The Good News (1)

“God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. The Good News is about His Son. In His earthly life He was born into King David’s family line, and He was shown to be the Son of God when He was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Romans 1:2-4 NLT

Paul didn’t waste any time in declaring what his mission was all about. It was telling everyone, whether they wanted to listen or not, the Good News of how God had touched mankind with something unprecedented. God had never done anything like this before, and will never do so again. His gracious contact with His creation included an offer so good, so life-changing, that Paul was just bursting to share it with everyone he met. And as we know from the stories of his missionary journeys in the Book of Acts, the outcomes, in terms of his personal wellbeing, were not always the best.

We live in an era of bad news. For some reason people seem to prefer to read or hear about bad things, rather than good things. And so many people I meet very easily drop into a pessimistic mindset – take this as an example. I said to someone the other day that it was a nice morning, and it was, because the sun was shining and birds singing. But the response was that it was nice at the moment but that it was going to rain later. For some reason a significant number of people generally don’t seem to want to live in a positive environment. If things are going well for them, they view this as a temporary state preceding something bad coming down the road. For these people, the light apparently at the end of the tunnel turns out to be the lamp on the front of an oncoming train.

But Paul genuinely must have been a very positive person, because he carried within him the Good News about Jesus. It was just bursting to get out. There would have been no idle chatter with Paul. Every comment, every conversation, would have been turned around to point to Jesus. We pilgrims, living in this technical age, where gadgets abound, find ourselves in a complex society that has shifted its focus away from the things of God. And in the process society has found that life has become the poorer. Joy a scarce commodity. Happiness transient. So we, like Paul, must propagate the Good News. We have an unprecedented opportunity through our access to various forms of media, to reach those around us. Yes, we may invite some abuse from FaceBook trolls. Yes, we may find ourselves ostracised in our workplaces, schools or elsewhere. Don’t forget – people generally don’t want to hear good news, especially, the Good News. But, like Paul, we must persevere, to fulfil our service to our loving Master, Jesus Himself.

Dear Lord. In You we have the Source of Good News. The Source of Joy. We are so grateful. Please bring our way opportunities to reach the hurting, cynics and sceptics around us with the purity of Your Good News.

The Apostle Paul

“This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach His Good News.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭1‬:‭1 NLT

Today we are starting a journey through the Book of Romans. This was a letter, or epistle, written (or probably dictated) by the Apostle Paul, and addressed to the early Roman church. It is a cornucopia of good Christian teaching and essential reading for every pilgrim on his or her journey to glory. We start by noticing three things about Paul from verse 1. His person, his status and his mission.

Regarding his person, we know a bit about his heritage. He was originally born in a place called Tarsus, and his given name was Saul. He was of demonstrably Hebrew stock and was brought up to be a strict adherent of the Jewish religion, even being taught by Gamaliel, a renowned religious teacher in those days. He was very zealous of the purity of the Jewish religion and he embarked on a crusade to eliminate the early Christians, convinced that they were all members of a dangerous and erroneous sect. He was present when the first recorded Christian martyr, Stephen, was stoned to death. We read in Acts 8:1a, “Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen…”. Then in Acts 9 we read of the remarkable and miraculous conversion of Saul from being a Christian killer to a Christian lover. From being a denier that Jesus was the Son of God, to a preacher of salvation in His name. We can read about the twists and turns of Saul’s early Christian life and how he became an Apostle in the Book of Acts. And for those who wonder, he started to be called Paul in Acts 13. The first mention is in verse 9a, “Saul, also known as Paul, was filled with the Holy Spirit…”. And that is the name he was referred to thereafter.

Regarding his status, right here at the beginning of his Roman epistle, Paul called himself a “slave of Christ Jesus”. Why was that? A slave in those days had no rights and his or her master could do with them what they liked. In the same way, Paul was totally sold out to his relationships and service to Jesus. Everything he did was in accordance with his Master’s instructions. His life was aligned to that of Jesus, the Son of God, who had appeared personally to him during his Damascus road journey.

