“To Boldly Go…”

I’ve been a fan of science fiction all my life.  The adventures of John Carter on Mars from the pen of Edgar Rice Burroughs, the writings of Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov, the imagination of Hugo Gernsback with his Ralph 124C41, written in the early 1900s, yet foreshadowing many ideas which have actually happened.  I realize that most sf is indeed fiction and much of it has little “science” behind it.  Indeed, it’s all written from an evolutionary standpoint.  If life evolved on this planet, then no doubt it also evolved on numerous other planets, and so we have the pronouncements of a Jean Luc Picard opening the TV show “Star Trek, The Next Generation,” saying, “These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise.  Her mission is to seek out new cultures and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before….”

As for any idea of “God,” in another show, Picard, in great anger, says that mankind got ride of that superstition (his word) a long time ago.  For all his ability and ingenuity, man is still “a fool,” Psalm 14:1.

Another show has the opening line, “Space, the final frontier….

I doubt that man will ever be able to really enter the frontier of space, let alone “cross” it.  Man may have left his footprint on the moon, and yes, I believe he did, but Scripture says that the heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s, but the earth He has given to the children of men, Psalm 115:16, emphasis added.  The moon may be within our reach, and even, in some yet unforeseeable way, the solar system or parts of it, but the nearest star, not counting our own Sun, is 4 light years away. Sf shows talk about some place in space as being 3 or 4 or so light years away, as if that’s nothing – just a couple of hours or days away – but that doesn’t really show the enormous distances involved.  A light year –  the distance a ray of light travel is said to travel in a year – is a little over 4 trillion miles.  That means the nearest star is 24 trillion miles away or 39 trillion kilometers! 

I used to drive for a living and figure I drove about 600,000 miles.  Counting all the years that I’ve been driving, or was simply a passenger in a car, train or plane, perhaps I’ve traveled close to one million miles.  But even that great distance is “only” 1/1000th of a billion, which itself is “only” 1/1000th of a trillion.  So, to look at it another way, I’ve “traveled” 1/1,000,000th of 1,000,000,000,000 miles.  At that rate, I’d have to live 1,848,000 years to get to the nearest star.  In computing space travel, we’re dealing with distances which are so vast that they are nothing we can relate to.  We have no yardstick to measure them.

But space isn’t really “the final frontier” men and women face.

In my reading the other morning, I read Ecclesiastes 8:8, There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war, (KJV).

Many folks have a document that says that they served in a particular branch of the Armed Forces.  It’s their “discharge”.

Until the Lord comes back, there is no such “discharge” in the “battle” of life.

According to Hebrews 2:15, part of the reason the Lord came the first time was to release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

What “fear”?  What “bondage”?

Hebrews 9:27, And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.

There is an innate knowledge that death is not the end of everything, that there is something beyond, something Hebrews calls “judgment”.  I grant that our “modern” culture has pretty much thrown out such “outmoded” ideas as God and salvation and judgment to come.  We worship “science,” not the Savior.  We see the evidence and result of such thinking every day in the newscasts on TV.

Nevertheless, death is an irrefutable “fact of life” and Scripture tells us that it is not the end of our existence, merely the turning of a page, as it were.

Our Lord came to prepare us for that event, that change.

How did He do that?

First, He came as a Substitute.  In the Old Testament sacrificial system, the Israelite would bring an animal to the door of the Tabernacle or to the Temple.  He would place his hand on the head of that animal, thus signifying that he himself deserved to die, but the animal was taking his place.  This was only a temporary arrangement and the countless animals that died during the centuries before our Lord bore eloquent testimony that they could never take away sin, Hebrews 10:4.

Second, He came as a Sacrifice.  Hebrews 10:11 says, This Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sin forever, sat down at the right hand of God.

“One sacrifice for sin forever.”

One sacrifice.

Sin must be paid for.  Either you and I will pay for our sins with an eternity in hell, because we could never even ever pay for one sin, let alone the countless multitude we are guilty of, or someone must pay it for us.

That Someone is the Lord Jesus Christ.

His life and death are the only ones God will accept, because He is the only one whose life and death meet the requirements of a holy, righteous and just God.  His are the only ones without sin.

Those who receive Him as Lord and Savior escape final judgment for their sins because the Lord Jesus took their place as their Sacrifice.  I say, “final judgment,” because sin does have consequences.  God may forgive adultery without restoring the marriage that was destroyed by it.  He might forgive drunkenness without restoring the bodily damage that was done by it.  Sin does have consequences.  For the true believer, though he will give an account to God for the sins he committed in this life, and there might be consequences in this life, he can never be lost because of them.  Jesus took his place.

