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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

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March 2019

Daily Bible thoughts 1900: Friday 29th March 2019: Revelation 11:7-14: Unstoppable.

Revelation 11:7-14: Unstoppable.

Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. Their bodies will lie in the public square of the great city – which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt – where also their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days some from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. 10 The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.11 But after the three and a half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. 12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on.13 At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.14 The second woe has passed; the third woe is coming soon.” NIV

Like the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who died and rose again (and because of Jesus) the church is unstoppable. He is building His church and the gates of hell will not be able to prevail against it, however much they may try. The measuring of the temple (i.e. the church) in verses 1&2 speaks of protection. It’s obvious that God’s people will not always be sheltered from danger and harm, but ultimately they are safe

Someone said, ‘I am immortal until all God’s will for me is accomplished.’ It is worth noting that the two witnesses (symbolic of the whole church remember?) are able to complete their witness before being overpowered and killed (7). Then even when they are dead they are not finished. There is a terrifying comeback (11); terrifying for their enemies that is. As someone said, you can have no power over those who rise from the dead.

There is an echo of Ezekiel 37 in verse 11, and of 2 Kings 2:11 in verse 12 (see also 1 Thess.4:16, 17).

The church is called to witness ‘’in the public square of the great city’’ (9). The ‘’great city’’ is a symbol of worldly power and evil. As with the Lord Himself, this is the scene of the church’s service, suffering and death – but also of resurrection. Like the Lord Himself, and because of the Lord Himself, the church is unstoppable. Hallelujah!

Daily Bible thoughts 1899: Thursday 28th March 2019: Revelation 11:3-6: Power from on high

Revelation 11:3-6: Power from on high

And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.’ They are ‘the two olive trees’ and the two lampstands, and ‘they stand before the Lord of the earth.’ If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. They have power to shut up the heavens so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.” NIV

We have seen that the ‘’two witnesses’’ stand for the whole church in the last days. (Do you recall how Jesus sent out His disciples ‘’two by two’’ Mark 6:7?)

The witness of the church is an empowered witness. Note the words:

‘’And I will give power…’’

 ‘’These men have power…’’

Two Old Testament witnesses in particular stand behind this passage: Moses and Elijah. I’m sure you will be able to pick up the allusions to them, and their ministries. They were men powerful in word and deed; in sign and wonder; and powerful in prayer. God empowers His servants to do things they obviously could not do naturally and normally. He does this to bring glory to His own Name: ‘’But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us’’ (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Jesus said, ‘’ …you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses…’’ (Acts 1:8).

It is by the ‘oil’ of the Holy Spirit’s anointing that the church is able to endure, and faithfully witness to Christ in an angry, violent, opposing world (4; see the references in Zechariah 4). It is by the supply of the Spirit that the witnesses have light and power.

Notice that being Spirit-empowered – having a dynamic ministry – is not incompatible with suffering (something we associate with weakness, frailty and vulnerability). When the church is most ‘weak’ she is most powerful. It seems to me that the more powerful the people of God are, the more they will be opposed; the more opposed they are, the more powerful they will be.

I believe R.T.Kendall is on to something when he asserts that ‘suffering is the key to anointing’. So:

‘’Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart’’ (Hebrews 12:3).

How could Jesus endure ‘’such opposition’’ (underlining mine)?

Answer: ‘’…through the eternal Spirit…’’ (Hebrews (9:14).

The church on earth is called to walk this way of Jesus.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1898: Wednesday 27th March 2019: Revelation 11:3-14: Dark Ages.

Revelation 11:3-14: Dark Ages.

