This week is about overcoming, and I’ve been reading a book about two women who truly were overcomers when they were taken captive in Iran for their Christianity.
What was so encouraging was how despite the worst circumstances, God came to them again and again. One night when Maryam was so discouraged, for she wasn’t sensing God’s presence in her dark cell, she simply began singing hymns, despite being forbidden to do so. She sang all night, and her praise echoed out to both prisoners and guards. And indeed, God came to her. If you want to hear their testimony, here is a You-Tube interview that is under six minutes.
Our troubles may come to this point, and we do need to be prepared. It is helpful to look back on how He has been faithful to us in hard times.
As I reflect on last year, I am in awe at how God helped my youngest overcome her cosmic battle with Satan. Her biological mother in Korea relinquished her at the age of five, and every time Annie had a child approaching the age of five, it triggered something and she struggled with depression. But this year, before her youngest turned five, she felt led to reach out to her biological mother in Korea. She was scared that the truth, or a lack of response from her mother, would confirm her worst fears, but instead, it brought her into the light and helped her to overcome Satan’s lie. Her mother wept to hear from her, saying relinquishing her was the greatest regret and sorrow of her life, and she thought of Annie every day. She told Annie what happened and it was such a healing story. I can’t tell you the details, for it is Annie’s story to tell, but I can tell you that she found out she was desperately loved by her mother, lost her biological father to tetanus when she was three months old, and that her mother tried valiantly to keep her but finally lost the battle. Pictures prove how Annie was cared and loved for, despite great obstacles. This picture of Annie as a toddler, so well dressed, with bows in her hair, and happily clapping her hands, melted our hearts. As in Revelation, a picture paints a thousand words.
I have also listened, with awe, to your stories of how God helped you be overcomers. Honestly, I am strengthened by your stories as I see God empowering you to face enormous hurts, betrayals, and obstacles. We pray for one another and we are strengthened by one another. Indeed, the “false prophet” has been propagandizing lies, and truly, they seem to be increasing in number and malice. Lies that we could not even have imagined being believed a decade ago, are being believed — and those who stand against them are being persecuted.
But greater is He that is in us! This week we will see, who is at our side, and be reminded that though we may lose some battles, the war has already been won. He is the Alpha and the Omega, has all things under His control, will bring beauty out of ashes, and can empower us to do what we could never ever do alone.
Here are a few resources you will need later in the week:
Please listen and take notes on this sermon by Tim Keller. Title: The Cosmic King. Sermons are optional but so valuable!
I know there are those in this group who are going to want to read all of Revelation as we do this. If that is you, then at the end of this week you’ll want to read chapters 4 through 11. You may find this 11 minute overview from The Gospel Coalition helpful. Watch just Part 1. (Completely optional for my sisters who want it!) I do think you can get a grip on the main thrust of Revelation by doing just what I have given you and that would be wonderful. But for those who want more, here is this:
Word Document of Homework That Can Be Printed: (This has been corrected!)
Day 1. The Disciple Jesus Loved
- What stands out to you from the above and why?
- John often referred to himself as “the disciple Jesus loved.” How do you know, if you do, that Jesus loves you — even in a time of suffering and disappointment?
- Read John 21:18-25
- In verses 18-19, Jesus tells Peter the kind of death he is going to die. What do you think He does this?
Historians confirm that Peter was crucified, but that he asked to be crucified upside-down for he was not worthy to die as his Lord died. It is also historically confirmed that all the disciples were martyred except for John who died a natural death on the Island of Patmos.
B. Tertullian, an ancient church father, said “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Explain.
C. In verses 20-24, what does Peter ask, what does Jesus reply, and why, do you think?
D. Rebut this statement: Suffering proves there is not a loving God.
Day 2. The Alpha and The Omega
4. Read Revelation 1:8
A. Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Knowing this, what does this name imply?
