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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


May 2019

Daily Bible thoughts 1936: Monday 20th May 2019: Revelation 17:9-14: Christus Victor.

Revelation 17:9-14: Christus Victor.

‘This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. 10 They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while. 11 The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction.12 ‘The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. 13 They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast. 14 They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings – and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.’ NIV

In all the comings and goings of kings and kingdoms, their risings and fallings, we need to remember that there is a ‘Grand Master’ moving the pieces on the chess board, and even the moves made against Him He will use to defeat the opposition. He is: ‘’Lord of lords and King of kings’’ (14). Though all hell may be let loose on earth, in the end Jesus wins.

I believe it was a theologian called Gustav Aulen who wrote a book entitled ‘Christus Victor.’ There may be many things in Revelation we find hard to understand, but surely we can see this? Jesus is victorious, and His people – His battered, persecuted, slain people – will share in His triumph.

Daily Bible thoughts 1935: Friday 17th May 2019: Revelation 17:4: Glitzy.

Revelation 17:4: Glitzy.

The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. NIV

Superficially ‘Babylon’, the world system is attractive. So we may be deceived by the glamour. It’s possible to be seduced by the image. You may find that you very much want to drink from that ‘’golden cup’’, but you need to see that it’s filled with poison. The outward appearance and the inner reality are contradictory.

Tom Wright throws out a challenge:

‘This terrifying, multi-layered denunciation of the outwardly delightful and inwardly deceitful city ought to give pause for serious thought to all those of us who live within today’s glossy Western culture – and all others who look on and see our glitzy world from afar. Where are we in this picture?’ ‘Revelation for Everyone’, p.153.

PRAYER: Lord, I pray for eyes to see through.

Daily Bible thoughts 1934: Thursday 16th May 2019: Revelation 17:1-8:The collapse of the system.

Revelation 17:1-8:The collapse of the system.

One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits by many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.’Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. The name written on her forehead was a mystery: babylon the greatthe mother of prostitutes and of the abominations of the earth.I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished. Then the angel said to me: ‘Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns. The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and yet will come up out of the Abyss and go to its destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because it once was, now is not, and yet will come. NIV

One day, ‘Babylon’ is going to fall.  In John’s day, Babylon represented Rome – outwardly impressive, but inwardly corrupt. However, Rome was but one expression of Babylon, which is that entire world system a system standing opposed to God. It takes on different forms in different centuries, in different lands and different regions. But it is always there as an all-pervading presence. Yet one day it won’t be.

This passage enables us to see its essentially demonic nature and empowerment (3, 7, 8; see chapter 13). Babylon ‘’rides’’ upon the beast.

This world is seductive, like a prostitute. The sexual imagery is potent. First of all, Rome was filled with its own moral decadence, and eventually, like all such empires, it collapsed under its own weight. Secondly, paganism and sexual immorality tend to go hand in hand. Thirdly, sex is one of the devil’s most potent weapons, and he uses it repeatedly to take people down. Fourthly, adultery, in the Bible, is a metaphor for spiritual infidelity, where people chase after other gods.

When we drink what the world offers, we are going to get disoriented, and we are liable to be seduced. The world may look attractive, but there is poison in her ‘’golden cup’’ (4).

This world is savage (6). We are reminded again that in a world like this – a world system that hates Jesus – it is fundamentally a dangerous thing to align with Him and bear witness to Him. The world will hate us for that. ‘’I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus’’. (Tom Wright translation).

Babylon, and what she offers, is a pale, poor, perverted parody of reality. The backdrop to Revelation is a true, faithful ‘marriage’ relationship between the Lamb (Jesus) and His bride (the church). Indeed, this is the big picture story of the Bible: God offering to marry a people. The devil tries to seduce us with a gaudy, glitzy alternative that can never satisfy.

Daily Bible thoughts 1933: Wednesday 15th May 2019: Revelation 16:17-21: A great fall.

Revelation 16:17-21: A great fall.

