Revelation 13 gives us a vision courtesy of John, of the pending “Beast” that will rise up on the earth. It is described pretty hideously, and is bent on destruction which is no real surprise. But while some of the characteristics of the beast are called out – it is what the beast does that jumps out at me. “The beast has a loud mouth, boastful and blasphemous….blasphemies against God, blasphemed His Name, blasphemed His church”. So this gives us some idea of three things that are a very poor choice to get involved in – blasphemy agains God and His church or name. The beast continues to challenge God and His authority. He was given freedom to do “anything it wanted for 42 months”. That is a pretty long time of rule. He roamed the earth causing havoc for all, destroying things left and right. His objective was to get everyone to worship himself – the beast. “Everyone on earth whose name was not written from the world’s foundation in the slaughtered Lamb’s Book of Life will worship the beast”. Only those who stand firm in their relationship with God will be spared. I love how John records what the believers here at that time do: “God’s holy people passionately and faithfully stand their ground”. They don’t give in, they don’t bow down, they remain faithful.
Two very key words in that last sentence – passionately and faithfully. Does that describe your walk with God? Are you passionate about Him? Do you let the world know that He is the most important thing in your world? Or is it just a hum ho relationship, great to have when you are in trouble or need a bit of help, but otherwise just something in the back pocket for emergencies. We need to be passionate about our walk with God. The time is coming when we will be challenged in our faith. We better be ready to make it real. And then that word faithfully. Are you faithful to Him, or do you bounce about in the wind based on who you are with and what you want to do at any given moment? Are you committed to a single relationship with the Father, or is He just another of the gods in your life? He doesn’t share that spot by the way. He won’t tolerate being one of your gods. He demands to be God and God alone. We need to be “people passionately and faithfully” in love with Him. A second beast comes along as a servant to the first one. That beast does “magical signs….to dupe earth dwellers”. We have to be careful we don’t get duped in our faith. There will be many things that will try and lead us away from God. There will be lots of stuff that will draw us somewhere other than God. We need to resist and stay faithful to the One True God. The chapter ends with the reality that in those days all who are left will “have a mark on the right hand or forehead….without the mark…..impossible to buy or sell…..it’s a human number: six hundred sixty-six”. There will be a mark of the beast. It will be required to live life. We need to resist the enemy, and live passionately and faithfully with our Lord. Are you there? If not, time to start that journey!
Revelation 12 continues John’s vision of what is to come. He sees heaven and a Woman with 12 stars representing the 12 Apostles who spoke truth. Satan was there as well along with his angels and “war broke out in heaven”. It seems that Satan will once again try to come and overtake God and the Angels there. “The one who led the whole earth astray – thrown out – thrown down to earth”. Michael and the godly angels kick Satan’s behind again and throw the whole batch out of heaven – back to earth. The overthrow is thwarted and Heaven remains God’s place. We really don’t understand all the spiritual warfare that is happening we can’t see or observe. It is real, not only in the end times, but right now as the enemy of good attempts to destroy all who are His. Since this is a vision of what is to come – we know how the story ends – and our side wins. Great news. But scripture goes on to tell us how: “They defeated him (the enemy) through the blood of the Lamb and the bold word of their witness”. The shed blood of Jesus on the cross brought the victory. His people were “willing to die for Christ”. Are you that committed to your Savior? He did die for you – would you do the same for Him?
Satan in cast to earth and is not a happy camper. He is running out of time – “he hasn’t much time and he knows it”. He seeks to destroy the church but God protects and keeps it safe. He is in the same business in this vision that has been taught in other places in scripture – that even now the enemy has come to “kill, steal and destroy”. He is consistent in his mission and will do the same in the end times. He is after “the children who keep God’s commands and hold firm to the witness of Jesus”. Does that describe you? Are you holding firm to God’s Word – do you even know it? Are you firm in your witness of Jesus – or would you just bail if times got tough? God’s side wins – there is no reason for us to be anything less than bold in our faith. We may suffer persecution, which we are taught is blessed by Him, but we will win in the end. Stand firm. Hang on. Be bold for Jesus!
Revelation 11 brings us to game time. “Get up and measure God’s temple and altar and everyone worshiping in it”. The reality is that God is going to have everyone give account. This likely refers to some of Ezekiel’s prophecies, and gives us a glimpse into the reality that every person that is claiming to be a Christ Follower will be examined and measured. Showing up and worshiping will not be enough. People will have to be true believers to make it through this measurement. As we approach the final trumpet, there will be 1260 days – about 3.5 years – of no rain. Witnesses will be there giving their final prophesying. As they finish they will have “pricked the conscience of all the people on earth….made it impossible for them to enjoy their sins”. That will be quite a change. Sin would be a lot less appealing if it wasn’t so darn enjoyable. But at this time, folks will figure out that missing the mark – walking in a life that is not pleasing to God – is a bad decision and their conscience will begin to haunt them.
