The book of Revelation is perhaps the most controversial book in the Bible among Christians. Even sincere, Bible-believing Christians seem to come up with more widely varying interpretations of this book than of any other passage or prophecy. The variety and severity of these disagreements can be intimidating or discouraging to the simple reader, who may feel that there is no one Truth to be found within its mysterious pages. But it is vitally important to remember that God did not inspire the writing of Revelation to bring confusion, but hope and joy to his suffering church.
In one of the most concise, and yet comprehensive, character sketches in the Bible, the apostle John outlines the qualities of a man named Gaius. We might summarize John’s description, in his third epistle, using four of his own well-chosen words: truth, faithfulness, love, and beloved.
Jesus paradoxically describes those as happy who are poverty-stricken in their souls. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). As upside-down and inside-out as this may sound, if we believe Jesus then we certainly want to know what he is talking about. What does it mean to be “poor in spirit”?
Most Christians can quickly and easily repeat the formula that the trinitarian God of the Bible is one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And perhaps the most famous verse in all the Bible is John 3:16, which refers to Jesus as God’s Son, sent into the world because of the abounding love of God. But what does it mean for Jesus to be God’s Son? What are the implications that Scripture draws from that reality?
Ruth was the great grandmother of King David. She is also one of only four women specifically named by Matthew in the lineage of Christ (Matthew 1:5). This distinct honor is bestowed on her for at least two reasons, I believe: first, to recognize her as a person of great character and faith. When Orpah forsook her mother-in-law in the face of hardship, Ruth “clung” to her, and to her God, and refused to be bowed down by the cares or concerns of her present circumstances.
A few years ago the Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a lawsuit with a federal appeals court, demanding that an Ohio judge remove a poster displaying the Ten Commandments from his courtroom. The Americans United executive director explained that, “It’s obvious that he is using his courtroom to advance his personal religious viewpoint. That’s wrong, and the appeals court should say so.” One has to wonder what objective standard the AUSCS is using to decide “right” and “wrong,” having thrown out the Ten Commandments.
Of the eight speeches by Paul detailed by Luke in the book of Acts, the address in Acts 20 to the Ephesian elders is the only pastoral one. In fact, it is the only public discourse recorded in Acts that is addressed to a Christian audience—which clearly indicates how purposeful and proactive the early church was in reaching out to the unbelieving world with the gospel!
The Bible is gospel-centered. The Bible is not primarily calling you to be a good person, but to trust in the grace of God to make you good enough for heaven.
In studying through a difficult passage of Scripture recently, I came across a quote from Charles Spurgeon that applies to every passage of Scripture: “My love of consistency with my own doctrinal views is not great enough to allow me knowingly to alter a single text of Scripture. I have great respect for orthodoxy, but my reverence for inspiration is far greater.
We sometimes make the mistake of thinking we must choose between knowledge and passion; but in fact the two feed each other, especially in relation to Jesus (2 Peter 3:11-18). The more we learn about Jesus, the more we will love and trust him; on the other hand, it is impossible to genuinely love or truly trust someone you don’t even know (Matthew 11:28-29; Romans 10:14). This is why knowledge is so important. And this is why every Christian should be a dedicated, life-time learner. A heart cannot be renewed by knowledge that the head never took in.