Revelation 4 – 5
Vision of heaven
“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 begins with John being asked to “come up here.” The moving of an individual by the Spirit is seen in other places in Scripture. Some examples include:
Elijah: “I don’t know where the Spirit of the Lord may carry you when I leave you” [said by Obadiah in 1 Kings 18:12].
Ezekiel: “The Spirit then lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness and in the anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the Lord on me. I came to the exiles who lived at Tel Aviv near the Kebar River. And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days—deeply distressed” [Ezekiel 3:14 – 15].
Philip: “When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing” [Acts 8:39].
Paul: “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows” [2 Corinthians 12:2].
The Revelation 4 throne is occupied. The general feeling is this is THE ONE who rules all. Everything comes from and to this one who is seated on the throne. This is the appearance of God the Father. There is NO physical description of the one on the throne other than colors and impressions. The language is rabbinical to describe the “shekinah” glory of God. We also have God posturing Himself as the confident victor in the inevitable war that follows.
“And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne.” The rainbow (literally “iris” and can be translated “halo”) is the symbol for covenant and promise (see the covenant given to Noah after the flood).
Surrounding the throne were 24 other thrones, and seated on them were 24 elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.
This is the only mention of the number 24 (used symbolically in scripture). Wesley suggests the 24 thrones/elders represent “the whole body of saints.” Possible ideas: the 12 tribes + 12 apostles, the divisions of Aaron’s descendants (and duties), angelic rank (Colossians 1:16), great and minor prophets, etc…
“From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal” [verses 5 – 6a]. The ancient world worship “gods” that terrorized people with lightning and thunder. However, the image we have brings joy to those in heaven. The seven lampstands have already been identified as the seven churches, but they also have a connection to the lampstands in the temple. The significance of seven connects with the seven-fold Spirit (Holy Spirit). Notice the nature of the old covenant (temple), the new covenant (church), and the Holy Spirit are to light up their surroundings and operate in the light.
“In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back” [verse 6b]. The four living creatures have been a source of speculation. The cherubim on the mercy seat (lid to the “ark of the covenant”) had two wings. In Isaiah 6 there are seraphim who have six wings. The eyes of the living creatures are a picture of ceaseless vigilance and unending intelligence. They are the “honor guard” for the one who sits on the throne. Early Christian writers understood the creatures to represent the four gospels, the four “great” apostles, and/or the church of both the Old and New Testament (Israel marched under four banners: Reuben = man, Dan = eagle, Ephraim = ox, Judah = lion). Wesley suggested that they represent the church, because they “sang a new song” [verse 5:9ff] only possible for humans. This song’s theme is redemption, something angels do not know. They sang, something angels are never mentioned doing.
The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, and the fourth was like a flying eagle [verse 8]. Wesley gives this opinion: The first living creature was like a lion to signify undaunted courage. The second, like a calf or ox, was to signify unwearied patience. The third with the face of a man was to signify prudence and compassion. The fourth, like an eagle was to signify activity and vigor.
We now cross the first two praise anthems. These times of praise supplement the awesome images of God. “Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.’ Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.’”
The first praise anthem reflects back to Isaiah’s vision of God in the temple (Isaiah 6:3). This threefold “holy” is referred to as the “Trisagion.” This threefold pattern is then repeated in a reference to time: was, is, and is to come. We see the threefold nature of God (“trinity”) and His relationship to time (before, now, and future), indicating God’s presence everywhere (not just in physical space). This also emphasizes God eternalness. It has been suggested that they also represent the three stages of God dealing with us: creation, redemption, and sanctification.
The second praise anthem represents a response to the truth of the first anthem. The elders lay down their crowns, which is an act of worship. Their praise is directed at “our Lord and God.” This is a significant counterpoint to the Roman emperor worship. We see preparation for the clash of two kingdoms.
Notice that God is “worthy.” What God is worthy of is to “receive” (or “take”) is “glory, honor, and thanks” (another tricolon). In fact, God is the ONLY being in the universe who is worthy to receive these things. The reason for this worth is God is the one who created and sustains all things by his will (again said three times). The rights of ownership apply to the one who has created the world and us. It is His to set the laws since He understands how life is supposed to work. The creation/creator motif plays a significant role in Revelation (as well as theology). The reason God is worthy is that He is THE creator.
John is now presented with a quandary that seems to stop the progression of the vision: “Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?’ But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside” [5:1 – 4].
The expression “saw” or “looked” occurs often in Revelation so often that John is sometimes nicknamed the “Seer.” What John sees is a scroll written on both sides with seven seals. Ezekiel was given a scroll written on both sides to eat (Ezekiel 2:10). A Roman will was sealed with the seals of seven witnesses. This may be considered the “last will” of sinful humanity. A seal could only be broken by the person for whom the sealed document was intended. Anyone else opening a sealed document risked death.
Notice nobody in heaven, or earth, or under the earth could open this scroll. This is connected to supremacy of Jesus found in Philippines 2:9 – 11: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Again we see a threefold emphasis. However, the significance is that no angel (or heavenly creature), no human, and no fallen angel (demon) is worthy to break the seals. Satan would like to take God’s place, and humans have tried (and are trying) to take the place of God; but this worth must be earned.
John’s weeping sets in because he understands the importance of this scroll and the necessity of it being opened. Is it possible there is no heir to open the will? Is it possible there is nobody to rightfully inherit the document and its contents? In this, the only dark moment in heaven, something remarkable happens.
Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
“Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.’ Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne” [5:5 – 7].
John is informed the “the Lion” has triumphed and is able! However, what John sees is a Lamb. On an animal scale, these two animals would be opposites. One is a powerful predator while the other is about as helpless as it gets. The lamb looks like it has been slain, referring to Jesus’ death (and by implication resurrection). The image of the “root of David” vaults us back to the multiple prophecies about Jesus; His rightful place, His death, and resurrection.
The Lamb is seen having seven horns (symbolizing power) and seven eyes (symbolizing the sevenfold Spirit of God). All power, knowledge, and wisdom are His.
Revelation 5:8 – 14 gives the next three anthems of praise in the book of Revelation: “And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.’ Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!’ Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!’ The four living creatures said, ‘Amen,’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.”
The third anthem is sung. The focus of number four is “with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Two ideas jump out at this point; Jesus has purchased us with His blood and this is open to all people everywhere at all times. We see the basis of our faith in the blood that purchased us. We also see the equality of every human and God’s desire to bring all to faith.
The fourth anthem is spoken by the angels, and more or less confers the similar worth to Jesus as to the God (the Father). The fifth anthem features the first two groups being joined by “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea.” Notice this is very similar to the list of those who were unable to open the scroll and those who, according to Philippines 2:9 – 11, will “acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Before the mayhem begins we get a good picture of the magnificent glory of God. We taste the joy of the results of our resurrected Lord and Savior. This is a prelude to God unleashing His justice on a world that will constantly refuse salvation despite the final and dramatic attempts God goes through to offer salvation to all.
The Great Day of Wrath
Jesus opens six of the seven seals. The first four are what has been call “the four horsemen of the apocalypse.” Traditionally they are called conquest, war, scarcity/famine, and death. Zechariah 6:1 – 8 includes a similar image of four chariots.
The fifth seal is the martyrs asking God to judge and avenge. The sixth seal is a massive upheaval in creation.
Three ideas have been proposed as to the source of this calamity. It could be caused by humans and could be consequences of war. The second idea is that these are natural events. Finally, the thought is that they are caused by God. Notice they correspond to the four living creatures around the throne. Notice also they are never recalled, meaning there is a very real possibility they continue their destruction through the end of human history on earth. This gives rise to the possibility they are the “birth pangs” Jesus mentioned and may give weight to the “amillennial” nature of Revelation.
“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” (verses 1-2).
The first seal is the white horse. The white horse was a symbol of a victorious conqueror. The text describes this as “a conqueror bent on conquest.” Possibly, we see a picture of arrogance (riding the white horse before the victory). The picture is of someone holding a bow, which is a weapon of war. Notice this is not a sword (like the Lamb of God). The bow is a long-range weapon, and in those days it was not a precise weapon but one used in mass. The image includes a crown which is a symbol of power and authority.
Irenaeus, 2nd century, suggested this was the Christ (see Revelation 19). Others have suggested this is the Holy Spirit and the advancement of the Kingdom of God or evangelism (such as Matthew Henry, Gill). Another way to understand this horseman is “pestilence.” Augustine claimed this was the advent of Jesus. Billy Graham has suggested it is the Anti-Christ or some sort of false prophet. Throughout history it has been suggested this rider is: Trajan (by Wesley), Hitler, Cromwell, Gorbachev, Kennedy, Napoleon, Washington, Lincoln, Stalin, Mao, Queen Victoria, Woodrow Wilson, Nixon, Reagan, Putin (turned 62 on October 7, 2014… Revelation 6:2... He reclaimed Crimea in March 2014), and Hillary Clinton (from Pinky and the Brain).
Who/whatever this is has the ability to force his authority on others, to subject the will of others, and exercise some form of control. His desire is on conquest. Thus opens the violence unleashed in the book of Revelation.
“When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, ‘Come!’ Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword” (verse 3).
The opening of the second seal reveals the rider of a red horse. Red symbolizes blood and blood shed. Technically, the word translated “red” is better translated “fire-like.” This is an image of war. It makes sense if one is out to conqueror that bloodshed is the natural consequence. This rider is able to take peace and cause people to kill each other. Notice this can be read on a personal level instead of a national level.
