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 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 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 3:1-6, The Church at Sardis: What’s In a Name?

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis, write,
‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars:  “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.  Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your work perfect before God.  Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent.  Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.  You have a few names even in Sardis that have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy.  He who overcomes shall be clothed with white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before my Father and before His angels.
‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ‘ (NKJV)

1. The City of the Epistle, v. 1.

Sardis was situated on a small plateau which rose some 1500 feet above the surrounding country and was directly accessible only from the south.  Except for this approach, the plateau was atop nearly perpendicular walls, which were unclimbable except under exceptional circumstances.  The approach itself was narrow and heavily fortified, making the city virtually impregnable.  Yet the city was conquered, not once, but twice, because of the complacency of the defenders.

The plateau on which the city sat was affected by the weather.  From time to time, an oblique crack would appear in the perpendicular cliffs, thus affording access to the top to an experienced climber or to one willing to risk it.  Even then, the sides could have been easily defended, because it took all one could do to climb, let alone having to fight his way up.  However, the citizens of Sardis were careless and self-confident, and there was no continuing defense, except on the south.  The city was conquered twice.

The name “Sardis” means “a remnant” or “those who have escaped,” and characterizes the church.  Only a few had “escaped” the defilement which infected the church in general; the majority had a name, but no reality.  Sardis typifies Protestantism after the initial fervor had died down.  The Established Churches all had the name of defenders of orthodoxy, but there was generally little more than lip service. Ritual and form were the important thing, and Morality was all the “gospel” that was preached.

There are many good and godly people in the Reformed movement.  And there are Baptists who don’t believe anything at all of the faith once delivered to the saints. It isn’t “my church” or “your church.”  Our ultimate authority for spiritual truth isn’t this or that catechism or confession of faith.  It isn’t this preacher or that scholar. Our ultimate and final authority must be the Word of God.  With Paul, we must ask, What does the Scripture say? Romans 4:3.  It is our rule and practice of faith.  Nothing else is.

2. The Christ of the Epistle, vs. 1.

He Who is the Lord of the Church is portrayed as the One Who has –

The Seven Spirits of God.  Some versions have “spirits of God.”  There weren’t originally any capitals in Greek.  So it’s a matter of interpretation how to print this phrase, which also occurs in 1:4; 4:5 and 5:6.  I’ve given my thoughts in my comments on 1:4, so won’t repeat them here.

There is something I do want to say, though.  In spite of the uncertainty of what this phrase means, I think it has a clear message.  Before I started the blog, I contributed to another website.  It was a general discussion site.  Someone would ask a question or make a comment and others would answer.  One of the other contributors closed a comment with the phrase, “God bless America.”  I responded, “How can God bless America when we’re doing everything we can to bring about His judgment?”  Someone else responded, “What does God have to do with it?”

“What does God have to do with it?”

The description John uses, along with the rest of the book, tells us that He has everything to do with it.  We’ll see that, Lord willing, as we go along.

The Seven Stars.  As we saw earlier, these “stars” refer to the pastors of the seven local churches.  The Spirit works life, and its activity, only through the Word, hence, the pastors of the churches, those who minister the Word, are included because spiritual life is to be revived.

3. The Contents of the Epistle, 3:1b-6.

Condemnation, vs. 1b-2.  Sardis has nothing good said about it, except perhaps that there were a few of its members who hadn’t been “defiled.”  It was worse even than Thyatira.

1. It had a false name.  Sardis was a church with a reputation for orthodoxy, yet there was nothing on the inside; there was a form of godliness, but denying its power, 2 Timothy 3:5.  How true this was, and is, of a great deal of Protestantism.  With good beginnings in the Reformation, it has deteriorated, generally speaking, into a cold, lifeless formalism.

2. It had a failing vitality, vs. 2.

– be watchful, be awake, as after being roused.  And it is a command signifying, “keep on being awake.  Don’t go back to sleep.”

