The Great Judgment

Today’s Reading: Revelation 20-22

Then I saw thrones, and the people sitting on them had been given the authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony about Jesus and for proclaiming the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his statue, nor accepted his mark on their forehead or their hands. They all came to life again, and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

This is the first resurrection. (The rest of the dead did not come back to life until the thousand years had ended.) Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. For them the second death holds no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him a thousand years. – Rev. 20:4-6

There is little information on what the 1000 years will look like and much disagreement among believers on the order in which all of this will take place. What we can take from this passage for certain is that God rewards those who remain faithful during even the worst of persecutions and trials. The difficult times we endure do not go unnoticed by God, nor are they forgotten. In the same way, those who do evil and who do not remain faithful are also noticed by God.

When the thousand years come to an end, Satan will be let out of his prison. He will go out to deceive the nations – called Gog and Magog – in every corner of the earth. He will gather together for battle – a mighty army, as numberless as sand along the seashore. And I saw them as they went up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded God’s people and the beloved city. But fire from heaven came down on the attacking armies and consumed them.

Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave according to their deeds. Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire. – Revelation 20:7-15

We serve a just God who deals accordingly with sin. Those who remain rebellious and unrepentant will suffer the consequences of their choices. Rebellion against God does not go unnoticed. God deals sternly with sin. Those who reject what Christ did for them when he died on the cross so they could receive salvation will experience another kind of rejection on the day of final judgment. Those who want to share in everything this world and Satan have to offer will also share the same fate – the eternal lake of fire.

Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone who has ears should listen and understand. – Matthew 13:40-43

Now read this beautiful description of what it will be like when the presence of evil and sin are removed and Christ reigns victoriously! Can you picture it? I encourage you to read the following verses aloud and let the joy of these truths wash over you.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

I heard a loud shout from the throne saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever!”

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!…It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega – the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.” – Rev. 21:1-7

The God of Creation, who existed before the world began and has always existed, is also the God of the End of life as we know it and the God of everything in between. He has plans for our life we cannot fathom and He has a new heaven waiting for us that is beyond what these words can even describe:

The New Jerusalem will shine with the glory of God and sparkle like a precious stone. The city walls are made of jasper and the city of pure gold, as clear as glass. There will be beautiful stones of various colors making up the foundation of the city and the gates will be made of pearls. The main street going through the New Jerusalem will be made of pure gold.

I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory. Its gates will never be closed at the end of the day because there is no night there. And all the nations will bring their glory and honor into the city. Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty – but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. – Rev. 21:22-27

Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.

No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there – no need for lamps or sun – for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever. – Rev. 22:1-5

“Look, I am coming soon! Blessed are those who obey the words of prophecy written in this book.” – Rev. 22:7

“Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” – Rev. 22:12

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life. – Rev. 22:17

He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!”

Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!

May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s holy people. – Rev. 22:20-21

Revelation has always been a difficult book for me to study but I have never doubted the truth in its words. I do not have a full understanding of what the final days will look like but I do have faith that God will do exactly what He said He will do. In 2016, the reality of that truth became very real when my mother passed through death to life before Jesus sent her back so He can complete everything He wants to do through her. God allowed my mother to see and hear the torture of Hell before everything went white and Jesus Himself stood before her.

The rest of my mother’s story will be shared tomorrow in my New Year’s Eve blog. Thank you for all who have journeyed with me from Genesis to Revelation this year. On Monday, I will begin another 365-day walk through the Bible. I invite you to join me again. I am asking God to give me new perspective as I study His word over the next 12 months, although much of this 365-day devotional might look the same as last year. Whatever you choose to do, I encourage you to continue to spend time in God’s word everyday. Allow His presence to do a work in your heart as He speaks to you through His written Word.

The Great Battle

Today’s Reading: Revelation 19

Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. – Revelation 19:11-13

These verses brought tears to my eyes this morning. We are SO blessed to serve a God described as Faithful and True. That has absolutely been my experience in 2017, during the good times and bad. He is fair and He wages a righteous war. He is indescribable and bigger than we can ever completely understand. His robe is dipped in blood and Isaiah helps us understand why.