Regarding his mission, Paul claimed in today’s verse that he was “chosen by God to be an apostle”. When was that? In Acts 9:15-16 we read what Jesus said to an early Christian called Ananias, “But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake””. I don’t think there could have been a better description or confirmation of Apostleship than that.

Paul claimed he was sent out to “preach His [Jesus’s] Good News”. And that was the driver that drove Paul through extreme conditions, at times involving real personal danger. In Acts 14:19 we read, “Then some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowds to their side. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of town, thinking he was dead“. All he had done was heal a crippled man in the name of Jesus in the process of sharing the Gospel, as we read in Acts 14:15, “ …  We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things and turn to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them“. 

Preaching the Good News is a responsibility of all Christians, including us pilgrims on our journey towards our eternal home. We may not all be Apostles, though some will be. But we all have the anointing within us to discern what is happening in the society around us and proclaim the Good News in times of unremitting bad news. It may be counter-cultural. It may be inconvenient at times. It may be costly, in terms of our time and money. But, like Paul, we are all “slave[s] of Christ Jesus”,going about our Master’s business. Our faith is nothing to be ashamed about, because one day it will ensure our future with the Master Himself. But sharing the Good News is not something we can opt out from. We read what Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-33, “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven“. Sharing our faith, our testimonies about what Jesus has done for us, is not a drudge. It is a privilege, and the joy that comes from seeing someone become a new member of our faith knows no limits.

Dear Father God. We thank You for entrusting to us the mission to spread Your Good News to those around us in our community, in our nation. Please empower us, and lead us into situations where we can move someone a bit closer to the door into Heaven. In Jesus name. Amen.

Come Lord Jesus

“He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s holy people.”
Revelation‬ ‭22‬:‭20‬-‭21‬ ‭NLT

So we arrive at the very last verses in the Book of Revelation. It has been a roller coaster of a journey, taking us over six months to complete. But we have finally arrived at the end, with Jesus providing the last word. He reminded John that He has signed off the contents of this book, and He then said, “Yes, I am coming soon!”. 

If there is ever a witness with the absolute capability to be totally right, it is Jesus. He not only walked on our planet, assuming a human form, but He also has lived for all eternity with His Father in Heaven. A unique position, and because of it He is the only One who can reliably inform us of all the physical and spiritual events that have spanned more than time. They have spanned eternity itself. So His claim to be “the faithful witness” can be totally trusted.

As we journey through the highways of life, we pilgrims need a Guide, and the Revelator, Jesus Himself, fills that role exactly and totally. We follow Him. We obey Him. And, of course, we love Him. And amazingly, the Holy Spirit, writing through John, reminds us in the last sentence of this Book, of one attribute that God has, and that gives us hope for the future. His grace. The unmerited favour He has poured out on us. As the acronym says, God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Only Jesus has the words of eternal life, and because of His sacrifice at Calvary, where He, the very Son of God, gave His life for the propitiation of our sins, He gave us an escape route from the sin and wickedness of Planet Earth. A staircase into Heaven for those who embrace the grace and become a member of “God’s holy people”. 

John also used the word “Amen”. So be it. May it happen. And it will. Just as Jesus said it would. We echo the amen and tramp on, inspired, full of joy, and with our faces glowing, reflecting God’s light, love and presence, and by it illuminating the lives of those around us. What a Saviour. What a God!

Dear Father God. What can we say? On our knees we worship You today and every day. Amen.

A Solemn Declaration

And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book. And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy, God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book.
Revelation‬ ‭22‬:‭18‬-‭19‬ ‭NLT

We have here a warning. Nothing must be removed from, or added to, the prophecies written in the Book of Revelation. And there are dire consequences in store for any who do. We read earlier in Revelation 22:6 the following, “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””. So we know the contents of Revelation are sound. God-inspired. The contents of this Book can be trusted. So it begs the question, “Who would want to change the contents of this Book?” I suppose it is likely that people would want to remove the difficult bits, and perhaps add something that they think will be a better wording, or provide a description that better fits the narrative. But this is a sober warning to be seriously heeded. 

