Christ, the Light of the World

Copy (5) of Holman Hunt Picture

I am looking for volunteer translators from English into Arabic. Contact me if interested in getting these studies into your own language.

20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me (Revelation 3:20).

There is a famous painting by Holman Hunt. It is of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, coming to a door that has weeds growing around the door that was being opened for the first time. The picture was of Jesus knocking on the door. This picture had people flocking from all over England when it came out. It now stands at Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London with another copy at Keble College Chapel, Oxford. Many wonder why it was and is so popular. The popularity is due to the imagery that Hunt had painted into it. Although you cannot see it clearly in this image above, the painting is of the Lord Jesus coming to a darkened house, which is typical of the life of you and I.  The door has no outside handle – it can only be opened from within: Christ knocks on each of our hearts, but only we may open up to him. Notice too that it has become overgrown with weeds: this door has not been opened for some length of time.

The lights in the scene are full of meaning too. Whilst the rising lights in the background provide some illumination, the main illumination is through Jesus’ lamp (“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path”  (Psalm 119:105). And look at the rich orchard and beauty of the world that awaits they who open to Jesus! Remember too that the crown of the one who knocks is composed of thorns. The Lord Jesus stands at the door of our hearts and wants to come in and illuminate the darkness that is within us. Are things dark around you? Call to Him and open the door of your heart by sincerely asking Him to forgive your sin and come into the darkened room of your heart. Here I am, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me (Revelation 3:20). He will not force His way into your life–remember the symbolism that Holman Hunt painted–the handle of the door is only on our side. He knocks to let Him in, but it is up to you to turn the handle and invite Him in.

Keith Thomas

What’s Heaven Like?

Have you ever wondered what eternity will be like? God hasn’t told us everything in His Word, but there are snippets of information of where those that have given their lives to Christ will live. I hope you are one of those that are called the Bride of Christ, the wife of the Lamb. Let’s look at where those who have entered into covenant with the Lamb will live:

“Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using. 18The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass. 22I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 21:9-27. Emphasis mine).

The wall around this city is 144 cubits thick. That is equivalent to 216 feet. We are also told that the size of the New Jerusalem is 12,000 stadia and as wide as it is long which today measures 1400 miles wide and 1400 miles long. That is an area extending from California to the Appalachian Mountains and from Canada to Mexico. The ground level alone is nearly two million square miles. Don’t forget though, the distance is as high as it is wide and long (verse 16). If each story is a generous 12 feet, that would make 600,000 stories. Billions of people will be able to live there with many square miles per person. The dimension of the city is a perfect cube. In Solomon’s Temple in Israel there was a room that only the High Priest, once a year, with the sacrificial blood of a slain animal, entered beyond the heavy curtain that kept man separated from the very presence of God. This curtain was the one that was torn at the very time of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross (Matthew 27:51). The room of the Most Holy Place, where God alone dwelt, was a cube of twenty cubits (1 Kings 6:20). The New Jerusalem’s dimensions reflect the fact that God wants for Man to live with Him forever. It is a picture of man being invited into the very presence of God and to enjoy fellowshipping with Him and His people forever in the Holy of Holies. How wonderful it must have been for John the Apostle, the person who wrote down the Book of Revelation, for He sees his own name on one of the foundation stones (Revelation 21:14). We don’t yet know how our efforts for Christ in this world affect others, only God knows, but it is interesting that John gets to see that his life has made a difference for eternity.

Keith Thomas

The Bravery of Pastor Tson

25Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me (John 12:25-26).

The two instances of the word, “life” (highlighted) in the above verse is the Greek word psyche, which means physical life or one’s self-life. He’s saying that if you love your self-life in this world, and you are oriented around just pleasing yourself, self-fulfillment, self-actualization or self-enjoyment, that is selfishness. That kind of heart attitude is what should have been broken when you came to the cross of Christ at your conversion (if you are a believer). When we see and follow the example of Christ it will lead us as Christians to triumph over the world system that our Lord Jesus and His followers are at war with:

It was late in the summer of 1977 and Romania was under communist rule when the Baptist minister put all his worldly concerns in order after the manner of a dying man. Buoyed by the courage of his wife, Elizabeth, Pastor Tson prepared himself for certain martyrdom. He was to meet an officer from the secret police in the restaurant of a nondescript Romanian hotel. The communist officer had pledged to do what previous secret police officials had failed to do: silence Tson’s ministry by offering him a secular job in exchange for a promise that he never again preach the Gospel. Turning down the job spelled at least hard time in a prison camp. It might very well mean execution. Tson met with the man and without flinching turned down the job.

“I told the man, ‘Now I am ready to die,’” Tson said. “‘You said you were going to finish me as a preacher. I asked my God and he wants me to continue to be a preacher. Now I have to make one of you two angry and I decided [it is] better [to] make you angry than God.” “‘But I know you, sir; you cannot stand this kind of opposition and you will kill me in one way or another. But I accepted that and you should know that I have even put everything in order and made ready to die. But as long as I am free, I will preach the Gospel.’”

The communist officer was equally unflinching in his response: He told Tson to go and preach the Gospel. “He [the officer] made up his mind that if I was ready to die for it, then I should have it,” Tson said. “And for another four years until they exiled me, I continued to preach with nobody disturbing me because that man, a key man in the secret police, decided I should be free to preach because I was ready to die for it.” He was arrested and imprisoned several times in Romania during the 1970s and charged with being a Christian minister. Each time he underwent several weeks of intense interrogation, beatings and mind games before finally being exiled from the country in 1981.

