Righteous

“And its twenty pillars and their twenty sockets shall be bronze.  The hooks of the pillars and their bands shall be silver,” Exodus 27:10.
“All the pillars around the court shall have bands of silver; their hooks shall be of silver and their sockets of bronze, Exodus 27:17.  (NKJV)

In our last post, we considered the linen fence that enclosed the tabernacle courtyard.  The items in these two verses were the things which held the fence together and kept it from falling over.

At the foot of all this were the foundations, the sockets of bronze.  Together these three items made a sturdy and cohesive unit.  Remember, the children of Israel weren’t just out for a Sunday stroll.  They were traveling through rugged wilderness, where there were probably fierce winds as part of the weather out in the middle of nowhere.  The tabernacle, though entirely portable, had to be able to withstand all that, as well as to stand firmly in one place when put together.

The bronze footings were the foundations for the fence.  Buried in the sand, they provided a firm basis for the posts.  Without this footing, the posts and the linen would have sagged miserably and probably fallen in a heap.

As we look at the symbolism of this foundation, the bronze reminds us of the justice of God.  We’re so used to hearing of the love of God or the grace of God that we forget that it is really His justice that is the basis for who He is.

The Scriptures are filled with reference to God’s justice, to His being just.  On Deuteronomy 32:4, Moses is filled with praise to the God of Israel,

“He is the Rock; His work is perfect;
For all His ways are justice,

A God of truth and without injustice;
Righteous and upright is He.”

In Job 32:23, after listening to Job’s three friends pretty well miss the boat as they try to diagnose the whys and wherefores of Job’s suffering, his younger friend Elihu bursts in.  Part of his defense of God is this,

“As for the Almighty, we cannot find Him;
He is excellent in power,

In judgment and abundant justice;
He does not oppress.”

Lest anyone say, “Well, that’s just the stern God of the Old Testament.  The God of the New Testament is a God of love,” Paul has an answer in Romans 3:23-26:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God sent forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His  forebearance He had passed over the sins previously committed [that is, in the Old Testament], to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

This is Paul’s answer:  God is just, as well as the One who declares those who believe in Jesus to be righteous themselves.  Not just innocent, as if they’d never done anything wrong, not just “not guilty,” as if there’s no or not enough evidence to establish guilt, but righteous, as if they’d always done everything right!  That, to my way of thinking, is something far greater.  And this not because of ourselves, but because of the Lord Jesus.

If the bronze represents God’s justice, then what do the silver rods represent?  (The silver was also used for footings for the tabernacle itself.)

This is easy.

The silver rods represent His grace.

In Exodus 30:11-16, God told Moses to count the children of Israel, and while he was doing that, each man of military age was to give a ransom for himself, a half-shekel, or about 30 cents,  roughly speaking.  It was called “ransom” money, though Moses gave no reason why he called it that, perhaps to remind Israel of their origins, namely, they had been a slave people in Egypt.  God had redeemed them for Himself at no cost to themselves.  I think it might also remind them that they were nothing “special;” God hadn’t chosen them because they were extraordinary.  Quite the contrary, as Moses tells them:

Deuteronomy 4:7, “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples.”

In Deuteronomy 9:4-6, referring to the Canaanites who were in the land Israel was about to inhabit, Moses says,

“Do not think in your heart, after the LORD your God has cast them out before you, saying, ‘Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land’; but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you.  It is not because of your righteousness or of  the uprightness of your heart that you go in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God drives them out from before you, and that He may fulfill the word which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Therefore understand that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

It wasn’t because of their greater numbers or their superior righteousness that God was giving them the land.  He mentions this latter three times in three verses.  When they left Egypt, they’d been only a handful of people, and their record during the wilderness journey was one of nothing but complaint and rebellion.  There was absolutely nothing in them for the reason God chose them.  In fact, there was plenty of reason for Him to reject them!  It was His own good pleasure to be gracious to them.

It is His own good pleasure for us, as well, Ephesians 1:3-14.

We’ve already mentioned that Moses used the word “ransom” in describing this offering, but he also calls it “atonement money” in v. 16.  This brings us back to Romans 3.  Paul explains that Jews are as guilty of sin as Gentiles in that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, v. 23.  God gave the law so that men might see their spiritual state, and their sin clearly, and not just the fuzzy generalizations the Gentiles might have had through their vague understandings of right and wrong, as in Romans 2:14-16.

