Saturday, December 29, 2012


“He who testifies about these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming quickly.’

Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! 

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.”  (Revelation 22:20-21 HCSB)

We punctuate our prayers with it.  When the congregation says it during the sermon, it is like saying “Sic ‘em!” to a bulldog, and I preach all the more fervently.  It is a word that signifies we have understood the message and now promise to apply the truth.  It is the word, “Amen!”  Literally it means, “so be it,” and it is how God concludes His Word, and so, I can think of no more fitting way to end these devotionals.

Amen!  God has revealed His will for us, and now we are to submit to it moment by moment, day by day.  Some day, the “Amen” of consummation will be pronounced—and all we read in this final section of Revelation will occur—God will make it so.

We got on board the Bible bus in January with creation and now after a year’s journey through the Bible, in chronological sequence, arrive at the new creation.  The original heavens and earth were made, “Good,” but then marred by sin.  Yet, the promise is of the reverse of the curse, and the fashioning of new heavens and earth.  Amen!

I heard of a fellow who overslept, and came rushing into worship service near the conclusion, asking the usher, “Is the sermon done?”  The wise old usher replied, “No—it’s got to be done.”  We aren’t done with what we have learned this year until we are done living it out day by day—and that is a lifetime.

Maybe you have never read through the Bible before, and this has been your inaugural trip.  Don’t let it be your last!  I have read through the Bible many times, and never fail to profit from it, and discover fresh insight, as well as continually being challenged to a new level of faith and obedience.

Perhaps you have read your Bible through several times, but have not read it chronologically.  I had never done that, and I must say it gave a new perspective that was helpful.

Some of you tried, and didn’t quite get it all read, but wouldn’t you agree that the portions you did process have been beneficial to your walk with God?  I commend you for the effort.  Try again!  Other have done it; you can too.

For six days a week, fifty two weeks straight, I have spent hours each day getting out these daily devotionals.  I will not say that has been easy—in fact, some days it was exhausting, but I found that each time I came to the spring, there was always abundant water to draw from.  To God be the glory!

I would like to thank my wife and family also.  Even on vacation, “days off” or holidays, they have been good to allow me the time to sit at my computer and churn out these messages.  Thanks for your patience!

I am also grateful to our church family for I am sure there were some areas of ministry that might not have gotten as thorough attention as they deserved, while I focused on this effort.  It is my prayer that you reaped spiritual benefit from these truths, and that even though I might not have spent as much time with you personally, that each day I came to you through this medium with a word to enrich you.

Then, I should say a special word of thanks to my Administrative Assistant Sharon Brown.  Along with occasional help from other church secretaries, Debbie Rogers and Monica Young—whom I appreciate also—Sharon has sent these out to you via our church email system as regularly as I have prepared them, plus provided some paper copies for those without email.  So give them thanks, and I want Sharon and the others to know that I couldn’t have done it without you!  They deserve a pat on the back—so please commend them if you have benefited from this.

Let me add appreciation to the Sunday School teachers who moved out of their comfort zone to lead their class in a follow-up discussion on the Scripture reading for the week.  This required you to prepare for teaching every day as you read through the Scripture and then to direct your class on Sunday morning.  Your cooperative spirit and commitment has not gone unnoticed!

Although this will be the last installment in this series, I trust that in other ways and times, I will share God’s Word with you—like tomorrow’s sermon for example!  Plan on being there!

I plan to be—but, the reality is I might not be.  I am not trying to be morbid, but the reality is that sooner or later the last words I share with you will be my final words to you.  I am looking for Jesus to come—praying it’s soon!  If He delays, it is only a matter of time before I go to meet Him when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death and into the light of eternity.

