Several years ago, at the Midweek Meeting, we had some studies in the Book of Revelation but this final book in the Bible has never been the subject of Sunday sermons or Easterly Bible readings, so we are going to begin to tackle it this month and will continue it next month.
Tuesday 1st May
This book is different from any other book in the New Testament. The only possible resemblance would be with Daniel or one of the Old Testament Prophets. For many people it is a closed book because of the difficulties involved in its interpretation. Nevertheless, it is part of God’s Word and we must pray that God will give us understanding, by his Spirit. Another problem associated with the Book of Revelation is that it has become the playground of the sects and cults, and indeed of numerous heretics down through the centuries. We must beware. I don’t pretend to know all the answers or to understand this book completely but it is a book which has a great deal to teach us and it is full of God’s purpose and God’s glory. We should expect to learn a great deal and come to know our God better.
Pray for the Rutherford House trustees meeting in Edinburgh and for Gordon Kennedy, the new chairman.
Wednesday 2nd May
The Book of Revelation was written by ‘John’ and it is generally reckoned, among those who take Scripture seriously, that this is John the Apostle who also wrote John’s Gospel and 1, 2, & 3 John. Some have argued against this because the language and style of the Gospel is so different from the Revelation, but there are similarities too. Only these two books in the New Testament use the expression logos (John 1:1; Revelation 19:13) and the expressions such as ‘the lamb’ and ‘the water of life’. I think the evidence of the apostolic authorship is very strong indeed. As to when it was written there is more doubt. It was clearly written during the time of a persecution by one of the Roman Emperors and commentators are disagreed over whether it arises from the reign of Domitian or the reign of Nero. The stronger case can, I think, be made out for a date of AD 90 – 95 during the reign of Domitian. It was written in the form of a letter to the seven churches in the province of Asia. There were more than seven churches in this area at the time Revelation was written (Acts 20:5f; Colossians 1:2; 4:13) and we’re not sure why these were selected. Perhaps John had some special relation to these or perhaps they were chosen to illustrate certain points.
Pray for Christine Macdonald in Zambia. She has being going through various tests and is now waiting to receive a liver transplant, either in South Africa, India or the UK.
Thursday 3rd May
In the Greek, the first word of this book is Apokalupsis (translated as ‘the Revelation’) and that word is a key to what follows. As Leon Morris says, it means ‘an uncovering of something hidden, the making known of what man could not find out for himself. It makes plain that the book it introduces is not a book of human wisdom, nor for that matter a discussion of philosophical or theological problems. It is revelation. It is a setting forth of what God has made known.’ In one sense we might say that the whole Bible is revelation, meaning that God reveals himself and tells us things we could not know otherwise. As Paul says in Galatians 1:11-12: ‘I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.’ Without revelation, we would not know anything about God.
Pray for those in need in our city, especially those who are homeless or struggling to care for themselves and their families. Pray for the various agencies, including the churches, which try to help.
Friday 4th May
This book is a prophecy given by God to the apostle John. In verse 3 we have a beatitude: ‘Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.’ This is the first of seven beatitudes scattered through the book (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14). John clearly regards this book as Scripture. Notice in verse 3 he speaks of ‘the words of this prophecy’. This view is supported by his stern warnings in 22:18-19: ‘I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.’ We read this book as Scripture come from God.
Pray for Open Doors today, remembering Bob Matheson and his team as they welcome visitors and share the Gospel.
Saturday 5th May
Notice in verse 4 the expression, ‘Sevenfold Spirit’. We see something similar in Isaiah 11:1-2: ‘A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD…’ In Scripture, the word seven often suggests ‘perfection’ or wholeness or completeness. Verses 4-7 are full of theology and worth pondering carefully. They tell us about the person of Jesus, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come’, underlining that he is the eternal God. Then about the work of Jesus, ‘who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father’. It speaks of how Christ will come and every eye will see him, pointing to the Second Coming. Finally, in verse 8, God describes himself as ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’ Do you see the Trinity in these verses?
