because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the Word of Truth, the Gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the Grace of God in Truth
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the Message of Truth, the Gospel of your Salvation.
When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.
He set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged.
Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! (Colossians 1:4-6; Ephesians 1:13; 2 Corinthians 1:22; Romans 5:3-5)
To the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.
In Him, you also, after listening to the Message of Truth, the Gospel of your Salvation– having also believed,
you were Sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance,
with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.
A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob will return to the Mighty God. (Isaiah 10:21)
“For My own name’s sake I delay My wrath; for the sake of My praise I hold it back from you, so as not to destroy you completely.”
“As soon as the grain is ripe, He puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
“Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow– so great is their wickedness!”
(Mark 4:29; Joel 3:13)
Judgments and Promises
Both their own iniquities and the iniquities of their fathers together,” says the LORD.
“Because they have burned incense on the mountains And scorned Me on the hills,
Therefore I will measure their former work into their bosom.”
Thus says the LORD, “As the new wine is found in the cluster, And one says, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is benefit in it,’
So I will act on behalf of My servants In order not to destroy all of them.
“I will bring forth offspring from Jacob, And an heir of My mountains from Judah; Even My chosen ones shall inherit it,
And My servants will dwell there. (Isaiah 65:7-9)
“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence.” (Daniel 7:13)
I, Paul, am under God’s plan as an apostle, a special agent of Christ Jesus, writing to you faithful believers in Ephesus. I greet you with the grace and peace poured into our lives by God our Father and our Master, Jesus Christ.
The God of Glory
How blessed is God! And what a blessing He is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in Him. Long before He laid down earth’s foundations, He had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of His love, to be made whole and holy by His love. Long, long ago He decided to adopt us into His family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure He took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of His lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.
Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, His blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans He took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in Him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.
It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for.
Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, He had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose He is working out in everything and everyone.
It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation),
found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit.
This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.
That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing Him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is He is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life He has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of His work in us who trust Him—endless energy, boundless strength!
All this energy issues from Christ: God raised Him from death and set Him on a throne in deep heaven,
in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from His rule.
And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything.
At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church.
The church is Christ’s body, in which He speaks and acts, by which He fills everything with His presence.
True peace begins with knowing God. Those who listen and live by His teachings find that wholeness and goodness flood into their lives. The wicked, however, face a different reality; they live with constant danger and problems.
Listen to this, everyone—near and far:
The Eternal One singled me out, even before I was born.
He called me and named me when I was still in my mother’s belly.
Even then, God was preparing my mouth to speak like a sharp sword.
He kept my purpose quiet, kept me safe in the shadow of His hand,
He crafted me into a sharp-tipped arrow and tucked me away in His quiver;
God said to me, “You are My servant, Israel.
Through you, I will be glorified.”
I said, “I’ve worked hard for nothing.
I spent my strength, and what have I accomplished—nothing,
Yet my justice and reward are secure with my God, the Eternal One.”
And now the Eternal who watched, shaped, and made me His own servant
from the womb has determined to restore Jacob’s family;
Israel will be made right with the Eternal again.
For God has counted me worthy and He has been my strength right along.
Eternal One: As My servant you will do even more than this,
even more than restoring Jacob’s family to Me
And making Israel right with Me again.
I will make you a light for the nations,
And You will illumine them until My salvation reaches to the ends of the earth.[a]
This is what the Eternal One, the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel,
told to the one who is despised and loathed by the nation,
To the servant of national leaders.
Eternal One: At the sight of you, kings will rise and princes will bow down,
for I, the Eternal, faithful and true, the Holy One of Israel, have chosen you.
The Eternal has this to say:
Eternal One: When the time was right, I answered you;
on the day you were delivered, I was your help.
I will watch over you, and give you
as a promise, a binding covenant to the people.
Through you, My gift to the people, the land of promise will recover.
Ancestral ground, once deserted, will be entrusted to them.
Through you, My gift to the people, I will declare to the prisoners,
“Come out. Now you are free”;
To those who are held in darkness, “Come out into the light.”
They will find sustenance wherever they are—
Along the roads or in the open hills—
with peace of mind, in comfort and security.
Wherever they are, they will be fine, never hungry nor thirsty.
They will be protected from oppressive heat and the burning sun
Because the One who loves them—as a mother loves her child—will be their guide.
God will lead them to restful places, rejuvenating springs of water.
I will make their going easy, level the mountain road
and smooth the path that leads them home.
Look! Even now, they are coming from lands far away,
some from the north, others from the west, these from the land of Sinim.[c]
Oh joy! Be glad—sky! Take joy—earth! Burst into song—mountains!
