Romans 4

Romans 4:1-3 MKJV What then shall we say that our father Abraham has found, according to flesh? (2) For if Abraham was justified by works, he has a boast; but not before God. (3) For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.”

There are a number of details that tie this chapter in with the previous chapter. For one thing, this is part of one long letter. Paul is still explaining the same subject. Now Paul is using another example straight from scripture, the story about Abraham. As usual, Paul knew just where to point us to review the story.

Genesis 15:1-10 MKJV After these things the Word of Jehovah came to Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram, I am your shield and your exceeding great reward. (2) And Abram said, Lord God, what will You give me, since I am going childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? (3) And Abram said, Behold, You have given no seed to me. And behold, one born in my house is my heir. (4) And behold, the Word of Jehovah came to him saying, This one shall not be your heir. But he that shall come forth out of your own bowels shall be your heir. (5) And He brought him outside and said, Look now toward the heavens and count the stars, if you are able to count them. And He said to him, So shall your seed be. (6) And he believed in Jehovah. And He counted it to him for righteousness. (7) And He said to him, I am Jehovah that brought you out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give you this land to inherit it. (8) And he said, Lord God, by what shall I know that I shall inherit it? (9) And He said to him, Take Me a heifer of three years old, and a she-goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon. (10) And he took all these to himself, and divided them in the middle, and laid each piece against one another; but he did not divide the birds.

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There are more sides to this story than Abraham’s faith, and how God appreciated that faith. We see how Abraham had to rely on God for a son. That shows how God had a plan. It also shows how we have to be patient with God when it comes to His plan. This story also shows a two way conversation between God and Abraham. This showed how God is able to talk to people, and how God chose to communicate with Abraham. God gave Abraham a son, blessings, land, and more. If we looked at the entire story, we would see how Abraham agreed to change one little part of God’s plan, and how that turned out to be a major mistake. Abraham’s first son, Ismael was the father of a whole group of nations that plagued Israel for generations.

God told Abraham to perform a rather odd ceremony. That ceremony lead to a prophecy about Israel and how they were held as slaves in Egypt. Did Abraham understand anything about that prophecy? What if he understood that prophecy? What could Abraham have done to change it? Nothing. Abraham couldn’t get God’s promise right. What could Abraham do about a prophecy he didn’t understand? Not a whole lot. That’s a lesson we need to look at.

Too many people are stuck on prophecies. That is their life, and the only thing they know about religion. They follow self made, modern day prophets who seem to never be right, but that never seem to loose a single member. Being wrongs brings publicity and more members. Why that happens is beyond me. But it does happen. Those modern day prophets make themselves out to be wiser than Abraham, and all the other prophets combined. Isn’t that something David and Isaiah warned about when we looked at the scripture Paul sent us to in the second chapter in his letter?

God made Abraham a promise, and Abraham accepted that promise. Accepting that promise made Abraham righteous in God’s eyes. Is it that easy? Could it be that easy? How did Abraham’s attempt at changing that promise effect his righteousness? The main point is, that one on one conversation with God. That’s where Paul is telling us where we need to be.

Righteousness Without Works

Romans 4:4-8 MKJV But to him working, the reward is not reckoned according to grace, but according to debt. (5) But to him not working, but believing on Him justifying the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. (6) Even as David also says of the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness without works, (7) saying, “Blessed are those whose lawlessnesses are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; (8) blessed is the man to whom the Lord will in no way impute sin.”

There are a number of ways to look at Paul’s comment on reward, grace, and debt. Based on Abraham’s life, we can see the lesson showing us what happens when people do a little work on God’s plan. That indeed turned out to be a debt. That is one example. Paul linked the word work to grace. Once again we have to ask, is Paul tying the two together, or using them as a contrast? The word, not, tells us, works and grace are contrasts. The next question to ask is, how do they contrast one another, and what is the lesson?

We can go on for what seems to be forever trying to pin point the difference between works and grace. Grace is free, and works is a form of trying to pay your way into Heaven. Does that mean we put aside all form of works and do nothing but rely on grace? Is that what Paul was trying to explain? I’ve heard it put that way. “We are under grace.” People use that term to more or less reinforce other beliefs. Some people insist grace has canceled the law. As we’ve seen in the previous chapter where faith and the law were compared, faith requires a certain amount of work. Faith requires investigation to formulate a decision. That is a part of faith people tend to ignore, because they confuse faith with grace. Grace is free, and for lack of a better term, faith requires a certain amount of work.

Does grace require any work at all? Let’s take a look at the definition of the word grace.

Grace G5485 χάρις charis khar’-ece

From G5463; graciousness (as gratifying), of manner or act (abstract or concrete; literal, figurative or spiritual; especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude): – acceptable, benefit, favour, gift, grace (-ious), joy liberality, pleasure, thank (-s, -worthy).

G5463 χαίρω chairō khah’ee-ro

A primary verb; to be full of “cheer”, that is, calmly happy or well off; impersonal especially as a salutation (on meeting or parting), be well: – farewell, be glad, God speed, greeting, hail, joy (-fully), rejoice.

We can see that grace is a, “manner or act.” That has nothing to do with the common concept of accepting a gift of grace from Jesus and doing nothing. Grace is a, “divine influence up the heart.” And grace is a reflection upon one’s life. That is one of the definitions of communication with Jesus, and one of the major forms of communication used by the Holy Spirit. In a sense, grace is linked to faith by communication. In a sense, grace requires a certain amount of dedication, growth, and that is achieved with the right form of communication.

On the other hand, work means to labor or toil. Within the context Paul wrote, does work mean to worry, labor over decisions, over think the situation, second guess the information you have, and let the subject consume you? Let’s look at that a moment with the example Paul gave us to examine. Abraham was given a promise. He had no idea how God was going to give him a son. Abraham and Sara thought about the subject so much, they came up with their own solution. They over worked the situation and came up with their own solution. Is that what Paul is trying to teach about works?

On another level, works is often associated with keeping the laws and traditions to work or buy your way into Heaven. In modern Christianity that is so rare, that phase of works is hardly worth commenting on. I have never met a Christian who actually believes they can work their way into Heaven. But I can’t count the number of Christians who preach that side of the subject, leave it at that, and think the answers are covered.

Paul went back to quoting David. In this case, Paul sent us to a Psalm where David expressed his view of forgiveness. Paul is expanding his explanation on the plan of salvation.

Psalms 32:1-11 MKJV A Psalm of David. A Contemplation. Blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. (2) Blessed is the man to whom Jehovah does not charge iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. (3) When I kept silence, my bones became old through my roaring all the day long. (4) For by day and by night Your hand was heavy on me; my sap is turned into the droughts of summer. Selah. (5) I confessed my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, I will confess my transgression to Jehovah; and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah. (6) For this let every godly one pray to You, in a time when You may be found; surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come near him. (7) You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall circle me with songs of deliverance. Selah. (8) I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you, My eye shall be on you. (9) Be not like the horse, or like the mule, who have no understanding, whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, so that they do not come near you. (10) The wicked has many sorrows, but mercy embraces him who trusts in Jehovah. (11) Be glad in Jehovah, and rejoice, you righteous; and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.

David covered the all important part of confessing our sins. That is an important part we do not want to skip over, or take lightly. Is confession works? What roles does confession play in grace? A large role.

When we look at David, we see a man who made his share of mistakes, and knew a forgiving God. After David confessed his sins, he found peace, which is part of the definition of grace. David described that peace as a resting place, a place of refuge, a stronghold, a place where he felt protected. Coming from a guy with the military back ground David had, that was the ultimate compliment he could pay to God. When we look at the the definition of grace, we find that definition in David’s Psalm. There is no doubt, David never thought he could work his way into God’s presence, much less Heaven. David knew he had to ask for forgiveness to enter God’s presence and find that peace. That is the lesson we need to learn. How to ask to be forgiven, to be cleansed by the blood Jesus shed, so we can enter into His presence to learn.

Faith and Righteousness

Romans 4:9-15 MKJV Is this blessedness then on the circumcision only, or on the uncircumcision also? For we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. (10) How then was it reckoned? Being in circumcision or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. (11) And he received a sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith while still uncircumcised; so that he might be the father of all those believing through uncircumcision, for righteousness to be imputed to them also; (12) and a father of circumcision to those not of the circumcision only, but also to those walking by the steps of the faith of our father Abraham during uncircumcision. (13) For the promise that he should be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. (14) For if they of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is made of no effect; (15) because the Law works out wrath, for where no law is, there is no transgression.

Paul wants us to go back and review Abraham’s story. And we should.

And Abram continued, Look, You have given me no child; and [a servant] born in my house is my heir. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, This man shall not be your heir, but he who shall come from your own body shall be your heir. (Genesis 15:3-4 AMP).

This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your posterity after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. And you shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be a token or sign of the covenant (the promise or pledge) between Me and you. (Genesis 17:10-11 AMP).

