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Tag Archives: John

Revelation 22 – The End (Evil Undone)

Does Revelation 21-22 fit what happened in Rome two thousand years ago?  Or does the book now speak of the final judgment to come?  I think that the answer is both.  It’s hard to say that it has no relevance to the Roman situation since we are told yet again in 22:7 that this return will come very soon.  Remember how in Revelation 20, we talked about the idea that Satan will have times in the future that he will regroup and return to try to destroy the people of God.  In a similar way, there will be time after time that God will rescue his people and let them join his victory.  In that way, the book of Revelation is a pattern that is repeated throughout history.  It makes sense that in the final Judgment Day that it will be a more complete version of what God has been doing all along.

Revelation 22 has many beautiful images of how the remaining damage that has been done by evil will now be completely undone.  The image of crystal clear water pouring forth for the people of God is an image of life.  Some think this indicates the Holy Spirit while others are reminded of Eden’s rivers or Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman that he would give her living water.  What’s clear is that this water is a source of life and blessing.  Those who drink it will never thirst again.  The tree of life reminds us of Eden, where God’s garden provided everything humans could want, before death or sin ever entered the creation.  And not just any fruit, but 12 kinds of fruit for each month (12 times a year).  Again, the number 12 reminds us of God’s people and we are supposed to realize that God is feeding his people and providing for them abundantly.

The curse will be lifted.  The curse immediately leaves me thinking of men working the land for food and women having pain in childbirth, but Revelation 22 doesn’t connect the lifting of the curse to either of those aspects.  Immediately after the curse is lifted we are told of an intimate relationship between God and his people where they can see his face and his name is upon their foreheads.  This is the fulfillment of communion and the relationship that is desired.

The book ends with several promises that all of this is true and will soon come to pass.  The letter, as soon as John finished it, was not to be kept secret, but sent throughout the churches warning them.  While some have said that Revelation uses images to keep Romans from understanding it, these final verses seem to contradict that.  There is an invitation that those who are outside the gates might listen and “come.”

At the end of the day, every single one of us has a choice.  This is good news and bad news in this.  The bad news is that God will honor our choice and give us what we ask for.  The good news is that God will honor our choice and give us what we ask for.

My prayer is that God will give me rivers of crystal clear, life giving water.  And my prayer is that you will ask for the water too.  Because that water washes all the pain of the dragon and the beasts away.  It heals.  It gives life.  It fills you with the love of the one who created love.

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2013 in Revelation

 

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Revelation 20 – Still a Picture

So up to this point in Revelation we have continued to recognize we are looking at pictures.  We see a red dragon, recognize that its a symbolic picture and seek to determine what truth is behind the picture.  We see a beast, recognize that it is a picture, and seek the truth behind the picture.  So now, we read about 1,000 years and a dragon and thrones, its a figure, an image that indicates a truth.  It’s also fitting that this is the conclusion of what we have been talking about (the fall of Rome) rather than something new.  

The first three verses show that Satan has indeed been defeated, is now chained and captive.  His defeat is complete.  Rome is destroyed.  The persecutor is no more.  Then verses 4-10 tell us what happens to the saints.  Although they suffered for a time, they have seen their enemy destroyed by Jesus and they now join him on thrones.  They are safe and secure from all alarms.  There is no more reason to fear or suffer.

The 1,000 years is not something that can be shown on a calendar.  Its a symbolic figure.  10=completeness.  10x10X10=1,000 or very complete.  So what we see here is that after the time of destruction of Rome is complete there will come another time when Satan will return to have another go at God’s people.  When?  Sometime.  Where? Somewhere.  The point is that although God defeated Satan and Rome, Satan will continue to wage war against the saints.  That’s why this book continues to matter to us today.  We need to know what the saints learned in Rome, that God will be faithful and will bring them through whatever trials face them.  God is greater than any force against us and God will be victorious and we can share in his victory.

