Trustworthy and True

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Temple of the Holy Spirit

“Then I looked and saw that the Temple in heaven, God’s Tabernacle, was thrown wide open. The seven angels who were holding the seven plagues came out of the Temple. They were clothed in spotless white linen with gold sashes across their chests.”
Revelation‬ ‭15:5-6 NLT

God’s house in Heaven is open. Wide open. But why should there be a Temple in Heaven? One reason could be that it has been ordained by God. He gave Moses detailed instructions about what would be a suitable place for Him to live in when on earth. It’s a fascinating set of ancient blueprints delivered, not as a set of architectural drawings, complete with material specifications and fabric requirements, but as a written set of instructions, embellished with guidance from the Holy Spirit when needed. In Exodus 25:8-9, God said to Moses, “Have the people of Israel build me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them. You must build this Tabernacle and its furnishings exactly according to the pattern I will show you”. Perhaps God gave Moses a picture of how the Tabernacle would look and he wrote down the “pattern” for subsequent generations to follow, if necessary. But notice it wasn’t either God or Moses who built the original Tabernacle – it was the people. Ordinary, everyday, people who used to be slaves in Egypt. The instructions that God gave Moses for building the Tabernacle were incredibly detailed, even down to the quantities of materials. Don’t forget that Moses was not a qualified architect, designer or quantity surveyor – he had been a sheep farmer for most of his life. But God is our Heavenly Architect who knows everything. So Moses, and the obedient people, built a home for God.

Are we pilgrims Tabernacle builders or do we lack interest in doing such a thing? Do we need a Tabernacle today, to act as a home for God, or do we find such a concept unnecessary? Of course, in these times of the New Covenant, there is no need for a physical building to focus our worship, though this has not always been the case. Just look at the amazing cathedrals and churches that have been built over the centuries, to act as places of worship. That fact that so many of them are still standing today is a testimony to the skills of the architects and construction workers of bygone years. 

So we can, rather smugly perhaps, look back at the paraphernalia of the Old Testament accounts of the Tabernacle and the Temple and think such things are of no relevance for modern day pilgrims. That is, until we read in 1 Corinthians 6:19, “Don’t you realise that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself,”. The Temple of the Old Testament becomes our bodies in the New Covenant. And all of a sudden, as the penny drops, as the implications of what this means hits us, we see the importance of the Temple, God’s Tabernacle. There was nothing impure and unholy in the Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple. And the Temple within us has the same requirement. We are called to be pure and holy, a fit place in which God can dwell. In 1 Peter 1:14-16 we read, “So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy””. Of course, no-one can ever achieve this holy state, totally conforming to God’s definition of holiness, through their own efforts. It is only through faith in the cleansing power of Jesus’ blood that we can stand righteous and holy before our Heavenly Father, becoming a temple fit for Him to live in.

Dear Lord, how can we ever thank You enough? You gave up Heaven to join mankind on earth so that You could show us the way home. Thank You. Amen.

The Glass Sea

“I saw before me what seemed to be a glass sea mixed with fire. And on it stood all the people who had been victorious over the beast and his statue and the number representing his name. They were all holding harps that God had given them.”‭‭
Revelation‬ ‭15:2‬ ‭NLT

The Apostle John must have been approaching exhaustion with all these visions. Daniel too received visions and we read in Daniel 10:8, “So I was left there all alone to see this amazing vision. My strength left me, my face grew deathly pale, and I felt very weak”. But John, like Daniel, faithfully recorded what he saw, casting aside the human weaknesses that threatened to close down God’s revelations. John could now see “a glass sea mixed with fire”. That fact that he used the word “seemed” described something he had never seen before, so he wrote down what it appeared to be. But what was this sea of glass? Glass is a reflective substance, as well as being something that is transparent. So perhaps the “glass sea” was a reflection of God, and the transparency allowed all to see His character. The fact that the glass was mixed with fire could indicate the judgement to come. 

The glass sea was a special place for all those dear saints who had endured to the end, in spite of all the attempts of the beast to ensure otherwise. They resisted worshipping the beast’s statue. They resisted having the mark of the best applied to their persons. And they were therefore victorious over the beast. It is interesting to note that victory took place in spite of their possible demise at the beast’s hands. Victory was recorded when they triumphantly stood before God. Winners indeed.

