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.

Halloween and the Magic Arts

“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practise magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.’”

‭‭Revelation‬ ‭21:8‬ ‭NIVUK

“But as for the cowards and unbelieving and abominable [who are devoid of character and personal integrity and practice or tolerate immorality], and murderers, and sorcerers [with intoxicating drugs], and idolaters and occultists [who practice and teach false religions], and all the liars [who knowingly deceive and twist truth], their part will be in the lake that blazes with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
Revelation‬ ‭21:8‬ ‭AMP‬‬

We’re going to look at Revelation 21:8 slightly out of verse order, because we’re at the end of October and this is Halloween, a day much celebrated in Western society, especially amongst children. God asked the Apostle John to write down some character traits that, if followed, would consign them “to the fiery lake of burning sulphur”. Amongst these, God mentioned “magic arts” but what are they? The Amplified version goes further, describing the “magic arts” practitioners as “sorcerers” and “occultists”, and as an aside He included the involvement of “intoxicating drugs”. 

We look at these words and wonder if they are still a problem in today’s society. After all, we don’t generally see women dressed in black cloaks decorated with embroidered stars and planets and wearing pointy hats, wandering around our shopping malls. But before we discount the role of the “sorcerers” and “occultists” in 21st Century Planet Earth, there are some things that should be making us think.  As I write this, Halloween is almost upon us. The celebrations are just a bit of fun, those in society will say. But what is Halloween all about, if not a manifestation of occultist practices? It has its roots in ancient Celtic and Druidic customs that include a celebration of the joining together of the spiritual and natural worlds. The early adherents of this custom thought that on Halloween, the spirits of people long dead, together with a motley selection of demons, goblins and the like, could pass from their world to ours. According to the tradition, the demonic forces had to be appeased with sacrifices or gifts of sweets, and if the Halloween celebrants could dress up in scary clothes, then all the better. So in today’s Halloween parties and customs, we are continuing the practice of celebrating and recognising the devil’s dark forces.

But that is not the only manifestation of “those who practise magic arts”. Behind the scenes there are spiritualist “churches” meeting down a dark alley, or in a back room somewhere, and engaged in practices such as contacting the spirits of the dead. We have seemingly innocuous horoscopes included with our newspapers. Magicians wow audiences with deceptions. The occult, involving the supernatural, paranormal, black magic and all, emerges in seances, fairs and even at church fetes or community galas with palm readers and fortune tellers. And there many other manifestations of “magic arts”.

The Bible is no stranger to tales of magic and communication with the dead. We have the occasions in the early chapters of Exodus where Pharaoh’s sorcerers mimicked some of Moses’ miracles. Or there was the time when King Saul tricked a medium to summon the spirit of Samuel from Hades – we can read about this in 1 Samuel 28. In the New Testament, there was the episode when Paul was harassed by a young slave girl who had a fortune telling spirit. Paul discerned that the spirit was a demon so he cast it out of her through the name of Jesus Christ. The narrative about this is in Acts 16. But in it all the actions of mediums and others, who practise the “magic arts“, is forbidden by God. We read in Leviticus 19:31, “Do not defile yourselves by turning to mediums or to those who consult the spirits of the dead. I am the Lord your God.”

We pilgrims have to be clear about the origins of the “magic arts”. The Apostle Paul warned his protégé, Timothy, about the dangers of the devil’s domain. We read in 1 Timothy 4:1, “Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons.” Jesus spent a lot of His time, while He was here on earth, casting demons out of people. And He instructed His followers to do the same, as we read in Matthew 10:8, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received!”. Paul also wrote to the Corinthians with a warning, “… And I don’t want you to participate with demons. You cannot drink from the cup of the Lord and from the cup of demons, too. You cannot eat at the Lord’s Table and at the table of demons, too.” (‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭10:20b-21). 

Whatever the date on the calendar, we pilgrims need to be careful and diligent, in discerning the works of the devil and his minions. What might seem to be an innocent occasion, dressed up in fun, may turn out to be a back door into the devil’s domain. Halloween celebrations, horoscopes and palm reading can all seem innocuous and problem free, even entertaining, but once we become sucked into the “magic arts” we will end up in danger of ticking God’s second death box. The devil knows where he will end up and he is determined to take as many with him as he can. 

Dear Father God. We are so grateful for Your love and care for each one of us, and for Your timely warning about the “magic arts”. Please help us to discern the times and follow Your ways alone. In Jesus’ name. Amen.