A Moment of Silence

Read This Week: Revelation 8

When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense and the prayers of God’s people went up before God from the angel’s hand. – Revelation 8:1-4 NIV

A moment of silence is something we observe in our society for various reasons. We frequently see it suggested and done at ball games, award shows, or concerts to honor someone who has passed away. It is also to pay respects to fallen soldiers and memorialize tragic events that affect communities and even countries. In Christianity, a moment of silence is often a way to connect with God and become more in tune with His heart and desire for our lives through prayer, meditation, and worship. A moment of quiet with Jesus can be a beautiful and peaceful communion and a great time to be grateful, reflect on His attributes, gain wisdom, lament, cry out, and endure hardship.

There was a moment of silence in heaven in Revelation 8. It came on the heels of all the loud, celebratory worship and praise of Christ in the last chapter. But when the Lamb cracked the seventh seal, heaven was silent for 30 minutes. Imagine that. Just moments before, the heavenly realm was deafening with the unison praise of God, but it is now eerily soundless for half an hour. 

They had entered a time of preparation for what was to come. The plan was developing in front of them, and they were both amazed by what they saw and quieted by what would follow. Then they prayed and petitioned God, as verse 4 splendidly illustrates: The smoke of the incense and the prayers of God’s people went up before God from the angel’s hand. Their preparation for the trumpet judgments involved silence and prayer.

We should take note of this progression in our lives in the present. No matter what season we go through, our spiritual approach to God should include the following:

  • Praise and thanksgiving.
  • Being still.
  • Quieting our hearts and minds.
  • Seeking the Lord through prayer.

A moment of silence is necessary and vital to an intimate and God-glorifying walk with Christ. It brings us closer to our Savior while giving us an eternal perspective as we live daily. It can move us into a greater understanding of truth and give the spiritual clarity to navigate anything life brings. A regular moment of silence can empower us to be grateful in seasons of plenty and secure in seasons of challenge. It can reorientate us to our mission and God’s kingdom purposes that He passionately calls us to.

We might not be preparing for the trumpet judgments like the heavenly community in chapter 8, or enduring and witnessing the end times desolation of the earth, seas, freshwater, and sources of light (v. 6-13). We might not be on the precipice of the destruction of Babylon and viewing eschatological events of a savage and turbulent nature. However, we live in a chaotic age and world broken by sin where the people and family of God must be ready to shine His light in the darkness. We need a consistent moment of silence; to be in the presence of God, read His word, pray, and allow Him to equip us for the journey.

These Are They

Read This Week: Revelation 7

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will neither beat down on them nor scorching heat. The Lamb at the throne’s center will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ – Revelation 7:14-17 NIV

The book of Revelation paints a beautiful picture of God’s grace and love for the whole world. In it, we see the global impact of the Gospel and the implications that the things present and in the future within God’s divine and sovereign plan encompasses all people. This worldwide effect has already been discerned in the first six chapters, but John records an explicit depiction in verse 9 of chapter 7:

After this, I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.

What an incredible illustration of God’s heart for every person of every culture, nation, and tongue. His love, salvation, goodness, kindness, and mercy are not regionalized or applicable to only certain people groups throughout time. It is available and accessible to all who will call on the name of the Lord, no matter their heritage or background. Jesus died for people from every nation, tribe, people, and language, and this is the forward-looking culmination of the Great Commission to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation. Creation in that verse means individual things, beings, and creatures. In essence, everyone.

Revelation 7 captures God’s comprehensive passion for every created person on multiple levels. Verses 1-8 show us the 144,000 Jews from all the tribes of Israel who are witnesses for the Lord during the tribulation. Then in verses 9-17, we see Gentiles from all nations that are innumerable standing in Heaven. They are dressed in white robes and worshipping God with loud voices, praising Him for His salvation.

When John is asked who these people are by one of the elders, he reflects the question back to him for their identity. The elder says these are they. There is no particular distinction or mark among them as people. It is just simply them, the people of God. That is their unifying singularity, along with what they had been through.

That is our identity. We are like them, the people of God in His worldwide family. We are washed by the blood of The Lamb (v.14), brought through great struggle (v.14), blessed by the presence of God (v.15), supernaturally provided for (v.16), protected from harm (v.16), shepherded by Christ (v.17), and guided into His eternal peace (v.17). Like them, we are accepted through the sacrifice of Jesus and because of this, we can experience joy on earth amid our trials, and ultimately rewarded by the reality of Heaven. These are they. We are they.

