By Samuel Clough
The following in an excerpt from my upcoming book “The Revelation of Jesus Christ”, a full commentary on the book of Revelation. The book should be available fall 2011.
He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints…Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. – Revelation 13:10;14:12 NKJV
Revelation 13:10 contains one of the more difficult statements for the saints in the entire book of Revelation, but understanding and receiving it opens us up to the knowledge of God. If we do not understand it, then we lack the knowledge of God and risk being offended and alienated from Him in times of trial and persecution. If we understand it but do not receive it, then we register an offense with God which separates us from Him. When we are offended with God, the natural result is either turning away completely or embracing a modified God, an idol of our making devoid of those elements of God that we find offensive.
The main thrust of the passage is that God actually decrees and approves of the persecution of the saints at the end of the age. Before you move on quickly to read the rest of the book, consider very carefully what was just said. The beast will be the agent of persecution against the saints at the end of the age—and make no mistake, he hates them with a perfect hatred—but God is actually the one decreeing and assenting to the persecution. The heart must then ask, how is it that God will allow His own saints to be executed? Why is it that He will give them into the hands of the most cruel man who will ever have lived? How can the God of infinite love, who desires His saints, be content to speak of the saints as those to be taken captive and those to be slain?
This question is not just for the end times, but it is fundamental to our understanding of God now. Jesus Himself promised the saints tribulation (Matthew 24:9, John 16:33). The history of the saints ever since Jesus’ ascension proves His prediction to be true and must provoke us to answer the question that clearly arises from this text.
Is God uncaring? Is God an accomplice of evil? Why does God not act? If we do not answer this question and answer it well, we will either live in superficiality, ignoring a significant question about the nature of God, or we will become offended with God and devoid of any real relationship with Him; even if we continue religious practices and appearances, deep within we will deeply distrust Him.
The issue of the persecution of the saints is a fundamental issue for the saints past, present, and future. First, we must ask why the saints are persecuted. The saints are persecuted because this age is under the delusion of rebellion, and the saints are the sole witness of light against that darkness. Jesus left the saints as His witness in this age (Acts 1:8). The earth is content to remain in darkness, but God is not content for men to perish in their darkness without a witness and thus the saints are witnesses of the light. The same world that executed Jesus to eradicate His witness is then constantly confronted by that same witness in the saints. The saints are the salt in the earth’s wound, constantly declaring the knowledge of God both in their living and in their speaking (Revelation 12:11).
The earth would prefer to forget the ruler of the heavens and succumb to the inebriation of the rebellion. The saints alone stand firm as a reminder that this present age is temporary and is headed for a comprehensive judgment at the end of the age at the hands of the Messiah. The saints spoil the party by being the constant reminder of the judgment to come. While the witness of the saints accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit will lead many to repentance, history shows that most men would prefer to silence the voice of the saints and the reminder of the judgment to come rather than to repent and receive life. This animosity will reach its zenith at the end of the age when the planet is under the sway of the beast. Answering this question, then, is critical to understanding the events that John is describing.
The answer to this question is found at the end of the verse. This declaration is written as a call for the endurance and the faith of the saints (the saints are also called to endurance in Revelation 14:12). Endurance and faith will be the two primary qualities the saints need to match the intensity of the persecution at the end of the age. Endurance will be needed because the persecution will be so intense that the natural response of the human heart will be to give up and succumb to the pressure. The temptation to compromise will never be stronger due to the unique dynamics of that time.
We often think that overcoming is a glorious thing, but there are dynamic times in history when overcoming is simply enduring.
The second call to the saints is the call of faith, or trust, and this is really the core issue. As has been noted several times, God Himself is the architect of the events of the end of the age. He is going to put wickedness on full display so that sin might be fully revealed and Jesus might be fully glorified. The saints will be tempted to feel offense at God when they begin to endure massive persecutions that are actually part of His plan. So many are going to fall away, unable to cope with the present persecutions because of their insufficient understanding of God.
