We're so glad you decided to join us today!
When we meet in person, we share our joys and concerns. Take some time to think about the past week, and the joys and concerns you have. Again, as we are in the season of thanksgiving, consider what you have been thankful for. If you would like, you can share by commenting on this post. When you are ready, use the prayer below (source) to get started.
As I express my gratitude to you in prayer, may it be a pleasing, joyful sound to you.
Thank you, Lord, for your love. It brings me acceptance and significance.
Thank you, Lord, for your truth. It brings me guidance and direction.
Thank you, Lord, for your mercy. It brings me help and comfort.
Thank you, Lord, for your faithfulness. It brings me stability and strength.
Thank you, Lord, for your beauty displayed in the earth. It brings me joy and delight.
Thank you, Lord, for your way of redemption - the cross. It brings me salvation and regeneration.
Today's lesson is on Revelation 19:1-8.
As we have discussed for the past several weeks, the language in the book of Revelation is figurative. This doesn't mean "not real" or "fictional." Instead, it means to express one thing in terms of another.
Our book notes that figurative language can be challenging to interpret. This occurs both in Jesus' parables and the book of Revelation. However, in the parables, Jesus often identified the references in his parables later. The apostle John almost never does that in Revelation. Today's passage has a rare exception.
In today's lesson, the figurative language focuses on Babylon. The actual city of ancient Babylon was very powerful during the sixth century BC. By the time of the first century AD, around the time this passage would have been written, Babylon would have been basically non-existent. In John's vision, Babylon symbolizes the worldly powers that oppose God and his people.
Some scholars propose that, for John's audience, Babylon was a code word for the city of Rome. The rulers of both cities oppressed the people of God and opposed God's rule. The Babylonians had been God's instrument in punishing Judah. But the Babylonians went too far and ended up as objects of God's wrath in turn. Babylon experienced divine wrath for opposing God in both word and deed.
Similarly, the Roman Empire was insatiable in its conquests as it swept across the Mediterranean world of the first century AD. Palestine had begun to experience Roman might in 63 BC, when Pompey besieged Jerusalem. The Jewish revolt of AD 66-70 resulted in the sacking of Jerusalem and the destruction of its temple. John wrote the book of Revelation some 25 years afterward.
Prior to today's passage, Revelation 18 sketches a lengthy celebration of the downfall of Babylon, rehearsing charges against it. That prophetic text guarantees, by extension, the ultimate downfall of all kingdoms and entities that oppose God. Today's passage takes us to what happens after the collapse of those foolish opponents.
Our scripture picks up after the announcement of the judgment and destruction of Babylon in the previous chapter. A great multitude, a huge crowd, of the redeemed speaks in unison. These crowds are praising God. "Hallelujah!" Remember, this comes from Hebrew: “hallelu” (meaning to praise) and a shortened form of the word for Yahweh, “jah”.
The multitude then gives a litany of divine action and attributes. This might serve as something of a model for our own prayer practices, either alone or in corporate worship. We too can praise God for his attributes and how he works out our salvation.
The "great prostitute" in verse 2 refers to Babylon. One of Babylon's two great sins is that she "corrupted the earth by her adulteries." As used by the Old Testament prophets (for example: Jeremiah 3:6-9; Ezekiel 23:36-37), the figure of speech describes idolatry. The second of Babylon's two great sins is persecuting God's servants to the point of death. This will be the "blood of his servants" avenged on Babylon. John's audience would have seen a connection to the Roman Empire.
The great crowd in heaven continues to shout in praise: "Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever." God is truly victorious and thus truly worthy of praise. The destruction of the great prostitute (or Babylon, or the Roman Empire) is not temporary. It is permanent and final. The extra, "and ever" just serves to cement the certainty of the eternal reign of God and the eternal nature of his kingdom.
John's vision echoes similar language from the prophet Isaiah, where God's judgment on the land is described as "burning" and where "its smoke will rise forever," (Isaiah 34:9-10).
A second declaration of worship comes, this time from the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures. They surround God's throne as the inner circle of those in the presence of the Almighty. Their united acclamation of worship consists of just two words: Amen and Hallelujah. The combined effect is to affirm the praise of the great crowd and repeat its central message: Praise the Lord!
A voice comes from the throne. The throne itself always refers to the presence and authority of God. Even so, our book says the voice is likely not from God or from the Lamb. It is uncertain whether it is from an angel herald or another entity. What is important is that the voice has divine authorization to call for worship.
