Sunday – January 17, 2015 Revelation 13:1-10 “Enter the Beast”

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Revelation 13:1-4
Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names. And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority. I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast; they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast.”

Remember that this is still a parenthetical section describing one of the key forces, kingdoms, and personages of the Tribulation. The Bible has much to say about the plans, schemes and even the theology of our adversary.  In essence, what we have in prophetic Scripture is the rise of the beast and the false prophet is nothing short of the “trinity from hell” in that both are the product of the machinations of that old serpent, the devil or Satan.

Satan in fact as his own trinity – the devil, the beast, and the false prophet (Revelation 16:13). He has his own church, “a synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9). He has his own ministers, “ministers of Satan” (2 Corinthians 11:4-5). He has formulated his own system of theology “doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). His theology is a counterfeit of the systematic study and understanding of God. He has established his own sacrificial system; “The Gentiles…sacrifice to demons” (1 Corinthians 10:20). He has his own communion service, “the cup of demons…and the table of demons” (1 Corinthians 10:21). His ministers proclaim his own gospel, “a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you” (Galatians 1:7-8) to mislead the world. He has his own throne (Revelation 13:2) and his own worshipers (Revelation 13:4).

So Satan has developed a thorough imitation of Christianity, viewed as a system of religion. In his role as the imitator of God, Satan inspires false christs, self-constituted messiahs (Matthew 24:4-5). He employs false teachers who are specialists in his “theology,” to bring in “destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them” (2 Peter 2:1). They are adept at mixing truth and error in such proportions as to make error palatable. They carry on their teaching surreptitiously and often anonymously. He sends out false prophets. “And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many” (Matthew 24:11). He introduces false brethren into the church, who “had sneaked in to spy out our liberty…in order to bring us into bondage” (Galatians 2:4).

As followers of Jesus Christ we cannot allow our hearts and minds to be distracted by what appears to be the real thing. This is why it is so important that each of us take to heart and put into practice the admonition of the apostle Paul when he exhorted us to “test all things; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). May we  be people of discernment and wisdom in order to distinguish between what is of God and what is counterfeit.

Sunday – January 10, 2015 Revelation 12:1-17 “This Means War!”

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Revelation 12:10-11
“… Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. 11 And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.”

Would you recognize Satan if you saw him? Is Satan an extremely good looking man with cold dark eyes, dressed with a red cape and cane? Or does he have horns and carry a pitchfork? Hollywood has done much to sell the stereotype to the masses, but the masses are no longer buying that Satan even existed.  The research of Christian pollster George Barna indicates that nearly 60% of Americans say that Satan is not a living being but is a symbol of evil. His research also indicates that 45% of born-again Christians deny Satan’s existence. Isn’t this sad? We are falling victim to Satan’s greatest deception: to convince us that he does not exist.

Yet the Bible insists that Satan is a powerful, literal, supernatural being who must be taken seriously. From cover to cover, the Bible warns us that we’re in a war! But our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers of darkness (Eph 6:12). In Revelation 12 we will learn the simple principle that we must “know our enemy.” If we fail to know and understand our enemy, we’ll fall prey to his surprise attacks and lose many earthly battles.

John describes for us in this chapter a panoramic view of the angelic conflict and of the supernatural forces of darkness that are ever at work in the world and have been since the fall of Satan when he drew with him a host of angels who chose to follow Satan rather than God. Here is a sure fact of human history. Though generally unseen with the physical eye, it is quite clear through the revelation of God and occasionally obvious in certain demonic activity seen in the world in the demon possessed. Even then, many reject the cause as demonic and attribute it to some other paranormal source. But the Apostle Paul makes clear reference to this conflict in Ephesians 2:2 and again in 6:11-12. In Ephesians 6:11-12 we are told: “Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

But in Revelation 12 we also see the anticipation of Satan’s doom and that of his kingdom, though the rest of the story or the prophecy of his final doom is withheld until chapter 20. The great promise of the Bible is twofold: First, believers are victors through the victory of the Lord Jesus. Our need is to put on the full armor of God and to resist the devil in the victory of the Savior by always drawing near to the Lord. The second great promise is that Satan is a defeated foe whose days of freedom to create misery and pain and deception are numbered.

Sunday–January 3, 2016 Rev 11:1-19 “The Rise and Fall of the Two Witnesses”

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Revelation 11:15-18
 “Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign.”

