Redeeming the Time

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“15See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,  16Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15,16, KJV).

Brethren, we have work to do!

We are living at the end of the age – at a time when knowledge is so widespread and bountiful, that the average person living in a Metropolitan area will be exposed to more knowledge and input in a week than an entire family of 100 years ago would be exposed to in a year.  

Ours is a time when communication is literally instant; we can see and hear someone on the other side of the world and fluently converse with them when 100 years ago that conversation would not even have been possible.     

Ours is a time when travel is so fast and so luxurious that it has made the entire earth navigable by an average individual whereas 100 years ago such travel would have taken months and great risk.

Ours is a time when, for the 1st time in all of human history, leisure time is not only available to the masses, it is expected and it is often considered a human right. Entertainment is no longer an unattainable dream for many; it is now one of the world’s largest and most influential industries!

Thus, we live in a time of distraction, temptation and selfish ambition.  A time when personal discipline only applies when we feel like it and a time when integrity and absolutes have all but gone the way of the dinosaur.

Yet, in such a time as this, we as followers of Christ are bound by the scriptural admonition:

“15Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16making the most of your time, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16,NASB).

What does it mean to make the most of our time

One would think that redeeming the time would be easier in this day of technological genius than ever before, but that is not the case, for with knowledge and technology come choices – lots and lots of choices, embedded in various shades of grey, all designed to capture our hearts and imaginations.

So, my task today is clear – it is to suggest to you a practical plan and path to better serve our Lord and Master – at the expense of ourselves.  We will suggest 6 basic principles to focus on and with each, attempt to relay some personal experiences of my own journey as I attempt to do what you are attempting to do – that is, to live selflessly, humbly and sacrificially unto death. This is based on my 14 year journey thus far, with Christian Questions.

The word for redeem is only used 4 times in the New Testament.  Twice it is in the context of our personal responsibility towards managing our time – our theme text and Colossians 4:5 and twice in the context of Jesus redeeming us from the curse of the Law and bringing us into the adoption of sons.

Thus we can easily see the meaning as Christ nailed the Law to the cross and made it of none effect as it was now replaced with son-ship, we also are required to nail the world, the flesh and the devil and all their demands upon us to our cross and replace them with a clean slate of the only thing we have to offer our Lord in sacrificeOUR WILL as expressed through how we spend our time.

VISION

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“Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18, KJV).

Remember what we just spoke about? With knowledge and technology come choices – lots and lots of choices, embedded in various shades of grey, all designed to capture our hearts and imaginations.

So how do you find the vision that supersedes all these things?

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Hence, the secret for redeeming the time relating to establishing a clear vision on the MOST IMPORTANT THING which is based on the 1st commandment:

Thou shalt have NO other gods before ME (Exodus 20:1-17).

“A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8, KJV).

This 1st commandment is one of internal application—it happens inside you. You decide in your heart and mind who or what your God is, and the result of that decision is played out in several of the other commandments.

Focus hard on this! Be brutally honest with the mirror!  Who is, what is my God.

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24, KJV).

Imagine the quality of your thoughts when the Almighty is “true north”!

“2Then the LORD answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it. 3For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. 4Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith” (Habakkuk 2:2-4, NRSV).

KNOW YOUR VISION!  You must HAVE Vision!

Here is Jesus’ vision:

“1Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,  2looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3, NRSV).

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My mission: Honor God… 

Fifteen years ago I came upon a personal crossroad with this, for I knew that I was not using specific talents directly in the Lord’s service. Troubled, I prayed for opportunity – I prayed for months…

Our vision is the big, panoramic picture of our passion and purpose.

Our vision is like the compass that gets us focused in the right direction, and our priorities are what help us determine which roads to take to get us to our “true north.”

PRIORITIES

Priorities are the necessary ordering of the details of our life.

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The secret for redeeming the time relates to establishing precise priorities. Here are some principles:

Husbands, love your wives” (Ephesians 5:25, NASB).

Fathers…   bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4, NASB).

 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8, NASB).

… let us do good to all people” (Galatians 6:10, NASB).

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15, NASB).  

KNOW THE TRUTH!

“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you” (Job 15:12, NASB).

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2, NASB).

All of these and more, must, of necessity be melded together into a harmonious recipe for humble and focused service to the Glory of God!

There is always another road to choose and there is always another internal battle to be fought. Armed with vision and priorities, we are able to choose rightly, even if our humanness would rather not.

“For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please” (Galatians 5:17, NASB).

Here are Jesus’ priorities:

At the beginning:

“And He said to them, ‘Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?'” (Luke 2:49, NASB)

During:

“Meanwhile the disciples were urging Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”…  34Jesus said to them, “My food [my nourishment] is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish (John 4:31,34, NASB).

His work At the End:

Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice (John 18:37, KJV).

 KNOW YOUR PRIORITIES – you MUST HAVE Priorities!!