However, the victory isn’t for everybody.  Now the celebration earlier in the chapter was figurative so this judgment is as well.  This judgment is still against Rome.  It’s telling us that Rome and the enemies of God and his people will suffer utter, irrevocable defeat.

I close with Ryan’s oft used assessment of Revelation because it certainly fits here as in other places: God wins, pick a side, don’t be stupid.

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2013 in Revelation

 

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Revelation 17 – Great Prostitute

There are many theories about who the prostitute is in chapter 17, but what makes the most sense to me is that the book is continuing with its discussion about the fall of Rome.  In addition to being consistent with the rest of the book, there are other clues that fit with Rome being the harlot.

  • She sits on seven hills (17:9)
  • She rules the earth in John’s day (17:18)
  • She is a terrible persecutor of the saints (17:6, 18:20-24)
  • She is the leading commercial power on earth (18:3, 11, 15-19)
  • She is supported by the military power of Rome (17:3,7)
  • She is destroyed by her own military power (17:16-17)

For a discussion on the heads and horns, check out the blog on Revelation 13.  It appears that the book has been moving through the seals, trumpets, and bowls, with pauses for comfort and anticipation between each up to this point.  Now that we know that Rome is destroyed, the book is going to take a step back and actually give us a better explanation about how that is going to actually take place.  This explanation takes the form of the Harlot sitting on the beast.

I think it’s worth noting that most of the destruction that befalls Rome comes from it’s allies.  In other words, the chaos and destructive nature of evil will eventually cause the forces of evil to turn on itself.  In contrast, the Kingdom of God, the Church, is called to be a unified and coordinated community that works together to promote goodness and righteousness and justice throughout the earth.  So whenever you see the Church bickering, in conflict, and chaotic, what you are seeing is God’s people behaving like the forces of evil in this world.  And when that happens, I think we need to take a hard look in the mirror and get back to being the people of unity, grace and love that God calls us to be.

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2013 in Revelation

 

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Revelation 16 – Shock and Awe

We’ve unsealed the seven seals and heard the blasts of the seven trumpets and now we watch as the seven bowls of God’s wrath are poured out on the earth.  As I read this, I am reminded of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 with a military offensive that was termed “Shock and Awe.”  The idea was that the attack would come so fast, and be so overwhelming, and so debilitate the enemy that they would be unable to stand against the US.  I remember watching on a tv in my OC dorm room as the bombs fell and the military raced towards Baghdad.  I couldn’t stop watching for days and slept little, watching round the clock coverage.  While I know many have strong opinions about the Iraq War, my intent is not to comment on the motives or execution of that war, but rather to comment on how the horrible and overwhelming force demonstrated in those days doesn’t come close to the images here in Revelation 16.

The time for warnings has passed and now God pours out his wrath on the earth to punish those who bear the mark of the beast.  The horrors again echo the plagues on Egypt with darkness, hail, storms, water turned to blood, and more.  It is devastating.  However, it is also reminiscent of the Creation with judgments affecting the water, the land, the skies, the sun, the darkness, and humanity.  It is complete and utter destruction of everything.  And on top of everything, these plagues are not coming one at a time as in Exodus, but seem to be piling on top of one another bringing exponentially horrific suffering.

And at several intervals throughout this terrible judgment, the angels stop the work of pouring out wrath to praise God and commend him for his righteous justice that is being brought upon the earth.  This is hard to imagine for people like me who live in a clean, orderly, society without violent oppressors.  But when you live in a corrupt world where the powerful bring pain to the powerless and the faithful are persecuted, you understand the need for God to cleanse the earth.  You pray daily for God to put things back the way they belong.  So when God brings this wrath upon the two beasts, sent by the Dragon, there is praise from the angels and rejoicing from the saints.  God is right.  God is good.  God takes care of his creatures and his creation, even when it means cleaning up his creation from some of his creatures.

The final bowls are setting up a great battle and even mention the battlefield Armageddon.  Some believe that this will someday be the location of a huge end-of-time battle.  However, when we get to this battle later, even though armies gather on both sides of the battle field, only Jesus fights.  This isn’t a battle between humans.  This is a battle between Jesus and the enemies of his people to restore order to the creation and justice for God’s people.

