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Current study: Spiritual Warfare

31 December 2012

Year End

I was reading forward -- normally I don't read anything that's been forwarded, but this happened to be about an "entertainer" I never cared for. Part of the message was that this person and their spouse were both dead. I began to wonder whether they were in hell or in heaven. Did any of their friends know Christ? Did anyone share the Good News that we are sinners, but that Christ came to this earth to save each of us from certain eternity in hell if we did not repent and believe in Jesus as the only way to heaven? What if I knew this person? Would I have been afraid to share, or would I have spoken out about Jesus? How about you? Will you hide your light, or will you take a stand? This world is getting worse day by day. Things are more complicated. Many people who attend a church on Sunday never hear the Good News. When Jesus takes us home, will you be ashamed of your stand on earth? Time's short. GO TELL!!!!

It's been a great year and I am thankful that God has allowed me the privilege of hosting this blog. I pray that you have been strengthened in your faith as you've studied with me. Next year's blog is 2013musing.blogspot.com - join me!

26 December 2012

Week 52 - December 26

December 26
Revelation 11-13

We ended yesterday's reading by taking a break from the horror. We begin today by watching the temple get measured. This is our introduction to the two witnesses as well.

Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” Rev 11:1-3 (ESV)

The Bible is very specific – 1,260 days, or 3 ½ years, the same 3 ½ years in which the nations will trample the holy city. These witnesses have the power to cause drought and water which turns to blood. At the end of the 3 ½ years, the Beast, Satan, will be able to kill them. Everyone in the world will see their bodies lying in the street for 3 ½ days. They will return to heaven in full view of the world, and God punctuates their resurrection with an earthquake. Seven thousand people will die.

It's time for the seventh trumpet to sound. As it does, the bowl judgments are revealed. Heaven's voices are heard, and the earth groans, thunders, makes hail, and quakes.

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.  The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”  Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. Rev 11:15-19 (ESV)
Enter the woman – the first of seven signs in the last half of Revelation. This woman symbolizes Israel, which was portrayed by the prophets as the wife of God. She is clothed with the sun..and twelve stars. The stars represent Israel's tribes, and the sun represents glory and exalted status. She is giving birth to a male child, Christ, who ultimately ascended to heaven. She will be protected for the last 1,260 days of the Tribulation.

At this point, Satan will no longer have access to God in heaven (Job 1:6, 2:1). Furious because he is not allowed to devour Israel, he attacks earth's remaining believers.

Chapter 13 contains two terrifying beasts. The first beast has seven heads and ten horns. This beast is in charge of the entire world. This beast had a “deadly wound” which was healed, and most commentators say that this refers to a fake death and resurrection sequence (Satan does everything he can to counterfeit God's workings).

And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. Rev 13:5-8 (ESV)

We close the chapter with a description of the second beast, the false prophet. This man is the Antichrist's enforcer, and he...

...causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name.  This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666. Rev 13:16-18 (ESV)
If you are a Christian, these verses give you hope for your future. If you've yet to accept Christ, you are rieading about your end – if Jesus comes soon. We do not know when Jesus will return and set off the events of the Tribulation. Every generation has thought that they were “the ones”, and every generation has been wrong. We look at the signs around us and think that it will happen soon, but only God knows. Don't get caught up in predictions about the beginning of the end. But if you've not accepted Christ, why gamble with your eternity?

Things get much worse before they get better, but have hope! I close with words from Jesus which should bring us comfort as we look around at today's headlines as well as looking at the horrors God has promised for the end of the earth.

Let not your hearts be troubled.
Believe in God; believe also in me.
In my Father’s house are many rooms.
If it were not so,
would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come again and will take you to myself,
that where I am you may be also.
And you know the way to where I am going.
John 14:1-4 (ESV)

25 December 2012

Week 52 - December 25

December 25
Revelation 6-10

Today's reading included the seals and the trumpets. These signal the beginning of the end for the earth. I am always astounded to read this because I am amazed that God allowed John to see into the future and tell us about it – and that mankind as a whole doesn't take it seriously. The seventh seal contains the seven trumpets, and the seventh trumpet contains the seventh bowl.

The White Horse represents unparalleled world peace, ushered in by antichrists (anyone who is against Christ is by definition antichrist), culminating in the appearance of THE Antichrist. Some commentators think that this horse represents only the “big deal” antichrist. The rider has a bow, a symbol of war, but no arrows, showing that this peace is brought about through covenants and not battle. Daniel spoke of this as well.

Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.” Dan 9:24-27 (ESV)

The Red Horse represents war. The world will become even more violent than it is now.

The Black Horse represents famine which happens as a result of the war's destruction of our food supply. People will spend an entire day working for enough food to feed themselves (not their family). Violence will escalate as those who are hungry take from those who have food.

