Halloween and the Magic Arts

“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practise magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.’”

‭‭Revelation‬ ‭21:8‬ ‭NIVUK

“But as for the cowards and unbelieving and abominable [who are devoid of character and personal integrity and practice or tolerate immorality], and murderers, and sorcerers [with intoxicating drugs], and idolaters and occultists [who practice and teach false religions], and all the liars [who knowingly deceive and twist truth], their part will be in the lake that blazes with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
Revelation‬ ‭21:8‬ ‭AMP‬‬

We’re going to look at Revelation 21:8 slightly out of verse order, because we’re at the end of October and this is Halloween, a day much celebrated in Western society, especially amongst children. God asked the Apostle John to write down some character traits that, if followed, would consign them “to the fiery lake of burning sulphur”. Amongst these, God mentioned “magic arts” but what are they? The Amplified version goes further, describing the “magic arts” practitioners as “sorcerers” and “occultists”, and as an aside He included the involvement of “intoxicating drugs”. 

We look at these words and wonder if they are still a problem in today’s society. After all, we don’t generally see women dressed in black cloaks decorated with embroidered stars and planets and wearing pointy hats, wandering around our shopping malls. But before we discount the role of the “sorcerers” and “occultists” in 21st Century Planet Earth, there are some things that should be making us think.  As I write this, Halloween is almost upon us. The celebrations are just a bit of fun, those in society will say. But what is Halloween all about, if not a manifestation of occultist practices? It has its roots in ancient Celtic and Druidic customs that include a celebration of the joining together of the spiritual and natural worlds. The early adherents of this custom thought that on Halloween, the spirits of people long dead, together with a motley selection of demons, goblins and the like, could pass from their world to ours. According to the tradition, the demonic forces had to be appeased with sacrifices or gifts of sweets, and if the Halloween celebrants could dress up in scary clothes, then all the better. So in today’s Halloween parties and customs, we are continuing the practice of celebrating and recognising the devil’s dark forces.

But that is not the only manifestation of “those who practise magic arts”. Behind the scenes there are spiritualist “churches” meeting down a dark alley, or in a back room somewhere, and engaged in practices such as contacting the spirits of the dead. We have seemingly innocuous horoscopes included with our newspapers. Magicians wow audiences with deceptions. The occult, involving the supernatural, paranormal, black magic and all, emerges in seances, fairs and even at church fetes or community galas with palm readers and fortune tellers. And there many other manifestations of “magic arts”.

The Bible is no stranger to tales of magic and communication with the dead. We have the occasions in the early chapters of Exodus where Pharaoh’s sorcerers mimicked some of Moses’ miracles. Or there was the time when King Saul tricked a medium to summon the spirit of Samuel from Hades – we can read about this in 1 Samuel 28. In the New Testament, there was the episode when Paul was harassed by a young slave girl who had a fortune telling spirit. Paul discerned that the spirit was a demon so he cast it out of her through the name of Jesus Christ. The narrative about this is in Acts 16. But in it all the actions of mediums and others, who practise the “magic arts“, is forbidden by God. We read in Leviticus 19:31, “Do not defile yourselves by turning to mediums or to those who consult the spirits of the dead. I am the Lord your God.”

We pilgrims have to be clear about the origins of the “magic arts”. The Apostle Paul warned his protégé, Timothy, about the dangers of the devil’s domain. We read in 1 Timothy 4:1, “Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons.” Jesus spent a lot of His time, while He was here on earth, casting demons out of people. And He instructed His followers to do the same, as we read in Matthew 10:8, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received!”. Paul also wrote to the Corinthians with a warning, “… And I don’t want you to participate with demons. You cannot drink from the cup of the Lord and from the cup of demons, too. You cannot eat at the Lord’s Table and at the table of demons, too.” (‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭10:20b-21). 

