A Glimpse of the Lord God’s Throne Room

Saturday, November 19th, 2022

Revelation 4

Revelation 4, although relatively short, is packed with symbological meaning and an introduction to new contexts in the Bible. Furthermore, this passage marks a transition from the opening in the first chapter of Revelation through the third chapter, where John was tasked with writing to the seven churches. Due to the shortness and density of this chapter, I think it is best to discuss on a verse-by-verse basis.

The first verse explains that John is no longer looking at things in an earthly perspective, rather, he is now in the spirit and is envisioning what is in heaven. This happens after a trumpet sounds, and John is told: “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.” The first thing that John is immediately fixated upon is what we can think of as the centerpiece of the vision: a throne, and what is on it. The throne itself is not described, but what is described is a brief description of the “One” who sits upon it. From this short detailing already, we can see the immense amount of humanism that is emanating from this image already, as there is a throne of supreme importance that is out of the reach of our realm of existence, and only “One” sits upon it. He who was sitting upon the throne was God, and His appearance could only be described with colors by John. His appearance was “like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance…” Jasper is usually thought of to be an orange or green color, but this passage is usually interpreted with the emphasis on stone, which is more sensible when we know that to be a bright white color. This color signifies the purity that God embodies. Adding on sardius to the appearance also dictates that there is a red aura emanating from His presence, which is a sign of glory, and dominion over all things. The verse goes on to say: “… and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance.” Before this portion, we have an image that shows that God is a pure and supreme being over all, which is true, but the context is especially enriched with the presence of the rainbow being around the throne. You see, a throne with One ruler may represent dominion, but the rainbow is a sign of covenants, promises, a connection with his creation, and most importantly for the purposes of the image so far: setting his own limitations for our sake. The rainbow being around the throne shows that God is dedicated to his creation, and is a kind and loving God who will make good on the promises that He makes. 

After the throne, John’s fixation shifts to what is around the throne: more thrones. Twenty-four of them to be exact. Seated on these twenty-four thrones were “elders” who were clothed in white garments and had gold crowns atop their heads. Now, the Bible does not make clear who these elders actually are, but we can use hints from before and after this chapter in Revelation to have a good guess. These twenty-four elders with white garments and gold crowns are a direct call-back to the two chapters beforehand, where we see that those who overcome and remain faithful will receive a gold crown and will be clothed in white garments. Automatically this makes me lean towards these elders on the thrones being human rather than any other sort of heavenly being. Furthermore, throughout the rest of the book they are seen worshiping and praising God, and even casting their crowns down. The motion of casting crowns signifies that these crowns were not from personal ownership, but rather they were inherited through God. These elders from my best guess then could represent the leaders of the Church. Other theories suggest that these twenty-four elders could represent a bridging between the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles. However, I believe that from the first verse emphasizing “what must take place after these things” that this is strictly a scene depicting the future, and at this point in history there are still apostles alive, and I also believe John would have in some sense recognized if he saw himself or eleven of his other friends upon the thrones. Furthermore, this theory would imply that Judas made it into the Kingdom, which is open for interpretation whether that could happen or not, and what the implications of that even are. Therefore, I believe a safe interpretation is that the elders represent leaders of the church. 

Now, there has been dense symbolization so far, but for what comes next I don’t believe I’m actually studied enough or if anyone in the world is studied enough for that matter to even fully explain this next scene. Out from the throne comes flashes of lightning and sounds of thunder, which is paralleled with the presence that God had on Mount Sinai in Exodus chapters 19-20. Revelation 4:5 continues to read: “And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God…” These lamps are not to be confused with the seven lampstands from the previous chapters which represented the churches. The lamps, on the other hand, could be representative of a physical presence of the Holy Spirit. Before then, in Acts we see that the Holy Spirit manifested as burning tongues on the Day of Pentecost. 

Below I will write the next few verses and briefly attempt to convey the value of it:

6 and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. 7 The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle. 8 And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.”

