2 Timothy 4.6-8 – The Stephanos Crown

Do you ever wonder what you will be given upon arrival to heaven?

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

Here Paul tells Timothy he is being poured out as a drink offering (Genesis 35.14), and that as drinks flow from a cup until empty, Paul knows that his time of…departure has come. Throughout his writings Paul often refers to life here as a struggle, a conflict, a battle or a race, and the marker of a life well lived, so we read, is that we have kept the faith

This is where we read of our heavenly welcome-gift, Paul writes that there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing

If we are loving His appearing, we are keeping the faith, and we are promised the crown of righteousness. This is not a crown given to royalty, rather a crown given to the winner of a contest, like this;

Image result for stephanos victory crown

Upon passing from death to life, from time to eternity, those who have fought the good fight, those who have finished the race, those who have kept the faith will be given the crown of victory from the Lord.

This was huge motivation for Timothy to fulfill his ministry (v.5), and should help each of us to keep going towards the upward call of God in Christ, all of us to fight the good fight, to finish our race, and to keep the faith.

Revelation 21.22-27 – No need

Think about the basic facilities and civic amenities you use every day; supermarket, petrol station, school, church, coffee shop, restaurant…things like that. Now, imagine if I told you that you were moving to a town that didn’t have, for example, a supermarket…would you want to go there? Would you think it was strange?

22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day–and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But 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.

Here in this passage we see what the heavenly city is missing; no temple in the city…no need of sun or moon…there will be no night there…nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false.

For John to write, and to see, that the new heavenly city had no temple would have been unimaginable at the time to a first century Jew-turned Christian, kind of like us moving to a town with no supermarket…you just can’t imagine how the place would function without it.

The same goes for no sun, moon, no night; how does this new place work without these things? The fact there is nothing unclean is fairly straightforward, isn’t it, this is heaven, this is all things new, this is God living with His people, of course there is nothing unclean there but for no sun or moon, again we think, what?!

But all is explained in a wonderful few words, the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. There is no need for sun, moon, night, day, or temple because God dwells in this new heavenly city and His glory is so great it lights everything. The same goes for Jesus, it’s lamp is the Lamb. God glorifies and shines through the person of Jesus in heaven as He does now and as He always has done.

So there may be some things missing that were considered a basic necessity at the time, but what is unique about the heavenly city far outweighs this. For us, when we come to a place of accepting the glorious gift of Jesus, when we surrender and submit ourselves to His ways, will, and Word, we have the opportunity to start living like this now! He becomes the light shining out of us, His joy becomes our strength, and we have a new-found lease of life, life abundant.

If you are reading this, you most likely are living the life I am talking about, but, if you’re not, why not? God wants you to live like this! If you live this life, go and tell someone about it, model it, witness it to others!

Revelation 21.9-21 – A Sovereign alternative

Today John sees the Bride, the wife of the Lamb, the glorified church in all its glorious glory!

9 Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying,

“Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.”

10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed– 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

15 And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. 16 The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. 17 He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement.

18 The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst.

21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

There is beauty and awe, as when you see a bride adorned for marriage (v.9), there is radiance that reflects God’s glory as Moses did having spent time in His presence (v.11), there is history and heritage (v.12b), and there is acknowledgement of those Jesus sent out to continue the work He began (v.14). Quite an awe-inspiring descent to watch.

The scale of the the beauty of this city is unimaginable, over a thousand miles each way of sheer breathtaking beauty…but what else would we expect from the city that God Himself has designed? (Hebrews 11.10).

Then the stones…are they symbolic of the indescribable majesty of the place, or, are they a literal description of the heavenly city and the glorified church?

This short five minute video, sent to me by a great friend when he knew we were working through Revelation, offers a Sovereign alternative…enjoy!

Revelation 21.1-8 – Replace don’t renew

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

5 And he who was seated on the throne said,

“Behold, I am making all things new.”

Also he said,

“Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

6 And he said to me,

“It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

We own a car that is pretty old and beat up, it’s done almost enough kilometres to get to the moon and it is falling apart, literally…there are pieces missing on the inside, there are pieces falling off the outside, and it usually takes two or three ‘encouragements’ to start. We have reached the point where this car is not going to sell for any real sum of money (plus, morally how can we sell a car we know is falling apart), so for now, it’s our big old tank. It’s still big and safe, and we can strap the boys in with a clear conscience. But, it will never sell, we can never renew it to be like it ever was because it is so old, so beat up, so broken (in parts) that when it drives its last KM we will need to find a new car rather than renew the old one.

