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Chapter 1

(1a) Beloved, you have arrived at the Bible’s final book, which is often called Revelation, or the apocalypse of John.  I gave the apostle John this revelation about my Son, Jesus.  As you read this book, do not lose sight that everything you read in these 22 chapters is about Jesus.  Over the centuries, and especially in the last one, a great deal of damage has been done by those who failed to read Revelation as I intended it.  With wooden literalism, too many have tried to use the symbolism and imagery to predict timelines about my Son’s second coming, forcing their interpretations onto signs they see in the world.  Do not listen to those teachers; they will lead you astray.  Reading dates and times into John’s words are unhelpful, even damaging, diversions.  Rather, understand that John was not only a pastor, he had a poet’s imagination and an artist’s gift, something Eugene Peterson touched upon so well in his book Reversed Thunder.[1]  Revelation is not a photograph, but a painting, what some in the art world might call representational abstract.  John used vivid imagery to paint a picture of the realities of my kingdom and of the kingdom of the world.

(1b-2) However, John’s vision was assuredly connected with events in the real world. I sent an angel to John, who showed him all that he needed to see and told him all that he needed to hear, namely the testimony of my Son. 

(3) In writing down what he saw and sharing it, the blessings of the Revelation are available to everyone who read the words and who hear them spoken, paying attention to what was written, not as a bizarre story, but as a testament to the truth of my Kingdom.

(4-5a) Like Paul who wrote letters to seven churches—Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, and Thessalonica—John also wrote to seven churches. Seven is a number that is often associated with completion, so I want you to understand that although specific congregations are named, the messages are meant for the universal church.

John greeted the seven Asian churches not with stern warning or reprimand, but with Trinitarian grace and peace. John also drew their attention to my eternality. I have always been, and I always will be. I am not bound by the same chronological time that you are. I am eternally unchanging.

(5b-6) Before sharing his vision, John offered a short prayer of thanksgiving for everything that my Son accomplished. Loving you unreservedly, Jesus freed you from your sin by his shed blood and invites you into the kingdom of love. You are called to be a priest, a representative of our never-ending kingdom on earth. Our glory and dominion will never fail.

(7) Keep your eyes open, beloved. You will see Jesus framed by the clouds of heaven descending again to earth, the invisible made visible for every eye and every person, both those who have hoped in him and those who have harmed him. His appearance will not be limited to a select few. He will be seen by every person from every tribe in every nation of the earth. Many will weep and wail at the recognition that the world’s ways are bankrupt. Still, what will be, will be.

(8) I told John that “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” which are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. I was saying, “I am the A to Z. No word can be written or spoken apart from me. I am a part of everything that has been, is, and will be.”

(9) As I said earlier, John wrote down this poem during his exile on Patmos, a punishment inflicted by Rome for preaching the good news about my Son. He was not the only sufferer—there are many who were afflicted from sharing the good news.

(10-11) He was deeply aware of my Spirit’s presence in and around him when he heard a distinct voice telling him to write down everything and send it to the seven churches—Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea, but this Revelation is universal.

(12-16) John knew my Son. They ate together, traveled together, and talked together every day for a few years. He was there was my Son was tried and convicted. He was there when he was crucified and when he was resurrected. He was also one of the three who was present at my Son’s transfiguration.[2] He saw Jesus shining like the sun and when I professed my love for him, John and the others fell on their faces.

Now, John turned toward the Voice and he saw seven golden lampstands with my Son standing in their midst. His purity and glory shined like the sun and his eyes were piercingly bright. His feet looked like refined bronze and his voice was powerful. He held seven stars in his right hand and his tongue was a sharpened two edge sword.

In reading John’s vivid imagery, too many people fail to see the symbolism and instead do damage by reading the text woodenly with a calendar in hand. The imagery I gave John portrayed my Son’s glorious strength. He is always at the center of my church, regardless of location or denomination. He makes the beauty of the church shine like gold. Jesus is the only sure and true foundation of the church. Anything else is unstable and doomed to fail. He is Lord over not just the church, but over the entire cosmos. Everything that is, exists by him and for him, and by his never-ceasing word, he creates, sustains, and purifies.

(17-18) Upon seeing the vision of my Son, John fell flat on his face, just as he had at my Son’s transfiguration. Once more, my Son touched him, saying, “Do not be afraid. I am not some flash in the pan; I am eternal goodness and life. I died—you witnessed it—but I am alive, and I shall never die again. I am death’s doorkeeper, and you need not fear me.” Beloved, my Son accomplished exactly what he intended. He loves you beyond any capacity for sin or holiness you believe you possess. Trust him with your life and trust him with your death.

(19-20) My Son instructed John to write down everything he had witnessed and would yet witness, in all its vividness and symbolism. John tried to process what he saw. My Son helped by explaining that the seven stars were seven messengers, and the seven lampstands were the seven churches.

Chapter 2

(1) John was instructed to write to each of the seven churches, but remember that every congregation can learn something from each of these, because no church is perfect. Notice too that John was instructed to write to “the angel” of each of the churches. I surely could have spoken to the angels who are my attendants. Rather, I wanted John to address the “spirit” of the churches and the heart of their messages. It is my Son who upholds the message and who dwells in and among every imperfect congregation. I also want you to notice that the general pattern in most, but not all, of these letters includes affirmation, correction, and promise.[3]

(2) The Ephesian affirmation dealt with their long, hard work toward wholeness and holiness. They were particularly sensitive to what they perceived to be false doctrine. There will always be those who twist my words, and it is good for churches to maintain integrity around what I actually said.

(3-5a) They were praised for their perseverance despite criticism and attack, yet in doing so, they lost sight of the guiding principle of my kingdom: love. My Son’s love was the kindling for their church, but that fire had been smothered under too much theology as they gradually exchanged being loving for being correct.

(5b) Beloved, like the Ephesian church, when you find yourself focusing more and more upon your own rightness, turn back toward love, remembering again your own belovedness. An unloving church no longer represents me, and I will remove the flame of my Spirit from them.

(6) They were also commanded to avoid the way of the Nicolaitians, who lived out of step with my creational and redemptive intent.

(7) Overcoming the patterns of the world and living in the reality of love is an invitation to feast upon the tree of life. A loving life will blossom into eternal paradise with me.

(8-9) John instructed the church at Smyrna to remember my Son, the eternal one, who is before all things and after all things. Beloved, he is the central character in the unfolding story of the cosmos, woven into every page of history. Regardless of what comes your way, do not lose sight of the centrality of Christ. The church at Smyrna was persecuted and impoverished, yet their inheritance in my Son was lavish. They were regularly belittled and criticized by those who claimed to be card-carrying kingdom citizens when, in fact, they were residents of the deceiver’s kingdom. Servants of evil still attack believers, haughtily claiming right theology while dishing out hatred and exclusion, which is not my message.

(10-11) Commit yourself to love. You may suffer for it, but do not live in fear of what my come. You may be ostracized, imprisoned, or even killed for what you believe, which has been true in every generation. Regardless of what comes your way, cling to my Son. When your life is on the line you will be tempted to take up a sword and fight but stay faithful. Your earthly life will one day come to an end, whether by sword, by illness, or by old age, but eternal life awaits you regardless of how you meet your end and eternal life is pure joy and goodness, where all suffering shall cease.

(12) The third message was for the church at Pergamum and was given by my Son who John described as having a two-edged sword. Avoid the temptation to view the sword as a weapon for war; it is the word of my Son that divides truth from error and goodness from evil.

(13-17) Like the church at Pergamum, you dwell in the shadow of Satan’s throne, in a world that is seemingly dominated by evil. Dwelling in darkness can cast shadows of doubt on living in the ways of love, but stay faithful. Keep the candle of my Spirit burning among you, even when the lives of some believers are snuffed out. Beware of turning to teaching and practices that do not reflect my kingdom. Giving your body over to harmful patterns damages your soul. You cannot have a spiritual life that is dedicated to me and then worship evil with your body. I have called you, body and soul, to my kingdom. Turn away from division lest you feel that sharp sting of your fragmented life revealed by my Son’s word. Stay close to my Son and pay attention to what he says. My Spirit will sustain you in tribulation. As you overcome evil, you will discover who you truly and uniquely are, a child washed clean and welcomed.

(18) John began his words to Thyatira by reminding them of my Son’s glory and strength. In a world full of darkness and brokenness, he is as strong as bronze and his blazing eyes are a beacon of hope.

(19-21) Love, faithfulness, and perseverance grew hotter over time in Thyatira. Let it be so with you. Yet despite the manifestations of my Spirit’s work among them, pockets of brokenness were still evident. I gave them the image of Jezebel, a woman who married King Ahab and tainted the kingdom from the top by encouraging the worship of other gods and by offering sacrifices including their very own bodies. You can read about it in 1 Kings. She was given ample opportunity to turn from her diluted, evil worship, but she refused, persisting in evil to her own end.

(22-23) Listen, beloved, if you continue to live a divided life, trying to hold on to righteousness with your right hand while gripping tightly to evil with your left, you will be torn apart. I have created you to be a whole and holy person yet clinging to the ways of evil will not only tear you apart, but the effects will also continue into the next generation. You know that from fields like interpersonal neurobiology,[4] relational patterns persist intergenerationally. Your inner stirrings are not hidden from me; bring them into the light.

(24-26) There are those who continually seek after wholeness, who try not to live with one foot in heaven and one on earth. Wonderful. I do not have a list of demands for you in order to be accepted. My Son came to usher in the truth that you are welcome as you are, yet I want you to keep seeking to live a life of love grounded in my Son. You will discover that as your fragmented pieces are brought into alignment with me, you will have an impact for my kingdom well beyond your imagination.

(27-29) The love of my Son is more solid and sure than the earthly vessel you inhabit. False selves are vulnerable and fragile. Your true self, which is united with my Son, is firm and true and it cannot be destroyed. Your truest self—that part of you that is stable, solid, and whole—is evidence of my Son in you. Let his light shine brightly.

