The Pursuit

“When the dragon realised that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But she was given two wings like those of a great eagle so she could fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness. There she would be cared for and protected from the dragon for a time, times, and half a time. Then the dragon tried to drown the woman with a flood of water that flowed from his mouth. But the earth helped her by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that gushed out from the mouth of the dragon. And the dragon was angry at the woman and declared war against the rest of her children—all who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus.” 
Revelation 12:13-17

John’s vision of the woman and her journey clarifies a bit and more information emerges. The dragon, or the devil as we assume, is after her. But with divine protection, he had no chance of reaching her. He did his best to drown her with “a flood of water that flowed from his mouth”. As an aside, what a strange weapon. In John’s vision, would we not have expected him to see the devil using more conventional weapons of the time? Arrows or swords perhaps? 

But according to the commentaries, the flood represents an overwhelming disaster. Think about a tsunami hitting a coastline and the resulting destruction, as we have seen in recent years. The Old Testament refers in several places to a fear of a flood, such as in Psalm 69:15, “Don’t let the floods overwhelm me, or the deep waters swallow me, or the pit of death devour me.”

As we considered recently, the woman represents the Church, or the Jewish nation, or a combination of both. Some of the old saints have suggested that the flood represents public opinion, expressing hostility to the Church as a whole. A scenario where the governments and politicians make public declarations, or pass laws, that are hostile to Christian Churches and all who worship within them. And we have seen the establishment of clandestine churches in some countries, driven underground by the actions of the country’s leadership, with the general population implementing their evil sentiments on any Christians they can find. In 21st Century Planet Earth, we see such a scenario well established in countries such as Afghanistan, North Korea, China, India and others. In these places being a follower of Christ is not a safe life choice.

In his vision, John saw the earth swallow up the flood of water, thus helping and saving the woman. Perhaps this means that the Christian Church established in countries where Christians are persecuted receives protection from God. And it is true that in some countries, Christianity, even though officially oppressed, has flourished in underground churches. China is such a country, where it has been estimated that there are ninety six million Christians, just under seven per cent of the population. Churches there are regularly shut down by the authorities and their leaders arrested, but they continue and grow anyway. 

Our verses today conclude that a very angry devil makes war on all God’s children everywhere. He fights against “all who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus”. Sadly, that is so true, with persecution against Christians so prevalent all over the world. The UK charity “Open Doors” estimates that 360 million Christians worldwide are suffering persecution of one kind or another. 

So what do we pilgrims make of all this? We of course stand firm in our faith, confident that by doing so we will one day receive the reward awaiting us in Heaven. In Matthew 24 Jesus warned His disciples about what was going to happen in the End Times, and taught what they should do. We read, “Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:9-13 – emphasis mine). Our salvation is assured but the narrow road we follow will not be easy. And we read in today’s verses from Revelation, that Christians who hold the line of their faith will be constantly hassled and attacked by the devil. So we pray for our Heavenly Father’s protection, as we continue to do His will. We pray that His love and grace covers us as we live in His shadow, day by day, step by step.

Dear Lord. We praise and thank You today. Only You have the words of eternal life, there to sustain us. Please lead and guide us through the minefields of life, hedging us around with Your love and protection. Amen.

Salvation At Last

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

The time has finally arrived. With the ejection of the devil from Heaven, the Kingdom of God can finally be established. With it comes those attributes of His Kingdom, salvation and power. And, to fulfil the prophetic Scriptures, Christ Himself will rule and reign.

John saw in his vision that the devil was adopting the role of accuser, and recorded that fact in his writings. But accusing God’s people of what? Having been ejected from Heaven because of his sin, the last thing the devil wanted when he arrived on earth, was to find out that God had some of His children living there, covered by His love and grace. But to the devil’s “great anger” he did indeed find out that God’s grace through His Son, Jesus, had provided a remedy for sin even outside of Heaven. And so at every opportunity, he searched out, and continues to search out, God’s people, those who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. Once he has found a Christian, he waits, he tempts, and tries to get them to commit sin. If they fall he can then accuse them of being sinful like himself.

The story of Job gives us a fascinating insight into what the devil gets up to. We see in Job 1 that a conversation developed between God and satan about this Godly man, Job. We read in Job 1:7, ““Where have you come from?” the Lord asked Satan. Satan answered the Lord, “I have been patrolling the earth, watching everything that’s going on.”” The plot pans out with Job afflicted by loss of family and fortune, and finally with boils. But through it all, the devil finds nothing in which to accuse Job of. We read in Job 1:22, “In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.” Job defeated the devil through his testimony. We Christians have an even greater opportunity to defeat the devil because we are covered “by the blood of the Lamb”. 

