Acts 3:17-18, Foretold and Fulfilled.

17]  “yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers.  18] But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that Christ should suffer, He has thus fulfilled. 

In our last post, we saw that Peter refused to take credit for the healing of the lame man, but rather turned the attention of his audience to what was important, namely, that they had rejected and crucified their Messiah, probably because He didn’t “measure up” to the expectations of the rulers and the people.  They though He would come in regal splendor, destroy the Romans and all other of Israel’s enemies, and set up the Davidic kingdom promised in the Old Testament.

They didn’t understand that there was a greater enemy to be destroyed and a greater need to be fulfilled.  They didn’t understand that they, themselves, needed to be redeemed.  True, they had been “redeemed” from Egyptian slavery and made into a nation and were known as God’s people, but that didn’t do anything about their sin problem.  Even though the Old Testament foretold that Messiah would give Himself as a Sacrifice for sin, that He would “suffer,” they really hadn’t focused on the idea.  As Peter put it, they were “ignorant” of God’s purpose.

This should give us something to think about.  Especially with the rulers, here were men who were well-versed in the Old Testament, probably beyond what any of us could hope to achieve.  These men, no doubt, knew the “letter” of the law, and yet had never spelled out its message.  So when the promised Messiah came, they put Him on a Roman cross.

However, and contrary to those who believe that God is done with Israel, it was through the very means of their rejection of Messiah and His death that Israel will eventually be redeemed and restored, Romans 11:26, Jeremiah 31:1.  Their sins had to be paid for, just like yours and mine.

At the same time, let us apply this personally.  Do WE know the Word, or do we just know ABOUT it?  A very small percentage of professing Christians have ever read the Bible through, yet that Word is the only place we can learn about God, about ourselves and about this world, both now and in the future.  Does the Word bear fruit in our lives?  Does it bring us in repentance and faith to the feet of Jesus?  I’m not talking about “being saved” over and over, but rather with dealing with the fact of our inborn sinfulness, as mourned over by Paul in Romans 7.

Yet it wasn’t Peter’s intent in Acts 3 to have the people focus on themselves, or just to beat themselves up.  His intent was to bring them to that One who had foretold the death of Christ, and then had fulfilled His Word.  As we said earlier, no power on earth or elsewhere could have put Christ on the Cross if He had not been willing to go there, and no power on earth or elsewhere could have kept Him from it once He decided to go.

It’s sometimes difficult for us to see the hand of God in the things of life among the many other “hands” with which we have to do.  Unbelievers and skeptics scoff at or deny that He exists at all.  Others seem to have the idea that He stands anxiously on the sidelines of our lives until we decide to send Him into the game.  But in this most evil of all events – the crucifixion of God incarnate, God was at work to fulfill His eternal purpose, Ephesians 3:11.  As Daniel, standing before the most powerful king of his time, said, He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.  No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?”  Daniel 4:35.

He is faithful to His promise.

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Acts 2:37-39: “What Shall We Do?”

37] Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

38] Then Peter said to the , “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  39] For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” 

These verses record the response of the crowd to Peter’s impassioned explanation of what had happened earlier with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as well as his declaration that the One whom they had crucified was not a criminal, but was in fact their Messiah.

These verses are among some of the most well-known verses in Scripture.  But do they really teach what is so commonly said of them?

For example, I’ve heard a preacher tell his audience, “Repent, every one of you, and be baptized for the remission of sins.”  I was in a Bible study at a home and a young woman was baptized in the pool in the backyard.  When the ceremony was over, the teacher said that the young woman’s sins were at the bottom of that pool.  I’m afraid I didn’t appreciate the moment because my first thought was, “Boy, I don’t want to go into that water!”  It’s not really funny.

In the first place, this is not a general command for all audiences and all time.  Peter never repeated it in his preaching.  In fact, in his next recorded preaching, he told his audience, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out,” Acts 3:19.  In that lengthy record, there isn’t one reference to baptism.  And Paul one time said, “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,… For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, 1 Corinthians 1:14, 17.  This seems a strange statement if baptism is essential to salvation.

The question asked by these men is not, “What must we do (to be saved)?” but, “In regard to our guilt with regard to the crucifixion of Christ, what is to be done?”  It is a question in a specific historical context.  Messiah had been rejected by the nation, as represented by the high priest and other officials who had orchestrated His arrest and death.  Peter is saying that these men must reject the counsel of the nation and receive this One as their Lord and Christ.

