Heroes

Everybody wants to be the hero. In fact, I can’t think of anyone who would choose not to be the hero in the story if given the chance. There’s something about our make-up that longs for a battle to fight, a quest to undertake or a damsel to rescue. We might think of Indiana Jones or Iron Man or Jack Reacher, but the success of the Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games showed us that even the least likely of characters can be heroic. One of the things we enjoy about heroes is their ability to save the day. Rarely do they die in the process. And if they do, it makes for a very sad tale indeed. But as we continue in the story of Revelation, we find a surprising twist to the plot. The heroes of the story follow the example of the Hero of the Story…they give their lives for the sake of the cause.

Revelation 7-8. After the devastating effects of the seal judgments, John records a brief pause in heaven. First an angel is sent to seal, 144,000 Jews (likely converts during the ministry of the 2 witnesses around the middle of the tribulation) so that they will survive through the end of the tribulation (more on that in a later post). But then we get a celestial view from the end of the tribulation of multitudes of folks from every tribe and tongue and people and nation surrounding the throne and worshiping God and the Lamb. These folks are holding palm branches (a symbol of victory) and wearing white robes…the same robes that were given to the martyrs in the previous chapter. And now we see the full number of their brethren whose faith was forged in the fires of tribulation, who overcame by the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony and who did not love their lives even unto death. And these heroes of the story have a front row seat to see the remainder of the drama played out.

And then the trumpets. In the Old Testament, the trumpet was a symbol of war (think of Jericho, Gideon, David…when the trumpet sounded the battle was engaged). And now the trumpets will signal the turn of focus from Israel’s repentance to the judgment on the nations. And we will see destruction that starts with creation and has a ruinous effect on mankind.

So what does this mean for us. John writes the book of Revelation to believers, and repent is a key term. In the midst of a culture that is constantly telling us to give up or give in, John reminds us that the fate of the world truly is at stake. There is a war raging for the souls of men. He wants to shake us out of our complacency and ignite within us a desire, a burning desire, a faith that is worth dying for and so surely is worth living for. A faith that impacts not only the way we live contrary to the culture, but a faith that can transform the culture. Are you with me? Who’s in?

Until next time…stay salty.

 

On earth as it is in heaven

Revelation 4-5. The scene in heaven is a sharp contrast to the condition of the churches in 2-3. If the churches represent God’s hold on planet earth, that hold appears to be tenuous at best. But in heaven…in heaven God’s rule is unquestioned. The imagery and mood of John’s writing fill the reader with dread. Although the heavenly vision pictures the holiness and transcendence of God, of Him who sits on the throne, it’s a holiness and transcendence that is foreign to us. And like John in chapter 1, we feel compelled to fall as dead men before this vision. And although the scene fills us with dread, it truly is an amazingly hope-filled story. It’s the reconciling of heaven and earth. It’s “Thy will being done on earth as it is in heaven”. Shouldn’t surprise us that this collision will result in major collateral damage.

The opening of the seals in Revelation 6 mark the beginning of the process of reconciliation. Jesus appears as the white horse rider coming out conquering and to conquer (the white horse rider bookends the tribulation…here at the beginning in chapter 6 and at the end in chapter 19. The tribulation then is His conquering.). Judgments representing the curses of the covenant designed to bring Israel to repentance follow with the red, black and pale horse riders. The martyrs under the throne (tribulation saints most likely) long for the process of God’s rule being realized on earth as it is in heaven to reach fulfillment. The martyrs are the heroes in the book of Revelation, the overcomers who overcome “because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.” And in the sixth seal the undoing of the work really begins as cataclysmic destruction rocks the earth.

Terrifying visions. Final judgment. Cosmic wreckage. What do we do with it? In a world increasingly similar to the overwhelming chaos that the early church was plunged into, we do the same thing the early church did. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Know for certain that Jesus wins.

Until next time…stay salty.

 

Belshazzar’s Fatal Mistake

Nebuchadnezzar was the most powerful man on the planet. His kingdom was one of the wonders of the ancient world. His word was law, and he decided the fate of many a people. But Nebuchadnezzar also learned a lesson that radically changed the trajectory of his life…the God of the Hebrews was God, the eternal God who was Most High over the kingdoms of the earth. He proclaimed, “For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” And Nebuchadnezzar became a believer in the one true God.

Daniel 5. Several years later, a new king sat on the throne of Babylon…well maybe more of a co-regent since his father was still technically king. His name was Belshazzar. The fall of Babylon was imminent. The Medes and Persians were literally right outside the gates. And young Belshazzar decided to throw a feast, likely in honor of the constellation of The Scales (today known as Libra). During the feast, he commanded a curious thing: that his servants “bring the gold and silver vessels which Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them. Then they brought the gold vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God which was in Jerusalem; and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. They drank the wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.” Subsequently a hand appeared and wrote a mysterious message on the wall. All of the king’s wise men were called in, but none could interpret the message. Finally Daniel was summoned, and after giving a brief history lesson, he gave the interpretation. “Now this is the inscription that was written out: ‘MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.’ This is the interpretation of the message: ‘MENE’—God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it.  ‘TEKEL’—you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient [ironic in view of the festival they were celebrating]. ‘PERES’—your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians.” That night Belshazzar died.

