2-6) incense of victory
      1. Trumpets were used for (Numbers 10:1-10)
        1. Calling the people together
        2. Calling the armies for battle
      2. Announcing special occasions like the day of atonement – Leviticus 16:11-14
        1. High Priest would put incense on the coals in the censor and, with the blood of the sacrifice,enter the holy of holies.
        2. Here the angel put the incense on the altar (prayers before God) and then cast the coals on the altar to the earth. The parallel in Ezekiel 10:1-22 indicates that this symbolizes judgment. The storm is about to begin. The prayers of God’s people are involved in the judgment he will send
    3. Symbolism
      1. 1/3 (incomplete judgment/God’s mercy) fractions
      2. “The Decline And Fall Of The Roman” Empire by Gibbon
        1. Natural disasters: trumpets 1-4
          1. Earthquake, volcanic eruptions and floods
          2. Mount Vesuvius erupted in August AD 79 pouring a fiery flood that engulfed Herculaneum and Pompeii
          3. Pliny the younger told of the horrors: ashes from the burning mountain fell on ships far out to sea and upon the distant shores of Egypt and Syria. There was first an earthquake and then the eruption which started the total destruction of lava and sulphurous fumes. The sky turned dark, blacker and thicker than most nights.
          4. Another time the island volcano Santorin had erupted, giving the suggestion of a burning mountain. Fugitives told of destroyed vegetation and how vapors killed fish and turned the sea red like blood.
        2. Inner rot and decay: trumpet 5
        3. Barbarian invasion: trumpet 6
  2. Desolation (Revelation 8:7-13) divided into four, two and one
    1. Earth smitten – Revelation 8:6-7
      1. Hail, fire and blood on much of the earth – Joel 2:30
      2. All green grass was burned, see Revelation 9:4
      3. Reminder of the seventh plague in Egypt – Exodus 9:18-26
    2. Sea smitten – Revelation 8:8-9
      1. Great volcanic eruption
      2. Third of the sea becomes blood: ecological disaster
      3. Third of creatures die, ships destroyed: economic disaster
      4. Reminder of the first plague in Egypt – Exodus 7:19-21
    3. Rivers smitten – Revelation 8:10-11
      1. A great star fell from heaven: called Wormwood
      2. Third of rivers and springs become poison. Imagine fish and plants that depend on this water for life.
      3. Wormwood means “undrinkable” and synonymous with sorrow and great calamity – Jeremiah 9:15, 23:15, Lamentations 3:15, 19, Amos 5:7
    4. Heavens smitten – Revelation 8:12-13
      1. The whole earth is affected since the source of all life is smitten, the sun.
      2. Third of the sun, moon, stars will be dimmed: think of the change in temperature and human health, and the effect on crops and other plants.
        1. Reminder of the ninth plague in Egypt – Exodus 10:21-23
        2. The day of the Lord is darkness – Amos 5:18, Joel 2:1-2
        3. It is possible that this judgment is temporary since the fourth bowl will reverse it, and the sun will intensify – Revelation 16:8-9
      3. The heavenly messenger of woe: Revelation 8:13, 9:12, 11:14 The eagle being a symbol of a bad omen.
  3. Liberation – Revelation 9:1-21
    1. The army from the pit: men smitten – Revelation 9:1-12
      1. Here is the introduction of the first monster beasts, representing monster people, coming from the abyss. The Greeks believed the volcanoes led from this world to the underworld.
      2. These forces are led by monster locusts, which were a cause for great dread to agrarian societies. Yet these are not normal locusts: size of horses, human faces, hair like women, lion’s teeth and scorpion tails.
      3. For John, these represent the inner rot and decay of the Roman empire: a series of corrupt rulers and leaders; immorality and idolatry; which all come from within.
      4. They were not to harm the grass (Revelation 8:7, 9:4) which was a common diet for locusts, but would spend the next five month tormenting men until they desired death over life, yet death will flee from them (Revelation 9:6)
        1. Only men without the seal on their forehead (Revelation 9:4)
        2. The lifespan of a locust is about five months (Revelation 9:10)
        3. Their king is named “Destruction” (Revelation 9:11)
    2. The army from the east: men killed – Revelation 9:13-21
      1. Rome eventually fell to the Barbarians from the east, past the Euphrates River which was the eastern boundary of the Roman empire. Beyond was the Parthian nation, which the Romans were never able to conquer. God has used these nations as instruments in his judgment.
        1. Israel fell to the Assyrians in 722 BC
        2. Judah fell to the Babylonians in 587 BC
      2. John’s army is of 200,000,000 (in regular formation this makes a troop one mile wide and 85 miles long).
        1. Riders with breastplates of fire
        2. Horse’s heads like lions: Fire, smoke, brimstone from their months; Snakes for tails, biting men, killing 1/3, not just tormenting them.
        3. Since 1/4 of the world’s population is already dead, this number gets us up to half the world’s population has been killed (Revelation 6:8) by the time of the sixth trumpet.
        4. The point is that these horses can attack from the front and the rear at the same time.
        5. After five month of torment and then fire and brimstone horses, men would repent. But this is not the case (Revelation 9:20)
        6. The most frightening thing about Revelation 9 is not the judgments that God sends, but that men persist in their sinning even while God is judging them! (Revelation 9:20-21)
          1. Demon worship and idolatry: dead sinners/dead gods (Isaiah 14:12-15, Matthew 4:8-10) Satan always wanted to be worshiped (1 Corinthians 10:19-21)
          2. Murder and theft
          3. Sexual immorality
          4. Sorcery: including the use of drugs
      3. The whole picture is one of an external invasion which would serve as an instrument of God’s judgment to punish the oppressors of his people.

VI. A testimonial interlude – Revelation 10:1-11:19 The trumpet blasts are temporarily interrupted, in precisely the same manner as between the sixth and seventh seals (Revelation 7:1-17), by two consolatory visions. One is Revelation 10:1-11 and the second is Revelation 11:1-13.

