Revelation 14:14-20, The Darkness Before the Dawn

14] Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle.  15] And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.”  16] So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.

17] Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.

18] And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the cluster of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.”  19] So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.  20] And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs.  (NKJV)

Though we’re only about 2/3 of the way through Revelation, we’re down to perhaps the last few weeks before our Lord returns to this world and history as we know it will be over.  I say “perhaps” because it’s difficult to know for certain the “overlap” of various events in the book.  At least one of them takes five months, 9:5.  And we read of the days of the blowing of the seventh trumpet, 10:7, which actually includes what happens during the time of the pouring out of the seven bowls, or vials.  We tend to read the book as if A follows B, but A and B might overlap to some degree.  Further, the narrative switches back and forth between heaven and earth.

Chapters 15 and 16 give us the “bowl” judgments.  Chapters 17, 18 and through 19:10 give us heaven’s perspective.  From 19:11 through ch. 20, we have the final chapters of this world’s history.  21 shows us the creation of new heaven and new earth, where righteousness dwells, or “is at home,” as 2 Peter 3:13 puts it.

Under the guise of a harvest, our text, Revelation 14:14-20, gives us something of the events which will precede our Lord’s return in 19:11 and explains a little of why He wears a blood-stained robe, 19:13.

Of note is the fact that there are two “harvests,” one in vs. 14-16 and one in vs. 17-20.  The first one involves the Son of man, and the harvest of the earth.  The second one involves an angel and the harvest of the vine of the earth.

Our Lord spoke of this first harvest in Mark 13:27, “And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of the earth to the farthest part of heaven.”  See also Matthew 24:31.  There’s a great deal of discussion of all that’s involved with this topic.  It’s possible that this verse refers to the gathering together of Israel, not “the church.”  It’s not our purpose to get into all of it.  It’s enough to remember that Paul wrote 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 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, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18.

We believe that Revelation 14:14-16 give us this same event.

Verses 17-20 give us a description of the expression of God’s wrath toward this earth.

Several Scriptures gives us details of this time.  Perhaps the best known are found in Zechariah.  According to chapter 14, Jerusalem will finally be captured and terrible atrocities will be committed against her inhabitants.  When all hope appears to be lost and Israel will finally be destroyed after centuries of her enemies trying to do that, the Lord will suddenly appear and will “destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem,” Zechariah 12:9.

At the same time, Zechariah 12:10 tells us that God “will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced.  Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.”

At this time, Romans 11:26 will be fulfilled:  all Israel [alive at that time] shall be saved, as it is written:

“The Deliverer will come out of Zion, 
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”

Isaiah 63:1-4 refers to this time, as well:

Who is this who comes from Edom,
With dyed garments from Bozrah,

This One who is glorious in apparel,
Traveling in the greatness of His strength? –

“I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.”

Why is Your apparel red,
And your garments like one who treads in the winepress?

“I have trodden the winepress alone,
And from the peoples no one was with Me.
For I have trodden them in My anger,
And trampled them in My fury:
Their blood is sprinkled upon My garments,
And I have stained all My robes.
For the day of vengeance is in My heart,
And the year of My redeemed has come.”

So great will the slaughter of God’s and Israel’s enemies be that Scripture tells us that it will take seven months to bury them all, Ezekiel 39:12, and seven years to get rid of all their weapons and equipment, vs. 9, 10.  The arterial spray from their deaths will even reach as high as horses’ bridles, Revelation 14:20.

This view of God is foreign to our time, even repugnant to many.  We’ve so distorted the Bible’s teaching about God that He’s been reduced to little more than an indulgent Grandfather chuckling over the follies and foibles of His grandchildren.  But we are NOT all His children, as so many believe.