These four creatures are cherubim, which are angels which are, for our purposes in this short devotion, high on the hierarchy of angels. The eyes that cover them are representative of their deep insight and intelligence, which enforces the holy phrase they repeat over being that of given nature of gratitude rather than that of a mindless nature. The four creatures: the lion, the calf, a man, and the flying eagle can have a multitude of explanations, but for the purpose of this devotion I think it is important to detail what the importance of the characteristics of these creatures actually are. The lion is a creature that exudes might, and is also a wild beast on earth. Furthermore, the Lion is the symbol of Judah, and Jesus in the next chapter (Revelation 5:5) is called the “Lion of Judah.” The calf on the other hand is a strong but domesticated creature, which shows strength and prudence. The eagle is representative of the domains of the birds and the freedom that they have. Furthermore, eagles can be seen as a sort of “otherworldly” creature. No, it’s not because they are literally not from this world, but their domain and experience as a creature is extremely far from that which is human. Furthemore, Isaiah 40:31 relates the elevated heavenly connection that man will have as they will have “wings like eagles.” The last creature, man, represents intelligence and the highest order of creatures on the Earth. If you would like to dwell more on the importance of the appearance of these creatures, I would like to differ the readers to also look back over Genesis 1.

Here below is the last portion of the chapter:

9 And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11 ‘Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.’”

No matter the hierarchy or attached symbolism or inherited power, all things owe at least one thing: praise to the loving God who made them. This portion right here should be especially shocking for the time, as there are those in today’s world who will live their lives with knowledge of God, but will believe that their priorities and status in life put themselves above worship. The truth of the matter is that the entire Bible, and the undeniable creationist quality of the universe shows that we must always truly humble ourselves and worship God.

-Colby Leggitt

Reflection Questions:

  1. WOW that was a dense devotion for such a short chapter. What specific part was the most interesting to you?
  2. A lot of this can truly be left to interpretation and further studying. Do you have a different interpretation of the four cherubim or the twenty-four elders? What other parts of the scripture influence you?
  3. The rainbow around God’s throne shows a critical connection to mankind. If there was anything else at all to be had to the scene, what would you imagine would be important symbology?

Lukewarm Warning!

Revelation 3

Friday, November 18, 2022

A few weeks ago, we got to experience an up-close view of a bit of a twist on the classic caterpillar to butterfly spiritual analogy. Maybe you’ve heard the classic version in youth group, Bible School, or a devotion book….the idea that we are all new creations if we are Christians. That we start as these creepy, crawly, fuzzy little beings and then as a gift of God, through faith in Christ….voila….we are made completely new into creations of beauty and wonder like a butterfly.

Thanks to our friend, Terri Tschaenn, and her milkweed stash….we have gotten to watch this truly amazing experience of God’s creation several times, and it hasn’t gotten old yet. We’ve gotten to feed those adorably cute little caterpillars as they grow at amazing rates each day. We’ve watched the miraculous chrysalis formation, and we’ve gotten to hold brand new monarch butterflies on our pinky fingers before they fly off. It is amazing. It is beautiful. And, it certainly is representative of the hope of new life and transformation God tells us about in 2 Corinthians 5:17.

But. . .does every caterpillar turn into a butterfly? Hmmm.

Terri told us the unfortunate story of one of her baby caterpillars that accidentally met a predator while she was trying to keep it safe in her school classroom….and….chomp. All gone. No butterfly.  And, recently, we watched our caterpillar which we had been watching grow for several weeks, for some unknown reason, never develop his chrysalis at all. Instead, he slowly wasted away and died. It was rather depressing to watch. He had eaten milkweed like all the rest, had gotten to full size, and had looked “just right” to us from the surface. But, inside….something was wrong. He never experienced the stage of transformation. And, instead of achieving beauty and new life, he died a caterpillar. It is common. It is sad. And, it is also certainly representative of what God tells us about in scripture whether or not it makes for as many Sunday School craft ideas on Pinterest.

The Bible warns us about the Christians who look like Christians, but who haven’t experienced a transformation through repentance and faith in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. These Christians are lukewarm. Just like the caterpillars who die, they lack something inside. But mind you, these aren’t atheist caterpillars or caterpillars who don’t go to church. These are Christian caterpillars. Ones who look just like us. Ones who go to church with us. Maybe us. They haven’t achieved the transformation of repentance and faith in Christ which leads to obedience. And their demise if they don’t repent? “I will spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16, NASV).

