200 miles of blood

I am not reading this next passage as bad news. Some will and they interpret it with a far greater degree of theology than I have! But this morning I don’t read it as judgment but as joy. So here it is:

“I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like a son of man[ with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. 15 Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16 So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested. 17 Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18 Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, “Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.” 19 The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. 20 They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.”(Revelation 14 v 14-20)

What we have read so far through this vision is that John is writing to those who suffer as Christians and says salvation comes through suffering and persecution needs patient endurance, we are in a battle but don’t give up, it will all be worth it.

Here comes Jesus, the son of man. Also an angel.

In chapter 13 God’s people were instructed not to worship the beast.

In chapter 15 we will see them worshipping on the sea of glass.

How did they move between those 2 events? Chapter 14, where they are being harvested.

Harvest and reaping is joyful!

But this harvesting is with blood. But whose blood?

The wrath of God is seen in the collision with salvation on the cross of blood and it is the same for our lives. This is Jesus blood. The honour is that it is also the martyr’s blood, the blood of suffering.

Where did this happen? ‘Outside the city’. Where was Jesus crucified? Where was the first martyr Stephen’s death? ‘Outside the city’

This is the blood of suffering, but it is the blood of salvation and the blood of following Jesus.

Reaping is always for keeping never for wasting. This blood will be drunk by the beast worshippers. Yes it will be for judgment eventually, but not here, not on this day of harvesting. God will bring us home. God will turn heartache and suffering into joy.

And the blood? There’s 200 miles of it! Symbolic I am sure. John saw tonnes of blood.

What does it mean? There’s enough blood! The blood is enough!

R.I.P.

Rest in Peace.

“Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labour, for their deeds will follow them.” (Revelation 14 v 13)

We don’t know who exactly is going to be in the torment of v9-11 but what we do know is:

Evil is evil.

Evil consumes totally.

Evil is ultimately defeated and because of this:-

Death is no longer to be feared.

Death is not the final enemy and ultimate evil.

From now on. From the cross and the resurrection. From the day of our salvation. From Monday 21st November 2022 death defeated has become death a blessing.

We rest in peace.

R.I.P.

Sunday small thought: The call for patient endurance

After the image of eternal torment comes the realisation why John saw and reveals it.

“This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.” (Revelation 14 v 12)

The word endurance is the English translation of Hupomone. This Greek word John uses doesn’t mean to ‘pull your socks up’ or to ‘keep smiling’ under duress. It is rather a conquering patience with anything that life can throw at us knowing that God will always turn even evil into good and if evil remains it will face a harsher treatment than what it gave to you.

Eternal torment calls for our endurance.

Annihilation or Eternal torment

This title may attract or turn people away from this blog on a Saturday morning!

The debate of how God will treat those with the mark of the beast will continue until annihilation or eternal torment happens.

“A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand, 10 they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.” 12 This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.” (Revelation 14 v 9-12)

These images certainly pull towards that of eternal torment for the worshippers of the beast.

Jesus took the cup of God’s wrath so that the cup of judgment did not need to fall on us.

The wine was not diluted as the custom of John’s day but John saw full strength wine, no holds barred, poured out.

Just like there is no rest of worship around the throne of God, it is happening day and night similarly there is no rest for the judgment, it is for ever and ever.

It is frightening stuff. But John doesn’t seem concerned to hold back the scary parts of his vision.

If it causes the redeemed to continue with patient endurance, so be it.

If it causes the world to say I don’t want to go to that place, so be it.

Those who say there isn’t a physical rapture and those who say there isn’t a physical eternal torment will forever be with us, well, maybe not all of them forever.

But an 8 year old boy didn’t want to be left behind and didn’t want to face God’s anger in a fiery hell and 48 years later he is writing this blog today.

So even if that boy didn’t have all the details correct the gospel and the gravity of rejecting it has kept him walking with the Lord for nearly 50 years!

To be honest, I think annihilation and eternal torment are worth choosing not to have the mark of the beast don’t you? But for me the eternal outweighs the finality every time. It becomes more powerful in keeping us within patient endurance of the life of the gospel. And perhaps that is good enough.

How the mighty have fallen

What sets itself up against you? What is mighty in your sight today? What overshadows you, a looming darkness which is bringing fear to you? What tempts you away from your devotion to God? What is in the way of your discipleship path? What disturbs your mind, robs your soul of peace and gives you heartache? What boasts over you? What parades like an invincible foe?

It has a limited shelf-life!

A second angel followed and said, “‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great,’which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.” (Revelation 14 v 8)

Whatever is against you is defeated not by anything you can do or any human power at all. It is defeated by God alone.

Babylon is no more! Actually it had died generations previously but since those days every enemy state that set itself up against God was referred to as Babylon. In John’s day, Rome was Babylon.