John 1:12 says, As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.  There is only one Name God will accept, only one life and death, only one way into heaven.  Contrary to a lot of modern thought, not everybody is going to a “better place.”  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me, John 14:6.

“No one.”

There is only one way into heaven and that is through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Oh, friend, have you received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?  Do you trust Him as the payment for your sins?

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, Acts 16:31.

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Acts 4:5-18, “No Other Name”

5] And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, 6] as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem.  7] And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?”

8] Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel:  9] If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made whole, 10] let it be know to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole.  11] This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’  12] Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

13] Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled.  And they realized that they had been with Jesus.  14] And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.  15] But when they had command them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 16] saying, “What shall we do to these men?  For, indeed, a notable miracle has been done through them, and we cannot deny it.  17] But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.”

18] So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.

Chapter 4 divides into three sections:  the detention of Peter and John, vs. 1-4; their defense, vs. 5-20; their dismissal, vs. 21-23.  In the post today, we see that Peter and John have been arrested and we enter the courtroom where they are being questioned.

1. The Court, vs. 5-7.

a. The Council, vs. 5, 6.  In the providence of God, it seems the whole rulership of the Jews was gathered at Jerusalem, perhaps still the result of Passover and Pentecost.  In this court, as it turned out, there was a confrontation of those who said they were the rulers of the Jews – and they were, and those who claimed to represent the King of the Jews.  The contrast must have been startling.  On the one hand – power, wealth, influence, position.  On the other hand, three men, one dressed in beggar’s rags, all of them dirty and disheveled from a night in a prison where “criminal rights” were still a fantasy of the far distant future.
b. The Question, v. 7.  Our Lord faced a similar question in Matthew 21:23, perhaps from some of the same fellows.  There is more to that incident than might appear on the surface.  Controversy had raged over whether or not the Lord Jesus was doing miracles by demonic power, cf. Matthew 12:24.  If such in any way could have been proven, He would have been discredited before the people and the rulers would have had legitimate and Scriptural ground to execute.  Indeed, they would have been obligated to do so.
Something of the same holds true here.  The word translated “power” is “dunamis,” from which we get the words, “dynamic,” “dynamo,” “dynamite.”  It refers to power to get the job done. If “magic,” that is, demonic power, had entered into this man’s healing, it would have been a capital crime, worthy of death.
I wonder if something else might not also be here.  After all, these two men were nobodies:  uneducated and untrained.  They weren’t the first to run afoul of the authorities, and they weren’t the last.  History flows with the blood of martyrs who were outside the “official” church.  I do respect the Reformers and, considering the times they lived in and the corrupt church they left, am surprised they did as much as they did.  At the same time, I wish they would have gone all the way back to the New Testament instead of stopping with the early church fathers.

2. The Confession, vs. 8-12.

Peter acknowledged that the healing of the lame man was the reason he and John were before the council.  However, he denies that they themselves healed the man, giving a three-fold answer as to who had performed the healing.  In each answer, there is a difference between seems to be and what actually is.  Each answers revolves around Jesus Christ.

a. The Risen Christ, v. 10.  3:12 echoes here:  “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this?  Or why look so intently on us, as though by our power or godliness we had made this man walk?”  Peter refused any credit before the crowd, and he refuses any credit before the rulers.  The crucified, risen “Jesus Christ of Nazareth.”  In this description of the Lord, Peter offers positive proof of the resurrection.  The “name” of an ordinary executed criminal would have had no such power.  Peter did not say, “We serve (the memory of) Jesus and we did it,” but rather, by Him (that is, Jesus) this man stands here before you whole.  He did it, not us!

b. The Resurgent Christ, v. 11.  I admit this word also means “risen,” but it seems to me to convey much more than just that Jesus rose from the dead.  He didn’t just “barely” rise from the dead; He rose in complete triumph over sin, death, hell and the grave!  He conquered them, not just escaped from them!
By crucifying the Lord, the rulers, including at least Annas and Caiaphas, had vehemently rejected the claims of Jesus as to His Person – Deity – and to His office – Messiah, or Christ, Matthew 27:41-43.  The Resurrection vindicated those claims, cf. Romans 1:1-4.  Even though Romans hadn’t been written yet, Peter did know this truth, Acts 5:29-32.
This exaltation of Christ was prophesied in Psalm 110:22-24 and Isaiah 28:16.  After rebuking the chief priests and elders for their refusal to listen to Him, Jesus quoted Psalm 118 and it’s telling truth that their rejection of Him would only further God’s purpose of redemption.
Psalm 118:22, 23 is a clear example of the truth that NT truth is hinted at, though never revealed in the OT.  In Ephesians 2:29, after telling the Ephesian believers that they have been included in the people of God, Paul wrote, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone…, emphasis added.
So it seemed to the rulers of Israel that this Galilean interloper had finally been silenced.  In truth, Peter told them, the fulfillment of all God’s promises and purpose rests in and upon Him, and even one’s eternal standing before God, as the Lord Himself taught in Matthew 21:44, hinges on this Crucified, Risen One, a truth which Peter emphasized as he continues to speak.

