Thursday, December 29, 2016

"It all comes down to THIS!"

Day #365

Scripture Reading:  Revelation 18 - 22 ...

Jesus IS coming again, but first, evil and everything associated with Satan and his kingdom must be utterly and totally destroyed.  "Babylon the Great" may be a literal city, but it also represents all the evil in the world that opposes God and His kingdom. It is the opposite of the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem, that will come to earth.  Chapter 18, verse 2 is actually a quote from Isaiah 21:9: “Babylon has fallen, has fallen!  All the images of its gods lie shattered on the ground!"  So now John writes, "Fallen!  Fallen is Babylon the Great! ... the kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries" (18:2-3).

The economic systems at work in our world today have become interdependent and may “crash” at any moment.  “Babylon’s fall” will be orchestrated by God Himself. The Antichrist and those who follow him will attempt to hold on, to endure, in spite of the Rapture of the Church and the worldwide effect of God's judgments, but now they fall.  "In one day her plagues will overtake her; death, mourning and famine.  She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her" (18:8).  So John announces, "Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power!  In one hour your doom has come!" (18:10).

What brings great sorrow to those who do not know God brings great joy to those who by His grace have been delivered from His judgment through faith in Christ.  "After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting, 'Hallelujah!  Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are His judgments!'" (19:1).  In heaven the wedding supper of the Lamb is celebrated as the saints and angels gather around the throne in worship!  

Now the time has come for Jesus to return to the earth with His angelic army to defeat the Antichrist and the False Prophet and all who follow them.  Chapter 19:11-21 gives us some of the details, and then it begins ... the Millennium, the thousand-year reign of Christ upon the earth that the prophets spoke about ... the time when Jesus, the Christ, God's Anointed (Psalm 2) will reign over all the nations (Zechariah 14) with an iron scepter (Psalm 2:9; Revelation 2:27, 12:5, 19:15).  Those who were put to death by the Antichrist now reign with Christ as Satan is bound.  

At the end of the thousand years Satan is released to deceive the nations once more (those who have lived under Christ's reign and yet have not believed in Him), but God sends fire down from heaven (literally) to destroy them and Satan himself is thrown into the lake of burning sulfur where he will be tormented forever and ever.  The final declaration of God's judgment is made public (20:11-15) and then it happens:  the holy city, the new Jerusalem, comes down from heaven and "now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them.  They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (21:3-5).

Political and religious rulers today speak of a "new world order," but it is not THIS new order they are talking about ... it is Babylon!  Only GOD will bring in this new world order by the power of His Word.  As John sees the city of God he writes, "I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.  The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp" (21:22-23).  And notice something else:  "Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life" (21:27).

For these, for you who have trusted in Christ Jesus, who have been born again by His Spirit, who have believed in Him for forgiveness and eternal life, THIS is our future!!  "No longer will there be any curse.  The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants will serve Him.  They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.  There will be no more night.  They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light.  And they will reign forever and ever!" (22:3-5).

As John sees these visions, Jesus says, "Behold, I am coming soon!  Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book. ...  Behold, I am coming soon!  My reward is with Me, and I will give to everyone according to what He has done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.  Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life" (22:12-13).  Can there be any other response for those who know the Lord Jesus other than, "COME!"?

"The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the FREE gift of the water of life. ...  AMEN!  Come, Lord Jesus!  The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people.  Amen!" (22:17-21).  

Everything that is going on in your life and in the world today comes down to this:  do you know Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord?  Have you put your trust in Him?  Have you repented of sin and are you living for Him today, seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness?  This life is temporary, but what lies ahead is eternal ... either eternal life or eternal death.  May the Spirit of God confirm in your heart and your mind that you are His, or may He call you today to lay down your life at His feet and come to know that your name is written in His book of life.

To GOD be the glory, now and forever!!

