Posts Tagged 'Revelation'

Weird Bible Stories, Part 2

The book of Revelation is one weird book, especially if you don’t understand it. And plenty of Christians don’t. Many preachers don’t understand it either, and they say it’s a waste of time to even bother with it, and they’ll tell you so. That’s really bad advice, however. Reading and trying to understand what Revelation has to say comes with a promised blessing. No other book of the Bible comes with that promise; only Revelation.

Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. (Revelation 1:3 | NIV84)

If you haven’t made an attempt to read Revelation and understand it, you’re robbing yourself of a tremendous blessing. So, because I want you to be blessed, I’ll give you a very brief thumbnail sketch of what Revelation is all about, but chapter 12 will be put under the microscope.

Simple outline

There are two very simple things you need to know if you want to grasp Revelation. First, there’s this:

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw–that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 1:1-2 | NIV84)

Some people call this book The Revelation of St. John, but verse one says it’s Jesus’ revelation, not John’s. Throughout the book, Jesus is showing John His revelation; the Son is showing the apostle what the Father has shown Him regarding the future. You may wonder why God the Father needed to show His Son the future. Here’s why:

No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (Mark 13:32 | NIV84)

In the first 31 verses of Mark 13, our Lord was teaching His disciples about the future, and they wanted to know when the events He was talking about would be taking place. His answer was simply that nobody knows except the Father. That was Jesus before His death, resurrection, and ascension into Heaven. Once back in Heaven, Mark 13:32 became obsolete. The revelation Jesus Christ shared with John was what He didn’t know back in Mark 13. God the Father revealed to the Son His plan for man, and the book of Revelation is simply a record of that plan written out by the apostle John.

In fact, the book of Revelation, as we call it, isn’t really a book at all! It’s a letter – a very long letter written to churches John knew needed to know this information.

John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne…. (Revelation 1:4 | NIV84)

In the first three chapters, John deals specifically with issues confronting these churches. All these churches were struggling with various things. Some were suffering, others were losing their grip on sound doctrine. John offers words of encouragement, warning, and admonition to these churches. So, the first three chapters of Revelation cover things happening in John’s day. Almost nobody has anything controversial to say about anything John wrote to these churches in these chapters.

With chapter four, everything changes. The scene changes from Earth to Heaven; from John’s day on Patmos and the things happening to the churches of his day, to Heaven and Jesus’ revelation of what the future holds for the world.

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. (Revelation 4:1-2 | NIV84)

That phrase, “after this” has a two-fold meaning. First, the obvious one: After what John did in the first three chapters – after he saw the short vision of Jesus and after he addressed the churches. The second meaning is: After the churches. In other words, the events of what John is about see in Heaven – the revelation of Jesus Christ concerning the future – will take place after the church age on Earth. We are living in “the church age,” or some people call it “the age of grace.” Whatever you call it, it will come to an end. It started with the birth of the Church in Acts and will end when the Tribulation begins. The Tribulation is “what must take place” after the churches.

Once “the church age,” or the “age of grace” is over, God’s pent-up wrath will be poured out over large swaths of the Earth. God’s wrath at the moment is being stayed or held back by the Church, but that’s going to come to an end, and this time of wrath is what we call “the Tribulation,” and it will last for seven years. It begins like this:

I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest. (Revelation 6:1-2 | NIV84)

You’ve probably heard of the infamous “four horsemen of the apocalypse,” well, this is the first one. All they represent are various aspects of God’s wrath: a political conqueror, war and violence, famine and hyperinflation, and finally death. All these things are symbolized by colored horses. The horses aren’t real. They’re symbolic. What they symbolize, however, will be real. And that goes for all the symbols found in Revelation. They symbolize real things or people or events to come. The symbols, like the horsemen, are figures that stand for something literal.  So this period of tribulation will be characterized by the conditions and people represented by the horses and their riders.

The Tribulation drags on for seven years, occupying the bulk of the chapters of Revelation. By chapter 19, the whole mess comes to an end with the armies of the Heaven led by Jesus Christ coming to subdue the Antichrist and the armies of man. It’s called Armageddon, but it’s really a non-event:

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. (Revelation 19:11-14 | NIV84)

Then, after some judgments, the Millennial kingdom begins in Revelation 20. It lasts one thousand years, then when it’s over, Satan, who will be bound during the Millennium, will be released and finally judged:

And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 20:10 | NIV84)

When that’s over, the dead – all the dead from the beginning of time – will be raised and will stand before the throne of God.

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. (Revelation 20:12 | NIV84)

This is the great separation – the separation of the sheep and goats. Those who are born again will enter into their eternal state, and those who never accepted Christ during their lives will be judged according to how they lived, and then sentenced. They have no chance for heaven. Theirs will be an eternity separated from all that is good and righteous.

Then in chapter 21, we read about the New Jerusalem and we get the smallest glimpse into the eternal state, and then finally, with the last chapter, we read a kind of summary and some encouraging words to John, the man who saw what Jesus saw:

Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near.” (Revelation 22:10 | NIV84)

Chapter 12

So how does chapter 12 fit into all this? By the time we get to chapter 12, John has seen what will be happening during the first part of the Tribulation. That’s a lot for a human being to digest, so chapter 12 is a kind of pause; a break in the action. Yet, it’s a little more than that. It’s an explanation of some of the things John saw in the preceding chapters and it’s a way to remind him of certain things. Everything we see in this chapter is symbolic of something, or someone, else. The easiest way to break down what’s happening in chapter 12 is to identify the various symbols.

A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. (Revelation 12:1-2 | NIV84)

The identification of the woman is essential if you want to get this right. Key in understanding who this woman represents is knowing what the 12 stars symbolize, and Genesis 37:9, 10 gives us this information:

Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” (Genesis 37:9-10 | NIV84)

So the stars represent Rachel, Jacob, and Joseph’s brothers (the 12 tribes of Israel). The woman is just a symbol, remember, and the symbol is seen giving birth to a child. It would help if you knew Isaiah 9:6 in connection with this symbol:

For to us a child is born,to us a son is given,and the government will be on his shoulders.And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 | NIV84)

The “us” of Isaiah is the “woman” of the sign and she represents the nation of Israel. Israel gave birth to a son, Jesus Christ. So what John is witnessing in Heaven is a very brief moment of historical fact: The Messiah came from Israel.

Why did John need to be reminded of this fact? It’s because of the rest of what he saw in this vision filled with symbols.

Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. (Revelation 12:3-4 | NIV84)

The red dragon is, as you might have guessed, Satan. Verse 9 says as much:

The great dragon was hurled down–that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. (Revelation 12:9 | NIV84)

John is witnessing, in symbolic fashion, a little more history. He is being reminded of where Satan came from and how powerful he is. He has always stood in opposition to Jesus Christ, from the moment of His birth. He’s been on the earth for thousands of years, and he’ll be on the earth during the Tribulation, leading the whole world astray, and he has the help of the fallen angels.