So, what better way to conclude these devotional meditations than the way the Bible does?  These last chapters set before us the end of all of our journeys—a destination eternally to the horror of hell or the happiness of heaven.  Each one reading these words will spend the endless ages in the lake of fire or the city of God.  Our company will be sinners and fallen angels or saints and holy angels.  We will never know the presence of God or bask in His presence forever.  Every human who has ever lived will be in a place of torment without even a drop of water to soothe us or in a place of triumph where a crystal clear river flows from the throne of God and satisfies us fully.  In the end, we will be in an environment of weeping or where God wipes away all tears and crying is no more.  Howls of anguish or hallelujahs of adoration will fill the air.

How is it with your soul?  Have your met Jesus personally?  Is the grace of the Lord Jesus with you?  Can you look forward to seeing Jesus?

I pray that we all have heard the Gospel invitation that I have given repeatedly this years, as I have for thirty five years of ministry, and which I share once again.  “Both the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’  Anyone who hears should say, ‘Come! ‘ And the one who is thirsty should come. Whoever desires should take the living water as a gift.”

Take it. Drink it.  As Jesus offered it to a sinful woman at Jacob’s well, so He offers living water to all sinners.  The invitation is to you: “Come!”



Friday, December 28, 2012


As much as she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, give her that much torment and grief, for she says in her heart,I sit as a queen; I am not a widow, and I will never see grief.’

For this reason her plagues will come in one day —death and grief and famine.  She will be burned up with fire, because the Lord God who judges her is mighty.”  (Revelation 18:7-8 HCSB)

The blood of kings flows in my veins. 

My mother wanted me to trace the Thurman ancestry, which I did, and put it together in a book as a present for my father and mother for Christmas.  How surprised I was to find where the roots of that tree would take me! 

Rhoda Allen was my great, great grandmother—my grandfather, Paul Thurman’s grandmother.  Her line runs back to England and to the first king I encountered in my bloodline, Henry III, King of England—my 20th great grandfather.  Of course, those royal families intermarried and were intertwined, so further digging has unearthed these roots: King Louis VI of France, 24th great grandfather; Erik the Victorious, 29th great grandfather and King of Sweden; 30th great grandfathers King Heinrich of Germany, and Prince Robert (Rollo the Viking), and more. 

I must also admit there are a number of rogues as well as royals—and sometimes those are one and the same!  Some of the tree roots are pretty rotten.  When I teased my wife concerning her privilege to be married to royalty, she did not take it well.  If I keep on she will crown me—with an iron skillet on the side of the head!

This is a curiosity—a conversation piece at family gatherings—but of no enduring significance.  There is another family connection, however, that is of utmost importance—I am connected by the Blood to the King of kings—Jesus Christ!  I am an heir to His kingdom and so are you if you have had a new birth into the family of God.  Whereas, the kingdoms of this world all crumble, swept away into the dustbin of time, the rulers dead and buried—now mere footnotes in history’s pages—the Kingdom of God is eternal, unshakeable and available to all who by faith will trust in the blood of Jesus.  King Jesus is the Only King—conqueror of death, hell and the grave!  He lives!

The clash and contrast between these two kingdoms is a prominent thread running through Revelation, as it is throughout the Word of God.  Like the Euphrates River that cut a channel in Eden (Gen.2:10-14), the cradle of civilization, where Babel would be built (Gen.11:1-9), the river flows until we find it in Revelation, and Babylon is rebuilt (Rev.16:12-16).  Even as ancient Babel was judged by God, so the restored Babylon will by utterly ruined in God’s wrath.

No wonder, the plea is made,

Then I heard another voice from heaven:

Come out of her, My people, so that you will not share in her sins or receive any of her plagues.” (Rev.18:4)

The world system is going to be judged.  Those who align themselves with it and take the mark of the Beast for temporary gain will experience eternal loss.  Those who separate from it may suffer martyrdom but they will be ushered through gates of splendor into the City of God.

This meant something to the readers John was addressing in the first century.  Persecution had come to the church and was growing.  It was seated in Rome, and the empire sought to eradicate Christianity; the fires would only intensify.  We must never forget that in interpreting a text, we must consider the context.  We cannot make a proper application in our day without a correct interpretation of what it meant in the day it was written.

