Great Expectations

Light displays and Christmas trees in Hobby Lobby no longer indicate Christmas is at hand.  The only reliable sign that Christmas is near is a spike in the catalog-to-bill ratio of my mail.   By mid-November catalogs from knife-makers, clothiers, garden suppliers, toy companies, charities providing livestock in the third world, leather-crafters, Amish tradesmen, and purveyors of fine novelties are all vying for a place on my wish list.

As a boy, only one catalog ever came in the mail. And it was the only one that mattered. Larger than a phone book, the Sears and Roebuck Catalog opened up whole new worlds of Christmas possibility and gave substance to my letters to Santa. My parents were well aware of the power of the Sears and Roebuck Catalog and were careful to restrict our access to it.

While aware of its dangers, my parents also understood the catalog’s power to guide expectations.   They recognized that, as children, our joy came more from exceeded expectations than receiving a useful gift.  Before the catalog arrived, they would talk up the ideas of what they planned to give.   Then when it arrived, they used the catalog to reinforce their ideas either by confirmation or contrast.  

To our delight, Christmas always brought exactly what we hoped for.  No matter what was in our stocking or under the tree it was exactly what we wanted.   Our parents knew what was best for us, but wanted us to rejoice in receiving it.   Our heavenly Father is like this.   He wants us to rejoice in receiving His gifts.  The history of redemption is the epic story of God giving His greatest gift to beloved children, but not before teaching us to expect and long for what He desires to give.   From Genesis to Revelation, He trains our expectations and creates desire for the Savior He offers.

In the Old Testament, God does this through various covenants.   His covenants with Adam, Noah, Moses, and David, differ in emphasis and immediate application, but all point to the same thing – salvation and eternal life through the person and work of Jesus Christ.   Each of these Old Testament covenants is simply a renewal and expression of the one Covenant of Grace.  In each of these covenants, God meets some pressing need and blesses his people.  But more importantly He offers a reminder not to hope in Adam, or Noah, or Moses or David, but in the Coming One, the Messiah.

In the same way, the New Testament examines the person and work of Christ by looking back at how he fulfilled the Old Testament covenants.   We see that Jesus is exactly the Savior God promised.  And in understanding that ‘the Coming One’ is the One who came, we learn to desire his coming again.  Men are always tempted to look for a savior who conforms to their own desires and expectations.   And so, through Old Testament covenants and New Testament fulfillments, God teaches us who to expect and what to desire so we will rejoice in receiving Him.

What type of Savior are you looking for?   Someone to save you from your circumstances?  Or your feelings?  Or you past?  Or you fear of the future?   Or one who is much more – an everlasting and eternal Prophet, Priest, and King.   The author of Hebrews makes a remarkable statement in Hebrews 7:24-25.

[H]e holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Hebrews 7:24-25

Jesus lives forever.  Only he is able to save us ‘to the uttermost.’   Beyond what you imagine you want or know that you need.   God reveals the Savior He freely offers us through Old Testament promises and New Testament fulfillments.   Join us this Lord’s Day as we examine 2 Samuel 7:1-14 and consider Jesus as our Everlasting King.

We meet on the square in Pottsville, right next to historic Potts’ Inn at 10:30 am for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  Or join us on Facebook Live @PottsvilleARP or YouTube

Coal and Switches

My enthusiasm for the Christmas season rivals that of ‘Buddy the Elf.’  Growing up, Christmas-time was filled with daily wonder.   Each Sunday we would light a bulb on the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering wreath for each $100 given for world missions.   A few Saturdays before Christmas, Daddy and I would load up our ax, travel to our garden spot, and cut a sparsely foliated (but free) pine for the living room.  What it lacked in branches was easily compensated with icicles.  The color-wheel was set up and blue electric candles lighted every window.  My mother made fudge and divinity on an industrial scale.  And on Saturday mornings, my father would patiently take me on the annual Christmas shopping pilgrimage – which always included chocolate-covered cherries and a calendar refill for Mama.

