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The Witness, Firstborn Among the Dead, and King of All

Today God has given me something in Revelation 1, verses 4 through 6, which say:

John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:4-6)

One thing we’re going to be seeing a lot of in Revelation, is symbolic sentences. By that, I mean that we’ll be seeing a lot of sentences that are meant to convey much more than they immediately do at first glance. One such sentence is actually to be found here, where John says, “and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.”

To address the first bit of the sentence, we know that Jesus is a faithful witness because He is constantly witnessing before the Father for us. Not witnessing of our own ‘good’ works, but of His own death on our behalf…. The only work by which we can actually be saved.

A slightly more tricky phrase is when He is called the, “firstborn of the dead.” This can be interpreted in light of Jesus’ Resurrection-that would make Him, in a manner of speaking, to be the firstborn from the grave into a new, eternal life. However, we know that Jesus can’t only be the firstborn of the physical dead, as He was not the first person to be raised to life form the dead. For example, Ezekiel (in Ezekiel 37:1-14) raises an entire valley of the dead to life. So then, we can determine that Jesus is not the firstborn of the physical dead, but rather of the Spiritual dead. Jesus died physically, but then He went through the second death too – complete separation from the Father, and being sent to Hell. Thus, He can be called ‘the firstborn of the [Spiritually] dead’.

This can be interpreted in a different way though, if you consider the Jewish culture of the day. The Jews held the firstborn in very high esteem; the firstborn was considered to be superior to all his siblings. Thus, if you think of it that way, you could say that Jesus holds preeminence over everyone, as eventually everyone dies. You could also just leave out the last bit and say that Jesus holds preeminence over the dead, if you wanted to keep from straying too far from the text.

The final interesting bit of the sentence calls Jesus the, “ruler of kings on earth.” Now, contrary to what I said earlier about sentences having deeper meaning than they may first appear, this particular part of the sentence is somewhat clear. Jesus is preeminent over every king (you’ll note that this also fits in with the second interpretation of the “firstborn of the dead” bit). The reason he is superior to every king, is that He is the greatest and most powerful kind of king–a king who is not only a king, but also a prophet and a priest.

The Jews forbid any king to be a priest, any priest to be a king, and any prophet to be a priest (etc.), in part because having two or more roles was seen to give one person too much power. It acted as a fairly effective system of checks and balances (unless the king decided to disobey a priest or prophet; just read 1st or 2nd Kings to see how well that went.). However, Jesus became all three when He died for us and rose again: On the cross, Jesus made everyone all believers His subjects, offered a sacrifice for sins, and predicted that three days later He would rise again (of course, this last bit is a bit of a stretch, as He actually predicted both His death and Resurrection prior to the cross, you get the picture though.).

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Posted by on July 27, 2013 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Salvation Throughout History

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD. (Psalms 40:1-3)

David is basically giving us the process of salvation here: First we cry out to the Lord, and He ‘inclines toward us and hears our cry.’ After that, God lifts us up out of the ‘pit of destruction,’ and sets our feet upon the rock (also known as, “the corner-stone,” and, “the stone the builders rejected:” Jesus Christ). From there, He puts a ‘new song in our mouth,’ and we praise Him for all the good He has done for us.

The truly interesting thing about this passage, though, is that it’s David writing it. Someone, who as we just discussed in the previous post, was living in the time of the Old Covenant. So then, how do we understand the two facts in light of each-other? One the one hand, David has outlined for us a beautiful picture of salvation. However, on the other hand, he was living in a time before Christ; a time where the only thing they could know for certain was that if they didn’t obey the law perfectly, they would be doomed to eternal torment.

Well, to answer this, let’s remind our-self of a fact that has always and will be true: It is impossible to always perfectly obey the law, as it is defined by the New Testament (i.e. with anger being equated with the actual act of murder, and lust being equated with the actual act of adultery). So then, given that it’s impossible to perfectly obey the law, how is it that anyone who lived prior to Christ saved? To answer that, let’s take a look at a different Psalm:

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
    in all generations.
 Before the mountains were brought forth,
    or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

 You return man to dust
    and say, “Return, O children of man!”
 For a thousand years in your sight
    are but as yesterday when it is past,
    or as a watch in the night. (Psalm 90:1-4)

God entirely transcends time. The time between David’s birth and Jesus’ death, to us, is very significant. However, to God it is entirely meaningless. He can look back and see Jesus paying for our sins, just as easily as He can look forward and see Jesus paying for David’s sin. David’s understanding of the Gospel was incomplete, but He had faith in the Messiah to come. Thus, he was saved.

 
 

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Clean Hands and A Pure Heart

(Ignore this if you haven’t read many, or any, of my earlier posts). In a previous post, I mention that I believe, “the hill of the Lord,” to be Calvary. However, the context of the phrase in this situation (Coming to the cross-i.e., Calvary hardly requires you have clean hands and a pure heart; anyone can come to the cross and be saved) leads me to believe that this time the phrase refers to Heaven. I say this to avoid confusion later in the post.

