Today’s Bible Reading: Micah 5-7:20; Revelation 7:1-17; Psalm 135:1-21; Proverbs 30:5-6
One of the more famous prophecies about the Messiah appears in Micah 5:2. In this verse Micah prophesies that a future king will be born in Bethlehem. The interesting thing is that this king – who is yet to be born – already existed! There is only one way that someone who isn’t born can already exist “from the distant past” and that is for that person to be God. Jesus always existed. From before time began He existed as “The Son” – the second person of the Trinity – in heaven along with God the Father and the Holy Spirit (Colossians 1:16-17, John 1:1-3, et.al).
No one has any legitimate complaint against God (Micah 6:3). God has done nothing but good for us. He has given us life. He has given us all we need and more. And He personally allowed Himself to be nailed to a cross to pay the penalty for our sins. There is nothing more He can do for us.
And what does God ask from us in return? Three things: 1) To do what is right 2) To love mercy. Not to just show mercy, but to really enjoy displaying mercy to others, and 3) humbly spend time with Him (Micah 6:8). None of this is mysterious or difficult. Its all very straight-forward. We just refuse to do it. Instead we act selfishly and ignore God. No wonder we have so many problems.
[ By the way, Micah 6:8 is the inspiration for one of my favorite choruses. When I first became a Christian and started going to church in McLean, Virginia in 1992 we used to sing this song (including the echo). In a church filled with a couple hundred people it sounds amazing. ]
We don’t live this way and neither did Israel (Micah 6:10-12). One thing God disapproves of is the way wealth is obtained. God never condemns someone for being wealthy. He only condemns people for the way they achieved their wealth (Micah 6:12). The Bible makes it clear that anyone who works harder and/or smarter is entitled to be paid more. But God will never condone riches that are acquired dishonestly.
Every time I read about Israel’s impending collapse and the ridicule they will receive from the surrounding nations (Micah 6:16) the United States comes to mind. I can’t help but think that we are on the road to ruin and will someday be the laughing stock of the world.
Yesterday we read about six judgements from God that were inflicted upon the earth. The first five occurred because God allowed the sinful human race to make decisions that created very negative (to put it mildly) consequences. Today’s passage from Revelation is a vision that John sees which takes place between the sixth and seventh judgement.
In this vision John sees angels restraining the first four judgements (known familiarly as The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse) while believers are marked with a seal (Revelation 7:1). I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who reject the Bible because of this verse claiming that the phrase “four corners of the earth” implies that the authors of the Bible are stating that the world is flat and hence, in their opinion, the Bible is wrong. Of course the phrase “four corners of the earth” is still used today but no one claims that anyone who uses is denying the world is round. Some people just look for any excuse notto believe.
The four horsemen comprise a time known as the Great Tribulation – the seven years when the antichrist is ruler of the world – which occurs after The Rapture of believers from this earth. From this we can tell that there will be more people who come to faith in Christ after the Rapture. Since all believers will have been taken out of the world these new believers will probably learn about Jesus from books and the Internet. Most likely The Rapture itself – an obvious supernatural event – will cause them to reconsider their previous disbelief.
There will be 144,000 people who are sealed (Revelation 7:4-8). Exactly who these people are is not known. Jehovah’s Witnesses used to claim that the 144,000 represented those people who would be saved and that they (Jehovah’s Witnesses) formed this entire group. Of course, that logic fell apart once the Jehovah’s Witness movement exceeded 144,000 people. Now Jehovah’s Witnesses say that many will be saved but only 144,000 actually go to heaven (but still only Jehovah’s Witnesses). There is no biblical basis for any of these suggestions. The fact is we don’t know exactly who these 144,000 are but it would seem that they are Jews from most of the tribes of Israel (the tribe of Dan is not mentioned) who have come to believe in Jesus and are therefore protected during the Tribulation.
John’s vision gives us some interesting insight into what heaven will be like. There will be people from every tribe and nation and language (Revelation 7:9). For John to know this it must have been obvious – in that people must retain their earthly appearance (e.g. skin color). When we get to heaven we will retain our individuality.
Notice that salvation comes from God (Revelation 7:10). It is not something anyone can earn by being good. It is a gift from God. This can’t be stressed enough. We’ve seen this as one of the main themes in the Bible. God gives salvation as a gift to anyone – without exception – who is willing to accept it.
One thing we will do in heaven is serve God (Revelation 7:15). Many people I’ve known reject God’s offer of salvation because of this very concept. They don’t want to “serve” anyone. They want to be served. That is human selfishness and arrogance. It is actually a pleasure to serve one who is greater than we are. None of us would balk at going to work for a presidential candidate we admired. We would consider it an honor to work – voluntarily – to get him/her elected. But when it comes to the notion of serving God, people view it as a negative. That is because Satan has blinded them to the truth.
In heaven no one will be hungry or thirsty. We will never be tired or weary. Our lives will be fulfilled beyond any level of fulfillment we can imagine currently (Revelation 7:16-17).
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