Truth can hurt, but it matters. It matters because God and Jesus love us. And true love includes speaking honestly and intentionally. It also matters because unless we repent, at the judgment day, we do not become “butterflies” to live eternally with God and his son Jesus in the kingdom of God. The alternative to that option is death. Today, we live in a world telling us that almost any belief imaginable is “Christian”, and it can get quite confusing as we seek to be on the narrow road and not in the lukewarm masses. It requires diligent searching of scripture and faithful prayer on our parts. We cannot rely alone on our teachers, our families, our churches, and traditions of men. We must not just believe “in” God and Jesus, but know what they say and apply those words to our lives. So, if we find ourselves lukewarm and amongst lukewarm believers. . .what does Jesus say to us?

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 3:19-21, NASV).

Let’s seek and pray to be more than lukewarm this week and to be victorious in Christ.

-Jennifer Hall

(posted originally for SeekGrowLove – then named Grow16 – on June 24, 2018)

Reflection Questions

  1. What good things were the churches of Revelation 3 doing? What needed to be changed in these churches?
  2. What do you think Jesus would want you – and your church – to repent of?

Repent, Persevere, LIVE!

Revelation 2

Thursday, November 17, 2022

In Revelation 2, John is tasked by the Son of Man to begin writing to the seven churches. This chapter specifically details what should be written to the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, and Thyatira. All of these churches share a commonality of starting strong and then waning in righteousness over time. To Ephesus, the Son of Man comments on how they started strong, with perseverance and a low tolerance for evil. However, they have strayed from their faith, and so Jesus warns them to repent, or they will have their lampstand removed. In Revelation 1 it was discussed that the lampstands represented the churches, therefore the church would cease to exist. Furthermore, in repenting they are promised to be able to eat from the tree of life in the Kingdom.

The second church, Smyrna, has a fate that is full of tribulation. They have persevered through poverty and blasphemy against them, and Jesus remarks that the Devil would test them by having them thrown into prison. However, if they remain faithful, then they would receive the “crown of life.” He further remarks that “he who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.” This situation seems fairly awful, but when you put thought into it, this situation is represented by the world that we currently live in anyways. Sin and suffering are rampant, yet, we are promised the crown of life by persevering and overcoming. This message is purely to enforce steadiness in faith.

The third church, Pergamum, shares commonality with the situation described in the first church. They remained steadfast at first, but now there is heavy straying from their original path. Teachings of false gods, eating idol sacrifices, and general acts of immorality have become practices among some members of the church. Jesus warns that those who walk this path will have “war waged against them” personally. From the being who has a double-edged sword protruding from his mouth, that’s definitely not a message that I would take lightly. However, this can be avoided if they repent, and they in return will receive mana, a white stone, and a new name that only they will know.

The fourth church, Thyatira, has had a congregation that has been led astray by a woman named Jezebel. Now, this woman is not the same Jezebel from the Old Testament, but she is enabling people to practice extremely immoral practices as a false prophetess. The Lord commented that He gave her a chance to repent, but she steadfastly refused to do so. However, those who follow her have been given a chance now to repent, or else they will suffer pestilence alongside the false prophetess. And like the other churches, if they hold fast and overcome, then they will receive the morning star and will be given authority to rule over nations.

All of these messages have two similar messages that can be generalized and applied. The first message is that all of these churches are going through tribulation and external influence, and have been led astray. However, they all have time to repent. This is familiar, though, as every day we will struggle with the external pressures of sin and can very easily be led astray. However, Jesus has made it clear that everyone has a chance at forgiveness upon repentance, even someone as corrupt as the false prophetess influencing the people of the church in Thyatira. The second similar case in these messages is the reward for persevering. This is the same message that Jesus and his apostles have spread since the gospel and throughout the New Testament: the good news for those who hold fast and persevere. Sin is very easy to fall into, but staying on the righteous path is much more favorable considering the reward that awaits.

And so, let us take these messages to the four churches discussed so far and apply them to our lives, let this be like a message to us. Whatever sins we have committed; they are already known as the Lord knows our hearts and minds. This is referenced in Revelation 2:23. Therefore, our time left gives us a window of opportunity to repent of them, and live as righteously as we possibly can. In the end, true victory is on the side of the righteous.

-Colby Leggitt

Reflection Questions:

1. Smyrna specifically is tasked with remaining faithful until death. How can we ensure for ourselves that we are likewise holding steadfast throughout our lives?