So, Revelation was a great encouragement to suffering saints.  Ultimately, the Kingdom of God prevails.  Rome seemed invincible in that era, but the Holy Spirit reminded those readers through John’s writing that the kingdoms of this world would perish.  Rome had risen, but would fall.  How precious that must have been to the old, battle-scarred soldier, John, as he was isolated on Patmos—an exile because of his faith in Christ.  Caesar would not get the last word. It was also an evangelistic appeal to seeking sinners that repentance means taking up the cross, but it is the way of the cross that leads to glory.

That world empire is not finally and fully destroyed by the way.  Babylon lurks in the shadows—an empire fragmented, but one that will someday, and I think soon, be restored.  It appears these world powers are consolidating even now—rapidly advancing to a global religious and economic system, such as John describes in Revelation 13-18.  Apart from its impending revival as a world empire, the spirit of the world system as a principle of demonic evil has been present throughout the centuries and permeates our contemporary climate.

Moses faced it and had to make a choice,

“By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and chose to suffer with the people of God rather than to enjoy the short-lived pleasure of sin.  For he considered the reproach because of the Messiah to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, since his attention was on the reward.  By faith he left Egypt behind, not being afraid of the king’s anger, for Moses persevered as one who sees Him who is invisible.”  (Heb.11:24-27)

Four courageous young men had to make a choice in ancient Babylon and Persia.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would not bow to imperial power, even if it meant being cast into a blazing furnace.  Daniel would not cease praying to God, even if it meant being thrown into a pit of ravenous lions.  You can read about it in Daniel 3 and 6.

It is the choice that John the Baptist, Stephen, Peter and Paul all made.  It has been the bloody trail that marks the path of the saints across the centuries.  Sometimes the pressure is subtle and sometimes the persecution is overt—but the call of God remains, “Come out!  Do not share in Babylon’s sins, lest you share her fate.”

It is an intoxicating liquor.  “For all the nations have drunk the wine of her sexual immorality, which brings wrath. The kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown wealthy from her excessive luxury.” (Rev.18:3)

John shared the spiritual principle before he wrote the literal prophecy.  Here is what we warned,

Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him.  For everything that belongs to the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle — is not from the Father, but is from the world.  And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)

That is the choice before us now.

Following the rapture of the church, those who enter the time of tribulation will face the same choice.  It will not be an easy one—really, it never has been.

The Roman Empire will be restored in a future day.  It will be a United States of Europe, if you will.  The Antichrist will lead the global government and harness military and monetary power to dominate.  This is economic Babylon and its destruction is portrayed in Revelation Eighteen.  The False Prophet will lead the worldwide religion and use miracles and media to promote the worship of the Beast.  This is ecclesiastical Babylon and its destruction is pictured in Revelation Seventeen.  It is interesting to note that the Antichrist and his government ride religion for all its worth—and then when finished with it, turns on it and destroys it.  The Great Whore of Babel’s mystery religion is used to seduce the world, and when she no longer serves the Antichrist’s purposes, she is thrown away like the trash she always was.

There is a question that remains.  I have used Rome and Babylon interchangeably, for they are one and the same spiritually.  The Babylonian mystery religion eventually ran to Rome and flourished there—then integrated into Roman Catholicism with its pagan symbols and rituals that persist to this day and will end in the apostate church of the last days.  Rome and Babylon are one.  But, this is the question: Will the Antichrist and his revived Roman Empire actually rule from the city of Rome, or will Babylon be literally rebuilt?  Prophetic scholars still debate it.  I tend to lean more toward the actual city of Babylon being restored and becoming the capital of the Antichrist in the Middle East.

The Europeans are already there.  The location of ancient Babylon is in modern day Iraq.  The Allied forces of the West, predominately from the United States, are in Iraq now—and despite promises to pull out, the kinds of massive facilities that have been constructed and strategic significance of that area make it likely troops will remain.  They might draw down to only special forces units, but that could be beefed-up quickly.