So, the whole world, Jew and Gentile alike, is guilty in the sight of God, Romans 3:19.

How then can God be just, yet declare men to be righteous who in themselves are anything but that?  How can anyone escape the judgment due their sin?

Now it is true, there was a righteousness available through the Law, Deuteronomy 6:25.  In exhorting a new generation of Israelites to obey the commands God gave him on Sinai, Moses said, “Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us.”

Earlier, in Leviticus 18, God admonished Moses,

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘I am the LORD your God. According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances.  You shall observe My judgments and keep My ordinances, to walk in them:  I am the LORD your God.  You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them:  I am the LORD,” vs. 1-5.

The rest of Leviticus 18 gives us an idea of “the doings of the land of Canaan.”  Folks are always so worried about “the poor Canaanites,” but they were a terrible, wicked people.

The trouble is, Israel never kept God’s statues and judgments.  They weren’t really any better than the people they dispossessed.  They never attained any kind of righteousness on their own, except maybe that external and superficial righteousness of the Pharisees our Lord encountered and rejected, Matthew 5:20.  They never obeyed.

Neither do we.

Paul gives us the remedy:  God declares righteous the one who has faith in Jesus, Romans 3:28.

What does that mean?  Elsewhere, Paul explains.  In 2 Corinthians 5:21, he wrote, For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

In the cross, the Lord Jesus didn’t die just so we could have pretty jewelry to wear or as ornaments for our house.  He didn’t die by mistake, or as a martyr, or as an example.

He died because we couldn’t.

Our deaths could never pay for even one of our sins, let alone the many, many of which we are guilty.  Our sufferings, our church membership, our good works, our time in purgatory, if there were such a thing, could never provide even one stitch in that robe of righteousness God gives His people because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ.  Indeed, as Spurgeon once remarked, “If there is one stitch in the robe of righteousness we’re required to put in, then we are lost.”

The Jew can never be saved by “keeping the Law.”  Neither can the Gentile.  Nor, for that matter, can a church member.  Only in the Lord Jesus Christ and the ransom paid by His blood on the behalf of sinners is salvation to be had.

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

 

Daniel 7:9-18: Your Throne, O God, Is Forever And Ever

In the first 8 verses of this chapter, Daniel was given a preview of the four world empires which have impacted, or will yet impact, Israel.  This part of his vision reminds us of what he told Nebuchadnezzar in 2:28.  Kingdoms come and go; they may go on a rampage for a while and ravage the earth, but watching over all things on earth, there is a God in heaven.  This is a theme Scripture never tires of.  Further, there is a kingdom coming which shall not pass away, and…which shall not be destroyed, v. 14.  The interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s first dream introduced us to this kingdom, 2:44.  This vision expands on that vision.  In the first part of this vision, there are three scenes:

1. There is a scene of unimaginable solemnity, vs. 9, 10.

From the confused mayhem on earth, we are suddenly transported into the measured order of a courtroom:  “I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated,” v. 9.

This isn’t a throne of fellowship, such as described in Exodus 24:9-11,

Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel.  And there was under His feet a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity.  But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand.  So they saw God, and they did eat and drink. 

Israel had not yet rebelled against God and broken the Mosaic Covenant; once that happened, we read of no further such “fellowship.”  In fact, they were shut out from the presence of God and had to come before Him through an intermediary – the tabernacle and the sons of Aaron and the priesthood.

Nor is it the throne of grace, such as is now available to the children of God for them to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need, Hebrews 4:16.    It isn’t the throne of God’s providence, which Ezekiel saw, Ezekiel 1:26-28, nor of His glory, which Isaiah saw, Isaiah 6:1-3.

It’s a throne of judgment:  the books were opened.

This description reminds us of a similar description in Revelation 20:12, where John records,

“I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened.  And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life.  And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things written in the books,” emphasis added.

In our apostate day, with its unScriptural and humanistic views of the “love” of God, we have forgotten the other side of Paul’s admonition in Romans 11:22, …consider the goodness and severity of God.  People give no thought at all to the fact that they will stand before God and give an account of everything they’ve ever said, done or thought in their lives.  Every bout of drunkenness, every act of immorality or perversion, every tiny lie or twisting of the truth “just a little bit,” every act of greed or injustice.  Every commission, where they’ve done something they shouldn’t; every omission, where they didn’t do something they should have.  Every secret thing.  Every single thing….

