LENTEN Readings

40 DAYS -no coincidence here!  There are some fairly high-profile events in Scripture that fit the 40-day window.  It started with Noah’s flood, remember?  40 days and 40 nights of rain!  Then Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai interceding for the people and getting instructions from God.  The spies surveyed the Promised Land for 40 days, Goliath taunted Israel’s army for 40 days, and Elijah ran for his life from Jezebel for 40 days.  Remember, too, Jonah’s message to Ninevah, “Forty days and you will be destroyed.”  Then we see that Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days and finally there were 40 days between the resurrection and His ascension to Heaven.

So it is that Christians as early as the Fourth Century began setting aside the 40 days prior to Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as a season of soul-searching, fasting, and good works.  As with any practice, it can be distorted or become an end rather than a means to an end.  My exhortation to the non-liturgical (and anti-) wings of Christianity is to give it a chance -try it, you might like it! -or at least it might do you a world of good!

So this is my gift to you:  Last year I combined the four Gospels into one narrative and made the “Story of Jesus” read like more of a biography.  I am going to divide the text into daily readings, each taking about 15 minutes, in hopes that you will set aside time to read the full gospel record in the forty days leading up to Resurrection Day.  In fact, I’ll go one better.  I’ve combined this with the book of Acts and Revelation into what I call “The Jesus Trilogy.”  You see, the gospels only convey “what Jesus began to do and teach.”  The book of Acts describes what it looked like when He began to “build His Church.”  And of course, REVELATION is the culmination of what God wants us to know about Jesus for now. So, read consecutively, we get a multi-dimensional view of the One who loved us and gave Himself for us.  I plan to continue the daily reading blogs right through the entire trilogy -should take less than three months.

I will also make the text available as a PDF for those who would rather print it out for daily use.  Lent begins this Wednesday, February 18.  Make sure you’re signed up to get notices in your inbox!

Oh, and let’s use the blog format for you to make comments on the journey as we head toward the Cross and beyond!

Blessed beyond words,

J. Dan Small

Download PDF:

TRILOGY Lent Readings 1-10

TRILOGY Lent Readings 11-21

The Finale — Day 14

May 14, Thursday

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ACT EIGHT – All Things New

Suddenly before me was a brand new heaven and a brand new earth. The first heaven and earth as well as the seas had all disappeared.

Then, what looked like a city, a New Jerusalem, came floating down from God out of Heaven. It somehow looked like a bride coming down the aisle to meet her beloved.

Next, a voice from the throne announced: “Look, everyone! God now lives among His people  — the Home He has always wanted. Now God will be your companion and will wipe every tear from your eyes. Never again death! No more pain! No more sorrow or sadness! Gone forever are your troubles!”

The One seated upon the throne added, “Yes! Everything is new! Count on it! Trust Me! I am setting everything right.” Then He turned to me and said, “My plan is complete! I am Alpha and Omega; I began it all and I will wrap it up just as I planned:

  • All who are thirsty can drink from My fountain of life at no cost.
  • All this is for the overcomers. I will be their God, and they will be My sons.
  • The cowards, perverts, unbelieving, idolatrous, murderers, and liars get what’s coming to them, too: an inheritance of eternal death, the second death, in the lake which burns with fire and sulphur.”

He then carried me away in spirit to the top of a tall mountain. He pointed toward that city I had seen descending from Heaven, radiant with the glory of God, the holy Jerusalem:

  • She sparkled like a precious jewel, crystal clear, made of the purest gold.
  • A massive wall surrounded the city with twelve gates guarded by twelve angels:
    • The wall itself was built of translucent stone.
    • There were three gateways on each side of the city: each gate was made of a single pearl.
    • The wall was set on twelve massive foundation stones:
      • On each stone was engraved the name of one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
      • Each was fashioned out of precious stone: jasper, sapphire, agate, emerald, onyx, cornelian, goldstone, beryl, topaz, green goldstone, zircon, and amethyst.

I watched as He measured the city with a golden measuring rod:

  • It formed a perfect cube whose length, width, and height were each 1400 miles in length.
  • The walls around the city were 216 feet thick.

Inside the city I saw even greater splendor:

  • There was no Temple or place of worship in the city because the Lord, Almighty God, and the Lamb are the Temple.
  • I saw no external light sources, sun or moon. God’s glory illuminates everything and the Lamb is the light.
  • The nations of the earth will operate in the light coming from the city, and they will bring their treasures and tributes into it.
  • The city’s gates will always be open since there is never night in the city.
  • Nothing unclean, no one dealing in dishonesty, nor any kind of evil can enter at any time.
  • Only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life are allowed in.
  • I saw the river of the water of life, sparkling like crystal as it flowed from the Throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed right through the middle of the city.
  • Planted along the banks of the river was the Tree of Life:
    • It bore twelve different fruits, a different kind each month.
    • Its leaves provided healing for all peoples.