God gave Abraham the promise of a child in Genesis chapter 15. The covenant of circumcision was given in chapter 17. Abraham received the promise before he was circumcised. That made a point Paul took advantage of. God called and blessed Abraham before he was circumcised. A lesson the Jews in Rome had to learn.

When we go back to David, we see the lesson Paul is teaching about the law. How could David, or anyone confess sins without laws? That would be impossible. Without the law there could be no confession. Without confession, there would be no cleansing of the heart or soul. Without the cleansing, there would be no way to approach God’s throne, no refuge, no peace, joy, or safety. The law serves its purpose. Grace serves another purpose. Faith and righteousness serve their own purpose. The problem is, people try to bundle them all together and miss all the little details, the steps to the feet of Jesus.

Faith and Grace

Romans 4:16-25 MKJV Therefore it is of faith so that it might be according to grace; for the promise to be made sure to all the seed, not only to that which is of the Law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (17) (as it has been written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) –before God, whom he believed, who makes the dead live, and calls the things which do not exist as though they do exist. (18) For he who beyond hope believed on hope for him to become the father of many nations (according to that which was spoken, “So your seed shall be”). (19) And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body already dead (being about a hundred years old) or the deadening of Sarah’s womb. (20) He did not stagger at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God, (21) and being fully persuaded that what God had promised, He was also able to perform. (22) And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. (23) Now it was not written for him alone that it was imputed to him, (24) but for us also to whom it is to be imputed, to the ones believing on Him who has raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; (25) who was delivered because of our offenses and was raised for our justification.

I did something a little different here to help you follow along with the way I look at scripture. I made a few of the key words BOLD, and underlined what Paul quoted in scripture. Those are two of the most important Bible Study methods I follow. First the key words.

A lot of theologians and authors tend to group words like faith, grace, and righteousness together, giving them the same weight and meaning. We have seen how faith includes a great deal of research, looking to God, and relying on the Spirit for answers to of course, make a decision. What is grace?

GRACE G5485 χάρις charis khar’-ece

From G5463; graciousness (as gratifying), of manner or act (abstract or concrete; literal, figurative or spiritual; especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude): – acceptable, benefit, favour, gift, grace (-ious), joy liberality, pleasure, thank (-s, -worthy).

G5463 χαίρω chairō khah’ee-ro

A primary verb; to be full of “cheer”, that is, calmly happy or well off; impersonal especially as a salutation (on meeting or parting), be well: – farewell, be glad, God speed, greeting, hail, joy (-fully), rejoice.

What is righteousness?

RIGHTEOUSNESS G1343 δικαιοσύνη dikaiosunē dik-ah-yos-oo’-nay

From G1342; equity (of character or act); specifically (Christian) justification: – righteousness.

G1342 δίκαιος dikaios dik’-ah-yos

From G1349; equitable (in character or act); by implication innocent, holy (absolutely or relatively): – just, meet, right (-eous).

G1349 δίκηdikē dee’-kay

Probably from G1166; right (as self evident), that is, justice (the principle, a decision, or its execution): – judgment, punish, vengeance.

G1166 δεικνύω deiknuō dike-noo’-o

A prolonged form of an obsolete primary of the same meaning; to show (literally or figuratively): – shew.

When we look at grace, we see the easy, and most acceptable term used in the definition. Grace does include the concept of a free gift, which is how many people define grace, and stop at that point. Grace includes gratitude, joy, and happiness. Can we be joyful or happy with things we can’t see, or understand? Paul tied faith in with grace for a reason. Faith is the act of searching out the truth. Grace is more than a free gift. Grace is understanding that free gift to the degree, you are happy about it. You are so joyful, you can’t help but share that information. That is another Christian concept that is not poorly explained, and blurred by common Christian traditions.

What does the traditional Christian worship service consist of? Sitting in an audience, listing to someone preach, or teach. That basically covers the investigation process for a lot of Christians. Is that the type of faith, or investigation Paul was teaching about?

Are you happier when you see someone receive a gift, or when you receive a gift? You see, there are degrees of happiness. Marriage, seeing your new baby for the first time, winning the lottery, and a host of other events can bring a great deal of joy. The type of joy people can’t help but see on your face. On the other hand, there are a number of events, like a TV program, reading news in social media, seeing a driver stop their car to let you in, and other minor events that bring a small sense of joy. What level does grace reach in your life?

Can grace ever reach the highest level of joy when you receive the news from anyone else? You have to admit the fact, you feel something missing inside if you have not found that one on one connection with Christ where He explains what He has done for you. Not only on the cross, but during His ministry in Heaven. If a preacher tells you only about the cross, you are missing 99% of the news, and 99% of the joy.

What do we get when we look at righteousness? We see righteousness is equity. What is equity? The most common term for equity relates to a home. People gets a loan to buy a house, makes payments, and a small part of that payment builds equity in the home. Equity relates to value that is built in over time. Paul used Abraham as an example, because Abraham was a great example of a man who built a friendship with God. Abraham had to build up his trust in God, as well as his love for God. Abraham did that through real life events.

Not only did Abraham leave his homeland, Abraham went into Egypt, made a mistake, and came out a rich man. That mistake, lesson, and blessing were repeated. Those events showed how forgiving God was, and how gracious He can be. Each time God blessed Abraham, those blessings built trust, and respect. A process we need to pay attention to.

Genesis 17:1-8 RSVA When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. (2) And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.” (3) Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, (4) “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. (5) No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. (6) I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you. (7) And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. (8) And I will give to you, and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”

We can see how loosely Paul quoted the story about Abraham. This shows how Paul sends people back to read the entire story about Abraham’s life. The good as well as the bad. Abraham’s story tells us about his relationship with God. We all make mistakes, and God will be with us during our mistakes. And, there is always a blessing on the other side of those mistakes. That is a part of God’s grace we don’t hear about everyday. No preacher in the world could stand up and make a list of all of your mistakes and how Jesus walked through them next to you. Of course, who would want a preacher telling them about all the mistakes they made? That is between you and Jesus.

Somehow, Abraham having a child at the ripe old age of 99 is supposed to be an example that can build our faith. In my opinion, that is something you need to sit down with Jesus and talk about. That is a personal issue. The birth of a son always brings joy, especially when you live as long as Abraham did and decided long ago to set aside all hope. Everyone has issues like that – giving up hope before seeing Jesus step in with an answer. That is part of the relationship with God no one can share in the classic worship service. We have to go beyond standardized worship services to find God.

Chapter 7 The Saved

After looking at the lost, there has to be the lingering question on your mind, how are you saved? Of course that’s the goal. The goal is to make it Heaven, to see God’s throne, to meet Jesus, receive your crown, and a stone with your name on it. At least that is what we learn in nominal Christian circles. Why don’t we talk more about Heaven? Why don’t we study more about Heaven? What is with this world? We explore the oceans, dig in the earth for fossils, and remnants from lost civilizations, we’ve even sent people to the moon. We have telescopes and cameras all over the universe, but few people search out a distinct and clear view of Heaven. Why is that so?

I’ve already written a book based on visions of Heaven found in the Bible. I would consider those visions clear and accurate. It was an interesting book to dwell on and write. But books about Heaven just don’t sell. Not at all.

This chapter may not give a view of Heaven, but we will look at what the Bible says about people who are saved. How are they saved and why are the saved? This of course will not be a complete view, but a look at some of the most popular scripture on the subject. Our journey begins in Romans.

Romans 5:15-21 RSVA But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. (16) And the free gift is not like the effect of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. (17) If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. (18) Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men. (19) For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous. (20) Law came in, to increase the trespass; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, (21) so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

I’m sure most of you have read this chapter, or at least a few sentences from this chapter. There are three main themes many Christians concentrate on in this chapter. The first is, sin entered this world through one man, Adam. Actually sin came into this planet through Eve, then Adam. The point is, this story leads us back to another story in the Bible found in Genesis.

The part about this story that has confused me for some time is the part about sin entering this world through one man, and grace through of course, Jesus, who is mentioned as one man. What is Paul trying to get to? I had to read this many times and pray about the information Paul presented before I could begin to understand it. Paul is using a simple example. An example we should find easy to understand. To get the meaning of the story, we have to go back a review the story Paul pointed to and used as an example.

Eve was the first person to sin. Eve was of course tempted by Satan. Eve gave into a minor suggestion. Satan appeared to offer more than what God had given Adam and Eve. And Eve fell for that deception. That of course was the first sin. As far as we know, the first sin in the Universe. But Satan was busy in Heaven questioning God, looking for more, and for lack of a better term, plotting a rebellion in Heaven. We have no idea how many years of experience Satan accumulated in Heaven. We do know, Satan became an expert in deception in Heaven. Satan was in daily contact with God. Satan knew Jesus. But Satan decided that was not enough for him. He convinced himself, then thousands of angels that there was more than what God had given them. We don’t know what Satan saw, believed, or was after. That information was not recorded in scripture. We do know, Satan was able to deceive angels. Angels who saw and knew God. Angels who once worshiped in front of God’s throne. If Satan could accomplish that, what chance do we have?