Even Christians will give an account to God, 1 Corinthians 3:11-15.  Some seem to have the attitude that, since God has forgiven them because of what Christ did on the Cross, it doesn’t matter what they do.  They can live like the world and do what the world does, and it’s ok.  I was working next to such a group of people one day.  Their conversation was about the filthiest things imaginable.  In the midst of this verbal sewage, somehow the conversation got around to religion and the grace of God, and one of them said, “God loves us unconditionally.”  This is undeniably true, but I don’t think she meant it as the Scripture means it.  There is most certainly nothing in us that can cause God to love us, no “condition” we can meet.  The “reason” He loves us is always found in Him, never in us!  At the same time, when we are taught by the Spirit that we are objects of His love, that knowledge makes us want to please Him, not ourselves.  One of the other workers mentioned her enjoyment of a certain “gospel concert.”  It’s a terribly sad, terribly frightening commentary on the state of modern Christianity that professed Christians can wallow in moral filth in one breath and talk about “the love of God” in the next breath and see no inconsistency.

The froth and frivolity of much of what passes for “church” in our day – the “mega-churches,” the “mega-personalities” – would disappear in an instant if we could but get a vision of that One who sits on an eternal throne, high and lifted up, Isaiah 6:1.

On the other side of the ledger, there will be the revelation of and reward for the good things the saints have done, the sacrifices, the service to God which are often ignored, ridiculed or forbidden in this world.  Peter wrote to some people that believers have a living hope, not in this world, but in the fact that there is an inheritance, incorruptible and undefiled, reserved in heaven….ready to be revealed in the last time, I Peter 1:3-5.  Along this same line, Paul wrote that even the creation itself will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now, Romans 8:21, 22.

Not forever, and, we believe, not much longer, will this world thumb its nose at its Creator God and His Christ, even as Daniel shows us in the next verses.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

2. There is a scene of unimpeachable severity, vs. 11, 12.

This is a continuation of the scene of judgment.  The beast, certainly a man of great presence and power, has set himself against heaven, speaking pompous words, about which more will be said in a minute.  For now, all his braggadocio will come a halt, and he himself is slain, and [his] body destroyed and given to the burning flame.  He had been able to conquer some of his fellows, and had spoken great and proud things, but could not stand against the Ancient of Days.

3. There is a scene of indescribable majesty, v. 13, 14.

In my opinion, these verses form one of the most wonderful passages in the Old Testament.

a. The approach of One like the Son of Man, v. 13.

In contrast to the “beasts” of the earlier part of the vision, here we have One who bears the image of humanity.  We have the advantage over Daniel here, because we know that this One is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.  “Son of Man” was one of His favorite titles, used by Himself of Himself many times during His earthy sojourn.  It’s a phrase which means so much more than just “human.”  It carries with it a hint of the Divine.  And of a truth, the Son of Man is also the Son of God.  He is the God-Man, God manifested in humanity.

b. The ascendancy of One like the Son of Man, v. 14.

Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom.  What the “beasts” fought over and killed for will be freely given to the Lord Jesus in order that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.  Universal dominion is granted Him, something coveted by the “beasts,” but never really attained.  Not only will this kingdom be universal; it will be eternal.  It’ll never disappear nor be taken away, as were the preceding kingdoms described by Daniel.

Revelation 19:11-21, Behold, He Is Coming!

11] Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse.  And he who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.  12] His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns.  He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.  13] He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.  14] And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, clean and white, followed Him on white horses.  15] Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.  And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron.  He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.  16] And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:

KING OF KINGS AND
LORD OF LORDS.

17] Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, “Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, 18] that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.”

19] And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.  20] Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image.  These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.  21] And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse.  And all the birds were filled with their flesh.

We’ve arrived back at the narrative interrupted by the description of the great whore and her admirers and of her judgment and destruction.  We pick up from chapter 16:21 and the great earthquake and hail which strikes mankind.

Remember that everything seems hopeless.  The entire world has been engulfed in idolatry, wickedness and immorality.  The Jews have been harassed and tormented in a way which will make the Holocaust seem like a picnic.  Indeed, as we saw, Zechariah 14 indicates that Jerusalem will be taken and great atrocities will be committed against her people.  As we said, we’re not sure of the “time” involved in all this.  Revelation seems to indicate that these things will take place rather quickly; Zechariah indicates some time will elapse.  I will say that the “time” probably doesn’t include the whole church age, as the historicist view requires.  Indeed, at the time spoken of by John, the “church age” is over.  This age, the church age in which we live, is “the day of salvation,” 2 Corinthians 6:2, a time when the heavens are silent and men seem to get away with doing pretty much as they please.  However, Revelation 19 describes the end of “the great day of His wrath mentioned in Revelation 6:17, (emphasis added) and they don’t “get away with it” at all.