The form of worship demonstrated here differs slightly from previous exclamations. Rather than the command, "Praise the Lord," this version exclaims, "Praise our God." This echoes the commands of Psalm 66:8, "Praise our God, all peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard."
John hears yet another voice, this time only described in similarity to a great multitude. However, this seems to be another, different, group than we have encountered before. The sound is like a thunderous waterfall or the crashing of stormy waves on a beach.
The word translated thunder in verse 6 occurs ten times in the book of Revelation. The word is always associated with divine power, authority, and/or initiative. Its use in the verse at hand alongside the sound of water bears strong similarity to the prophet's vision in Ezekiel 1:24; 43:2.
God's actions are often grouped under three headings: he creates, he rules, and he redeems. The text we've been reading speaks of the second: he rules. In that light, the praise is for the universal kingship of our Lord God.
Older version of the Bible include the word "omnipotent" instead of Almighty. Verse 6 introduces us to one of what might be called "the three omnis." The word omnipotent means all-powerful. The others are omnipresent, meaning present in all places at all times, and omniscient, meaning all-knowing.
Finally, we get to the moment the faithful had been waiting for: the time and occasion when the faithful servants of God see their eternal, heavenly fellowship with their Savior, Jesus Christ, finalized. The wedding language we see here was not unfamiliar to John's original audience. Old Testament prophets often used marriage as a figurative reference to describe the relationship between God and his people (examples: Isaiah 54:5-7; Hosea 2:19). Jesus, too, described the kingdom of heaven in terms of a marriage (Matthew 22:1-14; 25:1-13).
In this wedding, the Lamb is the groom. The idea of Christ as the sacrificial lamb lies at the very heart of our redemption and salvation. The bride of Christ is the church: holy ones sanctified by the work of the Holy Spirit.
Weddings are designed to create memories and ingrain those memories in the minds of those who attend. Therefore, the wedding party's clothes are normally chosen with great care and coordinated for maximum effect. It may take hours to get ready for the ceremony. Everyone goes to great lengths to ensure that everything is "perfect."
The wedding ceremony between the Lamb and his bride culminates in the rescue of the bride from the power of sin and evil. When Jesus, the Lamb, receives his bride, the church, it will be the wedding for all time! The groom has done his part by paying the price for sin on the cross. But the bride has her part to do as well, considering John's statement that she has "made herself ready" (Revelation 19:7). Jesus has provided us with "garments of salvation" and a "robe of righteousness" (Isaiah 61:10), but we must put them on.
Praise to you, God most high! Glory to you, Lord of Heaven and earth! Thanks be to you for your gracious gift of Jesus, your Son and our Savior. May our hearts give praise to the King of kings and Lord of lords. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
Questions to Consider
What lifestyle changes might result from your focusing on descriptions of God (such as in Revelation 19:1) regularly in prayer?
What are some ways you can get and maintain momentum in that type of prayer?
What personal lifestyle change do you need to make when thinking about fearing God so that your practice matches your profession?
While this is usually an Advent or Christmas hymn, it came up when I searched for hymns related to today's scripture. Pay attention to the last verse.
Today's benediction is from the New International Version.
Next week's lesson will be on Acts 10:34-47.
We're so glad you decided to join us today!
When we meet in person, we share our joys and concerns together. Take some time as you consider your past week. What joys or concerns do you have? As we walk in this season of thanksgiving, think about what you were thankful for in the last week. If you have anything you would like to share, you can add it as a comment to this post. When you are ready, use the prayer below (source) to get started.
O God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry;
When I have work,
help me to remember the jobless;
When I have a home,
help me to remember those who have no home at all;
When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer,
help me to destroy my complacency;
bestir my compassion,
and be concerned enough to help;
By word and deed,
those who cry out for what we take for granted.
Today's text is Revelations 11:15-19.
Revelation has been traditionally understood to have been received by the churches in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) during the last decade of the first century AD. The key to understanding Revelation lies in recognizing that it is known as “apocalyptic” literature. Apocalyptic literature features unveiling of a big-picture reality by a heavenly being (God or angels) to a human recipient. The reality that is revealed includes dealing with end-time salvation and the reality of another, supernatural world.