There is something in the fact, Satan was able to deceive Eve. Why didn’t Satan go after Adam? When we look at scripture we see, God warned Adam about the fruit on that tree. It was Adam’s job to inform and protect Eve. Did Adam do his job? There is something mysterious about those circumstances.

Eve was the first to eat the forbidden fruit. Somehow Eve was able to convince Adam to eat the fruit. In other words, Eve was able to accomplish what Satan was unable to do, or maybe afraid to try. Adam took the word of his wife over God. In short, Adam sinned on more than one front.

Paul used Adam as an example for a reason. Is it because Adam took the word of the only other human being on this planet over God’s word? That could be one of the reasons. But to get to the facts, we have to follow that story a little further.

Sin of course introduced a set of curses. On the surface those curses may look simple to understand. But do we look at those curses based on the way this world chose to understand them? Or do we look at those curses from a point of view from Heaven? After all, those curses did originate in Heaven.

Genesis 3:14-19 RSVA The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all cattle, and above all wild animals; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. (15) I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (16) To the woman he said, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (17) And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; (18) thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. (19) In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

We all know, that first curse on Satan was a prophecy. It had a spiritual meaning. Why would God move from the prophetic and spiritual state to a physical state of thinking at this point? When we look at the curses as book ends, we find the answer. Adam and all men and women will return to dust. Satan will crawl along his belly and eat the dust of the earth. Put the two together and what do we have? We have Satan eating up people. Is that true? If it is, we can continue along this train of thought.

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Satan has one goal in mind. To take as many of us into the pit he is responsible for making. He goal is to eat up people, the dust of this earth. Now let’s go onto the next curse.

There will be a hatred between Eve and Satan. Eve is given the role of a warrior. Her hatred for Satan is the key Eve needs to protect her family. Eve made a mistake she can never make up for and she can never correct on her own. But one of her offspring will crush Satan’s head. Satan heard that. Satan knows that. And of course, Satan did everything in his power to save his own skin. But he failed.

Eve was also cursed with the pain of giving birth. Every woman who has given birth knows about the physical pain. Every good husband has witnessed that suffering and knows how unqualified he is to relieve that pain. There are a host of spiritual lessons attached to those physical attributes. After birth, Eve had to protect her sons and daughters from Satan’s relentless and never ending attacks. Let’s look at the odds. A third of the angles in Heaven were cast down to this planet. They had nothing better to do than to tempt and torture a few human beings. Can you imagine the pressure Adam, Eve, and their family faced? Can you imagine the spiritual pain and suffering Eve had to face everyday of her life knowing she was responsible for the condition of this world. Eve had no choice but to live with it. We can see how that child bearing pain went way beyond the few hours it takes to bring a new life into this world. The curse was no doubt spiritual.

The curse on Adam was of course also spiritual as well as physical. God reminded Adam, he listened to his wife, and took her word over the direct instructions he received from God. In a sense, that hurt God. That struck at God. Adam didn’t fall to the temptation Satan laid on Eve. Adam received his temptation second hand. That made it worse. Sin was rolling downhill and gaining momentum. Now we can begin to see one of the points Paul was making in Romans. People have a choice. They can follow after Adam and take the word of someone who has not received a direct command or message from God, or we can go to Jesus who has chosen to live every minute of His life on this planet being open, willing, and able to receive instructions, knowledge, and wisdom from God. In most cases, which path do people prefer to choose? How can we miss that point in the example Paul laid out for us in Romans?

The curse on Adam gets deeper. The soil Adam, the tree, and that fruit came from was cursed. When God created soil, it was good. Sin changed all of that and more. Thorns and thistles popped up all over the earth. A direct reference to other stories in the Bible and a clear description of the fallen angels who now had a new planet to call their own.

Adam was sentenced to a life of toil. A life of hard word. How else would you describe the relentless attacks those fallen angels launched on the only two people on this planet. Raising a family was not going to be easy. In modern terms, we can never hope to remove all the thrones and thistles in our hearts and lives. That is a never ending battle. Caring for a garden is a prime example. Pull out all the weeds, and you are sure to miss a few. After a few weeks, new weeds pop up all over the place and you find yourself back on your hands and knees sweating just like Adam. At times it all seems hopeless. Paul offered an alternative. The God who created the ground knows how to clean it up once and for all.

Eventually Adam would physically return to the dust God formed him from. The Lord gives and takes away. God knew how to make a man out of dust. And God knew how to make dust out of men. Something we should never forget. God didn’t want Adam to forget about Him. God didn’t want Adam to forget who created him, and who is always in control. That was one of the points Paul was pointing to on his letter.

Paul also mentioned grace in his letter. If we base our salvation on a few choice verses, Romans chapter 5 would contain one of them. Some people look at a verse or two and walk away with the impression, Jesus died for their sins. Jesus fixed what was broken by Adam and there is nothing for anyone to do. That’s not what we learned in previous studies in this book. Finding out about Jesus is only one step in a long journey. Jesus talked about that journey and John recorded key components to that process in his Gospel. But who wants to learn about a process with a number of key steps when the church down the street advertises an easier one step process.

It seems we have a choice. We can follow Adam’s lead, and take the word of another human being, or we can choose to accept what God has told us with His own voice. But this world seems to teach us that, God has left this world on its own. Is that true? Did God leave Adam and Eve on their own? Or did He continue to look over them, and talk to them? If Adam heard God, why don’t we accept that aspect of Adam and make it part of our own lives? God talked with Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, a host of prophets, Jesus, the apostles, and more. Why not you and me? Is God selective, or is it one of our problems? We do have a host of religions who insist, God only talks with a few choice people. Or, after the Bible was finished, there was no reason for God to talk to anyone on this planet. There are a million excuses and false conceptions people have about God. Just because they have a license to preach, a wall full of diplomas, and other credentials handed to them from who knows where, does that mean they have an open line to God we can’t have? Come on now. Let’s look at God and accept Him and His written word with an open mind. Does God love any less than He loved Adam, Eve, Samuel, David, Moses, or His own Son? Could God love one person less than He loves another? Does God have a way of measuring His love and rationing it out? If God’s love is limitless, so is His communication.

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Paul outlined a choice. We can either choose to face death, or the free gift of righteousness. Do we need to work for that free gift? What happiness do we receive from any gift if we don’t open the package? Is there work involved in the free gift Jesus has prepared for us? We would have to dig into the subject to find out. Now to ask one question. Is studying the subject of grace work? Would studying grace and learning more about God, Jesus, the plan of salvation, and other related subjects disqualify us from receiving the the salvation Paul wrote about?

Romans 11:29-36 RSVA For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. (30) Just as you were once disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, (31) so they have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may receive mercy. (32) For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all. (33) O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (34) “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” (35) “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” (36) For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory for ever. Amen.

It wasn’t by mistake Paul blended mercy with the unsearchable wisdom, knowledge, and judgments of God. It’s true, God has to make a decision. Not everyone will be saved. Paul tells us, we are not going to find that judgment process easy to find nor understand. God’s judgment is way beyond the understanding of this world. Does that mean we give up? Does that mean we leave the search to qualified and specially trained individuals? Who do you think Paul was wring this letter to? When we look at the last chapter in Romans, we see Paul wasn’t writing to institutions of higher learning or church leaders. Paul was writing to common, everyday people. Paul was writing to people who didn’t have all the answers, but were interested in finding them. As a matter of fact, Paul sent them to a place in scripture so they could find a portion of that answer.

Isaiah 40:10-18 RSVA Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. (11) He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms, he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. (12) Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? (13) Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as his counselor has instructed him? (14) Whom did he consult for his enlightenment, and who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding? (15) Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the isles like fine dust. (16) Lebanon would not suffice for fuel, nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering. (17) All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness. (18) To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?

We can instantly see the connection between Romans chapter 11 and Isaiah chapter 40. We should be able to see how Paul was influenced and inspired by Isaiah. We know God is coming. We know God’s strength. Or at least how God’s strength exceeds anything and everything in this world. We also know how Jesus feeds and cares for His flock. What we have to learn is, how this world fails to know God. We have to face the fact, many people prefer to rely on themselves. We learned this lesson when we looked at Genesis. Adam took Eve’s word over God. After that, God explained that mishap in a number of different ways. It is repeated in the Bible so many times, we know this is an important point. No one can do what God has done, can do for us, or is going to do with this world. All we can do is hope to find God, and gain a little more understanding about God. Is that what being saved is all about? Would you consider that a form of works? Of course – searching for God requires a bit of effort. But when Paul tells people to search out God, and blends it in with grace and salvation, do we start messing with the ingredients, or do we follow the recipe?

