Revelation


I Peter 4-5 (NLT)

Discover His heart:  He will one day reward us with crowns for our faithfulness

“There she is, Miss America. There she is, your ideal……”  What little girl hasn’t dreamed of having that glittering crown placed on her head as she walks the aisle to begin her reign as Miss America.  There’s something about a crown that adds validity to a role.  One time I toured the Treasury of the former rulers of Austria, and let me say, those folks knew how to design a crown.  Extravagant crowns filled with large diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires were beautifully displayed, all behind glass and security.  No doubt the weight of each crown was excruciating, but don’t we love their beauty.  Well, one day we’ll see some crowns that could only be described as priceless. 

@ I Peter 5
“And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches…when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor.” (1,4)  The life of a pastor is often difficult with few accolades, but Peter declared a crown of glory and honor that will last forever for those faithful pastors.  How do you put a price on that?

“After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you! Yes, you are our pride and joy.” (I Thessalonians 2:19)  The crown of rejoicing will be given to those who have led others to the Lord, but I believe seeing them in heaven will be reward enough! Priceless!

“God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)  This is the crown that marks us as one who loves God, and this is the crown for which we have been waiting.  It is our identity, it is invaluable!

“And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8)  For those who are not tied to this world and its riches but looking for the return of Jesus, this crown of righteousness will be given.  More precious than gold!

These are the crowns we will receive from the Lord when He returns for us, and their worth puts all others since the beginning of time to shame.  However, I don’t think we will be displaying them in our heavenly homes or wearing them around heaven.  No, I believe we will follow the example of the 24 elders, “the twenty-four elders fall down and worship the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever). And they lay their crowns before the throne.” (Revelation 4:10)

How could we not give to Him, the One who loves us most, our prized possessions, the treasures we value most?  With all of heaven we will sing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty—the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come… You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power.” (Revelation 4:8,11) 

Moving Forward: I’m looking for Him today, staying faithful to the end and bringing along as many as I can to heaven with me.  Hoping to adorn Him with many crowns! 

Tomorrow @ Deuteronomy 13-15

I Samuel 26-31 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  His Spirit will guide us into all truth

The first time I saw a commercial on late-night television for the Psychic Hotline I laughed and wondered who would ever resort to such nonsense to receive guidance.  Well, the laugh was on me.  This billion dollar industry has entrapped countless numbers of individuals into seeking guidance from counterfeits who can only pretend to know the future rather than receiving direction from the Source of all truth. It’s hard to imagine why the chosen King of Israel would do the same by contacting a counterfeit. 

@ I Samuel 28
The story found in I Samuel 28 of Saul’s visit to the witch of Endor probably saddens me more than any of his other sins.  To digress from anointed King of Israel, more handsome and stately than any other man, to a panic-stricken, desperate man is tragic.  Throughout I Samuel, we read about the steps that brought him to this dreadful position, and now Samuel, the spiritual leader of Israel is dead. The Spirit of the Lord has departed from Saul (I Samuel 16:14) and the Philistine army is ready for battle – not a good scenario.

While this appears to be a perfect time for Saul to repent and call on God to deliver Israel, this man who had known and felt the Spirit of God on his life chose to seek out a witch for help. Just as troubling is the fact that his advisers knew just where he could find one!  Godly advisers would have discouraged this abomination to God and to the king’s own law, “Saul has outlawed all the mediums and all who consult the spirits of the dead.” (9)  David certainly had it right, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly…” (Psalm 1:1, KJV)

Scholars have debated over the centuries about the appearance of Samuel.  Was he a demonic substitute for Samuel?  If so, why did the witch shriek with terror when she saw him?  She was the last one who would have been surprised by his appearance.  How did the spirit know the future?  That would imply that Satan is omniscient and knew the future regarding Saul and his sons dying the next day.  Absolutely not!  Was the appearance of dead Samuel from God?  He accurately read Saul’s mail and foretold the future regarding his death.  I have come to the conclusion that…I’m not certain, but lean towards the last thought.

If Samuel’s appearance was from God, does this give us license to consult the dead?  Not on your life!  Besides the Old Testament prohibitions, the New Testament also denounces it in Galatians 5:19-21 and in Paul’s deliverance of a woman who practiced sorcery in Acts 16:16-18.  The big question to answer is why would we need to consult the dead?

