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THE NUMBERS GAME

Abraham made a deal with God that if there were 10 righteous souls in Sodom, God would not destroy it.

As it were, God did destroy Sodom, so clearly there weren’t even 10 righteous souls there.

However, I’m wondering if someone had done a show-of-hands survey just prior to the destruction to see how many people in Sodom self-identified as righteous, I’m guessing a lot more than 10 people would have raised their hands.

By the same token, of the million or so souls who were of age (20 years and up) when they left Egypt in the exodus, only 2 (Caleb and Joshua) were considered by God to be sufficiently righteous to enter the Promised Land.

And of all those alive during the days of Noah, only Noah was considered sufficiently righteous to be spared the flood.

So let’s take a look at this – so far, the actual named righteous out of millions if not billions of souls who lived during those eras are 4 in total: Lot, Caleb, Joshua and Noah. (Their families were spared as chattel.)

We could also add Abraham, of course, but that only makes 5.

What about the 2 billion Christians today? How many of them do you think would raise their hands and self-identify as righteous? There were many children of Israel during the days of Jesus’ ministry who would have self-identified as righteous, too, and some of those Jesus told to their face they didn’t have a hope in Hades of getting to Heaven, not in the spiritual state they were in.

These low numbers should be very sobering to us.

Do you consider yourself to be as righteous as Lot? How about as righteous as Noah? Or maybe as righteous as Stephen, the first martyr of the church, who prayed for and forgave those who were stoning him to death while they were stoning him to death? We know that Moses made it to Heaven, too, and Elijah, because they came to visit Jesus during the so-called transfiguration on the mount. So now, along with the other named 5 souls, we’ve got a few more, but not many.

This speaks to me of how difficult it is to make it all the way Home. At the same time, it also speaks to me of how full of crap the mainstream Christian church must be to assure their adherents that Jesus did all the heavy lifting, so all they have to do is show up every Sunday and/or give money to the church, and off to Heaven they go. Or something like that.

I frankly do not consider myself righteous. I have a long way to go before I would make such a claim, if ever. And I think the point here is precisely that: We cannot judge our own righteousness or the righteousness of others. We cannot know definitively whether we’re righteous before God. Abraham thought it was a sure thing to negotiate God down to just 10 righteous souls in Sodom, thinking there must be at least 10, but he was wrong. There was only 1.

And then there was none.

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We read of visions of mass destruction throughout the book of Revelation and in Ezekiel 9. Mass destruction was also recorded as historical fact in the book of Jeremiah and in Genesis and elsewhere. In the visions and actual scenes of destruction, very few are spared. Jeremiah relays how mothers cooked and ate their own children during the famine when Jerusalem was under siege by the Babylonians, in fulfillment of Moses’ prophecies in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28.

It’s a nasty world out there, filled with nasty people doing nasty things. God knows that. None of what anyone does is a surprise to him. But don’t you be nasty. Don’t you eat your own children, no matter how hungry you get. Don’t you congregate around the door of your neighbour, demanding he bring out his guests so you can rape them. Don’t you strip yourself naked and dance drunk around a golden calf made from the very gold God gave you for his temple ornaments. Don’t you sell everything you have and give only half to the poor, hiding away the other half for a rainy day.

In other words, don’t be unrighteous. Be like the people of Nineveh, who repented when they were told they needed to repent. That’s how you overcome any unrighteousness you may not even know is in you.

Jesus’ message at the start of his ministry was to repent and believe the Gospel. That message doesn’t change at any point during the rest of our time on Earth. We are all in constant need of repentance and all in constant need of the Gospel, just as we’re all in constant need of being reminded how precious and elusive the reward of Heaven actually is.

It’s a numbers game. Jesus said that many are called but few are chosen; Jesus also said that the Way Home is narrow and few find it.

We need to take these words to heart and hope that in mentioning the few, Jesus was talking about us.

BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 40 REFLECTION (THE BOOK OF REVELATION)

“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”

DAY 40: AUGUST 31

REVELATION

The book of Revelation is by far the most misquoted and misapplied book in all scripture. Most people even get its name wrong, calling it “Revelations” instead of “Revelation”. Even so, this misquoted, misapplied and mistitled book is still the most popular one in the Bible and the one that most Christians are familiar with. It’s even a gateway, for some, to scripture. So what is its draw? Why has it fascinated so many people – including non-Christians – for nearly 2000 years?

Unlike the other books we’ve breezed through over the past 40 days, Revelation is entirely a vision. And like visions, it’s less concerned with reality and more concerned with getting the details of the vision right. Not surprising, John’s vision is highly visual (which is not always the case with visions; mine mostly appear in written words and some people only hear sounds or see numbers), which can be difficult to convey in words. The vision is also highly symbolic, with, for instance, animals doing stand-ins for other beings, such as a lamb with slaughter wounds standing in for Jesus.

The vision is from God, delivered to Jesus, who then delivers it to his angel to deliver to John, who finally delivers it to us. That’s a long game of telephone tag there, namely: God -> Jesus -> angel -> John -> us. Whether anything got lost or garbled in translation, particularly in the final hand-off from John to us, remains to be seen. We know Jesus got everything right and the angel got everything right, and John was faithful in the telling, but who knows what’s been removed and/or added since it was first written down and handed over for publication.

John didn’t include the warning at the end of the book just to increase his word count. He knew his prophecy would likely be messed with. His inclusion of a warning was his signal to us to read the prophecy with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, not relying solely on our own eyes and our own limited understanding. If anything’s been removed, God will fill us in, and if anything’s been added, God will likewise let us know.

The book can roughly be divided into three major sections – the end of the Age of Mercy, the Age of Tribulation and Judgement, and visions of Heaven. Within those three sections there are further divisions which can be unpacked like Russian dolls, each one showing a scene that opens to another scene.

I’m not interested, in this reflection, in giving an interpretation of Revelation. It would take a whole book to do so. I’m more interested in relaying what jumped out at me during today’s reading and asking you what jumped out at you, since those things are what God wants us to focus on and learn from. We can then apply what we’ve learned to the situations we’ll be encountering in the weeks and months to come.

Visions are highly subjective. Most of the time, even the people receiving the visions have no idea what they mean. That’s why Daniel was called upon to interpret the visions of Nebuchadnezzar, as the king had no clue what all the images he saw meant. Daniel had no clue either; he had to ask God in prayer. God was the one interpreting the vision for Daniel, who then relayed God’s interpretation to Nebuchadnezzar. Sometimes what is seen and told in a vision is then told to be sealed for revelation at another time.

The interpretations themselves can also be highly subjective. In Revelation, John offers us very little by way of interpretation. He simply relays what he sees and hears, though occasionally the angels edify a scene for him. Recall that Daniel’s and Ezekiel’s visions were also interpreted by angels who got their intel directly from God.

Everyone loves a good mystery! Maybe that’s a big part of the ongoing fascination with the book of Revelation. For nearly 2000 years, we’ve been trying to piece together world events to fit the scenes mentioned in the prophecy, but what we’ve ended up with so far is a jigsaw puzzle with wrong pieces jammed together, forcing a fit. Square pegs into round holes. Misapplied and misinterpreted prophecy.

We know from scripture that God is the only one who knows the time of the end. Jesus doesn’t know and his angels don’t know. Only God knows. So whatever time frames are given in Revelation are cloaked. Which means, for example, the seven-year time span that is popularly applied to the Tribulation period is not actually seven years. As we just read in one of the letters a few days ago – a thousand years is to God a day, and a day a thousand years. We need to stop applying literal interpretations to symbolic visions. We need to let God read scripture to us, through his Holy Spirit, rather than relying on our own eyes or those of false and blind prophets.

When Daniel wanted to interpret a dream or vision, whether his own or someone else’s, he went to God in prayer and asked him to help him understand.