 “And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.’ They are ‘the two olive trees’ and the two lampstands, and ‘they stand before the Lord of the earth.’ If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. They have power to shut up the heavens so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. Their bodies will lie in the public square of the great city – which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt – where also their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days some from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. 10 The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.11 But after the three and a half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. 12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on.13 At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.14 The second woe has passed; the third woe is coming soon.” NIV

Before moving on to look at these verses in a little more detail, I wanted to share this helpful comment from F.B.Meyer:

‘We cannot in this brief note indicate the various interpretations of this chapter, but certain great principles underlie it which are true of every age. (1) During the darkest ages, men have been raised up to testify against the prevailing corruption of their time, and especially the corruption of the apostate church. Their opponents have endeavoured to silence their voice and blacken their character, but God has ever vindicated them and given life out of death. (2) Always when the enemies of the truth have deemed themselves triumphant, there has been a rekindling of gospel testimony…(3) Such witness-bearing as is suggested by the comparison with Zechariah’s vision is fed from the heart of Christ. He is the root of the martyr line; his Spirit is the life-breath of his witnesses. All through the centuries, commonly called Christian though generally very un-Christian, there has been an unbroken succession of pure and noble souls who have stood for Jesus Christ even unto death. Let us dare to stand with them and our Lord, that he may not be ashamed of us at his coming.’ ‘Devotional Commentary’, p.640.

Daily Bible thoughts 1897: Tuesday 26th March 2019: Revelation 11:3-14: Empowered ministry.

Revelation 11:3-14: Empowered ministry.

” And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.’ They are ‘the two olive trees’ and the two lampstands, and ‘they stand before the Lord of the earth.’If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. They have power to shut up the heavens so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. Their bodies will lie in the public square of the great city – which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt – where also their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days some from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. 10 The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.11 But after the three and a half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. 12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on.13 At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.14 The second woe has passed; the third woe is coming soon.” NIV

Although some people take these words literally, and imagine that two men will appear on the earth in the very last phase of history, and do all we read here (possibly a reappearance of Moses and Elijah? See Malachi 4:5 & Deuteronomy 18:15); my belief is that the prophets are emblematic of the witness of the church as a whole in the last days. Taken this way we can say the church clearly has:

  • An empowered ministry;
  • A prayerful ministry;
  • A solemn ministry;
  • A ministry which entails deep suffering;
  • But, ultimately, a successful and a vindicated ministry, with multitudes coming to worship God (13b)

In short, this ministry is cruciform in shape. The book of ‘Revelation’ shows that faithful witness to Christ entails suffering like Him and with Him (8b). In some sense there is always a dying involved that life may be manifested. It means not only pointing to His death and resurrection, but also sharing it (See Philippians 3:10,11).

There is an irony in verse 10. It’s like the world will throw a fiendish and diabolical form of Christmas party – but it will be short lived. The world will dance on the church’s grave, but not for long. There’s going to be a resurrection.

The passage ends on a high note of triumph (13,14), and prepares the way for the climactic and celebratory conclusion to the first half of ‘Revelation’ (15-19). We will get there eventually, but first, we will spend a few more days on the detail of today’s passage. There is so much Old Testament resonance, and we must turn the soil slowly, I think, and see what nuggets we find in it.

Daily Bible thoughts 1896: Monday 25th March 2019: Revelation 11: 1,2: Security.

Revelation 11:1-2: Security.

“I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, ‘Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, with its worshippers. But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months.” NIV

Many people find ‘Revelation’ to be the most puzzling book in the Bible, and chapter 11 its most puzzling chapter. Not surprisingly, there are different interpretations of this chapter. (That is true of the whole book of course!)

I’m not saying dogmatically that my viewpoint is correct, but I suggest that these 2 verses point to the ultimate security of the church. Although a part of it will, for a limited time, be ‘’given’’ over to suffering, God has the true measure of the church – His temple (see 1 Corinthians 3:16). He knows all those who are His, and although He will not necessarily keep them from suffering, He will keep them in and through suffering. They cannot be destroyed by it. So the measuring speaks of protection (see also Ezekiel chapters 40-42).

PRAYER: Lord, if I should live through dark days for your church – even the darkest – help me to never forget that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Daily Bible thoughts 1895: Friday 22nd March 2019: Revelation 10:9-11: ‘Eat this Book’.