This is exactly what we see here, or what John saw here and was commanded to write; it must have been pretty cool as he evidently was so overawed that he stopped writing, Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

We read of new heaven and a new earth, and the original language guides our understanding of this to mean something fresh, not a renewal of existing thing, or just the next in line. We are replacing old with new, not renovating or simply looking at the already-prepared next earth, no, this is a fresh, new thing! Bible commentator David Guzik puts it this way,

“The ancient Greek word translated new here means “new in character, ‘fresh’.” It doesn’t mean…new in time.” This isn’t just the next heaven and the next earth; this is the better heaven and better earth replacing the old.”

This new heaven and new earth are characterised by what is missing; death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”, and by what is now available; Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God…To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment…

So the first heaven and the first earth will pass away, making way for a fresh, new, better heaven and earth. If we choose self over Christ we will never experience this, shown by the list at the end of this passage in v.8, but if we choose Christ over self each and every day He tells us that we will.

Randy Alcorn puts it this way,

“Jesus Christ, the Son of God, loved us so much that he left the riches of heaven to become a man and deliver us from our sin.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3.16).”

So, decision time, are we going to experience the new heaven and new earth? Are we going to experience the special relationship of “I will be his God and he will be my son”? Are we going to experience the fresh, new, better life that Jesus died to provide?

Pause, think, and pray; is there anything in my life that needs to be replaced with the fresh, new, and better life that Jesus died to provide?

Is there anything in my life that is preventing me from having my eternal destination be as a child of God in His presence?

If there is, it is time to replace those things.

Revelation 20.11-15 – Motivation to share

Today the second resurrection takes place one thousand years after the resurrection of believers in the Lord Jesus, and it takes place before the great white throne. It is a judgement for every unbeliever regardless of rank or file (great and small), and, in as few words as possible, those part of the second resurrection and judgement are brought before God in what is essentially a sentencing, not a trial.

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.

12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.

13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Often times we hear people say

‘Oh, when I get to heaven God has some explaining to do!’, or

‘I’ve got some questions for God and He is going to have to be ready for me when I get there!’. The same kind of person also, usually, believes that all good people go to heaven and it will be settled at the pearly gates by sweet talking your way past St. Peter after ascending up an escalator through the clouds…

The reality is very different; believers have been raised to life with Christ and brought before His judgement (2 Corinthians 5.10), and those who rejected the way, will, words, and work of Jesus are brought before the great white throne for sentencing…and it’s not pretty.

The second resurrection and attached judgement are so final and eternal in consequence (v.10), and this is hell – eternal separation from God’s presence. It is not one big party led by a guy with hoofs, a pitchfork, and a bad beard…it is eternal separation from the presence of God with no chance of return. It is final.

Scaring people into being a believer is never the best way forward, is it, ‘Do this or else…’, think how you see a manic street preacher shouting about hell and you shudder because they are probably pushing people away from Christ not drawing them in. But, for those of us who know the love of the Saviour, for those of us who know with assured confidence that we will stand before our Lord and Master at the first resurrection and reign with Him for a thousand years before watching Him bring about a new heaven and a new earth in which we will dwell with Him for eternity, for us, we need to know the alternative. Not to scare unbelievers into believing, but to motivate ourselves to go and share the love and the life of Christ.

I read recently that there is no more selfish person that he or she who is willing to go to heaven alone.

So, time to share the love and life of Christ with those whom God has put you in the midst of. Don’t shout about hell, but live like you are going to heaven.

What A Beautiful Name // Agnus Dei – Thursday Music

devotional imagesToday, one of the most powerful song arrangements I have heard in a long time, complete with God-glorifying, Jesus-honouring lyrics.

We begin with Hillsong’s ‘What a beautiful name’, 

You were the Word at the beginning

One with God the Lord Most High

Your hidden glory in creation

Now revealed in You our Christ

Straight away we see the eternity and Deity of Christ, Word at the beginning, One with God the Lord most high. Scripture is pouring through this song, John 1.1, 10.30 here, and in the first line we are affirming that Jesus was, and is, eternal, and was, and is, God. 

