Sunday, December 28, 2008

My Prayer for the New Year

My prayer is that believers who read these posts are strengthened in their faith as they are reminded of the truth and authority of God’s word. I pray that we will be encouraged to rethink our priorities as we head into another year of opportunity to glorify our Savior by submitting to Him as Lord and declaring His love and the good news of the gospel to others—not only in word, but in deed.

The signs of His return as prophesied by the Savior are evident. The time that most of us choose to invest in earthly treasure that is only useful in this lifetime is sadly the primary focus of our energy; we should be investing most of our energy in accumulating heavenly treasure that will benefit us for eternity.

My prayer for those that may stumble across these postings that do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior is that they will be provoked to look closer at God’s word and recognize their need for a Savior. The hardest truth to face is that there is absolutely nothing you can do earn your salvation. The Father has done everything for us in sending His Son to be born as a man and become the only acceptable sacrifice for our sin. Through His willingness to die on the cross and suffer the judgment of your sin, you can now be declared righteous before God if you will just accept Him in faith.

I pray you will take some time to meditate on the following scriptures and that this year you will experience the joy and peace of Jesus in your life.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Psalm 19:1-3

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:20

There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.
Ecclesiastes 7:20

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1John 1:8

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father
except through Me. John 14:6

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting Life. John 3:16

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:8

But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5

All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:6

“Do you think, asks the Sovereign LORD, that I like to see wicked people die? Of course not! I only want them to turn from their wicked ways and Live. Ezekiel 18:23

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1John 1:9

If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Romans 10:13

For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.
I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
John 14:2-3

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise…but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 2Peter 3:9

Even so, come, Lord Jesus! Revelation 22:20

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Messiah’s Resurrection

14. The psalmist even recorded the very words that Jesus would utter from the cross.

Psalm 22:1 My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Both Matthew and Mark confirm that these were the painful cries from Jesus on the cross.

Matthew 27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Mark 15:34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

15. The death of Jesus would have been just a very sad moment in history without the resurrection. The fact that the Messiah’s soul would not be left in Hades, the place of departed spirits, was foretold by the psalmist.

Psalm 16:10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

Again, Josephus also referenced the resurrection of Jesus in his historical record.

“Now there was about this time Jesus….He was (the) Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him.”

Josephus was not the only historian that made reference to the life of Jesus. Luther of Samosata was a second century author. In his book, The Passing Peregrinus, he stated the following (as found at

“The Christians. . . worship a man to this day - the distinguished personage who introduced this new cult, and was crucified on that account. . . . You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains their contempt for death and self devotion . . . their lawgiver [taught] they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. All this they take on faith.”

At the same website is a quote from Cornelius Tacitus, a great historian on ancient Rome who lived 55-120AD. Following is a quote from one of his major works, Annals.

“Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.”

Monday, December 22, 2008

Messiah to Die by Crucifixion

10. Even as He was cruelly treated, the prophet foretells that Messiah would submit to the judicial authorities without struggle.

Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

The gospels again record that Jesus fulfilled this prophecy as well.

Mark 15:1-5 And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate. And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answering said unto him, Thou sayest it. And the chief priests accused him of many things: but he answered nothing. And Pilate asked him again, saying, Answerest thou nothing? behold how many things they witness against thee. But Jesus yet answered nothing; so that Pilate marvelled.

This is no surprise since Jesus was very clear in telling His disciples that He had come to die.

John 10:14-15 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.

Mark 10:32-34 And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid. And he took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto him, Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again.

11. Psalm 22 is a messianic psalm that foretold the crucifixion, a form of punishment that was not even invented at the time the psalm was written.

Psalm 22:16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.

The gospel writers all record the crucifixion of Jesus. I will only quote from Luke.

Luke 23:33-34 And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.

Those same verses in Luke record the fulfillment of two other prophecies—one from Psalm 22 and the other by the prophet Isaiah.

12. Psalm 22:18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
13. Isaiah 53:9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Messiah Rejected and Beaten

8. Isaiah the prophet records many details regarding the death of Messiah. The prophet declares that He will be rejected by His people.

Isaiah 53:3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

The fact that Jesus was crucified as a direct result of the cry of His people is proof enough of this prophecy. Even the Roman governor could find no justification for convicting Jesus of wrongdoing.

Matthew 27:22-25 Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified. When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.