Pray for Ross and Irene Macaskill and their family. Ask that God would strengthen and encourage them in the work of the Gospel.
Sunday 6th May
These three verses tell us why John wrote, where he wrote and when he wrote. John explains that he was commanded to write all of this down. He is not writing of his own free will but because of God’s instruction. In verse 9 we learn that he was on the ‘Island of Patmos because of the Word of God’. We can’t be sure what this means but it sounds as if he was in exile, either of his own choice to escape persecution or perhaps because had been forcibly banished. He is writing this, ‘On the Lord’s Day’. This is the only occasion in the New Testament when this day is mentioned and is the first reference to a Christian Sunday. We know from early church sources that the Christians chose to mark the Sunday as their ‘sabbath’ because it was the day Jesus rose from the dead.
Pray for the Minister taking both services today and pray for the service at Raigmore.
Monday 7th May
In verses 12-17 we have a wonderful vision of the glorious Lord. This vision of Christ coming right at the beginning is very important. The church may be small and weak but look at Christ and see his glory. What a vision! This is intended to give real hope. When John speaks in verse 13 about someone who is ‘One like a Son of Man’, he is drawing language from Daniel 7:13. Jesus called himself the Son of Man in the Gospels. In Daniel and here in Revelation this Son of Man was a heavenly being coming with the clouds in glory and exercising dominion. John was overwhelmed by this vision and fell down as if dead but the Lord told him not to be afraid. In verse 18 we have this wonderful statement of the resurrection: ‘I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.’ Jesus is the Lord who will judge the world in righteousness. The message of verse 10 is repeated in verses 19-20: ‘write it down’. John was to be God’s voice.
Pray for the Fellowship Groups in the congregation, asking they would provide good Bible study and fellowship. Pray that more would join a group.
Tuesday 8th May
We read the whole chapter today but will then, over the next few days, read each section in more detail. John was told to write what he saw on a scroll and to ‘send it to seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.’ The seven messages have a common pattern: a greeting, a title for Jesus, positive things about the church, criticisms of the church, a warning, an exhortation and a promise. Perhaps the most significant points of the messages are the warnings and the promises. Some of the warnings are stark and frightening. The reasons for each of these warnings we shall see in due course, but obviously each of them is relevant to us either to a greater or lesser degree.
In each of the promises, Jesus says ‘to him who overcomes… I will give’. The promises give the believer so much to look forward to when we see Christ.
As we consider what Jesus said to these Churches we must look closely at ourselves and our own Church to see if we are subject to the same faults or guilty of the same sins.
Pray for the Girls’ Brigade as their session comes to an end. Give thanks for Susan Mackenzie’s many years of dedicated service and pray for Jennifer Morrison and Sheena Fraser as they take up the responsibility.
Wednesday 9th May
Ephesus was the largest and most important of the seven cities. It was wealthy and prosperous, had a large and important harbour and it had roads to all the important places in Asia Minor. It was famous also for its great shrine to Diana the pagan goddess. Paul visited this city during his second missionary journey in about A.D. 52. (Acts 18:19-21). On his third missionary journey he spent 3 years here (Acts 20:31). He left in about A.D. 57. During his 1st imprisonment (A.D. 60 – 63) he sent his letter to the Ephesians. Later, he left Timothy in charge of this Church (1 Timothy 1:3). Early Church history suggests that the Apostle John was here in about A.D. 66 before being banished to Patmos about fifteen years later, from which he wrote this book. Some good points about the church are mentioned but there is a serious charge laid against them: ‘You have forsaken your first love.’ (verse 4) They had begun well but Christ was no longer at the heart and centre of their church and their lives. How do we stand in this?
Pray for David Scott and others who will lead the United Prayer meeting at Inshes tonight. Pray that many from around the Presbytery will join us.