Does the warning extend just to the Book of Revelation, or does it apply to the whole of the Bible, including both Testaments? In Deuteronomy 4:1-2 we read that Moses said to the Israelites, “And now, Israel, listen carefully to these decrees and regulations that I am about to teach you. Obey them so that you may live, so you may enter and occupy the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. Do not add to or subtract from these commands I am giving you. Just obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you”. And again we read something similar in 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”. I suppose some people question the authenticity of the Bible and its many translations, concerned that the truth contained within has been violated. But the Bible is an amazing collection of sixty six individual books. Although they had many authors, there is one over-riding influence, and that is the Holy Spirit. So when we read in Revelation 22:6 that everything written is “trustworthy and true” we can be assured of the dependability of what we read.

Also of concern is the emergence of sects that have added or changed some text in the Bible to suit their own ends, citing the inspiration of a “prophet” and revelations given to him. According to what we have read in Deuteronomy, Proverbs and Revelation they are heading for an unexpected but certain demise. But for me the traditional Bible has stood the test of time and we echo with Paul what he wrote in his letter to Timothy, “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).

So what do we pilgrims think of the Revelation warning? We consider it carefully and soberly, ensuring that we read the Bible properly, even the difficult parts. And we pray that the Holy Spirit will bring to our attention anything we need to “prepare and equip” us for our pilgrimage to the future Holy City.

Dear Father God. We thank You for Your wonderful, and only, written work, The Holy Bible. Please help us to expound its truths at every opportunity. We praise and worship You today. Amen.

Come

“The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.”
Revelation‬ ‭22‬:‭17‬ ‭NLT

Just a few verses before in Revelation 22, Jesus had given John an invitation. He said, “Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds.” (‭‭Revelation‬ ‭22‬:‭12). And now the invitation rings out again. Loud and clear. There can be no excuse that people never heard it. After Jesus it is the turn of the Holy Spirit to say, “Come!”. And just to make sure, the bride also says, “Come!”. Of course, we know that the bride is the church – we have read much about the Bride of Christ in previous Revelation Scriptures. So we have an alliance, a partnership, between the Holy Spirit and the Church; an invitation from Spirit-filled churches is powerful. And the next invitation in verse 17 is from all who hear the “Come” and repeat it to those around them. 

But those who respond to the invitation have to be thirsty. And the thirst must relate to the “water of life”, freely given by our wonderfully generous God. This “water of life”  is the same drink Jesus promised the woman at the well. He said in John 4:14, “But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” Jesus gave the invitation again 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’””. The invitation is there to be accepted. But as the old saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”. Unless people are thirsty for this living water promised by Jesus, they won’t drink it. They prefer the worldly drinks, even as the woman at the well discovered, finding out that anything of the world never satisfies and leads to a life of enslavement to drudgery.

Verse 17 in Revelation 22 starts with “The Spirit and the bride”. Notice that it is not the church on its own extending the invitation. Neither is it the Holy Spirit who is just saying “Come”. It is a joint invitation from the Holy Spirit and the Church. This may be an obvious point, but without the Holy Spirit, a church cannot effectively ask people to come and drink of the living water offered by Jesus. This is a because a church without the Holy Spirit won’t have a supply of living water. It will be as dry and arid as any natural desert. Sadly, the Holy Spirit left many churches long ago, but the dwindling and elderly congregations are still offering what they don’t have. And those in the world find out that there is nothing there for them. Perhaps all churches should ask themselves the question, “Would we know if the Holy Spirit left us?” The answer to that question could fill a book on its own.

So we pilgrims, those of us who have already responded to the invitation to “Come”, who are already drinking of the life-giving water, must extend the invitation to those around us. There are plenty of thirsty people around – I meet some every day on my morning prayer walks. We pray for the opportunity to connect people’s spiritual thirst with the life-giving water. Only Jesus can turn on the tap. And only people can propagate the “Rivers of living water” that flow from God’s throne. 

Dear Father God. We pray for a fresh filling of Your Holy Spirit today. We know You have more than enough living water to quench our thirsts. We are so grateful. Amen.

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.