"O Lord, my God, my Father in heaven, it is with the sure and certain hope of salvation that I come to You, praising You for who You are and thanking You for Your gift of salvation through Your Son Jesus Christ!  Your Word is alive and Your Spirit has given me understanding so that with all who believe in Jesus I KNOW that I have eternal life, a gift received because of Your wonderful grace to me.  Father, in the midst of all that is happening today and all that will happen tomorrow and in the future, I place my trust in You, my Savior and my God, in Jesus' name, Amen"

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

"The battle rages on, but VICTORY is assured!"

Day #364

Scripture Reading:  Revelation 12 - 17 …

Throughout John’s “Revelation” God gives a picture of the battle between Jesus Christ and Satan, the "great dragon" ... "the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray" (12:9).  Only faith in Jesus Christ, a faith that leads to "patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints" (13:10; 14:12), provides believers hope that is sure and certain and an escape from God's judgment as we rely on our Father in heaven for protection and ultimately, VICTORY!!

As the seals of the scroll of God's judgment are removed in Chapter 6, the Antichrist sets out to conquer those who would oppose him and to establish HIS rule (Satan's rule) on the earth.  Chapter 7 reveals the "sealing" of 144,000 Jews or descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, from the tribes of Israel, and then the Rapture of the Church, that great multitude from every people, tribe, nation and tongue.  Then God begins to pour out HIS judgment on the Antichrist and those who follow him (Chapters 8-9).  As the angels sound the trumpets, God's judgment begins.

To understand the sequence of events you must take into account Matthew 24:1-33 and other Scriptures that speak of these things.  A significant event in Daniel's account (Daniel 9:25-27), the breaking of a covenant with Israel and others, is repeated by Jesus in Matthew 24:15-28.  It is AFTER this, which takes place in the middle of Daniel’s “70th week,” the final seven years, that the Great Tribulation begins, and it is this period that is being described in Revelation 12-13.  

The "woman" described in the first few verses of Chapter 12 is beyond question, Israel, as she "gives birth to a son, a male child, who will rule the nations with an iron scepter" (12:5).  God protects the woman for 1,260 days or 42 months (12:6; 13:5).  God's supernatural protection of a remnant from Israel during this time fulfills His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  All these events center around Israel and Jerusalem.  To understand these things figuratively, only as symbols, is to miss the very purpose of God to glorify Himself by keeping His covenant with Abraham and his descendants.

Chapters 12-14 are an interlude where John goes back to the birth of Jesus and then gives details of some of the events that will take place as the seals of Chapter 6 are opened, before and during the trumpet judgments of Chapters 8 and 9.  John pictures the war in heaven when Satan is cast down to earth (12:7-9) and then fast forwards to the climactic battle that will be waged at the end of time.  As he has done for centuries, Satan "pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child" (12:13), but when he sees that God is protecting her, "the dragon … went off to make war against the rest of her offspring - those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus" (12:17).  That's Christians!!  It is impossible to see how Satan, through the Antichrist, can persecute Christians if we have been “raptured” before any of this takes place.

The "beast" of Chapter 13 is the Antichrist, who becomes possessed by Satan.  He arises out of the governments of the world and is given authority for 42 months (1260 days - 13:5).  "He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them" (13:7 … the 5th seal - 6:9-11).  "All the inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast - all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain …" (13:8).  God will protect a remnant of Israel and He will give strength to Christians to endure the most severe persecution the world has ever seen.  And along with the beast will be a second "beast" (13:11-17), later called the "false prophet" (16:13).  While the Antichrist is a political ruler, the false prophet is a religious leader.  They will form an unholy alliance and will deceive all those whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb (13:8).  People will be forced to receive a mark in order to buy or sell.

For the first time in history, the things spoken of in the book of Revelation are not only possible, but close to happening.  Already today millions are being deceived by voices that cry out for the uniting of all religions and all governments through the United Nations and other organizations and even the visible church!!  This will happen under the direction of the Antichrist.