They were each holding a harp, John’s vision records. Now before this, the only harp-holders were the twenty four elders, who appeared in Revelation 5:8, “And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people“. So those standing on the glass sea, were worthy of making music in Heaven. And it was God Himself who handed them out. Can you imagine that? So all those people who hold the populist view of people wearing a white gown, wings protruding from their shoulders, sitting on a cloud and playing a harp is probably just fiction.

The problem with human beings is that we often look at short term goals and gains, instead of looking to the long term. We want to receive any rewards in the now, rather than bank them for some time in the future. But we pilgrims have to consider our lives as extending into eternity. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught, “Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal“. (Matthew 6:20). Jesus’ teaching was clear – looking for rewards during our natural lives will be of no benefit to us once we reach Heaven. We cannot take anything with us out of this world. The writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes said, “We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us. And this, too, is a very serious problem. People leave this world no better off than when they came. All their hard work is for nothing—like working for the wind“. (Ecclesiastes 5:15-16).

So those pilgrims who could see the truth were intent on ensuring that one day they will be with God. Their faith was unshakeable. Their resolve faultless. I’m sure there were times when the going was so tough that they considered giving up. But once they stood on that sea of glass, all become OK. What was behind them was just that – in the past. May we too take inspiration from their example, and pray too that we will endure to the end.

Dear Father God. The feeling of standing in Your presence, worshipping the only One worthy of such a focus, must be amazing. Please help us when we throw a wobbly, and the thought of giving up flits across our minds. Our strength is in You. Amen.

Enduring Persecution

“This means that God’s holy people must endure persecution patiently, obeying his commands and maintaining their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this down: Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they are blessed indeed, for they will rest from their hard work; for their good deeds follow them!””
Revelation‬ ‭14:12-13 NLT

The third angel continued throughout the earth with his grim message of the consequences for those who decided to follow the beast and his ways. For those who do there may be a short term freedom from difficulties, persecution or worse, but they would then find that their position before the Great Judge would one day be untenable. Their defence counsel, even if there was such a person, would find nothing to offer in mitigation. 

The beast’s demands included, firstly, worshipping the apparently-living effigy of the first beast, the one with the fatal wound that was healed, and, secondly, being marked with an ID on their hands or foreheads. Those who resisted the beast’s demands were finding that their ability to live God’s way was becoming more and more difficult. They found that going about their daily business of working to earn a wage to support their families was getting harder and harder. Not having the beast’s ID was cutting them off from all the benefits of being in society. We get a hint of the difficulties they will encounter by looking at the situation here in the UK for those who neither have a permanent address or a bank account. Such people end up living on the streets and rely on charities to provide the occasional meal, hot drink and clothes. But in these desperate times of the beasts, such charities would be discouraged I’m sure. 

God’s holy people, Christians, were being marginalised by the new world order. We must remember that there is no compassion at all in the ways of the devil and his minions. Nothing but cruelty, wickedness and evil. Non-conforming people would end up facing the stark reality that they would eventually starve. Can you imagine the scene, with someone trying to use what little money they had remaining to purchase some food, and being turned away because of the lack of the beast’s mark? Desperate times for God’s holy people indeed.

But John saw all this in his vision, and he marvelled at the fortitude of those Christians who still held out, refusing to bow their knees before the beast and his ways. They had the spirit of the three Jewish men, that we read of in Daniel 3. The key verses that have echoed throughout the ages right through to these desperate End Times days. We read in Daniel 3:16-18, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”” Jesus gave His disciples a sobering hint of what these days would look like. In Matthew 24:9-10 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.”

In his musings, John heard a voice from Heaven. A voice of encouragement and pride. Pride in the fact that there were people on earth who would rather die than sacrifice their faith on the devil’s altar. And the reward waiting for those who stood firm to the end was far more valuable than the short term gain of conforming to the ways of the beast.

I have heard Christians say that they were very concerned that they are not strong enough to be able to withstand such persecution. But many millions of Christians over the world, in today’s world, do suffer terrible persecution and they stand firm regardless. Sometimes we underestimate the help and support that our Heavenly Father offers those who choose to follow His ways. Jesus encouraged us with His words from John 14:26-27, “But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid“. Not only will the Holy Spirit be close to us, helping us, giving us the right words to say, but He will also give us an inner peace, something that will be missing from those who don’t know God.

If anyone suffered persecution, it was the Apostle Paul. He wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong“”. We pilgrims have chosen a hard road, and it will get harder in the End Times. But regardless of where we are in our journey, God is there to help us. “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble“. (Psalm 46:1).