“When the secret police officer threatened to kill me, to shoot me, I smiled and I said, ‘Sir, don’t you understand that when you kill me you send me to glory? You cannot threaten me with glory.’ The more suffering, the more troubles, the greater the glory. So, why say, ‘Stop this trouble’? Because the more [suffering], the greater the glory up there.” During one particularly harrowing session of interrogation, Tson told his inquisitors that spilling his blood would only serve to water the growth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Part of the theology of suffering, he learned, was that tribulation is never an accident but is part of God’s sovereign plan for building His church.

“I told the interrogator, ‘You should know your supreme weapon is killing. My supreme weapon is dying,’” Tson said. “‘Now here is how it works, sir: You know that my sermons are on tape all over the country. When you shoot me or crush me, whichever way you choose, [you] only sprinkle my sermons with my blood. Everybody who has a tape of one of my sermons will pick it up and say, ‘I had better listen again. This man died for what he preached.’ Sir, my sermons will speak 10 times louder after you kill me and because you kill me. In fact, I will conquer this country for God because you killed me. Go on and do it.’ “Dying for the Lord is not an accident. It’s not a tragedy. It’s part of the job. It’s part of the ministry. And it’s the greatest way of preaching.”

Tson said he has learned that Christians suffer for two primary reasons: as witnesses to the Gospel and to perfect the church of Christ. He recalled being encouraged by a valuable truth that a British theologian taught him: The cross of Christ was for the propitiation of sins, but the cross each Christian is called to bear is for the propagation of the Gospel.

Keith Thomas

Are You In a Test?

“God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart” (2 Chronicles 32:31).

There are times of testing that God sometimes initiates and sometimes allows. Not all that happens to us is God initiated though. Job’s test was satanically initiated but God allowed it for His glory and purposes (Job 1:9-12). Then there was the time when Abraham was tested to see how far he had come in his walk with God:

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied (Genesis 22:1).

Of course, God knows our hearts; the problem is our side, we often don’t know what’s in our own hearts. The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, the Lord says (Jeremiah 17:9). The test of God is designed for us to see ourselves, how far short we fall from His standard—Jesus Christ. I see at least two purposes that God has in the test. If you are a Christian, God is at work in you to sanctify you and make you more like Jesus in your character. If you are not yet a Christian, you may be in a trial or a test that is designed or allowed by the Creator of the universe
to bring you to a place where you may realize your need of Him. God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble (James 4:6). While a man or woman seeks to be right with God by His own accomplishments or goodness he will find that inner peace will elude him. But if a man recognizes his own spiritual bankruptcy before a holy God, he will find favor with God.

17My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise (Psalm 51:17).

This is not for a particular people group such as just the Jewish people that it was written for, no, this is for all men and women everywhere. When you come to God with a heart of need—a broken, contrite (affected by guilt and remorse) heart, then the test or trial that you have gone through has done its work. What you have perhaps gone through has been very dark, but God is working on you for an eternal benefit. This life is not just for here. We are eternal creatures, created for much more than this world. There will come a time when you will see the eternal benefit of what you have gone through, as long as you repent, believe the gospel and put your trust in Him.

Have you ever read of the story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis? (Chapters 37-50). This young man of around seventeen years of age was thrust into a test, which he was unaware of, but through the difficulties that he went through certain gifts arose in him that was greatly used for the salvation of his family in the midst of famine. Ahead of the famine, God planned to work in the heart of Joseph to train him through building his character that he might endure political office alongside Pharaoh, that when the time was right, Joseph would bring deliverance to all his family. You may be in a test and are unaware of it! Character is formed in a test. With Joseph the dark time of testing and trial was preparing him for his promotion to being alongside the king of Egypt. If we come through the test with our character intact, we will be lifted up and trusted more. When you pass the character test, God knows that you will not compromise your faith in Him and can be used to a greater degree. Are you going through a trial at the moment? Is it a test of the Lord? If it is, don’t compromise! Hang on to Him in the midst of the darkness—light will come and you will hear Him one day say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” That means everything to the true child of God.

Keith Thomas

Are You Asleep or Watching?

36If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” (Mark 13:36-37).

I was separated from my wife and two children for nearly three months in the year 2000 when I left them in England to start work in a large mega church in Cincinnati, Ohio (I was born in England).  You bet I was counting the days for our reunion! How lonely I was without the ones I loved. It brought me to tears a number of times.  As the time grew closer for our reunion, I began to prepare everything for us to be close again.  I checked the flight times again and again, I planned where we would eat on the way from the airport, I cleaned the house meticulously where we would be staying, but most of all, I prepared myself. My time was spent in the days before their coming in much preparation.  What joy I had when they arrived, we hugged and kissed repeatedly.  I was so excited to show them around Cincinnati, the city where we would now be living.  My girlfriend (my wife of 32 years) and my two children were coming home to their own country after 18 or so years of serving God in England.  You cannot understand the joy I felt to bring them back to their family and country.

If you are a Christian this world is not your home.  Like me longing for my family, our Lord is longing for our reunion.  He has spent nearly 2000 years preparing a place for us so that where He is we shall be also (John 14:1-3).  What joy will flood His heart upon our reunion, how he longs to show us where we will be living together. It must be disappointing to Him that some would not even be watching for their reunion day–their hearts are not beating with the same passion that is in His.  There are some who are just not aware of the days in which we are living; they are asleep and are not lovingly watching for His return.

Are you watching for His return? Are you avidly working and using your resources to advance the Kingdom of God here on Earth? As a fellow soldier on watch duty, can I call you to attention so that you may lovingly watch for Him? Isn’t it time to get excited about seeing Him and preparing for that time?

Prayer: Father, keep me awake in the midst of a world that wants to drug me to sleep.  I really want to be wide-awake and sensitive to you so that I may walk in eager anticipation for that great reunion day.