Sometimes we look at those in a particular service and think how naturally suited they are for that experience and this is often true… BUT:

The appearance of effortless service
comes ONLY
as a result of

practice, pain and perseverance,

all of which must result from
the right focus and activity!

Br. Rick Suraci mentioned in his discourse that each radio broadcast hour represents about 8-10 hours of effort… two hours of radio per week… approximately 719 programs per year and counting…  Generally, no weeks off… There is a priority to GET THE JOB DONE because the Lord has GIVEN US this opportunity, [a gift from the Heavenly Father].

We may not always get our priorities right the 1st time, but as long as our vision is strong we can reset!

When we have truly established our priorities based on the big picture, there will naturally develop a deep sense of urgency, for nothing will be more important than following through on that which has proven to be most important!

URGENCY

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The secret for redeeming the time (which really is no secret at all) is to maintain urgency, and it is based on the 10th Commandment: Thou shalt NOT Covet.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17, ESV).

The 10th Commandment like the 1st is an internal commandment – no one can really know if you are living a covetous life because this takes place in the heart and mind.  Coveting is expressed on the outside only when it is firmly rooted on the inside!

Bottom line – if you have a covetous heart for what others have, you do NOT have an urgent heart towards the vision – you can’t have both…

Listen to the urgency in the following Scriptures [as shared earlier]:

2Then the LORD answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it. 3For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. 4Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith (Habakkuk 2:2-4, NRSV).

Urgently strain forward towards that which is most valuable!

12NOT that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I PRESS ON so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.  13Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,  14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  15Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you;  16however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained (Philippians 3:12-16, NASB).

Here we can see the vision and priorities in place and the deep urgency to fulfill them.  Without urgency, vision and priorities are merely theoretical – kind of like New Year’s resolutions…

Here is Jesus’ urgency:

“49I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!  50But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!” (Luke 12:49-50, NASB).

Success in sacrifice is most often born out of failure. To fail with great intention, over and over again is to live in the hand of God’s mercy – and that is success!

Over years of Christian Questions Radio Program there were (and are) many, many times that the stress and strain of the responsibility are overwhelming – Not knowing what topic to work on next, not having time to develop a topic, Sunday night anxiety when expansion started and the format changed…  What kept it always moving forward was the deadline the urgency that the only thing that mattered was the next broadcast!

What deadline do you have???

[“BIBLE Students DAILY’s” answer: Likewise it is our DEADLINES — the “deadline” of each sharing of Scriptural encouragement to those around us which is like “THE URGENCY METRONOME” of each week with each tick of the “Metronome” marking another sharing of the Gospel message day by day, no matter if hospitalization, household/personal sickness, answering readers’ correspondence, computer/power failures, personal Bible Study or the attacks of the Adversary to have this sharing of God’s Word stopped or through any other 24/7 valleys of experience are encountered, just as our brethren all throughout the world do experience so as to bring—even if it were only one dear reader’s heart and mind as close as possible to GOD through Christ in order to bring the Heavenly Father GLORY, HONOR, PRAISE and JOY—a joy above all joys if only we could, because just to feel GOD’s PERFECT RIGHTEOUS LOVE—IT IS BETTER THAN LIFE ITSELF!!! To feel GOD’s PERFECT (in justice, wisdom and power) LOVE, comes through GREAT PAIN, GREAT REJECTION by those around for righteousness sake, GREAT PERSEVERANCE and MUCH joyful in the Lord WORK in the Heavenly Father’s service as our HOPE IN CHRIST, drives the desire of belonging to no other than Christ and by GOD’s grace, reaching the summit of the mountain—OVERCOMING that which the Heavenly Father desires, and having given up ALL THINGS of the FLESH – to GAIN CHRIST – AND GAIN HIM FOREVER!]

The 1st three steps are the necessary elements we must have in place to truly redeem our time.  These next three things are the “how to” part of the equation.  They represent what must be in place in our hearts and minds to back up and execute the vision, priorities and urgency we have chosen. Next comes inspiration.

INSPIRATION

Inspiration is that which feeds and lifts the heart so that it may overcome.

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The secret for redeeming the time related to living an inspired life is to find those things which inspire your spiritual growth – drink them in!

Inspiration works best when we have someone whose struggle can be observed.

“7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.

For when I am weak, then I am strong

(2 Corinthians 12:7-10, ESV).

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of Biblical accounts, promises and prophecies that we are at liberty to make our own, for the sake of inspiring us to redeem the time. And what about the lives of our own brethren? Look at who inspired the Apostle Paul.

For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even YOU, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?” (1 Thessalonians 2:19, NASB).

The Apostle Paul drew strength from his brethren – Can we not do the same Brethren?!

Here is Jesus’ inspiration:

41So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.  42“I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me” (John 11:41-42, NASB).