The Pale Horse. The Greek uses a word that is the basis for our word chlorophyll. This horse is pale, sickly green reminiscent of a corpse. This rider is permitted to kill 25% of the world's population.

The first four seals brought horses, false peace, war, famine and death. The fifth seal reveals praying saints asking God for vengeance. This represents the midpoint of the Tribulation and ushers in the Great Tribulation. God answers their prayers, but says that they have to wait a little longer, until a specific number of martyrs have been slain.

The Sixth Seal is the beginning of God's direct intervention. The previous seals allowed man to kill each other. Now God is using His creation to show man that He is serious – and man begins to fear.

When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale.  The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains,  calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” Rev 6:12-17 (ESV)

People recognize that the judgment is coming from God, yet they choose to remain unrepentant. This seal begins the time that the Prophets called the Day of the Lord.

For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 1 Thess 5:2-6 (ESV)

Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the Lord of hosts in the day of his fierce anger. Isaiah 13:13 (ESV)

Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near,   a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains a great and powerful people; their like has never been before, nor will be again after them through the years of all generations.   Fire devours before them, and behind them a flame burns. The land is like the garden of Eden before them, but behind them a desolate wilderness, and nothing escapes them.   Their appearance is like the appearance of horses, and like war horses they run.   As with the rumbling of chariots, they leap on the tops of the mountains, like the crackling of a flame of fire devouring the stubble, like a powerful army drawn up for battle.  Before them peoples are in anguish; all faces grow pale.  Like warriors they charge; like soldiers they scale the wall. They march each on his way; they do not swerve from their paths.  They do not jostle one another; each marches in his path; they burst through the weapons and are not halted.   They leap upon the city, they run upon the walls, they climb up into the houses, they enter through the windows like a thief.   The earth quakes before them; the heavens tremble. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining.   The Lord utters his voice before his army, for his camp is exceedingly great; he who executes his word is powerful. For 7the day of the Lord is great and very awesome; who can endure it? Joel 2:1-11 (ESV)

The earth's inhabitants ask who can stand at the end of Chapter 6. In Chapter 7, we receve our answer – the 144,000 sealed Jews and their converts.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,  saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Rev 7:9-14 (ESV)

The Seventh Seal brings an earthquake as well as the seven trumpet judgments (higher intensity judgments) and seven bowl judgments (highest intensity judgments). These judgments occur in the last 3 ½ years of the Tribulation.

First Trumpet – Fire (volcanoes?) burns up 1/3 of the world's trees and all of its grass.
Second Trumpet – Meteor falls; 1/3 of the oceans become blood; 1/3 of sea life and ships are destroyed.
Third Trumpet – Comet? 1/3 of fresh water polluted and many die.
Fourth Trumpet – 1/3 of stars, moon and sun dimmed. This will cause changes in the meteorology and biology of the entire planet.
Fifth Trumpet – demon invasion, stinging unbelievers and making them want to kill them but they will be unable to do so.
Sixth Trumpet – four angels released from captivity; 1/3 of mankind is killed. Sadly, even though all of this has happened...

The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts. Rev 9:20-21 (ESV)

God gives us a respite from all the carnage, and in Chapter 10 we see an angel with two scrolls. One is a “mighty” scroll, and we don't know what was in it because John wasn't allowed to saw. He was told to eat the little scroll.

Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.” Rev 10:9-11 (ESV)

It's been an exciting and revolting day. I know that God's Word is true, but it boggles my mind to know that people will see all of these judgments and still refuse to acknowledge the Creator of the universe.

May your Christmas celebration be filled with peace, joy and love – the kind that only comes through the love of Jesus Christ. Remember that it's HIS birthday! See you tomorrow.

24 December 2012

Week 52 - December 24

December 24
Revelation 1-5

If you've never read Revelation before, you're not alone. If all you know about Revelation comes from “educational television” shows or The Left Behind series, you have much to learn. If you've read Revelation over and over, you'll have new discoveries.

Revelation is about the end of the world, of course. God clearly showed John what was going to happen to our earth and everyone in it. Can you imagine how he must have felt when he was swept into the heavenlies to see future history? He saw vehicles unimagined in his time, nuclear war, fires, horses, death, destruction, and people who could not participate in commerce because they refused to take a loyalty mark. It was not so long ago that we couldn't figure out how anyone could be prohibited from buying or selling for lack of a mark, but every day we see news reports of additional surveillance measures, set up for our own good of course, which make it clear that the Bible's predictions are true and accurate.

