Revelation Study/Getaway Weekend!

Bible, beach, babes.

This past weekend, I attended a mini women’s retreat with a few ladies from my church. We went to a friend’s condo in Oceanside, CA, and spent the weekend walking on the beach, talking, praying, and studying the Bible together. It was a truly special and memorable weekend!

I was asked to prepare a few teachings on the book of Revelation, and so was another woman, named Lynn. Revelation probably isn’t the topic I would have chosen for a women’s retreat (I mean, isn’t Song of Solomon and Proverbs 31 more typical fare for these kinds of things? I’ve actually never been to a women’s retreat before.) but these ladies were really hungry to know what the Word says about this crucial area of understanding– the end times and the return of Jesus.

I admit to being nervous about the teaching. Lynn planned to also teach on Revelation, but from the opposite eschatological perspective. Whereas I believe that the events of Revelation are still to come (the futurist/historical premillennialist view), she believes that most of the events were fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD (the partial preterist/amillennialist view). I really wasn’t sure what form those discussions would take, and even though I’ve studied several different eschatological views, I was really nervous about being able to represent my beliefs well in this kind of situation.

As it turned out, everything went very smoothly. I was amazed at the unity and fellowship that God brought. Several of the ladies got deeply touched by the Father, and we all felt very encouraged. I came to love and respect Lynn very much; she is extremely kind, wise, and hungry for God and His truth. Her wisdom as we candidly discussed different life situations and world issues was invaluable. She has spent years studying Revelation, sometimes for 10-15 hours each week, while being a wife and homeschooling mom. I was deeply provoked by her determination to search out truth for herself, as well as the way she prioritised relationship over debating. That’s a woman who loves Jesus and loves people very well indeed!

I also noticed several themes that we both shared as we were teaching:

  1. Revelation is meant to be understood by all believers, not only the theologically elite.
  2. Revelation becomes clear as we let Scripture interpret Scripture.
  3. Revelation is the revelation OF JESUS CHRIST (Rev. 1:1) – it’s the story of His heart.
  4. Revelation isn’t meant to be fearful- it’s a story of hope and courage for the Church.
  5. Revelation is at its core the story of a jealous God of love, not an angry, trigger-happy God of smitage*.
  6. Revelation sees the Church come into full maturity as the Bride finally looks like Jesus.
  7. Revelation ends with God’s Kingdom being fully established and His Bride being with Him forever.

I also had volunteered to lead worship (I brought my little keyboard and set it up on the kitchen table), and it was such a privilege to glorify the Lord through song with these ladies and invite the Holy Spirit into our midst. God brought a supernatural unity as we fellowshipped, studied, worshipped, and prayed.

Here are the notes from my Revelation teachings this weekend. I’m also adding the timelines from IHOPKC that I used and gave the ladies with the session 1 notes. Many more study resources can be found at MikeBickle.org and IHOPKC.org.

Session 1 – Themes and Structure
Session 2 – Bridegroom, King, and Judge
Session 3 – Jesus’ Second Coming
IHOPKC Revelation timeline

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*Don’t go looking for that word in any theological dictionary. You won’t find it.

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7 Simple Things I Learned At IHOPKC

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Every time I come home from studying at IHOPU in Kansas City, and especially now that I’ve graduated, I am frequently asked about what I’ve learned. I’ve started realising that the question sort of makes me feel a little awkward because I’m not really sure how to answer. On the one hand, my whole life has changed and I know I understand things now that I didn’t before, but on the other hand, they’re really not deep, massive, mystically profound things. Most of them are the same old simple things we’ve always known.

It’s like when you grow up hearing “Jesus loves me” and then one day you find yourself on the floor weeping caught up in the realisation that “JESUS! LOVES!! ME!!!”

I didn’t learn a new gospel. Maybe I just saw the gospel a little bit more clearly.

So here are 7 simple things I learned at IHOPKC:

1. Jesus really likes me.

Not only does Jesus love me because “God is love” and He loves everyone, but He actually enjoys me and my personality. He loves that I’m a sci-fi geek. He loves the way I dance, differently than He loves anyone else’s dance. He enjoys my sense of humour. He gets a kick out of the way I talk to Him! He thinks about me all the time. He enjoys suprising me, making me smile, and providing for me. He wants me to be with Him all the time, and He wants to share the things that are on His heart with me. There are things that He urgently cares about, and He wants me to feel the same way He does, because that’s what friends do.

2. I don’t have to be awesome for God to like me or use me.

(This is kind of an extension of #1, but it’s huge so it gets its own point.) All of the above is still true when I screw up. I may get distracted or stuborn and wander off the path pretty frequently, but I still want to follow Him and I still let Him lead me back every time. That counts. He knows my heart better than I do. To quote Mike Bickle, there’s a difference between weakness and rebellion, and weak love is still real love.

