The End of the World: “Seven Lessons of the Millennium” – Revelation 20:1-10

I remember back in 1990, when Ken Davis put out his best selling book, stealing the title from a Sam Cook song: “Don’t know much about history!” Some of you can probably hum James Taylor’s version of the song in your head. As a student of history, I have always found it fascinating when an author delves into select events of the past and draws out great reflective lessons from the journey.

When I was still in high school, author Will Durant received his Presidential Medal of Freedom. For those who don’t like to read history, you may be unfamiliar with this incredible man and his work. William James Durant lived nearly a century (1885 –1981) and was a prolific American writer, historian, and philosopher. He and his wife Ariel, were best known for their 11 volume set called The Story of Civilization, published over forty years between 1935 and 1975. The couple was awarded both the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1968 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977. One of their most insightful works, in my opinion, is the little volume entitled simply Lessons from History. This work was nothing less than brilliant for this author’s time. Durant was gifted at pulling together massive amounts of detail of the past, and pulling the salient selection into thoughtful lessons. He was the kind of writer that fired the imagination of students of history the world over. The tough part of such a work is to take the vast material and reduce it to something that impacts us practically.

I mention such works today, because in a way the Apostle John offered the same quality to readers – but of prophecy – not of history! John opened the door to seven simple lessons of a period that has not yet come to be – the Millennium. The Bible was not silent on this time period before Revelation, and in point of fact, Revelation has very little compared to other parts of the Bible concerning this period. There is enough in the Word on the Millennium for any Pastor to teach an entire course on the period – but we simply cannot do it in this one lesson.

J. Dwight Pentecost, in His large work called Things to Come (p. 476) said this: “A larger body of prophetic Scripture is devoted to the subject of the Millennium, developing its character and conditions, than any other one subject. This millennial age, in which the purposes of God are fully realized on earth, demands considerable attention.”

Our study isn’t about the topic of prophecy – rather, it is the study of this one cyclical letter calle the Book of the Revelation. Because of that, I want to point to the Biblical backdrop only briefly, and set the stage for seven important lessons. Without the backdrop, I am not sure we would get as much meat from this text, but with a proper setting, we should understand John’s point in this book. It is incredibly important to understand that all of the lessons sit on one single premise, the key principle of this lesson.

Key Principle: God’s promises are clear and His fulfillment is certain. He is the God of literal clarity, not allegorical hocus-pocus. His Word offers us deep assurance and precise promise.

God has always been in the communication and relationship business. He WANTS us to know Him. The sheer size and detail of the Bible speak volumes on that point (pun intended). Don’t forget that when people start weaving incredible details from prophetic passages and making things bend to fit the modern newspaper. God wanted us to know Jesus through this book, and to have some basic primer on things that would come to pass. To offer it in such allegorical and cryptic language that none of the details keep any significance goes against the nature of a clear and relational God. He isn’t playing games with our lives or our destiny as a race. He speaks straight to the point.

Before we ever look at the details of the Millennium, we need to establish that the Bible offers a specific reason why this 1000 year Kingdom comes to the world. After all, why not just get it over with – boot Satan into the abyss and be done with it. Well, that is a good question. From the standpoint of the Church Age, that would be fine – but God is also working with Israel in a specific way.

Don’t forget, God made specific promises to the people of Israel in the form of COVENANTS:

He made the Abrahamic Covenant: That God would title a specific piece of land for Abraham and his sons, and that they would always own it – but only get to have domicile in it if they obeyed Him. The size and shape of that land was revealed at larger borders than Israel has ever to this day occupied, and lest we wander, the promise was given to “sons of your loins” and reaffirmed to Isaac and Jacob later in Genesis. God hasn’t yet given them all the land promised them – and the Millennium will check that off of God’s list.

He made the Davidic Covenant: That God would put on the throne of Judah one from the line of David that would judge righteously before the whole world – but the world would still harbor rebellion. Though Jesus spiritually reigns in the hearts of men, the rule over Israel has still not come, and the nations cannot truly see Him as Righteous Judge and Ruler. The Millennium begins with the Savior of Israel coming in the clouds, as we saw at the end of Revelation 19.

He made the New Covenant: Despite the many churches that treat that covenant as completely about the church age, any clear reading of Isaiah 59 and Jeremiah 31, where the term NEW COVENANT comes from in the Bible shows the point of it is about Israel’s final redemption:

Jeremiah 31:31 says it ever so clearly: “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. 33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

Paul later shared with the Corinthians that believers in the Church Age have a foretaste of the New Covenant, because we have the indwelling of God’s Spirit – but that doesn’t mean the terms of God’s New Covenant are complete in the church. In fact, when Jesus said in the Upper Room: “This cup is the New Covenant in my blood.” He was elegantly describing the only means possible to get the Spirit of God’s indwelling power – the taking inside of one’s self the Savior. The New Covenant then is fulfilled in the Millennium, after all “Israel is saved” as Paul said in Romans 11:26 because they “looked on Him they had pierced” (Zechariah 12:10) and they repented of their sin. We saw that in our last lesson. Israel will one day see Messiah and accept His salvation – and the Millennium will follow that time.

The Millennium isn’t essential for the believers of the Church Age, accept for the fact that God keeps His Word literally – just as He did when Messiah came the first time in Bethlehem of Judah, to a young woman that did not know a man. The Millennium is essential for God to wrap up the literal promises with Israel, made in eternal covenants that God said He would NEVER BREAK as long as the sun, moon and stars were in the heavens (see the end of Jeremiah 31).

The biggest problem with understanding the Kingdom of the Millennium as a literal and earthly kingdom, as it clearly appears to be in Revelation 20, is that the Bible uses the word KINGDOM in many different ways.

While it is true that God is not trying to make it overly complicated, it is also true that there are differing dimensions to the way some terms are used. Sometimes the Kingdom of God is used to denote God’s work in people. Sometimes it is His providential work in nature and the world. You see this often:

  • Psalm 10:16 “The Lord is King forever and ever.”
  • Jeremiah 10:10 “But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure His indignation.”
  • Prov. 21:1 “The King’s heart is in the hand of the Lord.”

Other times KINGDOM refers to His work in Heaven, among the angels. Sometimes Jesus used it to describe His saving work in the lives of lost people. And yet, sometimes, like here in Revelation, it sounds very physical a literal throne of a real King in Jerusalem during a specific period of time in the future.

If God is trying to be clear, why is the term complicated? Because God’s Kingdom is ALL of those things we have described – and more.

When it is used “spiritually” the term KINGDOM is used in a specific context of the ongoing spiritual battle between God and His Adversary that ends in a physical battle – as it is used here in Revelation. In this sense, the word KINGDOM is used to describe the REALM of God. This is what Satan objected to in the beginning, before the earth was formed as the great illustration of Who God is.

Take a minute and go back to that ancient scene, recorded in the poetry of two Hebrew prophets: Ezekiel 28:11-19 and Isaiah 14:12-17. A closer look at the Isaiah 14 account offers insight to the original objection to God’s rule:

Isaiah 14:12 “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations! 13 “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. 14 ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ 15 “Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, To the recesses of the pit. 16 “Those who see you will gaze at you, They will ponder over you, saying, ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, Who shook kingdoms, 17 Who made the world like a wilderness And overthrew its cities, Who did not allow his prisoners to go home?

Look at Satan’s challenge to God’s right as King! He made five statements:

  • I will ascend to Heaven. Satan wanted God’s third Heaven, where God and the redeemed are to live (2 Cor. 12). Characteristically, Satan DOES live in that place for now, until Michael is given permission in the middle of the Tribulation to throw him out (Revelation 12:7ff).
  • I will raise my throne above the stars of God. Satan wanted to rule over the angelic beings of God’s first kingdom – sometimes referred to in Scripture as stars. One third of the angelic world apparently rebelled in the initial fight, and God’s Word appears to teach that angels are still susceptible to rebellion. Paul cautioned believers to watch their behavior because angels were watching.
  • I will sit on the mount of the assembly in the recesses of the north. Ancient Jerusalem’s Temple sat on the heights of the Ophel Ridge to the north of the city. Satan wanted the mountain of God’s temple – and during the “times of the Gentiles” God has let him have it – for a time.
  • I will ascend above the heights of the clouds. This one can be tough to pick out without help. Of the more than 150 references to clouds in the Bible, two thirds of them, more than 100, refer to God’s glory and manifest presence. It looks like this was a poetic way of saying, “I want to steal some of God’s glory!”
  • I will be like the Most High. This isn’t a statement that Satan desired to be LIKE GOD – for his character couldn’t be more opposite if that were his goal. Here he used a specific title of God – THE MOST HIGH (Elyon). This is a Biblical title for God as “possessor of Heaven and Earth” and “ruler of armies” in the Bible, taken originally from Genesis 14:18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. 19 He blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” He gave him a tenth of all.”

We need to grasp what God’s word teaches us about the Kingdom of God. We serve a Sovereign King. We are not His equal, and though He extends His powerful kingly grasp to pull us to Himself, we are not His peers. He is the High King of Heaven. The angels march in vast array at His call. The stars hear His voice and turn on their axes. The clouds above us move at His design. The birds follow His thoughts. The earth groans before Him awaiting His redemption – in a language He alone can fully grasp. Before anything was – He is eternal, the God Creator, the King Supreme. His immortal span and His immeasurable power stun all those who see Him in His holy abode. He is the King, not the servant—and His people must learn to think of Him as such. Failure to do so has already led the angelic rebels to the edge of the pit of the abyss.

In Revelation 19and 20, the battle between God and the Adversary that was for generations (as in our day) largely a masked spiritual fight, becomes a physical reality. You cannot get more physical than the terminology of Revelation 20:1-2:

20:1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. 2 And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.

Revelation 20:1-10 offers two important pictures sketched out in words. The first is at the beginning and end of these verses, where we can clearly observe a frame around the Millennium – describing Satan as bound and a temporary rest for the earth. The second picture, tucked into a few verses in the center, offer a snapshot of life in the Millennial Kingdom. We have but moments together, but look at the important lessons of this Kingdom from John’s record:

Lesson One: All of history is controlled from Heaven.

Revelation 20:1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. 2 And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3 and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him

What a great comfort that God is able to lift His hand to command the enemy in His time. The enemy has such power and commanding influence over our world right now, it is hard to imagine Isaiah 14:16-17, when the nations will see Satan stripped of his deceptive princely garb and marvel that they sacrificed to him and followed his commands. They will ask, “Is this the one who made us all tremble? Is this the one who shook Kingdoms of the earth? Is this the one who destroyed our planet and made it uninhabitable? Is this the one who took prisoners forever – never to release them?

1 Peter warned the believers of the first century about the trickery and fierceness of the enemy in our day: 1 Peter 5:6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11 To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Do you see it? Peter said God works in those who are humbled before Him – recognizing His greatness and Sovereign right to rule over them. He is big enough to take on His shoulders all their cares. At the same time, they are not to be lax or lazy – but watchful. The enemy is on the prowl. He doesn’t want to harm you – he wants to destroy you. He wants to devour every good thing you have. What must be done? Resistance. Suffering sometimes. But the day will come, when the key will be brought down and the door will be slammed shut. The enemy is on a short leash – even if he seems so powerful and supreme today.

  • He may control our schools – but one day truth will silence his lies.
  • He may control our courts – but one day judgment will be meted out against him.
  • He may control our brothels, our porn industry, and even our religious world – but one day his relationship with men will be snatched from his hands – and they will be amazed they let him lead at all.

Lesson Two: Nations are coaxed into deceit by the Enemy.

Revelation 20:3b…so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time….

If there is anything about the allegorical position of John Calvin and Martin Luther that makes me crazy it is this: When men like these who did not believe in an actual Millennium were asked about the binding of Satan, they replied that Satan “cannot hinder the Gospel as it goes forward, and in that way he is BOUND spiritually right now.” Harold Camping of Family Radio held that view. Many others do today. Here is my problem… If Satan is bound now – are you telling me that he isn’t seeking to devour believers? If he is limited by the power of the Gospel, can someone please tell me why Paul thought otherwise? Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

The bottom line is this: Don’t be surprised when all things related to God and His Word are violently swept aside in our culture. Don’t look for LOGIC in the way people are making decisions. Satan blinds men. He deceives them into ruining themselves and the world around them. Anyone who has been tempted and succumbed knows that is the truth. He whisper: “No one will know!” Immediately after you sin his voice changes: “Everyone will find out!” Liars lie – news at eleven.

Now here is the good news… His days of coaxing the nations will be cut short, and someday men who have proudly followed him will be ashamed of what he is, and what they did.

Lesson Three: God has a plan for us that is thrilling.

Revelation 20:4 Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them.