Chapter 14 gives a second picture of the 144,000, who had been sealed with the Father's name and the name of the Lamb, as they worship God, and then more pictures of God's wrath falling on the Antichrist and those who follow him as they are thrown into "the great winepress of God's wrath" (14:19).  As
Chapter 15 begins John picks up the sequence of events which began in Chapters 8-9.  
With the Church raptured, the trumpet judgments have brought devastation on the earth.  Now John writes, "I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign:  seven angels with the seven last plagues - last, because with them God's wrath is completed" (15:1).  As with the trumpet judgments, the events of Chapter 16 take place through the direct actions of the angels whom God sent to carry them out.  In spite of the horrible judgments that are almost beyond description, the remainder of mankind "refused to repent" (16:9, 11).  And so the "unholy trinity," Satan, the Beast and the False Prophet (16:13), "go out to the kings of the whole world to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty" (16:14).

This is battle of Armageddon (16:16).  It is then that Jesus will return from heaven with His heavenly army (19:11-21).  More details are given in Chapters 17-18, as John speaks of "the woman on the beast" and the Antichrist, "the beast who once was, and now is not," who "is going to his destruction”  (17:11). GOD is in control … the Lamb reigns.  "God has put it into their hearts to accomplish His purpose (JUDGMENT) by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, UNTIL God's words are fulfilled" (17:17).

Evil exists and God's judgment against evil is assured, but "everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God ... This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world?  Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God" (I John 5:1,4).  The battle rages on, but the victory belongs to US, to those who are united to Christ by faith!  

"Lord God Almighty, in Your strength and for Your glory I will stand firm in my faith, trusting Your Spirit to equip me to persevere.  I thank You for revealing Your plan to destroy evil and to bring judgment upon those who stand opposed to Jesus and His kingdom.  By faith, I declare victory, in Jesus' name, Amen"

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

"God's wrath ... and our only hope!"

Day #363

Scripture Reading:  Revelation 8 - 11 …

The prophet Zephaniah writes, "Be silent before the Sovereign LORD, for the day of the LORD is near" (Zephaniah 1:7).  He then goes on to describe that "day" as a day of judgment unparalleled in the history of mankind.  "That day will be a day of wrath … " (Zephaniah 1:15).  "He will make a sudden end of all who live in the earth" (Zephaniah 1:18).  God's wrath begins in Chapter 8 of John's Revelation, as there is "silence in heaven for about half an hour" (8:1).  Notice the difference between the actions of the Antichrist in Chapter 6, as the Lamb opens the seals to the scroll, and what happens in Chapters 8-9, where it is now God's angels who carry out His wrath upon the earth.  One-by-one they sound their trumpets and God sends judgment upon the inhabitants of the earth.  The result:  "A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths … the rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands …" (9:18,20).

Such will be the wrath of God that will be poured out on the earth prior to Jesus' return in glory!  Paul writes in Romans 1:18, "the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness," but the fullness of God's wrath is being stored up "for the day of God's wrath, when His righteous judgment will be revealed" (Romans 2:5).  God's wrath is not a pleasant topic and many in the church today choose not to consider it or to talk about it, but His wrath will come!  

God offers an escape from His wrath through faith in Jesus Christ.  That IS the Gospel!!  Jesus controls the events of Revelation, from beginning to end.  That is a great comfort for those of us who know Him, who have believed in Him, who love Him, but for all who have not heard or believed, only wrath and judgment lies ahead.  If eternal life has any meaning, the opposite must exist:  eternal death.  And the Bible says it does.  JESUS says it does!  Revelation is the "uncovering," the revealing of God's plan for the deliverance of the final generation of believers and the pouring out of His wrath on the rest of mankind.  Jesus promises that those who ENDURE, who persevere to the end will receive the result of their faith:  eternal life in the new heaven and the new earth!

Chapter 10 is an interesting message that at once reveals both God's power and the specific nature of His plan.  He could carry out His judgment in a million different ways.  There are thousands of scenarios that could be played out on the stage of planet earth.  The "seven thunders" gives us a glimpse of another possible scenario, but God says, "Enough!"  "There will be no more delay!  But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound His trumpet the mystery of God will be accomplished just as He announced to His servants the prophets" (10:6-7).  The "mystery" of God is the establishment of His kingdom on the earth and that will be accomplished as the seventh trumpet sounds and the final bowls of God's wrath are poured out (Chapters 15-16 through Chapter 19).