Why are your clothes so red, as if you have been treading out grapes?
“I have been treading the winepress alone; no one was there to help me.
In my anger I have trampled my enemies as if they were grapes.
In my fury I have trampled my foes.
Their blood has stained my clothes.”
– Isaiah 63:2-3

“…his title was the Word of God” (19:13b). The Word of God – John was the disciple who opened up his account of the life of Jesus with a description of Christ as “The Word”, which adds to the personal significance of this moment for John.

In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
– John 1:1-5

The armies of heaven, dressed in finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses. From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords. – Rev. 19:14-16

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to who we are accountable. – Hebrews 4:12-13

Then I saw the beast and the kings of the world and their armies gathered together to fight against the one sitting on the horse and his army. And the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who did mighty miracles on behalf of the beast – miracles that deceived all who had accepted the mark of the beast and who worshiped his statue. Both the beast and the false prophet were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. Their entire army was killed by the sharp sword that came from the mouth of the one riding the white horse. And the vultures all gorged themselves on the dead bodies. – Rev. 19:19-21

Then the man of lawlessness will be revealed, but the Lord Jesus will kill him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by the splendor of his coming. This man will come to do the work of Satan with counterfeit power and signs and miracles. He will use every kind of evil deception to fool those on their way to destruction, because they refuse to love and accept the truth that would save them. So God will cause them to be greatly deceived, and they will believe these lies. Then they will be condemned for enjoying evil rather than believing the truth. – 2 Thessalonians 2:8-10

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven with the key to the bottomless pit and a heavy chain in his hand. He seized the dragon – that old serpent, who is the devil, Satan – and bound him in chains for a thousand years. The angel threw him into the bottomless pit, which he then shut and locked so Satan could not deceive the nations anymore until the thousand years were finished. – Rev. 20:1-3a

As I mentioned when I started this study of Revelation, it is a difficult book for me to read. I love the visual descriptions but the harshness of the judgments and plagues are unpleasant to even consider. But in the midst of all the descriptions of evil unleashed, I love that it ends with the glorious victory of our Lord Jesus Christ. No matter how dark things get, darkness can NEVER extinguish the light. Christ has already won the victory and the day is coming when evil will be bound and locked up. Praise God!

In the meantime, I pray for those who are currently being deceived. I pray for those who are choosing to enjoy the pleasures of this world instead of believing in the truth and walking in the light. For them, I pray this morning. I pray they will love and accept the truth that can save them. My prayer is that they will come to know our God who is Faithful and true.

The Great Wedding Feast

Today’s Reading: Revelation 16 – 18

Judgment is not an easy topic to read about, nor is it very inspiring for me. As I read through these chapters of Revelation, I look for ways to apply it to my life today.

The graphic descriptions of the harsh judgment that will be poured out on the earth and on those who have the mark of the beast and who worshiped his statue make me cringe. God’s Temple, His Tabernacle, has been thrown wide open. He is no longer holding back His judgment because He is a just God and a Holy God (Rev. 15:5; 16:5).

And I heard a voice from the altar, saying, “Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, your judgments are true and just.” – Revelation 16:7

The world tries to entice us with all it has to offer. Society tries to pull us into a new concept of what is socially acceptable and moral. The enemy tries to tempt us to leave our life of righteous living to experience “the fun life”. But if we choose to experience all this world is bribing us with, if we choose to share in all it has to offer, we will also share in the judgment that will come down on the earth.

One of the seven angels who had poured the seven bowls came over and spoke to me. “Come with me,” he said, “and I will show you the judgment that is going to come on the great prostitute, who rules over many waters. The kings of the world have committed adultery with her, and the people who belong to this world have been made drunk by the wine of her immorality.” – Rev. 17:1-2

This world tries its best to appear beautiful, like the woman described in the next verse: The woman wore purple and scarlet clothing and beautiful jewelry of gold and precious gems and pearls. In her hand she held a gold goblet full of obscenities and the impurities of her immorality (17:4). Today’s culture portrays this as the good life, but in reality it is grotesque and cruel and uncaring. Those who drink of her passionate immorality and those who have committed adultery with her will fall with her.