When I understand that Jesus holds the keys of death and the grave (Revelations 1:18), why would I consort with an underling or substitute of any kind?  Through His Holy Spirit He reveals truth to us, “But I will send you the Advocate [counselor] – the Spirit of Truth….He will guide you into all truth…He will tell you about the future…the Spirit will tell you what He receives from me.”  (John 15:25;16:13-15)

Jesus was speaking to His disciples in these passages, but these words are true for us as well because of the Spirit of truth living in us.  Why would I not go directly to the horse’s mouth, so to speak?  Through the Living Word, including His still small voice spoken to our hearts, He reveals all that we would ever need to know, and an added bonus? His timing is perfect! 

Moving Forward: I call only upon the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit, to reveal to me all that I need to know for today through His Living Word. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 45-47

Matthew 23-25 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He’s returning for those who are looking for Him

I remember an expression from the 1970’s that appropriately fits our reading today – “That’s heavy, man, heavy,” certainly not referring to the weight of it in pounds, but to the weight of its importance and impact.  In these chapters, Jesus gave weighty information about how He viewed carnal religious leaders, the end times and who would spend eternity with Him.  We don’t have to rely on man’s interpretation or inspiration on these subjects, but we can hear it straight from the Creator’s mouth.

“And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  And he will send out his angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones from all over the world—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.” (24:30-31) Jesus gave a glorious description of His unannounced return for those who accept Him as their Savior, and then shared a series of parables, or examples, to explain just exactly who He is returning for.

“When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.” (24:37-39) If we truly believe that He is the son of God, there is evidence of it in our lives; and according to His parables, we exhibit this evidence:

  • We are watching for Him. “So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming…You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.” (24:42,44)
  • We are ready for Him – all oiled up and ready to go! “Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. The five who were foolish didn’t take enough olive oil for their lamps, but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil.” (25:1-4)
  • We are faithful with our God-given gifts and talents. “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!…To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.” (25:23,29)
  • We display the compassionate heart of the Father. “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.  For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.  I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.” (25:34-36) 

Watching, ready, faithful, compassionate.  I’m challenged today by how the Lord views our readiness to meet Him when He returns. Weighty matters for consideration. 

Moving forward:  May He recognize me as one of His very own by all that I do and say today. 

Tomorrow @ I Corinthians 3-4

Revelation 18-22 (NLT)

Discover His heart: Not willing that any should be lost, He waits to return for us

We often describe something that delights and thrills us as a little bit of heaven on earth.  Some individuals attempt to create their heaven on earth, their little piece of utopia, by surrounding themselves with all the tangible things they enjoy most, and still others drug themselves into a state of oblivion because heaven is where they cannot remember, cannot feel.

The understanding most of us have of heaven, God’s dwelling place, is limited to what we read in the Bible, including John’s description in our reading today.  I don’t know much about heaven and my future home; but one thing is for certain, I’m going to live there one day! 

@ Revelation 21
And I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.’  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (2-4)  I’m tempted to stop reading because this is enough.  In my finite thinking, this is heaven for me, this is heaven enough – God with me and no death, sorrow, crying or pain.  Oh, but there’s even more.

“And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’ (5)  We’ll be moving into a brand spanking new earth, unmarred by nature’s destruction or man’s input, a happy day for the environmentalists to be sure.  Nothing will exist to remind us of old hurts, scars and pain. Yet there’s more…

John went on to describe the New Jerusalem, God’s Holy City “built on foundation stones inlaid with twelve precious stones” and the twelve gates of the city “made of pearls—each gate from a single pearl! And the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass.” (19,21)  I’ve seen some of the world’s famous treasuries and read about many others and none compare to the beauty of John’s description.  As believers, we long to see it, and we long to live with Him there in this perfect place.  Most of us say, “Anytime, Lord, come quickly, we’re ready.”  What is He waiting for anyway?

Of course God’s timing is always perfect and these plans were laid long before we existed. He will return for us at just the right moment in this world’s history.  A few years ago I had a glimpse into what I felt to be God’s heart on this subject.  It wasn’t prophetic but something I could imagine to be God’s heart.  I walked into our Sunday morning church service during praise and worship.  The moment I entered the sanctuary, I sensed God’s presence and felt like I was walking through deep water as I went to my seat.  Then, in my mind’s eye, I saw this scenario:  The Father and the Son were peering into our sanctuary from heaven.  The Son was thrilled with our worship and in response to it said to the Father with excitement, “Is it time?  Is it time to gather up the believers?  The worshipers are calling to us.  They desire to fellowship with us. Is it time? Can I go?”  In response, the countenance of the Father lifted, and I followed His gaze to view an endless sea of people, so many lost souls who do not yet know Him.