9. The prophet also recorded that the Messiah would be beaten and that He would suffer the shame of being spit upon.

Isaiah 50:6 I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.

Again, the gospel writers confirm the fulfillment of this prophecy.

Mark 15:15-19 And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified. And the soldiers led him away into the hall, called Praetorium; and they call together the whole band. And they clothed him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his head, And began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews! And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Messiah the King Betrayed by a Friend

6. The prophet Zechariah prophesied that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem riding on a colt to the shouts of the people.

Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.

The gospel writers affirm the fulfillment of this prophecy.

Matthew 21:1-9 And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me….All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass….And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.

The rest of the prophecies I will reference all refer to events surrounding the death of the Messiah.

7. One of the recognized Messianic passages in the psalms foretold that He would be betrayed by a friend.

Psalm 41:9 Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.

The gospel record tells us that Jesus was betrayed by Judas, one of His own disciples, for 30 pieces of silver as foretold by the following passage from the prophet Zechariah

Zechariah 11:12-13 And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.

Matthew 26:14-15, 47-49 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver….And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Messiah Preceded by a Messenger and a Worker of Miracles

4. The prophet Malachi tells us that the Messiah will be preceded by a messenger whose purpose is to prepare His way before the people. He also declares that He will come to the temple.

Malachi 3:1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.

Again, the New Testament writers record that Jesus was preceded by John the Baptist, the prophesied messenger sent to prepare the people to receive their Messiah.

John 1:15-23 John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me…. And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?...He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.

There are, of course, many experiences related in the gospels of Jesus teaching at the temple.

5. Again, the New Testament writers recorded that Jesus did many signs and wonders that identified Him as the Messiah as prophesied by the prophet Isaiah.

Isaiah 29:18 And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.

Isaiah 35:5-6 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.

Scripture tells us that John the Baptist was eventually imprisoned for confronting Herod with his sin in marrying his brother’s wife.

Mark 6:17-18 For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife: for he had married her. For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife.

During the time he was imprisoned he became discouraged and sent his followers to Jesus to get an affirmation that He was the promised Messiah. Jesus answered him giving reference to the prophecies of Isaiah.

Luke 7:19-22 And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight. Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.

The New Testament scripture is not the only historical record verifying the life of John the Baptist. The noted historian Josephus in his Jewish Antiquities made note of John’s execution by Herod.

“Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness.”

Josephus also made note of the fact that Jesus was a “doer of wonderful works.”

“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure.”

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Messiah’s Birthplace and the Time of His Birth Foretold

2. Not only was the lineage of the Messiah foretold, but also the place of His birth—Bethlehem, the city of David.

Micah 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

Again, the gospel writers were clear in establishing the place of Jesus’ birth.

Matthew 2:1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king….

Luke 2:4-7 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Isn’t it interesting that since the destruction of the temple and the worldwide dispersion of the Jewish people, no one born subsequent to that time would be able to prove his lineage as a descendant of David born in Bethlehem. And the Jewish people are still looking for their Messiah.

3. I think few people realize that there is a very specific prophecy in the Old Testament regarding the time that the Messiah would appear. It is recorded by the prophet Daniel.

Daniel 9:25-26 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off….

Gabriel gave Daniel some specific time references. In context, he is talking about the time that the Jews would be allowed to return to Jerusalem from the Babylonian captivity. Also necessary to understand is that the Hebrew word used for “weeks” is a reference to “weeks of years.” He clearly states that from the time of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem and the coming of Messiah will be 69 weeks or 483 years—seven weeks (7 x 7 = 49 years) + 62 weeks (3 x 20 = 60 + 2 = 62 x 7 = 434 years) (49 + 434 = 483). Nehemiah 2:1-8 describes the decree signed by Artaxerxes authorizing the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem, including the walls, as occurring during the 20th year of his reign, circa 446BC. Based on the biblical use of a 30-day month, this would carry us forward 173,880 days to circa 31AD, during the time of Jesus.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Prophecies of Messiah Fulfilled in Jesus

As we move toward the Christmas season, I thought it would be appropriate to look at some of the prophecies in scripture that were fulfilled in Jesus. The fact that these prophecies were fulfilled are very important to establishing the confidence we as believers have in knowing that prophecies as yet unfulfilled will come to pass as foretold. Scripture is clear in declaring prophecy as God’s unique signature of Who He Is.

Isaiah 42:8-9 I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images. Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.

