The Patience of God

I grew up in Texas going to a baptist church.  I vividly remember the stairs winding up the back hallways, spending hours and hours at our church, the felt boards the teachers used and the felt little characters, I can still sing about how Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he, or how Father Abraham had many sons and many sons had Father Abraham.  I could tell you all about those stories, but a mind as young as mine when I learned of these stories couldn't possibly understand the true meaning behind them.  Just as so, in said baptist church in a {then} small Texas town, I learned about the book of Revelation.  I remember laying in my bed at night, staring at the pink wallpaper with white little hearts glowing in the dark, trying to comprehend eternity, not living in my earthly body, and most terrifying to me, how I would ever get to eat if I loved Jesus.  If you know much about Revelation, you know what I am talking about.  The mark of the beast frightened me to the point where I can remember laying in bed trying to figure out how to tell my mom that I was not ever going to be a Christian because I knew that I would have to accept the mark of the beast to feed myself.  Keep in mind that my entire life, I have been so engrossed in food that I start getting excited about tomorrow's dinner before breakfast.  Knowing that helps provide some explanation as to why I was so terrified.  :)

It wasn't just my baptist upbringing (which even though we go to a Bible church now, I have a high view of the Baptist denomination),  I also learned about the terror that the inevitable tribulation would bring through my grandmother.  She was definitely what present day would call an end-times doomsday prepper for sure and I am fairly positive she did a good job at witnessing to me about the perils of being an unbeliever when Jesus returned.  Until I was 34 years old, although my walk significantly changed from 29 to 34, I still shuttered at the thought of living through the times in which Revelation predicts.  I have inherited a love from weather from my Mimi and apparently, a little bit of end-time doomsday prepping from her too.  Catastrophic current events would occur (like the Fukishima earthquake in I think 2011) and I would find myself searching for clues on if the end was near or if we were already experiencing part of the seven year tribulation.  Many of those years, Google didn't exist and when it did, well.... that should speak for itself.  When I learned that BSF was teaching Revelation, I about died.  Since finishing the study of Revelation a few weeks ago, I have had it on my heart to reflect on the study, but I haven't known where to begin.  I have reread Revelation since the study completed, I have reread my lessons, and I still stand in awe. 

Where once I found Revelation confusing at how the Lord can be such a loving God but destroy His own creation in such a horrifying, painful way,  I now see Revelation as a book full of 
Revelation is not written for the purpose in which I took it as for so many years.  Revelation is a book about redemption, chance after chance, grace, a lot of judgement and a lot of wrath, but ultimately good versus evil and the ultimate conquering of sin.  God is grieving over the sin of the world and His heart is utterly breaking as more and more backs are turned against Him.  He won't be pouring out His wrath in an act of anger to kill but to save as an act of love; think about our children--how many lessons have we witnessed them having to learn the hard way?  Our response appears as we don't love, but our harshness is because we DO love. As he pounds humanity with his wrath during the tribulation, Revelation reveals that the hearts of unbelievers continue to turn blacker and blacker, yet He gives more warnings and more chances.  During this time, an unprecedented amount of souls will also be redeemed and will be saved through God's grace.  Subsequently many will be martyred, and those who are persecuted through the mark of the beast (in which I have always feared) will reign with Christ in heaven while waiting for their physical bodies.  He has given us opportunity after opportunity and the events that happen in the end are God's final attempts to save every last person who believes.  There is so much beauty in the destruction that goes completely unnoticed. 

"Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and Hades."  Revelation 1:17-18

At the beginning of the final chapter in His book, He reminds us not to be scared of what unfolds in the chapters ahead if we belong to Him.  The Lord asks John to speak to the seven churches about everything He reveals to him.  Through the Lord, we learn about the loveless church in Ephesus.  God praises the Ephesians for their faithfulness and endurance to Him, but He also condemned their mechanical rhythms of service, service not out of love but our of duty; we learn in Matthew 22:36-60 that the greatest commandment is to love {granting grace, forgiving, selflessness} and the Ephesians while faithful, were forgetting to do such things.  He wrote to the persecuted church in Smyrna and complimented their spiritual riches while being impoverished on the earth.  He warned them of their coming persecution and tribulation and encouraged them to faithful until their death.  To the compromising church of Pergamum, he complimented their ability to hold close to the Lord in the midst of an evil society.  Pergamum was full of satanic opposition to the word and a headquarters for false religion and while it was noted that the Christians in Pergamum resisted, the people in Pergamum were also very tolerant to those who opposed Christ, including false teachings of Balam and Balak.  They compromised too heavily.  The corrupt church at Thyatira had a noticeable pattern of sanctification in their deeds, love, and faith and service, but again, they were tolerant to Jezebel who represents a woman who influenced the church and Old Testament Jews into immorality and idolatry.  To the dead church in Sardis, He sternly warned them that while their deeds make them look alive in Christ, He knew they were unrepentant and dead in their passion and a dead church is open to destruction. Similarly to the lukewarm church in Laodicea where their deeds were neither hot or cold, they depended on their own wealth and success to the point that they needed nothing from anyone or need not rely on the Lord.  He warned that He would spit the lukewarm church out from His mouth because their riches should be found in Him alone.  And lastly, to the faithful church of Philadelphia, he encouraged them that for their faithfulness, He would keep them from the hour of testing, otherwise known as the tribulation. 

After reading this, I could only wonder if the Lord were to write a letter to me or my church, what exactly what it say?  Where would I be condemned?  Where, if anywhere, would I be complimented?  How would the Lord encourage me?  Here we see the Lord issuing a final warning to the seven churches, but we'd be remiss if we didn't see the larger theme of more and more chances to repent.  These letters weren't written exclusively to the seven churches; these letters were intended for THE CHURCH.  Us.  All of us.  While studying the seven churches, I couldn't help but think of our society and the people and congregations that make up the present day church.  Loveless, persecuted, compromising, corrupt, dead, lukewarm, and faithful.  Be careful!  The day is drawing near when our churches will be filled more and more with things that are not of the Lord:  false theology within major, large congregations, heretics, the influence of Jezebals, tolerance and accepting of sin is very prominent in modern day churches.  Wake up, lukewarm Christian or the dead church with head knowledge but no heart knowledge!!!  He warns you that just knowing His word is not enough.  You must be alive in Christ, BEING the church, GOING to church regularly, and serving out of your heart and not out of duty.  We all have seasons {short periods}, but what is your overall pattern?  At the same time, this world is filled with faithful churches and faithful believers.  Those who remain faithful and cling to His word will be saved from the hour of testing, but to remain faithful is going to involve suffering and the suffering will be intense and catastrophic.  Which of the seven churches would you belong in if Jesus wrote you a letter today?  

The Seven Seals 
• First seal– the white horse which represents the Antichrist is let loose upon the world
• Second seal– the red horse which represents wars begin and peace is lost
• Third seal– the black horse which represents worldwide famine and plague
• Fourth seal– the green horse which represents the ultimate result of war and famine, which is death
• Fifth seal– persecution of God's people, which brings more of God's vengeance on the world, but not until their evil has been filled up with the last martyr's death
• Sixth seal– great earthquake along with other celestial upheaval
• Seventh seal-SILENCE followed by the first trumpet sounding. 

I learned something really fascinating about silence in the Bible.  We should note that silence has been used as the calm before the storm in many cases before the Lord moves boldly.  For instance, before the Great Flood and The Battle of Jericho.  Before sounding the trumpets, He again shows his patience and calm should alert the world of His coming, but maybe will still not realize it even when they hear the first trumpet sound. 

