March 2016

Christ has risen

The Great Victory

The Great Victory

I had the privilege of preaching at our local church on Resurrection Sunday and I picked up on the victorious aspect of the Cross and the empty tomb.

It is quite easy to miss this aspect when we read the Gospel accounts but not when we read Paul’s letter to the Colossians.

My sermon was a partial exposition of Colossians 2:13-15 and I linked it to the portion of Revelation Chapter Twelve that I covered in my last post in the Revelation Revisited series. I think you will appreciate this message in a brief pause from the Revelation Revisited series this week, so please click on the play button below to hear the sermon. The another link is to the sermon notes in case you would like them as well.

Next week I will return to Revelation Chapter Twelve. Be blessed.



SERMON NOTES: The Great Victory (click to open or download)


If you would like access to  other sermons or sermon notes then click here.




Revelation Revisited Christ victory

Easter Victory

Revelations Revisited Series

A woman clothed with the Sun, an enormous red dragon and a victorious male child, equals an Easter Victory.

Chapter Twelve of the book of Revelation starts Part Four which, like the other parts of the book, covers the full period between the first and second coming of Jesus. At a cursory read, it seems as if the chapter is just about a woman and a dragon, but there is another character embedded in the narrative who, although seemingly invisible, is central to the whole story. I am writing this post during the week leading up to Easter and so I am going to focus on this ‘hidden’ character and then double back and describe the full scene to you in my next article.

I have already pointed out in my previous post that the woman in Chapter Twelve is linked to the constellation of Virgo and the dragon to the constellation of Hydra. Although this is important to understand, it is far more important that we fully comprehend the glorious drama that these representations depict. Virgo symbolises the people of God, more specifically Israel, and Hydra symbolises Satan, the great adversary of the people of God. The primary reason the Old Testament people of God existed was to provide the means by which the saviour of humankind could come into the world. The devil’s only hope of vindication and continued freedom was to prevent Israel succeeding in birthing the Messiah, and if he couldn’t do that it was to kill the Christ Child himself. The intensity and scope of this drama require an article of its own, so I will return to it at a later time.

Israel’s greatest moment came, not when it received the Ten Commandments, and not when she occupied the Promised Land, but when Mary, her finest offspring, gave birth to Jesus Christ. The history of the chosen nation is replete with great figures such as Moses, King David, and Solomon, but none as fine, noble and worthy of honour as Mary. This is why she herself declared, “From now on all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48)

Virgo and Hydra Revelation Revisited Series 42Mary gave birth to ‘a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron sceptre’ (Revelation 12:5), and his name was Jesus. Verse five then goes on to record that ‘her child was snatched up to God and to his throne‘. But what about His 42 months of miraculous deeds and sublime teachings? Where is the reference to His atoning death on the cross of Calvary and His glorious resurrection on the third day after that? Well, it’s not that John regards these things as unimportant, it is because in this section of Revelation he wants us to grasp something else – the stupendous victory over Satan that Jesus’ ascension back into heaven completed.

The cross is implicit in the narrative of Chapter Twelve in words such as, ‘they overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony’ (Revelation 12:11). These words take us right back to the ‘Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne’ in Revelation 5:6, and “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!” (5:12). The word of testimony of disciples of Jesus Christ has always been, “It is true! The Lord has risen!” (Luke 24:34). Incidentally, a movie has just been released and for the first time in years I can recommend a Hollywood production to you; it is called ‘Risen’.

Because of His sacrificial death on the cross and His rising from the tomb in death-conquering glory, Jesus vanquished Satan, stripped him of all authority, and expelled him from Heaven! Revelation 12 describes Michael and his angels casting the devil out of Heaven (12:7-9), and as this happens a loud voice declares: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down” (12:10).

In this eternity changing victory at Calvary, the Lord Jesus Christ settled the penalty of the broken covenant between God and mankind, bringing the human race back into a position of potential peace and fellowship with the Godhead. He removed all and any grounds for accusation by the devil against the children of God. He expelled Satan from his presence and denied him access to the throne of the Almighty. Then, in a sealed tomb in the Garden of Gethsemane, this same Jesus broke the power of death, rose bodily from its clutches, and in so doing created a new resurrection template of eternal life for all who believe in Him.

