Posts Tagged 'Judgement'

The Minor Prophets, Part 5

He has shown all you people what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8 | TNIV)

Micah prophesied to very religious people; the kind of people who never missed a service! In his day, throngs of people streamed into the Temple to be a part of the worship services. Whatever the divinely appointed occasion, the people were there.

While Micah’s people were very religious, they weren’t at all godly. You can be religious but not godly; our churches are full of people like that. People who behave one way in church on Sunday, but another way outside the church during the other six days of the week. These very religious people, like the people of Micah’s day, don’t think that it might be important to the Lord how they conduct themselves in the world outside the church.

The behavior of his people troubled Micah. And that’s his main message and the main message of this book of prophecy that bears his name.

Micah lived and ministered in the last half of the eighth century B.C. Micah is frequently compared to Isaiah, who was prophesying at roughly the same time, and the messages of these two men of God are in harmony. Some have suggested that Micah was a disciple of Isaiah, and while there are similarities in their writing, the two prophets are very different. Isaiah was a member of the upper classes while. Micah was a commoner. Isaiah was polished, and moved in royal circles. Micah was a rough man of the countryside, a prophet of the regular folks.

His background made Micah familiar with the problems of the poor and lower classes of society, and at the same time he was well acquainted with the political corruption of Judah and royal palace. He also knew about the corruption of Israel, the Northern Kingdom, and was a contemporary of Amos and Hosea. While the political corruption of his day was rampant, Micah’s biggest concern, and the burden of his heart, was the treatment of the poor and most disadvantaged of his society.

God rebukes sin

The word of the Lord that came to Micah of Moresheth during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah—the vision he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem. Hear, you peoples, all of you, listen, earth and all who live in it, that the Sovereign Lord may witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple. (Micah 1:1, 2 | TNIV)

From the get-go, the divine origin of Micah’s message is made obvious – it’s “the word of the Lord” the prophet will speak, not his own word. As Walter Kaiser noted, Micah’s calling is both the source and the authority of what he is about to speak. The Lord’s word is directed to two great cities: Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdon of Israel, and Jerusalem, the capital of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The Lord has an axe to grind against these capital cities, and He’s calling the whole world to listen to the moral and spiritual failure of His people. Sin is never a private thing; no believer can hide his sin for long. God essentially called all creation to stop and listen to His words against His people. One scholar put it this way:

Where God has a mouth to speak we must have an ear to hear; we all must, for we are all concerned in what is delivered.

Indeed, God’s Word is for all people, even for those who don’t think they need to hear it.

Micah’s message was a fearsome one, but this prophet was prepared and empowered to give it:

But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression, to Israel his sin. (Micah 3:8 | TNIV)

A personal God

Verse three gives us some very important information about God:

Look! The Lord is coming from his dwelling place; he comes down and treads on the heights of the earth. (Micah 1:3 | TNIV)

First, God is transcendent for He has a heavenly dwelling place. But, second, God is also immanent, He comes down from that dwelling place to be among people. Those who think God is living afar off and uninvolved in the affairs of His creation are dead wrong. And the appearance of God causes creation to respond.

The mountains melt beneath him and the valleys split apart, like wax before the fire, like water rushing down a slope. (Micah 1:4 | TNIV)

In this instance, God enters the human sphere for judgment, but there are other reasons for His coming to “tread on the heights of the earth:”

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18, 19 | TNIV)

For now though, God is coming not to pardon and forgive, but to render judgment:

All this is because of Jacob’s transgression, because of the sins of the house of Israel. What is Jacob’s transgression? Is it not Samaria? What is Judah’s high place? Is it not Jerusalem? (Micah 1:5 | TNIV)

The sin of idolatry was at the root of God’s judgment of both Judah and Israel. Because of the influence of the Canaanite cults, Israel (Samaria) was giving only the barest of lip service to Yahweh. Meanwhile, the ethical and moral aspects of the Law were also being ignored. Society was breaking down in both Kingdoms, although in the Samaria and the Northern Kingdom, the slide away from the Covenant and the God of the Covenant was happening at a much quicker pace than in Judah to the south.

