"Closing Words" Revelation 22:12-21

(These are the brief notes from Bible study on Sunday evening January 28.)

For review:
1. Primarily, the Revelation is a book of worship, comfort, and encouragement.
2. From the letters to the seven churches, we are reminded that every church has specific strengths and weaknesses, unique blessings and challenges.
3. Trials and tribulations much like those from the era in which the Revelation was written have occured at various times in history and will likely occur again in the future.
4. God is the only unchanging presence or factor in the drama. Seasons change. Circumstances come and go. The character and mission of God is steadfast and dependable.

Outline:
1. The testimony: Jesus is the root of David, a messianic reference, and the Bright and Morning Star. God is described as Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. v. 16
2. The invitation: The Spirit and the bride, that is, the church, give the invitation, “Let whoever is willing come and take of the water of life freely.” v.17
3. The warning: The warning for adding or taking away from these words is that you will encounter the plagues listed therein. v.18
4. The promise: “I am coming soon.” Soon is a relative term but certainly indicates an affirmative promise. It could be a specific term referring to Jesus receiving a believer immediately at the time of death, and/or a reference to Jesus returning to retrieve believers at a future point. v.20
5. The benediction: The grace of God be with God’s people. v. 21

Be assured that your circumstances in life may change several times but God’s grace will be with you in all seasons.

7th Heaven Revelation 21:1-8,15-28

(The following is the powerpoint outline of the sermon from Sunday January 28.)

Ultimately John catches a glimpse of the new world God has created, an existence where God’s community is complete.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
-Revelation 21:3-4 NIV

1. In heaven, God’s people live in perfect harmony and community with God and each other.

2. In heaven, pain and tears and death are conspicuously absent.

3. The architecture and landscape are presented as permanent and abundant.

4. All whose names are in the book for life have an eternal address in heaven.

The invitation is still open. It echos the ministry of Jesus who said, “I will give you water to drink and you will never thirst again.” The Revelation concludes with this invitation: The Spirit says “come” and the bride says “come;” let whosoever will come and take of the water of life freely. Revelation 22:17 (paraphrase)

Live your life, your ordinary life in this world, in tune with God and God’s purpose so that you are fully prepared for the world to come.

Smile and Get Ready to ROC!

Smile when you have your portrait made for our new Church Directory. Pictorial albums promote fellowship, provide resourceful information, and preserve an important segment of church history. We want every participant in our First Baptist Family to be included in our new directory.

In recent weeks the ROC has been at a standstill as our contractors and architects have been busy with permitting and re-pricing. As many of us have anticipated, with rising cost of materials, our budget for the Paul Royal Recreation and Outreach Center will need to be increased significantly. In our next church conference on Wednesday January 31, we will hear the most recent numbers as we have an opportunity to consider a new budget. Once a new budget is affirmed, the construction phase is ready to begin.

In the next few weeks, you should be contacted by your new family deacon. According to Kemp Wilson, our new Deacon Family Ministry coordinator, 80% of our deacons have just received their new assignments for 2007 and the remainder of our deacons will receive their assignments during the next couple of weeks. Among many other ministries, your family deacon will be praying for you.

We encourage all members of committees and ministry teams to participate in our Leadership Workshop which is scheduled for this Sunday January 28 at 5 o’clock in Chipley Hall. Our workshop will provide an orientation to committee structures and assignments for 2007.

Our Winter Bible Study, Rediscovering the Revelation, continues this Sunday as we focus on “7th Heaven” as described in Revelation 21. On Sunday evening at six o’clock we will meet in the sanctuary for Bible study and baptism.

Invite a friend or neighbor to join you this Sunday.

The Characters of Evil in the Revelation

(This is an outline of the Bible study from Sunday evening, January 21, 2007.)

This evening we hope to address some important symbols: the beast(s), false prophet, and the great prostiture. If we have time, we will address the notions of Jezebel, anti-Christ and the lake of fire.

Next week we will meet in the sanctuary for a summary of the Revelation and for baptism.

In review:
1. Apocalypse: The word translated Revelation is apokalupsis, which literally means a drawing aside of the veil to disclose some hidden sight. It is like the opening of the curtain on some drama, but the drama in question is not a man-made play but God-made history. –Wm. Barclay
2. Letters to the churches: Record of epistles to seven of the 12-15 churches in Asia are included in this book.
3. Groups of seven: Symbols such as the letters, plagues, seals, scrolls, etc., are rendered in groups of seven.
4. Other characters: The stars or angels are messengers; the lampstands are the churches or the testimony of the churches; the lamb is Christ.

Introduction:
Nature of evil: Systemic
Method of evil: Deceit and Manipulation
Future of evil: Eliminated

Outline:
1. Beast: (Revelation 13:13-18) Represents systemic evil in an unjust government or economy, an economy based on religious discrimination.

2. False prophet: (Rev 19:20) Represents systemic evil in an unfaithful religion. The false prophet works in tandem with the beast. Historically, close alliances between church and state have proven corruptive to both. This is yet another reason Baptists have contended for separation of church and state.

3. The great prostitute or harlot: (Rev 17:1-2) Represents systemic evil in a culture or human collective. Referred to like the culture of Babylon, this represents a collective human movement that is the antithesis of the bride of Christ.

4. AntiChrist: Supposedly represents any person or system that aggressively opposes Christianity.

5. Lake of fire: This is a dramatic reference to the torment of unbelievers and evildoers.
John seems to indicate that persecutors can burn you at the stake but in the end, they will end up in the lake of fire. The image of a lake of fire is in direct contrast to the river of life. (For further study I recommend Harold Bryson’s book, Yes, Virginia, There Is a Hell, which is also published under the title, The Christian Doctrine of Hell.)

