Posts tagged ‘Revelation’

June 20, 2014

843 Acres: Revelation Is for Today

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Is 52 (txt | aud, 2:35 min)
Rev 22 (txt | aud, 4:11 min)
Highlighted: Rev 22

Reality: “It is easier to indulge in ecstasies than to engage in obedience,” writes Eugene Peterson. “It is easier to pursue a fascination with the supernatural than to enter into the service of God. And because it is easier, it happens more often.” Revelation is not meant to remove us from reality, but to plant us in its midst—equipped with a new vision for engaging with it.

Wholeness: John shows us what is deeply true, but not always obvious—that heaven is not remote, but immediate. As Jesus announced with his first coming, “The kingdom of God is at hand.” The realm of his rule has already invaded our world. “[Heaven] is the completion of what is, not an escape from it,” Peterson writes. “It is the wholeness of what we now see in part, not the repudiation of it.”

City: How do we know this? Because the new heaven and the new earth is a city. A careful reader of Genesis would not expect a city, but a garden—a restoration of what God originally intended, a calm and idyllic place of nature. Yet John is shown a city—a place where the raw material of God’s creation meets the innovation of his image-bearers, a place that is noisy and bustling.

Redeemed: Heaven, though, is not just a city; it is a redeemed city. It is “quarried out of the marble and granite of our self-will, our self assertion—all our brother-hating (Enoch), God-defying (Babel), God-rejecting (Jerusalem) cities.” But it is “a holy city living in harmony with God.” For at its center is the King of kings, who rightly orders all things.

Come: Therefore, when we see the reality of our cities today, we pray to see the reality of their fullness and redemption. We do not pray for an escape, but a sanctification. We pray that evil would be burned away and beauty would reign—even as we say, “Come, Lord Jesus!” and expect the unexpected.

Prayer: Lord, We confess that we often want to trivialize and tame you, making you a trifling thing. Yet the vision of Revelation does not let us do that. It shows a ferocious love, a violent salvation, a meal and a war. Therefore, give us discerning hearts that hate evil and love good, as we meditate on the Lamb who sits on the throne. Come, Lord Jesus! Come! Amen.

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READER’S CHOICE: Do you have a favorite 843 Acres reflection? Now’s your chance to see it again! In August, we’ll feature your favorite devotionals, so we need 20! Email us at info@theparkforum.org with (a) your name – first names only and pseudonymns are okay, (b) 40-50 word bio including your city, (c) one of your favorite 843 Acres, and (d) 40-50 words about why you like it. We always love this time of year, when our online community takes on somewhat of a new face! Submissions due by July 1.

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M’Cheyne Weekend Readings

Saturday, June 21: Is 53 (txt | aud, 2:37 min) & Matt 1 (txt | aud, 3:36 min)
Sunday, June 22: Is 54 (txt | aud, 2:58 min) & Matt 2 (txt | aud, 3:43 min)

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June 19, 2014

843 Acres TBT: Our Everlasting Rest

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Is 51 (txt | aud, 4:17 min)
Rev 21 (txt | aud, 4:46 min)

John, Revelation 21:1, 5

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away … And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

Richard Baxter, The Saints’ Everlasting Rest (1650)

The heavenly Christian is the lively Christian. It is our strangeness to heaven that makes us so dull. How will the soldier hazard his life and the mariner pass through storms and waves—when they think of an uncertain, perishing treasure! What life, then, would it put into a Christian’s endeavors, if he would frequently think of his everlasting treasure!

We run so slowly and strive so lazily because we so little mind the prize. Observe the man who is much in heaven, and you will see he is not like other Christians; something of what he has seen above appears in all his work and conversation. If a preacher, how heavenly his sermons! If a private Christian, what heavenly speech, prayers, and demeanor! Set yourself upon this, and others will see your face shine, and say, “Surely he has been ‘with God on the mountain’.

