Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Judgment: You are here

The Judgment:  You are here
For those who travel by road in the USA, places along the road where you can stop and rest.  These places, appropriately called rest stops, have wash rooms, vending machines, and other amenities.  In many rest stops there is a large map posted of the area you are traveling.  The road that you are traveling on is normally highlighted in this map.  Normally, there is also on the map a dark circle with an arrow with a small caption that reads, “You are here.”  This circle lets you know on the map, where you are in reality.  This system of the circle, arrow, and caption, is also used in large building structures as malls, convention centers, or amusement parks.  You see a directory in a walkway and on this directory there may be a map of the place you are in.  Then on the map, you will see a dark circle, a small arrow, and a caption that reads, “You are here.”  (For most people it is very helpful to find the wash rooms.)
Historic prophecies as the ones found in Daniel 2 and 7 are sort of maps that let us know where we are in the God’s view of history of this world.  These historic prophecies normally start when they are given.  In the case of Daniel 2 and 7, they start with the kingdom of Babylon, since they were revealed to Daniel during the Babylon’s reign in the area.  Subsequent prophecies omit Babylon because they were given after the fall of Babylon.  Any thing that happened before the time when the prophecy is given is omitted.  I guess God assumes the prophet can read the already revealed scripture at the time, to find out what is before the prophets time.  As the prophecy unfolds it reveals to the prophets, and us, what events will follow in the world’s history.  Notice they always culminate with the eradication of earthly kingdoms and the establishment of God’s everlasting Kingdom.  In summary, the Historic prophecies showed Daniel two things:
  1. Where he was in the timetable of God’s plan of salvation – you are here,
  2. And, the unfolding of world history with the glorious culmination the establishment of God’s kingdom – where you are headed. 
However, the prophecy not only tells Daniel where he was historically, it can also tell us where we are.  If we follow the prophecy and it interpretation, we will soon discover that between the fall of papal Rome at the end of the 18th century and Christ’s return there is a Judgment (Daniel 7: 9, 10).  As we already have studied the Judgment vindicates God, His character, His people, and His character in them.  The Judgment also exposes those who profess, “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5), from those who truly “Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters” (Revelation 14:7).
Common sense then tells us that we are there: in the time of Judgment.  Yes, my friend we are being judged. Our names and those of all who have professed to worship God are being reviewed to see whether Christ’s Righteousness dwells in us.   In fact, that is why Revelation 3 calls us Laodiceans - a judged people.  For those who have received Christ’s Robe of Righteousness and His perfect love – agape –there is nothing to fear.  The Judgment is good news to them.  But, for those who in their spiritual stupor walk around saying, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3: 17), the judgment is bad news.  However, even then, we may overcome our fears of the Judgment, because God encourage us to buy from Him the remedy to our Sin problem and the fear it causes, let is read in Revelation 3: 18 – 21,
Revelation 3: 18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
Revelation 3: 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
Revelation 3: 20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
Revelation 3: 21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
What a beautiful invitation and promise this passage offers.  All God asks of us is to hear His voice and the knocking at the doors of our heart, turn around and let Him in. To those of us who accept this invitation He will wine and dine us, and have us sit on His throne.  Then the Judgment becomes a reminder of that wonderful invitation and promise Jesus has made to us. 

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The God whose dwelling is with flesh

