Like all great books, the last chapters in God’s Word are “hold-your-breath” exciting. Today we’ll talk about “The King” who was born as a babe but will one day return in power and glory. The climax will be a great battle where the fighting will be so fierce that the blood will be four feet deep in places and take place over an area of 200 square miles.
In the final days of the Tribulation, people will be given one last chance to hear and believe the gospel. An angel will offer them that last chance, but warn them if they take the mark of the beast, their eternity will be sealed for all time. And those of us who die before that time must decide, before we die, because there’s no purgatory, no last chance to realize “Oops, I made a mistake!”
We’ll also talk about seduction, not just the devil’s open seduction of many in the last days, but sexual seduction in personal relationships.
And speaking of great books, did you know that the Bible is the best selling book of all time? Of course, it’s not just any book. It is God’s revelation of Himself to all mankind, penned by men, but breathed out from the heart and mind of God.
Be sure to think about how you will get to know this greatest of all books. And don’t forget to talk to anyone else God has placed on your heart about reading through the Bible this coming year. I would love it if you would share this post on your favorite social media. Also, The MacArthur Daily Bible would make a great and reasonably priced last minute Christmas gift. It may be just the motivation someone needs to get started!
I pray that today will be a restful day without too many last minute things to do. Let’s all remember to take time tonight and tomorrow to think about what it all means … which is so much more than all the commercial hustle and bustle. And I hope you will make time to attend a worship service.
On to today’s readings …
He’s the King and He is good!
When Mike and I were talking about the book of Zephaniah, we were reminded of a scene in the first Narnia movie. In the book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the conversation goes like this:
“Is – is he a man?” asked Lucy.
“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
When you read the book of Zephaniah and see God’s wrath and judgment on sin, you know, like Aslan, He is not “safe,” but even the meaning of the prophet’s name reminds us that He is good! Zephaniah means, “the Lord hides.” Chapter 2.3 says:
3 Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the LORD’s anger.
Even though He does not rescue us from every earthly calamity or difficulty, He never gives us more than we can handle without sinning, if we belong to Him and respond in a godly way (1 Cor. 10.13). And … if we belong to Him, no one can snatch us out of His hand (Jn. 10.28-29) and nothing can separate us from His love (Rom. 8.38-39).
Why would we doubt?
These 6 little verses are packed with several wonderful promises. First, “He gathers together the outcasts …” (v. 2). Here it speaks specifically of Israel, but He is a Father to all who feel alone and cast out. “He heals the brokenhearted” (v. 3). The New Testament says He is the God of all Comfort (2 Cor. 1.3).
“He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name” (v. 4). His omniscience—His care and knowledge of every man, woman and child, every bird, beast and creature, everything ever formed or created, even extends beyond our universe to eternity—“His understanding is infinite” (v. 5). Why would we ever doubt that He knows our needs and concerns?
“Great is the Lord, and mighty in power” (v. 5). He is not only omniscient, all-knowing, but He is omnipotent, all powerful! All the power of heaven and earth and beyond is His to command! (“He’s the King, I tell you,” as Mr. Beaver said.)
He “lifts up the humble” (v. 6). When we humble ourselves and acknowledge our need for Him and allow Him to be, not just Savior, but Lord and Master, He will lift us up. But we must be willing to submit our will to His. Too often, we act as if we know best. We are discontent with His plan and His timing. We call Him Lord, all the while trying to run things ourselves. No one can serve two masters (Matt. 6.24), even when one of them is “self”!
How a Man Seduces a Woman
18 There are three things which are too wonderful for me, yes, four which I do not understand, 19 the way of an eagle in the air, the way of a serpent on a rock, the way of a ship in the midst of the sea, and the way of a man with a virgin.
The writer points out three natural things which are difficult to understand, how an eagle glides fluidly through the sky, how a snake slithers across a rock, and how a ship navigates the ocean, to explain a human experience, “how a man seduces a woman.”
The NKJV translates the word virgin and the NASB says maid. The implication seems to be that a man who wishes to seduce a girl or woman, especially an innocent one, can be just as stealthful. It’s also hard, at times, to understand why a woman falls into the trap of seduction.
Perhaps it’s because we have a tendency to believe what we want to believe … and not just single women. Many a married woman has gotten focused on the wrong things and fallen prey to Satan’s trap!
It doesn’t usually start with a desire to commit sexual immorality. It starts with thoughts like:
“I just can’t stand to be alone for the rest of my life.”
“Why doesn’t God bring me a husband?”
“I want to be happy.”
“My husband doesn’t pay any attention to me. He doesn’t love me the way I need to be loved.”
“It’s just harmless flirting.”
“It’s only lunch.”
“He actually listens to me.”
“Maybe he can help me understand my husband.”
“We’re just talking about our respective marriages.”
“It’s just a date. It doesn’t mean I’m going to marry him.”
“We’re only joking around.”
Most of us could probably add a few of our own.
And you men, pray that you would never be the man talked about here. Of course, it’s not always the man laying the trap, nor is the woman always innocent, but that’s tomorrow.
The Lamb of God
Verse 1, “Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion …”
Jesus, the Lamb of God, will return in power and glory.
Verses 6 & 7, “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people—saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.’”
The NASB translates “in the midst of heaven” as “mid-heaven.” This is when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. Everyone will see and hear the message of salvation offered by this angel. But this is their last opportunity because …
Babylon is Fallen
Verse 8, “… another angel followed, saying, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.”
Babylon represents the world’s and Antichrist’s system—its government, religion, economy. It will all be destroyed along with any opportunity for salvation.
“Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name’” (vv. 9-11).
This is a picture of hell and explains its eternal nature. We are eternal beings. We will all live forever. As I said a couple of days ago, the question is … where? Once a person receives the “mark of the beast” or his number, his or her decision will be sealed.
Verse 12, “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”
God is able to keep those who belong to Him (Jn. 10.28-29; Jude 24).
The Winepress of God’s Wrath
Verses 17-20, “Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, ‘Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.’ So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs.”
This is the winepress of God’s wrath and the wine is blood. Near the end of the Tribulation, Jerusalem will be attacked. As several great armies come near, the battle will look hopeless, but Christ Himself will intervene, even determining where the battle will take place. Called the Battle of Armageddon, the bloodbath will be so great that the blood will be four feet deep in places—“up to the horses’ bridles”—and over an area of “one thousand six hundred furlongs”—two hundred miles.
God’s love and care and mercy are real and available to anyone who will believe. But His wrath and justice are real, too. If we don’t understand that God hates sin and is angry with the wicked every day (Ps. 7.11), we cannot fully appreciate the free gift of salvation (Rom. 6.23; Eph. 2.8-9).
There are only two kingdoms, only two spirits in the world. We are either God’s children (Rom. 8.16), purchased and washed in His blood, sanctified and made righteous or we are children of the devil (Jn. 8.44). There are no “good people” hovering somewhere in between (Rom. 3.10). And there is no purgatory (Heb. 9.27) where we get a second chance to make a decision to accept His gift of salvation and eternal life. Just as there will come a point at the end of this age when salvation is no longer available and judgment has come, so each of us who die before that time will leave this world and enter into our eternity and it will be too late to wake up and decide we made a mistake (Heb. 9.27; Matt. 7.21-23)!
We must choose wisely and warn others.
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“Bible in a Year” posts have been edited and updated from previous posts.