No longer was there any evidence of the curse. As noted earlier, the throne of God and of the Lamb are within the City. God’s servants will gaze on His face, His Name engraved on their foreheads; and they will worship Him. There will be no more night and no need for artificial or external light because the Lord God will shed His light upon them, and they will reign together for timeless ages.

Then an angel said to me, “Know that everything you have seen and heard is utterly true! The Lord God, who inspired the prophets, has sent His angel to show His servants what is about to happen. You can rely on it!”

“Watch! I am coming soon!
Those who pay close attention to the words written here will be blessed.”

As I, John, wrote these things down, I was again overwhelmed and fell at the feet of the angel who was explaining it all to me. “No!” he said to me, “I am just your servant and the messenger to your brothers, to the prophets, and to all who take hold of the words of this book. Worship God!  And see that you do not hide this book,” he added. “Everything written here will come to pass soon. Those who are bent on wickedness can carry on in it; those devoted to doing what is right should steadfastly carry on living good lives.”

“See, I come quickly!
I am bringing My reward with Me.
Everyone will be rewarded
according to what he has done.
I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
Those who wash their robes are the truly blessed,
for they have the right to the tree of life
and freedom to come and go through the gates of the city.
Shut out from the city shall be the depraved,
the sorcerers, the impure,
the murderers, and the idolaters,
and everyone who loves and practices a lie!

“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to you with this Message for the churches. I am the One who created David, and I have now inherited his throne. I am the bright Morning Star!”

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!”

Let everyone who hears this also say, “Come!”

Let the thirsty ones and all who desire the water of life come and receive it as a gift.

In closing, let me solemnly warn the reader and all who hear the words of this book:

  • If anyone adds to these words, God will add to him the disasters described in this book.
  • If anyone takes away from the words written here, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city which are described in this book.

He who is behind all of this says, “Yes, I am coming very quickly!”

Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all His people.

The Finale — Day 13

May 13, Wednesday

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ACT SEVEN – The Final Showdown

SCENE 1 – Confrontation

Then the heavens opened like a stage curtain and a magnificent white horse stood before me. The One who sat upon the horse was breathtaking:

  • He is called Faithful and True — His every act of judgment is flawless; every act of war, justified.
  • His eyes are flames of fire.
  • His head is covered in jeweled crowns.
  • There is a Name written on Him which only He knows.
  • His robe is dipped in blood.
  • He is called the Word of God.
  • Out of His mouth extends a sharp sword to strike the nations. As it is written, “He will rule them with a rod of iron.”
  • Singlehandedly He will tread the winepress of the furious wrath of God Almighty.
  • Emblazoned across His robe and on His thigh is the title King of kings and Lord of lords.
  • The armies of Heaven follow Him, riding on white horses and dressed in spotless, white linen.

I saw another angel standing right in the blazing light of the sun. He called out to all the vultures, saying, “Come! Gather together at God’s great feast! Enjoy a banquet of rich meat as you feast on the flesh of kings and generals, warriors, horses and their riders, slaves and free, small and great!”

Meanwhile, on earth, I could see the beast along with the kings of the earth and their armies all converging in the valley of Armageddon. The next thing I knew, the beast and his false prophet, who, by his miracles, had deceived the world into taking the mark and worshipping the statue, were captured and thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with sulphur. The remaining armies of the earth were wiped out by the sword that came from the mouth of the Rider on the white horse. The birds of prey had the feast of their lives!

Next, I noticed an angel descending from Heaven, carrying a key and a huge chain. He grabbed the dragon, the serpent of ancient days who is also called the devil and Satan, and bound him with the chain. Then he hurled the devil into the pit and locked it shut for one thousand years so that he could have no access to the nations until the thousand years were over. Only then would he be temporarily released.

SCENE 2 – The First Resurrection

After that, thrones were set up; and all the saints who had been martyred for proclaiming God’s Message and the story of Jesus (these were the ones who had refused to worship the statue and had not accepted its mark on their foreheads or hands) were resurrected and set on the thrones to reign with Christ for one thousand years. Uniquely blessed are those who get in on the first resurrection. They can never be touched by the second death. Instead, they get to serve God and Christ personally and reign alongside Christ for the thousand years. The rest of the dead won’t come to life until after the thousand years.

