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The Blessed and the Cursed

Revelation 22:14-15
Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practise magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practises falsehood. (NIVUK)

It is easy to use the words 'bless', 'blessed' and 'blessing' casually, to mean feeling good, or that something we like is happening to us. But the Bible authors mean something more than that. A blessing is a spoken promise which, when fulfilled, will achieve God's purpose, glorify Him and enrich the relationship people have with Him through His grace. Likewise, a cursing is a promise of the punishment God will bring on wrongdoers: its fulfilment will further separate people from the grace of God – ultimately in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14-15). Deuteronomy 28:1-68 expresses God's blessings and curses as both encouragements and warnings for Old Testament Israel.

God wants everybody (2 Peter 3:9) to 'wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb' (Revelation 7:14). That means repenting of their sins and accepting the cleansing power of the blood of Christ as the atoning sacrifice for their sins. The fulfilment of that blessing-promise is eternal life, through faith in Jesus (John 3:16). The 'tree of life' from which sinful people were kept away in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:22-24), will welcome the purified people of God throughout all eternity. They are the members of the Holy City (Revelation 21:2,10) and have the right to enter the city because they asked for all their sin to be washed away by the blood of Christ (Revelation 1:5).

By contrast, everybody whose motives are not Godly, and glory in lifestyles which defy the Lordship of Christ (Philippians 3:19), will be permanently excluded from the city. Their mentors (the Antichrist, the false prophet, and the devil – Revelation 19:20, 20:10) along with all who do evil, will not be begging at the city gates but will be consigned to the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14,15). Five examples encompass a wide range of sinful lifestyles. 'Magic' means invoking the evil power of Satan to achieve human goals, including occult means of gaining information or exerting power over other people or things (Deuteronomy 18:9-13). 'Sexual immorality' is any sexual activity or intention (Matthew 5:28) outside of marriage (1 Thessalonians 4:3). 'Murder' is an evil spectrum from hatred, wishing somebody dead, rage and the act of killing (Matthew 5:21-22). 'Idolatry' is having another god: money, people, career, ambition, popularity, social position, addictions of alcohol, drugs, sex and gambling … are all gods that God will not tolerate (Isaiah 42:8). 'Practising falsehood' is adopting the devil's clothes: believing what is untrue, and then saying and doing it (John 8:44). All these will become habitual hell-bound lifestyles unless we repent and ask the Lord to change our hearts (Matthew 15:19).

Some people believe that everybody will get to heaven. The Bible does not agree. There are two groups of people: those who love Jesus and seek His mercy and grace, and His power to live obediently; and there are people who choose their own lifestyle, composing their own morality, and living without bothering that they are against God's Word and being disobedient to Jesus. That divide is graphically illustrated in Luke 16:19-31). All who trust in Jesus for cleansing, however bad their sins, will be saved. The promise of blessing comes to those who have 'washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb': their names are written in the book of life (Philippians 4:3). But just adding good works to a self-glorifying life will result in exclusion from the heavenly city (Matthew 7:21), along with all who see no need for repentance: their names are not written in the Lamb's book of life (Revelation 20:15). These scriptures are a real challenge to get right with the Lord: repent, now! (Luke 13:1-5). It is also a real challenge to our evangelism (Romans 10:14).

Eternal Father. Thank you for welcoming all who are trusting in the sacrifice of Jesus and desire His power to live obediently. Forgive me for not taking Your Word seriously about this. Help me to repent of ungodly habits and please change my heart so that I will desire to live for You. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams