Laser Beam Focus on Jesus (not distracting speculation)
The world that we live in is riddled with evil. It’s full of foul and wicked plots. There are many theories and conspiracy theories that tell stories about this world that we live in. Many of these tales are attention-grabbing and even deeply disturbing. How should we respond?
God tells us how we should respond. Here are a few things He tells us:
Laser Beam Focus on Jesus
From the beginning to the end, the story of Scripture is a story about the Savior; our need for a Savior, the coming of the Savior, and the coming quick return of our Savior. Scripture says testify about the Savior! He is who the world needs!
The world does not need just more knowledge or secret knowledge. It doesn’t need to uncover all the plots of man or Satan. The world needs the experiential life-transforming knowledge of Jesus the Messiah and Savior.
Satan portrays himself as an angel of light. He’ll even quote God Himself. He’ll give what appears to be secret knowledge as he did to Eve in the Garden. But, that work of Satan is a distraction and diversion from the truth—from Jesus the Savior, answer, and solution.
Do you know who really knows what’s going on behind the scenes?! Not the person on YouTube; no matter what they say or how many followers they have.
We don’t want to be guilty of “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). Instead, we want to follow Paul’s teaching, conduct, aim in life, faith, patience, love, steadfastnesses, and persecutions and sufferings (v. 11).
We also need to remember that all Scripture, all the promises of God, find their fulfillment and answer in Jesus. We need to see Jesus, not more videos on various theories. Jesus is the hope and protection of the earth, not some person with some so-called “secret knowledge” of what’s really going on behind the scenes.
That being said, there are evil and deceitful plots going on in the government—in every government. We should not be naive and think there isn’t. But there always has been. There was when Jesus physically walked the earth and Moses too. But what does the Bible say the solution is? And what should be our focus?
People clearly do follow “the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). This world is often a wicked place where people creatively carry out wickedness. That is true. But what’s the solution?
It is certainly true that “ we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Yet, the solution is not some secret knowledge. It’s being “strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (v. 10). The solution is taking “up the whole armor of God” (v. 13), not knowing the intimate and hidden details of what the spiritual forces of evil are up to. Colossians 2:15 tells us that Jesus is the one who defeats the wicked powers.
Amid a crooked and perverse generation and while the antichrist or antichrists walk the earth, how are we to respond? How do we steel up ourselves to endure and persevere? It’s not through secret theories that we discover on the internet. No. It’s through holding fast to the word of truth, tenaciously seeking Jesus, and lovingly telling of Him and His goodness.
Jesus has the “words of life.” Jesus is our “first love” and it is He that we need to return to (Revelation 2:4). Notice what 2 Peter 1:3 says: “HIS divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of HIM who called us to his own glory and excellence.” It is in Jesus that “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). And the riches of blessing found in Him are limitless.
Thus, we need a laser focus on Jesus. Satan as the great deceiver and destroyer would have us distracted from Jesus by any means possible.
Don’t Waste Time on Old Wives’ Tales
1 Timothy 4:7-8 says: “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths [some translations say, “Old Wives’ Tales.”]. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
In John 17:17 Jesus says we are made holy by the truth and then He says God’s word is that truth. It is all Scripture—not secret theories—that is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
We need the words of life to live the life we’re called to live. We need to consume that truth every day and be able to “rightly divide the word of truth” and be like the Bereans and weigh what is said against what the Word of God shows us (Acts 17:11). And we need to be in tight relationship with other Christians so we can be accountable and encouraged by them.
In 1 Timothy 1 Paul urges that people not “teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith” (v. 3-4). Paul goes on to say, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion” (v. 5-6).
In 1 Timothy 2 Paul tells us what we are to do instead of engaging in “vain discussion,” internet searches, and YouTube consumption: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (v. 1-2). So, instead of reading and watching conspiracies about the government, we are to pray for the government. That’s productive, biblical, and God-honoring. So, if you have concerns about what’s going on in our world and in the government—which you should!—the thing to do is pray, not feed on loads of news and theories about “what’s really happening.”
Paul says that when we pray in this way, it “is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (v. 3-6).