SCENE 3 – The Last Battle

At the end of the thousand years, Satan will be given one last chance to deceive the nations. He will gather them, numerous as the sand of the seashore, from all corners of the earth and rally them to surround the Beloved City. But fire will come down from the sky and consume them completely. Then the devil who deceived them will himself be thrown into the lake of fire and burning sulphur to join the beast and the false prophet. There they will face never-ending torture with no possibility of escape.

SCENE 4 – The Great White Throne

Then I saw a great white throne. The One seated upon it was so terrifyingly glorious it made you want to run and hide, but there was nowhere to go from His presence. The sea gave up its dead. Death and the grave released the dead who were in them. A sea of humanity, great and small, stood before the throne.

Books were opened. Most were books containing the life history of each person. People were judged according to all that they had done. Also the Book of Life was opened.

Death itself was the first to be thrown into the lake of fire. No more death! Any whose names were not found written in the Book of Life were thrown into the lake of fire.

The Finale — Day 12

May 12, Tuesday

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SCENE 2 – Perspectives on Babylon’s Demise

A majestic, powerful angel came down from Heaven; his radiance illuminated the whole earth, and he announced in a mighty shout,

“Babylon the great has fallen!
Once the pride of kings and merchants
who made themselves rich with her extravagant luxury
and wasted themselves on her sensual pleasures,
she lies in ruins,
a cauldron of demons and evil spirits,
a haunt of jackals and wild beasts,
and a roosting place for buzzards and vultures.”

Then another voice came from Heaven, saying, “Come away, My people! Escape lest you succumb to her enticements and share in her punishment. Behold, her sins have piled to the heavens and God has taken note of all her wickedness:

  • Pay her in kind for what she has done. Yes, give her twice the misery she has caused. Mix up a double-strength cup of judgment.
  • To the degree that she flaunted her luxury and pleasure, reward her with torment and suffering.
  • In that she boasted of being ‘on top of the world, queen of all, never to lack a lover,’ let the plagues, pestilence, mourning, famine, and fire fall upon her in a single day.
  • Let her know that the Lord God who judges her is powerful.

“The day of her downfall will bring rejoicing in Heaven, but on earth:

  • The kings who indulged in her will stand back in horror at the sight as the smoke rises from her. They will cry out, ‘How dreadful! Babylon the Great, to think that your judgment could happen in a single hour!’
  • The merchants from around the world will lift up a wailing cry as their marketplace goes up in flames. All their commodities will suddenly be worth nothing — gold, silver, jewels, and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk, and scarlet; fine woods, vessels of ivory, bronze, iron, and marble; spices, incense, myrrh, and frankincense; wine, oil, fine flour, and corn; cattle, sheep, and horses; chariots, slaves, and even the souls of men.
  • The consumers and retailers who enjoyed all the riches will stand back and lament the devastation, ‘Alas, our glorious city, so prosperous and abundant — how could all that wealth be gone in a single hour?’
  • The captains and sailors aboard the mighty freighters, all whose business is on the ocean, will see the smoke of her burning from far off and cry out, ‘Was there ever a city as great as that city?’
  • Expressing their utter despair, they will throw dust on their heads and repeat, ‘What has happened to our great city where all who had ships grew prosperous because of her? How could this possibly all be gone in a single hour?’

“But let all heaven rejoice! All God’s holy ones, apostles and prophets, shout for joy! God has taken up your cause and pronounced final judgment against her!”

An angel, a very strong one, took up a stone the size of a millstone (nearly a thousand pounds) and threw it into the ocean. “That is Babylon the Great,” the angel said, “thrown down never to be seen or heard from again!

  • Gone are all your entertainments — harpists, singers, flute-players, and trumpeters — never again to be heard.
  • All your fine craftsmen along with their handiwork are gone.
  • There is no sign of life whatsoever.
  • Gone forever is the joyous sound of wedding bells.
  • You sold your souls to the sorcery of material wealth and to those who enticed you with temporal prosperity.
  • You filled your streets with the blood of prophets, of God’s holy ones, indeed with all the innocent blood of all time.”

SCENE 3 – Celebration in Heaven

Then I heard the sound of a huge crowd, a mighty roar, as they exclaimed, “Alleluia! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God! He has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth and spilled the blood of His servants! His judgments are true and right!”

This was followed by an echoing, “Alleluia! The smoke of her destruction rises forever and ever!”

The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures bowed low and worshipped God Who is seated upon the throne, saying, “Amen! Alleluia! It is done!”

Then a commanding voice from the throne said, “Give praise to our God, all you who serve Him, small and great!”

The vast crowd erupted in praise. The heavens shook as with rolling thunder and with the deafening roar of a great waterfall as they declared:

“Alleluia! For the Lord our God,
the All-powerful One, reigns Supreme!
Let us celebrate with wholehearted joy and exalt Him;
for the wedding day of the Lamb has finally arrived,
and His bride has made herself ready.”