Isaiah 48:3-7 I have declared the former things from the beginning; and they went forth out of my mouth, and I shewed them; I did them suddenly, and they came to pass. Because I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass; I have even from the beginning declared it to thee; before it came to pass I shewed it thee: lest thou shouldest say, Mine idol hath done them, and my graven image, and my molten image, hath commanded them. Thou hast heard, see all this; and will not ye declare it? I have shewed thee new things from this time, even hidden things, and thou didst not know them. They are created now, and not from the beginning; even before the day when thou heardest them not; lest thou shouldest say, Behold, I knew them.

As we look at these prophecies, I have chosen only the ones that are recorded as part of history and would have been physically observed. I am not going to take the time to establish the foundation of each passage as Messianic. The prophecies of the coming Messiah were made to the Jewish people, and these passages have been acknowledged by Jewish scholars to be referencing their Messiah. In light of these prophecies, it is really perplexing that the religious leaders in particular did not recognize Jesus as the One who fulfilled these prophecies. As with the false teachers today, their pride and selfish motives blinded them or caused them to reject the truth.

1. I think the first truth to establish is that the Messiah was prophesied to descend from Abraham through Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Jesse and David.

Isaiah 11:1 And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:

Isaiah 9:6-7 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David....

Jeremiah 23:5 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.

The New Testament writers go to great pains to record the genealogy of Jesus through both His mother and His earthly adoptive father. Both genealogies establish Jesus as a descendant of David and rightful heir to the throne.

Matthew 1:2 Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren… Matt. 1:6 And Jesse begat David the king… Matt. 1:16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

Luke 3:23 And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph… Luke 3:31-34 …which was the son of David, Which was the son of Jesse…which was the son of Juda, Which was the son of Jacob, which was the son of Isaac, which was the son of Abraham….

There is plenty of evidence to validate the writings of the New Testament gospels. Instead of re-inventing the wheel, I would like to quote from the research done by the people at

“Archaeologists studying ancient civilizations by uncovering ruins and examining artifacts, are with increasing success confirming the accuracy of the Biblical texts….Additionally, outside the Bible, Jesus is also mentioned by his near-contemporaries. Extra-Biblical and secular writers (many hostile) point to Jesus' existence, including the Roman writings of Tacitus, Seutonius, Thallus and Pliny, and the Jewish writings of Josephus and the Talmud. Gary Habermas has cited a total of 39 ancient extra-Biblical sources, including 17 non-Christian, that witness from outside the New Testament to over 100 details of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection….The New Testament has far better textual support than do the works of Plato, Aristotle, Herodotus, or Tacitus, whose contents no one seriously questions.”

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Daniel’s Prayer and Today’s Church

As I was reading through Daniel’s prayer for his people yet again, I began to think about what an example it was of what our prayer in the “church” in America should be today. Using Daniel’s prayer as my guide, this is my prayer.

O Lord, the great and awesome God, I know You are true to Your word and that you are full of mercy and compassion for those who love You and call You LORD and obey Your word. We, your true church in America, have sinned and have made wrong choices that have resulted in allowing evil to prosper. We have rebelled against the principles You established for us in Your word and compromised with the world. We have adulterated the truth of Your word for our own purposes. We have not paid attention to Your word as declared by anointed men of faith. In spite of the many willing to boldly declare the truth of Your word, the church has chosen to divide rather than seek unity through the leading of the Spirit.

O Lord, You are righteous, and we are a shameful example of who You are to the unsaved masses. Father, we are ashamed of the leaders we have chosen to lead our nation in rebellion against You and to embrace the deception of the “god of this world,” Satan. We are to blame for this poor testimony because of our apathy and not choosing to love You with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. We have allowed evil to prosper through our willingness to be tolerant and compromise with the world. We have depended upon our own wisdom and have rejected Your wisdom.

We in the body of believers know that You are ready and willing to forgive us of our sin and rebellion if we but sincerely repent and ask. We know that nothing can separate us from Your love and protection. We also know that you chasten those You love and that we will reap what we sow. You have been so longsuffering, yet we know that Your righteousness demands that sin be punished. There is a remnant in the “church” who are penitent and are seeking Your face. Even as we seek Your face for mercy, we pray, “Your will be done.” We know that nothing can touch the lives of Your children except it be for good and to Your glory.

