Friday, May 18, 2012

The Bittersweet Scroll

Part 8 of "Unsealed By the Lamb: Revelation Through the Lamb and His Love"

The heart of Revelation is God's call to share in His heart—to know His Son, the Lamb, and to share His love as He commanded.

The testimony of Jesus: "We have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God." (1 Jn.4:14-15)

The commandments of God: "Beloved, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." (1 Jn.4:11)


"We have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God in them." (1 Jn 4:16)

God's commands are not 'orders' from the commander to be obeyed. Instead His commands ("believe in Christ" and "love as He did" - 1 Jn.3:23) are an invitation to step under the waterfall of His passion for us, and to let that same passion carry us where He wills to pour down like a torrent on others.

God is calling us to share in His heart of love, to be smitten by His love for us, and to allow ourselves to be smitten by His love for others. He gave and showed us His heart on the Cross, and calls us to simply believe in His love for us—for all humankind. Then, He calls us to abide in that love—the love of the Cross, loving humankind so much that He gave His all for them.


It's natural for us to want Him to come back, for us to want to see Him face to face. And part of us groans because of the pain and suffering that continue in life until He returns. And then, part of us wants to know what we can do to "hasten" His coming, forgetting why He waits:

"The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Pet.3:9)

"The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let the one who hears say, 'Come! Whoever is thirsty, let them come; and whoever wishes, let them take the free gift of the water of life.'" (Rev.22:17)

The "Come!" that the Spirit calls us to cry out is not to Jesus. He is not waiting for us to cry out more passionately for Him to return. Instead He is calling us to be filled with His love for people, to desire as He does that they know and accept His life-giving love. The "Come!" that He calls us to cry out is to them, not to Him.

The nations are His inheritance (Ps.2:8), and He wants us to share in His inheritance (Rom.8:17, Gal.4:7). Jesus wants to have our neighbors—and our enemies—as His beloved bride forever. And He wants us to want them, too, just like He wants them.

While He has called us to eagerly await His coming (2 Pet.3:12), if we try to look in Scripture and prophecy for the things we need to do to 'hasten' or help arrange things for His coming, subtly we begin to miss His heart for people and can even lose sight of who He really is:

"Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."
(1 Jn 4:8)


Before He returns, there are things that will happen, and His testimony must be spoken (His two witnesses) in the midst of these things to many peoples, nations, languages and kings.

"The voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: 'Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.' So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, 'Take it and eat it. It will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.' I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter. Then I was told, 'You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.'" (Rev.10:8-11)

When we read Revelation, we see that He triumphs in the end and that He brings His beloved people safely through great tribulation, persecution, and earth-shaking calamities. We hear that He is the victorious Lion of Judah and we are His beloved bride. This is good news, and it is truly sweet to our taste!

Naturally we assume, then, that when He sends us to prophesy to 'the world', it's because they have grown more wicked, and He wants us to preach righteousness to convict them of their sins, and call them to repentance because judgment is at hand.

That sounds sweet to us through and through. But the scroll He gives us, though sweet in our mouths, will make our stomachs bitter and cause us to put on sackcloth—the garment of repentance—as we prophesy.


As He guides our eyes to the center of the throne, where we expect to see this Lion who has triumphed, instead we behold the Lamb who was slain—the center of who He is. He begins to show us that it is only the Lamb who unseals the scroll for us. We are eager to see Christ returning victoriously, but He calls us to look back to Him crucified in weakness. He reminds us that He calls us to walk in His steps, to carry our cross. He calls us to love our enemies just like He loved us. The scroll begins to become bitter in our stomachs.

By showing us Himself—dying, in love with His enemies—He shatters our simple "righteous vs. wicked" view of the end times. He stops our rejoicing in trying to figure out or point out who the "good guys" or "bad guys" are in the end times. He's calling us to intercession, not triumphalism. He is calling us to share His heart of agape love—His sacrificial love given even for His enemies—because He is agape love.

And He said that the nations would know us by His agape love in us (Jn.13:35). But in the last days, the agape love of most believers will turn cold (Mt.24:12). The 'rebellion' begins among those who had once submitted to Him; it happens 'in His temple'—and we are His temple (2 Thes.2:3-4, 1 Cor.3:16-17). 'Lawlessness' means forsaking Christ's law of agape love—to love one another as He loved us on the Cross while we were still His enemies.

We want to prophesy to the nations of 'the world' about their sin, but God tells us that judgment begins with us first instead (1 Pet.4:17).

And as we look, we behold grievous things among us:

We put our place and nation ahead of His law of agape love.
We profess His name but bend His word to support our righteousness.
We put our earthly kingdom first over the heavenly kingdom.
We seek power to keep our prosperity and gain even more.
We tell the world to seek God's favor through earthly alliances.
We prophesy in His name but turn away from His command.

He gives us more understanding than we bargained for. He shares His heart with us—not only His joy, but also His grief.

He shows us that we have taken the Lamb and His love out of the center of the throne in our hearts, and we have pursued His attributes in the four living creatures instead:

We have wanted to be "the lion", having the place of power.
We have wanted to be "the ox", performing His righteous works.
We have wanted to be the "face" of man, declaring worthiness.
We have wanted to be the "eagle", declaring His judgments.

And so He sends us out in sackcloth to repent for our prostitution. We have been Babylon, not the world! We have taught an "anti-Christ" made in our own image, supporting us and our ways, rather than following in His agape love for our neighbors and enemies. We have been the "False Prophet", declaring His favor for one nation above all others, and trying to persuade other nations to favor that nation, too.


Father, forgive us. We have taken Your words in Revelation and interpreted them in a way that makes us feel good about our righteousness and vindicated about the wickedness of the world. We have wanted Your Son to return, and we've wanted to enjoy Heaven, but we have wandered from Your heart, Father. We don't like the idea that You love our enemies just as much as You love us, and that You want us to love them. Somehow we think that we've earned Your favor, and they have to earn it, too.

Forgive us, Jesus, for trying to 'conquer' in Your name. You have already conquered on the Cross, calling all people through Your love. But we have tried to use law, politics and power to make people righteous and obedient to You. It didn't work for ancient Israel, but we have forgotten and returned to the ways of the old covenant anyway. We have tried to speed up Your coming, expecting a 'Messiah' just like the one Judea expected and the one that Jerusalem expects today. We have tried to move pieces into place for that 'Messiah' to come, preaching the values of that 'Messiah' and subverting Your command of agape love, Jesus. We have lost sight of the Cross, Jesus, and have tried to arrange for a kingdom that is not Yours. And just like ancient Israel, below the surface all kinds of desires steered our course. We have claimed Your name, Jesus, but have sought power and profit. We have served Mammon in Your name.

Forgive us, Holy Spirit, because we have testified to the righteousness of a nation as the way to the favor of God instead of testifying to Jesus as the only way. We have broken from Your testimony of Christ, Holy Spirit, and have welcomed among us the spirit of antichrist. We have rebelled against the spirit of prophecy, and we have rebelled against Your heart of agape love.

Lord, send us out in sackcloth—in repentance—to those we have wounded in Your name. Even to our enemies. In Jesus' name, amen.


Part 9: "The Third Seal"—Unfair Scales

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Be blessed in His heart today! His heart is for you!