But there is a song coming from heaven – a song calling all to flee from the sins of this world and the glory of its riches:

“Come away from her, my people.
Do not take part in her sins, or you will be punished with her.
For her sins are piled as high as heaven, and God remembers her evil deeds.
Do to her as she has done to others.
Double her penalty for all her evil deeds.
She brewed a cup of terror for others, so brew twice as much for her.
She glorified herself and lived in luxury, so match it now with torment and sorrow.
She boasted in her heart, ‘I am queen on my throne.
I am no helpless widow, and I have no reason to mourn.’
Therefore, these plagues will overtake her in a single day – death and mourning and famine.
She will be completely consumed by fire, for the Lord God who judges her is mighty.”
– Rev. 18:4-8

The world with all of its riches tries to make itself appear so pleasing and wonderful, but it is evil and cares nothing for those who get trapped by its pleasures. The world invites us to sit at its banquet tables but there is another banquet table worth turning down the indulgences of the world for. I long to sit at the wedding feast of the Lamb and hear a voice from the throne say,

“Praise our God, all his servants, all who fear him, from the least to the greatest.”

Then I heard again what sounded like a shout of a vast crowd or the roar of mighty ocean waves or the crash of loud thunder:

“Praise the Lord!
For the Lord our God, the Almighty reigns.
Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him.
For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself.
She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.”
For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people.
– Rev. 19:5-8

Lord, thank you for showing us the beauty of ALL you have to offer us. The treasures of this world pale in comparison to YOU. As we wrap up our Christmas celebrations and begin thinking of the New Year, Lord show us what you have next for us. Reveal to us the good deeds you want to accomplish through us and ignite a fire in us that draws others TO you and away from the world. Praise the Lord, for the Lord our God reigns. Let us experience His joy and rejoice in all He has done for us, giving honor to the Lamb of God! Amen.

The Great Harvest

Today’s Reading: Revelation 14 – 15

As John’s Revelation continued, I wonder if he remembered back to a day when he sat by the lake with Jesus. A large crowd gathered around Jesus – so large that Jesus got into a boat and began to teach the people as they stood on the shore. He spoke in parables, first of a farmer planting and then of a harvest that comes at the end of the world.

The first parable is one of my favorites. The farmer is planting seed in his field and some falls on the footpath where birds come and eat it. Other seed falls on soil so shallow that the seed are unable to grow deep roots and they die. Other seed falls among thorns that grow up and choke the tender plants. Still other seed falls on fertile soil and produces a great harvest.

“Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” – Matthew 13:9

The seed on the footpath represents those who hear but don’t understand. The seed on shallow soil represents those who hear the message, receiving it with joy, but never grow deep roots. They fall away as soon as problems or persecution comes. The seed among thorns represents those who hear God’s word but the message is crowded out by the worries of life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. The seed on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of righteousness. Then Jesus told this parable:

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew.

“The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’

‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed.

‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked.

‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’” – Matthew 13:24-30

Perhaps John was the disciple who spoke up later, after the crowds had left, and asked Jesus to explain the parable.

“The Son of Man is the farmer who plants the good seed. The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world, and the harvesters are the angels.

“Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!” – Matthew 13:37-43

I wonder if the memory of this day came back to John as he stood before the throne and watched the Son of Man seated on a white cloud – a crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. An angel came from the Temple and shouted:

“Swing the sickle, for the time of harvest has come; the crop on earth is ripe.” So the one sitting on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the whole earth was harvested.

After that, another angel came from the Temple in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. Then another angel, who had power to destroy with fire, came from the altar. He shouted to the angel with the sharp sickle, “Swing your sickle now to gather the clusters of grapes from the vines of the earth, for they are ripe for judgment.” So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and loaded the grapes into the great winepress outside the city, and the blood flowed from the winepress in a stream about 180 miles long and as high as a horse’s bridle. – Revelation 14:15-20

Then all the people who had been victorious over the beast held harps and sang the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb:

“Great and marvelous are your works, O Lord God, the Almighty.
Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations.
Who will not fear you, Lord, and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous deeds have been revealed.” – Revelation 15:3-4

“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” – Rev. 3:22

She Gave Birth to a Son

Today’s Reading: Revelation 10 – 13

Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.
Anyone who is destined for prison will be taken to prison.
Anyone destined to die by the sword will die by the sword.
This means that God’s holy people must endure persecution patiently and remain faithful.
– Revelation 13:10b

What took place next during John’s Revelation is like something you would see in a science fiction movie. I imagine it was hard for John to put down in writing all that took place. I had to use the notes in my Study Bible to be able to understand it all myself. It makes sense why God had John eat the scroll. By internalizing God’s message, John was able to communicate all that he saw.