True worship results in action befitting the attitudes of the heart. So here, the 24 elders (the representatives of the church age saints who have already received their crowns and cast them before God) now recognize that it is time, or soon will be, for the reward of Old Testament and Tribulation saints. The coming of the kingdom will be connected with the giving of rewards to the faithful servants of God (Matt. 24:42-25:30). In recognition of God’s faithfulness to His people and the sovereign actions of God, they rise from their thrones (wherein they reign with Christ) and fall on their faces in deep respect and adoration of God. While they reign with Him they recognize that this is all because of who and what God is and what He has accomplished through the Lord Jesus.

In these verses thanksgiving is given for five things. Two are ascriptions of praise to God regarding His person and three are assignments to which God has committed Himself. First, continual thanks (present tense) for God’s person. Second, thanks are given because at this point in history God will be exercising His complete sovereignty. Then, thanks are given because now God truly, through the exercise of His great power, begins to reign. Fourth, thanks for the display of God’s wrath. And finally, thanks are given for the judgment and reward of Old Testament saints — including Tribulation saints.

The picture in 11:15-19 is panoramic of the rest of the tribulation. In these five verses the victory over God’s enemies and the establishment of His kingdom are announced. The record of this judgment appears in Chapter 16. The millennial reign of Christ will last for only 1,000 years, but the reign of Christ will continue on throughout all eternity in the new heavens and the new earth. So here we have the fulfillment of many Old Testament prophecies that look forward to the eternal rule of God when God’s purposes will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In baseball, the home team bats in the bottom half of the inning. This allows the visiting team to bat first. It also gives the home team, the opportunity to either win or lose the game in the bottom of the ninth. Today, it is the top of the inning and people are at bat. However, there will be a day when that will cease and God will walk to the plate in the bottom of the ninth. Man’s day will come to an end and God’s day will begin. One day God’s forecasting clock will strike suddenly and surely. Only God knows the timing. I need to ask you today: Are you ready?

Sunday – December 27, 2015 Revelation 10:1-11 “The Bittersweet Book”

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Revelation 10:9-11
“So I went to the angel, telling him to give me the little book. And he said to me, “Take it and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.”  I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and in my mouth it was sweet as honey; and when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter.”

You’ve heard the old adage, “You are what you eat.” Well, it’s actually true. When you eat a burger, your body metabolizes it. It assimilates and converts it to energy and the building material to create flesh and bone. That burger eventually becomes a part of your body, whether you like it or not. You bear it on your body. The same ought to be true with God’s Word. You should begin to act and look more like Jesus Christ. Every day and in every way, people ought to be able to say: “I’m becoming more like Christ.”

This angel tells John that this book “will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” This is a sweet and sour scroll. God’s Word can be bittersweet and hard to digest. Sometimes God’s Word can give us heartburn; other times it is sweet to the taste. We must understand that prophecy and Scripture, as a whole, is bittersweet. There are sweet promises in the Bible, but there are also bitter warnings. God’s Word can bring joy to our heart but at times it brings sorrow. It both blesses us and burdens us. People get excited about studying prophecy. Unquestionably, there are some exciting things about this book — a sweet taste. But it also burdens the believer about his unsaved family and friends and is a stern warning of judgment to come to the unbeliever.

This revelation was pleasant at first because it was a revelation from God. Please note that John tastes God’s revealed Word. It is not enough to see the book in someone’s hand or even to know what it contains. We must assimilate it and digest it. Too many Christians do not make the Word part of their inner being. Yet, our privilege as believers is not only to read the Bible but also to assimilate it into our lives. God won’t force-feed us with His Word; rather, He exhorts us to take it from His hand, eat it and assimilate it into our lives. The Word of God is the food of the Christian. It is compared to bread (Matt 4:4), milk (1 Pet 2:2), meat (1 Cor 3:1-2), and honey (Ps 119:103).

Still, as John meditated on it and comprehended the fearful judgments that it predicted, he became distressed. Have you ever experienced the sweet and bitter dimensions of God’s Word? We read of God’s love and mercy toward us, His eternal plan of salvation, His promise to give us a future and a hope, and the assurance of eternal life. That’s sweet. But then the Word also speaks directly to areas in our lives that may require change. Maybe your behavior or lifestyle dishonors God and is in direct violation of His Word. Maybe you have excused a bad attitude or a critical spirit in your life. At times, God’s Word can be a painful tool of correction. But it is always redemptive. It is always for our good. I would suggest to you that you haven’t really learned the Word until you live the Word. So how are you living? What difference has the book of Revelation made in your life?

