The Bright Morning Star

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this message for the churches. I am both the source of David and the heir to his throne. I am the bright morning star.”
Revelation‬ ‭22‬:‭16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Jesus confirmed the reason why John had been given this vision, that we have been reading about in the Book of Revelation. It was a “message for the churches”. And what a message! As we have been following it, our tortuous journey has taken us through many different scenarios, some easy to understand, others not so. But through it all, Jesus’s concern and care for His church shines through, a Royal thread sealing the contents for eternity.

In today’s verse, Jesus starts by confirming that it was Him who sent the angel to be with John, an angel acting as a projectionist, as though rolling the films that have made up the End Time story. Interspersed with the visuals there were moments of audio, podcasts declaring Jesus’ messages. And Jesus then declares once again, as if we didn’t already know, who He is.

Jesus said He is “the source of David and the heir to his throne”. He, of course, was referring to the Jewish King, who ruled in Israel around 1,000 BC. Right at the beginning of the New Testament, in Matthew 1:1, we read, “This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham:”. So Jesus was confirming His human lineage right back to David and even before. But He mentioned David, because it was through a vision given to him by Nathan the prophet that confirmed Jesus’s Royal status, to come at the end of time. We read part of Nathan’s prophecy in 2 Samuel 7:12-14a, “For when you die and are buried with your ancestors, I will raise up one of your descendants, your own offspring, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for my name. And I will secure his royal throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son….. ”. Jesus didn’t just “pop-up” in history, with no pedigree, no mandate. God had ordained His future role – it was part of His plan for mankind, for peoples blighted by sin and wickedness. And the reference Jesus made to David confirmed His humanity, as well as His divinity.

Jesus continued to inform John that He is “the bright morning star”. For those astronomers amongst us they will know that the morning star, the planet Venus, appears at dawn, just before the sun rises. Some Bible interpreters have concluded that this means Jesus will return first for His church before returning for His people, Israel. But whatever we decide, when He appears in the sky it will precede something significant.

So the usual question. What does all this mean for us pilgrims? We must carefully consider the messages contained in Revelation. There are many. This is, at first sight, a rather scary and complex book, but interspersed through it there are nuggets of gold, designed to correct us, to encourage us, and to guide us. We need to read it frequently, and discern the times.

Dear Lord. Thank You for Your care, Your love, Your provision. The spiritual food contained in this book will sustain us on our journey through life. We thank You. Amen.

Wash Day (2)

“Blessed are those who wash their robes. They will be permitted to enter through the gates of the city and eat the fruit from the tree of life. Outside the city are the dogs—the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idol worshipers, and all who love to live a lie.”
Revelation‬ ‭22‬:‭14‬-‭15‬ ‭NLT

John’s brief list of sinful acts ends with a strange reference to “all who love to live a lie”. What is that all about? When we were children a favourite pastime was to dress up in clothes, giving us the feeling of being someone we weren’t. When my wife and I were foster parents, we kept a box full of what we called dressing up clothes, and the children occasional pulled them all out and had a dressing up session. As an aside, we had one 4-year-old boy who loved to wear little girls’ clothes, and particularly a tutu and ballet shoes. I’m not sure what the psychiatrists would make of him today, but it was just a phase he went through. He grew out of it.

To a certain extent we all live a lie. We hold within ourselves our feelings and what we are really thinking, preferring to display a “face” telling a different story to those around us. And we all have skeletons in cupboards somewhere, tucked away in dusty recesses in our minds. We all have history. But we don’t have to be defined by that. I know we have memories, terrified that someone might find out something about us we don’t want to disclose. But when we repent of our sins, bringing them under the spotlight of God’s grace, He wipes them out. He remembers them no more. We read in Hebrews 8:12, “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins”. There are other Scriptures too that say the same. But the one I like is in Psalm 103:12, “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west”. It doesn’t get much further than that. God forgets but, sadly, we don’t. And the memories lurk there in our minds, emerging now and then, often with the devil’s prompting, causing us pain. And just in case we had forgotten to confess a sin, we repent again. But God says “What sin?” And so the cycle continues. Someone once said these memories are the stain of sin. When satan come a-knocking, trying to torment me once again, I refute his accusations, reminding him of my blood-bought status and that I’m a sinner saved by grace. I’m no longer the man I used to be. James very perceptively recorded in 4:17, “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you”. And so he does.

