Consuming Fire

“She glorified herself and lived in luxury, so match it now with torment and sorrow. She boasted in her heart, ‘I am queen on my throne. I am no helpless widow, and I have no reason to mourn.’ Therefore, these plagues will overtake her in a single day— death and mourning and famine. She will be completely consumed by fire, for the Lord God who judges her is mighty.”
Revelation‬ ‭18:7-8‬ ‭NLT

It looks as though the vision portrays an immediate, plague-induced collapse of the world system called Babylon. Judgement and fire follow. The world system and religion glorified itself. Pride and boasting prevailed. The throne of individual lives became the focus. Self satisfaction was the norm. But our mighty God was having none of this behaviour, and His fire, following the plagues, instantly burns it all up. The fire followed God’s righteous judgements. 

The world system is dominated by “Me! Me! Me!”. People stay awake at night thinking of ways to improve their lot in life, even if it means trampling on someone else in the process. We boast about what we have achieved. We take pride in our conquests. Selfishness rules the lives of those in the world. But 1 Corinthians 3:13 reads, “But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value.” Obviously, the world system has, ultimately, no value at all. The world system called Babylon disappeared in a puff of smoke. Gone forever without trace.

There is a cost in following God’s ways. And one thing for sure, glorifying self will not be a part of it. Jesus taught about the cost of following Him. In Matthew 10:38-39, he said, “If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” There is no room in a pilgrim’s life for selfish living. It’s Jesus’ way, His way alone. So we pilgrims ask ourselves the question – who is on the throne of our lives? In response, we live out our lives, always at the foot of the Cross. Always conscious of what He has done for us. When we come to God in repentance, accepting His death for our sins, we die to our selfish nature, and instead put God fairly and squarely on the throne of our lives.

We do not need to fear the fires of Judgement Day. We are not Babylon followers. Instead, we follow God’s ways, storing treasure in Heaven, safe from the fires of judgement.

Dear Father God. Please forgive us for our selfish ways. It’s Your way, or no way. For ever and ever. Amen.

Flashes and Rumbles

“From the throne came flashes of lightning and the rumble of thunder. And in front of the throne were seven torches with burning flames. This is the sevenfold Spirit of God.”
Revelation‬ ‭4:5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

John’s field of vision becomes more focused as other features in his revelation are revealed. This is a place unbounded by the limitations of human sight and hearing, because John is in the spirit. He is seeing and hearing things that would be invisible to humans. So in the Spirit, the “flashes of lightning” would have been incredibly bright and powerful, far greater than the flashes we see on Planet Earth, should that even be possible. Perhaps with the inclusion of spectacular colours never before seen in a lightning flash. And they originated from the throne of God. The “rumble of thunder” too would have encompassed a range of frequencies totally beyond human comprehension. In our smartphone-dominated world, we are used to hearing sounds through tiny loudspeakers, where only a narrow range of frequencies can be transmitted. But what a difference there is, hearing the same sounds but in an auditorium with a professional sound system. The bass end of the spectrum will be felt as well as heard, with vibrations manifested in every part of our beings. That was John’s experience. In the spirit he was exposed to light and sound he had never experienced before. 

In front of God’s throne appeared seven burning torches. Flaming noticeably. And John intuitively knew that this is the “sevenfold Spirit of God”. We have twice before, in the early chapters of Revelation, encountered this image and can refer back to Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 11:2. The image too refers to the number seven, often used in Scripture to signify perfection or completeness. 

We pilgrims will often have difficulty in relating this vision to our work-a-day world. That is, until we too connect “in the Spirit”. What vision of God and His domain, whether here on earth or in Heaven do we hold? It is generally more difficult to hold on to our faith without some idea, picture even, of where we are heading. This vision of the Apostle John in Revelation grabs and intrigues our imaginations. It encourages us to think “outside the box” beyond our natural boundaries. And if, in times of need, we ask God for a vision to support our own faiths He will be gracious and help. Jesus gave John an amazing revelation of the future, and he faithfully recorded it for posterity. But the most important vision of all starts at Calvary, with the Son of God hanging on a Roman cross, dying for us, that we too can one day check out Heaven for ourselves. If we ask Him.

Dear Lord. We thank You for Calvary and selflessly sacrificing Yourself for each one of us. We are so grateful. And I pray that we all hold on to the mental pictures we have of Calvary, pictures and visions that are only superseded by the excitement of Easter Sunday. We praise and worship You today. Amen.

God is on His Throne

In the Lord I take refuge.
    How then can you say to me:
    ‘Flee like a bird to your mountain.

The Lord is in his holy temple;
    the Lord is on his heavenly throne.
He observes everyone on earth;
    his eyes examine them.

Psalm 11:1,4 NIVUK

Psalm 11 is another Psalm written by David, and it looks as though he is once again on the run from his enemies. It might have been Saul, who chased him around Palestine for years, or it might have been in the time of his son Absalom’s rebellion. In the first verse, David seems to be odds with his advisers who were telling him to head for the hills to find safety there. But David wasn’t afraid of his enemies because he trusted in the Lord for his protection. Wisely, though, he was keeping his head down and maintained a low profile, waiting for God to deal with the situation. In verse 4, David points out that God is still on His throne, keeping an eye on everyone. 

Living in 21st Century Britain is a challenge. There has been so much societal change over the past few years that we might be forgiven for questioning sometimes if God is still on His throne. And understandably there are many anxious people around, wondering what the future holds. People will give us all sorts of advice about how to deal with change. And there are some who will seek medication to help them deal with their anxiety. But there is only one way to remain unshakeable as the world shakes around us, and that is with our feet firmly established on the solid Rock, which is Christ. In Matthew 7:24-25 Jesus said, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” Because the wise man followed and applied Jesus’ teaching, he was unshakeable when the storms of life blew against him. The only way we will survive the changes in society is through our relationship with God. But you might be thinking, “Why does God allow me to experience so many problems in my life?” You might be experiencing financial difficulties, ill-health, family problems, and so on. Sometimes the list of problems seems endless. And to add to our apparent woes, Jesus said that we would experience troubles in this world. He said in John 16:33, “… In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” So God is still on His throne and Jesus has overcome the world. What else do we need? As we encounter the problems in life, we face into them with Jesus, the Overcomer, at our side. Step by step, problem by problem, issue by issue, our faith and trust in God grows. Even though David was in big trouble, his narrative in Psalm 11 was almost detached because he knew his God, and the protection that He supplied. So He could almost adopt the position of looking on while God did His stuff. We too can be onlookers as we overcome our storms in life with God at our side.