We are to do the same.

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So where does that leave us today? What jumped out at you during this final reading of our 40-day Bible marathon?

Here’s what jumped out at me:

  • During the Age of Mercy, there is still hope for all of the seven mentioned city-sites of God’s church. Even if they have strayed from the Gospel teachings, there is still hope for them if they receive correction in the spirit it was intended, and then apply the correction. Even Laodicea, the lukewarm city-site that God threatens to spew out of his mouth, is given fair warning and so still has hope if it repents and corrects its ways. While we are yet in the Age of Mercy, there is hope, including for those who’ve strayed far from God.
  • But remember that this is only for people who are in the church. The hope is for those who are in the church. Those who are outside the church do not have a share in the hope.
  • There are a lot of seals in Revelation. There are the seven seals that are on the book that only Jesus (the slaughtered lamb) can open; there are the seals that are placed on the foreheads of God’s people; and there’s the seal on Satan when he is bound in chains for a thousand years. All of these are God’s seals. Then there’s the mark of the beast, which is not God’s seal. It is the opposite of God’s seal, so that if you receive it, you just got yourself a one-way ticket to the lake of fire. The mark is also a form of seal. That is one seal you never want anywhere near you.
  • After the Age of Mercy, there is no more repentance, and if no more repentance, no more conversions and rebirths, and if no more rebirths, no more admittance into God’s Kingdom, and if no more admittance into God’s Kingdom, no Heaven as a reward. After the sealing of God’s people, when the trumpets start to sound and literally all hell breaks loose on Earth, there is no more repentance. No matter what God throws at people to get them to repent, they continue to curse him. There can be no conversions without repentance.
  • The Age of Mercy is the time of repentance; when that ends and the time of Tribulation and Judgement begins, anyone who hasn’t accepted God’s Way as their way will be lost for all eternity in the lake of fire. This is a hard teaching. Other belief systems promise other options after death, like reincarnation or purgatory or a golden age even for unrepentant sinners. Such rosy options are perhaps one of the main reasons why people choose to embrace and cling to these belief systems rather than to God’s Truth. They want to live their lives however they want to live them, and then get a spiritual participation trophy at the end. God’s Truth is a shining beacon to those who choose and hold to God’s Way, but condemnation to those who don’t.
  • When I first read the book of Revelation the day after I was reborn, God showed me that the Whore of Babylon was the papacy, otherwise known as the spiritual Roman Empire. I remember staring in disbelief at the page when God revealed that to me, but nothing I have seen or read since has contradicted the revelation, including today’s reading. The seat of the Whore is a city that sits on seven hills. Rome (and by extension the Vatican) is the only ‘great’ city that fits that bill. The Babylonian aspect is the Babylonian (heathen) demon gods that have their home in what eventually became Catholicism, and who teamed up with the Roman and other demon gods to form an immensely powerful spiritual stronghold that has held sway over large parts of the world, mainly through ungodly alliances.
  • We cannot possibly look at Vatican City and see it as representative of Jesus’ teachings. It is the dead opposite of Jesus’ teachings (the demon-worshiping obelisk at the center of St. Peter’s Square, transported straight from the heart of heathen lands, is kind of a dead giveaway). Despite the “holy” that was added to the Roman Empire in the fourth century AD when it allegedly became Christian, Jesus and God have never been in that spiritual building. It was and is a demon stronghold.
  • Steer clear of Catholicism. It is not the “one true church”, as it claims. It is a demon stronghold that will ultimately crash and burn, along with all the other demon strongholds. It is already – THANK GOD — crashing and burning.
  • Lots of press over the past year about the mark of the beast, particularly, more recently, about the buying and selling aspect. I’m guessing it’s driven a lot of traffic to online versions of the Bible. It would be interesting to see how big a spike there is for Google searches of “mark of the beast”. Let’s pray that many who do those searches read farther and eventually embrace God’s Truth.
  • I’m not going to say anything else about the mark of the beast here today (since it didn’t particularly jump out at me), other than to mention that you get the mark by default if you don’t have God’s seal. You get one or the other – either God’s seal or the beast’s. Every human soul is marked. God claims his first, and the devil gets all the rest. Those who take the mark of the beast take it because they don’t have God’s seal. They have no problem with taking the mark of the beast. To them, it’s self-evident that it should be taken. Note that God’s people can’t be tricked into taking it, so don’t be afraid you’ll take it by mistake. The mark of the beast will very much be labeled as such.
  • Pray with all your heart and soul that God finds you worthy to receive his mark. In answer to your prayer, God will show you what you need to do either to receive it or to hold it, if it’s already been received. He will show you, just like his church at the various city-sites was shown what to do. Always pray to God to show you his Way. And when he shows you, do it.
  • In James’ letter yesterday, we read that God doesn’t tempt us. The devil does. God does, however, pour out his wrath on us, as we see in the pouring out of the seven plague vials. These come from Heaven and are distributed by God’s holy angels. If they come from Heaven, they originate as holy (no unholy thing exists in Heaven), which means they cause an unholy reaction only in the unholy, like in vampire movies where holy water burns the vampires as if it’s acid. So the plagues will only detrimentally affect the unholy, not the holy, as God’s wrath is holy, not unholy, and is intended to punish the unholy. Remember that.
  • John’s vision of Heaven reflects many of the earlier prophets’ visions of Heaven. In fact, there are numerous elements throughout Revelation that appear in earlier visions in the OT, like the four horses and the trees along the river. God has shown me my little piece of Heaven as well, which I’ve mentioned in this blog on occasion. He didn’t show me symbolically, as it’s shown in Revelation, but the way it really is. No interpretation required. John’s highly symbolic vision reflects a perfected Garden of Eden that has become an eternal stronghold known as New Jerusalem. The sprawling garden at the beginning of the Bible has been transformed into a gated community at the end of the Bible, where eating from the tree of life, far from being forbidden, is free to everyone who lives there. This is the Paradise we’re all aiming for.
  • The book of Revelation ends with a warning not to add to or take away from the prophecy. We know that those who hate God don’t fear his warnings, so we can only assume that some changes were made to the prophecy. Make sure, when you teach the book of Revelation to others, that you don’t add to or take away from John’s vision. False interpretation is a form of adding to and taking away, especially if the interpretation is done to further an agenda. Pray not to do that.  You want your name to remain in the Book of Life, not to be blotted out of it.