John is given a vision of the last "42 months," "1,260 days" through the revelation of the "two witnesses" (11:3-14).  In Chapter 8, verse 13, the last three trumpets are described as three "woes."  Chapter 9, verse 12, says the first woe (the fifth trumpet) is passed, and Chapter 11, verse 14 says the second woe (the sixth trumpet) is passed.  Chapter 10:1 through Chapter 11:13 is an interlude that gives additional information.  Verse 14 would be better understood taken with verse 15 as John writes, "The second woe has passed; the third woe is coming soon.  The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven which said, 'The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign for ever and ever'" (11:14-15).

Note what the twenty-four elders then say as they fall on their faces and worship God:  "We give thanks to You, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because You have taken your great power and have begun to reign.  The nations were angry; and Your wrath has come.  The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding Your servants the prophets and Your saints and those who reverence Your name, both small and great - AND for destroying those who destroy the earth" (11:15). At the sounding of the seventh trumpet the final scenes unfold, culminating in the return of Jesus Christ, described in Chapter 19:11-21.  No doubt is left concerning the outcome of all that has happened on the earth up to this time.  Jesus Christ shall reign!!

You and I can see the ongoing struggle between good and evil, between God and Satan, between those who know the true God through faith in Jesus Christ and those who do not.  The Bible, God’s Word spoken to God’s people, stands against all the other philosophies and religions of man and points to the ONE Who declared Himself to be King, and gave testimony to His power by rising from the grave.  No one else … no one else has done so.  The Antichrist will attempt to imitate Christ's resurrection and God will allow the people on earth at the time to be deceived, but we who believe will know the truth because we have the unchanging, infallible Word of the living God!!  Pray that His Spirit gives you wisdom to read and to understand these things.  Some of the details are difficult to understand, but with certainty we have the outline of the events to come.  

Stand firm in your faith in Jesus Christ.  Watch and wait, as Jesus told His disciples to do, and prepare for His coming by serving Him and proclaiming the Gospel at every opportunity.  Then when Jesus comes in glory you will hear Him say, "Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).  AMEN!  Come Lord Jesus!!

"Heavenly Father, I come to You with joy and peace and hope, trusting in Your unfailing love and the promise of eternal life that is mine through faith in Your Son Jesus Christ.  Reading of Your coming judgment stirs within me the urgency to proclaim the Gospel, offering forgiveness and deliverance from Your wrath through Jesus' blood, shed on the cross so long ago for sinners like me.  Give me strength to stand on Your Word, believing all that it says, and give me grace to endure the temporary trials of this life, knowing that I will live forever in Your perfect presence.  To You be glory and honor and praise, in Jesus' name, Amen"

Monday, December 26, 2016

"It will all happen just as God has said!"

Day #362

Scripture Reading:  Revelation 6 - 7 ...

Those who believe that Revelation is an allegory, not to be taken literally, believe that the "seals," the "trumpet judgments," and the "bowls of wrath" are three series of events all talking about the same thing, rather than a progression of judgment upon the earth.  Such an understanding, however, does not fit with what is revealed by each of these separate series of events.  We begin in Chapter 6, with the opening of the seals ... the "prelude" to God's judgment, which begins in Chapter 8.  While some say the wrath of God begins with the opening of the seals, it is vitally important to see the difference between the “trumpet judgments” of Chapters 8-9, along with the "bowls of God's wrath" in Chapters 15-16, and the six seals of Chapter 6.  These seals are NOT the "day of the Lord wrath" predicted by the prophets.  Rather, they are the work of the Antichrist.

While God is still in control and the Lamb, Jesus, opens the seals, it is the Antichrist who is the "rider on the white horse" (6:2).  The first four seals describe events during the first three-and-one-half years of Daniel's "70th week" (Daniel 9:25-27).   It is impossible to understand Revelation unless the events of Chapter 6 are seen as leading up to the Rapture of believers and the beginning of God's judgment, some time during the last three-and-one-half years prior to Jesus' coming.  The idea that the Rapture is the next thing on the prophetic calendar leaves many vulnerable to the idea that we who believe will not go through the time of great tribulation that will come upon the earth just prior to the return of Jesus.