Some think that this book is as symbolic, like the historicist, who believes that Revelation is a panoramic view of history. They see symbolism in the invasions of Rome and the French Revolution. The idealist thinks that it's simply a description of the cosmic war between the forces of good and evil, which severs Revelation from literal events and makes it merely a collection of stories with a spiritual truth. Others, like the preterists, believe that it was all fulfilled in AD70, which can't be true because the book claims to be prophecy! The futurist holds that Revelation 6-22 is in the future and depicts atual events which will occur, including Jesus' second coming, the Millennium, and judgments. I stand firmly in the futurist camp and believe that God put this information in the Book to warn us and make us aware. As we see our freedoms erode, as we see speaking ALL the words of the Bible becoming “hate crimes”, as we watch formerly staunch evangelical denominations fall to the world and ordain people to ministry whose lifestyle is called abomination by God, we can look at the end of this Book and know that God knows what's going to happen. If He could tell us about it 2,000 years ago, He can protect His people! His promises are true.

When you read this Book, God promises that you are blessed!

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. Rev 1:3 (ESV)

John has a vision, and he sees Jesus! He's standing in the middle of the seven candlesticks (remember that there were also seven lampstands in the tabernacle and the temple (Exodus 25:37). Seven is the Biblical number for completeness, and these seven lampstands represent all churches.

We read the seven letters to the churches – actual churches in John's day, and representative of churches that exist in the church age (now). Do you see your church in any of these (or a combination)?

Ephesus was a considered the gateway to Asia, and the people worshiped Artemis (Greek) and Diana (Roman). Diana/Artemis' temple was one of the seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Paul, Timothy and John all served the Ephesian church, and John was serving there when he was arrested and exiled to the island of Patmos. This church had spiritual discernment and was faithful, but they were no longer passionate about Christ. This reminds us that no matter how doctrinally sound we may be, without love...

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Cor 13:1 (ESV)

If the church doesn't repent, they would see God's judgment. Have you lost your first love? Are you reading, praying, going to church and maybe even sharing Christ without the passion? Turn from the “deeds of the Nicolaitans”, which brought sexuality into the church. As Clement of Alexander said, “They abandoned themselves to pleasure like goats, leading a life of self-indulgence”. Repent! Return to your first love. Jesus promises:

To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. Revelation 2:7 (ESV)

Smyrna means “myrrh” and this city was the center of science and medicine. They worshiped the Emperor, and it was the pastor of Smyrna, Polycarp, who was burned at the stake for refusing to worship Caesar. There was a large carnal Jewish population who were allied with the pagan culture to wipe out Christianity. God promised that their tribulations would last only for a short time and promised life eternal for those who overcame and remained faithful.

The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death. Revelation 2:11 (ESV)

Pergamos/Pergamum means “citadel” and was built on a 1,000 foot hill. We get our word parchment from Pergamum, which brings the reference “two edged sword”, the sword of the Spirit or the Word which brings judgment, to life.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)

Pergamos was the capital of the Roman province of Asia Minor for over 250 years. It was the capital of the cult of Caesar worship and host to the pagan cults of Athena, Asklepios, Dionysius/Bacchus and Zeus. The doctrine of Balaam referred to Balaam's prostitution of his prophetic gift. God promises Christians that He will give both a new name and a white stone (in John's time, a white stone was given to the victor as a pass into the winner's celebration). The name we receive will be private and personal – just between Jesus and me! I look forward to hearing the name Jesus bestows, don't you?

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. Revelation 2:17 (ESV)

Thyatira was located between Pergamos and Sardis. It had no natural defenses and was constantly being destroyed and rebuilt. This church was carnal and filled with sexual immorality. It was given time to repent and refused. God promised to destroy those who did not repent, but promised the faithful remnant that they would not only be spared, but they would rule (2:26).

The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. Revelation 2:26-28 (ESV)

Sardis sat on a natural acropolis 1,500 feet up and was nearly impregnable. This church was populated by unredeemed and unregenerate people who were legalistic and works based. They had the plans and programs in place and had a good reputation in the community, but to God, they were spiritually dead. Yet, there was a remnant and Jesus encouraged them. His promise to the overcomers at Sardis:

The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. Revelation 3:5 (ESV)

Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. This church was small but mighty, following God's doctrines. They persevered in their faith, and God promised them:

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, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. Revelation 3:12 (ESV).

And finally, there is the church in Laodicea. In John's time, Laodicea was wealthy and important, known for banking, wool and medicine (their eye salve was very famous). The city didn't have enough water, so they built an underground aqueduct, and their water was known to be dirty and tepid. A nearby city, Hierapolis, was famous for its hot springs, and Colosse was known for its cold mountain stream. People who didn't know about the water in Laodicea would take a drink and spit it out. Like that water, the church wasn't cold (completely turning their back on Christ), nor hot (zealous). They may have thought they were Christians, but Jesus said otherwise. He gave the church a stern warning to repent, along with a precious promise to those who were able to overcome.

