The Woman and the Beast

“So the angel took me in the Spirit into the wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that had seven heads and ten horns, and blasphemies against God were written all over it. The woman wore purple and scarlet clothing and beautiful jewellery made of gold and precious gems and pearls. In her hand she held a gold goblet full of obscenities and the impurities of her immorality. A mysterious name was written on her forehead: “Babylon the Great, Mother of All Prostitutes and Obscenities in the World.” I could see that she was drunk—drunk with the blood of God’s holy people who were witnesses for Jesus. I stared at her in complete amazement.”
Revelation‬ ‭17:3-6‬ ‭NLT

The angel leading the Apostle John in his vision is filling in more details to explain what is meant by the “great prostitute”. We see a picture of a desert containing a multi-headed, multi-horned, beast clothed in scarlet and covered in blasphemous words. The prostitute was beautifully and expensively dressed and was carrying a goblet with horrible contents. A label naming what she represented was attached to her forehead. And she was drunk. Drunk, we are told, on the blood of the martyrs. John couldn’t believe what his eyes were seeing.

The angel took John to a place, in his vision, where he could get some hints about what was really behind what he was seeing. And many people since have tried to work out what was symbolically meant by what John recorded. But what do we pilgrims make of it? There is, in my opinion, only limited value in trying to interpret what the “seven heads and ten horns” represent. Suffice to say, that there is being portrayed here an alternative society, the antithesis of that followed by God’s people. It was a global cult that became fashionable to be a part of, but its roots were blasphemous and pure anti-God. A religion that would be expected to emerge from the devil himself.

We pilgrims must be discerning. Some denominations today have tried to absorb worldly philosophies into their Christian liturgies and cultures, and in the process abandoning the purity of God’s Word. Proverbs 30:5-6, “Every word of God proves true. He is a shield to all who come to him for protection. Do not add to his words, or he may rebuke you and expose you as a liar“. So we have liberal theologians reinterpreting Scripture to suit their own world view. And if passages in the Bible, which are clear and non-negotiable, don’t fit in with their views, such people ignore them, or suggest they must have been there for a different culture or age. Someone with such a liberal mindset has taken a step on the slippery slope leading to apostasy and membership of the world religious cult epitomised by the “great prostitute”. 2 Timothy 3:5 reads, “They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!” The same chapter in 2 Timothy ends, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realise what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” (2 Timothy‬ ‭3:16-17‬). We pilgrims must be aware that there is a global religion working behind the scenes, one that is using all sorts of ploys to divert Christians away from the purity of their faith.

As an example of this, think about mindfulness, which is increasing in popularity these days. Here is a definition I found from Mr. Google, “Mindfulness is a practice involved in various religious and secular traditions—from Hinduism and Buddhism to yoga and, more recently, non-religious meditation“. I recently came across a very sincere Christian man who promotes “Christian Mindfulness”. But I haven’t discovered how he reconciles Hinduism and Buddhism with Christianity. An example of how the “great prostitute”  is infiltrating the church perhaps? Hmmm …

Father God, once again we pray for discernment in these dark and difficult days. Lead us by Your Spirit we pray, and grant us the wisdom we need to navigate the paths before us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Great Prostitute

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

The seal and plague judgements are behind us and a separate scene is playing out in John’s vision. It is almost as though the main plot or narrative has been put on hold while a cameo appearance of the “great prostitute” takes place. Although we can read, and accept, what John saw literally, the only way we can make any sense of it is by interpreting it symbolically. The problem is that there can be several interpretations. 

So perhaps one interpretation is that the “great prostitute” is a form of religion. Not Godly in origin of course, but perhaps of a form based on a philosophy or with roots in a mystical or even Eastern religion. In recent times we have seen the emergence of spiritual disciplines such as Yoga or Mindfulness. In the 1960’s Transcendental Meditation was popularised by the Beatles. These are techniques or processes that many have claimed are beneficial for mental health, but they are all human based and exclude any involvement or recognition of God. They look inward into ourselves, which may not be the most healthy practice for humans. There is, however, the possibility that John saw graphically, pictorially, a world religious philosophy or cult that had, at its roots, an anti-God, pro-self, pro-beast bias and perspective. 