As far as baptism goes, it is indeed important.  After all, it was commanded by our Lord, Matthew 28:19.  But Peter himself fixes its place regarding salvation once and for all, in Acts 10 and the account of the conversion of Cornelius the centurion.  Baptism is to be the believer’s “profession of faith,” not going forward or raising the hand or any of the many other things men have dreamed up.

Without getting into all of Acts 10, we read in v. 44, While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.  Peter never got to “finish”.  He never got to give an altar call or an invitation.  He never got to ask if they would like to “accept Jesus,” the things we think necessary in our time.  But that they were saved was beyond doubt, for they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God, v. 46a.

Then Peter answered, “Can any forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”  vs. 46b-47 (emphasis added).

Unless we are to believe that lost people can receive the Holy Spirit, it seems to me that this verse forever puts to rest the idea that people must be baptized in order to be saved.

The other teaching that is used from these verses is found in v. 39, where Peter said, “For the promise is to you and to your children….”  Thus, we are told that just as children were included in the blessings of the Old Covenant – the Mosaic law and circumcision – so they are included in the blessing of the New Covenant – and infant baptism.

This view doesn’t recognize the differences in those two covenants.  Without going into great deal – we covered this in our series on infant baptism – the Mosaic Covenant, or the Law, was national and corporate.  The individual Israelite did indeed have a responsibility to obey Moses, but he had a “relationship” with God simply because he was a member of the nation.  Circumcision was the sign of that relationship, but had nothing whatever to do with the man’s spiritual condition.  Under the New Covenant, the relationship is individual and personal.  It has nothing to do with which “nation” you belong to, your heritage or your parents, and everything to do with your spiritual condition.  It was to one who probably had everything the Old Covenant had to offer, if we can put it like that, to whom our Lord said, “You must be born again.”

Beyond that, v. 39 itself has information about this:  “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as our Lord shall call.”  If we are to baptize our infants on the basis of this verse, then what are we to do with those who are “afar off.”  Are we to baptize them, as well?

You see the difficulty.  It seems to me from Ephesians 2:11-13, that Peter is including both Jews – “you and your children” – and Gentiles – those who are “afar off” – in the provision and possibility of “the promise.”  The early church, which was composed of Jews, had a hard time accepting the “availability” of the Gospel message.  After all, Israel had been the only nation God had chosen for Himself.  If one came to God, he had to do it through Israel.  It had been like this for centuries.  “Gentiles” were cursed and Israel had gotten into trouble more than once for being friendly with them.  It was a radical and unheard-idea for a Jew of that time that Gentiles could be blessed as “Gentiles”.

Besides, Peter himself continues with a qualification in this verse – “even as many as the Lord will call.”  In other words, those who have been saved.  They and they alone are the Scriptural and proper candidates for baptism.

Revelation 20:7-15: The End.

7] Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison, 8] and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea.  9] They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city.  And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.  10] The devil, who deceived them, was cast it into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are.  And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

11] Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away.  And there was found no place for them.  12] And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened.  And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life.  And the dead were judged according to their works, bu the things which were written in the books.  13] The sea gave up the dead which were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them.  And they were judged, each one according to his works.  14] Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire.  This is the second death.  15] And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

In our last post, we looked at the first two of the four things contained in Revelation 20.  They were, 1) the binding of Satan, and, 2) the 1000 year reign of our Lord.  In this post, we want to consider the other two things.

1. The freeing of Satan from his prison, vs. 7-10.

We might ask, why is Satan freed, v. 7?  Has he served his sentence?  “Paid his debt?”  Is he out on parole?

Why is he let go?  What purpose could possibly be served in letting this archenemy of God and man loose?

Verses 8-10 give us the answer.

Satan immediately sets about to gather together the nations of mankind and rally them against God and His people.  And he is successful.  He will demonstrate once and for all that unrenewed human nature is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be, Romans 8:7.  For 1000 years, Satan has not been able to deceive or mislead a single person, but will be bound and imprisoned – in a “solitary confinement” no earthly prison can begin to approach.  An environment as ideal as possible has been established on the earth.  War has been abolished and peace reigns universally.  Government will be just and righteousness, with no trace of the corruption so often associated with it.  Slums will be cleared away; there will be no “underprivileged” class.  The problems of pollution will be done away with.  Human longevity will be greatly increased, and death and disease, though still present, will be greatly curtailed.  “Evil influences” will be publicly unavailable and righteousness will be the order of the day.  Weather and physical changes on the earth will be beneficial and fertility will be greatly increased.