Chapter 3

(1-6) My Son, who sustains everything in heaven and on earth, continued speaking to John who passed the message to the angel of the church at Sardis. My Son knows everything that transpires in all places and at all times. People and groups, like the church at Sardis sometimes have great reputations even though they do not rely upon my Spirit. Beloved, when you try to manage everything on your own, you are on the path of death. Wake up to my Spirit in you! Your true strength comes from me. You will never be able to finish well on your own. Turn to me. Open your eyes so that you do not sleep through my Son’s return. Even though many have lost touch with my Spirit, stay the course, clothed in purity and remain secure in who I say that you are. My Son will celebrate you in my presence.

(7-8) To the church in Philadelphia, John was instructed to write my Son’s words, which are good, pure, and true. Christ is sovereign over everything. In his sovereignty, he gives unending opportunities to share his love, even when you have no power and prestige to commend you. Persevere in the faith, following my Son even when life is hard.

(9) There are some who profess to follow me, but they are following the path of darkness. They are critical of small but faithful churches, but light and love will always win out over evil and darkness. One day, those who follow evil’s path will understand the bankruptcy of evil and will bow before those who demonstrate my love.

(10-13) Beloved, keep my word. Trials will come upon you—seemingly small and trivial at times, and worldwide at others. Everyone will know the effects. Hold on, I will keep you safe. Do not allow any of the doomsdayers to steal your security, which is found in my Son. You will be strengthened through trials and in the end you will be as solid as a marble column adorning my temple, engraved with my name and your name, a reminder of your eternal citizenship in the city of God.

(14) In his final letter to the Laodiceans, John identified my Son as the “amen.” In other words, Jesus is the embodiment of truth and the one who gives life as it should be.

(15-16) The letter to Laodicea may be the best known of these seven letters, because it is here that the notion of “lukewarm Christianity” was introduced. The church was neither hot nor cold, but rather bland and passionless, a room temperature mess of porridge. I created you with passion and emotion; get to know them and express them. You cannot fully know me without passion. 

(17-18) Material comforts—monetary wealth, plenty of food, no outside pressure—give people a false sense of security. When these needs are met, people do not feel the thirst for which they were created. They are physically satisfied but spiritually impoverished. A vibrant spiritual life is found not around by going around suffering, but through it. When the security of material comforts is burned away, it is an opportunity to be clothed in the purity of my Son and to have your eyes healed to see what is good, true, and beautiful.

(19-22) My discipline is not punishment, but a way to burn away the dross that keeps you from being less than fully human, so lean into difficulty and seek to learn what I am doing in and through you. It is on the other side of darkness where you will find come to clearly see the truth of your union with me.

Chapter 4

(1-3) Beloved, the door of heaven stands open. Just as John was invited to come and see the unfolding story of redemption, so are you. I see the end from the beginning and the beginning from the end. Filled with my Spirit, John saw my throne room and was overwhelmed by my beauty and brilliance.

(4) In my throne room, beloved, everything is reconciled. John wrote about 24 thrones—twelve and twelve, tribes and apostles, old and new—present in splendor and purity and joined in worship.

(5-6a) John used Old Testament imagery so that his readers would understand that this revelation was not something new, but the same story that has been told since the beginning. The images of burning torches, a crystal sea, my throne, and magnificent colors were all used by Old Testament authors. The Bible is not a collection of separate stories, but one story that started at the beginning and will never end.

(6b-8) I am not only redeeming humanity, but all creation. The fish in the sea, the birds in the air, and the animals on land will all witness my glory and splendor. When you eventually see me in the fullness of my glory, your only response will be unceasing praise. With the creatures, you will sing.

Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God almighty,
who was and is and is to come!

(9-10) The melodies of creation will join with the melodies of humanity to form a harmony of thanksgiving that will never cease. Worshipping in unity will continue forever and ever as you understand that all goodness, truth, and beauty come from me and not the stuff of the earth.

(11) Beloved, know this:

I alone am worthy,
to receive glory, honor, and power;
I created everything,
and I sustain it every hour.

You will join with every generation in proclaiming my name. In fact, why don’t you start now?

Chapter 5

(1) In chapter 5, John wrote a refrain focused upon my Son, using much of the same imagery he employed in chapter 4. Song writers and poets know that vivid imagery presented repeatedly fosters recollection, and I want you to remember these important images and what they represent.

When John looked again, he saw me enthroned in glorious splendor, holding in my right hand a scroll, seven times sealed. Remember that the number 7 often reflects perfection or completion. In other words, the scroll I held was impenetrable.

(2-4) One of my attending angels said loudly for all to hear, “Who is worthy to break open these seals and open the scroll?” His question was rhetorical, a proclamation of truth, because he knew that there was no one worthy. Not even the most luminous angel, nor the most intelligent human, nor the strongest beast on earth or under the sea could penetrate even the first seal. When John understood this, he wept bitterly. The realization that there was no one or nothing that could reveal the scroll’s contents was heart rending.

Beloved, do not put your trust in humans, in society, in education, or in the planet for salvation, for there are none who are up to the task.

(5-6) Yet as John cried, one of the elders said, “John, you do not need to weep any longer. Wipe the tears from your eyes and see the Lion of Judah, the Root of David has conquered sin and death. He alone is worthy to open the scroll and reveal its contents.” The elder’s words evoke images of strength and power, a conquering king and a devouring lion, the very messianic hope of the Jews who expected Messiah to rule with power, yet when John wiped the tears from his eyes to see better, he beheld a slain lamb, the very image of powerlessness and sacrifice. John described the lamb as slain, but again used unusual imagery to provoke imagination. He saw seven eyes and seven horns, and seven spirits throughout the whole earth. My Son, crucified and risen, is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. His redemption was not only individual, but cosmic.

(7-10) My Son, the sacrificial lamb, yet ever glorious, took the scroll that no one could open, for he alone is worthy. When he took the scroll, all creation fell before him in worship, just as it should be, filling heaven with music and prayers. They lifted their voices in praise to my Son, singing a song that had never been sung.

You are worthy to take the scroll,
you and you alone;
to break the seals upon its edge,
holy cornerstone.

You were slain and by your blood,
you set the people free;
from every tribe, nation, and tongue,
you made one family.

You made one nation under God,
each citizen a priest;
restored shalom rules the land,
where love will never cease.

(11) A host of angels, more numerous than you could possibly imagine, will join the chorus. Remember, I am reconciling all things—nations, families, and creatures. Heaven and earth will be totally redeemed by and for my Son.

(12-14) The unified voices of all creation shall celebrate the work of my Son, who by his death revealed that my kingdom operates by love, not by power and control.

            Worthy is the lamb,
            to receive every wondrous thing;
            power and wisdom, honor and glory,
            belong to the sovereign king.

Beloved, every creature—not one excluded—shall proclaim with all that is within them,

            To the one seated on the throne,
            and to the lamb of God;
            be blessing, honor, glory, and strength,
            forevermore we’re awed.

Heaven will be unceasing presence in my love. There will not be one thing out of place. You will look around and see that you are joined in worship with every saint and angel and creature. You will not be able to do anything but fall down and worship. Oh, what a glorious redemption!

Chapter 6

(1) The lamb, my crucified and resurrected Son, who was the only one worthy to open the scroll, broke the first seal. One of the four creatures thunderously roared, saying, “Come.” Beloved, you know the sensation of a clap of thunder and how it reveals power, sending a shiver down your spine. My kingdom is filled with power that is infinitely more awesome.

(2) As John looked, he saw a white horse. A rider was seated upon the horse with a bow in hand and a crown upon his head. John understood, just as I want you to understand, that the crowned rider was my Son. Remember that John used symbols and vivid imagery to help you not only to understand, but to feel what is happening. The color white symbolizes purity and holiness.

Also, let me remind you, do not try to understand John’s vision with wooden literalism. The lamb is Christ. The rider is Christ. Not two Christs, but only one. He is the one who conquered, is conquering, and will conquer death. He is before all things and he is after all things.

(3-4) The red horse was revealed by the breaking of the second seal. The second creature, with a loud voice, echoed the first saying, “Come.” The horse was frothy red, like blood spilled upon the ground. I allowed the rider to take peace from the earth as he wielded a great sword. The red horse, beloved, is violence and war and it stands in opposition to my kingdom.

People are often enamored by the vibrancy and power of the red horse. They come to believe that violence must be an appropriate way to establish justice. Look around you. The world is filled with violence; the hoof prints of the red horse are everywhere. There are wars in every corner of the globe as nations go to battle. Violence fills your homes, your streets, and your very hearts. Power and control are used to oppress, yet the people who hold the power call oppression “just.” Just war is a misnomer. There is no justice in perpetuating violence against others.

Eugene Peterson wrote, “The perennial ruse is to glorify war so that we accept it as a proper means of achieving goals. But it is evil. It is opposed by Christ. Christ does not sit on the red horse, ever.”[5] Beware, beloved, of becoming enamored by the red horse. Violence is not the way of my kingdom.

(5-6) When Jesus opened the third seal, the third creature spoke, saying, “Come.” A third horse arrived, black as midnight, with a rider dressed in black and holding a pair of scales. Again, Peterson understood, writing “famine is nature out of balance.”[6] If you have seen a picture of this type of scale, you know that it consists of two plates balanced by a bar at the top. Some known amount is balanced against something unknown so that what is sold or traded is done so equitably. The image of fairness is the reason these scales are often associated with the legal profession. John heard a voice cry out “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine.” Although you understand some of these words, their meaning, out of cultural context, may be unclear. The voice was saying that scarcity can lead to injustice. A denarius for a quart of wheat meant that a day’s wages were required to get four cups of wheat, which is enough for one large loaf of bread. Luxuries, like wine and oil, remained plenteous, but were not nourishing. When famine visits, all your “stuff” will not fill you—fancy cars, closetsful of clothes, shelves of unread books—none of those things will sustain you. I have called you to a just life; are you living justly?

(7-8) The fourth seal brought the final horse, pale green in color. Its rider was death who was followed closely by Hades, the twin powers of the underworld to the Jewish mind, representing the end of life. In a fallen world, death comes in many ways, whether by violence, injustice, disease, or even the beasts of the earth. Beloved, death was never my creational intent, but instead reveals the disintegration of creation. Allow the pain and death you witness to stir your longing for redemption, which will surely come.