But why did John refer to it as the “great prostitute”? He described something that had become a global God-substitute phenomenon, global because of the reference to “many waters”. And we see widespread acceptance of this beast-inspired religious cult by the world rulers, who apparently embraced it whole-heartedly. But there’s a problem for those who follow the “great prostitute” instead of God. We read the first commandment given by God to Moses, in Exodus 20:3-5, “You must not have any other god but me. 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 lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me.” The beast-inspired global cult collides with God’s laws, as we are seeing in this chapter in Revelation. The “great prostitute” epitomises wickedness and evil of the worship of anything except God Himself, and provides a focus point with a parallel to sexual sins.

We pilgrims have to be careful in this life. There is emerging from our academic institutions and politicians, amongst others, a philosophy that will not tolerate dissenters. Those who disagree with their points of view or ideologies are labelled as bigots or worse, and their alternative views, even if established on tradition, are closed down. That will be a sign of the global religion promoted by the followers of the “great prostitute”. And in these days the dissenters, perhaps us pilgrims included, will keep quiet rather than get involved in a public, social-media-fuelled, spat. So we pray. 

Dear God. Please grant us the wisdom to speak when there is value and keep quiet when there is not. Please help us to find the words that breathe life, Your life, into those we speak to, and we pray for Your Spirit to lead and guide us as You desire. Amen.

The Seventh Plague

“Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air. And a mighty shout came from the throne in the Temple, saying, “It is finished!” Then the thunder crashed and rolled, and lightning flashed. And a great earthquake struck—the worst since people were placed on the earth. The great city of Babylon split into three sections, and the cities of many nations fell into heaps of rubble. So God remembered all of Babylon’s sins, and he made her drink the cup that was filled with the wine of his fierce wrath. And every island disappeared, and all the mountains were levelled. There was a terrible hailstorm, and hailstones weighing as much as seventy-five pounds fell from the sky onto the people below. They cursed God because of the terrible plague of the hailstorm.”
Revelation‬ ‭16:17-21‬ ‭NLT‬‬

No details of the Armageddon war are included in Revelation 16. The narrative in John’s vision jumps to the seventh plague. But there are three words that have been heard before in another place, during another momentous event. “It is finished!” In our verses today, these words emanate from the very throne of God. In the form of a loud and triumphant shout. God has finally brought to an end worldly judgements.

We will remember the last time these words were uttered. Jesus died on the cross at Calvary after declaring probably what are the most profound words ever spoken. In John 19:30 we read, “When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit”. In the Matthew account of the moment of Jesus’ death we read, “At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart”. (Matthew 27:51). ‭But in the Revelation account the impact of “It is finished!” effectively preceded a reforming of the earth, in that there was a great earthquake of a severity never before seen. All the islands disappeared. Mountains were mountains no more. And hailstones weighing what the King James Version of the Bible calls a talent, a unit of weight equivalent to thirty two kilograms or thereabouts, fell from the sky. That is an extremely heavy lump of ice and it would do serious amounts of damage to property, crops, animals and, of course, people. No wonder God received some complaints in the form of curses levelled against Him! If only they had repented.

Babylon crops up again in these verses. It refers to the personification of all the wickedness and sins of the world’s population, past, present and future. John’s vision referred to Babylon as a place that included not just the “great city” but also “the cities of many nations“. And they were reduced to heaps of rubble. But there is more to come about Babylon in John’s vision, recorded in Revelation 17 and 18, which we have yet to consider.

To us pilgrims we can only breathe a collective sigh of relief after reading these verses. The difficulties facing human beings in those days doesn’t bear thinking about. What a narrow escape we have had from disaster. Imagine what would have happened if we had failed to accept God’s invitation of grace when we did? Of course, we might have passed on before all these plagues had finally been dispensed on earth and its population, but we would not have escaped the judgement to come. 

When I have shared these scenes from Revelation with people I meet, a common response is, “How do you know that there is a life after we die, after all, no-one has ever returned to tell us what will happen, if anything”? Many people believe that once death overtakes us, there will be just blackness. Nothing else. Some people suggest that the death experience is like falling asleep but never waking up. Eternal sleep. But we pilgrims, through our faith, believe differently. Hebrews 11:1 reads, “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see“. We hope for a future, eternal life, in God’s presence. And our faith assures us that that will be the case. Through our belief and faith in the rightness of God’s Word, we believe what He has promised. Hebrews 11:13 reads, “All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth“. As we plod along the paths of life, pilgrims together, we see in the distance our promised land. And one day we will get there and receive the fruit of that promise.