God loves people and wants them to receive salvation through Jesus. So, we pray for them and we share with them. We don’t waste time on speculation and silly myths. Instead, we should seek to be continually captured and enraptured by Christ Jesus, knowing there is solace, depth, mystery, and beauty there to sustain us a thousand lifetimes.
Spend Your Time on the Greatest TRUE Tale
Paul said, “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ.” And Paul also said, “Him [Jesus!] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Col. 1:28-29).
Read 2 Timothy 4:1-5. What Paul says there is the priority. That’s what “fighting the good fight” (2 Timothy 4:7) looks like.
Paul strove and struggled to share the message of the Savior, not a secret message about something going on in the world. Satan would have us distracted from the good news of Jesus—the good news of hope and salvation to a broken and needy world.
When the chaos of wickedness ratchets up in the book of Revelation, what is it God’s people are to do? Protect the world and keep it from destruction through knowing what’s secretly going on behind the scenes and through sharing those hidden things? Is that how the book of Revelation exhorts us to persevere? No.
Revelation is about Jesus and the victory of Jesus. It’s the true story of His final triumph over every evil plot and wicked foe. It holds before us the truth that we are in a cosmic battle, that there is a god of this world who is presently working ruin, but also the truth that the Lion and the Lamb will conquer. That’s the “secret knowledge,” the revealing, the REVELATION we need. We need the true message of Jesus’ victory. We don’t need distracted by lesser stories. Instead, we need again and again to return to and be tethered to Jesus.
So many tales are a distraction from the true and greatest tale. Brothers and sisters, we don’t need new and secret knowledge. We need the old old story again and again. We need to be smothered with the truth of the Savior of the world, not suffocated by secret theories. The hope of the earth is Jesus, not some locked away thing we can learn about on a website somewhere.
We need laser beam focus on Jesus. And we need to share the true story about Him in love. We need to be evangelistic about the good news of Jesus Christ! Not any conspiracy theory.
 I think of Chuck Colson. If there was a theory about the watergate scandal it wasn’t just a conspiracy theory. It was true. But the answer wasn’t information, it was prayer. God brought Chuck Colson to salvation when he was in prison. Colson has gone on to lead a ministry to those in prison. So, prayer is powerful.
*Photo by Mika Baumeister
Why read the book of Revelation?
Why Read Revelation?
Reading and heeding Revelation brings blessing: “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (1:3).
So, why read? Why care?
Because it is what is. And it tells us how to live. It tells us what to value and why.
We, essentially, are walking through life with wool over our eyes. The reality is we can’t see. We don’t always know what’s what. Satan is a great deceiver and he’s the god of this world.
Revelation is a jolt. It’s is a wake-up call. Revelation is a blind person seeing for the first time.
Revelation reveals the truth that on every forehead there is a name. We are all either aligned and carry the allegiance of Satan or Jesus our savior. We’re all ultimately marching to Satan or the Savior’s beat. We don’t always see it as it is, but Revelation says it as it is. Again, Revelation is an unveiling.
That’s what the book of Revelation is. But, what does the book of Revelation do?
What does the Book of Revelation do?
Wrestling with the book of Revelation…
1) wakes us up to the wonder & makes the unseen, seen
Have you ever said, “I’ve never seen it like that before?” That’s what the book of Revelation does.
Revelation gives us a picture of reality. A new perspective by which to see the world. John tells about all he “saw.” Revelation offers “a divine perspective on what is true, valuable and lasting.”
And when we see things from the perspective of heaven it breaks the earthbound delusion of the beast’s propaganda. We need to see what John saw. We need the book of Revelation to open our eyes to the unseen realities.
C.S. Lewis said, “What is concrete but immaterial can be kept in view only by painful effort.” If Christians are to “resist the powerful allurements of Babylon, they [need] an alternative and greater attraction.”
Revelation, as Brian Tabb has said, “reorients believers’ view of their present situation and challenges them to live by faith in the light of God’s sovereign rule over all things, which is more real and lasting than the reality they see with their eyes.”