3. The Bible is good stuff.

I mean, duh, but my enjoyment of the Bible grew like crazy when I was eating it up, searching it out, praying it, and singing it in the context of prayer and worship where my only priority was to love Jesus. I fell in love with stories I’d known since kindergarten and passages I could never make sense of in high school. The Bible is fun and super interesting when you read it with the Holy Spirit.

4. Jesus is worthy of everything.

“Worthy” just means “deserving.” Jesus deserves the full love and worship of every person, and He deserves to rule the earth forever. Everything that exists is meant to be in submission to Him– not only because He’s Creator GOD, but He actually deserves it because He is the most kind, humble, just, and wise person to ever exist. He proved it on the cross. We can confidently invite Him to rule this earth and our hearts because we trust that He can do a really, really good job.

5. Worship and intercession are a big deal and they go really well together.

Worship is super important because it’s the 24/7 activity of heaven and God fully deserves it (see #4). Intercession is super important because that’s step 1 in how we partner with God to make the things that He wants to happen happen. Combined, worship and prayer support each other and help our hearts stay connected to what we’re doing– and this effect, like, quintuples when we put the Word smack dab in the middle of everything we pray and sing. Hence, the 24/7 prayer (and worship) room.

6. God really loves Israel, like, a lot.

I’m not even sure what my theology of Israel was before IHOPU. I understood some things and had other things a little mixed up, but I had certainly never wept over Jesus’ heart for His people before. Praying through passages like Zechariah 2 peirced me. Jesus REALLY, REALLY loves and is COMMITTED to the people He originally chose as His bride. He’s really, really faithful–all His promises are yes and amen–and He will fulfill every word He ever spoke.

7. Jesus is coming soon and we are part of the story.

He promised He would come, and by all indications this era of history is nearing a climax. There will be a pretty dramatic series of events leading up to Jesus standing on the earth again, and we’re not supposed to be on the sidelines or swept out of the way. Jesus wants us awake, informed, and involved in what He’s doing. That starts now, because Jesus is looking for a global Church that is fully mature and alligned with Him when He comes. A major way we grow into that is by giving ourselves wholeheartedly to prayer and worship (see #5). Another major way is through evangelism and missions. Jesus said that the gospel will be preached to all nations before the end. There are actually a number of passages that talk about 24/7 prayer and worship arising from all over the earth in the final generation of history… so worship, prayer, and missions together are HUGE elements in the story of Jesus’ return.

 

I would have agreed with these points even before IHOPU, but while I was there, spending hours nearly every day in the prayer room, they were driven much more deeply into my heart. Of course they’re profound truths, and I am so grateful that I now have conviction, passion, and personal heart experience with each of them, but they’re so simple!

I admit, in my first few months I walked around with my head spinning thinking “WHOA, I HAD NO IDEA! THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE HAVE BEEN REVEALED TO ME!”, and yeah, I was studying areas of the Bible I hadn’t before and hearing a wider range of theories on a few details, but by my senior year I realised that none of what I was learning was dramatically new revelation. Mike Bickle isn’t a prophet or a theological pioneer, and IHOPKC reads the same Bible as everyone else. (We just sometimes preach it a little more dramatically!) Besides, at the end of the day, the more intriguing and debatable theories aren’t what I cherish. It’s simple truths like these.

I found that as I gave my time and attention to prayer and worship, simple truths came alive to me. Jesus loves me, He wants me to talk to Him, and He wants me to be part of His story.

HOLY SPIRIT

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Put your hand on your belly.

In John 7:38 Jesus said that whoever believes in Him, “out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” The next verse explains that He’s talking about the Holy Spirit. The word “belly” is from the King James Version, and most of your translations probably say heart, but the Greek word koilias actually means “belly.” In the Hebrew way of thinking, your belly represented the seat of your emotions and your deepest inner parts, the way we talk about the heart.

No, it’s not actually literal; of course the Holy Spirit is not squeezed inside of you next to your large intestine, but it does kind of make a lot of sense. We know that the belly is often the emotional centre of the body. Sure, we feel things in our heart, but we also feel them in our stomach. Your stomach’s tied up in knots. You have butterflies in your stomach.

Actors and singers know this too. If you’ve ever taken an acting or voice class, you’ve been told to “breathe from your diaphragm.” The diaphragm is the muscle in your abdomen that makes your lungs expand. I was always told, “feel your stomach expanding like a balloon.” I spent a lot of time in all my acting years concentrating on my belly as the centre of my breath.

That very breath in your lungs that fills your belly—what is it? Where does it come from? Genesis 2:7—it’s the breath of life. The Spirit of God.

“Out of his belly will flow rivers of living water.”

Right now, if you have believed in Jesus and given your life over to Him, you have that living water inside of you. Historically, “living water” referred to a river that was clean and flowing. Pure and moving. This is true of the Holy Spirit, but it’s also more than that. He is actually the LIVING. WATER.