One way to understand this is the collapse of social order. With no moral or absolute restraint (restrainer removed) then anything goes. Another thought is this rider represents mass and indiscriminate slaughter.
”When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, ‘Two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine’” (verse 6)!
This is the only horsemen to have a spoken announcement. The third rider represents famine (or scarcity). It is interesting this is limited to grains (wheat and barley), while oil and wine are exempt. The price for the grains would be about ten times expected in the ancient world. This is also a picture of inflation. One thought on this is that while the regular person suffers, those that live in luxury do not. Interesting enough, we see a trend for wealth to float up to the smallest percentages while the percentage of poor is growing at an alarming rate.
Basically, we see an image of economic collapse, extreme inflation, and selective targeting.
The scales are a symbol of justice. Some have seen this, as well as the other horsemen, as images of Christ, this being the “Christ the law-giver.”
“When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth” (verses 7-8).
The rider of the pale horse is identified as “Death.” It is trailed by “Hades” (the grave, hell). There is a massive amount of death that takes place here. The text can read one quarter of the population of the earth dies or one quarter of the earth’s land mass is effected by this rider. If it is the first possibility, then 1.75 Billion die due to this rider (based on today’s population). If it is a quarter of the land, this number could be much higher. The sword described here is a long curved seminar emblematic of Oriental empires (as opposed to the short sword the Roman Empire). The rider of the red horse carries the short sword.
Under the “if it were to happen today” category: One possible explanation of a quarter of the earth (based on the distinctions of the sword) may refer to the “Ten-Forty Window” (most of the Persian Empire).
The 10/40 Window is located from 10 degrees south to 40 degrees north of the equator, which includes Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.
- Nearly 4 billion people live here, including 90 percent of the world's poorest of the poor. It is estimated that 1.6 billion of these people have never had the chance to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ - not even once!
- The seat of every major non-Christian religion - Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Animism, Atheism, and Sikhism - is headquartered in the 10/40 Window.
- In many of the 68 countries represented in the 10/40 Window, witnessing the Christian Gospel means death. Truly, the 10/40 Window remains the darkest and most inhospitable territory to the cause of Christ and represents the greatest remaining stronghold of Satan.
- Two-thirds of the world’s population (4 billion) live in the 68 nations of the 10/40 Window.
- 95% of the people are unevangelized.
- 90% of the people are the poorest of the poor, averaging $250 per family annually.
- 43 of the 50 worst countries in the world for persecution of Christians are here.
- Only five pennies out of every $100 spent on missions goes to this desperately needy area of the world.
- Illiteracy is widespread.
- Terrorist organizations and child prostitution run rampant in many of these nations.
- Horrific abuse of women and children remains unchecked.
- Children as young as 18 months old are trained to be Jihad soldiers.
The opening of the violence associated with the Great Tribulation begins with one bent on conquest and the following result of wide spread misery and death. Verses 12 – 15 describe what would be consistent with a nuclear war. I personally doubt this is the Anti-Christ but sets up for the world’s desire for peace, leading to the Anti-Christ.
“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been” (verses 9-11).
It has been suggested that the first four seals are trials on the church, and this is a turning of the tide.
The fifth seal may be more horrifying than the first four. This is the martyrs calling for justice and vengeance. We tend to think of the souls of the faithful as happy, but these are not. One idea is these are specific to a specific time and location [see Luke 18:7]
The word translated “slain” in verse 9 is closer to our word “butcher” (as in animal). This is the same word that is used of the “lamb.” The fact that they were slain because of the word of God and their testimony. The Syriac and Arabic versions read, "For the testimony of the Lamb." Again, this is the point. They are not slaughtered because of some stubbornness or crime. It is because of Jesus!
God’s holiness requires both justice and vengeance, but at this point there is a “full number” yet to be killed. This may possibly could refer to either the church or Israel. Verse 11 is a shift from “slain” to “killed” (two different Greek words).
The white robes represent righteousness. They are also considered wedding clothing. Throughout the book of Revelation, white is the color of victory. The word translated “a little while longer” in verse 11 is the word “chronos” that Wesley claimed was a time period of 1111 years that began in 98 AD and continued to 1209 when the Waldenses (the first of the “protestant” groups) arose.
“I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place” (verses 12-14).
Notice this earthquake (literal or symbolic) is the first devastating event mentioned. The question is if this is the earth shaking, or if it is a local earthquake, or if it is created by weapons John did not understand. Remember war is part of this section of Revelation. The sun turned black, the moon turned blood red, and stars fell from heaven. If it were to happen today, this might be a first century description of a war that includes missiles… possibly nuclear. The reference to the stars may also be a jibe at the Greek and Roman gods who were supposedly depicted in the stars.
“Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it’” (verses 15-17)?
The idea of taking shelter maybe an image of a nuclear war. However, there is a strong acknowledgement that the earthquake and its fall out is attributed to “the wrath of the Lamb.” All judgment is attributed to Jesus in Revelation. The interesting thought here is that those outside a right relationship with God fear God more than death. The mistake is believing that death will save them, or be a mercy, when instead it puts them squarely in God’s court. It lends itself to C.S. Lewis’ idea that the eternal lake of fire may be God’s final mercy to the lost. The presence of God would be worse than any form of eternal punishment.
Revelation 7:1 – 8
This chapter details the preparation for opening the 7th seal. The “after this” signifies a sequence in events. It is a “break in the action” that allows God set apart a certain number of people, presumably witnesses, from Israel. It is debatable whether the number 144,000 is literal or symbolic. Twelve thousand from 12 of Israel’s 13 tribes are sealed (Ephraim becomes Joseph and Dan is omitted, while Levi is included).
The symbol of the seal may come from the Old Testament image of the Passover where the blood sealed the faithful from the final plague. It may come from Paul’s use of circumcision as a seal of righteousness (Romans 4:11) or of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30, 2 Corinthians 1:22). Notice that all these images are signs of a covenant God makes with His people. According to Clarke: “By sealing we are to understand consecrating the persons in a more special manner to God.”
Dan is listed in Ezekiel 48:1 as receiving a share in what some think is the millennial kingdom. One idea is that the Anti-Christ will come from Dan. Genesis 49:17 states, “Dan will be a snake by the roadside, a viper along the path, that bites the horse’s heels so that its rider tumbles backward”. Could be as simple as no one faithful from the tribe of Dan would be found/sealed?
In verse one there are four angelic beings (“probably evil ones” – Wesley). They are commanded to not harm the land or sea until God’s servants are sealed. What we see, between this and the last seal, seems to be a huge environmental shift. The sky changes, mountains are leveled, and the islands are moved from their place. One idea that has been proposed is that the earth will be returned to its pre-flood environment in preparation for the millennial period. Isaiah 65:19 – 20 may refer to the millennial period, “I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child; the one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.”
Is there a conflict between honest biblical interpretation and honest science? In verse one is reference to the ”four corners of the earth.” Through history we have suffered two equal problems. We have imposed bad biblical interpretation on science and have allowed presupposition to impose itself on science.
An example is Galileo, a Christian, who claimed the earth revolved around the sun. The church, believing an Egyptian earth myth, forced him to recant. The presupposition of evolution, a common natural source that excludes God, imposed on science is a repeat of that history.
What does the Bible mean by “the four corners of the earth?” First, we need to understand when there is an expression of speech (“points of a compass”). Second, we need to understand the historical context of the writer, the book, and the audience. “Four corners” is a Hebrew image believing the world and elements are controlled by angels/spirits. The Greek believed the world was flat until about 600 years before Christ (about 400 years after Solomon identified the spherical shape of the earth in Proverbs 8:27, “When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep” [ESV]). The Romans believed in the four winds: Zephyrus, Boreas, Notus, Eurus.
Several suggestions exist to the meaning of these four angels: Zechariah 6:5 mentions four chariots: red (east), black (north), white (west), dappled-gray (south). Daniel 8:8 mentions “the four winds of heaven.” Barns suggests the four winds are Babylon, Persia, Greek, and Roman empires.
Revelation 7:9 – 17
The next image is a crowd around the throne of God. The number who had come out of the “Great Tribulations too great to be counted (…”These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”). Notice there are distinctions: nation, tribe, people, and language. Not only are these distinctions maintained, but it seems as if they are celebrated and honored. There is no generic, base, or correct form of Christian culture! Also, we see the setting right of all wrongs. As this crowd appears in unity before God, we see the effects of the curse of Babel reversed.
At this point we see three more anthems. Each details three things that belong to God.
In verse 10 we see “Salvation belongs to our God.” We tend to make two mistakes when we consider salvation. First is the idea that our salvation is strictly God’s arbitrary will (that God arbitrarily chooses based on ONLY His will who will be saved and who will be eternally lost). The thought is cooperation with God is either impossible or unnecessary. The problem is there is no way to know for certain if one is saved. One accusation leveled against this theological line is that it coopts the Greek Stoics’ concept of “fatalism.”
The second line of reasoning is that salvation is somehow dependent on the individual and is entered or maintained by works (or faithfulness). If one sins then they become separated from God, “lose” their salvation, and must be saved again. (See Hebrews 6 and 10 for the impossibility of being “resaved.”) The difficulty with this line is it reduces salvation (and Christianity) to a formula to be followed and plunges us into humanism.
John Wesley proposed what he called the “double action” of salvation. God takes the initiative and provides grace. This grace is the cause of our salvation (based on Jesus’ sacrifice). God is not willing that any should perish (be eternally lost), so Jesus paid the price for our sin (which causes separation from God). When God’s grace wakes us up, we are given the ability to respond. This enters us into a right relationship with God. Lydia is an example of this dynamic. (Acts 16:14c “…The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message”).