We are, however, all His subjects.  He is our Creator and God.  Evolution has taken care of the idea of His being Creator and our materialistic worldview has taken care of any idea of God.  We’re all that there is – except maybe for alien civilizations which might have evolved on other planets – a popular tenet of sci-fi programs.  Nevertheless, we are as subject to His moral and spiritual laws as we are to His “natural” laws – like the law of gravity.  Even those who’ve never hear of Him have some idea of “right” and “wrong.”  They may not agree with our ideas, but still, they recognize that some things are “wrong.”  The thing is, no one has even fully lived according to those ideas, and are as guilty as those who have full access to the Bible.  This is Paul’s teaching in Romans 2:14-16.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23.  All of us are condemned in His sight.  This is why the Lord Jesus came to this world – to save sinners.  Yesterday was Easter.  Yes, I know some much prefer “Resurrection Day,” and I understand why they prefer it.  The point isn’t so much what we call it, but what God was doing during it.  He was showing that our Lord’s death which has occurred three days and three nights before had been effective.  It was His receipt, if you will, for what Christ had done.  Sin had been paid for, and judgment satisfied for those for whom Christ died.

Those who believe on Him will never endure the wrath of God against their sin.  Christ endured it for them.  Those who reject the Lord Jesus?  He who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides [remains] on him, John 3:36.

I don’t know the spiritual condition of those who read these posts.  I only pray that they – that you – will consider your future.

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

As much as men might deny the God of the Bible, the time is coming when this will not be possible.

Revelation 14: The Patience of the Saints

1] Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads.  2] And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder.  And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps.  3] They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth.  4] These are the one who were no defiled with women, for they are virgins.  These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.  These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.  5] And in their mouth was no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God.

6] Then I say another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth – to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people – saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”

8] And another angel followed, saying, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.”

9] Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and that image, and received his mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10] he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured  out full strength into the cup of His indignation.  He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.  11] And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”

12] Here is the patience of the saints; hear are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.

13] Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”

“Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”

14] Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle.  15] And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.”  16] So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.

17] Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.

18] And another angle came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.”  19] So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.  20] And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs. (NKJV)

After reading the verses for our post, the title seems strange:  patience in the midst of such troubles as will happen in this world.  The fact is that Scripture has a lot to say about patience, or endurance.  It talks about the patience of Christ, 2 Thessalonians 3:5, the patience of God, Romans 15:5, the exercise of patience in God’s people, as in Hebrews 6:12.  The English word occurs 23 times in the New Testament.  Its occurrence in Revelation 14:12 is the last occurrence.  It shows us the ultimate reason for the patience of the saints.

Perhaps it also answers the vexing question of the unfairness and inadequacy of earthly justice to punish crime and sin.

“Punish.”

We don’t even like that word anymore.  We want to “rehabilitate” those who have committed the most heinous or numerous sins.  We want to let them out to wreak havoc again.  They’ve “paid their debt to society.”

What’s forgotten is their debt to God.

I’ve told before of the individual who had been guilty of twelve incidents of rape and assault, and the puzzlement of law enforcement officials as to what to do with him because “at some point you run into the constitutional rights of the offender.”

Sorry, but there is no “constitutional right” to be an offender.  And, yes, I know that’s not what meant by the idea.

What do you do with a man who assaults twelve women?

Human justice in some cases can’t really punish crime.  Only God can.

That’s the reason Scripture says, It is appointed to men to die once, and after this the judgment, Hebrews 9:27.

Revelation 14 gives us some instances of this judgment to come, both as to the individual and to society in general.

Of course, this brings up another difficulty – the whole idea of eternal torment in fire and brimstone, v. 10.

One of the local cults has a series of “Bible studies” at their church next week.  One of the topics listed in the flyer they left in our screen door was titled:  “Is God criminal?”  Then they ask the question, “If God is almighty, then why does He allow evil and then suffering with hell fire?”

Leaving aside the whole problem of a “Christian” implying that God might be a criminal, to say nothing of the existence of evil, why is there a “hell” at all?

Our Lord answered that:  it is “prepared for the devil and his angels,” Matthew 25:41.  Scripture also reveals that it is the final stop for those who die without the Lord Jesus, Revelation 20:5.

The idea of God punishing sin is so far removed from our thinking.  But look at it from this angle.  If someone kills a fly or an insect, few people think anything of it.  if someone kills an ordinary citizen, that’s worse.  However, if someone were to kill a ruler, that would be serious indeed.  Justice is related to the seriousness of the offense.