The God whose dwelling is with flesh
According to Greek mythology their gods dwelt in Mount Olympus.  Very seldom did they make contact with mortal beings.  And, when they did, for the most part, all they did was cause trouble.  They fornicated with mortal beings, caused wars, created tragedies; all this in a very arbitrary and whimsical way – sort of like humans.  Although they were believed to be immortal, they had very human traits.  Many times people believed their gods would not listen, and had to be pleased with a sacrifice, for their gods to intervene.  These gods could do as they pleased; humans were bound by rules the gods could change at any given moment, without prior notice.  The gods did not care, for like the Babylonian gods, their dwelling was not with flesh. 
This is probably why the sorcerers, et al. said to Nebuchadnezzar about his unusual request in Daniel 2: 11,  
Daniel 2: 11 And it is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can shew it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh. 
I am thankful that Daniel knew that his God was not like the Babylonian god's.  Daniel must have known that the true and only living God was omnipresent.  Yes, God dwells above the heavens, but He also dwells among us.  The Bible is full of examples of how God dwells among us.  He appears to us and intervenes in our affairs in various forms.  He appeared to Abraham in Genesis 18.  He appeared to Jacob in Genesis 32.  The books of Exodus through Deuteronomy details how God appears to Moses and leads His people to the promise land.  The writer of Exodus says further,
Exodus 13: 21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night:
Exodus 13: 22 He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.
When God gave to Moses the instructions to build the sanctuary He said to Moses,  "And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them" Exodus 25:8.  And, His Shekinah Glory filled the Most Holy Place.  He appeared to Joshua as the Captain of the Hosts of heaven (Joshua 5:14).
All these examples, among others, must have been in Daniel’s mind when he found out about their impending death.  Daniel knew that a God that bothered to care for those who are "made lower than the angels" (Psalms 8:5) would not abandon them in this great time of need.  God heard their prayer, and answered it.  But, our story does not stop there.  We now know that the prophecy revealed, gave details of how God cares for the affairs of man in this sinful world.  The final scenes in the prophetic dream show that God will put an end to Sin and the sufferings caused by Sin. 
But, there is one point often omitted.  God, knowing all things, worked things out so that Daniel and His friends were in the palace (or close to it) when Nebuchadnezzar had the dream.  God did this, for the sake of Daniel and friends, Nebuchadnezzar, and His people of which you and I are part of.  Indeed, Daniel's intervention still has an impact in our life today. 
A few hundred years after, God dwelt among men, in the form of the Son of Man.  John 1:1, 14 says,
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
In fact his name was Emmanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23).  After Jesus ascension, He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in us as a Comforter (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7).  
Thankfully, we have a God who became what He despises, to dwell among those He loves.  Thankfully we have a God who dwells in those whom chose to let Him dwell.  We have a God who intervenes in our behalf and for our good. 