It is then that the last trumpet will sound from the seventh Angel. Voices will cry out “the kingdom of the world is now the Kingdom of our God and His Messiah”. Power shifts – God’s Kingdom reigns and victory takes place. “You took your great power and took over – reigned”. What a glorious day that will be when God’s Kingdom comes and His will is done. Then the time will come to “judge the dead…..reward yoru servants”. Judgment is coming. We will all give account for how we have lived. There will be no excuses. There will be no do overs. Our life will go on display and will determine our eternity. Are you ready for that? Are you living in a way that pleases God? Has your conscience been pricked and if so, are you paying attention. Sin must go. Jesus must come in. Have you taken that step?
Revelation 10 is another vision John has about the end times. “Another Angel…..rainbow over His head….had a small book open in His hand”. This likely refers to Jesus or a representation of Him. The rainbow reminds us of the covenant that God has given us – and the fact that it is never forgotten. This Angel holds a small book – possibly the book listing those who will be granted entry into heaven with God. Whether those are the exact interpretations is not so critical as the fact that “time was up….the mystery of God, all the plans He had revealed to His servants, the prophets, would be completed”. The end is coming. What God has said through the prophets will be complete and time will be up. Things will cease to exist as we know them. Eternity takes over in full glory – eternal life with the Father in heaven, or eternal separation from the Father in hell. Those are the two options. There is no middle ground. Do you know where you will spend eternity?
John is instructed to “take the book held open in the hand of the Angel….then eat it”. Seems like a rather strange request. But John experiences the reality of God’s prophecy and truth coming true. Matthew Henry writes: “The sweetness of such contemplations will often be mingled with bitterness, while we compare the Scriptures with the state of the world and the church, or even with that of our own hearts”. We all want to know the future, but we may not like the results when we compare our lives to the truth it contains. That is the case here for John. And as a result, he has an urgent task to complete: “You must go back and prophesy again over many peoples and nations and languages and kings”. People don’t know what they are in for so you have to go tell them John – that is the message here. Have you been lulled to sleep over what God says is coming? Are you ready for the time to be up? Have you told those in your patch the reality of God’s plan? The time is now. The time is here. Let’s get on with it.
Revelation 9 talks about doom that is coming. John’s vision continues and as the fifth trumpet sounds, he “saw a star plummet from Heaven to earth”. This signifies a fallen angel – one cast from heaven – who comes and “unlocked the well of the abyss”. The gates of hell are opened and “smoke poured out….sun and air in blackout”. Evil is let loose and it covers the light. “Out of the smoke crawled locusts with the venom of scorpions”. This is some ugly and bad action. They are told not to “hurt the grass….only men and women….who lack the seal of God on their foreheads….torture but not kill”. Do you see John’s vision here? Hell is set free to torture those who are not Christ Followers – true believers of His. The legion of locusts are led by “Destroyer” who will cause all to “prefer death to torture”. It is going to be very bad for those who don’t know the Lord.
John then tells of the fifth trumpet sounding. The “Four Angels loose….confined at the great River Euphrates”. As I read the commentaries it seems to point to Turkey as the general area of this action. Bottom line is that they are “to kill a third of the human race”. There is going to be some kind of battle with millions of soldiers involved. Scripture tells us there will be “three weapons – fire and smoke and brimstone” which will wreak havoc and wipe out so many. All those things can come as a result of a number of the weaponry available today – obviously nuclear bombs being the biggest fit. But the key facts in this chapter come at the end as John writes about the response. “The remaining men and women who weren’t killed by these weapons went on their merry way – didn’t change their way of life, didn’t quit worshiping demons….there wasn’t a sign of a change of heart”. Wow – one third of the population will be killed and people will just keep on being sin filled and self consumed. That sounds like hardened hearts for sure. How is it that we can see so many things around us and just go on living like nothing has happened? We need to be careful not to miss God’s message to us about changing our life. God has a plan – to change our heart – to make us holy and godly. We need to be very aware and plugged in to His plan.
Revelation 8 has the Lamb ripping off the seventh seal. “Heaven fell quiet – complete silence for about half an hour”. That is quite a change for heaven, which will be a very busy place. But as the Lamb opens the seventh seal, we are moving to a new phase. Seven angels are handed seven trumpets which they will blow and begin a series of doom and destruction. Before that though, another Angel “came and stood at the Altar”. This Angel is praying and interceding on behalf of the holy ones before God. God listens to our prayers, but it is good to know that Jesus is there interceding on our behalf and also an Angel it appears. There is a clash between the things of God and the things of earth, and it results in “thunder, voices, lightnings and an earthquake”. We are not on God’s page.