One of the neat aspects of God’s future plan for believers is that we will be given opportunity to use God’s righteous principles from His Word and judge many who are brought before us. Much about this judgment is not fully disclosed in Scripture, but there are a few details:

Paul told the Corinthian church not to take brothers to court in the world system, because of the high position of believers in the time to come in judgment: 1 Cor. 6:1 Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life? 4 So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, 6but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?

Someday, we will use the learning of God’s Word, and the careful study of God’s character, to act on God’s behalf and serve as judges. What an esteemed position for any of us who know ourselves so well – that God would entrust any mission to a sinner such as I is beyond comprehension. It is both humbling and exciting!

Lesson Four: God remembers those who paid for truth.

Revelation 20:4b …And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.

God is the Ever in the Present One… the “Ancient of Days”. All the pain of the sins committed against you were not forgotten or washed away by time. God remembers like you were just hurt today. God brings to the judgment all of the weight of the sin, losing nothing in the patience of time passages. Time doesn’t heal all wounds – God does. His memory is perfect and no abused person will walk the streets of gold complaining that God forgot to make right things that happened to them. He hurts when you hurt, but He remembers even more than we do.

Look at what God gives to those who gave their lives for Him – they become priests and princes. God doesn’t forget those who put their life on the line for the truth. He doesn’t pencil in a “Memorial Day” – it is always on His mind.

Lesson Five: The nations don’t need Satan to raise a huge number of rebellious children.

Revelation 20:7 When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, 8 and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore.

When I was a kid, the comedian Flip Wilson used to say: “The devil made me do it!” Lots of people believe that every evil thing that happens to them is the enemy’s fault. The millennium will clearly show one important fact: what is broke is inside the heart of men. The devil need not be involved to raise a rebellion – because we are, deep within, rebellious. Our children don’t have to have direct contact with Satan to become hellions. The poison in the blood of fallen mankind is enough to kill truth within them. Even after a thousand years of a Righteous King modeling truth, after one thousand years of Satan’s deceptions being a mere memory, even after men are convinced that Satan was never worth following – the sick and rebellious heart of man will rise in rebellion once more. Children of the Millennium will turn back to war.

Lesson Six: The world system abhors God and His people.

Revelation 20:9 And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them.

Over and over again, the answer of the world is the same. Kill the followers of God. Run them off. Silence them. Call them bigots when they won’t let us kill our inconvenient children or sell moral sewage as education. Call them ignorant when they won’t believe we are all nothing more than chance made evolving viruses. Call them intolerant when they won’t embrace any lie we feed them. Here is the truth – the world thinks those who follow God are the problem because they won’t be bought with trinkets of this world, and they won’t be taught by those who don’t know Who made them or why they are here.

Lesson Seven : Hell is real, eternal and terrible.

Revelation 20:10 And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

If you have followed this whole lesson, and you have never committed your life to Jesus Christ – don’t miss this last point. Anyone who tells you the Bible is not crystal clear on the issue of eternal punishment in hell hasn’t taken seriously Revelation 20:10. I cannot read it without shuddering. The devil will be tormented forever. The beast will be endless tortured. The false prophet will beg and find no mercy – forever. Why is that important? Because by the end of the passage – the lake of fire will get more occupants:

20:15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

If there was ever a book you wanted your name in – it is the one God will read on that day. The book is not inscribed with the names of good people. It is inscribed with the names of surrendered people – those who know they cannot earn Heaven, but God gave it as a free gift.

In the end, the story is this: God Keeps His Word – just as it was delivered. God’s promises are clear and His fulfillment is certain. He is the God of literal clarity, not allegorical hocus-pocus. His Word offers us deep assurance and precise promise.

The End of the World: “The Ghost of Christmas Future” – Revelation 19:11-21

Every Christmas, I have to watch one of the many versions of “A Christmas Carol” at least one time – or it doesn’t feel like Christmas to me. For the unenlightened, the made for TV movies all follow, more or less, the story line of Charles Dickens classic novella. The story was first published by Chapman & Hall in 1843, when early Victorian era Brits were experiencing a nostalgic interest in its forgotten Christmas traditions. This was the time when Christmas trees and greeting cards were just being introduced into the home experience to recall the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. The greed of some amid the rising industrial revolution was the backdrop for the visit of three ghosts – the ghost of Christmas past, the ghost of Christmas present, and the ghost of Christmas future. In the novella, each of these ghosts helped Ebenezer Scrooge find his kinder and gentler self from the calloused old miser he had become. It was a tale of redemption.

What does that have to do with Revelation 19? Good question! If Jesus’ coming as a servant and a sacrifice to Bethlehem long ago was “Christmas past” – His coming as the Victorious Prince and Mighty Ruler is “Christmas future”! He is, however, no ghost – if that word implies a spirit with no corporeal elements – He is very much a real and discernible body. He is the Risen Christ.

Key Principle: Jesus will come again. He will be real, visible, powerful and princely. He will establish a reign on the earth to fulfill all that God promised to Abraham and his descendants long ago. He is the “omega” of God’s promises to His ancient people. It is central to the message of Christianity.

Before you think to yourself, well duh! Of course His coming is a central part of our message, you should know that this is no longer a self evident statement – even among Christian groups. Many today have been drawn into one of the modern cultural statements of Christianity. They see Christ as a symbolic liberator – as in Liberation theology preached in many parts of Christendom. Still others, in an adaptation to our modern tolerance based culture, see the teaching concerning Jesus as an aside to the real purpose of Christianity, which is to lead people to peace, prosperity and human unity. For them, the Christian message is not so much about Christ, as it is about US – our needs, our desires, our fulfillment.

I want deliberately to challenge any view of Christianity that is not chiefly about the exaltation of Christ. If our message is not that we exist to bring our Maker honor and glory by submission to Him and praise for Him – it is NOT Biblical Christianity. If our message is NOT that we exist to glorify Him and place every other desire behind that – it is NOT the historic faith that the Apostles delivered. So we come today with the message that Christianity savors the glory and exaltation of Jesus Christ – the Son of the Living God. We are in good company today, for the angels of Heaven have long rejoiced over Him.

In our study together, the Tribulation was completed, and marked the end of the punishing time of the ages of humanity with the coming of the Great Prince. Even the names of the period of judgment bear the weight of that time. its descriptions in the Word are hard for those who have lived under such a period of grace such as ours:

  1. It is called “tribulation”  by Jesus, who said there “has never been a time like this one!” (Matthew 24:21).
  2. It was frequently called out in the Hebrew Scriptures by such references as “the day of vengeance of our God” (Isa. 61:2).
  3. It was cited as a time focused on Israel and called “the time of Jacob’s trouble” in Jeremiah 30:7 – specifically in reference to its Divine purpose to bring Israel to her knees of worship.
  4. It was considered God’s “strange work” in Isaiah 28:21, and a “time of trouble” in Daniel 12:1.
  5. Writers of the Christian Scriptures used terminology like “day of wrath” in Romans 2:5 and Colossians 3:6, 1 Thessalonians 1:10.

It is next to impossible to mistake the nature of the period – it is one that is not like our day. We seek God after a lifetime of sinful behavior, and God pulls us from darkness into light. We cry out, and God hears us. The time of the Tribulation will be a time when God holds back His merciful hand until the threshing of the harvest is complete. From the standpoint of the grapes, the making of wine is a crushing and painful process – but that is the language God uses in His Word of the Tribulation Period.

In Revelation 19, the transition from that time is made complete with the Entry of the Victorious Prince. God is always gracious, and will not trouble earth forever. In fact, lest we fail to make the connection, much of God’s mercy was seen even in that terrible period. How?

  1. God sent His Holy Spirit in profound ways during the last days to move men and women toward Him (Joel 2:28-32 Acts 2:41).
  2. God commission two special and powerful sign bearing witnesses to point to His power and draw men to God (Revelation 11:3).
  3. God will release 144,000 bond servant evangelists to spread the message of God’s redemption (Revelation 7 and 14) with all Heaven cheering them on! (Revelation 7:9).
  4. God will put His hand over Israel to protect her in spite of every sign that she is about to be annihilated (Revelation 12:6ff).
  5. God will make sure that Heaven is marshaled to make the Gospel clear (Revelation 14:6).

The Victorious Prince returns to earth with His Bride in tow. He comes to rescue the woman that bore Him. It is the climax of the book, and the climax of the fallen world.

Before marching to the Revelation narrative, we should set it in the Biblical context. Lest anyone think the New Testament or the Book of Revelation is presenting something God had not long before revealed in His Word, we should pause to recall the visions of Zechariah, son of Iddo, that told the same story long before. The exaltation of the Prince that followed the Great Tribulation was not a NEW THEME – but one that God revealed five hundred years before John was ever born.

Zechariah said it all before!

The Prophecies of Zechariah are found in an ancient Hebrew book that can be easily divided into two parts. Chapters 1-8 were visions and messages contemporary to Zechariah’s present situation in the sixth century BCE. Chapters 9-14 contain prophecies of a time after Zechariah. In that second half, the “future” prophetically presents stages of the Coming of God’s Redeemer. In Zechariah 9-11, the story of Israel’s re-gathering appears  – as the scattered Jewish people move back to their ancient homeland. In the last part of the book, Zechariah 12-14, the story of Israel’s redemption appears – the coming of the Victorious Prince is unfolded.

You see, the story was very old and followed a pattern that is essential to understand, even for one watching today’s news:

Scattered Jews would one day be re-gathered to their ancestral home, yet they would not yet be walking with God. Her restoration was not because of HER, but by God’s mercy to her fathers (Zechariah 9 and 10). This was after the return from Babylon – so another return was foreseen.

  • From Zechariah 9:11 “As for you also, because of the blood of My covenant with you, I have set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. 12 Return to the stronghold, O prisoners who have the hope; This very day I am declaring that I will restore double to you.”
  • From Zechariah 10, it sounds like this: Zechariah 10:5 “They will be as mighty men…6 “I will strengthen the house of Judah, And I will save the house of Joseph, And I will bring them back, Because I have had compassion on them; And they will be as though I had not rejected them, For I am the LORD their God and I will answer them.”

If these were mere statements of returning Jews from the exile, they were offered AFTER those Jews had already come. With Zerubbabel, nearly 50,000 returned under the decree of Cyrus years BEFORE this prophecy. No, this was a FUTURE re-gathering brought on by God Himself.

Beside the re-gathering, God took time to explain the reasons for the severity of the judgment against them. The chief reason was God’s disgust with their poor and stubborn hearted leaders that led them FROM God, not to God. The most profound act of disobedience was the betrayal of God’s redeeming emissary – traded away for mere shekels in Zechariah 11:

  • Zechariah 11:11 So it was broken on that day, and thus the afflicted of the flock who were watching me realized that it was the word of the LORD. 12 I said to them, “If it is good in your sight, give me my wages; but if not, never mind!” So they weighed out thirty shekels of silver as my wages. 13 Then the LORD said to me, “Throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them.” So I took the thirty shekels of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of the LORD.”

What a picture! God called them to give themselves to Him as His rightful duty, and they offered 30 pieces of silver, the price of a slave’s redemption in place of their hearts. This all hearkened to the coming of the Redeemer that was rejected by the nation’s leaders. Was He not traded for 30 pieces of silver, and that money used to buy a potter’s field? Was that money not tossed at the leaders by Judas himself in the Temple? Once again, when the Bible prophet spoke, it wasn’t all flower and allegory. In so many cases – what happened was just as it was long before described!

If you kept pursuing Zechariah’s prophecy, you would see that God was going to re-gather His people after a severe judgment, but it would lead – not to their destruction – but to their NATIONAL SALVATION. God turned to their redemption, but even this was preceded by devastation, just as it would be told in Revelation. Jews and their homeland became the problem for the whole world. After her return to the land, for a time – Jerusalem specifically would become a problem to the nations of the world. It would become the “heavy stone” for ALL THE WORLD. (Zech 12:1-4), causing all people of the world to turn against it.

  • Zechariah 12:2 “Behold, I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around; and when the siege is against Jerusalem, it will also be against Judah. 3 “It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it.

At some point, when the nations first attempted to squash Jerusalem, God protected her for Himself, and Jews around the world pay attention to God’s goodness – the beginning of the end (Zech. 12:4-9):

  • Zechariah 12:4 “In that day,” declares the LORD, “I will strike every horse with bewilderment and his rider with madness. But I will watch over the house of Judah, while I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness. 5 “Then the clans of Judah will say in their hearts, ‘A strong support for us are the inhabitants of Jerusalem through the LORD of hosts, their God.’…7 “The LORD also will save the tents of Judah first, so that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem will not be magnified above Judah. … 9 “And in that day I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem….

