Coming Judgment

John saw the Lamb begin to open the seals, starting the time of the judgment of God. We initially see the first horse go out, a white horse whose rider bent upon conquest, but this conquest will bring with it a lot of destruction. And we then that is exactly what we see: Wars, scarcity of food, death by plagues and famines as well as by the wild beasts of the earth. The martyrs even call out to God asking for Him to avenge their deaths, but they are told to be patient because more people yet must be killed.

All of these things happening will make the people, including the kings of the nations, run to the mountains and the caves so that they can be saved. But even in the midst of these “protected” places, they experience such terror that they call out to the mountains and caves to simply fall on them because of their fear of the God’s wrath. God’s judgment is so strong that it strikes fear in the deepest places within even the greatest of men and women on the earth:

Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”

Revelation 6:15-17

So frequently, we think that we are in control. We think that we are an advanced society. We think that we have everything in hand. And yet, in this book of Revelation, we see that it all comes crumbling down. Through nothing more than a call for the riders of the various horses to come, God and His Christ send his judgment out into the earth causing terror amongst everyone. There will be no resistance and there will be no standing against their wrath. When it comes, it will not only be known, but it will also be felt. Deeply.

So for us, we must know the One who will bring judgment. We must come to the Father through Christ. And only through Jesus may we pass through the coming judgment into eternal life.



Jesus had called the Apostle John up into heaven in the spirit to reveal to him what would happen following the time of the church. In Revelation 5, we get a true picture of how heaven, and all of the creatures in heaven, whether they would be the angels, the elders around God’s throne, or otherwise, look upon Jesus.

First, let’s remember what John the Baptist said about Jesus:

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

John 1:29

Here, we see John call Jesus the Lamb of God. Why a lamb? Because this lamb would be a sacrifice for the sins of the world. But a sacrifice completed by whom? John says that it was God’s Lamb. It is God Himself who is offering this sacrifice. And in fact, it is always God who provides. Even if others are offering the sacrifice, God is the One who provides the sacrifice.

For example, let’s look back to Abraham. What did he do? God called Abraham to offer his very own son. God had now asked Abraham to offer Isaac, the one legitimate son that he had with his wife Sarah, back to God as a sacrifice. However, as we can read in Genesis 22, just as Abraham raises his knife to kill his son, God calls out to him through an angel and Isaac is spared.

However, a sacrifice is still offered. God provides a ram, whose horns are caught in a thicket, to be killed and sacrificed instead of Isaac. So we see that, even though Abraham would go on to kill the ram, God was the one who provided the sacrifice.

Or we can also think about the prophecy in Isaiah 53. There is a man, of whom a prophecy is spoken, that will come to take on the sins of the people. He will be beaten, bruised, and crushed, but will then return back to life. This is, of course, a prophecy that foretold the life of Jesus and we can easily trace back several parts of these 12 short verses to direct actions in Jesus’s life.

But if we focus on verse 7, we can see that this man is referred to as a lamb that is being led to the slaughter:

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

Isaiah 53:7

So again, we see this imagery of a lamb that would be a sacrifice. And if we continue on into verse 10, we can also see that it was God who offered the sacrifice so that instead of us receiving the punishment for our sins, Jesus would take that punishment upon himself.

Now, having understood the we can return back to the book of Revelation and we can see that there is, once again, the imagery of a lamb. This is, yet again, the Lamb of God and this Lamb receives honor and worship for what he has done:

Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased for God
persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.

Revelation 5:6-9

Jesus, in this revelatory image of a Lamb, is worshiped by the elders and the four living creatures. He is worthy to take and open the scroll, the scroll that would spell out, step by step, the coming judgment of the world.

So, why Jesus? Why can this Lamb open the scrolls that will judge the world? Because he is worthy. He is worthy because he is God Himself who came into the world and offered himself as a lamb, as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, just as John the Baptist had proclaimed. With his blood, Jesus offered himself so that he could purchase for God people from every tribe, tongue, and nation those that would come into God’s Kingdom. And because he had done that, because he had offered himself as a sacrifice to make this purchase, this Lamb – Jesus himself – is deemed worthy to open the scroll and receive glory and honor and worship for what he has done.


Holy Holy Holy

It is difficult for us to even begin to imagine what true holiness is, or what it would mean to be holy. In Revelation 4, we see the creatures, covered in eyes, around God’s throne who, all day and night long, continue to cry out and proclaim God’s holiness.

Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

“‘Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.”

