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Iain Johnston

Revelation Chapter 20

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Revelation 20

“…and if anyones name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire”

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CS Lewis said that the passages in the bible that we tended to skip over were the very ones we ought to think deeply about. Many of us struggle with the tension created by Jesus as the Lamb and the picture John paints in chapter 19 of Jesus as the returning King, full of strength and holding authority to judge the whole world. And something inside of us is hardwired for fairness, every day we judge whether things are fair or not fair. And if things are not fair, our reflex is to be upset, always seeking for things to be put right, put in place.

Here in this chapter, things are being put in place;

  1. “Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire”
  2. “and I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne. And the dead were judged according to what they had done”

Apply //

Every day my children approach me describing a situation, usually in tears, and appeal for justice; “its not fair!” This judgement, I can make. I have enough information. Here in revelation we read of final judgement and the decisive- gulf between ones found in the book of life and those not.

Many litres of ink have been spilt over the fairness of the ones who are not found in the book of life and are thrown into the lake of fire. “its not fair” is a popular view. But we are weak here because

  1. We don’t know enough. We haven’t read the book of life or the other “books that were opened” v 12
  2. The imagery created by the “lake of fire” v15. John Lennox believes we should put away medieval analogies and simply conclude this is gravely serious. The analogy lake of fire is powerfully effective to get the message through to all of us and perhaps there is no better analogy than this.

Some believe merely experiencing the presence of God in heaven for a short period even in judgement and being banished from his indescribable presence is in itself “hell”. Hell could be a purely negative experience or the deprivation of an extraordinarily beautiful thing, the presence of God himself.

Whatever hell is, its serious. Lets not waste our time on trivialities. One atheist said if Christians really believe in heaven and hell, if there is so much at stake, why don’t they speak to us more about the gospel!

Pray//

Help us Lord to read your Word with guidance from your Spirit, to approach it with all our heart and minds, seeking first your kingdom, to invest our time in eternal things and not to shy away from the importance for us and to all our friends and family, to the people of this world of their relationship with You.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revelation Chapter 19

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Revelation 19:11

Then I saw heaven opened and behold a white horse! The one sitting on it is called the Faithful and True and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire and on his head are many crowns and he has a name that no one knows but himself.

… on his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

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Revelation describes the return of Jesus on a white horse. In marked contrast to the suffering servant, the sacrificial Lamb who came to take away the sins of the world, Jesus is now returning as the King of king and Lord of lords.

The final battle is here- between the beast, the kings of the earth and the false prophet, who are all slain by “the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse

Apply //

Today, the whole world is bathing in the available grace and forgiveness Jesus enabled as the Lamb of God; the innocent Lamb who “did not open his mouth”- when accused, he remained silent.

Now, however, Jesus mouth is open! And from it comes a sharp Sword, the Word of God.

This is living, active, powerful, sharp, penetrative, able to judge the thoughts and attitudes of a person’s heart. And now, in judgement, this sword slays all that is evil.

We may not “like” this aspect of Jesus- the judging. It may seem to us harsh and “unfair”. But unlike our judging, Jesus judges in righteousness and this is the key. What may seem to us as unfair, comes from our terribly small knowledge base and tiny wisdom. Jesus judges absolutely correctly. And so, we are called not to judge we don’t know enough and we don’t have enough wisdom. Judgement will come soon enough, rather, we are called to make known his grace and mercy through the Lamb.

The Age of Grace is now, the news is good, it is very good, but let us not forget that judgement is real, true and pure for it comes from Jesus’ mouth, the living Word.

Pray//

Help us lord not to judge, but to make known your grace. Help us to use every opportunity, knowing that the time is now, even today to act and speak. Give us the right words, the right hearts to do and speak at the right time in love, for your glory.

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revelation Chapter 18

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Revelation 18:2

And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying,
Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen.

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No two cities are mentioned more times in scripture than Jerusalem and Babylon. The first mention of the city that eventually became Jerusalem is in Genesis 14 when Abram met Melchizedek, King of ‘Salem’. The root word or meaning of Salem or ‘Shalem’ is to be at peace, to be complete and whole.

In complete contrast, Babylon or Babel means ‘confusion’, the city of rebellion whose inhabitants wanted to build a tower that represented the pride of mankind. Babylon was established by Nimrod, a man whose name literally means ‘rebellion or we will rebel’.

Thus the two cities are contrasted, Jerusalem whole and at peace, the other trying to find peace through man’s self-reliance and rejecting God as central. The two cities representing the invisible yet very real world faiths, one with God at its centre, one in man at its centre.