2. The Son of Man has offered repentance to everybody mentioned who is living in sin in this chapter. How can we hold these messages in our minds when interacting with those who are deeply entrenched in sin?

3. Does it make sense that these churches have such devastating issues yet Jesus still holds the star of their angel in his right hand? Why?

Revealing the Son of Man of Revelation

Revelation 1

Wednesday, November 16th, 2022

Today we will be delving into the most unorthodox and arguably most interesting book of the Bible: Revelation. Here, John is on the island called Patmos, and is tasked to write to the seven churches in Asia. What he must write is the prophecy that is about to be unveiled to him over the course of the book by the Son of Man himself. 

Here, the Son of Man is described in verses Revelations 1:13-16 in a new form. That which describes his hair being white as snow, his eyes like a “flame of fire,” his feet like burnished bronze, and his face shining like the sun. Furthermore, he has a sharp double-edged sword protruding from his mouth, his voice is like the “sound of many waters,” and seven stars are being held in his right hand. Aside from setting the premise of the book, the key points come from this portion, as well as describing both God and the Son of Man as the “Alpha and Omega.” The point of the devotion today then will be to further understand our Lord as he is described in this chapter.

The hair being described as being white as wool and snow can simply represent the purity that is reserved for the lamb that was and is Jesus Christ. Further reading, we read that “his eyes were like a flame of fire.” In the original Greek text, this phrase reads as: “οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ αὐτοῦ ὡς φλὸξ πυρός, or “hoi opthalmoi autou hōs phlox pyros” (The eyes of Him [are] like a flame of fire). Breaking this down, the first four words are very common, essentially describing that the subject written about is His eyes. However, the fifth word is a bit interesting, as it is translated as “a flame,” and makes an appearance only twice in the Bible. Those two appearances are this verse (Revelation 1:14) and Revelation 19:12. Both times are used to describe the eyes of the Son of Man. The word is commonly used in Greek to describe swirling, flickering, or a whirling motion; often used when describing fire. However, we don’t necessarily need to have the notion that His eyes are literally ablaze with fire, rather, John may be commenting on the uniqueness of his eyes, as in they have an appearance of intensity and power.

In Revelation 1:15, the Son of Man is described as having feet like burnished bronze, and a voice like the “sound of many waters.”  The feet having the appearance of burnished bronze may be an analogy for His glory. And furthermore, the sound of his voice being like the “sound of many waters” gives two traits to his voice. First, the voice is loud and intense, as the word “many” invokes imagery of rushing and sudden waters flooding an area. Second, the voice being described as water also gives a sensation of smoothness that John may feel by hearing the voice. All of these traits match identically with the traits described by Daniel in Daniel 10 when he writes about the revealer. These parallels show that the revealer and the Son of Man are one in the same. This exact appearance being recorded may have been paralleled by Jesus in order to make no mistake as to who he was. If there is one thing we can take away from this appearance, it is that our Lord does not have any intention of being mysterious, and does not shy away from making himself known to us. 

The last portion to be analyzed is Revelation 1:16. Out of His mouth protrudes a sharp double-edged sword, his face shone like the sun, and in his right hand seven stars were held. The double edged sword makes another appearance in Revelation later on (Revelation 19:15), and has multiple meanings attached to it. First, it represents the unmatched power that is attributed to God and has been given to the Son to rule. Furthermore, Jesus is representative of his word, and it is fitting that he will conquer by his word. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “the pen is mightier than the sword,” don’t even bother with the ink, as words truly have power, especially those that are uttered from the mouth of our Lord. His face shining like the sun represents the glory that is attributed to him, and parallels with Moses’ face similarly shining after having a personal encounter with God. The seven stars held in his hand are later revealed in this chapter (Revelation 1:20) to represent the seven angels that are associated with the seven churches being written to. “Angels” can be translated too as “messengers,” and essentially shows the connection between Him and the churches. The seven stars  being held in his hand also have significant meaning as this essentially makes the point that the churches are upheld by Him and are in His protection. Likewise, we should have the idea that we as a conglomerate group are sanctioned and protected by Him. That is something I hope that all of you can dwell on, as that is an incredible concept. 

