Revelation 11 is the tipping point for how the end times come down. There is a period of 3.5 years – 1260 days – when two witnesses will prophecy. During that time the holy city will be trampled. Upon completion of the prophetic period, we are told “the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them”. This is the battle with the “two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth”. It appears that evil has won.
But wait, there’s more. The bodies will be left lying and not placed in tombs so “the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies”. The story is not over. Because at that time – 3.5 days after apparently being killed – “a breath of life from God entered them”. Seems like a familiar story doesn’t it? God calls them to heaven and they depart. “Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever”. This is what we have been waiting for – Jesus is taking over the earth.
There is worship and glory and honor and praise as Jesus takes His great power and begins His reign. And now it is judgment time…..”the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth”. The battle is over and it is time to hand out the punishment and rewards. There are three camps that are described here. The dead – those who don’t know Jesus and have not dealt with the sin that will cause them eternal separation from God and an eternity in hell. The servants, prophets and saints who will spend eternity in heaven with the Father and be rewarded for their faith and acceptance of God’s gift of salvation. The destroyers of the earth – Satan and his evil demons who have been wreaking havoc and battling with Christ and the forces of good. They will be cast into their final resting place in the lake of fire. Are you ready for this day? Have you dealt with sin and got right with God? If not, judgment will be a very unpleasant place. Even if you have it is important to realize that how we live on our journey through life matters as it will determine our rewards. Are you ready for these days and events? If not, now is the time to get that way.
Revelation 10 has the seventh angel coming down from heaven. He had “a rainbow over his head…..his face was like the sun…..his legs like pillars of fire”. In his hand he had a “little open scroll” and he stood with his “right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land”. That had to be quite a sight as the angel stood there straddling between land and sea. As the angel spoke there were thunders sounding and his voice was like that of a roaring lion. He instructs the writer not to write down what has been said by the thunders.
The angel’s attention shifts to that of heaven and he raises his right hand to God who is described as the one who:
- “lives forever and ever
- Created heaven
- Created earth
- Created the sea”
God is the all-powerful creator and the One how has placed all things where they are. And the angel announces there will be “no more delay”. The time has come for “the mystery of God” to be fulfilled.
There are many in this world we live in whom don’t believe that the end times will really happen – that there is no heaven and hell – that God is a loving God that will just allow everyone into heaven when it comes down to that time. I don’t see that thinking as lining up with what scripture tells us. God is pretty clear throughout that sin is a problem we have to deal with. That there is a constant battle between good and evil. That things will end and there will be some rather nasty things that happen as part of that final chapter. Are you ready? Do you know what your future holds?
Revelation 9 continues as the seven angels pour their destruction out upon the earth. The first four angels are recorded in chapter 8, and we pick up with angel five coming to work.
Angel – action – outcome
Fifth angel – a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit – locusts….given….the power of scorpions….not to harm the grass….only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads….allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them….people will seek death and will not find it…. long to die, but death will flee from them
Sixth angel – Release the four angels – to kill a third of mankind….mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand…. three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths
So angels five and six were pretty nasty. They torment and then kill a whole lot of people – 1/3 of mankind – and not in a very nice or easy way. Five months of torment and then death by plagues. Not an appealing thought to say the least.
But the amazing thing is what scripture tells us next: “The rest of mankind….not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols….nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts”. So they have seen the death and torment but yet they are unwilling to repent and turn from sin and idolatry. Hello – that is a really stupid response to what is happening here. But it does show just how depraved the mind of man can become. Sin can get a grasp on us to the point we lose common sense. It only makes sense that seeing the kind of destruction that has been described via the first six angels should grab ones attention – but as it is written – they don’t get it. They keep doing what they have always done and will pay a huge price for that decision. God cannot tolerate sin. It won’t be ignored or overlooked. Hell is a real place. Death will happen. It is time to get your life on track and tuned in with God!
Revelation 8 has the seventh and final seal being opened by the Lamb. When opened, there was “silence in heaven for about half an hour”. This was the big one – and everything stopped including the uncountable people worshipping. Seven angels stood before God. And they began to blow their trumpet and let the destruction begin. It is interesting that with each trumpet blast by each of the first four angels – disastrous outcomes occurred to 1/3 of the things it touched.