To those who stand opposed to God and persecute his people…you are on notice.  God will bring justice.  God wins.  Pick a side.  Don’t be stupid.

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2013 in Revelation

 

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Revelation 15 – Another Pause

Before the removal of the seals, there was a break in the action, a calm before the storm.  Right before the seven trumpets were blown there was a similar pause.  Now, before the seven bowls of God’s wrath are poured out, there is yet another moment of the calm before the storm.  

A great audience has gathered, the victors over the beast are ready to see God’s justice done.  We are told of angels and of the plagues.  It is clear that this is all being done with God’s authority and is being done with full intention.  It is not an accident.  The judgment of God is about to be poured out on Rome, the representative of Satan in this world at that time.  The time for warnings has come and gone.  They were ignored and now the full judgment comes on the beasts and those who worshiped the beast.

It’s important to note that God’s people are to be safe and protected while God’s wrath is poured out on those who have opposed him.  God’s people need not fear, in fact we will soon find them praising God and rejoicing to see his righteousness being spread out over the world.

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2013 in Revelation

 

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Revelation 13 – Ten Horns and Seven Heads

In chapter 12 we had the epic battle between the Dragon and the baby, born of the woman.  As Christians, we live our lives celebrating the fact that the baby (Jesus) won and that the Dragon (Satan) was defeated.  But now the Dragon has turned its attention to attacking the followers (Christians) of the baby.  Chapter 13 tells us what that is going to look like.

If you are new to this blog or have missed some of our recent posts, you should know that we hold that Revelation is written regarding events that would happen very soon after its writing (because it says so) and that these events largely involved the Roman persecution of Christians and the eventual fall of the Roman Empire.  We are using Jim McGuiggan’s book on Revelation as our primary source for these posts.  This particular chapter requires familiarity with Daniel 7 and Revelation 17 to unlock some of the images.  Accordingly, here’s what’s going on in chapter 13:

The Dragon calls out two beasts who begin to wage war against the people of God.  The first beast has 10 horns and 7 heads (although later he gets an 8th head).  There is general consensus that the 7 heads represent the 7 hills of Rome and McGuiggan points out that they also represent 7 kings of Rome, just as the 10 horns of Daniel 7 represent kings.  The 10 horns represent 10 kings who were rulers of outside nations who allied themselves with Rome.  Daniel 7 also mentions the lion, bear, and leopard, which are kingdoms that will come before Rome and be devoured by Rome.  The second beast comes up out of the land and has a religious focus that requires the people of the world to worship the first beast.  This beast represents the cult of emperor worship that came to be common in the Roman Empire during the time Revelation was written.

For those of you who are interested in history, McGuiggan associates the following Roman rulers with the 10 (actually 11) horns of Daniel 7 and the 7 (actually 8) heads of Revelation 13.

Daniel 7

  1. Augustus
  2. Tiberius
  3. Caligula (Gaius)
  4. Claudius
  5. Nero
  6. Galba*
  7. Otho*
  8. Vitellius*
  9. Vespacian
  10. Titus
  11. Domitian

*In Daniel, there are the five who have fallen, then three who are uprooted.  These three are Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, who ruled for a very short combined two years.  As such, they are not included by John in Revelation 13.

Revelation 13

  1. Augustus
  2. Tiberius
  3. Caligula
  4. Claudius
  5. Nero
  6. Vespacian
  7. Titus
  8. Domitian

So these actual rulers of Rome from history are the ones who combine to make up the beast in Revelation 13.  The ones who require that they be worshiped are also part of the second beast that requires people to worship the first.  The number of the beast, we read in 13:18 is 666.  Certainly, the number 666 has been well used in horror movies and all kinds of things.  For the original audience, 6 was understood to be just less than 7.  Since 7 represents God’s completeness and authority, the number 6 was seen as “falling short.”  Three 6’s then is falling way short.  It is short enough to become evil.