But if you lie, complaining of deadness and dullness; that you cannot love Christ, nor rejoice in his love; that you have no life in prayer, or any other duty, and yet neglect this quickening work; you are the cause of your own complaints. Is not your life “hid with Christ in God”? Where must you go but to Christ for it? And where is that, but to heaven, “where Christ is”? …

If you would have light and heat, why are you not more in the sunshine? For lack of this recourse to heaven, your soul is as a lamp not lighted, and your duties as a sacrifice without fire. Fetch one coal daily from this altar, and see if your offering will not burn. Light your lamp at this flame, and feed it daily with oil from hence, and see if it will not gloriously shine. Keep close to this reviving fire, and see if your affections will not be warm. In your want of love to God, lift up your eye of faith to heaven, behold his beauty, contemplate his excellencies, and see whether his lovely and perfect goodness will not ravish your heart. As exercise gives appetite, strength, and vigor to the body, so these heavenly exercises will quickly cause the increase of grace and spiritual life.

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READER’S CHOICE: Do you have a favorite 843 Acres reflection? Now’s your chance to see it again! In August, we’ll feature your favorite devotionals, so we need 20! Email us at info@theparkforum.org with (a) your name – first names only and pseudonymns are okay, (b) 40-50 word bio including your city, (c) one of your favorite 843 Acres, and (d) 40-50 words about why you like it. We always love this time of year, when our online community takes on somewhat of a new face! Submissions due by July 1.

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June 18, 2014

843 Acres: War Destroys—But that Is Not All

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Is 50 (txt | aud, 2:20 min)
Rev 20 (txt | aud, 3:05 min)
Highlighted: Rev 20 

Salvation: Salvation cannot be reduced to good behavior or theology. Its primary goal is not to make us nice people or instill good manners. Salvation is not that tame. It is ferocious and triumphant.

Defeat: Here, in Revelation 20, John sees the defeat of Satan: “the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were” [1] Then he witnesses the defeat of death: “Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.” [2] Finally he sees the rebels destroyed: “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” [3]

Visions: Destruction is the consequence of war. Yet, as we saw yesterday, salvation is not only about a war; it is about a meal, too. As we foretaste the coming war through the fight of faith and the coming meal through the Lord’s Supper, we experience glimpses of the fullness of salvation. “Eating a meal,” writes Eugene Peterson, “shows salvation at work in ordinary life, strengthening the people of faith; fighting a battle shows salvation at work defeating the opposition and converting all who, whether knowingly or ignorantly, are deepening the catastrophe by opposing, avoiding, or denigrating God’s word and rule.”

Complements: “John’s salvation vision,” he continues, “follows the meal and battle pattern that was set down in Jesus’s Passion. On the night in which he was betrayed, he had a meal with his disciples … It was followed by his arrest, with soldiers pouring into Gethsemane with swords and staves and torches. This meal and this war are the polarities of saving action: the meal is the act in which we are together in friendliness, sharing that which brings us life; the war is the act in which we confront evil with hands trained for war … fighting ‘the good fight of faith.’ … Salvation is both. We cannot choose one over the other. If we are going to be with our saving Lord, we must regularly and often eat with him; and we must be ready, at a moment’s notice, to enter the fight with him.”

Prayer: Lord, David celebrated, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” You preside over the meal as host for the war has rendered all your enemies powerless. May we eat and fight with you until Christ comes again. Amen.

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READER’S CHOICE: Do you have a favorite 843 Acres reflection? Now’s your chance to see it again! In August, we’ll feature your favorite devotionals, so we need 20! Email us at info@theparkforum.org with (a) your name – first names only and pseudonymns are okay, (b) 40-50 word bio including your city, (c) one of your favorite 843 Acres, and (d) 40-50 words about why you like it. We always love this time of year, when our online community takes on somewhat of a new face! Submissions due by July 1.

