10/17/2021 | “Disclaimers” | Revelation 21:1-8

Everything comes with disclaimers.   The fine print.  The low-toned, rapid-fire voice at the end of the commercial that you somehow know is offering a hurried, but dire warning.  Asterisks and double-daggers qualify every statement, so as to evade charges of false advertising.   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 toward every remarkable promise, suspicious of every offer.  In Eden, Satan disclaimed God’s promises and man doubted.   Ever since, man has doubted.   God offers more than man can imagine.  The offer requires only faith, yet man can only doubt.  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.   The great story of redemption draws to a close in Revelation 21 with a vision of all God’s promises kept.   Nothing is withheld.   There are no caveats, no conditions, no last-minute substitutions – no disclaimers. Join us as we consider Revelation 21:1-8 and consider the offer that seems too good to be true, but really is.

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.

10/03/2021 | “Coronation Day” | Revelation 20:4-10

Surely no one was surprised by Brexit?   Like a young couple crafting a prenup in their first premarital counseling session, Brexit was an inevitable outcome.   The tenuous EU marriage between Britain and the Continent could never last.   Despite its pretense as a representative democracy, Britain is forever committed to its Crown.  But, as Americans, we mistrust any idea of the monarchy.   So, it is hard for us to fully appreciate the implications of Christ as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.   Scripture passages that speak of The Kingdom and of Christ and the saints ruling and reigning resonate only lightly with us.  

Yet, the comfort of Revelation 20 depends upon rightly understanding the reigning of the saints.   To miss the meaning of this powerful image is to miss some of the richest gospel comfort offered in Scripture.  Join us as we examine Revelation 20:4-10 and find simple, yet profound comfort from one of the Scripture’s most enigmatic passages. Listen to “Coronation Day” from Revelation 20:4-10.

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

Coronation Day

Surely no one was surprised by Brexit?   Like a young couple crafting a prenup in their first premarital counseling session, Brexit was an inevitable outcome.    As my ASDA House coworker explained in 2001 when I asked about Britain adopting the Euro, “they won’t let us put the Queen on it!”   I knew then that the tenuous EU marriage between Britain and the Continent could never last.   Despite its pretense as a representative democracy, Britain is forever committed to its Crown.

The pageantry, the history, and the utter fascination of being a people ruled by the reign of a Sovereign King or Queen is absolutely repugnant to the American consciousness, however.  Though we began as loyal subjects of the Crown, the abuses our forefathers suffered at its hands have been forever enshrined in our foundational document, The Declaration of Independence.   Every year on the Fourth of July we read.

The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States….  In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Declaration of Independence

The Declaration’s list of grievances is ingrained on our national identity.  We impute George III’s guilt to every idea of monarchy.   While good for self-governance, our anti-monarchal bias negatively affects our hermeneutics.  It is hard for us to fully appreciate the implications of Christ as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.   Scripture passages that speak of The Kingdom and of Christ and the saints ruling and reigning resonate only lightly with us.   Yet, many sweet promises given to believers in the Bible are related to the rule and reign of the saints over the world.

The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him; 2 Timothy 2:11-12

Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 1 Corinthians 6:2-3

“You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Luke 22:28-30

And especially in Revelation we read.

The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, Revelation 2:26

The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.  Revelation 3:21

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth.”   Revelation 5:10-11

And most notoriously,

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed.  Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. 

Revelation 20:4-6

Unfortunately, the sweetness of these promises is often obscured by the violence this last passage has suffered at the hands of eisogetes.   At precisely this point, many otherwise sound interpreters abandon the principle of ‘interpreting less clear passages from more clear passages.’   And the questions this text presents are legion?  Where are these thrones?  Over whom will the saints reign?  And who are these saints?  Are they martyrs only?  Or a select few that experience a proto-resurrection?  