Sunday – December 20, 2015 Christmas Message

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Luke 1:46-48
“And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.”

Mary’s hymn of praise overflows with information about the attributes of God. But it’s not dry, academic information. Mary exults in God as she considers what He has done in choosing her to be the mother of the Savior. She calls Him “God my Savior,” because Mary knew she was a sinner; since no one but sinners need a Savior. Everyone who realizes they need a “Savior” understands they are lost and alienated from God because of the sin they personally have committed. We don’t just need a little boost from God to set things right or a few tips on how to succeed in life. Savior is a radical term that implies that we are helplessly, hopelessly lost unless God in His mighty power intervenes to rescue us.

Mary refers to God’s power when she speaks of how, “He has done mighty deeds with His arm,” referring to His scattering the proud, who would scoff at the notion that they needed a Savior. Pride is a heart attitude of self-sufficiency, not humility. The proud person thinks that he doesn’t need God. God is mighty in mercy to the humble, but mighty in judgment toward the proud. Mary also teaches that God’s name is holy. His name refers to His person, the sum of His attributes. To be holy means to be set apart. In this context, it refers not only to God’s absolute moral righteousness, but also to His being set apart as the only sovereign authority over people. He is to be held in highest esteem and to be feared because He is holy.

Thankfully, Mary does not leave us with just these attributes of God, or we would not dare to approach Him. She goes on to emphasize God’s mercy, “His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him … He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy.” Mercy tells us of God’s compassion due to our misery as sinners. His mercy is on those who recognize His holiness and bow in reverence before Him. It was His mercy that caused Him to send the Savior. How wonderful would it be if everyone acknowledged their need of the mercy of the Lord like Mary did?

You can’t pick and choose which attributes of God you like, and ignore the rest. God isn’t operating a religious cafeteria. You come to Him His way, as a guilty sinner needing a Savior, or not at all. If you repent of your pride and selfishness and sin, and come to the cross, He will pour out His tender mercy on you. If you proudly cling to your own righteousness and self-sufficiency, God will send you away empty. And if God sends you away empty, you are absolutely empty. You don’t want to go into eternity empty, without God’s mercy. Come to the Savior this Christmas.

Sunday – December 13, 2015 Revelation 9:1-21 “All Hell Breaks Loose”

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Revelation 9:11-12
“They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon. The first woe is past: behold, two woes are still coming after these things.”

The career of Satan, which extends from the dateless past, before man’s creation (Job. 38:7), to eternity future, is inclusive in the Bible and forms a major and an important doctrine of the Word of God. Some people might question, “Why should we even study about the devil. After all, there is enough trouble in life.” But not to do so is to ignore a considerable portion of God’s revelation to us in Scripture. Satan is mentioned throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. While our need is to dwell on the riches of Christ rather than on Satan and the demons, we do need to know this doctrine of the Bible that we might be alert to whom and what he is. So the Apostle Peter exhorts us to be alert to the devil and his tactics by standing “firm in the faith,” the body of truth that we need know and believe.

Unfortunately, because many people are ignorant of his nature and schemes, they become sitting ducks for his attacks. Some, of course, go way beyond the teaching of Scripture and find a demon behind every problem they face. Rather than accepting responsibility for personal actions, such as by Eve who blamed the serpent for her choice, or others who claim the devil made them do it, many may talk about the devil, but often with tongue-in-cheek. They refuse to believe in a personal devil and ridicule the whole idea. For many others, Satan or the devil is just an evil influence at work in the world as he is described in the Bible.

The title “Satan” occurs 53 times in 47 verses in the Bible. The primary idea is: adversary, one who withstands. It points to Satan as the opponent of God, of believers, and all that is righteous and good. Another name is given to him in our passage. Abaddon is the Greek form and Apollyon is the Hebrew equivalent that means destroyer or  destruction. The name connects Satan as being the head over the demons of the abyss and their work of destruction that will occur when he is given the key to the abyss in the Tribulation and releases these demon hordes on the people of the earth. Primarily, however, this title stresses his work of destruction; he works to destroy the glory of God and God’s purpose with man. He further works to destroy societies and mankind.

Wise military leaders and coaches never go into battle without carefully studying their opponents. They want to know how they operate and understand their strengths and weaknesses. To be effective against the enemy, you must know your enemy so you can be prepared to effectively counter his attacks. Christians need to be informed as Paul wrote, “but I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray . . .” (2 Cor 11:3).