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Footnotes

[1] Revelation 20:10 ESV | [2] Revelation 20:14 ESV | [3] Revelation 20:15 ESV

June 17, 2014

843 Acres: The Meal and the War

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Is 49 (txt | aud, 5:05 min)
Rev 19 (txt | aud, 3:56 min)
Highlighted: Rev 19

Salvation: The alternative to salvation is optimism—an optimism that must minimize its perception of evil in order to retain its integrity. For optimism alone won’t cut it in the face of shootings, tsunamis, and racism. We can’t just look for good intentions when we talk about injustice, wickedness, and corruption. We can’t just focus on technological advancement when we address poverty, pollution, and psychosis. We need salvation, not just optimism, because spiritual evil radiates from even good actions. Only salvation is bigger than evil.

Visions: Here, in Revelation 19, John gives two visions of salvation—a meal and a war. The meal is called “the marriage supper of the Lamb.” [1] The war is led by “a rider on a white horse” and “the name by which he is called is The Word of God.” [2] Eugene Peterson writes, “The contrast between meal and war could hardly be more extreme, but it is complementarity, not contradiction, that we experience as we submit to the images. Salvation is the intimacies and festivities of marriage; salvation is aggressive battle and the defeat of evil. Salvation is neither of these things by itself. It is the two energies, the embrace of love and the assault on evil, in polar tension, each defined by the other, each feeding into the other.”

Meal: Today, we experience a foretaste of the meal at the Lord’s Supper. “The power of this eucharistic meal to keep us participant in the essentials of salvation is impressive,” Peterson writes. “This is the primary way that Christians remember, receive, and share the meaning of our salvation: Christ crucified for us, his blood shed for the remission of sins.”

War: We experience a foretaste of the war today, too. “The moment we walk away from the Eucharist, having received the life of our Lord, we walk into Armageddon, where we exercise the strength of our Lord.” We fight for obedience, endurance, faith, and courage. And our weapon is the same as that of the rider—“from his mouth comes a sharp sword”—what Paul calls, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” [3]

Prayer: Lord, Only salvation, not optimism, can swallow evil. For we cannot partake of the meal unless we partake in the war, and the war forces us to acknowledge that we need more than optimism; we need salvation. Root us in your Word so that we may fight well. Amen.

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READER’S CHOICE: Do you have a favorite 843 Acres reflection? Now’s your chance to see it again! In August, we’ll feature your favorite devotionals, so we need 20! Email us at info@theparkforum.org with (a) your name – first names only and pseudonymns are okay, (b) 40-50 word bio including your city, (c) one of your favorite 843 Acres, and (d) 40-50 words about why you like it. We always love this time of year, when our online community takes on somewhat of a new face! Submissions due by July 1.

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Footnotes

[1] Revelation 19:9 ESV | [2] Revelation 19:13 ESV | [3] Ephesians 6:17 ESV

June 16, 2014

843 Acres: Becoming More Aware of Reality

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Is 48 (txt | aud, 3:26 min)
Rev 18 (txt | aud, 4:48 min)
Highlighted: Rev 18

Blurred: Things that once seemed obvious to us are now muddled. As we look for the truth through our blurred cultural lenses, what once was clear to us in faith is now hazy. “Most of the time we are not living in a crisis in which we are conscious of our need of God,” writes Eugene Peterson, “yet everything we do is critical to our faith, and God is critically involved in it.” How can we become more aware of the glories and the evils that we encounter everyday?

Caricature: The apocalyptic vision awakens us by using caricature. As one of Saul Bellow’s character says, “If there are mysterious powers around, only exaggeration can help us to see them.” The Great Whore—who is destroyed in chapter 17 and whose destruction is celebrated in chapter 18—is one of these exaggerations. “It is an image that can bring never-again-to-be-forgotten awareness to the powerfully seductive presence of those who would obstruct or subvert our worship of the slain and risen Lamb.”