Then I witnessed in heaven an event of great significance… – Rev. 12:1a

A pregnant woman with a crown of twelve stars on her head is crying out in labor pains and agony as she gives birth to a son who is to rule all nations with an iron rod. A large red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and with seven crowns on his head stands in front of her, ready to devour the baby as soon as it is born. But the child is snatched away and caught up to God and His throne.

Next a war breaks out in heaven – Michael and his angels against the dragon and his angels. Here is the best part: the dragon lost the battle and he and his angels were forced out of heaven. Satan’s attempts to destroy the child born out of Israel were unsuccessful as Jesus was resurrected from the dead and taken up to heaven. The one who was deceiving the whole world was thrown down to the earth with all his angels.

It has come at last – salvation and power
and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth –
the one who accuses them before our God day and night.
And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony.
And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.
Therefore, rejoice, O heavens!
And you who live in the heavens, rejoice!
But terror will come on the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you in great anger, knowing that he has little time.”
– Revelation 12:10-12

This explains why Satan pursues God’s people. He has lost the battle and now, in anger, seeks to destroy God’s people. He has waged war against the woman and against the rest of her children – all who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus (12:17).

Next a hideous beast rises out of the sea. The dragon gave the beast his own power and throne and great authority. The beast was allowed to speak great blasphemies against God and was given authority to do whatever he wanted for 42 months. The beast was allowed to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And all the people who belonged to the world worshiped the beast.

Then a second beast came up out of the earth performing miracles that deceived all the people who belong to this world. The beast commanded the people to make a statue of the first beast then commanded all the people to worship the statue, which had come to life and now had the ability to speak. The people were given a mark on their right hand or forehead – the mark of the beast (13:17).

Then John saw the lamb standing on Mount Zion with the 144,000 who had His name and His Father’s name on their foreheads. They had kept themselves pure and had been purchased as a special offering to God and to the Lamb. Then the angels proclaimed to all the people of the earth to fear God and worship Him only. They foretold the destruction of Babylon for forcing the nations to drink of her passionate immorality. Those who have the mark of the beast will drink of God’s anger and they will be tormented with fire and burning sulfur forever and ever (14:1-11).

This means that God’s holy people must endure persecution patiently, obeying his commands and maintaining their faith in Jesus.

And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this down: Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they are blessed indeed, for they will rest from their hard work; for their good deeds follow them!” – Rev. 14:12-13

I look around at everything happening in the world and I ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” John’s Revelation holds the answer. For a time the defeated Satan is allowed to unleash his anger on God’s people. God cares for His people and provides escape for them at times (12:6,14), but we live with the understanding that we must endure persecution patiently, maintaining our faith in God at all times. And for this allegiance to Jesus, we will be blessed and there will be rest. And we hold this promise from God:

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. – 1 Corinthians 10:13

God’s Mysterious Plan Fulfilled

Today’s Reading: Revelation 8 – 9

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” – John 3:16-17

Merry Christmas! This morning we celebrate the birth of our Savior. God loved us enough to give His Son and He loves us enough to promise His return. As we consider how God’s mysterious plan was fulfilled through Christ’s birth, let us also consider how His mysterious plan will again be fulfilled on this earth.

In those days people will seek death but will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them. – Revelation 9:6

The next four chapters of Revelation describe seven judgments that will take place on the earth and in the sky. Each time one of the seven angels stands before God and blows their trumpet, another horrible event takes place. Hail and fire fall down to the earth, burning trees and grass. A mountain of fire falls into the sea, killing one-third of all things living in the sea and destroying one-third of the ships. A great star falls on one-third of the rivers and the water turns bitter. One-third of the sun, moon and stars go dark and terror spreads across the earth.