She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. (Revelation 12:5 | NIV84)

A little more history for John to be reminded of. This verse speaks of what will happen when Christ returns: He will rule the nations. John probably needed to be reminded of this; Jesus had told His apostles He would but with all John had been witnessing, he needed to be reminded. The second sentence refers to our Lord’s ascension. So in spite of the fact that Satan hounded Christ while He was alive on earth, the Heavenly Father took Him back home after His earthly ministry was accomplished.

The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1 ,260 days. (Revelation 12:6 | NIV84)

Here’s a verse of explanation for John. He’s been witnessing the future and it will get very bleak for Israel. This verse explains that no matter what Satan and the antichrist have in store for Israel, and no matter how powerful Satan may be, Israel will be supernaturally protected During the worst part – the second half – of the Tribulation. This was meant to comfort the apostle.

Not only will there be great distress on earth for seven years, things will get a bit rowdy in Heaven, too. Satan and his angels will once and forever be expelled from Heaven. A lot of people find it hard to believe that Satan is in Heaven. The book of Job makes it clear that Satan has no choice but to report to God, and to submit to Him. But at some point during the Tribulation on earth, Satan and his angels will be completely cut off from God and hurled from Heaven.

When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. (Revelation 12:13 | NIV84)

Angered by his treatment, Satan will strike out even more vehemently at Israel. No wonder she will be supernaturally protected! But because he can’t have his way with Israel, Satan will turn his attention to all believers.

Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring–those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus. (Revelation 12:17 | NIV84)

In extremely brief fashion, this is the essence of what chapter 12 of Revelation is all about. It’s not about signs in the heavens for us today, rather it’s all about what the Lord showed John in heaven, to remind of him of his own nation’s history and to comfort him about its future.  When dealing with Bible prophecy, it’s best to let it interpret itself.  They Bible is not a mystery, full of hidden messages and codes.  It was written for every person to understand, with the help of the Holy Spirit.  When you read crazy things about Bible prophecy being fulfilled by planetary alignments or bad weather, you’d best keep your wits about you and remember these verses:

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things.  For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.  (2 Peter 1:20, 21 | TNIV)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Just Say Yes, Part 6

In the New Testament, a significant number of people said “yes” to Jesus Christ. We’re looking at a handful of them in this series, and so far, we looked at five of them:

• A couple of blind men, followers of Jesus both, said “yes” to Jesus and were healed of their blindness, Matthew 9:28;
• Some disciples replied “yes” to the teachings of Jesus, even though they weren’t quite sure what He was talking about. In their case, “yes” was a statement of faith, Matthew 13:51;
• That Syrophonecian woman – a foreigner – agreed with Jesus’ designation of her as a “dog,” and immediately received exactly what she needed from Him, Matthew 15:27;
• When her brother Lazarus died, his sister Martha said “yes” to Jesus, as the Resurrection, John 11:27;
• Peter, the impetuous apostle, said “yes” to Jesus not once, but three times, pledging his love and devotion to the Lord, John 21:15, 16.

Saying “yes” to the Lord is showing Him and others that you have faith – faith in Him and in His Word and abilities. As we learn to say “yes” to Jesus, we are living in obedience to God’s will and we are creating the conditions in which God will bless us and answer our prayers.

Not only that, from the moment you said “yes” to God’s gracious invitation to salvation, at least four simple blessings began to flow into your life:

Peace

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility… (Ephesians 2:14 | NIV84)

Jesus Christ has “made the two one.” In other words, by saying “yes” to Jesus’ gift of salvation, He has immediately made peace between you and God. God’s not angry at you anymore. His wrath, previously directed at you because of your sin, is gone in a moment when you said “yes” to Him.

Purpose

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 3:10 | NIV84)

When you start living for God, He gives your life purpose. Once you lived for yourself – and that’s the loneliest way to live – but now you live for Him, and that means blessing others as God has blessed you. It means planning your days and nights around HIS will for you. It means consciously looking for all those “good works” God has prepared for you to do.

Fellowship

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household… (Ephesians 3:19 | NIV4)

Saying “yes” to God put you in a whole new family! You are now members of God’s family; and it’s a huge one! You are bound to believers from all time from all walks of life by the blood of Jesus. Not only that, when you said your first “yes” to God, you became a citizen of Heaven and enjoy all the rights and privileges that citizenship gives you.

Focus

For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Ephesians 3:18 | NIV84)

Do you realize the profundity of that single verse? Because we said “yes” to God, we can enter His presence by His Spirit. We can pray with assurance that He hears our prayers. We can be guaranteed that He knows our needs and our desires. Through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we are able to focus on God because we are in His presence and we are made aware that He is our Sole Provider.

Peter wasn’t the only apostle who said “yes” to Jesus; John also said “yes” in the last chapter of the last book of the Bible:

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20 | NIV84)

Not only is that verse from the last chapter of the last book of the Bible, it also contains the last promise of the Bible and the last prayer of the Bible.

And, actually, there are two “yes’s” in that verse. Jesus said “yes” and John said “amen,” which is essentially as saying “yes” to what Jesus had just said “yes” to. Let’s take a look at John’s very consequential “yes.”

A profound book

The book of Revelation is truly profound. We call it a book, but really it’s just a long letter to seven churches, which are named for us in the first three chapters. This letter, or book, contains admonitions to those seven churches and it contains something else:

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 1:1, 2 \ NIV84)

When we read chapters 4 – 22, we are reading “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” That’s just a fancy way of saying that we are reading something that God showed Jesus, which He in turned showed to John, and John in turn showed to us through what he wrote to these seven churches. What God revealed to Jesus was nothing less than what the future holds for Jews, Gentiles, and the Church. It’s a book of prophecies concerning certain events that will take place, including the Second Coming of Jesus, and how those events will touch the lives of God’s people.

Every book in the Bible is just as important as the other, but Revelation is the climax and consummation of God’s Word to man. God has told man everything he needs to know to live the “good life,” and Revelation simply confirms everything the previous 65 book of the Bible said.

John put Jesus’ revelation from God to paper. John was an apostle, who also wrote the Gospel of John and three other letters. He was also a prophet and a leader of the churches in and around Asia Minor. He was the son of Zebedee and he and his family were very successful and prosperous fishermen. John was particularly close to Jesus, along with James and Peter. Even though he was mentioned only three times in the whole book of Acts, John was a key figure in the early Church. Tradition says that John eventually settled in Ephesus, where, under the reign of Domitian, he was arrested and banished to a small island known as Patmos to work in the mines there.

Revelation was one of the last parts of the New Testament written, some time in the 90’s. When you read the first three chapters, you can get a sense of how complacent the church had become during its second generation. It’s sad that most of those seven churches had already forsaken the beliefs and convictions of their fathers.

There are different ways to interpret the book of Revelation, and the purpose of this study is not to teach those differing schools of interpretation. Instead, I want to focus solely on the last few verses of the last chapter, which make the epilogue of the book.