(9-11) After the four horsemen appeared, my Son continued to open the seals. At the breaking of number five, John saw all the faithful who had been killed, covered by the blood of my Son. They cried aloud for cosmic justice and the restoration of all things to wholeness. Every person was given a white robe, signifying their purity in my Son and instructed to rest, even though injustices continued. Beloved, in my Son, you have been made whole. Rest in that truth. Return to your center even when there is so much spinning around you.

(12-17) With the breaking of the sixth seal, the earth and the skies themselves revealed the cosmic effects of sin. It is not only human hearts that are disintegrated, but the whole cosmos. The earth trembles and the moon bleeds. The stars collapse in despair. Skies and mountains and kings hide themselves away from the Great Sadness.[7]  Neither a mountain’s majesty nor a king’s sovereignty are sufficient to push back the darkness.

Chapter 7

(1) Beloved, as you might experience in a grand symphony, there are interludes in John’s apocalypse, moments at which you are invited to listen from a different position. There are always multiple voices and melodies in my kingdom’s symphony. Like John, pay attention to all the details that you are able to take in. Imagine that the orchestra had been drumming along with a growing intensity and suddenly, the music dramatically quieted down as John saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth restraining the winds. Everything went quiet.

(2-3) In the silence, a fifth angel rose from the sun, seal in hand and singing loudly to the four angels who had the power to harm land and sea, telling them to wait, because there was still work to be done. Marred creation was to be unharmed until my image bearers were marked and sealed by my love.

(4-8) Then John heard the number of the sealed—144,000—12,000 from every tribe. Beloved, this is one of those places where a great deal of damage has been done by an unimaginative literalism. Some people and groups have suggested that John meant a literal 144,000 people, but that was not John’s literary intent. The number was meant to communicate fullness and completeness. The number twelve was significant, representing twelve tribes and twelve apostles.[8] The Kingdom of Heaven is not merely old and new added together but multiplied to the nth degree.  Eugene Peterson wrote, “The sealing is inclusive: Every person from every tribe. The number 144,000 is, as most numbers in the Revelation, symbolic, and what it symbolizes is a vast thoroughgoing completeness.”[9]

(9-12) Using parallel structure for poetic emphasis, John wrote that he saw (paired with heard) a crowd that no one could count (paired with 144,000) from every tribe, every nation, every language, and every group standing together around my throne and surrounding my Son, the crucified lamb. Every person was clothed in white holding palm branches and singing harmoniously,

Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on heaven’s throne;
and to his holy lamb,
glory to God alone!

Notice, beloved, this innumerable chorus, made up of every person from every tribe, referred to me as “our” God. Beloved, I am Father to every single person who has ever walked the planet. Every angel, every person, and every animal joined in worship. All fell prostrate before me, not in fear of judgment, but in reverential awe and praise, singing together,

Amen, this is as it should be,
blessing and glory to the lamb;
wisdom and honor, thanksgiving and power
belong to the great I AM.

 (13-14) One of the elders spoke to John, asking, “Who are all of these, John, the ones clothed in white robes and where did they come from?” Overwhelmed with awe, all John managed to say was, “Sir, you know.” The elder replied, “Each of these has passed through a great period of suffering, division, and brokenness, a time when the whole cosmos revealed the pain of disintegration, unwholeness, and sin. Having passed through, they were purified in the blood of the lamb.”

Beloved, you cannot make sense of life on earth as you know it because it is not the way I created it to be. When I called creation into existence, I made it for wholeness, shalom, and unceasing love, but from the beginning, sin has invaded everything. It has seemed to you that disintegration has prevailed, but once you pass through the desert, which will be a lifelong journey, you will return to shalom. This great tribulation will pass, and you will join this multitude of multitudes, purified by my Son’s blood and restored to wholeness.

(15) John then heard this poetic hymn:

            All people join in union,
            before his holy throne;
            serving him day and night,
            the Holy One alone.

            He who is enthroned,
            in his kingly court;
            shelters with his presence,
            unfailing love, his support.

            They will feel no hunger,
            and God will quench their thirst;
            the sun will never scorch them,
            because they are loved, not cursed.

            The lamb becomes the shepherd,
            and leads them to the stream;
            the Father wipes their every tear,
            he’s even better than he seems.

Beloved, the pain and the brokenness you feel in and around you will one day come to an end. I know that can be hard to believe when the darkness presses upon you. Remember, my Spirit is never far from you; He is always present in and around you. My Spirit is love; my Spirit is wholeness. When you are hurting or afraid, lean into my ever-loving arms.

Chapter 8

(1) My Son broke the final seal and once again there was a hushed silence. In anticipation, everyone collectively held their breath. Beloved, the world is so noisy, when you are faced with the constant din, it does not allow you to stop and pay attention to things that truly matter.

(2-4) I showed John the 7 angels who were given 7 trumpets, again pointing you toward the notion of completeness. My whole church is equipped with trumpets, which are instruments of annunciation that can be heard far and wide. Another angel came and stood in their midst, holding a censer with much incense, to offer every prayer to me on the golden altar. The angel mixed the prayers of all the saints with the pleasing aroma rising to heaven. In silence, I hear them. In the circle, I see. On the altar, I smell. Your prayers are never hidden from me. I know them completely. In fact, I know your praying heart better than you do, because the impurities are burned away upon the altar. I am never ignorant of your prayers, beloved.

(5) The angel took the censer and filled it with flaming coals from the altar and threw them upon the earth, to a thunderous crescendo, with flashes of lightning and thunder shaking the foundations of the earth.

Beloved, prayer is power. It is not by your effort or eloquence that things change. It is not by your intellect, your work ethic, or your personality that change is accomplished. I am the one who changes things and I hear your prayers—all of them, purified and redeemed, and I return them with power to shake the earth.

(6) Then John heard the first trumpet sounded by the first angel, who was in turn followed by the others for seven soundings. Beloved, it is hard to ignore a trumpet; its loud, shrill notes command the attention of everyone in its vicinity. Biblically, trumpets announce my presence and action. As you read through this movement, allow your mind to be filled with the images John is painting with his words. Let your memory be stirred to recall the old stories as well—the stories of creation, exodus, and exile. John readily directs your attention backward to the whole arc of redemption’s story by using similar imagery to the Old Testament writers.

(7) The first trumpet:

            Hail and fire mixed with blood,
            thrown upon the earth;
            grass and trees one part in three,
            become a blazing hearth.

(8-9) The second trumpet:

Mighty mountain, blazing fire;
cast into the sea;
Turned to blood, lives destroyed
again one part in three.

(10-11) The third trumpet:

Star’s descent a ball of flame,
into the rivers and springs;
wormwood fell unleashing hell,
with the bitterness he brings.

(12) The fourth trumpet:

The sun went dim with stars and moon;
restricting light from night and day;
a great shadow, dark and looming
shrouding all creation in gray.

(13) Interlude

John looked up and saw a great eagle soaring above him and crying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe to those who live upon the earth, for there are still three trumpets yet to blow.”

Beloved, John painted a stark picture. All creation is affected by sin—the earth and sea, skies and land. When you open your eyes, you see sin’s effects everywhere you look. The saints’ loud laments about evil and sin reach my ears. Evil was never a part of my creational intent.

Chapter 9

(1-6) The Fifth Trumpet:

Bright shining star, angel of light,
fell to earth from glory;
the prince of darkness with keys to hell,
opened the door for evil’s story.

The acrid smoke filled the air,
the skies blackened even more;
hard to see and to breathe;
is what evil has in store.

Like Moses’s plagues, the locusts came
but not for grass or field;
the sting of sin instead tormenting
those who would not be sealed.

They cling to sin saying no to love
cursing with every breath;
suffering pain, disintegrated,
they long not for wholeness, but death.

Beloved, John went to great lengths to help his readers grasp the pain and fragmentation of sin and evil. Many of them knew the pain of a scorpion’s sting. They also knew the hopelessness brought by a plague of locusts. Evil brings pain and hopelessness. My prophet Jeremiah[10] wrote this:

“Why is my pain unceasing,
my wound incurable
refusing to be healed?”  

(7-11) John’s depiction of the locusts in verses 7 to 10 disorienting and confusing. He described an unholy mashup—golden crowns, human faces, women’s hair, lion’s teeth, iron armor, loudly beating wings, and scorpion tails. Evil is disorienting. At times you are drawn to it, believing that it can somehow give you increased power, beauty, or humanity, but it never does. Evil’s intention is to destroy you and it is not easily defeated. Evil never proceeds from me and it is always a distortion of me. Evil’s king goes by many names Abaddon, Apollyon, the Satan, the devil, and the prince of darkness to name a few.

(12-19) The locusts were the first great darkness. There were yet two more. When the sixth trumpet sounded, four horns responded antiphonally, cuing the release of the spirits of destruction that I had restrained up to that point. These four spirits of destruction led a cavalry 200 million strong. Beloved, once more the actual number is irrelevant except insofar as it was impossible to fathom. Again, the vision that I gave to John broke natural law—horses with lion’s heads and serpent’s tails breathing fire.

The horn quartet loosed the spirits,
who were bound until this day;
to unleash death upon the earth,
killing one third of humanity.

Horse and rider prepared for war;
200 million strong;
breathing fire, acrid sulfur,
a destructive wicked throng.

(20-21) Beloved, I am not a God of destruction, but of wholeness, yet there are times that I allow evil to have its way. It is often in seasons of disorientation when people cry out to me, seeking clarity and comfort. Yet as John revealed in this vision, even such catastrophic loss is not enough to turn everyone. Many will continue to worship evil by the way they live and what they value. They maim and kill, steal and covet, and fail to honor others and so fail to honor me.

Chapter 10

(1-3) John witnessed another angel descend, clothed in beauty and majesty, reflecting my glory. The angel held a small scroll in his hand, which was dwarfed by the angel’s immensity. Straddling land and sea, my angel was seen and heard across the entire earth. He spoke not in a low rumble, but seven thunders that were heard heard globally.