Dear God. We praise and thank You for Your grace and mercy, Your loving kindness, Your provision. Troubles may lie ahead in our journey to our Promised Land, but we know You are joining us in every step. 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.

Loud Voices In Heaven

“Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices shouting in heaven: “The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.“”
Revelation‬ ‭11:15 NLT

Once again, an angel with a trumpet readied himself for his task. I’m reminded this morning of a regimental bugler, playing in a military campaign, sounding a call to change the events in a battle. his clear tones penetrating across the noise of the battle to ensure all the troops hear the message. This angel, the last of the seven, sounded a clarion call preceding the final terror, the final woe. 

And after he sounded his note, there was a response. John, in his vision, heard, “loud voices shouting in heaven”. And what he heard marked a significant change in the status of the world. The ”loud voices” said, ”The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever”. The message cannot be clearer. Finally the time has come for the Kingdom of God to be established on earth. God’s Kingdom, to be ruled over by His Son, Jesus. 

Jesus taught much about the Kingdom of God, (or the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew’s Gospel). All through His ministry He, by means of parables and illustrative stories relevant to His generation and the peoples around Him, taught what the Kingdom of God would be like. In Luke 17:20-21 we read Jesus’ response to a question offered by the Pharisees, “One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the Kingdom of God come?” Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you””. So in this season of God’s grace we are in a time when we pilgrims are enjoying the benefits of His Kingdom. But it is obvious that the world we live in is not God’s Kingdom. Rather, the world as we know it is still under the curse of sin and the devil still rules. So we pilgrims are in the apparently anomalous situation of being citizens of God’s Kingdom but living in a world’s kingdom. Paul wrote in Philippians 3:20, “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Saviour“. And the second part of this verse is connected to our verse from Revelation today. One day Jesus will return as our Saviour to reign for eternity. We will be familiar with the verses from Isaiah 9:6-7, “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!” Zechariah prophesised that Jesus will reign from Jerusalem (Zechariah 8:3). 

So when will the “Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ” be established? The details appear at the end of the Book of Revelation so we will consider them in due course. In today’s verse, however, the “loud voices shouting in Heaven” declare its arrival is imminent. 

Dear Lord. We look forward to that day when You will come to rule and reign in a time when this world becomes Your Kingdom. In faith, we welcome You this day and every day, for the rest of our lives. Amen.

The Big “Why”

“The first terror is past, but look, two more terrors are coming!”
Revelation‬ ‭9:12‬ ‭NLT

We floated the question in a previous blog post, “Why does God allow disasters to happen?” The implication in the question is that God isn’t all-powerful. Or God doesn’t really care about us. But nothing is further from the truth. The root cause of all the bad things that happen on this planet is sin. The natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and so on, are the effects of sin on God’s perfect creation. In Romans 8:19-22 the Apostle Paul wrote, “For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time“.  I sometimes look around me during my morning prayer walks and try and imagine what all the trees, the flowers and greenery, the wild raspberries and strawberries, will look like when the curse of sin has been removed. I’m sure Heaven is going to be one big Wow!

Because of sin, the world is now in the grip of the devil. Jesus made this clear, as we read in John 14:30, “I don’t have much more time to talk to you, because the ruler of this world approaches. He has no power over me“. However, the devil will not always have control of the earth – in 2 Corinthians 4:4 we read “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God“. One day the current “age” will come to an end, and that is what we are seeing in the End Time vision in Revelation. 

God can certainly intervene in the affairs of mankind and our earthly home. We probably don’t know the extent to which God has already intervened, reducing or even stopping certain events. However, we don’t know why God doesn’t do more to stop the catastrophes. God allows people to behave in wicked ways because He has allowed us free choice. He didn’t create robotic human beings, with a pre-defined behaviour acceptable to God, programmed in accordance with His perfect and holy laws. And in the same way perhaps He allows creation to groan along, taking its natural, sin-blighted, course. But what we do know is that often good things happen as a consequence of natural and man-made disasters. For example, the Kindertransport initiative was instrumental in saving many Jewish children from the horrors of the Holocaust. The aid response to the 2004 tsunami totalled an unprecedented $6.25 Billion. At a time of a natural disaster there is something within mankind that wants to help those who are less fortunate. The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them“. 