The revelation of Jesus is showing us something (v. 1). It’s showing us something we didn’t see before and we don’t see it without Jesus’ revelation. The book of Revelation is like smelling salts.
Its pictures are powerful painted to show us the point. Sin is bad but we don’t always see it as it is. I can tell you that sin is bad. I can tell you that it takes you longer, deeper, and destroys more than you’d expect and that’s true.
Sin is bad and serious. That truth, however, often fall on deaf ears. But if I tell you the story of Sméagol who turns into Gollum and ends in lava that picture is more poignant and communicates at a different level. Revelation paints a powerful picture of the awful reality of sin.
Revelation was given to John and he passed on to the churches and to us. They needed it then and we need it now. We need to see the true picture of reality.
“Revelation provides a set of Christian prophetic counter-images which impress on its readers a different vision of the world… The visual power of the book effects a kind of purging of the Christian imagination, refurbishing it with alternative visions of how the world is and will be.”
We too need to see what John saw. We too need to be awakened to the wonder of it all.
Revelation helps us see that since the present world will be dissolved we should not live for this world but the next. And thus have morals shaped by the next Kingdom and not this evil one (2 Pet. 3:11; 1 Cor. 7:26, 29).
Revelation helps us see the unseen and Revelation…
2) reveals what will soon happen
Revelation tells “the things that must soon take place” (v. 1). Revelation and eschatology (the teaching on end times) are not mainly about charts and predictions. I agree with John Frame that “it is a pity that the church’s teaching on eschatology, the last days, has been concerned mostly with arguments about the order of events. In Scripture itself, the primary thrust of eschatology is ethical.” Of course, that should not be a cop-out for studying the book of Revelation or eschatology though.
It is wise to be well-informed as to the major views of Christ’s return. We, however, should not be dogmatic about how and when exactly it will happen. Jesus Himself seems to clearly indicate this (cf. e.g. Mk. 13:32).
We should be dogmatic though that it will happen and will be glorious. And that it should motivate us as we seek to live faithful lives as exiles waiting for our blessed hope. We also are to constantly remind ourselves of His nearing return and of the feast we shall share with Him (cf. Matt. 26:29; Mk. 14:25; Lk. 22:16; 1 Cor.11:26; Rev. 19:9).
The main point of the prophecy is that Jesus wins and all those who trust Him will dwell with God forevermore in perfect peace. The serpent that destroyed, in the beginning, will be destroyed in the end.
“The ancient serpent whose murderous lie seduced the woman and plunged the world into floods of misery (Gen. 3:1) is seen again, waging war against the woman, her son, and her other children—but this time his doom is sure and his time is short (Rev. 12; 20).”
Thanos said, “I am inevitable.” We, however, know what’s actually inevitable. We know who wins.
Revelation shows us what will happen soon and Revelation…
3) helps us see the glory of the gospel
Revelation reveals the true identity of Jesus the Jewish carpenter (e.g. Rev. 1:5-8). He’s not just a lamb, He’s a lion. He roars and devours.
We need to remember, that the end of the story, and the main point of the Revelation, is to show that God through Jesus the Christ is victorious! This truth encouraged John who was exiled on Patmos and all the churches that were being persecuted to whom the letter went. If we read the letter, especially in that context, we will respond, not so much with a certain view of how everything will happen, but by saying, “Come Lord Jesus, come”! And that is the more powerful takeaway from the book.
“What is true in heaven now will be true on earth as well. God will reassert himself as ‘King of the nations’ and will execute judgments on the beast and all rival sovereigns who usurp his praise and oppress his people (15:3; 16:5–7). Therefore, readers must heed the angel’s repeated exhortation to John: ‘Worship God’ (19:10; 22:9).”
The correct response to Revelation’s “dramatic presentation of Jesus is joyous worship and steadfast loyalty fuelled by confident hope in his regal return.”