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Dressed For the Judgment

Dressed For the Judgment
While on tour, a famous Pop-Rock star – Liam Phillips (fictional name) - stopped at a major city for a concert.  He arrived a few days before the concert to rehearse and tour the city a little.  One evening after rehearsal, and dressed very casually, he decided to stop by a very exclusive restaurant.  Unbeknownst to him this restaurant had a dress code.  There was a sign at the door that read, "No Jacket – No Service."  He went right through the doors, without reading the sign, only to find himself bounced by a very muscular man.  The man said to him very sternly, "Sir, you cannot come in like that."  Puzzled, the singer asked, "Why? I don’t understand."  Still with his stern tone, the bouncer answered, "We have a dress code, Sir.  There is a sign at the door. Did you not read it?"  With embarrassment, the singer answered, "No I didn’t.  What did it say?"  To which the bouncer replied immediately, "I figured.  It reads, 'No jacket – No service.' " Being used to preferential treatment, the singer proceeded to try to charm his way through the situation.  He said to the bouncer, "Well, I am pretty sure an exception can be made, since I am Liam Phillips."  "Sir," answered the bouncer, "I know who you are, in fact, I love your music.  But, I am just doing my job; I do not want to lose it." 
By now the singer was a little frustrated, he sighed and answered to the bouncer, "Listen, if your manager knew what you are doing to me, I could make him fire you."  "Mr. Phillips, if my manager wants to make an exception that is his call.  I do not have that authority.  If he lets you in, I will more than gladly oblige.  Again, that is his call," said the bouncer.  The bouncer than added, "Would you like to speak to our manager, Mr. Phillips?"  The singer answered, "Yes, I would?"  "Please wait here," answered the bouncer.  But, before the bouncer could turn around, the manager had made his way to the front.  "What is all the commotion?" he said.  The bouncer quickly replied, "Mr. Phillips would like to speak to you."  "Ah, Mr. Liam Phillips," said the manager, "I love your music."  Clearly frustrated, the singer quickly replied, "Thank you.  I just want to get some food.  And your muscle man will not let me in."  "Mr. Phillips, I am sorry about how this situation has inconvenienced you from being served at our restaurant. I am sorry that it has caused you to become very frustrated.  But, we must adhere by our rules.  However, if you were to get a jacket we would be glad to serve you."  "Where would I get a jacket?" said Liam with a tone of sarcasm, being that it was rather late for stores to be open.  "Well," said the manager, "There is a store right next door.  They are still open.  You can get one there.  Please tell them Mr. Smith sent you."  "I will do that," said the singer as he left the restaurant, feeling humiliated.
When he arrived at the clothing store, the attendant recognized him immediately.  "Liam Phillips, what an honor.  I have tickets for your concert.  Love your music. What can I do for you"  "Thank you.  I need a jacket," answered Liam.  "Did Mr. Smith send you, Mr. Phillips?" asked the attendant.  "Yes, He did," answered the singer.  "Please come with me," said the attendant.  The attendant led the singer to a rack with a label that read the name of the restaurant.  He pulled out a Jacket that he felt would fit the singer.  And, indeed it was a very good fit.  The singer pulled out his credit card, and the attendant said, "Oh no, this is compliments of the restaurant."  Puzzled, the singer walked out of the store then walks into the restaurant.  He looks at the bouncer with a sheepish smile and says, "I have my jacket."  The bouncer smiles and nods his head in approval, and says to Liam, "Come right in, Mr. Phillips, the maitre d’ will be with you shortly."
This account – loosely based on true story- shows that the singer thought that his accomplishments should have merited him to enter the restaurant.  But, the restaurant had other standards: the clothes you wear.  Knowing that not every one would have a jacket when visiting the establishment, they provided complimentary attire so costumers would not leave not served, but could if they chose to, fit the standard of the restaurant and still be served. 
It reminds us of the parable of the wedding banquet.  When the alternative guests are invited, they are provided with garments, since they have none appropriate attire for the occasion.  Just like the singer in our story had to be dressed to be served in the restaurant, the wedding guests have to be dressed in a certain way to attend the wedding.  Matthew 22:8 states "those who were bidden were not worthy."  What made the alternative guests worthy of attending the Wedding Banquet?  When we look further we find the answer.  The King provided the dress that made the guests worthy of attending the wedding feast.  At a certain point, the King decided to come to see His guests and He found one not dressed with the garment the King Himself provided.  This guest was "kicked out into the utter darkness of eternal separation from God (Matthew 22: 11-13). 
In this parable we are the guests who are bid to attend the Wedding Banquet of the Lamb.  Not one of us is worthy to attend, however.   As good Laodicean's we may think so, but God says we are not (Revelation 3:15-17).  We may think that all our accomplishments will make us worthy of entrance into the Kingdom of God, but God says those who think this way, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: …And these shall go away into everlasting punishment:" (Matthew 25: 41,44).
So our King has provided garments for us so that we may be made worthy of attending the Wedding Supper of the Lamb.   "I counsel thee to buy of me … white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear…" (Revelation 3:18).  This white raiment represents the Righteousness of Christ.  Yes, in the Investigative Judgment, God will judge us by our works.  However, as you read in Matthew 25 the works of those accepted by God and the works of those rejected by God seem to be similar.  However, the works of those not accepted by God came from self-righteousness, and the works of those accepted by God came from the Righteousness of Christ in them.  Notice that the accepted group did not know they had made those works (Matthew 25: 36-38).    Our standards are based on performance, and we think that a good performance will make us merit the attire.  God’s standards are based on attire; the right attire: Christ’s Robe of Righteousness.  This Godly attire enables the good performance.    Are you dressed for the Judgment?