Revelation 4:8

I’m reminded of a similar story when Isaiah was called by God to go and speak for Him. As I say, it is difficult to understand what holiness truly is, but we can begin to get a sense of what it means by seeing Isaiah’s reaction just upon entering into God’s throne room and seeing the scene in that place:

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”

Isaiah 6:5

We can see that Isaiah immediately understood how broken he truly was. We can see that he understood his sin, that he understood the sin of the people from whom he came, and now he has seen the Lord.

I think that this is critical to understand. God is perfect. He is the definition of perfection. He is holy.

But we are not.

Isaiah was a prophet who was called by God to speak for God to the people of Israel. So surely, if there was a holy man in Israel, it would have been God’s prophet, wouldn’t it? But yet, Isaiah, at the moment that he understands and sees for whom he is speaking, what does he say?

Woe to me!

And so we can begin to get a sense, through Isaiah, the level of perfection that we are speaking about when we hear the creatures crying out Holy, Holy, Holy! We can begin to understand the gulf, the spanse of difference between God and man, the perfection and holiness of God and the imperfection of man.

So this is why it is such foolishness for us to think that we can be “good enough” to be able to reach God. Muslims, for example, but also Catholics, tell me that they hope that their good deeds will outweigh their bad and that they will, therefore, be accepted by God into heaven. I saw this recently with a friend who wanted to honor his friend who had passed away, posting on Facebook that he hoped God would allow him entrance into paradise and that God would add his friend’s desire to clean the mosque to his list of good works.

It deeply saddens me that my Muslim friends are blind to God’s holiness. Despite the words that we may have shared with them, they have been unable to see the holiness of God and our absolute spiritual poverty before Him. We have nothing to offer. We have nothing that we can give. Like Isaiah, we are men and women of unclean lips, and that is all that we can say. God is holy and we are not.

And so we need a savior. We need one who can cleanse us to make us clean. God did this for Isaiah by bringing a coal from the altar to cleanse his lips. And God did this for us by offering Himself in the Person of Christ as a sacrifice for our sins. This is all God’s doing. In our sin, we can do nothing, and we remain in our blindness if we think we can. But God can and will, if we will let him. He will also make us holy and clean so that holy can be with Holy. This is our desire, that through Christ, we can come to the only one who is Holy.


Spit you out

Through John in the book of Revelation, Jesus speaks to the church in Laodicea. He speaks of the material riches of the people of that church saying that they consider themselves to be rich, but instead they are poor. Jesus says that they are wretched, pitiful, blind, and naked. They think that they are great because of their wealth, but their material wealth has blinded them to their spiritual poverty.

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Revelation 3:15-18

I’m really reminded of our society today, whether it be in America where I am from, or in Italy where I am currently living. Both within and outside of the church, I have seen these same attitudes and it makes me wonder what Jesus would say to us if he were to write the book of Revelation and list us in what is being written.

But in this case, let’s focus on the church because Jesus isn’t addressing the society at large. He is speaking directly to the church. He says that they are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold. They are like food that has sat out all day and simply taken on the temperature of the room.

In the same way, the church has allowed the systems and thoughts of the world come in and affect its temperature. We are no longer on fire for Christ, but instead distracted by all of the “important” things around us. Our business. Our hobbies. Even our security and family. Sure, these are important things that we should be paying attention to, but they also provide entrance to the world and distract us from what is truly the most important thing: Christ and living for him.

If we will do that, we can come to him to ask for gold. We can ask for white clothes. And we can ask to be able to see. And Jesus will give us all of these. They aren’t material goods, and they certainly aren’t material wealth, but they do give us life eternally, and as Jesus says, it is life abundantly.

In fact, this reminds me of a parable that Jesus told. In Matthew 13, Jesus spoke of the four different types of soil where the farmer had scattered seed. In particular, I want to focus on the third soil. Jesus said that this seed produced a plant but as it grew, thistles and thorns grew up around it, crowding out the plant. Jesus went on to explain that these these thistles and thorns are the cares of the world. Just as the Laodiceans were concerned about, and depending upon, their material wealth, the people referred to in Jesus’s parable were the ones whose faith was crowded out by the cares of the world.

So we have a huge risk and what Jesus is saying to the church should also be a great caution to us. Our risk is that we also would be caught up in the cares of the world. We risk that we also would be materially rich but spiritually wretched and poor. And we need to guard against this at all times. We need to understand that this risk is a threat to our faith and guard against it, not allowing these attitudes into the church, nor into our hearts so that we will not become lukewarm and be spit out.


Warning and Reward

In the book of Revelation, the Apostle John wrote down the words of Christ as he spoke them in a vision to John. The revelation is addressed to the seven churches in Asia as John wrote from the island of Patmos where Jesus had come to him in a vision.

