Archive for the ‘Revelation’ Category


Revelation: Final Judgment

July 10, 2011

Rev 20:7 When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison
Rev 20:8 and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore.
Rev 20:9 They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them.
Rev 20:10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Why would God permit Satan to be released, even for a short while? We are not told. Perhaps it was to demonstrate that Satan has not repented of his evil, because we see that he will go right back to the same kind of efforts to destroy the church. But as far as is revealed, Satan is not permitted to inflict harm on the church during this time. Apparently, before he actually launches his attack, he and his armies will be destroyed by fire from heaven. And they will be thrown into the lake of fire, utterly destroyed forever.

Rev 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.
Rev 20:12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.
Rev 20:13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.
Rev 20:14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.
Rev 20:15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

The dead are raised and judgment begins! This is a single resurrection of all the dead, as foretold by Jesus himself:

Joh 5:28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice
Joh 5:29 and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.

This resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous comes at the end of the thousand years — not a resurrection followed by a thousand year reign, as is often mistakenly taught.

Interestingly, there are two sets of books. One set of books contains record of all the deeds of each person to be judged. The other book, the Book of Life, simply contains names of those who will be permitted to enter into eternal life. The rest will thrown into the lake of fire. As Jesus taught,

Luk 10:20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

We should take note that names that have once been recorded in the Book of Life might be subsequently removed if we are not faithful:

Rev 3:5 He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.

This admonition to be faithful would not be meaningful unless the converse were also true — that failing to overcome may lead to the name being blotted out of the Book of Life — a horrific consequence!

Finally, Death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire:

Rev 20:14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.

Death and Hades, of course, are not living beings but nonetheless are counted as enemies of the saints:

1Co 15:24-26 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

With the final destruction of Death and Hades, no more enemies remain, but only goodness and blessings. Christ then hands over the kingdom to God the Father, and we will be ready to be introduced to our eternal home in Heaven!


Revelation: Binding Satan and the Thousand Years

July 10, 2011

Rev 20:1 And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain.
Rev 20:2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.
Rev 20:3 He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.

The Roman Empire, the great enemy of the early church, had been destroyed. Now God took measures to prevent Satan from raising up another nation to make war on the church.

It was not the first time God had restrained Satan to varying degrees:

Job 1:12 The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”

Job 2:6 The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”

Mat 12:29 “Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house.

Col 2:15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

1Co 10:13b … And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

There is a mistaken notion that God and Satan are two great powers of near equal strength, in an eternal stalemate between good and evil. Nothing could be further from the truth. God has always held absolute power over Satan, and has limited his evil activities as he saw fit. This time, God sent a single angel to arrest Satan and bind him with a chain. He saw no need to send his legions of angels for the task.

Satan was bound for a thousand years — not a literal time period but representative of a long time. The period began after the destruction of the beast, the Roman Empire. And it lasts until shortly before the final judgment. So we are currently in this period, protected by God from the kind of persecution faced by the early church under Rome.

Meanwhile, during this thousand years, we see another remarkable scene:

Rev 20:4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
Rev 20:5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.
Rev 20:6 Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

The apostle John reports that he saw the souls of the martyrs reigning with Christ during the thousand years. These same souls were seen under the altar in the throne room of God (Rev 6:9), and again before the throne of God in Rev 7:15, and yet again in Rev 14:3. John saw these souls in his vision, reigning with Christ. Since we are now in the midst of that thousand year period, that reign continues today.

Those reigning with Christ are those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. So it is the martyrs who reign. Nothing is said in the passage of anyone other than the martyrs reigning with Christ for a thousand years.

So, since they reign with Christ, where is Christ?

Mar 16:19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.

Act 7:56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

Heb 8:1 The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,
Heb 8:2 and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.

Clearly Christ is in heaven at the right hand of God. And what is Christ doing?

Heb 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.
Heb 4:16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Heb 7:25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

Heb 9:24 For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.
1Jn 2:1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

So Christ is in heaven, at the right hand of God, serving as our high priest, interceding on our behalf. And since the souls are reigning with Christ they must also be in heaven serving with Christ on our behalf.

Rev 7:15 Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.

The martyrs will continue to reign with Christ until Satan is loosed just before Judgment Day.


Revelation: Chapter 19

July 10, 2011

Rev 19:1 After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
Rev 19:2 for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
Rev 19:3 And again they shouted: “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.”
Rev 19:4 The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: “Amen, Hallelujah!”

The wrath of God had been poured out upon the two beasts and the prostitute. The Roman Empire, and its capitol city Rome, stood condemned. The great persecutors of the church were about to be destroyed. Celebration ensued! The saints could now look forward to the wedding feast. As the angel said, “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb! These are the true words of God.”