We then see the eternal Kingship of Jesus, 

What a beautiful name it is, what a beautiful name it is

The name of Jesus Christ, my King

What a beautiful name it is, nothing compares to this

What a beautiful name it is, the name of Jesus

References to Jesus as King include Matthew 6.13, 1 Timothy 6.15, Revelation 1.5, Revelation 17.14, and Revelation 19.11-16

So far, then, Jesus is eternal and the eternal King of Kings. As the song ramps up and the chills begin, we see that Jesus conquered death, “Death could not hold you“, as seen in Acts 2.24, 1 Corinthians 15.55, and Revelation 1.18.

Now we have Jesus as eternal, with God, as God, before the foundations of the world were laid, Jesus as eternal King of Kings, and Jesus having the power to defeat death, simply, 

What a powerful name it is, nothing can stand against

What a powerful name it is, the name of Jesus

Deuteronomy 11.25 and Proverbs 21.30 both share this thought; nothing can stand against our great God, against Jesus the Messiah, or against the Spirit of God moving.

Then today’s song pauses and begins to ramp up even more, it’s getting emotional, then, with a few beats of the drum we are worshiping with the entire host of heaven.

I am convinced beyond all doubt this is what heaven will be like, the constant worship of our Lord, our God, the King of Kings…loud, emotional, upwardly focused, people of all nations, languages, and cultures worshiping their hearts out, pouring out what is deserved by our great God, just as we see in Revelation 4 and 5, specifically 4.8, 4.11, 5.9-10, 5.12-14.

This is definitely one to listen to as loud as you can, perhaps you need headphones, especially from 4:00 onwards…

This wonderful medley of two songs shows us just how precious the name of Jesus is to those who believe (1 Peter 2.6-8), and then gives us a loud, chilling, and emotive preview of what heavenly worship will be like…enjoy, and take this feeling into your day, and every day!

Revelation 2.12-17 – Heaven bound

12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.

13 “‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith[a] even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.

14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. 15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.

16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.

17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’

Today the angel of the church in Pergamum is addressed. Pergamum was the political capital of Asia Minor, so another important city. It was a city noted for culture, as an educational centre (it had a library containing over 200,000 volumes), and was also noted as a ‘religious’ city. We read also that it is a stronghold of satanic power.

As to why it was such a stronghold, some believe because Pergamum was full or pagan religion, especially of “Asclepios Soter” or “Asclepios Savior.”, a pagan god depicted by a snake, a pagan god of healing. Sufferers would flock to this temple from all over the Roman empire and spend the night in the dark temple, being run over by tame snakes. To touch the snake, they believed, was to touch the god himself, and be healed…

Others believe it was because Pergamum had a huge altar dedicated to the Roman god Zeus, and yet others believe it was because Pergamum was the political centre of Caesar worship.

Clearly, a mixed up place.

This church are holding fast to the name of Jesus in a place filled with unbelievers, where the way of life totally revolved around worship of other gods, where people were known to be religious but were not in relationship with the One true God.

But, as there is no such thing as a perfect church, there are also behaviours and actions that they are told must stop, must be repented of.

Some in the church were still holding on to former ways of immorality and idolatry, as we read, they were holding the teaching of Balaam, see Numbers 22-24, and 31.

To live up to Biblical principles of morality means going against the grain, especially in Pergamum 2000 years ago. Listen to what Roman statesmen Cicero said,

“If there is anyone who thinks that young men should not be allowed the love of many women, he is extremely severe. I am not able to deny the principle he stands on. But he contradicts, not only with the freedom our age allows, but also with the customs and allowances of our ancestors. When indeed was this not done? When did anyone find fault with it? When was such permission denied? When was it that what is now allowed was not allowed?”

As believers we are called to stand against such ‘freedoms of the age’, and live with the timeless truth of the Word of God in mind, the timeless principles embodied by the Lord Jesus Christ.

We must never have a spirit of accommodation towards false teaching, towards idolatry, or towards immorality…the church must be doctrinally pure, and God promises us true manna from heaven if we are (John 6.41).

He also promises that if we see this through to the end, we are heaven bound, as evidenced by the white stone. Here the name on the stone is far more important than the stone itself.

Think, if you won the lottery and were told, ‘Do you want a cheque, a bank transfer, or an enormous bag of cash?’, you wouldn’t care how it got there, you’d just care it got there, you see?

So on the stone is our heavenly name, our guaranteed reservation to dwell with God forever…if we hold fast to His timeless truths despite living in a world that seeks to water them down, push them aside, or out and out crucify them.