We don’t have to live a defeated life, tormented by every memory. Instead, we can stand boldly before God free of conviction and a guilty conscience. We read in Hebrews 10, 19,21-22, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus …. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.”‭‭‭‭

So living a lie needn’t be the case because before God we are an open book. He will gently lead us on our journeys to Heaven, exposing and dealing with our issues and sins step by step. And with our fellow Christians we can be honest and open too, though in the process being careful about not disclosing too much information. A “need to know” approach is best. The next time we walk through the church door or sit at our desks, and someone asks the question, “How are you today?”, we can respond with a faith-filled statement. We may not be “Fine”, but we will be, once we allow God’s love and grace to flood over us.

Dear Father God. We thank You for Your encouragement, sustaining us through the trials and tribulations of life. Only You have the ways of fixing broken and tormented souls. Amen. 

Wash Day (1)

“Blessed are those who wash their robes. They will be permitted to enter through the gates of the city and eat the fruit from the tree of life. Outside the city are the dogs—the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idol worshipers, and all who love to live a lie.”
Revelation‬ ‭22‬:‭14‬-‭15‬ ‭NLT

It looks as though people wearing dirty clothes will not be acceptable in the Holy City. They were instructed to wash them, a process that will result in blessings. A strange situation until we understand what this washing is all about. We read earlier in Revelation 7:13-14, “Then one of the twenty-four elders asked me, “Who are these who are clothed in white? Where did they come from?” And I said to him, “Sir, you are the one who knows.” Then he said to me, “These are the ones who died in the great tribulation. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white.” The blood of Jesus is extraordinarily and fundamentally significant in the lives of Christians, denoting as it does the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross at Calvary for our sins. We read in Ephesians 1:7, “He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.” We also read in Hebrews 9:12, “With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.” So the significance of washing our robes is clear. Only people who are saved through Jesus’ blood will enter Heaven. 

Once inside the Holy City, the redeemed people of God, His holy people, will enjoy eternal life, eating from the fruit of the tree that has been around ever since God created the world. It has been hidden for all time as we know it, but it has not been extinct because we find it again on the banks of the river that flows from God’s throne. The tree of life. We read earlier in Revelation 22:2, ”… 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.” The same tree of life that we read about in Genesis 2:9.

Once again, John reminded us of who will not be able to enter the Holy City. In fact, these people will not be in Heaven either. These are the people who have not “washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb“. The sorcerers and murderers are clearly exhibiting behaviours that Christians agree will exclude them from Heaven. But what about the sexually immoral? Sadly, there is much unnecessary debate and angst amongst Christians about this, with biblically-defined offenders encroaching on traditional values and taking on roles in some churches because the leaders think they should be moving with the times. But there will be much weeping and gnashing of teeth on the Judgement Day. Liberal theologians will find that our God is the “same yesterday, today and forever”. He never changes. And neither does His laws and precepts.

John also highlights the demise of idol worshippers. The picture emerges in our minds of statues of Buddha or similar, but an idol is something that replaces God as the focus of our worship. We know the commandments. As a reminder, Exodus 20:4-5a reads, “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.” I would add to that anything man made, that replaces God in our lives.

So we pilgrims wash our robes, the blood of Jesus cleansing us from all our sins. And we move on in God’s grace, with grateful hearts.

Dear Lord. We humbly praise and worship You today with grateful hearts. Your love knows no bounds. Amen.

Pay Back Time

“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.”
‭Revelation‬ ‭22‬:‭12‬-‭13‬ ‭NLT

As if John needed another reminder, Jesus took over from the angel to tell him that the time was short. Jesus said that He will be returning soon. The angel had given the same message to John just a few verses earlier. But Jesus said more. He said He will be rewarding all people “according to their deeds”. 

What will these rewards be? They will not, of course, be anything that is materialistic. No elaborate engraved clocks for the mantelpiece here! Neither will Jesus be rewarding us for the good deeds that we do for their own sake. These come under the category of “works”. But we know that our salvation is based on God’s grace alone, not anything we claim to do for Him. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it”. In many ways, it will be reward enough to leave this life, with all its difficulties, and instead be with Jesus in Heaven. But Jesus has more for us when we get there. Jesus gave us a hint with the parable of the talents. Matthew 25:21 (AMP) reads, “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little, I will put you in charge of many things; share in the joy of your master’”. So there is one reward we will receive, the joy of knowing that Jesus will be pleased with what we have achieved. Perhaps the closer we are to Jesus in this life, the closer we will be to Him in the life to come. Rewards enough.

