He [the devil] was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies…The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 8:44, 10:10
There is this ongoing battle between good and evil; between God’s goodness and the evil schemes of the devil (the “thief” as he is referred to in this verse). God has allowed the devil to have this time to prowl around, wreaking havoc, but Satan also knows God keeps His promises and his destructive impact will come to an end. The devil isn’t about to waste this limited time he has.
God desires us to have a relationship with Him – to choose the good. But He doesn’t force it on us. He is always pursuing us, even when we are fighting it. God has good things in store for us, where the devil is only out for our destruction. Satan wants to pull us into the pit with him.
Jesus is the one talking in this verse, saying He, unlike the devil, came that we might have life and have it abundantly. Conversely, the devil is a deceiver, making things that are opposite of God’s desire for us look super appealing. He seeks only to steal, kill and destroy. Jesus calls him the father of lies.
There are only two paths we can be on. One leads to eternal life and one to utter destruction. It is a daily decision to choose which side we want to follow. The devil works hard to pull us on his team, or at least get us off track. But God’s way is the only way to abundant life.
Question: What can you do each day to serve as a reminder to choose God’s side and not fall for the lies of the devil to try to get us off track?
The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. Genesis 3:14-15
Back to the Old Testament and the backlash of that dreadful bite of fruit. God tells Adam, Eve and Satan what the consequences of their actions will be. For women, there will be multiplied sorrows and pain in childbirth. For man, work will now be hard. For all of us, there will be no more eternal life on this side of heaven. We will experience pain and death.
Sin is a big deal to God.
To Satan (the devil), God says that although he will bruise the heel of God’s people (inflicting a wounding and negative effect, but not destruction), someone greater, from the seed of the woman, will bruise Satan’s head. A mortal wound with complete destruction and death.
This is the first hint of Jesus’ work on earth to come. He is the one who will be victorious over Satan. As we progress through the Bible, we will read many stories of God’s people, but know that Jesus coming to die on the cross to save us and defeat sin and death was God’s plan of restoration from the beginning.
Sin is now in the world. Satan is doing his “bruising” in all of our lives. We continue to fall for his lies and manipulation. We experience pain and hardship and suffering. The heel-bruising is brutal, no doubt.
But have confidence knowing that sin and Satan and death will be defeated. God has a plan. He always had a plan. A plan that leads reconciliation and for us to be wholly restored and with Him forever. Our job is to believe and put our faith in His perfect plan.
Questions: Have you ever given much thought to the destructive consequences of sin? Why do you think sin is such a big deal to God?
“Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” Luke 12:2-3
A brief fast forward to the New Testament. Here Jesus is talking to His followers. He is reminding them that we may think things are hidden and done in secret, but God always sees and knows.
If we are honest, we all have secrets. There are some things we only do in the “dark” (in private, or with those we know won’t challenge us and hold us accountable). Whispers, untruths, unkind thoughts, hidden desires, impure motives, rebellious attitudes toward someone or something. Some things we do in the dark because we want to and some things we don’t even want to do…they have a hold on us. Even Paul, one of the great early Christian leaders, wrote in Romans, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” (Romans 7:19-20)
And you know what else? That thing that was done to you that no one knows about…God knows. It isn’t hidden. That person that seems to have gotten away with it…God knows. It isn’t in the dark.
We don’t have to feel condemned or hopeless as we step out of the dark places into the light. God is patiently waiting for us. He knows all we have ever done or will do, and He loves us very much.
As hard as it may be, we need to let God know that we know what He already knows. God desires our freedom. Shame, fear, and dread live in the darkness, but peace, restoration, and joy are found in the light.
Challenge: Take some time to reflect on things you may be doing in the “dark” – in secret, or maybe even in your thought life. Bring them to God. Ask for His power to help you get back on track. Make a commitment to live like everything is visible and out in the open; to not do anything in secret that you wouldn’t do in the presence of others – even God, who sees everything.
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. Genesis 3:6-7
We have freedom to decide whether or not we want to do what God says.
But because God is perfect and holy and just, our choices have consequences.
The first humans listened to the lies of Satan over the truth of God. They chose to do the ONE thing that was forbidden. They had everything they could ever want or need…but they wanted more. With that choice…that bite… sin entered the world.