As The ESV Study Bible says,
“Revelation unveils the unseen spiritual war in which the church is engaged: the cosmic conflict between God and his Christ on the one hand, and Satan and his evil allies (both demonic and human) on the other. In this conflict, Jesus the Lamb has already won the decisive victory through his sacrificial death, but his church continues to be assaulted by the dragon, in its death-throes, through persecution, false teaching, and the allure of material affluence and cultural approval. By revealing the spiritual realities lying behind the church’s trials and temptations during the time between Christ’s first and second comings, and by dramatically affirming the certainty of Christ’s triumph in the new heaven and earth, the visions granted to John both warn the church and fortify it to endure suffering and to stay pure from the defiling enticements of the present world order.”
Revelation shows us that no one can ruin the One who reigns. No one can liquidate the Lord. No one can silence the Sovereign. No one can cancel the King.
And soon all will see!
I want us all to see the truth now, and live in light of it now.
 There are actually seven blessings, the number for completeness, listed in the book of Revelation (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7; 22:14).
 Tabb, All Things New.
 Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, 91.
 C.S. Lewis, Letter to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1963), 114.
 Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, 129. “One of the functions of revelation was to purge and to refurbish the Christian imagination… Revelation offers a different way of perceiving the world” (Ibid., 159).
 Brian Tabb, All Things New.
 Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, 17. “One of the key themes of the book is that things are not what they seem. The church in Smyrna appears poor but is rich… What appears to the naked eye, on the plane of human history, to be weak, helpless, hunted, poor, defeated congregations of Jesus’ faithful servants prove to be the true overcomers who participate in the triumph of the Lion who conquered as a slain Lamb. What appear to be the invincible forces controlling history—the military-political-religious-economic complex that is Rome and its less lustrous successors—is a system sown with the seeds of its self-destruction” (Dennis E. Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation, 9).
 Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb, 13.
 “We are called to be a people of memory, who are shaped by a tradition that is millennia older than the last Billboard chart. And we are called also called to be a people of expectation, praying for and looking forward to a coming kingdom that will break in upon our present as a thief in the night” (James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, 159).
 John Frame, The Doctrine of God, 277.
 Tabb, All Things New.
 Tabb, All Things New.
Will sin be possible in heaven?
To answer the question will sin be possible in heaven, there are a number of passages we should look at.
“…the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect“ (Hebrews 12:23).
“…those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…” (Romans 8:29).
“No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship Him” (Revelation 22:3).
“…nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27).
“The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God…” (Revelation 3:12).
“I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them…” (Amos 9:15).
Christians will be made “made perfect” (Heb. 12:23). They will be “conformed into the image” of Jesus (Rom. 8:29). It may be that Christians can sin, but won’t sin because they will not want to sin.
When Christians see Jesus, they shall be like Him (1 John 3:2). That is the sense in which Christians will be unable to sin (non posse peccare, as Augustine said). Christians will be like Christ!
So, no. Ultimately, Christians will not be able to sin in heaven. But it won’t be from an external constraint but from internal renewal.
Christians will finally completely have their affections rightly aligned with reality. Christians will love the LORD their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Pervasive Peace through the Second Advent
In Christmas, we celebrate the advent or coming of Christ. The first coming enabled a way for peace to be realized. Humans can, through Christ, have renewed fellowship with God. Yet, as Jesus Himself said, in the world we will have trouble and tribulation.
So, if that’s the case, if in the world we will have difficulty and distress, then how can we have peace? This Sunday I get to preach on the “Pathway to Peace” from Isaiah chapter 11. I’m excited and thankful to be able to do that.
I, however, have too much material. So, I thought I’d share here, part of how that peace is possible.
First, Isaiah paints a beautiful and powerful picture of peace (see Isaiah 11:1-9). A little baby can play with a king cobra without fear (v. 8). How is this possible?
Isaiah 11:9 tells us: the knowledge of God is intimately experienced. And so: nothing will “harm nor destroy on all [the Lord’s] holy mountain.” Instead of harm, “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
The Messiah will make it so not only the knowledge of the LORD is pervasive but intimacy with the LORD is too. Knowledge in the Old Testament is not merely head knowledge, but it is experiential (When Adam “knew” Eve, Genesis 4:1, it was not mere cognitive knowing, it was experiential).