Sunday – December 6, 2015 Revelation 8:1-13 “The Worst is Yet to Come”

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Revelation 8:13
“Then I looked, and I heard an eagle flying in midheaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!”

I think most of us would agree at the outset that these prophetic books are among the most difficult parts of the Bible to interpret or to read with understanding. We shouldn’t be embarrassed to admit we have difficulty reading the prophets. In referring to the prophets, Martin Luther once said the following: “They have a queer way of talking, like people who, instead of proceeding in an orderly manner, ramble off from one thing to the next so that you cannot make heads or tails of them or see what they are getting at.” Now that is a comment to which I can relate.

The primary difficulty for most modern readers of the prophets stems from an inaccurate understanding of the words “prophet” and “prophecy.” The word prophet refers to one who tells forth (or proclaims), as well as one who foretells. But we often limit the meaning of prophecy to foretelling the future, so many Christians refer to the prophets only for predictions about Christ’s first coming, or his second coming, and the end times as though prediction of events far distant to their own day was their main concern.

It should be pointed out that less than 2% of Old Testament prophecy is messianic. Less than 5% specifically concerns the New Covenant age. The prophets did indeed announce the future, but it was usually the immediate future of Israel, Judah, and the surrounding nations, not our future – except here in the Book of Revelation. To see the prophets as primarily predictors of future events is to miss their primary function, which was, in fact, to speak for God to their contemporaries.

Through the prophets, God makes predictions of imminent doom using the device of the “woe,” and no Israelite could miss the significance of the use of that word. Woe oracles contain, either explicitly or implicitly, three elements that uniquely characterize this form: an announcement of distress (the word “Woe,” for example), the reason for the distress, and a prediction of doom. You can read Habakkuk 2:6-8 as an example of a woe oracle spoken against Babylon. The oracle announces “woe” in Verse 6. The reason is also given in Verse 6, where Babylon is personified as a thief and extortionist. Disaster is predicted in Verses 7-8, when all those Babylon has oppressed will one day rise up against it.

So what was it the prophets were seeking in their ministry? You might say restoration and a restored covenant relationship with God. Yes, that was the ultimate goal. But what the prophets truly sought was repentance. Restoration was the goal, but repentance is what they hoped to see from the people. In fact, this message of the prophets was so prevalent that Zechariah (one of the last prophets) was able to sum up in one sentence all the prophets that preceded him: “the earlier prophets proclaimed: Thus says the Lord of Hosts, turn from your evil ways and doings,” (Zechariah 1:4). The heart of Revelation is that all would come to repentance so that none would perish. And this is one reason the study of Revelation is so important to the church today.

Sunday – November 29, 2015 Revelation 7:1-17 “Saints on Earth & in Heaven”

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Revelation 7:13-14
“Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

The word “tribulation” comes from the Greek word meaning “affliction/distress.” It is used in general about any kind of testing, affliction or distress which people experience throughout life, and especially about the church and her problems in this world (Acts 7:10-11). But Bible students have also used the term, “the Tribulation,” to refer to a specific eschatological time of trouble, a special time of judgment from God that will come upon the entire world, that will be unprecedented in its affliction, and will be culminated by the personal return of Jesus Christ to earth. There are many passages that anticipate this time of trouble under a variety of names (see below), but two very special passages are Matthew 24:4-21 and Revelation chapters 6 to 19.

It should be noted that the word tribulation is used prophetically Lord only in Matthew 24 and Revelation 7 to describe the distress that will occur in this specific future time of trouble preceding the return of the Lord. Each of these passages is dealing with the time of Daniel’s seventieth week, also called the “time of Jacob’s distress” (Jer. 30:7). The word “tribulation” refers to conditions in the last half of this time period and is either described by some qualifying terms like “great” (Matt. 24:21; Rev. 7:14), by a clause describing the unprecedented nature of the distress in the last half of this short period of time.

These days are a time of unprecedented trouble. Everything about it will be unprecedented in terms of destruction and global catastrophe. It is a time of extreme deception and delusion as Paul discusses in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-12. This deception is caused by a number of factors but primarily from the removal of the Spirit indwelt church with its restraining influence and the increase of demonic activity. The result of this tribulation will be the martyrdom of believers in Jesus Christ, both Jew and Gentile.