  1. The testimony of the mighty angel – Revelation 10:1-10
    1. The description of another strong angel – Revelation 10:1-4
      1. He being Jesus Christ has little support – Revelation 10:1-2
        1. Here the angel is a messenger of divine vindication, as elsewhere in the book of Revelation
        2. He stands on the land and on the sea to indicate that the message is for the world
      2. The lost Seven Thunders section – Revelation 10:3-4
        1. He cries with the voice of a lion, to attract attention to what he is about to say.
        2. Thunder: a symbol of warning – Revelation 8:5, 11:19, 16:18
        3. They serve as a premonition of the divine wrath to come
        4. John in obedience is about to write what he saw and heard, and a voice stopped him, and to seal them up
        5. The lost act of the Revelation: seals, trumpets, thunders and bowls…
    2. The declaration of the angel – Revelation 10:5-11
      1. The truth will be revealed – Revelation 10:5-7
        1. The reason for this is given in the next few verses: there was to be no more warning or delay – Revelation 10:6 and the seventh trumpet will usher in the finish of God’s mystery – Revelation 10:7
        2. Men heard the warnings and still refused to repent
      2. The bitter-sweet scroll (Revelation 10:8-11) is the second thing of importance in this scene.
        1. He is instructed to take the little book and eat it
        2. He is assured that it would sweet in his mouth and bitter in his stomach, and the words were true
        3. The book’s content
          1. Some say it holds the vision of chapter 11
          2. Others say it is another revelation which begins with chapter 12 and goes to the end of the book
          3. Others say it is the commission to go and preach God’s judgment on those who have rejected him
          4. It appears that the content has to do with matters of sorrow and woe as in Ezekiel 2:8-10.
          5. It seems that the message of lamentation and woe was rather general: woe upon men under God’s judgment for having rejected him; woes upon Christians in the hands of their enemies; woes upon the church in conflict with the great power of Rome; woes upon Rome for her great destruction. He was to prophesy to many peoples, nations, tongues and kings (Revelation 10:11)
        4. The meaning of eating the book
          1. The messages of judgment he had just predicted
          2. That he was to thoroughly master his message: he was assimilating it and makes it part of him
            1. Sweet: the joy of receiving a revelation from God and trusted to deliver it; OR the message of judgment on those responsible would be sweet to those who were suffering.
            2. Bitter: delivering the message would be bitter, no matter how much he knew sin needed punishment; OR the horror of actually seeing the judgment.
  2. The testimony of the two witnesses – Revelation 11:1-14
    1. Temple measurement (Revelation 11:1-2) the third symbol in this interlude: the inner and not the outer court, since it had been given to the nations (who will trample the city for an incomplete time – 42 months).
      1. This does not mean the temple was still standing, nor that the temple is to be rebuilt prior to the end
      2. This language is purely symbolical
      3. Measurement is for special care and preservation or protection: true Israel will be protected from the wrath to come.
      4. This is a vision of consolation for God’s people in contrast to the condemnation for their oppressors; the court of Gentiles was not measured, meaning the great bulk of the Gentile world will suffer in Rome’s punishment and judgment.
    2. Time of ministry (Revelation 11:2-3) 42 months is 3.5 years: an uncertain time, restlessness turmoil, an indefinite number. So, God will protect his people during this indefinite time, but he will bring in a turning (1260 days is 3.5 years).
    3. Traits of miracles – Revelation 11:4-6
      1. The identity of the witnesses
        1. Witnesses at the end of the age, with supernatural powers and divine protection. They will be killed by the representatives of the anti-Christ, but after 3.5 days they will come back to life. They are Moses and Elijah Malachi 4:5-6, Elijah being the forerunner to the end times, the day of the Lord. But Jesus even said John was Elijah (Matthew 17:11-13, 11:1-4). The question is, “What possible comfort could have there been for the first century Christians?” Nil.
        2. The continuous-historical interpretation applies this to the apostasy of the church during the reformation. 1260 days represents 1260 years (putting the time in the reformation. The witnesses are then the true church and the preachers who never stop witnessing during this dark period. Meaning for the early church? Nil.
        3. Remember this is an interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpets, a part of three other parts that are symbolic. Moses and Elijah can symbolize the Word of God, the law and the prophets. Elijah had the power to close the sky and Moses was able to turn water into blood. The image is that God’s Word will never be destroyed. The witnesses are immediately resurrected after martyrdom.
      2. The number “2” symbolized strength. They are the testimony or witness of great power. The Christian witness will be maintained, even in the midst of adversity.
      3. The two olive trees could present Joshua and Zerubbabel, priests during the time of Ezra (Zechariah 3:1-4:14) where they helped re-establish Israel in Palestine (Revelation 11:4)
      4. The seven branched candlestick represents the eyes of God
    4. The martyrdom of the witnesses – Revelation 11:7-14
      1. Termination – Revelation 11:7-10
        1. The beast is symbolic for Rome and Jerusalem
        2. They are killed and subject to indignity
        3. The world rejoiced at their death, as Rome thought it had killed the way of Christ
      2. Translation – Revelation 11:11-14
        1. God’s power caused Rome to be overthrown and enabled the redemptive message of the Gospel to live on in triumph
        2. This period was just ahead for the church
        3. After an indefinite period of turmoil and trouble, their enemies will recognize that it must have been the power of God to have done all these things
        4. Some people will see this demonstration of God as from him and will turn to give him glory. This was another evidence in the triumph of the Gospel over the empire
        5. The second woes is past, the third is coming – Revelation 11:14
  3. The testimony of the elders – Revelation 11:15-19
    1. Announcement: the seventh trumpet sounds – Revelation 11:15 The seventh trumpet brings rejoicing
    2. Acclamation:: the praise of elders – Revelation 11:16-18
      1. The elders give thanks because God is beginning his reign: he will rule in love and mercy as opposed to the emperor
      2. Dark days have been experienced but Christ is victorious
      3. The dead (without Christ) will be judged, and the faithful will be rewarded
      4. God will destroy those who destroy the earth
      5. The whole purpose of the trumpet plagues was to cause people to repent; and to remind us of the decline and fall of Rome
    3. Assurance: the faithfulness of God – Revelation 11:19
      1. The temple is opened and the ark is seen
      2. The ark always went before them in battle
      3. Thunder, lightning, earthquake and hail in heaven?
      4. The point is that God has not forgotten his people even though darker days are ahead of them. His covenant is secure even though the enemy will continue to persecute God’s people. It is like a headline announcing the victory, then the writer goes into detail as he tells the story.

V. The seven signs – Revelation 12:1-15:8

There are those who feel that the Revelation of John ended at chapter 11 (complete in itself), and that 12-20 is a second Revelation (supported by Revelation 10:11). The characters and the conflict is essentially the same but is presented under a different aspect. From here to the end of the book the action moves much faster, culminating in a complete victory of Christ over all evil.