The “double action” comes from the idea that we “experience” our reaction (faith) to God’s grace (initiative and invitation) through relationship with God. The experience or relationship teaches us to know we are saved. As Wesley put it we have “assurance of salvation.”
Salvation is God’s because of the His authority, symbolized in the throne and His provision to save, symbolized in the Lamb.
The second anthem in this chapter shows us praise belongs to God. Praise is the most natural result of being saved. The natural chain of events should be the reality, the knowledge (correct interpretation) of the reality, joy over the reality, action that displays that joy.
Praise is also the most continuous habit of being saved. Praise keeps the fire burning rather than letting us grow luke-warm (see the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3). Praise makes us hungry and thirsty for the Word of God. When everything else is done and said, there will still be praise!
Praise may be the easiest of things God requires. It can be done everywhere and at all times. It is part of who we are created to be in right relationship to God. It takes our attention off ourselves and reminds us of our certainty and eternity in Jesus. Praise flows from knowing Jesus personally and puts everything into context!
The third anthem demonstrates that service belongs to God. Service is a natural part of our salvation relationship: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” [Ephesians 2:10 ESV]. The people will never lack protection or physical need. Their tears will we wiped away (A second reference to the “unhappy dead.”) All these provisions are made by the “Lamb” who will shepherd his people.
Are you saved, washed in the blood of the Lamb??
Are you serving God?
Are you praising God?
The Seventh Seal and the Golden Censer – Revelation 8
“When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour” (verse 1).
Is this literally a half hour, or based on Daniel’s missing week, two weeks? The answer is unknown. It might have just been a time long enough to be awkward to John but not long enough to be considered a section of the day.
This is the only place or time silence is mentioned in heaven. Praise or cries for justice are the norm in heaven, but here is a universal pause. One idea is this is a time of preparation or a time for people to repent. It has been suggested this is the “parenthesis of grace.”
Some have suggested it is the “Sabbath” of the church. Others have claimed it is the beginning of eternal peace (Bede, Primasius, Victorinus, Wordsworth). Those who hold to the preterist view variously assign the silence to the destruction of Jerusalem (Manrice), A.D. 312-337 (King), the period following A.D. 395 (Eiliott), the millennium (Lange), and Julian’s decree imposing silence on the Christians (De Lyra).
Other ideas include the time when the Church will be triumphant on earth (Vitringa), the astonishment of Christ’s enemies (Hengtesnberg), and the silence of creation in awe of the catastrophes about to happen (Ebrand and Dusterdieck). The image of silence also comes from the temple worship as incense was offered.
”And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them” (verse 2).
“THE” (article IS in the Greek) reference to the seven angels implies these angels have already been seen in the vision (most likely seven churches). Another thought is these angels are mentioned in places we do not necessarily consider inspired but were readily used by other inspired writers (Paul, Peter, and Jude). An apocryphal writer, Tobit, 12:15 states, “I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand ready and who enter the Lord’s glorious presence.”
Wesley stated, “These trumpets reach nearly from the time of St. John to the end of the world; and they are distinguished by manifest tokens. The place of the four first is specified; namely, east, west, south, and north successively: in the three last, immediately after the time of each, the place likewise is pointed out.”
”Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake” (verses 3-5).
This is “The interposing of which shows, that the prayers of the saints and the trumpets of the angels go together” [Wesley].Thus begins what will be a series of natural disasters and turmoil for the earth. Notice it is the prayers of all God’s people that brings the following events to fruition.
A censer was a cup on a plate or saucer. This was the token and the business of the office. Much incense was given - Incense generally signifies prayer. It is the only place in the New Testament where a censer is mentioned.
A “Triple article” is usedà “the” prayers, golden altar, throne. These three items are pointed out, made specific, and drawn attention to as parallel ideas of importance. The golden altar was in the holy place (outside the curtain) but was considered part of the “holy of holies” (most holy place) behind the curtain. It was the point where the two worlds met regularly. In other words, prayer is where we touch the spiritual world and where we meet with God.
Prayer produces change on earth.
“Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them. The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down on the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up“ (verses 6-7).
This trumpet reflects the seventh plague in Exodus 9:19 – 26. The servants of Pharaoh who “feared the Lord” hurried their slaves and livestock to safety. Remember at this point in Revelation, there are those who are sealed that are immune from these events.
The result is that one third of the earth is burned. This strikes at the basis of life itself. Vegetation converts carbon dioxide to usable oxygen. It takes about 700 plants (about 12,000 leaves) per person.
The other idea to point out is the spiritual aspect. Humans tend to “worship” the earth through religion or giving it a place of honor above God. “They traded God’s truth for a lie, and they worshipped and served the creation instead of the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen” [Romans 1:25 CEB]. There is a tendency in environmentalism to replace stewardship with worship.
It is important to understand that the language brands the first four trumpets as supernatural events. They are CAUSED events: “hurled down upon the earth,” “thrown into the sea,” “fell from the sky,” and “sun was struck.” They also specifically occur at the trumpet blasts, at the will and timing of God.
”The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed” (verse 8).
At this point a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships are destroyed. The sea covers about 70% of the world’s surface. Scientists estimate 50% to 80% of the earth’s oxygen comes from phytoplankton, 96% of the world’s water is in the oceans, and about 19% of the protein humans consume comes from the sea.
“The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water— the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter” (verses 10-11).
Scientists have predicted the eventuality of a meteor hitting the earth. Revelation names this star “Wormwood” which makes the waters “bitter” (poisonous) so “many people” died. Wesley identified this event as the Arian heresy (subrogated Jesus [as a created being] and the Holy Spirit to the Father).
"The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night” (verse 12).
The fourth trumpet affects the sun, moon, and stars. The result may be that one-third of the day and night are gone. This would possibly be four hours. The energy from the sun is necessary for life. As the sun dies the planet dies. Again we see this jeopardizing the environment, especially plant life, as we know it. This also reflects the ninth of the Egyptian plagues.
“As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in midair call out in a loud voice: ‘Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels’” (verse 13)!
What could be worse than what we have already seen? Whatever it is has yet to come. An eagle announces a three-fold woe for the last three trumpets. We see the hint of what is worse when Satan is released from the Abyss in chapter 9.
Revelation 9 – The Fifth and Sixth Seals
“Then the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the abyss. He opened the shaft of the abyss; and smoke rose up from the shaft, like smoke from a huge furnace. The sun and air were darkened by the smoke from the shaft. Then locusts came forth from the smoke and onto the earth. They were given power like the power that scorpions have on the earth. They were told not to hurt the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree. They could only hurt the people who didn’t have the seal of God on their foreheads. The locusts weren’t allowed to kill them, but only to make them suffer for five months—and the suffering they inflict is like that of a scorpion when it strikes a person. In those days people will seek death, but they won’t find it. They will want to die, but death will run away from them.
“The locusts looked like horses ready for battle. On their heads were what seemed to be gold crowns. Their faces were like human faces, their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. In front they had what seemed to be iron armor upon their chests, and the sound of their wings was like the sound of many chariots and horses racing into battle. They also have tails with stingers, just like scorpions; and in their tails is their power to hurt people for five months. Their king is an angel from the abyss, whose Hebrew name is Abaddon, and whose Greek name is Apollyon. The first horror has passed. Look! Two horrors are still coming after this” (verses 1-12).
The first four seals affect nature directly and pressure humanity. The next two seals directly target humanity specifically. This is a judgment on the world to produce repentance (change of mind and behavior).
The fifth seal is the unleashing of the locusts from hell. These are not man-made, specifically they are described as originating from “the abyss.” Their king is “Abaddon” (Hebrew) or Apollyon (Greek). The name would translate into English as “Destroyer.” According to Jesus, Satan’s “job description” is to “steal, kill, and destroy” [see John 10:10].
Their target and time frame of the locusts are specific. For five months they are given reign to torture but not kill humans. Their power is likened to the scorpion, whose sting is an intense burning sensation. Death will not be possible [9:6] even though it is sought/desired during these five months. The reality is that death would bring an eternity of misery worse than what they are experiencing. Even in wrath, God is showing mercy.
“Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the gold altar that is before God. It said to the sixth angel, who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.’ Then the four angels who had been made ready for that hour, day, month, and year were released to kill a third of humankind. The number of cavalry troops was two hundred million. I heard their number. And this is the way I saw the horses and their riders in the vision: they had breastplates that were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulfur. The horses’ heads were like lions’ heads, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and sulfur. By these three plagues a third of humankind was killed: by the fire, smoke, and sulfur coming out of their mouths. The horses’ power is in their mouths and their tails, for their tails are like snakes with heads that inflict injuries” (verses 13-19).
The sixth seal releases four angels from the Euphrates River. These have been prepared for this moment. They are given power to kill one third of the world’s population. In Revelation 6:8 one fourth of humanity is killed. This adds up to 58% of the world’s population as of March 1, 2015 and would be about 4.3 billion dead. They command 200 million cavalry troops. A tendency has been to mistakenly identify these as the number of troops at the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:16).
The words translated 200,000,000 is literally “two, myriad, myriad” or “two, ten-thousand, ten-thousand.” The latter translation would be the three numbers multiplied together to equal 200 million. (As of 2010 India had about 600 million people available for military service and a standing military of 1,325,000. China has a standing army of 2.285 million with a reserve of 2.3 million. The largest army in the world is Vietnam with 5.5 million active and reserve. The number could also indicate two separate groups of ten-thousand each. However the Greek understanding of “myriad” was “uncountable.” The point is this number might mean “two infinities times infinity” as a dynamic equivalency.
