Coronation Day

Coronation Day

Surely no one was surprised by Brexit?   Like a young couple crafting a prenup in their first premarital counseling session, Brexit was an inevitable outcome.    As my ASDA House coworker explained in 2001 when I asked about Britain adopting the Euro, “they won’t let us put the Queen on it!”   I knew then that the tenuous EU marriage between Britain and the Continent could never last.   Despite its pretense as a representative democracy, Britain is forever committed to its Crown.

The pageantry, the history, and the utter fascination of being a people ruled by the reign of a Sovereign King or Queen is absolutely repugnant to the American consciousness, however.  Though we began as loyal subjects of the Crown, the abuses our forefathers suffered at its hands have been forever enshrined in our foundational document, The Declaration of Independence.   Every year on the Fourth of July we read.

The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States….  In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Declaration of Independence

The Declaration’s list of grievances is ingrained on our national identity.  We impute George III’s guilt to every idea of monarchy.   While good for self-governance, our anti-monarchal bias negatively affects our hermeneutics.  It is hard for us to fully appreciate the implications of Christ as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.   Scripture passages that speak of The Kingdom and of Christ and the saints ruling and reigning resonate only lightly with us.   Yet, many sweet promises given to believers in the Bible are related to the rule and reign of the saints over the world.

The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him; 2 Timothy 2:11-12

Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 1 Corinthians 6:2-3

“You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Luke 22:28-30

And especially in Revelation we read.

The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, Revelation 2:26

The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.  Revelation 3:21

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth.”   Revelation 5:10-11

And most notoriously,

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed.  Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. 

Revelation 20:4-6

Unfortunately, the sweetness of these promises is often obscured by the violence this last passage has suffered at the hands of eisogetes.   At precisely this point, many otherwise sound interpreters abandon the principle of ‘interpreting less clear passages from more clear passages.’   And the questions this text presents are legion?  Where are these thrones?  Over whom will the saints reign?  And who are these saints?  Are they martyrs only?  Or a select few that experience a proto-resurrection?  

Many hearers give up on this passage because of the divisiveness of teachers and preachers.  But the enigmata of Revelation 20 is its ultimate irony.   Like all of Revelation, this passage is not given to obscure, but reveal.  Not to distress, but comfort.  Not to divide, but to unify.   In An Eschatology of Victory, Marcellus Kik notes that accessing the comfort of Revelation 20 depends upon rightly understanding three simple, yet profound images: the binding of the devil, the reigning of the saints, and the two deaths and resurrections.   To miss the meaning of these powerful images is to miss some of the richest gospel comfort offered in Scripture.  Join us as we examine Revelation 20:4-10 and find simple, yet profound comfort from one of the Scripture’s most enigmatic passages.

We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube

Shock and Awe

Shock and Awe

“Shock and Awe, simply Shock and Awe!”  For most, this phrase entered our vernacular from CNN Reporter, Peter Arnett, describing the stunning exhibition of US airpower from his hotel in Baghdad on March 21, 2003.   The second Gulf War had begun.   Operation Iraqi Freedom was underway.  We watched live as coalition airpower obliterated Saddam Hussein’s Presidential compound on the Tigris and other government and military sites in and around Baghdad.   ‘Shock and Awe’ was meant to make a statement, to break the will of Saddam’s army — to end a war before it began.

Military strategists as far back as Sun Tzu have understood the value of destroying the enemy’s will to fight.   But the concept of ‘Shock and Awe’ was meant to take it to the next level.  It is Sherman’s ‘total war’ on steroids.   The phrase ‘shock and awe’ was originally introduced by Harlan Ullman in a 1996 Pentagon study.  For Ullman, ‘shock and awe’ defined a concept of engagement so massive and sudden that the enemy would be stunned, confused, overwhelmed, and paralyzed.

But the coalition bombardment that began on March 21, 2003 was nothing compared to the ‘Shock and Awe’ described in Revelation 19 as the world’s final battle that pictures the return of Christ in judgement.   Kings and captains, mighty men, men both free and slave, small and great gather for battle.  Summoned by the King of Rebels, the ancient Dragon and his Beast and False Prophet, they have come to resist the will of their rightful King, the Lord Jesus Christ.  They trust in everything false and swear allegiance to the King of Lies and Murder.    They think this will be their moment – and indeed it is.  Just not the moment they expected.

As the Lord Jesus appears in power and glory, the armies of heaven following after Him, He brings ‘Shock and Awe’ His enemies never anticipated.    “Every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all the tribes of the earth will wail on account of him…. Kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and rich and powerful and everyone slave and free, [will hide] themselves in caves and among the rocks of the mountains calling to the mountains, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb.’”

Their swagger and boasting, rebellion and hatred of the Lord will come to nothing in an instant.   The mighty power of the Beast and the pervasive influence of the False Prophet dissipate at the appearing of the one who is Faithful and True, who slays His enemies with the sword of the Word of God.    The return of Christ comes as ‘shock and awe’ to His enemies, and ours.   But to those who have loved not their lives unto death, who have held to the testimony of Jesus, who have been sealed with the seal of the Living God, the “shock and awe” of His coming causes them to cry ‘Glory!’

We are reminded in Philippians that

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

Some will confess Jesus’ Lordship out of love for their King.  Others will confess it under compulsion of judgment.   When Jesus comes, He comes with ‘shock and awe.’   For those who submit to Him in grace, there is joy.   But for those who refuse His light and easy yoke, submission comes only in judgement.   As one theologian noted regarding that moment.

“Either judgment is done on [Christ] at the cross [on our behalf], or else, failing that, judgement is done by him as people’s unforgiven sin sends them to hell.”