Whatever the date on the calendar, we pilgrims need to be careful and diligent, in discerning the works of the devil and his minions. What might seem to be an innocent occasion, dressed up in fun, may turn out to be a back door into the devil’s domain. Halloween celebrations, horoscopes and palm reading can all seem innocuous and problem free, even entertaining, but once we become sucked into the “magic arts” we will end up in danger of ticking God’s second death box. The devil knows where he will end up and he is determined to take as many with him as he can. 

Dear Father God. We are so grateful for Your love and care for each one of us, and for Your timely warning about the “magic arts”. Please help us to discern the times and follow Your ways alone. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Trustworthy and True

“And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.””
Revelation‬ ‭21:5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

God takes over from the angel with the narrative for John’s vision, and He tells John to write down that what He says is “trustworthy and true“. But those of us who are Bible readers will know that. So why does God need to repeat it? After all, we have read Psalm 111:7-8, “All he does is just and good, and all his commandments are trustworthy. They are forever true, to be obeyed faithfully and with integrity.” And we read what Jesus said in John 14:6, “Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” Everything about God is truth, and what He says can be trusted.

There is an emphasis here for a people who are prone to forget. We live in an age of scepticism. Even Christians become tainted by a spirit of disbelief. Having just picked our way through all the End Times events, there will be a tiredness creeping in and this is God giving us a wake up call, reminding us of His infallibility. Reminding us that all the things that have happened in John’s vision are true. If they haven’t happened yet, they will do.

God is love personified. It must have broken His heart to see so many end up the fiery lake through their own poor and devil-inspired choices. That wasn’t why He created Planet Earth and mankind. But here He is saying once again that this is a new beginning. He can finally realise the one thing He has desired for all time – to spend His time with mankind in our future Heavenly home, with those who love Him and want to spend eternity with Him.

Once again, we pray for our loved ones, that they too will discover God, the One who is true and trustworthy.

Dear God. We are so grateful that in a world of turmoil You are trustworthy and true. A Rock to which we can flee in times of trouble. Amen.

The New Jerusalem

“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.””‭‭
Revelation‬ ‭21:2-4‬ ‭NLT

As John, in his vision, was marvelling about the New Jerusalem appearing before him, he heard a loud shout. It grabbed his attention and he recorded what was said. The angel’s words were profound. God was going to make His home amongst His people, the people who had been rebirthed into His eternal Kingdom. Are we pilgrims ready to welcome God? Really ready?

Right back in Genesis, it was God’s intention to spend time with His created friends, Adam and Eve. He walked in the Garden where they were, and it must have broken His heart when He discovered their sin. The end of a face to face relationship. But God had no option – He couldn’t stay in an environment that contained sin. But here we are in the penultimate chapter of Revelation, discovering that at last, with the cleansing of sin from His presence complete, He could once again achieve His goal of spending time amongst His people. 

The angel’s shouted message also gave John some reassurance. Don’t forget he had been exiled to a prison on an island in the Aegean sea and he would be no stranger to “death or sorrow or crying or pain”. So the angel telling him about God’s plan reassured him that these human conditions would be eliminated. “Gone forever”

But in a sense, limited by our humanity, God lives within us. He never really left us. We read in Matthew 28:20, “Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” So Jesus has promised to be with us for ever. And there are many other Bible references about God being with us. In 1 Corinthians 3:16 we read, “Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?” But as we read in these verses today from Revelation, “God himself will be with them”, His people. 

A Scripture much quoted in the upcoming season of Advent is Matthew 1:23, “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”‭‭ The First Coming of Jesus was announced as “God is with us“. It came to fruition then, and here, in these New Beginning Times (they’re not End Times any more) God is with us in person, amongst His people.

But one thing we must consider is the reference to the new Jerusalem being like “a bride beautifully dressed for her husband”. In Ephesians 5:25-27, we read, “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.” It was always Christ’s intention to make His Church “holy and without fault” one day. And by so doing, the Church will become His Bride. This finally comes to fruition with the new Jerusalem. 