It’s interesting that how a society treats its own descends from what it thinks of and how it treats the Lord. When a society has a God-centered world-view, or a world-view that takes seriously Biblical teachings and admonitions, it will treat its citizens with dignity and respect.

He has shown all you people what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8 | TNIV)

This is what God expects from His people, and this single verse is probably one of the most memorable in the Old Testament. Let’s take a look at what this verse says. First, there is an expectation on God’s part. He is right to expect a certain type of behavior from the people He created. Man is not ignorant and he knows right from wrong. Even sinful man is expected to maintain a certain level of ethical and moral behavior, but more so from people that are in covenant relationship with Him.

And even though these verses were written to and about Hebrews, Christians are expected to go along with these admonitions because we are in a covenant relationship with God in which the laws of God have been placed within our hearts.

It’s not that God didn’t want His people to be offering sacrifices, even though that’s what it sounds like in verses like this one:

Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? (Micah 6:7 | TNIV)

The people of Micah’s day had got the sacrifices down pat – they were scrupulously religious. But their behavior didn’t live up to their religion. As far as God was concerned, if your behavior is boorish and if you can’t be bothered to live right, then don’t waste your time offering a sacrifice. You’re not only wasting your time, but God’s as well.

Society breaks down

Here what society looks like when that society ignores God and the teachings of Scripture:

Do not trust a neighbor; put no confidence in a friend. Even with the woman who lies in your embrace be careful of your words. For a son dishonors his father, a daughter rises up against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—your enemies are the members of your own household. (Micah 7:5, 6 | TNIV)

When God isn’t in the picture, all restraints against bad behavior are tossed off. Kay Arthur made an interesting observation about our society today:

Our society is filled with runaways, dropouts, and quitters. We have seen others faint or walk away and we have followed in their weakness. We have fainted when we could have persevered by exchanging our strength for His.

She’s not wrong when she writes, “We have seen others faint or walk away and we have followed in their weakness.” Why wouldn’t we follow the bad, horrid example of the majority? Our generation has been told that being in a real, strong relationship with God through Jesus Christ is a myth or is dangerous and that being a person faith is to be a “religious extremist.” Christians today have become just terrible at taking a stand for Christ because it’s been politically incorrect to have that kind of objective faith.

So not only has secular society broken down, Christian society is also circling the drain.

God restores the humble

And that’s the world in which Micah lived and preached. It was a world filled with very religious people whose religion was all show; it was not life changing; it didn’t change the lives of its practitioners or anybody else’s . The people of Micah’s day weren’t serious people, they were people who were playing with their faith and because they didn’t take seriously the covenant they had entered into with God, they were forcing God’s hand of judgment to literally slap them down.

Yet, it’s not all bleak.

But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. (Micah 7:7 | TNIV)

There’s always hope. Micah knew God and he knew God was a God of mercy who had more than enough power to protect him and meet his needs even while judgment was falling on everybody else. The prophet was sure that God wold vindicate the faithful, after all, not everybody in Israel or Judah was committing idolatry. There is a remnant, and that’s who speaking in verse 8:

Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light. (Micah 7:8 | TNIV)

Over in the New Testament, we learn that the remnant of believers in any age may have complete confidence that God hasn’t forgotten about them and God will help them and will eventually vindicate and restore them.

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of death will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:18 | TNIV)

That’s really a stunning verse. Nothing, not even the gates of death, can stop the church. The “gates of death” or “gates of hell” is the extreme, meaning that if something as extreme as the “gates of death” can’t stop the church, then nothing else can. Ultimately the remnant of the faithful will triumph.

Because I have sinned against him, I will bear the Lord’s wrath, until he pleads my case and establishes my right. He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness. (Micah 7:9 | TNIV)

Micah knew God was right in judging His people. They deserved it. But the remnant would sit and wait patiently to be restored. The punishment would only last a little while; the true believer would be vindicated and restored, if not in this world then certainly in the next.

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Jesus Cleans House

Jesus+Gets+Tough+Sins+Out

Luke 15 may be one of the most famous chapters in the New Testament. It contains several very famous stories, including the most famous of all, the story of the prodigal son. The three parables Jesus told in Luke 15 share a common idea: there is great joy when something lost is found. There is an old Jewish proverb that our Lord was probably familiar with, and it goes like this:

There is joy before God when those who provoke Him perish from the earth.