What are these things? How would John, a first century writer, describe our war machines? He has no language to name them so he describes them in common images. Another idea is that John is describing creatures that we have not yet begun to be able to think could possibly exist.
The rest of humankind, who weren’t killed by these plagues, didn’t change their hearts and lives and turn from their handiwork. They didn’t stop worshipping demons and idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood—idols that can’t see or hear or walk. They didn’t turn away from their murders, their spells and drugs, their sexual immorality, or their stealing (verses 20-21).
The point of the seals comes down to Revelation 9:20 – 21. Humanity will NOT repent. The pressure increases but hearts only harden. Punishment or correction does NOT bring change, repentance, or reformation. At this point the world clings to worshiping demons and idols. A demon, in the Bible, is a fallen angel. An idol is a substitute for God. Yet people stick to the worship of the false gods. They do not turn from murders, sorceries (spells and drugs), sexual immorality, and stealing.
Revelation 10 – “The Mystery”
God does not tell “all.” The only thoughts we can know are revealed by God. There are two types of revelation, general and special. First, “general revelation” involves what can be observed and what can be deduced or known intuitively.
- “Ever since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—God’s eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, because they are understood through the things God has made. So humans are without excuse” [Romans 1:20].
- “Heaven is declaring God’s glory; the sky is proclaiming his handiwork. One day gushes the news to the next, and one night informs another what needs to be known. Of course, there’s no speech, no words— their voices can’t be heard— but their sound extends throughout the world; their words reach the ends of the earth” [Psalm 19:1 – 4].
- “Fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt and do evil things; not one of them does anything good” [Psalm 14:1].
- “God has made everything fitting in its time, but has also placed eternity in their hearts, without enabling them to discover what God has done from beginning to end” [Ecclesiastes 3:11].
The second type of revelation is called “special revelation.” Special revelation has three sources: the Bible, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
- Bible: “In the past, God spoke through the prophets to our ancestors in many times and many ways” [Hebrews 1:1].
- Jesus: “In these final days, though, he spoke to us through a Son. God made his Son the heir of everything and created the world through him” [Hebrews 1:2].
- Holy Spirit: “However, when the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you in all truth. He won’t speak on his own, but will say whatever he hears and will proclaim to you what is to come” [John 16:13].
God does NOT tell us everything. John tells us, “When the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and don’t write it down” [Revelation 10:4].
John is invited to heaven to view what was to come from Jesus’ perspective. He records what he sees, as it is happening. To John this is historical, to us it yet to happen (assuming a “futurist” reading is correct).
For whatever reason we are not told; John is prohibited from writing down the seven thunders. From this we see God demonstrating His control over information, the understanding of information, and the application of that information. Either this information would be something misused or completely misunderstood. Either way there are two images from the Old Testament. Daniel is told to “seal up” the information given to him. Ezekiel is told to eat the scroll.
Despite the fact there is much God does not reveal to us, there is much that He does. This information is vital to us. What is God revealing to us in this chapter? In verse six we see that God “lives forever.” God has no beginning or end. The implication is that of absolute power. No one can seriously challenge God. Verse six also claims that God is the creator. In other words, God designed, made, and sustains creation (heavens, earth, sea, “and that is in it/them”). The implication is that of ownership.
Throughout the Bible there is an interesting theme of “mystery.”
- “May the glory be to God who can strengthen you with my good news and the message that I preach about Jesus Christ. He can strengthen you with the announcement of the secret [mystery] that was kept quiet for a long time. Now that secret is revealed through what the prophets wrote. It is made known to the Gentiles in order to lead to their faithful obedience based on the command of the eternal God” [Romans 16:25 – 26].
- “You’ve heard and seen all this—won’t you admit it? From now on I’ll tell you new things, guarded secrets that you don’t know. They are created now, not long ago; before today you hadn’t heard of them, so you won’t say, “’I already knew them’” [Isaiah 48:6 – 7].
- “God showed me his secret plan in a revelation, as I mentioned briefly before (when you read this, you’ll understand my insight into the secret plan about Christ). Earlier generations didn’t know this hidden plan that God has now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets through the Spirit. This plan is that the Gentiles would be coheirs and parts of the same body, and that they would share with the Jews in the promises of God in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I became a servant of the gospel because of the grace that God showed me through the exercise of his power. God gave his grace to me, the least of all God’s people, to preach the good news about the immeasurable riches of Christ to the Gentiles. God sent me to reveal the secret plan that had been hidden since the beginning of time by God, who created everything” [Ephesians 3:3 – 9].
- “I’m completing it with a secret plan that has been hidden for ages and generations but which has now been revealed to his holy people. God wanted to make the glorious riches of this secret plan known among the Gentiles, which is Christ living in you, the hope of glory” [Colossians 1:26 – 27].
- About Jesus: “Without question, the mystery of godliness is great: he was revealed as a human, declared righteous by the Spirit, seen by angels, preached throughout the nations, believed in around the world, and taken up in glory” [1 Timothy 3:16].
God has always an only had one plan: Jesus. That plan had one purpose: holy people. God asks us to do something with what we know (has been revealed to us).
John’s example is twofold. In Revelation 5 the sealed scroll is opened. In Revelation 10 he is told to eat the little scroll (like Ezekiel). The image of eating is an act of taking into the body. The Bible is not just philosophy. It governs what we do with our bodies, or attitudes, and our behaviors. Eating is also an image of fueling, nourishing, and sustaining the body.
After consuming God’s word, John is told to “prophecy.” He is commanded to tell others what he knows. Notice this message is what has been revealed to him, NOT what he wants to say. This message must come from God and be fully processed by the messenger. It has personally affected him. It is sweet to receive but turns the stomach sour. While the Bible is sweet to enjoy, processing it is difficult. Naturally there is a reaction to it. Sometimes our sensitivities war against the Bible’s truth and it make us sick.
What is God offering? God offers mercy and grace to those who accept and eternal hell for those who reject. God offers the cross, a place of death, to those who would follow Jesus or a place of judgment for those who do not die to themselves and their sins. This speaking of God’s word is both of promise and judgment. We have no choice. This is the will of God.
Revelation 10 – 11: The Nature of Preaching
1. Change mind – attitude.
2. Change behavior – action.
3. Change heart – affections.
4. Change volition – appetite.
Acts 17:30b: “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.”
Acts 26:20b: “First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.”
Acts 3:19: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”
Luke 24:47: “… and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
“The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts” (9:20-21).
***** God’s response to the human condition is preaching that pushes for change! *****
1. The seven thunders (10:4)
a. The “mystery of God” (plan of salvation) would be fulfilled on the 7th trumpet call.
b. Theory: on the “Feasts of Trumpets” (prophetic calendar: it’s the next holiday in line).
c. The little scroll: renews John call and mandate.
Ezekiel 3:1 – 3: “And he said to me, ‘Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the people of Israel.’ So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat. Then he said to me, ‘Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.’ So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.”
1.) Joy to receive, painful to process and deliver.
2.) Salvation to one (accepted) is damnation to another (rejected).
“Then I was told, ‘You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings’” (10:11).
2. Notice God measures things (11:1).
1. That means God notices…
2. The physical measurements help us understand place and time in context.
3. TIME: 42 months = 3 and a half years, 1290 days.
Daniel 9:24 – 27: “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.”
“Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him” (10:25 – 27).
Theory of the “missing week.”
3.5 years was the time of Christ’s ministry.
3.5 years set aside for the rule of the Anti-Christ.
(OR 7 years of the “Great Tribulation” – events of the book of Revelation)
3. The two witnesses
a. The church during the tribulation.
b. Moses and Elijah.
c. Two testifying believers.
2. Their power:
b. No rain.
c. Water to blood, every kind of plague.
a. Killed by the beast from the Abyss (Satan).
b. Sodom and Egypt (sin and slavery) = Jerusalem (Rome, Babylon).
c. 3.5 days of celebration (not buried, denial of decency).
d. “Breath of life” from God (verse 11).
e. Went to heaven (ascension or rapture?) à validated their witness.
f. Earthquake with 7,000 dead.
“At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven” (11:13).
CONTRAST with 9:21 – 22
God has used extreme measures to get our attention:
1. Adam and Eve à tossed out of the Garden of Eden and an animal was slaughtered.
2. The Exodus à first born died to free Israel OR the blood of the lamb protected.
3. The cross à Jesus became our substitute.
4. The public witnesses, death, and resurrection of God’s faithful witnesses.
Revelation 11 – “A New Hope”
1. The holy city is trampled for 42 months (3.5 years).
2. There is war against God’s witnesses (implication against the truth).
3. Death and destruction continue.
4. Perspective: earth.
I. The Sanctuary stands undefiled.
A. “Temple” à Greek = “sanctuary.”
1. It is a sacred place.
a. Set apart by God.
b. Represents God’s presence (and “name”).
2. It is a place of refuge.
Psalm 91:1 – 2: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
a. Shelter means safety, calm, and peace.
b. Shelter implies need… (such as a storm or threat)
3. It is the place God appointed as a meeting place.
a. God is everywhere present… we can meet with God anywhere.
b. However, the precedent for a special place for special occasions.