I will not be dogmatic that Babylon will be rebuilt on that piece of real estate.  It may be only a symbolic name for Rome.  Time will tell.  My hope for you is that you are watching it from heaven.  That is the vantage point you want as these events unfold.  This world will be a veritable hell, a living nightmare, the epic disaster movie that isn’t just on a reel but is real.  You don’t want to be here.  “Come out of her, My people, so that you will not share in her sins or receive any of her plagues.” (Rev.18:4)  You don’t have to be here.  If left behind, I doubt you will be able to perceive what is happening.  Why take the risk?  Even if, as some believe, you might know, why would you think you would follow Christ then when you will not now?  Some—I think those who have never heard—will follow Him, but it leads to a choice to die for Christ and reject the pleasures of sin for a season.

“Then I saw another angel flying high overhead, having the eternal gospel to announce to the inhabitants of the earth — to every nation, tribe, language, and people. 7He spoke with a loud voice: ‘Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come. Worship the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.’

A second angel followed, saying: ‘It has fallen, Babylon the Great has fallen, who made all nations drink the wine of her sexual immorality, which brings wrath.’

And a third angel followed them and spoke with a loud voice: ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he will also drink the wine of God’s wrath, which is mixed full strength in the cup of His anger. He will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the sight of the holy angels and in the sight of the Lamb, and the smoke of their torment will go up forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or anyone who receives the mark of his name.  This demands the perseverance of the saints, who keep God’s commands and their faith in Jesus.’

Then I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write: The dead who die in the Lord from now on are blessed.’

‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘let them rest from their labors, for their works follow them!’”  (Rev.14:6-13)

Today is the day of salvation.  The door stands open.  The Spirit pleads, “Come!”

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Then I was given a measuring reed like a rod, with these words: ‘Go and measure God’s sanctuary and the altar, and [count] those who worship there.  But exclude the courtyard outside the sanctuary.  Don’t measure it, because it is given to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for 42 months.’” (Revelation 11:1-2 HCSB)

It will be a time of trouble unparalleled in human history—and that is saying a lot.  Since the fall of man in Eden, until this day, our world has known spans of time which were marked by intense suffering.  Plagues and wars, famines and natural disasters have been frequent occurrences in a world under the curse of sin and death.  Yet, the final three and one-half years of the tribulation period will be the sum of all fears.  It is the Great Tribulation—and Jesus said this about it, “For at that time there will be great tribulation, the kind that hasn’t taken place from the beginning of the world until now and never will again!  Unless those days were limited, no one would survive. But those days will be limited because of the elect.” (Matt.24:21-22)  It will be a concentration of catastrophe so intense that were it to extend beyond three and one-half years, it would mean the extinction of the human race.  That is the period of primary focus in chapters eleven through thirteen in today’s study of the Book of Revelation.

The period of time that is primarily featured is brief—forty two months—but the place of trouble which is preeminently focused on is small as well—the nation of Israel, and Jerusalem in particular.   Chronologically, three and one-half years is slight compared to all of earth’s thousands of years of history.  It amazes us that so much horror can be compressed into such a small amount of time.  Geographically, we are also astonished that this speck of land, compared to the expanse of the earth, would be so prominent in its impact on the world.  But, even today, world-wide attention is drawn to the Middle East, and it will be the stage where the final act of the divine drama will be played out—evil judged and redemption completed.  This is the testimony:

We thank You, Lord God, the Almighty, who is and who was, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign.  The nations were angry, but Your wrath has come. The time has come for the dead to be judged and to give the reward to Your servants the prophets, to the saints, and to those who fear Your name, both small and great, and the time has come to destroy those who destroy the earth.” (Rev.11:17-18)

There will be TWO WITNESSES for God, as described in chapter eleven.