  1. The terrible trio – Revelation 12:1-13:18
    1. The dragon beast – Revelation 12:1-17
      1. War on Earth: dragon against the woman – Revelation 12:1-6
        1. Mother Israel: 12 stars, fled to the desert for an indefinite period of time
        2. Man-child: the Messiah, to rule the nations, caught up to God after His ascension (nothing is said about His life or death). A lot happens in Revelation 12:5!
        3. Red dragon: murderous activity
          1. Seven heads and crowns: divine authority or wisdom
          2. Ten horns: claims complete power in this age, sweeping a third of the stars with his tail (representing paradise lost and Satan took a third of the angels in his rebellion (Isaiah 14:12-15).
          3. It is made clear that he is the Satan – Revelation 12:9. Satan and the woman have had conflict since the beginning – Genesis 3:15. Throughout history Satan has attempted to prevent the birth of a redeemer: Moses had Pharaoh, called the dragon (Ezekiel 29:3) and Jesus had Herod, and then Judas.
      2. War in heaven: Bethlehem scene – Revelation 12:7-12
        1. Paradise lost (Isaiah 14:12-15)? This section is not an historical account of Satan’s origin. It is apocalyptic imagery designed to emphasize the devil’s efforts to destroy the Christ and His people. He could not destroy him on earth, then he failed to destroy him in heaven. So, he will not turn his wrath against the woman.
        2. Michael means “Who is like God?” parallels Satan’s attack on God from the beginning.
        3. Devil means “accuser” and Satan means “adversary” but Jesus represents our advocate before the throne – 1 John 2:1-2
        4. He will have great wrath for only a short time
        5. The woe to the earth: reminiscent of the three woes – Revelation 9:1-12; 9:13-21; 11:14-19
      3. War on Earth again: Satan, Son, Church – Revelation 12:13-17
        1. The dragon has no more access to heaven and attack the woman who gave birth.
        2. God will prepare a place for her protection; the remnant will be sheltered for an indefinite time.
        3. The flood can represent a flood of anti-Semitism. Remember that the center of God’s redemptive plan has always been Jesus and not the Jews. The emphasis is not so much on the destiny of the Jews as it is the efforts of Satan and his raging conflict.
        4. Enraged at the woman, the dragon makes war on her seed, a definite reference to the church – Revelation 12:17, which is his fourth battle, and he calls in some allies to help.
    2. The sea beast: political beast – Revelation 13:1-10, 18
      1. Seven heads: seven major Caesars from Jesus to John
        1. Tiberius 14-37
        2. Caligula 37-41
        3. Claudius 41-54
        4. Nero 54-68 |- Galba
        5. Vespasian 66-79 69 -|- Otho
        6. Titus 79-81 |- Vitellius
        7. Domitian 81-96
      2. The dragon gives the beast his power – Revelation 13:2
      3. Wonder: one head survives a fatal wound – Revelation 13:3 Nero
      4. Worship: who is like the beast? A mighty empire – Revelation 13:4, 8 which will be regulated by a second beast
      5. Words: blasphemies: claims of divinity – Revelation 13:5-6
      6. War: punishment for the persecutors – Revelation 13:7-10
      7. His number: 666 – Revelation 13:18
        1. Hebrew consonant equivalent – nron ksr = 666
        2. A=100, B=101, C=102 then Hitler can be  = 666
        3. Latin – neron = 666 or 616
        4. The number is significant, not the name: 6 represented the falling short of the perfect 7, raised to a power of 3, it represented a power of evil of which there can be none greater. So, in John’s day the personification of evil was Domitian, fitting the Nero Revivius myth.
    3. The land beast: religious beast – Revelation 13:11-17
      1. There are no crowns, so no political power, but is a committee to enforce the worship of the first beast
      2. He resembled the Lamb: religious appearance – Revelation 13:11
      3. He spoke as the dragon, with authority – Revelation 13:11
      4. His power came from the empire – Revelation 13:12
      5. He enforced emperor worship: “commune” or “concilia” was the official body charged with enforcing worship. The hollow statues could “speak” – Revelation 13:15
      6. The fatal wound: Nero – Revelation 13:12
      7. False prophets and their miracles – Revelation 13:13
      8. The mark: to buy and sell in the market – Revelation 13:16-17
  2. The voices of victory: forces of righteousness – Revelation 14:1-15:8
    1. The voice of the 144,000 – Revelation 14:1-5
      1. Standing with Christ: a definite reference to the triumphant Christ. After the dark chapters of evil, the curtain drawn reveals the Lamb and his protected 144,000, who have the mark of the Lamb (his name, and the his Father) – Revelation 14:1
      2. Singing to Christ: a new song – Revelation 14:2-3 No one could learn (understand) the song except the redeemed
      3. Separation from the world – Revelation 14:4-5
        1. Not defiled with women: chaste – symbolic of the spiritual fornication of idol worship
        2. They follow the Lamb wherever He goes – absolute loyalty
        3. These have been purchased as first fruits
        4. No lie was found in their mouth – no denial of the supremacy of Christ, not confessing “Caesar is lord”
    2. The voices of the angels – Revelation 14:6-13
      1. Judgment has come – Revelation 14:6-7
        1. The angel will be allowed to preach the Gospel
        2. While the people worship the beast, he will call men to worship God alone, since He is the Creator, and the hour of judgment has come.
        3. This is not the Gospel as we know it (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) but a return to what theologians call natural theology based on Romans 1:18-23. Fear of the Lord, and not the beast, is the beginning of wisdom – Proverbs 9:10.
        4. He announces the victory even before the battle begins
      2. Babylon has fallen – Revelation 14:8 the doom of imperial Rome
        1. Babylon represented evil and repulsion to the Jews
        2. She forced spiritual fornication and idol worship
        3. Constative aorist tense: one momentary act of falling
      3. Escape God’s wrath – Revelation 14:9-13
        1. Directed to those who have followed the beast: the mark.
        2. “If any one continues to worship the beast” indicates another opportunity to repent.
        3. The contrast between – Revelation 14:11, 13
          1. Smoke of their torment goes up forever
          2. Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on.
          3. The Christian martyr burning at the stake had torment for but a moment, whereas the devotees of the beast will find a life of burning sulfur.
          4. Perseverance is done by keeping God’s commandments and not the commands of the concilia; and the faith of Jesus, not the emperor Domitian.
          5. The blessing of Christian death – Revelation 14:13
            1. Rest (refreshed) from their labors (adverse toil)
            2. Their works follow with them, not his rest empty-handed
    3. The voice of the reaper – Revelation 14:14-20 divine judgment
      1. The King: Christ appears as King (crown) and Judge (sickle)
      2. The harvest
        1. Grain – Revelation 14:14-16
          1. Often used to denote winning souls – John 4:34-38
          2. Here it is divine judgment – Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
        2. Grapes – Revelation 14:17-20
          1. The vine of Israel – Isaiah 5:1-7
          2. The Christian’s vine is Christ – John 15:1-5
          3. The world system is also a vine
      3. The river: even futurists have a hard time if this is literal since they can’t get a 200 mile river into Palestine! The point is that divine judgment is a terrifying thing.
    4. The voice of the victors – Revelation 15:1-8 exaltation of redeemed
      1. Prelude to the bowl judgments – Revelation 15:1-4
        1. Seven angels with seven plagues: wrath of God is finished
        2. The saints standing of the sea of glass, the sea is still a separation between the holy God – Revelation 4:6, 15:2
        3. They sang the song of Moses: the exodus is all over this
          1. The nation delivered from Egypt by the blood
          2. The Egyptians destroyed in the Red sea
          3. They sang in thankfulness for what God had done
      2. Postlude of their celebration – Revelation 15:5-8
        1. The struggle between good and evil is over, the time for judgment has come.
        2. The martyrs asked “how long?” – Revelation 6:9-11 and now it is finished and done – Revelation 10:7, 16:17