Sin is an offense against God.  Even if it’s against another person.  Cf. Joseph’s response to Potiphar’s wife:  “How then can I do this great wickedness [by doing what she wanted], and sin against God?” Genesis 39:9.

In all this, we forget God.

Sin against God is sin against an infinite Being.  It requires an infinite, that is, eternal punishment.

I’ve also related the story of the Bible class which was discussing the attributes of God, and the teacher’s discomfort with the idea of the strictness of God’s justice and judgment.  But God’s justice is as real as His love.

We’ve forgotten that.

The time is coming when that won’t be possible.

Revelation 13:11-18, A Beastly Situation, part 2.

11] Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon.  12] And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.  13] He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.  14] And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.  15] He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.  16] He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads. 17] and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

18] Here is wisdom.  Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man”  His number is 666.  (NKJV)

Here is the second “beast” of the two.  The word translated “beast” in both cases is “therion,” a wild beast, not a tame or domesticated one.  This one has been called, “The False Prophet.”  His role is to promote the worship of the first beast.  He is described as having two horns like a lamb, a harmless and inoffensive creature, but he spoke like a dragon.  There’s a lesson here for us.  Our Lord warned against “false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves,” Matthew 7:15.  And John wrote, Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try [test] the spirits whether they are of God:  because many false prophets are gone out into the world, 1 John 4:1.  It’s no good having horns like a lamb if one speaks like a dragon.

But not only does this individual have words; he has mighty works, to the point that even he makes fire come down from heaven to earth in the sight of men, v. 13.  His ultimate work is to make an image of the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived, an image that is able both to speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed, v. 15.

This probably seemed like an impossible thing in John’s day, but with the advent of electronics and “special effects,” perhaps this will not be as hard as it might appear.  Regardless of how it’s accomplished, it will be a serious thing, to the point of death for refusal to bow down to the beast.  A final test will be to receive a “mark” on the right hand or forehead, a mark that will be required in order to “buy or sell.”  In other words, it will affect the basic necessities of life.

There’s something for us here.  There’s a lot of talk about “miracles” in our day.  Whole ministries are built around them.  Perhaps these verses could warn us not to place an undue emphasis on “signs and wonders”.

There’s been some discussion about what this mark is.  Some have suggested that it might be some kind of electronic chip imbedded under the skin, like a tracking chip in an animal.  That might be, but I believe that it will be a visible symbol, readily apparent to all who look at the person.  There will be no “secret” disciples during this time.  I further believe that it will be in answer to those servants of God who have His mark in their forehead, Revelation 7:3; 9:4.

Perhaps there will be some who reason that they will receive the mark in order to be able to live and even seem to worship the beast, but “in their heart” they won’t be agreeing to these things.  That dog won’t hunt, because the very act of receiving the mark itself will doom the person, cf. 14:11; 16:2.  One of the things spoken of those who are saved in this time is that they have not received this mark, 15:2; 20:4.  They “have not loved their life to the death.”

What about “the mark of the beast” or “666,” v, 18?  There’s a lot of discussion about this, and even the world recognizes the number.  I don’t know that it’s all that important at this time.  When it does become important, it will be readily apparent as to its meaning.  There will be no doubt.  There will be no hiding from it.

The mark or the number may have no meaning to us today, but there is something that does have meaning, a meaning that will affect eternity.  That is our relationship and reaction to the Word of God.  The phrase, “the word of God,” appears five times in Revelation:  1:2, 9; 6:9; 19:13; 20:4.  In Revelation 19:13, the phrase is given as the name of the Lord Jesus as He returns to this world.  The other times, it occurs in connection with another phrase.  In 1:2 and 9, it’s the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.  6:9 records the cry of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.  In 20:4, we read of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast.

The Word is to be the ultimate measure of everything we believe and do.  It will not do to say that Dr. So-and-so is teaching this or that some preacher on TV preaches it.  It’s not enough that some “Study Bible” has notes about it.  Do not not get me wrong on this last; study Bibles can be very useful.  I have several myself.  Commentaries can be very useful, and the writings of men.  I even hope my posts are helpful.  But none of these in themselves are authoritative.