But we can’t leave this dilemma of why we experience natural and man-made disasters without adding the concept of eternity. God deliberately chose to send a solution to the woes of the world in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. Not to sort out or prevent disasters, but instead, to offer mankind an escape route out of a sinful and wicked world into His wonderful presence. God’s love and compassion knows no bounds. His mercy endures eternally (Lamentations 3:22). While we continue to live our earthly lives, God is always available to encourage and help, to pick us up when we fall, and forgive our sinful lapses. And one day He will welcome us into our eternal home. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “…….I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” So today, if there is anyone reading this who wants to know more about our wonderful Saviour, Jesus, and how He, and He only, can show us the way to spend eternity with Him in Heaven, please get in touch.

Dear Father God. We thank You that there is a time to come when we will be with You in Heaven. We pray for Your strength to help us hold firm in our faith to the end. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Fallen Star

“Then the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen to earth from the sky, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. When he opened it, smoke poured out as though from a huge furnace, and the sunlight and air turned dark from the smoke.”

‭‭Revelation‬ ‭9:1-2‬ ‭NLT

After the eagle’s proclamation of more terrors to come, another angel appears. I wonder what he was thinking? He had observed what had happened when his colleagues, his fellow angels, had blown their trumpets, and now it was his turn. Did the angels know in advance what would happen in response to their trumpet blasts? We don’t know, but the fifth angel would have had a good idea that something terrible was about to happen. But he didn’t shirk from his responsibilities; instead he took a deep breath and blew his trumpet. 

John immediately, in his vision, saw a “star that had fallen to earth from the sky”. What else could that have been other than a glimpse of satan? Isaiah prophesied, ”How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning! You have been thrown down to the earth, you who destroyed the nations of the world.” (‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭14:12‬). Jesus also referred to satan’s eviction from Heaven in Luke 17:18, ““Yes,” he told them, “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning!”” But whoever it was, “he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit”. 

Notice that satan was given the key to the abyss, the bottomless pit. He didn’t have the key on his own key ring. This is perhaps an indication that satan’s power is limited to only what God permits. But he was allowed to unlock the door to the abyss. And “smoke poured out as though from a huge furnace, and the sunlight and air turned dark from the smoke”. 

John saw in his vision what was most likely the door and shaft leading to hell. And it appears that there was a fire there – John referred to a “huge furnace”. So much smoke came up from the abyss that there was darkness from the smoke, and even the sun was blotted out. I wonder what was burning down there to cause so much smoke? Jesus used the picture of Jerusalem’s rubbish dump, referred to as Gehenna, where fire constantly burned. Some people claim that hell didn’t exist at this point in the end times judgement. Others say hell was created when satan and his fellow rebellious angels were kicked out of Heaven. But whichever it is I believe John received a glimpse of hell in his vision.

Hell is reality. Heaven is reality. We pilgrims have to be diligent in getting across the message about Heaven and hell to our families, our friends, our communities – remember the strap line “Hell is hot, Heaven is real, and Jesus saves”? That must be our message. Sadly these days (in my opinion) nothing much is preached from the pulpit about hell and God’s judgement. Perhaps our ministers and pastor are afraid of putting too much emphasis on hell because they might upset someone. But Jesus Himself spoke a lot about hell; in fact most of what we know about that place came from His lips. In Mark 9:48, Jesus quoted a verse from Isaiah 66 about hell being a place, “where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out“. In Matthew 13:49-50 we read, “That is the way it will be at the end of the world. The angels will come and separate the wicked people from the righteous, throwing the wicked into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth“. A graphic description of hell. To today’s sophisticated and cynical cultures, the concept of hell seems a bit medieval, so getting across the danger of going to hell to such people is a challenge. We pray for wisdom and the leading and support of the Holy Spirit before we engage in speaking about what many refer to as the “place downstairs”. The man in my village will find out, too late, that there will be no party in hell – just eternal maggots and fire, with the sound of weeping, wailing and the gnashing of teeth.

Father God. Thank You for the opportunities we get to share about Your love and righteous, but also about what will happen at the end of the age. Please help us in our conversations we pray. Amen.

Singing in Heaven

“And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living beings. And they fell before the throne with their faces to the ground and worshiped God. They sang, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and strength belong to our God forever and ever! Amen.””
Revelation‬ ‭7:11-12‬ ‭NLT

If we had ever hoped to find a quiet and peaceful place in Heaven, when we get there, then we are going to be disappointed. Earlier in this chapter, we heard a “great roar” from a crowd too numerous to mention, making a shout of declaration about God’s salvation. And then in chapter five there was a new song being sung, the twenty four elders and the four living beings singing the verse, millions of angels singing the chorus, and then every living creature, on earth, under the earth and in the seas, making a tuneful contribution to the song for the bridge part. Well, here we are with another song being sung, and the lyrics are, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and strength belong to our God forever and ever! Amen.” Once again it is the twenty four elders and the four living beings who are singing, prostrated before God’s throne in adoration and worship. Heaven will be full of song, full of shouting, full of praise and worship to God, and full of much God-focused life. Not a quiet place for the dead at all.