John calls us to have faith, or trust, in God despite the events we endure. We have to have full faith and confidence in the perfection of God. He will judge rightly at the end of the age. So many saints are offended because they expect God to administer immediate rewards as well as immediate punishments and so they have no capacity either to endure or to trust. How many fall away because they perceive their good words to go unrewarded and because they perceive evil to go unpunished? How many cannot deal with what they perceive to be the triumph of evil and tragedy? How often has it been heard amidst wars, disaster, calamity, or personal loss, “how could a good God exist and allow this?” The problem is that our hearts are quick to accuse God when our sense of right and wrong is not satisfied.
Our horizon is so narrow that we desire immediate rewards and immediate judgments rather than God’s ultimate judgments and rewards, which exist outside of the brief span of this age.
Ever since the garden of Eden, the heart of man has been deceived to the point that man believes that he can rightly judge God. We believe that we are capable of determining when God is acting justly and when He is not. While the message of the garden is that man is not sufficient to actually judge what is good and what is evil, we continue in our deception and constantly judge God Himself, weighing His actions according to our own understanding of what is permissible and good.
When faced with a persecution of the magnitude of what is coming at the end of the age, men’s hearts are going to be unable to consider that a good God would allow such violence against the saints. A root of offense will grow in many hearts, and they will ultimately fall away from the faith, completely unable to reconcile their own conviction of right and wrong with the actions of God.
The call to the saints, then, is found in the obedience of Jesus. Faced with His Father’s call, Jesus sweated great drops of blood and even asked that the cup of His Father’s wrath might be avoided. But after offering up intercession, He set His face like flint to obey the Father. He had full confidence that He could trust God.
God handed Him over to the Romans and they promptly humiliated Him beyond the humiliation that any other man has endured. They flogged Him and tortured Him. He was left marred beyond any other man and unrecognizable. They nailed Him, naked and humiliated, to an excruciatingly painful instrument of death. To top it off, He was openly ridiculed by the religious leaders. Through it all, God stood silent as the Son endured agony. The silence was so deafening that Jesus cried out, “Why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)
Have we fully considered the Son there in agony and humiliation, so devoid of the Father’s presence that He cried out as One totally forsaken? Can any imagine what He was enduring? Now, tell me who among us can nod amen to that agony and humiliation and say that it is the wisdom and beauty of God?
Years and years of Sunday school stories have sanitized the whole incident to the point that Jesus dying on the cross is now thought to be the most logical thing possible.
Saints, to the human heart Jesus’ execution on the cross is not the most logical thing, but rather the most offensive thing possible. The very idea that it was the perfect plan of God to so humiliate and torture Himself is preposterous to human reason. It is no wonder that the Jews rejected the idea of a Messiah who had endured such humiliation. Our lack of understanding of what the Son actually endured is what makes us so quick to embrace the message of the cross. If we could actually see and feel what He endured, our hearts would wrestle much more with the reality of the cross. We would keep asking why God would do such a thing to His own Son until we came into a greater knowledge of God through the offense of the cross.
Because we have not entirely understood the cross, fully appreciating the torment and humiliation of it, we are greatly lacking in the knowledge of God. We are required to consider the man hanging from the cross. We must face the humiliation of God Himself, not just the victory on the other side of the cross, if we are to truly know God as God.
The understanding of the cross in its full human reality is not just a theological significance on our outlines; it contains the revelation of God. To go deep into the very revelation of who God is, we must go deep into the cross and we must go deep into the human reality of it, not just the victory of it. We must plumb the depths of the man whose flesh was shredded before He was nailed to the cross.
The knowledge of God as God on the cross gives the saints the perspective necessary to trust God in the midst of the persecution of the beast. Just as God authorized the agony of the cross, so too God has authorized and decreed the persecution of the saints. Just as the cross ultimately brought glory to Jesus, so too the persecution of the saints will ultimately bring glory to the saints and prepare them to be God’s companions.