Jesus speaks to the seven churches, but in chapter 2, we see that there are four to whom he speaks initially: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, and Thyatira.

As Christ addresses each of these churches, we see some recurring themes. To me, I think that what I have noted the most is the contrast between the warnings and the reward.

From the perspective of the warnings, I see Christ calling his church to remain faithful and continue burning hot in their faith to him and for him. Jesus is calling his church to leave the prevailing culture behind, to leave the evil of worship of other “gods” through eating foods sacrificed to them and to sexual “worship” by having sex with prostitutes at the temple.

Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality.

Revelation 2:14

So we see that Jesus is patient with his people and patient with his church. But he also gives them warnings that they will be judged for their evil, and they will be punished for what they have done.

However, on the other hand, Jesus will also give the possibility to come to God through him. He will also give them eternal life. Life with God forever.

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

Revelation 2:7

Jesus says that they will have the right to eat from the tree of life. This is the same tree from which Adam and Eve were mercifully banished in the Garden of Eden so that they would not live forever in their sin under the judgment of God. In God’s paradise, which will be given to those who are victorious, Jesus will allow them to eat from the tree of life, giving them life forever with God.


God’s Testimony

John is speaking of Christ and our relationship with him in chapter 5. Through the course of the chapter, he writes some important news for us to remember.

We often testify that Jesus is the way to come back into relationship with God. But the more important news for us to consider is that this is not just our testimony, but it is God’s testimony as well, and because it is His testimony, it carries much more weight.

And then John delivers the testimony itself:

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

1 John 5:11-12

These two verses are full of both wonderful and terrible news. Jesus is God’s Son who came by water and blood and then confirmed by the Spirit of God. He came by water through his baptism and identification as the Son of God. He came by blood by shedding his blood on the cross for us. And the Spirit of God both testified for Jesus when he was on the earth, and continues to testify for him as He speaks within us today to confirm the words from the word of God and from speakers that we hear to today.

So the wonderful news is that if we believe in him, if we believe in Christ, then God has given us eternal life. Life in eternity. Forever.

We can live on forever. Our spirits will continue in Christ, with God, into eternity, but only if we are in the Son. Only if we are in Christ can we have this eternal life.

And so there is a corollary to this statement that is also true, and is as equally terrible as is wonderful the previous news. And that is, if we do not have Christ, if we do not know him, if we are not in him, then we do not have eternal life. Instead, we will have punishment. We will have eternal death. We will have eternal separation from God.

That should, if we truly believe what it is saying, give us a great urgency, both for ourselves as well as for others. We must know Christ to have an eternal life. We must know him, or else we do not have eternal life. We have eternal death. May we know him, live for him, and tell others what they must know to have life themselves!


Simple Tests

Let me start by saying that I don’t believe that the Christian faith is a test. There are many that think that our life is simply a test to see if we are “good enough” to be able to reach paradise. I think that is nonsense. None of us is good enough to be able to reach heaven. God is perfect and holy and wants nothing to do with sin, so this is why we need his covering, his forgiveness for our sins. And that is why he sent Jesus.

So our faith is not a test because we have already failed. It is only by God’s love and mercy that we can know Him.

However, there are points in our lives when we can use tools to be able to know how to best proceed forward. How can I know whether it right to continue forward in a particular relationship? How can I know the right direction to go? Sometimes these can be important things to understand as we try to employ wisdom in a particular situation.

John writes a couple of ways that we can know if we are headed in the right direction. For example, he explains how we can know that a particular person is speaking from God or not. Very simply:

Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

1 John 4:2-3

Much of the direction of the world, actually, hinges on this question: Who is Jesus? For example, in the case of Muslims, they say that he is the Christ, but then go on the say that he is only a prophet, meaning that he receives messages from God, but isn’t necessarily himself from God.

But here, John helps us to understand that Jesus must be acknowledged and understood to be the Messiah, to have come from God as His Christ. If they do not do that, then this person is speaking as having the spirit of the antichrist.

God would not deny Himself, and Jesus came from God, so God’s Spirit would, himself, acknowledge and affirm Jesus for who he is.

In the second test, John makes the test practical, both for us individually as well as for others with whom we might come into contact.

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

1 John 4:8-10

So again, John makes it simple for us. Are we showing love? And has that love become a practical outpouring of action in our lives? If so, then we know God.

But if we do not love – if we are not showing it to others – then we do not know God. This is a way that we can know whether we are acting rightly, or if the person that I am interacting with truly knows God or not. Love is a determining factor.