B. A similar title is The One who is, who was, and who is to come — How is Jesus all three?
C. We will see this title again in Rev. 22:12-13. Read this — what additional insight do you receive?
5. Listen to Andrew Peterson’s All Things Together above and then share your contemplations.
6. Listen and share your notes from the Keller sermon, if you listened.
Day 3: “According to the Literature”
When we talk about interpreting the Bible literally, it is important to understand the word “literally.” It means, “according to the literature.” You do not interpret prose in the same way you interpret poetry. To interpret poetry literally means you understand that metaphors are pictures of a spiritual truth — but not to be pressed. For example, when we are told that “under His wings we will have refuge,” it does not mean that God has wings, but that, like a mother bird, He protects us. Prose can be pressed. Revelation is apocalyptic literature, filled with symbols and mixed metaphors that are intended to cause awe and to paint a big picture of God’s holiness, justice, and love – but we must be careful not to push the details. (Our own Susan was describing those who did this, likening, for example, the Covid vaccine to the Mark of the Beast. How could they possibly know this? They could not — they are using the Word to advance their own agenda. We are called not to cling to our lives but to be willing to lay them down for our brothers, as Jonathan Edwards did when he was one of the first to get the Smallpox vaccine, and died as a result!) Often John explains what a symbol means, or we can glean light from Old Testament references. But when we cannot understand, we should simply return to the big truths of His holiness, justice, and love. One day we will understand, but for now, we see through a glass darkly.
Revelation is also a letter to true believers, represented by the seven churches. (We do know in Scripture that seven is the number of completion, and you will see seven over and over again. It is also true six represents Satan, and 12 and its multiples represent God’s chosen people.) Revelation, in addition to being apocalyptic literature, is a letter — and it is a letter to believers between the time of Christ’s ascension and return. We can deduce this because seven is the number of completion, and because all Scripture is profitable for teaching.)
Now — let’s continue.
7. Read Revelation 1:9-20.
A. How does John describe himself in verse 9, and what clue does this give us to the purpose of this book?
B. What is he told to do in verses 10-11?
C. Describe the vision he has in verses12-13. Then give the interpretation of this as given in Revelation 1:20.
D. How does John respond in verse 17?
E. Why is he told “not to be afraid?” in verse 18. Contemplate this — for it will help you to overcome.
Day 4: Four of The Seven Churches
Many of you have heard good sermons on the seven churches and it is a wonderful study. We cannot go into these in depth, but we can get an overview, remembering that these letters had a specific application to the churches in John’s time, but the principles can be applied to us, as His Church, as well. Even though we are going quickly through it, I believe this will impact our hearts with the weight of Jesus and the truth that we can be overcomers.
8. Read about the Church in Ephesus in Rev 2:1-7
A. What do you learn about Jesus in Rev. 2:1?
B. For what does He commend them in Rev 2:2-3?
C. What does He hold against them and what is the remedy in Rev 2:4-5?
D. What is the warning in Rev 2:5? And the promise in 2:7?
E. Be still. What is God saying to you?
9. Read about the Church in Smyrna in Rev. 2:8-11
A. How is Jesus described in Rev. 2:8?
B. How does He commend them and warn them?
C. What promise does He give them in verse 11?
D. A. Carson writes: “Those who suffer the “second death” will participate neither in the resurrection of the saints nor in the life of the new world to come, but rather will experience unending punishment.
10. Read about the Church in Pergamum in Revelation 2:12-17.
A. How is Jesus described in verse 12?
B. What does He have against them and how does He commend them?
C. What promises are given to those who overcome?
Unlike the earthly manna, this manna is eternal – we have only tasted the goodness of the Lord. Naming implies ownership — we will be His and He will be ours.
11. Read about the Church in Thyatira in Rev. 2:18-29
A. How Is Jesus described in verse 18?
B. For what does He commend them and rebuke them in verses 19-25?
C. What promises are given to overcomers?
12. From the four churches you looked at, is there anything that became radioactive to you today? If so, what and why?
Day 5. The Final Three Churches
13. Read about the church in Sardis in Revelation 3:1-6.
A. How does Jesus describe himself in verse 1?
B. What warning does He have for them in verses 1-3?
C. Whom does He commend and what does He promise in verses 4-6?
14. Read about the church in Philadelphia in Rev. 3:7-13.
A. How does Jesus describe Himself in verse 7?
B. How does He commend them and encourage them in verses 8-11?
C. What promises does He give to overcomers?
15. Read about the church in Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-21.
A. How does He describe Himself in verse 14?
B. What is their deep problem and what does it lead to?
C. What does He tell them to do?
D. What promise does He give to those who overcome in verses 19-21?
16. How is the Spirit speaking to you through these last three churches?
17. What is your take-a-way from this week, and why?