“‘I will empower my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, dressed in sackcloth.’  These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.  If anyone wants to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and consumes their enemies; if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way.  These men have the power to close up the sky so that it does not rain during the days of their prophecy. They also have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every plague whenever they want.” (Rev.11:3-6)

Outside a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem will stand two prophets—like Moses and Elijah—who will take a stand for God. They will call for repentance and proclaim judgment—and the world will hate them.  The kind of hate that inspired the inhabitants of Jerusalem to call for the crucifixion of Jesus will abide in the hearts of the peoples of the world to want these two witnesses shut up.  Evil hates the light and will do all it can to extinguish it.  People do not want to hear sermons on repentance now; they will not want to hear them then.

But, try as they might, they cannot silence them.  A man is immortal until his work on earth is done.  We need fear no man and no thing, so long as we abide in the will of God doing the work of God.  We cannot die until our deeds are done which God has foreordained. 

Finally, as the end of the Great Tribulation approaches, the hedge of protection around these witnesses will be withdrawn and the world will delight in killing them.  In fact, a worldwide festival—a perverse holiday—will be celebrated as the dead bodies of these brutalized preachers will be viewed on the world-wide web.  Like at Christmas, the people will give each other gifts—and the party will last for three and one-half days.  But, then the party will be over!  God will resurrect these faithful servants and rapture them up to heaven.  In the meantime, the Lord sends a devastating earthquake to rock Jerusalem.  Two woes of the last three trumpet judgments have sounded, and the seventh angel is about to blow his horn for the culmination that will bring seven bowls of wrath to be poured out on the earth—the final woe.  These events will happen with breath-taking speed in machine-gun fire sequence.

This time will feature TWO WORLDS in conflict, as defined in chapter twelve.

“Then war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels also fought, but he could not prevail, and there was no place for them in heaven any longer.  So the great dragon was thrown out — the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the one who deceives the whole world. He was thrown to earth, and his angels with him.” (Rev.12:7-9)

“So the dragon was furious with the woman and left to wage war against the rest of her offspring — those who keep God’s commands and have the testimony about Jesus.” (Rev.12:17)

In two dimensions—in eternity and on earth—two worlds will collide.  The forces of light will battle the forces of darkness.  We are told that Michael and the holy angels in heaven will cast out the Dragon and his demonic horde.  Michael has been given special duty to protect God’s covenant people, the Jews, and as great as his devotion is to them, so is Satan’s rage toward them.  The Devil cannot attack God, so he attacks God’s people.  But, the Dragon can only go so far.  God is sovereign and His will cannot be thwarted.

For three and one-half years, Gentile forces will dominate the city of Jerusalem.  Satan’s henchman, the Antichrist, will seek to fulfill Hitler’s “Final Solution” and exterminate the Jews once and for all.  That people will suffer greatly once more, yet they will not be destroyed.  God will open a way of escape and provide a place of refuge.

Satan will understand his time is short and, consumed with anger, madness will grip his malevolent mind as he unleashes a scorched earth directive.  Like Hitler did as the Allied troops gained ground in Europe, pressing on toward Berlin, he will give orders as that demonic dictator to destroy everything. Therefore rejoice, you heavens, and you who dwell in them!  Woe to the earth and the sea, for the Devil has come down to you with great fury, because he knows he has a short time.”  (Rev.12:12)  The church in heaven can rejoice that it has been caught up to be with her Bridegroom for the Devil’s rampage on earth will be ferocious.

Not only will the Jews suffer, but remember, there will be those from Gentile nations—a great host of them—converted during those days.  They will seal their testimony with their own blood, for the Antichrist, at the behest of his infernal master, will make war on them as well.  But, though he may kill the body, he cannot destroy the soul—the essence of who Christ’s followers are—and in the final analysis these tribulation saints overcome the Wicked One. “They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not love their lives in the face of death.”  (Rev.12:11) 

That is always how God’s people overcome the Dragon: a covering of the blood of Christ, a confession of our faith in Christ, and a commitment to dying for Christ.  The Devil can’t conquer a man or woman like that.  He has no answer for the provision of salvation by the blood, the accusation against us cannot tear down the profession of faith in the Lord, and the threat to harm us carries no weight against one persistent in faithfulness in carrying the cross of their Lord—they have already died to self.