These are exciting times for us pilgrims. One day we’ll get to explore the new Jerusalem, in all its splendour. And enjoy a new life for all eternity free of “death or sorrow or crying or pain”. How amazing is that?

Dear Lord. We look forward in awe at the coming of the new Jerusalem, where we will find You living with Your people. We worship You today, in grateful anticipation. Amen.

‭‭

The New Heaven and Earth

“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.”
Revelation‬ ‭21:1-2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The horrors of the scene involving the fiery lake were fading from John’s vision. There was a momentary pause in events, defined by the first word in Revelation 21 – “then”. In a previous part of John’s vision, he saw the Great White Throne appear, and the earth and sky tried to hide from God’s presence. Well, we now know what had happened to them, because we are told that they just “disappeared“. And they took the sea with them. So the scene before John was blank. But then he could hardly believe his eyes. He blinked just to make sure he wasn’t seeing things. A marvellous sight came into view, displacing the darkness. A new heaven and a new earth appeared. New. Did that mean a new creation, as we read in Genesis, or did the new heaven and earth just appear, fully finished and ready to go? 

We consider our current earth and the sky above it. A finely tuned creation of atoms linked together to form an infinite number of different animal, vegetable and mineral products. Products that include and sustain the life we know so well. And to support those products, the physical properties of the sun and gravity, amongst many others, ensure a stability that has sustained the earth in its right place in space since the universe was created. Scientists talk about the “Goldilocks zone”, a planet’s position within a solar system where life as we know it can be sustained. But it’s more than that – we are God’s creation. Our planet and all its contents. And God has removed the old so that He can bring in the new. 

God is always creating something new, though. He didn’t make the world and its contents and then walk away, letting animals or plants get on with life, or not, as the case may be. Just look at our world every spring, when new plant growth spurts out everywhere. And the miracle of a new baby. Even under the curse of sin, our natural world is designed to be able to renew itself. We also have the miracle – yes, that is what it is – of spiritual birth. We read in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” Jesus told Nicodemus in that famous conversation recorded in John’s Gospel, that rebirth is essential for entry into God’s Kingdom. We read His words in John 3:3, “Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”” Sadly, being “born again” has acquired negative connotations, bing ridiculed by many, even other Christians. But it’s another example of God’s design for His creation.

The old earth and heaven needed to be replaced. Sin and wickedness had trashed it. But not a problem to God, and He started with the new Holy City, the New Jerusalem. John gets a glimpse of it coming down from God’s home in Heaven, and it looks wonderful, made “like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband”. In his vision, John gets to view a “spoiler” of what it is like. Just a foretaste of the most wonderful place ever seen.

But back to our spiritual rebirth. Are we pilgrims “born again”? If we’re not sure, a question to God will soon clarify our positions. Being birthed into God’s amazing Kingdom, while we get the chance here on Planet Earth, is an introduction to our new life with God in eternity. We have the opportunity to live in His kingdom, as well as being part of our world’s kingdom, right now. There is a stark contrast. But one day the old kingdom will disappear, and we will fully enjoy being part of the new. Wonderful!

Dear God. There are exciting times ahead for those who have been birthed into your Kingdom. we praise and worship You today. Amen.

The Fiery Lake

“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 ‭20:14-15‬ ‭NLT

In John’s vision, the fiery lake seemed to have become a dumping ground for sin, evil and their consequences. There was no way to escape from it. And in some way, what ended up there wasn’t consumed. There was just a constant state of fire and torment. Again we may have mental images of what this lake was or will be like – if not just type “fiery lake images” into Google. 

Revelation chapter twenty ends with the sober fact that anyone whose name was not found in the Book of Life was going to join the devil and his minions in the lake of burning sulphur, for eternal torment. There would be no appeal. No mitigating factors. The “devil made me do it” excuse invalid. No parole. No new evidence available. A final end to those who chose to reject a relationship with Jesus, dismissing His offer of eternal life. It would have been bad enough to end up in eternal torment, but sharing that fate with the devil would have added to the distress.