Rev 19:11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war.

The Faithful and True rider was King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He vanquished the armies of the beast with the sword in his mouth, the Word of God. Destruction was complete. The beast and the false prophet were thrown into the lake of fire, and the vultures fed on the bodies of the armies.

So when did this happen? It depends on your definition of terms. Some might say 395 AD, at the death of Theodosius I, which marked the last time the empire was politically unified. Others might name 405 or 406 AD when the Goth’s invaded across the Rhine, or perhaps 410 when the Visigoths sacked Rome. Or perhaps it was at the second sacking of Rome, this time by the Vandals in 455 AD. By any definition, once the final Roman emperor had been deposed in 480 AD, the Roman empire had come to an end. The Roman Empire would never again threaten the church.


Revelation: The Fate of Babylon and the Beast

June 26, 2011

Rev 17:1  One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters.
Rev 17:2  With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.”
Rev 17:3  Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns.
Rev 17:4  The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries.

In chapter 6, the souls of the martyrs had asked “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Now the angel would explain to them how their blood would be avenged.
We previously identified the ten-horned beast as the Roman empire, and the woman riding on the beast as the city of Rome. She sat on seven hills, and she was drunk on the blood of the saints. She was the great city that rules over the kings of the earth. Her name in this symbolic apocalyptic story was Babylon the Great, but her real name was Rome. She was defeated, and would be repaid for all the blood she had shed.

Rev 18:4 Then I heard another voice from heaven say: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues;
Rev 18:5 for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes.
Rev 18:6 Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Mix her a double portion from her own cup.
Rev 18:7 Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself. In her heart she boasts, “I sit as queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn.’
Rev 18:8 Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.
Rev 18:9 “When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her.
Rev 18:10 Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry: “‘Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!’
Rev 18:11 “The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more—
Rev 18:12 cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble;
Rev 18:13 cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and bodies and souls of men.
Rev 18:14 “They will say, ‘The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your riches and splendor have vanished, never to be recovered.’
Rev 18:15 The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn
Rev 18:16 and cry out: “‘Woe! Woe, O great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls!
Rev 18:17 In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!’ “Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off.
Rev 18:18 When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, ‘Was there ever a city like this great city?’
Rev 18:19 They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out: “‘Woe! Woe, O great city, where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth! In one hour she has been brought to ruin!
Rev 18:20 Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you.'”
Rev 18:21 Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said: “With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again.
Rev 18:22 The music of harpists and musicians, flute players and trumpeters, will never be heard in you again. No workman of any trade will ever be found in you again. The sound of a millstone will never be heard in you again.
Rev 18:23 The light of a lamp will never shine in you again. The voice of bridegroom and bride will never be heard in you again. Your merchants were the world’s great men. By your magic spell all the nations were led astray.
Rev 18:24 In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth.”

Thus God would judge the enemy who had shed the blood of the martyrs, and thus God would avenge that blood. And God urged the saints, apostles, and prophets to rejoice over the judgment of their enemy.

The Roman Empire would fall. Rome would become a ruin. The martyrs would be avenged.


Revelation: Seven Bowls of Wrath

June 26, 2011

Rev 16:1  Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.”

God had completed his warnings with the six trumpets. The enemy had not repented. Now God unleashed his full wrath on the enemies of the church, through seven bowls of wrath. The first four bowls are poured out on the land, the sea, the rivers and streams, and the sky. Compare this to Rev 8:7-13 where the first four trumpets brought forth destruction on one third of the land, the sea, the rivers and streams, and sky. That was the warning. This time, God’s full wrath was poured out on the land, the sea, the rivers and streams, and the sky. This was no warning shot over the bow. Judgment was coming upon the beast and Babylon the Great.

The fifth bowl brought darkness and intense painful suffering upon the beast. Compare this to the agony from scorpions at the fifth trumpet.

The sixth bowl dried up the Euphrates river, opening up the way for invaders from the east.  A fact or two from past history sheds light on the sixth bowl.   In 593 BC, Cyrus was about to invade Babylon.  The Euphrates river flowed through he center of the heavily fortified city of Babylon.  In a brilliant tactical move, the armies of Cyrus temporarily diverted the waters of the Euphrates river, leaving a clear path into the city where the river had been.  The sixth bowl of wrath brought to mind this now famous vulnerability that had led to the fall of the supposedly impenetrable ancient city.  The Euphrates was now the eastern boundary of the Roman Empire.  Like the literal Babylon, the figurative Babylon would fall to invaders pouring across its borders, despite its presumed invulnerability.

Meanwhile, the dragon and the two beasts were not idle.