c. the Redeeming Christ, v. 12.  Little did the chief priests, scribes, and elders realize the truth of what they said as they mocked the crucified Lord, “He saved others…,” Matthew 27:411, 42.  Peter said the same thing.  There are two thoughts in what he said.
1. Christ is the particular Redeemer.  Peter said it twice, “There is not any other, there is no other” Savior.  In this day of diversity and “inclusiveness,” this is not a welcome idea.  If the idea is even accepted that we need to be saved, there are any number of ways, of saviors, to get us into heaven.  So it is said.  Peter said otherwise.  So did our Lord.  He said, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father, except through Me,” John 14:6, emphases added.  There will be an enormous multitude at the Last Day who will find out to their everlasting dismay and loss that they’ve been lied to by their priest, teacher, prophet, preacher, imam, holy man, guru or whatever.  There is only one way into heaven:  faith in the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus.  He saved others.”   There are no other “saviors”.
2. Christ is a personal Savior.   Peter said, “…we must be saved”  He included himself.   In some circles, there is a vigorous debate about “the extent of the atonement,” which is not our purpose to enter into in this post.  In the matter of our salvation, that discussion is irrelevant.  By faith, the true believer is able to say, in wonder, “Christ died for me.”  That is the only “extent” which really matters.  Salvation has always been “one-on-one:”  Christ dying in the place and for the sins of the individual sinner; the individual sinner accepted, forgiven and restored in and because of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Psalmist exclaimed,

He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
  Psalm 103:10.

That’s because He dealt with the Lord Jesus according to them.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31.

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.

Revelation 21:9-27: The Eternal City.

9] Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.  10] And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 11] having the glory of God.  Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.  12] Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelves tribes of the children of Israel:  13] three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west.

14] Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.  15] And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall.  16] The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth.  And he measure the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs.  Its length, breadth, and height are equal.  17] Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.  18]The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.  19] The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones:  the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20] the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.  21] The twelve gates were twelve pearls:  each individual gate was one pearl.  And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

22] But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.  23]  The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it.  The Lamb is its light.  24] And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it.  25] Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there).  26] And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.  27] But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes and abomination or a life, but only those are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. (NKJV)

There is a city on this earth which claims to be eternal.  As we’ve seen in earlier posts, this claim will be shown to be incorrect.  Though it’s in a different context, something God said in the last part of Jeremiah 44:28 might apply here:  [They] shall know whose words will stand, Mine or theirs.  There is only one city which will endure into eternity.  That city is described in our text.

The city is almost beyond description, certainly beyond our ability to picture it.  The most important thing about it, though, is said right away.  It’s not it’s impressive size nor its unbelievable beauty.  The most important thing is – it has the glory of God, v. 11.  This is implied in the fact that the it’s called the holy Jerusalem, v. 10, but not everything that called holy in this world has the glory of God, and maybe not anything.  This city is not of this world.

John says her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.  This is also the description of the wall surrounding the city, v. 18.  There’s some discussion about what this “jasper stone” is.  Some think it might have been green like an emerald, others think it is a diamond.  Whatever it is, the Shekinah glory of God shining through its crystalline structure will be breathtaking.  We’ve seen the beauty of light refracted through a diamond, or, for that matter, the beauty of light refracted through drops of rain in a rainbow.  I used to drive for a living.  One day, a storm had just passed and there was a rainbow, one end of which was right there on the hood of my truck.  It’s the only time I’ve experienced it, but that rainbow so close up was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.  I can’t even begin to describe it.  I don’t know exactly what the city will look like, but earthly examples will pale into nothing compared to what we will see in the New Jerusalem.

In v. 16, John tells us the city is laid out as a square, 1500 miles to a side, and 1500 miles high.  This is certainly like no earthly city!  It appears to be a cube, though Ironside envisioned it as a triangle, with the apex being at the throne of God.  Others see it as a circle.  It’s surrounded by a wall 216 feet high, with three gates on each side attended by an angel, though it’s unclear what their function will be in a holy and righteous environment, v. 12.

The really interesting thing about these gates in v. 12 is that each gate is named after one of the twelve tribes of Israel.  We’ll come back to this in a moment.

In v. 14, John tells us that this wall had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. Cf. Ephesians 2:20.

