Part 2 of "Unsealed By the Lamb: Revelation Through the Lamb and His Love"
"This is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us." (1st John 3:23)
The foundation of the book of Revelation is God's testimony of Jesus (the gospel of His grace) and His commands ("love one another as I have loved you"). These commands pierce through everything—and can make us upset more than anything else. It's uncomfortable when the gospel and God's agape love are allowed to shed their light on our interpretations of Revelation, on our pride and our idea of our righteousness, and on our societies and nations.
BY HIS MERCY, NOT OUR WORKS
"Because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions... it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast." (Eph.2:4-5,8-9)
The gospel is an announcement that we are all messed up, and that God has loved us all! There is no room for boasting, even after we have received Him. We did nothing to make Him love us, and our obedience doesn't make Him love us any more:
"When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy." (Titus 3:4-5)
This means that He doesn't love us because we are lawful, nor does He love us because we do good, nor does He love us because we proclaim His name and truth. He loved us while we were still sinners and His enemies. Before we could do anything at all (before any of us were even born!), He tore out His heart (His Son) and gave Him for us on the Cross as the ultimate sacrifice to take away our sins.
IT'S ALL ABOUT HIM!
All of our boasts must go out the window here—our lawfulness, our positions, our politics, and anything that we think "we" are and others are not. He loves our enemies just as much as He loves us—we were all His enemies when He died for us. No person, people, position, DNA or nation holds a favored position because His Son was given for all, which is why "in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value." (Gal.5:6)
He is the Righteous One—none of us are perfect. It's all about Him, not about "us" at any level, nor about who is "on His side" because we were all against Him and He was for us all.
If we're resistant to admitting this and hold onto our boasts, claims and pride, then we're declaring that there is another way to be saved, another way to the Father, and another way to attaining the favor of God. We're then saying that Jesus is not the way, not the Savior, but rather the 'savior' is something else—the way to gain God's favor (and thus the real 'Christ') is then through our politics, our position, our country or another country, circumcision or DNA, etc.
BY THIS ALL PEOPLE WILL KNOW
Naturally we want things to be about us instead of Him, about "us versus them" situations and our righteousness—or our 'right-ness'. We want to be teachers of right and wrong, believers who expose the folly of unbelievers, the lawful convicting the lawless, the righteous preaching to sinners, the godly exposing the wicked, the good defeating the bad, etc.
We want to be known by everything except what Jesus said:
"By this all people will know that you are My disciples,
if you love one another." (John 13:35)
"I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and You in Me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me." (John 17:20-23)
The whole punchline of Him giving us His glory, the whole point of any kind of 'unity' among believers, is to simply let the world know that God loves them. We want the world to know us by our truth, by how right we are or how right what we say is, but Jesus said the world would know us by His love—the 'as I have loved you' agape love of the Lamb for His enemies who crucified Him.
LEAVING HIS LOVE
Jesus said that in the days before He returns, this love would grow cold among most:
"Many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love [agape] of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved." (Matt.24:10-13)
When wars and wickedness increase, Jesus said that many people will leave the faith and leave His agape love. Instead of responding to wickedness with the love with which He loved us (while we were His enemies), a more practical approach is preferred—defeat the wicked enemies! False prophets appear with confirmation, giving divine sanction (or prooftexts) to show that it's right to forsake agape love and you don't have to stand firm in it.
Defeating the dragon becomes the goal rather than standing firm in the Lamb and His love:
"They overcame the dragon
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death." (Rev.12:11)
This is why it was written:
"If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints." (Rev.13:10)
It's easy for us look at each another as being the enemies instead of as brothers and sisters—instead of seeing each other as sinners just like us whom Christ also died for. It's easy to look at things like it's "believers versus the world."
But the way we usually mean 'the world' isn't what Jesus talked about:
"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you... They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God." (Jn.15:18-19,16:2)
We want to think that 'the world' means people who don't believe in God, and people who are not 'with us' who believe. But when Jesus said 'the world', He didn't distinguish between people inside or outside of the religious establishment. 'The world' was outside and inside the religious establishment.
And so, as Jesus said, the agape love of most will grow cold—among those who have enough 'faith' to leave it—that is, among believers.
This is why it is written:
"This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus." (Rev.14:12)
WHAT ARE WE WITHOUT THE TWO COMMANDS?
If we hold onto our pride, glory and claims, we proclaim that there is 'another way' and 'another righteousness' which pleases God and brings about His favor. In other words, we proclaim a different 'Christ'.
And if we find reasons to excuse ourselves from loving one another like He loved us (while we were His enemies), then how are we the sons and daughters of the Father?
"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you that you may be sons of your Father in heaven... Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." (Matt.5:44-45, Lk.6:36)
What do we become when we claim His name but proclaim a different 'Christ', and when we excuse ourselves from practicing the law of Christ?
Part 3: The Antichrist Among Us