Closing remarks:
Work for social and economic justice in Jesus’ name.
Avoid supposing that religious groups different from you are false.
Because we do not know when the end will come, make everyday count.

Preparing for the Ultimate Audit Revelation 20:11-15

(This is the powerpoint outline for Sunday morning, January 21, 2007.)

John vision in the Revelation includes a scene of final judgment where personal records from human lives are opened for God to audit.

And then I saw all the dead, great and small, standing there—before the Throne! And books were opened. Then another book was opened: the Book of Life. The dead were judged by what was written in the books, by the way they had lived.
-Revelation 20:12 TM

1. Every human being from every age is accountable to God.

Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
-Hebrews 9:27-28 NIV

My greatest thought is my accountability to God. Daniel Webster

2. In final judgment the books or records of life are opened for audit.

3. God is the divine auditor.

4. Jesus balances the books of his followers.
We are not capable of being good enough to deserve the life God has prepared. Christ becomes the great equalizer and redeemer who forgives our sins and invites us to embrace God’s way of life and ultimately God’s new world.

How do you prepare for the divine audit?
1) Confess your sins and receive God’s forgiveness.
2) Make right any outstanding trespasses or debts.
3) Align your life with teachings and mission of Christ.

The most worthy use of our time and resources this side of heaven is to be engaged in the mission of God in the world.

How Do You Prepare for an Audit?

Last weekend, an energetic and enthusiastic crew insured that our Habitat Project got off to a great start. This Saturday presents another opportunity to work on our Habitat House. Every member of our church family can play an important role by praying, by preparing food, or by participating in on site construction.

In cooperation with the Northwest Florida Blood Center, our First Baptist family is hosting a Winter Blood Drive on Sunday January 21. Over 50 donors have signed up already. If your health history qualifies you to contribute, please consider becoming a donor. Your contribution could save more than one life.

We are looking forward to the publication of our new Church Pictorial Directory. Pictorial albums promote fellowship, provide resourceful information, and preserve an important segment of church history. Be sure to make an appointment for you and your family to have your portrait made. Our new directories should be available by Mother’s Day.

Our Winter Bible Study, Rediscovering the Revelation, has been probing, encouraging, and extremely well-attended. This Sunday morning we think about “Preparing for the Ultimate Audit” as we focus on Revelation 20:11-15.

Invite a friend to join you for worship and Bible study this week.

Letters to Smyrna and Pergamum


( The following is an outline of notes from the Bible study on the evening of January 17, 2007.)

Review:

Remember that each letter is to a church with a unique context, each having specific strengths and weaknesses. These churches were challenged to make course corrections and believers were challenged toward endurance. Generally, the letters follow the pattern of rebuke, invitation, affirmation, promise.

Part One: Letter to Smyrna Revelation 2:8-11

1. Location: Located approximately 40 miles due north of Ephesus, Smyrna is considered one of the most beautiful and wealthiest cities in Asia, Smyrna was home to magnificent temples built to the Greek deities Apollo, Aphrodite, and Zeus. Smyrna was the hometown of Homer. Touted as a city that was entirely loyal to Rome, Cicero notes in that Smyrna was always faithful to their treaties and alliances. Some believe that the city is among the first to practice emperor worship. Ironically or providentially, scholars believe Smyrna is the oldest continual Christian witness in the church.
2. Rebuke: There is no harsh rebuke. There is a gentle reprimand for them not to feel inferior in the face of Greek culture. You (the church) think of yourself as poor, but you are rich in Christ.
3. Invitation: “Do not fear…be faithful unto death.” (Note the biography of Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, who courageously made a public affirmation of faith which led to his execution).
4. Affirmation: “The crown of life is yours.” This is a reminder is that the reward of faithful endurance is to experience life, eternally, as God intended.
5. Promise: You are secure from the second death. “Second death” is a rabbinic phrase used only in Revelation. The second death refers to separation from the eternal life prepared in Christ. It is specifically referenced in this drama as a casting into the lake of fire.

Part Two: Letter to Pergamum Revelation 2:12-17

1. Location: Located 45 miles north of Smyrna, Pergamum was the ancient capital of Asia. It was a cultural center that exceeded both Ephesus and Smyrna. A library, second in size only to the one in Alexandria, Egypt was located in Pergamum. The library contained over 200,000 volumes, remarkable in a world where books were written and copied by hand. Noted for Caesar worship, the city had a temple built 30 years before Christ, dedicated to the deity of Caesar Augustus. The term, “Satan’s temple” in v. 13 could refer to Caesar’s temple or to the statue to Zeus, a statue 20 feet high and 90 feet wide.
2. Rebuke: You have tolerated some who are like Balaam, stumblingblocks who lead others into idolatry or sexual immorality, and you have those among you who follow the Nicolaitans, trying to separate soul and body, or belief and action.
3. Invitation: Repent! Cease your toleration of these who advocate acts of idolatry. Don’t give room for these errant beliefs that accommodate a lustful lifestyle.
4. Affirmation: I know your name (reputation) and that you have remained true (or faithful) in spite of the severe persecution, even the death of Antipas (an early martyr).
5. Promise: I will give to you hidden manna…bread from heaven…the bread of life. You do not need to eat bread offered to idols. (There was a notion that manna would fall from heaven during the messianic age.) I will give you a white stone with a new or secret name. White stones were symbols of hospitality and friendship, signs of God’s favor and blessing. God gave a new name to represent the strengthening or the transformation of character.

Concluding remarks:
Each church is challenged to be faithful in seasons of prosperity and adversity.
All Christian churches are to encourage and demonstrate strong moral values.
Listen for the voice of the spirit speaking to us as a church, not just me as an individual.