That may or may not be totally accurate from a theological standpoint, but Jesus paints a very different picture of God in Luke 15: God rejoices over the return of the penitent more than over the many who are safely in the fold.

The most common picture of Jesus in the gospels is found in Luke 15, that of the Good Shepherd. It’s a beautiful picture of the caring, hardworking, determined Shepherd of the sheep who would go out into a dangerous wilderness to track down a stray sheep and return him to the safety of the fold. Obviously, our Lord wants us to see Him that way. He is the One who would give, and indeed did give, His life to save His people.

Even the Son of Man did not come to be served. Instead, he came to serve others. He came to give his life as the price for setting many people free. (Mark 10:45 NIrV)

The fold is that place of safety where Jesus hides and protects those who belong to Him. Or the home where the prodigal son is always welcome. Or the jewellry box where a woman stores a precious coin. Whatever metaphor He used, His idea is very clear: Jesus protects His own.

Give praise to the One who is able to keep you from falling into sin. He will bring you into his heavenly glory without any fault. He will bring you there with great joy. (Jude 24 NIrV)

That’s quite a comforting thought, isn’t it? Jesus saves us and then He does everything He can (to put it in human terms) to help keep us saved!

And yet, in spite of that, some of the Good Shepherd’s sheep like to leave the safety and protection of the fold. When he does that, the Shepherd goes to bring him back.

Everyone the Father gives me will come to me. I will never send away anyone who comes to me. (John 6:37 NIrV)

Our Lord; such a Good Shepherd!

When he finds it, he will joyfully put it on his shoulders and go home. Then he will call his friends and neighbors together. He will say, ‘Be joyful with me. I have found my lost sheep.’ (Luke 15:5, 6 NIrV)

And yet, if you picture Jesus as always looking for the lost, searching out sinners, welcoming the lost back, you don’t have the complete picture of our Lord. He is not always going to be the Shepherd, or the Savior. Sure, today He’s the Shepherd doing what He can to find His sheep, but someday He’ll be the Judge who will reject them. Today He brings sheep into His fold, but one day He will go into His fold and take some out. It’s a side of Jesus you don’t hear a lot about, but let’s consider these two very different sides of the Son of God.

Jesus as Shepherd

First, let’s consider our Lord’s role as the Good Shepherd. What is His purpose in bringing the straying sheep into the fold? Why does Jesus, the Savior, seek the lost soul, save the lost soul, then place the now-redeemed soul into His Body, the church? The simple, short answer is so that they will remain with Him until the future when He brings them to their final reward. The pen isn’t the final destination for the sheep any more than the church is the final destination for the Christian.

Our Lord came to save sinners. He works through the Holy Spirit to bring them repentance and then pardons their sins so that they may walk in newness of life instead of continually committing the sins of which they were guilty of before.

By being baptized, we were buried with Christ into his death. Christ has been raised from the dead by the Father’s glory. And like Christ we also can live a new life. (Romans 6:4 NIrV)

In a very real sense, that “new life” starts at the moment of salvation. It’s immediate. But in another sense, the “new life” comes on us gradually, as we come to grips with the frightening reality that sin is always trying to reclaim us, and as we wrestle with temptation and overcome the urge to sin, our “new life” becomes more and more a present reality. In yet another sense, our “new life” is wholly in the future. What we are right now is not what God intends for us to become.