(4) In faithfulness, John was going to write what he heard, but I said, “Seal up what you have heard. This, do not write.” You may remember that John concluded his gospel by writing, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written”[11] Beloved, do not be distracted from what is critical in my word by those things that are merely interesting. Too often, people get lost in minutiae.

(5-7) The angel, wrapped in clouds and adorned with a rainbow, which was a reminder of my promise to Noah,[12] raised his right hand to keep the focus upon me. He spoke with conviction that I, the One who has always existed and who created everything that is, would not delay my plan of redemption.  When the seventh trumpet sounded, the mysteries that my servants and prophets had spoken about for generations would be revealed.

Beloved, I know that life is often confusing. You wonder what I could possibly be doing. You read my word and sometimes you feel more confused than enlightened. Trust me, the time is coming when you will completely understand both who I am and what I am doing.

(8-9) I instructed John to take the scroll. He went to the angel and said, “Give me the scroll.” I was so proud of his courage to keep my word even in the presence of a magnificently terrifying spirit. The angel gave the scroll to John and said, “Take the scroll and eat it. It will give you an upset stomach, even though it will taste quite sweet.”

Beloved, my word was never intended to be only studied and admired, but to be ingested. Allow it to become a part of you. The prophet Ezekiel[13] was also instructed to “eat” my word, which was as sweet as honey to his lips. When you do more than merely taste my word, you will find it both comforting and convicting.

(10-11) Just as the angel had instructed, John ate the scroll. It was sweetness and then bitterness. Some people cannot get enough of my word, others reject it and the witnesses who bring it. John was told to prophesy again. His work was not finished. I wanted him to speak truth about people and nations, languages and kingdoms, though his message would not be well received.

Chapter 11

(1-2) Beloved, in his vision, John was given a measuring rod and instructed to measure the temple and the altar, but not the outside court. My people are my temple, the universal church. John was instructed to exclude the outer court, because although it had the appearance of godliness because it was associated with the temple, it was a place overrun by worldliness. There are many places and people that appear to be religious, but trample upon my message of love. Their time of rebellion is limited.

(3) John was also shown the two witnesses whom he also met on the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah,[14] who represented the law and the prophets. Beloved, you are my witness in this world that is being disintegrated by evil distortions of my goodness and holiness. I have empowered you to be a witness to the truth of my kingdom and to call people back to lives of love. As darkness descends, keep the light of my love burning. As people wander from my path, call them back. Many people will not heed your warnings, but I only ask you to be faithful to me.

(4) These two witnesses, who represented the faithful message carried by my church, were also described as two olive trees and two lamp stands. I brought these images, which came from Zechariah’s vision,[15] to John’s remembrance. Zechariah saw a vision of a golden lampstand topped with a bowl and seven lamps, each with seven wicks (lips), shining a bright light. Zechariah did not know what this vision represented and he was told by an angel that it was “the two anointed ones” who I blessed and who are attendants in my court.

Before moving on, ponder Zechariah’s vision a bit longer. Zechariah was my prophet at the time when Zerubbabel was instructed to rebuild the temple. As you are thinking about Zechariah, also keep in mind that John had just been instructed to measure the temple. For Zerubbabel, rebuilding the temple seemed impossible. The angel said to him, through Zechariah the prophet, “Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord of Hosts. Who are you, O Great Mountain? Before Zerubbabel, you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’”[16] Understand, beloved, I will bring my “temple”—not a building, but my people—to completion, not as a result of your strength or effort, but by my gracious Spirit.

(5-6) Many try to diminish, damage, and destroy these two witnesses, but my power overcomes any who seek to harm them. The prayers of my saints who bear witness to me are powerful. John used Moses[17] and Elijah[18] as examples to remind you of my power. Stay faithful, beloved, stay faithful.

(7-10) Evil makes war on my truth and those who proclaim it. Indeed, evil will kill and conquer for a time, leaving the corpses of the faithful in the open as a reminder of their strength. Throughout history, saints have been persecuted and killed for their faithfulness to me. It happened in Egypt. It happened in Sodom. It happened in Rome. The evil one tries to convince as many people as possible that he is the all-powerful one. People from all over the world will join in evil’s celebration, even giving one another presents as they rejoice at what they believe to be my demise, pointing to the dead witnesses as evidence, but evil’s time is limited.

(11) Eventually, I breathed life once again into my witnesses. Christianity is all about restored life. When they arose, the people were afraid, having witnessed my power to give life.

(12-14) In a loud voice, I called to them, saying “come.” They ascended in the clouds just as my Son had done. All their enemies watched, dumbstruck. My voice shook the foundations of the earth. A tenth of the city crumbled to the ground killing 7000 people. Those remaining were terrified at the revelation of my power and they gave glory to me. My voice is louder than the roar of a thousand lions. In comparison, Satan speaks with barely a whisper.

This is the second woe.

(15-16) The seventh trumpet sounded, and it was joined by a loud chorus in heaven, pronouncing that the kingdom of the world has become my kingdom. Beloved, although I have permitted evil to reign, I have never lost control. I am, and always have been, the Great High King. I have not abandoned my creation; I am redeeming it, together with my Son, the firstborn from the dead and the agent of reconciliation of all things. The 24 elders, enthroned around me, fell on their faces in respect and worship, saying:

(17-18) We give thanks, Almighty God,
whose reign will never end;
omnipotent, you rule on high,
our master and our friend.

The nations raged against your name
proclaiming “God is dead;”
but your wrath came upon evil’s name,
from you, all darkness fled.

You stand as judge o’er all the dead
your perfect justice revealed;
good and holy, loving and just,
evil’s death sentence you have sealed.

Saints and sinners, both small and great;
are covered by Christ’s blood;
while evil drowns and sin is destroyed,
in restoration’s flood.

(19) While that chorus rang out, my heavenly temple was opened, and the Ark of the Covenant was revealed. The ark was made during the exodus[19] and it contained the tablets of my covenant with my people. Under the old way of the written code, the ark was kept separate from the people; they could not touch it without dying. Only the high priest could come near and then only once a year, but when all creation is fully restored, there is no division between us. You can gaze upon me anytime because my Son’s holiness is your holiness, his wholeness is your wholeness. The sounds and sights are given as a reminder of my presence with you.

Chapter 12

(1-2) John was a witness to the battle of all battles as it played out in the sky about him. Two characters appeared—a woman, clothed in the light of the sun, and a great and powerful dragon. Beloved, pay attention to the multilayered representation John saw. The woman shrouded in brilliant sunlight with the moon under her feet was pregnant and feeling the pains of childbirth. She was Eve at the dawn of creation and re-creation. She was Mary, the chosen handmaiden and mother of my Son. She was Israel, wearing the crown of 12 stars. Do not forget that the story I am telling is everyone’s story from the beginning of all things to the end.

(3-4a) The second vision, flanking the first, was of a great and terrible dragon. It was blood red, the color of death. It had seven heads and ten horns. On its heads were seven crowns, representing the dragon’s great power. With its tail, the dragon swept a third of the spirits from heaven to earth, minions to do his evil bidding. Satan, the great dragon, the evil serpent, has always sought to deceive and mislead my people, in order to draw them away from me so that he might destroy them.

(4b-5) The dragon hovered over the woman as she labored. He had every intention to destroy her child, who is my Son. Satan has no greater desire than to devour my Son, both the hope that he brings and the life that he gives, yet Satan’s power is no match for me. He cannot thwart my plan. My Son is kept safe in my throne room. With strength, he rules over all nations. His reign will never end, but his method of rule is the opposite of the dragon’s.

(6) As you await final redemption, you will experience wilderness seasons. In fact, when you finally and fully know the extent of my love and the completeness of communion with me, you will look back and realize that it was all wilderness. Even so, as you live in the wilderness, remember that I will never leave you. I have prepared this place for your nourishment until you finally come into the fullness of your union with me.

(7-9) There arose a great war between good and evil, love and hate, the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of earth. I sent Michael, the commander of the heavenly armies to battle against Satan and the demon horde. The devil was thrown from the battlefield onto the earth together with his evil army. He set to work doing what he does best, which deceiving the whole world.

(10-12) John heard a voice from heaven, loud enough to rouse the whole world and meant to drown out the evil whispers of Satan. “Behold! The salvation and power of God has come! The kingdom of God has arrived. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Christ. The accusers have been kicked out of heaven. They have been conquered by the blood of the lamb, the crucifixion of the Christ.” Beloved, my Son conquered evil and death not by a show of worldly power, but by love and sacrifice. The kingdom of God does not operate by the same rules and methods as the kingdom of the world. It does not operate by control, but by love. I am not calling you to retaliation, but to self-sacrificing love. Even in death, you remain my beloved child so rejoice! Celebrate your life with me and do not fear your death, because death means perfect communion with me. Your life on earth will still have times of darkness and disorientation because the devil, angry and wounded, redoubles his efforts knowing that he does not have much time left.

(13-14) When the dragon was thrown to earth, he still had fight left in him. He went after Mary, the mother of Jesus, seeking to destroy her, but she was carried to safety by a majestic eagle. Beloved, persecution comes to everyone who is faithful to my Son, but not without deliverance. Even in wilderness places, I will not let you be destroyed. I am always committed to saving your soul.

(15-16) The serpent is a cunning deceiver; he always has been. Remember Eve’s conversation with him in the garden.[20] His only motivation is to devour my image bearers by any means possible.

John wrote that “He poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood.”[21] The flood was lies and deception, which is the devil’s only weapon, yet creation itself came to her rescue. Beloved, never forget that it is not only individual saints or specific churches, but all creation that worships me. It may be difficult to understand, but you are not isolated from this world. You are a part of it, and it is a part of you. The earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood, bringing her through safely.

(17) The dragon was furious that his plans were thwarted. Unable to destroy my beloved daughter, he turned his rage to the offspring of Eve and the offspring of Mary, the mothers of creation and recreation. The dragon made war on those who have committed their lives to following my Son, seeking to deter them from living lives of love and wholeness. He stood along the shoreline, awaiting the rising sea beast.