– ready to die, about to lose the last spark of life.

– strengthen, take strong, immediate, effective measures.

– perfect, complete, satisfactory.  As good as it was, the Reformation fell far short of returning to the simplicity of the New Testament.  I read Reformed authors who want to go back to the Church Fathers of the second and third century.  No doubt, there is much they could teach us.  At the same time, why not go back to the “original” Church Fathers, in the New Testament?  That’s what I want to do.

Counsel, v. 3a.

1. Remember, how, with what zeal and eagerness you received the truths of the Gospel.  Does the Word mean as much to us as it once did?

2. Return, to that first fervor and desire for the Lord.  The Psalmist wrote, delight yourself also in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart, Psalm 37:4.    It might be easy to look at that and think that this means that, if we “delight” in the Lord, He’ll make us rich or famous or some other thing greatly sought after by the world.  But, if we truly delight in the Lord, wouldn’t the thing we desire most be Himself?  That was Paul’s great desire, that I might know Him, Philippians 3:10.  There’s a wealth of material in the word “also” as well as in what else Paul said in his verse, but we leave that to your further thought.

Consequences, v. 3b.  “As a thief” doesn’t refer to the Lord’s coming, though He does use that analogy about it elsewhere, but to visitation in judgment like that of Ephesus in 2:5 and Pergamos in 2:16.  That is exactly what Christ has done with this church.  Though it did last for a long time, it is long gone.

Yet we believe there is a wider application to that promise:  to unregenerate, formal, ritualistic Protestantism, Christ threaten that aspect of His coming which belongs to the world, 1 Thessalonians 5:4, 5.

“State churches must be to a considerable extent political in principle and practice.  If, therefore, Protestantism identifies itself with the world, sharing its fortunes, it must also share in its doom” (Walter Scott, Exposition of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, p. 95.)

We admit that there is considerable discussion of and disagreement in views of the future.  Without getting into all that, we’ve done that elsewhere, let me just say that truly born-again Christians will not enter the Tribulation Period.  There are, however, countless numbers not only in liberal churches but also in churches which call themselves “conservative” or “fundamental” which bear no evidence of a work of God in their lives.  Though we cannot know for certain the true spiritual condition of folks like these, nominal Christians, those who’ve just gone through the motions or the ritual, will enter and endure this time of trial on the earth.  We will have more to say about this, Lord willing.

Considerations, vs. 4, 5.

1. Fellowship with our Lord, v. 4.  The glory and wonder of heaven isn’t streets of gold or the fact that “bad” things are forever gone.  That which will make heaven “heaven” will be the fact that HE is there, and His people will have eternal and unbroken fellowship with Him.

2. White raiment, v. 5.  Changed forever will be these fallible, fallen bodies.  We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is, 1 John 3:2.  No more death, disease or departure from purity and righteousness.

3. Name not blotted out, v. 5.  This is not the loss of salvation, but rather the showing the falseness of their profession of life.  Remember, the Lord is referring to those with only the name of “Christian,” but who in reality are “twice dead”: in sin and to righteousness.

4. Name confessed before God and the angels, v. 5.  This is the other side of what has just been said.  Not only will true Christians be “blotted out” of the book, but their names will be confessed before the Father.  As one has said, “I am not ashamed to confess Christ, but my wonder is, How can he ever confess me!”

 

 

Revelation 2:18, The Christ and City of Thyatira.

“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira, write, ‘The things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass….’ 

Once again, we’ve had to divide our thoughts into separate posts.

1. The City of the Epistle.

Thyatira was located in a valley linking two other valleys.  Because it had no natural fortification and was wide open to attack, a garrison was usually stationed there.  This defended the town, but had the added benefit in that it guarded the road into Pergamos, the capital of the province.