God planned that those he had chosen would become like his Son. In that way, Christ will be the first and most honored among many brothers. And those God has planned for, he has also appointed to be saved. Those he has appointed, he has made right with himself. To those he has made right with himself, he has given his glory. (Romans 8:29, 30 NIrV)

The Lord will save me from every evil attack. He will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. (2 Timothy 4:18 NIrV)

Jesus as the Savior, and metaphorically as the Good Shepherd, brings the sinner back to Himself, in a state of forgiveness, and therefore, innocence. So then, the redeemed liar is brought back to the truth and Christ expects him not to lie again. The drunkard is brought back to sobriety and is expected to never return to his drunken state. The adulterer is brought back to fidelity and is expected to remain that way. The apostle Paul explained it this way:

You were taught not to live the way you used to. You must get rid of your old way of life. That’s because it is polluted by longing for things that lead you down the wrong path. You were taught to be made new in your thinking. You were taught to start living a new life. It is created to be truly good and holy, just as God is. So each of you must get rid of your lying. Speak the truth to your neighbor. We are all parts of one body. (Ephesians 4:22 – 25 NIrV)

The “behaving” part of the deal must follow the “believing” part. Jesus does His part and we respond with belief, and then must do our part and behave like the forgiven sinners we are. When we do that, our Good Shepherd does what He can to help us – to keep us within the pen of His Body.

I am sending this letter to you who have been chosen by God. You are loved by God the Father. You are kept safe by Jesus Christ. (Jude, verse 1 NIrV)

Jesus as Judge

That’s now. But it won’t always be like this because Jesus won’t always be the Good Shepherd. At some time in the future, Jesus will become the Judge and He will separate the bad from the good within His fold. He will closely examine His sheep and will identify and pick out all the sheep that don’t really belong to Him; the diseased sheep that threaten the healthy ones, and He will cast them outside of His pen.

The day will come when our Lord will stop calling sinners to Himself and placing them in His church and will, instead, turn His attention TO His church and examine those IN His church. If He finds anyone who has not changed his ways; who continually goes back to his unregenerate state; who has given no evidence of progress in the “new life,” He will toss him out.

We have an Old Testament illustration of Jesus’ role as Judge. In Joshua 7, we read about Israel being led by Joshua into the Promised Land. Here is what God told the people to do:

‘Make yourselves pure. Get ready for tomorrow.’ (Joshua 7:13 NIrV)

What was going to happen “tomorrow?” They were to be led into the Promised Land, their final destination. The people had to do the one thing their leader, Joshua, couldn’t do for them: They had to make themselves pure. In the KJV the word is “sanctified.” The people had to sanctify themselves. They were IN Israel, but in order to enter into their final destination, they had to make an effort to sanctify themselves. They had to do this because all was not well in the fold of Israel.

Joshua spoke to Achan. He said, “My son, the Lord is the God of Israel. So give him glory by telling the truth! Give him praise by admitting you have sinned! Tell me what you have done. Don’t hide it from me.”

Achan replied, “It’s true! I’ve sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. Here is what I’ve done. I saw a beautiful robe from Babylonia among the things we had taken. I saw five pounds of silver. And I saw a gold bar that weighed 20 ounces. I wanted them, so I took them. I hid them in the ground inside my tent. The silver is on the bottom.” (Joshua 7:19 – 21 NIrV)

Good old Achan had sinned in what he had done, and then he tried to cover up that sin by hiding the stuff he never should have had. He sinned and then compounded that sin. What happened to Achan is what happens to anybody who thinks they can hide their sin from God and the rest of the Body of Christ:

Then all of the people killed Achan by throwing stones at him. They also killed the rest of his family with stones. They burned all of them up. (Joshua 7:25 NIrV)

Pretty severe, but Achan knew. He gambled that he could get away what he’d done. He lost. What happened to Achan served to sanctify, or if you will, purify, Israel. The figurative “black sheep” had been dealt with.

When Jesus gathered His friends together for the Last Supper, there was a tense moment when Judas, the betrayer, stood up and walked away from Jesus the others. When he did that, Jesus said a curious thing:

After Judas was gone, Jesus spoke. He said, “Now the Son of Man receives glory. And he brings glory to God. (John 13:31 NIrV)

Just before that, Jesus was “troubled in His spirit,” verse 21. But the very moment the betrayer, the phony disciple, left His presence, His glorification began.

And so it is now, as it will be in the future. Jesus is glorified when sin is dealt with. As long as evil exists within the church, as long as there are sinners in the church that will not change; that will not submit to Jesus Christ, our Lord remains, “troubled in His spirit.” As long as unconfessed sin riddles His church, His glorification will be spotty at best.