Thursday 10th May
Smyrna was a lovely and important city, perhaps second only to Ephesus in importance at the time this was written. We are not sure how the Church came to be founded there because the New Testament does not tell us but it might have been during Paul’s third missionary journey (see Acts 19:10). A famous Christian martyr Polycarp was bishop of Smyrna at around this time. The story of his martyrdom illustrates the persecution described in these verses before us. Jesus assures these believers that whatever their condition in the world’s eyes, they were rich. What a wonderful picture of those whose faith lies in Christ! Despite our circumstances we are spiritually rich. They might be suffering persecution but they belong to Christ. There is no criticism of the church in Smyrna, unlike the others. These Christians were counted worthy of suffering for Christ but Jesus promises to give them ‘a crown of life’. Would we be willing to suffer for Christ?
Pray for the Senior Citizens’ lunch today at Raigmore. Pray too for the AGM of the Highland Division of the Girls’ Brigade this evening.
Friday 11th May
Pergamum was the city which the Romans established as the capital of the Asian part of the empire. It was also the city where the great altar to Zeus was located, along with numerous other pagan altars and places of worship. No wonder that John calls Pergamum the place where Satan dwells. It may be that this particular expression was used because it was the centre of Emperor-worship. Whatever the reason, it was a wicked and pagan place. John passes on a word of encouragement (verse 13). Yet there is also a judgment, a warning (verses 14–16). Ever since Numbers 25 and 31, ‘Balaam’ had become a byword for religious declension and compromise. There were even some Nicolaitians in the Christian Church at Pergamum. Compromisers, those who tried to live in two worlds: the immoral pagan world and the Kingdom of God. The truth is, as Jesus said, that you can’t serve two masters. Jesus will not share his glory with anyone or anything else.
Pray for Dougie Wolf and family in Barvas. Pray for the preaching of the Gospel and the pastoral care of the congregation.
Saturday 12th May
Thyatira was the smallest town of the seven and it has the longest letter! This was an important commercial town with many trades and occupations finding a place there. It was an important centre for wool-dying, which ties in with Acts 16:14. We know virtually nothing about the city or the Church within the city. In some ways they were doing quite well, as we see in verse 19: ‘I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first’. Yet there is a problem. We are told that they tolerated ‘Jezebel’, who had led them into sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols. This is similar to what we find in 1 Corinthians 8. God promises that he is going to deal with this situation himself and her fate is described in verses 22-23. God hates compromise with the world of sin. Many in the church had not compromised, however, and they are told to ‘hold on to what you have until I come’. Like many churches, it was a mixed bag.
Pray for the Kirk Session and their responsibility for the pastoral and spiritual care of the congregation.
Sunday 13th May
Today, we come to the letter to the church in Sardis. About 700 years before this letter was written this was a famous city, the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Lydia. Once again the letter begins with a statement about Jesus: ‘These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars’. Then comes Jesus’ assessment of the Church: ‘I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead’ (verse 1). This is a serious judgment. Sardis once had a reputation for spiritual achievements but was now simply living on that reputation. Living on past glories. The words of assessment go on, ‘I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God’. Their reputation was fine, but their deeds were not in accord with the reputation. It seems likely that they had accommodated themselves to the heathen customs of their neighbours. Some of the Christians had remained faithful (verse 4) but the Church as a whole was dead. There are undoubtedly churches in our own day which continue to exists but spiritually are dead.
Pray for all of the services today: the morning and evening services, the Raigmore service and the Gaelic service. Pray that the whole day would be a blessing to us.