Worship: “Worship under the aspect of the Great Whore,” writes Peterson, “is the commercialization of our great need and deep desire for meaning, love, and salvation, for the completion of ourselves from beyond ourselves. Whore-worship thrives by naming the worst things about us—our pride, our lust, our envy, our greed, our anger—with the designation ‘God’, and gathering depersonalized and depersonalizing crowds to pursue these divinized defects religiously. The great danger that the world poses for us is not in its gross evils, but its easy religion. The promise of success, ecstasy, and meaning that we can get for a price is Whore-worship. It is the diabolical inversion of ‘you are brought with a price’ to ‘I can get it for you wholesale’.” And in chapter 18, we are shamed—for we see that our intimacy with the Great Whore can be so intense that it is called “sexual immorality”.

Prayer: Lord, Worshipping you is one of the most important and most difficult things that we do. Because it is difficult—requiring self-sacrifice, self-giving, and self-control—we are always ready to worship something easier. May we hear the voice from heaven, beckoning us, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues.” [1] For we long to abide in you. Amen.

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READER’S CHOICE: Do you have a favorite 843 Acres reflection? Now’s your chance to see it again! In August, we’ll feature your favorite devotionals, so we need 20! Email us at info@theparkforum.org with (a) your name – first names only and pseudonymns are okay, (b) 40-50 word bio including your city, (c) one of your favorite 843 Acres, and (d) 40-50 words about why you like it. We always love this time of year, when our online community takes on somewhat of a new face! Submissions due by July 1.

___________________

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Footnotes

[1] Revelation 18:4 ESV

June 13, 2014

843 Acres: What We Do When We Wait for Justice

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Is 45 (txt | aud, 4:37 min)
Rev 15 (txt | aud, 1:13 min)

Waiting: “How long, O Lord?” is a familiar question to most of us. It’s also a question with a long history. David asks, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” [1] And the martyrs ask, “How long before you will judge and avenge our blood?” [2] It is a cry. A cry for relief and justice. A cry for the arrogant to be put down and perpetrators to be punished. How do we live in this age of waiting—even as we see the raw material of injustice in our everyday lives?

Worship: John’s pastoral method is not to give comforting words or to remind us that things could be worse. The answer John gives is: worship. Worship gives us the context to believe in justice even as we experience injustice. Here, in Revelation 15, the long-awaited—but now imminent—judgment takes form in an act of worship, as the angels get ready for their work of judgment and the congregation sings:

Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed. [3]

Orientation: “John’s recurrent representations of worship,” Eugene Peterson writes, “are not pious, escapist fictions, but theological convictions. The conviction is that God’s action, not the world’s action, is what we want to be involved in. The world is not the context for dealing with God; God is the context for dealing with God (and the world). In a world in which we are constantly subject to dizzying disorientations, worship is the act in which we are reoriented contextually.”

Baptism: And where does this worship take place? Around the waters of baptism—“a sea of glass mingle with fire.” [4] Peterson reflects, “The waters of baptism are, first of all, the waters of judgment. But they are, simultaneously and most emphatically, the waters of salvation. All the biblical experiences with water are gathered into Christian meditation on baptism.”

Prayer: Lord, As we look around at the injustice all around us, bring us into your presence to worship you. Reorient our reality so that we interpret the world through your throne and our baptism. In worship, may we cry for justice even as we lament injustice. Amen.

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M’Cheyne Weekend Readings:

Saturday, June 14: Is 46 (txt | aud, 2:00 min) & Rev 16 (txt | aud, 3:20 min)
Sunday, June 15: Is 47 (txt | aud, 2:48 min) & Rev 17 (txt | aud, 3:24 min)

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Footnotes

[1] Psalm 13:1 ESV | [2] Revelation 6:10 ESV | [3] Revelation 15:3-4 ESV | [4] Revelation 15:2

June 12, 2014

843 Acres TBT: The Endurance of the Saints (Brooks)

by Bethany

M’CheyneIs 44 (txt | aud, 5:09 min)
Rev 14 (txt | aud, 4:27 min)

John, Revelation 14:12

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.

Thomas Brooks, Heaven on Earth
(“The things that accompany salvation: perseverance.”)