Also, we should ask, how is it that the waters cover the sea? The waters cover the sea by filling it to the fullness of capacity. God and His goodness will be experienced and known to maximum capacity! We will have the strength together with all the saints to comprehend and know “the breadth and length and height and depth” of the “love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” and we will be “filled with all the fullness of God” (see Ephesians 3:18-19).
Look at what’s going to happen when Jesus reigns on earth!:
“Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever” (Isaiah 9:7).
Of peace, there will be no end!
Justice and righteousness forevermore!
Of course, this is not yet a reality. First, Christ came as a Lamb to be slain. Next, He’s coming as the Lion of the tribe of Judah (see Revelation 5:5).
In that day, when perfect peace comes upon the earth, the LORD says, “my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands” (Is. 65:22). The most precious moments that we experience on earth—whether that’s a Thanksgiving dinner, a beautiful sunset, or being lost in a song or prayer of praise—will be multiplied infinitely.
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
How ironic, how sad, that the Rejected One, is the One who brings renewal of the whole earth.
Fellow Christians, please share the message that is so needed in these days of distress. And pray for your neighbors, that they would have peace that surpasses understanding.
Please pray that the Rejected One, the one alone who brings perfect and pervasive peace, would no longer be rejected.
What if Satan wants to destroy the Church more than the country?
In the book of Revelation the Church is not called to react to the End or the antichrist by moralistic, militaristic, or political means. The Church is called to return to Messiah Jesus, remembering that those who continue faithful to the End will receive the “crown of life.” The way of resistance of evil, is the way of Christ. That is, loving Christ Jesus, and loving others. Taking up our crosses and following Jesus and loving others, even when it hurts, is a sure sign that we don’t and won’t have the “mark of the beast.”
What if the clearest mark of the beast is the mark of hatred and hostility? Many have thought it stood for Nero (the numerical value of 666), and perhaps it did in a way. He was, as history showed, marked by the beast. He was, as history showed, like his father the devil. He was proud and unloving, destructive and devilish.
Is not the mark of the Messiah, the mark of beatific love?1 Do not His followers, follow Him? If Jesus is love, should not His followers be loving?!2
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (Corinthians 13:4-7).
And would it not make sense that the converse also follows? If the mark of the Messiah is true sacrificial love, is not the mark of the antichrist hatred? And what if the serpent of old, the father of lies, the great deceiver, is adept at what he does? And what if he wants to destroy and divide even what Messiah Jesus died to bring together? And what if he even uses the means of media and the marketplace and various views on certain medical opinions regarding COVID-19? What if?…
And what if the worst thing that can happen to Christians is not that they’d lose earthly freedom(s), but that they’d lose heavenly crowns? not that their earthly country would be divided, but that their heavenly one would be? not that they’d have to wear a mask, but that they’d have a mask put over their eyes? What if Satan’s not primarily trying to destroy a country, but what if he desires to destroy Christians and Christian witness? What if Satan doesn’t want the nation to descend into debauchery, but wants Christians to be desensitized to their hatred and fear?
Revelation also talks a lot about Babylon. Babylon was what a lot of people cared about and had their hopes fixed on. However, Christians, are marked by and are members of a different city. Christians have their hope wrapped up in a city, but it’s a different city, a city that comes down from heaven, a city that couldn’t be built here. It’s beyond and better than here.
Christians live, labor, and love in Babylon, but they’re waiting for something better. They’re waiting for Jerusalem to come down.
Christian brothers and sisters, are you showing the mark of your Savior? The characteristics of Christ? The mark of your true city? Or, are you too wrapped up here? Are you betting on Babylon3 or are you “looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God”?!
We, as Christians, are sojourners here in Babylon. Our time is short. Let’s be a blessing as Scripture exhorts us (Jeremiah 29:7). But, let’s remember, any castle we build with our hoarded cash, will soon wash away with the tide of time. Let’s not lay up hoards here or place our hope here. But in heaven.
1 Ephesians 1:13 tells us that all who are in Messiah Jesus have been sealed (or marked?!) with the promised Holy Spirit. Notice also that it is the Holy Spirit in Jesus followers who produces the fruits of the Spirit, one of those fruits being love.