Relationships are often not one way roads, and understanding must go both ways in order for us to have a significant connection with the Lord. He already understands and empathizes with our hearts, but studying and learning more about Him allows for us to truly understand His objectives and what He stands for. I hope that you have all learned something new, and if not, some interesting points about the Son of Man that you can dwell on. 

-Colby Leggitt

Reflection Questions:

  1. Did any of these qualities of Jesus stand out to you? If so, why?
  2. The seven stars were made clear to represent the seven churches that John was writing to. Would that mean that the churches in his name are also held there to this day? What are the implications of that?
  3. What feelings do you have about this representation of Christ versus the representation of Christ in the Gospel? 

Resolution 5: Make Healthy Choices

Malachi 1-2 and Revelation 21

I think we all have flirted with the “best by” dates on food products.  Some of us have done it out of necessity, others maybe more out of laziness, but there is no doubt that some are more sensitive to these subjective guidelines .  I personally give it a sniff and stir test.  Looking for foul odors or curious textures before giving it a taste.   The level of craving or hunger often determines how much flexibility I will give.  At work, I still haven’t lived down a tub full of moldy hummus I ate because I didn’t want to waste it.  I should have just kept my mouth shut (well open really, I was eating), but alas, here I am telling another audience. Surely, the carrots, celery, and apple I was enjoying with the hummus offset any of the negative consequences.  I am willing to eat leftovers, perform sniff tests, down some soft grapes, because when I do this, I give my family an opportunity to buy healthy fresh foods, and treat them to a pleasing sit-down meal from time to time.  This Outback Dinner was brought to you by the goat cheese that sat on the bottom of the meat drawer for weeks and the awful cauliflower-something dish that no one else would eat. Nevertheless, it would seem a bit more detestable if I only treated myself alone and made my family eat the stuff growing hair in the back of the fridge.

 When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty. – Malachi 1:8

Now to frame these choices into a different context.  Is this the way we are treating our relationship with God?  Are we giving him the leftovers, the surplus of our pantry, or the rejects of our storehouse?  Is there an allotted time that you are giving God each day for prayer?  Or do you pray when you have time.  Or if you get up early.  Or when you’re in the car alone.  Are you only tithing what you have left after you pay your bills?  And that is only if there is anything left.  Or maybe not this month because things are tight.  Are you filling the church with single-ply toilet paper when you have triple-ply at your house?  Or bringing your recipe-gone-wrong to the potluck?  Or going to church only when it’s convenient to your and your kids schedule?  Or donating things because you didn’t like the style anyways? If you answered yes to any of these, what you are giving God is going to require a sniff and stir test; your offering may be lame. Your discipleship is growing mold and diseased.  When we are talking about God, we give him the firstfruits.  The unblemished.  Simply the best we have (which still is the equivalent to nothing) but it is fragrant to God and His desires.  He acknowledges the sacrifice when we bring it with a merciful heart. He sees the effort we are making to have a relationship with Him. Our offering is not animals or crops, it is our time, our effort, or energy, our money, and our stuff.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Romans 12:1

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? – Romans 8:32

God didn’t skimp on salvation.  He didn’t provide someone who was expendable.  He didn’t choose someone who was already terminally ill. He didn’t choose a criminal.  He picked the firstfruits, or as Colossians 1 says the firstborn of all creation, meaning before it all, God had already set aside the sacrifice of His son for our sins.  He picked the best.  The only man unblemished by the disease of sin.  This is our example of what sacrifice should look like.  Even though we don’t live in the age of sacrifice, giving first, going without, but most importantly showcasing with our very best effort our desire for God is still a beautiful way to show our love for Him and our request to receive the magnificence of his mercies.  He doesn’t require our sacrifice, but he desires our worship.

“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. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.  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.”

On a final note, the best of God’s plan is yet to come.  The richness in store for us is beyond anything we would do without now.  Again and again, as you read the blueprints of the Kingdom in Revelation 21, you will be blown away by the preparations God has made.  The God outside of time has taken all of His time to make something beyond all fathom, wealth, and existence.  Wow!  Consequently, when your sacrifice is from the healthiest choice, you are going to miss some fun.  You will have to wake up early or stay up late.  You will have to do without some luxuries, or even believed necessities.  There is still a greater inherent blessing from knowing, serving, and honoring God in the reheated stuff that this life is made of in a corrupt, sinful world.  But God…Oh, how God! He is pouring His very best into what is to come.