Who is saved? Paul and Isaiah agree, that is not for us to decide, and difficult for us to understand. Do we avoid teaching about subjects we don’t understand? It is wrong to present yourself as an authority on a subject you know little about. On the other hand, it is healthy to share. There is so much information on the subject of salvation, none of us could learn all the details in a lifetime. But we can share what we know. And we can learn from other people. Isn’t that what Paul told us to do?

Prophecies Revealing the Messiah Genesis Through Numbers

Exodus 16:21 Manna

Exodus 16:21 KJV And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted.

After a number of plagues Pharaoh finally gave up for a time, letting Israel go free. It was an answer to a question Moses asked when he first approached the man he grew up with as a brother. To me it rose the question, why couldn’t Moses reach someone he grew up with as a brother? Look at the discussion when Moses first approached Pharaoh. After his presentation to Israel’s leaders, Moses and Aaron went to meet with Pharaoh. They told him, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Let my people go so they may hold a festival in my honor in the wilderness.” “Is that so?” retorted Pharaoh. “And who is the LORD? Why should I listen to him and let Israel go? I don’t know the LORD, and I will not let Israel go.” (Exodus 5:1-2 NLTse).

What is the lesson? We all seem to experience the same problem, members of our own family do not know God. It seems this is a lesson repeated time and time again in Israel’s journey through the wilderness. With all the miracles God performed before their eyes, Israel’s faith remained small. God gave the head of the household the responsibility of performing the detailed ceremony for the Passover to show them the role of the priest in the family was not only a right, but a requirement.

After going through all of these experiences, many of the Israelites showed how much their confidence grew in God. As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the LORD, and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!'” (Exodus 14:10-12 NLTse).

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Looking back a few verses we see how some people doubted, being more concerned about themselves more than God’s plan. Not only had they failed to see God’s power, they also misunderstood the reason behind the sequence of events. “Order the Israelites to turn back and camp by Pi-hahiroth between Migdol and the sea. Camp there along the shore, across from Baal-zephon. Then Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are confused. They are trapped in the wilderness!’ And once again I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after you. I have planned this in order to display my glory through Pharaoh and his whole army. After this the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD!” So the Israelites camped there as they were told. (Exodus 14:2-4 NLTse).

Don’t we often have the same problem. Isn’t this the reason many people try to avoid God when a trial first arises? We try as hard as we can to fight and worry our way through a problem while the Creator is only a prayer away. We trust and rely more on our limited wisdom than our original manufacturer. If only we knew the plans and details God puts into solving our problems. If we did, we may never worry about, or let those situations get to us.

As Israel journeyed to the promised land it became evident they had not planned properly for the trip. After all, they had no idea where they were going or how long it would take. After a few days the little food they brought ran out. They went to Moses, complaining as usual. If one man’s faith was growing, it was Moses. He turned to God and prayed. He knew God would answer. Moses knew God had a plan.

As God looked down at the more than one million people following Moses out of Egypt, He knew exactly what He was going to do. Part of His plan was to wait a little bit to test each individual faith. Some were going to complain no matter what happened. Others waited for real trials to show up before complaining. Many of them could endure the trial for a time before eventually joining what seemed to be the majority of complainers. How many endured until God moved His hand? Did their joy and praise reflect their faith in God? In a way there is a parallel between testing of Israel’s faith and Jesus’ parable of the sower.

When the time was right, God brought bread from Heaven. We are told the Israelites had no idea what it was and called it manna, which means, what is it? Is this also a type of prophecy? John explains what this manna from Heaven represented. It was not only physical food, but also taught a spiritual lesson.

John 6:33-35 KJV For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. (34) Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. (35) And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

It seems the simple message about this bread is often misunderstood. Jesus had to explain exactly what this means. Today everyone claims to know what the bread represents but do they understand what it means to never hunger or thirst? This was such an important point, Jesus went on to explain it in more detail.

John 6:49-51 KJV Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. (50) This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. (51) I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

When we look at what Jesus is explaining, we see He is referring to His sacrifice, which gives us eternal life. The flesh Jesus gave was His life. How do we eat Jesus’ flesh, His life? How many aspects and details does this cover? All of them?

We need to have Jesus living in our hearts, minds, every part of out physical body and spiritual life. We consume Him through His word, like this study. Every time we open His Word, the Spirit prepares a feast. Jesus comes to our hearts, knocks, and can’t wait to sit down and dine with us. This spiritual connection feeds our faith. He answers our prayers, solves our problems, send us blessings though nature, relationships with others, unexpected blessings, every aspect of our lives. Like Israel’s journey through the wilderness, God knows the trials we will face long before we see them.

What other ways do we take Jesus into our lives? How do we take in His spiritual bread and water? What would our lives be without His influence in our life? Are their parts of our lives we still insist we can manage better than Jesus? Why did the manna in the wilderness melt away when the sun rose.

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John Chapter 2

John 2:1-25 NLTse The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesusmother was there, (2) and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. (3) The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.” (4) “Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” (5) But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” (6) Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons. (7) Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” When the jars had been filled, (8) he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions. (9) When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. (10) “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!” (11) This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him. (12) After the wedding he went to Capernaum for a few days with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples. (13) It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. (14) In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. (15) Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. (16) Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” (17) Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.” (18) But the Jewish leaders demanded, “What are you doing? If God gave you authority to do this, show us a miraculous sign to prove it.” (19) “All right,” Jesus replied. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (20) “What!” they exclaimed. “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and you can rebuild it in three days?” (21) But when Jesus said “this temple,” he meant his own body. (22) After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this, and they believed both the Scriptures and what Jesus had said. (23) Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him. (24) But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew human nature. (25) No one needed to tell him what mankind is really like.

If nothing else, John’s style of writing as well as his book are unique. John included stories such as these found in chapter 2, as well as others not found in other gospels. Why, I don’t know why, but Bible writers have a way of introducing a subject then adding details later. Is this what John is doing on a spiritual level when we look at the gospels as a whole? The only way to know is to compare what John gives us and follow the law of context that tells us to look back to see how the author led into the subject.

Here is one of the most important Bible Study steps you want to learn and use:

Always look back to see how the author led into the event at hand. Most of us know in original scripture, neither the Old or New Testaments were divided into chapters and verses. That came much later. That has little to do with this rule, but to understand scripture, we have to look for patterns. One of those is how the author lead from one event to the next.

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John 2:1-11 NLTse The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesusmother was there, (2) and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. (3) The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.” (4) “Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” (5) But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” (6) Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons. (7) Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” When the jars had been filled, (8) he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions. (9) When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. (10) “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!” (11) This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

Because John didn’t record anything about Jesus leaving for forty days while He faced Satan’s temptations, it’s difficult to determine timing between those stories in John’s book. John began this story by pointing out it was the next day. The original Greek tells us it was the third day. We can assume this may be the third day after His baptism. But we’re not here to examine the exact timing of every event in John’s book but to look at his story as a whole. The first step is to look back at the link between the end of chapter 1 and the beginning of chapter 2.

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Come, follow me.” Philip was from Bethsaida, Andrew and Peter’s hometown. Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.” “Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” “Come and see for yourself,” Philip replied. As they approached, Jesus said, “Now here is a genuine son of Israel–a man of complete integrity.” “How do you know about me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus replied, “I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you.” Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God–the King of Israel!” Jesus asked him, “Do you believe this just because I told you I had seen you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” Then he said, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.” (John 1:43-51 NLTse).

I think the last verse is the one to concentrate on here. Jesus promised Nathanael he would see Heaven open up and angles going between Heaven and earth. John followed that with Jesus at a wedding with His mother and some disciples. This is where Jesus performed His first miracle. Is that the spiritual view of the stairway Jesus promised Nathanael would see? Jesus called Nathanael, “a genuine son of Israel–a man of complete integrity.” Was Jesus referring to Nathanael’s ability to see the spiritual side of issues and events?

We also have to compare this introduction to the summary in the chapter. This will help us to understand the theme as well as the style John used to write this chapter.

Examine chapters by first comparing the introduction to the summation. This will give you clues by telling you want to look for within that chapter. If they are contrasts, the chapter will have contrasting stories and characters teaching the same lesson. If the introduction contains contrasts, the summation will most likely contain a contract. When you see this, stories within the chapter will also contain contrasts. The literal form of the introduction and summation will show what types of details to pay special attention to.

But the Jewish leaders demanded, “What are you doing? If God gave you authority to do this, show us a miraculous sign to prove it.” (19) “All right,” Jesus replied. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (20) “What!” they exclaimed. “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and you can rebuild it in three days?” (21) But when Jesus said “this temple,” he meant his own body. (22) After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this, and they believed both the Scriptures and what Jesus had said. (23) Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him. (24) But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew human nature. (25) No one needed to tell him what mankind is really like.

We see a number of details in this summation. Jesus talked about destroying the temple. John explained, Jesus was referring to His body, which of course points to His death, three days in the tomb, and resurrection. We see Jesus’ first miracle performed in the introduction and an explanation of His greatest miracle.