For the Eternal, moved to compassion, has comforted and consoled His people.
There are many kinds of love—and not enough words to tell the differences.
Hebrew has a word for “love” that is related to its word for a woman’s womb. English has no such word.
It is too bad, for it is difficult to describe womb-love, the bearing-and-birthing love of a mother, the kind of love that the Lord has for the people of God’s promise, Jacob’s children.
God shaped this people as His own and bound them with no ordinary promise.
God loves them in the same way a mother loves the child growing in her womb.
It can’t be said so neatly and completely with one “love” word, but that is the idea that threads its way through this text.
Zion: The Eternal One has abandoned me. God has walked out the door;
my Lord left me alone. He has forgotten all about me.
Eternal One: Is it possible for a mother, however disappointed,
however hurt, to forget her nursing child?
Can she feel nothing for the baby she carried and birthed?
Even if she could, I, God, will never forget you.
Look here. I have made you a part of Me, written you on the palms of My hands.
Your city walls are always on My mind, always My concern.
Now sweet Zion your children are running pell-mell back to you
Just as fast as those who destroyed you are leaving.
Raise your head, lift up your eyes,
and watch your heart’s desire come—
All your children, gathered and returning to you. As I live, so I promise.
You will wear them with pride all like shining ornaments;
you will put them on as a bride on her wedding day.
Because of all of your destroyed land—the barren fields and abandoned farms—
you are now too small, too cramped for all your citizens;
And those who tried to swallow you whole will be far, far away.
The children you mourned, those born in exile, will return and say,
“It is too cramped and crowded for us;
We’re going to need more room if we are to live here.”
You’ll say to yourself, “Where in the world did all these people come from?
Could these really be mine?
I thought I’d been desolated, left empty.
Where have you all been? Where did you come from?”
This is what the Lord, the Eternal, has to say:
Eternal One: I will lift My hand and signal every nation that holds your people
And they will bring your children back again:
boys bundled in their arms, girls riding on their shoulders.
Kings will tend the children of Zion, and their queens will nurse and nurture them.
These greats will humble themselves before you.
They will bow and lick the dust off your feet,
and in the course of it all, you will remember that I am the Eternal.
Whoever trusts in Me will never be put to shame.
Jerusalem: Can the spoil of war be taken from the mighty?
Can the captives be freed from the hand of a tyrant?
Eternal One: Hard to believe, but it shall be so.
The captives will be taken from the hand of the mighty,
And the spoil of war will be rescued from the tyrant.
I will liberate them from their captors and contend with your enemies.
I will save your children.
I will turn your enemies’ violence back on themselves,
and they will suffer their own atrocities:
They will feed on their own flesh and drink their own blood like wine.
Then every person on earth will know for certain that I, the Eternal, am your Savior.
I am your hero, the strong One of Jacob from whom you come.
I will rescue you, whatever the price.
Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription:
“The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” (2 Timothy 2:19)
Everyone on earth whose name was not written from the world’s foundation in the slaughtered Lamb’s Book of Life will worship the Beast.
Are you listening to this? They’ve made their bed; now they must lie in it.
Anyone marked for prison goes straight to prison; anyone pulling a sword goes down by the sword.
Meanwhile, God’s holy people passionately and faithfully stand their ground.
The endurance and faithfulness of the saints will be tested here.
The Woman, Her Son, and the Dragon
A great Sign appeared in Heaven: a Woman dressed all in sunlight, standing on the moon, and crowned with Twelve Stars. She was giving birth to a Child and cried out in the pain of childbirth.
And then another Sign alongside the first: a huge and fiery Dragon! It had seven heads and ten horns, a crown on each of the seven heads. With one flick of its tail it knocked a third of the Stars from the sky and dumped them on earth. The Dragon crouched before the Woman in childbirth, poised to eat up the Child when it came.
The Woman gave birth to a Son who will shepherd all nations with an iron rod. Her Son was seized and placed safely before God on his Throne. The Woman herself escaped to the desert to a place of safety prepared by God, all comforts provided her for 1,260 days.
War broke out in Heaven. Michael and his Angels fought the Dragon. The Dragon and his Angels fought back, but were no match for Michael. They were cleared out of Heaven, not a sign of them left. The great Dragon—ancient Serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, the one who led the whole earth astray—thrown out, and all his Angels thrown out with him, thrown down to earth. Then I heard a strong voice out of Heaven saying,
Salvation and power are established!
Kingdom of our God, authority of his Messiah!
