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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Daily Bible thoughts 1870: Friday 15th February 2019: Revelation 4:6b-ll: ‘Theatre of praise.’

Revelation 4:6b-ll: ‘Theatre of praise.’

“6 Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.In the centre, round the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and behind. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all round, 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.’ Whenever the living creatures give glory, honour and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:                                                                                            11 ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things,and by your will they were created  and have their being.’ NIV

 

The scene John saw was one in which these ‘’living creatures’’ continuously worship God. It seems they represent the whole of the created order. Nature is a living thing, and it constantly praises God (see, e.g. Psalm 19).  Inspired by the worship of the living world, the church (we have said before that the ‘’twenty-four elders’’ represent the entire people of God throughout the ages) joins in.

‘…perhaps we should pause here and reflect carefully. Do we, in our private prayers and worship, and in our public services and liturgies, give sufficient weight to praising God as the creator of all things?…Do we then view creation itself as a theatre of praise, and live appropriately within such an awesome place?’ Tom Wright: ‘Revelation for everyone’, p.49.

As Wright says, there is a ‘’because’’ in the church’s worship (11). We praise God because we understand certain truths about Him, even if our comprehension is dim at best.

As we regularly hear the call of nature, may our hearts be stirred to heartily join in. What a blessing to live within the ‘theatre of praise.’

PRAYER: ‘When through the woods and forest glades I wander, and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees; when I look down from lofty mountain grandeur, and hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze, Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to thee, How great thou art…’

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1869: Thursday 14th February 2019: Revelation 4:1-6a: No vacancies.

Revelation 4:1-6a: No vacancies.

“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’ At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the centre, round the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and behind.” NIV

From this point on, the book of ‘Revelation’ deals with the future (1b). Whether, from John’s standpoint this is the immediate future, the mid-term future, or the ultimate future is a matter of debate and dispute. Good people have differing opinions, and they need to hold them with respect for others.But what is not in doubt is that God knows the future; He holds the future, and he can unveil it to His prophets.

I believe C.S. Lewis captured an important truth in picturing the land of ‘Narnia’ as just the other side of the wardrobe door. That other realm is closer to us than we usually imagine. Someone said when we read this, we should not think of a door far away up in the sky. It’s more like a doorway into another room. We can certainly affirm that Jesus is the open door into heaven for us all.

The first thing John saw in heaven was ‘’a throne’’ and there was ‘’someone sitting on it’’ (2). At times, life here in the world can seem pretty chaotic, but there is a throne of power and authority and judgment in heaven. It is occupied. There are no vacancies. There will never be a successful coup to overthrow God.

Notice that there is something beautiful about the One on the throne. His form cannot be seen, but He is spoken of in terms of light and colour (3; see 1 Timothy 6:16). The rainbow reminds us that He is a covenant-keeping God. His promises never fail. Warren Wiersbe comments that on earth, we see the rainbow after the storm, but John sees it before the storm of judgment breaks upon the world. However, the Lord is not only beautiful; He is also awful (awe-full!) (5a; see Exodus 19:16-19). He is a God to be feared. I remember, as a child, feeling terrified during storms of thunder and lightning. Even when you’re older, and maybe don’t feel quite as frightened as in childhood days, you still recognise that this is a scary, as well as spectacular, phenomenon. There is very real power throwing its weight around in the natural realm. It is not something to be messed around with, but to be treated with the utmost respect.

Some people regard the ‘’twenty-four elders’’ (4) as angels. Without wanting to be dogmatic, I see them as representing the church throughout history: the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles standing for the people of God in both testaments of the Bible.

The ‘’seven spirits of God’’ (5b) can read ‘’the sevenfold spirit’’. As we have seen before, 7 is the number of perfection. The perfect Spirit of God blazes the light of spiritual understanding into darkened hearts.

Finally, verse 6a speaks to me of the peace and tranquility there is lying before (and because of) the reigning and ruling God. If you let Him reign over you, your heart can be a ‘’sea of glass’’.