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation. (Psalms 24:3-5)

There has only ever been one person who (of His own volition) deserves to come before God, and be declared fit for Heaven, and He was God incarnate. None of us can ever hope to be righteous in all that we do (i.e. have “clean” hands), or pure in heart. Particularly given that all we can do of our own volition is sin, sin, and sin again. Even if we try to get free from sin by will power and determination, there is no hope for us because our very heart is filthy and set determinedly towards sin. The blunt reality is, none of us deserve to receive any kind of blessing from the Lord, much less eternal salvation… And yet, that is exactly what He gives us in Jesus.

Because Christ came down from Heaven, and on the cross lay down His very life for us, God now declares us to have clean hands and a pure  heart. Because Jesus took our sin nature on to Himself, and became our sin  (as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21), we no longer are trapped by any temptation or any sin. We can now rest in the assurance that no matter what happens, God will always provide us with what we need in the moment.

 
 

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Today’s Sermon

Hello again!

Today the pastor preached on Luke 11:33-36, and had the following four points:

  1. God’s light shines everywhere.
  2. Unbelief is the problem for not seeing the light.
  3. Believing you see when actually you do not.
  4. The blessing of really seeing.

In the first point, the pastor talked on how Jesus is, “God’s light,” by taking us to John 1:1-5. In the second point, he talked on how unbelief is the cause for an unbeliever to not be able to see Christ. He used the Pharisees as an example of this, by referring to how they (in the previous passage in Luke (Luke 11:29-32)) asked Jesus for sign to prove that He was the Messiah. Of course, He had already done many miracles that proved Him to be the Messiah, and so it was their unbelief that blinded them.

Unfortunately the memory of the other two points has somewhat faded from me, but overall it really was an enjoyable sermon, which was centered upon Jesus.

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2013 in Todays Sermon

 

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Trusting In God

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalms 23:1-6)

This particular psalm is one that most Christians find comfort in. However,if we actually examine our lives, how many of us would really say that, because God is our shepherd, we want nothing? How many of us would truly, “fear no evil,” in times of hardship, or life-threatening situations?

The reality is, not all that many Christians, if they were to really look at their lives, agree with every part of this psalm. After all, sure the Lord is my shepherd, but I still want the newest and the best of this or that! Sure, I’ll fear no evil… Unless of course something horrendous happens that calls for fear, such as the weather not being a perfect 72 degrees and sunny. It’s an exaggeration, true, but the point is none-the-less true.

I believe the problem most Christians have, including myself at times, is that we simply lack trust in God. We don’t believe that He is able to carry us through, “the valley of the shadow of death,” and so we fear times like that. We don’t trust God to give us what we need (or, at least the means by which to get it) when we need it, and thus, in our minds, our cup does not run over. In fact, we tend to want so much that our cup tends to appear half empty most of the time.

In conclusion, then; It’s trusting in God that makes all the difference in our life. God has shown us already that He is a more than capable provider by giving us His very son. We have no reason to believe that He won’t provide a way out of every temptation, and that He won’t always provide for us. Thus, it makes no sense to do anything but simply rely upon Him in every situation, to either give us the strength to overcome, or else to eventually end the temptation or trial we are undergoing.

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2013 in Delivered Through Love

 

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The Christian’s Cause for Worship, Pt. 1

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners! May the LORD fulfill all your petitions! Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright. O LORD, save the king! May he answer us when we call. (Psalms 20:5-9)

Now, this passage actually teaches several things. However, there is one main point which is applicable to our lives today: The Gospel, and the Gospel alone, should produce praise and worship in us. See, some people trust, and even worship to a certain extent, money and other physical belongings. Some even trust in the modern form of the chariot, cars. However, the Christian should understand that, while money and cars and belongings are all very useful and often necessary, the Gospel is the only thing that should cause us to be worshipful.

God’s salvation for us – Jesus’ death and Resurrection, should cause us to shout for joy!-At the least mentally, if not physically, depending upon the situation.-It should cause us to see that we have been made pure and holy in God’s sight. Thus, we can be confident when we call to God that, if what we ask is according to His will for our lives, He will indeed answer us.

 
 

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Crying Out to the Lord

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. (Psalms 18:2-6)

Even if it seems as though everyone has turned against us, we can know that we have a redeemer. We have someone who will always rescue us when we call out to Him. We see this pattern repeated all through the Bible – When the Israelites were in captivity, they cried out to the Lord, and He set them free. Likewise, whenever in the New Testament a person with some ailment called out to Christ, and the request was according to God’s will, He healed them.

Many are tempted to call God an unloving tyrant, because there is sin and pain in the World. The reality though, is that God isn’t a tyrant, nor is He unloving. To the contrary, it was mankind that brought sin and pain upon our-self through sinning, and God who made a way for us to still be forgiven. Jesus has given us the ability to be healed of any and every sickness, whether physical or Spiritual. Though perhaps not in this life, certainly in the next. We just have to, like David, cry out to Him, and He will hear us.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2013 in Delivered Through Love

 

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