17 The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’ 18 Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since mankind has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. 19 The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath. 20 Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. 21 From the sky huge hailstones, each weighing about forty kilograms fell on people. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible. NIV UK

Like Humpty Dumpty, ‘Babylon’ is going to have a great fall, and the next two chapters will deal with this subject in great detail. In John’s day, people would probably have understood ‘Babylon’ to represent Rome. Rome has long gone of course, but the ungodly, indeed demonic, world system that was expressed in the Roman Empire, is still with us. But one day, it will all come crashing down.

Consider Tom Wright’s words:

‘John’s hearers would have no difficulty in getting the point. This is not the collapse of the physical earth. This is the only way to describe the collapse of the entire social and political system on the earth. Terrible things will happen in human society, for which the only fitting metaphor will be earthquakes and huge hailstones. God will allow the lie at the heart of pagan society, like a crack in the earth’s crust, finally to be exposed. The tectonic plates of different idolatrous human systems will move against one another one more time, and nothing will ever be the same again.’ ‘Revelation for Everyone’, p.148.

Daily Bible thoughts 1932: Tuesday 14th May 2019: Revelation 16:15: A further thought on the thief.

Revelation 16:15: A further thought on the thief.

15 ‘Look, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed.’ NIV

I had some friends who owned a bakery. I often visited them as they were fairly new Christians. One day, as I was stood in the back of the shop, drinking a cup of tea with them, one of the couple said, ‘You never know when the Public Health Inspector is going to call. So you always have to keep the shop clean. He could drop in, unexpected, any time.’ I can’t remember what else in the conversation this was related to, but I do remember it being said (and I was deeply grateful for the sermon illustration!!)

Lights went on for me when he said that. I drew a mental parallel with what the Bible teaches about the second coming of Jesus. Again and again, in the New Testament, His return is spoken of without date, to keep us on our toes. Many Christians respond to second coming teaching with speculation; but the response the Bible wants to stimulate has everything to do with sanctification. We are to believe that Jesus is coming soon and let that affect how we live now.

PRAYER: Lord, I pray that the expectation of Jesus’ return will get into my bloodstream and affect all I am and do.

Daily Bible thoughts 1931: Monday 13th May 2019: Revelation 16:13: A burglar calls.

Revelation 16:13: A burglar calls.

13 Then I saw three impure spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet.NIV

It was a Wednesday afternoon like most others, except that the street seemed quieter than normal. We were enjoying the peace of a day off, and we were totally unprepared for what was about to unfold. Around 3.20 we left home to pick up our young daughter from a local primary school. By the time we returned, around 3.45, a thief had paid us a call and got away with one or two things. His visit was completely unexpected.

 This is not the first time the Bible uses this analogy, and we get it don’t we? Or we should. I heard a denominational leader say recently that the reason why many church leaders in ‘third world’ countries are so industrious in preaching the gospel and planting churches, is because they really do believe Jesus is coming soon. ‘But we don’t,’ he said. He has a point. Oh, I know some do, but many of us have lost our edge, our sense of urgency. We do need to live ‘in the future tense’ – live in the light of His coming. There is a stark warning to heed in this verse.

‘‘…I suggest…John is aware, as the plagues become more terrible, that some of his hearers might nod off, not physically but spiritually. How easy to think, ‘Oh, yes, those people have got it coming to them – they are wicked and they deserve it; but we’re all right, we can just relax. Let’s sit back and enjoy the movie.’ No, you can’t, John is saying. I’m talking about the serious danger of deceitful spirits let loose in the world. Many of you have a poor track record at recognising deceit when it stares you in the face. You need to keep awake…’ Tom Wright: ‘Revelation for Everyone’, p.145.

Daily Bible thoughts 1930: Friday 10th May 2019: Revelation 16:12-16:The demonic nature of war.

Revelation 16:12-16:The demonic nature of war.