To His bride was given a gown of spotless, glistening fine linen,
all her God-birthed acts woven into a glorious garment.

The angel instructed me to write this pronouncement as the very oracle from God:

“Blessed are those invited to share in the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

Overwhelmed by the majesty and glory of the moment, I fell at the feet of the angel to worship him; but he stopped me, saying, “No, do not worship me. Worship God alone! I am but a fellow servant of yours and of your brothers whose testimony is all about Jesus. Yes, the unfolding of all prophecy points ultimately to Jesus.

The Finale — Day 11

May 11, Monday

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ACT SIX – The Destruction of Babylon

SCENE 1 – The Major Players

One of the seven angels carrying the bowls of judgment called to me, “Come here and I will show you what happens to the great prostitute. She is seated upon many waters; the kings of the earth are in bed with her; indeed, everyone on earth got drunk on her sensual delights.”

Then the angel carried me away in spirit into the desert where I saw the woman:

  • She was riding a scarlet creature with seven heads and ten horns that was tattooed all over with blasphemous words.
  • She was dressed in purple and scarlet and decked out with all kinds of jewelry, gold, and precious gems.
  • She was carrying a cup full of all the perversions of the earth, along with her own foul passions.
  • She had a name emblazoned on her forehead: “Babylon the Great, mother of all prostitutes and perversions.”
  • I could see that she was drunk — drunk on the blood of God’s people and those martyred for Jesus.

The angel could tell that I was mystified by what I was seeing. “Why are you amazed by this?” he asked. “Let me explain the mystery of the woman and the animal with seven heads and ten horns on which she was riding:

  • The animal she was riding lived long ago and is no more, but it will rise up out of the bottomless pit before going to its final destruction.
  • Everyone living on earth whose names are not included in the Book of Life (written down before the world began) will be stunned and impressed by the reappearance of the beast.

“Now understand the meaning of all this:

  • The seven heads represent seven mountains on which the woman sits.
  • The seven heads also signify seven kings:
    • Five of these kingdoms are history.
    • One of the seven is reigning now.
    • The seventh has not yet appeared; but when it does, it will be short-lived.
  • The beast mentioned before is actually an eighth king. He was one of the seven who passed off the scene but returns at the end only to face final destruction.
  • The ten horns are ten more kings who have not yet begun their reign:
    • They will receive authority to be kings along with the beast, albeit very briefly.
    • They will go to war against the Lamb.
  • The Lamb, together with His called, chosen, and faithful followers, will overcome them all. He is the Lord of lords and King of kings.
  • The woman we have described is the great city which dominates the kings of the earth.
  • The waters on which she sits are the vast multitudes, people of every tribe and language.
  • The ten horns and the beast despise her, ravage and strip her naked, and finally burn her with fire. These ten kings unite in bringing down Babylon because God has put it in their hearts to do so, thus accomplishing His purposes and fulfilling His word.”

The Finale — Day 10

Finally, then . . .

May 10, Sunday

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SCENE 4 – Bowls of God’s Wrath

After that I saw the Temple in Heaven thrown open wide.  Seven angels came out dressed in dazzling linen with gleaming golden sashes:

  • One of the four living creatures gave a bowl to each of the seven angels, seven bowls filled with the wrath of the Everlasting God.
  • The Temple was filled with smoke from the power and glory of God so that no one could enter the Temple until the seven angels had finished pouring out the seven bowls on the earth.

Then I heard a loud voice from the Temple commanding the angels, “Go! Pour out over the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God!”

When the first angel poured out his bowl, everyone on earth who had the mark of the beast and worshipped the statue broke out in painful, malignant sores.

The second angel…

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The Finale — Day 10

May 10, Sunday

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SCENE 4 – Bowls of God’s Wrath

After that I saw the Temple in Heaven thrown open wide.  Seven angels came out dressed in dazzling linen with gleaming golden sashes:

  • One of the four living creatures gave a bowl to each of the seven angels, seven bowls filled with the wrath of the Everlasting God.
  • The Temple was filled with smoke from the power and glory of God so that no one could enter the Temple until the seven angels had finished pouring out the seven bowls on the earth.

Then I heard a loud voice from the Temple commanding the angels, “Go! Pour out over the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God!”

When the first angel poured out his bowl, everyone on earth who had the mark of the beast and worshipped the statue broke out in painful, malignant sores.

The second angel poured his bowl into the sea, which turned the water into a deadly fluid like the blood of a corpse. Everything in the water died.