With man at the centre of his own world, Babylon can be established within a person, a family, community and country. However here in the text, Babylon the great is fallen. And Babylon can appear great, with advances in technology, medicine and science. Yet a human centred religion, honouring ourselves, is doomed to failure:

“the dwellers of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast”

the deception is powerful but false;

“because it (the beast) was, is not and is to come”

Rev 17.8

Which is in contrast with Jesus, the Great I AM, Ego Eimi; “who was and is and is to come”. In other words the source of all being, the uncreated One. Everything else comes from Him. The beast is a false impersonator, remarkably deceptive, enticing the world away from the True One.

Apply //

Anything else that we put first, in front of Jesus, the great I AM, is false. The city of Babylon, invisible yet very real is rising in these last days and will be very deceptive. It requires us to carefully discern the truth from the enticing lie. Many things which are good servants are disastrous masters- money, power, sex. Put first, these destroy, put second they find their rightful place and we have wholesome integrity, a peace, “in Jerusalem”.

Finally, Babylon will be destroyed and the New Jerusalem revealed, where God will live with his people.

Pray//

Help us Lord to live in hope in these days, to discern the truth from the lie, to stay close to you and no other.

Amen.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revelation Chapter 17

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Revelation 17

“Come and I will show you the judgement of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality and the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk…”

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he imagery of a harlot suggests that what should have been faithful has become unfaithful, compromised and liaising with foreigners. Many commentators equate the Revelation prostitute to a false religion, one which liaises with the Antichrist. This promiscuous church listens to and is advised by the world and its ideas and beliefs. In doing so, the church, the bride of Christ, become impure, a harlot. This unfaithful church is associated with Babylon- outwardly successful and prosperous, “arrayed in purple and scarlet and adorned with gold and jewels.”

However Babylon means “confusion”.

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Babylon was known as a city of human achievement, a city worshipping many gods, synthesising “good” ideas and building its own religion, often swallowing up other religious people and ideas, which are made to bow at the feet of this Frankensteinian religion.

No system of thought these days can deny the enormous impact Jesus has had on world history. The fact of Jesus as a historical figure is not disputed by professional historians. And so any worldview must include Him in its synthesis. Jesus will never disappear from the public sphere. However, any belief system that does not have Him as the centrepoint of the past, present and future is Antichrist. Jesus is either First and Last in any belief system or it is Babylonian “confusion”.

The graphic imagery of the harlot liaising with foreigners is a stark warning to the church to stay faithful to Him and not be led away by enticing ideas of the world and incorporate these amongst the purity of the gospel, the chasteness of the church.

Pray//

Teach us wisdom Lord in discerning a spirit of the Antichrist that would challenge you as the centre of our world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revelation Chapter 16

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Revelation 16:17-18

Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, “It is done!”. And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth.

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The words, “It is done”, marks the end of God’s judgement. These judgements of great earthquakes and storms create graphic pictures in our mind, pictures which make it very clear the enormous seriousness of sin and its consequences.

The words “it is done” are reminiscent of Jesus words on the cross. These words marked the beginning of the Age of Grace- our sins are paid for, the veil is torn, symbolically reflecting we can come to our Father in faith, forgiven and redeemed.

However, these words spoken by the angel signal the transition to a time of judgement. The number seven, the biblical number of completion, tells us that these judgements too, come to completion.

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In journalist Greg Sheridan’s recent book “God is good for you”, he describes how the world is changing. Christianity in Australia and the West is changing, those with “no belief” are growing in number. Nominal Christians are falling away but the living church is growing. Despite being in the Age of Grace, Christianity is mocked, the return of Jesus is scorned; “Where is your Messiah?”

As these verses in Revelation tell us there is an appointed time when the Father’s will moves to a time when all are called to account.

In these days, when there is so much unbelief and darkness, we as a church are called to to shine, like a lighthouse in this darkness. The darkness and sin, will not last indefinitely, judgement will come, it will be done.

In the meantime as the darkness permeates around us, darkness is no match for light. Any light will rid its surrounding environment of darkness. The consequences of turning our back on God, this dar are catastrophic, not only as Sheridan describes on the fabric of society, but for our eternal destiny.

Let us keep in our hearts the hope of this final destiny-

“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them.”

….. and until then keep working, until “it is done”.

Pray//

Thank you Lord that we live in the beauty of your Grace. Let us not waste the great opportunity we have now to shine your truth and grace in a time such as this.

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revelation Chapter 15

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Revelation 15:2-3

And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God. They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God.