Following the story, then – we have a painful re-gathering, followed by a stubborn world-wide perception that Jews and Jerusalem once again need a “final solution”. In order to complete this, the nations gather at Armageddon and try to solve, once and for all. This time, the nation of Israel will be SAVED both physically and spiritually – drawing the whole populace of the survivors of the woes of recent days to the Lord. They will recognize the Prince they once rejected.

  • Zechariah 12:10 “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. 11 “In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, … in the plain of Megiddo. 12 “The land will mourn, every family by itself

God will provide salvation, cleansing and restoration:

  • 13:1 “In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity. 2 “It will come about in that day,” declares the LORD of hosts, “that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they will no longer be remembered; and I will also remove the prophets and the unclean spirit from the land…8 “It will come about in all the land,” Declares the LORD, “That two parts in it will be cut off and perish; But the third will be left in it. 9 “And I will bring the third part through the fire, Refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ And they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’” …

In final analysis, God made the whole promise of the Coming Prince long before the Suffering Servant arrived. Jesus was promised to come both as a crucified servant, and then later as a Reigning Prince. He would come to pay the price of sin as a Lamb, and later to defend the estranged wife of His Father as a Lion:

  • Zechariah 14:1 Behold, a day is coming for the LORD when the spoil taken from you will be divided among you. 2 For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city. 3 Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. 4 In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south. …9 And the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one.

This was the story revealed long before John beheld Heaven revealed in the Book of Revelation. This is the great climax – the Prince comes to liberate those who have been under the bondage of a hateful world and an unparalleled time of judgment.

John said it in three parts:

The Coming of the Prince

Revelation 19:11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. 15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

The Call of the Vultures

Revelation 19:17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in mid-heaven, “Come, assemble for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.”

The Culmination of the War

Revelation 19:19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. 20 And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. 21 And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.

In the quick view, Jesus’ coming ended the war. The Living Word of God spoke the verbal Word of God and destroyed the enemies of God. What a powerful scene. Yet, the war is not the great moment – but rather the appearance of the GREAT WARRIOR PRINCE.

Take a moment today, surrounded by the physical things of this world, overcome by some of your earthly troubles, to gaze into the Heavens. Take a moment to LEAVE HERE and look behind the curtain of the Alpha and Omega of human history. Seize this moment to see the Savior in His glory. Worship Him, and you will grow hungry for MORE of Him. Look at the description up close when Heaven opened in verse 11. Organize the list of thirteen descriptions and you will see three clear truths about the Coming Prince:

First, His LOOK explains His character!

  • Eyes: His eyes are a flame of fire (12)

The “Coming Prince” is One who has seen it all. His eyes are piercing, and His power refining. He will not be tricked by our manipulative words. He will know who belongs to Him, and who is playing God games. He can see through works of a religious man and know if what beats within him is the heart of a yielded and surrendered Christian who clings to the work of the Cross alone for salvation. His eyes flame – and they see the truth. Darkness cannot defeat light.

  • Head: His head is covered with many diadems (12)

The “Coming Prince” is the designated ruler of the nations. Our world may not see it, nor desire it – but His rule will come. Every knee shall bow. No more talk of modern morality. No more compromising political posturing. All rulers will see themselves as subservient to the One true ruler – the One who spoke for His Father, and created light itself.

  • Garment: His robe is dipped in blood (13)

The “Coming Prince” has felt throbbing, neglect, the angry spittle of men, the horrid sting of death and the stench of false religious pomposity. He paid with His blood before men. His robe is soaked with the memory of the result of sin and rebellion. That robe is not draped across a limp body, as the Pieta of Michelangelo recalls, but adorns a living body, full of breath and life and power.

Yes, His look tells His story. But that isn’t all – His NAMES proclaim His power!

  • He is called Faithful and True (11)

The “Coming Prince” is known as both Faithful and True. He is both “trustworthy” and “genuine”. He asked for our lives, and He preserved them in eternal salvation. There is nothing fake about Him. No amount of examination of Him will reveal a character flaw or imperfection. He was called the Faithful Witness in Revelation 1:5, because His Word is completely reliable. No doubt of His Word is justified – for He meant every word and fulfills every promise.

  • He has a private name written on Him (12)

The “Coming Prince” has a personal and private name. It is not that no one could see or recognize His name, but the idea is, that no one could fully understand its import. One  scholar noted: “It involved a depth of meaning, and a degree of sacredness, and a relation to the Father, which he alone could apprehend in its true import.” It is why He has been named “Wonderful” in Isaiah 9:6. The wonder part of wonderful is that there is depth beyond the surface and meaning beyond the obvious. We make a terrible mistake when we see Jesus as ONE OF US. His description here alone should caution us. John knew Him well, but fell at His feet as dead when He saw the WONDERFUL ONE in all His glory. How can we do less?

  • His name is called The Word of God (13)

The “Coming Prince” is called the very Word of God, because He is the very expression of all that His Father says and thinks. He is the “expressed image of His person”. He speaks for His Father, as the Very God of the Ages. There is no word from His Father kept from Him. There is no secret that passes His understanding. There is perfect respect for the Father’s controls, but perfect knowledge of all that God has, and will, ever say.

  • Etched on His robe and thigh is this name: “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (16)

The “Coming Prince” is the Supreme above all. There is no power that was not originated in Him, and flowing from Him. There is no sovereign that is His equal, and no political structure that can withstand His might. He is above all, reigning Supreme above the earth and the heavens that surround it.

His Works explain His purpose!

  • He who sat on a white horse

The “Coming Prince” comes on a white horse. The prototype for a victor of the day of John was none other than Julius Caesar himself. Though he had many horses, scholars note that for propaganda purposes, he bred white ones with a “toe” above its hoof, which was considered lucky. He rode them for triumphs – or public parades of recognition, or used them to draw his chariot. White horses became, for many centuries, synonymous with the transport of conquering heroes. Truly the Coming Prince is every bit the hero of our lives. We were lost, imprisoned and blind – and He came in power to release us and restore our sight. He IS our noble Victorious Prince.

  • He judges and wages war and in perfect righteousness

The “Coming Prince” is the Judge. Thayer’s lexicon comments that “the proper meaning of krínō is to pick out or choose by separating”. Jesus did not come to make all ONE. He came to divide those who surrender to Him from those who do not. He said that He would divide families and nations. No one will join what He separates, and no one will contest His absolute right to make judgment – for none are His equal. Complete righteousness is matched with unlimited power and unbridled goodness. His war is the right one, His cause is just, His victory is assured!

  • The armies of heaven follow Him

The “Coming Prince” has, at long last, the undivided loyalty of His judged church. They have waffled a wavered, but then stood before His Bema Seat. They have seen what they were to become, and we forever changed by the seeing. They are now His loyal and faithful subjects, having shed their sinful past and donned robes of righteousness. They follow Him for He alone deserves their loyalty and allegiance!

  • From His mouth comes the sharp sword that strikes down the nations

The “Coming Prince” speaks words of truth, and those words cut through mockers and rebels like a sharp blade against mere flesh. The end comes when all mouths are stopped. All brilliant arguments and fleshly thoughts are laid down before the One who embodies the absolute Truth of life and the ages.

  • He treads the wine press of the Almighty’s fierce wrath

The “Coming Prince” brought salvation on His first coming, and will end the Great Tribulation of God’s wrath on His return. All mankind will know where they stand with the Truth, and those who position themselves in opposition will at once be felled.

  • He rules them with a rod of iron

The “Coming Prince” is the Ruler of the Age to Come. He does not come simply to judge and destroy – but to separate out those who will build with Him. A Kingdom follows His entrance.

Jesus will come again. He will be real, visible, powerful and princely. He will establish a reign on the earth to fulfill all that God promised to Abraham and his descendants long ago. He is the “omega” of God’s promises to His ancient people. It is central to the message of Christianity.

Let us speak His Word clearly: Christians live to exalt Christ. He is our judge and our glory. We do not seek a life to honor ourselves.

We follow His very word: “Whoever gives their life to Me, gains their life. It is our highest honor – to live honorably and lovingly for Christ or die and gain. Our focus is not THIS LIFE as an end in itself. We know this life may not right the wrongs we witness. We know this is a mere shadow of the eternal life that awaits us! We trust our COMING PRINCE – It is the heart of all of our message.

The End of the World: "Call to Supper" – Revelation 19

Once a day, the two women I have known well in my life – my mom and my wife – are transformed. Let me explain: My mother wasn’t one to raise her voice often. She has always been, more or less, the quiet type. One exception to her normal state was at the point when supper was on the table. Mom believed, as my wife does today, that supper is a family time. In fact, both women worked hard to put food on the table that was hot, ready and well made. (I may be a lot of things, but underfed is not and never was one of them!) Like my mom, my wife is not a fighter, or a loud voice. She is, for the most part, very quiet, except when she is watching someone do something really dumb on America’s Funniest Videos, or watching the “Three Stooges”.

Here is the weird thing: when supper time roles around something happens to these women. Each transforms their normally calm nature to get us to the table. For my wife, she sometimes puts her fingers in her mouth and bellows a whistle that can scare the cat – in my neighbor’s house! She has a distinctive “call to supper” that can be piercing. In a way, Heaven also has such a call, and God’s messenger will do the very same thing one day soon! Revelation 19 opens up the story of two dinners – and two calls. One is a great banquet for believers, the other a supper for birds. One is in Heaven – with tables set for a bride all dressed for the big day. The other is on earth – where a bloody battle leaves the carcasses of rebellious humanity to be the feast for vultures. There couldn’t be two more different scenes!

The Bible says that the Great Tribulation ends when the call from Heaven pronounces the arrival of the Victorious Christ to save His Father’s estranged bride from her sure and certain destruction – and that call will be viewed from two very different vantage points. Zechariah 12-14 describes the view from Jewish believers that see the coming of the “One they had pierced” – and they breathe a sigh of relief that destruction has been averted. From the standpoint of the rebellious men of the world, the battle pits them against an insurmountable foe – their very own Creator! For them, it is “lights out”! Here is the odd thing: it isn’t only important how one views the scene THAT DAY.. it is important how we view it EVEN NOW.

Key Principle: How I view Christ’s return matters – not only in the future – but it matters TODAY. The view a believer takes on these prophetic matters will affect not only his contemporary politics, but his or her view of the Bible itself.

Since chapter 16, we have been using some very graphic terms for God’s final attack and destruction of false religion. It is uncomfortable for a Pastor, who wants to use his mouth to speak truth and not invite loose thinking or ungodly speech, to painstakingly take apart the language that has been otherwise reserved for the dark trades of sleazy back streets. I have done it, because it is what the text demanded. God spoke of false religion as a substitute to a real and intimate relationship with God – and He framed it is his Word in terms of PROSTITUTION. The great harlot of Babylon was the man-made substitute of religion for the marriage relationship of intimacy God wanted to have with each of us. The goal of God’s adversary is to draw us from falling into His arms, and place us in a fake relationship with a god we sculpt – one that is palatable to us. Chapter 16 showed the demise, and chapters 17 and 18 explained the reasons and method of destruction God will use. Chapter 19:1-5 opens with the same theme, before the text moves from that event a new picture.

Revelation 19:1 After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; 2BECAUSE HIS JUDGMENTS ARE TRUE AND RIGHTEOUS; for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and HE HAS AVENGED THE BLOOD OF HIS BOND-SERVANTS ON HER.” 3And a second time they said, “Hallelujah! HER SMOKE RISES UP FOREVER AND EVER.”

In chapter 17, we saw religion as wealthy, deceptive, blasphemous, and Satanically empowered. Whether the symbol of a crescent or star – all false religion achieves the same purpose in the enemy’s plan – it fills men with false hope and robs them of real intimacy with God. Modern man ends up celebrating belief, but not the object of belief.

It was reported that when Prince Charles was recently asked if he was comfortable as the possible next monarch and head of the Church of England, he replied that rather than be called the “Defender of the Faith”, he would simply like “Defender of Faith”. He didn’t like the idea of standing for one truth – that seemed like bigotry to him. He is a personification of the modern ideal: Believe in belief – it doesn’t really matter which one. Just believe in it strongly if it helps you.

By chapter 18, we traced God’s secrets about the harlot. We noted that God took a LONG TIME explaining her destruction. When we open Revelation 19:1-5, where the text shows that God finishes her destruction:

False “Relationship” Destroyed

The voices of Heaven’s choir spoke in unison – “God you are RIGHT!” Salvation belongs to You – or – Rescue is YOUR THING.  The judgment of the false religions of the world that bound and captivated millions and billions showed the power of God to rescue deceived creation and eliminate all other voices claiming to be “god”.

