REFLECTIONS ON REVELATION: EXODUS PLAGUES?

Revelation 16:1–11

The Seven Bowls of God’s Wrath

[1] Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.”

[2] So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.

[3] The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing died that was in the sea.

[4] The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. [5] And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say,

“Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was,
    for you brought these judgments.
[6] For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets,
    and you have given them blood to drink.
It is what they deserve!”


[7] And I heard the altar saying,

“Yes, Lord God the Almighty,
    true and just are your judgments!”


[8] The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. [9] They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.

[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 anguish [11] and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds. (ESV)

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REFLECTIONS ON REVELATION: HARVEST TIME

Revelation 14:14–20

The Harvest of the Earth

[14] Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. [15] And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” [16] So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.

[17] Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. [18] And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” [19] So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. [20] And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia. (ESV)

Revelation 15

The Seven Angels with Seven Plagues

[1] Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished.

[2] And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. [3] And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,

“Great and amazing are your deeds,
    O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
    O King of the nations!
[4] Who will not fear, O Lord,
    and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
    All nations will come
    and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”


[5] After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven was opened, [6] and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests. [7] And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever, [8] and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished. (ESV)
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REFLECTIONS ON REVELATION: BLESSED ARE THE DEAD

Revelation 14:1–13

The Lamb and the 144,000

[1] Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. [2] And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, [3] and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. [4] It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, [5] and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.

The Messages of the Three Angels

[6] Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. [7] And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

[8] Another angel, a second, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.”

[9] And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, [10] he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. [11] And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”

[12] Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.

[13] And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” (ESV)

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REFLECTION FOR CHRIST THE KING: WHAT KING?

Luke 19:29–40

[29] When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, [30] saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. [31] If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” [32] So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. [33] And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” [34] And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” [35] And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. [36] And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. [37] As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, [38] saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” [39] And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” [40] He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (ESV)

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REFLECTIONS ON REVELATION: LOOKS LIKE GOD? ACTS LIKE GOD?

Revelation 13:11–18

The Second Beast

[11] Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. [12] It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. [13] It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, [14] and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. [15] And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. [16] Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, [17] so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. [18] This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666. (ESV)

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REFLECTIONS ON REVELATION: THE WORLD IS A BEAST

Revelation 13:1–10

The First Beast

[1] And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. [2] And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. [3] One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. [4] And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”

[5] And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. [6] It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. [7] Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, [8] and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. [9] If anyone has an ear, let him hear:

[10] If anyone is to be taken captive,
    to captivity he goes;
if anyone is to be slain with the sword,
    with the sword must he be slain.


Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints. (ESV)
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REFLECTIONS ON REVELATION: THE HEAVENLY WOMAN

Revelation 12

The Woman and the Dragon

[1] And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. [2] She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. [3] And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. [4] His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. [5] She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, [6] and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.

Satan Thrown Down to Earth

[7] Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, [8] but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. [9] And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. [10] And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. [11] And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. [12] Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

[13] And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. [14] But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. [15] The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. [16] But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. [17] Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea. (ESV)

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SPIRITUAL ESSENTIALS: IN THE NEW NORMAL

As the pandemic continues to shape the way we live I find that I spend a good part of the week on either Zoom, Face time or Skype in the exercise of my ministry of Spiritual Direction . A salient theme that has arisen in past weeks: directees talk about shedding aspects of life that are not ‘essential’. One might say ‘ I am concentrating on the essentials in life,’ another might say ‘ I had forgotten what is essential’. Sometimes a realisation of what is essential can herald some major changes in life. One person I know described how she had realised that she had been spending all her time working away from the family home and had resigned because ‘being with the family was essential.’

This ‘reordering’ of priorities to embrace the ‘ new normal’ is not unique to Christians: social commentary in various kinds of media is highlighting the same trend. The ‘spirit of the age’ is one of reappraisal and re –imagining ways of living, and this openness of mind is one which Christians should embrace fully for within it an opportunity is opening up to attend again to the call of Christ in our life. Now is a good time to ask the question of God ‘ teach me what are essentials of my life.’

Here are few possible essentials. First, Church on a Sunday: the irony of the ‘lockdown’ is that this fundamental building block of Christian life was removed. In some of us a rather uncertain habit has been broken, in others a deeper hunger and need awoke. Where does Mass on a Sunday stand in your list of essentials? It is certainly the case that Sunday attendance has become irregular in every congregation. It surely must be an essential?

Secondly, there is the place of daily prayer and Bible reading. Locally the lockdown saw a meteoric rise in the numbers of those accessing daily prayer and study material online. Personal experience informs me that this was highly valued and produced wonderful benefits in the lives of individuals. I was told by several people ‘ I didn’t realise what a difference it made to everything.’ Is it an essential for you going forward? As the new normal unfolds will old patterns and priorities gradually reassert themselves. How quickly will we forget what was once so essential?

Thirdly, awareness of the world. Many of us have become more attentive to what is going on in our local community. There has been a reengagement with neighbours. Happily many church communities have rediscovered a place and role in their neighbourhood. To ‘love our neighbour’ and to be aware of the needs of others is at the heart of the greatest commandment of Jesus. Will this essential remain at the centre of our prayer and activity?

Finally, the pandemic has raised huge questions about God’s involvement in creation, and the nature of prayer and faith. I suggest it is an essential for all praying and thinking Christians to wrestle with them, for in seeking to discern God’s will and purpose our relationship with Him will be renewed and our witness to our friends ands neighbours given new light and life.

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REFLECTIONS ON REVELATION: THE KINGDOM HAS COME!

Revelation 11:15–19

The Seventh Trumpet

[15] Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” [16] And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, [17] saying,

“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
    who is and who was,
for you have taken your great power
    and begun to reign.
[18] The nations raged,
    but your wrath came,
    and the time for the dead to be judged,
and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints,
    and those who fear your name,
    both small and great,
and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”


[19] Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. (ESV)
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REFLECTION ON REVELATION: DISTILLING THE GREAT PROPHETS

Revelation 11:1–14

The Two Witnesses

[1] Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, [2] but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. [3] And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”

[4] These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. [5] And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. [6] They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire. [7] And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, [8] and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. [9] For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, [10] and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. [11] But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on 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, and their enemies watched them. [13] And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.

[14] The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come. (ESV)

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