Archive for February, 2018

Revelation 13

Revelation 13 has John giving us a picture of the two beasts with his primary focus on what happens on earth.  He spent most of the previous chapter focused on heaven, but now he gives attention to the beast “rising out of the sea” and it’s 42 month reign on the earth.  The beast is often equated to Satan and this likeness to Satan is just one of the things that identifies this beast with the one popularly known as the Antichrist. Guzik says ‘The Antichrist is the “opposite Jesus”; he is the “instead of” Jesus.  He will look wonderful, be charming and successful. He will be the ultimate winner, and appear as an angel of light. In this sense the Antichrist will be a satanic messiah, instead of the true Messiah Jesus Christ.’

The beast has much destruction and deceit to pour out upon the earth.  “It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven”.  “Blasphemer” may be a more accurate title than “Antichrist” for this end-times dictator. As much as anything, this beast is a man who speaks against God and everything God stands for.  Not only does he blaspheme God, but also he speaks against those who were taken in the rapture, and are therefore out of his reach.  His lips are filled with vile deceit and attacks.

But the beast is full of more than mere words.  “Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain”.  The beast is able to pour out persecution during the tribulation period. He can’t overcome the faith of the saints, but he can destroy their physical lives.

The tribulation will be a difficult time for those who experience it.  The beast will work to “deceive those who dwell on earth”.  This final world dictator will demand and receive worship from the whole earth from all who are not saved.  As John wraps the chapter, he gives us one ultimate piece of information about this second beast.  “This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666”.  There are dozens of opinions as to who this man is.  But instead of obsessing with fear and interest about the number of the Antichrist – how much more appropriate is it for Christians to be interested in the genuine and only Savior, Jesus Christ.

Revelation 12

In Revelation 12, John begins to introduce the main characters of the Great Tribulation.  According to Guzik, here are the key characters we’ll see in the next few chapters:

  • The woman, representing Israel
  • The dragon, representing Satan
  • The man-child, referring to Jesus
  • The angel Michael, head of the angelic host
  • The offspring of the woman, representing Gentiles who come to faith in the Tribulation
  • The beast out of the sea, representing the antichrist
  • The beast out of the earth, representing the false prophet who promotes the antichrist

This is the first of seven signs that John reveals that will describe the outcome of the Great Tribulation.

The woman faces an enemy who is out to destroy all things related to God.  The dragon has great power and claims royal authority. The crowns represent his presumptive claims of royal authority against the true King.  The end times are definitely a battle between good and evil.  The enemy makes one last attempt to push God off His throne.  And less we be unclear, Satan is “the deceiver of the whole world”. He not only has much power, but his number one quality is that of deceit and lies.  He’ll come up short, but the battle is real today and will be real in those days too.

The good news is that John gives us the rest of the story and we get to see the end before it happens – “he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him”.  We know the end of the book and God wins.  And it isn’t even close.  “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God”.  The enemy will accuse and try to derail Christ Followers in their walk, but God has won and we are on the winning side.  He’ll end it all once and for all!

John talks about the victory over evil – “they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death”.  Satan’s work of accusing only ends here, when he is cast out from his access to heaven. Today, we have an intercessor and advocate in Jesus Christ, who sits on the throne at the right hand of the Father and intercedes for us.  So what are we to do given this truth?  “Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them”!  We have much to be grateful for and should rejoice and let the world know that Jesus reigns!

Revelation 11

In Revelation 11 John is ordered to measure the temple, the altar and its worshippers. The idea of measuring communicates ownership, protection, and preservation and demonstrates that God is in control.  The earth and all that is in it belongs to Him.  John is told that the holy city (Jerusalem) will be tread underfoot for a period of forty-two months, which equals 1260 days (three and one-half years). This “trampling” by Gentiles probably takes place in the last half of the final seven year period described by Daniel – when the Antichrist pours out his fury on the people of Israel.

John is told by God that “I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy”. This introduces two of the more interesting characters of Revelation, the two witnesses. The character of their ministry is prophetic and they preach and demonstrate repentance and have an effective ministry.  The world around them is not very receptive overall, but they endure and do their work for 3.5 years.  God’s heart is to reach all people, even when his messengers are disliked and mistreated.

