December 20 — Revelation 14 — Rest. There is a sobering contrast in this chapter between those who are “redeemed” (v. 4) by God and those who are punished by God. In the last days, God’s punishment will fall on “anyone [who] worships the beast” (v. 9) and receives its mark. The punishment will cause them to “be tormented with fire and sulfur … And the smoke of their torment goes up forever” (vv. 10-11). In this eternal punishment, “they have no rest” (v. 11). In stark contrast to them are the redeemed “who die in the Lord from now on” (v. 13), which includes believers today. Part of the reward for believers will be that “they may rest” (v. 13). The writer of Hebrews says that “we who have believed enter that rest” (Heb. 4:3) and calls for all people to “strive to enter that rest” (Heb. 4:11). Let us rest in the promise that we believers will rest forever with God in heaven.
December 21 — Revelation 15 — Conquering the Beast. After reading about the seven churches, the seven seals, and the seven trumpets; we now are introduced to the seven bowls, which represent the final expression of “the wrath of God” (v. 7). The vision of this chapter described people standing in heaven by “a sea of glass mingled with fire” (v. 2). What was striking to me was that these people, who were probably martyrs, were pronounced to be “those who had conquered the beast” (v. 2). Conquering martyrs?! After describing the threat of the beast in chapter 13, John wrote that there was “a call for the endurance and faith of the saints” (13:10). Those people standing beside the glassy sea had conquered the still-alive beast by having endured in faith, probably through death. Jesus also conquered Satan through death: “…through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). And Paul quoted Isaiah by saying that when the believer is resurrected, “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54). When we stand in heaven, it will be because through Christ, we have conquered.
December 22 — Revelation 16 — Deserved Judgment. The first four bowls of God’s judgment parallel the first four trumpets but are much more severe, affecting not a third but all of the earth, sea, rivers, and sun. The reaction of the people to the fourth, fifth, and seventh bowls is utter rebellion and defiance: they cursed God (vv. 9, 11, 21) and “they did not repent” (vv. 9, 11). This shows how deeply rebellious they were and how much they deserved God’s judgment. It is very similar to the reactions of the Egyptian Pharaoh during the ten plagues in Moses’ time. Many people today have the same defiant attitude toward God but unlike the people receiving the wrath of these seven bowls, they still have a chance to repent. We still have the opportunity to pray for the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts and for us to witness boldly of God’s grace to them. Don’t give up on your unsaved friends!
December 23 — Revelation 17 — The Beast-Riding Prostitute. This chapter is filled with imagery of things yet to come that have been interpreted in a variety of ways. The chapter ends with the identification of the woman representing “the great city” with “dominion of the kings of the earth” (v. 18). What is this great city? Although the beast in this chapter is scarlet (v. 3), its seven heads and 10 horns identify it as the same beast described in chapter 13. Since its “seven heads are seven mountains” (v. 9), it seems to connect it to Rome, which was built on seven hills. We appear to be living today in the “is not” time frame (v. 11), following the first century beast who “was” (v. 11). The ten kings “who have not yet received royal power” (v. 12) seem to be rulers that will be revealed in a future time. In whichever way this is to be interpreted, we can be assured that God is controlling history’s direction and climax: “… for God has put it in their hearts to carry out his purpose” (v. 17).
December 24 — Revelation 18 — In a Single Hour. Four times in this chapter the phrase, “in a single hour [or day]” is used to express the quick destruction of what the world seems to value most, things like sexual immorality, luxury, and pride. This great city of Babylon, probably referring to the Rome-connection in chapter 17, will be dramatically destroyed while distant kings and merchants cry out in dismay because of their disappointment over what they valued and what they lost. Believers are urged to “Come out of her … lest you take part in her sins” (v. 4). What the world values has no eternal worth and it is dangerous because of its temptation to suck the believer into its way of thinking and living. That described city showed its danger in that it killed “prophets and … saints” (v. 24). It would not only push its false values, but it would violently oppose those who wouldn’t agree with them. Do you see that danger in the sinful world around you now? Recognize it and flee from it!