Pastor Keith's devotional goes through the books of the Bible a chapter at a time. Each day he shares thoughts and insights from a pastor’s perspective that are intended to be encouraging, challenging, and life changing. Here’s how Pastor Keith's daily devotional works best:
Really, it’s as simple as that. Okay, here we go…
Some say that life is really about people journeying between two gardens. The first garden was of course the Garden of Eden, where Adam & Even were created to live in an idyllic paradise. One sunny day, a serpent lied to them; they caved to his temptation, ate the forbidden fruit, and thereby committed a sin against God. Having been overtaken with feelings of shame, regret, and guilt, they resorted to hiding in some nearby bushes. In no time at all, God found, confronted, and judged them. Then the worst thing possible happened; they got booted out of the garden. The next day, they woke up east of Eden, lamenting that their relationship with God had been broken.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. (v.2)
And there we all find ourselves, living east of Eden, looking for a way back to the garden – back to God. The thing is, we can’t go back again, but if we follow Jesus, we can go forward – to another garden, a garden that’s in the middle of a most beautiful heavenly city. In that garden, you’ll find a river of life, a tree of life, and healing for the nations. The only ones allowed in that garden are those who have been clothed in the blood, righteousness, and love of the Lamb, the very Son of God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Ah, now there’s a garden that’s always in season, always open, and always inviting. I hope I'll see you there someday.
“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done." (v.12)
Modern biblical scholarship tells us the Apostle John wrote his prophecy of revelation at the close of the first century, which, considering over 1,900 years have passed, means Jesus clearly has a different definition of the word “soon” than we do. But that really shouldn’t surprise us; after all, he’s the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end (v.13) – so he’s not bound by time. The bottom line is that he is in fact coming back soon. Are you ready for his return? Are you praying for his return? Are you looking forward to his return? I encourage you today to live your life like his return is imminent (which it is), resting in the hope that when he comes, he’ll give you an eternal member’s-only pass to the garden in the center of his city.
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (v.20)
A FINAL WORD:This is it. Today’s devotional is my final one. After three plus years, I’ve realized by goal of writing a chapter devotional on all 1,189 chapters of the Bible. Thanks for putting up with some grammar mistakes, typos, and all the times when my devotionals were written and posted a day or two late.
I hope that as you read through the Bible and my devotionals each day that you drew closer to your Heavenly Father, increased in the grace and knowledge of his Son Jesus Christ, and were comforted, convicted and counseled by the Holy Spirit.
In the coming months, I hope to find, organize, and edit all the devotionals I’ve written with the intent to make then into a book. Once that happens, I’ll let you know so you get a copy.
So, again, thanks for being on this journey with me. I’ve been richly blessed for writing; I hope you in turn have been blessed for reading.
In his grace,
When I was just a kid, my dad once told me to get in the car so we could drive to the toy store. I didn’t hesitate to run as fast as I possibly could to get into the car! Well, the funny thing is, my dad drove right by the toy store and parked in front of the barbershop. WHAT! WAS! GOING! ON! Yup, that’s right; I got my [super-short] summer crew-cut that day. (In case you’re wondering, yes, I did end up getting a toy before we got home.) Now, in a weird yet similar way, I think there are people who have grand visions of what heaven’s going to be like, In fact, they can’t wait to get there. Now, I’m not saying heaven is like a barbershop, but maybe we all need to realize that there’s no mention of it anywhere in the entire Bible of being like a toy store.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. (v.1)
In all honesty, we really don’t know a lot about heaven – at least from the Scriptures, but that doesn’t stop us a bit from a letting our imaginations run wild and coming up with all sorts of theories as to what it’s going to be like. Some look forward to heaven because it will have the best golf courses ever designed (and you always shoot under par), others can’t wait to eat all the pasta they can eat (knowing they’ll never gain a single pound), and still others envision it as a sort of extreme Six Flags in the clouds (with no waiting in long lines). But is that true? Is heaven anything you want it to be, or is it a real place that’s not designed for our ultimate pleasure, but instead for the eternal praise and glory of God?