Regardless of the time involved, the rebellion of this world will come to an end and our Lord will return to this world, as promised in Acts 1:11.  Revelation 19 describes some of what will happen when He does.

John sees heaven opened, v. 11.  He had earlier seen a door standing open in heaven, 4:1 (emphasis added).  Now he sees heaven itself opened up.  I don’t know what will happen or how – it doesn’t matter – but men will suddenly see that we are not “alone” in this universe, after all, but it won’t be aliens and spaceships men discover, but the God who created and sustains this world.

Out of this scene, John focuses on a horse and its Rider, who is called Faithful and True, v. 11.  This is in opposition to the deceit and falsehood of an earlier rider on a white horse, the counterfeit rider, the Antichrist, Revelation 6:2.

Further, in righteousness He judges and makes war.  There will be no negotiations, no “diplomacy,” to try to persuade men to do what He wants.  Zechariah 14 describes the strictness with which He will govern this world.  He has many crowns, to go along with the name written on His thigh:  KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.  No longer is He “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” but the absolute sovereign and ruler of this world.

His clothing is bloody, to go along with the idea of “war,” also the last part of v. 15.  This brings to mind Isaiah 63:1-6:

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

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

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

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

3] “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.
4] For the day of vengeance is in My heart,
And the year of My redeemed has come.
5] I looked, but there was no one to help,
And I wondered
That there was no one to uphold;
Therefore My own arm brought salvation for Me;
And My own fury, it sustained Me.
6] I have trodden down the peoples in My anger,
Made them drunk in My fury,
And brought down their strength to the earth” (emphasis added).

His return will not be uncontested, but it will be victorious.

He will not be alone, v. 14, but will be accompanied with the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, clean and white.  There’s some discussion about who these people are.  Some say they are angels.  I think Paul refers to them in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:

13] But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as other who have no hope.  14] For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

15] For this we say to you by the word of the Lord (that is, he’s not just making it up), that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.  16] 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.  17] 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.  18] Therefore comfort one another with these words. 

Though Paul seems to refer to New Testament saints, I think Old Testament saints are included, as well.  These all make up “the armies of heaven.”

And notice, they are described with no weapons.  They won’t need them.  Their “warfare,” Ephesians 6:12, is over.

The only “weapon” belongs to the Rider, a sword with which He will strike the nations. Further, John says, He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron.  If, as so many believe, “the kingdom” is simply Christ’s rule over “the church,” why the necessity of a “rod of iron”?  And who are “the nations?”

Vs. 17, 18 paint what many might consider a grotesque picture, an angel crying with a loud voice to all the birds, “come and gather together for the supper of the great God….”  What in the world is this?

Ezekiel 39:17-20 tells us:

17] “And as for you, son of man, thus says the LORD GOD, ‘Speak to every sort of bird and to every beast of the field:

“Assemble yourselves and come;
Gather together from all sides to My sacrificial meal
Which I am sacrificing for you,

A great sacrificial meal on the mountains of Israel,
That you may eat flesh and drink blood.
18] You shall eat the flesh of the mighty,
Drink the blood of the princes of the earth,
Of rams and lambs,
Of goats and bulls,
All of them fatlings of Bashan.
19] You shall eat fat till your are full,
And drink blood till you are drunk,
At My sacrificial meal
Which I am sacrificing for you.
20] You shall be filled at My table
With horses and riders,
With mighty men
And with all the men of war,” says the LORD GOD. 

These scavengers will help in cleaning up the mess that’s left from the destruction of those who gather to oppose the Lord at His coming, cf. Ezekiel 39:4.  The beast and the kings of the earth may gather their armies to oppose the return of our Lord, but there is no battle.  It’s no contest, as Ezekiel 38 and 39 clearly show.

Their armies destroyed, the beast and the false prophet are thrown bodily into the lake of fire burning with brimstone, where they will remain forever.

Thus ends the final rebellion before the Lord Jesus returns to this world.