Rev 16:13  Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
Rev 16:14  They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.

The armies of the world gathered together for a great final battle at Armageddon. This battlefield, like the many strange creatures and places in this prophecy, is a symbol. The literal Armageddon was a site for many historic battles, and it represents the final epic battle between God and the beast. The battle’s outcome was never in doubt:

Rev 16:17 The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, “It is done!”
Rev 16:18 Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake.
Rev 16:19 The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath.
Rev 16:20 Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found.
Rev 16:21 From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds each fell upon men. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible.

So the enemy is utterly defeated. The angel announces the result at the beginning of chapter 18:

Rev 18:1 After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor.
Rev 18:2 With a mighty voice he shouted: “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird.
Rev 18:3 For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.”

Indeed, Babylon had fallen, and the beast is defeated.  Now chapters 17 and 18 will tell of their fate.


Revelation: Encouragement and Warnings

June 19, 2011

Rev 14:1  Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.
Rev 14:2  And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps.
Rev 14:3  And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.
Rev 14:4  These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb.
Rev 14:5  No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.

Here a vision is given of the 144,000 in heaven! Just a few chapters earlier, they had been marked by the angel to protect them from the plagues God was sending upon the Roman Empire. In this vision, the recipients of the prophesy see themselves victorious in heaven! What an encouragement this must have been to those brothers and sisters, who would soon face martyrdom. But the message of encouragement also came with a sobering warning:

Rev 14:7 He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
Rev 14:8 A second angel followed and said, “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.”
Rev 14:9 A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand,
Rev 14:10 he, too, will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.
Rev 14:11 And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.”
Rev 14:12 This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.

Then the prophecy shows one like a “son of man” preparing to take a sickle and reap the grapes from the earth, and to throw them into the winepress of God’s wrath. It was time for the final destruction of the beast.

Rev 15:1 I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues—last, because with them God’s wrath is completed.

The time had come to pour out the seven bowls of wrath!


Revelation: The Beast Makes War

June 19, 2011

Rev 12:17 Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.
Rev 13:1 And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name.
Rev 13:2 The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority.

The dragon, intent on making war against the church, brought forth a beast from the sea, gave the beast power to make war against the saints and to conquer them (vs 7). The beast was given authority over ever tribe, people, language, and nation. He would be worshipped by the entire world except for those belonging to the Lamb, the Christians. This beast could be none other than the Roman Empire.
The church would be severely tested by the beast:

Rev 13:10 If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.

The dragon brought forth a second beast from the earth. This beast worked in support of the first beast, making people worship the first beast, and executing those who refused. Only those who worshipped the first beast could obtain a mark designating them as loyal subjects of Rome, entitling them safely to perform such public activities as buying and selling in the marketplace.   This second beast was also empowered to perform miracles to deceive the people.  In all likelihood the second beast is the false prophet of Rev 16:13-14 and Rev 19:20.

The revelation given to John identifies this second beast by the number 666.  Undoubtedly this clue was understood by the original recipients of the book.  But despite the many attempts to decipher it today, there is no definitive answer to its interpretation.  What we can reasonably assume is that it was sufficiently clear to identify the second beast to those who, at the hand of this beast, would face the choice of either abandoning Christ or being executed for their faithfulness.


Revelation: The Dragon Makes War

June 19, 2011

As we enter chapter 12, we have a change of scene as well as a change of timeframe. From the beginning of the apocalyptic timeline in Revelation 4 and 5, we saw the Lamb who had been slain, who was raised again and who opened the seven seals. We positively identified the Lamb as Jesus Christ, and noted that he had already been crucified and raised from the dead. But now, in chapter 12, we read of the birth of a male child who would “rule with an iron scepter” (vs 5). This is a quote from the Messianic prophecy in Psalm 2:9, removing all doubt that this child is the Christ. In chapter 5, he had been slain and raised to life. In chapter 12, he is just being born. So chapter 12 starts with a flashback to the birth of Jesus.

Rev 12:1 A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.
Rev 12:2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.

Who is the woman? She gave birth to the Messiah, and is also attributed with other offspring, “those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” (vs 17) We know that Jesus was a Jew, descended from Judah (Heb 7:4), descended from Abraham (Matt 1). We also know that the Christian church was brought into the world as spiritual descendents of Abraham (Rom 4:17). So the woman represents the chosen people of God, through whom God brought Jesus into the world, and through whom God established the church.

Rev 12:3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads.
Rev 12:4 His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born.