Jesus exemplified to everyone there that his strength came from our Heavenly Father!

We can only imagine the depth of Jesus’ inspiration, for he knew the Father, he knew the angels, he knew the prophecies and he knew his mission.

Inspiration is not necessarily delivered in exhilaration and victory.  On the contrary, it is often found in those lonely and desperate times of struggle, doubt and fear and it quietly carries you through your present tempest to where you can again find secure footing.

Over these 14 years, inspiration has come in many ways:

  • Simply proving the Truth through Scripture to others;
  • Effecting someone’s life by talking to and affecting a specific listener on a specific topic;
  • Teaching the Kingdom;
  • Watching the incredible sacrifices of so many other brethren—who sacrifice quietly and tirelessly to do the job for the glory of the Heavenly Father
  • Being touched countless times by God’s grace in the struggle to prepare for the programs, talks, etc…
  • Prayers, support and accountability of the brethren.

In somehow or other GOD BLESSES YOUR EFFORTS after you have prayed and talked to the FATHER asking Him to “PLEASE HELP ME.”

Inspiration provides us with the desire to rekindle our vision, reset our priorities and restart our urgency. But inspiration alone cannot keep us there! For inspiration to truly play its part, it must be accompanied by its lesser known and certainly less attractive “younger brother,” “perspiration.

PERSPIRATION

Perspiration is the result of the continuous exertion that stems from being fully engaged.

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6Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you(1 Peter 5:6-7, NASB).

So there is rest in the spirit, yet…

“8Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour9But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world” (1 Peter 5:6-7, NASB).

Nothing replaces hard work.

We hear the adage – work smarter not harder and this is true, yet for the New Creation we are to work smarter that is through the spirit – and therefore be able to work harder and more productively at those things of greatest importance.

Why would we be willing to sweat?

“7But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ9and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death11in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:7-11, NASB).

Now, here is an example of a Jesus’ “perspiration” experience:

“41And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, 42saying, ‘Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.’ 43Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him44And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground. 45When He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow, 46and said to them, ‘Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not enter into temptation’” (Luke 22:41-46, NASB).

The more fully engaged we are in the work, the more we find that the greatest effort is often not the work itself, rather it is the effort to position and condition ourselves for that work.

One of my greatest personal lessons from the radio work is this:

We all have perceived limits of what we are capable of giving in service.  IF we lay those limits at the feet of the Lord, He may, IF WE ARE WILLING, stretch our perceived capacity a little at a time so we can stretch our perceived limits to be more in line with our actual potential. BE ENGAGED!

With the perspiration of complete engagement in place, there remains but one thing to give a complete picture of redeeming our time.  It is a simple thing, yet often overlooked when we set our minds to a service.  It is consistency.

CONSISTENCY

Consistency is the continual long term application of all those things necessary towards faithfulness.

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Hence another secret for redeeming the time:

 Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never give in!!!

Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10, NASB).

How do we check ourselves to be sure that we are consistently following the right path, the right thoughts, the right attitudes and the right actions?

4Rejoice IN the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!  5Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  7And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:4-8, NASB).

Now, here is Jesus’ inspiration:

28And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?  29And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: 30And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. 31And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:28-31, KJV).

Consistency in an effort, is perhaps the least glamorous of all its elements.  There is no excitement of an idea, no newness of a project, no giddy anticipation of a beginning.  Consistency shines in the quiet times of monotony, in the bruised moments of failure and in the darkness, when the unknown and unsung perseverance of will beckons us to get up one more time and press on by the GRACE [unmerited favor, undeserved kindness] of GOD!

Now see if you can identify your vision, priorities, urgency, inspiration, perspiration and  consistency in the following Scriptures:

Psalms 37:1-8 (NASB):

 “1  Do not fret because of evildoers, be not envious toward wrongdoers. 2 For they will wither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herb. 3 Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. 4 Delight yourself IN the LORD; And HE WILL give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and HE WILL do it. 6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday. 7 Rest IN the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. 8 Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing

Ephesians 5:1-21 (NASB):

1Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;  2and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. 3But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints;  4and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.  5For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.  7Therefore do not be partakers with them;  8for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light  9(for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth),  10trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.  11Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;  12for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.  13But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. 14For this reason it says, “Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.” 15Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16making the most of your time, because the days are evil.  17So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is18And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,  19speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;  20always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;  21and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”

Luke 12:31-34(NASB):

“31But seek [PRIORITIES] [“ye first” [URGENCY] – added in Matthew 6:33] His kingdom [VISION], and these things will be added to you.  32“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom [INSPIRATION]. 33Sell your possessions and give to charity [PERSPIRATION]; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys.  34“For where your treasure is, [CONSISTENCY] there your heart will be also.”

OPPORTUNITY

Opportunity can present themselves to us when we mentally make room for them.

“18But someone may will say, ‘You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.’ 19You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?'” (James 2:18-20, NASB).