VI. The seven bowls are poured – Revelation 16:1-21 – The empire was still strong and in no way in danger of falling. But to the enlightened on, John, the state was doomed and it was only a matter of time before Rome was totally engulfed in divine judgment. There are many similarities between the trumpet judgments and the coming bowl judgments. The judgments are upon nature and the effects are carried out on men, and there is symbolism connected to the plagues on Egypt. The trumpet judgments were a call to repentance, and the bowl judgments are visitations of punishment when hope of repentance is passed. The trumpets were partial and the bowls are total judgment. The trumpets did not reach men until trumpet four, men are hit right off with the first bowl. They are grouped as four, two, interlude then one, as the trumpets. The first thing to notice is the temple is now closed – Revelation 15:8.

  1. Bowl one – sores on men – Revelation 16:1-2
    1. The bowl is poured into the earth, yet men are affected
    2. The mark of the beast becomes rotten and cancerous
    3. Similar to trumpet five, the monster locusts tormenting men
  2. Bowl two – seas smitten – Revelation 16:3
    1. Trumpet two, 1/3 sea became blood, 1/3 creatures died
    2. Here the blood of a dead man, coagulated, all creatures died
    3. Seaport of the empire, commerce died as well
  3. Bowl three – rivers smitten – Revelation 16:4-7
    1. Trumpet three, 1/3 rivers became blood
    2. All became blood, – Revelation 16:4 in the judgment
    3. Reason given – Revelation 16:6, 18:24, Rome shed the blood of the saints: rivers of martyrs’ blood
  4. Bowl four – scorching sun – Revelation 16:8-9
    1. Trumpet four, heavens, darkened by 1/3
    2. Sun now intensified to burn men
    3. Men would rather curse God than surrender to him: hard, cold
    4. They still did not repent
  5. Bowl five – darkness on the beast’s throne – Revelation 16:10-11
    1. Gnawed their tongues due to the pain
    2. They blasphemed God and would not repent
  6. Bowl six – Euphrates River dried – Revelation 16:12-16
    1. Invaders are now able to come and destroy Rome
    2. Evil spirits gathering kings to war at Har-Magedon
      1. Out of the dragon, beast and false prophet: spirits/frogs
        1. Vomit from the mouth
        2. Breath, comes the form of frogs
        3. Mouth: verbal propaganda to bring discouragement
      2. This is the interlude as between trumpets six and seven
    3. Megiddo to the Hebrews: spiritual conflict, not material. The area symbolized worldwide distress of righteousness and evil engaged in deadly combat.
      1. Gideon and his 300 defeated the Midianites
      2. King Saul was killed by the Philistines
      3. Deborah defeated the Canaanite, Jabin
      4. Ahaziah died due to Jehu’s arrows
      5. Pharaoh Necho killed Josiah
    4. This is an announcement; the battle is – Revelation 19:19-21
    5. Jesus using a literal sword – Revelation 19:21?
      1. Goes against NT teachings.
      2. If this be literal, so is the committee of frogs.
  7. Bowl seven – complete destruction – Revelation 16:17-21
    1. A voice out of the temple, “It is done” as on the cross, judgment is now complete, it is as good as done.
    2. The earthquake as no man has ever seen.
    3. The city into three parts: divine number three, no question as to how this destruction has come, no accident or circumstance.
    4. Even the strongholds of Rome are leveled: islands, mountains.
    5. Men continued to blaspheme in the midst of the hailstorm.