A dragon threatens the woman and her child! Just a few verses later we learn who this dragon is:

Rev 12:9 The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him

First Satan attempted to destroy Christ directly, while Christ was on earth. But Christ was raised from the dead! So Satan was hurled down to the earth:

Rev 12:10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.
Rev 12:11 They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
Rev 12:12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”
Rev 12:13 When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.
Rev 12:14 The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach.
Rev 12:15 Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent.
Rev 12:16 But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.
Rev 12:17 Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

So in chapter 12 we have the background for the war between Satan and the church, following the resurrection of the Christ.


Revelation: The Seventh Seal and the Seven Trumpets

June 12, 2011

(Rev 8:1-6) When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake. Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them.

With the opening of the seventh seal, a remarkable silence enveloped heaven, filling the air with anticipation and wonder about what would happen next. Then seven angels with seven trumpets were revealed. As the first four angels sounded their trumpets in sequence, four waves of desolation swept over the earth. Hail and fire and blood. A burning mountain thrown into the sea. A great star falling into the rivers and springs of water. The sun, moon, and stars being struck. And an eagle warning of three woes coming from the remaining three trumpets.

A star fell, opened the Abyss, and released a plague of terrible locusts with stings like scorpions. They tortured the unbelievers for five months.

An invading army attacked, mounted on terrifying horses breathing out deadly fire, smoke, and sulphur.

The invaders destroyed a third of the earth, a third of the trees, and all of the green grass. A third of the sea turned to blood. A third of the creatures in the sea were killed, and a third of the ships were destroyed. A third of the rivers and springs turned bitter and killed many people. A third of the day was without light, and a third of the night. A third of mankind was killed.

As before, these images of devastation are symbolic of severe discipline and warnings of the full wrath of God against the beast, the Roman Empire. There would be a series of disasters over a period of time, each round further weakening the nation. Up to this point, the devastation would be only partial (one third), to give the survivors an opportunity for repentance. Yet Rome would refuse to repent.

Rev 10:5-7 Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, “There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.”

The seventh trumpet would signal the complete destruction of the unrepentant enemy. Before the blowing of the seventh and final trumpet, the angel gives John a small scroll to eat and commands him to prophesy. He is commanded to measure the temple and to count the worshippers, but to exclude the outer court. Again God was designating who would be protected from the onslaught that would follow. Those inside the temple, the people of God, would be protected — both from the desolation sent by God, and from the attacks that would come from the enemy. But those outside the temple would face desolation under the wrath of God.

Next John describes two witnesses who would continue to prophesy during the 42 month (1260 day) period when the outer court would be trampled by the Gentiles. The witnesses represent those who continued to prophesy boldly during the period when the church was being persecuted by the Roman Empire. They would torment the inhabitants of the earth with their warnings and prophecies. The two witnesses would complete their testimony, and would join the ranks of the martyrs. They would ascend to heaven in the sight of those who killed them. A severe earthquake would then bring the inhabitants of the earth out of their brief celebration just as the third woe was about to be revealed. The enemies of the church would come to realize that they had failed to destroy the church, and that instead it was themselves who would be destroyed.


Revelation: The 144,000 and the Multitude

June 5, 2011

By the end of chapter 6, six of the seven seals have been opened. Before opening the seventh and final seal, the opening of seals paused so the Christians on earth could be marked and protected.

Rev 7:1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree.
Rev 7:2 Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea:
Rev 7:3 “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”

There were 144,000 servants of God who were to be sealed — twelve thousand, from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Those sealed were still on earth, where the four winds were being held back. They were marked so that the plagues and destruction sent by God would not fall upon them, but rather just upon their oppressor.

Remember, by the time Revelation was written, the Israel of God was the church (Rom 2:28-29, Gal 3:7-9, Phil 3:3, etc). So these 144,000 were Christians. The number 144,000 is symbolic — twelve times twelve times a thousand — representing the thoroughness with which God would mark and protect his people. Not one would be missing.

Meanwhile we also get another glimpse of heaven:

Rev 7:9 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.
Rev 7:10 And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
Rev 7:11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshipped God,
Rev 7:12 saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”
Rev 7:13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”
Rev 7:14 I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Rev 7:15 Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.
Rev 7:16 Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.
Rev 7:17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Here in heaven, worshipping before the throne of God, was another group in white robes. These are clearly identified as having come out of the great tribulation. These include the martyrs, to whom we saw white robes being given after the fifth seal was opened. These former martyrs are revealed to the saints remaining on earth, who were under threat of martyrdom themselves. The potential future martyrs are being reassured that they, too, will worship in heaven before the throne of God; that they will be cared for by the Great Shepherd; that they will be led to springs of living water; and that God would wipe away every tear from their eyes. Their faithfulness would be richly rewarded! The message to them is the same as that given to the church in Smyrna:

Rev 2:10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.