Strengthen us, Lord, in the power of Your Holy Spirit to boldly stand for the truth of Your word in love. Help us to love the sinner even as we hate his sin. Fill us with a zeal and passion to honor You in what we do, say and think. Help us, Lord, to die to self and truly place you on the throne of our lives. O Father, hear the prayer of Your servant and cause Your face to shine upon Your true church in America. May we serve as salt and light in turning our nation back to You. Father, our desire is to bring You honor and glory.

In the name of Your precious Son Jesus, our Savior, we pray, Amen.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Concluding Thoughts on the Letters to the 7 Churches

It seems quite clear that there are many applications to be made to the “church” today in this group of letters to some of the early churches. From the letter to Ephesus we learn that we need to constantly be on guard against regarding “service” as more important than fellowship with the Lord in worship, prayer and bible study. If we invest in fellowship, our service will come naturally and will be more joyful and fruitful. We also learned that the Lord wants us to exercise discernment in judging what is right and wrong. We are to approve the things He approves of and hate the things He hates. It’s important to note that His hatred is always directed at the “deeds” of the sinner, not the person.

From the letter to Smyrna we are encouraged to look at things from God’s perspective. Those we consider to be poor from an earthly perspective may actually be rich from a heavenly perspective. It’s sad but true that often the persecution of true believers comes from others who claim be part of the church but are actually impostors from the ranks of the enemy. We need to be mindful that Satan is the “god of this world” and exerts great power and authority. His influence will continue to strengthen on the world stage until Jesus comes to take His throne. Until the Lord chooses to come and take us home, believers are subject to persecution and imprisonment from those who serve Satan by rejecting Jesus. We are not to fear, however, because we will emerge victorious in Jesus when He comes to take His throne.

The letter to Pergamos warns us that believers are sometimes called upon to suffer a martyr’s death. We are warned not to compromise with the world and become a stumbling block to others. Also, we are warned to exercise discernment regarding false teaching. Discernment is only possible when one is familiar with the scripture, which is the only acceptable standard upon which correct discernment can be made.

By paying attention to the letter to Thyatira we are again warned that works are not proof of spiritual health. It is true that faith without works is dead; but it is also true that works are meaningless unless mixed with faith. Works without faith may provide some personal satisfaction to our sense of self-pride, but they have no eternal benefit. They may provide some temporary relief to others through the provision of physical needs, but they do nothing to provide for their spiritual needs. We are warned again about exercising discernment in identifying false teachers. We need to recognize that many false teachers begin their ministries by joining the church and gaining positions of leadership or influence. They then begin mixing in the leaven of their lies with the truth. The most dangerous enemies to the true church today have emerged from within its ranks. In this letter the Lord clearly declares that He will never expect more from us than we are able to give Him. The time may come when it will be all we can do to hold fast to our faith.

The letter to Sardis goes on to emphasize the truth that works without faith are dead. In the end what others think about us is not what is important; it’s what God knows about us that impacts our eternity. We also learned that it is possible for there to be true believers in a dead church. Again, this emphasizes that God is concerned about individuals. No one will be deemed judged unworthy based on with whom they fellowship here on earth. One is counted worthy who has not defiled his garments because he is washed in the blood of Jesus Christ.

In the message to Philadelphia we are reminded that though believers may suffer trials and/or persecutions in this lifetime while many of Satan’s followers seem to prosper in the eyes of the world, the time will come that the Lord will place us in a position of honor before them. They will know that despite what they may have thought based upon our circumstances while here on this earth, we are loved by our Father in heaven. We also learned that those who have proven their faith will be kept from the time of adversity that God has appointed on His prophetic calendar to carry out His vengeance upon His enemies in the world—the earth dwellers. We pilgrims of the faith are just sojourners here; we are heaven dwellers. This letter acknowledges that believers will suffer, but their patient endurance in the faith will be rewarded.

The letter to Laodicea is again a warning against hypocrisy. Not every “so called” church is comprised of believers. There are “churches” that serve as social clubs and go through the motions of service with no heart commitment before the Lord. They have plenty of money to do according to the wisdom and will of man, but they aren’t seeking to serve according to the wisdom and will of God. Still, God’s love compels Him to stand at the door and knock seeking fellowship. He wants to see them respond to Him with repentance and faith. He wants them to see with spiritual eyes and hear with spiritual ears. This echoes the truth that permeates scripture—God is not willing that any should perish.