-Aaron Winner

Read or listen to the Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Malachi 1-2 and Revelation 21

Resolution 3: Save Less

As someone in their mid 30’s who still lives the vast majority of their life like their 13, it’s kind of weird to think my wife and I have assets and savings. Banking. Bonds. Portfolios. Pensions. That’s all stuff for adults. I can’t even match my socks. Yet, here I am, meeting with a retirement counselor and occasionally checking in on the stock market.  As much as both my wife and I love our work, we realize that we don’t want to do it forever.  Each month, a chunk of pay goes into a couple different accounts meant for use a quarter century from now. Lord willing, if we both make it.  Check with us in 25 years.

We are reminded in Proverbs that it is a fool who doesn’t think about the future (Prov: 6:6-8).  Yay. Point for me. But should I, as a Christian, have money in my savings account when I could be giving it charitably?  Do I really need to put aside money for the future if God is going to take care of me? Hmm. God gives all, and tells you to save for rainy days, so He will give you something to save for a rainy day. Honestly, I’m not sure. What I do know is saving is an important discipline, especially with the consideration of tithing, but we are reminded by Jesus that we can get carried away with accumulating things, hoarding our wealth, our assets, and collections (Matt 6:19-24; Mark 10:17-27) and be led down not only a distracting path, but a divisive contrast to the life that pursues God that leads to destruction. If you must err on a side as you pursue God’s answer for this, it would be to give more, and save less.  See the sparrows and the rich young ruler.

Unfortunately, or honestly, more fortunately, you will not receive any long term financial advice from me because I can’t even be counted on to keep cash in my pocket without losing it.  The virtuous woman in my house is responsible for all of our rainy day savings. Although still not fully qualified, I would like to take a moment to focus on the savings that occur in today’s reading.  As we all know, weddings can be very expensive affairs and often are the culmination of many years worth of saving.  Keep this in mind when you begin to read about the marriage supper of the Lamb.  God has been “saving” for the wedding of Jesus and the Church since the foundations of the world.  Imagine how elaborate this celebration will be, when God begins to tap into his reserves for sons and daughters. This is a nest egg far beyond our imagination.

“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:  Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns! Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. – Revelation 19:6b-7

Investing in a single company, bond, or stock is a foolish idea, that’s Finance 101 and some wisdom for earthly investments. However, for treasures that await in heaven to become sight on earth, you can’t diversify.  You must be sold out in your devotion to the Savior (Matt 16:24-26).  That means you must begin reducing and selling off your other investments of your time, your mind, your energy, and your heart.  If you must bank, first, bank of the hope of Jesus Christ. If you must save, first, let it be for others in the telling of the Gospel message.  If you retire, first, let it be in the peace that comes from this saving knowledge.  The pension that comes from a lifetime of devotion to God is far greater than we could ever imagine and earned through our faith in a single truth: Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God and Father, given as propitiation for our sin, and He is coming again to establish God’s kingdom.  Wholly invest in this.

The Lord their God will save his people on that day as a shepherd saves his flock.  They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown. – Zechariah 9:16

-Aaron Winner

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Zechariah 9-11 and Revelation 19

Resolution 1: Drink More Water and Less Kool-Aid

Revelation 17

The eternal feasting from Thanksgiving to Christmas has begun to catch up with me (it’s not just you, promise).  This pre-New Year’s week (and it’s bloating) is often cited by many as their week of revelation and insight into the preparations of what they might change in the upcoming year. While any time – month, day, or hour – is welcome to change, this week I will be focusing on some resolutions presented to us in the continued reading in the prophecy of Zecheriah, the Revelation of John, and the beginnings of Matthew.  While many of the passages are filled with prophetic, symbolic, end-time images, I will try to remain focused on the big picture: the message or warning presented in the passages.  Our eyes should be open, our ears listening, and our spirit attune to the world around us, not only because we become reflective as our year draws to an end, but because the drum roll quickens towards the end of this present evil age.  We should hasten our efforts, not to simply shed a few holiday pounds, start a new hobby, or get organized, but to make changes and to carry on efforts that will make lasting impacts in the Kingdom of God.

