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Prophecy

Image source: Sweet Publishing/FreeBibleimages.org

How do you respond when someone says, “I have good news and I have bad news”? Several times in today’s Bible reading, Jesus does just that.

He talks about the Last Days and His return. In the way He describes things, it would be very easy to be anxious. But that’s not why He tells His Disciples about the end times. Instead, He gives them this information so they would be encouraged. As they see things happen in the future, instead of being anxious, they should be encouraged, knowing that the end and Jesus’ return is coming soon.

Note: The “End Times” isn’t something that will happen sometime in the future only. When Bible teachers talk about “the End Times”, they’re talking about the time that began when Jesus arrived preaching His good news. In other words, we are in the “End Times” now. Yes, we are closer to the end than when the church was birthed in Acts 2, but we have been in the “End Times” for almost two thousand years. We are in an overlap of this Present Age and the Age to Come. A time of “already, but not yet”. Some of the things Jesus prophesied have already been fulfilled, such as the fall of Jerusalem that occurred in AD 70 and prophesied in today’s reading. (Mark 13:2) But Jesus hasn’t yet returned in all of His glory to take His bride — Believers — to her eternal home with Him. 26-27)

Application

Are you ready for Jesus’ return? What does it mean to be ready? It means to live with an expectancy that Jesus will come soon. It means to live an obedient life, telling other people how they, too can have an eternal hope.

Several times in the Gospels, Jesus tells His Disciples — and us — that we should always be ready because no one knows when He will return. Even He doesn’t know when His Father tells Him to bring His children home. If you’re one of His children, He will come for you, so you want to make sure that you’re always ready.

As we continue reading through the Gospels and Revelation during this year, it’s important to see Jesus’ warnings as both good news and bad news.

Spend some time today thanking God that He has a plan to bring His chidren home to live with Him for eternity.

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1000 years

In today’s Bible reading, John uses the term “a thousand years” to describe several things. This is the only place in the Bible that mentions “a thousand years” with regards to the End Times.

One of the most important things to do in reading, studying, interpreting, and ultimately applying the Bible is to read it in its context, including its literary genre. We can easily run into problems when we apply one genre to another. For instance, when we read the book of Acts in the history genre, we need to realize that Dr. Luke describes what happened in the early church. Paul, on the other hand, prescribes how things are supposed to be done.

For example, when reading Acts 28:3 and see Paul shaking off a viper that attached to his hand, some people see that as prescriptive. There are churches in backwoods Appalachia that actually round up venomous snakes to handle in their church services in order to prove that they are “spiritual”. Just because Luke describes what Paul did doesn’t mean that Believers are supposed to do the same. Can God protect Believers today from succumbing to snake venom? Absolutely! God can do whatever He wants. He’s God! But usually, we should follow the prescription to not put God to a test. (Deuteronomy 6:16)

Why go into this here? Given the fact that The Revelation is in the apocalyptic genre — which uses figurative language and lots of word pictures — when we read “a thousand years”, we shouldn’t expect to start a stopwatch the moment the thousand years begins and know when it will end. Instead, we should realize that God is outside the confines of time and to Him, there’s no difference between a day and a thousand years. (2 Peter 3:8) The point of John’s using the term is to say that this will happen over a long period of time, but this time will end; it isn’t eternity.

Application

We must be careful when reading books and commentaries on Biblical prophecy, especially those whose authors try to explain everything in Daniel and Revelation. Some of what Daniel and John recorded may not have a one-to-one correspondence with what we want it to be.

And realize that not all godly people understand these books the same way. Some godly people believe that most of Revelation has yet to begin. Other godly people believe that the entire book has already been completed. Eschatology (the study of the End Times) is not a primary theological issue so we should extend agree-to-disagree grace to all Believers, regardless of how they understand these things. These books are not in the didactic genre where teachings are spelled out. Read Daniel and Revelation with the thought of apocalyptic genre.

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golden gavel

Things continue escalating in today’s Bible reading. Seven angels pour out seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.

First Bowl: Painful Sores
Second Bowl: The sea turned to blood and all sea life died
Third Bowl: Rivers and springs became blood
Fourth Bowl: People are scorched by the sun. They blaspheme the One who has power over the plagues. They do not repent.
Fifth Bowl: The Beast’s kingdom is plunged into darkness. The people are in intense pain and blaspheme God and do not repent.
Sixth Bowl: The Euphrates River dries up, paving the way for the eastern kings to march to Armageddon.
Seventh Bowl: The greatest earthquake ever occurs. God pours out His wrath on Babylon the Great. One hundred pound hailstones fall and people blaspheme.

