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Philemon, Jude, and Revelation (Part 1)

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Introduction to Philemon

Paul wrote Philemon from prison around 61 A.D., requesting Philemon to forgive his runaway slave, Onesimus, who was a new believer. Running away was a serious crime in Roman law, and as a Roman slave-master, Philemon had the legal right to punish Onesimus severely. But Paul urged Philemon to treat Onesimus as his brother rather than as his slave.

Introduction to Jude

The author of this short epistle identifies himself as Jude, the brother of James, who in turn was leader of the Jerusalem church and the half-brother of Jesus. If so, Jude also was a half-brother of the Lord (the “Judas” mentioned in Mark 6:3). Probably written sometime after A.D. 65, his letter refers to several Old Testament passages to warn Jewish Christians about spiritual rebellion, as well as false teaching and its consequences. The book shares many parallels with similar warnings in 2 Peter and the “Pastoral Epistles” (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus).

Jude urges believers to have a strong understanding of the good news so they will not distort grace and holiness, like some false teachers had. Believers cannot risk entertaining teachers who live loose or ungodly lifestyles, because they will cause division and controversy in the church. He warns the faithful to think critically about any teaching they hear and evaluate the lives and character of those who teach. Importantly, believers and teachers should stay within the knowledge and authority God has given them, being careful not to speak carelessly about the mysteries of God’s kingdom. Believers should not be surprised when false teachers appear and should work to support the clarity of each other’s faith. They should notice when others are being convinced by false teaching and take responsibility to win them back to God’s ways. Why? Because only God’s Spirit can keep believers from leaving the straight path, and He will preserve His people for His glorious return.

Introduction to Revelation

The book of Revelation has fascinated people—both Christians and non-Christians—for 2000 years. And it’s no wonder! With astonishing images of dragons and angels, wars and disasters, the book claims to open up to us what God has planned for the last days of history. The title of the book is actually “The Apocalypse,” which doesn’t mean “end of the world” or “great disaster,” but rather simply “the revelation.” In other words, in this book God revealed his plans to his people through a man named John.

Revelation was written in about A.D. 95, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian. John, one of the disciples of Jesus, had been exiled to the prison island of Patmos because of his preaching about Jesus, when on one particular Lord’s Day the risen Jesus revealed these things to him.

What John saw was mind-blowing. With history soon coming to a crashing end, God’s people would be pressed to the point of destruction until Jesus the Christ returned to do at least three things: end evil for good, save His people, and make a new world for them. For people under persecution and immense pressure to compromise their faith, Revelation is an enormously encouraging book. Its message? “Hold on! It may all seem out of control, but history is firmly in the hand of God, and it’s Jesus who rules over all!” Just as that message encouraged the earliest Christians, so it encourages us as we strive to hold firm, press on, and remain faithful to our King, even in the face of mounting pressure from the world around us.

Colossians 3:12-17

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

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