Dear Lord. Thank You for Your assurance that You are making a place in Heaven where we can join You. You said it. We believe it. We worship You today. Amen.

Armageddon

Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great Euphrates River, and it dried up so that the kings from the east could march their armies toward the west without hindrance. And I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs leap from the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. They are demonic spirits who work miracles and go out to all the rulers of the world to gather them for battle against the Lord on that great judgment day of God the Almighty. “Look, I will come as unexpectedly as a thief! Blessed are all who are watching for me, who keep their clothing ready so they will not have to walk around naked and ashamed.” And the demonic spirits gathered all the rulers and their armies to a place with the Hebrew name Armageddon.
‭‭Revelation‬ ‭16:12-16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

John’s vision describes a scene with some key features. We have the Euphrates River, an effective boundary to the movement of troops and equipment from East to West. Three frogs, representing evil spirits, emerging from the devilish leaders at that time, and they, by their dark and evil trickery, deceiving other world leaders into thinking they could join together and defeat God Himself. Psalm 2:2-3 describes their thinking, “The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the Lord and against his anointed one. “Let us break their chains,” they cry, “and free ourselves from slavery to God””. If only they had read the next bit, “But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them. Then in anger he rebukes them, terrifying them with his fierce fury. For the Lord declares, “I have placed my chosen king on the throne in Jerusalem, on my holy mountain.”” (Psalm 2:4-6). But in their arrogance the earthly rulers and their armies were confident that they would win.

The word “Armageddon” has come to mean two things. It is believed to be a physical place located in Northern Israel, on the site of the ancient town of Megiddo, which only exists as a mound today. But the word has also come to mean the ultimate battle of destruction, catastrophic for the human race.

So all the worldly forces mobilised by the “ dragon, the beast, and the false prophet” come together on the plain in Israel ready to take on God’s chosen King in Jerusalem. Their fate is assured, but God gives the armies and their rulers one last chance to pull back. Again from Psalm 2, the last verse reads, “Submit to God’s royal son, or he will become angry, and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities— for his anger flares up in an instant. But what joy for all who take refuge in him!” We know what happens as John’s vision unfolds in the next verses in Revelation 16.

In the middle of these verses today, Jesus encourages His followers to be ready for His return, to avoid being shamed otherwise. Jesus taught about readiness in the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25. We truly don’t know when He will come again but it could be anytime. In the next hour or in one hundred years time. It may occur in our lifetimes, it may not, but the temptation is to think it won’t, and we therefore can behave like the five foolish virgins in Jesus’ parable. So instead we pilgrims live our lives in a state of readiness, with the expectation that Jesus really is coming soon. But we also plan accordingly in case He is delayed, making sure we are faithful in doing what He has asked us to do. 

We pilgrims can only think of the cataclysmic Armageddon event with a shudder. We pray that these days really will be cut short. And we pray for our loved ones, our friends and families, that they will come to know the love and grace of our Heavenly father before it is too late.

Dear Father God. We thank You for this season of grace, in which You have held back the forces of darkness. Please help us to be diligent in seeking You and being obedient to Your ways. And we pray for our families and friends, that they too will embrace Your love that You make so freely available. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

‭‭

Darkness – the Fifth Plague

“Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. His subjects ground their teeth in anguish, and they cursed the God of heaven for their pains and sores. But they did not repent of their evil deeds and turn to God.”

Revelation‬ ‭16:10-11‬ ‭NLT

With the fifth plague, the contents of the bowl in John’s vision are poured out on the beast. The emphasis shifts away from earth’s inhabitants to the source of their misery, the beast himself. Impacting his very throne. With this plague of darkness, the people on earth get a glimpse of what life might be like in hell. A total blackout. No light at all, either physically or spiritually. We read in our verses today that the beast’s “subjects ground their teeth in anguish”. The King James version is even more graphic – it says “…. and they gnawed their tongues for pain”. This is surely what will happen with people in hell. Jesus said in Matthew 25:30, describing what will happen there, “Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth“. Perhaps God, even while dispensing judgement on the wickedness prevailing on earth, was still giving every opportunity for people to repent. Dangling them over hell itself must surely bring about a change of hearts and minds.