So what are we supposed to actually understand from this chapter?

  1. You opponent is evil.
  2. Your opponent is human.
  3. He is evil, so have nothing to do with him.
  4. Remain faithful to Jesus.
  5. Your opponent is not divine.
  6. So do not be afraid of him.

Easy enough, right?  I suppose the question for us today is what in our world claims to be worthy of praise and worship that is actually only “falling short”?  How many of us have bought into the lie that there is something other than Jesus that must be worshiped?  While Jesus defeated the Dragon and the first beast (Rome) is no more, how many of us  continue to be tempted by the second beast that demands worship for anything other than Jesus?  It’s a scary thought.

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2013 in Revelation

 

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Revelation 11 – Two witnesses

Some chapters in Revelation can get very technical as we attempt to make meaning of all of the images.  This is one of those chapters.  So if you feel like I am not covering everything then you might want to check out Jim McGuiggan’s book on Revelation which we are using as a resource for the blog or ask me a follow up question in the comments (which we always encourage you to do).

There will be a number of times in the coming chapters that you will notice a time reference expressed as 42 months or 1260 days or 3 1/2 years or time, times and a half a time.  These are all the same time reference.  Remember again that in apocalyptic literature we should assume that everything is symbolic unless we have a reason to believe it is literal.  Here are some of the occasions when this time reference will be used:

  1. Revelation 13:5 – It is the period of the beast’s authority.
  2. Revelation 11:2 – It is the period of the Holy City being trodden under foot.
  3. Revelation 11:3 – It is the period during which the witnesses prophesy.
  4. Revelation 12:6, 14 – It is the period the Woman is nourished in the wilderness.
  5. Daniel 7:25 – It is the period the “little horn” persecutes the saints.

Based on these occurrences, this time reference should indicate a period of time when the church is going to be persecuted, and yet protected.  However, it is not referencing a length of time, but rather the state of affairs during that period of time.  Even though they will be victimized and go through a period of suffering, God remains in control and watches over them.  They will ultimately be victorious.  Additionally, there is some thought that 3 1/2 is also a “broken 7” which would indicate incompleteness or something partial or temporary.  It is a Biblical way of reminding Christians in suffering that “This too shall pass.”

Revelation 11 then talks about the measuring of the Temple.  It’s important to know that the part of the Temple that is measured is the inner sanctuary and not the entire building.  Also, the Gentile court that is referenced is the same court where Jesus overturned the money changers tables because of their lack of concern for God’s Temple and also the Gentiles who worshiped there.  As such, this discussion of the measuring of the Temple only makes sense when read figuratively (no surprise) and understood to mean that those who truly worship God (the Church) will be protected and that those who do not are in danger of judgment.  The holy is separated from the profane.

Then, once the time of persecution of the saints begins (the 42 months), we read of the two witnesses who wear sack cloth and continue to prophesy to all the people of the earth throughout the period of persecution (1260 days).  They are the two olive trees and two lampstands.  This is a reference to Zechariah 4, where the two olive trees represent Zerubbabel, the civil and political leader at the time, and Joshua, the religious and priestly leader at that time.  In Revelation, these two witness then represent the church and Christians who we know are a royal priesthood.  We are reading here about Christians who refused to be cowed by suffering or persecution but who continue to proclaim the Gospel to the world.  We are told that Satan will attack them and kill them, but that their bodies will not remain dead.  God’s breath of life will enter them, they will stand on their own feet and the world will be terrified of them as they go to live with God.  What great comfort and power this would give to people who were undergoing persecution, that they could continue to boldly proclaim the Gospel in the face of suffering, knowing that even death could not hold them down.  God would restore their life and give them the victory when it looked like all was lost.

