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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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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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Spotless in His Sight

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

The LORD dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all his rules were before me, and his statutes I did not put away from me. I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from my guilt. So the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight. (Psalms 18:20-24)

Now, David was certainly not righteous. In fact, he was one of the farthest things away from righteous… When you commit adultery with the wife of one of your own soldiers, and then kill the soldier (see: 2 Samuel 11), you’re pretty far gone. So then, the question naturally comes, why is it David is claiming such innocence? The answer is simple: Because he is innocent!

Now, it is certainly true that Jesus had not yet come, much less died for our sins. However, even back then, you could believe in the Messiah. You can see foreshadows of Jesus all throughout the Old Testament, all someone would have to do to learn about the Messiah, and come to faith, would be to come would be to open up the Scriptures. Now, that being said, belief alone certainly doesn’t save you. If belief alone that Jesus would at some point come did save you, then Jesus would never have needed to come… So, why then do I say David is innocent?

Because, in God’s sight, time means nothing. To God, Jesus died a million years ago, He died today, and He will die and rise again a million years from now. To God, a couple thousand years means nothing. Just because Jesus died thousands of years ago does not make the event any less meaningful for us. Likewise, just because David lived quite a while before Jesus was even born, it doesn’t make the event any less meaningful to God.

In conclusion: You, me, and even David are considered spotless before God. Not only that, but we will always be considered spotless before God.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2013 in Delivered Through Love

 

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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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Questions

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

A Psalm of David. O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change; who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved. (Psalms 15:1-5)

David asks a question of God: Who will live next to God (“sojourn in his tent”)? Who will dwell on God’s holy hill? The blameless one. The one who does what is right, the one who speaks truth in his heart… The one who doesn’t slander, and does no evil to his neighbor. The one who doesn’t take up a reproach against his friend, despises a vile person, but honors those that fear the Lord. The one who never takes an oath that will hurt someone else, but only himself. The one who doesn’t loan but rather lends money, and the one who doesn’t take a bribe. Read over that list one more time, does it remind you of someone?

Jesus is such a perfect fulfillment of this passage, that there is simply no one it can be coincidence. Who was the only blameless one to ever walk on the Earth? Jesus Christ is the only one who you can never truthfully blame for anything. Even when Pilate asked the pharisees why they wanted to crucify Jesus, they essentially replied that “he should just trust them” (see: John 18:29-30). Jesus is also certainly the only one who always does what is right, and who speaks truth i his heart. Not only that, but far from slandering others, He uplifts those others have torn down (i.e. the woman caught in adultery, see: John 8:1-11).  Likewise, Jesus not only did no evil to his neighbor, He specifically encouraged us to love our neighbors – to love all those around us.

Jesus also never took up reproach against one of His friends. You never see Him getting angry when one of His disciples (or all of them, more often than not) don’t understand something He says. He also despises evil doers… Which is why He came to die, to set them free from their evil doing. Likewise with everything else that is listed – Jesus is the embodiment of the passage. He is the one who “dwells” on God’s holy hill of Calvary, where He made atonement for each and every one of our sins. And now, as the last part of the passage states, He shall never be moved. Satan can’t push us around (if you will) when we are in Christ, because when we are in Him, we shall never be able to move away from the place where He dwells – Calvary. So long as we stay there, at the foot of the cross, our hearts and minds are protected by Christ’s blood.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2013 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Foundations

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word

: To the choirmaster. Of David. In the LORD I take refuge; how can you say to my soul, “Flee like a bird to your mountain, for behold, the wicked bend the bow; they have fitted their arrow to the string to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart; if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalms 11:1-3)

What David implies here is quite true; there isn’t anything anyone can do if their foundation, the thing they put their very faith and hope in, is destroyed. This is one of the reasons Paul in his first letter to Timothy called the love of money, “the root of all kinds of evil” [See 1 Timothy 6:10]; because when you make money your foundation (i.e. you “love” it), it’s eventually going to let you down. Even if you make family your foundation, that’s going to let you down in some form or another eventually, too. In 1 Corinthians, however, Paul shows us the only possible foundation that a Christian can have:

10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:10-11)

Jesus will never disappoint. He’ll never take wings and fly away like money. He is our firm foundation, and the one and only person which we can truly trust with everything. If we try to trust in our-self, we’ll disappoint our-self. If we try to trust in doctors, the doctors will disappoint us. If we trust in a job, or electronics, those too will disappoint us. Only Jesus has given His life to save our’s, and He is the only one we can trust eternally.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2013 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Memories

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish; you have blotted out their name forever and ever. The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins; their cities you rooted out; the very memory of them has perished. Psalms 9:5-6)

All the “enemy’s” cities have been rooted out, and their very memory has perished. How true that is in our lives today. All of Satan’s strongholds within us have been rooted out when Christ sent His spirit into us, and now we have no guilt or shame over them. You could say that the very memory of them has perished… When you think about it, the memory of something is really what keeps us attached (either negatively or positively) to that thing. An alcoholic who’s struggling to break free without knowing Christ may certainly break free for a time, but there will always be a memory of how good it felt in the moment. We tend to hang on to  the “good” moments like that, while forgetting the consequences. This is not how it is with Christ, though. With Him, our memory is washed clean by His death and Resurrection for us.

A memory is really quite powerful, when you think about it. A memory can remind us to not put our hand in the fire, or to call 911 in an emergency. A memory can also remind us of the (no matter how temporary) pleasure that there is in sin. People addicted to something will, even after breaking their addiction, say that there is always a “want” to have that thing again – there’s always a memory that haunts them for the rest of their life. The thing is, God knows this about us. He knows that we feeble humans are drawn to pleasurable things. This is why people often claim that God is cruel in some way to make us like this; make us to seek out some form of pleasure. However, it isn’t cruel of God to have made us like this, rather it’s a blessing. The more we seek, the more we’ll find that all pleasure that this Earth has to offer is temporary. The effects of a drug wear off, a cigarette comes to an end, and a person can only stay drunk for so long. However, Jesus is eternal. God made us to seek pleasure, so that we will realize that only true and lasting pleasure comes through worshiping Him.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2013 in Delivered Through Love

 

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