Have you submitted to his grace?  Or are you resisting your rightful King, gathering together with the King of Rebels and the enemies of the Living God?   ‘Shock and awe’ is coming.   Are you ready?   Join us this Sunday as we examine Revelation 19:11-21 and the great promise and the great warning of Christ’s return.

We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm at The Arkansas DreamCenter at 1116 Daisy L Gatson Bates Drive in Little Rock for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube

The Big Day

The Big Day

Every little girl dreams of the big day.   Satin and silks flow.   The whoosh of veil and train keep cadence with Mendelsohn’s March.   Sparkles, twinkles, and smiles adorn every face.  Discreet tears appear at the corners of Daddy’s eyes.  All the rituals are observed — no detail may be omitted.   Bouquets are tossed and garters are launched.   The happy couple is feted in every way possible.  Rice, or birdseed, or sparklers send the new family off in wedded bliss.  Every hope for the future is signed and sealed by the gathering of dearly beloved in the sight of God.   The glorious day, the big day has come at last.  All that is left is the hard work of happily, forever after.

Weddings should be joyful affairs.   Celebrations of the first order.    Whether lavish or simple, no expenditure of joy should be spared.   It is a day to gather and celebrate what God said was “very good.”  Jesus chose to begin his public ministry, celebrating a wedding at Cana.   And at the end of all things, Jesus completes his redemptive work, celebrating the wedding supper of the Lamb.  He commented regarding marriage, “…at the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.  For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two will become one flesh.  So, they are no longer two but one.  Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate.” 

In both the Old and New Testaments, marriage is a human reflection of the covenant love of the Lord for His people.   Throughout the Bible, the Lord makes the wedding vow – “I will be their God and they will be my people.”   The LORD is the husband of Israel, and Christ is the husband of the Church.   In an exhortation to husbands and wives, Paul reminds the Ephesians that Christ and the Church are the ideal for marital fidelity.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

Ephesians 5:25-32

Marriage radiates a beauty no casual relationship can imitate.   It nourishes, cherishes, cleanses.   As one theologian commented, “marriage produces efficacious love” – a love that has a powerful effect, a love mediated by something other than love of self.   Its effect is to beautify.   All substitutes fall short.    

The final visions of Revelation make this point quite vividly.   The contrast begun in Revelation 17 and continuing through Revelation 19 contrasts the Harlot and the Bride.  A contrast which emphasizes the distinction between the deadly deceptive charms of the world, pictured as a luxuriant but violent prostitute, and the enduring, life-giving beauty of Christ’s church, pictured as a radiant bride.  

In a world where Christ promises persecution while conformity to the world promises peace, it is easy to lose sight of this distinction between harlot and bride.   But in Revelation 19 the Lord unveils for John, and for us, a picture of The Big Day – the promised wedding supper of the Lamb. 

Weddings teach us to celebrate and expect great things.    Revelation 19 shows God’s people, small and great celebrating all we should expect God to be and do.   What great expectations breathe life into your hopes and dreams?   Are you living in expectation of The Big Day?    Join us this week as we examine Revelation 19 and consider how we are to live expectantly, even in the midst of adversity.

We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm at The Arkansas DreamCenter at 1116 Daisy L Gatson Bates Drive in Little Rock for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube

07/25/2021 | “If You are Standing Fast” | 1 Thessalonians 3

07/25/2021 | “If You are Standing Fast” | 1 Thessalonians 3

The first letter to the Thessalonians is written in the midst of trial.  The Thessalonian Christians faced opposition to their faith in God, and so did the Apostle Paul.  And as Paul has written to the Thessalonians, he expresses concern that perhaps the Thessalonian Christians have drifted.  One of the things we notice about Paul throughout his writing is that he cares deeply for the Christians that God has allowed him to serve and to impact.  He had seen the Thessalonian Christians converted and had a major role in establishing that church.  But here he is clearly concerned that in the midst of opposition, perhaps the Thessalonians would not remain fixed on the firm foundation of Christ.

But Paul is a God-centered pastor.  He knows that their continued faithfulness depends not ultimately on their own ability or even on his own pastoring, but in the power of God to keep them.  That is really the hope of every Christian.  How do you know that you will remain in the faith, that you will persevere?  It is grounded in the power of God.  That is where our chapter concludes, with Paul’s confidence in the Lord: “Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you,  and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” (Verses 11-13)

“If You Are Standing Fast,” 1 Thessalonians 3

07/18/2021 | “Missing Out” | Revelation 15:1-8

07/18/2021 | “Missing Out” | Revelation 15:1-8

Sometimes it is better to miss something than make it.    Robert Corrigan of Clam Point, Massachusetts discovered this when he overslept and missed his flight to LA.   He arrived at the departure gate just as his plane was pushing back.   An hour later, he was still at the airport, waiting for a standby flight, when he saw the news that his flight, United #175, had crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center.  Missing that flight saved his life. 

Revelation 15 unfolds the final chapter of the drama of redemption.  The saved and sealed sing of the mercy and grace of God, even as a righteous and holy God sets the stage for His wrath to be poured out against a warned world.   Scripture says that we are all, by nature, children of wrath.   But only through faith in Christ, will we become children of the King and escape the wrath to come.   What about you?  Are you still a child of wrath?  Are seven bowls in your future?  Or will you miss out – miss out on unrepentance, on wrath, on judgement, and on eternal death.    Some things are better to miss than to make.   Join us as we examine Revelation 15:1-8 and consider the great joy of missing out on the righteous and holy judgement of God.

“Missing Out,” Revelation 15:1-8