The central part of Revelation concerns three sets of seven events initiated in Heaven. Today’s lesson details the climax of the second of these three sets of events. These judgments, however intense, fail to stop the idolatry and sexual immorality in the world. Today’s text focuses on the seventh and final angel.
The finality of this collective kingdom becomes clear as the voices’ proclaim that God will reign for ever and ever. Whereas the kingdom of the world is temporary and filled with sin, the reign of God will be eternal, featuring everlasting life for the faithful. The elders describe God’s eternal nature. God's eternal, unchangeable nature implies his sovereignty. This part of John’s vision will be the final move of God as he establishes “a new heaven and a new earth.”
Israel’s center of worship, the temple had been destroyed about 25 years before John wrote Revelation. About 40 years before the destruction, the temple’s importance had been suspended by the death and resurrection of Jesus, which resulted in a new understanding of “temple.” John's vision saw an even better reality to come — that of God’s heavenly temple where worship continues into eternity. Today's passage invites us to anticipate a future where the kingdom of God is fully established everywhere, where injustice no longer prevails, and where we worship God for eternity.
Lord, may we remember that you are everlasting and unchanging! You are worthy to receive every honor and praise. May we, like those in the book of Revelation, celebrate your reign forever and ever with an eternal “hallelujah!” In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
Thought to Remember
There is a future when God’s reign in Heaven will join his reign on earth.
Today's benediction is from the King James Version.
Next week's lesson will be on Revelation 19:1-8.
We're so glad you decided to join us today!
When we meet for Sunday School, we take some time to share our joys and concerns. Take some time to think over the past week, and any prayer requests you might have. If you would like, you can share them in the comments of today's lesson. When you are ready, use the prayer (source) below to get started.
O God, we thank you for this earth, our home; for the wide sky and the blessed sun, for the salt sea and the running water, for the everlasting hills and the never-resting winds, for trees and the common grass underfoot. We thank you for our senses by which we hear the songs of birds, and see the splendor of the summer fields, and taste of the autumn fruits, and rejoice in the feel of the snow, and smell the breath of the spring. Grant us a heart wide open to all this beauty; and save our souls from being so blind that we pass unseeing when even the common thornbush is aflame with your glory, O God our creator, Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
This week's lesson is on Revelation 7:9-17.
Three things should be observed by careful readers. First, Revelation combines elements of ancient letters, prophetic, texts and apocalyptic literature. It is considered partially a letter because how the book opens with a greeting and is addressed to specific churches. Revelation is considered a form of prophecy given to John in order that he might declare the “testimony of Christ“. Revelation is considered apocalyptic text. A proper understanding of Revelation requires recognizing the imagery and language of apocalyptic literature.
Second, the book of Revelation is loaded with allusions to the Old Testament and assumes the audience’s familiarity with their source.
Third, Revelation emphasizes worshiping God. The text is filled with poetic scenes of worship. Each one makes claims about who is worthy to be worshipped in Heaven and on Earth. Revelation calls the people to worship ’Our God, who sits on the throne “ and “ the Lamb”
Today’s passage continues John’s vision of Heaven. Several startling events have occurred: the glorious entry of the Lamb into the throne room and the introduction of a sealed scroll and its opening, leading to the dramatic gathering of the servants of God. John then turned his attention to the great multitude of people and witnessed their worship.
The multitude of worshippers were vast and included people from every nation. This description reflects the worldwide penetration of the gospel. Regardless of one’s heritage or cultural context of origin, any person can believe and share in God’s salvation. The image of wearing white robes means that person was cleansed from sin.
The multitude acknowledges that their hope for salvation is realized. They are waving palm branches. Christ’s death and resurrection as the Lamb of God enacts God’s salvation.
All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God.
The first words of pronouncements justified because they have experience the Lord’s goodness. Glory carries the image of light - radiant like celestial bodies. God always does the right thing , having never failing wisdom. Giving thanks and honor to God for all he does. The hymn ends with Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength Be to our God forever and ever Amen.
One of the elders asked John “These in white robes - who are they and where did they come from”. The elder answered his own question. “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”. This could be related to prosecution at the hands of the Roman Empire or to us this could imply the future time of worldwide suffering and persecution. John’s vision affirms that following Jesus might result in suffering even to the point of martyrdom.
The robes are white because they were washed in the blood of the Lamb represents Christ’s atonement and our forgiveness from sin based on his sacrificial death. The blood of the Lamb triumphs over sin and Satan.
