Friday, February 28, 2014

Revelation Videos ~ Study 45 ~ The Lamb Who Opens the Seals

As we continue our journey through Revelation, this message draws our attention to Jesus as the one who breaks the seven seals and opens the words of God to fulfillment. While the seven seals may fascinate us with curiosity, we must keep our eyes on the Savior, not the seals.

Pastoral Pings (Plus) ~ Piercing Prophecies of Peace

“But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”[1]

          As I continue to meditate on the connection between prophecies fulfilled and those awaiting fulfillment, I am in one of the richest, most wonderfully detailed descriptions of the Messiah’s ministry. I am left wondering at the fact that, with such clear descriptions of what to expect, no one saw him coming. However, I am also filled with reverence and awe that such Scriptures as Isaiah 53 affirm that Jesus of Nazareth is the only one who fits the prophetic descriptions of the Savior of the world.

          While there was no one in Jesus’ day who seemed to understand that the Messiah would be pierced, crushed, chastised, and wounded, the prophet had made these facts clear centuries in advance. This did not work as a signpost to tell people that, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”[2]

          Even though there was such a clear prophecy about the Messiah, it wasn’t something that people grabbed hold of when they looked at what was happening to Jesus. The disciples were thoroughly disillusioned and grieved by what they witnessed. This was not only because they were traumatized by what people were doing to him, but that they were shocked because things were not turning out the way they expected.

          This is not to prove that we will not recognize certain aspects of Jesus’ second coming in advance. It is simply to show that one chief characteristic of prophecy was to confirm the first coming of Christ after it happened. The events of Jesus’ first coming were confirmed by Scripture. And, those early prophecies are still proving that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah that God promised.

          So, while no one took this verse as something that would prepare them for the Messiah, it shows how clearly God spoke in advance of what would happen, and how precisely Jesus fulfilled what was written. The testimony of him being pierced by the crown of thorns that was pressed onto his head, and the nails that pierced his arms and legs to secure him to the cross, gave people ample evidence that this was the Messiah Isaiah spoke about, but no one understood what had been written.

          Jesus was crushed under the weight of the cross he had to carry on his torn and bleeding back, and he was crushed under the weight of our sin, judgment, and condemnation, as he bore our sins on his body on that tree.[3] Jesus was chastised with the scourge that was laid across his back by his enemies, while accomplishing peace in such a way that enemies could become the sons of God. And Jesus was clearly wounded for our healing. He was wounded in our place. Four gospel writers tell us what he experienced, confirming the truthfulness of the prophecies.

          The message is clear, that all the prophecies regarding the second coming of Jesus Christ will be fulfilled in like manner as the prophecies regarding the first coming. However, we cannot think that we will see things coming together with such clarity that we can say that Jesus will come in our lifetime, or at a certain time, or in a particular season. The Scriptures tell us what will happen, but not in direct language that would give us the right to say that a particular earthquake is the last one before Jesus comes, or a particular uniting of people around the world is the ultimate antichrist, or a particular government is whichever particular beast.

          Instead, the whole panoramic view of prophecy surrounding the first coming of Christ proves that everything God has revealed about the second coming of Christ will also be fulfilled in like precision no matter how much or little we can pin down to times, or seasons, or circumstances of any kind whatsoever.

          The prophecies are deliberately symbolic so that we have no authority to identify exactly who is going to fulfill what is written. The sevens of Revelation tell us that each thing will be complete in God’s eyes. There is the beast, and the mark of the beast, which indicates something thoroughly man-centered, never in control, never able to carry out that which it desires. The red dragon and his emissaries are all cast into the lake of fire. End of story. Literally!

          Now, there is one prophecy that we can be absolutely certain is being fulfilled in our lives today. It is this: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.[4] No matter how much our circumstances resemble beasts, antichrists, false prophets, natural disasters, and sin going from bad to worse, the one who sits on the throne is working it all for good in the lives of all his children, wherever they are, and whatever they are going through. Blessed are those who persevere until the end!

          From my heart,


© 2014 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.) 

[1] Isaiah 53:5
[2] Mark 15:39
[3] I Peter 2:24
[4] Romans 8:28

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pastoral Pings ~ The Old Way of Looking at New Prophecies

          In our quest to keep the book of Revelation in context, one of the questions to consider is how Old Testament prophecies compare to New Testament prophecies. Prophecy is prophecy, and the primary difference between the old and the new is that the old have mostly been fulfilled, while the new are mostly awaiting fulfillment.

          That being true, what lessons can we gain from meditating on the way Old Testament prophecies were understood in advance of their enactment? Since we are living ahead of the fulfillment of so many prophecies about the second coming of Christ, surely there are Old Testament pictures of the way people used prophecy to ready themselves for the first coming of the Messiah.  