But it won’t be this way forever. When the great Day comes, when Jesus Christ assumes His role as Judge, just as Joshua sanctified Israel and led his people into their Promised Land, so our Lord will purify His people by casting out from among them all the pretenders; all the Achans, and lead us into our Promised Land. On that Day of days, we will see the ultimate, final glorification of the Son of God.

 

ISAIAH, Part 2

A vineyard in Greece

Isaiah 5:1—7

Chapter 5 of Isaiah completes the prophet’s address which he began back in chapter 2. The first seven verses of chapter 5 are known as “the Song of the Vineyard.” In the original language, it is unquestionably one of the most beautiful songs in Scriptures. It has no rival. The Song of the Vineyard is more than a mere song; it’s more like a symphony that cannot be translated adequately into English.

The “vineyard” in Isaiah’s Song represents the House of Israel (verse 7). Interestingly, the botanical world is a favorite metaphor for Israel throughout the Bible. For example, Israel is also represented by the fig tree.

In simple terms, Isaiah is declaring the soon-coming fall of Israel, the Northern Kingdom, to the Assyrians and the eventual captivity of Judah into the Babylonian Empire. In Matthew, Jesus was illustrating that God had graciously given the Jews a second chance to “get it right” after their 70 year Babylonian captivity. But, as Jesus’ parable taught, the nation failed a second time.

1. The work, verses 1, 2a

Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein…

You can’t help but think of the folk singer of the ’60’s as we begin reading Isaiah’s Song of the Vineyard. We can almost see him sitting on rock, strumming what passed for a guitar in his day, singing the song God had given him.

The opening verses contain a brief but near-perfect summary or outline of Israel’s history. Let’s look at it like that:

  1. The “fruitful hill” refers to the Promised Land, the land God had given His people in His Covenant with them. The land was perfect in every way; there was not a single thing wrong with soil. God had prepared a land especially for His covenant people that suited them right down to the soles of their feet.

  2. Fenced it” in is a picturesque way to describe one of the greatest blessings that comes from a relationship with God: divine protection. God promised that He would fight for Israel. When He brought them up out of Israel, He went before them, literally clearing the way for them to get into the Promise Land, and once there, the promise of protection continued.

  3. Gathered out the stones” suggests that God cleared all obstacles in from of His people as the settled in Canaan. These obstacles included many things, including the godless pagans and their heathen idols.

  4. God furthermore “built a tower,” that is, He established His presence in their midst. He built a Temple where His people could come and worship Him and learn from Him.

  5. The “winepress” speaks of the altar, specifically, the Altar of Sacrifice.

So, God took the nation of Israel out of Egypt and placed them in the Promised Land. He gave them everything they needed to be successful in every way; materially and spiritually. God expected His people to produce the fruits of righteousness. When we consider the conditions in which He placed His people, how could they not?

2. The sad result, verse 2b

…and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.

Complete, utter failure is what happened. Despite having all the advantages, the people failed miserably. What a sharp contrast between the care and concern of the Caretaker of the vineyard and its failure to produce the proper fruit.

But this so typical of how all of God’s people treat God; it is typical of what God has done for us as individuals and as a nation, and how we have treated Him in return. Like the Hebrews before us, we have been led by the Holy Spirit from the bondage of sin and spiritual darkness and planted beside the fruitful hill of Calvary.

When we as Christians claim love for and allegiance to God but live in the flesh, chasing our own desires and fulfilling our own wills instead of caring about what God wants for us, we are like those “wild grapes.” Wild grapes are really “sour grapes” and they are nothing better than weeds and they in no way please God.

God has engineered the conditions of our new lives so that we ought to be producing perfect grapes all the time!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. (1 Corinthians 1:30)

Given that, if a Christian is producing “sour grapes,” then he is producing something completely unnatural for a Christian to produce. It’s not normal for a born again believer to live unrighteously. Given all that was done for Christians on the Cross, we have a moral responsibility to produce the good fruit God expects us to, just as Israel had the same responsibility.

3. The challenge, verses 3, 4

And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?