Locusts the size of horses prepare for battle, stinging all who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. The sixth trumpet blew and 200 million mounted troops were released to kill one-third of the people on the earth, breathing plagues of fire and smoke and burning sulfur.

But the people who did not die in these plagues STILL REFUSED TO REPENT of their evil deeds and turn to God. They continued to worship demons and idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood – idols that can neither see nor hear nor walk! And they did not repent of their murders or their witchcraft or their sexual immorality or their thefts. – Revelation 9:20-21

Just like we often see today, people experiencing difficulties and extremely hard times have a choice. They can run from God or run to Him. They can hide from Him or trust in Him. They can admit their sin or choose death. God has made it clear in His scriptures that sin is wrong and judgment is coming, yet so many people refuse to repent and accept God’s grace. Those who reject God’s grace will receive God’s judgment. It is inevitable. In the meantime, God is waiting patiently for His people to repent. He continues to extend His grace and offer forgiveness for those who will accept it.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. – 2 Peter 3:9

Another mighty angel came down from heaven, surrounded by a cloud with a rainbow over his head – the symbol of God’s promise. He stood with his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land. He said, “There will be no more delay. When the seventh angel blows his trumpet, God’s mysterious plan will be fulfilled. It will happen just as He announced it to his servants the prophets.” – Rev. 10:6b-7

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices shouting from heaven:

“The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.”

The 24 elders sitting on their thrones before God fell with their faces to the ground and worshiped him. And they said,

“We give thanks to you, Lord God, the Almighty, the one who is and who always was,
for now you have assumed your great power and have begun to reign.
The nations were filled with wrath and now the time of your wrath has come.
It is time to judge the dead and reward your servants the prophets,
as well as your holy people, all who fear your name, from the least to the greatest.
It is time to destroy all who have caused destruction on the earth.”

Then, in heaven, the Temple of God was opened and the Ark of the Covenant could be seen inside the Temple. Lightning flashed, thunder crashed and roared, and there was an earthquake and a terrible hailstorm. – Revelation 11:15-19

There will be judgment and there will be reward. There is no need to fear the terror that is ahead when we are walking in the light of our salvation. Remember Jesus’ words:

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.” – John 3:16-21

Heavenly Father, thank you so much for sending your light into the world through the birth of your son. Today as we celebrate Christmas and enjoy time with those we love, we pray for those who are still living in darkness. Lord, help us to be LIGHT in their life so that they, too, will enjoy your gift of eternal life. Amen.

The Lamb Will Be Their Shepherd

Today’s Reading: Revelation 6 – 7

“Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.” – Revelation 5:5b

The Lamb breaks the first seal and one of the four living beings says with a voice like thunder, “Come!” Picture a white horse approaching the throne, its rider carrying a bow. A crown is placed on his head and he rides out to win many battles and gain the victory (6:1-2).

The Lamb breaks the second seal and the second living being also says, “Come!” A rider on a red horse approaches the throne carrying a mighty sword. He is given the authority to take peace from the earth and replace it with war and slaughter everywhere (6:3-4).

The Lamb breaks the third seal. “Come!” A rider on a black horse approaches carrying a pair of scales in his hand. A voice from among the four living beings says, “A loaf of wheat bread or three loaves of barley will cost a day’s pay. And don’t waste the olive oil and wine.” (6:5-6)

The Lamb breaks the fourth seal. The fourth living being says, “Come!” and a pale green horse approaches with Death and the Grave riding on its back. They are given authority of ¼ of the earth – authority to kill with the sword and famine and disease and wild animals (6:7-8).

The Lamb breaks the fifth seal and now John sees that under the altar stand those who have been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful to their testimony. They cry out for their blood to be avenged and they are told to rest a little longer. There are more martyrs joining them (6:9-11).

