REVELATION - Vision 4: Christ the Judge and Giver of Life. (Rev. 14 - 22)
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Chief Justice of heaven`s Supreme court. His decisions are final and beyond His verdict there is no other court of appeal. He exercises the final prerogative that is essential to judgeship; He is able to kill and to make alive.
We see the character of this righteous judge as shown as the Lamb, standing on the heavenly Mount Zion. He is the victor over the enemy and pronounces the coming judgments - to life and to death.
`Fear God and give Him glory......` (Rev. 14: 7)
`Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city...` (Rev. 14: 8)
`If anyone worships the beast....he shall be tormented with fire...forever.` (Rev. 14: 9 - 11)
The earth is then ready to be reaped - those to life and those into God`s great winepress, Armageddon. Christ then comes in power and great glory with His angelic army to deliver Israel and bring judgment upon the rebellious.
After the world`s armies are dealt with the Lord, Israel`s Messiah then goes to them and reveals Himself. Eventually their mourning turns to joy, (the wedding feast) and they go into the millennium to rule the nations for a thousand years under Christ`s rulership from heaven.
Finally Satan who had been bound in the pit is loosed and gathers the nations again surrounding Jerusalem. God sends fire down from heaven and devours them. Then we read that there will be the Great White Throne judgment of those who are not in the book of life.
A new heavens and new earth are created and the New Jerusalem comes down out of heaven to rule over the earth.
`Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.` (Rev. 21: 2)
This has been promised to the Old Testament saints and is ruled over by the twelve Apostles.
`Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.` (Rev. 21: 14)
The Lord is its King and High Priest for His authority, (throne) is there. The blessings also within the New Jerusalem are shown as a `river of life,` bringing Christ own divine nature to refresh and energise the people; and a `tree of life` with its twelve fruits of Christ`s life of service, enabling the community to function and serve, being fruitful in every good work.
REVELATION - Vision 3: Christ the Mediator of the New Covenant. (Rev. 8 - 13)
In this section we see the Lord operating as the High Priest on the day of Atonement. He is the angelic High Priest standing before the symbolic Golden Altar in heaven. Having shed His own blood He now throws fire and blood to the ground, as it were in judgments upon the rebellious.
`I came to send fire upon the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!` (Luke 12: 49)
`Then another angel having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar......then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth......hail and fire followed, mingled with blood ...` (Rev. 8: 3, 5 & 7)
The blowing of trumpets is a priestly activity and declare that God`s judgments executed by Christ are about to come forth upon the nations of the world. The first four trumpet calls are during the early part of the tribulation and affect a third of the earth, sea, fresh water and sun, moon and stars.
The last three trumpets take place from the middle of the tribulation and are so terrible that they are described as woes - demonic activity of torment and plagues. When the seventh trumpet sounds then the mystery of God is finished. It heralds a great earthquake, Armageddon and the Lord`s return in power and great glory.
Amid the horrific judgments Christ the mediator also brings atonement for His land and His people.
`...there is no God beside me.....for I lift my hand to heaven to say, “As I live forever...I will render vengeance to my enemies....He will provide atonement for His land and His people.` (Deut. 32: 39 - 43)
This is what we see depicted by the mighty angel, (the Lord).
`...coming down from heaven....a rainbow on His head, His face was like the sun and His feet like pillars of fire.....and swore by Him who lives forever,...` (Rev. 10: 1 & 6)
Then we see the two men witnessing of God, and the people of Israel protected from the enemies for a time. Finally as Satan and his fallen angels are cast to the earth they bring together man`s final beastly Global Government. The Global leader, (Political power) and the False Prophet, (Religious and Economic power) take control of the world`s economy and persecute those who do not bow down.
`He causes all, ....to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, that no one may buy or sell except the one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.` (Rev. 13: 16 & 17)
REVELATION - Vision 2: Christ the Heir. (Rev. 4 - 7)
When Christ ascended He went to the Father`s throne at His right hand, `far above all.` There He intercedes and waits till His enemies become His footstool. When that happens, then Christ will be given His own throne, authority and power as the visible sovereign Lord in the third heaven.
Even though God rules overall, there had not been a visible ruler since Lucifer and his angels rebelled. Thus the glorified Jesus Christ will be the one found worthy to visibly rule over all God`s created realms.
`You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power; for you created all things, and by your will they exist and were created.` (Rev. 4: 11)
Although it is not possible to see the three persons of the Godhead, we are shown a pictorial representation of what unfolds. God the Father who has all authority and power holds out a scroll, His righteous will to be executed by a worthy executor.
The one described as a lamb and also as a lion is the Lord Jesus Christ who alone is found worthy to rule and execute God the Father`s righteous judgments. Thus the Father gives to His Son and Heir the scroll, his inheritance of the earth and the judgments written.
`You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals; for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe and tongue and have made us kings and priests to our God and we shall reign over the earth.` (Rev. 5: 9 & 10)
There we see the Body of Christ, the overcomers who have been made kingpriests on the throne ruling and reigning with the Lord Jesus Christ.
