Sunday small thought: There’s nothing to fear – The Revelation of and from Jesus Christ.

The Greek name is the Apocalypse. But it is a word that we use for terror, fear and disturbing events that have happened or will happen. That’s probably why we stay away from this letter.

“The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” (Revelation 1: 1-3)

But in the first century, the word Apocalypse was much more a word used for Revelation. It meant surprising, revealing and exciting. This is the letter we are reading.

This is not a letter to scare us, nor is it a timeline of end-time apocalyptic events that have taken place or won’t take place whilst we are alive, depending on your theological interpretation.

But it is a letter to bring comfort to us now. It is a letter to show us how to live today.

It is a letter from Jesus to you. He has something to say about your life and what you are facing. He wants to guide you and help you. So let’s go on a journey together and see what He says. But the key thought today is this: there isn’t anything to fear. Before anything takes place He knows it will. Jesus Christ is here in your today and will take you into your tomorrow where He will be also. He is God of your today and God of your tomorrow.

A different perspective is what we need: The Revelation of and from Jesus Christ.

There’s nothing new under the sun, not really. Our world may look entirely different to the first century. The pressure on the church may be different to that of the churches in say Western Turkey, 70 years after Jesus Christ walked the earth, but the temptations to compromise, the challenges of obedience, the rising tide of persecution in post-Christian nations and the simple fact that most of us just find it really hard to be a Jesus-follower in the many situations we live and work in show us that the Bible still helps us today. That is my hope as we read this last book in the canon of the Bible, Revelation. (I don’t intend to align myself with the many great theological books that have been written. I just want to encourage perhaps you today as you live out your faith in Christ.)

“The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” (Revelation 1: 1-3)

We need to read this letter, we need to hear this letter and we need to keep hold of the contents in our heart because we need a different perspective to the world we live in. This is not a letter from an apostolic figure, like Paul and Peter who at the time of this letter are long dead. Their writings would have been passed around Christendom many times over by the time this letter came about. But this is the revelation from and of Jesus Christ. It is all about Him from start to finish. It actually isn’t about the end-times schedule, it is there, but it is about Him and how to live for Him in the light of His imminent return. It is about today whenever your today is.

There it is, the time is near, at hand. But here we are in 2022 and where is He? So many have told us when Jesus Christ will come back. One poor chap called Edgar Whisenant wrote ’88 reasons for 1988’ predicting the date of the rapture in that year to be between September 11 and 13th. Amazingly 4.5 million copies were sold! He stated, ‘Only if the Bible is in error am I wrong. ‘ Hmm!

Throughout history angels and men have asked ‘how long?’ and ‘when will you come?’ But there is no answer. What we are told is He will come and He will gather.

The last words of this letter “I am coming soon!” this is all we need to know!

The letter was created by God and Jesus Christ and given to John via the angel. John is the apostle closest to Jesus but he only describes himself as a servant amongst God’s servants (v1). His testimony or witness (ESV) points us to the law courts for those words are where they are connected to judgments and sentencing of the verdicts (we will see this theme come through later). It also points to martyrdom (the word carries that sense of being a martyr which also appears later in the letter). Many have been and will be called to suffer because of what they have seen and heard, they are the witnesses of Jesus Christ. They do it because just like the Temple for the Jew was the connection of heaven and earth; Jesus Christ is that person now. Relationship with Him is the perspective we all need to survive this world

So in 2022 what does it mean to be a Christian where you are placed in this world? How are you meant to live as a Jesus-follower today?

This letter shows us here in the Prologue that:-

  1. JESUS CHRIST has to be the central figure in your life.
  2. YOU have to live in the light of His return.
  3. The WORLD may cause you to suffer for your testimony.

That’s the perspective we must hold to.

Doxology 4: God’s wisdom is seen in Jesus Christ which helps us to see His wisdom in our every day life.

