The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Friday, March 4, 2016

"Do not be Afraid"


And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. - Revelation 1:17


Are you looking at the presidential candidates for the United States of America and feeling fear rise concerning any or all of the possible outcomes for the highest position in the land? Are you looking at your monthly bills; your monthly credit card statements; your monthly medical bills; your monthly transportation or food bills and fearfully wondering how you are going to make ends meet? Are you looking at your marriage or your children or friends and fearful over what the future holds? Are you feeling a bit paranoid about Big Brother watching you, or the dangers of identity theft, or loss of freedoms? Are you looking at climate change, natural disasters, alien sightings, wars and rumors of wars, and the state of the world in general and feeling anxious and unsettled? Whatever anxiety or fears you may be feeling in whatever circumstances of life, Jesus has a word for you - "Do not be afraid."


The book of Revelation is an incredible inspired-by-God book. It is a book about the end times of human history. Some say it's a sealed book and avoid studying it. Others cut away parts and try to disregard it as irrelevant to our day reasoning it was mostly fulfilled in the first century. And still others reduce its contents to a squabble of symbolisms. But to shut the door on Revelation or relegate it to irrelevance like Preterists or reduce it to subjective interpretations like Amellenialists, you have to manipulate and force the round pieces of Revelation into square holes; it just doesn't fit. No, Revelation has a clear word of comfort. It is a word from Jesus to us. That word is, "Do not be afraid."


The book of Revelation is an unveiling (which is exactly what the term "revelation" means). It is an unveiling and disclosure about Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:1). It isn't primarily about the Apostle John. It isn't primarily about the church, history, or even the unfolding of the end times events on God's prophetic calendar. It includes all of those things in its pages, but its primary focus is Jesus Christ. If you're going to understand this great book you have to see it in light of Jesus. The spotlight of Revelation is always on Jesus. And He's holding up a sign for us that reads, "Do not be afraid."


The book of Revelation is the only biblical book of the Bible that carries a promised blessing to the one who reads it, hears it, and who practically implements its principles in life (Rev. 1:3). There's always a blessing when we read, hear and live in light of Jesus.


Jesus says a lot in His book of Revelation. He speaks to the church through seven letters, commending, correcting and encouraging them (Rev. 2-3). We see Jesus the Lamb and King worshipped in heaven (Rev. 4). We see Jesus exalted as the only one qualified to take in hand the title deed of the earth (Rev. 5). We see Jesus' ultimate Millenial rule on earth (Rev. 20). Jesus is, after all, "the ruler over the kings of the earth" (Rev. 1:5). Jesus is in control; always.

And because Jesus is in control, always, we should listen closely when He says, "Do not be afraid."


The book of Revelation is an unveiling of world events as they revolve around Jesus and His rule. There are a lot of convicting challenges laid out by Jesus to His bride the church (Rev. 2-3). The apostle John in the opening lines of this great book falls at the feet of Jesus as dead, overcome with the majesty and glory of the risen Lord Jesus (Rev. 1:17a). And when John is fallen and overcome with the presence of Jesus, Jesus gently lays His hand on the shoulder of the apostle and says those comforting assuring words, "Do not be afraid." Jesus says, "Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last." Jesus can tell John, and us, to not be afraid because He is there at "the First," and He will be there at, "the Last." He is with us when the trouble starts. And He stays with us until the trouble ends. Jesus is "faithful and true" (Rev. 3:14; 19:11; 22:6).


In the Gospels Jesus says, "And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). In Revelation when He tells us not to be afraid it's as though He is saying, "I told you so." You can count on Jesus. So when you're tempted to be fearful, to think everything is out of control, and to think terrible things are inevitably in our future, remember the words of the faithful and true witness Jesus, "Do not be afraid."


Jesus says, "Do not be afraid," to the individual like John and to the church as a whole as represented by John (e.g. Rev. 4:1ff.). There are admittedly a lot of scary and tumultuous events in earth's future. Revelation 6-18 lays out in great detail the events of the Tribulation; a seven year period of God's justly outpoured wrath on a Christ-rejecting world. There will be seven seals of events that will shake up the world (Rev. 6-8). There will be seven trumpet blasts announcing the a scenario that leads to the triumph of the Lamb (Rev. 8-14). And there will be seven bowls of the complete righteous wrath of God poured out on this sinful world (Rev. 15-18). The literal foundations of the earth will be moved out of place. Every alternative to God fallen sinful humanity has been trusting in will be shaken and moved out of place. Nothing outside of Jesus will be stable and dependable. But you Christian, "Do not be afraid."


Then at His Second Coming, the surviving sinner will see Jesus, the Captain of the Lord's Army, the KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS, eyes aflame with heart piercing fire, crowned with truth confirming glory, a robe dipped in His righteous redemptive blood and inscribed with the everlasting "Word of God." To the sinner, time will have run out. But for the Tribulation saint and those who accompany Jesus from heaven, it will be clear as though without even a word Jesus is saying, "See, you should not have been afraid."


I think it's interesting and telling and yes, very comforting, that the introduction to this great book of revelations about the great culmination of world events, frightening events, cataclysmic events, that Jesus makes sure to tell John, and to tell us, "Do not be afraid." That's a truth that we need to receive in faith. That's a word of hope; an anchor for our soul to keep us from drifting in troubled waters (e.g. Heb. 6:19). The future may be uncertain in many ways, but because we are assured that Jesus holds our future, we can proceed unafraid.


Are you afraid? Are you afraid right now? Are you troubled and consumed with fear and anxiety and worry about your life circumstances personally and the nation and world generally? If so we have a word from Jesus to get us through. That word is from the Lord. That word is, "Do not be afraid." "Do not be afraid." "Do not be afraid." No matter what, "Do not be afraid." Amen.

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