B. The “holy city” is trampled.
1. There is a LIMITED time God has set.
2. Defilement everywhere EXCEPT for the temple.
* Regardless how bad it gets (or seems to get) God has an “open door.”
II. God’s work continues undeterred (two witnesses).
1. Ability of Moses and Elijah.
2. Enoch and Elijah did not die.
3. Symbolic of the Old Testament and New Testament.
4. Symbolic of Jesus and the church (or John the Baptist = “Elijah”).
5. Reality: we do not know.
* In the midst of darkness God still speaks.
B. Yet people still reject God’s love.
1. The witnesses dress in sackcloth (display of grief).
2. The enemy (Satan) wages war (only successful when God allows it).
* Regardless of how bad it gets (or seems to get) God does not give up control. God does not give up on us. God does not give up.
III. The enemy’s “victory” is an illusion.
A. The war:
1. Why are we surprised when the enemy attacks?
2. Not one attacks comes that:
a. God does not already know about. (God is not surprised; we should not be surprised).
b. God does not allow. (Job = Satan has to get permission).
B. The reality:
1. [Verse 7] Satan can “ascend” to the earth.
2. [Verse 12] God’s servants can “ascend” to heaven.
* Regardless of how bad it gets (or seems to get) God still wins!
IV. The power of God is undeniable!
A. Point of discussion:
a. Wesley – “Preach to bring change or preach to make them mad.”
b. Where God is at work, humans will be confronted with a choice.
c. What will it take to bring us to the point of decision?
B. “Come to their senses?”
a. The “Prodigal Son” à fed pigs, hungry, “came to his senses.”
b. [Verse 13] “gave glory to the God of heaven. (Revival?).
* Regardless of our circumstances, God brings us to a point of decision.
V. The praise of God is unstoppable.
A. The Ark of the Covenant is revealed.
1. Within the temple à the presence of God.
2. Atonement for sin à acceptance from God.
B. The victory!
1. God owns the nations, He reigns (whether they like it or not).
2. Judgment for “sinners.”
3. Reward for “saints.”
* Regardless how bad it gets (or seems to get), there is NEVER a doubt about the outcome.
1. Need to be in the presence of God. (The “chief duty” à bring glory to God/worship).
2. Need to respond to God in a positive way when He brings us to those points of decision.
Revelation 12 – The Woman and the Dragon
Revelation 12 – 13 introduce what some have referred to as “the unholy Trinity.” The action begins with two signs that appeared in heaven. The first is a woman described as clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, a crown of 12 stars on her head, and being in labor. The second sign is a great fiery red Dragon. The Dragon is described as having seven heads, 10 horns, and seven world crowns on his head.
The Dragon is clearly identified in verse nine as Satan. In verse four his tail sweeps down a third of heaven’s stars and throws them to the earth. This is generally thought to be Satan deceiving a third of the heavenly angels. Knowing the time of delivery, the Dragon is intense to devour the woman’s child.
She gives birth to a son, who is ruler of all the nations, with an iron rod. Before the Dragon is able to devour the child, he is snatched up to God and his throne. The woman flees into the desert where God is preparing a place for her. She is taken care of for 1,260 days.
This is the first “sign” in the book of Revelation. It is also the first appearance of a female.
One way to understand this vision is that the woman is the church. The image of the sun, the moon, and the stars shows the universal power of the church. Another suggestion of the woman’s identity is Israel. The thought here is that Israel gave birth to the Messiah. The problem is that the book of Revelation does not distinguish between Israel and the Church. Some have also understood this scene to be the drama surrounding the birth of Jesus. They identify the woman as Mary; and the great fiery red Dragon represents Herod, who is a type of Satan. The problem with this interpretation is that in verse 17 the Dragon goes to war with the rest of her children. These children are defined as those who keep God’s commandments and hold firmly to the witness of Jesus.
The word Dragon is found only in the book of Revelation. Early Greek writers speak of dragons. The Babylonians feared a seven-headed hydra. The Egyptians had stories of a dragon torturing one of their gods. Chinese as well as other cultures had some versions of dragons. In the Old Testament, a monster named Rahab is the enemy of God (Isaiah 51:9, Job 26:12 – 13). Psalm 74 mentions sea monsters, better translated dragons. In Daniel 7 is a great beast with seven heads, while in Daniel 8:10 another type of Satan casts stars down to earth.
The Dragon is often seen as Rome because of its seven heads. Rome was built on seven hills. The thought is that Rome would break up into 10 nations. For a long time people were excited when the European Union reached 10 nations. Many believed that this was the resurrection of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the events unfolding in the book of Revelation. However, this could also refer to the first century B.C. when Augustus divided the Roman Empire into 10 administrative units.
The two main explanations of the third of the stars feature angels or Christian ministers. Throughout history child has been identified as Jesus, the church, or even Emperor Constantine. The theater of heaven has sometimes been identified as the church, since the church is the kingdom of heaven on earth.
Chapter 12 features one of the most spectacular images of Satan’s defeat. In verses 7 -8 the Angel Michael wages war on the Dragon. In verse 9 the Dragon loses and is thrown down to earth. Verses 10 - 12 feature an anthem of victory. Four things are now clearly registered in verse 10. They are salvation, power, the kingdom of God, and the authority of Christ. Each of these are made clear by the defeat of Satan. We see another aspect of Satan in verse 10 as the “accuser.” These accusations are brought before God against believers day and night.
God’s faithful gain victory, in court against the accused, in verse 11 with three things. The first is the blood of the Lamb. This blood was shed to redeem us from the slavery of sin. This blood also made atonement (covering) for our sin. Jesus took our place and satisfied God’s justice (see Romans 3). It is important to understand that the blood of the Lamb is not the foundation for victory but the means of our victory. The second weapon of victory is the word of their testimony. This is literally the verbal account and witness to the shed blood of Jesus. The third weapon turns out to be courage. The faithful deny their own lives so much as to not fear death. They are willing to die and many do die for the name of Jesus.
In verse 13 Satan, unable to reach God, turns on the woman. In verse 14 she is given wings to flee into the desert where she will be taken care of for “a time and times and half a time” (three and half years). In verse 15 Satan uses a River of water to try to sweep her away. In verse 16 she is saved by the earth that opens its mouth and swallows the river. Unable to reach the woman, verse 17 tells us that Satan now turns to make war on the rest of her children. These are those who keep God’s commandments and hold firmly to the witness of Jesus.
This will be done through two agents in chapter 13, the beast from the sea, typically identified as the antichrist, and the beast from the earth, typically identified as his prophet.
Revelation 12 – The enemy
Appearance: silly (red suit, horns, tail, pitch fork), ugly (Milton pictured Satan as a toad).
Ability: “all powerful” (has his way).
Scope: cannot attack or touch believers.
Appearance: “angel of light,” most beautiful of God’s creations.
Scope: does attack and affect believers.
I. Our enemy is a personal one (verse 9).
A. The reality:
1. The devil is not a “feeling” or a “force.”
2. The devil is described as a distinct individual (with plans, will, and purpose).
B. The name “devil” = literally “to throw through.”
1. Slanders/accuses God to men.
2. Slanders/accuses men to God.
C. His purpose:
1. (Verse 9) “leads the whole world astray.”
2. Introduces rebellion (sin) against God.
3. “Steal, kill, and destroy.”
II. Our enemy does not always succeed.
A. Loses his prey (the child, the woman).
B. Loses his place in heaven (hurled from heaven).
C. Loses his power (knows his time is short).
III. Our enemy is an angry one (verse 12) à “filled with fury.”
A. Don’t underestimate what he’s capable of doing (the devil has “no rules”).
B. This is his desperate “last stand.” Unable to win, so he’s out to create pain and misery.
IV. Our enemy is a malicious one (verse 13).
1. Defeated in getting the child.
2. Attacks heaven: defeated.
3. Pursues the woman: fails.
4. Makes war on the saints: conquered.
1. Child – every time God is about to do something BIG, Satan goes after children.
a. Moses & Jesus.
b. Abortion, lost childhood.
2. Heaven – authority.
a. “Social leveling.”
b. Political abuse of power.
3. Woman – war on women.
a. Breakdown of marriage.
b. Social acceptability of hostility and abuse against women.
4. Offspring – believers/church.
a. Direct spiritual attacks.
b. Culture attacks.
c. Insinuation (bigoted characterization).
V. Our enemy is an intelligent one (verses 4, 13, and 15).
A. Myth: we think of Satan as being stupid.
1. Matter of perspective.
a. Don’t mistake “intelligence” as “wisdom.”
b. “Intelligence” tends to be relative (knowledge and experience).
2. “Foolish” in the sense he opposes God.
B. Demonstration of intelligence:
1. (Verse 4) deceives a third of the angels (what would this take?).
2. (Verse 4) waits (patience and planning) for the right moment (timing).
3. (Verse 13) understands his position (hurled to earth, time is short).
4. (Verse 13) pursues (hunts, direct attack against the weak and helpless).
5. (Verse14) influence (“out of the serpent’s reach”).
VI. Our enemy is a limited one.
A. Three limitations:
a. Can only be in one place at a time.
b. Cannot dislodge God (or even beat a fellow angel or the saints).
a. Has only a limited time (“short”).
b. Becomes part of his rage.
a. Beaten in heaven.
b. Overcome (literally “conquered”) on earth.
c. Even nature foils his attack.