Because they are pure, clothed in their white robes, the multitude stands before the throne of God. They worship night and day. Never again will they hunger nor thirst. Physical needs will be met. The saints are in the glorious presence of God with his protection and blessing.
John’s vision returns to the scene of heavenly worship and the source of all hope and salvation: the Lamb. Throughout John’s writing, he presents Jesus as a good shepherd. Now John presents the good shepherd as the Lamb., leading his followers to springs of living water of eternal life The Lamb brings eternal peace and comfort, removing sorrow by wiping every tear from their eyes.
Suffering was no stranger to American poet Fanny Crosby Blind since infancy, she undoubtedly experienced many trials and challenges. In all those, she was able to proclaim, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine… Born of his Spirit, washed in his blood.” A prolific writer of more than 8,000 songs, this is just one of Crosby’s compositions that speak of Jesus’ blood. In the midst of her suffering, Crosby was yet able to praise and worship God for salvation available through the blood of the Lamb.
Revelation 7 is a high point in the Bible concerning worship and praise. This passage is timely for all audiences. It acknowledges that although suffering occurs, confident hope is always called for because of the salvation bought and brought by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus. In times of joy or suffering, that fact should unite us in praise and worship. May we be a people who live in hope as we await the day when we will hunger and thirst no more, the day of no more tears. Until that day, may our lives be marked with praise and worship to the God who sits on his heavenly throne and to the Lamb who brings salvation.
Dear God, may we ever offer praise and thanksgiving for your glory, wisdom, honor, power, and strength. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
What do you think?
In what way can you be Jesus’ hands and feet in comforting others until he returns?
In what situations will be better for you to work individually in this regard rather than a group? Why?
In what ways does today’s text inspire you to help your church improve an area of worship?
This week's benediction is from the Berean Study Bible.
Next week's lesson is on Revelation 11:5-19.
We're so glad you decided to join us today!
When we meet together in person, we share our joys and concerns with each other before we focus on our Sunday school lesson. Right now think about your needs and all the things for which you are thankful. If you like, you can share them in the comments.
This quarter we have been looking at scriptures that show how people have praised God or that call us to praise God. The psalms are probably the ultimate example of the latter. The lesson for today includes two psalms that call God’s people to praise.
The following prayer was written by Jeffrey A. Nelson and posted on the Philosophy Over Coffee website.
When we offer our praise, what don’t you already know? What haven’t you already heard? What poetry or prose would be new or impressive or exceptional to you? What music has not yet moved upward and outward into the vastness of your being?
We praise from within white walls, polished oak, and stained glass; We praise alongside lakes, on beaches, through treetops and from grassy fields. We remind you of what you’ve done, are doing, and will do as if you aren’t already aware; we beautify our language— speaking of “worth” and offering flattery to the Source of Life as if it will gain us an extraordinary audience.
These acts of naming sacred ground and of offering our best words are as much for us as it is for you. We struggle to describe what you are doing so that it makes more sense to us. We name your deeds and attributes so that we may even begin to understand your being and your doing. We have received breath, and by that same breath, we strive to understand its Giver.
Transform our praise. Make it more than feeble attempts at divine manipulation or rote obligation. Spirit away ambitions that are selfish or self-aware. By what is nameless and indescribable, move us beyond words and notes to illuminating connection and inner renovation.
It is in thanksgiving for your actions and in craving your continued presence that we praise. What we offer, you already know and have already heard. We seek your movement, and to move as you move.
This week's lesson is on Psalm 149:1-5 and Psalm 150.
Introduction and lesson context
The unexpected beauty of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” moved many in the crowd above to tears. Whether they knew it or not, they were hearing the repetition of “Praise the Lord!” It is an oft-repeated phrase in the psalms and a fitting conclusion to the book of Psalms.
The Sunday school lesson for today features the last two psalms in the book, which call on God’s people to “Praise the Lord!” In Hebrew, the phrase is a combination of two words
“hallelu” (meaning to praise) and a shortened form of the word for Yahweh, “jah”.
Earlier lessons have reviewed the five divisions of “books” that some scholars see within the book of Psalms. They include Psalm 1-41, which focuses on the Davidic dynasty; Psalm 42-72, which focuses on the flourishing of that dynasty; Psalm 73-89, which focuses on the failure of the dynasty; Psalm 90-106, which focuses on the fact that God is ultimately the king and that God reigns; and Psalm 107-150, which celebrates the fact that, in that role, God will one day make all things right.
