Day 365: Grace

Malachi 1-4Revelation 22

And we are left with one.

One last day.

One last book.

One last chapter.

The book of Malachi makes me uncomfortable. Malachi wrote to the uninspired Jewish exiles. They had returned from captivity and rebuilt their temple and city – yet God seemed to not come back with them. There was no evidence of His Presence. And all of the promises of the grand restoration seemed to go unmet. The people doubted God’s goodness so they slipped into complacency. 

The sins of the exiles hit too close to home…Malachi accused the people of half-hearted devotion. Whether it be the sin of not giving God their best (1:8), compromising God’s holy standards (2:11), or bitter disappointment with difficult circumstances (3:14-15), God was displeased with their lack of faith. He challenged the people to trust him – to test His faithfulness (3:10)!

Which leads me to: One last question.

Are you willing to take God at His Word?

Despite your difficult circumstances or unanswered prayer – or the fact that God seems distant. Maybe you’ve sinned so greatly, you don’t believe God could forgive you. Or maybe you’ve strived to live a holy life, yet your world seems to be crumbling beneath you. Whatever this temporal and visible world might be screaming at you, are you willing to take God at His Word?

Do you believe that the curse will be reversed (Rev. 22:3) and God will create a new earth where there will be no more sin and no more pain? Do you believe as one who is redeemed in Christ, that you will one day see Him face to face and reign with Him forever (Rev. 22:4)?

Well…believe it! For Jesus said, “These words are trustworthy and true.”

You might wonder (like me)…How? How could this be true? How could the God of the universe stoop so low to grant His children such a glorious inheritance?”

The answer is one word: grace

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates (Revelation 22:14).

Can we wash our own robes? Can we scrub the mire of our sins away? No. The blood of the Lamb washes away our sins. He clothes us with HIS righteousness so that we might come into the presence of a Holy God. We stand by His grace, alone.

What is the last sentence in the revealed Word of God? The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen!

(Tune in January 1, for my last post – summarizing the greatest lesson I’ve learned from our year through the Bible.)

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Day 364: The Goal of Prophecy

Zechariah 12-14Revelation 21

As I have read (and read and read) in daily preparation for this blog, one statement about the purpose of prophecy resonated with me. It resonated so deeply that I copied and pasted it (in bold) in a place on my computer that I see everyday. So, each day I am reminded of this goal of prophecy… Unfortunately, I have no idea from where I copied it, and for fear of plagiarizing, I have never shared it. But I think I will today:

The goal of prophecy, more than simply telling the future, is the moral formation of God’s people (Source unknown).

Zechariah’s prophecies are astounding.

  • He predicts with precision Jesus’ regal entrance to Jerusalem on a donkey (9:9).
  • He predicts the piercing of the Messiah and the depth of the mourning after His death (12:10-14).
  • He predicts that from the blood of the cross, there would come forgiveness for sins (13:1).
  • He predicts the scattering of the disciples upon Jesus’ arrest and trial (13:7).
  • He predicts the refining of the church through the means of persecution (13:9).
  • He predicts the great number of Gentiles who would turn to Christ in repentance and faith (14:16).
  • And finally, he looks forward to the day when the restoration of Israel should be so complete that even common goods are deemed holy and nothing can be defiled (14:20-21).

Wow. Could the people of Zechariah’s day have predicted the future based on Zechariah’s prophecies? I don’t think so. It’s much easier for us to interpret his words with the luxury of hindsight! So what was the purpose of Zechariah’s prophecies for his contemporaries? Zechariah spoke for the “moral formation of God’s people.” The exiles would have been comforted that God was sovereign and would judge the nations, and they would be challenged to live their lives in a manner worthy of their coming King.

Similarly, the book of Revelation is written for our “moral formation.” John is instructed to record the vision in order to encourage the suffering church to “overcome.” We learn through visions that God is in complete control. He has “sealed” his people so we are protected from His judgment! We see the final defeat of evil and we are encouraged by the future that awaits!

Are we supposed to be able to predict the future with precise detail using the book of Revelation? Absolutely not! But we can read it with the anticipation of our future home and let it motivate us to overcome the trials and temptations of this world. Why? Because we can be sure of our GLORIOUS inheritance recorded in Revelation 21!