Let me turn aside for just a minute.  The Lord Jesus is referred to as “the Lamb” 26 times in Revelation.  I think there’s something here that we need to remember.  It’s so easy to get all wrapped up in the splendor of this city and of the prospect of streets of gold and of pearly gates that we forget one vital fact.  In 5:6, the first reference to Him, John saw a Lamb as it had been slain.

“as it had been slain.”

You see, much of this would not be possible, at least as far as we’re concerned, if the Lord Jesus had never been born of the virgin, lived a perfect and sinless life, died a substitutionary and atoning death on the Cross, and rose from the dead.  Heaven would still be heaven; we just wouldn’t be there.  We get so wrapped up in the blessings He bought for us that we tend to forget the price He paid for them.  But throughout eternity, He will be worshiped as the Lamb.

We should be doing that now.

John mentions our Lord’s twelve apostles as each being named on one of the city’s twelve foundations.  In v. 12, he mentions the twelve tribes of Israel.

What’s the significance of this?

There are a couple of major views of the place of Israel in God’s redemptive plan.  One view says that God is finished with Israel; she has no further place in God’s purpose.  When she crucified the Lord, she shut the door in His face – and in hers.  She’s done.  “The church” has taken her place and her blessings, though in a “spiritual” sense.  The OT prophecies will not be fulfilled “literally,” but spiritually, in the church.  A second view is that when Israel crucified her Messiah, God’s original plan was frustrated, and so He instituted “Plan B”: the church.  This is the view I was brought up with and held in the days of my youth.

Since then, though, I’ve come to look at this a different way.  The church is no “plan B”; how can a believer even have such a low view of God?  Sadly, too many do.  I don’t know about you, but if God had to change His plan every time I mess something up, He’d be way beyond plan B.  I know I’ve said that before, but it’s still true.  No wonder Christianity is in the mess it’s in!  Who wants to follow and serve such a feeble god?

No, no.  The Church is not some “Plan B”.  She is “Part B”.

The death of Christ didn’t catch God by surprise.  It didn’t throw a monkey wrench into the works.  That’s why our Lord came into the world in the first place – not just to live, but to die.  Israel’s rejection was just the means of accomplishing that.  And it’s through that death that she will ultimately be reconciled to her Lord, Zechariah 12:10; Romans 11:26.

In Ephesians 3:6, Paul wrote that Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel.  The early church had a lot of trouble with the idea that Gentiles could come to the Lord Jesus on their own without having to become Jews first.  This is what Acts 10 and 11 are all about: the extension of the Gospel and salvation to Gentiles.

In Ephesians 2:12, 13, Paul reminded the Christians at Ephesus, who were Gentile, about their pre-conversion state:  that at time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ, emphasis added.  In 2:14, he wrote that it was God’s purpose through the Lord Jesus, who Himself is our peace, then in v. 15, 16, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two,…and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, emphasis added.

The church isn’t a replacement for Israel.  She isn’t some spiritual version of Israel.  She is a “new man”, a new thing:  a body composed of both Jew and Gentile.  Ethnicity counts for nothing in the church – or it’s not supposed to – where there is neither Jew nor Greek, Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11.  I suppose in our day he might have written, “there is neither black nor white nor brown.”  He doesn’t deny our ethnicity or our gender or our economic status; it’s just that at the foot of the Cross, none of that matters.  It’s a shame that so much of our thinking even in the church is shaped by politics rather than by the plain teaching of the Word of God.

Though united in the holy city, Israel and the Church will never lose their distinctive identities.

Having said all that John has, still the wonder of the New Jerusalem isn’t its physical beauty or size.  As he mentioned in v. 3, where he said that God would dwell with men and do away with sorrow and suffering, here in vs. 22-26, he elaborates a little on that thought.  We won’t get into that so much because we have nothing to compare it with.  Our history and culture as a world has nothing like it.  It may be that things will be somewhat like they might have been had our first parents never sinned.  The important thing is that God will be there.  All else is insignificant.

In v. 27, John closes on a solemn note.  God will be there, but not every person will be there.  There are some who will be excluded, some things not permitted.  There shall by no means enter into anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. 

Once again, we get into this idea of being saved.  Oh, that we might understand this.  Not everyone is going to “a better place.”  The truth is, not a single one of us deserves to go to such a place.  We’re all sinners by birth and too often by choice.  Apart from the Lord Jesus, we live under God’s wrath and condemnation, John 3:18, 36.  Only through Him is there salvation from our sin and our condemnation.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, Acts16:31.

 

Revelation 16:12-21: When All Hell Breaks Loose

12] Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared.  13] And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.  14] For they are the spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.

15] “Behold, I am coming as a thief.  Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.”

16] And they gathered them together to the place called in the Hebrew, Armageddon.

17] Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, “It is done!”  18] And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth.  19] Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell.  And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath.  20] Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.  21] And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent.  Men blasphemed because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great

Perhaps the title sounds unusual, perhaps a little excessive, or even profane.  Sometimes the expression in it is used when some catastrophe or violence breaks out somewhere on earth.  It means something is really terrible.

In this case, however, it isn’t profane, but an expression of a solemn reality – hell will really break loose in one final attempt to defeat the purpose of God.  It will be “terrible” beyond anything this world has experienced.

There are two parts to this vision:

1. The Deception, vs. 12-16.
2. The Determination, vs. 17-21.

1. The Deception, vs. 12-16.

We’ve already been introduced to the dragon, the beast and the false prophet.  For more than three years, they’ve pretty much had the run of things, even though the dragon, that is, Satan, knows his time is running out, 12:12, hence the increased wickedness and violence.  Now, in this last few weeks, what turns out to be the final act begins.

For most of its existence, and certainly its recent existence, Israel has been the object of scorn and hatred.  Though it’s ancient history to a lot of people today, WWII was a nearly successful attempt to wipe out Jewry.  Though some today deny any such thing as the Holocaust, the times just after the war was over and the terrible pictures of emaciated men, little more than skeletons in skin, liberated from the death camps, or the piles of corpses found in those camps, the bodies of those murdered by the Nazis say otherwise.  Yes, it was real.

This will be far beyond that.

Satan hates God, and has tried to thwart Him at every turn.  He tried in the Garden of Eden.  He tried with Abraham.  He tried in Egypt.  He tried in the wilderness wanderings and after Israel entered the land.  He tried when our Lord walked the dusty roads of Palestine.  Even that very name – Palestine, a name given to the land by her enemies – is a denial of Israel and her claim to that land, a claim still vigorously and sometimes violently disputed.

At the beginning of our verses we’re told that the River Euphrates will be dried up so that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.  The longest river in that part of the world, the Euphrates has long stood as a barrier between Western Asia and the West.  Further, it is vital to the economy of the region, several nations being dependent on it for irrigation or hydroelectric energy.

Who are “the kings of the east”?  Older commentators understood them to be from China, with her teeming millions, or from other countries in the Far East.   That may be, but there are “teeming millions” much closer – in Syria and other nearby countries.  Because of overpopulation and overuse, the water table in many of these countries has dropped, in some cases severely, and the Euphrates itself has been affected to some degree, as its sources of water begin to dry up or are closed off with dams.  It may be more than Wiley the poet in the comic strip B. C. can understand, but there’s been more than one war started over water.  This may be the last one.  (And that no doubt by now obscure cultural reference may tell how old I am.  Oh, well.)

But there’s more.  And it’s not really a joking matter, though my sense of humor often gets in the way.  We read that the sixth angel will pour out his bowl over the River and what may have begun by natural and environmental forces will be finished all at once and the River will be gone.

This will open the door for much easier access into the Levant as, not only from the east but the kings of the earth and of the whole world, will gather for an onslaught against Jerusalem.  This will turn out to be Satan’s last attempt to destroy Israel.  We see his minions energizing the beast and the false prophet as no doubt they urge this invasion once and for all to settle “the Jewish problem,” v. 13.  I want to point out once more the Scripture mentioning that these demons perform “signs,” v. 14.  If he can’t get folks to deny the Word outright, then he’ll draw their attention to counterfeit things like “signs and miracles.”

But it isn’t just Satan and his minions and his subjects.  It isn’t just political maneuvering or racial hatred.  In Zechariah 14:2, the Lord God says, I will gather all nations to battle against Jerusalem,” emphasis added.  We never want to get the idea that somehow God is outside all this, or that He’s caught by surprise or unprepared for the doings of sinful men.  While I don’t want to get into the discussion over “free will” and God’s sovereignty, let me simply say that God is quite able to work His will in the context of His own creation.  This last battle is simply His preparation for the return of His Son.

There are other Scriptures which weigh in on this.  For example, Isaiah 66:16 says,

For by fire and by His sword
The LORD will judge all flesh;
And the slain of the LORD shall be many.

And further,

At His wrath the earth will tremble,
And the nations will not be able to endure
His indignation,
Jeremiah 10:6.

See also Ezekiel 39:17-20.

It’s interesting that in the midst of this description of one of the worst times in human history, the Lord Jesus interjects a promise, “Behold, I come as a thief,” Revelation 16:15.  But there’s also a warning:  “Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.”

I don’t know how this last part will play out, but it’s a solemn warning not to get so caught up in current events or in trying to decipher “the signs of the times,” that we forget our personal responsibility to live holy lives, lives looking for more than the transient things of this world.  See also 1 John 2:28.  Satan will not have the final word, no matter how desperate things seem to get.