B. He is dangerous.
1. He has followers (fallen angels, the world).
2. He is capable of waging war.
3. But he cannot have his own way.
VII. We will face the enemy (verse 17).
1. Don’t deny or ignore his existence.
2. Don’t cower in fear. (We are well armed but still in battle).
3. Don’t give him an inch.
Ephesians 4:27 CEB: “Don’t provide an opportunity (foothold) for the devil.”
4. Don’t become overconfident or careless.
1 Peter 5:8: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
a. Carelessness exposes us to sin.
b. Overconfidence is the pride that goes before “utter destruction.”
c. “Armor of God” is given because of the reality of Satanic attack.
1. The enemy faces ultimate, total, and humiliating defeat.
2. Jesus has already won the victory: the blood of the lamb, word of their testimony.
3. Battle matures and makes us… crushed or transformed?
Revelation 13 – The Rule and Religion of the Antichrist
One survey shows that this chapter is the least preached from chapter in the Bible. It presents some very difficult questions and problems for both the preacher and the hearer. Essentially the chapter breaks down into two characters. One seems to be the ruler, while the other creates a religious atmosphere.
The rule of the antichrist is described in verses 1 and 2 as being varied. The description is that this beast is “from the sea.” The physical description appears to be a monster that is very much divided. There are 10 horns, seven heads, and 10 crowns. Some of have suggested that these represent government and authorities. In the book of Daniel in chapter 7 are four beasts that apparently were present world empires. There is a thought that the lion, the bear, and the leopard represent three kingdoms that appear before a fourth monster. However we are to understand the political situation, the impression that one gets of the beast from the sea is that it is illegitimate.
The beast from the sea’s strength is Satanic. Its authority comes from Satan. In Matthew 4:8-9 Satan offers Jesus all the world’s kingdoms. This offer is illegitimate, because Jesus already owns the world’s nations. In Revelation Satan collects world powers to oppose God. The government’s interest will be to promote Satan. Is important to remember that this government is a servant of Satan and not independent. It will deceive and be deceived. This government will be enraged against the followers of Jesus.
The beast from the sea is described in verse 3 as a master of deception. The NIV uses the word “seemed.” Is what happens genuine or fake? It does not matter, as the effect is the same. There is what appears to be a fatal wound to the head. This event will get people’s attention. The NIV describes them as “astonished.” The emphasis is that “all” or the whole world will see this event.
The beast from the sea’s rule will be popular (verses 3-4). It is closely followed with a certain amount of amazement and influence over people’s minds. People will worship the Dragon (Satan), because it has given authority to this beast. Its influence and might are unquestioned.
Verses 5 and 6 describes the beast from the sea as having been given a mouth that speaks boastful and blasphemous things. What is blasphemy? Blasphemy means to defame, abuse, or speak evil of. It is making a mockery out of the holy. Pride is involved. Pride seems to be the main character flaw of Satan. The devil is not shy about questioning or slandering God. In the Garden of Eden Satan put a “spin” on both the word and the character of God. In a sense the enemy is a master of giving a false statement that sounds plausible.
The beast from the sea is temporarily victorious (verses 5 – 10). In verse 7 he wages war on” the Saints” and gains victory in this war. It is a sobering thought that a government can or will do what the devil cannot. Yet, this beast has power to conquer. Verse 8 says that all who live on earth worship this beast, at least all whose names are not written in “the Lamb’s Book of Life.” Those who do not worship this beast belong to the Lamb of God. They know that where the physical life may end the eternal life begins.
Verse 9 is an admonition to the readers should they read this before or during this time. There is almost a fatalistic view of being captured or killed. However, put this into perspective of the hope the believer has and the confidence that can be had in Christ Jesus. The call is for endurance and faithfulness. The reality is this saint cannot lose if they endure and stick to their faithfulness.
The second beast is described as having come up from the earth. This beast appears to be in charge of the antichrist’s religion. Its trademark appears in verse 14 in that it deceives by the signs it is allowed to do in the presence of the beast from the sea. The earth will see great and miraculous signs, such as the healing of the beast from the sea. These are “lying wonders.” C.S. Lewis noted that a miracle is not necessarily authentic. There are variety of factors that go into understanding a miracle. The prime qualification is belief. In other words, how the individual chooses to interpret what happens is more important than the actual experience. In verse 11 the appearance of this beast seems quite innocent as a lamb that in essence imitates Christ. However, it distinguishes itself from Christ by the way it speaks its words. Notice that it speaks like a Dragon (like Satan). This false prophet speaks words that are plausible, popular, and prevalent.
Yet this beast is false to the very core. It makes an alliance with the first beast. In verses 12 and 14 it causes people to worship the first beast and creates an image of that beast for people to worship. We see religion serving government. In verse 16 we see this beast transforming people. One thing that happens here is that everyone becomes more or less the same. It forces everyone to take a mark on the hand or the forehead. Is this a little mark? This is not likely. In the Jewish worldview the hand was symbolic of action, and the forehead was symbolic of thought. This is where the Orthodox Jews will tie the phylacteries.
In verse 18 the beast from the land focuses on humanity. If we are willing to understand this as a Ghematria (letters equal numbers), then the possibilities for 666 translating into a human name are just about endless. For instance Mohamed, Luther, Roman emperors Titus and Vespasian, Pope Benedict IX, Napoleon, King Louis XV, the Latin title for “Pope,” Hitler, Billy Graham, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, John F. Kennedy, Tiger Woods, Bo Jackson, Holy Bible, and Catholics have all been names that someone has figured adds up to 666.
One problem that faces us in dealing with this number is that there is no article in the Greek before the word “man.” It may legitimately be read as being the number of man rather than “a man” (a specific individual). All this may seem frustrating to us but maybe should push us to a deeper commitment to faith that God understands things that we can only guess at.
Revelation 13 – The Beast from the Sea
1. Satan ALWAYS opposes God.
2. Satan is NOT creative, can only imitate.
Revelation 5:6 à Lamb “as though it had been slain,” 7 horns and 7 eyes.
Revelation 13:11 à Lamb – 2 horns, spoke like a dragon.
3. Two words for “beast” in Revelation:
a. “zoon” – ALWAYS refers to God’s beasts.
b. “therion” – ALWAYS refers to the Satanic.
I. “Political beast.”
1. [Verse 1] “Out of the sea.”
a. Adam created out of the earth.
b. “Evolution” claims life came from the sea.
2. Physical appearance:
a. 10 horns = perfect/complete power.
***** 10 was the symbol of Rome, “X” was a symbol of the cross, 10 wanting in Sodom, 10 pillars in the temple, 10 commandments, 10% tithe. Dispensationalists claimed 10 nations would make up the European Union (resurrecting the Roman Empire).
b. 7 heads = perfect wisdom, knowledge (universal).
c. 10 crowns = absolute authority.
d. Blasphemous names (mockery of God).
1. “One world government.”
a. Effects of the “wrath of God” seem to be global.
b. Scope of the wars already mentioned might be global.
2. “Regional government.”
a. The Bible never mentions nations outside the context of Israel or the church.
b. The following events do not have to be global to be true.
C. Political images (four beasts of Daniel 7).
1. Leopard = swiftness.
2. Bear = force, fierce.
3. Lion = authority.
***** These qualities have been common at all times by the persecutors of the church and Israel.
4. Power comes from Satan (the Dragon).
D. Its ability to deceive:
1. [Verse 3] Healed what looked like a mortal wound.
a. Lamb of God à death and resurrection of Jesus.
b. Again an imitation.
***** Experience is NOT “proof” because it is interpreted.
2. Various interpretations:
a. Resurrection of the Roman Empire.
b. The angel Michael inflicted the wound in the war in heaven.
c. Nero is resurrected.
“The whole earth marveled as they followed the beast” (wonder = worship verse 4).
E. Its rule:
1. Blasphemous [verses 5 – 6].
2. 42 months [verse 6].
3. War on the “saints” [verse 7]. (CAUTION: this may not be in the text).
***** The word “saints” never refers to Israel, only the church.
F. Its effect:
1. Gains authority, then worship of the earth.
2. (APPARENTLY) persecutes the church (captivity and death).
*** Endurance (patience) and faithfulness is called for.
What’s the story?
1. Chapter 13 – It appears as if the false has won.
2. Today: personal struggles; culture seems to be losing ground; church is losing “punch.”
3. Christian response seems to be to crawl under a rock: 96% of Christians will not share their faith in their life time (Billy Graham); compromise with the politically correct views of culture; doubt about Jesus, the Bible, etc.; growing ignorance about the Bible and basic theology; growing intolerance to the basics of discipleship.
1. The eternal gospel [6 – 7]
a. Fear God
ü History lesson: After the civil war Christians focused on personal response. After World War II Christians focused on personal benefits. Currently focusing on personal experience.
ü “Fear” is not a word we want to associate with God.
ü The concept of God has gotten wishy-washy, timid, unassertive, spineless candy machine.
ü Unbeliever à judgement and eternal life.
ü Follower of Jesus à Hebrews 12:28 – 29.
***** REALITY the Greek word here is “phobeo,” to terrify. The verb is also an “imperative” meaning there is no choice. *****
Why am I saying this? Because understanding the awesome, undeniable, holy power of God is the FIRST step in both wisdom and understanding. (According to Proverbs). Without a genuine fear of God we can never understand the depths of His love for us.
“Familiarity breeds contempt.” We “think” we know God. In reality we can know Him only to the extent we know the Bible.
SEQUENCE: Fear God, repent, walk worthy of the calling we have received. [NOT possible to be saved without genuine life changing fear of God and repentance]. Why is this critical? Hebrews 12:14 is clear. No one will see the Lord without holiness (meaning without holiness we spend eternity in hell.)
b. Give God glory.