Summoning the citizens of Jerusalem, God asked them to judge between Him and Israel. In other words, God is wanting to hear their complaints about Him; there must be something wrong with what He has done on their behalf for them to rebel against Him so blatantly. What more could God have done? Could He have shown more mercy and compassion? God is wanting to hear from their own mouths what they think He has done so wrong as to make them so rebellious.

These two verses are full of pathos, indeed. God’s best elicited only the people’s worst. So God issued a challenge.

4. The future, verses 5, 6

And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.

This is judgement of the most terrible kind. From Plaintiff to Judge, God now renders His inescapable judgement.

Think about the practicality of such a judgement. Why would a vineyard owner continue to work a field that produced only weeds and rotten grapes? There is no point to it. To expend time, energy, and resources on such an unprofitable vineyard makes absolutely no sense. God, the great cosmic vineyard owner made the only practical decision open to Him: He has no choice but to abandon such a worthless field.

But there would be more that just a walking away involved. Consider how actively God’s judgement would be on Israel:

  • God would take away all protection and the vineyard, Israel, would henceforth face disintegration and degradation;
  • God would withdraw His blessings;
  • God would become the enemy.

Desolation came upon Israel, and eventually Judah, because His divine protection was taken away and His gifts withheld and because He actively campaigned against them. There is no other way to interpret verse 6:

I will command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.

That is what judgement is all about. Can you imagine what life would be like for you if all of a sudden God became your enemy? Not just a passive enemy, but one who actively worked against you? Because of their constant, relentless rebellion, God did just to Israel, and eventually to Judah. In Israel’s day it was a prophecy. In ours, it’s history.

Just what were the “wild grapes” that made God so angry? The rest of the chapter lists them. Let’s see if we have the same produce as Israel had.

  • Coventousness, verses 8—10. The rich defrauded the poor, seizing their land and making it their own.

  • Drunkenness, verses 11—17. While God does not require total abstinence from alcohol, He does warn against drunkenness. Apparently, the Israelites were so addicted to alcohol that they began drinking in the morning and kept going until late in the evening. Isaiah’s words here are very descriptive: the eaters will themselves become the eaten.

  • Carelessness, verses 18, 19. The Living Bible says it like this: “They even mock the Holy One of Israel and dare the Lord to punish them (verse 19).

  • Deception, verse 20. Moral standards had been reworked with new definitions of sin; people were using God’s vocabulary but not His dictionary. This kind of “double-speak”made it easy to lie, cheat, and justify sin. Psalm 12:2 is a powerful verse in this regard: Everyone lies to their neighbor; they flatter with their lips but harbor deception in their hearts.

  • Pride, verse 21. Instead of seeking God for help, they sought help from one another and made decisions based on their wisdom. Sounds a lot like Romans 1:22, Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.

  • Injustice, verses 22—25. Those who were supposed to enforcing the law used their positions of authority to pervert the law.

God’s hand was poised for judgment. He would summon the mighty Assyrian army and use it extract that judgment. The Northern Kingdom of Israel would be utterly destroyed. Judah, the Southern Kingdom, would be punished sternly but eventually, a century later, go into captivity to Babylon. If the people would not repent, only judgment remained.

The more we read Isaiah’s Song of the Vineyard, the more uncomfortable we get. Of course, we are not Israel, nor are we Judah. But if God’s people of the past could not escape His judgment, what does that say to us? While we are living in the age of grace, Christians who are no better than God’s people of the past; producing sour, indigestible grapes, will most certainly not escape God’s scrutiny.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

Studies in Daniel and Revelation

What must soon take place, Part Two

Last time, we looked at what is going to happen during the first half of the seven-year Tribulation. Now, we will look at the events that will characterize the last three-and-one-half-years.

Parenthetical Passage, 10:1—11:13

This lengthy pause in the consecutive order of the Revelation takes place between the 6th and 7th trumpets and gives additional information about some events that will occur during the trumpet and bowl judgments.

The Mighty Angel, 10:1—11

This “Mighty Angel,” though not named, is undoubtedly Jesus Christ, who was last seen breaking open the seals of the scroll in chapter 5. John is told to take the scroll and eat it, which symbolically indicates that he received what was written on it, that is, the rest of the Revelation.

