Monday, February 21, 2011

Revelation Chapter Two, Part 5 of 9

2:10 behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried
While it is Satan casting believers into prison, it is God trying them; that is, trying their faith. Like Abraham’s faith was tried when God demanded his son Isaac to be offered up as a sacrifice, so too were these Christians going to have their faith tested, or refined; God refines and tests His children in the furnace of affliction, Isaiah 48:10. To what end? That “every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit,” John 15:2.

Fruit bearing is a sign of a maturing faith, a willing walk with God as we learn to abide in Christ and trust in Him despite circumstances, Amos 3:3. Some believers suffer poverty or poor health. Others suffer the open hostility of the unbelieving world or a temptation that haunts them their whole life. The Christians in Smyrna were facing the test of potential martyrdom, and if their faith persevered reward awaited. If they relented they would suffer loss of reward; but not loss of salvation. This refining process by which God works in us is to bring our Lord glory. Those who know us should be able to bear witness of the change wrought in us as we mature in our faith and sacrifice things once held dear in our lives, relinquishing them so the Holy Spirit may continue to prune us.

Like Satan vented his malice on Job, taking from him all Job possessed, the devil wishes nothing good for God’s children. We can rest assured that Satan was not working in God’s interests in this verse. He wanted to discourage believers from resting in the peace Jesus freely offers because we know Him, and He dwells in us. If he cannot affect this, he would rather that we be killed and removed from this earth. But like Job, what Satan meant to cause a rift between that old saint and his God only served to give him a clearer understanding of God’s person, holiness, and desire in his life. Job was enriched through his extreme poverty, his virtual loss of all things but his life. Jesus likewise became poor for our sakes, though He was rich before. Job was stripped of his wealth to remove creature trust and to thrust him out of his own sense of righteousness into the true righteousness that God supplies. Christ our Lord set aside His riches to bring spiritual wealth to a destitute and impoverished, sin-sickened world.

In either case we know that suffering for righteousness’ sake yields reward. But never mistake salvation as that reward: salvation is not a future state doled out to those who have faithfully endured all of their life. This is patently a gospel of works and another gospel which Paul condemns, Galatians 1:8-9. No, salvation is immediately and eternally ours the moment we believe in Jesus Christ, just as Scripture declares. God’s purpose for saving us did not originate in us; it originated in His own counsels and purposes. It is folly to think then that some measure of our security is entrusted to us; God purposed, and will also bring it to pass, Isaiah 14:24; 46:11; Ephesians 1:11.

2:11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
Here is the second of the seven “overcomer” promises. The first was the promise of the fruit of the tree of life in the paradise of God; the second is that the one who overcomes will not be hurt of the second death. The first and most logical question is: what is the second death? Then one must ask: how do I die a second time?

To discover the definition and description of the second death we need go no further than Revelation.

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire,” Revelation 20:12-15.

Now here we pause to comment on the above passage. The dead standing before God at the great white throne are the unsaved. The books are the books of their lives; every word, thought and deed is recorded, and the severity of their judgment in eternity stems from what God discloses here, Luke 12:46-48. The second book, the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 21:27) records the names of the saints. This book is opened as God scans for the names of the unsaved and fails to find them; publicly they stand condemned, and publicly sentence is passed. The dead are judged according to their works. One’s works are never satisfactory to earn eternity in Heaven; the condemned are earning an eternity in miserable exile from God’s presence by refusing to yield to His Holy Spirit and believing on His Son for eternal life.

It is interesting to note that death and Hell surrendered their dead. Death (the grave that houses the bodies of the unsaved) and Hell (that houses the souls of the unsaved) give up their dead. This is possible testimony that the unsaved will have a resurrection; that is a restoring of their souls into bodies which house them for eternity. If so, it will not be like unto Christ’s glorious body, in which He could break the laws of physics and can no longer feel pain, hunger, fatigue, etc. The Antichrist and the false prophet, when they are captured, are thrown bodily into the lake of fire, Revelation 19:20. This tormenting fire seems spiritual and not physical, Luke 16:23-24; Isaiah 66:24. I won’t state this dogmatically, but it is something to consider; both that one’s soul is not asleep or annihilated upon death, for even here we find that Scripture separates the grave and Hell. Also, that the unsaved will have bodies at the end of time to enter into eternal punishment in, John 5:29; Daniel 12:2. Daniel’s passage implies that both the good and the evil, “who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake.”

The second question was how one dies a second time? That is simple.

He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God,” John 3:18.

He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him,” John 3:36.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” John 5:24-29.

A derivative of the second question would entail: how does one become an “overcomer?” This is a necessary question, because depending on who you ask, and their view of God’s grace, you will receive manifold answers. But there is only one true answer as to what an overcomer is. John tells us.

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God,” 1st John 5:4-5; 12-13.

The overcoming Christian is one whose faith is in Jesus Christ to do exactly what He promised to do; save us eternally the moment we turn in faith and trust Him as our Lord and Savior. The moment one believes the gospel, truly believes it, the Spirit of God comes into him and he is a born again man. And as Paul wrote, we are free from the dread of this terrible future judgment, and are likewise freed “to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come,” 1st Thessalonians 1:10. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him,” Romans 5:8-9.

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