Daily Bible thoughts 1868: Wednesday 13th February 2019: Revelation 3:14-22: A continuous challenge

Revelation 3:14-22: A continuous challenge

“14 Write to Laodicea, to the Angel of the church. God’s Yes, the Faithful and Accurate Witness, the First of God’s creation, says:15-17 “I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking. You’re not cold, you’re not hot—far better to be either cold or hot! You’re stale. You’re stagnant. You make me want to vomit. You brag, ‘I’m rich, I’ve got it made, I need nothing from anyone,’ oblivious that in fact you’re a pitiful, blind beggar, threadbare and homeless.18 “Here’s what I want you to do: Buy your gold from me, gold that’s been through the refiner’s fire. Then you’ll be rich. Buy your clothes from me, clothes designed in Heaven. You’ve gone around half-naked long enough. And buy medicine for your eyes from me so you can see, really see.19 “The people I love, I call to account—prod and correct and guide so that they’ll live at their best. Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God!20-21 “Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you. Conquerors will sit alongside me at the head table, just as I, having conquered, took the place of honor at the side of my Father. That’s my gift to the conquerors!22 “Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches.” ” NIV

In church life, verse 20 has been repeatedly used as an evangelistic text, to encourage people to ‘invite Jesus into your life.’ But it was not originally given for that purpose. These words were written to a church that was closing the Lord Jesus out of HIS church. Here is a major challenge we continually face, i.e. to not repeat this pattern.

‘The echoes of stories in the gospels suggests that the one knocking on the door is the master of the house, returning at an unexpected hour (as in the warning to Sardis in 3.3), while the one who should open the door is the servant who has stayed awake. It is, then, Jesus’ house in the first place; our job is simply to welcome him home. And the echoes of the ancient scriptures suggest a different but related image. This is the bridegroom, knocking on the door of the house where his beloved lies asleep (Song of Solomon 5.2). A glance at Revelation 21.2 suggests that this may have been in mind as well…No early Christian could have heard those words without thinking of the regular meal, the bread-breaking, at which Jesus would come powerfully and personally and give himself to his people. Such meals anticipate the final messianic banquet (see 19.9). They are advance ‘comings’ of the one who will one day come fully and forever.’ Tom Wright: ‘Revelation for everyone’, p.40.

As I read this letter again I am struck by the thought that although it was sent to a local church, one person (‘’anyone’’) may be a difference-maker (20). Certainly, that individual can have a rich experience with Christ himself (or herself), even though the rest of the people in the church may be on ‘low heat’. It is through this intimacy with Jesus that a person will find the strength to ‘overcome’ (21) and so reign with Christ.

Before moving on in this book of ‘Revelation’ let’s note that today there is no trace of that Laodicean church. Why? Because these people did not repent of their sins.

When the Lord speaks to us there is a lot at stake. Ignoring Him is not the healthy option.

Daily Bible thoughts 1867: Tuesday 12th February 2019: Revelation 3:14-22: Jesus is the answer

Revelation 3:14-22: Jesus is the answer

 ‘To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so that you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so that you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so that you can see.19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ NIV

There can be a huge discrepancy between how we see ourselves and reality (how Jesus sees us): ‘’You say…But you do not realise that…’’ (17). But whatever our maladies may be, personally or corporately, we can, and should, go to Jesus for the cure:

‘’I counsel you to buy from me…’’ (18).

‘Where can I go but to the Lord?’

It may prove costly to obtain the healing you require (implied, perhaps, in the word ‘’buy’’). Repentance is never without pain. But consider the difference genuine repentance brings (19, 20). There is no substitute for personal, intimate fellowship with Jesus. Everything else we may try to live for is a lesser god. None but Christ can satisfy.

PRAYER: Lord, mercifully show me who I am and what I am, and help me to truly repent.