First, that perseverance that accompanies salvation is a perseverance in a holy profession … ‘Let us hold fast our profession by a strong hand’ or ‘by a hand of holy violence’ (Heb 4:14) … The Greek signifies a forcible holding, a holding with both hands. Therefore, let no temptation, affliction, opposition, or persecution, take us off from our holy profession, but let us hold our profession with a forcible hand, yea, with both hands, in the face of all difficulties, dangers, and deaths …

Secondly, that perseverance that accompanies salvation is a perseverance in holy and spiritual principles … To persevere in holy and heavenly principles is to persevere in believing, in repenting, in mourning, in hoping; it is to persevere in love, in fear, in humility, in patience, in self-denial … No grace, no, not the most sparkling and shining grace, can bring a man to heaven itself, without perseverance; not faith, which is the champion of grace, if it faint and fail; not love, which is the nurse of grace, if it decline and wax cold; not humility, which is the adorner and beautifier of grace, if it continue not to the end; not obedience, not repentance, not patience, nor any other grace, except that they have their perfect work. It is perseverance in grace that crowns every grace and every gracious soul with a crown of glory at last …

Thirdly, that perseverance that accompanies salvation is an abiding or continuing in the word or doctrine of Christ … John 8:31: ‘If you continue in my word, then you are my disciples indeed.’ It is the end that crowns the action, as the evening crowns the day, as the last act commends the whole scene. It is not enough to begin well except we end well; the beginning of Christians is not so considerable as the end …

Fourthly and lastly, that perseverance that accompanies salvation is a perseverance in holy and gracious actions and motions; it is a continuing in pious duties and religious services … It is the excellency of perseverance that it keeps a Christian still in motion God-wards, heaven-wards, holiness-wards. It is a grace that quickens a man to motion, to action; it keeps a man always going, always doing … Perseverance is a perpetual motion in ways of grace and holiness.

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June 11, 2014

843 Acres: The Mark of the Beast, 666

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Is 43 (txt | aud, 4:08 min)
Rev 13 (txt | aud, 3:09 min)
Highlighted: Rev 13

Culture: Calling something “missional” doesn’t make it so. Just because something is “Christian” doesn’t mean it’s the gospel. Recently, for example, The New York Times critiqued the new Christian reality dating show on GSN, saying, “The show is utterly frivolous and is reviewed here only because it’s another development in the continuing spectacle that is religion in America.” How are we, as a church, to avoid collective silliness or, even worse, organized deceit?

Wisdom: John writes, “This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.” [1] Eugene Peterson comments, “John is blunt; use your heads. Figure out what is going on. Most of the conspicuous religion that is in vogue at any one time in the country derives from the land-beast. Expose these religious pretensions. This religion has nothing to do with God. Get its number; it is a human number … It is religion that makes a show … that takes our eyes off of the poor and suffering and holy Christ. In the language of numbers, 666 is a triple failure to be a 777, the three-times perfect, whole, divine number. It is a recurring characteristic of the land-beast religion that is commercialized. It requires huge budgets to maintain itself. It manipulates us economically, getting us to buy and sell at its bidding, marketing advice, solace, blessing, solutions, salvation, good feelings. The devil’s strategy here is not the black mass, but the mass market.”

Shema: Israel’s creed was the shema: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” [2] To remember these words, they wrote them on parchments, rolled them into capsules, and fastened them on their foreheads and hands. Here, however, we see the mark of the land-beast replacing the shema on the forehead. People, writes Peterson, have “become gross parodies of the gospel.” For “the buying and selling of religion is the mark of the beast.”

Prayer: Lord, Where is the gospel for sale in our culture? Give us wisdom to discern. Although we want to be full of joy and laughter, we want to reject silly expressions of the gospel that have no foundation. Therefore, lift our eyes up to see Christ crucified and risen. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Revelation 13:18 ESV | [2] Deuteronomy 6:4-5 ESV

June 10, 2014

843 Acres: The Fall of the Deceiver-of-the-Whole-Earth

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Is 42 (txt | aud, 4:07 min)
Rev 12 (txt | aud, 2:57 min)
Highlighted: Rev 12

Temptations: Two extremes often tempt us. One calls us to charge forward into the public square and demand the kingship of Christ in current political schemes. The other calls us to abandon political systems altogether and, instead, settle for a private faith and saving souls. Where is the balance?