It may be at morn, when the day is awaking,
When sunlight thro’ shadow and darkness is breaking,
That Jesus will come in the fullness of glory,
To receive from the world “His own.”

It may be at midday, it may be at twilight,
It may be, perchance, that the blackness of midnight
Will burst into light in the blaze of His glory,
When Jesus receives “His own.”

O Lord Jesus, how long, how long
Ere we shout the glad song,
Christ returneth!
Hallelujah! hallelujah!
Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Revelation 17: “Mystery, Babylon the Great.”

1] Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, 2] with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.”

3] So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness.  And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.  4] The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication.  5] And on her forehead a name was written:

MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT,
THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS
AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS
OF THE EARTH.

6] I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.  And when I saw here, I marveled with great amazement.

7] But the angel said to me, “Why did you marvel?  I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.  8] The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go into perdition.  And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

9] “Here is the mind which has wisdom:  The seven heads are ten mountains on which the woman sits.  10] There are also seven kings.  Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yer come.  And when he comes, he must continue a short time.  11] The beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition.

12] ‘The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast.  13] These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.  14] These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.”

These verses describe a “woman,” but who is she?  John himself tells us.

In v. 5, he sees that she has a title:  “Mystery, Babylon the Great.”  But in v. 9, he goes even further:  the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits.  What one city in the world is known for sitting on seven hills?  It’s Rome, the capital of Italy.  If you don’t believe me, google “city of seven hills.”  And in v. 18, she is described as “that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.”

But what does Rome have to do with Babylon?  What’s the “mystery”?  (In Scripture, a “mystery” is not something to be solved, but something not previously revealed.)

We dealt at some length with this in our post of the letter to the church at Pergamos, so here let’s just say that the link between these two is found in the title Pontifex Maximus, the title held by the Popes since the time of Constantine, and before then by the High Priest of pagan religions, which originated in Babylon, hence she is the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth.

In this chapter, John shows the final development of the Church, completely allied with the world.  The beast on which she sits is described as one who was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go into perdition.  While I won’t be dogmatic about it, it seems to me that this refers to what we’ve already seen in that the beast, in this case, the head of the final world government, who will die and be allowed to come back to life.

This will result in the world saying, “Who is like the beast?  Who is able to make war with him? Revelation 13:4.  Revelation 17:8 continues, and those who well on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they seen the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

I attended a Bible Conference with several hundred pastors.  One of the speakers had as his text Revelation 17.  As he read the chapter, he got to verse 8, and read the first part. Then there was silence for what seemed like a long time, but probably only a few seconds.  He skipped over the part of the verse we quoted in the last paragraph, went to v. 9 and read it and the rest of the chapter.  He never once read or referred to the part of the verse he left out.

I understand there’s a lot of controversy over the topics of election and predestination – the group to which I belonged at the time was very opposed to the Reformed view of them, but to skip over and not even read a portion of Scripture simply because it doesn’t fit a doctrinal viewpoint??

I’m not going to get into those subjects myself at this time.  I’ve done that enough in other posts.  Just remember, our Lord commented that the deception John prophesied would be so great as “to deceive, if possible, even the elect,” Matthew 24:24.

In v. 12, John explains the meaning of the ten horns.  There’s a lot of discussion about who they are, some trying to find them in historical figures, some finding them in consecutive forms of government or rulers.  But John says they’re all contemporaries of the beast and will with one mind yield their power to him.  They will be at the forefront of the “battle” when the Lord comes back, having gathered together with all their armies to invade and conquer Israel.

There’s an interesting description of those who will accompany the Lord Jesus when He returns:  they are called, chosen, and faithful, v. 14.

1. They are called.

This is a common designation of believers, especially in Paul’s epistles.  Cf. Romans 1:6; 8:28; 1 Corinthians 1:2, 9, 24, 26, chapter 7, to name just two of them.  Then there’s Romans 8:28, a favorite verse of many, and a comfort to believers:  And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (emphasis added).

There are those who look at the word “foreknew” in v. 29 and say that God simply looked down the corridors of time and chose those whom He foresaw would choose Him.  On that basis, He chose them.

The Scripture itself uses that picture.  Psalm 14:2 says, The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of the sons of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God.  If the “foreknowledge” view is correct, we’d be told that God saw some folks who would receive Him.  Is that what we’re told?

Not at all.

Psalm 14:3 says, They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none good, no, not one.  Paul quoted this portion in Romans 3:11 as he shows the complete and utter corruption of mankind, concluding, There is no fear of God before their eyes, v. 18.