But, does all this blessing and improvement lead men to turn to God?  Psalm 18:44, As soon as they hear of me they obey me; the foreigners submit to me, and 66:3, say to God, “How awesome are Your works!  Through the greatness of Your power Your enemies shall submit themselves to You,” indicate otherwise.  The margins of both verses translate “submit” as “feigned obedience”.  Though everything on the surface seems to be ok, it will be seen to be only a superficial conformity to the rule of the Lord Jesus.  Human nature may be restrained by force and justice, but it can be renewed only by grace.  Isaiah 26:10 says, Let favour be shown to the wicked, yet he will not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the LORD (KJV).  In fact, it often has the opposite effect,  Exodus 8:15; Ecclesiastes 8:11.  1000 years of “favour” will be showed, but multitudes indeed will not “learn righteousness.”

But doesn’t the Millennium start will everybody being saved?  Where do all these rebels come from?  Remember those who survive the Great Tribulation and are accounted “righteous” at the judgment of the nations will enter the Millennium, Matthew 25:34.  Unlike the OT and church saints, who will be in glorified bodies, these will still be in their natural bodies.  They will have children.  The favorable conditions and long lives will probably result in a great increase in population.  But these children, born under such different conditions as we know, will still be born sinners, Romans 3:23, and will still need to be saved.  Those who aren’t saved will become the rebels.  Once and for all, God will show that it is their nature and not a poor environment or the lack of education which makes men sinners.  They, and we, are born to it.

Verse 9 shows the result of this rebellion:  utter destruction.

This is the final scene of the last act of this earth’s history.  Man still refuses to bow to the God who created Him.

V. 10 shows the final judgment on Satan:  he joins the Antichrist and the false prophet in the lake of fire.  Many have difficulty accepting what these verses plainly teach: that hell is a place of torment, not annihilation, and it is forever and ever.  Though it may be said that this verse refers only to the Devil, the Antichrist and the False Prophet, Scripture teaches no other fate for those who go there than what we read here.

2. The Great White Throne judgment, vs. 11-15.

This judgment isn’t the same as the judgment recorded in Matthew 25:31-46.  Matthew records the judgment of nations before the Millennium; Revelation records the judgment of individuals after the Millennium, indeed after all human history is over and time itself, at least as we know it, is no more.  These verses are looking into eternity.

This is not a trial in any sense of the word.  Many have the idea that our “good” and our “bad” will be weighed in the balance and whichever is more determines our eternal destiny.  This is not a “general judgment” to determine such destiny, but a sentencing of the unsaved according to their works.  And John 3:18 says that, apart from faith in the Lord Jesus, we are condemned already.

No one will escape this judgment.  Even those long lost in the uncharted depths of the ocean will be there.  I don’t understand the references to “Death and Hades” in vs. 13 and 14, but it doesn’t matter.  God knows what He is doing.  No one will escape judgment.

V. 15 has the only “ray of hope” in this dark scene.  There is a “Book of Life.”  Those whose names are found there, and they only, escape being sent to the Lake of Fire.

While there is life, there is hope.  But after life is over, so is hope.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.

Revelation 20:1-6, It Can’t Possibly Mean That!

1] Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.  2] He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3] and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished.  But after these things he must be released for a little while.

4] And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them.  The I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not receive his mark on their foreheads or on their hands.  And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.  5] But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.  This is the first resurrection.  6] Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection.  Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

Revelation 20 continues the events begun by the return of our Lord in ch. 19.  The events in this chapter conclude human history.  They include the binding of Satan, the 1000 year kingdom, the loosing of Satan for the final rebellion, and the Great White Throne judgment.  We’ll look at the first two in this post.

1. The binding of Satan.

We’re not going to spend a lot of time on this, just a couple of things.  Satan will be bound, not just “hindered,” as, say, by the preaching of the Gospel.  Some have the idea that he’s just going to be like a dog on a chain in the backyard, but still have a limited amount of freedom.  Scripture says he will be bound up and put away. Out of sight and out of mind.