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And now, congratulations are finally in order! If, as of today, you’ve read all the way through the Bible for the first time, GOD BLESS YOU! And if you’ve read the whole Bible, before but joined in the read-through because you felt called to do it, GOD BLESS YOU, TOO! Whether it’s your first read-through of the Bible or your hundredth, reading the Good Book within a relatively short time-frame gives you a better grasp of where we were as God’s people, where we are now, and where we need to go. We need to see that big picture every now and then. It gives us context and a sense that we are a continuation of what came before us, the fruit of many people’s labours, just as someday others will hopefully be the fruit of ours.

This is my prayer for all of you who joined in the BIBLE READ-THROUGH – that you never put the Bible down until the day you die, that these 40 days and 40 nights have formed a Bible-reading habit in you that will continue for the rest of your days, and that you’ve become even more addicted to reading God’s Word than you were before and even more addicted to putting God’s Word into action in your lives. I pray this for you in Jesus’ name, openly and with God’s blessing. Amen.

What is coming can’t be stopped, but we can face it head-on as God’s people. That means we face it as Jesus faced his trials and Paul faced his. There is nothing to fear. If we’re born-again, God is always with us through his Spirit. That is his promise to his people, as we saw all through the Bible, and God never breaks a promise.

Cling to God as your Father, follow so closely behind Jesus that there’s no space between you, and never give up. No matter what happens, never give up.

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The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is directly below.