The opening of the fifth seal (6:9-11) reveals those who have been martyred during the Great Tribulation asking God, "How long?"  God answers, "Until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed" (6:11).  Then comes the opening of the sixth seal, just prior to the beginning of the "day of the Lord"  - GOD's wrath on the rest of mankind.  The opening of the sixth seal is parallel to Jesus' description of the events following the Great Tribulation and just prior to the Rapture, Matthew 24:29.  Isaiah describes the same events in Isaiah 13:10 and Joel describes the same events in Joel 2:30-31.  There will be significant and unmistakable signs in the sky just prior to the Rapture of true believers, and the Rapture will be followed by ... GOD's wrath!!

"THEN the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains.  They called to the mountains and the rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!  For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?'" (6:15-17).   God's judgment will come upon the earth and all who are not washed by the blood of Jesus, who have not believed in Him, will face His judgment.  

As Paul wrote in I Thessalonians 4 and 5, the order of events at the end is the RAPTURE (the gathering together of those who are in Christ), and THEN the pouring out of God's wrath.  "For God did not appoint US (believers) to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Thessalonians 5:9).  Since Jesus endured God's wrath in our place on the cross, God's justice is satisfied for all who believe and only those who have not believed will face His coming judgment.

As Chapter 6 revealed the events leading up to the Rapture, a brief overview helps to put things in place.  Believing that there will be a seven-year period just prior to Jesus' return to defeat the Antichrist and to establish His kingdom on the earth prior to the Millennium (the 1,000-year reign of Jesus on the earth) according to Daniel 9:25-27, the opening of the seals of the scroll containing God's judgment begins this period.  

The first four seals take place during the first three and one-half years of the seven-year period described by Daniel.  Then, in "the middle of the seven" the Antichrist shows his true colors and attempts to destroy the Jews (Satan has been trying to do that for thousands of years!), and when that doesn't work (more about that in Chapter 13), he turns his attention to believers.  The mistake many make is in understanding the entire seven years to be the Great Tribulation and the time of God's wrath - the "Day of the Lord.”  Believers will still be present during the first three and one-half years of Daniel’s final seven-year period.  This is not God's "day of the Lord” wrath. Though the Antichrist consolidates his power through force during this time, he offers peace to Israel and others, attempting to deceive mankind into believing he wants what is best for all mankind.  Things change midway through the period!

Jesus describes this in Matthew 24:15-28 and Paul describes it in II Thessalonians 2:9-12.  It is important to understand that the sequence of time goes from Chapters 6 - 11 … followed by an "Interlude" (Chapters 11-14), and then picks up in Chapters 15 - 22.  As for the timing of the seven-year period, the "middle" of the period comes somewhere between the fourth and fifth seals, as the fifth seal (6:9-11) describes "the Great Tribulation," which includes the martyrdom of many believers, followed by the Rapture.  John describes the opening of the sixth seal (6:12-17) as occurring just before the wrath of God (the “day of the Lord”) begins (8:1).

The Antichrist makes a covenant with Israel and others and begins his reign, then breaks his covenant and attacks Jerusalem and Israel (God protects "the woman" for the next 1260 days or 3 1/2 years - 12:1-6), and then persecutes believers - the Church (12:17; 13:10) until the Rapture.  Chapter 7 describes the "sealing" of 144,000 from the tribes of Israel, and THEN the Rapture of the Church, "a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb" (7:9).  One of the elders asked John where this great multitude came from and the answer came, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (7:14).

The confirmation of a treaty, the opening of the first four seals, the breaking of the treaty (covenant), the Great Tribulation, the Rapture and the Day of the Lord, then God’s wrath.  It will all happen just as God has said! 

“Almighty, everlasting God, my Father in heaven, thank You for the assurance of eternal life through Your Son, Jesus Christ!  I praise You for revealing Your plan in Your Word and that no matter what happens, through faith in Jesus it is well with my soul!  In Jesus’ name, Amen!”