Their eyes were open. What was once only good all around them was now corrupt. They recognized their nakedness, and filled with a new emotion – shame – they tried to hide and fix things on their own with fig leaves.
Instead of owning up to their disobedience, they tried to cover it up. We fall into that trap too, don’t we? We think we can hide from our sin and conceal it with what amounts to flimsy fig leaves.
But God sees and knows everything. We will soon see that those figs leaves don’t really cover up their sin, just like our efforts on our own will never cover our sins. They – and we -- need a bigger and more powerful savior.
Questions: What is your first reaction when you realize you messed up and got caught? Do you quickly confess or try to cover it up?
He [Satan] said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:1b-5
So, things are pretty good for the first several pages of the Bible. There is no sin, no pain, no heartbreak, no toil in work, no jealousy…not even death. But it doesn’t last long. The devil is lurking around in the form of a serpent. We are told he is more crafty than any other beast of the field that God made. He seeks to plant doubt in our minds and destructive desires in our hearts. Satan’s initial words to Eve (the first woman God created to live with Adam) were,” Did God actually say…”
Oh, the pain that is caused by a strategically planted seed of doubt about who God is and what He says! The devil only has a few tricks he uses, but they are very effective: questioning the goodness of God and dangling things before us that are pleasing to the eye and ego. All rooted in pride, pleasure, and power. He does it by shifting our focus on things that look, seem, feel good…but we know are only destructive. Encouraging us to look out for ourselves instead of others. Convincing us we need something we can’t or shouldn’t have. Cheering us on to chase an upper hand or elevated position. Demanding we deserve revenge. Whispering doubt about God’s love for us.
The devil became the devil in rebellion against God, seeking a name and empire for himself. He is on a mission to drag us into his hell of the ongoing quest to find satisfaction and fulfillment in these things. Only our Creator can provide what truly satisfies us. Our job is to believe, trust, and obey Him.
Questions: What things generally tempt you the most? Do you see the root of the devil’s tactics in what draws you to these things?
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:15-17
Did you catch what one of the first assignments God gave man was? It was to work in the garden. We were created to work and it is a good and pleasurable thing.
God also told Adam all of creation was his to enjoy. There is only one requirement…one tree is off limits for eating. Only ONE thing was prohibited. He mustn’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
In order for us to have free will, we must have choices. Without something being forbidden there is no choice. And God wants our love for Him to be a decision we make. He could have created us without the choice and forced us to obey Him, but that wouldn’t be genuine love. God wants our obedience and love to be something we willingly do, not something forced on us.
The forbidden tree is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Can you imagine a world where not only is there no evil, but you don’t even know of its existence? It sounds perfect, doesn’t it?! God doesn’t just tell Adam not to eat of the tree, He also tells him the consequences…death.
Absent of sin, there is no death.
As long as Adam obeys this ONE command – avoiding the fruit of the ONE tree among ALL of the abundance around him – he remains in the eternal and perfect presence of God.
Questions: Have you ever been in a situation where there were a million things you could do and one thing you couldn’t? Where does your mind usually go…to all of the things you have or the one thing you don’t?
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 2 Peter 3:8
There is ongoing debate about whether creation occurred in six days as we know 24-hour days versus days as representative of an extended period of time. Regardless of where you stand on this debate, one thing we do know from the apostle Peter’s 2nd letter is that God’s time frames often differ from ours. It is part of His all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-present character. He is not constrained by time and space as we are.
Imagine you only knew flat two dimensions and someone drew a big line on a piece of paper with a dot on either side of the line. They told you to create a path from one dot to the other without crossing the line. You would naturally assume the only way to do so was to go from the first dot all the way around the line to the second dot.
But… what if someone that knew three-dimensional space told you there was another way. You would think it was impossible due to your limited view of things stuck in only two-dimensions. They would tell you how you could go through the air over the line making a path from one dot to another. Suddenly your eyes are open to this new reality that you never fully understood but was there all along.