Because of its favorable location on the route between Pergamos and Sardis, Thyatira soon became a prosperous commercial center.  Many trade-guilds are known to have existed there.  One of her merchants is even mentioned in Scripture:  Lydia, a seller of purple, Acts 16:14.  What’s noted about her, though, isn’t her commerce, but her conversion.  She is described as one whose heart the Lord opened to hear the things spoken by Paul.  There’s so much I could say about this in these days of the widespread belief that God is impotent or at least unable to act until we give Him permission.  That is not the God of Scripture.

Membership in the appropriate guild was essential to a tradesman and his business and social life was severely impacted if he refused to join.  But each guild had its own “god” and membership implied worship of that god.  Moreover, the periodic feasts of the guild, beside honoring their god, deteriorated into drunken orgies.  Perhaps this was one of the main problems facing the church there.

Although Thyatira was the smallest of the seven cities, its letter is the longest.

If we follow the idea that each church foreshadows an era of church history, then Thyatira represents that time between 500 and 1500 AD, when Romanism was savagely predominant.  I use the word “savagely” intentionally, in view of the rivers of blood Rome shed of those who refused to join with her.   The name, Thyatira, is particularly significant, made up as it is of two words which can be interpreted as meaning “a continual sacrifice.”  The continual offering of the Mass – the so-called “unbloody sacrifice” of the Lord Jesus – is the central blasphemy of Romanism.  The partaking of communion was never intended by our Lord to be a continuation of His sacrifice or a repetition of it.  It was never meant to be some sort of “magic potion” bringing “grace” to those who partake of it.  He Himself said it was to be a reminder of Him.  In 1 Corinthians 11:25, He told the disciples, This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”   It’s a memorial to His life and death.  Perhaps it’s significant that our Lord said this in the part of Communion involved in the drinking of the fruit of the vine, which is withheld from the communicant in Rome’s version.  The fruit of the vine represents His blood, without which there is no salvation.

This brings us to our next thought.

2. The Christ of the Epistle, v. 18.

This is important.  In this day of “pluralism” and “diversity,” it’s vital to remember that our Lord taught that there’s only one way of salvation and that’s through Him.  All roads do not lead to heaven.  He Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me,” John 14:6.  And not just the “Jesus” of a lot of modern thought, who was only a good man or a prophet or whose death was accidental or a mistake, or who is even, as some now teach, only a figment of the imagination.

There’s only salvation in a Christ Who is God, Who deliberately set aside His glory as God, deliberately came into this world through means of a virgin, deliberately lived a perfect life, deliberately died a horrible death, deliberately and willingly suffered the justice of God against sin, deliberately rose again from the dead and Who, one day, will deliberately return to this world.  There was nothing accidental or unintentional in a single thing that He ever did.  This is the Christ who saves, and He alone.

The Son of God.  This is the only place in these epistles where the Lord Jesus is so named.  Perhaps, in the wisdom of God, this is to warn people not to be deluded into thinking of Him merely as the Son of Mary.  Perhaps there’s something to be learned from her last recorded words in Scripture.  She had attempted to get Him to do something, perhaps just being a mother and not really thinking about it.  He told her that it wasn’t yet time for Him to be subject to man’s will.  Her response?  His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it,” John 2:5, emphasis added.  That’s still good advice.  There’s nothing more she can say or do.

Eyes like a Flame of Fire.

– to uncover and destroy works of error and apostasy.

We’ve almost completely lost sight of this facet of our Lord’s being and of His Father’s.  We seem to have this idea of God as this beneficent-type grandfather who winks and chuckles at the foibles of His wayward grandchildren.  We seem to think that it doesn’t really matter what He says in His Word, if it is His Word.  Academics argue and quibble over this and that, but they never seem actually to read what He says.  From a misunderstanding of Revelation 3:20, we picture our Lord as being on the outside and wanting us to let Him in so badly.  One preacher even went so far as to call Him “the Christ of the bloody knuckles”!  This is not the Christ of Scripture!