A Witness

Read This Week: Revelation 6

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true until you judge the inhabitants of the earth?” Then each of them was given a white robe and told to wait a little longer. – Revelation 6:9-11 NIV

Martyr. The word itself evokes a deep, emotional response. In the context of faith and living for God, it also brings to mind and heart those who have gone before us and given their lives for the cause of Christ, those who have suffered physical, mental, and spiritual anguish because of their love for Jesus and the Gospel. All it takes is a cursory glance at the men and women throughout history and today that serve the Lord without fear and with courage and boldness in the face of real persecution to feel overwhelming humility and inspiration.

In Revelation 6, we see the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God (v.9) under the altar, and they are honored as those that gave their lives sacrificially for God’s glory and the furtherance of His kingdom on earth. These particular Christians died by the forces of evil that hate the truth of God’s word and want to continue following the lies of the Enemy. But God honors these fallen servants. He holds them under the altar for the time He will give them their just reward. The word martus in the original language means “a witness,” and the word martyria in verse 9 is “what one testifies or a testimony.” Father God rewards faithful witnesses of His name and honors those who testify to the truth.

Verse 11 indicates that more brave and devoted individuals would perish for their testimony and stand on God’s word. It says that the martyrs would have to wait until the total number of their fellow servants, brothers, and sisters were killed just as they had been. This is not ominous but an encouragement to all those called to follow in their footsteps. We see that the souls of the witnesses have a place of high honor in Heaven. They are at peace and encircling the throne as those robed in glory and adorned with esteem worthy of Christ.

This scene in Revelation 6 of the martyrs should urge us to be a witness in our day and age. It should motivate us with the spiritual fortitude and courage to proclaim the good news and the truth amid whatever “persecution” we may face. Even as God urges us to endure and wait as He did those in this passage, we are hopeful because we know God is in control and rewards those who faithfully seek and serve Him. We have nothing to fear with the Lord on our side. There is no measure of persecution on earth that can overcome His power or overshadow what glory awaits us if we remain in Him.

God is calling us to be a witness, to testify of His love, mercy, grace, and salvation in our corner of the world in this moment of history. He calls us to share our testimony of how He changed our lives and not to be afraid of the repercussions that will come as a result. He will protect us. He never leaves or forsakes us. There were no heroes around the throne in chapter 6. They were just steadfast followers of Jesus who didn’t flinch in the face of opposition or evil. God is not calling us to be a hero, just a witness to His great name in our age.

The Deliverer

Read This Week: Revelation 5

And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because you were slain, and with your blood, you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them a kingdom and priests to serve our God.” – Revelation 5:9-10 NIV.

Revelation 5 gives us one inspiring and majestic moment after another. It begins with the picture of God holding a scroll sealed seven times. John sees writing on both sides and understands what is inside is done and final. He becomes emotional at the angel’s question of who is worthy to open the scroll. He knows that no one in Heaven or on earth is worthy enough, and his tears come from realizing that God’s ultimate plan of redemption for the world and all people would not be complete unless the scrolls open. Then John’s weeping turns to a celebration at the pronouncement that the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals (v.5).

Jesus, with his many names and titles, is the Deliverer. He is the only One worthy to stand at the center of the throne, take the scroll from the hand of God and open it for all time. Jesus Christ is the Deliverer because He is the only One who meets all the characteristics and qualifications to be so. The Deliverer had to be in the lineage of David (v.5), willing to deliver (v.9), and able to deliver (v.9). As John wrote in his gospel (1:14), Jesus became flesh and lived among us and out of his grace, sovereignty, and amazing love willingly laid down his life. And only His shed blood can redeem, restore, and save. 

Imagine how John felt to write those words and then see them playing out in the heavenly place before his eyes. It had to incite a measure of peace and spiritual fulfillment that he had never experienced, even when he walked with Jesus on earth. It had to cause him to worship the Lord as his Deliverer like never before. And worship breaks out three times in this chapter as the crowds of Heaven praise and revere Christ. The first time of worship is led by the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders in verses 9-10:

You are worthy of taking the scroll and opening its seals because you were slain, and with your blood, you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.

Then they are joined by a pretty incredible choir made up of thousands upon thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand angels who were singing this at the top of their majestic voices in verse 12:

Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!

Finally, every creature in Heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea came together and sang with everything that was within them in verse 13: 

To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever!

It was an incredible sequence of worship of the Deliverer, who He is, and what He has done and will do. When Jesus opened the scroll, the crying turned to praise and worship. The same is true for us. When we realize that Jesus is our Redeemer, Rescuer, and Deliverer for eternity, we go from broken to whole, sad to glad, and spontaneous worship breaks out in our hearts and lives. Like John and all of those in the heavenly realm, recognizing how Christ has set us free takes us from depths of despair to the heights of eternal joy.