Angel – action – outcome
First angel – hail and fire, mixed with blood – a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up
Second angel – a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea – a third of the sea became blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed
Third angel – a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water – a third of the waters became wormwood, and many people died from the water, because it had been made bitter
Fourth angel – a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars – a third of their light might be darkened, and a third of the day might be kept from shining, and likewise a third of the night
There were some major things happening as the angels blew their trumpets. Destruction is happening. But wait, there’s more. As an eagle flew crying in a loud voice “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth”. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. We have only seen the impact from the first four of the seven angels. More to come in the following chapters.
Revelation 7 brings us to the point of being post tribulation. One thing that is recorded here are the 144,000 that are sealed. That is 12,000 each from the 12 tribes of Israel that are going to be protected. These are going to be “sealed as the servants of God of their foreheads”. Remember that from a long time ago when the doorposts were marked so they could be spared? And following this “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb”. Those who will come to worship the Lamb will be from every nation and tribe and language. At His name – all will fall and worship Him.
The worship goes on with these words: “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever”. It seems in every chapter the length of these words grow just a bit. Can you imagine a multitude blessing our Jesus? Now is a great time to begin practicing what our future holds as a Christ Follower. We will be lifting His name on high. We will be serving Him as we spend eternity in heaven.
And for what does He deserve such blessing and worship? He is the Son of God but He won victory over evil and has through the grace of His shed blood provided us with eternal life. What is the result of our relationship with Jesus? “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”. His blood will wash us white as snow. His blood covers all our sin. He makes us acceptable in God’s sight. As His blood covers our sin – God no longer sees that but the covering of our Savior. What a Savior we have in Jesus. “The Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes”. Are you following Jesus? He is leading us to living water. Make sure you aren’t off in the weeds and failing to follow Him.
Revelation 6 takes us deeply into symbolic things. Jesus begins to open the seven seals. With each of the first four, a horse and rider is described:
Seal One – white horse – bow, crown with the cry to conquer
Seal Two – red horse – take peace from earth, sword
Seal Three – black horse – pair of scales in his hand
Seal Four – pale horse – Death and Hades followed him
These four were “given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth”. They are empowered to destroy people – with sword, famine, pestilence and beasts. Not something to look forward to. The only good news here is they are only empowered on a fourth of the earth.
As the fifth seal comes off “the souls of those who had been slain for the Word of God and for the witness they bore” are showing. It isn’t quite time for them to join things yet, so they are asked to wait a little longer. Any chance that you might be slain for your belief in God’s Word? Does anyone even know you believe? How about your testimony? Have you ever borne witness to God and His salvation? Does anyone know you are a Christ Follower? Because of what you say? Too often we want to do our talking by how we live and hope people can figure it out. Our life absolutely has to line up with our faith. But witnessing is more than just good living. There are lots of folks who appear to be Christians who are not going to be in heaven. We have to speak our faith as well as live it.
Then come the sixth seal. It contained destruction – an earthquake, black sun, blood moon, falling stars, vanishing sky, removed mountains and islands. God’s ultimate power was released and everyone knew it – the most powerful on earth – kings and great ones and generals and rich and powerful folks – they all saw that God was in control. So they “hid themselves in caves and among the rocks”. Not so proud and powerful when compared to the power of the Almighty God. There is fear and rightfully so. “The great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand”. Here is the reality my friends. Every person on this planet will face God. We will have to give account. From President and King, to you and me, we all will stand before Him and face judgment based on what we have done with our sins (what we did with Jesus) and what we did with the gifts He gave us (how we have lived). We will give an account. What does your scorecard look like? Have you done well? Or do you need to run in fear like these powerful people did? Now is the time to get it right. Then will be too late!
Revelation 5 gives us a glimpse at the entrance of Jesus into God’s presence as John describes his vision. God on His throne is holding a scroll in His hand but no one is worthy to open the scroll and break its seven seals. But then comes “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” – the One who is worthy “so that he can open the scroll”. Jesus is the One. And He appeared as “a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain” as He is in the presence of the creatures and elders and God. Immediately those who had been praising God “fell down before the Lamb….sang a new song”. Jesus is now the center of attention and praise. He is also worthy.