2 God alone provides access to the Garden of Eden and the pathway there is through the Golgotha of sacrificial love.
3 If politics has you overly down, perhaps it’s because you placed your hope in a ship that must inevitably sink.
The Work of the Spirit | pt. 10
Tongues are used in a few overlapping ways in Scripture and should be pursued and practiced as outlined in the Bible. Scripture shows us that the problem is not tongues but the abuse of the gift of tongues. I think it should be admitted that even if we do not completely understand the gift of tongues we should not forbid their practice in private or publically when interpreted (1 Cor 14:27-28) because Paul explicitly says “do not forbid speaking in tongues” (v. 39).
Paul actually tells people to be ready to share a tongue (1 Cor 14:26) and he says, “I want you all to speak in tongues” (v. 5). Further, Paul tells us that he spoke in tongues more than all the Corinthians (v. 18). Paul said all of this even though “one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit” (v. 2). Therefore, even though tongues are unintelligible to the human mind unless one is given the gift of interpretation (12:10), to speak in tongues is not wrong or bad (see 14:39); although, it should not be done publicly unless there is an interpreter (v. 28).
Many believe that tongues simply refer to a foreign human language (e.g. Ferguson, MacArthur). Michael Horton says, “We should… understand ‘tongues’ as synonymous with natural languages, which some were miraculously gifted to speak and others to interpret.” This understanding of tongues is simplistic and wrong for at least three reasons. (1) Tongues are used to speak to God. Paul says, the “one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit” (v. 2). In this way tongues, at least the way tongues are used here, may be similar to the groans that Romans speaks of (Rom 8:26-27). (2) If tongues are interpreted they seem to function in a similar way as prophecy thus they are different than a foreign speaker coming into a meeting that needs to be interpreted. (3) Paul says there are different types of tongues (1 Cor 12:10, 28). It seems that tongues (glossia) are used in overlapping ways in Scripture. R. P. Spittler points out that in Scripture we see that tongues refer to three types of overlapping phenomena. He says,
‘Kinds of tongues’ (génê glôssôn, 1 Cor. 12:10, 28) can refer to anything on a glossolalic continuum ranging from (1) prayer ‘with groans that words cannot express’ (Rom. 8:26, NIV; preferable to RSV ‘sighs too deep for words’), through (2) tongues speech in a controlled ecstatic jargon that ‘no one understands’ by someone who ‘utterers mysteries to God’ (1 Cor. 14:2), to (3) charismatic use of a recognizable language never learned by the speaker (Acts 2:8).
Regarding tongues, it must also be pointed out that though tongues are good gifts that are given by the Spirit, tongues are not the marker of maturity. Further, tongues are not linked to a “second blessing” or to being filled with the Spirit. Lastly, it must be understood that even if we do not understand something in Scripture does not mean it is wrong or that it does not continue. I, for example, do not understand, the seraphim. But I believe in them. In the same way, just because we may not understand every aspect of tongues does not mean that tongues do not still or cannot function as a blessing to the Church.
Here is a summary of what 1 Corinthians says regarding the gifts of tongues:
(1) There seem to be various kinds of tongues (1 Cor 12:10. 28 cf. 13:1; Acts 2:4).
(2) Tongues are unintelligible and unedifying to the group (1 Cor. 14:2-4, 6, 19) but are edifying to the speaker (v. 4).
(3) Tongues are not a foreign langue but are addressed to God (at least this is the case in 1 Corinthians) (vv. 2, 14-17).
(4) Tongues are not to be shared publically unless interpreted (1 Cor 14:6, 13, 26-33 cf. Acts 19:6).
(5) Tongues themselves are not forbidden but actually encouraged (1 Cor 14:5, 26).
(6) The regulations of tongues show that the tongues speaker is not in “ecstasy” or “out of control” (vv. 27-28).