John pointed out how those miracles made a difference after Jesus rose from that tomb. This makes us ask what impression they made on the disciples while they saw Jesus performing those miracles. What went through their minds when they saw Jesus turn clay pots filled with water to wine? Does that water point to a spiritual lesson? The water was used for ceremonial cleaning. Water was also used for baptism, a sort of New Testament ceremonial cleaning in addition to the symbol of a new individual beginning.

John pointed out, Jesus didn’t trust people because He knew human nature. What did that mean? It’s early in Jesus’ ministry. He prepared for about thirty years before He began His ministry. At the wedding Jesus said, “My time has not yet come.” What was He referring to? It may be pointing out, He hadn’t defeated Satan before that wedding. If that was on His mind, Jesus would have been observing how Satan’s agents controlled people. That would have been something on Jesus mind throughout His ministry and life.

We also see the word servant repeated in this story. They prepared the water for Jesus and carried the wine to the person in charge of the wedding. This showed how Jesus needed people to assist Him throughout His ministry. This is another detail to look out for as we progress through John’s book.

John 2:12-25 NLTse After the wedding he went to Capernaum for a few days with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples. (13) It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. (14) In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. (15) Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. (16) Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” (17) Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.” (18) But the Jewish leaders demanded, “What are you doing? If God gave you authority to do this, show us a miraculous sign to prove it.” (19) “All right,” Jesus replied. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (20) “What!” they exclaimed. “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and you can rebuild it in three days?” (21) But when Jesus said “this temple,” he meant his own body. (22) After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this, and they believed both the Scriptures and what Jesus had said. (23) Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him. (24) But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew human nature. (25) No one needed to tell him what mankind is really like.

This is a rather short chapter containing only two stories. The question is, what is the connecting factor? One stands out above all. At the wedding John tells us, “But you have kept the best until now!” The story about the temple closed with Jesus telling about His death, three days in the tomb, and resurrection.

John is the only author who tells us about the first time Jesus cleared out the temple court. His story reflects the same effects and reasoning as the other author’s account when Jesus cleared the temple court before He returned to teach a number of parables and answered a number of questions asked by different groups of religious leaders. John also added a detail telling us what Jesus did before He went into the courtyard. “Jesus made a whip from some ropes.”

This is another time you want to sit and think about this scene, putting yourself into it. Imagine Jesus sitting outside the courtyard gate weaving a whip out of ropes. I’ve heard dozens of sermons claiming this story proves Jesus got angry. Some sermons try to call it a sort of controlled anger. But look at the details and ask yourself, how long did it take Jesus to weave a whip out of ropes, and what was He thinking about while He was weaving a series of ropes?

Jesus wasn’t displaying any type of pent up anger. Jesus thought about what He was about to do and prayed why He sat outside that gate. He knew what He was doing and the lesson He was about to teach. Nothing was a spur of the moment outburst in any part of Jesus’ ministry. What was the lesson Jesus taught here?

We get our first clue by looking at the key words. Key words are words the author repeated to draw attention to details. Words like merchants and dealers combined with exchanging foreign money, and marketplace tell us why Jesus formed that whip. How many people lost their money during the time Jesus formed that whip, and how many people wasted their money thinking it was buying them forgiveness for their sins? Jesus had to show them it was time for a change.

Key words are words the author repeated to draw attention to his main thought, point, or lesson. Key words are words that are the SAME, SIMILAR, or RELATED.

It may take a bit of practice to develop a pattern highlighting key words. I look at it as a fundamental and necessary way for God’s Spirit to slow you down and get you to listen. It’s difficult to thoroughly highlight all the key words in one pass. You have no choice but to go back and forth over scripture to do a complete job. Many people have heard of other texts in the Bible that show us how to study, such as line upon line, and using a churning method of going back and forth over scripture. Now you know what that means.

Cattle, sheep, and doves are also repeated. Neither one of those do a thing to forgive sins. In the Old Testament they were referred to as an atonement, which is a reminder. The book of Hebrews goes into detail to explain that change.

Once again we see Jesus quoting scripture. Let’s look at the entire verse. Passion for your house has consumed me, and the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me. (Psalms 69:9 NLTse). This is usually all most people will look at. But if we examine a few verses around that verse, we see one of the messages Jesus pointed to.

Even my own brothers pretend they don’t know me; they treat me like a stranger. Passion for your house has consumed me, and the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me. When I weep and fast, they scoff at me. When I dress in burlap to show sorrow, they make fun of me. I am the favorite topic of town gossip, and all the drunks sing about me. But I keep praying to you, LORD, hoping this time you will show me favor. In your unfailing love, O God, answer my prayer with your sure salvation. (Psalms 69:8-13 NLTse).

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Once we look at a few other verses, we see why Jesus quoted this scripture. He pointed them to a prophecy about Himself. We see how much Jesus cared about those priests when we see the prophecy refereed to them as His brothers. We also see they thought of Jesus as a stranger, or a little strange. What would they think of Jesus when He walked into their courtyard and put them out of business during the busiest time of the year, Passover? Would that scripture have been enough for them to overcome their financial losses and attitude toward Christ? Look at the detail we see in the introduction to Psalms 69.

Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck. Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can’t find a foothold. I am in deep water, and the floods overwhelm me. I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched. My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me. Those who hate me without cause outnumber the hairs on my head. Many enemies try to destroy me with lies, demanding that I give back what I didn’t steal. (Psalms 69:1-4 NLTse).

Another prophecy about Jesus. This shows how Jesus felt and what He thought about while He was outside forming that whip. One look at that courtyard and Jesus felt like He was drowning. Jesus was just beginning His ministry and He was tired of crying. He was crying His whole life. It was time to get up and do something, to put God’s plan of salvation into action on time and on course. Jesus was definitely outnumbered. He was facing off against the priests, Pharisees, Sadducees, temple guards, Roman guards, Herod’s people, and a bunch of people who couldn’t understand His message. That didn’t slow down Jesus. You think David had to have a lot of faith to face his giant, think of what Jesus went up against.

If you still don’t believe Jesus pointed people back to scripture to see at least ten times more than the small message He gave them, look at the summation in Psalms 69.

Then I will praise God’s name with singing, and I will honor him with thanksgiving. For this will please the LORD more than sacrificing cattle, more than presenting a bull with its horns and hooves. The humble will see their God at work and be glad. Let all who seek God’s help be encouraged. For the LORD hears the cries of the needy; he does not despise his imprisoned people. Praise him, O heaven and earth, the seas and all that move in them. For God will save Jerusalem and rebuild the towns of Judah. His people will live there and settle in their own land. The descendants of those who obey him will inherit the land, and those who love him will live there in safety. (Psalms 69:30-36 NLTse).

I don’t think I need to explain what’s been recorded in Psalms 69 and how it relates to John chapter 2. Can you see Jesus thinking about this Psalm as He’s sitting outside working on that whip? If those pastors trying to make an excuse to release their anger, or trying to explain their personal interpretation on that story had spent a little time, turned and few pages and looked where Jesus pointed them, where God’s Spirit was trying to lead them, they couldn’t have missed this message. The sad fact is, if those religious leaders had looked at that scripture, they would have never put Jesus on that cross.

To think, when I try to teach this simple study method, some people argue, saying there’s no need to waste time looking up scripture Jesus quoted. How can you hope to understand half of what’s in the gospels or New testament if you don’t look at Old Testament scripture Jesus and other people quoted? Those people who argue with me think it’s a simple matter of looking at a few texts going with whatever pops into your head. Isn’t that a form of eastern religion – relying on your inner being? Isn’t that in conflict with relying on God’s Word and relying on His Spirit? Not only are those people hurting themselves, but they are holding other people back from the simple things God is holding out to them. What could be easier than following clear and simple instructions in the Bible?

We see the words miraculous sign repeated. Those religious leaders asked what authority Jesus had in addition to asking for a sign. If they were listening, they would had seen, Jesus gave them everything they needed. That whip showed how all the words in scripture are woven together. They didn’t listen to Jesus. They didn’t go back to scripture. They didn’t know how to rely on God’s Spirit. No wonder Jesus didn’t trust them.

Parallels in Revelation: Chapters 1-12

Chapter 2 The Description of Jesus

This is one of the most amazing lessons in the Book of Revelation. This small section in chapter one is a rather lengthy description of Jesus. What a lot of people don’t realize is, this description is broken down and distributed among the seven churches. Why is it broken down and distributed? That repeats the lesson we have already read about and covered in the previous chapter. Gather all the facts and study them. Here we will list the example Jesus gave us to study.

Revelation 1:12-16 MKJV (12) And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. (13) And having turned, I saw seven golden lampstands. And in the midst of the seven lampstands I saw One like the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the feet, and tied around the breast with a golden band. (14) His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And His eyes were like a flame of fire. (15) And His feet were like burnished brass having been fired in a furnace. And His voice was like the sound of many waters. (16) And He had seven stars in His right hand, and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword. And His face was like the sun shining in its strength.