`To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with me on my throne, as I also overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne.` (Rev. 3: 21)
The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the legal heir to all the Father`s estates, then opens the scroll, and reveals what is to be judged. Thus we see an overview of the coming period of tribulation.
The first four seals reveal the four great Federations that the Gentiles bring together to form a global Government; then we see that midway will be great persecution and martyrs to be avenged, then lastly every person in the world will seek to hide as the heavens and earth quake just before the Lord returns in power and great glory.
`Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come and who is able to stand?` (Rev. 6: 16 & 17)
REVELATION - Vision 1: Christ the Head of the Body. (Rev. 1 - 3)
The Apostle John was a prisoner on the island of Patmos for his belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. As he was waiting on the Lord he sees a vision of the glorified Lord. His appearance is like the sun shining in full strength.
`Then I (John) turned to see the voice that spoke to me....One like the Son of Man, ....His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.` (Rev. 1: 12 & 16)
Then John gives an amazing description of the Lord using symbolic language. These symbols describe the Lord`s character, His counsel and His authority.
`..one like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.` (Rev. 1: 13)
This long garment is of the High Priest indicating His high office as the eternal High Priest that ever lives to intercede, giving eternal blessings.
`His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace.` (Rev. 1: 14 & 15)
The whiteness of His head and hair symbolise the maturity of His understanding; the eyes, for discernment, penetrating every realm and innermost thoughts of the heart. The feet refer to the uprightness of Christ`s dealing in perfect justice - rewards and punishment.
`His voice as the sound of many waters; he had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword,..` (Rev. 1: 15 & 16)
This shows the great authority of the Lord, His sovereign commands, and the awesome judgments that come forth. The seven stars, the Pleiades (Job 38: 31) control our planetary system from billions of miles away. We can only see seven but there are thousands making up that group.
So it is that Christ has the administrative authority over not only the seven churches, but supervising the thousands of believers over the centuries and throughout the world.
`The mystery of the seven stars you saw in my right hand, & the seven golden lamp stands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lamp stands which you saw are the seven churches.` (Rev. 1: 20)
The Lord addresses each group particularly, giving words of commendation and encouragement or chastisement and warnings. Christ then counsels each group presenting Himself in clarity and truth. The response is but to repent and obey His Holy Spirit.
CHRIST IN HIS HEAVENLY GLORY
The predominant aim of Revelation is the setting forth the splendours of the Son of Man, & to reveal His glorious person. There are four visions of the Son of Man as He is known in the heavenly realm & each vision in turn carries through to completion one aspect of the fourfold ministry of Christ which He exercised when on earth. His Kinship was expressed in Matthew, His Heirship in Mark, His Mediatorship in Luke, & His Judgeship in John.
Vision 1. CHRIST - Head of the Body. (Rev. 1 – 3)
This reveals the empowered Son of Man as the Sovereign Administrator.
`in His right hand He held 7 stars.`
Vision 2. CHRIST - HEIR (Rev. 4 – 7)
This reveals the enthroned Son of Man as the Supreme Executor.
`in His right hand He held the 7 sealed book.`
Vision 3. CHRIST - MEDIATOR (Rev. 8 – 13)
This reveals the exalted Son of Man as the Stately Mediator.
`in His hand is a sacred censor.`
Vision 4. CHRIST - JUDGE (Rev. 14 – 22)
This reveals the entitled Son of Man as the Sublime Adjudicator.
`in His hand is a sharp sickle.`
To reveal Christ to us in Revelation, there are three hundred & thirty references to the figures, shadows, symbols, types, patterns, persons, & buildings of the Old Testament.
This unveiling is the culmination of all the truths expressed from Genesis to Revelation, for all scripture is centred on one purpose and that is to reveal Christ to us in all His Glory.
JUDE - Christ the Revelation of God`s Word.
The book of Jude gives us a summary of the sixty-four books that have gone before it. This prepares us for the final unveiling of Jesus Christ, whose name is called, `the Word of God.`
The Spirit of God uses ten of the characters, cities and one country from the Pentateuch.
`Adam....Cain...Enoch.....Sodom and Gomorrah, (Abraham & Lot)...Moses....the people out of Egypt (Israel)...the rebellion of Korah....Balaam....`
Principalities and Powers are also named.
`Michael the archangel..`
`angels who did not keep their proper domain,...`
The great truths, titles and teachings of the New Testament are also included.
`The only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ..`
`the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ..`
`the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ..`
`God the Father..`
`the Holy Spirit..`
`save, saved, salvation and Saviour..`
`grace, mercy, peace, faith, love and life eternal,
`power, majesty and glory..`
In contrast to the saints, the word `ungodly` is used six times and they are described by over twenty different figures of speech and are destined for His judgment, condemnation, vengeance and the blackness of darkness forever.
`Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His Holy ones, (angels) to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of their ungodly deeds ...` (Jude 14 & 15)
In contrast to these evil fellows we see that the true followers of the faith were looking unto Jesus for His mercy.