Chapter 13

(1-2) John saw Leviathan rising out of the sea. Like the dragon, it had seven heads and ten horns, but had ten crowns rather than seven. This sea beast had blasphemous names tattooed on its heads. Once again the image was disorienting. John did the best he could to describe what I revealed to him. The many headed beast appeared like a leopard, with a bear’s feet and a lion’s mouth. Beloved, allow your imagination to ponder John’s vision.

(3) The beast continued the serpent’s deception. It appeared to have sustained a mortal wound that had been healed. As you know, my Son was mortally wounded and resurrected all for your benefit. You should not be surprised that the deceiver would seek to draw people away from me toward him by appearing to mimic my Son and many did follow him, awed by his deceptive appearance.

(4) People worshipped both dragon and sea beast, blinded by their lies and drawn to their apparent power. Beloved, understand that these dynamics play out in your midst. People align themselves with power systems who use control and manipulation to communicate that ultimate victory comes through them. In John’s day, Rome was the seat of power. They spoke of Pax Romana, the peace of Rome, yet it was only through power and control that Rome maintained its “peace.” Yet it was not only Rome; power structures have appeared again and again. Egypt, Babylon, and Germany; even the superpowers in your day. People are routinely wooed by power.

(5-8) The beast was permitted to speak blasphemies against me while at the same time making much of himself, claiming that he was the best and the brightest, the only one in whom they should hope. Indeed, the beast was permitted to lead for 3½ years. He was allowed to speak irreverently, misrepresenting me and slandering my Son. He was permitted to make war over every nation, tribe, and tongue. People who have not seen the goodness of my Son and the reality of my kingdom worship this deceiver.

(9-10) Pay attention, beloved, because this is happening in your midst:

If you are taken captive,
by the blasphemous beast;
serve your sentence faithfully,
until his rule on earth has ceased.

When your life is threatened,
by the edge of evil’s blade;
remember I will restore justice,
you need not retaliate.

Though the times are hard,
I want you to endure;
your eternal life is certain,
and your security is sure.

(11-15) John bore witness to yet another beast arising. It had the appearance of a lamb yet spoke like a dragon. In other words, beloved, it bore resemblance to the innocence and purity characteristic of my Son but poured lies from its mouth like the serpent. Do not be deceived by those who claim to represent Jesus, but who are doing the devil’s bidding. There are many deceivers who claim to represent my kingdom, but in truth, they are agents of darkness. They can conjure images to mesmerize people so that they are convinced that these deceivers represent me. The people end up promoting unrighteousness by calling evil good. In fact, these agents of evil go out of their way to give voice to the evil one, pouring out his lies as if they are true and those who do not accept the lies are marked for death. They will be ostracized and excluded for not buying into the beast’s ways wholeheartedly. Beloved, this is the method of corrupt power systems, including some governments, churches, and corporations. They rule by power and control, “killing” those who do not fall in line.

(16-17) They also control through economic manipulation. If you are unwilling to comply with their regulations or accept their label, you will be unable to participate in society. No buying or selling. You will be excluded if you do not submit to the beast and his ways.

(18) I want you to be wise, beloved. I created you with the capacity to reason and think; do not be hoodwinked by the deceiver. Do not be drawn away from following me by the show of power put on by the beast and his minions.

John concluded this section by highlighting the number of the beast, 666. A great deal of damage has been done by this number when people miss the forest for the trees. Do not fear the number itself, because it is just a number. The number 666 signifies a creature, not me, the Creator. Do not be deceived by what appears divine. Seven represents completeness; 666 is a lack of completeness in triplicate. There are multiple evidences of the beast’s counterfeit divinity.

Chapter 14

(1) John looked again and saw a hopeful sight. The first vision my Spirit revealed to him was my Son, the Lamb of God standing upon Mount Zion. Zion is where I dwell, a place of beauty, glory, and union. It is the place where life is just as it should be. The lamb was flanked by the 144,000. Let me remind you again, beloved, this number—a dozen dozen times one thousand—is symbolic of fullness, intended to communicate completeness to the Nth degree. Every person flanking my Son was sealed and marked by his blood. John could tell just by looking at them that they belonged to Jesus. 

(2-5) John heard a loud voice break out in song, flowing and powerful, inviting redeemed humanity to join the chorus singing hymns of praise to my Son. This was no cacophonous choir where everyone was singing their own tune, this sang as one, and oh, what music to my ears! They sang a brand-new song, a celebratory hymn, in gratitude for redeeming all of creation, reconciling heaven and earth, and joining old and new. Only those who know the purity bought by my Son, who seek to live their lives at his side, and who have come to learn that the way of the lamb could learn the lyrics. Beloved, you will never attain wholeness by power and control; instead, pursue love and other-centeredness.

(6-7) Above the choir, John witnessed an angel flying in the sky, preaching the good news of my Son, and of my kingdom to all people everywhere. The powers of the world—military might, intellectual mastery, and economic flourishing—promise satisfaction, but they are ultimately destructive. Everyone needs the love of my Son. The only true flourishing comes through joining our eternal community of love. This first angel cried aloud, “Fear God. Give him glory. The time has come for justice. Offer worship to the Creator and Sustainer of all things.”

Beloved, people are enamored by power structures, putting their hope in the wrong things. I am the one who has power to give and take life. I alone am the one who can restore justice; trusting in any other system is a fool’s hope.

(8) A second angel joined the first, proclaiming “Fallen, fallen is the great city Babylon, she who made the nations drink of her erotic elixir.” Understand, Babylon is the symbol of the kingdom of the world. It represents the ways of control, power, sensuality, injustice, and inequity, which are not the ways of the kingdom of God. Babylon maintains control by convincing people that they need things, material comfort, and sexual satisfaction. Babylon ensnares her citizens by persuading people that their self-centered desires are the ultimate good, but my image bearers are destroyed in the process.

(9-11) A third angel joined in, proclaiming that anyone who worships the beast will bear its mark and suffer pain. Beloved, when you insist on pursuing evil, I will let you have your way. Indeed, you will be marked by it. Your physical body keeps a tally of the choices and decisions you make. As Father Richard Rohr has said, “you are punished by your sins.”[22] You can be sure of this: I hate sin and I will destroy evil. Those who refuse my offer of love will be permitted to follow their own way, but they will feel the pain of fire, which will not relent as long as they refuse to turn to me for the healing that only I can provide.

(12-13) Once again, beloved, I want to encourage you to hang on, knowing that my Spirit is with you and in you. Keep following my Son and keep loving, even when it feels impossible. John heard yet another voice saying, “Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on.” My Spirit echoed, “Blessed indeed, now they may rest in the love that brought them this far.” Beloved, love is never wasted. You are blessed if you die in me and you are blessed if you live in me. Rest in my presence and feel my loving embrace.

(14-16) Next, John saw my Son, the great harvester and Lord of creation looking down from heaven with a sickle in his hand. A sickle, as you know, is a sharp instrument for harvesting crops. One of my herald angels announced that the time for harvest had come. My Son swung the sickle in an arc over the whole earth. His reaping was complete, all the sown seeds were a part of heaven’s harvest.

(17-20) More angels entered the scene, one appearing from my temple and another from the altar. The second called to the first,

Swing your sickle,
gather the ripened fruit.

The angel swung the blade and the plentiful vines were harvested and thrown into my winepress where I trampled upon them, spending all of my wrath against evil. Remember, I hate evil and I will do anything to destroy it. In fact, do not forget that I already have done so. On the cross when my Son said, “It is finished,” he meant it. John did not see wine flowing out of the wine press, but a river of blood, five feet high for nearly 200 miles. John’s description was intended to communicate a superabundance of blood, which was my Son’s. He was the one who gave his life on the altar. He was the one who gave his life for the world. Do not fall under the belief that his blood is in short supply or that I require your blood. He has already paid that price in full. John wrote elsewhere[23]  that Jesus is the vine; you only need to stay close to him.

Chapter 15

(1) John saw seven more angels with seven final plagues. After them, my wrath was spent. Beloved, I am certainly a God of justice and I will take out my anger against all those things that taint my creation and damage my image bearers.

(2-4) John also saw a vast sea of glass reflecting heaven’s fire. Every imaginable color danced upon the surface. Multitudes of my saints ringed the lake singing aloud in worship accompanied by melodies played upon harps. Theirs was a song of celebration, of worship, and of victory combining into one glorious chorus Moses’s song and the song of the Lamb, the old and new. But, o beloved, their notes were always meant to be sung together.

We raise our voices loudly,
to you our God above;
your amazing deeds,
are evidence of your love.

Your justice has been revealed,
no more deprivation;
You are the creator of all,
and king of every nation.

Are there any people, Lord,
who will not stand in awe;
giving you all the glory,
knowing you reign without flaw?

You are the holy One,
you, and you alone;
every nation is coming,
to you, our true home.

We will worship you forever,
Father, Spirit, and Son;
you’ve set all things right,
your restoration is done.

(5-8) The seven angels with the seven plagues came out from the tent of witnesses. They were clothed in my purity and shrouded in my magnificent light. They approached one of the four creatures who sat near my throne, and each was given a bowl filled with my wrath against evil. I have no beginning nor end. I am eternally existent. Radiant glory and heavenly flame surround me. No one can enter my holy presence until I have dealt with sin. My Son, crucified and resurrected, conquered evil to make way for you. At the end of all things, every vestige of evil will be vanquished. Sin cannot remain in my holy presence. It will be utterly and finally destroyed.

Chapter 16

(1)  A loud voice called from the temple instructing my angels to pour these seven bowls of wrath upon the earth. The effect of my wrath against sin was comprehensive. All sin leads to painful effects. The seven trumpets sounded.

(2-4) At the emptying of the first bowl, painful sores broke out upon all who continued to follow evil’s path. This reminded John’s readers of the sixth plague visited upon the Egyptians,[24] which I sent so that Pharaoh might relent and allow my people to worship and celebrate. So too with the second bowl, which turned all the sea to blood, killing every living thing beneath the waters. This was a reminder of Moses’s first plague when he turned the Nile to blood,[25] but now it was the entire sea. Death and disintegration are the end point of evil, beloved. The third bowl turned fresh water to blood, so that there was no water to drink. A culture that lives in self-centered rebellion will feel the pain of that evil living. Choosing to live for power and control rather than love and stewardship leads to death.