I don’t know about you, my readers, but the devil tries to attack me by resurrecting thoughts and scenarios from my life in the past, trying to bring me down with thoughts of shame and guilt. But I have a powerful weapon – through the blood of Jesus I am no longer the person I was. I am a new person, washed in “the blood of the Lamb”.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!” There is a picture of the flood of humanity travelling through their life along a road that is unknown to us pilgrims. It’s an easy road to see and follow, and it requires no effort to stay on it. To “go with the flow” is an expression often used today and it applies to most people we are likely to meet. Matthew recorded an illustration Jesus used about life choices, referring to gates and roads. We read in Matthew 7:13-14, “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” But we pilgrims discovered a narrow gate in life. It was difficult to find and open. But through the grace of God, find it we did, and we chose to open it. On the other side was a narrow path that twists and turns into the distance. Today as we journey along that path, we don’t know what is ahead, and we find that the devil does his utmost to get us to return to the “broad” way. From our verses today we read about those pilgrims who have travelled this path before us. Pilgrims so intent on following that path that they have forfeited their lives rather than return to the other way. There will be rejoicing in Heaven as the fast-tracked martyrs arrive, undefeated by their adversary. There is an old song, referred to as a Negro Spiritual, based, in part, on the book of Revelation, and it refers to saints marching into Heaven, and one line the singers belt out is, “I want to be in that number”. I think all us pilgrims can agree on that!

Dear Lord and Father, we thank You that You are preparing a place for us in our Heavenly home. We thank You for Your love and grace, giving us time to complete our journeys. We thank You that in Christ we are new creations, fit to be called the children of God. Amen.

War In Heaven

“Then there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels. And the dragon lost the battle, and he and his angels were forced out of heaven. This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels.”
Revelation 12:7-9 NLT

I must say I was perplexed when I read these verses because they don’t seem to fit in with the schedule of events in John’s vision. It is as though John has had a flash back in time. A bit like a film in which historical clips are occasionally shown in order to illustrate the plot, clips perhaps including the leading actor or actress when they were much younger, now being played out years later in front of the audience. The events that led up to the devil being ejected from Heaven are largely unknown though there are hints in Scripture that he was the most senior angel, involved in leading worship in Heaven. John’s vision described in today’s verses gives us some idea of the consequences of the devil’s rebellion. Sin was at the root of the devil’s downfall, as it was when Adam and Eve were ejected from their earthly paradise. We read in Genesis 3:23-24, “So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made. After sending them out, the Lord God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” There was, and is, no place for sin and sinful behaviour in Heaven, because our wonderful holy God lives there. The Garden of Eden was an extension of God’s domain here on earth – He frequently came to visit Adam and walked and talked with him – so sin couldn’t be tolerated there either.

The sad thing for mankind is that the devil and his angels are now occupying the same space on Planet Earth that we are. Not a problem for most people, because the devil’s malevolent ways fit in with their sinful and wicked inclinations. But for us pilgrims, trying to live and breathe God’s ways, the devil is a problem. Always trying to trip us up. Always trying to get us to fall into sin so that he can destroy our relationships with our loving Heavenly Father and divert us from polluting his sinful domain, Planet Earth, with purity and holiness. Of course, we have read the end of the Book. We know what will happen to him. But in the meantime we have to be on our guard. Thankfully, we have been warned in God’s Word, our Biblical Handbook. A well known verse is 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.” How does he “devour” pilgrims like us? One way is through temptation to try and get us to sin. He tried that on with Jesus (he failed, of course) but that never stopped him trying with anyone else. He started it in the Garden when he said to Eve, “ …. Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1). Putting doubts in our minds about God is one of the devil’s primary strategies. He will find out our weaknesses and will try and exploit them at every opportunity. 

Thankfully, God knows our weaknesses and doesn’t condemn us when we fail. We read in 1 John 1:9, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” We are living in a season of God’s grace, but as we know from the information contained in  the Book of Revelation, it won’t last for ever.