Once again, we see people refuse to repent of their sin when they’re face-to-face with God’s wrath. They don’t cry out for mercy. Instead, they blaspheme. They curse God.

Application

We’ve seen this before. God brings hardships in order to call people to repent. And yet they don’t. Their hearts have grown so hard, they don’t see a need to ask for God’s help. Instead, they call down curses on God, the only One Who can stop or give any relief from the plagues.

So what does this say about God? It says that God is holy. God is righteous. God is just. And God is justified in pouring out His wrath on sinful, rebellious humanity. God is patient. But a Day is coming when He will no longer hold back His wrath. He will pour out His wrath and punish sin. He will punish those who pursue their sin. And that Day will be the worst day ever.

Are you ready for that Day? If you repent of your sin, God will credit the righteousness of Jesus to your account and His wrath will be satisfied in the punishment Jesus bore on a cross almost two thousand years ago.

You can face God’s wrath on your own. Or you can have Jesus to deal with God’s wrath for you. Turn to Jesus and repent of your sin today!

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the overlap of This Age and The Age to Come

In today’s Bible reading, we see two witnesses given authority to prophesy/preach against the people’s sins for a period of time. During their allotted time, they are immortal; no one can harm them. At the end of the allotted time, people martyr the witnesses and leave their bodies on the street until the witnesses are resurrected on the third day after they are killed. (Note: The word we use for “witness” is the Greek word “martyr”.)

The witnesses are called home to heaven, and an earthquake on the earth follows. FINALLY, the people are terrified and glorify God. (Revelation 11:13)

Application

How long? How long does it take for God to get your attention? How quickly do you respond? How deeply do you respond?

“Oh, Believers will be raptured before the ‘end times’ begin so we don’t have to worry about the End Times!”

Not according to Jesus!

When Jesus showed up and began ministering two thousand years ago, the “end times” began. (Luke 11:20) In other words, we don’t have to wait for the “end times”. We’re living in it. The Kingdom of God is already here. The Kingdom of God has come, but it hasn’t been consummated. Right now, we’re living in the overlap of This Age and The Age to Come. For now, we live in the tension of “Already, but not yet”.

In other words, eternal life doesn’t begin when we cross over to the other side of eternity. Eternal life begins on this side of eternity. We can know God now! (John 17:3) We get to experience Kingdom of God life now!

Spend some time today thanking God for sending Jesus to initiate The Age to Come. Look for ways you can partner with God to usher in His Kingdom. Seek His Kingdom and His righteousness first. (Matthew 6:33)

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honey

In today’s Bible reading, John is commanded to eat the scroll held by the angel straddling the earth and sea. The angel warns John that the little scroll will taste sweet, but will upset his stomach.

God’s Word is difficult to digest but is sweet to Believers. The Psalmist says, “How sweet your word is to my taste— sweeter than honey in my mouth.” (Psalm 119:103 CSB) and “The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the LORD are reliable and altogether righteous. They are more desirable than gold— than an abundance of pure gold; and sweeter than honey dripping from a honeycomb.” (Psalm 19:9–10 CSB)

Ezekiel, too, was told to eat a scroll. (Ezekiel 3:1-3) His scroll was also sweet when he ate it. In both cases, having eaten the scroll, the men are commanded to prophesy (to speak God’s Word)

Application

All too often, preachers prepare their sermons by studying the Bible without personally applying it to their lives. Oftentimes we will let our sermon prep be the only time we read and study the Word. It’s very easy to fall into this habit. And that is very sad.

Fortunately, most of us aren’t preachers. But how do you approach your Bible reading? How often does God’s Word come across as bitter to you? Perhaps it doesn’t sit well with how you have understood it in the past. Or perhaps it highlights something in your life that doesn’t line up with God’s character or His ways as revealed in His Word.

I would venture to say that if you aren’t confronted and convicted by God’s Word, you aren’t reading/studying it well. How does that taste? Bitter?

God has inspired His Word to teach you, but also to confront your sin and to prepare you for doing His work, regardless of whether or not you are a preacher or Bible Study teacher.

Spend some time asking God to show you something new in His Word as you read and study it. Ask Him to sanctify you with His Word, because His Word is truth. (John 17:17)

Expect to be confronted. Expected to be convicted.

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