The Lamb breaks the sixth seal and there was a great earthquake. The sky is transformed as the sun turns black, the moon turns red and the stars fall from the sky. The sky is rolled up like a scroll and all of the mountains and islands are moved from their places. Everyone, from the most powerful of leaders to slaves, hides from the One who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to survive? (6:12-17)

Four angels stand at the corners of the earth and hold back the four winds as another angel approaches carrying the seal of the living God, which is to be placed on the foreheads of God’s servants. 144,000 from the tribes of Israel were marked with the seal, but there is a tribe missing and in this I find significance as I sit by my Christmas tree and sip on my morning coffee. Where is the tribe of Dan?

There are two passages of scripture that may reveal why the tribe of Dan is not included in the 144,000 among the tribes of Israel. In Judges 18 we learn how this tribe chose a different path than what God had for them. As the tribe was trying to find a place to settle, they came to the peaceful town of Laish. They walked into the house of Micah, stealing his idols and encouraging his priest to be their priest. They then walked into the peaceful town of Laish and attacked with swords, burning the town to the ground. They rebuilt the town, set up the carved images and began a long history of idol worship.

In 1 Kings 12, Dan becomes one of two places for people to travel to worship false gods and idols. Now they are excluded from those marked with the seal of the living God. They made their choice and now they will suffer the consequence of their decision. To put anything above God in our lives is idol worship and there are consequences to making other items or people in our lives more important than God.

“Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!” – Revelation 7:10

This is the song of the redeemed, of those who choose to worship only God. Their robes have been washed in the blood of the Lamb – not leaving them with red stains but leaving them white (7:14). Now they have the privilege of standing in front of God’s throne and serving him day and night.

“…And He who sits on the throne will give them shelter.
They will never again be hungry or thirsty; they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun.
For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd.
He will lead them to springs of life-giving water.
And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
– Rev. 7:16-17

I find a stark contrast as I read Revelation 6 & 7 this morning. Because they rejected God, the tribe of Dan is missing from the list of those marked with the seal of the living God. But those who look for salvation from God are standing before His throne. They will never be hungry or thirsty or scorched by the heat of the sun. They have kept the Lamb on the throne of their lives and He is now leading them to springs of life-giving water, wiping every tear from their eyes.

God is still on the throne, whether I choose to worship Him or worship all this world has to offer. But if I live my life as if God is not on the throne, I will miss out on His life-giving water. I think we are sometimes more comfortable with the baby in the manger and we choose to leave Him there, giving Him some thought during the Christmas season and then putting Him away with the decorations. But God’s Son born in a stable became a man who walked on water who became the sacrificial Lamb. When we follow this Lamb who is our Shepherd, He will lead us to springs of living water. And God will wipe every tear from our eyes.

The Lamb broke the seventh seal and there was silence for about a half an hour (8:1).

Then I Saw a Lamb

Today’s Reading: Revelation 5

Then I saw a scroll in the right hand of the one who was sitting on the throne. There was writing on the inside and the outside of the scroll, and it was sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel, who shouted with a loud voice: “Who is worthy to break the seals on the scroll and open it?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll and read it.

Then I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll and read it. – Revelation 5:1-4

John wept because he realized how great the loss was if no one was able to open the seal to reveal the contents of the scroll. Even those who surrounded the throne of God were unworthy to open the seals. There were seven seals on the revelation from God but John was unable to access the promises held inside the scroll because of his sin and unworthiness. The weight of this reality fell heavy on John and he wept bitterly.

There are times when the weight of our sins falls heavy on us. We consider our sinful attitudes, bad decisions and selfish ways and we know we are unworthy of anything God could offer us. We struggle to forgive ourselves and the shame of how we have messed up lays heavy on our shoulders. We have hurt others with our words, we have chosen our own desires over His desires, and we have made a mess of what God intended to be beautiful.

“Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.” – Revelation 5:5b

Don’t miss what takes place next because it represents the salvation we have access to because Jesus was willing to die for our sins. What happens next, as revealed by John, is a beautiful picture of what Christ has done for us. There is no need to carry the weight of our sins because He has already purchased them with His blood. There is no need to struggle with our past because He holds our future. TAKE YOUR EYES OFF THE MESS and focus on the beauty of the Lamb, slaughtered in our place and now standing between us and the throne, interceding on our behalf.

Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered, but it was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which represent the sevenfold Spirit of God that is sent out into every part of the earth. He stepped forward and took the scroll from the right hand of the one sitting on the throne. And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incenses, which are the prayer of God’s people. And they sang a new song with these words:

“You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it.
For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation.
And you have caused them to become a Kingdom of priests for our God.
And they will reign on the earth.”

Then I looked again and I heard the voices of thousands and millions of angels around the throne and of the living beings and the elders. And they sang in a mighty chorus:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered – to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.”

And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.”

And the four living beings said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped the Lamb. – Revelation 5:6-14

Stop weeping and look: He has won the victory and that victory is ours!
Stop weeping and listen: Hear the song of salvation the angels are singing!
Stop weeping and worship: Join in the song of praise for we now have access to the throne through the perfect Lamb of God!

“Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” – John 1:29

As we anticipate Christmas morning, we soak in the fullness of YOU, oh God! You are beyond amazing! We are overwhelmed by what you did for us when you sent your Son to be born in a manger. Knowing what was to come, you gave us the perfect Lamb of God in order that we might have access to your promises. The knowledge of your gift is almost overwhelming. Thank you for this gift of salvation. Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to you and to the Lamb forever and ever! Amen.

Ushered Into God’s Presence

Today’s Reading: Revelation 4

Then as I looked, I saw a door standing open in heaven, and the same voice I had heard before spoke to me like a trumpet blast. The voice said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must happen after this.” And instantly I was in the Spirit, and I saw a throne in heaven and someone sitting on it. – Revelation 4:1-2

We find a wonderful truth in these first two verses of chapter four. John looked and saw a door standing open in heaven. A voice said “Come” and INSTANTLY he was in the Spirit. In the moment when John was seeking and God was calling, John was ushered into the presence of God through the Spirit.

Two other verses come to mind this morning as I soak in Revelation 4:1-2 – a powerful truth spoken by Jesus during his sermon on the mount.

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” – Matthew 7:7-8

When John looked, he saw. There was an open door to the presence of God and all he had to do was look toward God to see the opportunity to enter into the glorious presence of His Creator. A door exists for us as well. Just as John looked toward God, we can seek God. We can respond to this ACCESS by “knocking” and the door will be open.

But that’s not all. We are not the only one knocking on the door to a place where we can commune with God. Just as we knock in hopes of entering into the presence of the God who loves us – just as we seek Him out – He also draws us to Himself by knocking on the door.

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.” – Revelation 3:20-21

Even when we are distracted by life and in a place where we are not seeking God, He faithfully stands at the door knocking. His voice continues to say, “Come.” When we turn our hearts toward God, we find Him. He is ready to share a meal with us – a symbol of friendship and fellowship. He draws us into a covenant relationship with Him. All we have to do is respond to His invitation.

When we look to God and hear His voice calling us, we can be brought into His presence through the Spirit. When this happens, we are able to see all that He wants to show us. For John, this “meal” shared together opened up the opportunity to see an incredible moment before the throne in heaven – to see the beauty of a God worthy of Heaven’s praise. Our mind makes a feeble attempt to picture this heavenly moment and still it is beautiful.

It makes me wonder what kind of beauty God would like to reveal to us this morning. I wonder what revelation He has for us this Christmas. The door is open. Are we looking? Are we willing to let the Spirit instantly take us into God’s presence this morning so that He can show us what He longs to reveal?

The one sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones – like jasper and carnelian. And the glow of an emerald circled his throne like a rainbow. Twenty-four thrones surrounded him, and twenty-four elders sat on them. They were all clothed in white and had gold crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning and the rumble of thunder. And in front of the throne were seven torches with burning flames. This is the sevenfold Spirit of God. In front of the throne was a shiny sea of glass, sparkling like crystal.

In the center and around the throne were four living beings, each covered with eyes, front and back. The first of these living beings was like a lion; the second was like an ox; the third had a human face; and the fourth was like an eagle in flight. Each of these living beings had six wings, and their wings were covered all over with eyes, inside and out. Day after day and night after night they keep on saying,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty – the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.”

