Friday, December 30, 2011

Revelation Bible Study - Lesson 4 – Revelation 1:10-11

I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying,  "Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea."
When is the Lord’s Day? What Scripture can you find to determine this?

Most of us set apart Sunday as the “The Lord’s Day” and others insist that we should keep Saturday as “The Lord’s Day.”
 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. (Acts 20:7 NIV)
On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come. (1 Cor 16:2 NASB)

The first day of the week is Sunday. They gathered for two reasons, to break bread i.e. to celebrate communion and to hear the Word of God preached. It is also the day that Paul urged the churches to establish as a regular day of giving, most likely in their worship service. By the time that John wrote this book, the Christian community had established the custom of gathering together to worship on the first day of the week.
Why did the Church depart from observing the Sabbath and substitute Sunday?

Worshiping the Lord on Sunday and designating it “The Lord’s Day” is a significant departure from the observance of the Sabbath as required in the Old Testament. The first reason is that Jesus was raised on the first day of the week. His first two recorded appearances were on Sundays (John 20:19, 20:26).
 The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord's doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. (Ps 118:22-24 NKJV)

How is designating the Lord’s Day on Sunday a fulfillment of this prophecy?

On Sunday, Jesus rose again to establish Himself as the head of the Church. In the context of this prophecy the day the Lord has made is Sunday and we are to rejoice and be glad in it. What better way than to have our worship service on Sunday?
Why is it no longer a requirement of the Law for Christians to keep the Sabbath as the designated day of worship?

 Don't misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. (Matt 5:17 NLT)

It is only because Jesus has fulfilled the law that we are no longer required to keep the Law as the means of salvation. For Israel, keeping the law was a life and death matter. Anyone found working on the Sabbath was to be stoned. If we were to be legalistic and say that we should observe Saturday as the Lord’s Day, then we would also be obligated to observe all the law and that would include the penalty for those who don’t. Unger’s Dictionary says it better than I can.
The term “Christian Sabbath” is scarcely biblically defensible. This day of grace marks the beginning of the week with a day of privilege, whereas the Sabbath came at the end of a week of labor, an order expected under the law. It must carefully be remembered that the Lord’s Day, the term Sunday being of pagan origin, is strictly a Christian institution. It is not for all men, and it is scarcely justifiable to attempt to legislate its observance upon unsaved people. As Lewis Sperry Chafer points out, “Men are not justified in returning to the rules provided for the Sabbath in order to secure directions for the observance of the Lord’s Day...” [1]

Is it OK for a Christian to designate another day instead of Sunday as a day of worship? Provide your reason.

 One man esteems one day as better than another, while another man esteems all days alike. Let every one be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. He also who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; while he who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. (Rom 14:5-6 RSV)

In addition to all this, we have liberty in Christ. In many parts of the world, believers are unable to gather together on the first day of the week for worship because of the local culture. This is true in many Muslim countries where believers meet on Friday. We certainly shouldn’t hold anything against any Christian group that meets together on a day other than Sunday. Neither should any Christians who meet on another day condemn those who meet on Sunday.
Why is it important for believers to worship weekly with other?

The question should not be, “What day of the week do we gather to worship the Lord?” Rather it should be, “Do we gather weekly with other to worship the Lord?”  

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Heb 10:24-25 ESV)

The author of Hebrews tied our worship to the approaching “Day.” He wasn’t talking about Sunday, but the day that the Lord will return. Since the book of Revelation has much to say about the Lord’s return, it is fitting that He gave it to John on “The Lord’s Day.” This reminds us that we should be gathering together regularly because we will also need to encourage each other to go through tough times. We will need these times to build up our love and remember to continue doing good. If we neglect gathering together, we will also neglect other aspects of our Christian walk. If we don’t go to church on Sunday when there isn’t any persecution, what make us think we will go when there is? All backsliding starts one slip at a time.

In the Spirit

What does it mean to be in the Spirit?