A Puritan whose name I don’t remember said this:  “There are only two things I want to know:  has God spoken, and what has He said?”  It’s not, “What do men say that God has said,” though some today (falsely) claim to be His mouthpiece.  What does God say?  And the only place we can find that is in the Scriptures, that is, the Holy Bible, the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments.

But even the Scriptures have a purpose.  Our Lord spoke to some very serious Bible scholars of His day, men who would have died defending what they had of the Bible.  He said, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.  But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life,” John 5:39, 40.

The purpose of Scripture is not to make us scholars, but saints.  If we don’t know the One to whom the Scriptures point, then what we know of them, no matter how much, will only add to our condemnation.  At the same time, we can’t truly know Him apart from the Scriptures.  This may seem like a paradox, but it isn’t.  We have to know Scripture, not just for the sake of that, but for the sake of knowing the one to whom they point.  If our study of Scripture doesn’t ultimately take us to the Lord Jesus, we haven’t studied it correctly.

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, Romans 5:1.

Revelation 12:7-17: Turmoil in Heaven.

7] And war broke out in heaven:  Michael and his angel fought with the devil; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8] but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.  9] So the great dragon was cast out, the serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

10] Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before God day and night, has been cast down.  11] And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.  12] Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them!  Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea!  For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.”

13] Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child.  14] But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.  15] So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood.  16] But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.  17] And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Verses 7-17 give us some details about what verses 1-6 have to say.  For example, this “war” in heaven happens before the woman flees into the wilderness.  They also introduce us to two more of the seven beings in chs. 12 and 13, as well as giving us further information about “the woman.”

They are:

1. Michael, v. 7.

War broke out in heaven:  Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.

Daniel 12:1 refers to this event.  It says, “At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time.

Revelation tells us why there will be such a “time of trouble.”

One thing about this “war.”  Daniel 10:13, 20 tell us that Satan and his angels oppose and try to hinder God at every step, but that does not mean that they can in any way alter His purpose or ultimately prevent God from doing what He wants to do.  There is entirely too much of this idea, however veiled it might be, that God and Satan are equals, that the “forces of good and evil” are somehow evenly matched.  Or as one false teacher puts it, if the church doesn’t pray enough, then, in effect, heaven falters.

*sigh*

From the earliest record in Scripture, it’s taught that Satan has access to heaven, Job 1, 2.  And, as we see in the life of Job, he accuses the people of God.  This tells us the significance of 1 John 2:1: we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  And don’t overlook the significance of the fact that Jesus is called “the righteous.”  He appears before the Father as our Substitute, our Savior.  It’s His righteousness imputed to us through faith that we must have because we have none of our own.  Religion, yes, routine and ritual, bucket loads, righteousness that God will accept, not a bit.

Revelation tells us that there is coming a time when Satan will finally be thrown out of heaven and that will result in a time of trouble on this earth never seen before and never to be seen again, a time referred to in Jeremiah 30:7 as the time of Jacob’s trouble.

Lest there should be any doubt as to who this “dragon” is, he’s clearly identified as the serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, v. 9.  Further, he’s characterized as one who deceives the whole world.  We could do a whole series just on this.  He deceives, he denies, he distorts, he counterfeits.  Do you really think that everything in our time that calls itself “Christian” is of God?  To say nothing of all the other religions in our world, or the cultural chaos that has engulfed society?

Woe is pronounced for the earth, though heaven rejoices that, at long last, this would-be usurper of the Throne, this interloper, is finally banished.  There is one thing these who rejoice say, and that is that, once thrown out of heaven, the devil knows he only has a little while remaining before he himself is judged.  It’s an interesting study in Scripture to see what the devil knows to be true and what he teaches about it, as, for example, the existence of God.