          One of the most glaring characteristics of Old Testament prophecy concerning the first coming of Messiah is that there are no examples of people using prophecy to figure out when it was time for him to come. This is rather remarkable since the nation was clearly waiting for the Promised One to arrive.

          I have heard many declarations that we must understand the prophecies of Daniel in order to understand the prophecies of Revelation. There is no doubt that the book of Revelation is like a beautiful compendium of teachings from both the Old and New Testaments.

          However, while prophecy experts direct our attention to the details of Daniel’s prophecies, and call us to try determining the meaning of Revelation based on their interpretation of Daniel, there is still this one glaring characteristic to deal with: why did Daniel’s prophecies not flood the Bible with further Scriptural accounts showing people using such prophecies to determine the times and seasons of the Messiah’s first coming? And, why are there no examples of anyone being in the right place at the right time for such a momentous event based on nothing more than their interpretation of prophecy?

          Instead, what we see is that Zechariah would not have known anything unusual was happening except that Gabriel visited him and told him that Elizabeth would have a son who would fulfill the prophecy of the forerunner of the Messiah.[1] We see Mary knowing nothing of the Messiah’s soon appearing except that Gabriel told her that she would be his earthly mother.[2] When Joseph discovered his wife was pregnant, he did not suddenly wonder if this was the fulfillment of prophecy, but that she had been unfaithful to him. It took another angelic visit for him to understand that the fulfillment of prophecy was in the works.[3]

          As history unfolds, we do not see Joseph going to Bethlehem because prophecy told him to, but ending up in Bethlehem by government decree in order that, after the fact, everyone would realize that prophecy was fulfilled.[4] We do not see shepherds waiting in Bethlehem for the Messiah’s birth because Scripture led them to know the time and season was at hand, but they rushed to Bethlehem after angels had visited them with the Messiah’s birth announcement.[5] When we meet Simeon in the temple at Jesus’ eighth day since his birth, we hear that the only reason he knew that he would see the Christ was because God personally announced it to him by the Holy Spirit.[6]

          We also see that the Magi did not head to Israel because the Scriptures told them it was time, but because they saw the Messiah’s star appear.[7] Jesus did not fulfill the prophecy about coming out of Egypt because Joseph read prophecy, but because Herod was trying to kill the Christ.[8]

          While much more needs to be said, my attempt to make this a Ping requires my conclusion.[9] What if the focus of prophecy is not to tell the times or seasons, something Jesus explicitly declared to be none of our business,[10] but to give us huge assurances that God will send the Messiah the second time as surely as he did the first, so carry on with the business of the church until he comes?

          Very personally speaking, I am finding the book of Revelation to be the most comforting assurance of the sovereignty of God over everything in the universe. His brilliant pictures tell me what will happen without any distraction to dabble in his side of the responsibilities. If we daily live as those who are more than conquerors through him who loves us,[11] we will be conquerors on the day he comes.

          So, as the Psalmist exhorted us three millennia ago, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”[12]

          From my heart,

© 2014 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Luke 1:5-25
[2] Luke 1:26-38
[3] Matthew 1:18-25
[4] Luke 2:1-7
[5] Luke 2:8-20
[6] Luke 2:26
[7] Matthew 2:1-12
[8] Matthew 2:13-18
[9] Instead of a Ping (Plus) or a Pondering
[10] Acts 1:7
[11] Romans 8:37
[12] Psalm 27:14

Monday, February 24, 2014

Pastoral Pings (Plus) ~ Something Better Than a Puck and Coffee

          Yes, I admit it, I’m writing from Canada, the country that won Olympic gold in both men’s and women’s hockey.[1] How do I feel about that? I’m glad you asked.

          When I read a news headline that declares hockey as Canada’s unifying “religion”, and we all know that Tim Horton’s is its chief evangelist,[2] I grieve that we are so easily satisfied by a rubber disk and a cup of brew. Yes, that is how I feel about it.

          Believe it or not, even studies on brain-chemistry, and how our brains react to various stimuli, show that we are addicted to exciting things that cause our brains to secrete feel-good chemicals. These studies also show that the chemical-induced good feelings that come from pucks, medals, and coffee, is inferior to what happens in our body, soul, and spirit, when we find our greatest joy in God and his people.[3]

          My grief in what people are settling for with gold medals and silver cups is intensified by the contrast with what they are not experiencing. There is a better game in town, so to speak, and a much better and more satisfying drink available without cost, and without the tease of rolling up the rim to get the best the hockey-evangelist has to offer.[4]

          Let me explain why the hockey-religion causes me grief instead of joy. In addressing the wonders of the ways of God, the song-writer expressed: “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold,”[5] While there is no doubt that many are temporarily satisfied with Olympic gold, the ways of God are even more desirable, with a promise of permanence to make the heart glad forever.