The earthly stage will be dominated by TWO WORKERS for Satan as disclosed in chapter thirteen.

And I saw a beast coming up out of the sea. He had 10 horns and seven heads. On his horns were 10 diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names.  The beast I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like a bear’s, and his mouth was like a lion’s mouth. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.” (Rev.13:1-2)

“Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; he had two horns like a lamb, but he sounded like a dragon.  He exercises all the authority of the first beast on his behalf and compels the earth and those who live on it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed.” (Rev.13:11-12)

Two beasts are the primary puppets of Satan during the tribulation period.  This is the Antichrist who demands the worship of the world—the last Roman Emperor—and the False Prophet who directs that worship.  Their true bestial nature will be revealed particularly in those last three and one-half years of their power.  They blend the power of governmental authority and the propaganda of ecclesiastical authority into an amalgamation of tyranny.  This authoritarian government is more than willing to use apostate religion to serve its ends, as has always been the case.

So, in the end time scenario you have the Beast—the Antichrist—who holds the reins of world empire.  He institutes a police state, a massive government takeover of every area of life—especially the global economy.  You must pledge allegiance to him and take his “mark” or you cannot conduct commerce.  This is ever the dream world of utopians that always becomes a nightmare.  This will be the ultimate horror.  When man decides to play God it never works out well.  6 is the number of man; 7 is the number of God; 666 is the number of the Beast—man trying to be God and always falling short.

Antichrist comes as the Messiah with promises of peace and prosperity.  He will look like Jesus, sound like Jesus, and it seems, even will have a staged resurrection which imitates Jesus (Rev.13:3, 12).  All the while, the second beast—the False Prophet—promotes him via deceptive wonders and persuasive words.  The worship of the Beast is the worship of his master Satan. 

People can be so gullible.  We need look no further than the Germans who were mesmerized by Hitler’s oratory.  Someone comes along promising a better world and even when those promises are proven empty, the pomp and pageantry of the propaganda machine keep the reins of power in their hands, only to be reinforced.

This is the time of tribulation that is coming—three and one-half years of great tribulation.  How near are we to these end-time scenarios playing out?  How close are we to the rapture of the church, and the removal of restraint on evil, so that Satan has his last hurrah?  We cannot say with certainty, but we ought to live with expectancy.  The last of the last days may be right around the corner.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012


And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, because the great day of Their wrath has come!  And who is able to stand?’” (Revelation 6:16-17 HCSB)

In 1997, the book, “Left Behind: A Novel of Earth’s Final Days,” exploded into the Christian market, launching a series of novels which have sold over 63 million copies.  The books, written by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, were written as fictional accounts of Biblical events set to occur in the future according to prophecy.  Movies and video games followed that success.  There is reportedly a new movie remake of “Left Behind” which may star Nicolas Cage in the works now.

I found the books very good, the movies not so well done, never played one of the games, and think the possibility of a better acted and produced movie with enhanced special effects, intriguing.  But, I also want to add a word of caution—we are talking about fiction.

Though I would agree with the overall viewpoint of the authors concerning end-times events, I wouldn’t subscribe to every detail.  You should never base theology on a paperback novel—a fictitious one, at that—but, always ground your doctrine on the bedrock of Scripture.

I grew up hearing about being left behind—some of the first sermons I can recall from my childhood dealt with that theme—decades before Jenkins and LaHaye popularized the term.  It was a terrifying thought to me as a youngster.