This may be answered in many different ways depending on your Christian or even non-Christian experience. Many of the charismatic persuasion would conclude that John was praying in tongues at the time. A shaman would conclude that he was in a trance or on some kind of “quest.” I think that it is simply a statement about John’s attitude of prayer and submission to God as he worshiped. He was absorbed in prayer to the extent that his own circumstances didn’t matter. There are many references that we can look up to discover a bit more about this. 
Is praying in the Spirit something that all Christians can or should do? Explain your answer.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (Eph 6:18 NIV)

We are all commanded to pray in the Spirit as Paul wraps up his commands on Spiritual warfare. We are to be praying with all kinds of prayers and requests if we are praying in the Spirit. Some say we shouldn’t pray for trivial things like parking spots. Praying in the Spirit means we are talking to the Lord about everything that we are doing including finding a parking spot or how to help a friend struggling with cancer. We don’t know what spiritual battles are going on around us, and sometimes things that seem trivial to us may have eternal consequences.
But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. (Jude 20-21 NIV)

When we make our whole thought life a prayer – a constant conversation with the Lord – our faith will be built up. When we neglect talking with Him during the day, our faith will be more dependent on seeing the answers we want than on seeing Him. We can pray in the Spirit when we keep ourselves in God’s love. We do this by being conscious of the mercy Jesus has provided for us on the cross so that we can have eternal life. The full extent of that eternal life is yet to come as we will see in the Book of Revelation.
Is it always possible for us to know what or how to pray? Explain your reason and provide the Scriptures you use to support your answer.

If we are praying in the Spirit, there are times when we simply won’t know what to say in our prayers. We don’t know the mind and will of God for most specific circumstances. 
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Rom 8:26-27 NKJV)

We can usually be sure about some things when He has made it clear. For example, we know that He desires all men to be saved. (1 Tim 2:4) When we pray for the salvation of any person the Spirit doesn’t need to intercede to make our prayer in accordance with His will since that is already His will. However, we don’t always know His will for prayers such as healing. He hasn’t promised healing for all diseases of believers. But it doesn’t matter that we don’t know His will. We have His promise that the Spirit will intercede for us and present our prayer to the Father according to His will. This is a burden-lightening truth, especially for those of us on prayer chains. We constantly see requests for people we don’t know and whose circumstances seem beyond their ability to bear. If we are faithful to lift them up in prayer, then we can be assured that our words will reach the Father correctly, even if we aren’t asking for the right thing. It is more about our attitude and willingness to pray than what we say. This is what I would call praying in the Spirit.
Do you want to be in the Spirit? What do you think is the most important requirement to be in the Spirit?

Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him. (1 Chron 16:11 NLT)
But from there you will search again for the Lord your God. And if you search for him with all your heart and soul, you will find him. (Deut 4:29 NLT)
If we want to be in the Spirit, one thing is clear. We need to be seeking the Lord’s face. When we are seeking Him and not just what He can do for us, our minds, hearts, and souls will begin to be aligned with His.  
What is the benefit of seeking God’s face?

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:17-18 RSV)

When we seek His face, we are transformed into His likeness. It doesn’t come all at once but is a progressive process where we become more and more like Jesus. This is sanctification – becoming holy just as He has already declared us to be in Jesus.
Do you want to be in the Spirit? If so, then seek His face continually and believe when you pray that the Holy Spirit intercedes in our prayers. By faith we believe that we pray in the Spirit since we are told to. He wouldn’t tell us to do something we all couldn’t do.

Out-of-Body Experience

What is an out-of-body experience?

Does being in the Spirit require some sort of out-of-body experience?

Can a Christian have and out-of-body experience or is this something satanic?

In spiritual encounters outside of Christianity many people have out-of-body experiences in which they talk about being able to look back and see their body asleep or unconscious.
Some think that being in the Spirit requires some sort of out-of-body experience. I don’t think so because John had not identified anything like this. He did have what may have been an out-of-body experience later. In the end times, many will be deceived as will become evident during this study. It is important to look at this and other experiences in the Bible to be able to discern satanic activity from experiences that are from God.  
After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things." (Rev 4:1-2 NASB)
And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness; (Rev 17:3a NASB)
And I fell at his feet to worship him. (Rev 19:10a NASB)
John isn’t intent on his experience, but on what God wants to convey to Him. He is focused on God and His throne in heaven. As John was moved around to other places the emphasis was always to accurately convey the message the Lord was giving him in his visions. John’s ultimate response is to worship. At this point, he fell down before an angel who had to tell him to stop, but the point is that even though he was in the Spirit, he had the capability of physical movement. This doesn’t fit with my concept of satanic out of the body experiences where things happen to people but they don’t actually have any control of their bodies.