Speaking of eternal things, did you know, Kool-Aid, when stored properly, really doesn’t expire?  It is a seemingly innocent drink, yet there is a crushing idiom out there beckoning people not to partake in the consumption of this perpetual potion: You might hear an older generation say, “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid ”.  This expression actually means don’t believe everything you hear, especially because it presents a very real threat.  It might seem that the origins of this phrase refer to the high sugar content, the unnatural color, or the artificial flavor of the name brand fruit drink of childhood and beyond.  It is true, there isn’t much wholesome about this drink (sorry, grape. I still love you tho❤️); however, this isn’t where our figurative turn of phrase is born.  Instead, the origin is far more tragic than the attack on our blood-sugar.  The notorious event is referred to as the 1978 Jonestown Massacre, where hundreds of innocent men, women, and children died by drinking, or being forcibly injected, with a combination of Flavor-Aid and poison.  This presents a more tragic history behind the coinage, but draws a parallel to today’s reading in both Zechariah and Revelation.  The words below remind me that there is a great coming (or even present) evil, or a more perilous and poisoned Kool-aid that is brewing and being passed as legitimate name-brand Gospel.

“I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.” – Revelation 17:6

The prostitute on the beast paints an ironically sobering picture, becoming intoxicated on the blood of saints and lying with the kings of the earth.  Those who take part in this great debauchery against God, may do so willingly, but it seems many do so unwittingly, astonished and deceived by the spectacles of ungodly power (v.8) . There will be those who are not in the Lamb’s Book of Life who attend churches, have ministries, and even blog about Christ, but give-in to tinted truths, sweet lies, and god-like power, because it is a more “palatable” gospel, requiring less real change and more gratification.  The love, justice, mercy that take root in another source other than our Heavenly Father, may look pretty, taste sweet, and have some of the same notes, but it is filled with poison.  It will never quench your thirst.  It is just empty calories leading you closer to death.  Stop the endless following, swiping, and double-tapping – look up.  Turn off the continuous bombardment of the news cycle – look up.  Quit chasing after causes that don’t lead to the saving Gospel message of Christ – look up. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.

Now, this begs the question, what then should we drink?  Coffee!  Wrong. Tea? Still wrong.  Soda?  Getting colder.  Simply, water.  No beans, no leaves, no syrup, no colors, no nonsense straight-from-the-tap water.  It is what your body is craving, essential to every major function in your body, beginning at the cellular level.  Among many other things, water aids in digestion, stabilizes the heart, regulates blood pressure, flushes away the toxins, and provides protection to the day-to-day function of our organs and joints.  Such is true for our Living Water, the Gospel message and the Spirit of God present in our daily walk.

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:13-14

“On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.  By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” – John 7:37-39

While there is a metaphor to be drawn for each of these literal benefits, there is an inherent advantage, understood or not, from consuming water.  Yes, we are trying to flush away perpetuated falsehoods, but drinking living water in and of itself is simply refreshing.  Make time for God’s Word.  Worship Him in your car.  Honor Him with your time. Live out the Gospel through actions and bear the testimony of Jesus Christ. Resolve to fill your tumbler and carry it wherever you go because there are so many ready to make the switch from the Kool-Aid to the quenching Living Water.

-Aaron Winner

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at Bible Gateway here – Zechariah 5-6 and Revelation 17

Wrath and Reward

Revelation 16

If you’ve ever needed an incentive to remain obedient to God, read about the 7 bowls of God’s wrath as recorded in Revelation 16 – if a stick motivates you.

Bowl 1.  Revelation 16:2, “The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly and painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image.

This is a good reason not to worship the beast, better known as the antichrist.  But it gets better…

Bowl 2. The sea turned into blood like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died.

Bowl 3. The rivers and springs of water turned to blood.

Bowl 4. People were seared by the intense heat of the sun, which grew very hot.

Bowl 5. Darkness, and men gnawed their tongues in agony.

Bowl 6. Demons gathered the kings of the earth for the war of Armageddon.

Bowl 7.  An earthquake more devastating than any since man has been on the earth.  Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found.  From the sky, huge hailstones of about 100 pounds each fell upon men.

This should give us the incentive to remain faithful to God in the midst of persecution from the antichrist.  But we can’t endure alone, we will need God’s help.  This brings us to a promise in Zechariah 4:6, also in today’s reading, which says, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.”