VII. The reign and ruin of Babylon (Roman Empire) – Revelation 17:1-20:15

  1. Desolation: The Scarlet Woman – Revelation 17:1-18 – Rome is now depicted as a harlot rather than a goddess. Since Rome is the central figure in the persecution of the Christians, three entire chapters are devoted to her doom. The predictions have already come (Revelation 14:8, 16:19). She practices fornication with the kings of the earth: and spiritual fornication of idol worship and draws (conquers) the world into her idolatry.
    1. Sits on many waters: people over whom she reigns – Revelation 17:15
    2. Spiritual fornication and drunkenness: Caesar worship
    3. Scarlet colored beast: the empire which supports the city – Revelation 12:3, 13:1, 17:3
    4. Golden cup of abominations: martyrs – Revelation 17:4, 6, drunk all the time (present participle); unclean things of her immorality may refer to the evils which came out of her idol worship and persecution.
    5. She is quite different from the radiant woman of chapter 12 as she is described as the mother of harlots and abominations.
      1. Futurists: restored Babylon at the end time
      2. Continuous historical: Roman Catholic Church
      3. As the angel revealed to John: I will tell the mystery – Revelation 17:7.
        1. The beast was, and is not, and is to come: – Revelation 17:10
        2. A reflection of the Nero Redivivus myth: the empire is pictured as the personification of Domitian, the reincarnation of Nero – Revelation 17:8
        3. The woman: Rome – Revelation 17:18
    6. The angel explains that the seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits: definite reference to Rome
    7. There are seven kings that made up the empire – Revelation 17:10-12
      1. Five fallen: Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Vespasian, Titus
      2. One is: Domitian
      3. One to come: Nero
        1. One of the seven – Nero
        2. Also the eighth – Nero Redivivus myth
    8. Ten horns: power of the empire, vassal kings given the authority of Rome for one hour, a brief time.
      1. One purpose: do the will of the emperor, persecution
      2. The Lamb will overcome them as well – Revelation 17:14.
      3. These kings will hate Rome, and will eventually come from the east to overthrow the empire – Revelation 17:16-17. This was one of the greatest fears Rome had, as revealed in the book of Acts, of turmoil and unrest which could lead to a rebellion and revolution.
  2. Destruction: commercial Babylon – Revelation 18:1-24 – Although the main point of the writer is the fall of Rome, he views it from several different points for emphasis.
    1. Doom of Rome’s allies – Revelation 18:1-20
      1. The voice of condemnation – Revelation 18:1-3
        1. Rome will fall because of spiritual fornication
        2. Merchants had capitalized on Rome’s behavior and had benefited from her evil ways, and became an ally
      2. The voice of separation – Revelation 18:4-8
        1. God’s people must come out from association with Rome or they will receive the plagues, too
        2. Rome’s sins have piled up to heaven, God remembers
        3. God will repay double for her deeds
        4. The fall will come in one day (one hour): plague, famine, mourning and death – Revelation 18:8,10,16,19
      3. The voice of lamentation – Revelation 18:9-20
        1. Kings still around – Revelation 18:8-10. Very similar to Ezekiel’s lament over Tyre (Ezekiel 26:16-17; 27:35)
        2. Merchants standing at a distance – Revelation 18:11-16 No one will buy their cargo anymore, some 30 items. They will fall with Rome.
        3. Sailors stood at a distance – Revelation 18:17-20. All the ships at sea became wealthy because of Rome
      4. Destruction of municipal Rome – Revelation 18:21-24 repetition
        1. The great millstone into the sea: the angel states that this is how Rome’s destruction will be, thrown down
        2. Municipal life will stop
          1. Amusement life – Revelation 18:22a
          2. Business life – Revelation 18:22b
          3. Home life – Revelation 18:23
        3. The blood of the martyrs stands as an eternal testimony against Rome and her wickedness, and to the loyalty of the Christians.
        4. Objection to this interpretation: Rome is still standing today. True, but it is not the persecuting Rome of John’s day. A combination of many things brought an end to that Rome, and the Christian movement which Rome tried to destroy still stands.
        5. The voice of celebration – Revelation 18:20-24
  3. Disclosure of Babylon’s Conqueror – Revelation 19:1-20:15
    1. Saints will rejoice – Revelation 19:1-6
      1. God has judged His enemies – Revelation 19:1-4
        1. A multitude singing hallelujah – Revelation 19:1, 3-4. Not so much over the fall of Rome as is the triumph of righteousness. This singing is above the wailing and laments of the kings, merchants and mariners.
        2. God’s judgments are true and righteous – Revelation 19:2, and has avenged the blood of the martyrs
        3. The smoke rises forever: not just burned to the ground but an eternal burning, always fuel to be added to the fire, and such a city can never be rebuilt.
      2. God is reigning – Revelation 19:5-6
        1. The multitude: sound of many waters and thunders
        2. They again sing hallelujah, for what is to come
    2. The bride is made ready – Revelation 19:7-10
      1. The bride has kept herself pure and clean
      2. Blessed are those invited to the celebration, which is take place at a later time
      3. John fell to worship the angel and is corrected
      4. The time for a complete union has not yet come since the Lamb has one final bit of battle to finish. The Revelation does not include the actual marriage of the Lamb, the images change.
        1. John does not show the release of the winds – Revelation 7:1, and he changed the figures to trumpets.
        2. God prepared the way for the Parthian kings, but did not use them – Revelation 16:12, instead using hailstones and an earthquake to destroy Rome.
    3. Christ will be revealed – Revelation 19:11-16
      1. The Lion, Lamb and Judge is now the Warrior
      2. He is followed by heavenly armies – Revelation 19:14
      3. All is symbolic; there is no mention of weapons, except the sword in His mouth – Revelation 19:15
    4. Armageddon will be ruined – Revelation 19:17-21
      1. The victory is announced before the battle begins, birds to come and feast – Revelation 19:17
      2. The beast and the false prophet were no match and they are seized before the battle begins – Revelation 19:20
      3. Interpretation:
        1. Futurist: literal end times battle, lots of blood and death, for the Lord to overthrown a personal antichrist, in order to set up His earthly millennial kingdom.
        2. Continuous historical: this is a tough one since the Catholic church is still around. They teach the battle is in the future.
        3. Meaning for the early church?
          1. Armageddon is not a place but a symbolic term for a decisive conflict.
          2. Christ comes down from heaven but it does not picture the event as described in the rest of the NT.
          3. This scene symbolically represents His coming to the aid of persecuted Christians with heavenly assistance in their spiritual struggles.
          4. If the beast is identified with the emperor, as he personified the pagan persecuting Roman Empire, there is no other explanation for this battle. It represents the final victory of Christ’s cause and people over that pagan empire.
          5. The beast (Domitian) and the false prophet (concilia) are thrown into the lake of fire, which is symbolic for their destruction. Christ overcomes them and the Christians are bothered by them no more. The conflict is a spiritual conflict.
        4. The rest are killed with a sword in His mouth – Revelation 19:21
          1. Some say this refers to the conversion of Rome’s allies, in this way they are considered casualties.
          2. Others, power of the judgment He speaks against foes.
          3. God’s Word is far mightier than any word of man.
      4. Satan will be restrained – Revelation 20:1-3. Victory over Satan
        1. From chapter 12 on, there have been three enemies, so there will be no complete victory until the third is defeated.
        2. This section is a continuation of the previous section, not the beginning of a new one, as chapters indicate
        3. The enemies appeared to succeed: saints robbed, persecuted, exiled, and slain; but this would not continue. It must be shown that the final triumph remains for the sake of righteousness.
        4. The main point of the section is the overthrow of Satan, and not the thousand years! John wanted to tell about the certain triumph of the cause of Christ, and those who were so terribly persecuted.
        5. Millennium: the word is literally 1000 years. Whole systems of theology, eschatology and philosophy of religion have been constructed based upon such highly symbolic language.
          1. Seven mentions in the Bible (one chapter in the Bible) describe a single event: Revelation 20:2-7
          2. Mentioned nowhere else in the NT, and not a central theme in the NT.
          3. Amillennialism: Christ began his rule at the resurrection and will rule for a complete time before he returns to take his faithful to heaven.
        6. What comfort is there to the persecuted church:
          1. A thousand years from then, a restoration of the Jewish monarchy, personal Antichrist, bloody Armageddon, victory?
          2. After a thousand years of Gospel preaching the world would be so perfect that the work of the devil would stop?
          3. The point: They saw their enemy, the devil, effectively stopped from deceiving the nations in the matter of emperor worship, which is the deception which began in chapter 13.
        7. Symbolism:
          1. Great chain is not literal; literal chain on a spiritual being is very not rational.
          2. The 1000 years is no more literal than the chain. Numbers symbolic and “ten” is a complete number, 1000 a high multiple of ten. The devil will be completely restrained from deceiving the nations into emperor worship.
      5. Saints will reign – Revelation 20:4-6. Victory with the martyrs
        1. Just as the devil will be completely bound, the martyrs were completely victorious, the 1000 years not literal.
        2. The reference to whom in v.4 can only mean the martyrs of the Domitian persecution. Only be twisting Scripture could it mean anyone else.
        3. Their triumph is called the “first resurrection” not to be confused with the general resurrection at the end of the age (perhaps second resurrection).
        4. The second death (spiritual death) will not affect them, although they have passed faithfully through first death
        5. Literal 1000 year reign with Christ: those faithful to the futurist view have interpreted clear NT teachings on the second coming in light of these obscure symbolic passages, finding several resurrections.
      6. Satan will revolt – Revelation 20:7-10. Complete victory over Satan
        1. The point is that Satan will no longer be able to deceive the nations into emperor worship, but one would not expect him to give up without a fight. Just when one thinks he is bound forever, he breaks out in a new effort of deception.
        2. Gog and Magog: discussed in apocalyptic writings
          1. Gog: Antiochus Epiphanes? – Ezekiel 38:1-39:29
          2. Magog: Northern Greek kingdom? – Ezekiel 38:6
          3. John turns them into two nations – Revelation 20:8, using the idea of theological geography, the place of the enemies of God’s people. So, it symbolizes the complete victory of Christ over the ancient enemies of the saints.
          4. Satan is defeated again in a symbolic battle that surrounds the holy city.
        3. The lake of fire: hell or Gehenna is never mentioned in the Revelation. This is a new word for the place of eternal punishment, similar to Gehenna mentioned elsewhere in the NT.
        4. It is called the second death – Revelation 2:11, 20:6, 14, 21:8
      7. Sinners are recompensed – Revelation 20:11-15