The evangelists of previous years used to engage in the practice of dangling their hearers over the fires of hell through their preaching. Pointing out to their listeners the horrors of what hell would be like. We don’t hear many sermons on hell today. Not political correct any more? But many today, even Christians, have rejected the view of hell being a fiery lake, as being archaic and not applicable in our more sophisticated modern times. As I have said before, a man I know in the village where I live has publicly rejected all thoughts of salvation. Instead, he wants, as he put it, “to join the party downstairs”. The fiery lake, hell, will be no party. I told him so.

Others have decided, without any evidence to back their assumptions, that hell will be a benign state of sleep, or somewhere where their disembodied spirits can roam around, unbothered by human restraints. Still others have decided that hell doesn’t exist at all, rejecting the Biblical accounts, instead sincerely believing that our God of love would never consign anyone to such a place. But do we view the fiery lake images as being symbolic or a reality to be avoided at all costs? Is this place just a fairy tale conjured up in the Apostle John’s imagination? Unfortunately no one has returned to earth to let us know. But Jesus was horrified about hell, and most of the teaching about this place came from His lips. He likened it to Gehenna, the rubbish pit in a gorge located below Jerusalem, and where garbage and the bodies of dead criminals were piled up. It was constantly smouldering and was full of worms. The smell was appalling. Jesus also told the story of the rich man and the beggar called Lazarus. We can read what Jesus said in Luke 16:19-31, but one verse supports the fiery lake scenario. Luke 16:24 reads, “The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames“.

But we pilgrims have made our choice. We are God-followers, accepting His love and grace and looking forward to the day when we will join Him in Heaven. And while we still have time, we must, like the Apostle Paul, do our best to convince others of the dangers of the fiery lake. We read in Acts 19:8, “Then Paul went to the synagogue and preached boldly for the next three months, arguing persuasively about the Kingdom of God.” Our synagogues will be our workplaces, our community centres, our churches, all places where we try and persuade others to embrace God and His love and grace, before it is too late. We must never distort the Gospel by omitting the finality of the Great White Throne judgement. Yes God is a God of love. He yearns to pour out His love and grace on His creation. But because of that love He has allowed mankind to make choices, and responding to His love is a choice we can make. But we also must never forget that one day there will be a Great White Throne. Where all of mankind who have rejected God will be judged for their deeds. As one evangelist succinctly put it, “Heaven is real, hell is hot, and Jesus saves”. Hmmm…

Dear God. We don’t know what the fiery lake will really be like, and I thank You that those who are assured of their salvation through Jesus will never find out. We continue to pray for our loved ones, that they too will find the true way to an eternal life with You. Amen.

Death No More

“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 ‭20:14-15‬ ‭NLT

The lake of fire is filling up. We already have the devil, the beast and the false prophet sent there. Now we find out that death and the grave have been thrown in there as well. How do we picture death? A man wearing a monk’s habit with a hood covering his head, and carrying an old fashioned scythe? You know, the “Grim Reaper” that accompanies jokes about men catching a cold? But however we imagine the concept, or state, we call “death”, it is far more serious and significant than that. And the fact that “death” was to be no more restores God’s original order back to His creation.

When mankind was created, his sinless state meant that he would have the opportunity to live forever. In Genesis 2:9b we read, ” …. In the middle of the garden he [God] placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” And in Genesis 3:22 we read, “Then the Lord God said, “Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!”” The sin Adam and Eve committed resulted in them being cut off from the fruit of the tree that would provide eternal life. The result of that sin was mankind’s eventual physical death. So death was spawned in Eden through what has become to be known as the fall of man. And now death was being eliminated and consigned to the fiery lake. 