          Along with this testimony are other declarations such as, “The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.”[6] In today’s language, I think the writer would have declared that the words from God’s mouth are better than thousands of gold, silver and bronze medals. With that same preference for the riches of God’s thoughts and words, he adds, “Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold.”[7]

          In contrast to the joy and satisfaction that are better and higher than the finest gold and silver, the one who knows the supreme joy in God identifies that, “The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands.”[8] Gold medals and silver cups are the work of human hands. While such things do cause people to feel joy, and stimulate the brain to secrete good-feeling chemicals, they can never give more than what they are.

          For that reason, God’s children listen to the wisdom that says, “Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold.[9]No matter how much gold or silver they ever might possess, their worldview is still, “How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.”[10] When you know the only true God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you just cannot see life otherwise.

          The reason that Jesus’ brothers make more of him than gold is explained like this, you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.[11] Once such a price has been paid for our ransom from sin, nothing of silver or gold will ever be so valuable.

          When another of God’s friends spoke of the genuineness of your faith” in Jesus Christ, he said that it was, more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire” (I Peter 1:7).

          The bottom line is that those who live by the religion of hockey have no guarantees of lasting satisfaction. Their pleasures are momentary. They often live with dashed dreams, riotous disappointments, and the need to re-prove themselves year after year, Olympics after Olympics. And, whatever gold, silver and bronze has been gathered along the way is all left behind when the game of life is over.

          On the other hand, those who live by faith in Jesus Christ, and delight themselves in the true LORD of glory, are guaranteed to experience the deepest, richest, most satisfying desires of their hearts.[12]

          While some Canadian hockey fans would brand me as fanatical (weird, eh!), what I am writing about is very real. The testimony of those who know God through Jesus Christ is, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”[13]

          Along with such mind (and brain)-satisfying testimony, we have Jesus’ own words telling us how determined he is that we experience the greatest possible joy in the greatest possible way. He tells us, These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.[14]

          Now, if you ever walk past my house you may find me having fun playing hockey with my daycare friends. You will also find me sometimes enjoying a cup of Tim’s brew. But the real secret (hopefully not too secret) of what makes my life tick is what happens when I wake up in the morning and spend some time with the one who gives me, “joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.”[15] Such time with the God who created us for joy, makes me want to share this joy with those who only know the temporary thrill of a gold medal (or two).

          There is actually something better than Olympic gold. And, since the same news media that presents hockey as Canada’s religion won’t tell people about what is best, here is one more way that Jesus’ brothers can share the wonderful joy that is ours in our Creator and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

          From my heart,


PS: Another very special side of this joy in Jesus is that God’s children from around the world can share in the richness of God’s joy no matter how their country did in the Olympics!

© 2014 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Referring to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics
[2] Tim Horton’s is Canada’s famous coffee-and-donut chain.
[3] Look up the word “joy” in an online concordance and you will see how central this is to God’s plans for his children. I have found wonderful help in this regard through a book entitled, The Life Model: Living From the Heart Jesus Gave You, © 2010 Shepherd’s House, Inc, and other resources of that ministry. Their book, Joy Starts Here, ©2013 Life Model Works, has been helping me understand even better why we so often settle for the momentary thrill of an inferior pleasure, when God offers us the fullness of his joy.
[4] Tim Horton’s uses the “Roll Up the Rim” campaign to increase its congregations and revenue.
[5] Psalm 19:10
[6] Psalm 119:72
[7] Psalm 119:127
[8] Psalm 135:15
[9] Proverbs 8:10
[10] Proverbs 16:16
[11] I Peter 1:18-19
[12] Psalm 37:4
[13] Psalm 16:11
[14] John 15:11
[15] I Peter 1:8

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Considerations ~ The History of the Supreme Name

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2)

Here are some thoughts about how this verse looks in the three dimensions of past, present, and future.

  • God has already highly exalted Jesus Christ
  • God has already bestowed on Jesus the name that is above every name, King of kings, and Lord of lords
  • Jesus Christ is highly exalted
  • Jesus Christ has the name that is above every other name
  • People and angels are bowing their knees at the name of Jesus
  • People and angels are confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father

  • Jesus will eternally be highly exalted
  • Jesus will always have the name that is above every name, King of kings, and Lord of lords
  • At the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, every human being, every angel, every demon, will bow their knee in acknowledgment of his supremacy over all things
  • At the name of Jesus Christ, every human being, every angel, ever demon, will confess with their mouths that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father

NOTE: Keep this in mind as you read “Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals…” (Revelation 6:1) What we see in Revelation is the Lord Jesus Christ, highly exalted to the Father’s right hand, the only one who is able to break the seven seals and open the scroll, given the name that is above every name, King of kings, and Lord of lords, assuring the church that he will sovereignly carry out all the plans and purposes of God in making for himself a family of people in his own image and likeness.