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. (v.22)
Okay, I freely admit I’m not a designer, engineer, or architect, but the description John gives of the holy city, the New Jerusalem that comes down from heaven, sure doesn’t fit the picture of an elite golf course, fine Italian restaurant, or cutting-edged theme park. Rather than references to fairways, menus, or rollercoasters, he instead describes a golden city with walls of jasper, a foundation of jewels, gates of pearls, and streets of transparent gold. Hmm, when you take a step back and think about it, it sort of sounds like a temple…in which to worship the Almighty God (v.22). Oh oh, does that mean that heaven is sort of like church – a church that you’re stuck in for all eternity? Actually, that’s probably a pretty good picture of what heaven will be like (Psa 23:6). But is that what you want? Do you really want to drop your golf clubs, put down your fork, and get off your favorite ride and instead choose to dwell in the house of the Lord forever, to gaze upon his beauty, and worship for all eternity?
One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after:that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. (Psa 27:4)
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. (v.11)
If you’re banking on reincarnation, you’re going to be surprised, shocked, and absolutely shaking like a leaf in a nor’easter when, after you die, you stand before the great white throne of judgment. A book will be opened and you’ll hear everything you’ve done; you’ll smile proudly every time one of your good deeds is mentioned and you’ll cringe and look down to the ground when the list of your bad deeds are read aloud. The way it works is that you won’t have a lawyer, you’ll have no defense, and the verdict will be final. Oh, and when your final judgment is given, it’s not like you get reincarnated so you can try to live your next life better than your last one; no, the only options for you will be either heaven or hell (Heb 9:27). It’s as simple as that. Done. Deal.
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. (v.12)
Did you notice how no one escapes the great white throne judgment? It doesn’t matter if you had power, position, and privilege or if you were lowly, broke, and no one even knew your name; everyone will find their way before the throne – regardless of whether you died on land or sea, or if you were buried in a coffin or cremated (v.13). Once you endure the reading of all your deeds, the only thing you’ll be listening for is whether or not your name is in the book of life. “Please be there!” The bottom line is at that point, there’s nothing you can do to reverse your verdict; you’re life has been played out and the final curtain has been let down on the stage. For all those who waited to repent and come to Jesus, it will be a sobering hour of despair, regret, and hopelessness.
And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (v.15)
Just as Jesus taught, there will be a day when the sheep and the goats will be separated, judged, and given either righteous rewards or unthinkable punishments (Mt 25:31-46). The goats, those who rejected him and were disobedient to his commands, will be condemned to an eternity in the dark flames and torments of hell, while the sheep, those who believed in his name and followed his voice, will enter into the gates of heaven to enjoy the eternal joy, blessings, and benefits of heaven. Makes you think, doesn’t it? Are you a sheep or a goat? Have you accepted Jesus or rejected him? Is your name written in the Book of Life, or is it not? I encourage you today to make sure of your eternal salvation – before you're standing in a heavenly courtroom and it’s too late to make a decision for Jesus.
“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among menby which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.” (v.1)
When you listen to Handel’s Messiah (usually around Christmas time), you’ll of course hear the Hallelujah Chorus. It’s a piece of music that’s unmistakable, uplifting, and depending on the chorus that sings it, will blow your socks off. But did you know that the best choir that sings choruses of “hallelujahs” is in heaven? That choir in heaven is made up of a great multitude, who with loud voices, sing of the demise and judgment of “the great prostitute” that so troubled and corrupted world with her immoralities (v.2). They give honor and praise to God for a having such true and just judgments. Aha, so I guess it’s okay to shout or sing “Hallelujah” when God takes out those who have made the followers of Jesus suffer, be persecuted, or killed and turned into martyrs.
Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah!The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” (v.3)
Some say that it’s unfair for God to torment the wicked in hell for all eternity. To make the judgments of God seem more palatable, they twist (or ignore) the Scriptures and choose to believe (and teach) that God’s punishments are certainly not forever, because that wouldn’t be true to the character of a loving God. So why is there a whole host in heaven joyfully singing that the great and wicked prostitute will be going up in smoke forever and ever? Why doesn’t God stop the music? Could it be that the eternal punishment of the wicked acts as an eternal testimony to the righteousness, holiness, and fairness of God as well as a reminder of his wrath and power – which when taken together, will drive us to give him the glory he deserves (Rom 9:22)?
