Be found with understanding

February 18, 2009

When confronted with great trials, we often do everything in our power to acquire as much knowledge as we can about those things which cause fears to manifest in us. When people are told they have cancer, for instance, more than likely the first thing that person wants to know is what kind, where, how bad, and is it treatable. This information is believed to somehow disspell the fear of cancer and of death, yet really knowing these things can do little to heal the person. What the victim of cancer really ought to drive themselves into is not the knowledge of cancer, but rather into the knowledge of God who formed the body, took on our frame, and died for us that through faith we who believe in Him may never die. It is the knowledge of the Creator, not the cancer, which will bring ultimate restoration, as it is in Him alone that we can entrust our hope.

A similar example is the phenomenon that children, when shown erected dinosaur bones, will initially back out of the room by a mixture of nightmarish fright and awe, yet when simply told the great beast’s name, there is that sudden familiarity. If truly faced with such a monster out of doors, knowing the name of the leviathan will do nothing to keep the child from harm. As with the case of Job, to fear the creature over the One who is its maker is to have no understanding at all. In the end, a man with a high IQ will taste just the same to a dragon as some mindless sheep; all his memorized data will prove unable to save him in the day of calamity.

The subject of the end of this age in the church of Jesus is grossly treated much like terrible lizards or a malignant disease. Mounting up knowledge about the great and terrible Day of the Lord cannot save anyone, unless it is predicated by a healthy relationship with this Lord who was, and is, and is to come. As a student of the living word and a teacher of eschatology, I have found that those who treasure the book of Revelation largely do so not for its pervading Christology, but for its many avenues of debate. Those who are drawn to apocalyptic Scripture typically are so because of a fascination with “esoteric” theology, deceived in some quasi-Gnostic way that this understanding will cause them to be beacons of light in even the worst raging storm. These ones are unaware of their blindness and wretchedness, and, not unlike the Laodiceans, are oblivious to the startling fact that Jesus is not in their midst, but in a final plea is knocking to be let in for their own sakes. Only intimate fellowship with the God-Man Jesus will sustain us in the last days.

And this is how Revelation begins. From the first sentence John makes clear that this particular unveiling of Jesus’ identity was specially given by God that His servants might understand His predetermined end-time events. Without this revelation of Jesus given in ch.1-3, the marvelous things described in ch.4-22 will only cause you to stumble and fall. Trusting in a chart of dates, events, and people can only cause offense in the day of great shaking. It is not the self-proclaimed scholars, but the people who truly know their God who “shall be strong and carry out great exploits” (Dan. 11:32). In the book of Acts, Jesus gives to His apostles an order of events: they are to tarry in Jerusalem, then He will pour out His Spirit, then they will go out into Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. However, when these events began to unfold, even the apostles were taken aback. “Whatever could this mean?” was a common question, and the answer given was never to point to a chart, but always to proclaim Jesus. It was the untrained and the uneducated who had fellowshipped with Christ who were pillars in the persecuted church. Have we graduated beyond the apostles of the Lamb, thinking ourselves smarter than they, and therefore more apt to be faithful than they? The eleven forsook Jesus in the Garden for a lack of belief that He had to suffer and die – what will happen to those who, like the Pharisees, believe they know the Messiah better than His closest friends?!

I am being convicted by my own writing! – which is much more terrifying than being hunted by a wild beast could ever be (Jas. 3:1). God Himself is coming down in the fullness of His glory and majesty, and all will be laid bare and laid low before Him. It is not death that we should fear, but the One who will cast Death itself into the lake of fire! Our fear of death causes us to cling to the things of this world because we lack faith in the resurrection of the dead. The fear of death subjects us to bondage (Heb. 2:15), and deliverance can only be had in “Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father” (Rev. 1:5-6). Becoming a friend of Jesus is to have true understanding.

The seven churches were never encouraged to overcome tribulation by special, secret knowledge. We see instead that it is only those in Christ who do not fear death that overcome Satan in all of his rage (Rev. 12:11). When the churches overcome their disbelief in the resurrection, it is then that their accuser will be cast out of the heavens. And we find that Jesus’ seven epistles given to all the churches have three strategic points: to give a revelation of who He is (“the things which you have seen”; cp. 1:12-17), our necessary response to His identity (“the things which are”; cp. “I know your works… repent…”), and the covenantal curse or blessing promised us based on our actual reaction to His unchanging nature (“the things which will take place after this”; cp. “Repent, or else… To him who overcomes…”). All of these three things stand upon faith in the resurrection, as these letters are given by Him “who lives, and was dead, and behold, [is] alive forevermore” (1:18), and make glorious promises only to those who are about to face pain and death.

These days are fast approaching, but will you be found with understanding in those days? Do not fall into the common presumption that simply being born-again is enough. Jesus warned five of the seven churches that if they were to continue on as they were, He would judge them exactly as He would Satan, the beast, the false prophet, and the harlot. The other two (Smyrna and Philadelphia) were assured crowns of life only if they held fast unto martyrdom. The first name given Jesus Christ in this last book is Faithful Witness, who was the Firstborn from the dead (1:5). If we are thinking upon the mystery of the number of the beast more than on the mystery of Jesus, then we’re already deceived and in danger of giving way to cowardice and unbelief (21:8). Our all-consuming desire must be to engage, encounter, and emulate Jesus. This is our safety, but more than that, to do so is to give to Him the reward of His sufferings. And for suffering for His name, He promises to us reward as well. Let us be ones found with understanding in the Day of His return, for our sakes and for His.


One Response to “Be found with understanding”

  1. Hello Ben, You have a very nice blog here; I appreciate your sincerity. You may also enjoy the many testimonies of our Savior Jesus Christ at: God bless!

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