Revelation: Triumph of the Lamb
Dennis E. Johnson’s book, Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation, has a lot of important and relevant things to teach us. Here are a few highlights from the introduction…
1. Revelation Is Given to Reveal.
2. Revelation Is a Book to Be Seen.
“One of the key themes of the book is that things are not what they seem. The church in Smyrna appears poor but is rich… What appear to the naked eye, on the plane of human history, to be weak, helpless, hunted, poor, defeated congregations of Jesus’ faithful servants prove to be the true overcomers who participate in the triumph of the Lion who conquered as a slain Lamb. What appear to be the invincible forces controlling history—the military-political-religious-economic complex that is Rome and its less lustrous successors—is a system sown with the seeds of its self-destruction” (p. 9).
3. Revelation Makes Sense Only in Light of the Old Testament.
“The ancient serpent whose murderous lie seduced the woman and plunged the world into floods of misery (Gen. 3:1) is seen again, waging war against the woman, her son, and her other children—but this time his doom is sure and his time is short (Rev. 12; 20)” (p, 13).
4. Numbers Count in Revelation.
For example, “The number seven symbolizes the Spirit’s fullness and completeness” (p. 15).
5. Revelation Is for a Church under Attack.
“Our interpretation of Revelation must be driven by the difference God intends it to make in the life of his people. If we could explain every phrase, identify every allusion to Old Testament Scripture or Greco-Roman society, trace every interconnection, and illumine every mystery in this book and yet were silenced by the intimidation of public opinion, terrorized by the prospect of suffering, enticed by affluent Western culture’s promise of ‘security, comfort, and pleasure,’ then we would not have begun to understand the Book of Revelation as God wants us to… Always, in every age and place, the church is under attack. Our only safety lies in seeing the ugly hostility of the enemy clearly and clinging fast to our Champion and King, Jesus” (19).
6. Revelation Concerns “What Must Soon Take Place.”
7. The Victory Belongs to God and to His Christ.
“Revelation is pervaded with worship songs and scenes because its pervasive theme—despite its gruesome portrait of evil’s powers—is the triumph of God through the Lamb. We read this book to hear the King’s call to courage and to fall down in adoring worship before him” (p. 23).
The Day of the LORD and the Decisiveness of the Present Life
What we do in this current life has an eternal impact. The New Testament insists on the decisiveness of this life. In the early church, the “idea that the coming judgment will be based on deeds done in this life was widespread.” For example, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).
All through Scripture it talks about the Day of the LORD (sg.). The Bible does not talk about judgments starting at the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11ff) and going from there on into eternity where people have multiple chances to repent. That’s why it says, “Behold [ἰδοὺ], now [νῦν] is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2; cf. Ps. 32:6; Is. 55:6). Acts 17:31 says, God “has fixed a day [sg.] on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him [i.e. Jesus] from the dead.”
Hebrews says, “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment [sg.]” (9:27). Thus, in Scripture, we do not see that people can repent after the Judgment. Actually, to get the idea of repentance after the Judgment you would have to add to Scripture. Yet, listen to Revelation: “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (22:18-19).
The Eternality of Hell
When we interpret “forever” in English, as well as in Greek, context is king. For example, when someone gets back from the DMV and says to us, “that took forever,” what do we interpret that phrase to mean? We take a number of things into account in our interpretation. We understand that it takes a relatively long time at the DMV and we understand that people very often joke about how long it takes at the DMV. We also take into account that the person is standing in front of us saying, “that took forever” which clearly demonstrates that it did not in fact literally take forever.
The person that said “forever” was using it as an expression for “a long time.” However, if that same person said, “God is forever” we would understand that we need to interpret that “forever” differently. Why? Because context is king. And context is telling us that the referent in this case is “God,” not the DMV, and that fact changes the meaning of the word “forever.”
The Bible tells us that certain things are eternal/everlasting. For instance, God is eternal (Rev. 4:9-10), Jesus is alive forevermore (Rev. 1:18), heaven is eternal (Jn. 3:16), and judgment in hell is eternal. If we say judgment in hell is not eternal then we lose grounds for saying that God, Jesus, and heaven are eternal since the same words are explicitly and very intentionally used to express the eternity of each subject under question (and the eternality of hell and heaven are even paralleled in Matthew 25:46).