Dive deep.

You have right now the Spirit of God living inside of your body. You are His temple. You are the building that He lives in.

The Holy Spirit is not a force. I love to watch Star Wars and think about God, but the Holy Spirit is not the Force. He’s a Person. He has a personality. He has a mind. He has emotions. And He is the Eternal Living God.

And He lives inside of you.

1 Corinthians 2 says that no one knows a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit. Only you really know what you’re thinking at any given time unless you tell someone, right? Because you live inside of you. So only the Spirit of God can know the thoughts of God, right? BUT GOD put His Spirit inside of you. We have the mind of Christ. The Holy Spirit searches the deep things of God, and then He reveals them to us. It’s His favourite thing to do.

Put your hand on your belly.

The Bible uses several different images to talk about the Holy Spirit. It says that He’s like wind. (John 3:8, Acts 2:2)  The very word “Spirit” in Hebrew (ruach) and Greek (pneuma) means “breath” or “wind.” Wind can be a cool, gentle breeze, or a mighty rushing hurricane. He loves like a hurricane.

He’s like water. (John 7:37-39, Isaiah 44:3) He’s like rain (Hosea 6:3), or like the ocean. When you go to the beach, you can choose how much you get in the water. You can get your toes wet, or you can go in up to your knees, or up to your waist, or even in over your head where you can feel the waves rhythmically pounding around you and the salt and sand and water rushing through your hair. (cf. Ezekiel 47) But even then, you’re still at the beach. You can never go to the bottom of the ocean floor, and you can never touch every drop of the ocean. You can never reach the end of God’s Spirit.

And He’s like fire. The fire of God rested on the disciples at Pentecost. (Acts 2:3) The fire of God burns before the throne of God. (Revelation 4:5) God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:29) When we pray for fire to come, that’s not just cool revival language. We’re asking for a Person.Holy Spirit fire

So as you have your hand on your belly, pick one of those images of the Holy Spirit. Imagine that fire or that river living inside your belly. He’s here because He wants to be. He actually chose to live inside of you forever. This is the climax of the story of this age, not that God became a perfect Man, but that GOD. LIVES. IN. BROKEN. HUMAN. VESSELS.

Jesus said, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16 7 ESV)

Having the Holy Spirit living inside of you is better than having Jesus in the flesh sitting in the chair next to you. Because if Jesus were all you had, you still couldn’t get inside Him and He couldn’t get inside you. You would have to talk the old-fashioned slow way, with mouths and words.

But the Holy Spirit, the very Spirit—the essence—of Jesus, lives inside you.

Talk to Him.

What Is the Beauty of God?

(One of my IHOPU classes, Basic Christian Beliefs, is giving the assignment of blogging on certain questions from the lessons every week. This week, I’m choosing the question “What is the beauty of God? Is it a communicable attribute? How?”)

The beauty of God is such a fascinating subject to me because the more God reveals to me, the less I realise I know.

Revelation 4 is often described as a doorway into the “beauty realm of God.” Certainly it is that. Just last night in the prayer room we were singing a chorus based on these verses:

And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald… From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God.
~Revelation 4:3, 5 ESV

What must that have been like for John to behold? God’s beauty in that scene is truly overwhelming. But more than that, God’s beauty is directly tied to His holiness. God’s holiness is His complete OTHERness. Part of what this means is that His every characteristic is higher and more pure and perfect than its earthly equivalent.

God is beautiful in every single facet of his character, in His love and mercy as well as His wrath and justice. Think about that. Every justice system on earth is guaranteed to screw up. Human justice will always be imperfect, no matter how hard we try to refine the system, because no man can really see into the heart of another. But God’s justice is completely perfect. Every single time. No one will be under judgment who doesn’t completely deserve it, and they won’t experience a single drop more or less than exactly what they deserve. That is perfect justice. And even in judgement there is grace and mercy. Every single time.

That moves me to awe. Everything he does and is absolute perfection, and not just harsh, to-the-standard perfection, like a starched white cleanroom. No, this is vibrant, colourful perfection, like an overwhelming symphony of music and movement and colour that can break your heart with a single note.

And I do believe we can take on some of the beauty of God. It happens when His Spirit begins to transform us from the inside out. The more we become like Him, the more we shine with His beauty. As we are sanctified, our actions and motivations become more and more refined into the beauty of holiness.

I know that someday, when I see Jesus, I’ll be transformed into His likeness and take on more of His beauty than is now possible. (Colossians 3:4, 1 John 3:2) But in the meantime, I want to be set ablaze with His beauty in my spirit. I want every thought and every action to radiate His nature. I’m after holiness that hurts the eyes, and a light that flickers from every secret motive.

“Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name;
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”
Psalm 29:2 NKJV