I am writing this at the start of a glorious day in the West of Scotland. The sea is calm, like glass, and the Isle of Jura is visible through the early morning mist rising off the sea. In such a moment it is easy to forget the devil is still out there. But God has prepared a place of care for us, a place of beauty in the world He created. And we are thankful for His provision, sustaining us in our pilgrimages through life, as, step by step, we trust in His protection.

Dear Father. Once again we thank You for Your love and grace. We reach out to You today secure in the knowledge that You are caring for us. Amen.

The Red Dragon

“Then I witnessed in heaven another significant event. I saw a large red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, with seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept away one-third of the stars in the sky, and he threw them to the earth….”
Revelation 12:3-4a 

No prizes for guessing who this red dragon is. John again knows he is witnessing another “significant event“. Something special is about to happen. The red dragon is large, we are told. And he has seven heads, ten horns, seven crowns and a tail. What is this all about? It is worth reading Daniel 7, which gives us some insight into John’s description of the devil, particularly with reference to the horns.

The dragon has always, Biblically, referred to satan. Theologians propose that the heads, horns and crowns all refer to the Roman Empire. Their theology suggests that the seven heads describe the seven mountains on which Rome was built, the ten horns were ten kingdoms into which the Roman Empire was divided and the seven crowns confirm the seven-fold foundation of Rome. The fact that the dragon was coloured red confirms, they say, that the Roman Empire was involved. But the Roman Empire came and went, and has been replaced by many different governmental and political scenarios over the years, covering Europe and the Middle East. Another possibility is that John had a flashback in his vision, seeing events that had already happened.

Regardless, though, of what John’s vision actually meant, what conclusion can we draw from this verse in his Revelation? The implication is that a world power, under the devil’s jurisdiction, was dominant. John saw the devil’s tail sweep away a third “of the stars in the sky“.  There seems to be hints in the Bible that a third of all the angels rebelled along with satan and were thrown out of Heaven, so perhaps that explains the reference to the stars. Incidentally, we note that the stars were thrown down onto the earth. The angels have fallen from holiness and purity into uncleanliness, and have become the demons that have aggravated and tormented mankind from the beginning. But overall we get a picture of a malevolent being, waiting for a baby to be born. 

The devil, with his angels, has caused unimaginable misery and distress to mankind from the very beginning. He started with Adam and Eve and hasn’t let up one bit ever since. He even tried to tempt Jesus but had to give up in the face of a superior Being. The Apostle Peter wrote about the malevolence of the devil 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 have been warned! The devil hates pilgrims like us, people who are blood-bought followers of Jesus, because we have declared our allegiance to God and His Kingdom, instead of the devil and his. Peter continued in the next verse, “Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are”. We refuse to be distracted by the tempting whispers of our enemy, instead adhering to God and His Word, with a spiritual super glue that withstands all attacks.

Dear God. Where else can we go other than into Your arms, embraced with love and grace? We praise and thank You today for all that You have done. Amen. 

The Two Witnesses (2)

When they complete their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the bottomless pit will declare war against them, and he will conquer them and kill them. And their bodies will lie in the main street of Jerusalem, the city that is figuratively called “Sodom” and “Egypt,” the city where their Lord was crucified. And for three and a half days, all peoples, tribes, languages, and nations will stare at their bodies. No one will be allowed to bury them. All the people who belong to this world will gloat over them and give presents to each other to celebrate the death of the two prophets who had tormented them.”
Revelation 11:7-10 NLT

John’s vision continues. It was much like a video or film, moving from one scene to the next. So the two witnesses brought their prophecies to the people for three and a half years, and no-one could touch them. The vision doesn’t say to what extent their gifts were used and how much grief was caused to the sinful and wicked people of that time but I can just imagine them underpinning their prophetic words by turning the local reservoir into blood. Or bringing on a resurgence of Covid or some other plagues to the population. Stopping the rain would not have been much of a blessing either. And we read in verse ten, that the people had a big party when the devil killed the witnesses. They gloated, gave presents to each other and felt a great sense of relief that their torment had ended – for now. But notice that it wasn’t just the inhabitants of Jerusalem that were happy about the death of the witnesses. This became global news, with parties everywhere. 