(5-6) The spirit of the waters said:

Holy and just are you,
O loving, Holy One;
our God who was and is,
and is yet to come.

Just and holy judgments,
come from your sovereign hand;
sentencing the violence,
that courses through the land.

The servants of the darkness,
shed the blood of holy ones;
now their drink is blood,
their evil is undone.

They feel the exquisite pain,
of sin’s aftermath;
they all received what’s coming,
as they treaded evil’s path.

(7) The altar, the place where sacrifice for sin was made, responded:

Yes, o glorious Lord,
you are the Almighty One;
your judgments are ever true,
as your justice is done.

(8-9) The fourth angel poured the contents of the bowl. The sun’s heat intensified, and people were burned as if they were in the fire. Indeed, beloved, evil cares nothing for my creation, failing to take seriously the consequences of disrespecting the earth that I created. With a depleted atmosphere, the sun’s intensity will rage, and people will burn. Cancers will increase, and yet the people will not turn from their sin. Instead, they will curse my name. They will say to the faithful, “Where is your God now? If he is so loving, why is he inflicting this evil upon his creation?” Unfortunately, many will double down on evil rather than turning to me.

(10-11) The fifth bowl was poured directly upon the seat of evil’s power; darkness covered the whole land. Clean air was destroyed, replaced by foul air that blackened the atmosphere. The darkness invaded the bodies of the unrepentant. They were in constant anguish, and in their pain, they filled the air with curses against my kingdom and still, they would not turn.

(12-14) The sixth angel poured the sixth bowl directly upon the Euphrates River. John observed the water dry up, smoothing the way for invading armies. Nothing would stand in the way of justice against evil and still the evil one would not relent. The mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophets each belched forth evil spirits that looked like frogs, a reminder of another one of the other plagues visit upon Egypt[26] They went to the world’s rulers, croaking deceit and performing signs to draw these leaders to their side, because the great battle with my kingdom was approaching. They convinced the leaders that power and injustice, the way of the dragon, would overcome love and mercy, the way of the lamb.

(15) John interjected a reminder that I could appear at any time. Beloved, do not lose heart. Keep living a life of love and do not to lose hope. Do not embrace self-centeredness as the way of life.

(16) The dragon and his evil armies gathered for battle.

(17-21) The seventh bowl was poured into the air and out of the temple, a loud voice thundered: “It is done!” The earth shook and the skies trembled as they never had before. No one questioned that it was my divine power at work. At the sound of my voice, the seemingly unstoppable kingdom of the world split in three. Apparently impenetrable cities were divided and the strongest nations split. I did not forget Babylon, the figurehead of all earthly kingdoms and nations that ruled by might. I never ignore injustice. Unjust kingdoms feel the sting of my wrath as I set all things right. Creation itself, tainted by the fall, fled from my justice. A plague of hailstones—a hundred pounds each—fell from the sky, killing rebellion.[27] My justice and holiness are disorienting for a world that lives under evil’s dominion. Pressure leads to disagreement rather than unity for the dragon and his followers. Still rather than turning in repentance, the people uttered against me.

Chapter 17

(1-2) One of the seven angels told John, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great whore who is seated on many waters, with whom the world’s leaders have committed immoral acts, becoming drunk with her influence.” Beloved, the image of the whore that John witnessed was not about sex. Often, when you hear words like whore or prostitute, you think about sex, but sex is not the point. The great whore, Babylon, represents the kingdoms of the world, who promise satisfaction without commitment and pleasure without love. She makes herself up to entice people to following an easier way, but that is not the way of my kingdom.

(3-4) The angel ushered John into the wilderness where he witnessed the “woman” astride a scarlet beast that was tattooed with evil names from head to toe. The beast had seven heads and ten horns, symbolizing immense power. She was adorned with all the markings of beauty, royalty, and success, but these were false markings. Beloved, false beauty is the ruse of prostitutes, who make themselves up and dress in tantalizing ways to stir unholy desires. The whore held a golden cup in her hand, but its contents were evil poison, abominations of goodness.

(5-6a) She is mysterious and tantalizing. She promises fulfillment. Her sultry voice draws you in as she whispers “Come to bed with me. I promise that I am the path to fulfillment.” All the distortions of goodness, truth, and beauty in the world find their connection to this mother of evil. She promises pleasure at the cost of those who follow me, saying “What is the death of a few for the ultimate fulfillment?” Kingdom after kingdom drinks from her poisonous cup.

(6b-10) John was astounded at the image of the great whore, who exists to tantalize and deceive. He saw the death she brings upon the earth. The angel said, “Why do you marvel? Such evil has deceived generation after generation.” Unfortunately, when you fail to see the goodness in my divine plan and follow the way of love, you will be wooed by her deceptions. In order to see clearly, you need the wisdom that comes only from knowing me.

The angel told John that the beast’s seven heads are seven kings, some of whom had already died, which raises an important point. What John witnessed does not follow a chronological timeline, so do not try to understand it that way.

(11-14) The beast will be destroyed. The ten horns are ten rulers who follow the way of the beast. Do not try to connect specific world rulers with the ten horns or with the seven heads. Rather, understand that history is filled with leaders who oppose the way of the lamb by leading with violence and power. Everything about the way of the beast opposes the way of the lamb and yet beloved, my Son’s way of love will conquer. He is the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords. Stay faithful to him.

(15-18) The disintegration of the way of the prostitute begins from within. Remember, Satan exists to confuse and divide. Is it any wonder that his dominion would itself become fragmented? The prostitute was present with all nations, tribes, and tongues, but the ten rulers will come to hate the whore and will go to war against her. She will be revealed as a fraud and the power-mongers will destroy her. Beloved, conflicts and confusion brew in the minds of everyone who opposes my Son, which is an important step in evil’s demise. At the time of John’s writing, the woman was identified with the great city, Rome, which many believed ruled all of the earth, though massive kingdoms have existed in many eras.

Chapter 18

(1-3) John witnessed yet another angel, clothed with divine light, descending to the earth. With great authority, he called out,

Fallen, fallen,
is Babylon the great;
a focal point for evil,
and demonic hate.

A magnet for power,
and impurity;
always attracting to it,
evil birds and evil beasts.

Every nation imbibed,
from her poisoned glass;
drinking impurity,
affections divided in half.

Rulers of kingdoms,
climbed into her bed;
they abandoned justice,
for evil power instead.

They overlook goodness
oppressing with power,
the rich got richer
inequity was sure.

Beloved, the kingdom of the world routinely follows the way of power and evil because evil promises immediate results. They are willing to oppress people and to foster inequity in order to control others. This has been the dirty little secret of many nations. Inequity abounds, but that was never my creational intent.

(4-8) A second angel offered an invitation.

Come out from her, my people,
do not join in her sins;
or her pain will find you,
from without and within.

Her sins piled up to heaven,
mountainous iniquity;
God will not forget,
his eyes, they always see.

She will be rewarded,
according to her deeds;
where she invested evil,
evil doubled she will receive.

She chose to live in luxury,
not sparing any cost;
manipulating others,
not caring who was lost.

She will be repaid,
with a brimming cup of pain;
though she justified herself,
saying ‘I am the ruling queen.’

She will drink injustice,
swallow every drop of mourning;
and death will find her quickly,
and strip her false adorning.

She will burn in flames,
consumed by holy fire;
injustice leads to judgment,
on restoration’s pyre.

Beloved, I am not indifferent to suffering. It may seem to you that I turn a blind eye to injustice, but even though you think I remain silent for far too long, I am never unjust. I will not permit injustice to reign forever.

(9-10) When I settle all the accounts, corrupt rulers and power mongers will weep and wail as they see their evil kingdoms destroyed by fire. They will keep their distance because they fear the same torment they inflicted upon others. Their dirge will be heard:

            Why are you destroyed,
            you shining city on a hill;
            you were our great hope,
            now hope has come to nil.

            In a single hour,
            you were razed to the ground;
            and now our lament is heard,
            all the world around.

(11-14) Those who have grown rich by taking advantage of peoples’ perceived needs will mourn at their significant loss. No longer will people be clamoring for stuff: fine clothes, the latest technology, beautiful jewelry, and the richest foods. Beloved, understand that when a society is based upon creating felt needs, people become numb to their most critical need, union with my Son. Unjust merchants take advantage of feelings of emptiness, doing whatever it takes to fill that need, even going so far as treating my image bearers as commodities. Sellers have grown remarkably rich by fostering covetousness.

            We met your every need,
            provided for every desire;
            now all our buyers’ wants,
            are consumed in justice’s fire.

(15-17a) The merchants could be heard weeping over their losses, fearing great torment.

            Oh great city
            you were dressed so fine,
            no luxury spared
            the richest food and wine.

            You wore chains of gold
            jewels and pearls galore,
            we filled your every ‘need’
            but those needs are no more.

(17b-19) But not only the merchants but those who shipped their wares joined in the lament, for their livelihood was also taken. In mourning, they placed dust upon their heads as they muttered,

            Why are you destroyed,
            oh Babylon the great?
            burning, burning,
            the city laid to waste.

            Our ships brought her wealth,
            and she brought us riches too;
            now that you are gone,
            whatever shall we do?

(20) But suddenly, John heard the tone shift to celebration.

            Rejoice, rejoice,
            people of Zion’s hill;
            God has brought his judgment,
            injustice has been killed.

(21) One of the mighty angels threw a giant stone into the sea, calling to memory the image of my prophet Jeremiah who threw a stone and scroll into the sea as a metaphor that Babylon would sink to the depths. Indeed, all of chapter 51 of Jeremiah prophesied the fall of the great city Babylon. Verse 64 says, “Thus shall Babylon sink, to rise no more, because of the disaster I am bringing on her, and they shall become exhausted.” I will destroy Babylon and all that she stands for and she shall never rise again.

(22-24) All her music will cease and never be heard again. There will be no more craftsman, millers, nor merchants. No celebrations, no weddings, and no light of welcome. Babylon’s greatness will be consumed to nothingness, destroyed by fire and left in darkness. All her deceptions and manipulations will be revealed. The truths for which generations of saints and prophets gave their lives will be realized in the death of Babylon. All that is evil will be cast into the utter depths. Only goodness, truth, and beauty—markers of my love—will remain.