But, sadly, it was not to be. We read in today’s verses, ” … they cursed the God of heaven for their pains and sores. But they did not repent of their evil deeds and turn to God”. Anger, defiance and curses are the dominant emotions, not a grateful acceptance of God’s patience and mercy. Why? Well, we read in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God“.

We pilgrims can only be eternally grateful, that in our lives a glimmer of God’s light penetrated our blinded minds. And who knows? Through our willingness to share the Gospel with those around us – our families, friends, communities – they too might just come to see the light of God. Through our faithful and persistent prayers, God will push back the darkness and expose those we pray for with His wonderful light. Perhaps the faithful prayers of someone we know, or knew, were instrumental in bringing us out of the devil’s darkness. I can remember some faithful men and women who ran a Mission Sunday School, which I attended in my primary years. Their faithfulness in prayer, for all I know, enabled the light of the Gospel to penetrate my life of darkness. 

So we share the Gospel and pray. Share the Gospel and pray. Never giving up. Always looking out for an opportunity to illuminate a dark and troubled soul as we trudge our ways through this life, heading towards our ultimate home with God Himself.

Dear Father God. Thank You for Your persistent grace, mercy and loving kindness. Without You where would we be, but in a dark and hopeless place. We are so grateful. Amen.

The Blast of Heat

“Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, causing it to scorch everyone with its fire. Everyone was burned by this blast of heat, and they cursed the name of God, who had control over all these plagues. They did not repent of their sins and turn to God and give him glory.”
Revelation‬ ‭16:8-9‬ ‭NLT

The fourth angel appears in John’s vision. And his bowl contains a substance that causes the sun to generate more heat than it would normally, with devastating consequences affecting the remaining  people present on Planet Earth. We occasionally experience solar flares from the sun, but this will be far greater. It will be as though someone has poured a flammable substance on a fire that is already burning, causing an immediate increase in flames and heat. Mankind experienced scorching and burning, and responded in an interesting way – “they cursed the name of God”. In the outpouring of this plague of burning, people acknowledge God as the initiator of all the plagues and suffering they were experiencing. And they cursed Him. But then the thought occurred to me this morning – people are very good at acknowledging and cursing God in today’s society as well. They blaspheme Him. Insurance companies refer to natural disasters as “Acts of God”. But a repentant response to a natural disaster is not the norm. A more usual response is anger and defiance, or just a plain lack of concern. And things haven’t changed in these times of John’s vision.

We have here an enigma. God’s judgements are being meted out on the world. People everywhere know God is the Initiator. And yet they fail to make the connection between God’s judgement for wickedness and sin, and their culpability. They fail to realise, or choose to ignore the fact, that if they repented, they would assure themselves a place in Heaven, secure in God’s presence.

Here in the UK, the purchase of cigarettes involves a cardboard container printed with images of what will happen to a smoker’s body, if they continue with their habit. Graphic pictures of dirty teeth and receding gums. Illustrations showing what a smoker’s lungs look like. Yet, such warnings seem to have little effect on most smokers, who continue to puff away. Is there a mindset here that is convinced that the events described by the pictures will not happen to them? Or is there a “can’t be bothered” attitude prevailing? Perhaps in these End Times, people know who God is, they know why the judgements are being dispensed, they know what they can do to assure their post-first death future, and yet they refuse, instead responding with anger and defiance. They prefer to live their lives of sin.

But before we pilgrims adopt the moral high ground, we should pause. Are we not just the same? Don’t we still behave in similar ways? Just one more glass won’t hurt. Nobody will know if I’m speeding. It won’t really matter if I visit that website. It’s called sin. Pure and simple. When we compromise our behaviour, there can then be a “slippery slope effect” where what we do and think starts off in small ways but then leads to stuff that’s way bigger. Before we get caught in this trap, we must soften our hearts and ask ourselves the time-honoured question – “What Would Jesus Do”? And fall to our knees once again, before our merciful and loving Heavenly Father.

Father God. We thank You for Your forgiveness and love. Such grace is freely available to those who turn to You. Amen.