Many hearers give up on this passage because of the divisiveness of teachers and preachers.  But the enigmata of Revelation 20 is its ultimate irony.   Like all of Revelation, this passage is not given to obscure, but reveal.  Not to distress, but comfort.  Not to divide, but to unify.   In An Eschatology of Victory, Marcellus Kik notes that accessing the comfort of Revelation 20 depends upon rightly understanding three simple, yet profound images: the binding of the devil, the reigning of the saints, and the two deaths and resurrections.   To miss the meaning of these powerful images is to miss some of the richest gospel comfort offered in Scripture.  Join us as we examine Revelation 20:4-10 and find simple, yet profound comfort from one of the Scripture’s most enigmatic passages

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

09/12/2021 | “Enigmas” | Revelation 20:1-10

Cracking Hitler’s Enigma machine seems child’s play compared to deciphering the symbolism of Revelation 20.   The theologies growing out of the events described in Revelation 20 are the most divisive and enigmatic in Christian eschatology, or the study of ‘last things.’   And Christians often use another’s position on the Millennium as litmus tests for orthodoxy or heterodoxy.   Though fashionable to ask, “pre-mil, a-mil, or post-mil?”  Asking another Christian his position on the millennium is akin to asking how he voted in the last election.

But the enigmata of Revelation 20 is its ultimate irony.   The Revelation is not given to obscure, but reveal.  Not to distress, but comfort.  Not to divide, but to unify.   But accessing the comfort of Revelation 20 depends upon rightly understanding three simple, yet profound images: the binding of the devil, the reigning of the saints, and the two deaths and resurrections.   Join us as we examine the enigmas in Revelation 20:1-10 and find simple, yet profound comfort.

09/05/2021 | “Shock and Awe” | Revelation 19:11-21

“Shock and Awe, simply Shock and Awe!”  For most, this phrase entered our vernacular from CNN Reporter, Peter Arnett, describing the stunning exhibition of US airpower from his hotel in Baghdad on March 21, 2003.   The second Gulf War had begun.   Operation Iraqi Freedom was underway.  But the coalition bombardment was nothing compared to the ‘Shock and Awe’ described in Revelation 19 as the world’s final battle that pictures the return of Christ in judgement. 

Kings and captains, mighty men, men both free and slave, small and great gather for battle.  Summoned by the King of Rebels, the ancient Dragon and his Beast and False Prophet, they have come to resist the will of their rightful King, the Lord Jesus Christ.  They trust in everything false and swear allegiance to the King of Lies and Murder.    They think this will be their moment – and indeed it is.  Just not the moment they expected.  ‘Shock and awe’ is coming.   Join us as we examine Revelation 19:11-21 and the great promise and the great warning of Christ’s return.

“Shock and Awe,” Revelation 19:11-21

Enigmas

Long before the dawn of the computer age and concern over the alleged influence of Russian hacking, the fate of nations and the tides of war lay in the power of cryptography.   During World War II, the best and the brightest were pressed into service as cryptographers seeking to create and to break unbreakable codes.   The stories of these unsung men and women have been recounted in recent movies such as Windtalkers and The Imitation Game.

One of the most significant of these crypto-analysts was British mathematician, Alan Turing.  Turing led a team of researchers at Britain’s infamous Bletchley Park lab to build a machine capable of decoding messages encrypted by Hitler’s famed Enigma machines.  Turing’s machine, or Automated Computing Engine, was the earliest electro-mechanical computer, a machine which revolutionized the modern age.

Despite Turing’s brilliance and achievement in cracking the world’s foremost cryptographical enigma, however, he could not decode the ultimate enigma, the meaning of life.  His untimely death by cyanide poisoning in 1954 was ruled a suicide.  Turing was not the first notable man in history to grapple with the enigma of meaning and meaninglessness.   Solomon, in the Bible, had done it all.  He had unparalleled wisdom, wealth and experience, but he still wrestled with the same ultimate questions of meaning and meaningless that create existential angst for each of us today.

Cracking Hitler’s Enigma machine seems child’s play compared to deciphering the symbolism of Revelation 20.   The theologies growing out of the events described in Revelation 20 are the most divisive and enigmatic in Christian eschatology, or the study of ‘last things.’   And Christians often use another’s position on the Millennium as litmus tests for orthodoxy or heterodoxy.   Though fashionable to ask, “are you pre-mil, a-mil, or post-mil?”  Asking another Christian his position on the millennium is akin to asking how he voted in the last election.