The scenario was presented by my pastors this way:  at any moment Jesus could come to rapture His church and take true believers to heaven, and following that would be seven years of tribulation—horrible judgments to come upon the world.  This would climax with the Lord returning with His church to overthrow the kingdom of the Antichrist and establish His reign of a thousand years on earth.  To be left behind at the rapture was a real possibility according to these sermons and even during the period of my spiritual wandering, lost in sin, the thought would rise in the back of my mind to haunt me.  How terrible it would be to be left behind—and I was sure at the time I would be.  I had not been born again—and Jesus said you can’t get to heaven unless you are.

Thankfully, there came a time when I received Christ, and I need no longer fear being left behind.  This gives me wonderful peace, because as bad as those preachers from long ago described it, and as dramatically as the novels portray it—I doubt we have grasped the indescribable horror of that reality for one who will be left behind.

We don’t know everything.  We can know some things.  The Bible tells us enough of what God wants us to know. What does it mean to those who are left behind when the rapture occurs?  John saw this grim reality in a vision God gave him—a vision that harmonizes with other prophecies in God’s Word.

John’s vision, written down according to the command of the Lord, is what we call, “The Book of Revelation.”  It can be divided into three major portions which I believe are helpful in grasping its message.  Jesus commanded John, “Therefore write what you have seen, what is, and what will take place after this.” (Rev.1:19)

The old Apostle wrote what he had witnessed—“what you have seen”—concerning the dramatic appearance of the glorified Jesus on the Isle of Patmos.  That is what we read in chapter one.  Then, he was to write of “what is” which describes the church age John was in, as represented by the seven churches of Asia Minor (what we call modern day Turkey).  This is recorded in chapters two and three—an age that began in John’s day and in which, two thousand years later, we still find ourselves in, as the church still waits and watches for the rapture.  With chapter four, John presents, “what will take place after this,” when the church age is complete and the Bride of Christ is caught up to be with Him as God’s wrath is poured out on a Christ-rejecting world. 

John uses the very wording Jesus directed him to write previously as he begins chapter four, “After this I looked, and there in heaven was an open door. The first voice that I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’” (Rev.4:1)  In chapters four and five, the church is in heaven and worshipping the Lamb.  She is not mentioned again until we come to the end of the tribulation period described here—and we see the church at the marriage supper of the Lamb, in chapter nineteen, as well as returning back to earth with Christ to reign with Him.

So, with chapter six, we leave the scene in heaven—one of worship of the Lamb—and focus on the earth—and the wrath of the Lamb.  Those who refuse to hide themselves in the Rock of Ages now, will be left behind and call on the rocks to fall on them and hide them from the Lamb’s fury.  As delightful a thought we have in heaven worshipping a Lamb slain for us, being among the saints of God singing joyfully to Him, it is so disturbing a thought of those left behind screaming loudly for someone or something to shield them from the judgment that falls.

The Lamb has taken the seven-sealed scroll and now begins to peel away each seal—and with each one there is a terrible judgment that breaks out on the world.  For seven brief years, which will seem like an eternity to those left behind, the wrath of the Lamb will be outpoured.

Under the first seal is the Antichrist (6:1-2).  With the church gone, the spirit of Antichrist which has been at work in the world across the centuries has nothing to restrain it and that demonic spirit is incarnated in a person—one who presents himself as the Messiah—and the world will swoon and welcome this, “Savior.”  He is himself a judgment of God.  To a people who did not want the kind of Messiah Jesus was, they will be given the kind they want.  Following the Beast—as he will be disclosed to be—will not lead them to paradise but perdition.

The second seal is opened and beneath it is war (6:3-4).  Global conflict marks the end of the age.  There have been two world wars, each so dreadful.  With the kinds of weapons available now, how destructive will the next one be?

The third seal is opened by the Lamb and beneath it is economic collapse (6:5-6).  All this will be part of what leads to the establishment of a one-world economy with the Antichrist demanding people take the mark of the Beast to buy and sell. 