The two witnesses have special protection from God and have the power to bring both drought and plague.  They are empowered by God.  The two witnesses are killed by the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit, most likely Satan himself, but their ministry is not cut short. They fully accomplish their task and achieve all that God set forth for them to do.  “And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city”.

But after the three and a half days  a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them”. As this happens before the eyes of the watching world, the enemies of these two witnesses are horrified and astonished.  They had mistreated and killed them, but now they have risen again.  Then the seventh trumpet finally sounds and they pronounce: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of  his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever”.  The worshippers break out and praise God for his victory over all.

Revelation 10

Revelation 10 has a “mighty angel coming down from heaven”.  The seventh trumpet has not yet been blown, and this angel provides a break with a purpose, showing mercy in allowing more opportunity for repentance. It is as if God brings things to the brink, then pulls back a little to grant mankind more time to repent.  We don’t know the angel’s exact identity, but he is obviously direct from God.  The angel carried “a little scroll open in his hand” which we don’t know the contents of.  There are many different interpretations of what that scroll contained, but scripture doesn’t tell us.

John prepares to record what was happening, and is told “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down”.  Lots of speculation around exactly what was going on and what John saw, but God wasn’t ready for it to be recorded.  The angel “raised his right hand to heaven and swore by him….that there would be no more delay”.  The mighty angel gives a solemn oath declaring that the end has been set in motion, that there should no longer be any kind of delay. There is absolutely no turning back.

The end is coming and “the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets”. God freely acknowledges that life today is full of mysteries; but it will not always be so. A day will come when all questions of this age will be answered.  Until then, and including what we read in the book of Revelation, there are many things we can merely speculate about and try to interpret if we must.  The activity that will lead to the end is ready to continue with the seventh trumpet to be blown.

We then see a rather curious instruction to John.  “Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel….take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey”.  Strange directions to John.  But he does what he is asked to do.  John can only proclaim the Word of God if he has taken it in – so this is preparation to share God’s truth by making it part of himself. After John eats the scroll he is told “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings”.  Whatever the content of the scroll, it is connected to John’s command to prophesy to all men.

Revelation 9

Revelation 9 has John revealing what happens with the fifth and sixth angels blowing their trumpets.  The first four seals and trumpets presented judgments directed against the earth. In the first four seals, these were the “four horsemen” bringing tyranny, war, famine, and death on the earth. In the first four trumpets, these were the ecological destruction of the vegetation, seas, fresh waters, and sky. The last three seals are focused upon heaven: the cry of the martyrs, cosmic disturbances, and the heavenly prelude to the seven trumpets. But the last three trumpets will speak of hell, in terms of the demonic.

When the fifth angel blew his trumpet, he “saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit”.  There are many ideas about who this fallen star represents.  No matter who or what, the ‘star’ is under God’s control and will serve God’s purpose.  From this place comes “locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth”.  The idea is simply that as part of the judgment of the great tribulation, God will allow demonic hordes, previously imprisoned, to descend upon the earth like a swarm of destructive locusts.

They weren’t to harm any grass or trees like a normal locust, but “only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads”.  Based on the description of the pain and death inflicted by these ‘locusts’, it is certainly going to be desired to have God’s seal.  There is discrepancy on who those people will be, but without a doubt that seal is protection from evil.  It seems likely that a relationship with Christ will provide that seal and prevent the suffering, which can go on for months.  Everyone needs to prepare for the inevitable judgment that will face each of us.

The sixth angel blows his trumpet which releases “the four angels who are bound…. released to kill a third of mankind”.  It appears that these are “bad” angels; they are definitely are evil angels. These four angels have the authority to kill on a massive scale.  They also release a “number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number”.  The number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million.  We don’t know if the number is to be taken literally, but it certainly suggests an army that is impossible to count and is greater than anything mankind has ever seen.  Destruction will come at a level we’ve never seen before.  Judgment is coming.  We need to prepare!