God is indeed very long-suffering and patient.  For that, I am very thankful.  If He were not, we’d all be in Hell, where we belong.  But one of these days, as Rolfe Barnard, a great preacher of another generation, put it, one of these days we’re going to run into the end of that patience and we’ll reap what we’ve sown.  I think we’re getting there.  Look at the headlines, the lead stories on TV, the sorry condition of the major candidates running for the highest office in our land.

When the Lord comes back, He’s not going to be “gentle Jesus, meek and mild.”  He’s not going to suffer the humiliation and rejection He did the first time. Scripture describes that time when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  And Zechariah 14:9-21 gives us something of the nature and character of His reign on this earth when He gets here.

That’s a picture of our Lord that the church needs today.  He has no time for diversity and “tolerance,” especially of sin or error.  He doesn’t celebrate “inclusiveness,” at least not as it’s practiced today.  The Gospel is indeed “inclusive” in that there is no one to whom it isn’t addressed, or who does not need to heed and obey it.  But there is no such thing as “religious freedom” in Scripture – that we can take it or leave it, or twist it around to suit ourselves.

I’ve heard people say what the Scripture “means to them.”  The problem is, we need to understand what it means to God.  What does He mean?  Not what do the “notes” say it means.  Not what the preacher on TV says it means.  What it says it means.  These other things may or may not be useful.  We need to read and study the Scriptures themselves, not just read about them.  Not everybody is on the road to heaven.  Our Lord indicated that most people are on the other road, Matthew 7:13, that broad way that leads to destruction.

His feet like fine brass.

Revelation 19:15 says, He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

The Old Testament describes something of this:  Isaiah 63:1-6; Zechariah 14:1-3, 12-15.  The world may gather its armies together in one last desperate attempt to destroy Israel, and they may seem to be successful, but the Lord will come back and that will be that.  The world will finally see something of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

Satan will no longer, and not much longer, we pray, be the god of this world. 

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

Revelation 2:8, The Christ Who Was Dead And Is Alive.

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write,
“These things says the First and the Last, who was dead and came to life.”

It’s with good reason that the Lord starts each letter with a reference to Himself.  Especially in this day of mega-churches and “personalities” (“Chrislebrities,” ugh! what a terrible word!), Jesus seems almost irrelevant.  Of course we believe in Him – we are Christians, after all – but with all the programs and projects and politics and all our efforts for the betterment of mankind, He kind of gets put on the back burner until something goes wrong, and then we run to Him, wondering why He doesn’t do something.  (Although, in this day of fast foods and microwaves, I wonder how many people know what a “back burner” is.  Anyway.)  If Christ were indeed to go away, how many churches would notice the difference?

I don’t mean to be critical, though I am, but without the Lord Jesus, there is no reason for “church.”  There is no salvation.  There is nothing.

Our Lord is simply reminding each church of that fact.  After all,

He is –

– “The First and the Last.”

Several cities in the Roman Empire claimed the title, “First (of something).”  There were several different categories for this.  Ephesus, Smyrna and Thyatira were among these cities.

I think the Lord was simply reminding them that long before Smyrna had been thought of, He could say, “I AM”, and long after the last ember of this planet has burned out, cf. 2 Peter 3:10, He will still be able to say, “I AM”.

We forget that.  Like Smyrna, there are places of incredible beauty and awe-inspiring scenery in this world.  Some of you have traveled all over it.  I’ve just seen a little of this country.  The vastness of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, the Gulf of Mexico, fall colors in the Ozarks, the majestic beauty of the Rocky Mountains and Pikes Peak (the mountain in the header of this blog), the impressive vista of the Black Hills of South Dakota, the awesome feeling of the world’s highest suspension bridge holding sway 1000+ feet over the Royal Gorge and the Arkansas River.

And it does sway (move).  royal-gorge-bridge-again

Just a little….

You used to be able to drive over the bridge, but that’s long gone.  Cars got too big and heavy.

It’s enough to walk over it.