Now that death was, well, dead, there was no more use for the grave. Obvious really. No dead bodies, so no need for graves. So the entity John saw, the grave,  ended up in the fiery lake as well. So in our minds we have perhaps conjured up our own images of the Grim Reaper and a gravestone flying through the air and disappearing below the surface of the lake full of burning sulphur. 

It is a strange concept for us pilgrims that one day we will be resurrected and will live forever. In God’s company as He originally wanted. But some people in society cannot wait until they die. They find life so hard that they just have had enough. Sadly, some accelerate the process and end their own lives unnaturally. And we also have the frequent debate promoting euthanasia for those suffering from incurable or debilitating diseases. In the forefront of the news just now is the sad story of a poor girl in her early teens who committed suicide, her mental health challenges exacerbated by negative social media posts. The debate around the length and quality of our lives seems constant. But Jesus came to give us life, both here in this physical realm, and forever in the age to come. In John 10:10 we read, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My [Jesus] purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” Regardless of our circumstances, we can enjoy a wonderful life with Jesus.

So one day there will be no death. All those who have chosen to live God’s way, in a loving relationship with Him, will transition from this life to eternal life in Heaven. In a conversation with Martha, the sister of Lazarus, Jesus said to her, “ … I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” Jesus came to this life, walking the highways and byways of the Palestinian countryside telling people about God’s wonderful Kingdom. He healed the sick. He raised the dead. To Jesus, death was no obstacle. Paul wrote to his followers some comforting words about death. We read in 1 Corinthians 15:53-55, “For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”” Paul ends this section with these words, “But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.” That was why Jesus came. And through Him we really do have the victory that will enable us to once again enjoy eating from the Tree of Life.

Dear Heavenly Father. Once again we fall to our knees in worship. You are the living God, the true Life. How wonderful You are. Amen.

The Great White Throne

“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 gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds.”
Revelation‬ ‭20:11-13‬ ‭NLT

The Apostle John had no respite, no time to rest, in the vision given to him. It was relentless, one scene after another unfolding before him. He had just witnessed the devil and his proteges, the beast and the false prophet, consigned to the fiery lake, to be tormented forever. But that scene cleared from before him and was replaced by a “great white throne”. It was occupied by God Himself. A raft of emotions must have crossed his mind. Joy at seeing his God. But a great sense of foreboding as he watched the earth and sky trying to hide from God. This isn’t looking good, he must have thought. A feeling of sadness came upon him as he observed a crowd, apparently limitless, gathering before the throne. Everyone who had died was there. It didn’t matter where they had died, or where they had been buried, because there was no escape. 

I suppose the question has to be asked – what about any people still alive at this point? I don’t think there were any, because the earth was trying to escape from God’s presence. And all of God’s people would by now have been in Heaven.

John saw a vast library of books, including the Book of Life. And you can just imagine the scenario. A name was called out and the person stood there trembling with fear. All his or her deeds were read out for everyone to hear. Jesus gave a warning to His disciples, which we can read from Luke 12:2, “The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all”. The person thought that all their wicked deeds had escaped public scrutiny. Those thefts that they thought had not been seen. The indiscretion with the man or woman in the office, their spouse at home. The images found on the internet late at night. The blasphemies and rejection of Jesus and His grace. All read out. The list of deeds came to an end. It wasn’t good listening. And it was followed by a pause before the cry from the throne went out, “Guilty!” 

Folks. I don’t want to be in that number, before God’s throne of judgement. And I don’t want my loved ones, my neighbours, my workmates, to be there either. We all need to embrace God’s gracious love while we still can. No-one knows when this momentous event will take place. But happen it will. And there is only one way to avoid it. Jesus said in John 14:6, “Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” In John 10:28-29 we read, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.” It is only through Jesus that we can enjoy God’s presence for ever. That must instil within us a sense of urgency. We must tell all the people that we know. And persevere in praying for them. For we know that our God will answer these prayers because He is faithful.

Dear God, how can we thank You enough for Your free gift of salvation through Jesus. We praise and worship You today. Amen. 