2. The Determination, vs. 17-21.

The seventh angel pours out his bowl of wrath in the climactic act of judgment in Revelation.  These judgments include a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth, v. 18.  This is the last of several earthquakes recorded in Revelation, and is likely the one associated with the physical return of our Lord as recorded in Zechariah 14:

And in that day His feet will stand on the
Mount of Olives,

Which faces Jerusalem on the east.
And the Mount of Olives shall be split in
two,
From east to west,
Making a very large valley;
Half of the mountain shall move toward the
north
And half of it toward the south.
…All the land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon in the south, Zechariah 14:4, 10.

By the way, this will more than make room for the temple and its environs spoken of in Ezekiel 40-45.

Isaiah 24:20 says, the earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard.  With the physical and geological catastrophes ravaging this poor planet, we can certainly see why!

Revelation 16:19 refers to the judgment of the great city, identified a little later in the verse as great Babylon.  Since more than two chapters are devoted to the destruction of this city, we’ll save further comments until later.  The “chronology” of the book skips from 16:21 to 19:11.  The portion in between is explanatory, the “director’s cut,” the idea that inspired the title for this series.

Verses 20, 21 continue the description of the judgment of the seventh bowl.  Every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.  These catastrophes are accompanied by great hail from heaven, with hailstones weighing from 75 to 100 pounds each.

None of this moves men toward God, but further away.  They continue to blaspheme, to curse, not to repent.  It is the “great day of His wrath.”

Paul referred to the time of the beast in 2 Thessalonians 2:9,10:  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, emphasis added.

You see, we’re not saved by faith in “signs,” but by faith in the Son, His perfect life and death, what He did for sinners on the Cross, taking their place and enduring the wrath of God against their sin.  They, and they alone, are saved.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31.

Revelation 10: The Bittersweet Word.

1] I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud.  And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire.  2] He had a little book open in his hand.  And he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, 3] and cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars.  When he cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices.  4] Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.”

5] The angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his hand to heaven 6] and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there should be delay no longer, 7] but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets.

8] Then the voice which I heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, “Go, take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the earth.”

9] So I went to the angel and said to him, “Give me the little book.”

And he said to me, “Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.”

10] Then I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth.  But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter.  11] And he said to me, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.” 

In chs. 10 and 11, we come, as it were, to a break in the action.  The sixth angel has sounded his trumpet, but before the seventh trumpet is sounded, there are some things the Lord wants us to know about these judgments.  We are introduced to a mighty angel and a little book, vs. 1, 2.

Who is this angel?

Some believe it’s another appearance of the Lord Jesus, but the fact that this angel is another angel leads me to believe that it is not.  There are two words in the Greek language for “another.”  One word means “another of the same kind,” and the second word means “another of a different kind.”  The first word describes this angel:  he is like others “of the same kind.”  With whom may the Lord Jesus be compared?  The truth is, there is no one else to whom He can be compared.  Because of this, we believe that this angel is simply another of the mighty host who serve God.

In addition, seven thunders have something to say, vs. 3, 4, but when John is about to write down what they said, he is forbidden, v. 4.  We don’t know what they said, but that hasn’t stopped Bible teachers from trying to figure it out.  I have no idea what they said; it is the only thing in this book of “unveiling” that is still hidden.

There is something we can know, though, and that is the message of this angel.  Pay attention.  It’s very important.

The angel has an announcement about the seventh trumpet.  He says that “there should be delay no longer, but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished.”

What “mystery”?

What’s this about?

I think this announcement will be the answer to the questions, “Why doesn’t God do something about evil?  Why did He permit it in the first place?”

As to why He permitted it in the first place, He hasn’t told us.  I don’t know that He ever will.  Whatever we might say about it is just uninspired speculation, finite creatures trying to understand an infinite Creator.

Romans 1:20 tells us that creation clearly reveals God’s eternal power and Godhead.  It tells us that there is a God, a very powerful and wise God.  It doesn’t tell us a lot of other things about Him, though.

Satan was one of the angels created, even before Genesis 1:1, cf. Job 38:1-7.  We don’t know how long it took, or even really why it happened, but Satan decided one day that he would be like the Most High, Isaiah 14:14.

That didn’t work out very well for him, and he, and all creation with him, learned about the justice of God.

Time passed, though we don’t know how much, and God created our earth, with two people as its sole inhabitants, not counting all the animals and lesser creatures.  And, no, we are not simply more highly-evolved “animals”.  Satan saw this happy couple fellowshipping with God, cf. Genesis 3:8, and thought, “Aha!  If I can get these two to sin like I did, God will judge them and they’ll be thrown out of His presence.”

Surprise.