We have been reading this letter of ‘Romans’ every day for 7 months and finally we come to the close of the doxology which basically sums up everything the Apostle Paul has written:

  1. God has the ability to establish what He has begun: the Church.
  2. He will do this through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  3. Jesus Christ once hidden now revealed, found in the Old Testament, who we now preach to all and teach them to walk in obedience by faith.

To “the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.” (Romans 16 v 27) Half-way through the letter Paul had already broken out in praise. ‘Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!’ (11:33) and he does it again to close and how fitting it is after all he has written.

God is always and at all times wise. In fact there is not a moment when He is not all-wise. Wisdom sees everything not only as the whole but every intricate detail of the whole. But it is more than that. For what I have described is knowledge and wisdom is higher than that. For wisdom pulls all the information and works them together for His good and glory so that the best is done with all the bits of detail. God does this all the time with the whole world in every generation and without having a headache!

Through what Jesus Christ has done for us, God is taking every detail of our lives, all the circumstances with their twists and turns and is working them for His glory. This is His wisdom. Whatever the circumstance that you are in right now perhaps hard at times to understand is not too far or too difficult that God is not already working His wisdom, fashioning the you from this situation. More than this! Can you believe that your problem that you cannot fix came about because of God? God permitted or filtered through His wisdom to bring about a result that one day (your faith may need to wait for eternity) will make perfect sense.

Many will push back on that because of the terrible circumstance of their life. How can this be true?

Look at the cross. It is foolish to the world. But it is the wisdom of God.

Look at the gospel. It is foolish to the world. But it is the wisdom to save.

This is why the Apostle breaks out in praise and so we will also. If not today then certainly tomorrow, in our next life when we will join with the eternal people of God, “Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honour and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen! (Revelation 7 v 12)

Hope you enjoyed these devotionals in Romans. I never intend to go deep into the theology of the Bible. You can do this yourself. I just seek to encourage someone today and to show how important the Bible is for our daily living.

Doxology 3: Clear Christianity

In coming to the close of his letter Paul sums up Christianity’s call. It is simple and it is clear. It is possible to make it complicated and our history judges us for getting in the way of what has been revealed: Jesus!

“Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes fromfaith— to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Romans 16 v 25-27)

So here it is in a nutshell:

  1. Jesus the mystery now revealed through the prophetic writings. We now see Christ in the Old Testament.
  2. Jesus the mystery now revealed through the desire of God that all may be saved. We preach Christ.
  3. Jesus the mystery now revealed for the whole world. We go to anyone and everyone.
  4. Jesus the mystery now revealed changes lives. We now walk in obedience by faith.

And that is how the Apostle started his letter:-

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life[a] was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power[b] by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from[c] faith for his name’s sake.” (Romans 1 v 1-5)

That’s what the Apostle Paul carried and that is our clarion call still today.

Doxology 2: Jesus is all you need

The Apostle Paul in closing this letter to the Churches in Rome with his heart set on Jewish/Gentile unity, with his belief that the Gentiles share in the promises of the Jews and that one day ‘all Israel will be saved’ (11 v 25) realises how this will be established. God will do it through the gospel, the message and the mystery of God being Jesus Christ.

“Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past” (Romans 16 v 25)

Jesus is all you need.

This is Paul’s gospel and it is yours too.

Never stop talking of Jesus.

This is your message.

Don’t be tempted by other lifestyles, life-choices or short-cuts, techniques and programmes to see your dream fulfilled. Whatever God has for you and however He is going to bring it about it will always be through Him, Jesus Christ.

This is your good news. You don’t have anything else to compare with this.

It was hidden for many generations past but you now have the key, the truth, the answer to everything: Jesus Christ.

Your gospel is still powerful in 2022 as at any other time.

Your gospel changes lives.

Your gospel says you can believe for what looks impossible.

Jesus is all you need.

Doxology 1: God will establish what He has begun.

To all you Church planters who are labouring: God is able to establish it.

To all you Pastors trying something new: God is able to establish it.