The message of the cross is that God even orchestrates pain for our own benefit. We must rest in Him, knowing that He is the perfect Father and the perfect Judge. The perfect Father allows sons to endure pain in order to prepare them to mature them in the image of their Father. The perfect Judge is going to judge all the earth only when iniquity is ripe. He delays judgment to give men time to repent, because once God judges, He is going to judge completely. That is going to be the most catastrophic event in history.
Trust is the root issue. The enemy attacked us in the garden with it by questioning the Father’s motivation in limiting humanity. If the enemy could deceive man amidst perfection and open fellowship with God, how much more will the enemy tempt us as fallen men in a fallen world on the issue of pain, suffering, and evil, in the absence of God’s full presence?
How much more will he tempt us to question the goodness of the One upon the throne when we find ourselves in the midst of tribulation and find that God is actually the author of our tribulation?
This is not just an issue for those who will endure the final tribulation. In every generation, there have been saints who have endured horrific persecution at the hands of wicked men. From the beginning, saints have endured loss and heard silence from heaven in answer to their loss. Western believers are often anesthetized from the reality of life, but loss, suffering, and evil are very real for saints all over the earth now, and so the question that John raises in this verse must be answered within the heart of the believer in order to have an authentic knowledge of God and to not ultimately be offended with Him.
Saints, His wisdom is beyond ours. His love is beyond ours as well. We are incapable of truly judging right and wrong. We must embrace the love of our Father and have confidence in it even through the deepest nights. If we had just a glimpse of what He is preparing us for, our souls would be overwhelmed with the glory that God desires to put on us. He is preparing His saints that they might be His prize companion in all the universe. He is using every trial to fashion for Himself a companion who has shared His own sufferings. If we could clearly see the judgment that is coming, we would never doubt that the Judge of all the earth will do right (Genesis 18:25). The prophets trembled at the visions of the end they saw. Truly, we can be confident that judgment is coming.
So, while God is engineering great glory for the saints and preparing great judgment for the wicked, we are called to endure and have confidence in God in advance of these events. Why? Because when God reveals the fully glory of man and unleashes His judgment against the wicked there will be many, both captivated by the glory and in terror of the judgment, who will cry out to Him with hollow words of commitment and worship.
God is looking for those who love Him now. He is looking for those who can trust Him without having received the full revelation of either the glory or judgment to come.
Those who have confidence in God in this present wilderness will be in the company that trusted and loved God to the point of enduring great tribulation. In a perfect garden, a sinless man and woman were easily persuaded to doubt God’s goodness, even though they had never experienced anything but good at God’s hands. What kind of companion for Himself is God going to produce with the fallen saints who chose to love Him and trust His promises, even though His own hand allows their pain and they have only a small measure of revelation concerning the goodness of His promises?
Oh, saints, God has something magnificent in store for us. He is testing and perfecting us. This earth is the potter’s wheel of our formation. God is going to produce a glorious vessel, and we will dwell with Him forever in glory. In the meantime, at this moment and especially in the tribulation to come, the test of endurance and trust will determine whether we experience great glory or great loss, even to the point of being cut off because of our offense.
By Samuel Clough
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” – 2 Corinthians 5:10
The Judgment Seat and Rewards
The judgment seat of Christ is a terrifying reality. Paul also tells the Corinthians that the fire will test their work and that, in that testing, there is the possibility of very real loss (1 Corinthians 3:13-15). Sadly many disregard the judgment seat entirely, living lives that are not intentional and either hoping for a reward or presumptuously expecting one. Others live in fear of the judgment seat and how their lives will be evaluated. They hope for reward, but live in fear of the evaluation of their lives.
While we must understand the reality of great loss that is possible at the judgment seat, Jesus does not intend it to be a place of loss for us. His heart’s desire is that we will be rewarded on that day. He is looking forward to that day as a day that He can show His appreciation for lives of obedience and faithfulness. The evidence of this is that even a cursory study of the rewards mentioned by Jesus will reveal that Jesus offers very substantial rewards. His rewards are not small and He longs to give them.
He is not stingy, nor is He only looking for the few that are the strongest. He longs to reward all the saints for the way they responded to His love and lived their lives. He understands the measure each one of us has been given and will reward us appropriately.