VIII. The Lamb and eternal destiny – Revelation 20:11-22:21

  1. Destiny of the unredeemed – Revelation 20:11-15, 21:8, 27, 22:15
    1. Here is described the great white throne judgment
    2. The throne symbolizes sovereignty and holiness
    3. Judgment is measured on the basis of two books
      1. Book of deeds
      2. Book of life
    4. The interim state of the dead? – Revelation 20:12-13. Having to do with death, the interim between death and the resurrection, the resurrection and the judgment.
    5. A number of judgments? or the same, only one?
      1. Sheep and goats
      2. White throne
      3. The point is: there will be inevitable judgment
  2. The destiny of the redeemed – Revelation 21:1-22:5. Heaven is revealed from three different angles
    1. The Tabernacle: Fellowship with God – Revelation 21:1-8
      1. They are God’s people – Revelation 21:1-5
        1. No more sea of separation (Revelation 21:1)
        2. The holy city making ready for the bride (Revelation 21:2)
        3. The tabernacle of God among them (Revelation 21:3)
        4. No death, tears, mourning, crying, pain (Revelation 21:4) They had more than their share of these on earth
        5. All things are becoming new (Revelation 21:5a)
        6. Who is He that makes this promise? (Revelation 21:5b)
      2. They are satisfied people – Revelation 21:6
        1. The Alpha and Omega: they depend on His power
        2. They will never thirst again, drink without cost
      3. The are overcoming people – Revelation 21:7-8
        1. They will inherit these things
        2. He will be their God, and they His son
        3. Evil will be absent
          1. The cowardly – those who would not stand up to the beast and resist its influence – Revelation 21:8
          2. The liars – those who said “Caesar is lord” with is and abomination – Revelation 21:27
    2. The City: Protected by God – Revelation 21:9-26
      1. New heaven and earth needs a new capital for the bride (9)
      2. Jasper: ascribed to the glory of God – Revelation 21:11, 4:3
      3. Appearance
        1. High Wall: perfect protection from enemies
        2. Twelve Gates
          1. Abundant entrance – Revelation 21:12
          2. Entrance from any direction – Revelation 21:13
          3. Made of pearl – Revelation 21:21, the only precious jewel that is formed out of suffering and pain
          4. Names: 12 tribes of Israel – Revelation 21:12
          5. Gates that never close – Revelation 21:25
        3. The foundation: name of the 12 apostles – Revelation 21:14
        4. The Size: measurement – Revelation 21:16-17
          1. English translation has lost an image: 12,000 stadia might be 1500 miles, but 12 and 1000 mean something since 12 represents wholeness and 1000 is a high multiple of 10, completeness.
          2. The truth: God’s city is large enough for all believers – John 14:2.
          3. The wall: a multiple of 144, not 72 meters – Revelation 21:17
        5. The Streets: pure gold, like transparent glass – Revelation 21:21
        6. The Sanctuary: there is no Temple in it
          1. The Lamb is the temple – Revelation 21:22
          2. There will be no need for sacrifices or intercession
        7. Divine light
          1. No sun: its lamp is the Lamb – Revelation 21:23
          2. No night – Revelation 21:25, 22:5
            1. Darkness in the ancient world was a monster
            2. Darkness can be spiritual as well – Revelation 21:24, 26
        8. The Garden: Provision from God – Revelation 22:1-5
          1. Water of life from the throne – Revelation 22:1, Genesis 2:10
          2. Symbolism of perfect enjoyment and supply of needs
            1. Water – Revelation 22:1 – from the throne
            2. Food – Revelation 22:2a – from the fruit of the trees
            3. Health – Revelation 22:2b – from the leaves of the trees
          3. Saints will serve God forever – Revelation 22:3
          4. Saints will see his face – Revelation 22:4, Psalm 17:15, Exodus 33:20
  3. The epilogue – Revelation 22:6-21
    1. The challenge of the city
      1. We must keep God’s Word – Revelation 22:6-11, 18-19
      2. We are responsible to serve the Lord – Revelation 22:12-14
      3. We must keep our lives clean – Revelation 22:15-16
      4. We must expect Christ’s return – Revelation 22:17, 20-21
    2. The authenticity of the prophet
      1. John’s words are linked with the prophets – Revelation 22:6
      2. Blessed to keep the words of the prophecy – Revelation 22:7
      3. It is not just anyone’s message, but Jesus’ message – Revelation 22:16
    3. The end is near – Revelation 22:7-14
      1. He is coming quickly – Revelation 22:7, 12, 20
      2. The seer falls down to worship the angel – Revelation 22:8-9 included as sort of a personal testimony to the churches
      3. Instruction to meet immediate needs – Revelation 22:10-11
        1. Don’t seal the book: it is for their time, not for some distant generation – Revelation 22:10
        2. When Christ comes, there will be no more opportunity for a man to change his destiny – Revelation 22:11, and the end is so close there is no time to change men’s behavioral patterns.
      4. One must be prepared to enter – Revelation 22:14
    4. There is an invitation to enter – Revelation 22:17
    5. Warnings – Revelation 22:18-19
      1. Don’t add to the prophecy
      2. Don’t take away from the prophecy
    6. Come to your persecuted people with grace – Revelation 22:20-21