The last words of the angel, 22:6 – 11

The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.” (Revelation 22:6 | NIV84)

This angel had been with John throughout the book and among his final words are words of reassurance John had heard before, and likely needed to hear again. The “words are trustworthy and true,” that is, the amazing things John had seen and heard are dependable – these incredible prophecies may be counted upon to take place.

God had given His Son His program for the future of mankind and Jesus gave that program to John to give to the churches. That program is profound and far reaching and so phenomenal, we need this reassurance that God will, as He has always done throughout history, keep His promises.

Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.” (Revelation 22:10, 11 | NIV84)

The angel told John not to “conceal” or “hide” what he saw. It’s interesting that, given the dramatic similarities between this book and the Old Testament book of Daniel that Daniel was told to do exactly the opposite!

The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future. (Daniel 8:26 | NIV84)

Why? In Daniel’s day, the things he saw – essentially the same things John saw – were a long way from being fulfilled. But now, in John’s day, “the time is near.” Many of the things both Daniel and John saw concerned the early church. Some of those prophecies have already come to pass, in part or in whole, during the days of the Roman Empire. And yet, there are other prophecies that have a continuing fulfillment throughout the centuries. There’s a reason why history repeats itself. As Sherlock Holmes said in “The Valley of Fear,”

Everything comes in circles. The old wheel turns, and the same spoke comes up. It’s all been done before, and will be again.

That’s the way it is with some of the prophecies of Revelation and Daniel. But all the prophecies of Revelation, the partially fulfilled ones and the ones being continually fulfilled, will be completely fulfilled in the future, by the time Jesus comes back.

The time of man’s dominance on the earth will draw to an end; the age of grace that we are presently enjoying, the long probationary period, will be over:

“Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.” (Revelation 22:11 | NIV84)

That’s a curious verse. What it simply means is that even in the very end of days, people will continue to live as they always have. Good or bad. And for those not repenting, it will be too late. That’s a scary thought. There will be a day when God’s patience and grace will run out.

The last words of Jesus, 22:12 – 16

“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.” (Revelation 22:12 | NIV84)

That’s Jesus talking and it’s exciting. We all know about salvation by grace. We all know about the Second Coming. But now we hear about rewards He will be bring with Him when He comes back! Salvation is entirely a work of grace, but rewards are based on our works.

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. (1 Corinthians 3:11 – 15 | NIV84)

We don’t talk much about that, but rewards are a pretty big deal that should be talked about; they are a great motivation for living right. Don’t you like gifts? Jesus is coming back and He’s bringing rewards with Him.

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” (Revelation 22:16 | NIV84)

There you have it; that’s how we got this book of Revelation. Jesus sent that angel who was hanging around John all the time, to give the apostle “this testimony,” or the revelation to the seven churches. Everything John heard and saw came from Jesus. None of the visions or prophecies came out of John’s head.

This is Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man. He’s the “Root and the Offspring of David,” thus the true and promised King of kings; the fulfillment of all of God’s promises to Israel. He’s the “bright Morning Star,” because Jesus Christ IS the new day and the new dawn. To every believer, Christ is the Promise of new day. He shines today as brightly as in the day of John on Patmos. Jesus Christ: He doen’t set and He doesn’t fall.

The last words of the Spirit and the Bride, 22:17

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. (Revelation 22:17 | NIV84)

Those are the words of the Holy Spirit and of the Church, collectively, crying out for the Lord to return, and crying out for those who are in need to come and receive the “free gift of the water of life.” Only Jesus can meet the needs of your heart. His gifts, His ‘water of life’ always satisfy; always give you what you need.

The last words of John. 22:18

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:18 | NIV84)

John quotes Jesus; the Lord is coming soon. To everything that he has seen and heard, John says “Amen,” he says “yes.”

• “Yes” to the last words of the angel: everything in the book of Revelation is true, reliable, and dependable. In fact, ALL of God’s Word is true, reliable, and dependable!
• “Yes” to the last words of Jesus: He IS coming soon; He IS bringing rewards for His people; He is the genuine, long awaited King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
• “Yes” to the last words of the Spirit and the Church: Come Lord Jesus! Come all who need Him! Jesus Christ, the soon coming King is also the Source of everything you need – everything you will ever need!
• “Yes” was John’s final word to everything he saw and heard and to the promise of the Second Coming.

Yes! Amen! Those should be our final words, too.

Be’s of the Bible, Part 5

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Many times in Scripture, we are told to “be” something. In our study of some “Be’s” of the Bible, we’ve covered four so far. The four we’ve looked at include:

• Be holy (because God is holy), 1 Peter 1:15, 16
• Be perfect (this one is really, “Be mature”), 2 Corinthians 13:11
• Be still (and let God do the work), Psalm 46:10
• Be sober (stay clear headed, keep your eyes open), 1 Peter 5:8

All the “be’s” are imperative; they are things God wants us to do or become. Consider them to be commands from your Commander. We’d all be better off if we paid attention to the all the “be’s” of the Bible because, obviously, God knows what’s best for us.

Our fifth “be” is found in Revelation 2:10, and is part of John’s letter to the congregation in Smyrna –

Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. (NIV)

What is a Smyrna?

No, it’s not a disease. Smyrna is a place that no longer exists. Along with six other destinations, the church located at Smyrna received a letter from John containing either good news or bad news from Jesus Christ concerning the particular church to whom the letter was addressed. These seven churches in chapters two and three of Revelation are significant. First of all, they were real places that existed at this point in time. We’re familiar with two of them – Ephesus and Laodicea – because they are mentioned elsewhere in the Bible. But all seven were real churches, filled with real Christians with the same problems and strengths our churches have today.

So we might say that while John wrote specifically to these seven churches, they actually represent all churches of that time and those of every century since. Just as, for example, Paul wrote letters to a church in Thessalonica, what was written in those letters could be applied to many other churches because all churches, everywhere and at any time, have the same problems.

One other chilling point. Each of the seven letters opens like this:

“To the angel of the church in…”

The “angel” is really just the pastor. So each letter is addressed to the pastor. I say that’s chilling because that means that the Lord sees the condition of a local church as the pastor’s responsibility (or fault!). Good or bad, it’s on the pastor.

You may not have heard of Smyrna, but maybe you’ve heard of Izmir. That’s what Smyrna is today. Izmir today is the third most populous city in Turkey, after Istanbul and Ankara. The letter written to Smyrna was written after the one written to Ephesus, perhaps because they were located in very close proximity, about thirty miles apart. It was a large, metropolitan commercial center known for its many fine wines. It was, as it is today, a beautiful city, filled with stunning architecture. Back then, there were all kinds of temples built to accommodate the worshippers of all kinds of gods, including a huge temple erected in honor of Emperor Tiberias.

