Building on the Foundation of Christ – 1 Corinthians 3:11-13

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. – 1 Corinthians 3:11-13 NIV

In Matthew 7:24-27, at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells a parable of two builders. The wise builder builds his house on a rock, and the storms of life are unable to shake it. But the foolish builder built his house on sand and when the storms came, the house collapsed. What is it that made the builders wise or foolish? It was how they responded to Jesus words. The wise man practiced what he was taught. The foolish man did not.

Paul seems to have that parable in mind in this passage, although he is focusing on the house build on the rock. That rock is Christ, the only foundation worth building our house, or life, on. Paul’s bigger concern here is what we use to build the house with. Do I use gold, silver and costly stones? Or do I use wood, hay and straw? The quality of the building materials will be tested with fire when the house is complete. Will what I have built on the foundation of Christ survive, or will it be consumed? Will I be rewarded for building well, or will I barely escape from the flames?

As a believer, how I live this life has important consequences for eternity. Am I investing in the kingdom of God, living my life to honor God and advance the kingdom? Or am I living for self and today? Don’t be a builder who will stand ashamed of his workmanship at the end; entering heaven singed by the flames. Instead, build your house on the foundation of Christ so that at the end you will hear “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into your reward.”

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Leaving Babylon – Rev 18:4

Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; – Revelation 18:4 ESV

The 17th and 18th chapters of Revelation deal with the great prostitute, Babylon the Great. She is described in detail throughout these two chapters, yet who she actually is has been debated over the ages and is still unclear. Some have identified her with the literal cities of Rome or Jerusalem and some have identified her with the Roman Catholic church. Personally, I am partial to Augustine’s “Two Cities” view where Jerusalem and Babylon represent two spiritual realms that are at war with each other. Jerusalem represents those who love God while Babylon represents those who love this world and the pleasures that it has to offer.

Throughout this chapter we see judgement being executed against Babylon, along with a warning in this verse for God’s people to come out of her lest we take part in her sin and her judgement. We cannot have dual citizenship in the spiritual realm. If we would belong to Jerusalem, we need to abandon citizenship in Babylon and come out from her.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. – 1 John 2:15-17 ESV

Bowls of Wrath – Rev 16:1

Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.” – Revelation 16:1 ESV

In chapter 15, seven angels are given seven plagues that will finish the wrath of God. And in chapter 16 the angels are told to pour out their bowls of wrath onto the earth. Five of these plagues describe what appears to be environmental disaster, the sixth is massive conflict and with the seventh the earth itself convulses mightily. What are these plagues? Are they directly and suddenly caused by God? Or are they, especially the first five, describing ongoing environmental deterioration caused by humanity? I really don’t know. But what is clear is that ultimately God is behind this disaster, and that it is an expression of his wrath against a rebellious humanity. A rebellious humanity that will refuse to repent (vv. 9, 11), and will curse God for what is happening (v. 21).

We should not be fooled into thinking that the world will go on forever and that life on earth will continue to improve. If we take nothing else away from Revelation, we should realize that God will hold humanity accountable for our rebellion against him, and that judgement is coming. How or in what form that judgement will come is secondary. That it is coming and that we need to be ready is of primary importance.

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life (John 5:24).

Conquering by the Blood – Rev 12:11

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “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 brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. – Revelation 12:10-11 ESV

We generally think of Satan as a tempter looking for ways to keep us from Christ, or to cause us to stumble in our walk with Christ. But here he is pictured as one who accuses us before God. While Jesus elsewhere is pictured as our Advocate (1 John 2:1), or defense attorney, Satan here is pictured on the other side of the heavenly courtroom as the prosecuting attorney. And in this courtroom scene we find that we are able to overcome the accuser by two pieces of evidence. The first is the blood of the Lamb, the blood that washes away my sin. The second piece of evidence presented in my defense is my testimony, representing a life transformed by the blood of the Lamb and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Regardless what Satan may do, or accuse us of, we have victory over him, not because of ourselves, but because of what Jesus did for us, and is doing in us.

Refusal to Repent – Rev 9:20

The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts. – Revelation 9:20-21 ESV

The sounding of the fifth and sixth trumpets have unleashed devastation on the earth in the form of demon oppression, and the unleashing of some form of army, either human or demonic, that will kill a third of mankind. Regardless how one views these two woes, they represent a terrible time of judgement on the peoples of earth.

But I have to wonder why? Judgement against unbelievers will last for an eternity, so why this period of time while still on earth? And I think this verse may give an answer to that question. Those not killed by the armies of the sixth trumpet did not repent. Was that the goal of this judgement, to bring people to repent and turn to God? It is possible that this time of judgement is one last opportunity for people to turn to God before it is to late and they enter into the final judgement and eternity.

If so, that makes this passage heartbreaking. Even after getting a taste of God’s judgement, mankind does not repent; either of the work of their hands, their false worship of created things (Rom. 1:21-23), or their other sins. Instead it is likely that they further harden their hearts and look for ways to overcome this judgement by human means. So like today.

A Response to Prayer – Rev 8:5

Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake. – Revelation 8:5 ESV

The first 5 verses of chapter 8 seem to mark a turning point in John’s vision. It starts with a brief time of quiet anticipation in the normally praise filled heaven. Following this is the introduction of 7 angels with trumpets who will occupy the next portion of the vision. An 8th angel then comes before the altar first seen in Rev. 6:9; the altar over the soul’s of the martyrs asking about judgement. This 8th angel offers incense at the altar, mixed with the prayers of the saints (Rev. 5:8), and the smoke rises up before God. Following this, the 8th angel takes fire from the altar and throws it onto the earth, resulting in fireworks and the sounding of the 7 trumpets.

So what does all this mean? Like much of Revelation there are many answers to that question. But it seems to me like the prayers of the saints, in particular those under the altar asking about the coming judgement of their killers, are being answered. After the prayers of the saints are offered to God, fire is poured out on the earth, and judgement begins.

Does God answer prayer? Yes he does; in his time. The martyrs had earlier been told that the judgement would come in the right time (Rev. 6:11), and that time had now come. Don’t be discouraged if your prayer is not answered when you think it should. Be content in knowing that if you are praying according to his will (1 John 5:14), that he will answer in the appropriate time.

Answerable To the Master – 1 Corinthians 4:1-5

This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. 2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. – 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 NIV

While Paul is talking here about himself and the other apostles, I believe this passage is very applicable to all of us who profess to follow Jesus as our Lord.  He is my master, and I am his servant.  It is too often easy to forget that and assume a more familiar relationship.  And indeed, Jesus does call us his friends; but the relationship is not what I have with a buddy.  He is still Lord and God, and I need to live in obedience to him.

As a servant, Paul had been entrusted with the mysteries of God.  The wording here is that of a steward, a trusted servant who is given responsibility for some part of the master’s belongings.  While I have not been entrusted with the mysteries of God like Paul had, I have nonetheless been entrusted with a task by God, as have each of us who serve him.  I have been entrusted with faithfully representing God in this world, as well as to disciple other believers in His word.  Others of you have been entrusted with other tasks; tasks that help to build up the body of Christ.

But, all who have been entrusted must prove faithful, and will give answer to the Master at the end; see the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. In the passage above, Paul makes it clear that the judgement of others on my stewardship doesn’t matter.  Nor does it ultimately matter how I judge my performance, although it would be good for me to have a clear conscience concerning it.  The judgement that ultimately matters is what comes from the one who assigned me with the task.

In whatever God has entrusted you with, do your best to present yourself to him as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed.  And one who looks forward to hearing his master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

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