Just Judgements

“And I heard the angel who had authority over all water saying, “You are just, O Holy One, who is and who always was, because you have sent these judgments. Since they shed the blood of your holy people and your prophets, you have given them blood to drink. It is their just reward.” And I heard a voice from the altar, saying, “Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, your judgments are true and just.””
Revelation‬ ‭16:5-7‬ ‭NLT

There was an angel who was in charge of all the water on Planet Earth. John didn’t see him in his vision, but he heard what he had to say. Although this angel didn’t have to give a reason for why all the water on the earth became blood, he gave an explanation anyway.

Firstly, God was at last dispensing judgement on mankind to all those who had killed His holy people. And not just Christians – there were many in Old Testament times, who were counted as His people. Jesus said, on one occasion when speaking to religious leaders, in Matthew 23:35-36, “As a result, you will be held responsible for the murder of all godly people of all time—from the murder of righteous Abel to the murder of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you killed in the Temple between the sanctuary and the altar. I tell you the truth, this judgment will fall on this very generation.” God’s warning of judgement for killing His people has been made very clear, and every generation, whether they believe it or not, will never have an excuse. They will never be able to stand before God and claim ignorance. Isn’t it strange the lengths mankind has gone to in the protection of lives in this world? A mega industry has grown up developing alarm systems to supply advance warning of peril in this present life, but no attention has been paid to the life to come. Most people will protest that they have never killed anyone, particularly God’s people, claiming therefore that they will not have to face judgement. However, sadly, most people have been, or will be, guilty by association with the persecutors and murderers, those engaged in wicked and murderous acts against God’s holy people, because that is the default position for those who reject God’s invitation of grace through His Son, Jesus Christ. We pilgrims must never neglect promoting the afterlife alarm system however. It already exists. We call it the Holy Bible.

Secondly, the judgement was proportionate. Because of their evil deeds in shedding the blood of God’s people, they will be made to drink that blood. In the UK, the judgement for the crime of murder is a prison sentence, the miscreant incarcerated for a few years in a prison. But for most murderers, there will come a day when they will be released back into the community. The victim’s family, instead, has to endure a lifetime of loss, an imbalance that will be adjusted one day – those who are unrepentant, the rejectors of God’s grace, will find out how when they stand before God on the Day of Judgement. The angel continued by saying that, for those still alive in these last days, being made to drink blood was “their just reward”. This will be the reward for those who have supported the beast in his attempts to eliminate God’s people. In these grim and devastating last days of Planet Earth, the ultimate “reward” for the devil and his followers (remember that this is the default position) is not looking good. Their prison sentence, handed down by the Righteous Judge, will be eternal life, without parole, in a place where they would sooner not be.

The Apostle John, in his vision, heard a voice from the altar saying, “Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, your judgments are true and just”.  Earlier in the Book of Revelation, we read, “When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of all who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful in their testimony. They shouted to the Lord and said, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us?”” (Revelation 6:9-10). In the next verse they were told, “….to rest a little longer until the full number of their brothers and sisters —their fellow servants of Jesus who were to be martyred—had joined them“. So here, with the third plague, we learn two things – firstly, that there were no more martyrs expected from Planet Earth, and, secondly, they were having to wait no longer for God’s judgement to be handed down. And the martyrs were satisfied with the outcome, saying that it was “true and just”. 

We pilgrims are an enlightened body of believers. God in His grace and mercy, has shared with us what is going to happen one day. Perhaps quite soon. Are we ready?

Dear Lord. Once again we thank You for this glimpse of the End Times. Life on earth will always be difficult for Your people, but our patience and faith in a future in Your presence will one day be rewarded. We are so grateful. Amen.

The Queen’s Gospel

“Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” 
John 14:6

We pause again in our journey through Revelation to consider the profound events of this week.

Monday 19th September 2022 was the day Queen Elizabeth II was remembered at a number of events connected to her death. A day of funeral services, of pomp and splendour, of crowds of people, but also a day of grief and mourning. A day of sadness watched by many people throughout the world – some have estimated as many as four billion people in a global audience surpassing national and international boundaries. In the traditional Anglican service, the Archbishop of Canterbury gave a sermon, the content of which reverberated all the way to God’s throne. All the forces of darkness, the devil and his minions in the heavenly realms, joined by atheists and unbelievers on earth, would have squirmed uncomfortably as the words of Justin Welby’s sermon rang out, their impact enhanced by 21st Century media technology to instantly reach all those who were tuned into the funeral service. Yes, there would have been language barriers. Yes, many of those watching would have mentally switched off as the unfamiliar format of an Anglican funeral service passed before them. Yes, without a doubt many will have dismissed the message as being irrelevant and not for them. But on Monday the Word of God, the Gospel, reached perhaps the biggest audience this world has ever seen live on one single occasion. 