Unfortunately, Smyrna had a dark underbelly courtesy of the many apostate Jews there. They were social agitators, often the instigators in the persecution of Christians. In fact, the word “Smyrna” means “bitter,” and is translated elsewhere in the New Testament as “myrrh.” Living in Smyrna was a bitter experience for many Christians.

Smyrna was also a major center in the worship of government; specifically, of Caesar. This came from an attitude of appreciation to Rome for their benevolence, and later it evolved into a kind of patriotic religion. It wasn’t so bad in the beginning; worship of Caesar was wholly voluntary, but it soon because compulsory. Of course, no Christian could ever worship any god, be it Caesar or any other one, save the One true God.

So the Christians were getting it from all sides in Smyrna; there was bitterness aplenty. No wonder our Lord wanted to speak to them personally. If ever a church needed to hear from it’s Head, it was the church in Smyrna.

The letter

John sent these seven letters to the pastors of seven churches. The letters contained the revelation John had of future events, but also personal words from the Lord unique to each church. The first letter was sent to Ephesus, capital of the province of Asia and the place John called home before and after his exile on the island of Patmos.

The second letter went to Smyrna, a neighboring city. It began like this –

To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: “These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.” (Revelation 2:8 NIV)

The greeting from Jesus probably meant a lot more to the Christians in Smyrna than it does to Christians today. This church was under relentless persecution and many of its members would become martyrs. To these, our Lord referred to Himself as the One who died yet lives, assuring them of the motivating hope of resurrection. During His earthly ministry, our Lord told His disciples this –

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28 NIV)

Motivational? Yes! Many Christians today have it backwards; they fear what people might do to them if they take a stand for Christ instead of fearing what Christ thinks of them when they compromise their testimony. It’s a measure of how worldly you are if you’re like that.

Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:26 NIV)

Believe me, you don’t want the Lord to be ashamed of you!

John’s letter continues –

I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. (Revelation 2:9 NIV)

That’s Jesus talking, not John, and those first two words can be cut both ways: “I know.” Yes, the Lord knows – He knows the good and the bad about you and your church. He knows how you’ve compromised your faith for your comfort, and He knows how you’ve suffered on account of your faith. For these precious believers in Smyrna facing the very real prospect of martyrdom, what a comfort it must have been to be reassured that Jesus knows. He knew all about their “afflictions and poverty.” Apparently their afflictions (or tribulations) caused their poverty. This suggests that not everybody in the congregation was poor to start with; they became poor because of their affiliation with Jesus Christ. This was not unheard of in the early church –

You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. (Hebrews 10:34, 35 NIV)

In all probability, the Jewish and pagan mobs were pillaging the property of the Christians and it’s entirely probable that many of these Christians lost their livelihood on account of their faith and were cut off from their families. These believers had it bad.

The Greek word translated “afflictions” is a funny looking one: thlipsis, and it’s a very intense word meaning things like, “pressed” or “squeezed.” It’s a graphic description of how these believers felt: like grapes in a winepress, squeezed until every ounce of juice was squeezed out of them. The pressure exerted against these believers and this church must have been awful. Yet it didn’t shut down and its members didn’t disperse.

From all appearances, this was a church overcome with poverty, yet by our Lord’s own estimation, it was rich! They had become materially poor, yet spiritually rich. The two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, but this combination is seen over and over in the New Testament.

All of this persecution found its source primarily in the Jews who were living in Smyrna. The thing about these Jews was they while they may have been Jews by race and religion, their actions demonstrated that these people were not true sons of Abraham. Paul knew all about people like this –

A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. (Romans 2:28, 29 NIV)

It’s not an accident or a clever turn of phrase that these Jewish persecutors were described as being from “the synagogue of Satan.” Their treatment of God’s people showed with whom they had aligned themselves. How evil were these Jews? The story of the martyrdom of Polycarp illustrates the fact of the blackness of their hearts. Polycarp, disciple of John, was a harmless preacher and teacher of the Gospel, yet he was so hated by the Jews of Smyrna that, even though it was the Sabbath, they collected enough word to burn this man of peace alive.

A word of encouragement

Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. (Revelation 2:10 NIV)

That’s the background of our fifth “Be” of the Bible, “be faithful.” But before we get to that, our Lord issues a mild admonition: “do not be afraid.” These amazing believers were hanging tough to be sure, but obviously  some were becoming fearful, and our Lord certainly doesn’t sugar-coat their prospects: things were about to get a whole lot worse. Our Lord wasn’t trying to scare these people but to fortify them! Keep it in perspective: their future (and ours) is in the hands of “the first and the last,” the one who was dead and became alive. If Jesus can do that, He is surely able to carry believers through death to life.

That phrase, “the devil will put some of you in prison to test you,” may bother you a little. It shouldn’t. This refers to the testing of their faith. Yes, the Devil is the one who is inspiring these persecutions, but the Lord will allow them to accomplish HIS purpose in the lives of these Christians. So Job well understood –

But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. (Job 28:10 NIV)

This word of encouragement goes beyond the expected for these believers encouraged to keep on keeping on even to the point of death. In other words: Never give up! Never give the Devil a quarter.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV)

The good news is that for those believers who will remain faithful no matter what, a great reward is waiting them: The victor’s crown. Now, that’s not the crown a king wears. There’s only ONE king and that’s not you. The Greek word for “crown” is stephanos, the “victor’s crown.” It’s really the “crown of life,” as in “eternal life.” Yes, eternal life depends on believers remaining faithful right up until the bitter end. It’s not how you began the race that counts, it’s how you end it.

Some Doxologies

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Some New Testament Doxologies

The book of Revelation. It’s the one book of the Bible that’s cool to quote from, even if most people refer to it as Revelations. To the uninitiated, the book of Revelation is all about “the end of days,” the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, the Antichrist, the battle of Armageddon, and so on. Yet the last book book of the Bible is really all about Jesus Christ and His final victory over sin. Tucked in among all the drama, death, plagues, and supernatural events recorded in Revelation, are some profound doxologies. A “doxology” is fancy word for a “short hymn of praise to God,” in which He is exalted for many reasons. Let’s consider some doxologies found in Revelation.

Praise God because He is omnipotent, Revelation 4:8—11; 7:11, 12

This doxology follows a record of letters John sent to seven churches in Asia. In chapter 4, the action in this book shifts from churches on earth to the throne room in heaven. How fortunate we are to be given this tiniest glimpse into God’s world! The doxology is sung by “four beasts,” or more accurately, “four living beings.” These are not angels, although they do exist and function alongside angels (see 5:11). Some scholars believe these “four living beings” were created solely for the purpose of worshiping God and extolling His virtues. We may think of them as heaven’s worship leaders.

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty—the one who was, and is, and is to come. (Revelation 4:10 TLB)

Their song of praise begins with praising God’s holiness. The phrase, “holy, holy, holy” has a reference to the Triune God. Yahweh is completely holy. This attribute is the one that separates God forever from anything or anybody tainted with sin. This holiness of God’s is active; it is revealed to sinful man so as to make them holy through salvation or to cast them away forever in judgment.