Monday 14th May
Philadelphia had a small population, partly because of frequent earthquakes. The Church was also small and weak (verse 8). Unlike some of the other churches, there is no suggestion of persecution by pagan authorities and no suggestion of heresies within the Church. The problem in Philadelphia was the Jews. The Jews, called a ‘Synagogue of Satan’ were saying that the Christians were excluded from the kingdom of God but in fact the reverse was the case. The introductory sentence gives the name of Jesus as ‘him who is holy and true who holds the key of David. What he opens no-one can shut. And what he shuts no-one can open.’ This is a quote from Isaiah 22:22. It means that the power of admitting individuals to the City of David, the New Jerusalem, lies with Christ. He alone determines the eternal destines of men and women. Jesus’ assessment of the church in Philadelphia is entirely favourable. There is no word of rebuke, only commendation and exhortation. Their future is assured.
Pray for the trustees of Covenant Fellowship meeting today. Pray for wisdom and for clear direction from the Holy Spirit.
Tuesday 15th May
Laodicea was situated on the bank of a river and stood at the junction of three roads which crossed Asia Minor, so it was a large commercial and administrative centre. It was known especially for three things: Banking, the making of clothes and carpets, and its medical school. Jesus’ assessment of this Church is striking: ‘I know your deeds that you are neither cold nor hot, I wish you were either one or the other’. One commentator says, ‘The lukewarm person does not become greatly disturbed at hearing heretical teaching and is not vigorous in the defence of the truth’. Note Jesus’ words of condemnation in verse 16: ‘So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth’. Despite this severe condemnation, there is a warm, evangelical appeal in verses 19-20. The famous verse 20 is not addressed to the Church, it is addressed to individuals within the Church. In other words, the condition of the Laodiceans has not quenched the love of Christ for them. He wants to lead them to repentance. Are we lukewarm? Do we need to repent?
Pray for all our young people who are at college and university and for those who will follow them in the autumn. Pray that what they have learned in the East Church will stand them in good stead.
Wednesday 16th May
Up until now in the Book of Revelation we have been sharing in Jesus’ words to the churches of Asia. At 4:1 the scene of John’s vision changes from earth to heaven. The overall pattern of chapters 4-7 is one of tribulation and distress, but right at the beginning we are given two pictures designed to comfort the Church in its distress: chapter 4 gives a vision of God on the throne, and chapter 5 describes the Lamb, the Redeemer. John hears a voice and then sees a vision. The first thing he sees is a throne, which tells us that the most important thing to know about heaven is that God has authority and power. The word ‘throne’ appears 17 times in chapters 4 and 5. All earthly thrones are under the jurisdiction of this throne set in heaven. In verse 4 we are introduced to the 24 elders. These were clothed in white, symbolic of the righteous acts of the saints. They are perhaps representative of the Church in both old and new testaments (12 tribes and 12 Apostles). The Entire vision has one purpose, namely to demonstrate that all things are governed by the Lord on the throne and should be an encouragement to us.
Pray for the Minister as he takes a school assembly at Raigmore School this morning.
Thursday 17th May
As we saw yesterday, chapter 4 speaks of God the Father on the throne. Today we see that chapter 5 speaks of Christ, the Lamb of God. In this chapter, John sees a vision of a scroll. What follows makes it clear that this is a record of the world’s destiny. Another way of putting it would be to say that it represents God’s plan of redemption. You will notice from the passage that this scroll had seven seals. At the time this was written, there was a custom among the people of this area that what we now call a ‘will’ or a ‘last will and testament’ was written in this form, with seven seals. When a person died, the seals were opened, the contents read and the commands enacted. John’s vision suggests that with the breaking of the seals and the opening of the scroll, God’s will was made known and then put into effect. Yet there was a problem. Who was going to break the seals and open the scroll? Finally, someone was found: ‘The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David’. This refers to Jesus. Only he can put God’s will into force.
Pray for the Gathering this morning, asking that it would be a time of enjoyable friendship and fellowship.
