A “quiet time” is simply being intentional about having a conversation with God. This usually means listening for God’s voice by reading the Bible or devotions, and speaking to God through prayer. Jesus did this numerous times in the Gospels, sometimes slipping away all night or in the early morning, to spend time with his Father.
Here are some well-respected reading plans that can help you plan this time, they all come with mobile optimised options so you can even take them with you as you travel to work.
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The Angel and the Little Scroll1Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars. 2He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand. He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, 3and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. 4And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, "Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down."
5Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. 6And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, "There will be no more delay! 7But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets."
8Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: "Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land."
9So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, "Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey." 10I took the little scroll from the angel's hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. 11Then I was told, "You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings."
Let’s take a moment to get our bearings. We’re in the long section of Revelation that unveils the dynamics of God’s power to judge and to save. It covers the period between Christ’s ascension and the new creation: our time.
Seals, trumpets and bowls
Three parallel images shed light on this one period – seals, trumpets and bowls. Each starts with a prelude in heaven that anticipates salvation. Then there are troubles on earth that crescendo to the sixth seal, trumpet and bowl. Before the seventh in each series, there’s a pause in which we are encouraged to keep going. Today’s passage is part of a pause.
A sovereign God to trust
God has not lost the plot. The seven thunders (messages not to be known yet) and the little scroll (the story that is to be known) will all be accomplished in God’s perfect time. ‘How long, O Lord?’ is my most frequent quote from the Psalms. ‘How long must the struggles, pains and troubles go on? For your global church? For me?’ The answer is not a number of years to count but a sovereign God to trust. The one in the driving seat knows what he is doing.
‘Thank you, Father, that the key to persevering is not to know the timing, but to know you, the one whose timing is perfect and whose love never fails. Help me to trust you, I pray. Amen.’
The book of Revelation is not written to satisfy our curiosity but to stimulate our holiness. It was written when the church was under attack, both by persecution from the Romans and through sin and error from within. Conscious of their weakness, the author of this book wrote it to put heart into God’s people of every age. The underlying message, told in a variety of colourful ways, is that, despite appearances, God remains on the throne and, in the end, wins! This is a revelation by God of Jesus Christ to the church. Its aim is that we should know Jesus better and in a fuller way, not to give us a coded timetable of the end of the age. It contains a picture gallery of Jesus, sometimes depicted in ways you have never seen him before.
Although I have taken one way (among several) of interpreting this book, I hope that most of what I write is applicable to all, whichever approach you favour. I believe this book speaks both to the time in which it was written and also to all ages of the church. The writer covers the whole of the ‘last days’ – ie the time between Christ’s first and second comings – in a variety of cycles (chs 1–3; 4–7; 8–11; 12–14; 15–19; 20–22), each one coming to a climax with the victory of God and the defeat of evil.1 In earlier notes on this book we have seen Christ supervising his churches on earth and sharing God’s throne in heaven. We take up the story where he is controlling the course of history. We see him calling a world to repentance, riding on a white horse to judgement, sitting on a great white throne and promising to come back soon to claim his bride. Never forget that the ‘friend of sinners’ is also the Lord Christ and that our Saviour is also the Judge. We need a Saviour because without him we would not escape judgement. The good news of the gospel shines all the brighter against the darkness of evil.
1 Eg Michael Wilcock, I saw Heaven opened, third edition, IVP, 1991; John Stott, Basic Introduction to the New Testament, Eerdmans, 2017Colin Sinclair
There is an interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpets. A striking contrast is drawn between a mighty angel and a little scroll. The New Testament says we can ‘entertain angels unawares’ (see Heb 13:2, AV) – but not this angel! The sight is extraordinary and overwhelming. He bestrides land and sea; his voice combines the lion’s roar and a thunderstorm – but what he says is not to be made public. We do not have to blurt out everything God says to us. What is clear is that the time for delay is past, events are on the move.
There is, however, work to be done first. John is given a little scroll whose contents he is to reveal. He took the open unsealed scroll from the outstretched hand. Like Ezekiel and Jeremiah (Ezek 3:3; Jer 15:16), he is told to eat it and digest its contents. Those called to preach must always incarnate the word they study if it is to be a living word for others. The size of the scroll may reflect John’s capacity to receive.
John was promised two reactions: namely a sweet taste in his mouth and a bitter reaction in his stomach. The work of ministry is a most satisfying and fulfilling privilege, but it also tears one apart. To share words of life and encounter deaf ears; to have the most wonderful message but stumble for words to convey it; to have good news but also serious truths – all these can turn the most honeyed words into a sick feeling. How we need to pray for preachers, pastors, prophets and evangelists as they minister the comfortable and disturbing words of the gospel, salvation and judgement. Yet the work needs to go on faithfully throughout a ministry and from generation to generation.
Pray for those you know who are called to share God’s word with others, that they may not be discouraged.Colin Sinclair
The complete picture
The first mention of seven is in Genesis 2:2,3 – on the seventh day God rested. Creation was complete. This is celebrated by the observance of the seventh day as a day of rest – bringing the working week to completion.
Some priestly rituals are repeated seven times (Leviticus 4:6). Most feasts last for seven days (Exodus 34:18). The Israelites march round Jericho for seven days. The idea is always of doing things properly, of bringing them to completion.
So in Revelation the use of seven makes us think of the complete picture. The seven churches were literal churches, but they represent the whole church. The seven spirits of God indicate the full work of the Holy Spirit, the seals, trumpets and bowls speak of God’s complete control of history.
City of seven hills
In chapter 17 John sees a prostitute called Babylon riding on a beast with seven heads which he is told represent seven hills. This may well be a reference to Rome which was built on seven hills.
The seven kings may be Roman emperors of the first century although identifying which ones isn’t straightforward. But while there may be an allusion to Rome there is also a wider view. The beast is the personification of evil in every age – the idea of completeness again.
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