If we are going to receive rewards, we must take Jesus seriously by examining both the rewards He is offering and the qualifications for those rewards. He has made both the rewards and the requirements for the rewards clear because He wants to give them to us. It is our part to search out these things in the Scripture and then respond so that we might share His joy on that day as He rewards us.
When studying the topic of rewards, two passages must be seriously examined. The first is Matthew 5 and the second is Revelation 2-3. In both of these passages Jesus is very clear both on the rewards being offered and various qualifications for those rewards.
Applying Jesus’ Instructions to the Seven Churches
The progression of Jesus’ messages to the seven churches is unique and, I believe, significant. Jesus is giving us a clear road-map on how to keep our heart and position ourselves to receive rewards at the judgment seat in the progression of the character issues Jesus addresses. The issues Jesus addresses, and the order He addresses them in, are significant.
He identifies very clear issues that will keep us from earning rewards at the judgment seat. Conversely, if we address these specific issues, we are positioning ourselves to receive great reward at the judgment seat. If we perceive it, Jesus’ letters to the seven churches are an invitation to prepare ourselves for the judgment seat. If we “hear what the Spirit is saying” we will be positioned to receive great reward. If we neglect these heart issues, we will suffer loss.
Attached are teaching notes that work through each of the messages to the seven churches clearly, showing the progression of heart issues that must be dealt with if we are to receive reward. These are the issues that will steal our reward and cause us to suffer much loss, but used wisely, the content Jesus gave the seven churches will position us for great reward.
By Samuel Clough
And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” – Revelation 4:8 ESV
All around the throne there are voices. Day after day, night after night they never stop. The throne room never knows silence. They live in the presence of the One upon the throne and, though they attempt to cover their eyes, they cannot help but shout out how utterly majestic and different from us He is. There voices are strong and loud as though they are calling all of creation to worship. They shout out what they see, hear, and feel around that throne. They lift their voices that all of creation might cast its gaze steadfastly upon that throne and the glorious One upon it. They desire that all of creation feel the simultaneous joy and terror of being near the Uncreated One.
It is critical that we fully understand the ministry of these creatures if we are to understand what it really means to be human. It is tragic that focus so little attention on the activity in the throne room because, in so doing, we end up missing our own calling. Man was made, like these terrible creatures, to gaze upon and experience the raw reality of the One on the throne. We were made to experience the simultaneous joy, pleasure, terror, and awe that comes from being near the throne. In many ways, our call is similar to the living creatures, but there is also a critical difference. Man was not made just to experience God, but he was made to gaze upon that glory and then cry out calling all of creation to worship. Man is to both experience the glory of God and declare it to creation. Man is meant to be a voice proceeding from the throne.
What is stunning about this is that it is one thing to cry out amidst the weight of the glory of the throne room, but it is altogether a different thing to cry out throughout creation to those who have not known the weight and the glory of the throne room and yet this is the high calling of man. We are to take the glory of the One upon the throne, experience it, and then declare it so vividly, so alive that creatures who have never caught a glimpse of that glorious room will be struck with awe and compelled to worship because of the power of our proclamation of His beauty.
Given the high nature of this call, what man is sufficient to communicate the glory of the throne room to the rest of creation? In order to bring creation into the knowledge of God, man’s duty is not just to cry out concerning the glory of the throne room, but to actually carry the glory of that throne room so that his proclamation to creation may be accompanied by the testimony of the weight of glory resting on him. God does not just intend that we tell creation of His glory, He intends that the weight of glory on us as we describe the Uncreated One is a witness to the words that we speak. Our proclamation is to be confirmed by the weight of the presence on us.
Jesus commanded us to disciple men from every nation, but we must understand that Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19 was not a brand new command. Jesus was calling man back to his original purpose. Man has always been called to disciple creation. Man was created to communicate to all of creation the grandeur and glory of God. Man was always meant to have the weight of glory resting on him from His privileged place before God and then travel the great expanse of creation declaring the glory of God.
This is why the union of prayer and missions that we are currently seeing is so significant. It is the recovery of man’s ultimate purpose. In the place of prayer, men gaze upon the throne room and the weight of glory begins to rest on them. From that place then, they are to be sent, as voice from the throne, declaring the glory of God and discipling creation. Only when prayer and missions are combined, can the desire of Jesus’ heart be fulfilled. Men must obtain the knowledge of God in the place of prayer where they hear His voice and are then sent like arrows into all the earth to declare what they have seen and heard.
We are called to be voices, not echos, proceeding from the throne. A voice has to have seen and heard and what they have seen and heard must be burning and alive within them. When creation encounters a messenger like this, they are brought into a raw confrontation with God. No longer is the issue one of the message or one of the words brought by the messenger. The messenger did not just bring them a new message, the messenger brought them a confrontation with God. This is what it means to be a voice proceeding from the throne.
When we live in sin and compromise, we forfeit our ability to call the nations to the glory of God. When we forfeit this calling, then creation lacks the knowledge of God because we were made to carry it throughout creation. Part of the reason we so love to explore creation and search out locations is because we were made to carry the knowledge of God throughout creation. God gave us the desire to search out creation so that we might declare His glory and bring all of creation into the knowledge of God.
Your sin does not just destroy you as an individual, it keeps creation from coming into the knowledge of God. This is why the enemy gives so much effort and energy to polluting mankind. So long as mankind is bound in sin, he fails to bring the creation into the knowledge of God. The bondage of man becomes the bondage of creation. This is what is behind the enemy’s temptation. Every pornographic image, every bit of the lust of the flesh and the pride of life is aimed at this one thing. Demons are working night and day to keep men enslaved to sin in order to keep them from bringing the knowledge of God to creation. Your sin then is more than a “failure” it is a war that we do not fully comprehend all aimed at keeping all of creation from coming into the knowledge of God.
If you ever doubted the call of man, gaze at the man Jesus. When man failed to carry the knowledge of God into creation, God’s response was not to call angels to the task, but rather to become a man Himself. He kept His covenant with man. Man forever would be the creature called to declare the glory of God to all creation. Is this not what Jesus constantly did? Throughout His entire ministry He was very clear that He was demonstrating the nature of the Father. He was carrying the message and likeness of the Father. In doing this He was also calling all mankind back into their original calling. This is why He insisted the disciples wait in Jerusalem for the power of the Holy Spirit. He did not just want them to just carry words, He wanted them to also have the presence within, as He did, so that they actually carried the knowledge of God to the nations and not just stories about Him.
Volumes could be written on these things, but from these few words, I call you out of your sin and bondage. I call you out of despair. I set before you the high call of gazing upon the throne and carrying the knowledge of God into all creation. I call you to the redemption and cleansing of Jesus that you may gaze upon that throne. I call you to disciple men in the nations of the earth that creation may encounter the knowledge of God (which it will know fully when the ultimate witness, Jesus, returns to the earth and brings creation into the full knowledge of God as God). I call you to actually fight. You are in this war whether you know it or not. You can be a casualty or a soldier. Power from the throne room is available. Let’s receive the full power of the Holy Spirit under the cleansing blood of Jesus and release a witness in the nations of the earth. Let us become, and raise up, voice proceeding from the throne.
Posted in Forerunner Messengers, Missions, Revelation, Significant Posts, The Throne Room | Tagged glory, ministry, Missions, prayer, proclamation, prophetic, prophets, sent, voices, worship | Leave a response
By Samuel Clough
You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased. – (Revelation 4:11 NLT-SE)
There is also a very personal application found in this verse in the fact that God created what He desired and what pleased Him. This means that, as Creator, He has deep desire for His creation because it was created out of desire. It was not an accident, nor something from which God is emotionally removed, but rather God has intimate desire for each thing He created. Though so much of creation is necessarily under judgment because of sin, creation still exists because God desired it and because He created things that gave Him pleasure. Properly understanding this gives us both confidence and a high vision for the way we live.