“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready.” (vs.6-7)
Do you want yet a third reason to sing Hallelujah? How about the long awaited heavenly marriage of the Lamb and his Bride (Mt 9:15; 2 Cor 11:2)? No, we’re not talking about a local church (little “c”) here; we’re talking about the big “C” church – all those who have ever repented of their sins, believed in his name, and confessed Jesus as their Lord and Savior. This Church, referred to by John as the Bride of Christ, clothed in the purity and righteousness of Jesus, will enter into heaven and cause the entire host of heaven to rejoice, exalt, give God glory…by singing Hallelujah! I encourage you today to not be shy in praising God for all his wonders, works, might, judgments, blessings, and glory. Hey, let's all say, "Hallelujah" at least once today!
And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.” (v.5)
Bonus Music Special: If you want to listen to the Hallelujah Chorus performed by the Royal Choral Society on Youtube, then CLICK HERE.
“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast." (v.2)
Babylon was (or more likely, will be) destroyed in a single day, to be more accurate, in just an hour (vs.10, 19). The proud kings of the earth who will get sucked into her sexual immorality (or is it her system of religious abominations?) and will get rich because of her will shed tears, the merchants who will carry her wares, from cinnamon to marble and from jewels to slaves, will mourn and weep, the businessmen who will get rich off of her, well, they’ll cry too, and finally, the shipmasters and sailors who will transport her cargo on the seas will throw dust on their heads, break down, and cry as well. Basically, everyone who buys into or profits from “Babylon’s" unclean, detestable, and immoral practices will end up regretting they ever knew her.
Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and will be found no more." (v.21)
Well, one thing for sure is that when God judges, his verdict is final. Babylon will be judged, thrown down, destroyed, and no one will ever see her ugly wicked head ever again. Having been found guilty of deceiving the nations by her sorcery (v.23) and killing God’s prophets and saints (v.24), her fate will be like a giant millstone thrown into the sea, never to rise again. See ya’ later! After that, no one will ever hear a peep from her musicians, artisans, farmers, and/or newlyweds – there will only be the sound of silence…in the dark...because it will be eternal lights off for her (vs.22-23).
Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues." (v.4)
It’s never God’s intent that the righteous get swept away with the wicked, that’s why Noah, his wife, and his three sons (and their wives) were saved from the flood in the ark, why Lot and his wife (well, almost…) and his two daughters were saved from the fire and brimstone that rained down upon Sodom & Gomorrah, and that’s why all those who have repented of their sins and placed their faith in Jesus Christ will be saved from the sure and certain wrath of God still to come. Today, I encourage you to make sure you’re not getting sucked into, enticed with, or grabbed by anything that is unclean or ungodly; if you are, run out of it as quickly as you can so you don’t fall into sin and suffer in the plague of punishment.
Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. (2 Pt 3:14)
What other book is there that has a chapter where there’s a scarlet beast that was dead and comes back to life, a great prostitute decked out in pearls who holds in her hand a golden cup full of abominations, the blood of saints and martyrs being drunk, ten kings who rule for only one hour, and a Lamb who ends up securing a great victory in a massive war? Whoever said the Bible is boring is off his or her rocker! Wow, you can’t make stuff like this up…because one day it’s really going to happen.
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute. (v.1)
Before we jump to the easy (yet almost certainly wrong) conclusion that there will one day be an actual prostitute who will literally ride a scarlet beast, corrupt the world with sexual immorality, and drink the blood of the saints, let’s take a moment to remember the messages of judgment that the prophets of the Old Testament rendered upon Israel. They frequently called out the nation of Israel for leaving their first love, the Almighty God, to commit adultery by whoring after false idols and false religions, so in a spiritual sense, they had gone after prostitutes (Jer 3:9; Ezek 23.37; Nah 3:3-5). Given that, it seems pretty apparent that the great prostitute John saw wasn’t an actual woman, but more likely she’s the symbolic representation of the false, twisted, and wicked teachings and religions that will flood the world and men’s minds and hearts – much like we see happening today with the rise of world religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam as well as entire “Christian” denominations turning their backs on solid biblical doctrine and instead preaching a liberal, perverted, yet politically correct gospel.