The song they sang was “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth”. Do you realize the outcome of the death of Christ on the Cross. Not only did He die to set us free from our sin and ransom us from death, but that willingness to be slain covered every person on the planet – every tribe, language, people and nation. Jesus paid it all for all. It was absolute and complete. His death covered the sin of this farm boy in Iowa to some tribal person in Africa to someone in the cold of Siberia. Jesus paid it all. And He made a Kingdom and will allow us to reign with Him on earth. We are not only set free – we are Kingdom people who will rule with Him.
There were many praising – “numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands” – too many to count. But on they went. They focused on how worthy He was. “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them”. Sounds pretty familiar to the praise and honor that they were giving to God. But here we see scripture fulfilled as every creature in heaven and on earth is worshipping Jesus. Not some – but every – just as scripture tells us. And it continues “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever”. Are you part of the worship team? Are you giving Him honor and blessing and glory and praise? He deserves our worship and adoration. He paid the ultimate price for you and me. He will receive His just reward – but we should get on board that train now!
Revelation 4 begins to get into the details of what heaven will be like. I don’t claim to be a scholar on Revelation – so I am not going to try and explain what all the symbolism means. But I can call out the obvious things. We are told as John is given a glimpse into what is to come that “a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne”. There is one God and one throne. And He sits on it. Heaven is not a democracy – it is not ruled by a committee – it is God’s domain – always has been – always will be. He created it and is the One who sits in the throne ruling there. He has surrounded Himself with 24 other thrones with elders sitting there in submission and service to Him. But make no mistake – God is in control in heaven and here on earth as well. His power is making a statement as “flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder” are taking place and fire burns alongside the ‘sea of glass, like crystal”. This is God’s turf and His power is active and alive there.
There are other creatures in His realm. Scripture tells us there are four creatures like a lion, ox, man, and eagle who are clothed with six wings and full of eyes. They have one role, to “give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne”. These creatures are powerful but they are focused on one thing – honoring the One who sits on the throne. They “never cease to say,”Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come””. Can you hear them saying or singing? Holy, holy, holy…..the sound rings out in praise of God. That is the atmosphere of heaven. Focus, total focus, 24X7X365 focus on God and who He is. His creation calls out His glory.
The twenty four elders area also part of that throng. “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created”. God is worthy my friends. And there is no time like the present for us to begin practicing our way of giving Him the glory and honor and praise that is due. He will receive it. Scripture tells us that every knee will bow and tongue confess – it isn’t a matter of if we will sing His praises. The question is when we will get on board. Now is the time to begin. We too need to “fall down before Him” like those in heaven are doing – to join the mob that is praising God – and to give Him His due. He deserves our honor. He will be given the glory. He has the power. The only question is when we will finally figure it out and put Him where He belongs – as the only One on the throne of life and the world we live in. He is sitting there already in heaven. What are you waiting for with your life today?
God continues his warnings to the seven churches in Revelation 3. First to the church at Sardis he warns them “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God”. Our life defines us in our relationship with God. The first key is what we have done with Jesus. The second is how we live. This church is dead. They are not living as Christ Followers but rather their own passions. They have not completed the work God had for them to accomplish. Then these familiar words come for how to fix it: “Remember, then, what you received and heard. keep it, and repent”. As God gives instruction on how to repair what has gone wrong – it continues to come down to three things – remember, do, and repent. We need to know God’s Word as it gives us direction for how to live. We need to repent from our sin and turn our life around. We need to just do it – to live life according to God’s plan and not our own.
To the church at Philadelphia John has much better news. “‘I know your works….you have kept my word and have not denied my name”. God has seen this church living as He desires. They have kept His Word and been faithful to His name. God is clear that this church will be honored and loved deeply by Himself. Then we find out the real benefit that this church will receive: “because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth”. Did you catch that? This church will get a pass from the trials that are coming BECAUSE they kept God’s Word and lived it. Cause and effect once again. How we live definitely matters. John does have one piece of instruction for this church: “Hold fast what you have”. Just keep doing what you have been doing. Talk about a different report card than the other churches have had – this church is walking God’s way.