  • The harlot’s teachings were FALSE and SLANTED. His justice is TRUE and RIGHTEOUS.
  • She CORRUPTED the world with IMMORALITY. He showed FIDELITY to those who trusted Him.
  • She TOOK LIFE from those on the earth who trusted their Creator and worked for His message. He GAVE LIFE to those who lost their bodies on account of their testimony for Him.
  • She BLOCKED the smoke of sweet sacrifice to the nostrils of God and CUT DOWN those who prayed. He MADE HER A PERMANENT SACRIFICE that wafted up to His throne room.

The response of believers of the church age, and of the Four Living Creatures that guarded the throne was to agree: Revelation 19:4 And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!”

Without a moment’s hesitation, the call went out to all of Heaven, all who serve God to join in the great chorus of praise. What a relief!

  • No child would ever again be drawn away into a false religion or cult and crush a mother’s heart!
  • No compromise will ever be allowed to corrupt the truth of God’s message again.
  • All the other so called ”holy books” will be abandoned and destroyed.
  • All shrines that point to anything but the Most High will be incinerated.

The call goes out: Revelation 19:5 And a voice came from the throne, saying, “Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great.

The very next event that Revelation unfolds is at the time of the END of the Tribulation Period. Two scenes unfold – the Heavenly marriage banquet, and the return to the earth of the Victorious King. Both of these will occupy us in coming studies. Before we move to them, I want to address the importance of our approach to the events of the Tribulation. I am not selling anything, and you are free to disagree with my analysis. At the same time, I want it to be clear why we have been approaching the text the way we have – and why that makes a difference in more than just our view of the end times.

I believe that those who have trusted Christ in this age will not pass through the Tribulation. I believe the description of 1 Thessalonians 4 is not the same description as that of the Return of the Victorious King we are going to see in Revelation 19, and I want to explain why.

First, it is worth noting that the Bible is not silent that Jesus will return, and it isn’t always clear when reading each place, that Jesus will return twice. In fact, in the Hebrew Scriptures it wasn’t clear that He would come as a servant and die long before He would return as Victorious King. What is clear to anyone that takes the Christian Scriptures serious is that Jesus is going to return. In fact, one scholar claimed the Bible offered 129 prophecies of the first coming, but 329 prophecies regarding the Coming of the Victorious King to reign. If that is true, we have nearly THREE TIMES the promise of His second coming as we did for His first coming!

The Scriptures are replete with the promise of Jesus’ return:

  • “I will come again!” said Jesus in John 14:3.
  • “This same Jesus that left will return!” said the angel in Acts 1:11.
  • Paul promised He would “descend from Heaven” in 1 Thessalonians 4.
  • Jude said: “Behold He comes!” in verse 14.
  • The writer to the Hebrews affirmed “He will not tarry” in Hebrews 10:37.
  • 1 Peter stated “when the Chief Shepherd appears” in 1 Peter 5:4.
  • Revelation 1:7 said: “Behold He comes in the clouds!”

Why do we think this is TWO EVENTS, not one. To put it simply, the details of the events don’t appear even reasonably the same

In the Rapture, or “snatching away” recorded in 1 Thessalonians 4 it appears this way: 1 Thessalonians 4:15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

  • The event described in these verses seems to be Jesus COMING FOR HIS OWN, whereas the events of Revelation 19 are Jesus returning WITH HIS OWN, those who have been prepared and dressed for the wedding BEFORE the return to the earth.
  • The event of 1 Thessalonians 4 appears to be FOR BELIEVERS, where clearly has first the bodies of the dead who are IN CHRIST and then living believers are snatched UP TO JESUS in the clouds to remain with Him. In the Revelation event there is not a word about believers going to the clouds, though there is a resurrection. The event of Revelation seems angled toward VERY CLEAR JUDGMENT of the earth.
  • The event of 1 Thessalonians 4 appears to bring comfort, because believers who are “absent in body but present with the Lord” will gain their bodies BEFORE those of us who are alive at the time of His coming will be with Him. This is the source of the encouragement. The event seems to suggest that believers will hear the trump of God and rise – but the Revelation event has the whole world transfixed on His return.

Why does it matter?

First, how you view the narrative changes how you view the PURPOSE of the Tribulation and Millennium in the story of mankind.

God’s explanation of the Tribulation must be set inside the revealed purposes of the Tribulation period in the Bible. From that context, the period of time has two specific end goals:

  1. Get Israel to bow her neck and see that the suitors of the world do not love her, the Father does.
  2. Crush the rebellion of religious but deceived men, that started on the plain of Shinar, and will finish in the plain of Jezreel.

Second, how you view the narrative changes how you view an essential PURPOSE of the Church today!

With these two primary goals in mind, the message was entrusted to the church for safe keeping and thorough explanation so that much could be understood before our departure from the scene. In a way, you could say that the role of the church has many aspects of PREPARATION to it. The church of Jesus Christ primarily exists to prepare people. We are to prepare the lost for the darkness ahead, pleading with them to take the small door of Jesus and not the wide gates of religion, works or entrenched agnosticism. We are to prepare people who have trusted Christ, to ready themselves for the coming of the Holy One by preparing their garments of right deeds in response to His love. We are to prepare Israel for her coming final humbling and eventual restoration to her estranged Husband in Heaven.

God purposed that the church would have a positive impact on Israel, and would teach the wandering bride of the Father how to be a bride, while refraining from feeling elevated over the wandering nation (Romans 11). This addresses God’s purpose for the Tribulation in the life of His estranged wife called Israel– and the church’s job in preparation of her. Though we will not reach most of them for Jesus – that will be the ministry of two witnesses and 144,000 bond servants during that time yet to come, we can prepare her by modeling a walk with God and comfort her as God’s people that take His Word literally and seriously.

Third, and MOST IMPORTANT, how you view the narrative changes how you view Scripture itself.

It is no secret that in the church there are other interpretations of the narrative. Yet, on close inspection all of them has one singular trait – they cannot take the text literally.

The preterist view identifies all the prophetic materials of the book as having been completed by the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE. The view argues that the book is a spiritual tale of the early church and the fall of the Jewish Temple. If you follow that view, you must acknowledge that the three rounds of judgment – seals where one quarter of man is killed in Revelation 6; trumpet judgments where one third of men left are killed in Revelation 8 and 9; an finally bowl or saucer judgments – where all the sea dies are quite an extensive and detailed metaphor for the fall of Jerusalem. You must acknowledge that the fractions have virtually no meaning, and the logic of the progression of chapter 6-18 in the grips of the three rounds of judgment contain tremendous details that could just as easily be omitted with no essential damage to the meaning of the narrative.

The Amillennial view (Latin: a- “no” + millennialism) is named for its rejection of the literal reading of the text of Revelation 20 – that Jesus Christ will have a thousand-year long, physical reign on the earth. This view holds that the thousand years mentioned in Revelation 20 is a symbolic number, and that it has already begun. In this view the Millennium is identical with the current church age, and Christ’s reign during the millennium is spiritual in nature – not physical. In this view, at the end of the church age, Christ will return in final judgment and establish a permanent physical reign in the glory described as “Heaven” . In this view, Jesus is presently reigning from heaven, seated at the right hand of God the Father, and He will remain with the church until the end of the world, as he promised at the Ascension. The view interprets Peter’s recitation of the prophecies of Joel to demonstrate that the church is Christ’s Kingdom. The view annunciates that reality that Jesus used the words Kingdom of God in spiritual ways, as did the Apostles on occasion (Romans 14:17). One key to this view is that Amillennialism teaches that the binding of Satan described in Revelation has already occurred; he has been prevented from “deceiving the nations” by preventing the spread of the gospel. This view is optimistic –that Satan will be gradually pushed back by the Kingdom of God as history progresses though good and evil will remain mixed in strength even in the church, (as in the Matthew 13 “Parable of the Wheat and Tares”).

  • Amillennialism gained ground after Christianity became a “religio licita” (legal religion). It was systematized by St. Augustine in the C4th CE, and became the dominant eschatology of the Medieval and Reformation periods. It was also the dominant view of the Protestant Reformers. Amillennialism is the accepted view of the Orthodox Churches. It is the official position of the Roman Catholic Church, which generally embraces an Augustinian eschatology and which has deemed that premillennialism “cannot safely be taught.”
  • Lutheran Churches that follow the Augsburg Confession— “Art. XVII., condemns the Anabaptists (of Munster — historically most Anabaptist groups were amillenial) and others who now scatter Jewish opinions that, before the resurrection of the dead, the godly shall occupy the kingdom of the worldReject the idea.
  • Heinrich Bullinger wrote up the Second Helvetic Confession which reads “We also reject the Jewish dream of a millennium, or golden age on earth, before the last judgment.“[13]
  • John Calvin wrote in Institutes that the view I am teaching you is a “fiction” that is “too childish either to need or to be worth a refutation.” He interpreted the thousand year period of Revelation 20 non-literally, applying it to the “various disturbances that awaited the church, while still toiling on earth.”
  • Amillennialism is also common among Protestant denominations and is prevalent in most Methodist Churches, the Amish, Old Order Mennonites, Churches of Christ, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

If you are a part of any of those groups, you are welcome to study along with us and we love you as brothers and sister in Christ if you have asked Him to be your Savior. It may be, however, that you weren’t aware that we LOVE EACH OTHER, but aren’t on the same page on this study.

I believe what one of the Early Church Fathers, Justin Martyr (who died 165), wrote in his Dialogue with Trypho, chapter 80: “I and many others are of this opinion [premillennialism], and [believe] that such will take place, as you are assuredly are aware; but, on the other hand, I signified to you that many who belong to the pure and pious faith, and are true Christians, think otherwise.

The issue is NOT SALVIFIC, but not unimportant.

We don’t think that one must believe in the literal Tribulation and literal Millennium to be a real Christian. Knowing Christ is a whole different matter. If this doesn’t matter in one’s salvation, then why do we study it?

  • Because only 15% of the Bible is about FINDING GOD, the rest is about FOLLOWING GOD.
  • Because our parsing of the book of Revelation reveals our approach to Scripture – whether literal or figurative.
  • Because if Israel has no literal future, and we are her replacement – then God’s everlasting love is dependent upon our performance, not His character.

It is because of the view we have of Scripture – literal or allegorical – that most churches are turning away from support of any sense that the Jewish people should have a homeland. The evangelical church is quickly shifting away her support from Israel – and that changes the whole story of the Bible.

What is truly at stake, in my view, is the literal fulfillment of God’s promises. Daniel and Revelation in the literal view promise a full restoration of Israel to an intimate walk with God. Paul saw it as a future even to the church age he was living it.

He said in Romans 11: 11 “I say then, they did (Israel) not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. 12 Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! … 15 For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? … … 25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB.”

In point of fact, the Millennium (whose purpose is to fulfill the land contract to Israel) makes no literal sense to a non-literal reader, and therefore he is forced to allegorize the six times the term “1000 years” are found in the first seven verses of Revelation 20. He has no need of a time for God to fulfill the land covenant promises to Abraham – for the church has taken her place. A literal seven years of Tribulation to get Israel to bow her neck quickly becomes allegories of morality – for Israel is stripped of any special relationship to the future.

I am deeply concerned about the demise of the literal rendering of the text of Scripture – an issue that is worth an open disagreement among loving brothers in Christ.

Here is the bottom line of the importance: Either “everlasting” means everlasting when it comes to God’s love and promise – or it doesn’t (Isaiah 59:21). Either “sons from your loins” means genetic Israel, or it artfully means “people with a spiritual designation of ‘sonship’ that has nothing to do with the gene pool”. Either “one thousand years” of Kingdom on the earth means a literal fulfillment of a land agreement or it is a spiritual marker of a spiritual battle of light and darkness. Either seven years of tribulation is a literal feature of time or some unspecified allegory of judgment.  What is at stake is nothing less than how we read the Bible – literally or allegorically.

If the words of the page after page are nothing more than a fanciful way of saying, indeterminate “bad stuff happens” – then I don’t understand the purpose of the whole letter to the churches. It is confusing and picture laden – but in the end means very little. Fractions like ¼ of the earth destroyed in the seals, and 1/3 in the trumpets aren’t for any particular purpose.

The Call to the Wedding Dressing Room

Though Heaven is not unaware of the pummeling of the Great Tribulation, we need to remember that those who have been taken there already by resurrection – the Raptured church – are also busy doing some things. God doesn’t turn His attention to her dressing for the wedding in the text until He has completely destroyed the prostitutes that beckoned to men in the past. When all other false suitors or men are gone, God turns His complete attention to the bride of the Son.