Some object to the idea of a “chain” binding a spirit creature like Satan.  However one may choose to look at this, the teaching is plain:  Satan will literally be taken out of the picture, by whatever means God chooses to use.

2. The “1000 years”.

These verses are some of the most controversial in Scripture.  The very idea of “an earthly, carnal, kingdom” where the Lord sits on an actual throne in the actual city of Jerusalem is just too far beyond what some can accept.  According to this mindset, these verses can’t possible refer to an actual 1000 year period, but, as one writer put it, simply refer to our present Gospel dispensation of nearly 2000 years (!)

I think there’s a reason the Holy Spirit inspired John to use the phrase “1000 years” five times in six verses.  It’s to impress on us that He means 1000 years, not just some indeterminate amount of time!  Besides, isn’t it an insult to our Lord to describe any rule of His, regardless of where it is, as “carnal”?

Revelation doesn’t tell us a great deal of what will happen during these years, but other Scriptures give us some idea.

1. Satan will be bound.

We’ve already seen this.  The chief enemy of God and His people will be taken out of the picture.

2. Israel as a nation will be saved, Zechariah 12:9-14.  They will realize that this One whom they crucified is actually their Redeemer.  Some have objected that their sin shut them out of the possibility of being saved, but, in fact, it will be the means of their eventual conversion.

3. Israel as a nation will be judged, Ezekiel 20:33-38.  When our Lord come back, not every Jew will bow to Him as Lord.  Those refusing to do so will be purged out of the nation.

4. The living Gentile nations will be judged, Matthew 25:31-46, apparently on the basis of how they have treated the Jews.  This might have some reference to the invasion of Israel.

5. The curse will be removed from the earth, Isaiah 65:17-25.  This is the time Paul said that creation was looking forward to, Romans 8:19-21, where creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption.

Some have take Isaiah’s reference in  65:17 to new heavens and a new earth to mean eternity.  Revelation 21:1 also describes such a creation.  However, I don’t think Isaiah and Revelation refer to the same thing.  I may be wrong, but Isaiah says there will still be death in his vision:

“No more shall an infant from there live but a few days,
Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days’
For the child shall die one hundred years old,
But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed, Isaiah 65:20.

In contrast, John describes a place where “there shall be no more death, no sorrow, nor crying.  There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away,” Revelation 21:4.

Considering the radical changes that will take place when the Lord comes back, I think it can safely be said that things will indeed be “new”.

The beast and his minions had killed those who refuse to bow down before him and receive his mark.  Here we find, though, that these same martyrs are resurrected and share in the millennial glory.  This isn’t simply “conversion,” as some teach, but an actual coming back to life of those who gave their lives for the Lord.

What about OT and church saints?  Paul taught that OT saints will come back with the Lord at His return and NT saints will be resurrected then.  These won’t be left out of the blessings.

Man longs for and dreams of a “utopia” in which everyone lives happily ever after.  That will not be realized in any real sense until our Lord comes back and establishes His kingdom on this earth.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Revelation 13:1-10, A Beastly Situation, part 1.

1] Then I stood on the sand of the sea.  And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.  2] Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion.  The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.  3] And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed.  And all the world marveled and followed the beast.  4] So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast?  Who is able to make war with him?”

5] And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months.  6] Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven.  7] It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them.  And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.  8] All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

9] If anyone has an ear, let him hear.  10] He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword.  Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.  (NKJV)

This chapter introduces the last of the seven beings.  We’ve seen the woman, the Child, the dragon, Michael the archangel, the remnant, and now we’re introduced to two “beasts,” one from the “sea” and the other from the “earth.”  There’s a lot of discussion about these two beings.  Until the time they’re actually here, this will continue, but it will be seen that John describes them perfectly, not in a “physical” sense, but in a moral and spiritual sense.  We’ll join the discussion on the first one in this post.

As we get into the chapter, the first thing is a note on the phrase, Then I stood on the sand of the sea, v. 1.  It’s said that this should read, “he stood on the sand of the sea,” referring to the devil as he goes about to make war with the remnant of the woman’s offspring, 12:17.

Then John sees a beast rising up out of the sea and goes on to describe it as having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.  There’s some discussion about what this means.  Some say it refers to a “revived Roman Empire.”  Others say it refers to the leader of that empire.  I kind of like the phrase, “revised Roman Empire,” because I don’t know that the actual empire will be revived.  And certainly one individual is singled out, as we’ll see.  However it happens, it will be a political thing in play at the same time as other things with the same description, or these things being explained, 12:3; 13:1; 17:3.