“(20) Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. (21) And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it'” (Isaiah 30:20-21, NRSV).

Opportunities can be accepted when we spiritually make room for them.

“4For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5, NASB).

Opportunities can flourish when we prayerfully feed and nurture them.

“16Rejoice always; 17pray without ceasing; 18in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  19Do not quench the Spirit; 20do not despise prophetic utterances.  21But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22, NASB).

Reference and Acknowledgment

This post is thanks to the words on the words of great, great inspiration and encouragement IN CHRIST shared by Br. Rick Suraci at the Bible Students’ General Convention in 2012 in his discourse titled “Redeeming the Time” which can be viewed at the following link (and/or YOUTUBE video presentation below) :  https://youtu.be/FWKHN8go1o4

The “CHRISTIAN QUESTIONS” team of Brothers and Sisters IN CHRIST are to be commended for their inspiring work in the Heavenly Father’s service, shining the light of the Gospel message to the world of viewers and listeners who’s faith IN CHRIST can be edified and built up through each program they share, which is jam-packed with questions and Scripturally supported answers to provide aid to each follower of Christ, and bring glory, honor and praise to the Heavenly Father through CHRIST Jesus—the Captain of our Salvation. The Christian Questions website: http://christianquestions.com/

A transcription of the below video from a willing, Beloved IN CHRIST, volunteer contributor (which helped to form this post) is another reason for this post and so may it be said “Thank YOU Beloved Brothers and Sisters IN CHRIST for YOUR labours of LOVE IN CHRIST.” May our Heavenly Father’s bless and keep you HIS, according to HIS perfect WILL, until by GOD’s GRACE, we are with our Heavenly Father, Jehovah, and His Son—our Head, Christ Jesus.

The URL of this post is: https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2017/09/20/redeeming-the-time/

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The Book of Revelation: A 2016 Perspective

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“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which GOD gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.” — Revelation 1:1

The Book of Revelation is a prophetic picture of the experiences and purpose of the Christian Age. Its symbols illustrate what the true Church would suffer at the hands of the false church and the glorious outcome of patient endurance through agonizing trials of faith. As with many prophecies, these events would not be fully understood by the Church until their fulfillment. But now, at the end of the Christian Age, since many of these prophecies have been fulfilled, we should expect to have a clearer insight into what the signs and symbols of Revelation mean. Indeed, this book itself reveals that the complete prophetic picture written in symbolic code would be shown only to the end time Church.

The Unfolding of the Vision

While in prison on the Isle of Patmos, the Apostle John received the “Revelation of Jesus Christ to all of the Churches.” As its name implies, it is a revealing—an unfolding. In his vision, John was shown amazing scenes which were prophetic signs of things to come. Note the first verse: “…he sent and signified it by his angel…” Signified here means “to put into signs—symbolic depictions.” This book, therefore, is written in a kind of code language, and so, when it says “beast,” it does not mean a literal beast, and when it says “angel,” it may not refer to an actual spirit-being.

When symbols such as these are understood, the results are inspiring—as we might expect from a book given by Jesus to the Apostle John for the Church living in the last days. And, while some view these signs and symbols to be terrifying, the Christian who longs for a better day finds hope for everyone in its words, as the final chapters portray.

Time Frame One: THE CHRISTIAN / GOSPEL AGE

The Book of Revelation is neatly divided into three sections corresponding to the three major time periods of GOD’s dealings with the Church of Christ and their role in the ages to come.

The first time frame is from chapters 1 – 13, which primarily refer to the history of the Church from Christ’s death to his second advent (‘Parousia’, invisible presence, in 1874). This period of time was set apart for calling out from among mankind a group of people referred to by various scriptural names: the Church, the Bride, Christians, a people for His name, the 144,000, the little flock, saints, etc. (Acts 15:14; Acts 11:26; Philippians 1:1; Luke 12:32; Revelation 21:9)

This time frame tells of the suffering of Jesus’ true followers at the hands of the powerful apostate (false) church systems, of which the Apostle Paul warned. (2 Thessalonians 2:2-7). Jesus summed up this history in only a few words: “the beginning of sorrows…” Matthew 24:4-14

The history of the Church, as shown in Chapter 1, is divided into seven time periods which are each unique in both their doctrine and experiences. Jesus watches over these seven Churches as symbolized by his appearance “in the midst of seven candlesticks...the seven Churches.” (Revelation 1:13, 20)

Recall that Jesus told his disciples they were like candles on a candlestick—“the light of the world.” Matthew 5:14-16

In Revelation 1:16 Jesus holds seven stars in his right hand. Stars are used in Scripture to symbolize teachers—both good and bad. (Daniel 12:3; Jude 13; Revelation 12:1)

In Revelation 1:20, the seven stars are identified as the seven angels sent to the seven Churches described in Chapters 2 and 3. Note that the word angel has the meaning of messenger in the Greek, and GOD has sent a special Messenger to each of the seven time periods throughout the history of the Church. The Apostle John was one such messenger.