`But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. (Jude 20 & 21)
JOHN - Christ`s Life within Reveals True Love.
These three letters were written by the aged Apostle John and addresses the family features of the children of God. These characteristics are made possible through the manifestation of Jesus, the Word of God. Human capacities require visibilities, someone to look at, speak to, go to, hear tell of divine love.
The first letter was to believers to encourage them to walk in love.
`Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God..` (1 John 4: 7)
God the Father entrusted His Son to display and declare His love to mankind in person.
`In this the love of God was manifested towards us, that God has sent His Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.` (1 John 4: 9 & 10)
The second letter by John is written to a lady, and is his private correspondence. The word Truth and Love are key to this short letter.
`To the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth, because of the truth which abides in us, and will be with us forever.` (2 John 1 & 2)
The truth that John speaks of, is from above, the Truth as it is in Christ Jesus. The believers are to walk in the truth, not just admire it. Then they will love one another. This love is genuine and subject to change, and the proof of love is in the believers walk.
`This is love, that we walk according to His commandments.` (2 John 6)
The third letter by John was written to his generous and warm hearted friend called Gaius. He was noted for his loving hospitality.
`Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, who have borne witness to your love before the believers. If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you do well.` (3 John 5 & 6)
John urges him to continue entertaining the travelling ministers in spite of bitter opposition of an autocratic official named Diotrephes.
`I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the pre-eminence among them, does not receive us.` (3 John 9)
PETER - Christ`s Life within Endures Suffering & is our Strength.
Peter wrote his epistles to the believing Jews who were scattered beyond Israel. They were undergoing many persecutions and thus Peter desired to help them live a godly life among evil men.
`...though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honour and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.` (1 Peter 1: 6 & 7)
Peter then gives good advice on how we ought to live, even amid persecution. He then points the believers away from the trials to the future glory which awaited them, and the example of Christ and the reward which would follow.
`...but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ`s sufferings, that when his glory is revealed you may be glad with exceeding joy.` (1 Peter 4: 13)
In these writings, which are later in Peter`s life, we see that the Holy Spirit has worked in him, developing patience, with a restful and loving spirit.
Peter reveals how we can work with the Holy Spirit to develop this Christ-like nature.
`...giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue,..... knowledge, ....self control,....... perseverance, ......godliness,.....brotherly kindness, ....love. For if these things are yours, and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.` (2 Peter 1: 5 - 8)
In Peter`s second letter, he is concerned about the danger amongst the believers themselves.
`But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.` (2 Peter 2: 1)
Peter then warns them and encourages the believers to stand up for the truth.
`For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of His majesty.....We also have the prophetic word made more sure, which you do well to heed ..`(2 Peter 1: 16 & 19)
Finally the elderly Peter points to the Lord Himself, as the believers focus.
`..grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. ` (2 Peter 3: 18)
JAMES - Christ`s Life within, revealed in Practical Life.
The author of this epistle is James, the brother of the Lord. It was addressed to the twelve tribes of the dispersion - Christian Jews. These Jews to whom James wrote had not ceased to be Jews, although they had embraced Christ. Many had been converted on the day of Pentecost, and had carried home only a partial understanding of the believer`s life. In their enthusiasm at having found the true Messiah, they neglected the graces and virtues that should accompany a believer.
They were in danger of being discouraged in their walk with the Lord by the persecution of their own unbelieving countrymen. James seeks to encourage them.
`My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete lacking nothing.` (James 1: 2 & 3)
James, more than any other, deals with the external life. It emphasises the necessity of good works, character and conduct. In Romans we are justified by faith before God; here we are justified by works before men. The only true believer of the word is the doer of the word. For every inward grace will bear outward evidences, eg trial will be endured, the tongue will be restrained, caste discountenanced, and pure faith manifested by a love that `seeks not its own.`
`Who is wise and understanding among you? let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.` (James 3: 13)
This book is like the Proverbs of the New Testament. It is filled with moral precepts. It is full of figures and metaphors and is often quite dramatic in style.
`Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire.` (James 5: 1 - 3)
James tells of the fruit of our faith. Not only believe, but live it!
`..be doers of the word, and not hearers, only, deceiving yourselves.....he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.` (James 1: 22 & 25)
HEBREWS - Christ, our Great High Priest.
The book was written, first of all, to Jewish believers, probably in Jerusalem, who were wavering in their faith. Because of the taunts and jeers of their persecutors, the Jewish believers were beginning to think they had lost everything, altar, priests, sacrifices, by accepting Christ.
The writer proves that they had lost the shadow to be given the substance, Christ. They were undervaluing their privileges in Christ, and were engaging in self-pity and discouragement. They were in danger of even giving up their faith.
`...of whom (Christ) we have much to say, and things hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.` (Heb. 5: 11 & 12)
These believers had started well but had not made progress. The writer is trying to lead them from the elementary knowledge to a mature grasp. He shows the superiority of Christ and wanted to keep them from drifting back to their Jewish rites and ceremonies.