It may be easier to make a list from the text above and put it together with the text from the letters to the seven churches.

And having turned, I saw seven golden lampstands. And in the midst of the seven lampstands I saw One like the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the feet, and tied around the breast with a golden band.

Revelation 2:1 MKJV To the angel of the church of Ephesus write: He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands, says these things.

Revelation 1:17-18 MKJV (17) And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying to me, Do not fear, I am the First and the Last, (18) and the Living One, and I became dead, and behold, I am alive for ever and ever, Amen. And I have the keys of hell and of death.

Revelation 2:8 MKJV And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The First and the Last, who became dead and lived, says these things:

and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword

Revelation 2:12 MKJV And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write: He who has the sharp sword with two edges says these things.

And His eyes were like a flame of fire. And His feet were like burnished brass having been fired in a furnace

Revelation 2:18 MKJV And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The Son of God, He who has His eyes like a flame of fire and His feet like burnished metal, says these things:

I saw seven golden lampstands. And in the midst of the seven lampstands I saw One like the Son of man

Revelation 1:19-20 MKJV (19) Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be after this, (20) the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand and the seven golden lampstands. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.

Revelation 3:1 MKJV And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars says these things. I know your works, that you have a name that you live, and are dead.

Revelation 1:17-18 MKJV (17) And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying to me, Do not fear, I am the First and the Last, (18) and the Living One, and I became dead, and behold, I am alive for ever and ever, Amen. And I have the keys of hell and of death.

Revelation 3:7 MKJV And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts; and shuts and no one opens, says these things:

Revelation 1:4-5 MKJV John to the seven churches which are in Asia. Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is coming; and from the seven spirits which are before His throne; (5) even from Jesus Christ the faithful Witness, the First-born from the dead and the Ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,

Revelation 3:14 MKJV And to the angel of the church of the Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Head of the creation of God, says these things:

Of course the description of Jesus is also scattered throughout the first chapter of Revelation as well as the entire Bible. The lesson being, we have to search to find all the descriptions and stories about Jesus. This may seem like a difficult task for some people. But how many people claim to love Jesus? Shouldn’t they put time and effort into that love affair? Doesn’t that make sense? Is that asking too much from a God who gave His life for you, me, and the rest of this planet? So we need to put in a little effort into collecting all the details about Jesus. I think Jesus used the perfect example at the beginning of Revelation to make the perfect point. Number one. Not many people have taken the time to study Jesus in Revelation. What does that tell you? Their mentality when the approach the Bible. They are more concerned with this planet than the God who created it. The Creator of this world is one of the descriptions included.

When we look at the letters to the seven churches we also see other sets of parallel messages. Among other things, we see what each church did right, what they did wrong, and a description of Heaven. We also see an emphasis on learning. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Since we studied the first chapter in Revelation, we know we have to learn at Jesus’ feet. There is no other source of reliable information. Now we will see how this study rule applies to other subjects in those letters to the seven churches.

Revelation 2:2-3 MKJV I know your works and your labor and your patience, and how you cannot bear those who are evil. And you tried those pretending to be apostles, and are not, and have found them liars. (3) And you have borne, and have patience, and for My name’s sake you have labored and have not fainted.

Revelation 2:9 MKJV I know your works and tribulation and poverty (but you are rich), and I know the blasphemy of those saying themselves to be Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

Revelation 2:13 MKJV I know your works, and where you live, even where Satan’s seat is . And you hold fast My name and have not denied My faith, even in those days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwells.

Revelation 2:19 MKJV I know your works and love and service and faith and your patience, and your works; and the last to be more than the first.

Revelation 3:2-3 MKJV Be watchful and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die. For I have not found your works being fulfilled before God. (3) Remember then how you have received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.

Revelation 3:8 MKJV I know your works. Behold, I have given before you an open door, and no one can shut it. For you have a little strength and have kept My Word and have not denied My name.

Revelation 3:18-20 MKJV (18) I counsel you to buy from Me gold purified by fire, so that you may be rich; and white clothing, so that you may be clothed, and so that the shame of your nakedness does not appear. And anoint your eyes with eye salve, so that you may see. (19) As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; therefore be zealous and repent. (20) Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him and he with Me.

Once we put all the good aspects of every church together, we get a much better view of what a good church is. I know a lot of people and denominations claim, they are the last day church, the church of Laodicea. By doing that, they omit the lessons recorded for the other churches. The first church had patience. Isn’t patience still a factor today? What about their works and labor? I know words and labor are bad words for some denominations. Maybe that’s why they choose to take another route by creating a new way of viewing the letters to those churches. Then we hit a big one. Ephesus knew how to test and verify people were false apostles. In other words, they knew the scriptures. They knew the Old Testament and knew what Jesus’ real apostles wrote and taught. They had the truth and knew how to compare the truth to lies and half lies Satan was spreading around. Is that attribute dead and gone? Is that type of knowledge and dedication a thing of the past? Is that old fashion? According to some preachers it is. According to them, Ephesus is a thing of the past and should be ignored.

I wish one of those teachers could present a shred of evidence proving their theories. They make claims that those seven churches reflect the history of the church, but only point to Laodicea, the last church. When we look at those two chapters, and chapter 1, there is no evidence of time setting. There is no timeline involved. The invention of a timeline is man made and built upon a foundation of speculation.

The last day church should reflect at least a few of the attributes recorded in the letter to Laodicea. The last day church should also display attributes listed for the other six churches. The last day church should have patience, know how to tell the truth from lies, they should have knowledge of all the scriptures, they should hold fast to Jesus, and keep the faith.

As a matter of fact, when we look at Laodicea, we don’t find a lot of positive traits. We see a church teetering on the brink of destruction because they lack the spiritual eyesight and fortitude to do the works the other churches are known for. So the last day church lacks spiritual eyesight like Laodicea. Does that mean they can’t study the scriptures because that’s the way its supposed to be? Was that Jesus’ plan? To withhold the ability to understand His written word? I doubt if that is true. But when you listen to some of those people preach about Laodicea, you walk away with that impression. And what good is that attitude? You skip over the letters to the other six churches. You don’t care what those letters said because you’ve been trained to ignore their message. You have 1/7 of the message and you are convinced, that’s the way it is supposed to be. You are happy being in a rut, because someone told you to stay where you are. So like a well trained dog, you sit and wait for the next command. You don’t see how works and other related words are mentioned eight times. People are telling you works is dead, gone, buried, only for the Jews, and other excuses to keep you away from those other letters. You ignore the instructions Jesus wrote to six churches, but concentrate on the pitfalls of one church. And where does that get you?

It seems the devil has been hard at work trying to keep as many people as he can away from those letters to the other six churches. And his work is largely successful. Those other letters warn about the devil creeping in. And tell us how to avoid that situation. Maybe that’s what the devil wants you to ignore. Maybe the devil doesn’t want you to see the Bible Study lesson involved in those seven letters. The last thing the devil wants is people collecting all the information in the Bible on a subject so it can be studied as a whole. That method of study can and will identify the fake apostles and false prophets. That study rule will expose Satan, his tricks, and plans. Satan wants to keep people away from that information. Jesus wants you to learn and use that study method. That’s why Jesus had John record this exercise in the first three chapters in Revelation. And will will use that study method throughout this book. That is what I want to base this book on. Collecting all the information on a number of subjects in Revelation.

The next set of subjects is a combination of the poor attributes those churches had and a set of warnings. What to watch out for. It takes a little time to copy and paste those sections into a set of lists. For some of the churches the information is a little off topic. For some churches Jesus listed some of the poor qualities they had to deal with. Jesus told some of the churches what to watch out for, because Jesus knew the devil’s plans, and saw what he was able to accomplish in other churches. Wouldn’t you consider all that that valuable information in the last days?

Revelation 2:4-6 MKJV But I have against you that you left your first love. (5) Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent, and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and will remove your lampstand out of its place unless you repent. (6) But you have this, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

Revelation 2:10 MKJV Do not at all fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the Devil will cast some of you into prison, so that you may be tried. And you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful to death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Revelation 2:14-16 MKJV (14) But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the teachings of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit fornication. (15) So you also have those who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. (16) Repent! But if not I will come to you quickly, and will fight with them by the sword of My mouth.

Revelation 2:20-24 MKJV (20) But I have a few things against you because you allow that woman Jezebel to teach, she saying herself to be a prophetess, and to cause My servants to go astray, and to commit fornication, and to eat idol-sacrifices. (21) And I gave her time that she might repent of her fornication, and she did not repent. (22) Behold, I am throwing her into a bed, and those who commit adultery with her into great affliction, unless they repent of their deeds. (23) And I will kill her children with death. And all the churches will know that I am He who searches the reins and hearts, and I will give to every one of you according to your works. (24) But to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, and who have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak, I will put on you no other burden.

Revelation 3:3 MKJV Remember then how you have received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.