God did judge them, Genesis 3:16-19, but He did something else as well.  He clothed them with coats or tunics of skin, thus foreshadowing the truth of salvation by faith in the death of a Substitute, and promised them a Redeemer one day, Genesis 3:15, though speaking to Satan and pronouncing a final judgment to come for him, cf. Hebrews 2:14.

God revealed His grace.

I don’t give these thoughts as inspired or any such thing.  They’re just my thoughts on a difficult subject.

There is coming a time, though, when perhaps not all will be made clear, but sin will most certainly and finally be taken care of once and for all.  There will be no more “delay”!  We see this in Revelation.  The “mystery” will be finished.

What about “the little book”?

We’re not told what it is, just what John was to do with it.

Like Ezekiel before him in a somewhat similar situation, Ezekiel 3:1, 2, he was to take it and eat it.

Let me make an application here.  God has given us a book, as well.  Granted, it’s not “little,” but it is His.  In His grace, He’s give it to us.  Yet how few professed Christians really read it, really digest what it says, like Ezekiel and John digested the books they were given.  How do I know that?  Just look around at the perversion and wickedness, the false teaching, that’s promoted even by many in “the church,” let alone those outside the church.  Christ has His “little flock,” Luke 12:32, to be sure, but the description of Israel in battle against the Syrians is certainly apt here:  Now the children of Israel encamped before them like two little flocks of goats, while the Syrians filled the countryside, 1 Kings 20:27. Those who oppose the Gospel “fill the countryside.”

There is something told to John about his “little book” that is applicable to our own study of Scripture:  “it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth,” v. 9.

How can that be??

As we read Scripture, we see many precious promises:

The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea, Isaiah 11:9.

Beloved, now we are the children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is, 1 John 3:2.

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And thus we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore comfort one another with these words, 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18.

Wonderful promises.

These are just three of many such promises.

But there are some “prohibitions” as well.  Revelation 20 describes the ultimate end of all those who do not know the Lord Jesus or who have rejected Him in this life:

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 the books were opened.  And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life.  And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. … 13] …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,  Revelation 20:11-15.

Contrary to popular thought, everyone is not headed to “a better place.”  Apart from the Lord Jesus, there is no such thing after death.  This life will be as good as it gets for those who don’t know the Lord Jesus, those who aren’t trusting His life and His death for their salvation.  We’ll have much more to say about this when we get to this point in our study.

And don’t be misled by the idea that the dead will be judged according to their works.  That does not mean that we’re saved by our works, as so many teach.  According to Isaiah 64:6, our very best, our “righteousnesses,” those good things we do, are no better in the sight of God than “filthy rags.”  That phrase describes the cloth used by a menstruating woman or by a leper to cover his sores.  Not a pretty picture, but descriptive of what our very best is when compared to the absolute purity and holiness of the Lord Jesus.

No, there is no salvation, no “better place” apart from Jesus.  It is indeed a “bitter” thought, the judgment that awaits sinners.

Oh, do you know this One who came to take the place of sinners, that One who endured the wrath of God you and I deserve?  Have you bowed before Him?  Is He your Lord and Savior?  Oh, that I had the heart of a Spurgeon, to plead with you to flee from the wrath to come!  Without Christ, eternity will be bitter beyond our ability to conceive of it.  Without Him, there will be no “light at the end of the tunnel.”

Revelation 8:7-13: “As In the Days of Egypt”

7] The first angel sounded:  And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth.  And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.  

8] Then the second angel sounded:  And something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood.  9] And a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.

10] Then the third angel sounded:  And a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water.  11] The name of the star is Wormwood.  A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the water, because it was made bitter.

12] Then the fourth angel sounded:  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 were darkened.  A third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night.
13] And I looked, and I heard an angel flying through 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!”  (NKJV)

The title of this post is taken from Micah 7:15, in which God says “As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt, I will show them wonders.”  In this verse, God promises something of a repetition of what happened just before Israel escaped Egyptian bondage.  This is important because similar things are said to happen in Revelation 8 as happened before the Exodus, e.g., water turned to blood, cf. Exodus 7:20.  Many scholars and teachers who will accept that things which happened before the Exodus were actual things will say that the same things mentioned in Revelation are only “symbolic” and not actual events or things at all.  It seems to me that Micah 7:15 tells us that they are “real”.  That God will once again intervene in the affairs of men in such a way that it can’t be denied, cf. 6:17.