So these are simple tests. Again, not because our faith is a test, but ways that we can know if we are going in the right direction, or how the people that we are connecting with are truly following God or not and whether or not we should continue forward in the direction that we are going with them.


Children of God

A few years ago, I can remember a young Muslim guy that I had been reading the Bible with at the time had told me that he learned about the idea that we are called the children of God in the Bible. He was very curious about this and wondered what it could mean.

I explained that he was correct, that we are referred to as God’s children. This was, of course, quite different and strange for my friend because, as a Muslim, he is considered to be God’s servant, and that only. But the Biblical scriptures make a significant distinction here, that we are not just considered to be servants, but we are adopted into God’s family as His children and we become heirs to the promise that God had given to Abraham that we would be blessed and we would be able to know God Himself.

John spoke about this same idea in his first epistle to the believers of his time. He said:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

1 John 3:1-2

I see at least a couple of really important points in this couple of verses. First, it is the Father, God himself, who has lavished His love upon us. In fact, it is He, God, who calls us His children. We aren’t calling ourselves God’s children, but God has shown us His love and called us His children.

As I mentioned previously, we have been adopted into God’s family. We are not born into the family of God, but we are adopted into His family. As those who follow Christ, God allows us to be called His children.

The second important point that I see here is that when Christ appears, we will see him for who he is. That is, we will see Christ as God’s child, but we will also understand that we are also his children because we will be considered God’s children alongside of him.

So, unlike my friend who believes that he can only be a servant, one who works for God, we instead learn that we are part of God’s family. As followers of Christ, we are adopted into God’s family and we are royalty. We are no longer just considered servants, or followers, or students, but instead we are considered God’s children, part of His family!


How to know an antichrist

John is writing to the disciples of the time and trying to encourage them to live in the ways that they had been taught. They had learned that Jesus is the Christ and that they should love him by doing what Jesus had commanded. They had learned the truth, but now they must walk in that truth.

But it is possible to deny the truth of Christ. Either at that time, or in our day, the truth of Christ could easily be denied, leading many people astray, and that is what happens in these days. Many people have been blinded as a result of their denials, whether they be the “learned”, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, or many, many others. They have denied that Jesus is the Christ. So John has some specific warnings for the believers so that we keep a watch out for these people and their teachings:

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

1 John 2:20-23

We have a desire within us to go our own way. We desire to be our own ruler, our own king. But John is writing, he says, so that we that know the truth of who Jesus is will not fall away but will continue in what we know. We do not want to be influenced by those who lie through their denials of the identity of Christ. We do not want to fall under the influence of the antichrist, but instead know the Son, and therefore we will know the Father.

John says that whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ is the antichrist. Let us continue on our path to proclaim Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah who was to come into the world and is yet to return.


We have seen and heard

If you think about it, it is pretty incredible. People have seen God. People have heard from God. God has been here, walking amongst us, and we have seen him and heard him.

The One who spoke and made the universe come into existence has been here with us. The One who parted the Red Sea and the Jordan River for Moses has been here with us. The One who brought the Israelites into the promised land has been here with us.

The One who was rejected by the Israelites has been here. The One who punished the Israelites for their rebellion by scattering them to the nations has been here.

And this is the same thing that John was speaking about when he started his first epistle:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched —this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.

1 John 1:1

John is saying that this One who did all of these things, and so much more, is the same One that they were allowed to see. Jesus is the Word of life, and they were able to be with him. They were allowed to truly see him with their own eyes. They were allowed to hear him with their own ears. And they were allowed to touch him with their own hands. They had seen and heard, and touched, God.

They saw, heard, and touched eternity through the Eternal One, even while he was here on earth. His leaving wasn’t the end, it was simply a moment in time. His life would continue on forever, and so would the life of those who believe in him.

How privileged were these people, that they were allowed to see God?!? That God was willing to come to them in their time in history. God came and dwelt among them!

But we should be clear that God continues this to this day. Jesus came as God in the form of a man. Jesus was referred to as Immanuel, which means God with us.

But Jesus also gave us his Spirit. For those that believe in him, the Holy Spirit will come to dwell with them. Jesus wants to know his people, and he wants his people to know him – and intimately. This is no small thing. The God of the universe comes as a man to earth to show Himself to everyone, and now he will know us, but more importantly, we can know him.

And so now, his Spirit dwells with us and we are called to live by the Spirit. No longer by our flesh, but living according to Christ within us. Through the Spirit within us, and through his word, we can know him. We can know God. With our own eyes and ears, we can see and hear him.