To all you today stepping into a new season: God is able to establish you within it.

“Now to him who is able to establish you …” (Romans 16 v 25)

Apostle Paul finally looks at his dream of a diverse and united church in Rome and believes God will do it, He will establish it for He is able.

What is in front of you? What are you hoping for? Are you stepping into something new? Is God leading you into a new chapter? God has the power to make it happen. He has you covered.

Today may be small and there may be some feelings of trepidation. But put it in the hands of the One who is able. The One who established the world and everything in it is the One who is holding you and your dream!

My team – Quartus teaches us that we should always have on our team someone surprising.

Can you imagine having a name which means ‘fourth’? That’s all we know. There isn’t anything recorded about Quartus except this:

“Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings.” (Romans 16 v 23)

He probably wouldn’t make many teams but he was on the Apostle’s.

In this team he sits alongside the director of public works of the city of Corinth!

The Church is the place where everyone in society is given respect and status. Quartus may not have done many things that can be written about but he was known as a spiritual brother and that is enough to make the team.

I was in a church yesterday and met a man (who was slightly disappointed that I actually wasn’t the BBC North Weatherman!) sat on the front row and very much part of that community of believers. The Pastors clearly loved him. He wasn’t just occupying a chair. He was part of their team. He may not be on many teams outside the Church but in that place he was important.

Do you honestly think that the team Jesus put together were a group of male models with designer hair, bleached white teeth, muscular, supremely gifted in every area of life and the most amazing influential communicators the world has ever seen?!

Every team needs people where others might say, ‘why are they on the team?’ The answer? ‘They’re our spiritual brother/sister.’

Sunday small thought: My team – Erastus teaches us that we need more of God’s people to become the influencers outside the Church.

Everyone has a frontline. Healthcare, education, government etc. Placed there by God.

“Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings.” (Romans 16 v 23)

Today look around at those in the pews who are influencing people outside the Church through a variety of ways, whether they are paid or in the voluntary sector; encourage them, we need them there, they are a huge blessing to the city and the Church.

My team – Gaius teaches us how to handle privilege

Can you remember who baptised you?

Our next member of the Apostle’s team had a claim to fame. He was baptised by the great Apostle Paul.

“Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings.” (Romans 16 v 23)

The Apostle and the church in Corinth benefited from the generosity of Gaius.

Those who understand privilege are generous people.

Baptism was an accepted practice in Paul’s day and has stayed so into our generation. Paul had made a decision for the sake of unity in Corinth not to baptise anyone lest the baptised were tempted to think they were better than anyone else. That is apart from a few, Crispus, the household of Stephanus and our man Gaius!

What did Gaius do with that privileged experience? He chose to become known for his generosity.

Have you experienced what others haven’t?

Are you privileged?

Many of us are.

The temptation is to use it for more personal gain. But it isn’t the Gaius way.

To whom much is given, much will be required (Luke 12:48)

My team – Tertius who teaches us the importance of giving permission for the authenticity of life.

Peter used Silas as his secretary (1 Peter 5:12) and here we see the only mention of Tertius.

“I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.” (Romans 16 v 22)

Imagination kicks in as we think what just happened? Did Tertius interrupt the Apostle and say ‘I want to say hello too’? Was Paul distracted for a moment by someone entering into the room and Tertius took the opportunity to add his own personal greetings?

Whatever it was I see a lovely permission culture that the Apostle had created within his team. Tertius wasn’t ruled by fear of stepping out of line. He was being dictated to in writing the letter however not by a dictator where there was no room for him to make a suggestion.

It is a reminder to us of the Bible revealing the human story. These people were just like you and me. A complete different culture perhaps but the same human beings trying to handle circumstances of life and work, just like us.

Perhaps you are dictating to someone today or whatever the equivalent of that maybe then allow freedom of movement, permission for the human story to take place which might not be yours, but ultimately gets into the story of God.