So this is the declaration of any nation, government, tribe and people that comes against God and His people, they will fall!

The hedonistic materialistic nations of the West will fall. The false religions of the East will fall. The adulteries of the idolatry and worship of the political and religious powers that mimic the true God will be no more.

No power that comes against you will survive.

You live longer than those things that try to ruin you.

God will sort it out.

A reminder that the dragon with his 2 side-kicks, the beast of the sea representing political power and the beast of the earth representing religious power are chasing the offspring of the Woman (this is us). The battle has raged constantly and seems to intensify in every generation and we wonder just how wicked can the world become. Throughout history we see the Church in some part of the world under great tribulation and Revelation takes us to an even greater tribulation and an even greater battle to end it all. We know what John sees at the commencement of chapter 14 the King of kings, Jesus the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion as ruler of the nations. John also sees another angel.

Then I saw another angel flying in mid-air, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.” (Revelation 14 v 6-7)

This angel is mid-air, like a bird of prey ready for judgment. The angel is moving across the surface of the world with the eternal gospel. If this is indeed the angel who preaches the gospel then it is the only place in the New Testament when it is so.

The Mormons believe this is obviously Angel Moroni who chatted with John Smith on numerous occasion sin 1823!

Some think the angel in mid-air is obviously in this generation with our brilliant digital technology.

But trying to find out the identity of this angel is nothing new. At the funeral of Martin Luther in 1546, the preacher stated that this angel was definitely Luther. In the 17th century some believed it was John Wicliff “who wrote more than two hundred volumes against the pope, and was a means of much good to many” (writings from a guy called John Trapp). In the 18th century a commentator that some still use today, Adam Clarke, definitely believed it was The British and Foreign Bible Society. Following such interpretations I would have thought Billy Graham would have been seen as the angel! The angel of course could be the Church, us, with the gospel spreading all over the world. However, instead of focusing on who the angel represents, read what the angel says, ‘the hour has come’ is the declaration. That’s the kingdom of God declaration ever since Christ walked the earth. He is here. God has come to sort it all out.

We know we are in a battle. We haven’t needed to read Revelation to know this. But John definitely shows us the attacks from the dragon. The beasts of political and religious powers are still attacking the church. It attacks from outside and it deceives from inside the Church. We hold out with the eternal gospel. We resist the selfish compromise. We stand against the worldly oppressive leadership occupying footholds on the altars of the Church. As we do the battle intensifies but the eternal gospel spreads to every nation, tribe, language and people. But the message is also one to strengthen the Church. It is this, ‘don’t give up, God is here, He will sort it all out.’ The unfairness of your life; the pain; the many question marks; these will be judged and you will live. The oppressors, the wicked ones and those who defile Christ and His Church will be judged and they will die.

God will sort it out.

Follow Him

The King of kings is on Mount Zion, victorious over all the nations. The Lamb has defeated the dragon through His sacrifice, strange that sounds but we are now called to live out that victory. How? By following Jesus in every aspect of our lives. This is not a new concept to John by any means. A cursory glance at his gospel reveals this:

When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. (1:37); Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” (1:38); Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. (1:40); The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” (1:43); and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. (6:2) From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” (6:66) When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (8:12); When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice (10:4); But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, (10:5); My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me (10:27); When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her. (11:31); Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. (12:26); “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” (13:36); Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” (13:37); Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. (18:15); The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. (21:8); Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (21:19) Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (21:20); Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” (21:22)

So that is already within John’s heart and mind and he personally has followed Jesus all the way to Patmos having survived being boiled in oil on the orders of Domitian (author Tertullian wrote of this). Here in his vision he sees the 144,000 at Mount Zion.

“And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among mankind and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.” (Revelation 14 v 3-5)

Those that follow Jesus:

  1. Are purchased/redeemed, same word. We carry the name and we are carried by the name, wherever he goes, wherever that is on this earth, into whichever job we work, people we live with, wherever, no turning back, no matter how difficult, we are not our own, we are His and as we follow we will be brought home.
  2. Are ready for battle. We are virgins meaning we are the ancient warriors abstaining from sexual relations before a holy war. We are a holy, focused soldier of the 144,000 army ready to engage with the beasts. Some of us will be injured and some of us will die fighting. We are ready for this.
  3. We speak truth. The enemy of our soul spews out all kinds of lies and deception but with us is the truth. Even when it is difficult we do not cover over even our mistakes. There is no compromise. We can be trusted.

That’s what it means to follow Jesus.

Sounds (read this as it contains some amazing personal news!!!)