Next, come the fourth seal’s opening (6:7-8) and there will be food shortages and famine.  Pandemics will plague the planet’s populace.  Even the animals will become wilder, ravenous and mad in searching for flesh to sustain them during this time when famine stalks the world.

Then, we have the fifth seal that the Lamb opens, and this is the martyr seal (6:9-11).  God always has a remnant of believers—and He will have some willing to follow the Lamb unto death—even in the tribulation period.  There will be a harvest of souls from among the Gentiles as described in chapter seven.  With the church gone and her missionaries removed from the field, God will mark out 144,000 Messianic Jews who will have His special protection as they proclaim the Word of God to every tribe and tongue.  Jesus said the Gospel must be proclaimed to every people group before His return to earth.  While we ought to be working toward that now, and are making significant progress, the Great Commission will be fulfilled by these Jewish converts who are not only of the race of Abraham, but the faith of Abraham as well.

Is this then, a second chance for those left behind?  While I won’t be dogmatic about it, I do not think that those who can so readily and easily follow Christ in America today, yet choose to spurn Him, would suddenly be willing to become martyrs for Him.  Besides this, I understand Scripture to say that if we willfully shut our eyes to truth, God will at some point judicially blind us to it (read 2 Thess.2:9-12).  This blood-washed throng that is saved out of great tribulation, I believe, are those who have never heard the Gospel.

The sixth seal is one of cosmic cataclysm—the very forces of nature in upheaval to vomit out the inhabitants of the earth that have polluted the planet with their depraved acts.  The wrath of the Lamb intensifies throughout these seven years.

After John describes the remnant of believing Jews and converted Gentiles in chapter seven, we are brought back to the opening of the seals, and the seventh seal is peeled back by the Lamb (8:1-6).  There is a holy hush in heaven—an interlude that allows the events that have occurred to sink in and prepares us for the worst that is to come to those left behind.  For underneath the seventh seal are seven trumpet judgments.  With each one, an angel will blow a trumpet announce another dimension of destruction on those yet defiant against Christ.  After the first four of these, the final three are especially horrific and are called the three, “woes.”  Just as we think that the judgments could not be any worse, they are disclosed as being so.  Demonic forces are unleashed from the pit and earth becomes a living hell.  The sounding of the seventh judgment will announce seven more judgments, as with Revelation 15, seven angels will pour out seven final plagues—bowls of wrath emptied upon the earth.

One would assume that after the sixth seal, sinners would cry out for salvation, confessing their sin and seek the Lord.  They do not!  Some of the most shocking words in a book that is filled with startling scenes are now recorded,

The rest of the people, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands to stop worshiping demons and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood, which are not able to see, hear, or walk.  And they did not repent of their murders, their sorceries, their sexual immorality, or their thefts.” (9:20-21)

Hearts are so hard that they are filled with hate toward God and will not repent.  Minds are so warped by sin that they choose to worship demons rather than worship God.  Their natural bent toward sin is so fixed that in the face of judgment, they flaunt their evil ways and pursue them with renewed vigor.  You think the world is full of violence now, with its savagery displayed on cable news?  This is but a harbinger of worse that is to come when the church’s light is withdrawn and her salty witness no longer arrests the spread of corruption.  This will be the environment of sheer evil those who are left behind will experience.

No wonder, as John is told to consume the Word of God, he finds the sweetness of Its message of salvation in his mouth becoming bitter to his stomach as he digests the message of condemnation to those who reject the Gospel.  Old John has tasted the honey of God’s truth, but then can find no joy in proclaiming a message of judgment.  He will share the prophecy because he has been commanded to do so, not because he finds any pleasure in it.

As much as I delighted in our last devotional, sharing about the Lamb of God who is adored in heaven by the saints, I now dread to describe the wrath of the Lamb for those who are left behind.  It is a bitter truth.  We should never speak of judgment without a tear in our eye for those who embrace it in their folly.  I think of Peter’s words, “The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.” (2 Pet.3:9)

There is still time.  You are not yet left behind.