O Lord, you are worthy to receive the glory and the honor and the power, for you have created all things. They were created and called into being by your act of will.” (Revelation 4:11 TLB)

The words of praise offered by the heavenly worship leaders is responded to by the 24 elders. Who are these people? Some believe they represent the Church around the throne, but that is unlikely. The 24 elders, like the four living beings, are likely creations of God who act in harmony with each other. They live to worship God; to draw attention to aspects of His character. In response to God’s holiness, the elders “cast their crowns” before Him; they fall prostrate before Him. As they do, they exclaim praises God alone deserves. God is holy, God is eternal, and He is worthy to receive: glory, honor, and power. Why? Because He is the great Creator; from His mind and will sprang all things. And this fact moves these heavenly elders to fall face down at Yahweh’s throne.

This vision of John’s did not come out of his imagination. What human mind could conceive of such a scene? John was given a sneak peak into heaven and he wrote down what he saw. This vision is absolutely foundational and fundamental for the rest of the events of Revelation. It is also the foundation and is fundamental for your life. The throne of God is central; He is the One in control of the events of earth and of the events in your life. And ultimately He is the One worthy of your praise.

In chapter 7, there is another short doxology:

And now all the angels were crowding around the throne and around the Elders and the four Living Beings, and falling face down before the throne and worshiping God. “Amen!” they said. “Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be to our God forever and forever. Amen!” (Revelation 7:11, 12 TLB)

A new creature is added to the worship chorus. All the angels in heaven now gather together with the four living beings and the 24 elders in praise and worship of God. Again, the throne is at the center of attention. In this hymn of praise, seven points of praise are sung to Him: blessing, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, power, and might. Some scholars have noted that the number “7” symbolizes completeness, and suggests that the angels, the Elders, and the four living beings worship God to the fullest extent, for all eternity. And it is God’s greatness—His omnipotence— that motivates them! Does it motivate you to do the same?

Praise Christ, the Redeemer, Revelation 5:9—13; 7:9, 10

A “new song” is started here in verse 9. The song is new because of what it contains, even though it begins the same way as the doxology in 4:11—“You are worthy…” Yet it’s different. In chapter 4, God is praised because He is worthy. Here, the worthiness belongs to Christ. He is worthy to receive the book and read it. But ultimately Christ is worthy because He shed His blood and purchased sinners from the slavery of sin. We were bought for God and we belong to Him and this is cause to praise Christ because He made that possible.

And you have gathered them into a kingdom and made them priests of our God; they shall reign upon the earth. (Revelation 5:10 TLB)

Christ’s redemptive act made us into a kingdom and made us priests. What a privilege it is to minister before God and to God! The last phrase, “they shall reign upon the earth” suggests a future event. Some scholars see a reference to the Millennial Kingdom here. Saints of God will rule and reign with Christ. But the tense of this verse begins with a past action: God “made” us into a kingdom, not He will “make us” into kingdom. In a sense, Christians, saints, exist in the Kingdom now. Both tenses are correct. We are a kingdom and we will reign with Christ.

This “new song” is really a vindication of the historicity of Jesus Christ; He is the Savior who worked and works in the stream of man’s history. By an act of His will, the Son of God sacrificed Himself to purchase sinners for the service of God, established an empire, and gave redeemed man the supreme purpose of priestly service to the Lord.

Then in my vision I heard the singing of millions of angels surrounding the throne and the Living Beings and the Elders… (Revelation 5:11 TLB)

There is no way of estimating how many angels joined in this song of praise to God. The idea from the Greek is something like this: ten thousand times ten thousand. In other words, in heaven, there exists an uncountable number of angels that, at least periodically, join in the worship of God started and carried on by the four living beings and the 24 elders. But the scene gets even more profound:

And then I heard everyone in heaven and earth, and from the dead beneath the earth and in the sea, exclaiming, “The blessing and the honor and the glory and the power belong to the one sitting on the throne, and to the Lamb forever and ever.” And the four Living Beings kept saying, “Amen!” And the twenty-four Elders fell down and worshiped him. (Revelation 5:13, 14 TLB)

This is John’s way of conveying the impossible: somehow, God enabled John to “hear” every single word of praise to Christ uttered all over the material universe. Only God could make this happen. The point of this whole scene is that Jesus Christ, the slain Lamb, is worthy to praised by every single created thing everywhere.

After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from all nations and provinces and languages, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white, with palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a mighty shout, “Salvation comes from our God upon the throne, and from the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9, 10 TLB)

With group of verses, John finally sees something he is familiar with: the church. Up till now, John has seen some strange creatures nobody else has seen: angels and other heavenly beings. But here he sees redeemed human beings (the vast crowd) doing exactly what all the supernatural beings have been seen doing: shouting praise to Christ. Spurgeon once remarked:

Does not all nature around me praise God? If I were silent, I should be the exception to the universe.

Naturally, these saints of God praise the Lord for His salvation.

Praise God because He reigns, Revelation 11:15—18; 19:1—7

The blowing of the seventh trumpet of God’s judgment is the motivation for this doxology.

The Kingdom of this world now belongs to our Lord, and to his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15 TLB)

The result of God’s stunning judgments on the earth will be result of the surrendering of its kingdoms to Christ. In other words, He becomes the rightful King of Kings. Now, technically, this is not really a doxology but rather the declaration of a fact. What follows reveals what was (or from our vantage point, what will be) involved in the world’s kingdom becoming the Lord’s:

We give thanks, Lord God Almighty, who is and was, for now you have assumed your great power and have begun to reign.” (Revelation 11:16 TLB)

He “assumed” His great power. The suggestion is that of unstoppable, immeasurable power. Right now, our Lord is holding that power in check. But when He finally “lets go,” the nations of this will not be able to stand up before Him.

The nations were angry with you, but now it is your turn to be angry with them. It is time to judge the dead and reward your servants—prophets and people alike, all who fear your Name, both great and small—and to destroy those who have caused destruction upon the earth.” (Revelation 11:18 TLB)

And here is how the end will come: judgment. An awful destiny awaits those who “caused destruction upon the earth.” This refers, not just to wars we have been through over the centuries, but also to the absolute hostility to the rule of God. In fact, all enemies of God and mankind will be done away with once and for all.

The nations of this world, including our own, have always been in opposition to God and His ways. The return of Christ will provoke all nations to stand in blatant opposition to His new kingdom. Of course, that puny opposition will amount to nothing whatsoever.

In chapter 19, we have a wonderful doxology which celebrates God’s justice and victory over Babylon and the vindication of all the martyrs. One “hallelujah” or “Praise the Lord!” won’t be enough! Four of them ring out in unison. The hymn of praise deals with a number of things involving God’s perfect judgment. That’s a cause for rejoicing!

God is praised for four things: His redemption; His righteous judgments, especially upon Babylon; for His inestimable worth; and His coming reign.