The church is judged, and the garment of her right and acceptable works is woven into a wedding gown. The description of her call to dress takes into account other passages about her judgment, such as 1 Corinthians 3 and 2 Corinthians 5. She is being judged at what we call Christ’s bema seat, and that judgment is also her opportunity to get the garments of her righteousness fully ready for the coming wedding. John records these words heard in Heaven:

Revelation 19:6 Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. 7 “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” 8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

A close look at the imagery allows us to recall the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 3, concerning the believer’s judgment. Look at 1 Corinthians 3:14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

The context of the passage is to and for believers in Jesus Christ. The works in question are the efforts these believers made to please their Savior after they knew Him as Savior and were already assured of eternity with Him. Even in such a state, some works were done selfishly and in the flesh, while other were performed rightly. The judge in that moment is Jesus alone.

When you look carefully at what Paul says about the day of judgment for believers, you will be reminded that the real test of ministry is not its temporal popularity, but its spiritual endurance at the scrutiny of the Master. The point is simple: If Jesus doesn’t deem it correct and healthy – than it simply isn’t. Heaven isn’t a place where a vote will be cast by the members of a theological academy or angelic choir. We serve a committee of ONE – a Master Who will inspect all of the work that we have done. There is NO OTHER treasure higher than HIS SATISFACTION. At the same time, His satisfaction is often paired by the satisfaction of other godly men and women. People who have a healthy walk with God can “sniff out” teaching and leadership that is healthy – because we have the selfsame Spirit within.


Funny, but even John found the end times revelation to be difficult to grasp, and he was the commissioned co-author. Look at his confusion:

Revelation 19:9 Then he said to me, “Write, Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.” 10 Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

The angel’s words are the key. Let’s finish on something that EVERY BELIEVER can get excited about! Jesus is the real center of the prophecy of what is to come. When the world sees the Savior, they will know the truth about everything God’s Word taught. We will be back here, but I can’t leave without taking a glimpse at the Victorious One!


Revelation 19:11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. 15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

How I view the end times matters, but how I view Jesus matters much more than anything else.

My friend, Jesus is coming. He truly is! All theological debate will burn off in an instant. All that matters is that you know Him and that you follow Him. I believe it is best and safest to do so by taking the Bible literally – that these things we have been describing will be as real some day soon as the room you are in right now. How I view Christ’s return matters – not only in the future – but it matters TODAY. The view a believer takes on these prophetic matters will affect not only his contemporary politics, but his or her view of the Bible itself.

The End of the World: "Red Shoe Diaries" – Revelation 18

If you are not familiar with the name Zalman King, I am not surprised. Earlier in February of this year (2012), at age 69, he surrendered his life to the cancer that he battled for some time. He was an actor, director and a writer.  For a time in his life, he was something of a mogul when it came to pornographic dramas, and I am told that his writing reflects some fascination with the world of prostitution. He explored the subject in a series paid for by Playboy called “The Red Shoe Diaries”. I mention him, not because I was a fan – I wasn’t. Nor have I ever read, to the best of my knowledge, a single line written by the man. I mention him because of a short story I read about his life after his death.

It seems that for nearly twenty years, Mr. King’s fascination with prostitution led him to attempt a number of forays into story building based on that world – including trying to find a way to get people that were engaged in the illicit trade to open up to him about their dark and veiled domain. He concocted an idea that a columnist in the nearby city newspaper could ask people in the trade to write in their experiences under the cloak of secrecy. He took from that idea the basis of a series he wrote for a cable producer under the name of the secrecy column, “The Red Shoe Diaries”. I have called this lesson by that name today. However, if you were following from the last lesson, we are not speaking about sexual prostitution – but spiritual prostitution. We are using this crass terminology because God did. It was the way He revealed the fall of the false religious world that mimicked a relationship with Him that He longed to have restored.

In our scenario, God is the one writing in. He is the One telling secrets about the life – and death – of a harlot. He made clear the day and hour of her death, and even the reason behind His plot to take her down. In Revelation 17, we saw God cut down the harlot of false religion. In Revelation 18, He will open up the secrets that brought on such devastation.

Wait a minute! What’s so bad about religion? I mean, hasn’t religion helped in so much of mankind’s ethical development? Why would God hate religion so badly that He would call it names like WHORE, and destroy it with such fury that He would show real DELIGHT in its crushing? That doesn’t sound like the God I know. After all, that sounds angry, vindictive and downright MEAN, doesn’t it? Arguing that false religion has helped humanity in ethics is like arguing that weeds have helped our lawns be greener. God’s argument in His Word comes down to this: He is the only God. The rest of the characters vying for worship are imposters. Since He created all things for Himself, the rest was an elaborate rouse of rebellion against His purposes.

Key Principle: God will unmercifully CRUSH false religion because it has taken some of the best of humanity and deceived them with trickery, making them enemies of God and His messengers.

Before we get into Revelation 18, it is probably important to note that in the second half of the book of Revelation, God used many illusions from the Hebrew Scriptures that He expected you to recognize before you would get His real point. . Motifs of earlier passages were routinely borrowed and placed into the narrative, as God did a second time things He did earlier with others long before.

  • For instance, in Revelation 10, John got sick to his stomach eating a scroll as he was re-commissioned to deliver sickening truths that were sweet to the taste, because they were Gods truth, but sickening when he attempted to “digest” them. This bears a striking resemblance to the commissioning of Ezekiel, where he was told to eat a scroll in Ezekiel 3.
  • In Revelation 11, two witnesses of God in the Tribulation Period Jerusalem were called upon by God and supplied with the Spirit’s energizing and empowering- just as God said long before of a priest of the return from captivity named Joshua. The description as olive trees and lamp stands in Revelation 11:4 is very similar to the description of Joshua and Zerubbabel in Zechariah 4.
  • In Revelation 12:1-2, Israel is described as clothed in sun, moon and stars – the same reference as in Genesis 37:9, the description of Jacob’s family from the dream of Joseph.

As we look into Revelation 18, we must keep in mind the motifs of the past in Scripture, they will help inform our understanding.

The Doom Announced (18:1-2a)

Our text opens with another announcement given by another Heavenly messenger: Revelation 18:1 After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illumined with his glory. 2 And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!”

The opening verses of the chapter reveal two things that set the whole scene:

  • The Speaker is introduced: Another angel…having great authority: Perhaps this is a reference to one like Gabriel (whose very name means “Strength of God”) or Michael (Israel’s special guardian). All we know for sure is that the angel is Highly ranked in strength and authority.
  • His Message is delivered: Finally, God is fed up with the competing voices of religious faith. They are drawn to a sudden close.

Why was He fed up? God is finally finished, because the enemy has deceived much of the world with false gods, while he has further deceived the west in the modern era with the notion that the various religions really aren’t all that different.

Saying that all religions are alike is like saying that any answer to a given mathematics problem is correct. The reason people aren’t able to see that in the modern western culture is that we have been educated and indoctrinated into a tolerance that suggests there is no absolute truth.

Can the explanations of the Baha’i, Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Shinto, Sikhism, Taoism, Wicca, Neopaganism, Zoroastrianism, and Druidism all really be blended into one? What explanation would there be for the origin of man, the purpose of man, and the destiny of man. Where did they get it from. Even more important, if the Bible is correct and there really is only ONE GOD and He has made Himself known in the world in both natural and special revelation, culminating in His Holy Word – where did all the other ideas of “truth” come from? How can two opposing ideas like “There is no god but Allah” be paired off with pantheistic “god is in all and with all” philosophies. My point is this: Does it really make sense to believe they are all leading on one path to the Creator if they don’t all even agree that there is a Creator, and that we should be attempting to please Him? In the end God votes – and He said that His vote will be to crush falsehood and uphold truth.

The Destruction Explained (18:2b-3):

God carefully outlines the case against religions that have pulled men from a restored relationship with Him through Christ:

Revelation 18:2b“…She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird. 3 For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality .”

Babylon is named as having been two things:

1)       Habitation of demons: the term habitation is a combined word in Greek from “katoikeó” (katá, “down, according to,” and oikéō, “dwell, reside”) – properly, settle down as a permanent resident, or “to be exactly at home” in a place. God argument is that the enemy and his evil forces have taken up residence in false religion. He created, they lied. He saved, they obscured. The doctrine of demons is nothing more or less than false religion.

2)       Prison for unclean spirits…birds: The term prison is used twice. It is the Greek term “phulaké” (foo-lak-ay’: as in a watching, guard room, or a prison). The term should probably NOT be considered a PRISON as in the place where THEY are incarcerated, but rather a place they stand guard on behalf of unclean spirits. The term for UNCLEAN is actually a term for the opposite of “clean or purged”. These are spirits with a DEADLY MIXTURE of truth and falsehood. The term “prison for unclean and hateful birds” is very similarly a GUARDIAN PLACE for MIXED BIRDS.

What is this all about? God’s description of religion and its demonic cohorts sound like the prophecies of Isaiah 13-14 of long before. In Isaiah 13, Isaiah was shown the fall of Babylon (in what appears to be to the Medes, Isaiah 13:17) but has deeper spiritual roots as we can easily see. Chapter 14 goes on to show God’s watch care for Israel, and then a poem interpreted to be the fall of Satan from Heaven.

Isaiah 13:1 The oracle concerning Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw. 2 Lift up a standard on the bare hill, Raise your voice to them, …4 … The LORD of hosts is mustering the army for battle. 5 They are coming from a far country, From the farthest horizons, The LORD and His instruments of indignation, To destroy the whole land. 6 Wail, for the day of the LORD is near! It will come as destruction from the Almighty. … 8 They will be terrified, …They will look at one another in astonishment, Their faces aflame. 9 Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, Cruel, with fury and burning anger, To make the land a desolation; … 10 For the stars of heaven and their constellations Will not flash forth their light; The sun will be dark when it rises And the moon will not shed its light. 11 Thus I will punish the world for its evil And the wicked for their iniquity; I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud And abase the haughtiness of the ruthless. …”.

Don’t miss this truth! God has repeatedly said that false religion will be dismantled and each time He has used Babylon as the place He would judge:

Near the end of the book of Jeremiah in chapters 50-51, God says Babylon’s pervasiveness has reached the corridors of power and commerce around the world. For time and space sake, we can only offer a nibble sized sample:

Jeremiah 50:1 The word which the LORD spoke concerning Babylon, the land of the Chaldeans, through Jeremiah the prophet: 2 “Declare and proclaim among the nations. Proclaim it and lift up a standard. Do not conceal it but say, ‘Babylon has been captured, Bel has been put to shame, Marduk has been shattered; Her images have been put to shame, her idols have been shattered.’

After so many words, we may miss the point: God announced 700 years before Christ that Babylon was a deep problem, and that she would be decimated by His mighty hoards from Heaven. He promised it again 120 years later at the time of Jeremiah – as Israel was led into captivity. John was treated to reciting an OLD THEME. God has been aiming his sights at false world religions for a long time, and soon He will pull the trigger.

Enough of the “all roads leading to Heaven” nonsense. Enough of the sloppy liberal theology of Heaven without Hell, or the “easy believe-ism” of grace without obedience, or the labor-filled works without undeserved grace salvation – all of it will end up on the trash heap of Satanic and demonic ideology.

There is only one truth. God has sent His Son, and in Him is life. Apart from Him nothing was made that exists. Apart from Him nothing holds together, Apart from Him there is no eternal life.

That may sound harsh, but the truth often does to those who have learned to tolerate and stomach lies. Enough! God created. God spoke. God pronounces truth. His Word is reliable – and no other source of spiritual truth was authored by Him. We can try to sidestep that reality to win a larger following, but we will only have succeeded in watering down the truth –and truth MIXED is the cocktail of demons.

The Departure Invited (18:4-5)

In the middle of the angel’s announcement of Babylon’s long promised destruction, another voice chimes in to the declaration business. This voice calls to the people of God to leave the false faiths. Because we have taken the position that God’s focus in the Tribulation Period is upon the Jewish people, we want to compare this announcement to other words of Scripture.

Revelation 18:4 I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues; 5 for her sins have  piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.

Look closely at the words of Jesus concerning this terrible time of wrath in Matthew 24:3 As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” 4 And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. 5 “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. 6 “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 7 “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 8 “But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. 9 “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10 “At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11 “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. 12 “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.

Jesus’ first concern was the deception of the Jewish people in the Tribulation Period. It seems this oracle in Heaven had the same concern, and called for the people of God to get out of the way before God sent His judgment on false religions of the world.

The Devastation Encouraged (18:6-8)

The voices abound in the text! This one calls for Babylon to get what she deserves!

Revelation 18:6 “Pay her back even as she has paid, and give back to her double according to her deeds; in the cup which she has mixed, mix twice as much for her. 7  To the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously , to the same degree give her torment and mourning ; for she says in her heart , ‘ I SIT as A QUEEN AND I AM NOT A WIDOW , and will never see mourning .’ 8 For this reason in one day her plagues will come, pestilence and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for the Lord God who judges her is strong.