I fell to my knees and wept for the lost that morning. I believe that He longs for us to dwell with Him, but His compassion for those who have not accepted His Son as Savior constrains Him.  Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.”

How very fitting for the Bible to end with an invitation to come to God, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ Let anyone who hears this say, ‘Come.’  Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.” (22:17) Amen!

Moving Forward:  “He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon!’  Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” (22:20)  My heart joins with John, “Yes, come, Lord Jesus,” but my spirit joins with the Lord, “Come…Let anyone who is thirsty come.”

Tomorrow @ Deuteronomy 33-34

Revelation 12-17 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He defeated the enemy through His birth, death and resurrection

Pink and soft and sweet.  There’s nothing like a newborn baby!  As we gaze at God’s workmanship, we marvel at the intricate details right down to the tiny fingers and fingernails.  No doubt Mary and Joseph we enthralled with their new little bundle of joy.

At Christmas I enjoy setting up the many nativity sets that I’ve collected over the years.  One set is beautiful porcelain made by Goebel and another is elegantly designed by Thomas Kinkaid, but just as precious to me is a rustic wooden set carved in Paraguay.  One thing they all have in common is the peaceful, serene setting depicted on that night so long ago when the Prince of Peace came into the world.  However, not everyone was at peace that Israel delivered the Savior of all mankind. 

@ Revelation 12
“Then I witnessed in heaven an event of great significance. I saw a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant, and she cried out because of her labor pains and the agony of giving birth. Then I witnessed in heaven another significant event. I saw a large red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, with seven crowns on his heads.  His tail swept away one-third of the stars in the sky, and he threw them to the earth. He stood in front of the woman as she was about to give birth, ready to devour her baby as soon as it was born. She gave birth to a son who was to rule all nations with an iron rod. And her child was snatched away from the dragon and was caught up to God and to his throne.” (1-5)

I’ve watched many Christmas pageants over the years filled with Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, angels, shepherds and the erroneous wise men at the stable, but I’ve never seen one that included a huge red dragon with seven heads.  I’m thankful for that.  Most believe the woman of Revelation 12 to be actually symbolic of Israel rather than Mary, but regardless, Israel brought forth the One who would defeat the enemy.

“Then there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels. And the dragon lost the battle, and he and his angels were forced out of heaven. This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels.” (7-9) Jesus sacrificed his life for our redemption, and it was the final nail in the coffin that secured Satan’s defeat!

“And the dragon was angry at the woman and declared war against the rest of her children—all who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus.” (17) So, if we’ve wondered why the enemy throws his arrows at us and attacks us at every turn, we now understand it’s because he is angry at us for keeping God’s commandments and maintaining our testimony for Jesus. This is why Paul encourages us to put on all that armor every day found in Ephesians 6:11, “Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.”

The war will continue until Christ’s return, but we will defeat our enemy in the battles we face each day by suiting up and by using the very things that made Satan angry in the first place, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” (11,NKJV)

The enemy’s time is short, and he knows it, “For the devil has come down to you in great anger, knowing that he has little time.” (12)  And we know it as well, “He who is the Faithful Witness to all these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon!’ Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.” (22:20) 

Moving Forward:  As I celebrate the birth of Jesus, I am ever mindful of His ultimate mission and the victory He has brought to my life to defeat the enemy. 

Tomorrow @ Acts 26-28

Revelation 7-11 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He reveals His secrets to us at just the right moment

When someone has a secret and is forbidden to share it, I, for one, would just as soon not know about it.  Ignorance is bliss.  I remember children on the playground chanting, “I know something you don’t know,” in order to torment those who plainly did not know the something.  I would prefer that these individuals keep to themselves the fact that they have hidden information, but I guess there is a certain headiness that comes from others knowing that we have inside information.

Gloating may not be the intention when someone confesses to having secret information, but rather it may be intended as a source of encouragement that plans are being made behind the scenes or things are under control even though we cannot see it.  John revealed unbelievable end-time events in our reading today to encourage believers, but there were some things he just couldn’t share. 

