Tag Archives: Revelation

It’s Time to Choose: Judgment or Jesus.

Recently, as 2017 came to a close, I decided to spend a few hours on New Years Eve reading and reflecting on Scripture. For whatever reason I focused on chapters 13-18 of Revelation.

These chapters describe: the two beasts who, along with Satan, form an evil trinity that virulently opposes the holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Spirit; the three angels who proclaim blessing and judgment; the seven bowls of God’s wrath and judgment; and the city of Babylon (which represents modern civilization) and her utter destruction. John the apostle, the author of Revelation, offers a detailed and vivid account of the world’s end in these six chapters.

In particular he warns of the final pair of antichrists who will “wage war against God’s holy people and conquer them” (13:7, NLT, and throughout); will “deceive all the people who belong to this world” (13:8); and will control the global economy, requiring anyone who participates in commerce to receive “a mark on the right hand or on the forehead” to reflect their allegiance to the antichrist. Although those who receive the mark will enjoy the temporary material benefits offered by this world, in the end they “must drink the wine of God’s anger that has been poured full strength into God’s cup of wrath, and will be tormented with fire and burning … that will rise forever and ever, and they will have no relief day or night” (14:9-11).

It is important to note that according to this passage of Scripture there is a time coming when no one can participate in the global economy unless they have voiced fidelity to the antichrist and worship him. Those who buy and sell in the world’s marketplace reveal their devotion to the devil because “no one can buy or sell anything without the mark” of the beast (13:17).

In contrast, those who belong to Christ will refuse the mark, excluding them from participating in the global economy. Their refusal will lead to more than just an inability to buy and sell in the marketplace. It will lead to imprisonment and death.

What a dramatic difference those competing scenarios represent. Those of the world whose names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will enjoy the material spoils, luxuries, and excesses of this world. The people of God, however, will bear immeasurable pain, suffering, and tribulation.

In the face of such a traumatic and agonizing scenario John warns his audience to keep in mind the words of the prophet Jeremiah, who he paraphrases, “Anyone who is destined for prison will be taken to prison. Anyone destined to die by the sword will die by the sword” (13:10a). Those who belong to Christ must come to terms with their destiny so they can “endure persecution patiently and remain faithful” and “obey (God’s) commands and maintain their faith in Jesus” (13:10b, 14:12).

It is critical that we remain mindful of the fact that the two scenarios described above represent the short-term outcome for the two groups John identifies: those of the world and those who belong to Christ. In the short-term the worldly survive and thrive as the global economy flourishes and produces unprecedented wealth, while the godly suffer terribly and undergo brutal deaths. In the long-term, however, the scenarios are reversed. The worldly spend eternity in the lake of fire with the devil and will be tormented day and night forever and ever [See 20:10, 14-15], while those in Christ spend eternity in heaven, which overflows with peace, love, and joy.

As I read Revelation and was reminded once again of God’s wrath and judgment poured out on all those who love the world and worship evil, a sense of sadness settled on me. How could people choose to spend eternity in continuous, unrelenting agony? Why would anyone reject the Savior for Satan?

And then it dawned on me. Such people choose to embrace the short-term pleasures and comforts of this world in the hope that there are no long-term consequences. In contrast, those in Christ embrace His promise of future glory and therefore willingly accept the short-term trials and tribulations He sends our way, which refine our faith and demonstrate our love for Him.

After reflecting on those six chapters, I could read no more about judgment and wrath. So I asked God to direct me to a different passage; one filled with hope for those who are in Christ. I was quickly led to Romans 8.

Wow! What an awesome transition. After reading about God’s judgment and wrath in Revelation I now read these words from the apostle Paul: “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). The fiery lake of torment and eternal suffering holds no power over the believer. For those in Christ are not subject to God’s wrath.

Why? Because they are judged righteous in Christ. Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross bore God’s wrath on our behalf, so that we stand justified before God. Therefore, for those who belong to Christ there is NO CONDEMNATION. What an incredible truth. What a comforting promise.

Those in Christ Jesus, however, are not just the recipients of that amazing assurance. We also receive the Spirit of God as evidence of our authentic faith in Christ. And with the Spirit’s presence comes power. “Because you belong to (Jesus), the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death” (Romans 8:2).

It is important we understand that when we surrender our lives to Christ we not only receive the promise of eternal life and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we also receive an expectation of holiness. This holiness is unattainable on our own strength. It is only by the power of the Spirit that we grow to resemble the Lord in our speech, conduct, and thoughts.

Paul described it in these eloquent terms.

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God. But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit IF you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all)… Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live” (Romans 8:5-9, 12-13 – emphasis mine).