There may be sounds that remind you of what went wrong for you. Sounds of what you have lost. Sounds of your failure. Sounds of your missed opportunities. Sounds of your own impetuousness. Sounds of your regrets that groan from deep within. The sound of pain which may not have literal sound but rages inside as thoughts of a lost loved one, a failed relationship, the brokenness of a beautiful story churn and break your heart.

I’m tired of the sound from earth with its boasting of what they have achieved or what they are going to be or do next. I’m tired of politics and programmes to strengthen a cause that is for our benefit. I’m tired of the sound of heartache of another famine in Somalia. I’m tired of the sound of the 40,000 migrants so far this year, crossing the English Channel, risking their lives in small boats. I’m tired of the sound of sleepy Christians whilst the dragon is at work.

However 1 hour ago and for the first time, I became a grandfather! A little girl was born into this world with a sound that we will gladly get to know all too well in the coming days! Not all of earth’s sounds are desperate ones! Though on the video call she looked very peaceful indeed!

But I want to tell you there is a sound of heaven which is far more important than any sound of the earth.

“And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps.” (Revelation 14 v 2)

I want to hear the sound of heaven. I want earth to hear heaven’s sound.

I have heard the sound of Niagara Falls where it was pointless to speak because of being drowned out by the intense, powerful rushing water. But it pales into insignificance with the rushing water sound of heaven. Remember in chapter 1, “his voice was like the sound of rushing waters”? We the redeemed begin to sound like Jesus!

Remember the sound from the throne in chapters 4, 8 and 11? Heaven’s drum-kit, this loud peal of thunder but mixed in with melodious harpists playing their harps. This united version of sound is not far from us.

Heaven is not in some far off place. It is however within reach of visibility. It is just next door so not surprising that it is possible to hear the sound.

And what do we hear? An intense and powerful force that cannot be silenced nor conquered and which drowns out the blasphemous sounds from the dragon on the earth. But it is a creative, purposeful and melodious sound as those harps are being heard. There is order, this is not chaos; it is a sound that is understood. There is beauty and authority.

Be careful what you listen to today. Make sure it is the sound from heaven and that may well be from a beautiful girl on her first day on earth!

Who you stand with determines your victory!

Often when we play out of position we are not as effective. There is a place for us to live our lives and it is right next to our leader, Jesus Christ. The closer we are to Him the more we will know we are victorious. It becomes very difficult to be pessimistic, negative and defeated when you are with Jesus!

As we have already seen, Psalm 2 was understood as a Messianic prophecy especially for those persecuted. Everyone knew the Psalm. They imagined God laughing in the face of the enemy of our life because no matter what is happening He is still in control of our lives with a greater authority than what is coming against us, for He is the King of all Kings.

We turn the chapter pleased to be coming away from the dragon and his two beasts. Here we are:

“Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.” (Revelation 14 v 1)

We have something new. But it has references with the old, namely Psalm 2 for that is what the first readers would focus on. “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” (Psalm 2:6)

In the context of man’s rebellion, the 666 mark of the beast and the attacks of the dragon John sees Jesus. Where is He?

He sees Jesus on God’s mountain, Zion, the king of all nations. How? Not because of the image of the lion though that is what He is. But the lamb. The 144,000 who we have also seen in chapter 7 are with Him. We already know this is the symbolic number for all the redeemed, for you and me.

We stand with the Lamb in the place of victory. We are with him. We are marked with Him and for Him and the Father. No circumstance or any person does not determine our victorious position but who we are standing with does!

The mark of the Lamb and the Father is within you today. You are His. You stand with Him. Therefore, your position is that of victory, it can be no other.

Sunday small thought – That number 666 – part 4

So this number 666:

Is trying to be what you are not;

Is trying to blend in to the culture;

Is trying to justify your compromise which comes from a corrupted heart.

And here is the final thought:

666 is trying to offer utopia but it will never get there, it always falls short.

“This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.” (Revelation 13 v 18)

666 is not the Pope. Martin Luther, Ronal Reagan, a bar code, a social security number or any of the endless definites that people assume.

But it could be (but not exclusively) Antiochus IV Epiphanes (look him up!), Caligula, Nero, Domitian …. Hitler! (The point is those followers of Jesus going through hell because of an Anti-Christ figure are right in saying 666 is that individual) Maybe the readers of John’s vision know exactly who the 666 was referring to. Maybe it was an individual like a Nero or Domitian.

This beast of the earth who mimics the Holy Spirit ( ‘the seven Spirits of God’ meaning perfect and complete) is seen throughout the history of the world as incomplete and not perfect in anyway. The number 3 is also the number of completeness. So perhaps John is saying this beast of the earth may promise everything, tempt with utopia, but will always deliver short of that. The beast of the earth is totally imperfect, completely incomplete and falls short not once, not twice but continually and totally, hence three times!