When will Jesus repay people “according to their deeds”? After Jesus comes again there will be a time when we will stand before Him, to be judged. We read in 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.” Note that the judgement here is for the deeds not for salvation. That comes later at the event we refer to as the Great White Throne judgement, when the Lamb’s Book of Life is consulted and everyone’s life is replayed in God’s presence.

Jesus finishes his conversation by reminding John of His eternal presence. He is the Beginning and the End. There’s something reassuring about knowing that God is more permanent than anything around us. One day this world will end in a puff of smoke, but God will still be there. As I write the war in Ukraine still rumbles on. But God is still on His throne. We may have questions – lots of them – but knowing that our God is always present, always has been, and always will be, somehow makes the questions not quite so important. But because God is the Rock on which we stand, that is in itself an answer to our deepest yearning. Knowing God is who He says He is, somehow empowers us pilgrims to get on with the life, the calling, that He has assigned to us. The prophet Habakkuk declared before God the following, “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” (Habakkuk‬ ‭3‬:‭17‬-‭18‬). He also knew that God is the Beginning and the End. And that was all that mattered to him.

Dear Father God. You are the Alpha and Omega. Your presence is eternal. And we are so grateful that even though much comes against us, only You are relevant. Thank You for the joy that fills us. Amen.

Don’t Close the Book

“Then he instructed me, “Do not seal up the prophetic words in this book, for the time is near. Let the one who is doing harm continue to do harm; let the one who is vile continue to be vile; let the one who is righteous continue to live righteously; let the one who is holy continue to be holy.””
Revelation‬ ‭22‬:‭10‬-‭11‬ ‭NLT

In the days before paper and books, writings would be recorded on scrolls, and they would be rolled up and sealed to preserve the contents. We saw this back in Revelation when we read, “And I saw a strong angel, who shouted with a loud voice: “Who is worthy to break the seals on this scroll and open it?”” (Revelation 5:2). Jesus eventually stepped forward to open the scroll. He was the only one found worthy enough to break the seals and unleash the consequences on the earth. Well, now we’re at Revelation 22 and John was instructed not to seal the scroll. Today, we would say keep the book open and make it available for all to read. So this was to be no library book, removed from the shelf and relegated to a storeroom somewhere. This was no book to be placed in a box at the back of the attic. The angel was saying that events were about to come to fruition, just as described in the book. So keep it handy for reference. It was almost as though the prophecies were to form a checklist, with boxes to be ticked as the events happened, implying that the prophetic words contained within Revelation were going to happen just as described. And “soon”.

The angel continued with a strange statement. What did he mean by saying that existing behaviour must continue, whether good or bad? John’s prophetic vision about what was to happen had finished. The angel was now gently bringing him back to the present. A world populated by good and bad people. Perhaps the End Times were about to be completed so quickly that there wasn’t any time left for personal revisions of human behaviour. People were to continue carrying on as they always had done until the final day arrived. Jesus warned us that this would be the case, as we read in Matthew 24:37-39, “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realise what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.” It is sad to think that mankind has become so arrogant that warnings about the future are disregarded, people preferring to live their lives in a sinful way. Of course it was not necessarily wrong to indulge some of the social practices that were happening. It was all about where God was in them – elevated or ignored? In it all, were the people’s lives harmful and vile, or righteous and holy?

Is there any significance in the descriptive words the angel used – harm, vile, righteousness and holiness? Possibly not, because there were many other character descriptions possible to describe how mankind behaves. The message for us pilgrims is to “keep on keeping on”. As we wait for the final days to come, we must continue to do the things God has asked us to do. Sharing our messages of hope. Living our lives as we should. Following Christ at every opportunity. Aspiring to true righteousness and holiness.