God’s vision is bigger than ours. God sees things that we can’t see. He has a wider and deeper view of all things... bigger than even three dimensions to the person who formerly only knew two. In our earthly bodies, we have a limited view of the world, but God is always patient, knowing how all the pieces will come together. His promises can feel slow to come to fruition in our eyes, but He sees it all and everything He promises will come to pass in the perfect time. Never lose hope.
There are realities around us that our eyes are closed to until we are in heaven. Until that time, we trust God, His good Word, and His promises.
Questions: Are you in the waiting for a promise from God that isn’t happening in your timeframe? Have you ever thought about what limited understanding we have? How does this open your mind to the possibilities of what God can see and do?
And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. Genesis 2:2-3
Back to the creation story… God creates everything in six days and on the seventh day of creation, God rested. Have you ever thought much about this? Do you think God NEEDS to rest?
The Hebrew word translated as rest means “to cease or stop; to abstain.” God rested because His work was finished; His creation was good. And while God doesn’t need rest, He modeled for us the importance of taking time to rest…to stop; to soak life in; to worship Him at a slower and more intentional pace.
The statistics are overwhelming about the number of kids, teens, and adults who are just plain stressed out. We are anxious and full of worry. We are killing ourselves by going non-stop and putting excessive pressure on ourselves.
Even at the beginning of everything being created, God knew this. He knew we needed to pause. He knew we were prone to burn out without rest. He knew we wouldn’t take the time to stop and look around and see the good among all of the stress and worry and work. He knows we need to rest. He knows we need to be filled with His truth, and grace, and love, and wisdom.
God would soon command Sabbath rest, but on this day, He models it for us.
Challenge: Take intentional time today or at some point this week to rest. Slow down with no agenda or to-do list and simply sit quietly with God.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10
The one who created us has also prepared good works for us. Who better to create us than the one who knows what we need to be equipped to do; what we were created to do?
So often we spend much of our time comparing ourselves to other people. We want what they have or what they can do. And if you’ve ever fallen in this trap, you know it is only exhausting, depressing, and unfulfilling.
We don’t know everyone else’s story. We don’t know what everyone else has gone through or what God’s purpose and plans are for them. Believe me, no one has it easy. Everyone has trials and burdens and obstacles they have to overcome.
When we waste our precious time and energy comparing or trying to copy someone else’s looks, talents, personalities, achievements, social media life, etc., we miss out on who God created us to be. Because other peoples’ callings don’t quite fit us right.
God has good works – good things -- that He has set out for us to do. These things require a unique skill set that only we have. When we ignore the development of these things by trying to be someone else, we miss out on really wonderful, God-ordained things prepared for us.
The good works have already been prepared by God...for us to do. Our job? To not miss them. To WALK IN THEM. Let’s do this!
Challenge: Pay close attention to your thoughts over the next few days. When you find yourself comparing or jealous, let this be a prompt for you to pray. Ask God to show you what unique gifts and traits He created in YOU that He wants you to further develop or put into practice. Ask for wisdom in walking in the good works He has already prepared for YOU.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
It is important to examine what we believe about the Bible because if we don’t believe it is true and authoritative, we won’t put much stake in what it says. Do you believe it is the word of God? Do you believe it is true and trustworthy?
Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, gives final instructions to a young man he has been mentoring as his own life is coming to an end. He shares a very important truth about the Bible…it is breathed out by God.
Yes, it was penned by actual men, but it was fully inspired by God. It is the one source we have of complete truth by God. When in doubt, always refer to the Bible as the source for knowledge and truth about God and how to live your life.
Though the Bible is full of adventures, heroes, villains, triumphs, and failures, it is not a mythical fiction novel. It is a true story with real people and a real hero who saves the day – Jesus.
Paul continues with how the Bible – these inspired words from God – can be used: for teaching, for reproof (pointing out errors in our thinking or living), correction (showing us the right way to live), and training us in righteousness (moral living).
The purpose, Paul continues, is so that we may be complete. In other words, so we can be who God created us to be and be fully equipped to do every good work He has in store for us. It is exciting to think that the God who created everything has good works planned for us to do. Our life has incredible purpose. By understanding God’s word and truth, we get to be an active part of God’s perfect plans.