Revelation 4-5 show us the supreme glory of God in his throne room, the way it is all through the miserable and terrible things that will happen upon the earth. The church is to remember this, that God is on the throne, and the Son of God is standing before the throne fulfilling all the Father’s plans and purposes for the world they created, and the people they redeemed.

The following chapters show us the seven seals, bad things that will happen throughout history, things that are pictured as sealing the words God has written on his scroll, and yet Jesus Christ has the power and authority to open them all. The church is given a clear picture that the bad things we will see happening in the world are not God’s plans for the world (for there are the seals, not the scroll), but that they will happen as God carries out his plans for the world, and his plans for his people in the world.

Revelation is the grand demonstration of Romans, that nothing will ever separate the children of God from the love of God, and that we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. The God of love has given the Revelation to the people he loves, so that we will walk in a love that endures all things for the glory of the Triune God.

© 2014 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Pastoral Pings (Plus) ~ Open For Business Until He Comes

          One of the most common considerations in prophecy is the “when” question. As people try to understand the meaning of symbolic language, they often wonder if there is some kind of timeline to help us figure out where we fit into God’s grand scheme of creation and redemption. However, as much as we might like such when-questions answer, Scripture suggests that God isn’t as concerned about answering this curiosity as we are in presenting it.

          Today this was illustrated to me as I considered a particular parable in connection to the prophetic message of the book of Revelation. Jesus began with the description, A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return.[1] With this simple language, Jesus illustrated something about himself, about heaven, about what he would be doing sooner than anyone could have imagined, and what we could expect of the more distant future.

          The imagery Jesus presented was familiar to his listeners. They understood what a nobleman was, a wealthy man who owned and operated an estate. They understood that such a man would make a journey to a far country in order to transact further business for the good of his estate. They understood kingdoms, and that the Roman Empire would put various kingdoms under the leadership of those of their choosing. And they could easily picture such an estate owner returning from his trip to get back to the affairs of the home business.

          The next part of the imagery is equally familiar to the listeners. Jesus added, Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’[2] For the original listeners they would understand a nobleman having servants, and that each servant was given the same responsibility. The nobleman preparing his servants for his time away would also have been a natural, familiar scenario.

          While the parable goes on to show the difference between those who were good servants, and those who were not, there is this little description of the responsibility of these servants that gives insight into the way we are to understand our focus in the book of Revelation.

          There is no doubt that this parable pictures Jesus’ ascension into heaven, his glorification at the Father’s right hand, receiving an everlasting kingdom, and one day returning for his church. That means that these servants give us an indication of what the church should be doing while we wait for his return.

          Jesus instruction was, “Engage in business until I come.” What business? The nobleman’s business; or, the business of Jesus’ kingdom. Do we have any clues as to what this business looks like today? Yes, we do.

          Before Jesus ascended to heaven, or, left on his trip, as this parable illustrated, he told his church,

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”[3]

          While we must be careful that we do not read too much into Jesus’ parables, there is something to the simplicity of this description that separates his responsibility for what he is doing while he is gone on this trip, including when the Father tells him it is time to return, from the responsibility of the servants to engage in the business of his estate while he is gone.

          In other words, there is nothing in Scripture that tells us we will know in advance when he will come. There will be no secret surprises, with Jesus coming at a time that only some of his brothers know about.[4] There will not be such clear clues that we can quit our jobs, cash in our retirement savings, and sit on the Mount of Olives waiting for him to arrive.[5]

          Rather, his words ring out very simply, and timelessly true, “Engage in business until I come!” Or, as he clarified just before he left on his trip, keep on making disciples until he comes; keep on baptizing all brand new disciples until he comes; keep on teaching all his disciples to obey all that he has taught us about living as a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”[6]

          Jesus has told us to engage ourselves in the business of his kingdom until he returns from his journey. “Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes,”[7]whenever that will actually be.

          From my heart,


© 2014 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Luke 19:12
[2] Luke 19:13
[3] Matthew 28:18-20
[4] Matthew 24:23-28
[5] Paul seemed to be dealing with this kind of thinking when he wrote I Thessalonians.
[6] I Peter 2:9
[7] Luke 12:43