And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth's abominations.” (v.5)
In fact, Babylon was a city that had once touted the worship of many false and hideous gods, so in a sense, it was a spiritual prostitute. However, if we play detective, gather our clues, and use a bit of wisdom, we find that the great prostitute will be sitting on seven hills (v.9), which in John’s day, was a clear reference to Rome (it’s situated on seven hills). Throughout history, many theologians have conjectured that Rome and the Roman Catholic Church are really the great prostitute that will lead the world astray. Well, that could be, but there really doesn't seem to be quite enough evidence to fully justify that position. When you think about it, what city in the world today (or California) seems to be most like the great prostitute, selling sexual immorality, impurities, and abominations as well as beating up on anything to do with Christianity? While you’re mulling that one over, I encourage you to always keep your eyes on Jesus so that the seductive wiles of the evil one will never lead your faith or heart astray.
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. (2 Pt 2:1)
When we consider God pouring things down from heaven, the top four things that jump into our minds (well, at least my mind) are rain (Job 36:27-28; Joel 2:23), general revelation – the glory, handiwork, and knowledge of God that pours forth from the heavens every single day – (Psa 19:1-3), his Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28-29; Ezk 39:29), and the abundant blessings that come when God opens up the windows of heaven (Mal 3:10). Now, what we often forget is that the Scriptures also tell of something (a bunch more times) that no one really wants to talk about today (it’s just not trendy to do so…). Can you guess what it is? Yup, that’s right; in addition to some really good stuff, he also pours out his anger (Job 40:11; Psa 75:8), fury (Lam 2:4), indignation (Ezk 21:31), and wrath (Ezk 20:33). Oh, and in case we forget, he also promises to pour out people’s evil back upon them (Jer 14:16).
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.” (v.1)
As if one bowl of God’s wrath wasn’t enough, the people living on the earth at the end of the Great Tribulation will have seven bowls of his wrath poured out upon them. The result? First, everyone who had received the mark of the beast ends up with the side effect of harmful and painful sores (insert applause for God here), then every living thing in the sea dies, all the rivers and springs of water turn to blood, and solar flares shoot out of the sun causing people to be scorched by the fierce heat. Next, the kingdom of the beast is plunged into darkness, the Euphrates river dries up, three demonic spirits are let loose, and the biggest earthquake of all time rocks the earth. On top of that, there are flashes of lightening, rumblings and peals of thunder as well as hundred pound hailstones bombarding the earth. Wow, that does't sound like fun at all – but it does sound like a great script for the ultimate disaster movie.
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. (v.5)
In case you’re wondering, the wrath of God that gets poured out upon those who are unrepentant, those who reject and curse his name, is exactly what they deserve – no more no less (v.6). The wrath they incur is really a display of the character of God – his justice, holiness, and righteousness. Now, the interesting thing is that all [sinful] men and women deserve the wrath of God, not only those who remain on the earth in the final days of the end times. Let’s be thankful today, that Jesus saved us, not so much from our sins, but from the consequences of those sins, the awful, yet righteous, wrath of God.
Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (Rom 5:9)
Any guesses as to how many times the number seven shows up in the book of Revelation? A quick word search will reveal that the number seven shows up thirty-six times. Do you remember who or what came in sevens? Let’s see, there were seven churches, lampstands, stars, torches, spirits of God, angels, eyes, horns, heads, diadems, thunders, mountains, and kings. Oh, and of course, we can’t forget the three big sevens that refer to the major outlays of God’s wrath; so far we’ve read of the seven seals (Rev 6) and the seven trumpets (Rev 8-9), which means the only seven left is the seven golden bowls of plagues that will one day be poured out upon the earth.
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. (v.1)
Sorry, you’re going to have to wait; the description of the seven bowls of plagues is given in the next chapter (Rev 16). For today, we’ll content ourselves with examining what’s going on in heaven moments before the bowls are poured out. Which should make us think, “What’s going on in heaven right now?” The reality is that we don’t really know a whole lot about what’s going in heaven at the moment, but still it’s fun to use our imaginations (guided by the confines of what’s revealed in the Scriptures) to ponder what might be happening in the heavens above.
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. (v.2)
Ah, but we are told exactly what will be going on in heaven at the very end of the great tribulation – no guesses needed. The believers who managed to endure the trials of the Great Tribulation, who have remained faithful and true to the testimony of Jesus, who didn’t worship the beast or receive the mark of his name, those are the ones who will gathered around the throne of God, playing harps, and singing praise songs to the Almighty God (vs.2-4). They’ll be proclaiming his greatness, amazing works, justice, truth, glory, and righteousness. Oh my, don’t you want to fly up to heaven right now and join them? I encourage you this weekend, when you’re in church singing worship songs, to close your eyes for a moment and make believe you’re in heaven – standing in the very throne room of God – worshipping the Living God with all the saints and angels, for one day you’ll in fact be right there – so you may as well start practicing now.