The Seven Angels “got ready to blow them”. Destruction begins as the “first trumpet blast, hail and fire mixed with blood were dumped on earth”. A third of things were “burned to a crisp”. Then comes the second trumpet blast and a third of the sea “turned to blood” as well as sea creatues dying and ships sinking. The third trumpet caused a huge star to fall (Wormwood) which caused “a third of the water turned bitter” and people died from it. The chapter ends as the fourth trumpet sounds causing a third of the sun, moon and stars to go black. “Doom, doom, doom to everyone left on earth”. It doesn’t sound like the end times are going to be that fun. It will be a major problem for many who are left as this destruction takes place, but we are warned that the worst is yet to come as the last three Angels blow their trumpets. Oh that we have our security in place with our Savior!
Revelation 7 is really a pause in the action. In chapter six the Lamb has ripped off six seals and before the last one is removed, we stop and see a couple important things happen. The “Four Angels standing at the four corners…..with a firm grip on the four winds”. God pushes the pause button and won’t let any further destruction occur “until I’ve sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads”. This is to represent ownership – God is going to put His mark on the foreheads of His own so they can be sealed safe and secure. Are you marked by your relationship with the Father? Do people know you are a Christ Follower? In those last days – should you be here then – would you get the seal? “Everyone was there” but definitely not everyone was sealed. Relationship is the key. Do you have one with the Savior? Everyone is worshiping and “all who were standing around the Throne – angels, elders, animals – fell on their faces….and worshiped God”. Do you see just how much God desires worship, and how worthy He is to receive it. Here we have the very chosen ones – those close to His Throne – and even they are on their faces in worship. God is worthy of our praise. We need to be on our face worshiping Him.
The chapter goes on to tell us what heaven will be like. Oh how glorious that place will be. Scripture tells us that “they’ve washed their robes, scrubbed them clean in the blood of the Lamb”. Those who will be in heaven have a relationship with the Lamb – with Jesus Christ – and His saving grace. They have accepted His death on the Cross as atonement for their sin and have been cleansed by His blood. I am reminded by the song which has a verse that goes something to the effect “are you washed in the blood of the Lamb”? Have you been washed by His blood? That is how you enter eternity with God. It isn’t by what you do or how you live – it is because of your relationship with the One who paid the price on the Cross. Heaven will be a wonderful place. Check out what we are told: “serve Him day and night…..no more hunger….no more thirst…..no more scorching heat….shepherd them….lead them to spring waters of Life….will wipe every last tear from their eyes”. Heaven is a wonderful place. Do you remember that song? My kids listened to it as sang by Psalty Kids when they were little. Heaven will be a very wonderful place. Make sure you will be there!
Revelation 6 talks about opening of the seals – six of the seven are described in this chapter. Jesus the Lamb opens them one by one and John describes what happens. The first seal lets out a white horse with a rider riding “off victorious, conquering right and left”. Scholars say this represents the good times of the church when faith was strong and people lived victoriously in their faith. The second seal lets out a red horse. The rider on this one set out to “take peace from the earth, setting people at each other’s throats, killing one another”. Scholars describe this as representing judgments that turn men against each other and begin a divided church. The third seal is opened and lets out a black horse. It’s rider “carried a set of scales in his hand”. Scholars say this signifies mourning and ignorance. It shows that people have moved away from faith toward other things. True religion and worship have lost their place and Christ Followers are spending time on things other than God’s Word and prayer.
The fourth seal lets out a “colorless horse, sickly pale”. That even sounds bad. Scripture says “it’s rider was death, and Hell was close on its heals…..given power to destroy a fourth of the earth by war, famine, disease and wild beasts”. This seal lets loose the force of destruction and devastation where people are ravaged and lives destroyed. The enemy is given freedom to produce all kind of calamity on the earth and wipe out a big piece of it. The fifth seal is very different. As it is ripped off, John sees “the souls of those killed because they had held firm in their witness to the Word of God”. These are the martyrs of faith – those who have been killed for their steadfast belief in God’s truth. They had laid down their lives for their faith in God’s Word. Scholars say these souls are sitting under the altar waiting for God to avenge their deaths. The chapter ends with the sixth seal being ripped off. A great “earthquake….sun turned black….moon all bloody….stars falling….sky shaken…..mountains sliding” takes place. Things were shook up. All those things that man put faith in – money and self – don’t matter at all when things like this happen. There was “pandemonium” as people fled and tried to find safety. But there will be no hiding when God allows His wrath to run rampant.