But the enigmata of Revelation 20 is its ultimate irony.   The Revelation is not given to obscure, but reveal.  Not to distress, but comfort.  Not to divide, but to unify.   In An Eschatology of Victory, Marcellus Kik notes that accessing the comfort of Revelation 20 depends upon rightly understanding three simple, yet profound images: the binding of the devil, the reigning of the saints, and the two deaths and resurrections.  

Warfare between various theological camps erupts at just these salient points.   Yet, to miss the meaning of these powerful images is to miss some of the richest gospel comfort offered in Scripture.  Join us as we examine Revelation 20:1-10 and find simple, yet profound comfort from one of the Scripture’s most enigmatic passages.

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

Shock and Awe

“Shock and Awe, simply Shock and Awe!”  For most, this phrase entered our vernacular from CNN Reporter, Peter Arnett, describing the stunning exhibition of US airpower from his hotel in Baghdad on March 21, 2003.   The second Gulf War had begun.   Operation Iraqi Freedom was underway.  We watched live as coalition airpower obliterated Saddam Hussein’s Presidential compound on the Tigris and other government and military sites in and around Baghdad.   ‘Shock and Awe’ was meant to make a statement, to break the will of Saddam’s army — to end a war before it began.

Military strategists as far back as Sun Tzu have understood the value of destroying the enemy’s will to fight.   But the concept of ‘Shock and Awe’ was meant to take it to the next level.  It is Sherman’s ‘total war’ on steroids.   The phrase ‘shock and awe’ was originally introduced by Harlan Ullman in a 1996 Pentagon study.  For Ullman, ‘shock and awe’ defined a concept of engagement so massive and sudden that the enemy would be stunned, confused, overwhelmed, and paralyzed.

But the coalition bombardment that began on March 21, 2003 was nothing compared to the ‘Shock and Awe’ described in Revelation 19 as the world’s final battle that pictures the return of Christ in judgement.   Kings and captains, mighty men, men both free and slave, small and great gather for battle.  Summoned by the King of Rebels, the ancient Dragon and his Beast and False Prophet, they have come to resist the will of their rightful King, the Lord Jesus Christ.  They trust in everything false and swear allegiance to the King of Lies and Murder.    They think this will be their moment – and indeed it is.  Just not the moment they expected.

As the Lord Jesus appears in power and glory, the armies of heaven following after Him, He brings ‘Shock and Awe’ His enemies never anticipated.    “Every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all the tribes of the earth will wail on account of him…. Kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and rich and powerful and everyone slave and free, [will hide] themselves in caves and among the rocks of the mountains calling to the mountains, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb.’”

Their swagger and boasting, rebellion and hatred of the Lord will come to nothing in an instant.   The mighty power of the Beast and the pervasive influence of the False Prophet dissipate at the appearing of the one who is Faithful and True, who slays His enemies with the sword of the Word of God.    The return of Christ comes as ‘shock and awe’ to His enemies, and ours.   But to those who have loved not their lives unto death, who have held to the testimony of Jesus, who have been sealed with the seal of the Living God, the “shock and awe” of His coming causes them to cry ‘Glory!’

We are reminded in Philippians that

God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Some will confess Jesus’ Lordship out of love for their King.  Others will confess it under compulsion of judgment.   When Jesus comes, He comes with ‘shock and awe.’   For those who submit to Him in grace, there is joy.   But for those who refuse His light and easy yoke, submission comes only in judgement.   As one theologian noted regarding that moment.

“Either judgment is done on [Christ] at the cross [on our behalf], or else, failing that, judgement is done by him as people’s unforgiven sin sends them to hell.”

Have you submitted to his grace?  Or are you resisting your rightful King, gathering together with the King of Rebels and the enemies of the Living God?   ‘Shock and awe’ is coming.   Are you ready?   Join us this Sunday as we examine Revelation 19:11-21 and the great promise and the great warning of Christ’s return.

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