Savor the images of this chapter! Notice that the sea of separation has been removed! The Lord Jesus, himself, is the temple and the source of light! See the beauty of Jerusalem – which is symbolic of God’s people – perfectly measured and protected for that day. This is our inheritance! Don’t let the purpose of John’s visions fall on deaf ears.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches! 

May John’s visions transform us and propel us toward Christ. May they motivate us to persevere, endure and overcome!!!

Disclaimer: I humbly and cautiously offer an interpretation of the book of Revelation based on my Reformed understanding of Scripture, an Amillennialist eschatology, and a heavy reliance on the book, Revelation, The Compassion and Protection of Christ by Dr. Paul Gardner.

Day 363: God is the Victor

Zechariah 9-11Revelation 20

Passages of Scripture – like those we are reading today – remind me of my limited human understanding. Faithful and sound biblical scholars disagree over how to interpret the first 10 verses of Revelation 20. Zechariah 11 is probably one of the least understandable chapters in all of the Bible! But in spite of my limitations, by God’s grace, I see Him in these chapters…

I see His promise to judge His enemies and protect His people (Zech. 9:1-8).

I see His promise to send a peaceful King – one who rides on a donkey – to save His people (Zech. 9:9-17).

I know (from our privileged perspective of living in the church age) that when Christ came, He destroyed the power of Satan and has absolute authority over the earth (Luke 10:18; Matthew 28:18; Revelation 20:1-3).

And I know from the book of Revelation that God is the victor. Satan is restrained (20:1-3), he will surely be defeated (20:7-10), and the redeemed rule with Christ (20:4)!!

All the other details of when and how I will leave for the scholars to debate. I will choose to rest in the goodness and sovereignty of our Lord. I will thank Him for dying in my stead. And I will pray for the grace to be a light to the unbeliever.

I can’t imagine what it will be like on that final day when the books are opened. I pray that my children’s names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. I pray for the strength and grace to overcome and be welcomed into the Lamb’s presence. I know that I have done nothing to merit salvation. Most of all, I’m thankful for His grace.

Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus, Come!

Disclaimer: I humbly and cautiously offer an interpretation of the book of Revelation based on my Reformed understanding of Scripture, an Amillennialist eschatology, and a heavy reliance on the book, Revelation, The Compassion and Protection of Christ by Dr. Paul Gardner.

Day 362: Mourning turned to Dancing!

Zechariah 7-8Revelation 19

The events of Zechariah 7 took place two years after the visions in the preceding chapters (Zech. 1:1; 7:1) but two years before the completion of the temple (Zech. 7:1; Ezra 6:14-15). As the chapter opens, men came from Bethel to ask whether they should continue their mourning rituals. For approximately 70 years, the people had fasted during specific times to commemorate the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem. Since the temple was being rebuilt, the people wondered, “Should we continue to fast?” Listen to God’s answer!

And the word of the Lord of hosts came to [Zechariah], saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: The fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth and the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth shall be to the house of Judah seasons of joy and gladness and cheerful feasts. Therefore love truth and peace (Zechariah 8:18).

God was changing their mourning into dancing (Psalm 30:11)! He promised them the blessing of His presence and favor!! But their joy and gladness was just a foretaste of the joy and gladness His people will experience at the Bridal Supper of the Lamb recorded in Revelation 19!

In this one chapter of Revelation we see the stark contrast of those who are judged and those who are redeemed in Christ. The Great Babylon is destroyed. And then Christ comes to earth. He does not come as a meek lamb – but on a white war-horse brandishing a sword. The battle is swift, and the kings of the earth are killed while the beast and the false prophet are captured!

And the mourning is turned to dancing! Christ has the victor’s crown. He is the King! This is our future – sure as rain. We will gather with all the redeemed and cry out…

Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory (Revelation 19:6-7).

Do you believe it? “These are the true words of God” (Revelation 19:9). May our hope be sure in Christ!!

Disclaimer: I humbly and cautiously offer an interpretation of the book of Revelation based on my Reformed understanding of Scripture, an Amillennialist eschatology, and a heavy reliance on the book, Revelation, The Compassion and Protection of Christ by Dr. Paul Gardner.

Day 361: The beauty of Prophesy and The lure of Babylon

Zechariah 4-6Revelation 18

Prophesy…it’s complex and beautiful, multi-layered and mysterious – all of which reflect God’s character. Today’s reading is thick with the many horizons of prophesy…

Our reading opens with Zechariah’s 5th vision. We learn that Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, will complete the rebuilding of the temple, not by his own might, but by the power of the Spirit (just as the world-wide church is supported by the power of the Spirit!).