So, this ‘Good’ Friday and this ‘Easter’ Sunday, remember His death and celebrate His resurrection, but also be so very grateful for His VICTORY… for His victory is our life now and the assurance of the glory to come.


Revelation Constellations

The heavens declare

Revelation Revisited post 41

‘The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork’ (Psalm 19:1 NKJV).

If you go out after dark and look up at the expanse of the night sky, what do you see?

The answer is probably, ‘pollution haze and a few stars’, but the people of John the Revelator’s day would have seen a glorious display of galaxies, planets, and stars without measure. The religious astronomers of the ancient world would have understood the dazzling celestial display as a divine presentation of significant events and portents of things to come, and John taps into this in the book of Revelation.

According to my best research, the Magi of Babylonia were the first to be schooled in the art and science of the heavens. Abraham, the father of the Jewish Faith, came from the region of Babylonia  (Genesis 11:31) referred to in the Bible as Ur of the Chaldeans and traveled from there to Canaan. It is probable that Abraham brought with him the knowledge of how to read the night sky and that this became embedded in the religious understanding of the Israelites. When John wrote the book of Revelation he used this knowledge to present God’s great redemptive plan to the people of his day, and thus to us as well.

I introduced this concept in the posts: Revelation in the Stars’, and then pointed out a number of links to specific constellations in ‘Religious Woe’, ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky’, and ‘Some things are still a mystery’.

Gemini Constellation RevelationThe Two Witnesses are the focal point of Chapter Eleven of Revelation, so we shouldn’t be surprised to find a depiction of these ‘twins’ in the night sky. And there they are (Gemini) tucked between the constellations of Cancer and Taurus, another pointer to the marvelous progression of constellations that await us in chapters 12, 13, and 14. But I have spent sufficient time on Chapter Eleven and must now move on to the next major part of the book of Revelation.

In my next few articles I will elaborate on what I am about to describe, but  to help you make sense of this celestial aspect of Revelation, I will start with the big picture.

Remember that each part of Revelation takes us back to start, which is Christ’s birth, and ends with His coming again to judge and create a new HeavenEarth.

Revelation 12:1-2 presents us with the picture of a woman whom John describes with these words: ‘A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth’  You will have to wait for my next post for the reasons why I believe that she depicts Israel, the Old Testament people of God, the wife of Yahweh, and the ‘mother’ of Jesus the messiah. For now, I ask you to just notice the constellation of Virgo.

Virgo ConstellationThe account in Chapter Twelve goes on to describe a great dragon, who’s tail swept a third of the stars from the sky, crouching before the woman in order to devour her child when he was born (Revelation 12:3-4). This, I believe, is represented by The constellation of Hydra which appears below Virgo in the night sky and spans about one-third of the circle of the sun’s apparent path through the heavens. Alongside Virgo, is the minor constellation of Coma, which, in Persian means ‘pure virgin’ and was originally depicted as nourishing an infant boy having a Hebrew name meaning The Anointed, or in Greek, Christos. On the other side of Virgo on the Star Map we find the constellation Centaurus, the evil Centaur, spearing a lamb (Not a wolf as shown on modern charts). Tucked in under Centaurus is Crux, and it doesn’t take much imagination to see what this represents to the Christian.

I will give more detail and explanations of these star signs in my next post, but to make the point that Chapter Twelve contains a wealth as astronomical information just consider how verse 14 links to the constellation of Aquila, the great eagle mentioned by John. Note also how verses 15 and 16 link to the constellations of Aquarius and Piscus Austrinus (water pouring out and being swallowed up).

To help you make sense of all this I have included a Sky Map showing the constellations as seen from Patmos at the time John wrote the book of Revelation.

As we work through chapters 12 to 14 of Revelation it will become increasingly obvious that John was linking the revelation to the constellations of the night sky. Why did he do this? I will try to answer this satisfactorily before this series is completed.

Bringing it all together

Revelation Post 40

To get a fuller view we sometimes have to take a few steps back; and we need to do this often as we study the book of Revelation.