The third angel emptied his bowl into the rivers and springs, and they all turned to blood.

Then I heard the angel of the waters say, “You are right and just in this, O Lord, Who is and Who was and Who is to come. They have shed the innocent blood of saints and prophets, so You have given them blood to drink. They are reaping what is due them.”

The altar called out in agreement, “Amen, Lord God Almighty, Your judgments are true and right!”

When the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, it became intensely hot so that men were burned by its heat. They cursed God for bringing this on them, but they would not repent or give Him respect.

Then the fifth angel emptied his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its entire kingdom was plunged into darkness. The people gnawed their tongues because of all the pain they were going through, and they cursed the God of Heaven but refused to repent of all they had done against Him.

The sixth angel poured out his bowl into the great Euphrates River. It instantly dried up and became a highway for the kings of the east.

Next, I saw three demon-spirits appearing as frogs, coming out of the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. They were able to do supernatural feats and convince the kings of the world to join together against God Almighty in the great battle. They gathered in the place called Armageddon.

Interlude: Warning

“Watch! Be ready!
I will come as unexpectedly as a thief.
Happy are those who stay awake
and have their robes ready
so they won’t be caught naked
and ashamed.”

SCENE 4 – Bowls of God’s Wrath Resumes

When the seventh angel poured his bowl into the air, a loud voice came out of the Temple from the Throne, saying, “The end has come!”

Chaos broke out:

  • There were flashes of lightning.
  • There was deafening thunder.
  • The most intense earthquake ever experienced shook the earth.
  • The great city split into three sections.
  • The cities of all the nations fell in ruins.
  • God forced Babylon to drink the cup of the wine of His furious wrath.
  • Every island and mountain disappeared.
  • Seventy-five pound hailstones fell from the sky with deadly force, causing men to blaspheme God.

The Finale — Day 9

May 9, Saturday

ACT 5 – Angel Warriors and Bowls of Judgment

SCENE 1 – Declarations

Now an angel came flying through the skies. He was carrying the Message of Good News for all the inhabitants of the earth. He called out loud and clear to every nation and tribe and language and people, “Fear God! Honor Him alone! The hour of judgment has come. Worship Him Who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

A second angel came behind the first, declaring, “At last! Babylon the Great has finally fallen! She made the nations drunk with her sensual pleasures.”

Then a third angel followed, crying out, “Whoever has worshipped the beast and the statue, whoever has its mark on his forehead or hand, that person must drink the cup of God’s angry judgment, the full extent of His wrath! In the presence of My holy angels and the Lamb, they will be tortured by fire and burning sulfur for endless ages. They will not escape! This is the fate of all who worship the beast and its statue and all who bear the mark of its name.”

Through all of this, God’s holy followers, those who follow His instructions and trust in Jesus, will stand strong to the end.

A voice called to me from Heaven, saying, “Write this: ‘How blessed and happy will they be who die in the Lord!’”

“Yes,” the Spirit echoed, “they are truly happy, for they rest from all their difficult struggles and their good deeds go with them.”

SCENE 2 – The Harvest of God’s Judgment

A remarkable scene unfolded before my eyes:

  • There in front of me, sitting on a white cloud, was One who looked like the “Son of Man”; He had a sharp sickle in His hand.
  • An angel came out of the Temple and called to the One sitting on the cloud, “The harvest is ripe! Swing your sickle. The time of reaping has come!”
  • The One sitting on the cloud swung His sickle and began to reap the harvest.
  • Another angel bearing a sickle came out of the Temple.
  • Yet another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out of the altar and called to the angel with the sickle, “Go into the harvest! The grapes are fully ripe. Harvest the clusters from the vineyard of the earth.”
  • The angel swung his sickle upon the earth and brought in a vast harvest of grapes. The grapes were thrown into the great winepress of the wrath of God.
  • As the grapes were crushed outside the city, a river of blood five feet deep flowed for two hundred miles.

Then, as if that weren’t enough, I saw seven angels holding seven bowls, the last plagues, the final outpouring of God’s wrath. Words cannot describe the awe I felt.

SCENE 3 – Interlude

Right in front of me was a crystal clear sea of glass mixed with fire. People were standing on it:

  • They were the ones who had overcome the battle with the beast and had not worshipped the statue or taken its number.
  • In their hands they were holding harps which God had given to them.
  • They sang the song of Moses, the servant of God, and of the Lamb:

“Great and mighty are Your works,
Lord God Almighty!
Just and true are Your ways,
O King of the nations!
Who will not fear You and honor Your Name,
O Lord? For You alone are holy.
Let all the nations bow in worship before You,
for Your righteous actions have been revealed.”