But since this seven-year period is a time of trouble (distress) involving judgments that will be poured out as the Lamb consecutively opens the seven-sealed scroll, Bible students often referred to this entire period as “the Tribulation,” and rightly so. Since the judgments of the seals, the trumpets, and plagues grow in intensity, the last half is by far greater than the first half and for this reason and it is called in Scripture, “the Great Tribulation.”

Sunday – November 22, 2015 Revelation 6:9-17 “Martyrdom & Doomsday”

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Revelation 6:9-10
When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”

My heart has been heavy as I read and hear news reports of IS (Islamic State) and their attacks in Paris. IS released a video, in which they announced a threat, “Our message to the entire world is that we are the soldiers of the Caliphate state and we are coming.” So much of what we are seeing unfold in the Middle East characterizes what has happened to Christians throughout history in that region as well as other restricted nations. Throughout church history, there are numerous examples of radical religious groups and political tyrants that have persecuted God’s people to the point of death.

During the fifth century, Christians in a city in present-day Iraq called Kirkuk came under severe persecution. (Kirkuk was a part of the Persian Empire at that time.) Influenced by Zoroastrian priests, the emperor, Yazdegerd II, didn’t think Christians were capable of being loyal subjects of his empire, so he ordered they be eliminated – murdered – in A.D. 448. History estimates 153,000 leaders, clergy and laypeople were rounded up, taken to a mount outside of Kirkuk and slaughtered. The chief prosecutor, Tamasgerd, was so moved by the Christians’ resolve that he, too, placed his faith in Christ and followed them in death.

As we read and hear reports of the brutality happening in Paris, pray for members of IS. Pray they come face to face with Jesus Christ and give their lives to Him. Pray they will be overcome with the courage and endurance of the believers they persecute and choose to place their faith in Christ – like the chief prosecutor Tamasgerd during the massacre of Christians in Kirkuk in the 5th century. Pray for those workers on the front lines who risk their lives to witness in hostile circumstances. Finally, reach out to Muslims in our community and show them the love of Christ with the intent of winning them for Him. So many have come to the U.S. in pursuit of a better life and more will be coming. They, too, need to hear about Jesus Christ.

We are studying the Book of Revelation and we know who will ultimately win the battle – the Lord Jesus Christ. Until that day, when Jesus makes His final return to take His rightful place, you must stand with our persecuted family by choosing to fellowship with them through your prayers and actions. One day we will be in the cross hairs of persecution and will need the prayers and support of the Body of Christ as we stand for Jesus Christ.

Sunday – November 15, 2015 Revelation 6:1-8 “The Horse Riders”

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Revelation 6:1-2
Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.”

If you’ve talked with people about the gospel, you’ve heard the question, “Is God fair to judge those who have never heard about Jesus Christ?” Will they go to hell because they did not believe in Jesus when they never heard of Him? Another variation of the question is, “Won’t those who have done the best that they could do get into heaven?”

Paul settles the matter of God’s judgment in Romans 2:11, “For there is no partiality with God.” God will judge everyone with perfect justice. Paul is anticipating a Jewish objection, “But surely God will treat us more favorably than the pagan Gentiles. We know God’s ways as revealed in His Law, but they don’t!” Or, perhaps a Gentile would object, “It’s not fair for God to judge me for disobeying a standard that I knew nothing about! I’ve done the best that I could with what I knew. God won’t judge me, will He?”

Jesus made the astounding claim in John 5:22-23, “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father.” There couldn’t be a clearer claim to deity than that! For Christ to sit in judgment of all men, He must have infinite knowledge, which only God can have. Also, this means that if you have a picture in your mind of Jesus as being all-loving and never judgmental, then you do not have the biblical picture of Jesus. He described Himself as the judge of all. In Revelation 19:11-15, He returns on a white horse to judge and wage war. His eyes are a flame of fire. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood. From His mouth comes a sharp sword to strike down the nations. “He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty” (19:15). So if that isn’t your image of Jesus, you need to change your thinking!

If we do not preach the coming judgment and wrath of God, we do not preach the gospel at all. We would be like a surgeon who didn’t want to tell his patient that he is ill. He hopes to heal him without his knowing that he was sick. So he flatters him that he is well and the man refuses the cure. Such a doctor would be a murderer. And so are we, if we do not warn people about God’s impartial, certain judgment of our every secret, and then point them to the good news that Christ offers forgiveness to repentant sinners as their only hope.