There are some things said about our brethren that we could spend a lot of time on, as well.  We’ll just touch on them.  Even though they possibly die, they are still called “overcomers.”  Three things about this in v. 11:

a. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb. Remember that John saw a Lamb as though it had been slain, Revelation 5:6.  This is where it all starts, because without shedding of blood there is no remission, no forgiveness of sins.

b. and by the word of their testimony.  We have a lot of misconceptions about the Devil in our culture.  Some people deny his existence altogether, some people run around rebuking him, other spend all their time worrying about him.  1 Corinthians 6:20, You were bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.  What price?  This gets us back to the first point:  knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct…, but with the precious blood of Christ, 1 Peter 1:18-19.  We don’t overcome the Devil by “rebuking” him, but by living for God and eternity.

c. and they loved not their lives to the death.  Our Lord makes a promise to such:  “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life,” Revelation 2:10.  While that promise was given to a specific church, don’t you think it applies to those who were hunted and killed in their thousands by Rome and the Reformers and by groups like ISIS in our time?  Jim Elliot, who himself gave his life serving our Lord, said, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose.”

2. The woman, vs. 14-16.

These verses amplify what’s already been told of this woman’s plight and persecution.  For example, she is given some sort of assistance in her flight.  John describes this as wings of a great eagle, v. 14.  By some means, she is enabled to flee quickly from her persecutor.  Again, her place is mentioned , vs. 6, 14, and a specific period, time and times and half a time.  This corresponds to the one thousand two hundred and sixty days, or three and a half years, mentioned in v. 6.  The devil sends a flood after her.  Ezekiel 38 describes an invasion of Israel from the north by many armies.  See also Zechariah 14:2.  Perhaps this is a contingent from that army pursuing the fleeing Jews.

The references to “her place,” the assistance given her when fleeing, the fact that she is nourished during her time of isolation, these all remind us of what Zechariah 14:2 tells us.  God says, “I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem.”  In all this God is in control of events.  He’s not sitting up there on His throne anxiously waiting for someone to take the first step so He can step in Himself.  That’s the only real hope any of us have as we see our world, perhaps maybe even our lives in one way or another, circling the drain – that there’s a reason, a purpose, for what’s going on around us.

The enemy sends a flood to destroy the woman, but, again, she is delivered:  the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood, v. 16.  If necessary, God can even marshal “the forces of nature” to aid His people.  Now, we’re not told exactly what this intervention is, perhaps an earthquake, as in Exodus 15:12, Numbers 16:31.  Perhaps it’s the result of the earthquake which accompanies the Lord’s invasion, Ezekiel 38:19, 20; Zechariah 14:4.  There are historical references of sandstorms burying armies.

Whatever this deliverance is, it introduces the last of the five beings or groups:

3. the remnant, vs. 17.

And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Jews are spread all over the world and even in the time of temporary peace for the nation that Daniel speaks of, not all of them will come back to the land.  Those who do not become fair game for the anger of the devil as he finds himself backed into a corner, as it were, knowing he has only a short time to do damage to Israel.  But it isn’t simply that the objects of his persecution are simply ethnic Jews; they are describes as those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

In short, they receive both halves of Scripture.

Some folks have difficulty with the idea that saved people, in this case, Jews, “keep the commandments of God.”  The whole subject of the Law is well beyond the scope of this post.  Just let me say that the Mosaic Law wasn’t simply the Jew’s “religion.”  It was his culture, his life.  True, if he “kept” it, it became a means of “righteousness” for him, but even after a Jew “knew the Lord,” like Paul, the Law was his culture.  It defined what he was.   He didn’t throw it out simply because he had found the One to whom it pointed.  He DID NOT look to the Law for his salvation, but then, neither did he abandon living by its principles.

We see an example of this in Acts 21.  Paul had returned to Jerusalem.  While he was there, he was told that his enemies had circulated rumors that he had been teaching “all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses,”  v. 21.  To counter this, he was advised, “therefore do what we tell you:  We have four men who have taken a vow,  Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law,” vs. 22-24, emphasis added.

But pay attention to the rest of what it said!  But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols,” etc, v. 25, emphasis added.  The whole story of this edict is found in Acts 15.

Once again, let me repeat, it was not a matter of salvation for the early church, which was, after all, composed almost entirely of Jews.  It was a matter of simply continuing to be who they were.

In the same way, this remnant is defined as made up of those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 12:1-6, A Damsel in Distress

1] Now a great sign appeared in heaven:  a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.  2] Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.