The massive grandeur of Christ is featured more completely in the Hebrew epistle than any other book that had gone before. The writer describes a personality that precedes time, controls the governing forces of all history, one whose exploits continue on into eternity.
`God, who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.` (Heb. 1: 1 - 3)
Christ is displayed in the dignity of His dominion surpassing hierarchies of angelic hosts and of those ranked highest among the nobility of the earth.
Christ completely exceeds all the ceremonial and mediatorial offices of bygone centuries and has authoritative credentials far beyond those of any earthly, prophet, priest or king. Christ is the great high priest of the believer.
`Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a high priest who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the majesty in the heavens. ` (Heb. 8: 1)
`...because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore he is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them.` (Heb. 7: 24 & 25)
PHILEMON - Christ`s Life within develops Compassion.
This is a personal letter from Paul to Philemon. In the letter Paul intercedes with Philemon (who was an outstanding member of the church at Colosse), for a runaway slave by the name of Onesimus, who had stolen from his master and made his way to Rome.
In Rome he had been brought face to face with Paul, and had found Christ as his Saviour. Onesimus became endeared to the Apostle by his devoted service. But Paul knew that Onesimus was Philomen`s lawful slave and so could not think of keeping him permanently.
`...whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel, but without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be as it were by compulsion, but voluntary.` (Phil. 13 & 14)
So Paul sends him home and pleads with Philemon to take him back. He makes himself personally responsible for the debts that Onesimus owes, asking that they be charged to his (Paul`s) account. He wished to save the runaway slave from the severe and cruel punishment he deserved according to Roman law. Paul feels that the slave must not encounter his out raged master alone.
`If you then count me as a partner, receive him as you would me. But if he has wronged you or owes you anything, put that on my account.` (Phil. 17 & 18)
The sacrifice of personal rights for the sake of others is a Christ like characteristic which shines brightly in this case as emanating from the discomforts of a prison. It illustrates the Lord`s work on behalf of the sinner. Paul does not minimize the sin, but he pleads for forgiveness for the sinner on the ground of his own merit in the eyes of Philemon, his friend.
This is the message of the gospel. For Christ bore our sins in His own body on the tree. This is what Christ does - takes the sinner`s place.
`Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you to do what is fitting, yet for love`s sake I rather appeal to you - being such a person as Paul, the aged, and now a prisoner of Jesus Christ - I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains.` (Phil. 8 - 10)
Oneismus, whose name means `profitable` had robbed his master, but now after becoming a believer, will be returned now `profitable.` Christ makes a man profitable to others.
TITUS: Christ`s Life within develops Purity of Life.
This letter to Titus was written by Paul. Titus was believed to have been converted by Paul on his visit to Cyprus, in his first missionary journey. Titus later came to Paul in Ephesus and ministered comfort to him. (2 Cor. 7: 6) He also went up to Jerusalem with Paul and Barnabas to share of God`s work among the Gentiles. (Gal. 2: 1)
Later Paul and Titus went again to Cyprus to encourage the believers there. Titus stayed and became an overseer to the group. Paul recognised that many of the people in Cyprus were proverbially untrustworthy, vicious and sensual, thus making Titus` task a difficult one. However, it is Christ, Paul says, that makes purity of life possible.
`For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed, and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.` (Titus 2: 11 - 15)
Thus Paul wrote from Macedonia to advise Titus on working with others, recognising eldership and those whom believers could trust. The letter is full of practical advice to the young overseer and directions for his work.
`Remind them (believers) to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing humility to all men.` (Titus 3: 1 & 2)
Paul warns Titus against the heretics of his day -
`..avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.` (Titus 3: 9 - 11)
Finally the importance of good works is stressed in this letter of Paul. Not that we are saved by good works, but that we are saved unto good works.
`And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful.` (Titus 3: 14)
1 & 2 TIMOTHY - Christ`s Life within gives Strength for Ministry.
Timothy, son of a Greek father and a Jewish mother, was converted by Paul on his first missionary journey, at Lystra. On the second missionary journey, he became the Apostle`s companion, and from then on was his constant helper, loving, loved and utterly trusted.
Although Timothy was only a young man Paul repeatedly sent him on important missions, as to encourage the Macedonian believers in the midst of persecution, and to represent the Apostle`s authority in the face of disaffection at Corinth.
We also see that Timothy is comforting and supporting Paul during his imprisonment at Rome. After the Apostle`s liberation they together visited Asia, and there Paul entrusted to Timothy the oversight of the believers at Ephesus.
`Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our saviour and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope. To Timothy, my true son in the faith:...as I urged you when I went to Macedonia - remain in Ephesus...` (1 Tim. 1: 1 & 3)
Paul instructed Timothy to deal severely with false teachers.
`..that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, not give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which comes by faith.` (1 Tim. 1: 3 & 4)
To combat these errors Paul puts forward the glorious gospel of the blessed God.
`This is a faithful saying and worth of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.....` (1 Tim. 1: 15)
`God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory.` (1Tim. 3: 16)
Timothy must safeguard against other doctrines - don`t mix fables and legends with the Gospel. Paul warns Timothy to hold faith and a good conscience because these save men from spiritual shipwreck.