The Burning Lake

“Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulphur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
Revelation‬ ‭20:10‬ ‭NLT

The armies of the earth have been destroyed by fire. A sad end to man’s rebellion. They will of course be present at the second resurrection, and the consequences of this we will see, in a future blog, that it will not end well for them. Fire will be with them for all eternity, not just for the brief moment when they, and their fellow soldiers, were incinerated. But in today’s verse we see that the devil is seized once again. He seems impervious to his own limitations, and his inability to avoid God’s judgement, even though he must have known it would come to this. Look at the sequence of events. He was thrown out of Heaven. He was defeated at Calvary. He was incarcerated in the bottomless pit. And now he has been assigned to his final home – the fiery lake of burning sulphur. And in his vision John saw that the devil would be tormented, along with the beast and his false prophet, forever. Without any rest or parole. But he can never claim he didn’t know what would happen to him.

The devil overreached himself. He thought, in his arrogance, that he could take God on and win. Have we pilgrims ever met anyone who is so full of themselves, apparently impervious to their own limitations? They think that they are someone when, in reality, they aren’t?  But isn’t it strange – we can see this character trait in others but not ourselves. The Apostle Paul reminded the Romans of this in Romans 12:3, “Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us”. Paul said we should assess ourselves honestly, but how do we do that? One piece of Scripture that has helped me greatly on my pilgrimage through life is Ephesians 4:22-23,“throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes”. Personal deception is part of our old sinful lives. Through the renewing that comes through the Holy Spirit, we get the help we need to evaluate ourselves honestly. 

Jesus described hell as being dark, and full of wailing and gnashing of teeth. At the marriage feast He found that there was someone not wearing the right wedding clothes, and he was removed from the banquet. We read in Matthew 22:13, “Then the king said to his aides, ‘Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”‭‭ Jesus gave a graphic description of the eternal regret that an unrepentant person will experience – in darkness and deep sorrow. But in John’s vision in Revelation 20, as we will see in a future blog, those whose names are not recorded in the Book of Life will be joining the devil, the beast and the false prophet in the lake of fire. Either way, though, eternal separation from God in a place of torment, shows how seriously God views sin and wickedness. We must view it the same way, particularly in our own lives. And pray for our loved ones, that they too will take advantage of God’s love in this season of His grace.

Dear Lord. In humble gratitude we thank You for your grace and love. Amen.

Gog and Magog

“He will go out to deceive the nations—called Gog and Magog—in every corner of the earth. He will gather them 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.”
Revelation‬ ‭20:8-9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The devil has been released from prison, the bottomless pit, and he wastes no time. He is the master of deceit and he goes out and convinces the nations, called Gog and Magog, to form a mighty army. 

Firstly, who or what was Gog and Magog? We know that Magog was a grandson of Noah and he is thought to have moved north of Israel, possibly to what is now Europe. And in Ezekiel 38;1-2 we read, “This is another message that came to me from the Lord: “Son of man, turn and face Gog of the land of Magog, the prince who rules over the nations of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him”. But whoever Gog and Magog were, and there has been much conjecture and quite a few suggestions, the facts are that a huge army was put together, comprising people from “every corner of the earth”. Who were these people? They must have been all those alive during the latter stages of the millennium, who were still rebelling against God, and had been deceived by the devil, who had promised them that they could defeat Jesus and His people, thus being able to enjoy their evil and sin-filled lives once again. There were many of them – John, in his vision, saw that they were as “numberless as sand along the seashore”. As John watched, they “surrounded God’s people and the beloved city”, which was of course Jerusalem. But God’s solution to all of this was to burn them all up with fire from Heaven. We read in 2 Thessalonians 1:7b-9, “… He will come with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power”. Hebrews 12:28-29 reads, “Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. For our God is a devouring fire”. Fire appears throughout the Bible as the instrument of God’s judgement on those who reject Him and His grace. 