It was a boast of the Roman conquerors that they never totally destroyed their enemies, but assimilated the best of their societies.  Hence the description using a leopard, a bear and a lion.  These are reminiscent of the beasts that Daniel saw in Daniel 7:2-7.  There, they represented successive world empires; here they embody a single empire with the speed of a leopard, the strength of a bear, the splendor of a lion’s roar.

It isn’t just these physical qualities that propel a particular person into the spotlight.  A singular event happens to him: he is mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed, v. 3.  This astonishes “all the world,” so that they marvel and follow the beast.

There’s a lot of discussion about this.  Did the man actually die, or did he fake it?

The latter is certainly possible.  There are drugs and chemicals which mimic death to the point that it’s very difficult to know for sure if a person is alive.  That may be, but I tend to the view that he actually dies and is brought back to life.

There are instances, even in our own time, of people being declared dead and returning to life.  One such instance is the book, Heaven is Real, the story of a little boy who gives evidence that he actually was in heaven for a time.  Another instance is the book, 90 Minutes in Heaven, the story of Don Piper, who was declared dead for an hour and a half, a book in which he describes what happened, both to his body and to himself.

There are instances in Scripture of folks dying and coming back to life:  2 Kings 4:34-36; 13:21; Matthew 27:53; Luke 7:14, 15.

The main argument against the idea that he actually dies is that only the Lord Jesus died and rose again.  And that is true.  No one has even risen from the dead as He did.  The individuals mentioned above were or are still mortal and did die or will die again, though I’m not sure about the folks in Matthew 27.

And what about Hebrews 9:27:  It is appointed for men once to die? emphasis added.  That’s generally true, but the instances in Scripture are miracles, which don’t follow natural or normal experience.

What about the devil performing such a miracle?  Scripture tells us that he has on occasion done marvelous things,  Exodus 7:11, 12, 22; 8:7.  Revelation 12 will happen in an unusual time, a time where “normal” isn’t necessarily what happens.

There is more than “normal,” or natural, in all this.  We read in v. 4 of the dragon who gave authority to the beast.  I believe this will be a time when it is obvious that there is more to what’s going on than what meets the eye.  It will be acknowledged that demonic forces are in play.  Men won’t care, but will be deceived into openly following and worshiping Satan.  Such things won’t be hidden, as they are now.

There’s something else here, as well, perhaps only hinted at.  We’ve already seen that the devil as active in all this.  Verse 5 says that this man, whom we’ll call the Antichrist, is given a voice and given authority.  Verse 7 says it was granted to him to do something.  This reminds us so much of Daniel 7:25,

He shall speak pompous words against the Most High,
Shall persecute the saints of the Most High,

And shall intend to change times and law.
Then the saints shall be given into his hand
For a time and times and half a time.

You see, and perhaps you’re getting tired of me making so much of it, but I think it’s necessary in these apostate and degenerate times, the devil can only do what God permits him to do.  Cf. Job 1, 2.  I remember a story of a high school student saying, “Satan rules,” and another student, a believer, didn’t know how to answer him.  He should have answered, “Well, he’d like to have you believe that, but it isn’t true.  God rules.”  He rules even Satan.  That’s what got him in trouble originally.  He wanted to be God.

In the time spoken of in Revelation, Satan is given great sway, even more than he has now, when he deceives the whole world, Revelation 12:9.  Also 1 John 5:19.  Satan works through a number of intermediaries to accomplish this, but in the time of the Antichrist, he will have one man in particular to do his bidding.  He will be successful: All who dwell on the earth will worship him – but only to a point – whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

Our Lord said that this time would be so deceptive and so “real” that, “there shall arise false Christ, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect,” Matthew 24:24 (KJV).

Paul put it like this:  …the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.  The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.  And for this reason [not receiving love of the truth] God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness, 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12, emphasis added.  See also Isaiah 66:3, 4; Romans 1:21-32.