Revelation 8

In Revelation 8, John tells the story of what happens “When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour”.  There are different ideas about this silence, but the silence in heaven possibly demonstrates a sober, awestruck silence at the judgments to come, now that the seals are off and the scroll can be opened.  Judgment is coming for all, and many will find their names are not listed in the Book Of Life.  God has been clear that all will stand before Him and give account for their life.  That likely happens after the seventh seal is removed.

When the seventh seal was finally removed, the end did not immediately come.  John then recounts what will happen as the seven angels with seven trumpets blow their horns.  Each is followed by destruction and actions that impact the earth.  Guzik writes ‘Since John brings a report from eternity, it is difficult to assign a chronological and sequential element to these judgments. It is most important to emphasize that they are real, even if their sequence is hard to pin down with certainty.’  We don’t know exactly how all these things work in the Revelation prophecy and story.  But we do know they will happen, as they are part of God’s Word to us which is true and will be fulfilled.

This chapter reveals what will happen with the first four trumpets as they are played by the angels holding them.  These first four trumpets reveal the severity of God’s judgment. He attacks all the ordinary means of subsistence, such as food and water; and He attacks all the ordinary means of comfort, and knowledge, such as light and the regular rhythm of days. The first four trumpets also reveal the mercy of God’s judgment; these are partial judgments striking only one-third of what they impact, and are meant to warn and lead a rebellious world to repentance before the final curtain closes. For now, God spares more than He smites.  But that will change.

So as John ends this chapter, the warning comes through the loud cry of an eagle flowing overhead.  “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow”!  The first four trumpets caused some significant damage and impact, but the worst is yet to come.  The angel’s woes are well founded, because one-third of the earth’s population will die with the next three trumpet blows.  Judgment comes closer and closer, and most are not prepared to stand before a holy and just God to give account for their lives!

Revelation 7

In Revelation 7, John writes about the 144,000 and the great multitude.  He begins describing the four angels who are standing at the four corners of the earth in complete control of all things.  The angels were holding back the winds which symbolize the destructive force of God’s judgment, as often experienced in the Old Testament. “I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel”. John tells us that the 144,000 chosen are divided among the 12 tribes of Israel. Though only God may know their tribal ancestry, there are 12,000 from each tribe which is listed in scripture as such.

We aren’t told what the specifics are for those who are sealed in this way.  Guzik tells us that there are clarifications about the 144,000 in Revelation:

  1. They are called the children of Israel (Revelation 7:4).
  2. Their tribal affiliation is specific (Revelation 7:4-8).
  3. They seem to be protected and triumphant through the period of God’s wrath, meeting with Jesus at Mount Zion at His return (Rev 14:1).
  4. They are celibate (Revelation 14:4).
  5. They are the beginning of a greater harvest (Revelation 14:4).
  6. They are marked by integrity and faithfulness (Revelation 14:5).

It is best to see the 144,000 as specifically chosen Jewish people who come to faith in Jesus, protectively sealed throughout the tribulation as a sign.

John goes on to tell us “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb”!  John knew they came from different nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues so we know that there will be differences among people in heaven, just as there is on earth. We will not all be the same. We will be individuals.

The multitude recognizes that God is the source of salvation, and no one else. Salvation isn’t something we earn, it is something God gives.  Everyone is worshiping God who sits on the throne. “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever”! John paints the picture of what heaven will be like.  On earth, when we face trials and suffering, God is there to give us strength and comfort.  But someday, every tear will be wiped away in heaven.  “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes”.  What a glorious God we worship!

Revelation 6

Revelation 6 has John watching as the scroll is opened.  “Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, Come”!  From the previous chapter, we understand this scroll is the history and destiny of mankind and creation, and only Jesus – the Lamb – had the right to open the seals on this scroll at the culmination of history.  This chapter has the Lamb opening six of the seven seals.  With the removal of each seal, the instruction is to come.

The first four seals each were removed and then came a horse – white, bright red, black and pale – which bring a specific impact:

  • The white horse brings a dictator who imitates Jesus
  • The red horse brings war and conflict
  • The black horse brings scarcity and inequity
  • The pale horse brings death

Our modern age has seen hundreds of millions killed by dictators, war, and famine. Yet all that will pale in comparison to the death toll coming in the wake of this ultimate dictator in those end times.