3]  And another sign appeared in heaven:  behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.  4] His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth.  And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.  5] She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron.  And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.  6] Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.

In early days of man-making, when an area was unknown, sometimes dragons or other monsters were drawn in, with the phrase, “here be dragons,” or “here be monsters,” perhaps to signify the dangers of the unknown.  Truly, the chapter before us enters the unknown, because it talks about the spiritual world, and talks about forces and events far beyond our ability to discern.  In fact, with our eyes and ears and tactile senses, we’re able to “see” only a tiny, tiny part of what goes on around us.  Furthermore, unbelief and skepticism tells us there is no “spiritual” world, that the material universe is all there is.  There is no “spirit,” no “God.”

God says otherwise.  That, in fact, without Him, there would be no material world.

This chapter tells us something of the unseen happenings of this material world.

Chs. 12 and 13 introduce the first of a series of “7s” in the rest of the book.  There are: seven beings, chs. 12, 13; seven visions, ch. 14; seven bowls, chs. 15, 16; seven dooms, chs. 17-20; and seven new things, chs. 21-22.

Chapter 12 introduces us to five of the seven beings.  We’ll look at the first two in this post.  They are:

1. The woman, v. 1.

Many attempts have been made to identify this woman:  the church, the Virgin Mary, Mary Baker Eddy, Ellen G. White, a host of others.  It seems to me that Scripture identifies her in a description which reminds us of another, similar description in Genesis 37:9, 10:  And [Joseph] dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, “Look, I have dreamed another dream.  And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.”  So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed?  Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?”

“The sun, the moon, and the eleven stars.”

It seems to me that these two descriptions identify the woman in Revelation as Israel, but Israel from a particular standpoint:  in labor, that is, in childbirth.  A few verses later, more detail is given.

2.  The dragon, vs. 3-6.

This being is identified as Satan in v. 9.  Here again, though, there is a particular context.  The seven heads and ten horns identify a particular time, which we believe is yet future, as we’ll see, and the rest of these verses identify a particular theme: opposition to and attempts to destroy her Child, that is, the Lord Jesus.  Reference to His birth doesn’t change our view of Satan and that what Revelation tells us is still future; it simply tells us that it wasn’t just Herod trying to kill the infant Jesus, but Satan himself as well.  He has consistently opposed God’s revealed redemptive purpose.  It’s beyond the purpose of this post to pursue this study, but from the Garden of Eden onward, Satan has tried (unsuccessfully) to thwart God’s working.  All he’s managed to do is to further its accomplishment.

Two things only are said of her Child: that He was to rule all nations with a rod of iron, and that He was caught up to God’s throne.  It’s important to understand that Scripture never says that He was caught up to His own throne, or that this is just a reference to His headship over the church.  Cf. Revelation 3:21.  We’ve mentioned this before and will visit it again later in these studies.

Perhaps there is one thing:  how can we say the woman is Israel, and yet it was not “the nation” who gave birth to the Lord, but the virgin Mary?  For most, if not all of her history, Israel has yearned for the coming of the Messiah.  It was simply through this young woman, this virgin, that God brought the Messiah into Israel.  The fact that Israel rejected Him because He didn’t fit their notions of what the Messiah would do doesn’t alter the fact that God has a redemptive purpose for Israel, and that she’s not permanently put aside.  That purpose will one day be completed.

Between vs. 5 and 6 lies the whole church age.

In v. 6, the woman flees into the wilderness to a special place prepared by God, where she will be preserved, protected and provided for during a time identified as 1260 days, or three-and-a-half years.  More details are given later in this portion of Scripture.

Revelation 11:1, 2: A Measure of Time.

1] Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod.  And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there.  2] But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles.  And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months. 

Though we didn’t really get into it in our first studies in Revelation, these verses are part of the reason some teachers believe the book was written in the middle of the first century and not at it’s end, as others have said.  These references to “the temple” are said to mean that the Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem was still standing, so the book was written before 70 AD, when that Temple was destroyed.  If that is so, then how is the phrase about the “forty-two months” to be understood?  Jerusalem had been and has been trodden underfoot for centuries and it wasn’t until 1948 that Israel once again was numbered among the nations.  Even though Israel has declared Jerusalem to be her capital, most nations maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv due to the conflict between Israel and Palestinians.  Now the UN has recently declared that the Temple mount and the wailing wall don’t belong to her at all.

