The Apocalypse of John is a fantastic story. In all likelihood, the other eleven apostles had already been put to death. James, John’s brother, was the very first apostle to die. Herod Agrippa beheaded him in Acts chapter 12. Now John was old and alone and in exile on the island of Patmos just across the sea from his beloved Ephesus. Imagine the old man with streaming white hair being forced to quarry marble. The edges of stone were sharp, and his ancient hands were scarred. It’s the Lord’s Day, and John is in prayer. Perhaps he was thinking about his friends’ faces as he prayed when, suddenly, he was called through an open door into heaven.
The last book of the Bible, Revelation (no “s” on the end), is incredibly visual. We see and feel it more than read it. As the vision is coming to an end, John sees a lake of fire, and Jesus turns to him and says, in Revelation 21:6 – 8, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty, I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God, and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
Wait a minute! I can understand there is no room in heaven for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and even liars, but cowards? Reread, verse eight. Yes, “the cowardly.”
It’s a fact that faith requires courage. Shamgar fought 600 heavily armed Philistines with what amounted to a broom handle (Judges 3:31). David defeated the giant Goliath with a slingshot (1 Samuel 17). Jonathan and his armor-bearer – with one sword between them – routed the Philistines (1 Samuel 14). Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego took a stroll in a fiery furnace (Daniel 3) because they believed and true belief requires courage.
Being a martyr requires courage, but so does being a mother. Being a prophet requires courage, but so does being a dad. Being an apostle like John requires courage, but so does being a teenage Christian.
I’d like to think that, like the Egyptian martyrs in 2015, I would allow someone to cut off my head rather than denounce Jesus, but do I have the courage today to say, “No”? Do I have the courage to walk away from temptation? Do I have the courage to reach out and touch someone in pain, to stand with those who aren’t beautiful or powerful or rich, to endure ridicule, or to have people laugh at me because I am a Christian and still hold my head up high?
You can do it! Our older brother Jesus is standing right there with us. God, the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts and will give you the power to overcome.
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