This scroll is the same one that Daniel was told to “seal up” in Daniel 12:4—9. The reason it tasted sweet to John at first and later turned sour was that the deliverance of his people, the victory of Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom was “sweet” to John, but the judgments inflicted upon sinful man were “sour,” or distasteful.

The Temple, 11:1—2

This temple is not Herod’s Temple, as it was destroyed in 70 AD, over twenty years earlier. Nor is it the temple described by the prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel 40—48, because Christ will establish that one at His Second Advent (Zechariah 6:12—13). This temple will be the one rebuilt by the Jews just prior to the Tribulation and will be destroyed, either by earthquake (Rev. 16:18—19) or by the Antichrist when he takes Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:1—5).

The Two Witnesses, 11:3—13

These two witnesses are exactly what they are purported to be: men. They are not covenants or churches or two groups of people. By examining some details and facts about these men, we can determine with some certainty who they will be.

· The will be Christ’s witnesses, 12:3

· Their ministry will run throughout the last half of the Tribulation, 11:1-3; 12:6, 14; 13:5; Dan. 7:25; 12:7.

· They will prophesy and preach, Mal. 4:5, 6

· They will be wearing garments symbolizing their mourning of the terrible judgments about to come, 11:3.

· They are represented before the Lord as the two olive trees and the two candlesticks, 11:4. This verse, along with Zechariah 4:3, 11-14 indicates that these two men were standing before the Lord in Zechariah’s time, around 546 BC, and will still be there in John’s day, around 90 AD.

· They will have amazing power to not only foretell the future, but also to cause droughts and disease on the earth, 11:5-6.

· As soon as their work is completed, the beast from the Abyss will kill them, 11:7-10. This proves they are men and not angels; that they are mortal human beings, not glorified men or men resurrected from the dead.

· Their corpses will be on full display, for all to see. After three-and-one-half days, they will be resurrected and taken up to heaven, just as John was, as indicated by the phrase, “Come up here,” 11:12.

· Their rapture from the earth will cause a major earthquake, 11:13, and many will come to believe. This is the same earthquake mentioned under the 7th bowl, 16:17-21.

In identifying these two men, three points need to be considered. First, they were seen in heaven by Zechariah 600 years before John saw them preaching on the earth in our future. Second, the fact that they are to be killed proves without a doubt that they will be men and not some kind of supernatural being. Finally, this verse taken from Hebrews 9:27–

[M]an is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.

There are only two human beings since the creation of the world who have never died: Elijah and Enoch. That Elijah will be one of the prophets is beyond doubt, as Malachi 4:4-5 indicates. Both Elijah and Enoch never died, but were translated, or taken to heaven in bodily form, Genesis 5:21-24; Hebrews 11:5; 2 Kings 2:11. Both Enoch and Elijah were known to be prophets of judgment (Jude 14-15; 1 Kings 17-18). It seems logical to conclude that both these men will have to physically die, otherwise Hebrews 9:27 is a lie.

The 7th Trumpet and the Third Woe, 11:14-20:3

Despite the phrase The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever, this 7th trumpet is not the last trumpet that heralds the return of Christ and at this point in the Revelation, the Tribulation is far from over. This will be exclaimed by those in heaven in anticipation of Christ’s ultimate victory.

Under this final trumpet judgment call, come all the events and judgments of the last half of the Tribulation, including all the bowl judgments.

Performers of the Tribulation, 12

In chapter 12, we have a complete “mini revelation” given to John in the form of several performers. What John sees he sees in heaven, but what these performers symbolize will be real people and events that will occur on the earth. Many commentators make the mistake of not taking Revelation in consecutive order, and claim what John saw in dramatic form was a kind of history of Israel. If Revelation is to be understood, then it must be taken literally where possible and read in consecutive order, just like we would read any other book.

The Woman Clothed in the Sun

This woman, seen in heaven, symbolizes the nation of Israel as it will exist on the Earth during the Tribulation. There are four reasons to support this conclusion:

· Israel is often referred to as a “woman” throughout the Old Testament, Isaiah 54:1-6; Jeremiah 3:1-14. In fact, the entire book of Hosea was written to show how Israel had become like an adulterous wife.