Today’s verses start with the message that their testimonies had come to an end. We pilgrims need to make use of the age in which we live, because there will come a time when our testimonies, our messages of hope, will not be required any more. Our messages will be complete. And we read that God then allowed the “beast that comes up out of the bottomless pit” to kill them. It wasn’t a trivial task, it seems, because it involved a war, not just a murder. In the vision, their bodies are just allowed to lie in the street. But who was this “beast”? it can only have been the devil himself. Mankind at that time couldn’t touch the witnesses because they were too powerful and God protected them. And that protection would have continued, even with the devil’s attacks, but their tasks were complete. The bodies were allowed to lie there for three and a half days, which perhaps indicated the lack of respect offered them by the locals. You can just imagine people from all over jetting in to have a look, such was their notoriety with the global population. A damning indictment of mankind at that time.

In his vision, John pulled no punches in his naming of Jerusalem. Jesus wept over this city, but here we are seeing it renamed as Sodom and Egypt. What happened in the city of Sodom? It was destroyed because of the extreme immorality that occurred there. And to the Jews, the country of Egypt would represent their time of slavery. So it seems Jerusalem because a city corrupted by, and in league with, the devil. People living there were enslaved in a place of immorality. John made special mention that Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem, an act that the devil thought was a win for him, but soon found it was him who was the loser.

To us pilgrims, we must always be on our guards, because the devil will always seek to corrupt and enslave us. And he gets very upset if we continue to share our testimonies with those around us. We must constantly pray for God’s protection over our lives and families. 

Dear God. We don’t really have any idea what this time will be like. But we’re so grateful that You have everything under control. Amen.


“For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.” Ephesians 6:15 NLT

and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
Ephesians 6:15 NIVUK

Paul glances at the feet of his fellow occupants in the prison cell. They were wearing shoes, and he proceeded to muse about their potential spiritual equivalent. What do Christians wear on their feet, he wondered? What was it that pilgrims everywhere need to be prepared for in their journeys onward and upward? And then he had a light bulb moment (well, he would have had, had light bulbs been invented in those days!). He had a new revelation of the Gospel. Now, that’s something we can stand firm on. It’s something that will always confuse the devil’s attacks because he knows that the Gospel, the Good News about Jesus and all that He did for us, is truth. The devil may ask us a difficult question about our faith, or tell us a lie as he did with Eve in the garden. He may bring doubts into our minds, but us pilgrims can just respond with the truth we know, that regardless of anything he says, the devil can never deny the truth of the Gospel. He thought that he had defeated the Son of God, by getting Him crucified on a cross, not realising that it was all God’s plan, and that Jesus would rise again on the Sunday morning, the third day after.

So we are ready. Shod with the Good News. And we bring it right up to date with our messages of hope, our testimonies of what God has done for us, all founded on His amazing plan. We have Good News to tell a world absorbed by bad news. We can share our hope for the future with a society that has no hope even for the present. A counter-cultural message that will pierce the enemy’s darkness with a shaft of pure light, penetrating and exposing his lies. I can just imagine Paul getting quite excited in his cell, as he realised that regardless of his situation, or the fragility of the early churches he founded, the power of the Gospel was insurmountable. And, folks, it still is today. 

In another letter, this time to the Roman church, Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life”“. The Gospel. The Good News. And it’s not a wishy-washy statement, just a few boring words. Paul said that, “It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes”. And he was exactly right. He spoke the truth. And the devil keeps well away when we stand on the truth of the Gospel. He knows he can’t touch us.

Belt and Braces

“Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armour of God’s righteousness.”
Ephesians‬ ‭6:14‬ ‭NLT

Now we’re getting into the nitty gritty of how Paul advised devil resistance. For the third time in this short section, he exhorted his readers to “stand“. “Stand your ground“, “stand firm“, “standing firm” all appear between verses 11 and 14. In the face of an onslaught, when the fight or flight emotions flood in, just to stand seems a bit counter-intuitive. But Paul, writing under the Holy Spirit’s direction and influence, knew what he was talking about. There he was in his prison cell, probably chained between two Roman soldiers, suddenly struck by how he could use the armour they were wearing as an illustration of the spiritual armour his friends in Ephesus would need. 