The language might seem confusing here. There is a widow that thinks she is a queen. Think for a moment about the spiritual use of the terminology. God intended to have a marriage relationship of intimacy with men and women by faith. Religion posed as a harlot and offered what SEEMED like a relationship – but wasn’t. She thought of herself, not those who pined for relationship and ended up in her arms. She was in it for HER RICHES and HER EXALTATION. She thought of herself as pretty sophisticated, and even, on occasion believed some of her own delusions. She thought she was protected, hidden, and secretive. She will be exposed. False faith will be unmasked. Man made religion will be de-frocked. Isaiah’s prophecy concerning Babylon in 47:8-11 fits here beautifully. Listen to the words of the prophet:

Isaiah 47:1 “Come down and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon; Sit on the ground without a throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans! For you shall no longer be called tender and delicate. 2 “Take the millstones and grind meal. Remove your veil, strip off the skirt, Uncover the leg, cross the rivers. 3 “Your nakedness will be uncovered, Your shame also will be exposed; I will take vengeance and will not spare a man.” 4 Our Redeemer, the LORD of hosts is His name, The Holy One of Israel. 5 “Sit silently, and go into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans, For you will no longer be called The queen of kingdoms. 6 “I was angry with My people, I profaned My heritage And gave them into your hand. You did not show mercy to them, On the aged you made your yoke very heavy. 7 “Yet you said, ‘I will be a queen forever.’  These things you did not consider Nor remember the outcome of them. 8 “Now, then, hear this, you sensual one, Who dwells securely, Who says in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me. I will not sit as a widow, Nor know loss of children.’ 9 “But these two things will come on you suddenly in one day: Loss of children and widowhood. They will come on you in full measure In spite of your many sorceries, In spite of the great power of your spells. 10 “You felt secure in your wickedness and said, ‘No one sees me,’ Your wisdom and your knowledge, they have deluded you; For you have said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me.’ 11 “But evil will come on you Which you will not know how to charm away; And disaster will fall on you For which you cannot atone; And destruction about which you do not know Will come on you suddenly…”

The Queen is about to made into a maid servant. She will be stripped of her power, and her secrets will all come out. The carefully held diaries of her indiscretions will become a source of public shaming. God will see to it.

The Demolition Regarded (18:9-10)

The world will watch what happens and be both broken and exposed in the process. Who knew that the diary of the prostitute would one day ;publicly be displayed. Politicians will grimace, and bankers will cry. It will all be exposed!

People will see the Political Impact (18:9-10)

Revelation 18:9 “And the kings of the earth , who committed acts of immorality and lived sensuously with her, will weep and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning , 10   standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment , saying , ‘ Woe , woe , the great city , Babylon , the strong city ! For in one hour your judgment has come.’

People will see the Economic Impact (18:11-17)

Revelation 18:11 “And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, because no one buys their cargoes any more — 12 cargoes of gold and silver and precious stones and pearls and fine linen and purple and silk and scarlet , and every kind of citron wood and every article of ivory and every article made from very costly wood and bronze and iron and marble , 13 and cinnamon and spice and incense and perfume and frankincense and wine and olive oil and fine flour and wheat and cattle and sheep , and cargoes of horses and chariots and slaves and human lives . 14 The fruit you long for has gone from you, and all things that were luxurious and splendid have passed away from you and men will no longer find them. 15 The merchants of these things , who became rich from her, will stand at a distance because of the fear of her torment , weeping and mourning , 16 saying , ‘ Woe , woe , the great city , she who was clothed in fine linen and purple and scarlet , and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls ; 17 for in one hour such great wealth has been laid waste !’ And every shipmaster and every passenger and sailor , and as many as make their living by the sea , stood at a distance , 18 and were crying out as they saw the smoke of her burning , saying , ‘ What city is like the great city ?’ 19 And they threw dust on their heads and were crying out, weeping and mourning , saying , ‘ Woe , woe , the great city , in which all who had ships at sea became rich by her wealth , for in one hour she has been laid waste !’

Just as Isaiah revealed in Isaiah 13:19-22, Babylon, the very jewel of kingdoms and the glory of Chaldean pride, will suffer the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. She will never be inhabited or lived in through all generations; no Arab will pitch his tent there, no shepherd will rest his flocks there. But desert creatures will lie there, jackals will fill her houses; there the owls will dwell, and there the wild goats will leap about. Hyenas will howl in her strongholds, jackals in her luxurious palaces. Her time is at hand, and her days will not be prolonged.

Can you imagine? Great temples and shrines, ransacked of all wealth and openly scorned by all. Animals running through vast cathedrals and beautiful mosques. Churches filled with dust and soot, emptied of beauty and majesty. Nothing left of spiritual, emotional or financial value. Nobody is interested in what they used to do there… God stripped it like a carcass in the road. It’s death and rottenness became evident. Its stench, so well masked for generations since the tower at Babel now fills the nostrils.

The Determination Exposed (18:20-24)

More voices from Heaven cry out at the sense of justice. Directions are given to those above and below:

Direction to Heaven – Rejoice! (20)

In Heaven, those who have suffered at the hands of persecutors, those who have fought against inquisitions of angry men who served the enemy’s ends – they are called to begin praise. These are missionaries, apostles, Christians who have suffered bitter cruelties dealt by those in religious garb and smug expression. Their day has ended. The rejoicing is NOT simply an expression of revenge – it is a pent up pain of the many that were lost to the sorceries of the false faiths that beckoned to those blinded to their sorcery.

Revelation 18:20 Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment for you against her.”

Every parent that has lost a child to some sect or cult knows the pain. Every child that has lost a father or mother on a field of service where they were butchered for their faith in Jesus will understand. All believers will be able to rejoice that the false doors, the false wooing of fallen and vicious men will be stopped.

Direction to Earth – Let It Be Done! (21-24)

The great stone will fall to the earth like the mountainous rock of Daniel 2, crushing down the mocking of Christ’s sacrifice played out in one false faith after another. Other roads will be closed. All other gates will be locked. Men will know there is only one truth – and that is found in the Creator and His Son’s sacrifice.

Revelation 18:21 Then a strong angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “So will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer. 22 And the sound of harpists and musicians and flute-players and trumpeters will not be heard in you any longer; and no craftsman of any craft will be found in you any longer; and the sound of a mill will not be heard in you any longer; 23 and the light of a lamp will not shine in you any longer; and the voice of the bridegroom and bride will not be heard in you any longer;

The violence destroys her. Her music stops playing. The organ falls silent. The violin is no more. The flute is hushed. Mills stop, workers cease, shops close. The hope of the future is cut off. There is no more wedding songs sung in her cathedrals. It seems like God is saying it over and over. Why?

The Decision Repeated (18:23b-24)

The unparalleled patience of the Creator in the face of mankind’s religious replacement and rebellion is finally brought to its end. Everyone knows the whole mockery was a farce. They see the lie – and they see the liars. Do not miss the end of the chapter, because in it is the great four secrets from the prostitute’s diary:

“…for your merchants were the great men of the earth, because all the nations were deceived by your sorcery. 24 And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth.”

Did you see the four secrets?

  • Spread by the greatest among men: Religion overcame the mightiest in her sorcery. Some good and gracious, many deeply moral and wonderfully happy men and women have been tricked by her.
  • Nations followed in deception: Whole nations have been held captive by demonic lies. They have served painfully and sacrificially a god who does not exist. They have sacrificed peace with others and denied themselves both the pleasures of this life and the promises of the next – all before the altar of a liar. Wars were fought over lies. Good men and women were destroyed over lies. The future of whole peoples were struck down by sorceries of paganism.
  • Sorcery was used: The term “pharmakeía” (from pharmakeuō, “administer drugs”) or “drug-related sorcery” is referred to “as the practice of magical-arts, etc.” (A. T. Robertson). People were DRUGGED into the fellowships of the damned. They were sometimes metaphorically, and sometimes literally “drunk” with religious faith. Like any addict, they surrendered their future as they made simple steps ahead. They had no idea how hooked they would get.

Don’t forget, twice man knew God in totality. Once in the Garden, and again on the Ark. People knew God, but someone in one generation strayed, and billions paid. How did it happen? I am almost certain false religion was the biggest culprit. People opened themselves to another explanation that was not the truth. When they did – the deception grew like an addiction.

  • Persecution came from her deceptions: Just as she spat upon God’s redemptive plan and God’s redeemer – so she abused God’s children. That only raised His hand all the harder. God heard every cry of every martyr. He listened as a broken hearted parent when any of His beloved children were persecuted, tortured or harmed. Now He answered, once and for all. This immoral woman hurt His children, and she was never going to do it again!

God will unmercifully CRUSH false religion because it has taken some of the best of humanity and deceived them with trickery, making them enemies of God and His messengers.

The End of the World: “The Death of the Harlot” – Revelation 17

The greatest problem with sexuality in the twenty-first century is that it is misdirected. We understand the impulses and benefits of sexual expression; but in our society, many of us just don’t seem to understand its real purpose. Intimate expression was NOT designed primarily for personal entertainment, but for a shared expression of love. A symptom of this is found in modern pornography, and many other perversions of the original design. The marriage bed was given as a beautiful picture of relationship and shared joy. Our world has taken the personal pleasure aspect and replaced the designed intent. As a result, many get the technique, but not the point. Why do I mention this? Because it is worth noting that for many of us, the very same thing could be said of our religious devotion. In fact, in Scripture, the notion of religious celebration is cloaked in sexual language. A real walk with God for Israel was called a “marriage” (in the Book of Hosea) to the Father in Heaven. For the church, the same terminology was used for a “wedding feast” to the Son (in Ephesians and Revelation). Likewise, the terminology of prostitution was used for false worship – because men substituted the purpose for the techniques.

Spiritually speaking, the “great harlot” of the Bible isn’t a literal woman, but a substituted system of religion in place of a relationship with the living God.

It is the attempt at “looking for love in all the wrong places” as the country singer reminds. It is the substitution of intimacy with our Creator, with the trappings of worship and tradition that focus us on the emotional benefits of relationship without the relationship itself. The more you think about it, the more terming “religion” as a “HARLOT” makes perfect sense in the Bible.

The world we live in may not favor the God of the Bible, but it truly IS a religious world. If we were frozen in time back in the year 2000 (just a few years ago) and our world was a single village of 100 people representing the whole earth, (based on the Center for World Missions):

  • 33 of us would call ourselves some kind of “Christian” – though half of us wouldn’t consider the other half as truly so!
  • 20 of us would call ourselves Muslims – though many Shia and Sunni would not both agree that this was completely true.
  • 14 of us would call ourselves Hindus.
  • 6 of us would call ourselves one of three kinds of Buddhists.
  • 18 of us would be scattered over a series of smaller faiths and beliefs – including Animism, Judaism, Sikhs, etc.
  • Only 12 of us would claim NOT to have a faith or a religion. This includes 3 of us that would claim “Atheism”, 2 that have a political philosophy that “makes religion more or less irrelevant”, and the last 7 percent include “statistical unknowns”.

What is perfectly clear is this: people are religious creatures. They LIKE to observe some kind of religion. They worship, celebrate and venerate – many of them – because it scratches an “itch” within. What God meant to be a hunger for relationship with Him, has become a prostituted relationship as people succumbed to the beckoning of one harlot after another…until the prophetic day God kills all the illicit lovers in one hour. Revelation 17 is the story of the day false religion is crushed.

Key Principle: The goal of the deceiver is to celebrate the acts of religion as an end in themselves, while distracting our eyes away from the One who is to be worshiped.

The Great Whore of “substituted faith” is soon to be defeated. The false system of religion that has infiltrated every corner of our world is running on short time. It is not one religion that God will bring to an end – but religion itself – not ONE belief system God wants to undo – it is EVERY false system. Revelation 17 focuses in on the story of that end.

Let me be clear: Religion without a relationship with God is the worship of devotion rather than the worship of God. It is the adulation of liturgy without the gaze into the face of the God who created us. It is the essence of truth-less faith, a sentimental ethic based on cobbled together human moral philosophies that keep revealed truths of God’s Word at a distance. Human religion is the exaltation of the feelings that come from a relationship – without the relationship itself – like the substitution of pornography over the marriage bed. God never called us to desire to worship for the act itself. He called us to worship HIM, because in Him is every significance to our very being.

As we dive into the story of the great harlot’s death, we should keep in mind that Revelation 16:12 spoke of the vial judgment about to be poured on the harlot – but this chapter and the next zooms in on the details. Babylon’s religious substitution and wayward political power will be finally ended in Revelation 19. We are in an expansion of the chapter we studied last time that is finished at Armageddon.