Between Chapters 2 -11, these seven periods of Church history are illustrated three times under different symbols.

The seven Churches are listed in Chapters 2 – 3:-

(1) EPHESUS             =     33 ad, Paul
(2) SMYRNA              =    73 ad, John
(3) PERGAMOS         =     325 ad, Arius
(4) THYATIRA           =    1157 ad, Waldo
(5) SARDIS                 =    1517 ad, Luther   
(6) PHILADELPHIA  =     1667 ad, Penn (he was baptized that year)
(7) LAODICEA           =    1874 ad, Russell

The 7 Messages to the Churches (for the godly) are as follows (each message corresponds to the same church number):

(1) Jesus surpasses Judaism
(2) Gnosticism is wrong
(3) Jesus was the son of GOD
(4) Christian discipleship
(5) Reform
(6) Brotherly love
(7) Harvest message

The Scroll of Revelation 5:

The scroll contains judgments against the ungodly. In particular, the judgments of the seven trumpets. That is why the seven angels blaring forth the seven trumpet judgments follow immediately upon the loosing of the last seal — for now the scroll can be unrolled and read and its judgments expressed.

Let us compare Zechariah 5:1-4 which is clear on this point with also Ezekiel 2:9,10 :-

Zechariah 5:1-4:- Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a flying roll.And he said unto me, What seest thou? And I answered, I see a flying roll; the length thereof is twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof ten cubits.Then said he unto me, This is the curse that goeth forth over the face of the whole earth: for every one that stealeth shall be cut off as on this side according to it; and every one that sweareth shall be cut off as on that side according to it.I will bring it forth, saith the Lord of hosts, and it shall enter into the house of the thief, and into the house of him that sweareth falsely by my name: and it shall remain in the midst of his house, and shall consume it with the timber thereof and the stones thereof.

Ezekiel 2:9-10:- And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book was therein;10 And he spread it before me; and it was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe.

The scroll contents are the seven trumpets.

Those trumpets are judgments.

Note: The scroll in Hebrews 10:7 is a different scroll than the one in Revelation 5; Hebrews 10 refers to the Old Testament. The scroll of Revelation 5 is a series of judgments that form the seven trumpets.

While the seals are being loosed, we are not progressing through the Gospel Age. We are merely seeing a vision on each loosing, representing what will later occur in the development of the Gospel Age. They are foregleams of coming events. The entire scroll is opened before the first trumpet judgment. The scroll was opened at the beginning of the age, not the end of the age.

The seven seals are listed in Chapters 6 – 8;

We believe the seals were all broken when Jesus was given the scroll after his resurrection, and that the 1/2 hour of silence was the pause before the judgment followed on Judaism.

The seals describe events that would later develop during the Gospel Age. Let us remember that the visions of the seals do not reflect the contents of the scroll. They are merely visions of coming events. Not until the seventh seal is loosed do we actually get to the contents of the scroll itself. Those contents are the judgments of the Trumpets.

The visions revealed at the loosening of each seal are these (very briefly):-

SEAL 1.  Christianity spreading rapidly
SEAL 2 False doctrine coming in
SEAL 3.  Famine for the word of GOD
SEAL 4Spiritual death rampant during dark ages

SEAL5.   Reformation and the hope for release from oppression
SEAL 6.  French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, followed by the second advent. The vision following the loosening of this seal includes events that pertain to periods six and seven of the Gospel Age. Thus when the 7th seal is loosened, we proceed to the judgments contained in the scroll.

The seven trumpets are found in Chapters 8 – 11.

The message of the trumpets contain judgments on Judaism, Pagan Rome, wayward Christendom, and the nations supporting Papacy.

Recall the text in Ezekiel 2:10, “it was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe.”

These judgments of the 7 trumpets and the 7 blasts under the 7th trumpet do not include original sin and the curse. The trumpets are against Gospel Age systems. The original curse was upon Adam and Eve and descended to others. Of course original sin is related to all other problems. But nothing in the trumpets speaks to Adam or Eve.

So, the trumpet judgments usually highlight a particular distress during the period of the church that corresponds to that trumpet period, and they are as follows:

JUDGMENT 1. The judgment against Judaism and the polity of Israel, that really fell hard from 66 to 73 ad with the seven years of the Roman Wars against Judea.

JUDGMENT 2. The overthrow of the Pagan Roman Empire. That would not pertain to the saints. (But it was a big relief for them.)

JUDGMENT 3. The third trumpet describes the pollution of the sweet waters of truth, which made the message “bitter” and caused the forfeiture of many spiritual hopes.

JUDGMENT 4. The fourth trumpet take us to the darkest part of the “dark ages”, when the Gospel Sun, the light of the Apostolic Stars, and the typical teachings of the Law were substantially darkened.