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The song of Moses (Exodus 15) is the first song recorded in the bible; the song that Israel sings when God safely delivers them to dry land, safe from the waters of the Red Sea and Pharoah’s army, intent on their destruction or return to slavery.

Here in Revelation, in the wake of the waves of the terrible tribulation period, those who overcome “the beast, and its image and the number of its name” eventually come to rest upon the firm footings of the sea of glass (Rev 4:6) before the heavenly throne.

In the Jewish temple, the bronze laver was filled with a sea of water (1 Kings 7.23), around 30000 litres, which was used by priests for cleansing before approaching the Lord.

Here in revelation, the sea that John describes lies in front of the heavenly throne. However, the sea is not needed for cleaning any more. In heaven, we are dressed in robes of white, purified by the Blood of the Lamb; there is no need to use the water any more for purification. And it is not just a few selected priests who approach the throne, we can all approach with “boldness”! Indeed we are all priests, even a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2.9).

John is describing a new era, with enormous changes, even the sea is stilled, as a sea of glass. The powers of darkness are defeated, we are united with our God, the chaotic oceans are stilled in obedience, and we are singing!

The recurrent use of numbers in Revelation such as 12 or 7 (and 144,000!) emphasise this completion and perfection.

Apply //

When we pass through our own times of tribulations, we have an assurance that these trials and troubles no longer have the power to engulf us, to crash over or consume us. Jesus himself reminds us of this fact when he tells us that “in this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We have this hope as an anchor for our souls, and just as Moses and the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea, so too may we stand firm on Jesus’ victory over sin and suffering in the midst of our own times of troubles. Let us take heart.

We are told in reading Revelation 1.3

“blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear”.

We can indeed be blessed by reading Revelation: we see how it all ends, we get to see the end of the story, which really is only the beginning, and what we are made for all along to- “Glorify God and enjoy Him forever”.

Pray//

Thank you Lord for the completed work of the cross and for the promise and hope you give us to glorify you and enjoy you forever. Speed the day! Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revelation Chapter 14

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Revelation 14:3

…and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth”.

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When mentioned in the bible, a ‘new song’ most commonly is a song of rejoicing and happiness, victorious after battle or trouble and looking forward to a new era. Here in Revelation 14, the 144,000 could sing this song, because they endured extreme tribulation maintaining their integrity and able to testify of God’s faithfulness.

A new song is also mentioned in Revelation 5 where a new song is sung by the elders as Jesus is found worthy to open the Scroll.
David also writes a new song of thanksgiving in Psalm 40. This song is given to him by God- “he put a new song in my mouth”

Psalm 96 encourages us to “sing to the Lord, a new song, sing to the Lord all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless his name.”

Psalm 33 also tells us to sing a new song, by loud shouts and by playing skilfully.

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When we are down, as David sometimes experienced, he did express himself in the Psalms and he talked to God about it in prayer. But the Psalms record the specific habit of David of writing new songs, intentionally putting words and music together to proclaim truth about God and what the Lord had and was doing done. This use of music- songs and instruments- to sing a new song seems integral to our normal “spiritual language” and very definitely the language in heaven. Depression and anxiety seem epidemic today, with suicide being the leading cause of death for 15 – 44 year olds in Australia. To help us, the Bible says we ought to fill our surroundings with songs of rejoicing.
These days, we can access some amazing Christian music, that in my experience can soothe and minister to our souls, proclaim the truth of God’s goodness and lift up his name. By contrast there is a scourge of secular music, whose lyrics declare evil. Even great melodies can smuggle in antichristian ideas eg Frank Sinatra’s “I did it my way”. My own approach is to avoid secular music, because there is a spiritual language here that seems very important to both the light and the dark. And so through “new songs”, we can reorientate, get perspective, renew our hope and lift our eyes, hearts minds and souls to Him.

Pray//

Lord, you are a faithful, loving and generous God. May the songs of our lives, the words of our lips sing your praise! Hallelujah!!

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revelation Chapter 13

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Revelation 13

And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads

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Revelation 13 describes the two beasts. But wait, I thought the victory had already been won in Revelation chapter 12? This illustrates one of the big themes in Revelation, that in the end the victory is the Lord’s, we know the end of the story before time.

