Pressure, a sense of heaviness as the intensity increases. Do you feel it?
We are in a spiritual battle, and the enemy is ramping up as he knows his time is coming to an end. The Scriptures speak of spiritual warfare, so we shouldn’t be so surprised.
In Ephesians chapter 6, Paul tells us to be “strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” He warns us to put on the full armor of God so that we can take our stand against the devil’s schemes. Paul says 12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
I still find myself shocked that what can only be the devil’s schemes are visibly playing out on our turf, as well as globally.
A book called, Discipleship on the Edge, by Darrell W. Johnson (I highly recommend it) uncovers and explains clearly the book of Revelation, an often misunderstood book in the Bible.
Revelation is a letter written by John, a pastor writing to address the issues churches are dealing with, while he is a prisoner on an island. John wrote in “code,” full of imagery and symbols to allow his letter to make it past guards and get to the people he was pasturing.
Johnson explains that John was given a revelation (which means “unveiling” or “the pulling back of a curtain”) directly from Jesus himself. It was not a prediction, but a declaration of what is to come.
Most of us today are too intimidated by the last book of the Bible, but when read with understanding, we realize as Johnson says, “Things are not as they seem.” He also says, “Revelation is out to undermine our confidence in the evidence of our own eyes.” “The imagery goes “beyond intellect – through our emotions and we are ignited with hope.”
I need hope right now. I’m sure you do too.
After studying Revelation multiple times, it has become one of my favorite books in the Bible, as I now have a confidence to follow Jesus with reckless abandon. At this point in the game, we better know which team we are on.
If we know what the future holds, it will determine the choices we make in the present. Jesus unveils the full reality of the present. We get to peek in on what is really going on behind the scenes.
Evil is on a short leash. Jesus is at the control center, even if it doesn’t look like it.
There is a pressure. When Jesus talks to the seventh church in Smyrna, he says, “I know your affliction.” The Greek word is thlipsis, a strong word meaning pressure or “crushing pressure.” According to Johnson, “It would evoke in the minds of first-century people the picture of a person tortured to death by being slowly crushed by a great boulder laid upon him.”
We are in a new time of Christian persecution in the United States. At the same time, third world countries have called us “spiritually poor.” Unless there is Christian revival or a mighty movement by the Holy Spirit, we are in big trouble.
The beauty of understanding what is happening around us now, is that we can have the courage to stand strong, to not lose our faith, and to be a light in the darkness.
Picture Jesus for a moment in your mind’s eye… Is he sitting on a green hillside, in a beige robe, gentle and kind, teaching the little children? That picture of Jesus is often how many see Him; however our present Jesus is victoriously seated on the throne, triumphant, powerful, and reigning. Jesus has a purpose and a plan, and we know the ending. It’s simple. Jesus wins.
By that I mean evil is stopped once and for all. Jesus is creating a new heaven and a new earth so perfect and unimaginable, where we will live in the presence and peace of God forever. Our future is secure. (Look forward to a blog soon, all about heaven!)
We can have hope and joy in the midst of chaos, even as evil ramps up. When we are His, we win. Our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Our purpose in this life, right now, is to learn to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind. We are to stay loyal and true. Phil. 3:16 says, “Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”
If you feel the mounting pressure, it is not just the normal trouble we all experience living in a broken world. “The term Thlipsis is the pressure experienced as the kingdom of God comes up against the kingdom of human beings in rebellion against God,” explains Johnson.
We will continue to experience faith under pressure, and we will need great courage to stand. Jesus knows this pressure. He didn’t say he would lift it. He says to follow Him and do not fear.
God uses difficult times to grow our perseverance and character. We have been comfortable and complacent in the past couple of decades. Maybe this is our time to wake up? Maybe we are being called to bolder faith?
We can trust God to care for our needs, because we are known and loved by Him. As His children, we have a hope and promise of a glorious future!
Again, I encourage you to read Revelation along with Discipleship on the Edge. The purpose of the last book in the Bible is to equip disciples, and encourage loyalty and obedience to Jesus. Even under the pressure, we are not to compromise or give in. We are to be salt and light, and not to become deceived.
Take courage! Things are not as they seem.
How have you experienced this pressure? Please share your thoughts, struggles, or stories in the comments.
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