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.

Smoky Locusts

“Then locusts came from the smoke and descended on the earth, and they were given power to sting like scorpions. They were told not to harm the grass or plants or trees, but only the people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were told not to kill them but to torture them for five months with pain like the pain of a scorpion sting. In those days people will seek death but will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them!”
Revelation‬ ‭9:3-6‬ ‭NLT

As if the smoke polluting the atmosphere and the darkness was not disaster enough, another problem appeared, bringing more woes to affect the people on earth. Stinging locusts. And they were given specific instructions, that they were only to sting “the people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads”. The effect of the sting was quite specific in that it was to be like the sting of a scorpion, not enough to kill, but enough to cause pain so great that people wanted to die anyway.

The verses today contain quite a lot of information. Firstly, the locusts were biddable – they were given specific instructions about what they could and couldn’t do. They were not sent from Heaven but came out of the abyss in the smoke. It may have been that satan wanted the locusts to wreak total destruction on God’s people, as he has always wanted, but God had other plans. Another indication, perhaps, that God limits the devil’s powers and capabilities? However, on this occasion God’s people were protected from the stinging insects.

John was also told that God’s people had a mark, the seal of God, on their foreheads. Were these people the 144,000 we read about in Revelation 7, or did they include all Christians everywhere? I believe it to be the latter, because God has no favourites when it comes to His love and acceptance. 

Another thought is what this seal or mark looks like. We will read about another mark, the mark of the beast, later in Revelation 13, so it wasn’t that. There has been speculation that these marks might be bar or QR codes. It was possible that this was a tattoo of some kind, but probably unlikely because the Jews in the Old Testament were discouraged from cutting or marking their skin (Leviticus 19:28). We of course don’t know what the mark or seal was, but what we do know is that it will be very distinctive and will declare unambiguously that the person with it belongs to God. And the locusts were not allowed to touch them. As a thought, I suppose that if we today were to carry a mark to say that we are Christians, would that make any difference to who we are and what we do. To what we say or how we behave? Hmmm…

What was the significance of the five months? Apparently locusts only live for five months so perhaps that was the reason, that they were going to be tormentors for their life span. However, to those being stung, it must have seemed like a life time. The non-Christians at that time must have gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid the locusts but I expect to no avail. As a resident of Scotland, I’m reminded of a wee beastie we call the Highland Midge. The female of the species is a very small insect that needs blood to mature the eggs it is carrying. And the effect of its bite is to cause an itch, sometimes painful, that takes some time to recede. Sadly, it does not distinguish between Christians and non-Christians. We have potions and sprays to discourage the midge from coming near us, and there is also an item of head and neck wear made of a very close mesh, that can sometimes help. There are even machines that attract the midgies (plural of midge) and dispose of them into a large tank underneath. But the midgies are relentless in their pursuit of blood. However, I can imagine the sting of the locusts in John’s vision was far worse, and there would have been no remedy or way of avoiding them.

Pilgrims still alive at this point in the End Times would have felt much relief that they were escaping the attentions of the locusts. But I would imagine that those unmarked in the population would have felt very resentful of them and I expect persecution of the Christians would have been severe and increasing. But Jesus said we must stand firm until the end comes. So stand firm we will, won’t we? We read in 1 Peter 5:9-10, “Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation”.

Dear Father God. We stand firm in our faith, in the knowledge that our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world are experiencing all sorts of persecution. We thank You that you have cut short the days of suffering and that we will one day share Heaven with You. We are so grateful. Amen.