On Christmas Eve we would make all the final preparations.  Mesh stockings were hung on each door knob, in hopes that they would be filled with an apple, an orange, a giant candy cane and spice drops.  After supper, we would open our gift from Nana.  She always gave us the same thing — a new pair of pajamas.  Predictable though it was, it never got old.  Donning those flannel PJs signaled the beginning of Christmas.   Before bed, we would set out chocolate pie for Santa because my father said he would be tired of cookies by the time he made it to Georgia.   Then Daddy would pull out his giant reel-to-reel audio recorder and conduct interviews with my sisters and me.

My father had a flair for the dramatic.  With a news reporter’s demeanor, he would conduct his man-on-the-street interview with us, always wrapping up with the devastating question, “Have you been good this year?”  Of course, I always tried to answer a confident, “Yes.”   But in the quiet of my mind and the long night, conscience began to do its work.  Had I been good?  Had my merits exceeded my demerits?  Had my kindness overshadowed my unkindness?  Had I helped others more than I had hurt them?  How good did I need to be?  Had I obeyed my parents?  Had I obeyed them joyfully?

These days the darker side of Santa is rarely discussed – the vindictive, cold, works-based side of Santa Claus that delivers the punitive gifts of a lump of coal and a bundle of switches to bad children.  But in my childhood Santa’s Covenant of Works was well publicized.   Many hours of reflection would follow bedtime.  While Nana passed the hours in sonorous oblivion, under the weight of three quilts on my bed, I pondered the question, “Had I been good?”  How good did I need to be?  I had never heard of any of my friends actually getting a lump of coal or a bundle of switches, but would that be my lot?  Between considering other questions such as “how will Santa get in our house since we don’t have a chimney,” and “how can he get to every home in just one night,” the central quandary would return.  Had I been good?  In the final assessment, I could only hope that Santa’s intelligence network was not very good, otherwise I was sunk.   If he really knew who was naughty and who was nice, it would be coal and switches for me.

A man once came to Jesus and posed the same question, but concerning for a more serious outcome.  “Good teacher, what good thing must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus reply was devastating.  “Why do you call me good, no one is good except God alone.  You know the commandments!”  Then Jesus proceeded to remind him of those commandments which related to people.  The young man’s superficial claim of perfect obedience was then met with a final command which utterly crushed him.  “One more thing, go sell everything and follow me.”    At these words he was saddened and went away grieving.   How good do you have to be ‘good with God?’   Well if it is up to you, you have to be perfect.  Unless you can love God perfectly with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, and all your strength and your neighbor just as much as you love yourself, you will receive, not just the temporal punishment of a lump of coal and a bundle of switches, but the eternal wrath and curse of a just and holy God.

Who can make a claim to this kind of goodness?  The Bible tells us that “no one is good, no not one.”  But it is in that same context that we are told the good news that the judgment of God is not the last word.   God loved us and sent his son, the eternal Son of God, to become man, to live a perfect life and to die a sinner’s death on our behalf so that we might receive the gift of life through faith in Him, not by our works.   There is no hope for bad children with Santa, but with the eternal God, sinners have hope.  For Jesus said, “the one who comes to me, I will never turn away.”

Join us this Sunday as we examine Genesis 3 consider what the Bible teaches about the justice and the mercy of God for men who recognize that they are not good. We meet on the square in Pottsville, right next to historic Potts’ Inn at 10:30 am for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  Or join us on Facebook Live @PottsvilleARP or YouTube

Playlists

Life is better with a soundtrack.  In movies even the most mundane actions are rendered dramatic by a soundtrack.  We fill our lives with music to give emphasis to our daily life.   Our soundtrack takes shape in the playlists we curate.  In my youth this was limited to FM radio, but with the advent of Napster in the 90s and then its legal offspring, iTunes, Pandora, Spotify, and a host of others, we can add just the right musical context to every aspect of our lives.

