A trillionaire heard about a volcanic island ready to erupt and sink into the sea. All the inhabitants were helpless to save themselves and would surely perish without outside intervention.
The trillionaire decided he would spend every last penny to build a ship big enough to save everyone on the island. So the ship set sail and arrived at the island. The inhabitants were perplexed. Some recognized that help had arrived, understanding their destiny apart from this gracious act. Others preferred their life on the island, come what may.
The terms were simple. Those on the island were to leave everything behind and trust that the ship would bring them to safer shores. They would be expected to live with their rescuer and serve him in his mansion--a cushy life, though subject to the one they would serve for the rest of their lives. They would be expected to read the book on what life would be like living with the trillionaire. They were told to stay on the boat, even if they did not like the terms. They were promised that their new life was even better than what they could read, and they could hear recordings on the boat of the trillionaire describing himself and their future home--which gave them further hope.
They had their times of restlessness and would often not get along with one another as they were in such close quarters, but, remembering the gracious character of their new master, they grew in that same character--which also gave them further hope.
Finally they arrived to safer shores--a glorious new home. The trillionaire, though he had spent everything, received back what he had spent and more. The ship returned, as it had never ceased to be HIS ship--his wealth had just changed forms for a time. His dependents would graciously and adoringly live with and serve him for the rest of their lives.
This to illustrate some things. Jesus did not cease to be God. He just "emptied himself," "[becoming] flesh," one day to be glorified once again, having accomplished His mission (Philippians 2:6-7; John 1:14). Calvinists and others point to the limited atonement--and misconstrue many Scriptures--because they struggle with the idea that somehow some of Jesus' blood would have been wasted. If he truly died, was buried, rose, and ascended to the right hand of the Father to return again and establish his everlasting kingdom, then nothing was wasted! Yes, not all of God's creation would choose to honor Him as God, but they did indeed have the chance. Romans 1:20 speaks very clearly, "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse."
A verse cited for the idea of exclusive predestination (related to limited atonement) is Revelation 13:8, "All who dwell on the earth will worship him [the beast], everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain." The Greek verb tense translated "has [not] been written" is a combination of perfect and imperfect tense. The perfect tense implies a completed action with continued results. The imperfect tense implies past action which was continued, repeated, or habitual. John is writing of future events, so the "past" in the context could still be our future from the standpoint of our current time.
Considering the imperfect tense: If God did the writing continuously or repeatedly, that implies a work completed over time--from the foundation of the world onward. This further implies that everyone will have had a chance to have their name written in the book of life.
Considering the perfect tense: their names, once written, would always be written.
Interpretation: Those with a true saving faith have assurance of salvation, and the opportunity for this kind of faith has been given every person from the creation of the world onward.
The sad reality is that many have rejected this gracious offer. Some even put on a ruse or deceive even themselves who make a profession of faith without an actual conversion--submission to the Holy Spirit's work of regeneration.
The key is understanding that God, not man, is the center of all things. It does not diminish God's attributes to say that He has truly offered eternal life to all. In fact, it magnifies His character.
Revelation 4:1-11. This passage is a picture of true worship, and it is fitting that it follows messages to the seven churches (each message was really for the universal Church).
--There are four living creatures which cry “holy, holy, holy.” These most likely represent the cherubim—angels which are messengers or intermediaries. The description of each speaks to an aspect of God’s character.
--There are 24 Elders crying along the lines of “you are Lord & God & Creator.” Most recognize the elders represent the faithful Church before the tribulation. This can be supported by Revelation 3:21, “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
--There were seven churches being spoken to, each with an exhortation to overcome—and something in particular to overcome. By the power of Christ, the Church can overcome the love of self (Ephesus); death (Smyrna); satan (Pergamum); the world (Thyatira); apathy (Sardis); testing/trials (Philadelphia); and the Flesh (Laodicea). Those who do so get the awesome privilege of sitting with Christ—a place of honor and victory.
vs. 1…this is a vision of the future, unlike the instructions just given to the churches for the present.