The final church is at Laodicea. They have a real problem. “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth”. If you ever thought God doesn’t care about how we live in our relationship with Him – this should remove all doubt. God can’t stand people who are wishy washy and going through the motions. He cannot tolerate the non-committed. He wants us all in – living boldly with Him and for Him. You can’t be a part time Christ Follower and make God happy. It isn’t just a Sunday morning thing – it has to consume us every moment and be our life. God is clear that life will not be easy: “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent”. God is about correcting us and helping us walk with Him. The sooner we line up the less reproof and correction we will endure. If we are zealous about living His way, and we repent from areas we are off track – we shorten that correction time. God is interested in us learning how to live His way – and we can make it much simpler on ourselves if we identify those lessons and learn them quickly. Sometimes we make it last longer because we refuse to learn and repent.
The final truth that John writes to the churches is one we need to pay attention to. It reminds us that God is there continually waiting to come into our life and be part of it. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me”. God is waiting for us to allow Him into our life. He doesn’t barge in – He waits to be invited. Are you opening your life to Him? Have you invited Him in? Jesus stands there ready to enter your life as Savior, and then our Triune God continues to wait patiently to be invited in time and again to help lead us as we live life daily. Are you an open door? Or have you shut things up to God and decided to go it alone, at least until you get yourself into big trouble? God is knocking – are you answering?
Revelation 2 is written to the first of the seven churches. In each case, there is some good news and some bad news. God calls out the reality that “I know your works” – we don’t live in secret my friends. God knows and is paying attention. He is not too busy to notice or care about our life and what happens day by day. To the church at Ephesus – He is pleased with their “patient endurance….cannot bear with those who are evil….tested those who call themselves apostles….found them to be false”. The church is making sure there are not any false teachers in the midst. But then God calls them out this way: “you have abandoned the love you had at first”. Other versions read that they had abandoned their first love. They had grown dim, fallen away from their pursuit of the Father, and were focused on themselves. Does God still hold the same place in your life as He did when you became a Christ Follower? Actually our love for Him should be growing and our relationship going deeper each day. That wasn’t the case for the church in Ephesus, and we may fall into that camp as well. The repair – “remember…..repent…..do the works you did at first”.
This isn’t rocket science. If we want to have a deepening relationship with anyone, and particularly God, we need to stop and spend some time remembering. His love, His grace, His mercy, His power, His faithfulness and on the list goes. Too often we allow the speed of life to push us away from God’s character. Once we find our right place in relationship with God Himself, we need to repent. We will fall short. We have areas we have abandoned and fallen away. God didn’t move – we did. We need to repent – turn around and go the other way and run back to Him. We need to make Him first place again in our life. We need to put Him back on the throne. And then we need to just do it – get to work walking with Him doing the works He has prepared for us. We need to get on board His train and get involved in His ministry and get after it. That is how we restore our first love. We remember Him, we repent of our sin, and we walk with Him doing His work.
To the church at Smyrna He challenges them to “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life”. They are warned that there will be some suffering. They have already experienced some poverty and slander but more is on the way. Life is not a cake walk. It is a vital part of our preparation for eternity though. It is how we display our faithfulness to God. The church at Pergamum has an issue with allowing some to remain part who are not walking in God’s truth. “Some there who hold the teaching of Balaam….of the Nicolaitans”. There was tolerance of false teaching in the church. In fact – it was being embraced. God doesn’t have much room for falsehood. He wants the church to put that teach out and to repent and get focused on His Word.
And then to the church at Thyatira. God again remembers “your love and faith and service and patient endurance”. Good stuff but there was a problem as well – “sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols”. It seems this church was tolerating a woman named Jezebel who was teaching and seducing folks to disobedience. One bad apple is a big problem. God expects us to put aside those who lead us astray. He does note that not all have fallen to her leadership. And to those he says “hold fast what you have”. We need to know God’s Truth and hang on to it. It won’t change. It is the same every day. That map for living is one we can be sure will take us to God. Are you walking according to His Word? That is our path – our map for living!