Ø Problem: we tend to reduce this to a simple emotion or response.
Ø God’s honor (glory) is the only thing He does not and will not share.
Ø Basically this is the other side of “fear.”
c. Worship God as maker of heaven and earth
Ø Worship means to “honor.”
Ø This is not just words: It’s actions; it’s attitude; it’s affections.
Ø Where are the Christians when Jesus is blasphemed and God is mocked?
a. The hour of judgement has come [verse 7].
· SPECIFIC SET TIME
· Hebrews 9:27: Everyone has a set appointment with death and judgement.
· Hebrews 9:28 tells us the parallel idea: Jesus has been offered to bear our sin and will return to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
· Parable of the 10 virgins waiting for the wedding feast. Five prepared, five not.
· Hebrews 3:19 tells us that God’s chosen people failed to enter the Promised Land because of their unbelief.
· Psalm 95:10 tells us “for 40 years I LOATHED that generation.”
b. Babylon has fallen [verse 8].
· Babylon is a word picture of Satan’s kingdom. (Jerusalem is the word picture of God’s kingdom.)
· Sequentially Babylon has not yet fallen (Revelation 18)
· Gives the “already but not yet” feeling.
· “Being saved”: 1 Corinthians 1:18, 1 Corinthians 15:2
· We are in process. PROBLEM: We tend to think of salvation as the destination.
c. Torment is forever and ever [verse 11].
· This is why the “gospel” (good news) is so compelling.
· Separated from Jesus there is eternal torment.
· Torment implies justice.
d. Judgement will happen [verses 14 – 20].
· TRUE condition of humanity: Romans 3:10 – 18
· There is a point called “justice.”
3. What is our response?
a. Endurance [verse 12].
b. Keep the commandments of God [verse 12].
c. Keep the faith in Jesus [verse 12].
I. God’s wrath will end.
A. Two points of view.
a. God’s wrath poured out on humanity.
b. Humanity suffers.
a. The beast wars against the saints.
b. Christians suffer.
B. “Already – Not Yet.”
1. The song is sung while the beast wars.
a. Singing in heaven.
b. War on earth.
2. Sin will always be linked to suffering.
a. The day will come that there will be no need for plague, etc.
b. Those that see it will sing!
II. God’s people will sing.
A. Because of victory.
1. Victory gained.
a. Already overcame the beast.
b. Now beyond the beast’s ability to attack.
2. Victory anticipated.
a. The battle is still going,
b. But the end has been pronounced.
B. Because of God.
1. God’s holiness.
a. Sacred, separated pure.
b. God is above everything à affected by nothing.
2. God’s righteousness.
a. Regardless of the situation = God is right!
b. God does what is right.
C. The name of the song.
1. The song of Moses.
a. Moses à symbol of the Old Testament and the Law.
b. Song of victory (God’s deliverance).
2. The song of the Lamb.
a. Jesus à symbol of the New Testament and grace.
b. Song of victory.
3. The point: Old Testament and New Testament (Israel and church) are not separate. They are different in make-up but one in salvation and destiny.
III. God’s temple will close.
A. Because of judgement.
1. There is a time, a point, when God will not offer salvation.
2. The offer is based on God’s work and conditional by our response.
3. God is not obligated to keep the offer open.
B. Because of the glory of God.
1. No one can stand in God’s glory.
2. Dedication of the Temple: I Kings 8:10-11 à cloud filled temple; service could not be performed.
Revelation 16 – Crime and Punishment
Up to this point we have seen seven trumpets which are a call to repentance. We have also seen seven bowls which are the execution of total judgment without hope of repentance.
In this chapter we see the justice of God as it is poured out on the criminal behavior of humanity.
God is just. God is the judge who sees and knows everything. No investigation is needed. No cover-up is possible. Judgments of God are true. Amazingly our society is not willing to acknowledge any form of truth and does not want to be held accountable to the truth. We see in general a refusal to repent. God does what is right. There seems to be a general feeling in our culture to not follow and not conform to the ways God has designed us.
Man is criminal. There are two main charges in this chapter concerning the criminal behavior of humanity. In verse six we see murder, the murder of God’s saints. Throughout history rejection of a godly influence has meant the murder of God’s people. We have also seen that God’s prophets have been murdered. People did not want to hear from God so they attempted to silence His voice. The second charge is found in verse 11, which is blasphemy (cursing God). The sad part is they blame God for their troubles on one hand and reject His love or existence on the other hand. People are in suffering, and they look for answers everywhere except for God.
The reality is found in what is often called “the fall.” In the fall we see the sinful nature and acts of sin corrupting humanity and nature. This is not a noble rebellion or fight. Sin is a simple and shameful refusal of what is right. Humanity will not acknowledge God or His right to judge. Humanity will not submit to God or His design. Humanity will not accept God’s offer of forgiveness through the shed blood of Jesus.
Justice is certain. The image of his justice in verse 15 is that of the thief in the night. It requires humanity to be watchful. Part of being watchful is being prepared. In verse 17 the bowl is poured into the air signifying a universal judgment. There is the declaration: “It is done.” We see the completion of God’s wrath. Universal and complete judgment is written in history. It is something that is done, yet from our perspective it is yet to happen.
The question becomes what destiny you will choose. Do we continue following the ways of sin to its logical conclusion or do we break the cycle and accept God’s substituting sacrificial love for us. This choice is the difference between salvation and eternal retribution. We either choose God’s love or choose the rightful consequences of our sin.
Revelation 17 – Apostasy Revealed
Definition of apostasy:
1. Oxford – “Abandonment of a belief or principle” (Greek: desertion).
2. Jude 3: “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.”
3. 2 Thessalonians 2:3: “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doom to destruction.”
4. Matthew 24:10, 12: “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other … Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold …”
Revelation 17 is THE description of apostasy.
I. “The Woman.”
A. Verse 1 – She is described as “the great prostitute” (“Spirit of Jezebel”).
The bride of Christ, the woman who gave birth to the male child who would rule all nations…
B. Verse 3 – She is in the desert … sitting on a scarlet beast.
This is an unexpected twist. She has gone from being chased by the dragon [12:6}, rescued by God, and now ruling the dragon [13:2].
C. Verse 4 – She has become extremely wealthy (expensive clothes, adorned with gold, jewel, and pearls).
The woman is a symbol of religion [Revelation 12, Ephesians 5 à bride of Christ. The church is ALWAYS referred to as a female).
The “whore” is an immoral and unfaithful woman. It was a symbol of fallen Israel … symbol of fallen religion.
II. The name.
A. “Babylon the Great.”
History: The Tower of Babel was humanities’ FIRST coordinated attempt to defy God. It is often seen as the first attempt to create a religion, the first attempt made to “reach heaven.”
“IF it were to happen today …” Candidates: the Roman Catholic Church, Protestant church, Evangelical church, or Charismatic church.
Common interpretation of a “one world religion” (Not sure that is necessary. It fits the one world government theory).
B. “Mother of Prostitutes” (KJV says “harlots”). The figure here is one similar to Jezebel. Revelation 2:20 describes her.
1. A woman who calls herself something she isn’t: seizes power.
2. A woman who misleads them: manipulation.
3. A woman who knows how to intimidate a man: Sex and food as examples.
4. A woman who know what she is doing [verse 21]: She is unwilling to repent.
5. A woman who has an Ahab [verse 22]: To have power someone must give her power.
C. “Mother … of the abominations of the earth.”
1. General this means a perversion or distortion of true religion.
2. The Greek word translated “Abomination occurs six times. It comes from the word generally translated “idolatry.”
How can the church become involved in “idolatry?
1. Spiritual idolatry … When we put ANYTHING before God (First Commandment)
2. Literal idolatry … icon and idols (statues). For example, “Crucifix” is an example of what the Israelites were doing when they carried their “pocket gods.”
“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the waters below” [Exodus 20:4].
Revelation 18:1 – 19:10: Two sides and a Choice
I. The world system:
A. [Verse 2] Describes Babylon’s inhabitants.
2. “Unclean” (evil) spirits.
3. Unclean and disgusting bird and beast.
B. [Verse 3] Describes Babylon’s seductions.
1. “The maddening wine of her adulteries” (passion of her sexual immorality, lustful passion).
2. “Committed adultery with her” (literally “indulged unlawful lusts”).
3. “Excessive luxuries” (luxurious living, loose and extravagant ways, abundance of her delicacies).
Ezekiel 16:49 – 50: “This is the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were proud, had plenty to eat, and enjoyed peace and prosperity; but she didn’t help the poor and the needy. They became haughty and did detestable things in front of me, and I turned away from them as soon as I saw it.”
* Prosperity leads to pride. Pride leads to prejudice. Prejudice leads to preposterous behavior. *
Pride: “a high or inordinate opinion of one's own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.” (dictionary.com).
Prejudice: “an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason” (dictionary.com).
Preposterous: “completely contrary to nature, reason, or common sense; absurd; senseless; utterly foolish” (dictionary.com)
II. God’s impression:
A. [verse 4] He requires His people to “come out.”
1. Danger of participating in her sins.
2. Danger of suffering the consequences.
B. [Verses 4 – 5] God is just.
1. “His judgments are true and just, because he judged the great prostitute, who ruined the earth by her whoring, and he exacted the penalty for the blood of his servants from her hand.” [19:2 CEB]
2. “God remembered her unjust acts” [Verse 5 CEB] (KJV “iniquities”).