vs. 2…John saw God on His throne
vs. 3…jasper—crystal clear like a diamond (Rev. 21:11); sardius—bright red (fire, blood); Rainbow—a reminder of God’s covenant faithfulness! Emerald (green is a picture of renewal). NEW COVENANT IN CHRIST’S BLOOD. WE WILL SEE HOW BEAUTIFUL HE IS ONE DAY!
vs. 4…24 elders around the throne—these are those who have overcome (Rev. 3:21)
vs. 5…”flashes of lightning and sounds of thunder.” God in His majesty and righteous judgment speaks. The very presence of God, much like Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:16-19). “Seven lamps …are the seven Spirits of God.” This likely refers to the seven functions of the Holy Spirit as in Isaiah 11:2: Spirit of the I AM (LORD)—his very presence, wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, fear of the LORD. It is also in fulfillment of Zechariah 4:1-10. The word to Zerubbabel was that the LORD would give the Spirit to accomplish the rebuilding of the temple—God’s dwelling place. No human resources would be sufficient. In the vision, the oil was flowing from the olive trees to the lamp. Olive tree represents God making peace with humankind. The expectation on our part is that we would cease from our vain efforts to reach God on our own.
vs. 6…the way to the throne has been paved with what is pure, clean and clear. Nothing is blocking access to those who have overcome.
vs. 6-8..the four living creatures are likely cherubim, or angelic servants. They have eyes in every direction—the purpose is to take in all of God’s holiness and declare it! (Ek 1, 10; Isa. 6)
vs. 9-11…those who have overcome and been given crowns cast them at God’s throne and fall down in worship.
-All things created by God, and all things are to be rendered back to Him (see also Rom. 11:36).
What about NOW?
The Question is, “What Do You Adore?”
In light of the future expectation of seeing the fullness of God’s glory, honor and power, we should be seeking that in the present by overcoming what the 7 churches were expected to overcome.
The questions to reflect on:
1) Where am I selfish? …*I could want attention and recognition for service. *I can set goals and aspirations without thinking of others. “What’s in it for me” rather than laying down my life.
2) Afraid of death? …Or Afraid of losing anything? …Relatives or friends: I can be overprotective or possessive of those relationships. Job: I’ll do what I have to, even lie cheat or steal. Dying: I’ll exhaust my family’s and my resources to preserve my life instead of trusting in my Heavenly Father.
3) Succumbing to temptation? I am not content with what I have, so I could develop obsessions and bad habits—overeating, tobacco, technology, immoral thoughts of others…”Why not if it doesn’t hurt anybody?”
4) Following worldly patterns? Have to live the “American Dream” with what I own. I could get caught up in gossip or course joking. I could get involved in church activities while neglecting my own relationship with the Jesus.
5) Apathetic? *Many needs around me I could fill easily, but I think others can take care. *Children in need of a home…soften my heart to help! *Lost and dying world needs the hope of the Gospel.
6) Victorious or defeated over various trials? Health: I can see God’s hand at work and adjust my outlook/lifestyle, or I can get down on myself. *Mistreatment: I can love others, knowing I am accepted in Christ, or I can return insult for insult. *World systems: I can have peace, knowing Jesus will make all things right, or I can force peace.
7) How is my submission to Christ?
SOLUTION: Christ at the Center
WE SEEK TO OVERCOME BY THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT. THIS IS NOT FOR OUR GAIN EXCEPT THAT WE WOULD SEE GOD FACE TO FACE!
THE ROOT PROBLEM OF ALL WE NEED TO OVERCOME IS SELF AT THE CENTER.
(See Diagrams below)
He came once, and He is coming again!
Do you adore Him and value Him above all else?
He is not asking us to “pick ourselves up by our bootstraps,” but to simply submit to Him.
Rely on Him, and He will finish His work in you.
OVERCOME AS HE OVERCAME.
RESPONSE: Are you self-centered or submitted to Christ? Those are the only two possibilities. THREE TYPES OF PEOPLE: Those who have not committed to Christ (Self-centered by default), 2) Self-centered Christians, 3) Submitted Christians. Are you content where you are, or do you want to grow?
This is the blog of Tyler Shepard, the Associate Pastor for Centre Union Church in Yeagertown, PA.
I hope you are encouraged and challenged to walk more closely with Jesus Christ!