From the transcript of Welby’s sermon, here are some highlights:

“Jesus – who in our reading does not tell his disciples how to follow, but who to follow – said: ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.’ Her late Majesty’s example was not set through her position or her ambition, but through whom she followed”.

“In 1953 the Queen began her coronation with silent prayer, just there at the High Altar. Her allegiance to God was given before any person gave allegiance to her. Her service to so many people in this nation, the Commonwealth, and the world, had its foundation in her following Christ – God himself – who said that he “came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many””.

“Christian hope means certain expectation of something not yet seen. Christ rose from the dead and offers life to all, abundant life now and life with God in eternity”.

“We will all face the merciful judgment of God: we can all share the Queen’s hope which in life and death inspired her servant leadership. Service in life, hope in death. All who follow the Queen’s example, and inspiration of trust and faith in God, can with her say: ‘We will meet again.’” 

In the moment of her death, the Queen’s life rose high before people everywhere, as a celebration of the Gospel message. A beacon of the Good News of Hope, penetrating deep into the physical, mental and spiritual lives of 21st Century mankind. With the benefit of readings from the Book of Revelation, I believe the events of Monday 19th September 2022 will be seen as a significant event in the End Times scenario. Matthew 24:14 reads, “And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come”. 

We don’t know when the world will end. But end it will one day, because Jesus said so. Whether or not the End Times will come soon, we pilgrims must be prepared and ready. And if there is anyone reading this today who has not yet embraced Jesus’s message of love and grace, a profound message saving them from a place where they will not want to go, don’t wait. The time for decisions may be shorter than we think.

Dear God. We thank You for the life of Your servant, Elizabeth. May Your Message of Hope touch people’s lives everywhere. And please help us pilgrims to grasp every opportunity to share it with those around us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Water to Blood

“Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse. And everything in the sea died. Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs, and they became blood.”
Revelation‬ ‭16:3-4‬ ‭NLT

This is a disgusting thought. The blood inside a decomposing corpse decomposes and rots too. And that is how John saw the oceans of the world. Vast extents of rotting bodily fluids. The smell must have been atrocious. John also discerned that everything in the sea died as well. No more fish and plant life. The ways of commerce and fishing for food would have been destroyed at a stroke. The beast’s economy would have been destroyed. The world’s food supply eliminated. Oxygen required to sustain life much reduced, and reducing.

Earlier in our journey through Revelation, we found, “Then the second angel blew his trumpet, and a great mountain of fire was thrown into the sea. One-third of the water in the sea became blood, one-third of all things living in the sea died, and one-third of all the ships on the sea were destroyed.” (‭‭Revelation‬ ‭8:8-9‬ ‭NLT). It is almost as though this plague was finishing the job started by the angel with the trumpet. Desperate times for the remaining people on Planet Earth.

Similarly, with the rivers and springs also turning to blood, the process started in Revelation 8:10-11 is completed. We read, “Then the third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from the sky, burning like a torch. It fell on one-third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star was Bitterness. It made one-third of the water bitter, and many people died from drinking the bitter water.” The bitterness of one third of the fresh water supplies was replaced by nothing but blood. For “water” read “blood”. Can you imagine it? Raining blood. Red snow and ice. What did people drink, being surrounded only by rotting, stinking, clotting, decomposing, blood? 

Do we take the references to blood literally, or do they instead have another meaning? Does the water everywhere really become like “the blood of a corpse” or blood itself, or is there some other meaning? We don’t know. Suffice to say, that the peoples on earth were at the end. That is, of course, unless they repented of their wickedness and sin, and turned to God.

In Exodus 7 we read about how Moses turned the Nile and all the water supplies in Egypt into blood, but even this miraculous sign failed to change Pharaoh’s resolve. The Egyptians were able to find fresh water by digging holes alongside the banks of the Nile. But in these End Times, that option would have been unavailable. Digging holes would have just exposed more blood.