In the 6th vision, we see a flying, gigantic scroll. It is a covenant-document declaring judgment on those who sin against both man and God. This one scroll finds fulfillment in the seven scrolls of Revelation.

In the 7th vision, iniquity is removed from the land. All wickedness, personified in a woman, would be held in a basket, deported away from Jerusalem and taken to “Shinar” which is Babylon. This was meaningful to the exiles, but it also points forward to the end of time – when Babylon is destroyed (Rev. 17-18).

Zechariah’s visions end with a reprise of the four horsemen from his first vision. This time they are equipped for war.

All of these visions are consummated in the symbolic act of crowning the High Priest, Joshua, with a golden crown. Reference is made to the “Branch” from Jeremiah 33:15 – which points forward to Jesus. Zechariah says of the ‘Branch,’ “It is he who shall build the temple of the Lord and shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule on his throne” (Zechariah 6:13). When Jesus came to earth, he did not build a physical temple, but rather a spiritual temple, His church.

This is the beauty of prophesy!! All of these visions applied to the exiles of Zechariah’s day and encouraged them to press on to rebuild the temple. These prophesies also point forward to the church age – to our present-time – when Jesus is building His spiritual kingdom and temple on earth in His church. But these visions also point even further forward in time to the end of the age, when all iniquity will be wiped from the land (Zec. 5:6)!!

Even today’s reading in Revelation is a prophesy that finds its roots in Jeremiah’s prediction of the destruction of ancient Babylon (Jer. 51). The similarities between Jeremiah 51 and Revelation 18 are striking. In Revelation, the prophesy is expanded to include the whole of the world that is against God – its economic systems, luxuries and even its entertainment. All of it will be destroyed in the blink of an eye. The world is left with nothing, mourning the loss of everything upon which they have built their lives. In the end, the foundation of prosperity proves to be sinking sand. And the persecuted saints watch the great Babylon’s destruction from the comforts of heaven. The irony is thick.

In the middle of the vision, another angel proclaims a message which is meant for us

Come out of her, my people,
lest you take part in her sins,
lest you share in her plagues;
for her sins are heaped high as heaven (Revelation 18:4).

The lure of the harlot is strong. The temptress of prosperity is intoxicating. We must resist the devil and his schemes! We must come out of Babylon! We must fix our eyes on Jesus – daily reminding ourselves that we live not for today – but for eternity!! I pray for the grace to stand against the great Babylon – while leading others to the beauty and majesty of Christ!

Disclaimer: I humbly and cautiously offer an interpretation of the book of Revelation based on my Reformed understanding of Scripture, an Amillennialist eschatology, and a heavy reliance on the book, Revelation, The Compassion and Protection of Christ by Dr. Paul Gardner.

Day 360: God always wins.

Zechariah 1-3Revelation 17
The book of Haggai was read on Day 262.

Zechariah was a contemporary of Haggai who was a contemporary of Ezra. In other words, Zechariah prophesied after the Babylonian exile during the years that the exiles returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the temple. It was a time of discouragement for many of the exiles because they wrongly assumed their lack of prosperity and power implied that the Lord’s favor had left them.

The first half of Zechariah is a series of eight visions – very similar in substance and style to those recorded in Revelation! In the first vision (Zech. 1:7-17), we see the same four riders that were released upon the earth in Revelation 6.

The 2nd vision (Zech. 1:18-21) describes four horns which are probably patterned after Daniel’s 4 beasts in Daniel 7:3-8. Today’s reading from Revelation 17 uses these same verses from Daniel as its backdrop.

The 3rd vision (Zech. 2:1-13) records the measuring of Israel – which is echoed in Revelation 11:1-2. From Revelation, we learn that the measuring symbolized the sealing and protection of God’s people. From Zechariah, we learn that God, Himself, is the protector, “And I will be to her a wall of fire all around, declares the Lord, and I will be the glory in her midst” (Zech. 2:5).

All three visions were a great encouragement to the exiles – but these visions transcend time and also point to God’s protection of His people in the church age!