We're so glad you decided to join us today!
When we meet in person, we share our joys and concerns together. If you have any you would like to share, you can add them in the comments.
This week's lesson is Psalm 84.
Psalm 84 is in Book III of the Psalter.
A total of 11 Psalms are written "of the Sons of Korah." Our book says this could mean either that the songs were written by those descendants of Korah, or that the songs were written for them.
The song may have been written for a pilgrimage to the temple, maybe for a new-year festival. However, this is based on Psalm 84:5, and is quite speculative.
We're so happy you're joining us today!
When we meet together, we share our joys and concerns. Take some time to consider your last week. What worries did you have? What caused you joy? If you have any prayer requests, you can add them as a comment to this post. When you are ready, you can get started with this prayer (source):
Father, we praise You for the delicate way You powerfully align our lives to Your creation. Thank You for the waters and mountains that remind us of You. Forgive us for overlooking Your presence in every aspect of our lives, and bless us to notice and give glory to You, for You are our healer. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
This week's lesson is on Psalm 107:1-9, 39-43.
We're so glad you are joining us today!
When we meet in person, we share our joys and concerns together. Take some time to consider your past week, and any prayer requests you might have. If you have anything you would like us to pray for, you can add it as a comment to this post. When you are ready, get started with a word of prayer (source):
Heavenly Father, we believe and trust your Word, we want to grow in you more each day and to understand your promises for us. We commit our time together to you and ask that you heal and restore us as we dive into your Word. We want a deeper faith. We want to meet with you and know you better. So today, we say "yes" to what you want to show us as we read Scripture. Amen.
This week's lesson is on Psalm 9:1-12.
We're so glad you've decided to join us today!
When we meet together in person, we share our joys and concerns with each other before we focus on our Sunday school lesson. Think about your needs and concerns right now, and if you like, you can share them in the comments.
Today’s lesson is Psalm 100. It is a brief psalm that calls the earth all its people to offer God unbridled worship, praise and thanksgiving for God’s faithful and unending care and love.
Our Sunday school and church is now open so that we can join to worship God, to learn about God’s word and to encourage each other in person. We are grateful to be back together, but we continue to pray for those who not yet able to participate in person or who do not yet feel comfortable participating in person. We are glad that those who cannot be with us physically are able to learn and worship with us here online.
The following prayer was written by Deb Wolf and posted on her website, “Counting My Blessings at the Intersection of Faith and Life.” More of her prayers and blog posts can be found at her site, How to Be Prepared & Stand Strong When It's Hard to Follow Jesus - CMB.
Let’s pray together.
Father, we thank You and praise You. You alone are God. You are the Creator of everything. We lift Your name high and worship Your holy name. Help us to serve You with joy.
Help us to love You with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. Help us to love ourselves as You love us. Help us to love others as we love ourselves. Help us to live humbly as we follow You, our Shepherd.
You are good and full of mercy. You are faithful always. Your grace and love cover each generation with forgiveness and hope. You are Lord of all. You are Father, Son, and Spirit…. forever and ever and always. We worship You. We praise You. Amen.
This week's lesson is on Psalm 100.
We're so glad you've decided to join us today!
We are meeting in person again! While we meet, we share our joys and concerns from the past week with each other. If you have any prayer requests you would like to share, you can add them in the comments. Our Sunday School lessons for this quarter are all about celebrating God. Our prayer today is a prayer of praise thanksgiving. When you are ready, use the prayer below to get started.
Father, I thank You today for the gift of praise. Thank you for revealing Yourself to me through Your Word, by Your Spirit, and in Your creation, that I might stand in awe of You. You alone are worthy of praise and glory and honor, for You have created all things, that in all things You might be preeminent. For every request that I offer, every supplication that I raise, and every intercession I make, let me never neglect to render the praise You are due. In the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.
This week's lesson is on Acts 2:32-33, 37-47.
We're so glad you're joining us today!
When we meet in person, we take time to share our joys and concerns together. Take some time to consider your last week. What good or worrying things do you have to pray for? If you would like, you can share them in the comments of this post. When you're ready, use this prayer, which is really a hymn, to get started.
Dear Lord and Father of humankind,
Forgive our foolish ways;
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.
Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.
Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.
This week's lesson is on Mark 10:46-52.
We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.