Questions: Do you believe the Bible is the word of God? How does this truth impact your view of the Bible? Do you truly believe your life has a good purpose and God has good plans and works already in store for you?
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. Psalm 139:13-16
Not only did God create humans in His image and likeness, He uniquely created YOU. The way you look, your personality, your quirks, your talents…all of you. The God who created the universe fashioned you on purpose, for purpose.
Another truth about God is that He is omnipotent (ALL-POWERFUL). He has no limitations. There is nothing in existence that God doesn’t have power over. God is also omnipresent (ALL-PRESENT). He is everywhere all the time…past, present, and future. And God is omniscient (ALL-KNOWING). There isn't a single thing that can be known, past, present, or future, that God isn't aware of.
You have free will to make decisions – good or bad. You choose. God doesn’t force you to do anything. God also already knows what you will do. The choices you will make and the choices others will make that impact you. He sees it all. He is never surprised by anything.
God knew you long before you were born. Nothing is hidden from Him. All of your days are known to Him. Knowing everything, He says you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Fearfully… as in with awe, the root of awesome.
YOU are created exactly how a perfect God created you for the life and plans set before you...and God doesn’t make mistakes.
Questions: Does it freak you out a little or give you comfort that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present? Do you believe you are fearfully and wonderfully made just the way you are? When you are tempted to feel down on yourself, whisper to yourself, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and God doesn’t make mistakes.”
When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. Genesis 2:5-7
Unlike the other pieces of creation that God spoke into existence, we were formed by the mighty hands of God; awakened by the holy breath of God.
God created Adam, the first human, from dust and breathed life into him. Life is formed from mere dust and the hands and breath of God. God makes beautiful things from ashes.
The Hebrew word for breath is ruach (roo-ah), which even sounds like an exhaled breath. It is also used for the word Spirit. The Spirit of God brings us life.
Imagine being Adam and feeling air being breathed into your body, starting in your nostrils, and working its way down to every part of your being.
Adam comes to life for the first time and stands face to face with God. This is the first human with the breath of God flowing through him. Everything is perfect and complete and holy. This is our beginning!
Question: The human body is incredible when you think about it. No two fingerprints are alike. All of our parts and organs and air and blood work together to keep us alive. What is the most incredible thing to you about the human body that God created?
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26a,27
When you look in the mirror, do you see the image and likeness of God? You should! This is how God created you.
When you look around at those you interact with each day, do you see the image and likeness of God? You should! This is also how God created them.
Did you catch how the words of God begin this declaration? “Let us…”
Who is the “us”?
Another truth about God is He is one God in three persons…God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
These three were there in One from the beginning. God is community. We were created for community to support and rely on one another. We weren’t created to do this life alone. It is hard and we need each other. Sometimes we will be the one encouraging and sometimes we will be the one being encouraged.
Man was the last thing that was created on the sixth day. When all other created things and beings were made, God declared it, “good.” When man was created and added to the world, God declared it, “very good.” (Genesis 1:31)
You are created in the image of God…and it is very good.
Challenge: The next time you have a disagreement with someone or they rub you the wrong way, take a minute to remind yourself that they are created in the image and likeness of God. Do you think this could help change your mindset about them?
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun… Psalm 19:1-4
First, God creates light. He separates the light from darkness, calling one day and one night. Though God has been around forever, this was the first day as we know it.
The verses that follow tell us He next created the atmosphere and divided it from the oceans (which He also created), He created land and divided it from the water, He created vegetation. The sun, moon, stars were created to fill the sky. He created creatures to fill the sky and water. Finally, He created creatures to fill the land, at which time man was created.
Incredibly God’s creation itself points to the glory of God and the beauty of His handiwork. It is a universal language with no speech or words or voice needed. It is declared throughout the world, whether in a crowded city or a remote village.
Though we speak different languages and have different cultures throughout the world, when we lay on the grass outside on a clear night -- no matter where we are -- we all look at the same moon and the same stars. We are all kept warm by the same sun. We are all formed by the same Creator.
Creation declares how big our God is, His masterful engineering, His exquisite artistry, and His unmatched goodness. Not with spoken language, but with colors, connection, order, and beauty. We get a glimpse of God when we take in His masterful creation.