We pilgrims work for God. We build on the foundation, the corner stone, that is Jesus. We hope and pray that the work we do is of value to God, but in 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 we read, “But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames”. ‭‭‭‭God is the master builder. He teaches us all well. But the implication is that we can get involved in much that is of no value and one day it will be destroyed by fire. Only the work that God wants us to do will last. Pilgrims like us can easily get involved in things that don’t fit in with God’s will and purposes for us. And the result can be overload and burnout. I often think about Jesus and the incident in the Pool of Bethesda, where there were many sick people, all waiting for bubbles to appear (they believed that an angel with miraculous healing powers occasional stirred the water and the first one in got healed). Jesus only healed one person that day – a man who had been sick for thirty eight years. But He didn’t heal the rest. Why? Because Jesus only did what His father wanted Him to do. The Amplified version of John 5:19 reads, “So Jesus answered them by saying, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself [of His own accord], unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever things the Father does, the Son [in His turn] also does in the same way.” 

A problem in Christian churches can be that about ninety percent of the work required seems to be accomplished by ten percent of the people. And in many churches, it is the minister who tries to fulfil the five fold ministries described in Ephesians 4:11-12, “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” So a question we pilgrims must ask ourselves is this – is the work I am doing for God what He has asked me to do? And, conversely, the second question – is there work that God has asked me to do and I’m being disobedient and not doing it? Questions we must bring under the gaze of the Master Builder. He will enlighten us, I’m sure.

Father God. Thank You that we are part of Your master plan for the human race. Please lead and guide us through our daily lives, helping us do just those tasks You want us to do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Satan Released from Prison

When the thousand years come to an end, Satan will be let out of his prison.”
Revelation‬ ‭20:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The thousand years are up. Christ’s millennial reign has come to an end. And, presumably, the angel returns with the key, opens the door to the bottomless pit and releases satan from his chains. Why? 

The last one thousand years have been peaceful. No sin has been allowed to flourish. No financial frauds. No opportunities for gang warfare. No proliferation of drugs. No fighting and wars. Just a wonderful thousand years spent in Jesus’ presence. It can’t get much better than that! But not everyone will have thought so. There would still have been many who refused to bend the knee to Christ. But you would think that even living in such a peaceful time would have been preferable to how it was before.

Perhaps satan was released to show the contrast between his kingdom and God’s Kingdom. Between good and evil. He would have tried to reassert himself as the “god of this age”, once again waving his rebellious fist in God’s face. And encouraging those sinful and evil people on earth to join him once more. Perhaps, in his arrogance, he thought he had learnt enough this time to properly defeat God. After all, he’d had a thousand years to plot and scheme. Or perhaps the devil was released to test the population, who may have become complacent after a long period of stable and euphoric rule. Perhaps he had been released to stand trial before God on the day of judgement, and had been given one last opportunity to bow his knee before God, unlikely though that was. But in any case, deep in thought, in his incorrigible wickedness, the devil heard the scraping of the key in the lock. He rushed to the door as it opened, hurried the angel to undo the chains, and then burst into the sunlight. Desperate to wreak his evil mischief on mankind once again.

The devil would have struck fear into the hearts of many on earth at that time, as he does today. But Christians have nothing to fear from him. They have God on their side, and His instructions about how to deal with the devil were there in God’s Word, the Bible. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armour so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm“. (Ephesians‬ ‭6:13). But we have to be careful when the devil is around. He is the master of deceit, and his whisperings can sound so plausible sometimes. Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:8, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour“.

We pilgrims might be thinking that this is all a bit academic. After all, we’re not going to be alive in a thousand years’ time. But hang on a minute – we will be, because we will have been resurrected at the start of the millennium and will be ruling and reigning with Christ for a thousand years, resplendent in our new bodies. So we have been forewarned. We’ll get to see what the devil is going to do in the next blog.

Father God, we praise and worship You today. We pray, as taught by Jesus, that You will deliver us from evil. Thank You Lord. Amen.