Whenever the living beings give glory and honor and thanks to the One sitting on the throne (the One who lives forever and ever), the twenty four elders fall down and worship the One sitting on the throne (the One who lives forever and ever). And they lay their crowns before the throne and say,

“You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power.
For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.”
– Revelation 4:3-11

Heavenly Father, thank you for the invitation this morning to “Come” and enter into your presence. Thank you for giving us a door to walk through and a moment to just be still in the presence of your love and your magnificence! Lord, you are worthy of all glory and honor and power! What a privilege to linger in your presence and allow you to reveal yourself to us this Christmas. We love you, Precious God! Amen.

The Annual Performance Review

Today’s Reading: Revelations 2 – 3

“I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.

“But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches. But this is in our favor: You hate the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans, just as I do.” – Revelation 2:2-6

John received seven messages for seven churches, represented in his revelation as seven lampstands. This first message was for the LOYAL CHURCH in Ephesus. Each one of these messages sounds a lot like a job performance review. Do you recognize it? You are doing these things really well…Here is where there is room for improvement and where your performance is lacking…This is what the consequence will be if you do not start doing things differently…This is the reward waiting for you if you do as I have asked you to do…

“To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God.” – Revelation 2:7b

There are six more messages to six more lampstand churches. Lord, show us if one of these “performance reviews” describes where we are at spiritually. Protect us from false guilt but open our hearts to the truth as revealed by Your Spirit. Amen.

Smyrna is seen as a SUFFERING CHURCH – a Church who has suffered much for God but they have done so in fear. God is guiding them – Don’t be afraid of the suffering that is ahead of you. If you remain faithful through this difficult time, I will give you a crown of life (2:8-11).

Pergamum is the COMPROMISING CHURCH. They remained loyal during times of persecution but they had also tolerated false teaching. They have a choice set before them – repent of your sin or I will come and fight the false teaching myself with the sword of my mouth. If you find victory in this area of pushing away false beliefs, I will give you manna from heaven. And, to each of you, I will give a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name no one understands except the one who receives it (2:12-17).

The Church in Thyatira has a similar problem – they have been the OVERLY TOLERANT CHURCH. God has seen their love, faith, service and patient endurance. In the presence of constant improvement, they have unfortunately allowed teaching that permits sexual sin and the eating of food offered to idols. When given the opportunity to repent, they have chosen immorality over God’s plan. To this church God is saying – I know the thoughts and intentions of every person and I will give to each of you whatever you deserve. If you choose to obey me to the very end, you will be given victory and authority (2:18-29).

The Church in Sardis has a reputation for being alive but God sees that their actions do not meet His requirements – they are the SPIRITUALLY DEAD CHURCH. They need to go back to what they believed at first and hold to it firmly. Then they will wake up and be strengthened. There were some in the church who had not “soiled their clothes” and they would walk with God in white because they were worthy of this privilege. Their names will be written in the book of Life forever (3:1-6).

To the OBEDIENT CHURCH in Philadelphia: I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, YET you obeyed my word and did not deny me…Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown. – Revelation 3:8-11

The message to the Church in Laodicea is probably the one we are most familiar with. They are the LUKEWARM and INDIFFERENT CHURCH. They are not completely cold and dead, but neither are they on fire for God. They are like lukewarm water that God will spit out of His mouth. They are rich and think they have everything they need, but they are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.

To the lukewarm God says, “I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.” – Revelation 3:19-21

So where did you find yourself among these bad news / good news reviews? There is hope! The difference between these 7 messages and job performance reviews is found at the end of each message: “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.”

God is saying – I’m not asking you to perform based on your own abilities. I’m asking you to enter into my presence and allow my Spirit to fill you. Then listen to the Spirit and pray for understanding of how the Spirit is asking you to live. As we discovered yesterday, we can position ourselves to hear from God by entering into His presence to worship Him. It is in these times that we hear from Him and receive strength from Him.

God, that is exactly where we want to be – positioned to hear from you. We want to be filled with Your Spirit so that we can respond minute by minute to your leading. Lord, we confess the areas in which we have been lacking and thank you that “GRACE” is written in red all over our performance review. Thank you for coming in and sharing this morning coffee together as friends. Open our ears so we can listen to Your Spirit and understand what you are saying to us today. Amen.