Question: What about creation speaks the most clearly to you with regard to God’s glory and attributes?
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Genesis 1:1-2
In the beginning, God created…
The first two things we learn about God is that He has always been here and He is a Creator.
Before anything, God was here. Before atoms, dust, land, sky, water, stars, animals, humans... before it all, God was here.
The way the things of the world are connected and work together is orderly and extensive. Creation is rich with intricate details, textures, colors, and smells. God is a creative Creator.
How would you decide what color something should be when there were no colors? Or what shape something would be when there was no form? Or what its purpose would be? How did God create everything from nothing?
God said, “Let there be…” (Genesis 1:3). God SPOKE things into existence. He imagined it, and with His WORD it was formed. Nothing is by accident.
What God says happens! His Word is powerful! This is a truth we can count on always.
If God can create beauty, form, and purpose out of nothing, He can create beauty and purpose out of even our messes and mistakes. He is the Master Creator. Nothing is too big or too impossible for the Creator of all things who has always been and will always be.
Questions: Have you ever given thought to how everything was created or how something can be created out of nothing? What are some of the most creative aspects of God you see in the world around you? What do you think about the power of God’s Word?
Join us starting tomorrow, January 1, 2021, as we devo through the Bible again in a year.
We will start at the very beginning — in Genesis 1 — and work our way through the lives and events ordained and inspired by God, ending in Revelation 22 on December 31. In 365 short daily devotionals will learn who God is and who we are in Him. We will see His perfect plan of redemption through Jesus pictured and pointed to as His story to us unfolds over thousands of years. We will wrestle with our response and what surrender looks like. I hope you will join us!
Make sure to follow Jesus 365 and tag some friends you want to join you! I can’t wait to all do this together!
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“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” Revelation 22:7
The final chapter of the Bible – the epilogue of the Revelation received by John and the epilogue to the entire inspired word of God to us. God’s story – our story – that ends in redemption and restoration for those who trust in God and His gift of salvation. The Bible from start to finish tells this unified story…the story that takes place between two perfect gardens.
In Genesis, heaven and earth are created. Revelation ends with a new heaven and new earth.
In Genesis, God created the sun, stars, moon. Revelation ends with God Himself as our sole light source.
In Genesis, man is created and sees God face to face, walking in His presence. Revelation ends with man again seeing God face to face and dwelling with Him.
In Genesis, sin and death entered the world. Revelation ends with sin and death defeated forever.
In Genesis, man is banished from paradise and the tree of life. In Revelation, man is with God in paradise eating from the tree of life.
In Genesis, God promised One who would come to restore everything. Revelation ends with these last recorded words of the promised One who came, died, and rose from the dead for all who would believe and put their hope in Him, “Surely I am coming soon.” (Revelation 22:20)
So, here we are. We await the final battle and victory in the second coming of Jesus. Final and ultimate victory is coming. However, while we wait, there is still work for us as followers and believers to do here on earth. Jesus taught us to pray that God’s kingdom come, His will be done, on EARTH as in heaven. We work with our hands, our feet, our voice while we wait and we enthusiastically join John in His last words – the last words of God’s Word to us – “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”
Question: What kingdom work can you be a part of while you wait for the return of Jesus?
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:1-4
Satan destroyed. Death defeated. The old has passed away.
A new heaven and a new earth. No more deception, manipulation or temptation from Satan, for he is defeated for all time. God Himself with us for eternity.
An angel takes John to see the glorious paradise. Radiance like jewels. Twelve gates with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. Twelve foundations with the twelve names of the twelve apostles of Jesus. It all comes full circle. It all had meaning. It all matters.
Walls of stunning, colorful jewels. The city pure gold, like clear glass. Even streets of gold. No temple, sun, or moon because GOD. IS. THERE. Flowing from the throne through the middle of the street of the city is the river of the water of life. Bright as crystal. One either side of the river, the tree of life, yielding twelve kinds of fruit each month. Here we will reign forever and ever. Paradise. No tears. No pain. No suffering. No addictions. No disease. No depression. No envy. No striving. No death. Only life.
