A prophetic vision given to the Apostle John:


When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.  Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God and seven trumpets were given to them.  And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God.  Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, voices, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.

                                                            Revelation 8


The Lamb (the crucified and risen Messiah) breaks the Seventh Seal, the last seal on the scroll which determines the final days of planet earth.   When that seal is broken, the music of heaven suddenly stops.  There is a hush and a dread at the headquarters of the universe. 


The seven angels that appear before God are about to blow their trumpets, each trumpet signaling another catastrophe on earth.  But before they do an angel appears with a golden censer filled with incense.  The smoke of the incense is mixed with the prayers coming up from the earth---prayers of people like you and me.  Then the angel takes the censer and fills it with fire from the altar, and throws it down on the earth.  The earth begins to rumble with thunder and voices and lightning above and an earthquake beneath.  


Suddenly all hell breaks loose.  It’s the beginning of the End.  And it all starts when the Lamb, the Son of God, breaks the Seventh Seal. 


The idea that the kingdom of God is going to gradually cover the earth with peace was never taught by Jesus, or by anyone who ever knew Jesus.   The idea that the Church is meant to be a "stabilizing influence" in society was never taught by Jesus or by anyone who ever knew Jesus.  From the time he spoke his first words to his beloved Israel till the Roman soldiers nailed him to the cross, Jesus was a troublemaker, a disturber, a destabilizer.  


Yes he healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind, brought good news to the poor; but even when he was doing this, Jesus was shaking things up.  Preparing for the hour when, from heaven, he would break that Seventh Seal.


"I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!  I have a baptism to be baptized with and how I am constrained until it is accomplished!   Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law."

                                                            Luke 12


"I came to cast fire upon the earth, to bring down the sword of division between light and darkness, good and evil.  To wake people out of their lethargic slumber.  Because when I break that Seal, and the fire falls for the last time, a lot of fine respectable Christian folks are going to be in trouble."

This is why Jesus, the real Jesus, the Jesus who rose from the dead and is now Lord, visits you as you read these words, not only with words of healing and grace, but also words of warning.  "I came to cast fire on the earth….I came, not to bring peace, but a sword."


How can this be the same man who brought a little girl back to life from the dead? 


Who said to the woman caught in adultery, "Neither do I condemn you."?  Who invites us even now to come to him and find rest for our souls?


The same Lord Jesus, who loves us more than we can ever know, speaks hard words of warning, because he knows what’s going to happen when he breaks that Seal.  Because he knows what lies on the other side of death.  How wide is the chasm that separates Abraham’s bosom, where Lazarus dwells in peace, from the place of the Rich Man’s torment far below.  


Jesus is Incarnate Love, but that love is holy. You don’t mess with it.  And when that Love speaks, you pay attention. 


He also said to the multitudes, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming,’ and so it happens.  And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens.  You hypocrites!  You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky; but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?"

                                                            Luke 12


"You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky; but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?"   In other words, God incarnate was walking their streets, and all they could do was nit-pick.  A burning word was addressing their hearts, and they fell asleep.  What will become of them, when he breaks the Seventh Seal?


And now the Son of God says the same thing to us.  "You have weather satellites  and radar, predicting storms and floods and hurricanes.  How come you can’t figure out what’s going on?"   The hand of God is at work on this earth, and you see nothing.  The voice of God is thundering across the planet and you’re still busy playing church?


Don’t you see?  The fire Jesus came to cast on the earth is still spreading.  That sword of division which he brought is even now tearing up the earth.  And we go about our lives as if it’s all about baseball, apple pie and hockey!


"You hypocrites!  You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky; but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?"


We’re living at an hour when nations are out of control.  Just watch the news.  It’s a time when the weather is out of control.  Fires and floods like we’ve never seen.  And even more sinister,  technology is taking over every aspect of human life.  And instead of reading the signs, and paying attention to what’s happening, we keep pushing God off to the side, while we pursue our "dreams" and fight our petty battles. 


Well, what are we supposed to do?  What are we supposed to do?


He tells us in the very next verses.


"And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?  As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison.  I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last copper."

                                                                        Luke 12


The One who took our guilt upon himself, washed it away in his blood is telling us what we need to do to be ready for what lies ahead.  There will be a judgment.  You and I will give an account for what we did with the light we were given. 


You’re saved?  Good.  What are you doing with your salvation?


You’ve been forgiven?  Good.  Are you walking in forgiveness?

Does it flow through you to others?


Yes, Jesus says to those who draw near with penitent hearts, "Your sins are forgiven."  But then he also says, "Now that your sins are forgiven, clear things up with your sister, your brother."


Somebody has something against you?  Get it right before you’re called to account.


Unfinished business from your past that needs to be made right?  Now’s the time to do it. 


Many times over the years I’ve seen a person whose life was a mess, suddenly make a U-Turn, open their heart to God, and start making amends.  What a change this person has made!  A new attitude!  A new outlook.  A new life!  It’s a miracle!


Then one day soon after the transformation, they don’t come down to breakfast.  They’re lying up in bed, dead.   Or they’re killed in an accident.  Something deep within told them to get their house in order.  And they did.


As the Holy Spirit gets hold of us, he tells us to do just that:  Get your house in order.  He reminds us of things long forgotten.  He puts his finger on things that need to be made right, especially in our dealings with each other and with other people. 


"If you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go.  First be reconciled to your brother and then come and offer your gift.  ."

                                                            Matthew 5


"I’m putting into you the power of heaven," says the Lord,   "But you have to turn it into daily living.  You have to make the light shine."


You don’t take the light and hide it under a bushel!   You don’t receive God’s grace and try to keep it all for yourself!   You let the light shine!  You let the River flow—through you!  Not as a trickle, but as a torrent!


The work which God put into your hands to do, is it being done with a whole heart?


And the people God sends across your path to help, are they getting your attention?


Today again we draw near to the Lord for strength.  And he is here to pour that strength into our very bodies, as we commune with him in the bread and wine.  He is here to renew us with the breath of heaven, his Holy Spirit, who floods our being with the life of the world to come. 


"I’m giving you these gifts," says the Lord, "so that you can let the light shine.  So that you can take care of the business of the kingdom.  So that you can make things right that need to be made right, reach out to your Lazarus who is still waiting at your gate."  


"You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky; but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?"


If the world out there doesn’t realize what’s happening, they have an excuse.  They just don’t know.  But if we’re walking with the Lord Jesus, we ought to know what hour it is.  That it’s high time to wake out of our slumber. 


Whether the day of our death is just down the road or years ahead, whether the breaking of the Seventh Seal will happen at midnight tonight or five years from now, the message of the Lord to each of us is clear:


            Get your house in order.


And from now on, keep walking in the light.