“Great and amazing are your deeds,O Lord God the Almighty!Just and true are your ways,O King of the nations!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.” (vs.3-4)
I’ve rototilled and raked the soil, added fertilizer, and planted hundreds of seeds; my garden is ready to go! This year I’m looking forward to eating string beans, corn, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, yellow squash, and zucchini. Although I really do love sitting down, drinking coffee, and watching my garden grow, and though I actually do enjoy tending it throughout the summer, the thing I’m most looking forward to is the harvest in late summer or early fall. But here’s the interesting thing about gardens: though you plant vegetable seeds in the soil, for some crazy reason, weeds start growing right alongside the veggies. Ah, but those pesky weeds will never make it into my harvest basket; they’ll end up being pulled up and tossed into the trash. Hmm, now that reminds me of another harvest yet to come…
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. (v.6)
If you’re ever at a bar late at night (which you really shouldn’t be), about fifteen minutes before it closes, the bartender will announce “last call,” which means if you want one more drink, you'd better order it before it’s too late. In a [strangely] similar fashion, towards the close of the great tribulation, an angel will fly onto the scene and announce a last call, not for a final drink, but for anyone who wants the hope of salvation. In a loud voice (just to make sure everyone can hear), he’ll announce that if one turns to fear God, give him glory, and bow down and worship him, then drinking the wine of God’s wrath and being tormented with fire and sulfur forever and ever can be avoided. Oh my, given that last chance opportunity, who wouldn’t raise his or her hand and say, “Over here, don’t miss me; I’m in!”
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. (v.14)
It may not be in late summer or early fall, but there will most definitely be a harvest upon the earth, not of corn or zucchini, but of men and women. The first sickle will go in and those who are the good seed (the sons of the kingdom) will be lifted up to heaven, while at the swing of the second sickle, the weeds (the sons of the evil one) will be thrown into the great winepress of the wrath of God (Mt 13:36-42). Given that when the sickles are taken up it will be too late to place your faith and allegiance in Christ – you’ll have missed the last call – I highly encourage you to make sure of the hope of your salvation, now, today, rather than rely on the obscure chance that you’ll turn to Jesus just before the bar closes, the sickle swings, and all of a sudden you find yourself drowning in the angry waves of a winepress.
For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thess 5:9)
I know a lot of people are under the impression (and teaching) that the church, as in all those who have placed their faith in Jesus, won’t be around during the seven-year great tribulation of the end times. But if that’s the case, then why are there believers around for the beast to conquer (v.7), why are there saints on the earth who will be slain for not worshipping the beast (v.15), and why is there a call for the endurance and faith of those who follow Jesus while the beast is ruling over the world for three and a half years (v.10)? Hold, on, did someone say a beast is coming our way? Oh no, that doesn’t sound good at all, does it?
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. (v.1)
Here’s a short description of this so-called first “beast” (yep, that’s right, there’s also a second one) that will one day be on the earth: Aside from having a funky look (v.2), he has power, a throne, and exercises great authority over all the earth, he received a mortal wound, but somehow recovered from it, he utters blasphemous words against God, he makes war against the saints, and oh yes, bizarrely, the entire world’s population marvels, bows in worship, and follows him. Okay, looking back on history, I think we’d all agree that this beast hasn’t shown up yet; so it’s only a matter of time before he takes the stage.
Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. (v.11)
Seriously, one beast wasn’t enough? Now there’s going to be second beast? Well, this one should be easy to spot; he’ll get everyone to bow down to the first beast, perform great signs and wonders (including calling down lightening from heaven), arranges for a image of the first beast - that can talk – to be cast and worshipped, and finally, makes anyone who wants to buy anything get a mark on their forehead or right hand. Well, this is about as bad as it could get… …or is it? I encourage you today to not get freaked out by what’s ahead for the world, but rather use the ungodly chaos that will soon be here as a motivation to continue to live a godly life, share your faith as the Spirit gives opportunity, and rest in the knowledge that in the end, Jesus wins.
Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation. (2 Pt 3:14-15)