Ecclesiastes

The following is part of a personal project that can help students of the Bible to get a bigger picture of what each book of the Bible contains. I like the passage lookup feature that allows you to see the verse quickly!

Ecclesiastes: Skeptical Wisdom

The Hebrew word here means “preacher” or “proclaimer” and signifies the one who calls together and addresses an audience. Traditionally the book is regarded as a work of Solomon. However, most scholars hold that it is a work of a writer who lived in the later years of OT history. The name of this later writer, who puts himself in Solomon’s place and writes as if he were Solomon, is not known. It represents the experiences of a man who had the best of everything–wealth, rank, power, honor, fame and pleasure, who at the end of his life was disillusioned. He felt emptiness of all the so-called blessings and concludes that all was vanity and meaninglessness.

The purpose of the book seems to be to show that self-gratification and successful worldliness do not bring satisfaction to the human heart. Life without knowledge of and fellowship with God is empty and meaningless. Man has a destiny which calls for co-operation with God in some worthy enterprise, and in this he finds abiding peace of the soul.

Ecclesiastes illustrates how far some Jewish thinkers had strayed from orthodox theology in the post-exilic period. Except for occasional orthodox corrections, the book voiced the skeptical, pessimistic feelings of a man who had tried everything but had found nothing satisfying or meaningful in which to invest his life. The main speaker is the “preacher, son of David, king of Jerusalem.” The word resembles the schoolmaster, one who is in charge of assembling the people together for instruction. Solomon’s relation to the book was probably the same as Ruth’s relation to the book of Ruth–that is, he was the main character portrayed by the book rather than the author. The language and thought of the book suggest a post-exilic origin. Like Proverbs, it might have been used as a schoolbook.

Authorship and Date: non-Solomonic Authorship?

Linguistic Evidence

The language in the book is unusual, so strange as to be foreign. Some have proposed that the book was originally written in Aramaic and then translated into Hebrew, very late Hebrew to be precise (scholars finding some 96 Aramaisms in the text).

The presence of two apparently Persian words, pardes and pitgam seems to make the argument beyond any doubt.

  1. Pardes = park or garden Ecclesiastes 2:5
  2. Pitgam = decree or sentence Ecclesiastes 8:11

Internal Evidence

Solomon was king over Israel for all of his life, but not according to the perfect tense of completed action, “was King” (Ecclesiastes 1:12).  However, this could refer to an aged Solomon looking back over his career. The prospective of the book seems to support this idea of an old man looking back – Ecclesiastes 12:1-5.

Some argue that the book was written by the spirit of the dead Solomon where the root of Qoheleth (teacher) looks back to (1Kings 8:55-61) when Solomon spoke to the assembled people. Although, there is no real connection between 1 Kings 8 and Ecclesiastes, either in structure or content, and there is no literary link between the texts.

Some say that Solomonic authorship is abandoned after the first two chapters, since there is no reference to him. In particular, his authorship is discarded at (Ecclesiastes 8:2-4, 10:16-17, 12:9-14). But it is possible that the king could look critically at his own career, role and on appropriate behavior in the royal presence.

Historical and Literary Arguments

Some argue that Ecclesiastes shows a dependence on Greek thought and literature.

Hesiod’s “Works and Days” is an earthy, pessimistic work of Greek poetry written in the late eighth century BC, of which Ecclesiastes must be aware.

Ecclesiastes can be compared to the cynic and stoic traditions of Greek philosophy. The reference to a skepticism regarding an after-life (Ecclesiastes 3:19-21) to Epicurean annihilationism. The teacher’s analogy of breaking the golden bowl (Ecclesiastes 12:6) is like Lucretius’ speaking of death as the shattering of a vessel.

Others try to pinpoint historical allusions in the Persian or Greek periods of Jewish history.  The wise youth of (Ecclesiastes 4:13) was probably Ptolemy V, who came to the throne in 205 BC (thus Ecclesiastes written after this). Others contend that (Ecclesiastes 6:3) refers to Artaxerxes II and III (Mnemon and Ochus). Also, (Ecclesiastes 4:13-16) refers to the career of Cyrus, and that (Ecclesiastes 9:14-16) refers to Themistocles of Athens.

A Look at the Book:

Vanity of vanities (Ecclesiastes 1:1-2:26). With these words, the writer of Ecclesiastes announced his opinion of the world and life in it.  Nothing was lasting–nothing of real value. While not an atheist, he  was a deist: one who believed that God had little or nothing to do with what went on in the world. The preacher had tried many things:

  1. Work, but it was for nothing: the world went in circles and had no purpose (Ecclesiastes 1:2-11)
  2. Wisdom, but it led to emptiness: knowledge increases sorrow (Ecclesiastes 1:12-18)
  3. Pleasure: it too proved worthless (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11)

When he considered wisdom and folly: both men end up in the same place with no memory of him (Ecclesiastes 2:12-16). This thought led him to despair as he saw what a man had gained in life would be left to the foolish who did not work to attain it (Ecclesiastes 2:17-23). The final verse of chapter two resemble an orthodox addition to the writer’s words (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26).