John isn’t the only person in the Bible to have an out-of-body experience.
The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. (Ezek 37:1 ESV)
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven — whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. (2 Cor 12:2 ESV)
Paul had a similar experience. Even though he was taken up to heaven to see a vision, he could not distinguish whether or not he was physically moved or only his spirit had ascended. The Spirit took Ezekiel to the valley of dry bones. His description of the experience is similar to Paul’s and John’s.
In each of these experiences, there is one thing that is important. The emphasis is on the message that the Lord has to deliver. The emphasis is not on the experience itself. This is a primary difference between the Biblical experiences and extra-Biblical experiences. 
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. (Matt 4:5, 8 NIV)
Satan took Jesus to the temple and to a high mountain; explain why or why not these were out-of-body experiences.

What warning should we take regarding Jesus’ experience?

I have always pondered how the devil had the ability to take Jesus anywhere and to give these experiences to Him. But think about it. If the devil could produce what appears to be an out-of-body experience for Jesus, is it not possible for him to do it to us? This in as a warning for anyone who may seek out-of-body experiences as evidence that they are in the Spirit. All the cases above where the Spirit provided the experience occurred to godly men who were not seeking an experience, but the face of God. In each situation, God initiated the experience. If a person is seeking the experience instead of God, the devil may very well provide it to mislead and subvert God’s will.
What is even scarier is that Satan attempted to do this when Jesus was seeking His Father in the desert. If Satan would try this with Jesus, what makes us think that he wouldn’t try to deceive godly men with tricks to make them think they are having some sort of new Christian experience of the Spirit only to find, after many wrecked lives, that it was from the devil?

Loud Voice

Why is it possible to hear God’s voice and not understand what He has said?

Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him. (John 12:28-29 KJV)
When the Father spoke from heaven, Jesus was able to hear and understand Him. The crowd of people could only hear thunder. They were spiritually deaf as is evidenced by the next few verses and by their actions. Only a few days later they called for Jesus to be crucified. If John hadn’t been in the Spirit – attuned to God – he would not have recognized or been able to understand the voice just as the people couldn’t understand God’s voice. I wonder how many times I have missed His message to me because I have been too engrossed in everyday life to set aside time to be in the Spirit.
What is the significance of the voice like a loud trumpet?

When the Lord speaks with a voice like a trumpet, He has something important to say.  
So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder. (Ex 19:16, 19 NASB)
This was one of the most significant times in the history of mankind. It was the only time God spoke in such a dramatic fashion. It is when God came to Mount Sinai and began revealing the Law to Moses. In the same way, this message to the seven churches is vitally important to all Christians. It is coming with the authority and power of the Almighty. 
Why is it significant that John was told to write down what he saw?

Many times the prophets wrote what the Lord had for them to say. However, there are only a few times in the Bible where God commands them to write it down emphasizing its importance. When it was, it often had to do with future events and God’s judgment upon a nation or people. The fact that John was commanded to write the message down demonstrates the importance that it has to these seven specific churches. As we study the churches we can see characteristics of individual churches that are in the world today. We can also make general observations of the spiritual condition of the Church throughout history that match the characteristics of these churches.
How can we apply Revelation 1:10-11 in our lives?

Let’s make sure that we are honoring the Lord every week whether we gather together on Sunday or some other day. We need that time not only to honor Him, but also to strengthen our walk with Him. The Church will only be strong when we do this.
Let’s continually seek His face so that we too, can be in the Spirit when He returns and avoid the pitfalls of false spirituality.
As He speaks to all of us in His Word, let’s listen for His voice and act on what we hear.

[1]From The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.

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