Dear Father God. Thank You for Your faithful servant John, who so diligently wrote down everything presented to him. Please help us too to be diligent in the tasks You have set us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Being a Servant

“I, John, am the one who heard and saw all these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me. But he said, “No, don’t worship me. I am a servant of God, just like you and your brothers the prophets, as well as all who obey what is written in this book. Worship only God!””
‭Revelation‬ ‭22‬:‭8‬-‭9‬ ‭NLT

John was so overcome with his conversation with the angel, that he felt the urge to fall on his knees before him and worship him. What was there about the angel that induced that feeling in John? But John had been there before. We read in Revelation 19:10 about another time when he felt he had to worship an angel. We read, “Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said, “No, don’t worship me. I am a servant of God, just like you and your brothers and sisters who testify about their faith in Jesus. Worship only God.…..””.

What is there about angels that can perhaps invite their worship? It may have been a problem in early church days, because the Apostle Paul warned the Colossians church about it. We read in Colossians 2:18, “Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things. Their sinful minds have made them proud,”. Angels are created beings, but they are eternal and they have the powers to travel through space and time. They serve God continually, and they have a form that is supernatural and beyond our understanding. Many books have been written about angels, and the Bible is full of references about them. We may even be able to sense the presence of angels, keeping us from danger. But mankind has a tendency to be wowed by something amazing, and that perhaps initiated John’s feelings of a need to worship. 

The angel claimed that he was a “servant of God”, just, as he said, like John and his “brothers the prophets“. But in what way did the angel serve God? In the case before us, God had obviously assigned him the task of showing and explaining all that he did to John. And he did it with patience, gentleness and kindness, threads we see throughout the Book of Revelation. But what about the brothers, the prophets? How do they serve God? Paul gave us insight, in Colossians 2:23-24, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.” There is a connection here between living our earthly lives and service to God. Many church people have claimed to do “the Lord’s work”, preaching, teaching, being missionaries and so on, but the reality is that serving God can be a job as mundane as cleaning the toilets or drying the dishes. We read in Philippians 2:14-15, “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticise you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.” That’s serving God in the way He expects.

In our societies today, we don’t tend to think of worship as something we do outside a church building. But we pilgrims know what it means to worship God. And we do so continually. We must worship only God, and not one of the false gods that can sometimes wheedle their ways into our lives. We see people worshipping on a golf course, at football matches, polishing a piece of metal in their driveways. The list of false gods is endless. We make something a god when we elevate it higher than the true God. We need to pay attention to who and how we serve, and who or what we worship. Get the priorities right and we won’t go far wrong.

Father God. We need some help here. You know our tendency to get caught up with false gods and how we grumble and complain. Please help us! Amen.

Coming Soon

“Then the angel said to me, “Everything you have heard and seen is trustworthy and true. The Lord God, who inspires his prophets, has sent his angel to tell his servants what will happen soon.” “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed are those who obey the words of prophecy written in this book. ””
Revelation‬ ‭22‬:‭6‬-‭7‬ ‭NLT

The old Apostle John is coming to the end of his Lord’s Day vision. He has a final conversation with the angel that God had sent to walk him through everything he saw and heard. And the angel reaffirmed what John already knew, that the audiovisual presentation he had received was “trustworthy and true”. John must have been saddened that the experience was coming to an end, but also excited that he would soon be joining His Master in Heaven. 

In our verses today, the word “soon” was mentioned twice. We apply a temporal understanding to this word, expecting that something will happen in the next few hours or days. But here we are, two thousand years after John wrote down what he saw and heard, wondering what “soon” really means. The use of this word implies that we must be ready, as though the something we expect to happen is due imminently. If we don’t we are in danger of becoming lethargic and complacent, deferring what we should be doing to some undefined time in the future. In modern parlance, “kicking the can down the road”. But in a sense, compared with eternity, our “soon” is our life span. We don’t know when we will pass over the Great Divide, but it might be ”soon”. One thing is for sure though. The events of John’s vision will happen just as he saw them, because the angel, God’s messenger, said they were “trustworthy and true”. Sadly, many people try and dismiss the Revelation story as being difficult to understand so, consequentially, it can’t have any relevance. Some consider it the ramblings of an old man, and wonder why it was included in the Bible at all. 

But in the same way we wonder about what “soon” means, we also wonder about that other temporal event, the End Times. When will it start? Or has it already started? Nowhere in John’s vision does it say how long it will take, running through all those plagues and disasters. Neither does it say anywhere in his visions when the End Times will start. Jesus’ disciples asked Him about the end of the world and in Matthew 24:3 we read their question, “Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives. His disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?””. Jesus’s reply was, “ … Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.” (Matthew 24:4-8). And in Matthew 24:36 He confirms our dilemma, “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.