Chapter 19

(1-3) But, O beloved, what rejoicing occurs in my throne room at evil’s defeat! Creation’s choir joined in harmony will sing at the top of their lungs about the salvation of all things.

may our great God be praised;
clothed in power and glory,
from evil’s rule he saves.

He judges evil justly,
and restores all that is true;
his judgment meted out,
upon the great prostitute.

She filled the earth with corruption,
and immorality;
but God’s avenging justice,
brought her mortality.

we sing forevermore;
the rising smoke reminds us,
that evil’s death is sure.

Beloved, what a great and magnificent thing! Do not ever lose sight of my saving power, which is more wonderful than you can possibly imagine. I am not just saving a person here and a person there from the eternal effects of sin, I am a God of cosmic salvation.

(4-5) John witnessed the 24 elders and the 4 creatures fall before my throne in worship. Do not miss the significance of who he saw. The 24, if you remember, represent the old and the new, the 12 tribes and the 12 apostles. They represent all people and not only a select few, but John also witnessed the 4 creatures, who signify my whole creation. John heard my voice encouraging every part of creation to worship me and all that I have accomplished.

Praise our holy God,
all servants of the King;
small and great alike,
in awe and wonder sing.

(6-8) Then John heard a great choir, made of many voices join with one voice, pouring forth thunderous praises:

may our God be praised;
the Lord enthroned in heaven,
He forever reigns.

In joy and exultation,
let us glorify the One;
eternal Trinity,
Father, Spirit, Son.

The time has come upon us,
for the marriage of the lamb;
to the bride made ready,
God’s eternal plan.

She was dressed in white,
no hint of impurity;
radiant and whole,
beloved and free.

My plan is total restoration, unifying all things in my Son. In him, you are made perfect and pure with no remaining hint of imperfection. You will dwell with me in wholeness, just as I created you to be.

(9) John’s angel escort instructed him to write these words, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the lamb. These words are true.” Beloved, a meal is communion. A meal is rest. A meal is nourishment. Never forget that you are welcome at my table; my bread and wine will never run out. Feast and enjoy!

(10) John was so overwhelmed with the goodness and beauty of the angel’s message that he fell before him in worship. The beauty of my message and my messengers stirs affection and longing, but my messengers are only a reflection of my glory. Angels and humans, spirit and soul, all creation exists to glorify me. Everyone and everything is invited to my celebration. There is not hierarchy among my servants. My Son’s testimony opens your eyes to what is true.

(11-12) As John continued watching the cosmic drama unfold before him, he saw the white horse once again.[28] The rider on the white horse comes to conquer. In fact, he is the only one who is completely true and complete. All unrighteousness, brokenness, sin, and evil are judged against his standard. My Son makes war on evil. Never doubt his holiness or sovereignty. He is not one king among many, he is the true King; not one messiah of several, he is the only one who can rightly be called the Christ. He cannot be reduced to the power of human reason because there are things that can only be known within the Trinity.

(13-14) A cavalry, clothed in dazzling white and each astride a white horse, surrounded him. The crimson of my Son’s blood-dipped robe stood out in sharp contrast to the army behind him. His blood was the only thing that restored purity to all who stood with him.

(15a) John saw a sword emerge from my Son’s mouth to strike down evil around the world. This sword, beloved, is the word of truth. Too often, images of heaven’s war are formed by what you see on television or in the culture around you rather than from an understanding formed by my word. Paul reminded the Ephesian church that the true battle is not with people, but with evil spirits that hold the world in bondage.[29] The sword is my Spirit manifested through my divine word. Taking up literal weapons will only seek to solve conflict with evil’s methods, which is a fight you cannot win. Rather, wield my word.

Also, when you read that my Son’s rule will be with a rod of iron, check your assumptions. John did not see Jesus ruling as a dictator; no, the image of iron should stir in you this understanding that his ways are solid and sure. Unbreakable.

(15b) My Son, holy and true, is the only justice bringer. It is not the army surrounding him that goes to battle, but Christ himself. They are there are as witnesses to the restoration of my holy kingdom.

John wrote that it is my Son who will tread upon the winepress, expelling fury and wrath. Understand, beloved, that my anger burns against evil and evil alone. In a winepress, all the grapes along with some vines and leaves are thrown in and they are crushed. Historically, this involved trampling on them with their feet. The grapes are mangled and utterly destroyed, but juice is released. As in refining, when silver is separated from impurities through fire, in a winepress, wine is separated from its “impurities” through pressure. My fury and wrath remove evil so that what is good and holy may be harvested.

(16) In the end, there will be no doubt that it is my Son alone who restores shalom. He is clearly marked as the King above all kings, and Lord above all lords. There is no other hope aside from him.

(17-18) John witnessed an angel shrouded in sunlight beckoning the birds to join my Son’s grand feast. They were invited to pick the bones clean of all those who stood for evil. My Son’s defeat of evil is total.

(19-21) The evil beast gathered with those who rely upon unholy control and dominion to make war against my Son, but if you pay careful attention, you will see that no battle took place. My Son had already captured evil and apprehended deception. The time of visiting pain upon my image bearers was done. The power of evil was vanquished, and its dominion was destroyed. I threw the beast into a lake of fire to meet his end where it was totally consumed. I have redemption entirely in hand; evil shall never have dominion again, because I will reign with love forever and ever.

Chapter 20

(1-3) Next, John saw a vision of another angel with a key and a chain in his hand. The angel bound the dragon for a thousand years, sentencing him to a pit where he was sealed away so that he could not deceive the nations, yet he would be released again.

Beloved, my servant Michael Gorman wrote wisely about this passage, saying “It is incredible…that so much ink and theology have been devoted to one paragraph of the apocalypse.”[30] Avoid the temptation to pluck verses and phrases out of the context of the grand story that I am telling in scripture. What I want you to understand is that Satan’s evil is subject to my sovereignty. If you become focused upon minutiae, you will fail to hear the story I am telling.

(4-6) John also saw an image of thrones, where those who were given authority sat. It is from these thrones where all the twisted truth would be straightened out and all injustice set right. History is filled with people who proclaimed the true message of redemption and who suffered and even died at the hands of the evil one’s servants. These faithful saints refused to acquiesce to evil, clinging to my Son with hope. They were restored to life to reign with Jesus as ambassadors of our kingdom. Those who are in my Son can never have his life taken from them.

(7-10) After a time, the evil one will be released and will again try to deceive the world, gathering an evil army to go to battle with my church, not realizing he has already been defeated. Even though he will assemble an army too large to count, it does not matter because evil’s reign is finished. Even when you feel evil pressing you on every side, remember that it cannot touch you because I am keeping you safe. Evil is consumed by my holiness and will be given no quarter in my kingdom. Evil shall be eternally remanded to the place of suffering that it wrought on earth.

(11-15) The image of evil was replaced by a vision of my white throne where I rule and reign in purity, holiness, and love. All creation—the very earth and sky—are subject to my power. The old, damaged cosmos flees before me. Beloved, I am the restorer of everything, not just individual souls. All the dead were gathered from the greatest to the least around my throne. My throne room contains a massive library filled with books, each one of them telling a part of the Great Story. The book of life, which contains every chapter, was opened. Every creature who ever lived was brought before me and I read their stories. If death had its way, each person would be judged by their own evil and brokenness and tossed into a place of eternal suffering, but it is what is written in my book of life that renders the final verdict. My Son authored the book of life; his life gives you life. If you trust in him, your name is written with his. Everyone is welcome, but it is your choice.

Chapter 21

(1) O beloved, John’s vision has reached a glorious climax, the description of the new heaven and new earth, which is my kingdom fully realized. Creation will be restored to the way it is supposed to be. Whole. Integrated. Reconciled. John saw a new heaven and new earth, which no longer bore the scars of disintegration. Heaven is not some far off place you go to when you die. Earth and heaven exist together.

(2-3) Then John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, descending. I had made her ready for union with me in my Son, husband and wife together. As you know, cities are places where people gather to make life together. Commerce, community, and culture are the hope of city dwellers, but there has never been a city that has fully reflected my holiness. Because of evil’s influence, they are infected with crime, inequity, and suffering. Cities often reveal intensely the effects that evil has had on the whole world, but in New Jerusalem, everything will be as I intend. We will dwell together in ways that you have never experienced, in fact that no living creature has experienced since the fall. We will live in union—I with you and you with me in perfect love.

(4) In that place, which will be every place, all suffering ceases. The sorrow and pain you feel right now will be no more. The tears you cry in your loneliness and hurt? Beloved, I will wipe them from your eyes myself. I know the depths of mourning caused by sin’s ongoing effects in your life and in the world. Everything that is wrong, broken, or unsolved will be made right in my presence. All of those old things that you believe can never be solved will pass away and you will be able to breathe deeply and say “Ahh…this is how it is all supposed to be!”

(5) I cried aloud, “Listen, I am making everything new.” Beloved, I will restore shalom to all things. Remember this truth day in and day out. I am always up to something good. Trust me.

(6a) I told John, as I am now telling you, “It is done. I am the alpha and the omega, the A to Z, the beginning and the end.” I am completeness. All stories are a part of my story. There is nothing that can be understood apart from me.

(6b-7) Are you thirsty? Come to me and drink. The life water that flows from my throne is pure and cool. It will never run out, and you will never be thirsty again. This is my gift to you. I will flood you with my grace and shower you with my love. You are a part of my family. Your eternity is with me and with my Son, in our Spirit, who is love.

(8) All evil will be destroyed in the lake of fire. Also, beloved, my offer of grace is available to everyone, but there are those who will still choose evil and death. I will not force anyone to accept my gift. Anyone who tries to bring evil into my kingdom will not be admitted unless they are willing to let me consume that evil in the lake of fire.

(9) One of the seven angels who poured out the plagues invited John to join him and witness my reconciliation. He said, “Come with me. I will show you the bride of the lamb.” Beloved, the bride is my church, made pure by my Son’s sacrifice. All the saints, from every nation, tribe, language, and denomination make up the pure bride, dressed in white.