JUDGMENT 5. The Reformation.

JUDGMENT 6. The French Revolution (1789-1799) and subsequent Napoleonic Wars that ravaged Europe and broke up the hold of Papacy in 1799.

JUDGMENT 7. The Harvest in 1874 and its accompanying Time of Trouble from 1914 onward.

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1260, 539ad – Some Specifics about the 1260 years of Papal Power.

The date 539 ad is used as the time when Papacy came into temporal political authority. In 538 ad the Pope was left in control of Rome as Belisarius, general of Justinian the Roman Emperor from Constantinople, left Rome to pursue the Goths who had recently sieged the city. Thereafter, in 539 ad, Ravenna, the then capital of Italy, was taken by Belisarius, and he subsequently left Italy to return to Constantinople with his victory. In his wake the Pope was left as the political ally and figurehead in Italy — thus the beginning of his political authority.

This came to an end 1260 years later in 1798 when the Pope was taken out of Rome by the French General Berthier, and subsequently died in 1799 in France, Napoleon declaring that no new pontiff would be elected (though one was by other arrangements after a few months). One history of the poes throughout the age breaks for a new chapter at 1799.

1914 was the end of Gentile Times – representing the smiting of the image of Daniel chapter two, thus the end of the political assemblage that had governed Europe for so long, as the iron (political) and clay (imitation Christian church) system.

Babylon at first conquered the holy land from 607 to 603 bc — a four year period — the corresponding four year period 2520 years later is 1914 to 1918, World War I.

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Each period of the Church has its corresponding concurrent seal, vision and trumpet.

Here are four examples illustrate just a few of the many parallels between the Churches, seals and trumpets:

1.“Four angels” are mentioned in both the sixth seal (7:1) and the sixth trumpet (9:15).

2. An earthquake is shown in both the sixth seal (6:12) and in the sixth trumpet (11:13). An earthquake pictures, in symbol, the shaking up of earth’s society through discontent and revolution.

3. The return of Jesus is mentioned in both the seventh Church (3:20—he is “standing at the door”) and the seventh trumpet (11:15—his “reign” begins).

4. Increased enlightenment is shown in both the seventh Church (3:20—Jesus promises to serve the evening meal—“sup”) and in the seventh trumpet (10:7—enlightenment clears up “the mystery”).

One fascinating example of symbols related to the seals of Chapter 6 is the picture of the four horses.

Horsesin symbol, often represent doctrines, ideologies. (Isaiah 31:1-3, Deuteronomy 17:15-16).

Horsemenrepresent the teachers who bring forth those doctrines.

White horsethe 1st horse pictures the pureness of doctrine delivered to the early Church by the twelve Apostles. (Revelation 3:5, 15:6, 19:8,14)

Red horsethe 2nd horse, illustrates how the doctrine began to be polluted with sinful heresies by the developing apostate church. Red is the colour of war and speaks of spiritual warfare because of doctrinal changes. This horse represents the period of time in history from Nero (37-68 AD) until Diocletian (244-311 AD).

Black horse – the 3rd horse, represents a dark period in Church history brought about by dark age doctrines. Black is the colour of famine—Lamentations 5:10.

Pale (Greek-greenish)the 4th horse, symbolizes doctrine so sick and devoid of any life-giving qualities that the rider that sat upon him was even given the name “death.” The symbolism refers to spiritual pestilence.

This sad history portrays how the beautiful truth once given to the early Church was increasingly corrupted by the traditions of men.

But, as will be seen in Chapter 19, the white horse returns with a valiant rider—Christ in glory—who brings back life-giving truths to the end-time Church. These truths prepare the true Church for the final victory over the apostate systems.

Time Frame Two: HARVEST of the Christian Age

Chapters 14 -19 focus on the events which impact the close of the Christian Age—the Harvest.

A careful examination of Jesus’ parable of the wheat and tares helps in understanding this Harvest time. (Matthew 13:24-43)

During the Harvest, the world at large is experiencing troubles it cannot handle, and the Christian world in particular is faced with the kind of scrutiny that exposes false doctrines and practices.

“Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven [the Christian world] … that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.” Hebrews 12:27-29

In the Harvest, three works are progressing at the same time:

  1. The unseen presence of Jesus is actively manoeuvring the affairs of the true Church and the world in preparation for the peaceable Kingdom. 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 16:15; 14:1
  2. False Christianity is being judged by GOD and also by man based on both doctrine and conduct. Revelation 14:8,15; 18:1-9
  1. A great increase in understanding Scripture is fed to sincere, truth-hungry Christians. Revelation 14:6; 17:1; Daniel 12:4, 9, 10

This Harvest parable first summarizes the Gospel Age by stating that Jesus sowed seeds of truth which, springing up in the hearts of his disciples, transformed them to newness of life, thus becoming true Christians — wheat.