Jesus told us that the End Times events were to be preceded by wars, famines and earthquakes. Perhaps preparing the ground, as it were, for the devastation yet to come. Jesus’ return could be “soon”, in our lifetimes, or it could be in hundreds or thousands of years in the future. We don’t know. Only God knows. But the events outlined in John’s vision were “trustworthy and true”.  We ignore them at our peril.

The angel finishes his epilogue with the assurance that if the prophecies contained in the Book of Revelation are obeyed, then blessings will follow. We could turn this round and say that those who are disobedient to the Revelation prophecies will, at best, not be blessed, or, at worst, end up cursed. The angel was saying that God went out of His way to give John the visions he received. He took it seriously. So must we.

Father God. We confirm our allegiance to You today. Only You have the words of eternal life. Only You know the beginning and the end. We praise and worship You today. Amen.

No More Curses

“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.”
Revelation‬ ‭22‬:‭3‬-‭5‬ ‭NLT

The word “curse” isn’t commonly used in Western society today. If it is, it would be in connection with some sort of expletive. In other societies, curses are taken much more seriously. So what is a curse? A dictionary definition is “a solemn utterance intended to invoke a supernatural power to inflict harm or punishment on someone or something”. But in the society in which I live, anything to do with the supernatural is discounted or even ignored.

Moses warned the early Israelites about blessings and curses. We read in Deuteronomy 30:19, “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” Moses listed the pre-requisites for living a life of blessings, and the consequences of making the wrong choices. 

In the New Jerusalem, curses won’t exist, because everyone by definition will want to live God’s way. But curses became much more widespread after the sin committed by Adam and Eve. Snakes became cursed (Genesis 3:14). The ground became cursed (Genesis 3:17) and a previously fertile environment became difficult to grow anything, thorns and thistles abounding. So we look around at our world today in sadness. Isaiah pointed out the consequences of sin. We read in Isaiah 24:6, “Therefore, a curse consumes the earth. Its people must pay the price for their sin. They are destroyed by fire, and only a few are left alive.” Paul pointed out the difficulties being experienced in the created world around us. We read in Romans 8:22, “For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” In the Spring, I’m always excited and impressed by the explosion of new growth. Fresh colours. New life. And I remind myself that if this is a world under a curse, how amazing it will be to see a New Earth with the curse removed.

The verses today continue with a wonderful description of the relationship between God and His servants, that’s us pilgrims when we get to join Him one day. We will see the face of God – something that has always been denied mankind. His name will be a part of us, written on our foreheads. And He will shine on us.

There will be no doubt as to who we follow when we get to Heaven. But what about now. Today. Will the people we meet know who we follow? We may not have God’s name tattooed on our foreheads, but will His light reflect from us into the lives of others? Bringing hope to the hopeless? Bringing healing to the sick? Showing the way to eternal life? As servants of God, will our lives reflect our worship of Him? It’s not just singing songs in church or genuflecting at an altar. Our worship of God extends into our everyday lives. How we treat our wives and children. How we behave in the office or school. What we say on social media. We may not be specifically holding out our arms, or be on our knees, in an overt act of worship to God, but worship is all about honouring our Father in Heaven. Keeping His name holy. Bringing His influence to bear in everyday situations. In the supermarket. On the bus. We pilgrims are His servants and His ambassadors here on Planet Earth. We enjoy a little bit of Heaven’s Son-shine, but are we reflecting it to those around us?

Dear Father God. We worship You today. All other gods pale into insignificance in the light of Your glorious face. Amen.

The River

“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 centre 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.”‭‭
Revelation‬ ‭22‬:‭1‬-‭2‬ ‭NLT

For all their lives, my grandmother and aunt lived in a small village situated on the banks of the River Test, in Hampshire, England. I spent many holidays there and have memories of the river, flowing quickly through the chalky geology of that part of the world. It was so clear and clean, that every detail seemed to stand out, its clarity famous amongst fishermen and others. But the“ water of life … flowing from the throne of God” was even clearer. It’s purity was perfect. And “it flowed down the centre of the main street“.