· There are three classes or groups of people on the earth according to 1 Corinthians 10:32; Gentiles, Jews, and the Church. At the time of the vision, the Church will be gone, leaving only Jews and Gentiles on the earth.

· The sun, moon, and 12 stars must symbolize the same things they did in Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37:9-11.

· The nation of Israel, regathered during the Tribulation, will fulfill in reality what the happens to the woman symbolically. In verse 6, the woman flees into the desert. This is clearly in fulfillment of what will happen to Israel according to Isaiah 16:1-5; Psalms 60:8-12; Ezekiel 20:33-38; Daniel 11:36-45; Hosea 2:14-23; Matthew 24:15-22.. The result of this persecution will be the conversion of Israel as a nation in a single day when Christ returns, Romans 11:26-27; Revelation 19:11-20:6; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10.

The Male Child

There are several theories as to who the Woman’s male child represents. Among the popular ideas that many believe, but that are incorrect, include: Jesus Christ, the True Church, and those who are baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Since the sun-clothed woman represents Israel, her male child must also be Jewish, therefore it cannot be the Church, either in part or whole, and since the Beast will try to kill the male child, it cannot be Jesus Christ. The male child must be alive, not some kind of resurrected or supernatural person or persons. The male child represents a remnant of believing Jews who will “come out” of Israel. Given what we see happening to this male child, the symbol can find its fulfillment only in the 144,000. This vision is the fulfillment of Isaiah 66:7—8.

What we see happening to the male child is what will happen to the 144,000, a small group to “come out” of Israel, that will be “caught up to stand before the throne in heaven (Revelation 12:5, compare with 14:1—5). The child is delivered from the Dragon at the time of the travail of the woman (12:1—6). The same thing will happen to the 144,000 (14:1—5). The child will be persecuted by the Dragon (12:1—6) and so will the 144,000, but God will mark them and protect from demonic assault (9:4). Neither the male child or the 144,000 are mentioned again as being on the earth after the 7th trumpet sounds. The male child is to rule the nations (12:5), and so will the 144,000, along with the saints when Christ comes back. The male child is seen in heaven (12:5) and so are the 144,000 (14:1—5). The male child is a baby compared to the size of the woman, and so will be the 144,000 when compared to the whole nation of Israel.

Consider what Daniel wrote in his vision of the translation or rapture of the 144,000—

1`And at that time [the beginning of the great Tribulation] stand up doth Michael, the great head, who is standing up for the sons of thy people [Michael is seen delivering Israel], and there hath been a time of distress [the three-and-one-half years of the Tribulation in Dan. 12:7—13; Rev. 11:1—3; 12:5—6, 14—16; 13:1—7)], such as hath not been since there hath been a nation [Matt. 24:15—26; Jer.30:7] till that time [when Michael stands up to cast out Satan and deliver the male child], and at that time do thy people [Israel] escape [Heb. Malat, meaning to escape also implies translation], every one [144,000] who is found written in the book. (Daniel 12:1, YLT)

The Dragon

The word “dragon” is 13 times in the New Testament and all in the book of Revelation. It is always a symbol of Satan. This is the first time he is mentioned in Revelation. It should be noted that Satan is not a dragon, he is a spirit being. He is symbolized as a dragon, just as Jesus Christ is represented as a Lamb.

The seven heads and ten horns symbolize the same nations as the seven heads and ten horns on the beast in Rev. 13:1—4; 17:1—8.

A War in Heaven

The “war” or more properly a “skirmish,” in heaven in Revelation 12 does not refer to the casting of Lucifer from heaven, along with the angels that followed him. This event occurred in the dateless past. What John is seeing in the form of a vision is another “war” in heaven that will occur in the middle of the Tribulation. It will take place in Heaven and will include the archangel Michael leading the army of God against Satan and his fallen angels.

As a result of this struggle, Satan and his minions will forever be barred from Heaven. They have access to it today: Rev. 12:10; Job 1:6; 2:1. Little wonder the second half of the Tribulation will so much worse than the first; Satan and many of the demons will be given free reign on Earth.

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

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