In the Old Testament, Daniel also sees a vision of what is to come, but he is told to shut up the words and seal the book. It wasn’t yet time to be fully revealed. But here at the end of the revelation to John, Jesus says, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.” (Revelation 22:10).
Friends, it is trustworthy and true. All things will be made new. You in?
Question: What is your favorite part of the idea of heaven?
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. Revelation 20:12
For a thousand years, the dragon (Satan) is bound in the bottomless pit. The once powerful and destructive father of lies now shut and sealed, unable to deceive the nations until the thousand years ends.
For those thousand years, the martyrs, along with those who did not worship the beast or receive its mark, come to life and reign with Jesus. Peace on earth for a thousand years. The Millennium; the first resurrection.
At the end of the thousand years, Satan is released from his prison and given authority to yet again deceive the nations. He gathers the multitudes in rebellion against God for battle. They march up over the plain of the earth and surround the camp of team Jesus. But instead of a battle, fire rains from heaven and consumes them. God is done with them! At long last, the devil is thrown into the lake of fire where the beast and false prophet lie in perpetual agony. Here they will remain and be tormented night and day. Forever and ever.
John then sees a great white throne with the dead standing before it as books are opened. This is no trial, but instead a sentencing. The book of life – those who put their faith in Jesus - is also opened and the dead are judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. For believers, the debt was paid by Jesus when He took the wrath of our sin and gave us His righteousness…our name secured in the book of life. But of unbelievers, David Guzik summarizes, “Those who refuse to come to God by faith will, by default, be judged (and condemned) by their works.” No works can match up to a standard of perfection. Death and Hades – the last remnants of sin – are thrown into the lake of fire, along with anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life.
Challenge: Hell is real and hell is eternal. Fervently pray for those you know and love who haven’t yet put their faith in Jesus.
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” Revelation 19:9
John sees a beast with seven heads and ten horns. He is told they represent kings and kingdoms…some that have come to pass and some that are yet to come. There is an eighth beast that is part of the seven, but separate. And there is a great prostitute arrayed in purple and scarlet and adorned in gold, jewels and pearls. On her forehead was written a name: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth's abominations.” She is drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. (Revelation 17:5-6). Though equally vile and partners in sexual immorality and luxury, the beasts hate the prostitute and destroy her. “For God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.” (Revelation 17:17). Never doubt who is truly and always in control.
More rejoicing is heard…the marriage of the Lamb has come. Suddenly John sees heaven open and a white horse appear. The rider called Faithful and True. In His righteousness He judges and makes war. His robe is dipped in blood and His name is THE WORD OF GOD. On His robe and thigh a name written: King of kings and Lord of lords. From His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.
The beast and the kings of the earth gather to make war against the One on the horse and His army. But the beast is no match for the Word of God. He is captured, along with the false prophet who performed signs and deceived those who received the mark of the beast – 666 – and worshiped his image. The beast and false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire; the rest with them are slain by the sword from the mouth of the One on the horse.
There is only one Victor. Only one worthy of worship. He is the Word, and from His mouth came creation and from His mouth will come destruction for those who rebel against Him.
Question: What do you think about Jesus’s weapon in this battle being a sword from His mouth?
Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” Revelation 6:1
John gets a front-row seat for a peek into the future…into our future. There are thrones, crowns, flashes of lighting, torches of fire, a sea of glass, living creatures like none other…worshiping; praising God. John is in for a wild ride and he takes us along with him.
Jesus, the Lamb that was slain, begins to break the seals. Seven of them…one by one. With each broken seal, an often catastrophic event on earth is triggered. Slaying of one another, earthquakes, blackened sun, full moon like blood, stars falling from the sky …the great day of the wrath of the Lamb upon them.
John sees 144,000 sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel. And then great multitude – too numerous to count – from every tribe, nation, people, language clothed in white, washed by the blood of the Lamb, crying out in worship…a glimpse of those on Team Jesus coming out of the great tribulation.
The seventh and final seal ushers in seven angels with seven trumpets, each sounding additional judgments on earth. Though a third of the earth and its inhabitants are killed, those remaining refuse to repent. Seven new angels appear each carrying seven bowls of wrath to be poured out on the earth. A series of sevens – the number representing completeness. The end is near and the taste of utter destruction pungent, but still those remaining refuse to repent.