The whole scene ends with the beginning of what we call “the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

Let us be glad and rejoice and honor him; for the time has come for the wedding banquet of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself. She is permitted to wear the cleanest and whitest and finest of linens (Revelation 19:7, 8 TLB)

Normally, a wedding is all about the bride—she is the center of attention. But this marriage will be different, here  He, Jesus Christ, will be the center of attention. In this single verse, we see the very delicate balance between the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. Note: “the bride has prepared herself,” something she, the Church, does herself; “she is permitted to wear” that which was given to her, righteous acts done in this life. The bride is the bride because of the righteousness of Christ worked through her. Righteous deeds spring from righteous character, which is entirely the result of God’s grace.

When you stop to consider God’s greatness in His character, His nature, His deeds, and His actions, you can’t help by offer Him a doxology.  Try it.

 

Studies in Daniel and Revelation

The Beasts of Revelation

Remember, chapter 13 is still considered a “parenthetical passage,” a pause in the consecutive order of the Revelation. What we are reading is a continuation of the “vision within a vision” John saw in heaven, symbolizing what will be happening on the Earth during the Tribulation. This vision is full of symbols and they must be treated as symbols and not taken literally, even though the people and events they symbolize will be real people and events.

The Beast from the sea, 13:1—10, 18

The “sea” is a symbol of population. The Beast from the sea symbolizes a nation and specifically the leader of that nation who will rise to world-wide prominence. It also symbolizes a supernatural spirit which will be the inspiration for the Beast. We know that this particular Beast symbolizes or represents the personal Antichrist. Here is what we know about him—

  • At this time, we do not know who the Antichrist is or will be. Though many Christians find inventive ways to “prove” that the Antichrist is the Pope, or President Obama or Javier Solana, the fact is it is highly unlikely he is a man now prominent in world affairs.
  • Daniel 7:24 teaches us that the Antichrist will NOT be revealed until AFTER the formation of the ten-nation confederacy is formed within the boundaries of the old Roman Empire. The Beast, the Antichrist, will rise to prominence quickly from one of the ten-nations and attempt to gain control of all of them during the first half of the Tribulation. His rising to power from “sea of humanity” symbolizes his dominance over the ten-nation confederacy near the middle of the Tribulation.
  • The Antichrist will be the head-of-state of one of the ten nations at the beginning of the Tribulation and will gain power over the other nine during the last half of the Tribulation. During this time, he will claim god-like supremacy over the lives of people, and will be worshiped by the citizens of the ten-nation confederacy (Dan. 8:25; 11:36—45; 2 Thess. 2:4).
  • During part of the last half of the Tribulation, the Antichrist will make Jerusalem his seat of power (Dan. 11:45). In fact, his capital will be in the Temple of God (2 Thess. 2:4). This is where the abomination of desolation will be placed (Dan. 9:27; 12:7—13; Matt. 24:15—22; Rev. 11:1—2; 13:12—18).
  • Even though the Antichrist will be a man and not a supernatural monstrosity, he will be inspired and empowered by Satan and the other rulers of the ten-nation confederacy. However, it must be noted that it is God who will allow Satan to empower this man and inspire him in his plans (Dan. 8:24; 2 Thess. 2:8—12; Rev. 13:1—2). It is also God who will allow the other national leaders to give the Antichrist power of their countries in order to destroy Israel.

Common titles of the Antichrist

Throughout Scripture, this Son of Perdition is given different name, each one describing his character and his nature. Among his titles are the following—

  • Antichrist. This is the most common and most descriptive title for he will be Christ’s greatest opponent on Earth. Although the word occurs only four times in the Bible in relation to this personal Antichrist of the future, whenever it is mentioned, he is the one people think of.
  • The Assyrian. Isaiah 10:20—27; 30:18—33; 31:4—20; Micah 5:3—15. While the prophecies of these Scriptures concern the Assyrian king in the day they were uttered, it becomes clear that there is a future fulfillment of these prophetic words and a future “Assyrian King.” He will oppress Israel in the years just preceding her final restoration. The territory that made up part of the old Assyrian kingdom will be part of the Antichrist’s country, hence this title.
  • The King of Babylon. Isaiah 14:4. This is one prophecy that had a partial fulfillment in the overthrow of Babylon by the Medes and Persians. Its complete fulfillment will occur during the restoration of Israel (“day of the Lord”), which will happen with the Lord return
  • The Oppressor, Faithless Man. Isaiah 16:1—5.
  • Gog. Ezekiel 38 and 39 will be fulfilled at Armageddon.
  • The Little Horn. Daniel 7:8, 24; 8:9, 23.
  • A Stern-faced King. Daniel 8:23
  • The prince that will come. Daniel 9:26—27.
  • King of the North. Daniel 11:36—45. This is the king of the Syrian division of the old Grecian Empire. He is called the king of the north because he will come from this northern division of Greece, north of Palestine.
  • Man of sin or lawlessness. 2 Thessalonians 2:1—12
  • Son of Perdition or “man doomed to destruction.” 2 Thessalonians 2:1—12

Beast from the earth, 13:11—17

This is a second beast, distinct from the first. He is called “the false prophet” in Revelation 16:13; 19:20; 20:10, which are the only passages in the Bible to mention him. He will be prophet for the Antichrist, but he will be a false prophet. Here is what we know about this man—

  • He rises to prominence after the rise of the Antichrist. John refers to him as “another” beast. The word allos (“another”) means “another of the same kind.” This suggests that many of his characteristics will be the same as those of the Antichrist.
  • He will rise to prominence “from the earth,” meaning he will come from “the people of the earth,” it does not mean that he will be some kind of supernatural demonic who rises from the grave. The two beasts will be two men, not demons or resurrected evil men from the past.
  • He will be lamb-like and genuine in appearance only and will be perfectly suited to fill the role of a leader of a new religion.
  • He will have similar power to that of the Antichrist and he will allow Satan to work through him to the benefit of the Antichrist.
  • He will exercise “miraculous powers” that will deceive many into thinking the Antichrist is man from God or God Himself. Satan is known as the deceiver of men, but his deception will reach its zenith during the final three and one half years of man.
  • He will have a statue or image of the Antichrist erected in the Jewish temple, where people will “worship” it according to Matthew 24:15. Apparently, this statue or image will be so lifelike it will appear to be alive; those who do not pay it homage will be killed.
  • The false prophet will institute a program to will mark and identify the Antichrist’s supporters and distinguish them from those who don’t support him. This marking will result in the martyrdom of many, but not all, who refuse to take the mark. The so-called “worship” of the Antichrist will be a mixture of political adulation and religious devotion. Many scholars have noted that this “worship” will not be willing on the part of many, but they will feel forced and coerced into it. Unfortunately, the doom of all who willingly or unwillingly participate in this apostate worship has already been determined, Revelation 14:9—11.

The mark or brand that will be on some will take one of three forms:

· A “mark,” which will be seen by others.