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.  The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. Revelation 3:19-21 (ESV)

Now that the churches have been warned, we see John transported to heaven where he sees events that will happen at the end of the church age. He describes God's throne as best he can (I am certain that as magnificent as it sounds, seeing it in person will make this description pale in comparison). It is a place of reverent worship.

Chapter 5 opens with a picture of a sealed scroll (is it the title to the earth?) and an angel asking who is worthy to break the seals. In John's time, contracts and important documents were sealed. The more seals, the higher its importance, and seven is the Biblical number of completion. The only One worthy to break these seven seals is Christ.

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, it's fitting to focus on the songs we read at the end of today's reading. That tiny baby, born in obscurity and poverty and laid in a dirty and smelly stable is the One Who is worthy to open the seals and bring God's ultimate plan into place. Worship the Baby tonight – and come and worship the King of all creation now!

And they sang a new song, saying,

Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals,
for you were slain,
and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands,
saying with a loud voice,

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom
and might and honor and glory and blessing!”
And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
Revelation 5:9-14 (ESV)

Come and worship. Worship Christ the newborn King. Worship the Lamb Who will receive blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever. See you tomorrow.

23 December 2012

Week 52 - December 23

December 23
1 John
2 John
3 John

The apostle John wrote these “general epistles”. He was the last living apostle. During John's time, the most prevalent heresy was Gnosticism, and Plato was one if it's main advocates. Gnostics believed that matter was evil and spirit was good – which led to man's ideas judging God's revelation.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life —is not from the Father but is from the world. 1 John 2:15-16 (ESV)

Some gnostics said that Jesus' body wasn't actually real, but only seemed to be physical (the Docetism movement). John reminded his readers that he knew better – he actually saw and touched Jesus.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. 1 John 1:1-4 (ESV)

Another form of Gnosticism was led by Cerinthus. This group said that Jesus was human, and that Jesus' godly spirit came into Him at His baptism – and left just before His crucifixion. That's why John said...

This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 1 John 5:6 (ESV)

These heresies sound much like what we hear today! According to some, Jesus wasn't really human. Others say that He was human but that He didn't really come back to life.

Because of these heresies, some said that sin didn't exist and God's law was not important.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:8-10 (ESV)

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 1 John 3:4 (ESV)

Believers are characterized by love (even towards those who do not believe yet), and the false teachers of John's day weren't very loving toward the disbelieving. Like today's cults, those false teachers separated their followers from the faithful believers. John says that this type of separation proves that a “believer” had not been genuinely saved. Christians, he contended, proved their love for the Savior by loving one another.

By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:10-18 (ESV)

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 1 John 2:19 (ESV)

John's second epistle deals with the same issues, but this time his focus is on the false teachers that were targeting John's own congregation. Although we are to show hospitality, John warns against giving hospitality to someone who is clearly deceiving. John's words seem very harsh, but he was simply trying to protect his flock from being sucked into false teaching. We are called to be loving to others who don't yet believe, but we are NOT called to be accepting. This goes against today's trends toward “let's all get along where we agree and agree to disagree on the rest” form of ecumenism.

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works. 2 John 1:7-11 (ESV)

While 1 John wasn't written to a particular group; 2 John was written to a church member and her family, and 3 John is even more personal – it's to “beloved Gaius”. John's focus is again on hospitality, but this time he is condemning lack of hospitality to faithful ministers. Traveling preachers approved by John were refused lodging and provision by one of the leaders in the congregation, Diotrephes, who also slandered John!

I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. 3 John 1:9-10 (ESV)

John commends Gaius' hospitality and sends this stern letter against arrogance and disobedience.

Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth. 3 John 1:5-8 (ESV)

We can learn much from these three little books about our mandate to serve, offer hospitality and interact with believers – and the ways that we should treat those who aren't presenting a true Gospel. Do you offer “hospitality” to some supposedly Christian books, television shows or radio broadcasts which might be mostly okay, but which pervert or twist the Gospel? We are to separate ourselves from those things! We are to offer hospitality to ministers of the true Gospel alone.

Only one book remains, Revelation. It is another deep book, and I will write one blog post per day. I pray that you take the time during this busy Christmas week to complete your Bible Challenge. You're almost there!

See you tomorrow.

Week 52 Readings

December 23
     1 John 1-5
     2 John
     3 John
December 24
     Revelation 1-5
December 25
     Revelation 6-10
December 26
     Revelation 11-13
December 27
     Revelation 14-18
December 28
     Revelation 19-22