What is Paul saying in this passage? Simply this. If we truly belong to Christ we will conduct our lives under the power of the Holy Spirit, who will empower us daily to crucify the flesh and surrender more fully our lives to Christ and for His glory. We will live more sacrificially, setting aside our own interests to further the will of the Lord. We will no longer allow our sinful nature to dictate our priorities, plans, and pursuits, nor use our time, income, and resources to advance its agenda of selfishness, pleasure, comfort, idolatry, hedonism, and materialism. Instead we will pursue that which magnifies the Lord and will obey all He asks of us, no matter the cost.

In short, those of us in Christ Jesus will live in a manner that is an extraordinary contrast to how those of the world live – since we are controlled by the Spirit and they are controlled by their sinful nature.

As you begin the New Year consider these questions.

1] Are you focused on the short-term (as those in the world are) or on the long-term (as those in Christ Jesus are)?

2] What does your calendar, your checkbook, and your thoughts reveal about your commitment to Christ? Does it reflect total surrender or half-hearted devotion?

3] In what areas of your life have you crucified your sinful nature? In what area(s) is God calling you to put to death your selfish flesh?

4a] How difficult would it be for you to no longer participate in the global economy?

b] How confident are you that the Lord will provide for your needs if you refuse to accept the mark of the beast?

c] Are you prepared for imprisonment or death if that is required to remain faithful to Christ?

5] Is eternity with Christ worth the loss of worldly treasure, safety, comfort, freedom, and pleasure?

6] What specific action(s) is the Lord calling you to take after reading and reflecting on this message?

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Biblical Prophecy and Discerning the End Times.

Scripture has a great deal to say about the future, often referred to as the Last Days, End Times, or the Day of the Lord. From Old Testament prophets Ezekiel and Daniel to Jesus’ apostles John and Paul in the New Testament, numerous men of God describe signs of the end times in varying degrees of detail. They address the emergence of an evil antichrist, the establishment of a world system that flourishes worldwide, and a growing global conflict that comes to an explosive conclusion in Israel. And many of them highlight social trends that will surface in the last days.

Peter describes it like this: “In the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! … These teachers oppose the truth [and] have depraved minds and a counterfeit faith. But they won’t get away with this for long. Someday everyone will recognize what fools they are” (2 Timothy 3:1-9, NLT).

But prophets and apostles aren’t the only biblical figures who prophesy about the future. Jesus spends a great deal of time talking about future and providing a number of clues that signal the world’s end and foreshadow his return. As his ministry and life near their end he offers this response to a question about the signs of those events. “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come. “Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come. “The day is coming when you will see what Daniel the prophet spoke about—the sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing in the Holy Place.” (Reader, pay attention!) “Then those in Judea must flee to the hills. A person out on the deck of a roof must not go down into the house to pack. A person out in the field must not return even to get a coat. How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for nursing mothers in those days. And pray that your flight will not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again. In fact, unless that time of calamity is shortened, not a single person will survive. But it will be shortened for the sake of God’s chosen ones.“Then if anyone tells you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah,’ or ‘There he is,’ don’t believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. See, I have warned you about this ahead of time. “So if someone tells you, ‘Look, the Messiah is out in the desert,’ don’t bother to go and look. Or, ‘Look, he is hiding here,’ don’t believe it! For as the lightning flashes in the east and shines to the west, so it will be when the Son of Man comes. Just as the gathering of vultures shows there is a carcass nearby, so these signs indicate that the end is near. “Immediately after the anguish of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will give no light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. 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” (Matthew 24:4-31, NLT).

But the book of Revelation remains the most prominent book of prophecy in Scripture for many believers. It goes into considerable detail about the last days, the antichrist, Babylon, and God’s judgment of a sinful world. Millions of committed Christians, casual churchgoers, and non-believers alike have studied the words contained therein in hopes of discerning the timing of Christ’s return, the identity of the antichrist, and the nations involved in Armageddon. They read books from experts and scholars who proclaim to possess insight into how it all ‘goes down’ in those last days. Sadly, many of these ‘insights’ conflict with Scripture and paint a picture that is easily digested by a trusting and desperate audience.

The fact is many of the details regarding the end times will not be made clear until those days are upon us. And many of those details will bear little resemblance to the narratives offered by many self-proclaimed experts and religious charlatans.

So how should we read and study prophecy? With an eye toward understanding the big picture and broad trends without concerning ourselves too much with learning granular specifics, much of which will remain a mystery until the Lord returns.

My new novel, A Town Called Babylon, offers one portrait of how the world will look in the end days, how society will tempt Christians to compromise their faith to remain in good standing, and how the antichrist might emerge. It is not meant to be a definitive treatise on the end times.