The first item that caught his eye was the soldiers’ belts, which he straight away associated with the “belt of truth“. He could see immediately that truth was an important defensive weapon to be used against the devil’s attacks. The devil is very good at telling lies. In fact, Jesus warned us of his propensity for lying, as we read in John 8:44, “For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies“. But we have access to the absolute truth, because it is contained within God’s Word. Perhaps the devil is whispering things in your ear this morning, like “you’re rubbish”, or “you really messed up yesterday”, or he prevails on someone else to malign you on social media. All such comments can be distilled as lies, because the absolute truth is that you are a child of God. And so am I. I’m conscious as I write this blog today, that the devil is not happy with the words I’m using. He’s telling me I’m running out of time and need to be doing something else. But I’m determined to write down the truth about God’s love for His children. About how He created us, planned for us before the world was even created, put us together in our mother’s wombs. About how we are so wonderful to Him that we are the apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8) and have our names written on the palm of His hand (Isaiah 49:16). These things are the truth about us. Not the lies the devil is using. So we stand firm in the truth about who God is and His relationship with each one of us. 

The second item Paul noticed that his soldier-jailors were wearing, was their body armour. Their breastplates, protecting their hearts and vital organs from attack. And he associated this with righteousness. You see, it is our hearts that are the place where our relationship with God resides. Not our physical hearts, but that part of our spirit that softens when we think of God and His people, where the love for Him flows, where we feel the whisper of His love-breath, sweet and always there if we listen for it. Unfortunately, the sin and hassles of life will harden the walls of our hearts. But we have the truth before us that He will always forgive, always be loving, always be there for us. Because of the sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary, when He died for us and exchanged His righteousness for our sins, we always can claim, and have access to, God’s righteousness. We confess and repent, He forgives. So the next time the devil accuses us of sin and tries to drive us down the tubes, we can stand because before God we are righteous. And there is nothing the devil can do about that. He was defeated by Jesus at the Cross. Keep Romans 8:1-2 in mind, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death“. The devil will try to condemn us because of our sins. Jesus says otherwise – I know who I want to listen to!

So we have an effigy of a Roman Soldier. And the belt and breastplate are glowing there like burnished gold, inducing a wobble into the devil’s tactics. Amazingly, there’s more – next thrilling instalment tomorrow.


Put on all of God’s armour so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
Ephesians‬ ‭6:11-12‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Well, Paul was quite explicit when he defined what we, as Christian pilgrims, are up against. As human beings, we automatically think in human terms, so anything defined as an “enemy” is something or someone situated in our physical and natural zone. The war in Ukraine is raging on as I write this blog today, and the combatants are obvious in human terms. But what Paul was saying was that there is a spiritual realm as well as our natural realm, and our real enemies are located there. An unseen world full of evil and powerful forces, which are a far greater threat to us than a military force equipped with tanks and guns.

In a recent Alpha video, there was a point when some young people were asked the question, “Do you believe in the devil?”  And the answers were revealing – one young person’s response was, “Not really”. And that is something Paul was writing about when he warned us about the “strategies of the devil”. Our enemy, the devil, is delighted if people don’t believe he exists, because then he can undertake his attacks unseen and unknown, fulfilling his aims of destroying God’s creation. 

So how does the devil manage to attack us, God’s people? One way is that he finds out our weaknesses and uses them to undermine and destroy our faith. As an example, if a Christian tends to be a worrier, the devil will bring up issues that cause more and more worry and anxiety, disrupting and weakening his or her faith in the process.

So why does the devil want to attack humans? Because he wants to be God and be in control of everything that belongs to God. That’s why he was originally kicked out of Heaven. And the problem that Christians give him is that they don’t want to be controlled by him. They want to follow God, not the devil. So the devil attacks them by distracting them, undermining them, leading them into sin through temptation, picking away at any weaknesses that he can find. And he has an army of demons, the evil spirits that Paul warned his Ephesians friends about, to help him. But the good news is that Jesus defeated the devil at Calvary. And because of that, we have all the resources and power we need to resist the attacks of the enemy. With the resources we have access to we can stand firm, resisting the devil’s attacks. James 4:7 says, “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you“. We can resist him; we don’t have to fold and submit to the devil at the first attack by sinning. But sometimes we can fall into a trap and end up doing things we didn’t want to do. The old Apostle John wrote, “But if we confess our sins to [God], He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness”. (1 John 1:9) So cleansed and forgiven, we pick ourselves up and move on, the wiser from the experience, more able to avoid the trap the next time the devil comes along with another ploy to trip us up.

Paul was desperate to deliver his message in person but there he was, trapped in a prison cell. But if he hadn’t been incarcerated, we would have missed out on the helpful and instructive verses in his Epistle. We thank God for him, and, now forewarned, we pray for protection from our true enemies, the devil and his hordes, safe in the knowledge that the protection we need is there for the asking.