The remainder of the chapter is given to the blowing of the seventh trumpet.  As this trumpet is sounded, the time for partial judgments and warnings has ended.  The seventh trumpet contains the seven bowls and the seven bowls are filled with God’s wrath which will now be fully poured out upon the earth.  And yet, this pouring out of wrath is met, not with horror, but with the thanksgiving and praise of the twenty-four elders surrounding the throne of God.  This judgment is part of God putting things back the way they belong.  Those who were faithful will be rewarded.  Those who were opposing God will be punished.  Things are made right and those who have been waiting for God’s rightness to be restored to the earth celebrate.  What other response could there be to God’s fixing of things?

But the fixing will take some work.  And it won’t be easy.  It will be messy.  But God is in control and He’s going to do the hard messy work of it all while his people praise Him.

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2013 in Revelation

 

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Revelation 10 – Apocalyptic Half Time

Well we have made it through the first six seals and are working on the seventh as we moved through the six trumpets.  Even though all of that was warning judgments on the oppressor, they were severe.  And yet repentance did not come.  Instead, the forces of evil have hardened their hearts in a way that reminds us of Pharaoh.  Even though it’s clear and is becoming increasingly clearer that defeat for Satan and his forces is eminent, they will not go down without a fight.   But before the book moves back into a quickly escalating battle, there is a break for comfort.

John is told here to go and take a scroll from the powerful angel and eat it.  This is a very common occurrence for God’s prophets.  Its very similar to the calling of Ezekiel.  Isaiah had coals placed on his lips.  It is a way of showing that the prophets lips are dedicated to speaking the words of God.  Once John has eaten the scroll from the angel, we are reminded midway through Revelation, that this isn’t some invented story or imaginative tale.  John has placed the words of God in his mouth and consumed them and he now speaks them (albeit through writing) to us.  

John is told that the scroll with turn his stomach bitter but be sweet to the taste.  As a preacher today, I can understand somewhat what is being said here.  The word of God is wonderful, beautiful, and powerful.  I fell in love with telling people what God’s word says over a decade ago and I love it still today.  But it’s also often a bitter challenge as well.  I sometimes have to say things that are unpopular or that estrange me and the church from our neighbors.  If I am doing my job as a preacher well, then there should be times that I speak God’s truths in a way that steps on peoples’ toes (my own included).  John is given a prophecy that contains bad news for many, but God’s words remain sweet to the tongue.  Taking God’s word to the world should always be a challenge and a joy.

There is also a bizarre passage in this chapter.  John hears the seven (seven = completeness) thunders (thunder references judgment or God’s presence) and begins to write down what he heard.  Then a voice from heaven says, “Don’t write that down.”  To this I cannot help but think…”Whaaaaat?”  What did John hear that I can’t know about?  In fact, if I had a way to send a letter to John today, it would simply read: “Dear John, Secrets, secrets, are no fun.  Secrets, secrets hurt someone.”  Granted, it doesn’t really hurt me, but I really want to know what the seven thunders said.

All joking aside, this passage actually makes John’s entire vision more real to me.  If John was just making up some grand image-filled apocalyptic book, then you don’t insert a random story that you have to keep a secret. You will never be reading a novel and have the author randomly say, “Oh wait…nevermind.  I am not going to tell you that.”  It doesn’t make sense.  It would be terrible writing.  That is, it would be terrible writing unless John actually saw all of this in a real vision.  The sounds heard in the thunders were real to him, but what they said was not to be part of the book he was writing.  It only makes sense if John is writing about a real vision.  And that’s kinda cool.

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2013 in Revelation

 

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Revelation 9 – Crime is Punishment

As the seven trumpets continue sounding, we now have the two woes being poured out upon the earth.  Chapter 9 begins with a description of a falling star that was given the key to the Abyss and who released sun-blotting smoke and locusts upon the earth.  While the first four trumpets were from God and from above, this one comes from the depths, from the Abyss.  McGuiggan says that the fallen star with power over the Abyss is Satan, and the imagery fits as monsters emerge from the depths to attack people.  They are not allowed to harm the 144,000 who have been sealed and they are to torture those who are not faithful for five months.  