It’s a solemn thing, this having access to God’s Word.  This country has been extraordinarily blessed in this manner.  We’ve enjoyed almost unparalleled prosperity and freedom.  But I’m afraid we’re seeing Romans 1 being played out right before our eyes.  Things that were generally unthinkable and unacceptable only a few years ago are openly and aggressively pursued and promoted.  We are truly “worshiping and serving the creature rather than the Creator.”  And we see the results of that, too, in our culture.  Things described in Romans, the “unrighteousness” described there, are everywhere in our society.

But what about you and me individually”  We can’t do much about society in general, but how about in our own lives?  Where is the Word of God in them?  Do we read the Word?  Do we know it?  Does it influence our lives?  Our thoughts?  Or does it sit, neglected and forlorn on a shelf or table somewhere?

O that more Christians could echo Job’s words in Job 23:12, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.”

Revelation 8:12-9:21: “Woe, Woe, Woe.”

13] And I looked, and I heard an angel flying though the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!”

9:1] Then the fifth angel sounded:  And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth.  To him was given the key to the bottomless pit.  2] And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace.  So the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit.  3] Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth.  And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 4] They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green things, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.  5] And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months.  Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man.  6] In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them.

7] The shapes of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle.  On their heads were crown of something like gold, and their faces were like lions’ teeth.  9] And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle.  10] They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails.  Their power was to hurt men five months.  11]  And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon.

12] One woe is past.  Behold, still two more woes are coming after these things.

13] Then the sixth angel sounded:  And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, 14] saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.”  15] So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released to kill a third of mankind.  16] Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them.  17]  And thus I saw the horses in the vision: those who sat on them had breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow; and the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone.  18] By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed – by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which came out of their mouths.  19] For their power is in their mouth and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents, having heads; and with them they do harm.

20] But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk.  21]  And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.  (NKJV)

Chapter 8 gives us the sounding of the first four trumpets, which themselves are part of the judgment of the seventh seal, 8:1, 2.  These trumpets herald what might be called “natural” catastrophes, as they deal with physical things happening to the earth and in some way we can’t understand, things also happen to heavenly bodies: sun, moon and stars.

8:13 introduces a new perspective, things which aren’t “natural” at all, at least as we understand it, but which come from the spirit world.  Science tells us there is no such thing; everything is natural and material, “spirit” doesn’t exist.  Now it’s true that the angel doesn’t specifically say “spirit world,” only that there are some things coming which will bring “woe” to humanity.  Chapter 9 gives us the first two “woes”.

1. Fifth Trumpet:  Locusts from the bottomless pit, 9:1-12.

The chapter starts out with a “star” having fallen from heaven to earth.  Unlike the “star” mentioned in 8:10, this one is an angelic being, whose only activity in the book seems to be the opening of “the bottomless pit.”  This pit is also mentioned in Revelation 20:1, 3 as the place where Satan will be imprisoned for the 1000-year reign of Christ and the saints.  We’ll have more to say about it when we get to that chapter.  One thing:  how can it be “bottomless”?  May I suggest that it doesn’t go straight down, like a well, but follows the curvature of the earth.  In this way, it could truly be “bottomless.”

Once opened, this pit emits a huge billow of smoke, and out of the smoke, a horde of what John calls, “locusts,” though they’re unlike any locusts this earth will have seen before.  John specifically says that these locusts were commanded not to harm the grass, or any green thing, or any tree, but only certain men, Revelation 8:4.  This is in stark contrast to the locust plague described in Exodus 10:15, which decimated the land of Egypt:  For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left:  and there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the field, through all the land of Egypt. Perhaps Joel refers to them in Joel 2:1-11, where their destruction is described like this:  The land is like the Garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness, v. 3b.

Further, their ability to harm men will be limited to torment like the torment of a scorpion, and that only for five months, vs. 5, 10.  This torment will be so severe that those afflicted will want to die, but will not be able to, vs. 5, 6.  John describes them as fearsome creatures, with stings in their tails like scorpions, and with an angelic leader with a Greek name of Apollyon and a Hebrew name of Abaddon.  Both names mean “destruction.”

2. Sixth Trumpet:  The Angels from the Euphrates, 9:13-21.

This trumpet heralds the release of four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, to kill a third of mankind.  Note, these angels were prepared for this specific time and activity.  As difficult as it might be for us to accept the idea, all the things Revelation describes don’t catch God by surprise, but are part of the outworking of His eternal purpose.  He will demonstrate once and for all that sin brings His judgment.  And apparently these angels will be accompanied by an “army” of fearsome horsemen numbering 200 million.