As we’ve said before, one of the elements of predictive prophesy is that it must be fulfilled as stated.  There’s no room for some “spiritual” fulfillment, though application may be made from it.

This means that a Temple must be built in Jerusalem.

One of the objections against this idea are the Islamic buildings which are already on the Temple Mount.  They are indeed truly beautiful, magnificent edifices.  They almost beggar description in their ornateness.  I can’t imagine the time and effort taken to build them.  At the same time, though, I’ve read that there is still room on that mount to build the Jewish Temple as well.  Considering the tension in the area, though, I can’t really see that happening.

However, there are indications in the Bible of what might happen.  I say “might,” because, again, I claim no special revelation.  I’m just trying to compare Scripture with Scripture.

The Temple Mount has been the subject of intense rivalry between Jew, Christian and Muslim for a long time.  Indeed, the very existence of Israel itself is such a subject.  And now, I’ve read that President Trump’s desire to move the American Embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem might turn the area into chaos.

What is going to happen?

Scripture might shed some light on the subject.  At the very least, current events might be preparing the way for prophetic fulfillment.

Daniel 7:20-27 is a pivotal Scripture in this discussion.  The angel Gabriel is sent to Daniel with a message.  He says that a seventy week period of time is set aside for your people and for your holy city, v. 24.  First of all, who are Daniel’s people, and what is his holy city?  The “people” has to be the nation of Israel and the “city” is Jerusalem.  What, then, is “the seventy weeks”?  The word translated “weeks” is literally, “sevens”.  There are “seventy ‘sevens’ ” determined for Israel and Jerusalem.

Without getting into the detailed and confusing discussion and the very, very many views of it, suffice it to say that this period is 490 years.  This seems to be borne out by the statement that after 69 weeks, or 483 years, arrived at by adding the seven weeks and the sixty-two weeks of v. 25 together, Messiah will be “cut off,” that is, He will be killed.  During this time of 490 years, of which seven years remain, six things are said to happen, v. 24.  May I say, and listen to me on this very carefully, so far as Israel is concerned, none of these things has yet happened.  She is still in unbelief and has never as a nation bowed to the Lord Jesus as her Messiah.  Yes, Messiah has come and has purchased redemption.  Yes, there is salvation for “whosoever will,” but Israel has yet to enter into that redemption.  According to Scripture, one day she will.

So.  Chaos and turmoil and strife embroil the Promised Land.  What is to be done?

Daniel 9:27 speaks of an individual who will confirm a covenant with many for one week.  One week.  Seven years.  The 484th year through the 490th year.   The seventieth week.  We don’t know who this is.  Again, there is a lot of discussion.  Suffice it to say that, sooner or later, someone will come up with a “treaty” or a “peace process” that will bring peace to the region.  This treaty might allow Israel to build a Temple on the Mount.  If so, in turn, this will prepare the way for the rest of Revelation.

Two things seem to be mentioned in these verses.  First, the presence of a Temple and a “measuring” of the Temple and those who worship there.  Perhaps this will reveal that neither fulfill or have the righteousness required by a holy and just God.  Just because man builds it doesn’t mean that God will come there.  Second, the city will be under Gentile domination for forty-two months, or three-and-a-half years.

It seems to me that these verses are a summary, if you will, of the entire “week,” the seven years still remaining of God’s redemptive program for the nation of Israel.  Scripture does tell us this week will be divided into two sections.  We see that in these verses:  Israel will enjoy a period of peace in which she will be able to build a Temple, but this will be followed by a period in which she will trodden underfoot.  Zechariah 14:1, 2 seem to describe this terrible time.

The thing is, all these things don’t just happen.  We live in a time when God seems irrelevant.  Science denies His existence.  Popular culture is doing everything it can to live in defiance of His teaching.  “Life goes on.”  But this is all going to come to a screeching halt and the world will indeed find out that the way of transgressors is hard, Proverbs 13:15 (KJV).

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

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.”