2. They are chosen.

What does this mean?  We’ve already commented on “called.”  Our Lord put “called” and “chosen” together when, in the parable of the wedding feast, He said, “For many are called but few are chosen,” Matthew 22:14.

I heard a pastor quote that as, “Many are called, but few choose.”

There’s a common mindset that just simply cannot wrap itself around the idea that God chooses people to be saved.  But without that “choice,” there would be no one saved.  In Romans 9:29, Paul wrote, And as Isaiah said before:  “Unless the LORD of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we would have become like Sodom, and we would have been made like Gomorrah.”

While it’s true that Paul was referring to Israel, it holds equally true for us Gentiles as well, for there is no difference [between Jew and Gentile], for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23.  If God didn’t choose us, we would never choose Him.

But there’s a final word describing these believers:

3. They are faithful.

There’s a charge made against those who hold the doctrine of God’s sovereign election that we can live as we like and don’t have to worry about holy living.  And it’s true that some do live just like the world, but that’s not a result of the doctrine, but of a misunderstanding of it.  Ephesians 1:4 says that He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him.

In vs. 16-18, John closes his description of this wicked woman and her surroundings.  “The waters” are simply the nations of the world over which, with their rulers, she holds sway, v. 18.  The “ten horns,” whatever kind of alliance that turns out to be, will turn on her and destroy her.  Perhaps this will be because she does claim to represent God, and the beast will himself claim to be God – and will allow no competition.

V. 17 again reminds us that God is overseeing and superintending what goes on in this world.  It also answers the common idea that we must be “willing” before God can work with us.  Here are godless, wicked rulers and yet God has no difficulty putting it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose,…until the words of God are fulfilled (emphasis added).  It’s their purpose, but it’s God’s as well, cf. Genesis 50:20.  A lot of people are bothered by that idea, as Daniel, or rather Nebuchadnezzar, put it, in Daniel 4:35:

“He does according to His will in the armies of heaven
And among the inhabitants of the earth.
No one can restrain His hand
Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’ ” 

But why is God so opposed to this “woman”?

Perhaps the answer can be found in the golden cup she holds.  What is the central part of her worship?  Is it not the Mass?  And what is the central part of the Mass?  Isn’t it the offering of “the unbloody sacrifice” of the Lord Jesus in that bread and wine, which are said to be transformed into His actual body and blood?  In this way, what the Lord Jesus Himself did on the Cross is negated and the efficacy of His sacrifice is made to depend on the utterance of a few words by a priest.  This is presumption of the highest order.

There is no salvation in such things.

We cannot, we dare not, try to add to what He did or to say that men must come to Him through some ritual or ceremony as part of a church service, whether it’s the Mass or an altar call.

There is only one way of salvation, and that is through faith in the finished work of Christ on the Cross.  There is nothing to be added to it.  Indeed, such “additions” only subtract from what He did.

Is your hope of heaven in what some man has done?

In what you have done?

Or, in what the Lord Jesus Christ did?

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

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 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 11:3-14, The Two Witnesses.

3] And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.  

4] These are the two olive trees, and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth.  5] And if any anyone wants to hurt them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies.  And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner.  6] These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.

7] When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.  8] And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.  9] Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and will not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves.  10] And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.

11] Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them.  12] And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.”  And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them.  13] In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell.  In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.

14] The second woe is past.  Behold, the third woe is coming quickly.  (NKJV)

There are several things of interest in these verses.

1. The ministry of the witnesses, vs. 3-6.

First, there are two of them.  This is in agreement with Deuteronomy 19:15, which says, by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.

Second, they have unusual power, being able to bring drought or to turn water into blood.  These abilities have led some to believe that these two witnesses are Moses, cf. Exodus 7:20, 21, and Elijah, cf. 1 Kings 17:1, though they are never actually named.

What these powers do tell us is that this is a different time than the “church age,” that is, our own age or culture.  Cf. Luke 9:51-55, where the Lord rebuked His disciples for wanting to bring such judgment down on a Samaritan village which rejected Him.  Because it failed to make that distinction, history is filled with examples of “the church” doing things it never had the right to do.  The church was never given civil authority, that is, that it was the “power on the throne.”  When it assumed that role, it ceased to be a true church and began to persecute those actually were.  The Reformers could never have envisioned or embraced such a concept as “the separation of church and state.”  To their time and thinking, the church was the state.