There is one more seal to be ripped off but that doesn’t happen til chapter 8. These six signify a series of events that will happen in God’s timing. The place for us to be is securely in God’s hands. We need to stay close to Him, firm in His truth, willing to stand for it even to the point of death. We must stay true to His Word. Do you know it so you can stand on it?
Revelation 5 is all about Jesus. John’s vision sees “a scroll in the right hand of the One seated on the throne”. God is sitting in His rightful place on the throne with a scroll but no one can open it to read it. John weeps because no one can read and explain what is contained on its pages which were full as it “was written on both sides”. But as there was weeping and consternation – someone says “He can open the scroll, can rip through the seven seals” – and that someone was Jesus. Jesus is the mediator between God and man – He sits in heaven with the Father and mediates on our behalf. Scripture tells us that clearly, and here in Revelation He is filling that role again as the One who can open and read the scroll.
Scripture tells us that around the Throne were the leaders and there in the middle of it all “was a Lamb, slaughtered but standing”. Isn’t it interesting that even in heaven, Jesus is still humble and not walking around strutting His position or power. After all, He is the Son of God – if anyone has the right to call focus on their position – it is Jesus. But He stays the sacrificial Lamb because He is the payment for the sin of humanity. There are a couple of great songs that focus on this – Worthy is the Lamb and Revelation Song – which capture the truth about Jesus and His place in heaven. We learn that they “fell down and worshiped the Lamb”. There were “prayers of God’s holy people…..they sang a new song” and they just worshiped the Lamb. There is little question that we will spend a lot of eternity worshiping the Father and Son. But scripture tells us why and gives us a great picture of just how important this will be. It tells us that Jesus “bought them back from all over the earth….brought them back for God”. Do you think about this truth? Jesus paid a price to brign us to the Father. He shed His blood on the cross to free us from sin. This is no little sacrifice – He gave all so we could come to the Father. So their worship, and ours today, is definitely justified and required. “The slain Lamb is worthy! Take the power, the wealth, the wisdom, the strength, take the honor, the glory the blessing”. It is all in Jesus! He is worthy. The slain Lamb is more than worthy. We need to begin now to recognize just how blessed we are as Christ Followers and get on our knees in praise!
Revelation 4 takes us to a glimpse at heaven. John has just written the past two chapters to the seven churches and given them a list of things they were doing well, and not so well. Now he gets a vision of “a door open into Heaven”. What a glorious opportunity – to hear him describe what is to come for those who follow Christ. Do you ponder heaven? Have you got security in where your future will be spent? Heaven is a wonderful place and John gives us a bit of a glimpse of what to expect. As he enters he is “caught up at once in deep worship”. We will spend our time worshipping God when we get to heaven. That is a significant part of what will happen. No time like the present to begin practicing for that. God desires our worship now. We need to realize as John tells us that there is “a throne set in heaven with One seated on the throne”. There is one God and He is worthy of our praise. He is the Creator. He is in control. He is God. His throne will be circled “with twenty-four elders seated”. This likely represents the whole church of Christ Followers. They are seated but “fall prostrate” whenever “glory and honor and thanks” is given to God. They are actively engaged in worship. Sounds like a lot of up and down for those folks.
“Lightning flash and thunder crash pulsed from the throne….like a clear crystal sea”. It will be a magnificent place. We will have never experienced anything like it – even compared to the greatest of God’s creation we may experience here on this planet – heaven will be far superior and beyond our imagination. John writes of the “seven fire blazing torches” which scholars believe are the gifts God gave to Christ Followers in the church to do the work of the ministry. And he also writes of “four animals….each with six wings…..all eyes….chanted day and night never taking a break”. Makes me tired just thinking about it. Some scholars believe these represent true ministers of the gospel – folks who stay vigilant in taking the Truth to all the world. They never stop praising God and telling of His love. Check out what John tells us they are chanting: “Holy, holy, holy is God our Master, Sovereign strong, the WAS, the IS, the COMING”. I love how the Message version puts this. These beasts are praising God. We tend to identify beasts as some ugly out of control being. I think they will rather be unbelievably beautiful and pleasing to God. They move quickly and see all. They are focused on praising God. That is the common theme in John’s description of his vision here – everyone is praising God. It lines up with what scripture tells us elsewhere that someday “every tongue will confess and every knee will bow that Jesus Christ is Lord”. Heaven is going to be a wonderful place. Jesus went there to prepare it for us. The only question is – will you be spending eternity there? If you aren’t sure, it is time to get that dealt with. There is no guarantee you will have tomorrow to take care of that very important business. Make sure today!