@ Revelation 10
“Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, surrounded by a cloud, with a rainbow over his head. His face shone like the sun, and his feet were like pillars of fire. And in his hand was a small scroll that had been opened. He stood with his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land.  And he gave a great shout like the roar of a lion. And when he shouted, the seven thunders answered.  When the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write. But I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Keep secret what the seven thunders said, and do not write it down.” (1-4)

It’s hard to imagine that John would have the ability to write anything while viewing an angel wearing a rainbow on his head with feet like pillars of fire and voice of seven thunders.  I’m not sure I would have the presence of mind to write what I was hearing and would probably have been on my face; however, John made every attempt to do so but was stopped.  Some have reasoned that the message of the seven thunders was too horrific to hear, and others believe that our minds would not be able to comprehend it.  Regardless of the reason, John knew something we don’t know.

There were other writers in the Bible who were not allowed to share what God had revealed to them.  “But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end, when many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase… Go now, Daniel, for what I have said is kept secret and sealed until the time of the end.” (Daniel 12:4,9)  God had revealed many secret dreams to Daniel that he was free to share, but this secret He would reveal at the end times when people would understand its meaning.  God reveals His secrets at the perfect time.

In our personal lives there are answers we do not have and secrets that God has not revealed to us, but of course, we want to know them now.  Moses did a great job in Deuteronomy 29:29 instructing the Israelites who were entering a new land as to God’s secrecy, “The Lord our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions.”  Our hearts and minds may not be in a position to know all that God has planned for us, but He will reveal His secrets at just the right moment.  In the meantime, our job is to be accountable to what He has revealed to us through His Word and what He has already spoken to our hearts.  All this should keep us busy for quite some time, and in due time He will reveal what He knows that we don’t know, and He will reveal it exactly when we need to know it.

Moving Forward:  I will be faithful today to what I do know, confident that He will reveal what I don’t know at just the right moment. 

Tomorrow @ Acts 23-25

Revelation 1-6 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He redeemed our lives through His Son, the Lamb of God

Several years ago I sent a Christmas card to family and friends that had a picture of a lion and lamb resting together under a starry sky with the inscription, Peace on Earth.  I received several comments about the card and the wonderful message it brought to our hearts on many different levels.  At first glance, the peaceful setting spoke of the Christmas message and Christ’s coming to earth to bring peace to even the most unlikely scenarios, but in light of our scripture today, we come to an even greater understanding of the meaning behind the Lion and the Lamb. 

@ Revelation 5
The apostle John had been banished by the Romans to the island of Patmos for preaching the gospel.  Now in his solitude, he received an extraordinary vision from God, “This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the events that must soon take place. He sent an angel to present this revelation to his servant John, who faithfully reported everything he saw. This is his report of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (1:1-2)

Through revelation, John was to give a report of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ!  What a daunting task!  Yet, while our witnessing is not the recorded Word of God, we are representing the testimony of Jesus Christ in part as we share the good news and what he has done for us.  We, too, have been given a task.

In Revelation 5, God held a scroll about the future but no one was found worthy enough to open it.  As John wept over this dilemma, one of the 24 elders called out, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.” (5)  Jacob’s deathbed prophecy, found in the very first book of the Bible, talked about this Lion, “Judah, my son, is a young lion that has finished eating its prey…The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants, until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will honor.” (Genesis 49:9-10)  Jesus, the Lion!

Imagine the excitement that rose in John’s heart in anticipation of seeing the Lion of Judah, the powerful King, the mighty Ruler.  But John did not see a lion.  No, he saw a lamb. “Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered, but it was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders.” (6)  We will never really understand and fully realize the kingship of Jesus until we see Him first as the lamb, the lamb that had been slaughtered to remove our sins.  John the Baptist recognized Him when he called out, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)  Jesus, the Lamb!

This is the truth of my Christmas card – Jesus came as a sacrificial lamb, pure and spotless, to remove the stain of sin from our lives.  Yet, He is the Lion, our resurrected King, whose victorious reign is worthy of all praise.  “And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang:  ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.’ And the four living beings said, ‘Amen!’ And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped the Lamb.” (13-14)  The lion and the lamb.  I fall down and worship. 

Moving Forward:  May my life testify today of the Lamb of God and what He has done in my life.  And I pray this testimony will draw others to the true meaning of Christmas. 

Tomorrow @ Acts 21-22