As the stirring and desire for a Messiah was seen in the Old Testament, more and more we will be stirred for the return of the Messiah to complete the restoration of all things. As told by Jesus while He walked the earth the first time, things will get worse before they get better. But He is coming back and day will come when all will be judged with Him or against Him, and for those with Him, all will be made right again. We longingly wait for His glorious return.
Challenge: Earnestly pray for those with hardened hearts to follow Jesus while there is still time.
And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”… And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:2,5-10
Fresh off of dictating letters to seven churches, Jesus invites John up to heaven to see more of what is to come. It is beautiful and royal. But then John sees weeping in his unfolding vision. Seals must be broken and a scroll opened, but they find no one worthy to open it.
We were made for another world. We were made for perfection and communion with God. We groan in the waiting. The heavens groan as well. It feels so impossible. Who is worthy? Who will save us? Who will defeat Satan for good?
The lamb who was slain. From the tribe of Judah, a descendant of David. The one whose blood ransomed people for God from EVERY tribe and language and people and nation. JESUS IS WORTHY.
On the outside, circumstances can look impossible. It can feel so heavy as if no one is worthy or capable of fixing things. But there is ONE who is both worthy and capable. The lamb who was slain. He is returning and all things will be made right.
Questions: Do you ever look at circumstances or challenges and feel like things are impossible? How can impossible situations draw us even close to Jesus?
To the angel of the church in Laodicea write… I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. Revelation 3:14-16
Of all the letters to the churches, the one to Laodicea often seems to hit closest to home in our culture today. There is no middle ground in God’s Kingdom…no fence-straddling is permitted. Jesus isn’t just disappointed with our lack of wholeheartedness, He says He will reject it.
In his book, Crazy Love, Francis Chan says too many of us are “lukewarm and loving it.” He summarizes the lukewarm Christian today as having the following traits:
Question: Which lukewarm traits resonate most with you? What changes can you make today?
To the angel of the church in Ephesus write…Revelation 2:1a
Jesus dictates letters to seven churches in Asia Minor for John to write and deliver. The letters each contain the Lord’s title (how Jesus refers to Himself), a statement on what the Lord is pleased with (two of the churches don’t have this), a condemnation with what the Lord is upset about (two of the churches don’t have this and one of the churches has two of them), advice on how to get back on track (one church doesn’t have this), and a promised reward for overcoming.
We would be wise to hear what Jesus has to say to these churches – and to us – on areas they (we) might be nailing it and areas they (we) might be missing the mark…
Question: Where do you see yourself in any of these church messages?
Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. Revelation 1:7
So here we are. We are living after the first coming, where Jesus fulfilled the law and prophets. In His sacrificial death, we not only got something taken from us (punishment for our sins), we got something added to us (His righteousness). We are between this time in the past and His second coming in the future, where death will be defeated once and for all. All people will be on one side or the other: Satan’s earthly ways leading to eternal death, or Jesus’s holy ways leading to eternal life.
John, widely believed to be the apostle John, is exiled on the lonely, desolate isle of Patmos for “bearing witness of Jesus” (Rev 1:9). Though old, alone and enslaved, John “was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” However, this one Sabbath day was about to rock his world. He hears a loud voice behind him. It is his friend, Jesus, and He has a message for John. He tells John to write “the things that you have seen, that are and those that are to take place after this.” (Revelation 1:19)
This Revelation to John is also from Jesus to us. It is full of symbolism and just as full of disparate interpretations. But the end is clear. The victory belongs to Jesus and those of us who follow Him.
The work of Jesus to fulfill the law and prophets and to atone for our sins has been completed, but sin still lurks on the earth in our present time. The devil still prowls. His ultimate defeat has not yet taken place. We are still tempted by his playbook…doubting God’s goodness, lured by earthly pleasures, desiring power and a name for ourselves. We eagerly await the second coming of Jesus. Revelation gives us a picture of what is yet to come… both for those who decide to take things into their own hands and for those of us who put our hope in Jesus.
Challenge: Revelation 1:3 says, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” Commit to reading the entire book of Revelation over the next few days or weeks.