One aspect that gets the most carefully crafted playlist is our funeral.   As a pastor and hospice chaplain, I officiate many funerals.   Sometimes the playlists are quite imaginative.  They reveal a lot about the person being eulogized.   And sometimes they are quite long.   One included, Tuesday’s Gone and Stairway to Heaven.   I have also seen Chubby Checker’s The Twist included.  And to the horror of the funeral directors, The Twist was accompanied by the family dancing around the casket.    

And while less, unconventional, there are many country songs which, though sweet in their sentiment, have significant theological problems.   Now I like Vince Gill and Steve Wariner as well as anyone, but Go Rest High is a tribute to Keith Whitley’s troubled life and Holes in the Floor of Heaven teaches in idea of heaven at odds with the Bible.   So let me encourage you as you are thinking of your funeral playlist.  Take some time to look at what the scripture says about life after death – both for the believer and the unbeliever – so that every part of our funeral service can bear witness to the goodness of our God and the truth of the gospel.

But what does the Bible say?   While we have considerable data in Isaiah and Revelation about life in the New Heavens and the New Earth, very little is given about the time between death and the resurrection and return of Christ.   Theologians refer to this time as the Intermediate State.   Some hold this is a time of unconscious soul sleep, others that it is a dreary dream world of souls in limbo.  Still others view this as a time of probation with a second chance for those that either did not hear the gospel or rejected it in this life.   But the Bible soundly refutes all these ideas and gives us a much better picture of a life absent from the body, but present with the Lord.

Sara Groves’ song, What Do I Know? articulates well the truth that despite what we don’t know about the ‘intermediate state’, it is what we do know that matters most.

I have a friend who just turned eighty-eight
and she just shared with me that she’s afraid of dying.
I sit here years from her experience
and try to bring her comfort.
I try to bring her comfort
But what do I know?
What do I know?

She grew up singing about the glory land,
and she would testify how Jesus changed her life.
It was easy to have faith when she was thirty-four,
but now her friends are dying, and death is at her door.
Oh, and what do I know?
Really, what do I know?
I don’t know that there are harps in heaven,
Or the process for earning your wings.
I don’t know of bright lights at the ends of tunnels,
Or any of those things.

She lost her husband after sixty years,
and as he slipped away she still had things to say.
Death can be so inconvenient.
You try to live and love.
It comes and interrupts.

And what do I know? What do I know?
I don’t know that there are harps in heaven,
Or the process for earning your wings.
I don’t know of bright lights at the ends of tunnels,
Or any of those things.

But I know to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord,
and from what I know of him, that must be pretty good.
Oh, I know to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord,
and from what I know of him, that must be very good.

What Do I Know? Sara Groves

Join us this Lord’s Day as we examine 2 Corinthians 5:1-9 and consider what this beautiful passage tells us about what we can know for certain about life in Paradise, while we wait for the Resurrection and the New Heavens and the New Earth.

We meet on the square in Pottsville, right next to historic Potts’ Inn at 10:30 am for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  Or join us on Facebook Live @PottsvilleARP or YouTube

Fingertips and Noses

Eyeglasses are gamechangers. They are so common we cannot imagine growing older without them. Demographers report that three fourths of all Americans wear corrective lenses. Without them reading would be impossible for me. And my driving would be more hazardous than it already is. But for all their benefits, wearing glasses has challenges.

First, they are remarkably hard to find, especially when they are on my head. And of all the things I drop, they seem more drawn to the effects of gravity. No matter what bridge-rest I install, my glasses inevitably come to rest at the end of my nose, librarian style. And, most notably, they are impossible to keep clean.

My beloved wife plants glass cleaner and lens cloths in every nook and cranny of my life. Yet my glasses always look like I’ve been cooking French fries then banging out erasers. If you doubt the air is heavily polluted, you are in the one fourth of Americans that don’t wear glasses. Of course, all glass is a dirt magnet. Its transparency tells all, readily revealing every streak, speck, and smudge.