For everything there is a season (Ecclesiastes 3:1-15). These famous verses, a variety of opposites to stress the paradoxical nature of life, represented a view of history that was strange to the rest of the OT. The general OT view was that history had a beginning and it will have an end: linear. It was moving to a goal under the direction of God himself.

A philosophy of history that saturates the book of Ecclesiastes — history moving in circles, going nowhere, having no goal or purpose — was clearly expressed in this section. It was like a dog chasing its tail but never catching it. This was a Greek idea, and not Hebrew. This seems to suggest that Ecclesiastes was influenced by the Hellenistic culture that blossomed across the near east following the conquests of Alexander the Great (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

While God had given man a sense of time as past and future, he had not given him the ability to look at life as a whole. The best he could do was to take life as it came while doing his best (Ecclesiastes 3:9-15).

The question of justice (Ecclesiastes 3:16-4:16). A man worked out of a sense of rivalry with his fellow man. It was better to work with someone so as to have the protection a partner could give. It was better to be young, poor and wise than to be and old and foolish ruler. Being a hero was also just temporary, since heroes were soon forgotten.

Do not fool around with God (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7) The preacher warned that a person should avoid calling God’s attention to himself. God should be obeyed without question. If one could not keep a vow, it would be better not to make it. Silence was better than chatter that might make God become angry.

Life has problems (Ecclesiastes 5:8-6:12). If the government oppressed a man, he had no hope for justice since every official was protected by the one above him (Ecclesiastes 5:8-9). Kings and rich men had money, but life was not a bed of roses for the rich. More riches meant that one was responsible for more people. A rich man lost sleep worrying about his money, while the laborer slept peacefully. If a man saved money, he would lose it and leave his work as he came into it, with nothing. The best thing to do was to accept what God gave and not worry about it (Ecclesiastes 5:10-20).

There was no justice in the preacher’s way of looking at life. A man could be wealthy and lose it all. He could have a large family and a long life and still be disgraced by not having a proper burial. If a man could not be happy while he lived, he would have been better off not to have been born. The best thing to do was take what he saw rather than to desire the unseen thing. Things were already predetermined for a man, so there was no profit in arguing about it (Ecclesiastes 6:1-12).

Thinking about life (Ecclesiastes 7:1-8:1). These reflections on life saw life’s end as more important than its beginning. Mourning was better than joy, and sorrow was better than laughter. Only a fool laughed. The wise rebuked the fool. Wisdom was the best guarantee that a man would keep what he had. The key to life was moderation. Wisdom had shown the preacher “the wickedness of folly and the foolishness which is madness” (Ecclesiastes 7:25). But the worst of all things was woman. A very few men could be trusted, but no woman was worthy of his trust.

Watch out for the ruler (Ecclesiastes 8:2-9). The only safe thing to do in regard to rulers was to stay out of their way. If a man were wise enough, he could make right choices about what to do and when to do it. Unfortunately, no man had that kind of wisdom.

There is no justice in life (Ecclesiastes 8:10-9:12). The wicked prospered as though he were righteous. There was just no way the preacher could understand the ways of God. Even those wise men who made such a claim to know God’s ways really did not know them. The preacher had decided that the wise and righteous were controlled by God (Ecclesiastes 8:10-9:1).

The righteous and the wicked suffered the same fate. A sinner was just as well off as the saint. Of course, while there was life there was hope. While one was living, he could enjoy life with his wife. He should do what he did with diligence, for there would be no chance to do anything once he went to the grave. His time would come before he knew it (Ecclesiastes 9:2-12).

Wisdom and foolishness (Ecclesiastes 9:13-10:20). This section contains a number of illustrations about wisdom and foolishness. According to the preacher, a little wisdom would go a long way; but a little foolishness could cancel the effects of a great deal of wisdom. Foolishness was especially bad when if infected those who had power.

The actions of the wise (Ecclesiastes 11:1-6). A man wise in business spreads his investment around. One who always worried about the weather would never reap a crop. That was the risk of living.

Advice to the young (Ecclesiastes 11:7-12:8). Life should be appreciated, but such a life would have its darker days. A young man should relish his youth, but he should still remember that he had to account to God for it. For that reason, he should take God into account in his youth before the problems of age and death overtook him.

The end of it all (Ecclesiastes 12:9-14). Another person summarized the preacher’s life. He had taught what he had discovered about life with honest conviction. A final word was given to the students:

  • Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh (Ecclesiastes 12:12).
  • And there is a final orthodox note: Fear God, and keep his commandments, this is the whole duty of man (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

What About Ecclesiastes?

The book reveals that post-exilic Jews were not at all orthodox in their views of God. The writer believed in God. For him God was not actively involved in the events of everyday life — or if He were, one could not discover how He was involved. He did not accept the orthodox view that righteousness was always rewarded with blessing and that sin was always punished.

Outline of the Book:

  1. Solomon’s Disillusionment with Life (Ecclesiastes 1:1-2:26)
    1. Everything is Meaningless (Ecclesiastes 1:1-11)
    2. Wisdom is Meaningless (Ecclesiastes 1:12-18)
    3. Pleasures are Meaningless (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11)
    4. Wisdom and Folly are Meaningless (Ecclesiastes 2:12-16)
    5. Toil is Meaningless (Ecclesiastes 2:17-26)
  2. Solomon’s Wise Observations (Ecclesiastes 3:1-5:20)
    1. A Time for Everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-22)
    2. Oppression, Toil, Friendlessness (Ecclesiastes 4:1-12)
    3. Advancement is Meaningless (Ecclesiastes 4:13-16)
    4. Stand in Awe of God (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7)
    5. Riches are Meaningless (Ecclesiastes 5:8-20)
  3. Solomon’s Wise Counsel (Ecclesiastes 6:1-8:17)
    1. Prosperity is Meaningless (Ecclesiastes 6:1-12)
    2. Wisdom (Ecclesiastes 7:1-8:1)
    3. Obey the King (Ecclesiastes 8:2-17)
  4. Reminders and Conclusion (Ecclesiastes 9:1-12:14)
    1. A Common Destiny for All (Ecclesiastes 9:1-12)
    2. Wisdom is Better Than Folly (Ecclesiastes 9:13-10:20)
    3. Bread Upon the Waters (Ecclesiastes 11:1-6)
    4. Remember Your Creator While Young (Ecclesiastes 11:7-12:8)
    5. The Conclusion of the Matter (Ecclesiastes 12:9-14)