In our society today, in 21st Century UK, or wherever we are, there is much to mourn. Not just the passing of our Queen, but also the rising cost of living. The sky-high energy prices. And we mourn the deterioration of the social values that we have enjoyed for so long. We mourn the breakdown of family life, the waiting lists for our medical facilities, the lack of dentists – the list seems to be endless. But all these things are trivial compared to what it would have been like living in the times of the beast. Faced with a catastrophic economic melt down, lack of food and acute difficulties finding water to drink, the remaining populations in these last days would have been gripped by fear, driven by panic, with scenes too desperate and graphic to imagine. 

In our times, many of us have a tendency to do a lot of moaning. When life seems hard, when depression seems to be just round the corner. When we lack the means to pay bills, or the car breaks down or whatever challenge we are facing into, we need to remind ourselves of what life will be like in the Last Days. In Philippians 4:12-13, we read about the Apostle Paul’s attitudes to life. “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength“. In this season of grace, God is holding the world order together. Yes, there are wars and economic problems. Yes, diseases and medical challenges abound. But in the Last Days, His grace will have run its course and He will loosen His grip on the world, allowing the forces of darkness to be unleashed on whoever is still alive on earth. The beast has emerged, preceding a time of an outpouring of God’s final judgements. Like Paul, in this life we must learn “the secret of living in every situation”, grateful for God’s love and grace, and all that He has done for us. And in our work-a-day lives, we continually express our thanks to our wonderful Heavenly Dad, regardless of our circumstances. 

Dear Father God. How wonderful You are. We are so grateful for Your mercy and grace. Please help us to keep a balanced and thankful attitude for all You have done, and will still do, in our lives. Amen.

The First Plague

“Then I heard a mighty voice from the Temple say to the seven angels, “Go your ways and pour out on the earth the seven bowls containing God’s wrath.” So the first angel left the Temple and poured out his bowl on the earth, and horrible, malignant sores broke out on everyone who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his statue.”
Revelation‬ ‭16:1-2‬ ‭NLT

The next few chapters in Revelation are difficult to read and understand; the only way to describe them is to say that they are apocalyptic. The world, its inhabitants and evil influences end up being annihilated. But before we get to the new beginnings, there is much to work through. The seven plagues mark the start of the real End Times. Up until now it seems that there has been a number of battles, skirmishes perhaps, between God and the devil, with God’s patience and grace still there to be grasped, but the devil doing his utmost to prevent any more people from joining the ranks of “God’s holy people”. Have the earth’s inhabitants been nothing more than pawns in a cosmic, supernatural battle between God and His opponent? If so, mankind has a final opportunity to be on the winning side, with the last of the seven plagues marking the end of God’s grace.

John, in his vision, “heard a mighty voice from the Temple”. The message to pour out God’s wrath was like the firing of a starting pistol. The first angel headed off, releasing God’s wrath in the form of “horrible, malignant sores”. Skin diseases were much feared in Biblical days. Leprosy was one of the most devastating of them and this might have been the affliction released by the angel. But this plague was selective in who it attacked. Only those who “had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his statue” suffered from it.

Modern medicine has made huge strides in recent decades, and as the first plague worked its way through the population, there may have been extraordinary attempts to counter it, as we have seen with the recent Covid pandemic. And there have been other diseases where pharmaceutical companies have developed anti-viral medication and vaccines. The plague released by the angel was a judgement from God, demonstrating His anger with the sins and wickedness of mankind. But was anyone listening? Did anyone present on earth makes the connection between their sin and God’s judgement? Sadly, I haven’t heard of anyone who repented because of the recent Covid pandemic. 

As I have said before, we are in a season of God’s grace. It is not as though He is turning a blind eye to  man’s wickedness; instead He, through the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus, has opened a door of opportunity, for mankind to become righteous in God’s eyes. God knows the human difficulties – Jesus suffered them too – but through His compassion and love for His creation, He has deferred the dark days of His judgement for a season. Those alive in these terrible Times of the End, had an opportunity to turn their backs on the god of the world, but time was running out.

Dear Father God. Your grace and love for mankind is unlimited. We pray for our neighbours and family, that they will embrace Your Son Jesus and transfer their allegiance to the God of the Universe. And we keep praying, as we know You are listening. Amen.