Worship Practice

Read This Week: Revelation 4

Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night, they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” The twenty-four elders fall before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will, they were created.” – Revelation 4:8-11 NIV

Several things that are done for the Lord will cease in eternity. Evangelism and sharing the gospel message will not be done in Heaven. We will not do outreach or build bridges to people far from God in Heaven. Serving in various areas of the church, like leading a small group, teaching children, visiting the sick, and greeting and assisting people, will not be necessary for Heaven. Local and international mission trips will not be needed, and church business will not have to be conducted. But what will be in Heaven and will last forever that we do here on earth is the passionate and sincere worship of Almighty God.

Worship (proskyneōmeans ascribing worth or paying one homage out of reverence or respect). We are created for and called to worship in this life. We are designed to worship God in spirit and truth and to honor Jesus with a lifestyle of righteous adoration. The practice of daily worship, the praise of God, and bringing glory to His name through our words, actions, behavior, and songs is something we’ll do for all of eternity. One Bible commentator said that “God’s people will worship Him throughout all eternity. Perhaps it would be good for us to get in practice now.” 

We need to be ready to worship Jesus forever, and like the four living creatures in Revelation 4, day and night, never stop saying: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come. This scene greatly previews what will come for us in Heaven. This chapter takes us into a new phase where John is taken into the heavens and shown what must take place after this. We see through the Revelator what happens when the church age ends and the afterlife with Father God begins. It is fitting that the first glimpse we have is Christ seated on the throne of majesty, being adorned with praise, celebration, and worship continuously (v.2). 

Our lives on earth should look like worship practice for Heaven. As the twenty-four elders in verses 10-11, we should humbly submit ourselves to Father God daily. We should fall before him and surrender our lives to His service, to be obedient and open to whatever He has for us. To be available and ready to worship at any time, whether giving Him praise in public for His goodness and blessings, singing a song of joy for His provision, serving another person in His name, or helping someone in need as Jesus did. Our worship practice should also include laying our crowns before the throne or giving up our allegiance to earthly possessions and material things to worship God more freely.

God is worthy of our worship, and if we’re going to be doing that in Heaven for an infinite amount of time, why shouldn’t we start now with the same posture and practice? We absolutely should, and it should go something like this: You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will, they were created and have their being.

Faith Cares More

Read This Week: Revelation 3

I know your deeds. See, I have placed an open door that no one can shut before you. You have little strength, but you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that will come on the whole world to test the earth’s inhabitants. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have so that no one will take your crown. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. – Revelation 3:8-11, 13 NIV

So much is made and talked about regarding the Church at Laodicea in the Book of Revelation. The most often highlighted teaching in chapter 3 usually centers around this church and its foolishness and lack of desire to continue honoring God in its community. They had lost their vitality, commitment to godly values, vision for the gospel ministry, and adornment of righteousness. They were neither passionate about the mission nor apathetic. They were somewhere in the indifferent middle, where God never wanted us to be. He has a holy disdain for lukewarmness and makes the famous charge against the Laodicean believers in verses 15-16:

I know your deeds that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

But a faithful church in this chapter is often overlooked – the Church in Philadelphia. As we know, Philadelphia means “love among brothers.” The connotation of their name even suggests a positive understanding of what a Christian should be. We are to love people in our churches, within the family of God, and those far from the Lord. Other believers persecuted, shunned, and marginalized this church, yet Jesus said they kept His command to endure patiently. In other words, they were the opposite of Laodicea. Their affection and faithfulness ran hot for God even amid circumstances that should have led them to spiritual detachment. They cared more when they could’ve cared less.

Jesus rewards the faithful now and in eternity. For the people at Philadephia, He rewards them with opportunities and possibilities that no one can take from them (v.8). He promises to give them justice and deliver them from their enemies (v.9). Christ gloriously grants relief to their future by promising freedom from trouble at the hands of imminent threats and the chaos of the tribulation (v.10). Finally, Jesus promises to honor these believers by writing on them the name of God and the name of the city of God (v.12). He rewards their faith by giving them an elevated and glorious future in the shadow of their present struggles. He does the same thing for us.

The Lord is a warrior. He fights for us and honors those faithful to His name when quitting, consenting to the opposition, and becoming lethargic toward the call of Christ would be the easy and reasonable thing to do. His promises are reliable for those who remain confident in His word and steadfast in His truth. A faithful person and church are more impactful than a spiritually listless one. An unwavering person and church are unstoppable when an idle one is powerless. A determined person and church are successful, while a vacillating one is defeated. Let’s be like Philadelphia and not Laodecia because faith cares more.