Revelation 3:9-11 MKJV Behold, I give out of those of the synagogue of Satan, those saying themselves to be Jews and are not, but lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. (10) Because you have kept the Word of My patience, I also will keep you from the hour of temptation which will come upon all the habitable world, to try those who dwell upon the earth. (11) Behold, I come quickly. Hold fast to that which you have, so that no one may take your crown.

Revelation 3:17-19 MKJV (17) Because you say, I am rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing, and do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, (18) I counsel you to buy from Me gold purified by fire, so that you may be rich; and white clothing, so that you may be clothed, and so that the shame of your nakedness does not appear. And anoint your eyes with eye salve, so that you may see. (19) As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; therefore be zealous and repent.

The last set of details Jesus gave to the churches was a short vision of Heaven. This is one of the most amazing parts and examples using this form of study method. Each church received one little vision of Heaven. Put them all together and you have a much larger, more detailed vision of Heaven.

Revelation 2:7 MKJV He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat of the Tree of Life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

Revelation 2:11 MKJV He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.

Revelation 2:17 MKJV He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give to him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knows except he who receives it .

Revelation 2:26-29 MKJV (26) And he who overcomes and keeps My works to the end, to him I will give power over the nations. (27) And he will rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of a potter they will be broken to pieces, even as I received from My Father. (28) And I will give him the Morning Star. (29) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Revelation 3:4-6 MKJV You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments. And they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. (5) The one who overcomes, this one will be clothed in white clothing. And I will not blot out his name out of the Book of Life, but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. (6) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Revelation 3:11-13 MKJV (11) Behold, I come quickly. Hold fast to that which you have, so that no one may take your crown. (12) Him who overcomes I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will go out no more. And I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of Heaven from My God, and My new name. (13) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Revelation 3:20-22 MKJV (20) Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him and he with Me. (21) To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame and have sat down with My Father in His throne. (22) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

It’s not by accident that Jesus included a view of Heaven in each of the letters to the churches. The descriptions were meant to be gathered and studied as a whole. Christians should have a basic understanding of Jesus, how He communicates with us, and a vision of Heaven to share. What is a Christian without those three things?

When we have a vision of Heaven, we have an opening to begin a conversation with almost anyone. We are always prepared to share the Gospel, tell a story, let people know there is a better choice, and a better life ahead. We are always prepared to encourage fellow Christians. And we have a reason to approach God’s throne without fear.

It’s not surprising that every church is told, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Jesus repeated this for a reason. He wants the churches to listen to Him. He wants the churches to be trained, and ready to face every opportunity and trial. Jesus wants the churches to know, they are not in this fight alone. Jesus wants the churches to know about Heaven and tell the world about Heaven. The message is obvious. When we see words like that repeated seven times, we can’t help but pay attention.

What does it mean to have an ear and hear? The answer should be obvious on the physical as well as the spiritual side. Jesus is more than spiritual. Jesus is not an unknown, unseen entity we cannot see or hear. We can hear Jesus when we learn to listen. We can listen in prayer, life experiences, and of course when we read His messages. Our hearing is honed when we combine all three. And there may be other ways of listening to Jesus. We know listening requires work, time, dedication, and concentration.

That completes our study on two rules that Jesus established and wrote about to prepare us for the rest of Revelation. We just passed our elementary training. We know how to look for repeated words and phrases. We also know how to gather all the information on a subject, put it together, and study all the facts we are able to gather. Now we are ready to look at other subjects in Revelation.

Parallels in Revelation: Chapters 1-12

Chapter 1 The Beginning of Rules in Revelation

What sets this book of Revelation apart from thousands of other books? Number one, this book is not written to reveal anything about Revelation or any type of future prophecies. On the contrary, the Book of Revelation reveals the meaning of the visions John saw, the symbols God uses, and the timeline recorded in Revelation. The Book of Revelation is designed so we see exactly how John’s book explains each and every detail. It is not my intent to guess at any prophecy or insist I have any type of special gift available to a select few people. I do not rely on the world to fill in the blanks people claim the Book of Revelation has. John’s book has no blank sections. John recorded exactly what he was told to record in the order Jesus provided the information.

Within Revelation is a series of lessons showing us how to read and study the book. As well as other books in the Bible. One of the most important rules is to gather all the information on a particular subject. When chapter one is combined with chapters two and three, that rule is evident. The remainder of Revelation further verifies that rule.

Revelation Bible StudyMy intent is to go through the Book of Revelation from cover to cover showing how John’s book reveals a few easy to use study rules that must be followed. The entire Book of Revelation was inspired from Heaven. Jesus wrote the entire book and placed special instructions throughout the book. In fact, those same instructions and rules are found throughout the Bible.

One of the first rules we want to test is, the rule of introductions and summaries. The first few sentences in a chapter or book sets the theme for that chapter and of course introduces the main idea. What do we find in the first few sentences in Revelation?

Revelation 1:1-3 NLTse This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the events that must soon take place. He sent an angel to present this revelation to his servant John, (2) who faithfully reported everything he saw. This is his report of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. (3) God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near.

Like many other books in the Bible, John sets the tone for an inspired manuscript by explaining how he received this message and who gave him that message. In this case the message was given to John by Jesus. This should peak our interest. Jesus pointed out one important detail at the beginning of His message. “God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near.”

Parallels in Revelation: Chapters 1-12
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We have to first READ the Book of Revelation. Jesus described the Book of Revelation as one long message. No where in Revelation does Jesus tell anyone to separate or segregate one prophecy in Revelation from the others. The timeline in Revelation is very important. Without the other prophecies, the timeline is lost. That is one thing that causes most of the problems we see in modern day interpretations. The world has adopted a study method not found or explained in the Book of Revelation or anywhere else in the Bible. The art of taking one or two sentences out of the Bible and running to the news media in this world, or any other source originating in this world is a man made study rule. It is a rule designed with no rules at all. Taking one or two sentences out of scripture and using the world to interpret that passage is a free for all, no holds barred form of Bible Study. In this book we will take the Book of Revelation step by step to see how Jesus explained sound study methods. After all Jesus, “blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says.”

One of the first things you want to do when you begin studying anything in the Bible is to look at the introduction. We already saw why that is important. Now we can look at the last few lines in Revelation chapter 1 to see what details Jesus added to His opening message.

Revelation 1:17-20 NLTse (17) When I saw him, I fell at his feet as if I were dead. But he laid his right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. (18) I am the living one. I died, but look–I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave. (19) “Write down what you have seen–both the things that are now happening and the things that will happen. (20) This is the meaning of the mystery of the seven stars you saw in my right hand and the seven gold lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

Jesus introduced Himself to John by using a few symbols. This is important. When we see Jesus using symbols to introduce and describe Himself, we know how Jesus set the tone for the entire book of Revelation. Jesus introduced symbols. Jesus knows how to use those symbols, and Jesus knows how to explain what those symbols mean. In short, Jesus is the source of those symbols, and the only reliable source who can explain the meaning of each and every symbol in Revelation. Going outside that source is turning your back on Jesus. Going to other sources can be compared to idol worship. Even relying on yourself crosses the line Jesus established in His conversation with John.

Jesus explained exactly what those seven stars, angels, and lampstands represent. Jesus is the author of Revelation. The author chooses which symbols they will use, and what those symbols represent. No one else in the world can over ride the author. And in this case, the Author of Revelation is the One who will decide the final outcome of the judgment process. When we put the introduction together with the information found at the end of the chapter, we can see the warnings involved. Along with those warnings, we see specific instructions designed to keep us inline with the wishes of the Author. Jesus wants us to understand every detail in Revelation. And Jesus established the foundation of that understanding.

If we were to turn the page, we would see how the end of chapter 1 introduced the subject matter in chapter 2. That tells us, Revelation was written much like any other novel. You would never skip a chapter in a novel that interests you. So why skip chapters in Revelation?

At this point we are going jump to the very end of Revelation to see how it parallels the summation in chapter 1.

Revelation 22:18-21 NLTse (18) And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book. (19) And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy, God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book. (20) He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! (21) May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s holy people.

By design the warning at the end of the book echos the information at the beginning of the book. “God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near.” The introduction to Revelation contains the blessing. The end of Revelation contains the curses. Put the two together and we see how the first few and last few sentences create book stand to hold the entire book together. The warning in Revelation is obvious to most people. But its spiritual meaning is lost without the blessing. Without the blessing, what do we have?

Parallels in Revelation: Chapters 1-12
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The blessing establishes the Christlike attitude we need to approach the Book of Revelation as well as share the information revealed. When we put Jesus in the center of our studies, we can’t loose. We may not have everything revealed to us on the first, second, or even twelfth attempt. But we will continue to see details we missed. That is one way Jesus keeps us humble. Don’t forget, Revelation is an inspired book and we have to accept lessons designed for personal, spiritual growth.