The last four articles have all be drawn from Chapter 11 of the book of Revelation. I have explored several interesting aspects and doctrines and I am concerned that some readers may be getting a little lost in the detail (can’t see the wood for the trees) so in this post I will provide a summary of the chapter in the form of a brief running commentary.

The chapter starts with the words: ‘I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshipers there. But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months”‘. The idea conveyed here is that the church (Temple of God) has always consisted of two types of Christians; those who are regenerate and dedicated disciples of the Lord Jesus (Inner Court) and those who just profess to be believers (Outer Court). The weeds among the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30) have, and will continue to be, a hindrance to the witness of the church.

‘And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lamp-stands that stand before the Lord of the earth. If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want’. The Two Witnesses symbolise the true church (Wheat) in imagery drawn from the accounts of the Old Testament prophets Elijah and Moses as well as Zechariah’s vision. The church pictured here has both divine protection and power, and indeed this has been true of the Church through all ages.

‘Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth’ (Revelation 11:7-11).

The church will continue to testify powerfully about Jesus until God the Father decides that its work is done (Matthew 24:14).
Revelation Christians heavenThe beast from the Abyss is a manifestation of Satan and is described in detail in Chapter 13 (So we will have to wait a bit). A prophetic and powerful church has always been a pain the backside to the devil and the masses who knowingly or unwittingly follow him. As we approach the end of days the true church will come under increasing pressure from the world systems and persecution will escalate to the point where many secular and religious leaders will believe that they have completely annihilated it. They, and their followers, will see this as a good and joyful thing (party time!)

‘But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on’ (Revelation 11: 11-12). The allusion to Jesus’ death and resurrection is obvious: The church is put to death just as Jesus was, the Holy Spirit raises it to life just as He raised Jesus to life, and it ascends into heaven just as Jesus did. At a personal level, all Christians who die ascend to be with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8), but at a corporate level we, the church, are assured that when the last trumpet sounds (the end of the world as we know it) those believers who are still alive on earth will ascend to meet Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:17) as He returns to judge and to recreate.

‘At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second woe has passed; the third woe is coming soon. The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign for ever and ever.”
And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great — and for destroying those who destroy the earth.” Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm’ (Revelation 11:13-19). This is a graphic depiction of the end of days which will come when Jesus returns. For nearly 2,000 years now the church has expressed a foretaste of this reality in that Jesus rules and reigns in and through his people. However, the absolute expression of this is when Jesus returns to wrap up the old order of things and to create one HeavenEarth reality… but much more about this later in the book of Revelation.

I have avoided using traditional theological ‘boxes’ like Amillennialism, Premillennialism, and so on because I don’t think they aid understanding, but if you are interested you can follow the link I have provided.

Next week I plan to start in on Part Four of the book of Revelation, the fascinating Chapters 12, 13 and 14. It would be great if you could read these chapters now to get an idea of what is to come – it will look bizarre and confusing at first glance but you are going to discover just how wonderfully enlightening these three chapters actually are.


Unpalatable truth for Revelation Revisited Series

An unpalatable truth

Revelation Revisited 39

From the days of Cain and Able most people of all generations, in all cultures, have practiced the dogma of the survival of the fittest.

Darwin might have coined the phrase but the idea is as ancient as humankind itself. In the underbelly of human society it manifests as dog-eat-dog and the man with the biggest gun wins. In more elevated circles it appears in the form of dominance through position, wealth and influence. To survive we must come out on top and to ascend we usually need to control, subjugate or disadvantage others. This law of the human jungle reigned supreme in the minds of men for thousands of years … and then along came Jesus.

Just about everyone up to that time taught ‘might is right’ but Jesus Christ taught that “the greatest among you will be your servant” (Mathew 23:11-12), and “those who are the greatest should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant” (Luke 22:26 NLT).

But the Master’s teachings go even deeper: “Love your enemies, do good to them” (Luke 6:35)… say what?! And, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:24-25) … Oh my Oh my!

The Apostle Paul, taught by Jesus, instructed us to, “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others”’ (Philippians 2:3-4). How contrary to the way of the world!