Before we consider Zechariah’s 4th vision, let’s turn our attention to today’s reading from Revelation. Chapters 17, 18 and part of 19 all give a big-picture view of the final judgment of the 7 bowls. Today we see the prostitute and the beast – which encapsulate the horrors of Daniel’s four beasts in Daniel 7:3-8. We learn from Rev. 17:5, that the prostitute is in fact, Babylon, which represents all of the world’s powers, people and rulers that are against God and His people. We see her sitting on the beast in the desert – a sexually grotesque image contrasting the beauty and purity of the woman in Revelation 12:1-2 (who represents God’s people).

We learn from the angel’s descriptions of the beast that he slips in and out of history’s view. He is a master of deception. Paul Gardner writes, “His presence is always felt in this fallen world, but he is not always seen. Satan can appear as an angel of light. The inhabitants of the earth (those who are not Christ’s) will be astonished when they see him because they have not realized who stands behind their life of rebellion against God. They have not always seen who ‘pulls their strings'” (P. Gardner, Revelation, pg. 227).

The seduction of the harlot is strong. Even John marveled in her presence (17:6). Were it not for the protection of the angel, who knows if John would have been seduced by her wares. We must guard ourselves against the lure of this world, for beneath it all lies Satan, the horrible dragon who lives to devour.

Which leads us to Zechariah’s 4th vision (Zech. 3). It is a vision of Satan accusing the people. And we see the remarkable scene of God removing the filthy rags of the high priest (who represents His people) and re-clothing him with clean garments. But the vision gets better! For it ends with the promise of Jesus, the righteous Branch of David, removing the iniquity from the land (3:9)!

God always has the last word. We see at the end of Revelation 17, God’s ironic power-play as the beast and rulers of this world turn on themselves in a twisted civil war to destroy the harlot (Rev. 17:16-17).

Game over. God wins. He always does.

Disclaimer: I humbly and cautiously offer an interpretation of the book of Revelation based on my Reformed understanding of Scripture, an Amillennialist eschatology, and a heavy reliance on the book, Revelation, The Compassion and Protection of Christ by Dr. Paul Gardner.

Day 359: Hidden in Christ

Zephaniah 1-3Revelation 16

Zephaniah, more than any other prophet, concentrates on the “day of the Lord.” As is the case for most prophesy, there have been many precursors to this final “day,” such as the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians or the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. But they all pale in comparison to the absolute final Day when God will judge the earth.

We read of this final judgment in both Zephaniah and Revelation 16, today.

The great day of the Lord is near,
near and hastening fast;
the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter;
the mighty man cries aloud there.
A day of wrath is that day,
a day of distress and anguish,
a day of ruin and devastation,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness,
a day of trumpet blast and battle cry
against the fortified cities
and against the lofty battlements (Zephaniah 1:15-16).

On this Christmas day, we must remember the One who came to save us from the future “day of the Lord.” Because of the sacrifice of the Lamb, we will be hidden in Christ on that terrible day (Zeph. 2:3), and we will rejoice with the worldwide church!

Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away the judgments against you;
he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall never again fear evil (Zephaniah 3:14-15).

Merry Christmas!

Day 358: Trust in God’s good plans

Habakkuk 1-3Revelation 15

I love Habakkuk because he is honest before the Lord. He questions God’s justice and goodness. After dialoguing with the God of the universe, the book of Habakkuk ends in praise…not because he receives answers to his questions – but because He comes to a deeper understanding of God’s character. He accepts God’s mercy and goodness even though he doesn’t understand His ways.

As we struggle daily with the fallenness of this world…especially with the world’s violent opposition to the gospel and God’s people, we can look to Revelation for comfort. For God uses Satan’s attacks upon the Church against him. The martyrs enter eternal bliss – and their sacrifice brings God eternal glory. Against all earthly logic, persecution causes the church to grow!

And in the fullness of time, God will bring judgment on the ungodly. Until that day, we are to stand strong.

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places (Habakkuk 3:17-19).

Disclaimer: I humbly and cautiously offer an interpretation of the book of Revelation based on my Reformed understanding of Scripture, an Amillennialist eschatology, and a heavy reliance on the book, Revelation, The Compassion and Protection of Christ by Dr. Paul Gardner.