12 The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. 13 Then I saw three impure spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. 14 They are demonic spirits that perform signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.15 ‘Look, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed.’16 Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.NIV

Viewed from one angle, the history of the human race is a history of warfare. Not long after the fall of man, in the Garden of Eden, Cain slew his brother, Abel, and rivers of blood have been flowing ever since. Whenever I read, or hear about war, I think, ‘This is madness.’ Perhaps today’s reading provides some insight into the insanity? The last Great War is going to be demonically inspired. That point seems clear. But hasn’t every other war got started the same way? Lying spirits have duped people into engaging in mass slaughter. I think this is showing us the ‘spirit’ behind wars. It’s not just human badness and failure on display. There is something intensely evil behind it all.

The ‘’kings of the whole earth’’ may imagine that they are so great and strong and powerful, but note how they are acted upon by demonic spirits. They are marionettes if truth be told – puppets on strings.

If there is no devil and there are no demons, do we really have an adequate explanation for war?

Daily Bible thoughts 1929: Thursday 9th May 2019: Revelation 16:10, 11, 21: None so blind.

Revelation 16:10-11, 21: None so blind.

10 The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in agony 11 and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done. NIV

21 From the sky huge hailstones, each weighing about forty kilograms fell on people. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible. NIV

These verses highlight the strange mystery of human rebellion against God. Even where He reveals Himself by miracle or judgment, there are many who will not turn to Him.

‘There are none so blind as those who will not see.’

We could add, there are none so stubborn and stupid as those who will not repent, when God is obviously warning them. Yet there but for His grace go we all.

This is how it was in Egypt. In spite of the many plagues, Pharaoh kept hardening his heart.

In Romans 1:18-32, Paul describes how God has clearly revealed Himself in nature, but many people respond by stifling and suppressing the truth about God. They opt for a lie instead. They swap the real God for false gods who don’t mind how they live, and who will leave them be as they pursue a lifestyle of sin. This passage In Romans also shows that there is a working out of God’s judgment that occurs now in the lives of those who give God up.

We have already seen something of this process in Revelation. As Tom Wright says: ‘…he will let evil take its course and bring its own nemesis; and, at a moment which only he is in any position to judge, he will bring the necessary closure on the world’s wrongs.’ ‘Revelation for Everyone’, p.143.

Daily Bible thoughts 1928: Wednesday 8th May 2019: Revelation 16:1-9: ‘I like to think of God as…’

Revelation 16:1-9: ‘I like to think of God as…’

“Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, ‘Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.’The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly, festering sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshipped its image.The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead person, and every living thing in the sea died.The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say:

‘You are just in these judgments, O Holy One,
    you who are and who were;
for they have shed the blood of your holy people and your prophets,
    and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.’

And I heard the altar respond:                                                                                                    ‘Yes, Lord God Almighty true and just are your judgments.’

The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was allowed to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him.NIV UK

I’m sure you’ve heard it. Someone says, ‘Well I like to think of God as…’ Then they go on to venture a viewpoint which is far removed from the Bible. Their concept of God is more a matter of personal opinion than divine revelation. When people imagine their god, you tend to end up with a deity who is soft and sentimental, not just and holy. The wrath of God gets omitted.

H.Richard Niebuhr, one of America’s most famous twentieth century theologians, described the message of much ultra-liberal theology like this: ‘A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.’

But you can’t read the book of Revelation without coming into close contact with the reality of God’s wrath. These ‘’bowl’’ judgments are total. With the seals and trumpets, only a part of the earth was harmed or destroyed. They were warnings to call people to repentance. But that note is now absent. John is drawing on the imagery of the Egyptian plagues. ‘These plagues are the beginning of that long process, which will end in chapter 20, by which God will rid his beautiful world, first (in this chapter) of those who have assisted in its destruction and decay, then (in chapters 17 and 18) of the great imperial systems that have set up massive structures of injustice, and finally (chapters 19 and 20) of the dark powers that lie behind those systems themselves, ending (as in 1 Corinthians 15:26-28) with Death and Hades themselves.’ Tom Wright: ‘Revelation for Everyone’, p.143.

PRAYER: Lord God, we stand in awe of your holiness and justice. We thank you that you will not permit evil to have the final say in human history, but you will judge with justice.

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