“no longer will there be anything cursed.. they will see his face and his name will be on their forehead. There will be no more night.. and they will reign ever and ever” Rev 22. 4-5

Have patience, my children, live by faith, pray, hope and love. Wait on me, be still and know that I am God, trust me because:

“No matter how many promises God has made, they are yes in Christ. And through him the Amen is spoken to us to the glory of God” 2 Corinth 1.20

And so although we read of the rise of a second beast, which has power to “deceive” and “perform great signs”, we are “called for wisdom” to discern, that these things are not from God but from man. Where do we get wisdom from? “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” Prov 9.10, that is- God our first priority in all things.

The number of the beast in 666. 6 is the biblical number for man, and so one broad interpretation of this number is putting mankind and his wisdom first before God, worshipping technology, man-made philosophies, new synthesised moralities and “truths”.

Its happening today, and whilst technology and philosophy in themselves are not evil, if not made secondary to God but worshipped, they become idolatrous.

The beast John describes here recalls the beast in Daniel 7, the beast which

“had eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth speaking great things” Dan 7.8

But however strong the deception, we must “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.” Heb 12.2

Apply //

So let’s not lose patience, in this world where we try to live at breakneck speed. Be still. Wait on him because:

“Behold I am coming soon, my reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Rev 22.12

that’s how the story ends, therefore let us live in hope and victory, even through trials and tribulations. Sing a new song.

Pray//

Help me Lord to declare your promises and know that they are Yes, and Amen in Christ Jesus. To learn patience and to wait on you, to learn to trust in you and we do pray for wisdom in these times to discern your will. Help us always to put you first in all our ways, to trust in you in all things.

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revelation Chapter 12

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Revelation 12

“And a great sign appeared in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” v1

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Things are heating up now in Revelation! The battle is now in full swing, the powers of light and darkness in unrestrained conflict at the end of time.

Most commentators believe the woman is Israel, for example the crown of twelve stars recalls Josephs dream in Genesis 37. She gives birth to a male child, “one who is to rule all nations”, ie Jesus, and the red dragon attempts to destroy this child.

Many interpret this as the multiple attempts through history to destroy Israel via Pharoah, Haman, Herod or Hitler, all of which are thwarted.

Here, in Revelation 12, the Red Dragon, Satan is finally defeated,

“war rose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon” v7

“And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” v9.

“the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God” v 10

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It is interesting that Satan is described as being

  1. A deceiver, one who leads astray into error
  2. An accuser, one who charges with offense

When Satan tempted Jesus, this is exactly what he did, tried to deceive and accuse Jesus, using twisted scripture and deceptive arguments. The way Jesus defeated Satan was by knowing and using the Scriptures with truth and power.

And so when we doubt, when our faith is under fire, when storms are raging, it is to the Word hidden in our hearts and minds we are to find refuge and hope. More than ever today, the Bible is under hostile attack, does it really say….? Of course, this requires wisdom and humility and the Holy Spirit revealing to us the truth. But never let us neglect our most powerful weapon, the living and active Word of God.

Pray//

May “I hide your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119.11)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revelation Chapter 11

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Revelation 11

“Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff and was told, Rise and measure the temple of Go and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out for it is given over to the nations”

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The history of the temples is woven through the entire bible and is central to understanding the actual history and the nature of our relationship with Him.

The first temple

Built by Solomon 1050BC on Jerusalem’s Mount Moriah. Destroyed in 586 BC by the Babylonians.

The second temple

Rebuilt by Zerubbabel in 536BC, on return from exile.

The third temple

Second temple is augmented by King Herod around 20BC. Destroyed by burning in AD70 by the Romans under the general Titus.

The fourth temple

Many believe a fourth temple will be built in the future, and this is what is referred to in this passage of Revelation.

The Living temple

A friend of mine is pastor of a church with this name, referring to us, living temples of the Holy Spirit, a place where Jesus and the Father will take up residence. Better keep it clean!

Apply //

I remember standing over the spot in the temple mount where the old Holy of Holies was situated. Looking over in one direction is the eastern gate, through which Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey on Palm Sunday. In the other direction, 100 meters, is the Islamic Dome of the Rock, built in 600AD. This piece of real estate is hotly contested, and any fourth temple built here is likely to provoke war.

Whatever will happen in the future, we are told, Jesus will enter again through the Eastern gate, not this time, on a donkey, but as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords gloriously described in Revelation 19.

To prevent this prophecy, a graveyard has been built in front of the Eastern gate which has also been sealed shut. Whoever was responsible for these didn’t read that Jesus rose again, graveyards are impotent, death is conquered.

Pray//

Thank you for the living history, even in Jerusalem where we can walk where you walked, where the temples were, and where you will come again in glorious kingship. Until then Lord, live in us, living temples.

Amen