(10-11) John was carried away to the great high city on Mount Zion, my dwelling place, New Jerusalem, which radiates my beauty, love, and wholeness. New Jerusalem is not magnificent because of its structures, but because you are free to live with me there.

(12-14) The wall of the city had 12 gates, each one inscribed with the name of one of the 12 tribes; not one was excluded. And there were 12 foundation stones, each bearing the names of one of the 12 apostles. Again, not one was excluded. Twelve and twelve; perfection and wholeness.

(15-16) The angel with John had a golden measuring rod. Its golden construction is meant to remind you of my truth. The measurements of the great city reveal symmetry, which alludes to my perfection. A perfect cube. The city is described as 12,000 by 12,000 by 12,000 stadia. I know you find yourself thinking about how big that is—it is roughly 1380 miles cubed. You also wonder how many people will comfortably fit but focusing on these particularities misses the point. Specifics like these might make sense in a fallen world, but they do not apply in my heavenly kingdom. John was show a city that was perfection times perfection times perfection. New Jerusalem is precisely as I intend.

(17) In the same way, the wall that measures 144 cubits—twelve times twelve—is meant to communicate perfection. I do not leave any forgotten details.

(18-21) John shared the details regarding the construction of my city in order to evoke images of wholeness and beauty within you and the way things can and will be. Walls of jasper and streets of pure gold are meant to stir awe within you. The walls are inlaid with precious stones of every color and the gates are made of a single pearl, the pearl of great price.[31] In my dwelling place, beloved, literally everything radiates shalom. I have not forgotten anything. I have not overlooked any detail.

(22) In Jerusalem, the temple was the centerpiece of the city and my dwelling place where my people congregated to worship me, but in New Jerusalem, there is no need for the temple because my Son and I dwell there. Our Spirit is everywhere.

(23-24) In Genesis 1:16, I formed the two great lights—the sun to light the day and the moon to light the night, but you will discover, beloved, that the purest light you will ever experience is my glory. My Son, the true and beautiful one, will always light your way. The light that forever emanates from him illumines the path to truth, goodness, and beauty. All nations and all leaders will abandon artificial light for my Son’s glory.

Beloved, his light is available now. Walk in it. Carry a spark of hope within you. In a world shrouded in darkness, be a beacon of hope. Radiate the goodness of my kingdom, helping people to see my Son who is the restorer of all things. One day, as we are dancing in my kingdom, everything will be complete. Until then, stir the longing for wholeness by carrying the flame of my kingdom within you.

(25-27) Pay attention, beloved. The holy city has twelve gates, but those gates will never be shut. John wrote that they will never be shut “by day,” but added that there will be no night there. There will be no fearful darkness to contend with; you will always be in my light. Sometimes people imagine that if people are too late in accepting my Son, I will lock them outside and throw away the key. Listen, the door is always open. Yes, gates are often used to defend cities and to shut out evil, but they are also the places of welcome. My gates stand open; come into the light. All love, goodness, beauty, and peace—the unique harmonies of all the nations will be gathered in. The only things that will not be allowed are those things that stand in contrast to holiness: evil, self-centeredness, falsehoods, and all forms of immorality. Heaven is a place for life, not death. Your name is on the guest list, but you can only come in if you are willing to leave evil outside.

Chapter 22

(1-2a) Next, John was shown the great river of life, pure and perfect, flowing from my throne. He saw the waters flowing right down the middle of the street. Water gives life, beloved, and true life always flows from me. Roads are places where people travel and where their lives come together. My people will be constantly cleansed in my river of grace on the journey into eternity.

(2b) Along the riverbanks, John saw the tree of life producing an abundant crop with twelve kinds of fruit with no dormant season. The leaves themselves brought healing.

Pay attention: John was recording this revelation, but the influences of earlier writers were evident. Take some time to read the early chapters of Genesis, which tells the story of creation. When I created, I looked at everything I had made and called it “good.” I placed my first people, Adam and Eve, in the garden to tend and care for it, but they turned from the way of love to self-centeredness, sin, and shame. In that garden, which was teeming with life, two specific trees were named, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.[32] Adam was told not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but together with his wife, they did,[33] which was the beginning of all evil, sin, and shame.

After eating from the tree, I sent Adam and Eve out from the Garden of Eden.[34] Many people wrongly believe that sending Adam and Eve from the garden was punishment, but it was an act of divine mercy. They had come to know evil, pain, brokenness, and shame, which stand in opposition to my creational intent. Because I did not want them to face an eternity under the weight of disintegration and sin, I did not allow them to eat from the tree of life, setting an angel guard before it to keep them safe until redemption was accomplished.

John also alluded to Psalm 1, especially verse 3, which reads:

            He is like a tree,
            planted by streams of water;
            that yields its fruit in season,
            and its leaf does not wither.

The psalmist was pointing to the blessing of a life connected with me, nourished by the flow of my life. Now, as you come to the very end of the Bible, you discover there is a tree on both sides of the river of life. That tree is the tree of life. In my realized kingdom, you may eat freely from this tree, nourished and refreshed by me forevermore. I am redeeming creation, healing every nation, and inviting you into my love.

(3-5) Beloved, there will never be anything evil, accursed, or disintegrated in that place. My Son and I will be there, and our Spirit will fill every space. Every nation and people will be gathered there. You will be filled with songs of praise, delighted at the realization of how things should be as we dwell together forevermore. You will proudly bear my name, which will shine radiantly like a halo about your head. You will never need to light a lamp to find your way. You will not even need the sun, because my radiance and glory are all you will ever need. For all eternity, my light will never dim.

(6-7) All of this message is trustworthy. I have everything well in hand. John gave you a glimpse of what is coming. My Son Jesus will be there soon, I promise. Keep your eyes heavenward and keep your feet on the path toward me.

(8-9) I chose to reveal these images to John, but it was a lot to take in. It still is. Once more, he fell down to worship my messenger and was reminded that I am the only one deserving of worship. You will be tempted to worship created things that reflect my truth, goodness, and beauty, but they are only shadows of my glory. Keep pressing deeper into your relationship with me. Keep following my Son. Let your whole life be an offer of worship.

(10-11) Though the time draws near, beloved, do not simply move on from what you have read. Keep these images in mind. Evildoers are still doing evil and immorality is still immoral, but the righteous still do right. Seek holiness and wholeness. I have not changed the standard. Live a life of love.

(12-13) Soon, I will set everything. Justice will prevail and evil will be no more. It is all a part of the epic story I have been writing since before time began. I was there at the beginning and I will be there at the end.

(14-15) You are blessed, beloved, blessed by the work of my Son on your behalf and blessed by my Spirit’s presence with you. I know your journey is long and you get tired. The grime from life in a broken world covers you. Come and wash up in my river of mercy and be refreshed by my love. I welcome you in my kingdom. My Spirit invites to eat as you wish from the tree of life and to experience eternal life exactly as I intend it to be.

Those who insist on clinging to immorality, deception, and injustice will refuse to come in. Although the gates stand open, they remain unwilling to live without those things that they believe they need and have come to depend upon in the kingdom of the world. Their willful blindness keeps them out, though the gates always stand open.

(16) My Son told John that he was the one who sent the messenger to tell him about the work of the Church in the world. Our story has never been merely about individual salvation, though it is not less than that. It is about my Son, the Bridegroom, joining in eternal union with his bride, my Church. Jesus was at the beginning of all things. He is the ultimate realization of Israel’s lineage, the King in the line of David, the Light of all lights, radiant in beauty.

(17) Beloved, the Spirit of my Church in the world, the Bride of Christ, is invitational, not adversarial. Everyone is invited to the wedding supper, not merely as a guest, but as the bride, lavished with my Son’s love. I know you are thirsty. Come and drink. The waters of eternal life with me will never run out. It is my gift, paid for by the Bridegroom himself.

(18-19) But pay attention, because this is important. Do not add or twist my word, my message of love, my heart for my people. Too often, well-meaning religious people get off track, emphasizing things that I never intended. They insist on unbiblical conditions, claiming that they have a unique “word from the Lord,” and have created pain by enticing people away from my core message. At the same time, do not take away from what has been written down. Do not minimize the cross, the resurrection, or the second coming. There is nothing more important than your relationship with me, both now and forevermore. Stay on the narrow road remembering that true life can only be found in my Son.

(20) I know it seems like the pain and brokenness is never-ending, but behold, my Son is coming soon. In light of eternity, beloved, your life on earth is but a flash of lightning. Keep looking up. He is on the way.

(21) Always keep my grace your eyes. Do not lose sight of what is coming. Keep your hopeful anticipation, because as my beloved servant Julian of Norwich wrote, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”[35]

[1] Eugene Peterson, Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination (New York: Harper Collins, 1988).  

[2] Matthew 17.

[3] Peterson, Reversed Thunder, 50

[4] See Daniel Siegel, The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are, 3rd edition (New York: Guilford, 2020).

[5] Peterson, Reversed Thunder, 77

[6] Ibid, 78

[7] William Paul Young, The Shack (Newbury Park, CA: Windblown Media, 2007).

[8] See Rev. 4:4.

[9] Peterson, Reversed Thunder, 83.

[10] Jer. 15:18.

[11] John 21:25, ESV.

[12] Gen. 9:13.

[13] Ezek. 3:1-3.

[14] Matthew 17.

[15] Zechariah 4

[16] Zechariah 4:6-7, ESV.

[17] Exod. 7.

[18] 1 Kings 17.

[19] Exod. 25:10ff.

[20] Gen. 3:1-5.

[21] Rev. 12:15, ESV.

[22] Richard Rohr, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House), 161.

[23] John 15:1.

[24] Exod. 9:8-12.

[25] Exod. 6:20-21.

[26] Exodus 8:2-11.

[27] See Exod. 9:22-25.

[28] Rev. 6:2.

[29] Eph. 6:12.

[30] Michael J. Gorman, Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness: Following the Lamb Into the New Creation (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2011), 144.

[31] Matthew 13:45-46.

[32] Gen. 2:9.

[33] Gen. 3:6.

[34] Verses 22 – 24.

[35] Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love (New York: Penguin, 1998),23.