Day 357: The Redeemed and The Adversaries

Nahum 1-3Revelation 14

We tackle the book of Nahum today :)

Nahum is a judgment oracle written to proclaim absolute and irrevocable judgment against Nineveh, the great capital city of Assyria. In many ways, Nahum is a tragic sequel to Jonah, for after the Ninevites listened to Jonah’s message and repented, they reverted back to their idolatrous and violent ways – ultimately destroying the Northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC. Nahum was probably written after the fall of the Northern Kingdom and during the height of the Assyrian empire. Revealing God’s absolute sovereignty, Nahum foretells Nineveh’s inevitable destruction which occurred when Nineveh fell to the Babylonians in 612 BC.

Listen to Nahum’s timeless words…

The Lord is good,
a stronghold in the day of trouble;
he knows those who take refuge in him.
But with an overflowing flood
he will make a complete end of the adversaries,
and will pursue his enemies into darkness (Nahum 1:7-8).

These words are graphically depicted in today’s reading from Revelation.

We see how the Lord protects His people as the 144,000, representing the total number of redeemed from all ages, surround the throne with loud and glorious worship. They are sealed by the name of the Father written on their foreheads, which is in direct contrast to those who have the mark of the beast (13:16-17). The redeemed are seen as being pure and celibate – but celibacy is a figurative term for not chasing after other gods (not committing adultery with idols).

Surely… The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him (Nahum 1:7).

In stark contrast to the glorious picture of the redeemed worshiping before the throne is the scene of the angels harvesting the earth. For the unrighteous are harvested and thrown into the great winepress. With gruesome imagery we read of the blood flowing from the winepress of the wrath of God.

Surely… He will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness (Nahum 1:8).

In the middle of these graphic images is a brief, but oh-so-important exhortation!

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus (Revelation 14:12).

Perseverance is the evidence of an internal saving faith. God gives us grace for both salvation and sanctification. But we must strive to enter his rest! “To be judged by the Almighty God and to be without rest for ever is a worse fate than we can imagine, and we are to be warned and to warn others. In contrast with this, how glorious is the rest and joy and blessedness of those who die in the Lord” (P. Gardner, Revelation, pg. 198).

Almighty God, please grant us the strength to persevere to the end. Help us to keep our eyes fixed on the glorious rest awaiting your children. Help us “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with you, God,” with great endurance and faith!! (Micah 6:8) Amen.

Disclaimer: I humbly and cautiously offer an interpretation of the book of Revelation based on my Reformed understanding of Scripture, an Amillennialist eschatology, and a heavy reliance on the book, Revelation, The Compassion and Protection of Christ by Dr. Paul Gardner.

Day 356: Two Beasts

Micah 6-7Revelation 13

Two beasts…one affects nations and governments; the other deceives the church. Both beasts are given their authority by the dragon, by Satan himself.

The background for the first beast comes from Daniel 7.

The first beast resembles all four beasts that Daniel saw emerge from the sea before the Son of Man appeared (Dan. 7:1–8, 21). As those beasts symbolized kingdoms (Dan. 7:17, 23), so this beast, a composite of them all, represents every human empire—Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, and their successors—that demands absolute allegiance and trust, enforcing its demand with coercion (ESV Study Bible, Study notes re: Revelation 13:1-2, Crossway).

I believe the first beast is still active today…in obvious world leaders who brutally kill Christians as well as in the subtle influences of Humanism. The first beast is among us, but even more dangerous is the 2nd beast…

If the first beast lies behind secular powers who strive to overthrow all that is Christian, the second beast comes as a prophet drawing people towards worship.  In other words, this beast targets people within the church itself (P. Gardner, Revelation, pg 183).

Both beasts are disturbing parodies of Christ. The first beast’s “mortal wound which was healed” is a twisted echo of Christ’s resurrection (13:3, 12). And the 2nd beast looks like a lamb, but speaks falsehood (13:11, 14).

The beasts are the Satanic influences in our world. In light of such fierce opposition, John exhorts the church to endure (13:10).

We can endure because God has given us hope. Our hope is in the promises of God – that He will gather His children in the last days and usher us into His Kingdom forever. There, we will live in peace and perfect relationship with Him and one another. This is our hope. This is our future!

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea.
You will show faithfulness to Jacob
and steadfast love to Abraham,
as you have sworn to our fathers
from the days of old (Micah 7:18-20).

Disclaimer: I humbly and cautiously offer an interpretation of the book of Revelation based on my Reformed understanding of Scripture, an Amillennialist eschatology, and a heavy reliance on the book, Revelation, The Compassion and Protection of Christ by Dr. Paul Gardner.