As an aside possibly only of interest to me, my grandfather worked in the steel mill in Pueblo CO where the steel cables were made that support the bridge.

With all that, there’s a great deal of beauty in this country that I haven’t seen.

Doesn’t matter.

One day, it’ll all be gone.

The Lord Jesus will still be the First and the Last.

But He also is the One –

“Who was dead and came to life.”  The Greek reads, “Who became dead and lived.”

It’s a study in itself just to consider the Lord’s “becoming.”  That’s why we split this letter into two parts.

In the first place, He became flesh, John 1:14.

The thing about this is, who was He before He became flesh, before He was born to the virgin in Bethlehem?  Everything rides on the answer to that question.

If, as some who knock on your door insist, He was just another created being, albeit maybe a little higher than you or me, if that’s true, then there’s no hope for any of us.  As and if only a creature like us, He would be completely responsible to God for Himself.  He would have to be perfection Himself in order not to be condemned.  His life would have value in this way only for Himself.  He would have nothing left over, as it were, for anyone else, or you or me.  We’d be doomed.

But John 1:1 says that before He became flesh, He was God.  Those same folks who knock at your door insist that John meant that Jesus was only “a god.”  It is true that in the original, there is no article, no “the,” before “God” in John 1:1.  If there were, then the Word would be the God, and the “oneness” folks are right.  But there is no article before the word, “God.”  In the Greek, there is no indefinite article, no “a,” and thus no way for John to write “a god.”

So?

The difference might be seen in comparing these two phrases:  you are the human; you are human.  The first phrase, “You are the human,” indicates a particular person.  It’s true, in English, to say, “You are a human” is possible, meaning that you are one among several, or as distinguished from them, but in NT Greek, you can’t say that.  To them, “You are human” would mean that you have the characteristics of a human, as opposed, say, to fish or birds.  And, no, we are not animals, although that’s another post.

What John is saying is that, whatever characteristics God has, the Word has.  He is God, not “a god.”

But these same folks again, persistent, aren’t they, will say, “Yes, but Jesus Himself said that the Father is greater that He is, John 14:28.  According to them, this means that He isn’t equal with God.  He isn’t Jehovah God.

Is that true?

Not at all.

When the Word became flesh, He laid aside His divine prerogatives, His “rights,” and came to this earth as a human being.  And He was truly human, not a phantom or apparition, as some teach.  In doing so, He did not cease to be God.  He just quit acting like it, for the most part.  Walking on water isn’t ordinarily a human thing.  When He comes back, He will act like it.

As a man and as a Jew, He was born under the Law, Galatians 4:4, and was as responsible to obey it as any other Jew.  In this way, because He was truly human, the Father was greater than He.  This doesn’t deny His deity at all, but merely affirms His humanity.

Further, He didn’t come to glory and fame.  He wasn’t born in Rome to a wealthy or noble family, but in Bethlehem, to a poor family from a despised race.  How do we know His family was poor?  When His mother, Mary, made the required offering after His birth, she offered turtledoves or pigeons, the offering prescribed for the poorest Jew, Luke 2:24; Leviticus 12:8.

He made Himself of no reputation, Philippians 2:7.

But more than all that, and the reason for it, He became a sin offering, Hebrews 9:26, but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.  

Then there’s 2 Corinthians 5:21, For He [God] has made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  I don’t even begin to understand all that’s involved in that.  I don’t think we ever will.

But the cross and the tomb weren’t the end of it.

“He became alive.”

This was the message of the apostolic church, And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, Acts 4:33.  It’s what they were supposed to preach:  Then He [Jesus] said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations,” Luke 24:46, 47, emphases added.

Why go through all this “doctrine”?  Why emphasize it?  Because if that isn’t who Christ was to Smyrna, they had no hope.  They were suffering for nothing.  And if that isn’t Christ to us, we have no hope.   Indeed, as Paul put it, If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most pitiable, 1 Corinthians 15:19.

(photo credit:  2roadsdiverged.com)