Pregnancy: In John’s vision, the world wakes up from its slumber and sings praises to God at the sound of the seventh trumpet. [1] Then the temple and the ark appear in the skies—visible evidence that God’s rule connects with our salvation. Eugene Peterson writes, “A fusion of lightning, thunder, earthquake, and hail marks a scene change (nobody leave your seats!) and a woman appears in the sky theater.” And she is pregnant. The praises of the people are drowned out by the cries of the woman in labor.

Rescue: “The birth-giving woman and the death-dealing dragon,” he writes, “are the light-year limits of the best and worst we can imagine. The moment the child appears, the dragon lunges. We shut our eyes, too terrified to witness the outrage. And then, at the last possible moment, there is rescue. The infant—who John describes as “the one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron”—is seized and lifted to the throne of God. [2] The mother escapes to a place of safety.

War: “The immediate consequence of the birth is not Christmas carols,” Peterson continues, “but a great war spread across the heavens. The marvelous Michael, captain of the angels, joins battle with the dragon and his demon horde … The dragon and his hosts, no match for Michael and his angels, fall out of the sky in a heap … The terrorizing names—Great Dragon, Ancient Serpent, Devil, Satan, Deceiver-of-the-Whole-Earth—are a pile of dirty laundry on the ground.”

Prayer: Lord, The child that is rescued is the one who will rule the world as it never has been ruled before. He is Jesus—who debated publicly in the synagogues, but who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, not a stallion. In the end, he will establish a politics that will end all politics. In this age, therefore, give us a strong vision of him sitting on the throne so that, like Christ, we can engage in the public square with humility. For our hope is in the victory of Christ, not the kingdom of man. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Revelation 11 | [2] Revelation 12:5 ESV

June 9, 2014

843 Acres: The Two Witnesses of Revelation

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Is 41 (txt | aud, 4:48 min)
Rev 11 (txt | aud, 3:21 min)
Highlighted: Rev 11

Witness: The work of witness takes place between the six trumpets and the seventh. John writes what he hears: “I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” [1] Who are these two witnesses and what do they have to do with us?

Law and Prophecy: “The unnamed witnesses of Revelation 11,” writes Eugene Peterson in Reversed Thunder, “are the named witnesses of the transfiguration, Moses and Elijah. The two men, great in their own right, through the centuries accumulated symbolic greatness: Moses, giver of the law, and Elijah, exemplar of prophecy. Between them these two direct the attention of all humanity to Christ as Lord and Savior—God in our history for our salvation. Law and prophecy are the content of all witness.”

Truth and Life: Law (Moses) is the revelation of God’s truth; he wills us to know what is real. “That is the importance of Mosaic law,” Peterson continues. “God speaks to us in such a way that we can comprehend the intelligible givenness of reality.” Prophecy (Elijah) is the application of that truth in our lives. “We are not animals that live by sheer instinct,” he writes. “We are not angels that live by sheer intelligence. We are human beings who consider and reflect and decide. Prophecy addresses our wills with in invitation to participate in God’s will.”

Consummation: As long as the world exists (“1,260 days” symbolically), these two witnesses—law and prophecy—are at work in the world. Yet they are humiliated and murdered. Their dead bodies are mocked in the city streets “where their Lord was crucified.” [2] Until finally, they—like Moses and Elijah in the transfiguration—disappear with God in a cloud and the seventh trumpet is sounded. Then the people who were taught to pray, “May your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven,” sing in loud voices, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” [3]

Prayer: Lord, We live in an age of witness. You call us to love your law and then live it out in our lives. For it is not something “out there”, but something “in here”, too. As we live according to the reality of your kingdom, give us courage to endure in our obedience, as we await the risen Christ. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Revelation 11:3 ESV | [2] Revelation 11:8 ESV | [3] Revelation 11:15 ESV

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