1. The first trumpet, 8:7:  Vegetation destroyed.

Ezekiel 38:22 foretells of a time when God will rain down on him…flooding rain, great hailstones, fire, and brimstone.  The “him” refers to those forces who will gather for what seems to be one last time to overthrow and destroy Israel, as seen in Ezekiel, chs. 38-40.  I believe that Ezekiel refers to the same thing as  Zechariah 14:1-3.  It will seem that at long last Israel has been defeated, Jerusalem has been captured and terrible atrocities committed against her inhabitants.  Learned scholars will likely appear on television and proclaim that, at last, the “Jewish problem” has been solved. Little do they know!  This is also likely what Paul referred to in 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 8 as he describes the scene when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I would sound one note of caution in the study of prophecy, even in our study.  Some ministries devote their whole attention to it.  That’s fine.  I don’t agree with those who say we ought to ignore it because there is so much discussion and controversy over it.  If God said it, we ought to study it and know as much about it as we can.  At the same time, there is an enormous amount of material throughout the Bible about the future, not just ours, but things future to those to whom it was originally given, much of which we view as history.  Much of it has been fulfilled; much remains.  And it isn’t all neatly strung together for us like pearls on a necklace.

I believe prophecy is about actual history and events told about before they happen.  It is not merely symbolic teaching about something or other.  Having said that, I expect that, when all is said and done, what is done will not be exactly as we, that is, teachers and preachers, might say it will be.  We will, however, see that it was fulfilled exactly as God has said it would be.

With regard to the effect of the first trumpet, I don’t know exactly how it will be fulfilled, whether every tree in a certain area will be destroyed, or just some trees over a wider area.  It doesn’t matter.  It will be evident what has happened: a lot of trees gone, as well as all green grass.  People will no doubt be aghast as this blow to the environment, that environment so many seem almost to cherish, even almost worship.  And we ought to take care of it; after all, we live in it.  But there is coming a time when that which is so important to us, even vital to our lives and well-being, will be greatly affected and destroyed.

2. The Second Trumpet, 8:8:  Oceans struck.

This trumpet and the next one refer to separate events which will greatly affect the waters of this planet.  The thing mentioned in this verse seems to be very large, perhaps like an asteroid or other larger cosmic body.  It won’t be the first time this has happened, cf. the meteor crater in Arizona.  There are other places as well which also bear witness to the violence this world has suffered before.  Our atmosphere has protected us from much of it, but still, some things get through.  Whatever this is will get through.

Its impact will result in great loss, as well as a great change in the ocean itself.  John says a third of it will become blood.  There is some discussion about this. Some say it will simply be a natural occurrence, like the Red Tide.  This phenomenon is caused by a harmful red algal bloom, which produces a neurotoxin that can be fatal to marine animals who ingest it and then to humans who eat the marine animals.

I don’t know if this will be the explanation or not, though I don’t think it will be.  I do believe these events will be beyond the ability of “science” to explain.

As for the destruction of ships, imagine the tidal wave, or tsunami, produced by the collision of this object with the ocean.  It will dwarf the one which made headlines a few years back.

3. Fresh water affected, 8:10-11.

This seems to be a smaller object, what we might call a shooting star.  It will affect a third of fresh water, so that many people die from drinking it.

4. Cosmic disturbances, 8:12.

A third of the heavens will be affected.  Even time itself will seem to be affected, with the shortened length of day and night.

How will all this be done?  Only God knows.

But that’s the point.

Today’s materialistic science prides itself on asserting that things are simply the results of natural processes, operating over billions of years.  There is no God involved, no supernatural interference with the natural order of things.

Science says that everything can be explained.

These phenomena will show that to be a lie.

5. A supernatural announcement, 8:13.

Newer translations say that an eagle flies through the heaven with this announcement.  However it’s accomplished, men are put on notice that there is worse to come.
__________

Ecclesiastes 8:11 says, Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the hearts of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.  We live in a time when there seems to be little, if any, evidence for God in everyday life.  The Bible has little effect, indeed, is forbidden in our government, in our schools, and in much of everyday life.  Secular philosophy rules the day.  Men and women live as if this life is truly all there is; there’s nothing “out there”.

God gave us books like Revelation to be something more than the subject of discussion.  It’s not just to be dabbled in or made a subject for speculation.  Granted, we may not understand a lot of what it says.  It says enough, though, to warn us that this life is not all there is, that in the words of Hebrews 9:27, …it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.

The thought of Hebrews 9:27 is continued in v. 28:  And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.

We can’t even begin to understand those verses.  We’ve sanitized and cleaned up the idea of crucifixion.  We’ve made the cross into pretty jewelry.  But it wasn’t pretty; it was an awful, bloody, painful thing.  Beside all that, our Lord endured the wrath of God against sin.  There’s no way to picture that.

So, you see.  There is coming a time of judgment, for this planet and for every single individual who’s ever lived on it.  For those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, that judgment is past.  He endured it in our place.  Apart from Him, that judgment is still to be faced.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31.