The interesting thing is that the rest of mankind, those who are left, refuse to repent of their attitudes, but willfully continue in their wickedness and rebellion, vs. 20, 21.  According to John, the root of all this is the fact that they are idolaters and, in fact, are worshiping demons.

Daniel 5:23 has something to say about this as well.  Confronting Belshazzar after the appearance of a hand writing on the wall stopped a drunken orgy in its tracks, Daniel said to this wicked king, “And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven.  They have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your lords, your wives and your concubines, have drunk wine from them.  And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which do not see or hear or know; and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified.”

Daniel told Belshazzar that his actions were a great insult to the very God who held his life and all its activities in His hand.  The word “owns” doesn’t mean that God approved of these things, but rather that the breath which enabled Belshazzar to do them came from the God he was insulting.  That’s true of every single person alive today, regardless of what they do or why.  The breath that gives them the life to do things comes from God – every single breath.

Not every idol men worship is stone or wood.  Whatever keeps them from worshiping and serving God is an idol.  Position, possessions, family, things in general: if these get in the way between us and God, they are idols.  Our Lord put it like this:  “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth.  I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’  He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of me.  And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.  And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.  He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for Me sake will find it,” Matthew 10:34-39.  We can’t serve God and something else at the same time.

There are some today who believe that all that is needed to convince men and women to turn to Christ is enough “evidence.”  This is not to say that there isn’t “evidence;” the Lord Jesus and the early church didn’t happen in a vacuum, but may I suggest that the sixth trumpet demonstrates this idea to be untrue. These men see the hand of God against their wickedness, but refuse to let go of it.

For that matter, who had more “evidence” than those who saw the Lord Jesus and witnessed what He did and what He said?  True, many did follow Him as long as He fed them, but when He began to impress spiritual truth on them, most deserted Him, John 6.  Even the leaders of the nation, who should have been first to receive Him, for the most part rejected Him and demanded His crucifixion, because He didn’t fit their ideas of the Messiah.  More is needed than mere “evidence.”  Our Lord is not on trial.  We are.  Actually, the verdict is already in and, apart from saving faith in the Lord Jesus, just like these men we all stand condemned in His sight.

Revelation 5:1-3, “Who Is Worthy?”

And I saw on the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals.  Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?”  And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the book, or to look at it.
So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it.    

John has been caught up into heaven, ch. 4, and has described something of what He saw of a throne and One who sat on it.  Now He describes that glorious Being as holding a scroll in His right hand, a scroll sealed with seven seals.  Then he hears a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” 

No problem, surely.

After all, look at all man has accomplished, how much he has learned of himself and the world in which he lives.  No doubt there is at least one who is worthy, who deserves, who is able, to take the scroll and open it.

Then there are angels!  Far mightier than men.  Perhaps one of them….

Not so.

And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it, v. 3.

Do you see it?

The scroll lies open on the hand of God, the word is sent out for one is worthy, who deserves, to take that scroll and open it.

And there is silence.

No one in heaven or on earth or under the earth is able to open the scroll, or to look at it (!) emphasis added.

Do you really see that?

There’s not a single person anywhere who is worthy even to look at the scroll, let alone open it.

I wonder what this says about our careless and loose approach to spiritual things, to the Word of God.  That scroll only deals with a little bit of God’s purpose for this world and no one was worthy enough to open it.  Scripture tells us a great deal more about God and His dealings with us, and yet how few read or treasure it.

You see, we don’t deserve to have the Bible.  God could simply have abandoned Adam and Eve when they turned away from Him there in the Garden.  He didn’t.

And we too often follow in the footsteps of our first parents.  So does this world.  I’ve read that there are some 51 countries where the Bible is forbidden.  Even in our own country, it’s illegal in government and school.  And God allows us to reap the results of that rebellion and sin.  Every day, we see the consequences of that on TV and in the papers.

Therefore, if we have the Scripture, how we ought to treasure it!  I’m afraid our dusty and neglected Bibles will have much to say against us at the Judgment.

There used to be a TV show that promised to open “a world of endless wonder!”  What was not really true of the TV show is true of the Bible.  It opens up a panorama of eternal wonder.

But we’ll never see that wonder if we never get into the Book!

Oh, that this New Year might be The Year of the Book!