Despite its many words, there are only three parts to the chapter we are studying – a promise made by an angel to John, a vision shown to fulfill the promise, and an explanation of that vision. John is essentially shown what could be explained like a “YouTube movie” by an angel to help him understand the powerful destructions he witnessed in the bowl judgments of Revelation 16. After the movie, the angel had to coach John into the explanation of the movie. Let’s take a closer look:

The Promise (17:1-2)

Revelation 17:1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, 2 with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality.”

Back in chapter 12 we were introduced to Satan, who was in the form of a Dragon, when he was hurled to the earth from Heaven. By chapter 13, the Dragon called for help from both the earth and the demonic world – a team that consisted of a beast from the sea, and a second helper – the beast from the earth. The beast from the sea was identified as the Antichrist, primarily a political leader The beast from the land was identified as the so called “False Prophet” – as his major function was to call attention to the antichrist and his political system, legitimizing it in tradition and religious trappings and pronouncements. By Revelation 16, John witnessed the overthrow of the Antichrist and his supporting religious system – but he didn’t really grasp all of what he saw. One of the avenging angels of God, fresh from the work of the destruction of man’s political and religious self-invented system, turned to John to help him understand the scene more completely. Perhaps the angel beckoned with an empty saucer still his hands. In any case, John knew the angel by his appearance.

The angel agreed to show John the identity and work of the harlot – by journeying in a vision to the center of her brothel. In the Bible, a spiritually alive and growing people can be named with the image of a virgin or chaste female; whereas a corrupt, idolatrous an unfaithful people can be pictured as a harlot. In many cases, the harlot represents a CITY (as Revelation 17:18 says is the case). That is not unusual, but the harlotry can be identified as a people that have organized themselves around a city, so as to be deeply identified with it (Isaiah 1). Have you noticed how religious organizations tend to be synonymous with a specific city?

  • Who could argue that “Jews” and the “Jewish world” is not meant when we refer to Jerusalem?
  • Who would not follow the idea of “Islam” when we speak of “Mecca”?
  • Is it really a stretch to refer to “Catholicism” as “Rome”?

They aren’t alone. Buddhism, Sikhs, Shintoism and many other religious groups can be represented by key cities – though the references may be less familiar to the modern westerner. The point I am positing is this: the woman is more than simply a city – she is a religious tradition or way of life graphically identified by a city important to her adherents. The purpose of the angel’s call to give attention to the vision was to expose her identity and her complete corruption, along with uncovering her network of contacts with political powers through which she enticed the world to herself. It is clear that she is influential in many places and among many peoples.

The Vision (17:3-6, 18)

Revelation 17:3 And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns. 4 The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality, 5 and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” 6 And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. When I saw her, I wondered greatly. .. Revelation 17:18 “The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth.”

Off they went on the journey that I will refer to as a “movie”. Perhaps they broke all laws of time and space and actually entered into that place (that is certainly possible given the context) – but there is no need for me to see it only in that way. With the advance of over twenty centuries since John lived, I can sit in my living room at home and be transported on a screen to the deck of a ship in Pearl Harbor or the cockpit of a powerful F-15 thundering through the sky. John never saw TV. He never knew about HNN – “Heaven Network News”. He had no such way of understanding visions.

I suggested at the start of today’s lesson that the woman of the vision was false religion personified. How did I come to that idea? There are at least eight important descriptions of the woman in the passage we just read:

  • She is called “the Great Harlot” – a false relationship that mimics a real one and leads to destruction of the real one. That seems to fit well.
  • She “sits upon many waters” – but these are qualified in 17:15 as people groups. That means that she is something that impacts, effects and persuades to action a variety of people from a variety of places on earth, but she is unified – an identifiable force.
  • She is “full of blasphemous names” – suggests that she is not called by ONE name, but rather by a variety of them. They all have one essential commonality – they distract from the truth of a relationship with the One true God, and are henceforth blasphemous.
  • She has “seven heads and ten horns”: this seems strange, but the very same description was used of both the dragon and the antichrist – because the point is the same. The organized system of power is demonically empowered to deceive and distract from true worship. She is part of the devil’s deception system, as was the antichrist. She is under the organization, and it has specific rulers and characteristics.
  • She is “clothed in purple” and “adorned with gold”: The expense of blue taken from the murex snail in antiquity left us with the term “royal blue” because of the extravagant expense. Who can deny the expense that has been poured into the great cathedrals and temples around the world?

From time to time I wonder about the lavish spending in the religious world. I want to tell you honestly that I love the great Cathedrals of Europe. I am captivated by the works of Michelangelo and the many commissions of Sixtus VI. I love the Renaissance and its reminder that beauty doesn’t have to begin when my body enters the coffin – my God loves beauty and decoration. At the same time, I have chosen to join and be ordained in a Brethren fellowship. I don’t know how to break the news to those who aren’t aware, but we meet in some of the most SPARTAN buildings in the whole religious world. Shocking artwork is if we put a colored carpet on a floor or a drape over a window. We are in the religious dictionary under “purely functional”!  Why do I not choose to ornately decorate a church building? Did not God have a very beautiful Temple built in Jerusalem? Are we forbidden to commission art in the church?

Let me be clear: ornate churches are neither right nor wrong. Art that helps people focus on God’s goodness and hope in Him serve an important purpose in much of the world. We have chosen a different path. We have chosen to put more of our resources into people ministry than in building beauty. We borrow less, build sturdy and work it hard. It is the philosophy of the growing family more than the rich and childless uncle. We will accept scars on walls before we will tolerate unused rooms, Funeral homes are easy to keep clean. Ministry is messy. We don’t need, nor do we seek, more complications that come with the higher and more artistic churches. We do, however, delight in visiting them!

I am concerned that church money be primarily used to reach and teach people – that resources be measured by whether or not they will aid in the purposes of preaching Christ and building disciple makers. All other uses of funds need to be subjected to that purpose.

  • She has “her golden cup full of immoralities”: If the immorality truly is, as the Biblical prophets of old used it, a spiritual departure from relationship with God into idolatry and false religion, can we not see how full false religion has become of itself? There are whole libraries and universities dedicated to the intricate study of things that do not lead to truth as defined in the Scripture.
  • She is called “Babylon the Great”: To recognize this point of the identification may take additional explanation. The Biblical record of Babylon begins with the “Tower of Babel” story that was physically identified as having been located on the “plain of Shinar” (Genesis 11:1-9). Based on the “Table of Nations” record in Genesis, it appears that some descendants of Noah – sons of Ham, came to that plain under the leadership of a man named Nimrod (son of Cush through Ham, great-grandson of Noah) to build a monument to themselves for the glory of man.

Some rabbinic commentaries suggest that Nimrod means ’to rebel’, others are more along the lines of ‘foolish’ – both seem fitting to the record of his chief accomplishments. As “a mighty one on the earth” and “a mighty hunter before God” he had an auspicious beginning, but did not appear to end well. His name became synonymous with a kingdom of enemies of God, as in Micah 5:6:

And they shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod in the entrances thereof: thus shall he deliver us from the Assyrian, when he cometh into our land, and when he treadeth within our borders.”

It is worth noting that “Babel” means ’gate to or of God’ – and the story is one of human desire to build a way to God with their own hands – the very definition of RELIGION. Behind EVERY false religion is the denial of God’s PLAN, together with trust in man’s own strength and abilities. In Genesis 10, concerning Nimrod and the “beginning of his kingdom” (Heb: “reshit memelketo”) were the founding of the towns of “Babel, Uruk, Akkad and Calneh in the land of Shinar (Genesis 10:8-12). It appears that Babel later became known as Babylon. One author noted: “Two hundred sixty times in Scripture the Babylon is used to represent the system of false religions that spun off the first one in Genesis.” (sermon central illustrations).

  • The woman is described as: “drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus”:  To make sure we are not left with only a vague view of well-meaning but misguided religious people, we are instructed that the harlot was caustic to the cause of Christ. There is one thing that the vast calls to a religion of tolerance will not tolerate – that is Christians spreading the Gospel of Jesus.

In 2011, Al Mohler, the Southern Baptist scholar wrote: “Christians — especially those enjoying the safety of the West — often think of martyrdom as a part of the distant Christian past. But a recent barrage of headlines dispels that notion in a hurry. Over the past several weeks, Christians in Iraq suffered a series of church bombings, and experts in the region predicted a virtual evacuation of that nation’s Christian population. …The murderous terrorism against Christians in Iraq amounts to a form of religious cleansing. Meanwhile, oppression of Christians in Egypt, the most populous Arab nation, intensified with a January 1 bombing of the Saints Church in Alexandria. Twenty-one worshipers were killed and another 100 were injured. … In Pakistan, rioters took to the streets to insist that the nation’s draconian blasphemy laws stay in place — effectively allowing only Muslim practice and preaching. As The New York Times reported, “A crippling strike by Islamist parties brought Pakistan to a standstill on Friday as thousands of people took to the streets, and forced businesses to close, to head off any change in the country’s blasphemy law, which rights groups say has been used to persecute minorities, especially Christians.” There is no way we can determine the exact theological beliefs of these worshipers in Egypt, Iraq, and Pakistan, but there can be no question that they are suffering and dying in the name of Jesus Christ. They deserve our earnest prayers and advocacy. They also remind us by their witness that Christ has enemies — and so do His followers. The blood of the martyrs does indeed cry out their witness for Christ…

God wants a relationship with men based on His Word – not based on the power play of religious men and women that have learned to control the flocks of the hapless. Religion has been no friend to truth. It has provided a means for a few to take from the many – enriching some while enslaving a host in dungeons beneath them. It has led people on the “wide path that leads to destruction” – even fleecing their pockets on the way down. It has enticed the masses throughout history – and drugged them– leaving them with neither with the promise of eternity in the loving presence of the Savior in the world beyond, nor the deep and intimate joy of a walk with Him this side of Heaven. It is counterfeit currency of the spiritual realm, and it is both presently destructive and predictably damning.

The Explanation (17:7-18)

John saw the demise of the system of the enemy, but he couldn’t understand all of the players. He wasn’t comprehending exactly what he was seeing.

Revelation 17:7 And the angel said to me, “Why do you wonder? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.

The angel could apparently tell by the look on his face. Fortunately for us, the angel made it even plainer in an overt attempt to explain. One commentator mentioned, interestingly enough, that “This is the last question in the book of Revelation.” From here, answers are provided:

The Beast (Revelation 17:8 and 11)

Revelation 17:8 “The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come….11 “The beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth and is one of the seven, and he goes to destruction.

The beast came from the pit, as did his empowering spirit – that is, the Devil that called him forth. The antichrist is of Satanic origin. The surprising detail is that He poked his head out into human history before Revelation 13. His spirit was on earth before – an issue I believe was made clear in Daniel 11, where before verse 36 Daniel wrote about Antiochus IV the ancient Seleucid Ruler, but after verse 36 the description appears to depict a later manifestation – the Antichrist. He “was” before – but he “is not” again until the end times and his release from below. He will be a WONDER to mankind – likely because of his miraculous healing we described in previous lessons.

His Seven Heads (Revelation 17:9-10)

Revelation 17:9 “Here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, 10 and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while.

Revelation 17:9 opens with a cautionary note – this description will take “wisdom”. Spiritual understanding will be required to grasp the complex nature of this identity. Simple connection can easily be made:

  • Between the Devil’s description as having “seven heads and ten horns” as in Revelation 12:3,
  • The Antichrist with his same description in Revelation 13:1,
  • The woman’s beast of burden that carries her – described in Revelation 17:7.

In other words, it is simple to match each description and summarize that they are all ONE SYSTEM, founded by Satan and spread by the Antichrist. They bear along the woman of false religion. Simple enough, but that is not a complete view. There is more detail given.

The seven heads refer to both land masses (SEVEN MOUNTAINS) and to rulers and political systems (SEVEN KINGS) according to 17:9-10. This multi-headed beast is a layered symbol – not simply one thing but a nexus of more than one –  a long derived and carefully sculpted system. The beast possesses the seven heads, but exists apart from them. They are the “FACE” of the beast, but not – strictly speaking – the beast itself. He is not simply one of the horns or heads – he is seen in their face and power. In fact, his specific direct rule represents an eighth kingdom (Rev. 17:11).

I recognize a great number of men have made the point that ROME was built on seven hills. As a guide overseas, I can tell you that a number of cities are set on seven hills. Among them, Paris, Istanbul and even Jerusalem may be said to be upon seven hills. To conclude the Catholic Church or Rome is in the passage is, in my view, wholly inadequate. This would omit that the identity is BOTH something spread over seven hills and were systems of RULE. Incidentally, the “seven hills” could easily be a way of saying WORLD WIDE long before John could have known that there were seven land masses or continents on the face of the globe. If the “waters” in the end of chapter 17 are people of the whole earth, why can’t the lands be the continents of that same earth?