Then the fifth and sixth seals are opened.  The fifth seal brings forth the cry of the martyrs. “I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain  for the word of God and for the witness they had borne”.  If you had the thought that following Jesus was easy street or a rose garden, think again.  The fact that these souls were under the altar emphasizes that their life blood was poured out as an offering to God. “They cried out with a loud voice”. These souls in heaven cried out for vengeance and made their cry to God, and left the matter of justice and judgment with Him.

The removal of the sixth seal brought about cosmic disruption.  In the Bible, celestial disturbances are often connected with the coming of the Messiah.  Look at all that happened:

  • there was a great earthquake
  • the sun became black as  sackcloth
  • the full moon became like blood
  • the stars of the sky fell to the earth 
  • the sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up
  • every mountain and island was removed from its place

The question is asked as the chapter ends: “who can stand”?  The answer is simple and clear.  Only the believer can stand before this great judgment, the one who is justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  With Him, there is no hope.  That day is coming.  Are you ready?

Revelation 5

Revelation 5 has John writing about the Lion, the Lamb and the Scroll.  “Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals”. John begins with reference to the throne which was the focus of the last chapter, but now he shifts his attention to the scroll held by the enthroned Lord.  There is a problem in that no one was able to open and look at the scroll.  “No one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it”.

John could not have said it any stronger. It was as if the strong angel looked through the entire universe to find someone worthy, and did not find anyone worthy to even look at the scroll.  But then, an answer to the dilemma was found.  “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals”. Because of the elder’s announcement, John expected to see a Lion, but saw a Lamb instead.  Jesus was not only Lion, He was also the sacrificial Lamb who was slain to take away the sin of the world.

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain”. The Lamb looks as though it had been slain. It’s hard to describe what John saw, but this Lamb had the marks of sacrifice on it.  Jesus was the sacrificial offering who poured out His blood to deal with the sin of mankind.  But as He takes the scroll, those who are there say “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth”. The true Ruler of the world is honored.

Guzik gives us a true picture of the song that was sang to the Lamb:

  • The song honors the price of redemption: for You were slain
  • The song honors the worker of redemption: have ransomed people
  • The song honors the destination of redemption: have ransomed people for God
  • The song honors the payment of redemption: by Your blood
  • The song honors the scope of redemption: every tribe and language and people and nation
  • The song honors the length of redemption: have made them a kingdom and priests to our God
  • The song honors the result of redemption: and shall reign on the earth

The reality is that Christ is worthy of our praise.  “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing”! The Lord God lives forever and ever and is ever worthy of our praise.

Revelation 4

Revelation 4 gives us a glimpse of heaven looking down on earth. “After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, Come up here, and  I will show you what must take place after this”. In the description of heavenly things, John uses symbols. However, not everything is symbolic. As in the parables of Jesus, many of the details are merely descriptive and they are not necessarily intended to carry a special significance of their own. Revelation four introduces us to the place judgment comes from: God’s throne in heaven.

Behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne”.  This throne was what first impressed John, and it is the centerpiece of his vision.  The throne is not empty. There is some One who sits on this great heavenly throne. The throne is a powerful declaration of not merely God’s presence, but of His sovereign, rightful reign, and His role as eternal judge.  We can’t think about much of anything until we reconcile in our mind that there is an occupied throne in heaven, and the God of the Bible rules from the throne.  He alone is in control.  He alone will judge each of us as we stand before Him.

Around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald”. Around this setting of all sovereignty, power, authority and glory – this setting of the throne of God – God has a reminder of His promise to never destroy the earth again with water, a promise that directs His sovereignty.  He is faithful to His Word, and the rainbow reinforces that truth.  John goes on to describe what he saw around the throne of God.  There are many different interpretations of what John saw, some of which may be prophetic or symbolic, and some of which is likely just details of what is.

But the key learning here in this vision is what happens around God’s throne.  Those who are there recognize who God is and place Him in the spot He belongs.  “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come”.  God is not only worthy of our praise, but also is eternal.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  His glory is coming.  “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created”.  Here is the reality of what is.  John ends this chapter reminding us that God is the Creator and worthy of our praise!

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