Daily Bible thoughts 1866: Monday 11th February 2019: Revelation 3:14-22: Local colouring.

Revelation 3:14-22: Local colouring.

 ‘To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so that you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so that you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so that you can see.19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ NIV

This is perhaps the best known of the seven letters, and many sermons have been preached from it on the dangers of ‘’lukewarm’’ Christianity. Such a state is undeniably abhorrent to Jesus. Before we look at anything else, perhaps we should take a little time to observe the local colouring.

We saw previously that the city of Philadelphia had been devastated in an earthquake in AD 17. At that time, they gratefully received help from central Roman funds. But when a later earthquake, in AD 61, did major damage to several cities in the Lycus valley, to the south of Philadelphia, one city was proudly able to refuse imperial help. You’ve guessed it – Laodicea! They had independent means and didn’t feel in need of any outside assistance. It was the banking centre for the whole region. There was also a fine medical centre there and people travelled long distances to train as doctors, In particular, the school specialised in ophthalmology, healing for the eyes. Laodicea was a great place to obtain an especially popular Phrygian eye-powder. Then, we may add, the local farmers had bred a type of black sheep whose wool was of fine quality. Clothes made from Laodicean wool were eagerly sought after.

But for all that, the city did not have good water.Nearby, at Hierapolis, there were some famous hot springs. Large amounts of hot water poured out from them in great streams. The water was thought to have healing power, so many people came to drink it with high hopes. But as the hot water flowed down the slopes from the spring, it quickly became lukewarm, and lost its healing efficacy (or so it was thought). Not only could it not heal anyone; it couldn’t quench thirst either. I’ve heard it said that it was sickly to the taste, being full of concentrated chemicals.

Something to note: As this water passed through Laodicea it was lukewarm!

 To the south-east of Laodicea stood the town of Colossae. It had a fine supply of water, flowing down from snow-capped Mount Cadmus. Someone suggested it was almost of Alpine quality. But by the time this water reached Laodicea, 11 miles away, the Turkish heat meant that it too had turned lukewarm.

Tom Hale writes: ‘…no one ever likes to drink something lukewarm. The church in Laodicea was like a lukewarm drink: the church’s ministry was neither hot nor cold – only lukewarm. Because of this, no matter what a person’s need might be, the church could not satisfy it.’ ‘Applied New Testament Commentary’, p. 969.

PRAYER: Lord, I have to pray, please will you stoke the fires in the church’s boiler. Don’t allow any of us to settle for tepid Christianity. It’s a contradiction in terms.

Daily Bible thoughts 1865: Friday 8th February 2019: Revelation 3:11: Hold on.

Revelation 3:11: Hold on.

11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.” NIV

I was talking with a friend recently. We were reflecting out loud about how, when you grasp a liberating Bible truth (or it grips you), you have to fight to hold on to it. Today you might lie stretched beneath the warmth of its healing glow; but tomorrow it just might seem that bit more hazy. Today you really feel its power; tomorrow, maybe not quite so much, even though it is still true.

I have had moments of such startling insight that I’ve thought, ‘I’ll never be the same again.’ But I have found, to my dismay, that I can too easily go back to old ways.

It is a fight all the way, as the book of Revelation shows

‘But the sobering fact remains: the war is not over yet. Accordingly, the victory of faith does not consist only in coming to faith, but also in staying in the faith, persevering and growing in the faith.’ Henri Blocher: ‘Multiplying Churches’, p.50.

‘’The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’’ (John 10:10).

Because of the existence of this ‘’thief’’ you have to ‘’Hold on to what you have, so that no-one will take your crown’’ (3:11) Constant vigilance will be required this side of the end, because your pocket could easily be picked.

A well-known slogan from several years ago said, ‘Watch out, there’s a thief about!’ All the good things God has given you could be at risk.

Daily Bible thoughts 1864: Thursday 7th February 2019: Revelation 3:7-13: Reversal.

Revelation 3:7-13: Reversal.