To put all of this into the context of the book of Revelation I have to jump ahead a little to Chapter 12 verse 11 where it describes the victory of the church over Satan and his followers with the words,

They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
The enemy might think he has crushed the church, but in its apparent defeat is its greatest victory. Evil is defeated by self-sacrificing love, falsehood by uncompromising truth, and darkness disappears in the presence of light. Jesus not only taught this, He demonstrated it – He was crucified by the servants of Satan but in dying he defeated death and granted eternal life for all who believe in him (Hebrews 2:14-15).

My previous post expounded on some of the elements of Chapter Eleven of the book of Revelation. A key truth that emerges from this study is that a  Kingdom of God victory is perceived by the world as defeat and self-sacrifice is regarded as pitiable weakness. In order to stimulate some thinking around this I posed a hypothetical question concerning what a pastor should do in the face of a church split. The scenario was, ‘An assistant pastor becomes offended and dissatisfied by his apparent lack of appreciation by the senior pastor and as well as his perceived limited career prospects. He starts to talk to key leaders about how poorly he has been treated, and it soon becomes apparent that he is planning on splitting the church by leaving and taking half of the members with him to plant a new congregation. What should the senior pastor do?’

I have already received several responses – thanks for these. As people have pointed out:

  • Good church governmental structure and process should not allow this sort of situation to develop, and
  • The senior pastor needs to base his response on the best interests of the church.

However, hundreds of thousands of churches do not have the kind of church structures required to deal with this sort of thing, and the reality is that uncountable numbers of such churches split regularly.

The church has splitThe rather controversial Christian author Gene Edwards wrote a book titled ’Preventing a Church Split’ in which he recounts that when he was just nine years old he witnessed his first church split, and that by the time he was thirteen he had been seared by the flames of two more! He claims that about five percent of all Protestant churches in America split every year, and he observes that ‘nothing compares to church division in its power to cause Christians to stop following the Lord… more Christians have walked away from the things of God because of church splits than for any other reason.’ Local churches, and indeed entire denominations, divide aggressively over matters of doctrine, tradition, and even personal preference, but the greatest reason by far is the desire for power and control. The scenario I described is fairly typical of what happens over and over again in countless churches all over the world.

Now something sobering to consider is this: The leaders involved are seldom bad people, and when challenged they usually declare that they are standing for truth or acting in the best interests of the people. Only a very inexperienced leader would not be aware of the devastating pain and faith-destroying disappointment any form of church split causes, yet still they insist on the purity of their motives. In my experience the majority of people involved in a church split become so disillusioned that they never again enter the doors of a church building. The few that do eventually return to corporate worship sit in the back, un-involved, sceptical and unresponsive. The members that stay on in the ravaged church seldom recover fully, and the self-righteous leader and his followers that leave to start their own ‘church’ down the road seldom thrive. It stands to reason; the church is a body and what do we think happens when we cut a living body in half or lop off its limbs!

Gene Edwards contends that by the time a church split is looming it is already too late to restore unity. His solution is for the Pastor to simply lay down his ministry and walk away; to resign his position and to leave town so that church members cannot follow him. I am not sure I agree with him, but I have never had to live through a church split (thank you so much Lord Jesus). However, I do believe that church splits are caused by pride, self-interest, and unbiblical thinking, usually masquerading as piety. So the solution has to be the opposite of this – self-sacrifice, humility, and a Jesus-response.

I titled this post ‘an unpalatable truth’ because after 38 years of being a disciple of Jesus, and 28 of those in full-time church leadership, I still have to deal with the very character flaws that cause the problems I have been describing.

Why is it so hard to put the interests of others at least on the same level as my own self-interest? Why is it so difficult to refrain from justifying selfishness and pride?
We all know that these things are characteristic of our old lives, not our new lives in Christ. We know that they are not found on the list of ‘fruit of the spirit’. So for me at least the need for self-denial is an unpalatable truth. Perhaps I will eventually absorb the lessons I am here on earth to learn – how about you? Or am I a lone voice among the truly transformed?


About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.