· The “name of the beast,” that is, of the Antichrist.

· The “number of his name.” The common notion is that the letters of the Antichrist’s name will add up to 666 because the in both Greek and Hebrew there is not separate system of numbers; the letters of their alphabet have a numeric value.

The mark or brand of the Beast will be given sometime during the latter half of the Tribulation. Many people today speculate what form the mark or marks will take, but there is no way anyone can guess what it will look like from where we stand today.

The seven-headed, ten-horned Beast, 17:1, 3, 7—17

The Beast mentioned in chapters 11—20 is fleshed out in chapters 13 and 17. Remember, the Beast is a symbol of a man because the nature of a beast characterizes this man of the future; he will be “beast-like,” that is, cunning, wild, amoral, and undisciplined.

We have already discussed this Beast as the Antichrist. However, this Beast as a symbol symbolizes a total of three things:

  • A man. The Beast is the Antichrist, the “beast from the sea.”
  • A supernatural being. The Beast is also the “beast out of the Abyss,” the one empowering and inspiring the Antichrist.
  • An empire or nation.

The Beast, while without question symbolizes the Antichrist, must also symbolize these other two things

The Beast from the Abyss, 11:7; 17:8

Speculation abounds as to who or what this Beast is. The Abyss is not a place where human spirits go, so whoever this Beast is, it cannot be a human being, reincarnated or otherwise. The Abyss is, as taught in the Bible, a kind of prison for demonic spirits (Luke 8:31; Rev 9). It is to be the future place home of Satan for a thousand years, as well. At the present time, however, there are there are only imprisoned demonic spirits there.

This Beast, then, has to represent some sort of demonic spirit. Perhaps he will be a kind “arch demon,” under the direct control of Satan. It seems he will be the controlling influence behind the Antichrist, giving him all the power and charisma he needs to rise to political heights. In fact, a key statement concerning this demon is this—

…[H]e once was, now is not, and yet will come… (17:8)

This is a cryptic statement that means exactly what it says: this demon was on the earth at one time, now he is not, but he will be released back onto the earth in the future. This demon will be the controlling impulse behind the Antichrist, who will form another nation, symbolized by the beast. This is nothing new; the kingdoms of this world currently belong to Satan. It is true that nothing happens without God allowing it to happen and from to time God interferes in Satan’s plans for his kingdoms, but when Satan was tempting Jesus in the wilderness, he offered the Lord the kingdoms of the world and Jesus did not deny his right to do so (Luke 4:5—6).

From the dawn of Israel’s history, five prominent kingdoms or nations were used of Satan to destroy God’s plan. Satan has been battling God’s plan for the redemption of His people by trying to wipe Israel off the map because from Israel would come their Savior. Throughout history, we can see how Satan has used five kingdoms to do this. However, as we have seen, God has taken advantage of Satan’s plans to destroy Israel and turned Satan’s nefarious plans around to merely discipline and chastise His people. The five kingdoms were: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece. These are the five kingdoms before the time of John. The sixth kingdom, Rome, was in existence during John’s time but Rome was Israel’s protector for a time, not her persecutor. A seventh kingdom or nation will arise during the Tribulation in the form of 10 smaller nations. This nation (the ten-nation confederacy) will continue to do what all of Satan’s kingdoms have always done: persecute Israel. The Beast will establish and rule an eighth nation, and it will become the most godless nation that has ever existed on earth and will persecute Israel more intensely than any other nation. This eighth and final nation will exist solely to destroy Israel and put a stop to God’s plan for the redemption of Israel, God’s people.

One of the key passages of Scripture that shows the demonic control of nations is Daniel 10:1—11:1. In the last verse, 11:1, we read this—

And in the first year of Darius the Mede, I took my stand to support and protect him.

Michael was the Prince behind the nation of Israel and it was Gabriel’s job to strengthen him, and ultimately, Israel. This section in Daniel illustrates the fact that angels and demons have direct influence over and responsibilities for different nations on earth. God ordains certain angels, like Michael, to bring about the rise or fall of nations in order to bring about God’s will for His people on earth. These verses all illustrate how Satan tries to prevent that from happening in order to thwart God’s plans.

Now, consider this passage—

So he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince.) (10:20—21)

That is a reference to the coming of Alexander the Great. But notice the phrase “the prince of Greece.” Who does that refer to? Alexander, yes, but also to the force behind Alexander, a “demonic prince.” And it is that “demonic prince,” who will return to earth after John’s time (remember Rev. 17:8) to pull the strings of the Antichrist as he will be the antitype to Alexander.

The extent of the Antichrist’s reign, 13:5—18

In understanding the full extent of the influence of this future political leader, the Antichrist, the common thinking is that he will reign over the world. If we read the prophecies of the Bible without studying them, it is easy to come to that conclusion. However, as powerful as this man will be, and he will be powerful, he will not be a “world-wide dictator.” Consider—

1. Revelation 13 limits the empire of the Antichrist to the ten nations that are yet to be established within the territory of the old Roman Empire.

2. Daniel 7:7—8, 17—27 limits the Antichrist’s reign to the ten nations of the future confederacy.

3. In Daniel 11:40—45, it is stated that when the Antichrist breaks his peace treaty with the Jews (Daniel 9:27) and enters Palestine in the middle of the Tribulation and passes a law that all must worship him that—

Many countries will fall, but Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon will be delivered from his hand. (11:41b)

Clearly if these countries escape the Antichrist and they are bordering the Antichrist’s seat of power, it is reasonable to conclude that nations across ocean or on the other side of the world will also escape his dominion.

4. Most of Israel will escape the Antichrist when he takes Jerusalem by escaping into Moab and Edom, where they will find protection, Daniel 9:27.

5. Daniel 11:44—45 speaks of “many” nations not under control of the Antichrist, and he engages them in war.

6. Zechariah the prophets wrote than many people, even some within the Antichrist’s ten nation confederacy, will refuse to take his mark and survive. Note the wording of this passage—

Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, they will have no rain. (Zechariah 14:16—17)

7. “All” as it is used is various Scriptures does not mean necessarily mean “all.” Sometimes, when the Bible uses “all” it uses it as a synecdoche. That almost unpronounceable literary term simply means that sometimes a part of something is used to represent the whole and vice versa. The definition is as confusing as the word itself, so here are some examples—

  • Genesis 6:17. If we took this verse literally, then we would have to conclude that Noah and his family and all the animals on the ark died. Not to mention all the fish and sea animals.
  • Joshua 6:21—25. Not everybody in Jericho died because we know, for example, Rahab and her family were spared.
  • 2 Samuel 6:5, 15. Not everybody in Israel was involved, for not every citizen could play a musical instrument and babies and the sick and infirm and elderly could not be brought together as the text suggests.
  • Daniel 2:37—38; 4:1, 11—12, 20. We are told that Nebuchadnezzar ruled over all men, but we know that was never true. He never ruled over Greece or Rome or many other nations.
  • Matthew 3:5—6. Not everybody in Judea was baptized. No Pharisee or Sadducee would have done such a thing, and many people in that area never heard of John the Baptist much less baptized by him.
  • Luke 2:1—3. Laws made by Roman emperors were only binding on Roman citizens or those living under Roman law.