But if there are small children in your home the transparency of glass reveals something else – expectation. While the phrase, “wait till your father gets home” can inspire fear, it more often inspires delight. Any family with a glass door or large picture window will find it covered in smudges from fingertips and noses. Children, expectantly waiting for the return of fathers and mothers, press against the glass with hands and faces. Filling the space with the telltale signs of longing for the return of a loved one.

No doubt, I am not the first to notice this. Or make the analogy, that our lives as believers should, in the same way, transparently offer telltale signs of the longing for the return of our Beloved One, the Lord Jesus. Years ago, NewSong pictured this poignantly in their song, Fingertips and Noses.

Up in the hills somewhere in Kentucky
In a little old school way back in the nothing
Where special kids born with special needs
Are sent to learn life’s ABCs

Their teacher, Mrs. Jones, tells them all about Jesus
How in the twinkling of an eye He’s coming back to get us
About streets of gold and pearly gates
How they want to go, they just can’t wait
And she can’t keep them in their seats
They’re all at the windows straining to see

And it’s fingertips and noses pressed to the windowpanes
Longing eyes, expectant hearts for Him to come again
All they know is that they love Him so
And if He said He’d come, He’s coming
And they can’t keep their windows clean
For fingertips and noses

She tried to explain to the kids about His coming
She tried to calm them down, but they just wouldn’t listen
They just giggled and they clapped their hands
They’re so excited that He’s coming for them
And the first thing you know they’re out of their seats
Back at the windows straining to see

Where will Jesus find us when He comes again?
Will we be like little children waiting just for Him?
With our fingertips and noses pressed to the windowpanes
Longing eyes, expectant hearts for Him to come again.

Where will Jesus find us when He comes again? With longing eyes, expectant hearts for Him to come again? The final instruction of the Bible to believers is to live expectantly, longing for Christ’s return. Our mantra is to be maranatha or ‘Come, Lord Jesus.’ Is that your mantra? Can you say with the Spirit and the Bride, ‘Come!’ Or is your cry, “not yet!”

How eager are you for the return of Christ? How convinced are you that the day of His return will be the very best day, not a day of disaster? Will the climax of your life be the “blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us?” Join us this Lord’s Day, as we examine Revelation 22:6-21 and consider a how to live expectantly and cultivate a longing for the return of Christ, training our hearts to cry, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

We meet on the square in Pottsville, right next to historic Potts’ Inn at 10:30 am for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  Or join us on Facebook Live @PottsvilleARP or YouTube

Always Reforming

My wife loves making lists, because she loves checking things off her list. Striking through task after task brings a real sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Nothing beats the feeling of checking off that last item and heading for a well-earned rest. But there is always that one item – that stubborn one that is always there, yet never removed, never finished.
Some jobs simply never end. Some, such as road construction or cancer therapy, never end because the work progresses more slowly than the growing need. The pace of the work cannot keep up with the demand for it to be complete. But there are other jobs that never end because it is their nature to be undone, incomplete. Laundry work is the paradigm for this type of work.

Laundry is never done. You may wash the last load and fold the last dishrag and smugly congratulate yourself in your victory over dirty clothes, then in a flash your family appears bearing those loads they have been holding back for “such a time as this.” And, thus it starts all over again. Laundry is never done. By definition, as long as we live in this fallen world where we are no longer naked and not ashamed, laundry is ever-awaiting. In our household, “laundry work” is a ready metaphor for any job or experience in life that is always being done but never getting done.

The Reformers of the Sixteenth Century, famously included the reformation of the church in the category of ‘laundry work.’ The Reformation was not an event, but an iteration. It is in the very nature of the church to perpetually undergo reformation. Prior to the return of Christ and the final judgement, there is no golden age to which we can point and say, if only we could live in those times the church would be pure. From the beginning of God’s Covenant people, the church has been in need of reformation. Ecclesia reformata semper reformanda, ‘the Church reformed, [and] always reforming’ was the Reformer’s motto.