Understanding that we were created for His pleasure gives us boldness and confidence before the throne of God. So long as we were bound in sin, we were enemies of God but, because He desired what He created, He was not content with man’s sin and made a way of salvation. Therefore, if we are right standing with God, having repented of sin, believed in Jesus, and received salvation, understanding that we exist and were created because God desired us enables us to stand before God with great confidence (see Hebrews 4:16).
Knowing that we exist because of His desire gives us strength to overcome the lies of the enemy because the evil one will constantly try to drive a wedge of separation between us and God and one of His most common attacks is in this area of confidence in our position before God. When we are lost in sin, we are right to have no confidence before the throne because of our rebellion, but when we have come into repentance and salvation, we can stand in confidence knowing that our very existence is not something that was accidental or something that has no relation to the desire of God’s heart, but rather our very existence is for the pleasure of God.
Not only does this gives us confidence, but it should also give us a high calling and vision for our lives. If we were created for His pleasure, then we must ask the question, are we living in such a way to give Him pleasure? In other words, do we connect to the reality of this verse to the way we live in a tangible and material way. Do we sit before God and consider the things that give Him pleasure? Do we live our life before Him with the constant desire that our lives give pleasure to Him or are we so self absorbed that we see God only as a vehicle that we can use for the pursuit of our own pleasure? Sadly, many fall into this trip and use God for feelings of peace, an escape from hell, or to obtain prosperity in some way. In reality, this is a very low vision for life because it is essentially a self absorbed life, and it is also dangerous because the self absorbed life always leads our hearts into the bondage of sin. Saints, we have a much higher calling and that is to a life that gives God pleasure.
This is not merely an abstract idea, but a reality and we can live in such a way that God receives pleasure from our lives. Not only can we give Him real pleasure, but our own hearts will feel the reality of His pleasure. Tragically, the deception of this age has obscured the reality of what true pleasure actually is. So many are in deception believing that real pleasure is found in pleasing self and therefore most individuals are completely self absorbed. In reality, the highest pleasure is found in living for God’s pleasure and then experiencing His pleasure upon us. Living for the pleasure of God is a high calling, while living for our own pleasure is a low and base calling. Living for God’s pleasure will lead us to beauty, purity, holiness, and joy. Living for our own pleasure will lead to selfishness, sin, and bondage.
Not only is living for God’s own pleasure a high calling, it is actually the way to experience the heights of human pleasure. The reality is that man was made for God and there is no way we can escape this reality. No matter how far we run or rebel, we were made for God. Because of this, our highest fulfillment and pleasure is found only in living for God in communion with Him. It is not enough for us to live in the same universe with God and seek our own pleasure, we were made to live under Him in constant communion with Him that we might reflect Him. When we live in this intimacy we experience the highest and deepest pleasures (Psalm 16:11). When we reject this, we become subject to all sorts of deception and come under the bondage of sin and self.
By Samuel Clough
It has been very encouraging to my heart to see more and more people studying the book of Revelation studying it to find the revelation of Jesus (Revelation 1:1) and to prepare their hearts to both boldly declare the gospel and endure persecution. Because of this, I plan to share some ideas on how to study the book of Revelation in a very practical way in a future post. The book is full of very practical information with regard to what the Lord ultimately sees as important in our lives and in preparing our hearts for coming storms and for the coming storm.
As a mentioned recently in praying the Bible, taking specific promises and warnings from a passage of Scripture and praying them can help us to really root the Scripture in our hearts. It also helps us to develop a more clear picture of exactly what the Lord is saying to us in a passage. At the bottom of this post is a link you can use to download a document on praying the book of Revelation. For those that are frightened of the book of Revelation, take a few minutes and read it. You will be amazed at how practical this is. I am finding a lot of material in the book for prayer.
The book of Revelation is filled with a lot of sobering material for devotional prayer. There are very specific admonitions that will keep us from disaster in the faith and there are very specific exhortations concerning weighty rewards that are available. I fear what it might cost our hearts to neglect the critical issues that Jesus addresses in this book.