Of course, the modern view isn’t any better, where the church is to be completely isolated from the state, and there’s no room in “the state” for “religious” thinking.  What the so-called anti-establishment clause in our Constitution means is that there will never be an “official” Church of the United States, as there is an official or “established” church in other countries.  It does not, repeat, not, mean that there is to be no Christian influence in our government at all.  I know that the Founding Fathers weren’t necessarily “Christian” in a Biblical sense.  Washington was a Unitarian.  Jefferson was a Deist and cut out large portions of the Old Testament which he found offensive.  This is known as “the Jefferson Bible.”  Ben Franklin’s greatest desire was for a society formed on the basis of reason.  I wonder what he would think of our society.  Nevertheless, these men had a respect for the Word of God that is sorely lacking in our culture.  When the Scripture was banned from public life, decay and depravity set it, resulting in what we see all around us today.  Many of these things were unthinkable in my youth.  We are truly reaping what we have sown.

One thing of interest isn’t actually there.  Verse 3 quotes God as saying, “I will give power to My two witnesses.”  In the original language, the verse reads, “and I will give to My two witnesses, and they shall prophesy….”  There is no word for “power”.  So what is it that God is going “to give” to His servants, His “witnesses”?  I think it’s open.  Not to what we want, but what we need to do the job God has for us, whatever that may be.  He will give to the witnesses in Revelation 11 what they need, and He will give to you and me what we need to serve Him.

Finally, we’re told that the witnesses’ ministry will last 1260 days, v. 3.  This comes out to three-and-a-half years.  I believe this will be during the first part of “the seventieth week,” what we know as “The Tribulation Period.”  I believe that it’s the first part because their murder gives rise to a man called “the beast,” and the time of persecution where Jerusalem is trodden underfoot for forty-two months.  Remember the seven-year covenant or treaty we wrote of in an earlier post.  I wouldn’t be surprised if part of the witness’ ministry is to denounce that treaty and to point people to the true God.

2. The martyrdom of the witnesses, vs. 7-10.

Here we’re specifically told that “the beast” kills them.  It’s what clinches his rise to power, cf. Revelation 13:4.  The world rejoices over this murder and now it’s time to celebrate!

Earlier commentators envisioned people making special trips to see the dead bodies of the witnesses, with special trains and excursions.  The advent of television changed that, so that people around the world could see all this in the comfort of their own living rooms.  Now, of course, with the ubiquitous cellphone, nearly everybody who’s there can take pictures and send them to their friends.

There will be a world-wide sigh of relief and joy that “these two bigots who dared to speak out against our wonderful leader have finally been silenced.”

3. The Miracle of the Witnesses, vs. 11-13.

For three days, the rejoicing and celebrating continues.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there will be vendors selling “I was there” T-shirts and souvenirs.  In the middle of the fourth day, suddenly, the dead bodies come to life and stand up!  Wow!  That’s not supposed to happen!  I can imagine the stunned silence.  Hilarity is replaced by great fear.  Then a voice, a loud voice, saying to the two men, “Come up here,” and the world sees them ascend in a cloud into heaven, like their Master did before them.

That’s not all.  Almost immediately, there is a great earthquake, which kills seven thousand people.  This results in people giving glory to the God of heaven.  This doesn’t mean that they were saved or any such thing.  It simply means that they couldn’t deny what happened.  At the same time, neither would they receive what really happened.  Cf. Acts 3, 4, and the healing of a man born unable to walk.  When Peter and John were arrested and brought before the authorities for this healing, the man standing there with them made it impossible for them to deny that a miracle been performed.  Did this cause them to bow to the Lord Jesus?  Read their own words from Acts 4:14, And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.  But these leaders, who couldn’t deny the truth, v. 15, would not receive it either, and forbade the disciples from further talking about the Lord Jesus, v. 17.

We have lots of people today talking about and looking for miracles.  Large ministries have been build around the “performing” of them.  But by themselves, miracles mean nothing, especially if those who witness the miracles remain unchanged.  A momentary excitement means nothing by itself.

4. The “Meaning” of the Witnesses, v. 14.

Their ministry is called “the second woe.”  This simply means that one more stroke has been taken toward the ultimate defeat and destruction of evil, and the third and final “woe” is coming quickly.  The seventh angel is about to sound.

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 8:12-9:21: “Woe, Woe, Woe.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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