There are numerous examples, but hopefully the above handful give you a sense of what “all” often means in Scripture.  This is why the careful Bible student must have a thorough knowledge of “all”  Scripture before making conclusions.  It is always dangerous to build a doctrine upon one verse.  The wise believer, desiring to have a full understanding of the Word of God sees the need to compare Scripture with Scripture.  Naturally, this proper kind of Bible study takes time and effort, which explains why so many of our church members and even clergymen are so ignorant of what is really in the Bible.   There is nothing worse, or as dangerous, to the well-being of the Body of Christ  than a lazy Christian.

(c)  2009 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

Studies in Daniel and Revelation

What must soon take place, Part One

That phrase, “What must soon take place,” refers to the future events Jesus revealed to John while John was in exile on the island of Patmos. During his exile, the apostle was given a glimpse of what the world would be like in the future, both his and ours. It is interesting to note that both John and the Old Testament prophet Daniel both saw prophetically the same future time and both men were in exile when they were given their visions.

The future begins with Revelation 4:1, so everything John saw from that point on is what will be happening in the future, even though John writes as though the events were happening at the moment he saw them.

1. The future in heaven, 4:1—5:14

A. The Heavenly Tabernacle. From chapters 4 and 5, we learn that there exists and will exist in heaven a literal tabernacle, after which the on Earth was patterned, Hebrews 8:1—5; 9:1—10, 22—24; 10:1.

  1. The heavenly door, 4:1.
  2. The heavenly throne, 4:2—5. This throne is seen throughout the book of Revelation. It is also described in Daniel 7:9—14; Isaiah 6; Hebrews 8:1; 12:1—2.
  3. The heavenly elders, 4:4—11; 5:8—10; 7:13; 11:16—19; 14:3; 19:4. These elders are redeemed individuals; the word “elder” is never used to describe angels or other worldly creatures. Their white robes represent their righteousness.
  4. The sea of glass, 4:6. This area is located in front of God’s throne and is where the saints and angels gather to worship the Lord at various times (7:9—17; 15:2—4).
  5. The living creatures, 4:6—8. These created beings sole purpose seems to be to declare God’s holiness. They are seen throughout the book.
  6. Worship, 4:9—11; 5:8—14.
  7. The scroll, 5:1—4; 10:1—11. This scroll or book is central to the Revelation for within its pages are contained the events that make up our future. This particular book is not the “Book of Life,” nor does it contain any names or promises or anything other than the Biblical text indicates. The “seals” that secure the scroll are the seals of 6:1—8:1.
  8. The Lamb, 5:5—7. This is the symbol of Christ, the root of David, as taught in Gen. 49:10; Micah 5:1—2; 2 Sam. 7:8—17; Ps. 89:35—37; etc.

2. The Lesser Tribulation, or the first half of Daniel’s 70th Week, 6:1—9:21

The seven seals and the first six trumpets take place in succession during the first half of the Tribulation. The seventh trumpet introduces the second half of the Tribulation, also known as the Great Tribulation.

A. The First Six Seals, 6:1—17.

  1. The first seal, 6:1—2. The rider of the white horse seen as this seal is opened in represents the rise of the Anitchrist at the beginning of the Tribulation. The events of this seal fulfill the prophecies of Daniel 7:8—9, 23—25; 8:8—10, 20—23; 11:35—45.
  2. The second seal, 6:3—4. This is picture of the war that will result following the rise of the Antichrist, Dan. 7:24; 11:40—45.
  3. The third seal, 6:5—6. This symbolizes a great famine following the war.
  4. The fourth seal, 6:7—8. Death and Hell are symbolized by riders on horseback. Death and Hell are always the result of any war. See also Matthew 24:6—7.
  5. The fifth seal, 6:9—11. Here is a picture of the first martyrs of the Tribulation. These are people who will find the Lord after the Rapture and during the Tribulation. They will be killed sometime between the Rapture and fifth seal.
  6. The sixth seal, 6:12—17. This seal introduces the time of God’s wrath. The first five seals describe the wrath of man, which will be bad enough but nothing compared to the misery that many will face when God pours out His wrath because of the persecution of His people. There will seven horrific events that happen under this seal: an earthquake, the dimming of the sun, the darkening of the moon, a meteor shower, and cataclysmic events in the sky and changes in the geography of the earth.

Parenthetical Passage, 7:1—17

Chapter 7 is the first of several “parenthetical passages” in the book of Revelation. These are so named because they contain additional information about events just revealed. They are a pause in the action that gives the reader an expanded view of particular events or persons that will help them to understand what John saw.

This parenthetical passage sheds some light on events in-between the 6th and 7th seals that will be happening concurrently during the main events of those two seals. These two events are as follows:

  • The sealing of the 144,000 Jews, 7:1—8. We know these people will be Jews because they are taken from the tribes of Israel. They get saved after the Rapture and will be sealed or marked by God as they pass through the coming trumpet judgments so they would not be harmed (9:4). The 144,000 will be caught up to heaven under the 7th trumpet. The seal will be the name of the Father written on their foreheads.
  • The Tribulation saints, 7:9—17. These Gentiles will find the Lord, like the 144,000, after the Rapture and will die for Christ, the majority of them slain by the Antichrist.

C. The 7th Seal, 8:1

The 7th Seal, 8:1. The 7th seal seems pretty mild; silence in heaven.

Parenthetical Passage, 8:2—6

This is the second pause; it explains the work of the priestly angel and the preparations for the upcoming trumpet judgments. These are events that will happen after the 7th seal and just before the first trumpet.

The following trumpet judgments are literal; they are just as literal as the plagues upon Egypt and will be for the exact same purpose: to protect Israel during the first half of the Tribulation.

D. The First Four Trumpets, 8:7—12

  1. The first trumpet, 8:7. Hail, fire and blood, the destruction of a third of the earth.
  2. The second trumpet, 8:8—9. One third of the sea turned to blood.
  3. The third trumpet, 8:10—11. One third of the fresh water rivers poisoned.
  4. The fourth trumpet, 8:12. Destruction of one third of the planets.

Parenthetical Passage, 8:13

The third parenthetical passage is a brief one, a single verse; a pronouncement of three woes.

E. The Final Two Trumpets, 9:1—21

  1. The fifth trumpet, also known as “the first woe,” 9:1—12. Demonic creatures will be let loose upon the Earth. They will torment human beings but will not kill them.
  2. The sixth trumpet, or “the second woe,” 9:13—21. Two hundred million supernatural demonic creatures will be freed from the Abyss and will proceed to slay one third of all human beings.

This event will conclude the first half of the Tribulation. The worst is yet to come.


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