Rather I hope to galvanize readers to think critically about biblical prophecy and consider the possibility that widespread views propagated by popular pastors and authors may not be accurate. I want to encourage readers to investigate Scripture under the guidance of the Holy Spirit as they seek to understand prophetic passages and, especially, the book of Revelation. And I hope to entertain readers in the process with a compelling story, colorful characters, and a hopeful conclusion.

You can purchase a copy at Amazon in both paperback and e-reader formats. I hope you enjoy the read. Here’s a link for your convenience.

A Glimpse of Heaven.

Most of us have some idea of what to expect when we arrive in heaven, though views are as varied as the people who hold them. Many anticipate an eternal reunion with friends, family, and loved ones. Others plan to spend eternity playing golf, relaxing on the beach, getting a deep tissue massage from some angelic host, or hiking, biking, and kayaking the heavenly outdoors.

On arriving in heaven many of us expect to enjoy the same activities we did in this world, but without the suffering, sorrow or stress associated with it. In essence, we believe heaven offers everything we liked on earth with none of its problems. But some of what we believe about heaven finds little support in Scripture and at times contradicts it.

While the entirety of heaven will remain a mystery until God calls us home, the Bible offers a brief glimpse into what we can expect. In particular the book of Revelation provides a few pieces to the puzzle. Here are some activities it records in heaven.

#1) Praising God: The apostle John declares that all angels, living creatures, and elders, who number in the hundreds of millions, sing throughout heaven, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12, NKJV). John later informs us that everyone in heaven praises God saying, “Blessing and honor and glory and power, be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13, NKJV). Praising God in speech and in song represents an integral part of the heavenly experience.

#2) Serving God: John states that God rewards the saints who “come out of the great tribulation” by allowing them to come into His presence and “serve Him day and night in His temple” (Revelation 7:14-15, NKJV). According to John, the reward for martyrdom is the opportunity to serve God daily. Later, in a detailed description of heaven and God’s presence he announces, “the Lamb shall be in it and His servants shall serve Him” (Revelation 22:3, NKJV). These verses reveal that serving God is a fundamental feature of heaven.

#3) Worshipping God: John portrays a scene around the throne of God and before the risen Savior in which “a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” cry out with the angels, elders, and living creatures and “worshipped God” (Revelation 7:9-11, NKJV). Worship captures the essence of heaven. In fact, we observe all of heaven worshipping God numerous times in Revelation.

So how does heaven sound? Does the idea of praising, serving, and worshipping God for eternity excite, energize, and inspire you? I hope so, since those activities reflect a significant part of eternal life. As you head into the week consider this: we need not wait until heaven to prioritize these interactions with God. We can praise, serve, and worship Him today and every day of our lives – not just Sundays. In pursuing those activities, we not only enrich our relationship with the Lord, we also catch a glimpse of heaven.

Prophecy Primer – Overview.

Prophecy courses through Scripture, Old and New Testaments alike. It fascinates and interests both Christians and non-believers, especially passages purported to describe individuals and events of the last days. That burgeoning interest has led to a cottage industry of prophecy interpretation from a wide range of authorities, many of whom offer rigorous insight that provides a biblically based framework for understanding the end times.

Unfortunately, there are also many self-described experts who claim the mantle of prophecy scholar in order to hawk their views for financial gain. Their perspectives often advance a narrative that aligns with the writer’s political or personal agenda, not Scripture.

For these reasons it is critical we avoid embracing any interpretation of prophecy without careful and measured study. Scriptural discernment, especially biblical prophecy, requires guidance from the Holy Spirit. It is imperative, then, we request His leadership as we seek to understand the Bible’s revelation on end times.

We should also remember that while Scripture yields many clues and details about the last days it doesn’t always give enough specifics to reach definitive answers on some questions. Other questions it intentionally leaves unanswered. That should not surprise us since the Bible clearly states that some mysteries will remain hidden until Christ returns. We must therefore resist the temptation to assert indisputable conclusions where the Bible leaves open multiple interpretations.

That said, the Bible gives sufficient information to gain understanding of broad themes and key players on the world stage as Christ’s return nears. It is my intent to share details on some of these trends, figures, and countries to help us process current events through the lens of Bible prophecy.

As we witness growing similarities between global events and biblical prophecy, I hope a renewed urgency grips the church to proclaim Christ’s love and sacrifice to a dying world. For prophecy is not revealed merely to inform but to spur the people of God to redouble our efforts to fulfill His will and prepare for His return.

With that background I will post a Prophecy Primer about once a month, selecting a key verse or passage, specific event or trend, or key person or nation to examine. My intent is to provide readers with a basic foundation in Bible prophecy. I encourage you to augment what you learn by leveraging other resources and studying Scripture directly. Most of all remain diligent to ask God for insight and wisdom – not just on prophetic passages but the entirety of His Word. May the Lord richly bless your efforts to understand the Bible and your role in implementing His plan during these troubling times.