Timothy is charged to `fight the good warfare,` and that it is the grace of Christ that is his strength, as it was with Paul.
`And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.` (1 Tim. 1: 14)
1 & 2 THESSALONIANS - Christ is Manifested.
The Apostle Paul, accompanied by Timothy and Silas had spent a short time in Thessalonica and many people became believers. Paul and the others caused such a stir that they had to move on to Berea, Athens and Corinth. It was from here that Paul wrote the first letter and sent it by Timothy.
Timothy returned with a favourable report that was a great comfort to Paul, however there were some faults to be corrected. Some of the Thessalonians held some false views concerning the Lord`s coming. They were worried about some who had died, fearing that they would not have any part in the rapture and glory of the Lord`s return. Others were so overwhelmed by the truth of Christ`s return that they had neglected their daily tasks.
Thus Paul writes this heart-to-heart letter to correct these wrong views and inspire and comfort these new converts.
`...we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children.....(and) you know how we exhorted, and comforted and charged everyone of you, as a father does his own children.` (1 Thess. 2: 7 & 11)
The two letters contain twenty different references to the coming of the Lord. In the first letter there is the blessed hope of the believers, when the Lord shall draw them up to Himself. It is mentioned in the closing of every chapter.
`...to wait for His Son from heaven....` (1 Thess. 1: 10)
`...in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming.` (1 Thess. 2: 19)
`...at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.` (1 Thess. 3: 13)
`...caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.` (1 Thess. 4: 17)
`...may your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.` (1 Thess. 5: 23)
Then in the second letter there is the coming of the Lord at the end of the tribulation to deal with the lawless one.
`And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.` (2 Thess. 2: 8)
COLOSSIANS - Christ, Pre-eminent in All Things.
The Apostle Paul also wrote this letter to the believers in Colosse, while he was in prison. Epaphras, a faithful minister to the believers at Colosse, had come to tell Paul of the heresies that were creeping into the church there.
These heresies had broken out among the younger believers, misleading them and calling for the worship of angels and a strict observance of Jewish ceremonies. This heresy was a mixture of Jewish, Greek and Oriental religions. Paul warns -
`Beware lest anyone should cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world,...
Let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths....
Let no one defraud you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels.....` (Col. 2: 8, 16 & 18)
The failure of the Colossians was at this very point, “not holding fast to the Head.” (Col. 2: 19) Some thought that Jesus was but a man, and Christ the divine Spirit which came at baptism and left Him at the cross. This meant that Christ did not die but simply Jesus died.
These false teachings had sought to dethrone Christ in people`s minds. They denied His headship of the Church. To help answer them, Paul sends this letter back by Epaphras. He specifically writes on the pre-eminence and the deity of Christ.
`He is the image of the invisible God, the first born over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether throne or dominions or principalities or powers,
All things were created through Him and for Him, and He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
And He is the Head of the Body, the Church, who is the beginning, the first born from the dead, that in all things He may have the pre-eminence.` (Col. 1: 15 - 18)
Paul encourages the Colossians, saying, that we are complete in Christ. We are rooted and built up, we are grounded and settled. Paul lays the facts of this building up process in the four chapters of the letter -
The deeper life, the higher life, the inner life and the outer life.
PHILIPPIANS - Christ, Name above All Names.
The Apostle Paul is a prisoner in Rome but has just received a visitor, Epaphroditus. He has come from Philippi with a gift for Paul from the believers there.
It was to the Philippians that of all his converts, that Paul looked back with most loving affection and confidence, for from them alone he would accept things to relieve his personal needs.
While Epaphroditus was with Paul he was attacked by an illness which brought him to death`s door. News of this caused great distress among his friends in Macedonia. On his recovery, weak and shattered as he was, he longed for home, and Paul sent by him this letter.
`Epaphroditus.....was longing for you all, and distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick almost unto death, but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I sent him the more eagerly, that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less sorrowful.` (Phil. 2: 25 - 28)
In Paul`s letter although he is in prison, he rejoices, for even here he can reach some of Caesar`s household with the gospel.
`I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to the rest that my chains are in Christ.` (Phil. 1: 12 & 13)
And at the end of the letter we read how not only the saints at Rome greet the Philippians but `also those who are of Caesar`s household.` (Phil. 4: 22 )
Thus amid great trials and difficulties the apostle encourages the believers to rejoice, and again he says `rejoice.` (Phil. 4: 4) And with his great heart for the believers he turns their minds towards the Lord -
`Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, Who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.
And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God has also highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name.` (Phil. 2: 5 - 9)
What need they to fear, for the Lord is above every authority and power, and every knee will bow and confess that He is Lord. (Phil. 2: 10 & 11)
EPHESIANS - Christ : God`s Eternal Purpose.
In this letter to the believers at Ephesus, we read of the greatest revelation of truth that God has given to man. It is the mystery that has been hidden before the foundation of the world.