We need to be completely dedicated to living wholeheartedly for God.  And when tough times come, He will give us the strength to endure, with the power of His Holy Spirit.

Personally, I’m more of a carrot kind of guy.  So I look more at the promises of Revelation 21:4, which says, “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.”

So whether you’re motivated by a carrot or by a stick, the important thing is to be completely dedicated to living wholeheartedly for God today.  Once the tough times come, it will be really hard to start serving Him then.

-Steve Mattison

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Zechariah 3-4 and Revelation 16

Which Fate will You Choose?

Revelation 14 – 15

Even though Revelation 14 was part of yesterday’s reading, I waited to comment on it until today so we could contrast the fate of those who submit to the antichrist from Revelation 14 with the fate of those who resist the antichrist in Revelation 15.

Rev 14: 9-12 tells us, “…If anyone worships the beast [the antichrist] and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he too will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath.  He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.  And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever.  There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.  This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.”

In a nutshell, no matter how bad it will get for Christians, including being martyred for their faithfulness to Jesus, the punishment for the wicked will be infinitely worse.  This will call for patience and endurance on the part of Christians – when given the choice between “the good life” of following the antichrist, or torture and death for remaining faithful to Jesus.

By contrast, we read in Revelation 15:2-3, “And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name.  They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the lamb:  “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty.  Just and true are your ways, King of the ages.””

Every one of us has a choice to make.  Usually these choices are in little things – would God approve of this or that that I’m doing?  As we consistently choose to live for God, it gets easier to make the right choices.  Eventually, making the right choices will be really tough.  If we don’t develop the discipline now, we’ll never be able to endure when times get tough.

This reminds me of Moses’ challenge to the Israelites just before his death, as recorded in Deuteronomy 30:15, “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.”

Which will you choose?

-Steve Mattison

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Zechariah 1-2 and Revelation 15

Life and Death – and Life Again

Zephaniah 1 – 3 and Revelation 13

Today’s reading contains some disturbing imagery, so readers be warned.

In Revelation 13, we find details of the person we call the antichrist. In Revelation 13:7, we’re told “He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them…”  In Revelation 13:9-10 we read, “He who has an ear, let him hear.  If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go.  If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed.  This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.

In a nutshell, we know that at some point in the future (I believe in the relatively near future), a person we call the antichrist will arise.  He will deceive the nations and will control the economy such that only those who receive the “mark of the beast” will be able to buy or sell.  (We will find out in Revelation 14:10 that those who do receive the mark of the beast will be tormented in the lake of fire.) And he will successfully conquer Christians.

As a Christian, this doesn’t sound very appealing.  If all we’re focusing on is this life, it won’t seem worth maintaining our faithfulness to God.  When that time comes, we’ll need to remember what God has promised for the wicked, as recorded in Zephaniah – also part of today’s reading.

In Zephaniah 1:2-3, we read, “I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth, declares the Lord.  I will sweep away both men and animals; I will sweep away the birds of the air and the fish of the sea.  The wicked will only have heaps of rubble when I cut off man from the face of the earth, declares the Lord.”

In Zephaniah 1:18, we read, “…In the fire of his jealousy the whole world will be consumed, for He will make a sudden end of all who live on the earth.”

Zephaniah 3:8 tells us, “…I have decided to assemble the nations to gather the kingdoms and to pour out my wrath on them – all my fierce anger.  The whole world will be consumed by the fire of my jealous anger.

But then we find hope in Zephaniah 3:12-13, where we read, “But I will leave within you the meek and the humble, who trust in the name of the Lord.  The remnant of Israel will do no wrong; they will speak no lies, nor will deceit be found in their mouths. They will eat and lie down, and no one will make them afraid.”

In short, terrible times are coming for Christians, when the antichrist will try to annihilate us from the earth.  It will be critical to remain faithful to God during those difficult times, even if we lose our lives.  Because ultimately, God will judge the world, and completely destroy the wicked.  Even if we die, we will be resurrected to live in peace forever.  While the wicked will be completely destroyed forever.

I’m reminded of Deuteronomy 30:19 where we read, “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”

Choose to remain faithful to God.  Choose life.  Even if you have to succumb to death.

-Steve Mattison

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway.com here – Zephaniah 1-3 and Revelation 13

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