We don’t want to skip over any details in Revelation chapter 1. This chapter sets the ground work of understanding. Jesus told us, this book is designed for those in His church to read and understand.

Revelation 1:4-6 NLTse This letter is from John to the seven churches in the province of Asia. Grace and peace to you from the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come; from the sevenfold Spirit before his throne; (5) and from Jesus Christ. He is the faithful witness to these things, the first to rise from the dead, and the ruler of all the kings of the world. All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us. (6) He has made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.

When we see the word, Amen, that tells us, this is a good place to stop, go back, and review the information presented. We see how John introduced himself as the messenger. The one who penned the inspired words. We see how John introduced Jesus using a series of symbols. It may seem rather strange to see how Jesus used those same symbols at the end of the chapter to describe Himself. We have to look at a number of reasons why chapter 1 used that particular pattern.

The Bible uses something referred to as repetition. Certain words or phrases are repeated to attract the readers attention. In most cases, those words and phases carry a spiritual meaning the casual reader will miss. It may seem rather strange for John to introduce Jesus with a set of symbols, then to see Jesus repeat that same series of symbols. Jesus is establishing a few general rules here. Jesus knows the meaning of each and every symbol. In this particular example, Jesus is using John to show us how He is able to meet and work with us on whatever level we are on. Yes there are different levels of learning. There are different levels of spiritual awareness. It wasn’t by accident that Jesus used spiritual symbols to emphasis that point. We know it is an important point based on the fact we see those words and phrases repeated. So remember, the author repeats words and phrases to catch our attention. At that point we have no other choice than to review the information so we do not miss its spiritual meaning.

We also saw how we had to gather all the information in the chapter before the spiritual meaning was unlocked. Collecting all the information on a subject is another important rule we need to follow.

We have the opportunity to collect information. The kingdom of priests is a phrase used in only a few stories in the Bible. The first time it was mentioned was a short time after God freed Israel from the slavery in Egypt.

Exodus 19:3-6 NLTse Then Moses climbed the mountain to appear before God. The LORD called to him from the mountain and said, “Give these instructions to the family of Jacob; announce it to the descendants of Israel: (4) ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. (5) Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. (6) And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’ This is the message you must give to the people of Israel.”

Of course Israel instantly accepted the invitation. But after hearing the Ten Commandment, most of the Israelites changed their mind. They told Moses to talk to God and fill them in on the details.

We just leaned another valuable lesson. The term, kingdom of priests led us to another story with a vital connection. Jesus asks us to follow His commands as a condition to understanding the message. When we look at the original offer to becomes God’s kingdom of priests, we can’t help but notice the Ten Commandments. A link no one in their right mind could deny.

That’s exactly what we are looking for. Links in the Bible that explain the spiritual meaning of the message at hand. What is a priest dedicated to God? The Bible tells us, it is a person who keeps God’s commandments. That is one clue. Of course some people will argue, that is only for the Old Testament people. Is it? We can look at a few additional facts from the Bible.

1 Peter 2:5-10 NLTse And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. (6) As the Scriptures say, “I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor, and anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” (7) Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given him. But for those who reject him, “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.” (8) And, “He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them. (9) But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. (10) “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.”

Peter tied in God’s holy priesthood with the spiritual temple designed with Christ as the corner stone. Once we examine the link between these books, we can’t help but find how one story explains the other. Some people find it difficult to explain what that spiritual temple is. When we look at what Peter explained, and what Christ added in Revelation, there is no other definition than God’s people who take up the priesthood originally offered when God took Israel out of Egypt.

Some churches have long drawn out rules and regulations describing what they think a priest is, who can be a priest, and other aspects about priests and pastors they claim are Biblical. The fact of the matter is, Peter described a priest as a part of that spiritual temple. Jesus described that priesthood as anyone who reads and understand His message in Revelation. That can be a can of worms in modern Christianity. Almost every church claims they can read, understand, and interpret Revelation. Many churches claim their powers of interpretation prove they are some type of chosen or special church. Some claim to be the only true church. Many of those claims are centered on the Book of Revelation. Those claims are based on a few select lines in Revelation. When we look at those sentences as they were recorded, and where they lead us, we see quite a different story.

Some of the most popular priests or pastors today host television shows that concentrate on Revelation and prophecy. Week after week they make predictions. Week after week they prove their spiritual connection with Jesus is false and misleading. Their predictions rarely come true. Or as so vague, they hold little water. When we look at the kingdom of priests Jesus, Moses, and Peter described, we see the Biblical meaning of a priest. Which of course is far different than the earthly definition. The same is true for the majority of visions, symbols, and prophecies taken from Revelation and interpreted using any other method than those described in the Bible.

Based on the fact most churches boast about their knowledge of Revelation, no one can argue the fact, Jesus’ priests are those who read and understand His message. There is no other source of training required outside the Bible. With that in mind, we will continue to look at Revelation chapter 1.

Revelation 1:7-8 NLTse Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven. And everyone will see him– even those who pierced him. And all the nations of the world will mourn for him. Yes! Amen! (8) “I am the Alpha and the Omega–the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come–the Almighty One.”

John took a giant leap from his time to Jesus’ return. John must have jumped ahead for a reason. Remember how we jumped ahead to look at the last few sentences in Revelation? We followed a study rule. Look what we found. Now we find John sending us to the last chapter in Revelation. See how those connections exist inside scripture? We have a guide in Jesus’ Spirit. What more do we need?

Revelation 1:9-11 MKJV I, John, who also am your brother and companion in the affliction, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the island that is called Patmos, for the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. (10) I came to be in the Spirit in the Lord’s day and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, (11) saying, I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last. Also, What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, and to Smyrna, and to Pergamos, and to Thyatira, and to Sardis, and to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.

Jesus being the first and last, the Alpha and Omega repeat throughout the first chapter. We can’t ignore that fact. We have to put that information in its place. Jesus is the Teacher. He is the first and last source of information for us to rely on. We don’t need any other source of information. We also see how this letter was to go out to the frontier of the Christian world. There is a lesson is that. We still have Christian frontiers.

The testimony of Christ is another phrase we have to look up. It is mentioned in a couple of stories in Revelation. This gives us the opportunity to look at other parts of the story, put the details together, and see what they say.

Revelation 6:9-11 MKJV And when He had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the Word of God, and for the testimony which they held. (10) And they cried with a loud voice, saying, Until when, Master, holy and true, do You not judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth? (11) And white robes were given to each one of them. And it was said to them that they should rest yet for a little time, until both their fellow servants and their brothers (those about to be killed as they were ) should have their number made complete.

When we read the description of the fifth seal, we see the price may be rather high. Following the testimonies of Jesus, which is described as reading and understanding His message is not going to be a bed of roses, or an easy road to travel. If we were merely reading Revelation, it would have taken us five more chapters before we got to that part of the message. Collecting all the information on what Jesus’ testimony is took us directly to that information.

Revelation 12:15-17 MKJV (15) And the serpent cast out of his mouth water like a flood after the woman, so that he might cause her to be carried away by the river. (16) And the earth helped the woman. And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the river which the dragon cast out of his mouth. (17) And the dragon was enraged over the woman, and went to make war with the rest of her seed, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Here John once again tied in God’s commandments with Jesus’ testimony. None of us made that connection a second time. Jesus the Author did. Again we see how rough the road is. We also see who is responsible for adding all those bumps and pot holes in the road. We also see why the devil is angry. He tried to kill the baby Jesus. Satan is angry because he failed. So Satan took that anger and focused it on the people who continued to follow Jesus.

Revelation 19:7-10 MKJV (7) Let us be glad and rejoice and we will give glory to Him. For the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has prepared herself. (8) And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white. For the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints. (9) And he said to me, Write, Blessed are those who have been called to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he said to me, These are the true sayings of God. (10) And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said to me, See, do not do it! I am your fellow servant, and of your brothers who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God, for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

Of course Jesus is going to describe the benefits in store for those who follow His Word. The road may be rough, but the destination is well worth the journey. Jesus doesn’t hide anything. He gives us the good news, and the warnings. Jesus tells us how rough the journey is going to be before He explains the benefits.

What is that prophecy John is trying to explain here? When people take that one line out of the story, they tend to drift off in different directions. In most cases they attempt to link that one line about Jesus’ testimony and prophecy to their church, and the advanced knowledge they claim to have. Thus far we have seen no evidence to support such a claim. On the contrary, we have written evidence telling us, Jesus’ church is made up of those who accept the role of priest with full knowledge of the pitfalls and benefits. There is no mention of weekly paychecks, degrees, retirement funds, collecting funds, and the other roles mankind has attached to the priesthood. You won’t find those roles in Revelation because that was never part of Jesus’ message.

On the other hand, understanding this letter is a part of Jesus’ promise, and a part of the benefit package. Not the way the world understands, or tries to explain John’s book. but the way Jesus designed Revelation to be explained and understood. The more we study Revelation, the more will will see and understand that difference.