Friday 18th May
We read this chapter again today, to understand more about the one who could open the seals. It should be clear, then, that in Revelation 5, John’s vision is about Jesus the Messiah. With that background, if we now move on to verse 6, we find these words, ‘Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders’. After verse 5 we might have been expecting a lion, the Lion of Judah! Instead, we have a lamb. It doesn’t seem quite right. If the one who opens the scrolls is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, if he is a descendant of David but greater than David, why is he portrayed as a lamb? The reference to Christ as a lamb, is a reference to his being sacrificed and his blood shed for us. See John 1:29 and Isaiah 53. The lamb, we are told, was worthy to open the scroll. Why was he worthy? He was worthy because he gave his life as a sacrificial offering: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.’
Pray for Neil and Rachel Rae in the Philippines. They recently had a fire in their house. Fortunately no-one was hurt but a lot of damage was done.
Saturday 19th May
In these readings in Revelation, we began by looking at the first three chapters, which describe the seven churches who receive letters from Christ, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses and either calling them to repentance or encouraging them to go on in faith. We then moved on to chapter 4 which speaks of God the Father on the throne. Then it was chapter 5, which speaks of Christ, the Lamb of God. Both of these chapters were designed to encourage the church and to prepare them for the troubles which would soon come upon them. John sees a vision of a scroll. What follows makes it clear that this is a record of the world’s destiny. Another way of putting it would be to say that it represents God’s plan of redemption. Now we come to chapter 6, where the seals, having been opened, are explained. Today we just read the chapter and for the next two days we will try to understand what each seal represents.
Pray for the General Assembly which begins today in Edinburgh. Pray for Sally Bonnar as she presents the report of the Assembly Council.
Sunday 20th May
The first seal depicts a rider on a white horse. Everything in this chapter points to the seals as a series of disasters. They are symbolic of times of trouble and persecution. It is likely that the rider on the white horse represents warfare. The second seal depicts a rider on a red horse. As distinct from the first rider, this seems to represent civil war, ‘make men slay each other’. The third seal depicts A rider on a black horse. This symbolises famine. The fourth seal depicts a rider on a pale horse. This represents death: a quarter of the earth’s population are to die. These first four seals describe the condition of the Empire as seen by John: a vast world-wide power bent on conquest, but unrest and civil war within, accompanied by famine, pestilence and death in all its forms.
Pray for the Minister as he takes both services today and for Ian Challinor as he takes the service at Raigmore.
Monday 21st May
The first four seals have to do with what was happening on earth, now as the vision continues, we see what is happening in heaven. Both of these seals are related to the Day of Judgement, when God will judge the world through Jesus Christ. In the fifth seal, the martyrs of the Church are revealed, waiting for the Day of Judgment. The sixth seal provides us with a picture of a ruined universe. It is a description of the last day. In order to reflect on that last day, take time to read Matthew 24. That passage from the Gospels is written in the same kind of language as the Book of Revelation and calls us to consider our condition before God. What will we receive at the hands of God when that day comes?
Pray for Scott and Heather McRoberts and their family. Pray for Scott in his own congregation and also in his work as Interim Moderator at Dores and Boleskine.
Tuesday 22nd May
Here we have an interlude between the sixth and seventh seals. The vision we have in this chapter demonstrates that the servants of God are under his special care. In verses 1-3, John speaks of four angels at the four corners of the earth holding back the four winds until the servants of God have been ‘sealed’. The winds probably represent the judgments of God that have already been described and those that are yet to be described. This chapter answers the question: what is the fate of believers during the terrible events described in chapter six and those which will be described in chapter eight? The answer given is that the servants of God are ‘sealed’. The angel came bearing a ‘seal’ which was a symbol of authority. The seal was also a symbol of ownership, in this case God’s ownership, which protects his servants. We see this in the New Testament also. For example, in Ephesians 1:13: ‘And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit…’ We are his and he protects us.
Pray for Sheila Murray and the work of the church office. Pray too for those involved in the maintenance of the buildings and the cleaning of the church.