`(God) having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both of which are in heaven and which are on earth - in Him.` (Eph. 1: 9 & 10)
The Apostle Paul then reveals the supreme position Christ has in God`s great kingdom.
`(God the Father) seated Him (Christ Jesus) at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet..` (Eph. 1: 20 -22)
Paul then goes on to write of another great mystery - the Body of Christ. The believers are members of this Body of which Christ is the Head. It is a spiritual organism and each member has a part.
`...and gave Him to be Head over all things to the church which is His Body, the fullness of Him who fill all in all.` (Eph. 1: 22 & 23)
All spiritual blessings are in Christ, our acceptance is in the Beloved, in whom we have redemption, forgiveness, and an inheritance.
The building and maturing of this Body of Christ is by the Spirit of the Lord. It is through Him that the believers are in unity and that finally as truth is clarified across the Body, then there will be -
`..the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect Man, to the measure of the fullness of Christ.` (Eph. 4: 13)
The Apostle Paul had laboured at Ephesus for three years and shared not only all his heart but the whole counsel of God. These believers were able to receive God`s greatest revelation - the eternal purposes in Christ.
`From Miletus, he (Paul) sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church.....I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.` (Acts 20: 17 & 27)
GALATIANS - Christ is our Justification.
During the Apostle Paul`s second missionary journey, he was delayed in Galatia by sickness. Though ill, this tireless servant of the Lord could not remain silent, but kept preaching God`s word. His theme was Christ crucified. (Gal. 3: 1)
It was at this time that many people became believers in Galatia. (Gal 1: 6) They were scattered over a rural district and the people were country folk. Teachers of the law followed after Paul moved on. They taught salvation by works, claiming that the believers should be circumcised, and do the works of the law.
These teachers explained that the reason Paul had not taught them this was because he was not a true apostle and had learned his doctrine from others. This had upset the new converts.
False teachers had begun to `bewitch` the people by telling them they must keep all kinds of ceremonies. Paul wanted them to know that nothing, no fetishes, or works, or ceremonies, could bring them to Christ. Salvation comes by believing in Christ - nothing else.
Being very fickle and loving something new and a change, the Galatian believers were on the verge of accepting the views of these false teachers. Paul saw the urgency and quickly wrote this letter to them.
`I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.` (Gal 1: 6)
He defended his apostleship saying that his teaching was authorized by God Himself. (Gal. 1: 11 - 24) He proves that he received his teaching directly from the Lord. He did not consult with any one as to what he should preach but retired to the wilds of Arabia for three years and there listened to God. He was taught by the Spirit.
Paul even had to rebuke Peter for being two-faced about Jewish customs when he was at Antioch. Their friendship still held after this severe test.
So what does justified mean? God credits to my account what Christ has done - just-as-if-I`d done it. A criminal is pardoned though he cannot be regarded as righteous. But justification is that act of God whereby He not only forgives us but puts Christ`s righteousness to our account. He gives us righteousness not our own but Christ`s.
`...knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not the works of the law, for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.` (Gal. 2: 16)
1 & 2 CORINTHIANS - Christ is our Sanctification.
The Apostle Paul writes to the disciples that came to the Lord when he was in Corinth. He had stayed there for over a year, working as a tentmaker, with the help of Aquila and his wife, Pricilla. (Acts 18) The Jews opposed Paul so he then went to the Gentiles. They received him and learnt much of God`s word.
`And he (Paul) continued there (Corinth) a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.` (Acts 18: 11)
Then after some time Paul moved on to other places to preach that Jesus is both Lord and Saviour. Then there came reports concerning the believers at Corinth that there were divisions among them, carnal behaviour and controversies. All these are addressed in the letters to the believers at Corinth.
`For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe`s household, that there are contentions among you.` (1 Cor. 1: 11)
The city of Corinth was the most important city of Greece in Paul`s day and its wealth was fabulous. Luxury and immorality were rampant among the population. There was much culture and art, plus study of philosophy and their gods were gods of pleasure. Thus it was that this worldliness had come right into the midst of the believers.
There were divisions among them; believers going to law against other believers; behaviour at communion was disgraceful; even contention over spiritual gifts. Finally the believers wrote Paul about these things, and asked his advice on the matter. The two letters to the Corinthians were written in answer to their requests.
The Apostle Paul addresses each matter and then goes on to explain how believers should act. He spoke of living a life pleasing to the Lord, and being members of one body, caring for each other and using the spiritual gifts for building up the Body.
`For by one Spirit we were baptised into one body.......(and) the members should have the same care for one another.` (1 Cor. 12 & 25)
In Paul`s letter to the Romans, we find the theme to be salvation - righteousness through Jesus. In these letters to the Corinthians he enlarges it into the life of righteousness in the believer. This comes through sanctification, the work of the Holy Spirit whereby the mind and affections of the believer are purified from all control by sin. It is a process that the believer is active in.
`Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.` (2 Cor. 3: 17 & 18)
ROMANS - Christ is our Salvation.
The Apostle Paul writes this letter to the believers at Rome.
`Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God.....to all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints;...`(Rom. 1 & 7)
In his letter, Paul sets forth that Christ is the power of God unto salvation. He shows that all mankind have sinned and are guilty before God - zealous Jews, proud Greeks, boastful Romans and a multitude of ordinary, common sinners like ourselves.
There is presented a courtroom scene. God the judge of all the earth, summons Jew and Gentile before the bar of justice. Their special pleas of `not guilty` are carefully considered and answered, clearing the way for the final verdict from the judge.
Finally the Judge pronounces the verdict.
`All the world .....guilty before God.` (Rom. 3: 19)
Against this there is no defense. Every mouth is stopped. There is no room for excuse. The condemnation of the world is settled. The next step in order will be to reveal the plan of God to save a lost world.
The judge on the bench says, “Is there anyone to appear for the prisoners?” Then the Son of God says, “Yes, I am here to represent these. It is true they have committed these sins. It is true they are guilty, but I bore their guilt on the cross. I died in their place that they may go free. I am their righteousness.” And the Judge sets them free.
`....for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth to be a propitiation by His blood....` (Rom. 3: 23 & 24)
We read that every benefit is through the Lord Jesus Christ.
`For if by one man`s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ.` (Rom. 5: 17)
Then we see His supreme authority as Lord.
`For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.` (Rom. 14: 9)
ACTS - LORD OF ALL.
When the Lord ascended to the right hand of the Father He sent His Holy Spirit to give salvation to every race and bring together an entirely new group - the Body of Christ. Thus under the Lord`s sovereign administration in the power of the Spirit, each race receives salvation.
Ham - Ethiopian eunuch, (Acts 8: 26 - 40)
Shem - Paul of Tarsus (Acts 9: 1 -31)
Japheth - Cornelius the Roman centurion. (Acts 10:24 - 48)
From Shem, Ham and Japheth the seventy nations arose that are recorded in Genesis 10. Cornelius responded to Peter with spiritual insight, declaring, `He is Lord of all.` (Acts 10: 36)
The believers then came together from house to house, encouraging each other, sharing possessions and learning of the Lord.
`And they continued steadfastly in the apostle`s doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers..... Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to them daily those who were being saved.` (Acts 2: 42 - 47)
The Lord through the power of the Holy Spirit is shown to be the administrator of this new group - the Body of Christ. In the new group at Antioch we see how the Spirit directed them.
`Now in the church that was at Antioch, there were certain prophets and teachers; Barnabas, Simeon...Lucius...Manaen...and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13: 1 & 2)
Later we are shown how the Apostle Paul and others with him, are directed of the Spirit to places and people throughout their missionary journeys.
`...and a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” ....we...concluded that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.` (Acts 16: 6 - 10)
Then over many years we see that the Apostle Paul reveals God`s full purposes to the believers.
`For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.` (Acts 20: 27)
CHRIST IN HIS BODY
After the Lord ascended to the right hand of the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit to bring together a whole new group of people - the Body of Christ. This revelation was not known previously and Satan definitely would not have killed Jesus if he had known of this.
This new group would be made up of people from Israel and the Gentiles, (nations). They would be joined together by the Holy Spirit and built up on the truth of Christ, His character and His purposes. This would take place over the centuries and across the world. Their inheritance would be to rule and reign with Christ on His own throne in the third heaven. This was where Satan, (Lucifer) had ruled previously till he was cast out.
Thus we read in the book of Acts how this group was formed and guided by the Holy Spirit and through the Lord`s ascension ministries of Apostle, Prophet, Teacher, Shepherd and Evangelist. Amid opposition the different groups of believers grew in knowing the Lord and reaching out to others.
The Apostle Paul was the one who received the revelation of the Body of Christ and it is through his writings, by the Holy Spirit that we learn of how the early believers functioned and learnt of the work of the Lord in their lives.
In Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians and Galatians we learn of the sufficiency of Christ. He is not an add on to other beliefs but the only way to the Father. It is through Him that we have Salvation, Sanctification and Justification.
Then in Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and 1 & 2 Thessalonians, we learn of our standing in Christ. He is the Eternal purpose of God, the Name above every name, preeminent in all things and will manifest Himself to His Body.
From 1 & 2 Timothy to 1,2 & 3 John we learn of the indwelling Christ. Here we are told of Christ`s character being formed in the believer - His grace, His life, His tender compassion, His enabling in practical duties and His strength in sufferings. He is our High Priest interceding for us in heavenly places.
Finally in the book of Jude we read a summary of God`s word and this prepares us for the final unveiling of Christ in His heavenly Glory - Revelation.
John - to the believers, revealing Jesus as the Son of God - Deity
We`ve seen the Lord`s authority in Matthew`s account; are amazed at His humbleness shown as a Servant, in Mark; then appreciate His compassion for the many hurting in Luke. Finally in John`s picture of the Lord we stand in awe in the knowledge that He is actually God come in the flesh.