The Accuser of our brothers and sisters thrown out,
who accused them day and night before God.
They defeated him through the blood of the Lamb
and the bold word of their witness.
They weren’t in love with themselves;
they were willing to die for Christ.
So rejoice, O Heavens, and all who live there,
but doom to earth and sea,
For the Devil’s come down on you with both feet;
he’s had a great fall;
He’s wild and raging with anger;
he hasn’t much time and he knows it.
When the Dragon saw he’d been thrown to earth, he went after the Woman who had given birth to the Man-Child.
The Woman was given wings of a great eagle to fly to a place in the desert to be kept in safety and comfort for a time and times and half a time, safe and sound from the Serpent.
The Serpent vomited a river of water to swamp and drown her, but earth came to her help, swallowing the water the Dragon spewed from its mouth. Helpless with rage, the Dragon raged at the Woman, then went off to make war with the rest of her children, the children who keep God’s commands and hold firm to the witness of Jesus.
The Servants of God
Immediately I saw Four Angels standing at the four corners of earth, standing steady with a firm grip on the four winds so no wind would blow on earth or sea, not even rustle a tree.
Then I saw another Angel rising from where the sun rose, carrying the seal of the Living God. He thundered to the Four Angels assigned the task of hurting earth and sea, “Don’t hurt the earth! Don’t hurt the sea! Don’t so much as hurt a tree until I’ve sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads!”
I heard the count of those who were sealed: 144,000! They were sealed out of every Tribe of Israel: 12,000 sealed from Judah, 12,000 from Reuben, 12,000 from Gad, 12,000 from Asher, 12,000 from Naphtali, 12,000 from Manasseh, 12,000 from Simeon, 12,000 from Levi, 12,000 from Issachar, 12,000 from Zebulun, 12,000 from Joseph, 12,000 sealed from Benjamin.
I looked again. I saw a huge crowd, too huge to count. Everyone was there—all nations and tribes, all races and languages. And they were standing, dressed in white robes and waving palm branches, standing before the Throne and the Lamb and heartily singing:
Salvation to our God on his Throne!
Salvation to the Lamb!
All who were standing around the Throne—Angels, Elders, Animals—fell on their faces before the Throne and worshiped God, singing:
The blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving,
The honor and power and strength,
To our God forever and ever and ever!
Just then one of the Elders addressed me: “Who are these dressed in white robes, and where did they come from?” Taken aback, I said, “O Sir, I have no idea—but you must know.”
Then he told me, “These are those who come from the great tribulation, and they’ve washed their robes, scrubbed them clean in the blood of the Lamb. That’s why they’re standing before God’s Throne. They serve him day and night in his Temple. The One on the Throne will pitch his tent there for them: no more hunger, no more thirst, no more scorching heat. The Lamb on the Throne will shepherd them, will lead them to spring waters of Life. And God will wipe every last tear from their eyes.”
He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all He created. (James 1:18)
The Harvest of the Earth
Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man,
having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand.
And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud,
“Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.”
Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle,
“Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.”
(Revelation 14:14-15; 18)
They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.
Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.
Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous
It will be as when reapers harvest the standing grain, gathering the grain in their arms– as when someone gleans heads of grain in the Valley of Rephaim.
“I have trodden the winepress alone; from the nations no one was with me. I trampled them in my anger and trod them down in my wrath; their blood spattered my garments, and I stained all my clothing.
This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Daughter Babylon is like a threshing floor at the time it is trampled; the time to harvest her will soon come.”
“The Lord has rejected all the warriors in my midst; he has summoned an army against me to crush my young men. In his winepress the Lord has trampled Virgin Daughter Judah.
“Also for you, Judah, a harvest is appointed. “Whenever I would restore the fortunes of my people,
Unless the LORD Almighty had left us some survivors,
we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah. (Isaiah 1:9)
“The One who comes from above is head and shoulders over other messengers from God.
The earthborn is earthbound and speaks earth language; the heavenborn is in a league of His own.
He sets out the evidence of what He saw and heard in heaven. No one wants to deal with these facts.
But anyone who examines this evidence will come to stake his life on this: that God Himself is the Truth.
“The One that God sent speaks God’s words. And don’t think He rations out the Spirit in bits and pieces.
The Father loves the Son extravagantly. He turned everything over to Him so He could give it away—a lavish distribution of gifts.
That is why whoever accepts and trusts the Son gets in on everything, life complete and forever!
And that is also why the person who avoids and distrusts the Son is in the dark and doesn’t see life.
All he experiences of God is darkness, and an angry darkness at that.” (John 3:31-36)