Wednesday 23rd May
As we saw yesterday, God’s own people are sealed but what are we to make of the 144,000? This is obviously a symbolic number, usually taken to be 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. What about the church? Well the church is taken to be part of Israel. We see that in James 1:1: ‘James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.’ Also, in Galatians 6:16: ‘Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.’ Also, 1 Peter 2:9-10: ‘But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.’
Pray for Jack Macdonald and his family and pray for his work as Pastoral Assistant at Palmerston Place Church.
Thursday 24th May
In these verses, we are given a picture of those from every tribe and nation who belong to the people of God. We are told of this ‘great multitude that on-one could count’, that they were wearing white robes. These robes speak of justification. We have been pardoned and therefore cleansed from every sin and we have been accepted by God, clothed in the righteous which Christ supplies. The same thought is found in verse 14, where we are told of these same people that they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. The keynote of verses 10-12 is praise to God, because the keynote of heaven is praise to God. Finally, in verses 13-17 we are granted a picture of the happy situation of the redeemed. This is actually drawn from Isaiah 49:10. Truly those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ are in a wonderful condition now but with great glory to come.
Pray for the Sunday School and the Ark Sunday Club. Pray too that someone would be found to lead the youth fellowship.
Friday 25th May
In this chapter we have the seventh seal but, before we come to that, we read that ‘there was silence in heaven for about half an hour’. I think myself that this was due to a sense of awe at the presence of God and at the severe judgments about to be launched on the world. We must be silent before the awesome majesty of God. This is a common theme is the prophets of the Old Testament. See, for example, Habakkuk 2:20: ‘But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.’ Or Zephaniah 1:7: ‘Be silent before the Sovereign LORD, for the day of the LORD is near. The LORD has prepared a sacrifice; he has consecrated those he has invited.’ Or Zechariah 2:13: ‘Be still before the LORD, all mankind, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.’ This is all similar to the thought of Psalm 46:10: ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’
Pray for the work of Bible distribution, especially the Scottish Bible Society and the Gideons. Pray that every Bible or Testament sent out would achieve a good purpose in the lives of those who receive them.
Saturday 26th May
Then we have the ‘seven trumpets’. If the seven seals represent persecution and tribulation for God’s people, then seven trumpets represent the judgment of God upon those outside the Church. The first trumpet affects one third of the earth and ‘mixed with blood’ emphasises the destructive character of these elements. The second trumpet describes a mountain, ablaze, being thrown into the sea. This is an imagery of judgment which is found elsewhere is Scripture (Psalm 46:2 and Isaiah 54:10). The third trumpet causes one third of fresh water to become poisonous (compare Revelation 16:3-7). The fourth trumpet brought darkness to a third of the earth. These judgments are not necessarily referring to any particular time but may be found at any place in the world or any time before the end. Also, they are only temporary and passing judgments, the final judgment upon the wicked is retained until the Day of Judgment itself.
Pray for Care and the Christian Institute, working at the intersection between church and society. Pray for Dr Gordon Macdonald, the Parliamentary officer for Care at Holyrood and for Nigel Kenny, the Scottish Director for the Christian Institute.
Sunday 27th May
This chapter is divided into two parts, the one describing a terrible situation and the other speaking of an even worse situation. It is difficult to be certain what the meaning is but it concerns the rejection of the Gospel. The locusts in the vision are given power to torture all except Christians. We see that in verses 3-4. They are given this power by the Devil. We know this by comparing verse 1 with Luke 10:18. The explanation of verses 1-12 then, which best fits in with these basic facts, is this: those who reject the Gospel are withdrawing themselves from the protection (seal) of God and are thus under the terrifying power of the Devil and his demons. Two things are being said in this passage: Firstly, there are evil forces latent in the hearts of men which gain power when men turn from God. Secondly, there are evil forces (demons) which are given power when men turn from God. Thus, the evil danger is both within and without.
Pray for Hector Morrison as he takes both morning and evening services today. Pray for Bill Flett as he takes the service at Raigmore.