This trumpet turns many things upside down.  First of all, a plague of locusts (as was seen in Egypt in Exodus 10) would completely destroy plants, crops, trees, and the land while not doing significant harm to people.  However, when the trumpet sounds, these locust-like-monsters torture people while not harming and plant or tree.  Additionally, this situation is exactly the reverse of Luke 10:18-20 where Jesus tells the disciples that he saw Satan fall like lightning from Heaven and that he (Jesus) has given the disciples authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome the power of the enemy.  In this woe-filled trumpet, a star falls from heaven and the locusts with scorpion attacks are given power and authority.  Things have gone wrong because of the sinfulness of mankind.  After the five months of locust attacks, the sixth trumpet sounds and four angels were released to kill 1/3 of mankind.

The imagery of judgment is violent and extreme, and yet it remains partial.  After the sixth trumpet is sounded and great violent death comes to 1/3 of mankind, the book will now stop to evaluate whether or not mankind has learned its lesson.  Will they heed the warnings of the trumpets and repent?  Unfortunately they do not.  Those who survived the plagues did not repent but continued in their sin.

There is an important principle that has some connection to this passage.  In Romans 1:24-28 we are told that God punished the Gentile world by “giving them up” to their own sinful desires. Proverbs 14:34 says that entire nations can be brought down by moral depravity.  In this sense, the crime is the punishment.  When we choose sin over God, the greatest punishment that can often be given to us is to be allowed to choose sin over God.  This would be similar to a parent whose child is about to do something wrong or dangerous, who after warning the child to not do that thing, then decides to step back and allow the child to learn from their own mistakes.  Sometimes when we choose sin, God’s punishment is to let us sin.  He turns us over to our own desires.  For nations, this often results in entire generations or cultures being given over to moral depravity and corruption.  It would be difficult to study the fall of the Roman Empire without recognizing the impact that moral depravity had on that once powerful society.  Today, we must recognize that a loss of morality can have be a punishment in and of itself on both ourselves and our society.  (This idea is developed fully in N.T. Wright’s book Simply Christian.)

Is it possible that there are times in our lives that if it were a book, the author could step back as Revelation does at the end of chapter 9 and say, “And yet they did not learn from their mistakes.  They did not repent.  They continued in their sin and foolishness.”

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2013 in Revelation

 

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Revelation 8 – Trumpets of Woe

Now that we have received the comfort from the sealing of the righteous in chapter 7 we are going to get back to the business of judging in chapter 8.

Hopefully you remember from earlier that there are seven seals that are opened to reveal judgments on the earth, especially those who oppose God and his people.  Behind the seventh seal are seven trumpets and in the seventh trumpet are the seven bowls.  These seals, trumpets, and bowls take up most of the remainder of Revelation.  So, in essence, the seals and what they reveal makes up most of the book.

Beware evil bears! The day of judgment is at hand!

As the trumpets begin to sound, they indicate a great number of trials being brought upon the earth.  The echoes of the 10 Plagues in Egypt can be heard throughout this passage.  Waters turned to blood, hail, destruction of crops, death, the sun and stars darkened.  And yet, each trumpet brings destruction to only 1/3 of whatever is affected.  It’s a partial judgment.  Why are partial judgment and not a full destruction?  These trumpets are warning blasts.  They will ideally provide a wake up call to anybody opposing God and provide them an opportunity to change sides before a greater judgment comes.  In this way, the judgment of God is in its own way a type of grace in that its intent to is get people’s attention and bring them to repentance.  This idea is there in Exodus during the plagues as well.  Several times we are told that God performed those great signs and wonders so that Israel might know that God is God and that the world might know that only God is God.  While it seems that God is pouring out his wrath on Egypt (in Exodus) and Rome (in Revelation), there is a strong implication that part of the reason is to bring about the world’s awareness that God is God.

I have known people in my own life who have been awakened to their own need for repentance and a change in their life by tough times.  Will it work in Revelation?  I guess we will find out tomorrow.  Spoiler alert: It’s not likely.

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2013 in Revelation

 

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