The Seven Trumpets
• First trumpet– one third of earth, trees, grass is burned up
• Second trumpet– one third of the sea creatures die and ships are destroyed
• Third trumpet – one third of the waters polluted and many die
• Fourth trumpet– one third of the sun, moon, and stars are darkened
• Fifth trumpet– Locusts/demons are released to torment people
• Sixth trumpet-– Four bound demons are released to kill one third of humankind with an army
• Seventh trumpet- Christ is coming and whereas the trumpet judgements only affect small portions of the world, the bowl judgements will effect the world as a whole.  

The Bowl Judgements
• First bowl- Horrible sores on those with the mark of the beast
• Second bowl- Everything in the sea dies
• Third bowl- All the waters are polluted
• Fourth bowl– The sun burns and scorches people
• Fifth bowl– Brings complete darkness over Antichrist's kingdom
• Sixth bowl– The Euphrates dries up ; the kings of the East come, and the scene is set for the battle of Armageddon
• Seventh bowl– Produces a great earthquake; cities of nations fall; a huge hailstorm occurs

The Great Tribulation is where my fear for the second coming of the Lord was created, but I had it all so incredibly wrong.  I have so much hope and faith in the Lord.  Jesus came and died for me so that I can live eternally in His kingdom.  He has put me on this earth to boldly witness for Him with an urgency to save all of my friends and family from His judgement.  These judgements are meant to WAKE PEOPLE UP who read these words and even more so, who are subject to living through it.  There are no middle-of-the-road places in eternity.  There are only two paths: heaven and hell.   "While we may suffer a little while," I do believe the Christian church is suffering right now more than in times past, "the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you."  1 Peter 5:10.

Maybe it's because for the first time, I have read and studied Revelation through the eyes of a believer that I don't find these judgements scary, instead I see so much love and mercy.  These are not judgements of hate.  God has been so patient with our sinful ways and patterns and is doing everything it takes to get the attention of hearts and pour the Holy Spirit into us.  There is HOPE though.  Believing in Him and living for Him SAVES us!!!!!! 

I have spent countless hours trying to translate and interpret and figure out where on the timeline we are but I had it all wrong.  The Lord has revealed everything to us in His full canon of scripture that we He wants us to know.  He hasn't revealed to us the time or the place because He wants us to feel the urgency in His return.  He wants us boldly witnessing, serving Him, loving others, standing up for His word, and being faithful for all of our lives, not just when we know the time is near.  Trying to dissect the bible and when these things will happen or if they already have happened is the exact opposite of what this book is intended for.  It is intended to show His mercy and grace and repeated chances and eventual judgement of those who never turned from their selfish desires toward His great name.  1 Thessalonians 5 teaches us that the day of the Lord is coming unexpectedly, cannot be escaped and is full of destruction.  It is coming: you either believe it and are saved or you don't and will either live through The Great Tribulation or spend your life in hell.  God doesn't want us to wait to make this decision.  If you're reading this, and you've made it this far, you're reading this because HE brought you here.  He's inviting you in, but are you willing to accept?  

There is still so much Good News within the Gospel.  The Lord will destroy the earth, but he also restores and renews the earth.  For a time, we will be in our spiritual bodies living in heaven, but after The Great Tribulation and The Millennial Reign, we will be restored to physical bodies and walk a newly created heaven and earth where there is absolutely no sin.  Can you imagine?  This actual earth, in all it's beauty, with no sin, alongside Jesus?  The fear of Revelation and the final judgements fades away when one wholeheartedly belongs to Him.  {Okay, of course the thought of receiving the mark of the beast and no long being able to provide for my children is awfully scary but I have hope in Christ!}  Our purpose here has never been to be of the world, but to teach the world of Jesus's love and boldly, urgently witness to the world of Christ's salvation.  We don't know the time or the place or whether this is literal or figurative, but if we had those answers, we would so urgently and with such boldness witness to those we love and who are strangers?  No.  We would live how we want and in the weeks before is when we change our lives.  When we wake up in the morning, we should wake up and live our life as if he was going to return today because He can

He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  If He is not, who or what is?  A monkey?

Revelation 22:13

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