Monday 28th May
The second vision in the chapter (verses 13-21) has a similar theme and purpose, although more severe. This time everything is deadly. Whereas the locusts tortured, the angels and their hosts killed. The evil which is let loose on the world is vividly described in both of these visions. The overall theme is clear: the power of the Devil and his demons over those who reject Christ and his Gospel. This is a theme seen throughout the New Testament (for example, Matthew 13:19 and 2 Corinthians 4:4). There is one important question which this chapter of Revelation answers for us: Why does God allow the forces of evil to have such a power over those who are not ‘sealed’? Why does God allow the Devil and his demons to torture some and to kill others? The answer is in our passage, in verses 20-21: God’s aim is to bring people to repentance to end the worship of false Gods. In other words, although this is a fearful and dreadful vision of the powers of evil unleashed on godless men and women, yet there is at the heart of it a Gospel message: repent and believe in the Gospel.
Pray for the Presbytery of Inverness and the various vacant churches. Pray for Fraser Turner in his work as Interim Moderator at Trinity Church.
Tuesday 29th May
Chapters 10 and 11 are an interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpets. The interlude centres on an open book or scroll which may represent the Word of God. This book is to be eaten by John, after which he must go on to prophesy. This probably means that the Word of God is to be received and then preached everywhere before the end comes (Mark 13:10). Some of the things written in the book are more mysterious than others. With the seven thunders we come to something so mysterious that it cannot be written down. The angel solemnly proclaims the imminence of the fulfilment of ‘the mystery of God’ (verse 7). This stands for the whole purpose of God. It conveys to John’s readers that there is an answer to the perplexities of history. All will be revealed, the mystery of God will be finished and prophecy will be fulfilled.
Pray for the Word at One service today. Pray that the Word might be received and pray for good fellowship over a meal.
Wednesday 30th May
John takes the scroll and eats it. This gives him the message he must use in prophesying to many peoples. It is the Word of God to John. A voice comes from heaven.
We are not told the speaker but the voice is clearly authoritative. John is told to take the book from the Angel
and eat it. The prophets Jeremiah (15:16) and Ezekiel (3:1-3) had similar experiences but neither Jeremiah nor Ezekiel experienced the bitterness of John. Perhaps it is because of the stern denunciations and ‘woes’ in the message. The true preacher of God’s Word will proclaim the denunciation of the wicked, and the promises of Hell and judgment – but not joyfully. The more we love God and love our neighbour the more we feel pain as we proclaim the judgments of God. The words of this scroll, now devoured by John, have a future, as we see in verse 11. The Word of God is to go to the world ‘many peoples, nations, languages and kings’. Chapter 10 of Revelation, then, is a pause before a description of the final judgment and gives us to understand that the Word of God will be preached everywhere before the end.
Pray for the development of a new Mission Plan to help us focus on our new parish, including the Stratton Farm development and parts of Cradlehall and Westhill.
Thursday 31st May
Revelation chapter 11 continues the vision which John saw, beginning at the first verse of chapter 10. In chapter 10, John saw the mighty angel with the scroll. He was to digest the scroll and then prophesy to many people. In this chapter, we have a description of a great struggle. This chapter is difficult to interpret. It has been understood in many different ways, both literally and symbolically. The Book of the Revelation is a book which makes use of pictures, images and symbols in order to convey something of real significance. Two quotations from Leon Morris help us to understand: First, ‘John refers to the tremendous opposition faced by the people of God throughout the centuries and especially in the last days.’ Then second, ‘He speaks of two witnesses who bear unflinching testimony to the Word of God. And of the terrible figure of the Antichrist. We see something of the nature of the conflict between the Antichrist and the people of God and John gives us a glimpse of the triumph of the latter.’ In other words, through all the symbolism this chapter reminds us that God is on his throne and the triumph of his people is not in doubt.
Pray for the Deacons’ Court meeting tonight, with various challenges lying ahead in respect of our buildings, not least the roof.