3. CONTRAST: The bride of Christ (the true church)… “She was given fine, pure white linen to wear, for the fine linen is the saints’ acts of justice” [19:8].
III. The total collapse:
A. The images:
1. [Verses 9 – 10] The kings: “In a single hour your judgement has come.”
2. [Verses 11 – 17] The merchants: “All your glitter and glamour are lost to you, never ever to be found again.”
3. [Verses 17 – 19] Sea trade: “What city was ever like great city?”
4. [Verse 20] Heaven: “Rejoice… because God has condemned her as she condemned you.”
B. The completeness:
1. [Verse 21] A millstone thrown into the sea.
2. [Verse 22] No music, no sound of work.
3. [Verse 23] No light, no joy (marriage image).
* “Because all the nations were deceived by the spell you cast, and because the blood of prophets, of saints, and of all who have been slaughtered on the earth was found among you” [18:23b – 24].
IV. The holy system:
A. “The wedding day of the Lamb” [19:7]
1. The bride “has made herself ready.”
2. [Verse 8] “She was given fine, pure white linen to wear.”
B. The choice:
2. Put on the wedding gown: “acts of justice” (“righteousness”).
Revelations 19:11-chapter 20 – The Endgame
I. Jesus revealed.
1 19:11 “Faithful and true” – “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. NO one comes to the Father except through me ‘” [John 14-:16].
b. Makes war justly.
2. 19:12 – “name … no one knows.”
a. More than we can know or understand. (Names described person).
b. Reality, God’s “otherness.”
3. 19:13 – “Word of God. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God [John 1:1].
a. The “word” was the expression of an individual.
b. The “word” was how an individual was known.
4. 19:16 – “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”
a. Jesus is the highest of all authorities!
b. What Jesus has said, settled, and set in place is not for us to question, ignore, or disobey.
1. Jesus leads heaven’s armies [19:14].
“When Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up. He caught sight of a man standing in front of him with his sword drawn. Joshua went up and said to him, ‘Are you on our side or that of our enemies.’ He said, ‘Neither! I’m the commander of the LORD’s heavenly force. Now I have arrived!’ Then Joshua fell flat on his face and worshipped. Joshua said to him, ‘What is my master saying to his servant.’ The commanded of the LORD’s heavenly forces aid to Joshua, “Take your sandals off your feet because the place where you are standing is holy.’ So Joshua did this [Joshua 5:13-15].
a. Notice Jesus is not on a “side.”
b. Jesus is not on a side because He is “THE SIDE.”
c. The question is – are we with Jesus or against Jesus?
2. The result of this final war [19:15].
a. Strike down the nations.
b. Rule with an iron rod.
c. Trample the winepress of the Almighty God’s passionate anger.
***We are so stuck on God being love we forget that God is a consuming fire. ***
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that can’t be shaken, let’s continue to express our gratitude. With this gratitude, let’s serve in a way that Is pleasing to God with respect and awe, because our God really is a consuming fire“ [Hebrews 12:28-29].
“Because the Lord your God is an all-consuming fire, He is a passionate God” (Deuteronomy 4:24].
Reaction: “Then I saw that the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies had gathered to make war against the rider on the horse and his army” [19:19].
Result: “But the beast was seized, along with the false prophet who had done signs in the beast’s presence. (He had used the signs to deceive people into receiving the beast’s mark and into worshipping the beast’s image). The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake the burns with sulfur. The rest were killed by the sword that comes from the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds ate their fill of their flesh” [19:20-21].
***Notice Jesus only deals with the “the beast” and the false prophet.” Plausible idea: because they are human. ***
II. Satan’s final defeat.
A. “An angel” seizes Satan [20:1-3].
“Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the abyss and a huge chair. He seized the dragon, the old snake, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the abyss, then locked and sealed it over him. This was to keep him from continuing to deceive the nations until the thousand years were over. After this he must be released for a little while” [20:1-3].
1. Notice the anger is NOT named – is no one special or important.
2. Notice the angel seizes Satan – not much of a struggle.
3. Notice the names.
a. “The dragon.”
b. The old snake (devil’s main task is that of tempting man to reject the way of life and redemption and to accept the way of death and destruction – Encyclopedia Britannica).
c. “Devil” – from Greek diabolos, “slanderer” or “accuser” – Encyclopedia Britannica.
d. “Satan” (the word, Satan, is the English transliteration of a Hebrew word for “adversary” in the Old Testament – Encyclopedia Britannica).
4. Notice the sentence is for 1,000 years.
B. Meanwhile the Saints rule!
1. 20:4 – The “beheaded for their witness to Jesus and God’s Word.”
2. Ruled with Christ for one thousand years.”
3. The first resurrection” [verse 5].
4. “Holy and favored” [verse 6].
5. “The second death has no power over them” [verse 6].
C. Another round of deception.
1. Satan released to deceive [verse 8].
2. Gog and Magog?
Ezekiel 38: God, Gog individual, Samaritans à eastern Europeans) in the land of Magog (unknown, Russia, USA), chief prince of Meshech (central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan) and Tubal (Turkey) is joined by Persia, Cush (Ethiopia and Sudan), and Put (Libya).
3. “They came up across the whole earth and surrounded the saints’ camp, the city that God loves. But fire came down from heaven and consumed them” [verse 9].
Result: “Then the devil who had deceived them, was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet also were. There painful suffering will be inflicted upon them day and night, forever and always [20:9].”
III. Humanities’ final judgement [20:11-15].
A. All will stand before God.
“Then anyone whose name wasn’t found written in the scroll of life was thrown into the fiery lake” [20:15].
“People are destined to die once and then face judgement” [Hebrews 9:27].
“Each one’s work will be clearly shown. The day will make it clear, because it will be revealed with fire – the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. If anyone’s work survives they’ll get a reward. But if anyone’s work goes up in flames, they’ll lose it. However, they themselves will be saved as if they had gone through a fire” [I Corinthians 2:13-16].
“I tell you that people will have to answer on Judgement Day for every useless word they speak. By your words you will be either judged innocent or condemned as guilty” [Matthew 12:36-37].
1. “Second death” – final and eternal separation from God [2:11, 20:6,14, 21:8].
2. “Great and small” = no distinction or privileges.”
B. The judgment will be against an absolute standard.
1. “The Book of Life” (from the lamp – salvation by God’s initiative [grace] through our response [faith}.
2. Other books – dead judged according to their works.
“We all must appear before Christ in court so that each person can be paid back for the things that were done while in the body, whether they were good or bad” [2 Corinthians 5:10].
C. “The Lake of fire.”
1. Commonly referred to as “hell” (Greek “Hades”]. CEB avoids confusion by calling it the “grave.”
2. Technically eternal. Even “hell” is thrown into this place.
ONE CHOICE MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE!
“So then, if anyone is in Christ, that persons is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived” [2 Corinthians 5:17]!
“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come’ Let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who is thirsty come! Let the one who wishes received life-giving water as a gift [22:17].
Revelation 21-22 – What is heaven like?”
Lots of interest: Books – “Heaven is for Real” and “5 Minutes in Heaven.”
Traditional Christian views: Heaven is where God lives, throne of God, future home of believers in Christ.
I. Revelation 21:1-8
“Then I saw new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city new Jerusalem, coming own out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’”
“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down for these words are trustworthy and true.’ And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty, I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.
A. Old versus New.
1. The old system is unsustainable BECAUSE of sin (physical effects, spiritual separation).
2. Problematic questions: how good do you have to be to make it to heaven? How bad do you have to be to go to eternal hell?
3. Jesus established a new covenant, requiring a new Jerusalem and temple.
B. Absent from the new system.
1. No more death.
2. No more mourning.
3. No more crying (God will wipe away the tears).
4. No more pain/distress.
5. No more “curse” [verse 3].
a. The “curse” is a technical term referring to the consequence of Adam’s sin.
b. The “curse” is a technical term meaning everything that is miserable and keeps us from feeling a deep love and longing for God.
6. No more night [21:5]. Darkness: illustration of sin and Satan.
7. No more unclean, detestable, or false things [21:26].
8. No more sea [21:1]. (The sea of the place of the underworld, death).
C. Thirsty [verse 6]?
1. Jesus gives freely. (Greek understanding to follow…).
a. “Without cost” to the receiver.
b. “Without cause” from the giver.
2. Expectation: conquers [verse 7].
a. God makes this promise: “I will be his God and he will be my son.”
b. But there is a choice:
“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolater, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
“Before conversion the hardest thing is to win the heart TO God. After conversion the hardest thing is to keep the heart WITH God” (John Flavel).
II. Revelation 21:22-21
“And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamp. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day – and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
A. No temple!
1. Old Testament concept = physical.
a. Focus point.
“They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, ‘See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain’” [Hebrews 8:5].
b. Sacrificial system (reminder of sin, struggle with sin).
c. Literal presence of God.
2. New Testament = symbolic.
a. The church.
b. The believer’s body (the Holy Spirit in us).
B. No need for sun or moon (illustrates a person’s walk).
1. Walk in darkness (sin and ignorance).
2. Walk by sight (events, circumstances, feelings, preferences, and people).
3. Walk by faith (eyes fixed on Jesus).
III. Revelation 22:7-21
“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed in the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of the book.”
“I John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”
“And he said to me, ‘Do not seal up to words of the prophecy of this book for the time is near. Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy. Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immortal and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”
“’I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the church. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star. The spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hear say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy. God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
“He who testifies to these things say, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.”