Once the Apostles died — while men slept — Satan sowed seeds of error which created false Christians — tares. This tendency toward imitation Christianity was active in the Apostles Paul’s day and developed into what he called the mystery of iniquity and the man of sin. John refered to this as the developing Antichrist. (2 Thessalonians 2:7; 1 John 4:3)

Revelation calls this that great city, Babylon. Revelation 14:8

Jesus taught that this combination of true and false Christianity would exist together until the close of the Christian Age, at which time a separation—a Harvest—would occur. The work of destroying the errors of the false church systems would cause true Christians to come out of Babylon and gather together where truth is being served.

The central theme of Chapter 14, then, is the time for harvesting two groups:

  • The Harvest of the earth (wheat—verses 15-16) and
  • The Harvest of the vine of the earth (tares — verses 18-19). See also Luke 17:34-37.

The central theme of Chapters 15 and 16 deals with the plagues upon Babylon the false church system.

We believe we are currently in the sixth plague. It is a lengthy one, and we have not reached the deep part of it as yet — we may in another 13 years. The sixth plague is a withering of the economic vitality of the western world. We saw things relevant to this in the market declines of 2000 and 2008, with perhaps more impending.

Here is a list of all 10 judgments, and some suggested applications:

1 — Protestant Reformation
2 — French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars
3 — Advent movement
4 — Truth movement (1874) – bothersome difficulty for nominal Christians
5 — World War I – the deadly strife that began the Time of Trouble in 1914
6 — Western weakening in Depression
7 — Modernism consequent upon World War II
8 — Papal woes in the cold war era, perhaps until 1989

9 — Financial withering
10 – Armageddon, followed by a great “earthquake”, and subsequent “hail”

The seven plagues are seven judgements or troubles during the Harvest, as a consequence of things that have transpired during the seven church periods. These seven judgments constitute the overall judgment of the 7th trumpet, which is the 3rd “woe” of Revelation 8:13. The seven circlings of Jericho on the seventh day pictures this “sevenfold” judgment of the seventh trumpet.

In Chapter 18:4, GOD warns the wheat—my people—that if they do not come out from Babylon during the Harvest, they will be subject to the “death, and mourning, and famine” which bring Christendom down (Revelation 18:8).

In the midst of the plagues of Chapter 16 appear three symbolic characters unified in a final attempt to preserve control and stabilize society over the world – the beast, the dragon and the false prophet.

The beast = Papacy.

The dragon = Political power under the influence of Satan.

The false prophet = the Church of England and their protestant allies.

The Pope (as reflected in the beast) would like to retain influence. But his authority wanes. Revelation 10:1 shows that the power of Papacy to persecute as before, closed during the sixth trumpet (Revelation 9:13-11:14), the longest of all the trumpet descriptions. The “rainbow” of Revelation 10:1 symbolizes that the past distress of Papal persecution has ended and will not be repeated – just as the rainbow in the cloud after the Flood meant that the experience would not be repeated.

The Beast (Papacy), Dragon, and False Prophet will coalesce and croak like frogs endeavouring to support society. Their individual weakness is the motive for collaboration, but their efforts will prove abortive (Revelation 16:18,19).

(Note that the “four beasts” of Revelation 4:6-9, associated with GOD, are better rendered “living creatures,” distinguishing them from the dreadful beasts representing false religious systems. The four “living creatures” represent GOD’s attributes of justice, wisdom, love and power.)

In Scripture, the true Church is often represented by virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), and so, by contrast, we see in Chapter 17 that Babylon is pictured as a harlot.

The harlotry of the apostate church is due to her having a unification (adulterous marriage) with the governments of this world.

The true saints, on the other hand, strive to keep themselves separate from all entanglements with the world.

In highly symbolic language then, Chapter 17 shows how the apostate (catholic) church throughout history amassed political power to further her interests and rule the western world, Christendom.

This Chapter shows the steps by which both the harlot and the people and powers she ruled (the scarlet beast) meet their ends (as systems, not as people) in the Harvest period.

The “hour” of Revelation 17:12 is the time of demise of the Catholic Church when she is eaten by the horns (political powers) and peoples (body of the beast). Note: Revelation 17:16, where better versions say the whore is destroyed by the “ten horns… and the beast.”

Compare also Revelation 18:10, in “one hour” her demise comes. The “one day” and “one hour” of verse 8 and 10 both express the relatively brief climax during which Papacy succumbs.

Chapter 18 begins when Babylon is fallen from GOD’s favor, and it ends with her total overthrown as detailed in verse 21. The focus here is on the manner in which Babylon’s destruction will affect various segments of society which have become dependent upon her for their subsistence. These elements of society are symbolically called:

the kings of the earth (18:9);

the merchants (clergy) of the earth (18:11);

every shipmaster, all the company in ships, sailors (i.e. bishops), and as many as trade by sea (18:17)

This illustrates that the world, as we know it, functions on a political/commercial basis, and the weakening of that international economic system, according to this chapter, will soon cause it to fall apart.