Always Reforming! The church is always in need of correction, sanctification, renewal, discipleship, gospel preaching, the faithful and diligent use of the ordinary means of grace. The marks of the church imply as much — faithful preaching of the Word, faithful administration of the Sacraments, and church discipline. The Reformation of the Church is not an event, it is ‘laundry work.’ That is, until the day when the church descends from heaven – holy, radiant, finally and fully prepared to be the bride and wife of the lamb. For now, the church must be ‘always reforming.’ But a day is coming when faith becomes sight and every promise, every ‘yes and amen’ in Christ, is fulfilled. Then the church will at last be all she has been created to be. All brokenness and blemish will be gone.

Her beauty, her perfect fellowship with her Beloved, and her indescribable life, so beautifully captured in Revelation 21:9-22:5, are the hope to which we press “with every grace endued.” Knowing that a day is coming when the laundry work of reformation will end, we press on with the work of always reforming. Scripture commands us, “let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

Have you grown weary of a church that is always reforming? Or of the arduous work this reformation demands? Has the friction of always reforming caused you to grow weary of doing good? Have you chosen, either practically or actually, to excommunicate yourself, unwilling to press on toward the hope of a radiant, pure, and holy church? Have you become such a severe critic of the Lamb’s bride? A commenter rather than a communicant? Have you have lost sight that, even in her time of sanctification, she is glorious, radiant, and live-giving?

Throughout time the church has been an Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda. But a day is coming when the church reformed and always reforming will “com[e] down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel… And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

Until that day, may this vision of the end, teach us to love the church and live within it. Hymnwriter, Samuel Stone expressed this tension well in the final verses of his beloved hymn, The Church’s One Foundation.

‘Mid toil and tribulation, and tumult of her war,
she waits the consummation of peace forevermore;
till with the vision glorious her longing eyes are blest,
and the great church victorious shall be the church at rest.

Yet she on earth hath union with God the Three in One,
and mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won:
O happy ones and holy! Lord, give us grace that we,
like them, the meek and lowly, on high may dwell with thee.

The Church’s One Foundation, Samuel J. Stone.

Join us this Reformation Lord’s Day, as we examine Revelation 21:9-22:5 and consider a day when the church will no longer be always reforming.  

We meet on the square in Pottsville, right next to historic Potts’ Inn at 10:30 am for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  Or join us on Facebook Live @PottsvilleARP or YouTube

10/24/2021 | “In Conclusion” | 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

The conclusion of a book is as important as its introduction. We can all think of those introductions which have grabbed our attention. But the conclusions also get our attention because they remind us of what an author really considers to be important. This is certainly the case in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. He begins his letter calling to mind that the church of Thessalonica is God’s church. In the conclusion, he offers exhortations on how that church is to live in light of the fact that it belongs to God. We see in these exhortations principles for honoring church leaders, principles for peace among fellow Christians, and the importance of rejoicing and praying. But all of these commands are rooted in Paul’s benediction in verse 23. Paul writes in that verse, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”

How can a Christian really live as one of God’s chosen people? How can a Christian have confidence that they will grow in grace? How can a Christian have the hope that they may endure to the end? It is because God is at work in the life of the believer and because He will keep them blameless. Paul has a settled confidence that “he will surely do it.” God has redeemed His own people from destruction, and He has promised to keep them to the end. Do you have the kind of settled confidence that Paul displays in this passage? Are you hopeful in the power of God to keep you and in the second coming of Jesus Christ? Listen to “In Conclusion” from 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28.

In Conclusion

The conclusion of a book is as important as its introduction. We can all think of those introductions which have grabbed our attention. One thinks of lines such as “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” and “Call me Ishmael.” But the conclusions also get our attention because they remind us of what an author really considers to be important.