Don’t Leave Me

Read This Week: Revelation 2

You have persevered, endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
– Revelation 2:3-5 NIV

Judging types, sizes, and styles of churches have become a bit of a pastime in America. Many like to sit around and talk about the genre of music that churches play and the type of welcome one receives. People comment on the activities for the kids, whether or not the youth group is excellent, whether the pastor teaches expositional or topical, and if one can join a small group that is convenient for their schedule. There are as many opinions as there are people. Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church and is the only one with the authority, sovereignty, and supremacy to judge churches and their spiritual intent and rightly assess their hearts. He is the righteous judge of the Church.

Revelation 2 talks about churches. John is relaying the words of Christ to 4 churches in this chapter: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, and Thyatira. All of them have specific characteristics in particular settings with varied challenges. All of them had things they did well and brought glory to God that Jesus commends, but three of the four also had something that the Lord held against them. Only Smyrna had no charges or accusations upon them. They were persecuted and poor, but they had found favor in God’s sight. The others had qualities that were commendable and fitting for Christ-centered churches. But they also had things that Jesus wanted to address, correct, and rebuke.

One of the more interesting ones is Ephesus. The Lord begins his address to them by commending their service, good works, and sacrifice. After all, this was a church that had Paul, Timothy, and John himself as leaders at one time in their history. They had gleaned from the teaching and example of their former leaders and were equipped to be a dynamic church in a big city. Ephesus was also a church that knew how to be a light. They would go to great lengths to separate themselves from false doctrine and teachers and from deceitful behavior (v.6). They didn’t pull back from their witness and stayed on mission despite great opposition. From the outside, Ephesus was a church to be emulated and imitated.

But God sees the heart and saw a heart problem in Ephesus. Not only a heart problem but a love problem. He says in his accusation that they had forsaken the love you had at first. The Church was going through the motions even though their motions were admirable, good, and worthy. But their activities had grown stale and routine, and it wasn’t underwritten by the love and passion they once had for Jesus. So Christ rebukes them for their spiritual apathy and says if they don’t return to a love-filled walk with God, He will remove their influence. God was more concerned about who they were than what they were doing. He wanted their hearts to be right again before they did anything more with their hands.

The same message is relevant to us today. God is telling us through the challenge to the Church at Ephesus, don’t leave me. Don’t leave our first love. Don’t forsake the passion, excitement, joy, and deep commitments of our hearts at the beginning of our life with God. Don’t allow intimacy with Christ to become just a routine and not a beautiful love relationship that is renewed daily. Don’t allow a cooled-down love to hurt our witness and cause us to lose our influence on the gospel mission. Jesus is exhorting us not to leave Him. He calls to us to return to the things we did at first. Stay with the One who gave us life and brought us to this point and who will never leave. Stay by His side and stay in love. He is worthy.

A Glorious Future

Read This Week: Revelation 1

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him,” and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”
– Revelation 1:7-8 and 17-18 NIV

The ideas, visions, and dreams of what life will be like in the future have captured the imaginations of human beings from the beginning of time. Visionaries and pioneers have existed in every generation with the desire to explore and forge new paths toward the possibilities ahead. The rest gaze toward the horizon, stars, and boundaries of our world, wondering what life will be like in the future. What lies before us and what will become of us has and will always be in our minds and hearts. To be human is to aspire to know.

The book of Revelation is the ultimate look at the future. In the original language, Revelation is the word apokalupsis, which means “a revealing or unveiling.” So the book is uncovering what is to come and, more importantly, who is to come. Chapter 1, verse 8 illustrates this with Jesus’ declaration of being the Alpha and the Omega, who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty. This ties in perfectly with that profound passage in John 1, where Jesus is God and with God in the beginning. Now, in this study, we will see Him at the end. We will see Him revealed in all of His glory and what things will look like in the future for those who have placed saving faith in Christ and those who have and will reject Him. In fact, verse 7 tells us that every eye will see him. All will finally see Him for who He is, not who they think He is.

The Apostle John is the dreamer to whom Jesus shows our life in the future. He lives exiled on the Island of Patmos, and the Lord finds him worthy to receive this word and spiritual Revelation to the seven churches, and as John writes, anyone who reads aloud the words of this prophecy. From the start, we see Jesus, the most important truth about Revelation. But this book also shows us eschatological imagery that challenges the imagination. It shows us the Antichrist, God’s judgment, adversity and chaos on the earth, and final things. Most of all, it shows who Jesus Christ is to us. He is our king, our savior, our reclaimer, our deliverer, and our future. The best thing about our life in the future is Jesus and an eternal relationship with Him.

While the prevailing thought in chapter one is the exalted and glorified Christ among his church and his constant care for them, one can’t help but be captured by the language describing the majesty of Jesus. Take this moment to read these lines from verses 13-16, then close your eyes, worship God, and let your heart be filled with joy for your life in the future with such a grand, magnificent Savior: 

I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned, I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand, he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.