We will remember the words of Jesus, when He appealed to the people in Jerusalem, as recorded by John in John 7:37-38. “On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”” John continued in verse 39 with an explanation of what this living water was, “(When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)”. We will also remember the story of the conversation Jesus had with a Samaritan woman, who was drawing water from a well. Jesus said, “… If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask Me, and I would give you living water.”” (John‬ ‭4‬:‭10‬). So in a sense there has been a spiritual river flowing from God even in these pre-New Jerusalem days. And it is a gift God has for us right now. Today.

In John’s vision, he saw the trees of life, one on each side of the river. But at first sight, the reference to leaves being there for healing would seem to be anomalous, because there can not, and will not, be any sickness in Heaven. So the fruit and leaves of the trees of life were there to sustain the eternal state of those living in Heaven. We read about God’s plan to feed His creation back in Genesis 2:9. “The Lord God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit. In the middle of the garden he placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” At last, God’s plan finally realised in the New Heaven, in the New Earth and the New Jerusalem.

The prophet Ezekiel wrote about a river that flowed from the Temple, starting at the door as a stream. And it became deeper and deeper as it flowed. In Ezekiel 47:12 he wrote, “Fruit trees of all kinds will grow along both sides of the river. The leaves of these trees will never turn brown and fall, and there will always be fruit on their branches. There will be a new crop every month, for they are watered by the river flowing from the Temple. The fruit will be for food and the leaves for healing.” In his vision, Ezekiel saw this river flowing from the Temple all the way to the Dead Sea. Many a sermon has been preached, inviting the hearers to immerse themselves in this river of life. But the question for us pilgrims is how much of God’s Spirit do we want to enjoy? Just a little, an ankle’s worth, or full immersion up over our heads. God is not reluctant to give. There is no water shortage in God’s spiritual economy.

Dear Father God. We pray for a fresh infilling of Your Spirit today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Holy City (5)

“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 day because there is no night there. And all the nations will bring their glory and honour 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.”
Revelation‬ ‭21‬:‭24‬-‭27‬ NLT

In his vision John saw Jerusalem how it should have been, how God had planned it from the very beginning of time. A place of purity and holiness. A place providing all that was needed for post-old-world life. A place where God lived. In his vision, John saw nations living outside the city, nations ruled by kings, who came and went into the Holy City as they wanted, in all their finery. There was no need to shut the gates when it got dark, for two reasons. Firstly, God lived there and His light, His glory, meant that it never got dark. Secondly, in those days there will be no evil, so no-one would be sneaking into the city to commit a crime. 

John saw all the nations, those people living in Heaven, coming to the Holy City to lay down at God’s feet all their glory. We read about it in Isaiah 60. Here’s a couple of verses, “All nations will come to your light; mighty kings will come to see your radiance. ..… They will honour the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has filled you with splendour.” (‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭60‬:‭3,‭9b ‭NLT). And we read earlier in Revelation 4 and 5 about the worship that will be happening in Heaven. The Holy City will be filled with wonderful new songs, honouring God, worshipping Him, glorifying Him. 

When we pilgrims come to the foot of God’s throne, we come to give Him our glory and honour. The world system, and those who live in it, love to be honoured. There are those who receive medals or titles in the British New year honours list, philanthropists rewarded for their charitable works. There are those who are rewarded with a promotion or a pay rise at work, in recognition of their outstanding service. A pensioner might receive a clock, or something similar, to commemorate his many years working for the company. An athlete might receive a medal or engraved cup for winning a race or tournament. But, as today’s verses imply, when one day we enter the Holy City, all our previous honours, and the associated glory, will be laid at His feet, all worthless when compared to His glory.

John finishes recording what he was seeing with a reminder that there will be nothing evil allowed into the Holy City, the new Jerusalem. In fact, there will be nothing evil allowed in Heaven. The Lamb’s Book of Life was the decider. If a name wasn’t there, then that person wouldn’t be in Heaven either. There was another home prepared for them.

Once again, we pilgrims look on and marvel. The Holy City, Heaven, God and Jesus, all there waiting for us to join them. We have decided to follow Jesus, as it says in the words of the old song. We won’t be disappointed with what we will find in Heaven. 

Dear Father. We give You all the honour, all the glory, today. Amen.