How does that make us pilgrims feel? Challenged perhaps? Worried about having to take part? Unable to get our minds around what a different life with God in Heaven will be like? Do we have unrealistic expectations?  Perhaps there are golfers amongst us who expect Heaven to be full of wonderful golf courses, with perfect greens. Or musicians who expect to find Heavenly orchestras, playing with skills out of this world. Or physicists who are looking forward to answers to their unsolved problems and unanswered questions. Or ministers expecting to preach even longer sermons. But none of these worldly views or expectations feature in John’s vision. All he could see was an environment of totally God-focused worship and praise. There will be no room for anything else.

We of course do not know what we will find in Heaven but we do know who lives there. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the mighty and merciful God. He sent His Son, Jesus, to show us the way and invite us to spend an eternity with Him. When we look around us and see how wonderfully He has made us and the earth in which we live, and realise that, through Adam’s sin, this is a world under a curse, populated by sinful people, and then we turn our eyes to what Heaven must be like, totally untainted and just as God designed it, I know it’s going to be a wonderful place to be. So let’s fix our eyes on our Heavenly home, just over the horizons of our consciousnesses, and start to flex our praise and worship muscles so we’re ready and raring to go when the time comes.

Father God. You are worthy of our praise and worship, unrestrained from every part of our beings. Please bring a touch of Heaven to this sin-laden world, and increase our knowledge of who You are. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Obedient Faith

“And they sang a new song with these words: “You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For You were slaughtered, and Your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. And You have caused them to become a Kingdom of priests for our God. And they will reign on the earth.””
‭‭Revelation‬ ‭5:9-10‬ ‭NLT

We continue to spend another day looking at this wonderful new song. The lyrics, directed at Jesus, who was standing in the middle of the twenty four elders and four living beings, before the throne of God, included the line, “Your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation”. A few thoughts about this new song. 

Firstly, do these words indicate that Jesus died for everyone, implying that there will be no exclusions and everyone will get to Heaven? Of course not, but many would like to think so. Jesus paid the ultimate penalty when He died that day at Calvary, spilling His blood so that His sacrifice would redeem everyone who believes in Him from the consequences of their sins. By doing so He paid the ransom for our sin. But to be a “ransomed people“, we have to respond personally, accepting that His sacrifice was for each one of us individually. Universalism, a belief that everyone will be saved and end up in Heaven regardless, cannot be found in the Bible. We have to make a choice – we can either choose to accept God’s saving grace through His Son, Jesus, and in the process assure our future with God in Heaven, or we can choose to reject Him and instead be assured of a life in Hell. Jesus said in John 14:6, ” … I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me”. There is no other way.

Secondly, all human beings, regardless of their race, ethnicity, sex, hair colour and everything else, is eligible to be ransomed by Jesus’ sacrifice. If they want to be. The only exclusions are for people who make the wrong choice, or don’t make a choice at all.

Thirdly, once we have accepted in obedient faith, that Jesus died in exchange for our sins, we adopt a new role. We become fully paid up members of God’s Kingdom of priests. We read in 1 Peter 2:9, “… you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” When we adopt our new priestly roles, we can show others the way to become priests too. Being a priest conjures up images of old men dressed in a funny gown, perhaps wearing an odd-looking hat, officiating at church services. But to us pilgrim priests, our priestly duties are to show others the way to God, by sharing the Gospel with them. By being “salt and light” in our families and communities.

The verse today ends with the line, “And they will reign on the earth“. According to John’s vision recorded in the Book of Revelation, there will come a time when the Kingdom priests will reign on earth. Of course, this isn’t happening in 21st Century society. Western or otherwise. And as fas as I am aware, it hasn’t happened in history either. So there must be coming a time when we pilgrim priests will reign on earth. I’m sure we will find out more as we dig deeper into this fascinating and amazing Book.

Dear Father God. Once again we thank You for the nuggets of revelation contained in these Scriptures. Please help us to understand what You want to reveal to us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.