What was Belshazzar’s sin? And how was it different than Nebuchadnezzar’s? Didn’t Nebuchadnezzar worship idols and force others to do the same? Wasn’t he also proud? So why was one spared (Nebuchadnezzar) and the other destroyed (Belshazzar)? No doubt before his conversion Nebuchadnezzar was proud and idolatrous, and God patiently pursued him. But we have to remember that before Daniel’s arrival, the God of the Hebrews was the local deity of yet another kingdom Nebuchadnezzar had conquered. The fact that he defeated the Jews in battle proved that his gods were greater than theirs. And so God introduced Himself to Nebuchadnezzar, and he responded. In each instance, Nebuchadnezzar recognized God’s power and ultimately recognized His sovereignty. And Daniel told Belshazzar, “Yet you, his son, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this, but you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven.” Belshazzar knew who God was, but chose to dishonor Him all the same. Belshazzar had sinned with a high hand…open rebellion against both God and Nebuchadnezzar who worshiped Him. And God brought swift judgment.

While God was punishing His people for their infidelity, He would still protect the faithful during this time of judgment. We are still living during these “Times of the Gentiles”, so it’s imperative for us to remember that God is sovereign over the nations and kingdoms of the world. He establishes kings and pulls down kings. He sets the times and the epochs. And He will judge, but He will also deliver those who have trusted in Him. We can rest in that.

Until next time…stay salty.

Grass is greener?!?

I had it all. Wealth. Power. Influence. A beautiful wife and two loving daughters. Status in the community. What happened? How did I get here. It’s all gone. Everything destroyed in a few heartbeats. Now I’m destitute. Living in a cave with my two daughters. I can’t even bear to look at them since I found out that they are both carrying my sons?!? How did that happen? I’m so confused. Maybe we should back up.

I have always had a close relationship with my uncle. He’s really been more of a dad to me, especially since my father died. When he announced that he was moving away because of a vision he had received, it didn’t take me long to sign up. It sounded like a great adventure…going, we knew not where, to follow God. And He promised Uncle Abe some amazing things…lots of real estate, lots of kids, something about blessing. And I was going to be a part of it. Really cool stuff.

When we finally arrived in the land that would one day be ours, there was a famine, so we decided to head down to Egypt. Very questionable move. When we left, our pockets were a lot fatter, and we had an abundance of livestock and slaves who came with us; but Uncle Abe and Aunt Sarai weren’t talking. Not sure what happened, but I know they were split up for a time while we were there. Anyway, when we returned to the land, there wasn’t room for Uncle Abe and I to keep our possessions together. He gave me the option of choosing the region that I wanted. What an uncle! There really wasn’t much of a decision to make from a shepherding perspective…the valley of Sodom was so much more lush and well-watered than the remainder of the land. I hesitated only because I didn’t know if I should leave Uncle Abe with the leftovers, but I did. And things went down hill from there.

Sodom was a booming town, and I was making a killing off of selling livestock. It didn’t take long until I moved the headquarters of the operation into the city. Not long afterwards, I got caught up in the civil war that had ravaged the area and found myself in captivity. But Uncle Abe came to the rescue. What an uncle! You would have thought I would have learned my lesson and moved back with him, but I settled back into Sodom. Elections were coming, and I had a good chance (especially after Abe’s rescue) of being elected to city council. Think of the doors that would open. And it did.

The beginning of the end. Two men came to town. They wanted to stay in the city square, but I heard rumors about what happens to visitors who stay out in the open. I couldn’t let that happen on my watch. I invited the guys in and literally all hell broke loose. They began talking about judgment and fire coming down and the end of life as we knew it. I was to uproot my family and convince my daughters’ fiancées to escape with us. It all happened so fast. And then we were running for our lives. The smell of burning sulfur was in the air. The anguished cries of the dying. And then my wife stopped running, and slowly turned around. And then she was gone…turned into a pillar of salt. I was in shock when my daughters and I finally made it to the cave in the mountains which has now become our home. When my eldest daughter suggested that I have some wine, I readily agreed. Oddly enough, the next night my younger daughter suggested the same thing. Apparently they had conspired together in an attempt to preserve our family line…

Now it feels like my life is over. I can’t help but think about what could have been. I would trade it all to go back. The wealth. The power. The status. I thought there would be more time. More time to impact my community for the LORD. More time to spend with my wife. Time to see my grandkids grow up. And now that time is gone.

What about you? How are you spending your time? Don’t waste your life like I did.

Your friend, Lot. Until next time…stay salty.