Chapter 19 could well be two chapters. The first ten verses deal with “the marriage of the lamb,” and the remainder describes how the current social order will meet its end.

(Note that, for emphasis, the Revelator often jumps back to a point in time, re-telling the story from another point of view.)

This “marriage of the lamb” is a symbol for the time when Jesus’ Church, his Bride, is complete — when he has gathered all of the wheat into the (heavenly) barn.

Thus, Chapter 19 confirms what we saw in Chapter 14 that the Harvest has two worksharvesting the wheat to glory and harvesting the vine of the earth—the system of Babylon—for burning. Compare also 14:19, 20 with 19:15—depicting the same event.

Time Frame Three: The MESSIANIC AGE

Although most of the prophecies of Revelation focus on the Harvest of the Gospel Age, Chapters 20 through 22 relate to the grand and promising outcome of the previous nineteen chapters, which portray the end of the old world order and the beginning of the new. We are now living in that transition time. These last three chapters of Revelation basically refer to the Messianic or Millennial Age. This age is referred to in the Scriptures by various names: the Kingdom, the thousand years, the Day of the Lord, the Day of Judgment, the regeneration, the times of restitution of all things, etc. Matthew 26:29; Acts 1:6; Revelation 20:2-6; 2 Peter 3:7,8; Matthew 19:28; Acts 3:20,21

Revelation 20 illustrates several events of the thousand-year Messianic reign of Christ with his Church:

Verses 1-3 show that the actual devil will be bound as well as a symbolic devil—the systems built upon his lies. Thus, all stumbling blocks in the way of the peaceable Kingdom will be removed. This is the reason for not only binding the literal devil, but also binding the influences of the beastly governments which have made life so difficult for the human race.

Verses 4-11 show:

  1. The reward of the true Church who will reign with Christ;
  2. Satan’s little season of testing upon the world of mankind at the close of the thousand years— the end of mankind’s period of education; and
  1. The everlasting destruction of Satan, his followers and the corrupt civil and religious systems.

Verses 12-15 : show the final judgment of earth’s billions at the end of the Messianic reign. This will be the last judgment event of history where GOD will destroy in everlasting death all those not in full harmony with His perfect law of love. Both hell and death are consigned to fire — complete destruction, oblivion—this is the second death (20:14).

By contrast, everlasting life will be the reward for all who progress to perfection through the thousand years and who stand the test of the little season because of their faith and obedience.

The Left Behind series of novels promote an overly dramatic, literalistic and sadistic view of Revelation, telling of the horrors of a vindictive GOD destroying three billion people by literal fire and earthquakes. These fictional depictions of prophecy ignore the last three chapters of Revelation—the Good News of the Bible. They ignore that Jesus gave his Revelation to John in symbolic language.

The Scriptures do speak of a momentous time of trouble coinciding with the return of Christ and culminating in Armageddon, however, as we have seen, the true purpose of Armageddon is to cleanse the earth of the corrupt ecclesiastical and civil systems under the control of Satan and his servants.

These evil SYSTEMS will be destroyed—not the people misled by these systems.

GOD does not intend to burn in eternal flames billions of good-hearted people just because they have not known and accepted Jesus now. The conversion of these people—“the remainder of men” — will be after the cleansing work of Armageddon which prepares the way for the Righteous Kingdom of Christ and his Church. (See Zephaniah 3:8-9; Acts 15:14-17) Then, under their benevolent reign, “the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” without the fetters of devilish, selfish and oppressive powers. Isaiah 26:9

Chapters 21 and 22 describe the new heavensChrist’s righteous government—which will uplift and educate the new earth—the world of mankind—thereby bringing them back into harmony with GOD. What joy to know that Jesus’ return means the restitution of all things! (Acts 3:19-22) All of the loss suffered in the opening three chapters of Genesis is here undone in the last three chapters of Revelation. It is a glorious ending, worthy of a merciful GOD.

All that was lost when sin entered the world—life, health, happiness, freedom from fear and a loving relationship with GOD—will be restored to mankind. The healing of the nations occurs because of the fruitage of the trees. These trees are the Church glorified. (Isaiah 61:3)

Jesus and his Bride offer the water (truth) of life to all who thirst, without the deceptions of Satan to hinder them.

“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him TAKE the water of life FREELY.” Revelation 22:17

This is the true hope of the Gospel when it is finished.

Acknowledgment:

  • Bro. David Rice
  • The End Times Bible Report Quarterly – Summer 2013

Suggested Further Reading:

The Book of Revelation

 

The URL of this post: https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2016/06/30/the-book-of-revelation-a-2016-perspective/

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