`In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God....And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, ` (John 1: 1 & 14)
The Word - He is the complete expression of the mind of God. The work of creation is followed by His administration as Son. The Father has given all things into the hands of the Son. (John 3: 35)
He shows the Father`s heart, His mind and will. He became flesh in order that humanity might behold Deity in human form.
`...the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.` (John 1: 14)
Jesus reveals this relationship with the Father, a title which occurs over 120 times in this account and made these stupendous claims.
`He that has seen Me has seen the Father,` and ` I and My Father are one.` (in unison)
As the Word, the mind of God then both eternal life and truth are revealed in Him. He reveals that the symbols of the Tabernacle and aspects of Israel`s history all point to Him - Deity.
`I am the truth...life...light...the way...the resurrection...the door...the living bread...the Lamb....the Bread....the Vine....`
He is omnipotent. This is demonstrated in creation.
`All things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made that was made....` (John 1: 3)
He is omniscient. He knows the inner secrets of man`s heart. From the beginning to the end of this account Jesus shows that He knows the heart of man, together with the inner thoughts and desires. (John 2: 24)
He is omnipresent. He manifested Himself in the midst of the disciples in the upper room. (John 20: 19)
Luke - to the Greeks, revealing Jesus as a Man and Priest.
The writer of this aspect of Jesus is a doctor, Dr. Luke. He was an educated man and a keen observer. He wrote this account by the Holy Spirit revealing Jesus as the perfect Man to the Greeks. The Greeks possessed a wider culture, loved beauty and philosophy. Luke being a Greek himself, would be well fitted for presenting Jesus as the ideal of perfect manliness.
In Luke`s account we see God manifest in the flesh. Luke deals with the humanity of Jesus, a man with all His sympathies, feelings and growing powers. Here we see the glory of God coming down to our level, entering into our conditions, and being subject to our circumstances.
Luke gives the fullest particulars concerning the miraculous birth of Jesus and that testimony is from a physician. He tells of Jesus as a boy, subject to his parents, in the temple and working with his hands.
Luke also shows how Jesus is touched with the feelings of people`s infirmities.
He touched the man full of leprosy.
He touched the bier of the dead young man.
He touched the ear of the servant of the high priest.
He knows the grief of a wounded spirit.
He comprehends the sorrow of a bereaved soul.
He weighs the burden of a broken heart.
He feels the solitude of the leper`s loneliness.
He regards the distressing circumstances of the poor widow.
He senses the tragedy of a disabled body, whether lameness, deafness, blindness or dumbness.
These and many more demonstrations show Jesus` infinite tenderness and compassion as the sympathetic Priest who came to unveil the very heart of God with all His kindly love.
The words `redeemed & redemption` do not occur in Matthew or Mark, but appear in Luke for the first time in the New Testament.
`to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.` (Luke 2:38)
Jesus never allowed the law to prevent His gracious ministry. How can there be a law against His activities of love? As a priest He represented mankind before God, therefore prejudice toward caste, race, nation, class or gender, could not find a place in His heart.
The climax to this presentation declares that repentance and remission of sins are now possible to all nations in His name. (Luke 24: 46 & 47)
Mark - to the Romans, revealing Jesus as the Son of God, the Heir.
This account of Jesus was written to Roman readers. The Roman was different from the Jew. His genius was his strong common sense. His religion must be practical. He would have no interest in tracing beliefs back into the past. Legal genealogies and fulfilments of prophecy would leave him cold.
He might say, “I know nothing of your scriptures, and care nothing for your peculiar notions: but I should be glad to hear a plain story of the life this man Jesus lived. Tell me what He did. Let me see Him just as He was.”
Thus Mark portrays Jesus as the humble but perfect Servant of God. There is no reference to His birth as no one is interested in the pedigree of a servant. There is no visit of the wise men. A servant does not receive homage. No account of Jesus as a boy in the temple. The Romans are not interested in the boy, but Jesus the man, and what He did. Jesus is not called King but master.
Jesus is thus shown in His service, obedient, faithful and resolute. As the Son and heir he enters the estate that had been bestowed upon mankind, but which was lost and in enemy hands. Jesus was confronted with disruption and death at every turn and found the whole universe dominated by hell`s dominion.
The features of the enemy`s work are graphically recorded and the heir has the authority to cast out all things that cause offence. Such authority related to leprosy, palsy, fever and demon possession. These surface disorders were symptomatic of secret conditions, the underlying power of darkness. Jesus was able to meet every assault that was made upon man by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The central message of His claim as the Heir is in ch. 12 -
`Therefore still having one son, his beloved, he sent him to them last, saying, “They will respect my son,” But those vine-dressers said among themselves, “ This is the Heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.” And they took him and killed him and cast him out of the vineyard.` (Mark 12: 6 & 7)
All the way through, the perfect servant was dogged by His enemies. He exposed their hypocritical practices but their hard hearts would not repent. Finally He was sold for 30 pieces of silver, the price of a slave and gave His life a ransom for many.
When He arose Mark tells us that Jesus was received into heaven and exalted to the right hand of the Father where he continues to work.
`And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them,` (Mark 16: 20)