This is certainly the case in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. He begins his letter calling to mind that the church of Thessalonica is God’s church. In the conclusion, he offers exhortations on how that church is to live in light of the fact that it belongs to God. We see in these exhortations principles for honoring church leaders, principles for peace among fellow Christians, and the importance of rejoicing and praying.

But all of these commands are rooted in Paul’s benediction in verse 23. Paul writes in that verse, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”

How can a Christian really live as one of God’s chosen people? How can a Christian have confidence that they will grow in grace? How can a Christian have the hope that they may endure to the end? It is because God is at work in the life of the believer and because He will keep them blameless. Paul has a settled confidence that “he will surely do it.” God has redeemed His own people from destruction, and He has promised to keep them to the end.

Do you have the kind of settled confidence that Paul displays in this passage? Are you hopeful in the power of God to keep you and in the second coming of Jesus Christ?
Paul closes the chapter in verse 28, saying, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” God has been gracious in Jesus Christ and will continue to be gracious to His people. In light of that grace, in light of the faithfulness of God, you may pursue holiness and seek to live as Paul commands in this conclusion. Join us this Sunday as we examine 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28 and consider the confidence that God calls us to enjoy in Christ.

We meet on the square in Pottsville, right next to historic Potts’ Inn at 10:30 am for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  Or join us on Facebook Live @PottsvilleARP or YouTube

Disclaimers

What’s the catch?  Our mothers always warned us, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”  The cunning of the salesman is to promote the benefits and overcome the objections.   Unfortunately, ‘the catch’ often gets lost in a sea of euphemism.   And so, to bridge the gap between the sunshine of the salesman and the rainy day of reality, we have disclaimers. 

Everything comes with disclaimers. The fine print. The low-toned, rapid-fire voice at the end of the commercial offering a hurried, but dire warning. Asterisks and double-daggers qualify every statement, so as to evade charges of false advertising. The dictionary defines a disclaimer as, “a statement, document, or assertion that disclaims responsibility, affiliation, etc.; disavowal; denial.” To disclaim is the opposite of claiming. The salesman claims, the legal department disclaims. Offers are made, then qualified, modified, mortified. The sales pitch promotes benefit without borders, then the disclaimer draws a very small map of possibilities. 

Disclaimers makes us jaded to every remarkable promise, suspicious of every offer.  Yet, I suppose this is nothing new in the history of the world.   From the beginning, the Great Deceiver, deceived our forefather Adam to believe that it was God who was deceiving him.   Satan added disclaimers and man doubted.   Ever since, man has doubted.   God offers man more than he can imagine.  The offer requires only faith, yet man can only doubt.  Satan suggests disclaimers.  Surely God is up to no good.  Surely it is a trap to defraud and destroy.   And so, in our fallenness we trust the Deceiver, and view the Trustworthy One with suspicion.

But God gives something else.  He gives faith as a gift.   God in his mercy, gives us the faith to trust that his offer comes without disclaimers.   Nothing in our doing or undoing undoes God’s offer of eternal life.   And to remind us of this, He brings the great story of redemption to a close in Revelation 21 with a vision of all His promises kept.   Everything He offered is given.  Nothing is withheld.   There are no caveats, no conditions, no last-minute substitutions – no disclaimers.

What was true regarding the people of Israel entering the promised land, is also true all who will experience the new heavens and the new earth.

Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.

Joshua 21:45

Have you trusted these promises? Have you accepted God’s offer? Have you believed that eternal life in Christ appears too good to be true, but really is? Or has the Deceiver kept you looking for a disclaimer, a loophole, a conviction that God’s promise comes with asterisks and double-daggers and will come to nothing? Join us this Lord’s Day as we examine Revelation 21:1-8 and consider the offer that appears too good to be true, but really is.