Revelation 10:9-11: ‘Eat this Book’.

“So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, ‘Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but “in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.”[a]10 I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. 11 Then I was told, ‘You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.’ NIV

One of Eugene Peterson’s many books is entitled: ‘Eat this Book’. The idea is no doubt drawn from this passage in ‘Revelation’. It, in turn, is linked to Ezekiel 2:8 & 3:1-3.  As previously noted, John’s call to be a prophet is affirmed in these verses, and even extended.

‘’By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth…For he spoke and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.’’ Psalm 33: 6 & 9.

God’s Word is a creative Word, and when He puts His words into the mouth of a prophet, they are productive: ‘Prophecy makes things happen…This is how prophecy works.God’s words are to become John’s words in order that they may become reality.’ Tom Wright: ‘Revelation for Everyone’, p.94.

Preachers are not necessarily prophets, but all true preaching contains a prophetic element. Anyone who is to speak God’s Word must first ‘Eat this Book’. You must be nourished by it yourself; digest it; it’s got to become a part of you, if you are to proclaim it effectively to others.

But the Word read and preached is both ‘’sweet’’ and ‘’sour’’. You will have to declare both unpalatable truths as well as popular and pleasing ones. When you think about it, there is a mixture of bitter and sweet in this book of Revelation. We have to face some harsh realities concerning events yet to unfold on the earth before Jesus returns. Yet how sweet it is to know that He is coming back to set everything straight, and there will be a brand new universe.

Daily Bible thoughts 1894: Thursday 21st March 2019: Revelation 10:1-7: Secret things.

Revelation 10:1-7: Secret things.

“Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars. He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand. He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down.’Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, ‘There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.’ NIV

Just as John inserted a pause between the sixth and seventh seals, so he does between the sixth and seventh trumpets. This interlude is found between 10:1 and 11:14. It’s purpose is threefold:

  1. To announce the certainty and nearness of the end once the seventh trumpet is sounded (10:1-7);
  2. To show that John’s commission to prophesy was freshly affirmed and even extended (10:8-11);
  3. To make plain the task of the church in the time of tribulation, namely to bear witness to Christ before the opponents of His gospel (11:3-13): ‘Here for the first time the figure of the antichrist appears (11:7), and the dual nature of the last tribulation becomes apparent, namely judgments of God upon those who oppose him and war against the church by the followers of antichrist. No promise of escape from the latter is given, but the end of the story is the vindication of the church and conversion of many.’ G.R.Beasley-Murray: ‘New Bible Commentary’, p.1439.

Just a comment on verse 4: Presumably the ‘’seven thunders’’ came from God or Christ (as also the command in the same verse). What the message was and why it was not to be revealed has triggered much head-scratching among scholars through the years. But it reminds me of this verse:

‘’The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law’’ (Deuteronomy 29:29).

Daily Bible thoughts 1893: Wednesday 20th March 2019: Revelation 9:13-21: Unrepentant.

Revelation 9:13-21: Unrepentant.

“13 The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the four horns of the golden altar that is before God. 14 It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.’ 15 And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. 16 The number of the mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand. I heard their number.17 The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulphur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulphur. 18 A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulphur that came out of their mouths. 19 The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury.20 The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshipping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood – idols that cannot see or hear or walk. 21 Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.” NIV

As you read these verses, remember this truth about God:

‘’He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance’’ (1 Peter 3:9b).

When the plagues fell on Egypt, clearly manifesting the presence and power of God and His anger against sin, what did Pharaoh do? He hardened his heart – and more than once at that. As we have seen, in this section of ‘Revelation’ there are are echoes of the Egyptian plagues. But Pharaoh’s response is typical of mankind’s general attitude towards God (20, 21). Whenever God sends His judgments on the world, it is intended to bring people to repentance. But we humans repeatedly turn our backs and dig in our heels (20,21).