‘To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet 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 down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. 13 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” NIV

‘As in the letter to Smyrna, we have here an inclination that the synagogue community was using its civic status to block the advance of the message about Israel’s Messiah, Jesus, a message so very Jewish and yet so challenging to Jewish people…We should imagine a Jewish community of several thousand, with its own buildings and community life, and a church of probably two or three dozen at most, holding on to the highly improbable, and extremely risky, claim that the God of Israel had raised Jesus from the dead.’ Tom Wright.

The church was ridiculously outnumbered then, but in the Bible, David defeats Goliath with a sling and a stone, time after time. The Sovereign Lord specialises in great reversals:

‘’…I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you’’ (9b).

The Jews thought the Gentiles would bow before them ultimately, but here it’s the other way round. The false Jews (see Romans 2:28,29) will ‘’fall down’’ before the church ( which is composed of true Jews, and Gentiles). It’s a great reversal envisaged.

Consider this: these believers had ‘’little strength’’ (8), but Jesus says that if anyone is an overcomer, he or she will be made ‘’a pillar in the temple of my God’’(12). It feels like a contradiction in terms, but it’s true. The weak will be able to say that they are strong.

Philadelphia had experienced a devastating earthquake around AD 17. The city had needed a re-build. Massive structures had come tumbling down. You can imagine great pillars shaking and cracking and falling. But these Christian ‘’pillars’’ will not be like that. Strengthened by Jesus, they will be strong and sturdy, and triply secure, you might say (12). God’s Name will be written on them because they are God’s people; the name of God’s city will be upon them because they are citizens of His Kingdom; and the Name of Christ will be on them because they belong to Him.

Even when we seem to be in the (dangerous) hands of men, let us remember we are always in the Hands of God.

PRAYER: ‘In weakness be my strength, O mighty Saviour.’’

Daily Bible thoughts 1863: Wednesday 6th February 2019: Revelation 3:7-13: Open doors.

Revelation 3:7-13: Open doors.

‘To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:  These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet 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 down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. 13 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” NIV

A person may be ever so weak in themselves; they have ‘’little strength’’ (8). But if Jesus opens up a door of service, they will be helped to make the most of it by his power. Once they go through that ‘’door’’ no amount of opposition will be able to shut it. Nor will the enemy be able to get through that door if the Lord locks it shut against him. It will be like the door in the ark which God closed. (See 1 Corinthians 16:8,9: open doors do not necessarily preclude opposition). Another way to understand this open door idea is proposed however. The ‘’Jews’’ (9) had locked the believers out of the synagogue, but Jesus had opened wide the Kingdom to them.

‘It is marvellous how much Christ can make of our poor lives, if only we yield to him…a life, once a mere block of stone, but now inscribed with his own mystic handwriting and engraving!’ F.B. Meyer: ‘Devotional Commentary’, p.637.

Daily Bible thoughts 1862: Tuesday 5th February 2019: Revelation 3:1-6: Reputation and reality.

Revelation 3:1-6: Reputation and reality.

‘To the angel of the church in Sardis write:These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits  of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” NIV

There is often a difference between reputation and reality, and Jesus knows what the difference is. He knows how great the gulf is between the two.

There must be many well-taught churches in the west (3a). But the question for us, as for Sardis, is ‘what are we doing with all we know?’ Are we obeying the truth? Is it leading us to repentance? Have we started out on good works but not completed them? Bible-teaching per se is not a mark of a live church, but Bible-living is. The call goes out to be doers of the Word and not just hearers (James 1:22-25).

‘Of what use was the fig tree to abate his (Jesus’) hunger, when it bore leaves but no fruit? Amid all this disappointing formalism, there were a few live souls who fulfilled their works and did not defile their robes.’ F.B. Meyer: ‘Devotional Commentary’, p.637.

PRAYER: Lord help us not to fall into the Sardis trap; we want to live what we believe.

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