We meet on the square in Pottsville, right next to historic Potts’ Inn at 10:30 am for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  Or join us on Facebook Live @PottsvilleARP or YouTube

10/10/2021 | “Final Judgement” | Revelation 20:11-15

Rock and roll ballads rarely offer helpful counsel for life’s existential angst.  But they do put their finger insightfully on the pulse of the angst itself.   Creed’s, My Own Prison, is a poignant example.  While its theology is askew, the songs’ message is clear.   Without God’s grace, men are self-condemned in a prison of their own sinful making.  The Bible is clear about our condition apart from God’s grace.  Men try to ignore it, deceive themselves about it, and rail against it, but the they cannot escape their own prison.  

Judgment is coming.   God has not hidden this truth.   Throughout the Scriptures the inevitability of God’s judgment is proclaimed with clarity and certainty.   The final judgement is never expressed in conditional language.   Join us this Lord’s Day as we examine Revelation 20:11-15, commonly called the Great White Throne Judgement, and consider what will make the difference between eternal life and death at the final judgement.

Final Judgement

Rock and roll ballads rarely offer helpful counsel for life’s existential angst.  But they do put their finger insightfully on the pulse of the angst itself.   The bards of rock know well their condition and articulate it with great intensity.   Examples are copious, but some lyrics are more poignant than others. 

Creed’s title track, My Own Prison, has always grieved me.   It’s clarity regarding the ultimate existential crisis, but unwillingness to accept its acknowledged solution underscores the inability of man, unaided by the effectual calling of the Spirit, to find peace. 

Court is in session, a verdict is in
No appeal on the docket today just my own sin
The walls cold and pale, the cage made of steel
Screams fill the room, alone I drop and kneel

Silence now the sound, my breath the only motion around
Demons cluttering around, my face showing no emotion
Shackled by my sentence, expecting no return
Here there is no penance, my skin begins to burn

I hear a thunder in the distance, see a vision of a cross
I feel the pain that was given on that sad day of loss
A lion roars in the darkness, only he holds the key
A light to free me from my burden and grant me life eternally

I cry out to God, seeking only His decision
Gabriel stand and confirms, I’ve created my own prison.

While its theology is askew, the songs’ message is clear.   Without God’s grace, men are self-condemned in a prison of their own sinful making.  The Bible is clear about our condition apart from God’s grace.  Men try to ignore it, deceive themselves about it, and rail against it, but the they cannot escape their own prison.    Though many mock Christianity and scoff at the Bible, all men sense the truth of what Paul wrote in Acts 17:31 and dread it.

[God] has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.

Judgment is coming.   God has not hidden this truth.   Throughout the Scriptures the inevitability of God’s judgment is proclaimed with clarity and certainty.   The final judgement is never expressed in conditional language.   As the author of Hebrews wrote.

It is appointed for man to die once and then comes the judgement.

Hebrews 9:27

All men will face it.  Great and small, righteous and wicked, believers and unbelievers.  Yet not all men will be condemned.    In a moment of remarkable literal clarity, Revelation 20:11-15 speaks of the final judgment – of its certainty, scope, basis, and sentence.   But like every word of judgement in Scripture, this picture of the final judgement includes a word of grace.   

Among the books of men’s deeds is found another book, the Book of Life of the Lamb Who Was Slain.   This book does not contain men’s works, but their names – the names of those who have trusted Jesus’ works, not their own.   For these men and women, boys and girls, justice has been satisfied.    The one on the throne executing judgement has, himself, endured judgement in their place.  

What about you?  Which book determines your eternal destiny on the day of judgement?   Will you hear, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” or “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”  Join us this Lord’s Day as we examine Revelation 20:11-15, commonly called the Great White Throne Judgement, and consider what makes the difference between eternal life and death at the final judgement.

We meet on the square in Pottsville, right next to historic Potts’ Inn at 10:30 am for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  Or join us on Facebook Live @PottsvilleARP or YouTube