‘’The remaining men and women who weren’t killed by these weapons went on their merry way – didn’t change their way of life, didn’t quit worshiping demons, didn’t quit centring their lives around lumps of gold and silver and brass, hunks of stone and wood that couldn’t see or hear or move. There wasn’t a sign of change of heart. They plunged right on in their murderous, occult, promiscuous, and thieving ways.’’ ‘The Message’.

I need to say again that we may not fully understand all these symbols and images now. Somebody put it like this: it’s as though John is saying, ‘Imagine your worst nightmares; then double them, and realise these things must happen for evil to be fully exposed and finally defeated.’

The reference to ‘’the golden altar that is before God’’ (13) reminds us of the cries of the martyrs in heaven (6:9, 10), and the prayers of the saints on earth (8:4, 5). In all that is going to happen, God is going to work His purposes out, in answer to the prayers of His people.

Commenting on these verses G.B.Caird suggested ‘that the powers of evil have an immense reserve army, from which they can be steadily reinforced, so that no earthly order can find security from attacks from beyond the frontier, except in the final victory of God. In a world in which evil is virulent and tenacious, the programme of the gospel must not be expected to produce a steady whittling away of Satan’s power, until he is reduced to impotence, but rather a steady hardening of resistance, leading inexorably to a last great battle.’

PRAYER: Lord, there is much I do not understand. But this I do know: You are in control: you answer prayer: you want people to repent; and evil will not have the final say in human history. ‘’Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.’’ (Revelation 19:6b)

Daily Bible thoughts 1892: Tuesday 19th March 2019: Revelation 9:1-12: Nightmare.

Revelation 9:1-12: Nightmare.

“The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. And out of the smoke locusts came down on the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were not allowed to kill them but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes. During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. 10 They had tails with stings, like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months. 11 They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek is Apollyon (that is, Destroyer).12 The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come.” NIV

This really is the stuff of nightmares isn’t it? It feels like horror movie material. You can let your imagination run riot here. Someone referred to these ‘insects on steroids’. Scary! You want to go and hide behind the sofa as the terrible scene unfolds. Normally, locusts eat vegetation and do no harm to people, but these demonic locusts ignore vegetation and attack humans. More precisely, they target ‘’those who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads’’ as opposed to those who have the mark of the beast (see 13:16). The clouds ‘’like the smoke from a gigantic furnace’’ (2-4) is intended to convey the impression of an advancing cloud of locusts. The comparison of these demon hordes to locusts echoes the vision of Joel 2:1-10. But in addition to what we read there, these locusts have power to inflict pain like scorpions (9:10).

I refer to them as demonic because the scene opens with ‘’a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth’’ (1). He is a fallen angel, but nevertheless an instrument in God’s Hands. He has authority.He is ‘’given the key to the shaft of the Abyss.’’ The Abyss had come to denote the abode of demonic beings. In 20:1-3 it is the place into which Satan is thrown and imprisoned. So here, with reference to the ‘’key’’, we see that God is firmly in charge of the place.

Who/what are these locusts? John ‘lavishes more detailed description on these super-locusts than on any other creature in this vivid book. So much so, in fact, that many modern readers, struck by the almost mechanical appearance of the creatures in verses 7-10, have tried to identify them as this or that kind of modern military machine; an attack helicopter, for instance. This seems a typical case of trying to tie down John’s symbolism and thereby almost to domesticate it…The point is…The fifth angel has unleashed something truly monstrous, truly hellish.’ Tom Wright: ‘Revelation for Everyone’, pp.85, 86.

Whatever the symbolism here means, we are meant to see that the power of the man-torturing locusts is limited (5 – ‘’five months’’ is the normal life span of a locust). God and the Lamb are fully in charge of history, but for evil to finally be conquered, it has to first of all be allowed to come fully out of its dark, smelly cave, into the open, and do its worst.

For those who know they are sealed by God, this is the all important reality. It isn’t a guarantee that we will be spared all possible pain. But the Lord knows His own, and He will bring them safely home.

 

 

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