Additionally, a number of taken in hand to write that the seven are kingdoms counted off between Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, etc. That may be true, but we need to be careful about what is included. If God was counting kingdoms, let’s not forget that in the west we tend to neglect Dynastic China – a not quaint development of its own. If the number is to count kingdoms, let us be clear that the count must be based on those kingdoms that have some direct interaction with Israel – or some other explanation of that sort (as in Daniel’s telling of kingdoms in prophecy).

The Horns (Revelation 17:12-14, 16-17)

Revelation 17:12 “The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour. 13 “These have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast. 14 “These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” …16 “And the ten horns which you saw, and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire. 17 “For God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled.

The story of the horns looks at first glance to be a bit complicated, but it really isn’t. If you read it carefully you will see:

  • Each horn represents a king and kingdom. These ten kings and kingdoms form a confederacy (a subject we have seen before in the fact that the Antichrist gets people together on the issue of Jerusalem for a time).
  • Ultimately, the power of the group is subservient to the purposes of the confederacy, which is directed by the Antichrist.
  • One chief purpose will be to fight the Gospel, and anyone who has the message of the Redeemer.
  • Jesus will defeat them – a fact we will see graphically in Revelation 19!
  • The governments will USE the world religions – but in truth will HATE the world religions. In fact, at their first opportunity, they will rape the false religious world to take her power and wealth. Increasingly, all world religions will find themselves surrendered to objectives of the political confederation. Those who oppose it will be shattered.

The Waters (Revelation 17:15)

Revelation 17:15 And he said to me, “The waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.

People the world over are drawn to religion and tradition. They are religious because God created them to be worshipers. If they will not worship the true God, they will worship someone or something else. We may look around and we think America is becoming less religious. Actually, in many ways she is becoming more religious – only less Christian.

The Main Idea

It is easy to get lost in all the detail. The fact of the matter is that the chief goal of the deceiver is to celebrate the acts of religion as an end in themselves, while distracting our eyes away from the One who is to be worshipped.

When Pope John Paul invited the world religious leaders together for a day of prayer at Assisi, a huge united under a huge plastic tent to mix Christian hymns and Buddhist chants before reading commitments to work for peace in 11 languages from Arabic to Hebrew to Farsi and Punjabi. According to the Associated Press, the gathering was one of the largest ever of “Christian groups, bringing together Catholics, Baptist, Lutherans, Quakers and Mennonites, among others, along with Orthodox Christians headed by the ecumenical patriarch, Bartholmew I.” But “Christians” were only one of 12 religions represented. While they and the Jews were praying to Jehovah, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhist, Sikhs, Shintoist, and African witchdoctors were all besieging their respective deities.

Lest we single out only one religious leader (and, in fact, a dead one), let us be clear that many groups exist to promote the religious spirit of unity and tolerance. The “Coexist Foundation” says, according to the Anglican Bishop of London: “This work is a vital test of our determination to find new ways of managing conflict in the new world order.” That group has as its council the Dean of Her Majesty’s Chapels Royal and Sheikh Ali Goma’a, The Muslim Grand Mufti of Egypt, as well as Rabbi Dr David Rosen, the former Chief Rabbi of Ireland.

Their symbol, seen on T-shirts all over is:

 – An Islamic crescent in the place of the “C”

– The peace symbol in the place of the “o”

– A male/female symbol in the place of the “e”

– The Jewish Star of David in the place of the “x”

– A Wiccan/pagan symbol in the place of the “i”

– An Asian Ying-Yang (peace symbol) in the place of the “s”

– A Christian cross in the place of the “t”

This is the essence of the message of today’s religion – BELIEVE for yourself. Don’t persuade – that isn’t tolerant. Don’t missionize – that isn’t kind. Just take what YOU want for yourself- and leave everyone alone. COEXIST. Don’t press your children to believe anything.

What a contrast to what the Bible teaches! The Bible makes the transmission of faith from parent to child a “natural part of everyday life” (Dt. 5-7). The Bible calls for believers to get out and share their faith, because men and women are LOST without a real relationship with God found ONLY in Jesus Christ.

Coexist teaches NO MISSION, NO PERSUASION – it is all about YOUR COMFORT. It has been with us so long, that many identify faith as so PERSONAL that it shouldn’t be considered in the CHARACTER JUDGMENT we evaluate a person’s fitness for public office. It is “personal” – as if it won’t have as much an impact on their decision making processes as their spouse. Think about that: our faith orientation is like our marriage. If it is a marriage to a different god than in the Word, it is an expression of dedication to spiritual prostitute. Now we are back where we started our lesson.

Do not be deceived! God doesn’t say simply that the AMOUNT of your dedication in worship is His goal – but the OBJECT of your worship. It is not simply that YOU ARE RELIGIOUS. People make the perilous assumption that we can put much trust in a rock, stone, or tradition made by men – and God will be equally pleased.  It is not true, and it is not even logical. Much belief that an aspirin will cure cancer will not make it true. If the object of one’s faith is false, then the faith is of no benefit.

We must remember that God is properly the object of our worship. His provision for our salvation is Jesus alone. If we have learned to judge ourselves by the standard of “how we treat our fellow man”, can we not also recognize that God will judge us by “how we treat God”? When I dismiss the sacrifice of God’s Son, when I chose either to ignore, replace, or lash out against the Ever Holy, Ever-Just, Ever-knowing God – my very Creator… do I not place myself in peril?

Psalm 2 offers a biting insight: 2:2 “The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed… 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them. 5 Then He will speak to them in His anger, and terrify them in His fury, saying, 6 “But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain.” 7 “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You…10 Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; Take warning, O judges of the earth. 11 Worship the LORD with reverence, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!

Hide in Him. You will find real security there – and you will find it nowhere else in the end. The other relationships aren’t a real marriage.

The End of the World: “The Belt” – Revelation 16

Ah, the sounds of summer! I remember the sounds of “kick the can” in my old neighborhood – a child with closed eyes counting loudly down from 100 to 0. We had what seemed like a massive number of kids growing up together on Billings Avenue, a prolific Italian Catholic neighborhood in South Jersey. Summer meant FUN! Yet, one of my most profound memories was not of the sunny days, but rather the stifling heat as the sun set outside the bedroom I shared with my older brother growing up. On those hot and muggy summer nights, life seemed long and uncomfortable. Central air conditioning was not yet popular, and certainly not yet affordable for the Smith family. Long and sometimes loud times of talking, laughing, joking and getting into trouble between bedtime and midnight were standard fare for the Smith boys. If you two don’t knock it off, I am coming up there with the belt! That was the familiar sound of my dad, who was sounded certain that we were going to need more than talk to get us in line. Why did he delay? Because he wanted us to listen, change our behavior, and receive grace in spite of our earlier bad behavior. Why did he eventually come up with the belt? Because it was the only way we would ever learn. This was the scenario for early discipline in my life. Dad says that I recall it as being more harsh than it actually was – but no matter. Our relationship has not only survived, but thrived in adulthood.

Now, let me change the story from a memory to a hypothetical – this time an entirely different scenario. In this scene, my brother Russ and I are still in our bunk beds on that hot, summer evening – but we are not alone. Seeing the open window, an evil man climbed up the low back roof to our old home, and got into the upstairs of the house. How should my dad respond? Should dad deal graciously with him, as he would to instruct a wayward son – or should he come forcefully and stand in strength of right – to remove him from the house by whatever means necessary? Most of us have no problem understanding defense of home and family – standing up for what is right. My father’s impulse to discipline his children is not the same as his deliberate and forceful stand to secure what is right – nor should it be. Most of us would do it, but many of us seem to be less clear when our Heavenly Father reveals that He plans to do exactly that.

Let me explain. The Bible says that God made the world, and God made man. Man rebelled against God, and decided that he would be the master of his own life. In doing so, man abandoned the place of blessing as a son and took up a rebel position against God – actively abandoning His rightful rule and helping God’s enemy. The Bible describes lost man as being “at enmity with God”. Lest someone be deceived – no one is ambivalent to God. Either you are surrendered to His leading, or you are resisting it. Either you want to know and follow God, or you want to run your own life. Even passive resistance is a choice to be un-surrendered. Our forgetfulness of God and His longing to walk daily with us, is a type of passive rebellion.

Remember, in the Bible, there are two kinds of people – those who know God and those who need to know Him. The first group is called in the Bible “God’s children” – the second group is called “lost”. The process of adoption – going from “lost” to a “child of God” is an open door, but costs our deliberate intent to surrender of our will to our Loving Master for entrance. He paid the price to settle our sin debts, but insists that we surrender our future to Him. Let me be clear: There is no Biblical plan that assures Heaven to the self-willed and self-led man or woman. Grace is no blanket for arrogance and self-reliance, despite the number of voices that try to theologically justify life-long disobedience as an option of permanent carnality among the children of God.

Among God’s children, there are two kinds of people – those who are surrendered and those who need to stop walking as disobedient children. It is possible to be a child and be disobedient – but doing so removes our sense of security concerning our salvation. We forget that we have been saved from our sins, and walk about unsure of the relationship – a God induced state to draw us back to Him (2 Peter 1). Thus, as God’s children we are disciplined – the process of pain that is designed in order to mature us to be yielded. At the same time, the Bible clearly and graphically says the lost are not disciplined – but in the end they are punished. They are like the man who broke in to my house – set for evil and repulsed by force. The sin and rebellion of their lives, and the failure to ask the Redeemer to pay the penalty for them, makes punishment inevitable. God’s purpose in that punishment is not redemption, but a graphic demonstration of both His Supreme power and ultimate justice. (In the Bible, hell is NOT a prison for re-training, but unending separation and destruction).

In the Biblical story, we are coming to the end of the lost – the wrath and punishment – and that is our story as we open to Revelation 16-19 in the next few lessons. It is a heavy passage, and careful preparation is essential. We must be sure we understand what God revealed He will do – adding nothing and subtracting nothing. Pastor Sid Litke offered some excellent words concerning the final disposition of men and women. He noted the Bible teaches three truths concerning life after death:

(1)   Everyone will exist eternally either in heaven or hell.

The prophet Daniel heard about the afterlife from an angel: Daniel 12:2 “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. 3“Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”

Jesus spoke to Jerusalem aristocracy about the afterlife in real terms: John 5:25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26“For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; 27and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. 28“Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, 29and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.”

Revelation 20:14 “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

(2)   Everyone has only one life in which to determine their destiny.

The writer to the Hebrews reminded of Christ’s second coming in 9:27 “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, 28 so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.

(3)   Heaven or hell is determined by whether a person puts their trust in Christ alone to save them.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life”…and later in verse 36 “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.

With that in mind, let’s examine the final story of wrath in the next several lessons. In Revelation 16, some key truths are unfolded… These truths are not speculations, for they are gleaned from His Word. At the same time, these truths are under steady and heavy attack – both in the world and now increasingly within the church!

Key Principle: God told us the story of final judgment against the rebellious earthly system of men because He wanted us to know and face important truths.

First, a brief walk through the details of the story…

The End Begins:

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

Angels don’t hunger to pour out punishment, but they don’t hesitate, either. They have to be COMMANDED loudly, and that command comes from the very holy place of God’s Heavenly Temple. The call to judgment is the call from the Creator. The power behind the judgment is the pent up sense that wrong must be righted.

Seven Bowls Spilled Out:

The text released in rapid succession each of the first six judgments, and then offered a pause – just as it did in the case of the seals in chapter 6 and the trumpets in chapters 8 and 9. The first two had no commentary added, just the judgment angel and his effect:

  • Revelation 16:2 So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth; and it became a loathsome and malignant sore on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image.

It appears that those who took the physical mark of the beast and the number of the name of the man and system were stricken with a terrible malady, manifesting itself in sores. It was directed against them specifically, and may have been a byproduct of the taking of the mark itself – some kind of severe infection or reaction to the process of the marking. There simply is little detail about what will be obvious in that time.

  • Revelation 16:3 The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became blood like that of a dead man; and every living thing in the sea died.

On the heels of the pouring out of the sores came a second calamity – the fouling of the sea. It is impossible to know if the sea referred to is only the Mediterranean – called “Mare Nostrum” or “our sea” by the Romans of John’s day. It may refer to all seas, but it surely, at least, referred to that one, so familiar to any first century Roman.

By the third “wrath pourer” – we have a bit of commentary from Heaven and earth about the judgments. From here, the formula appears to be “judgment delivered” followed by comments either from other beings, or by the author himself, about the weight, significance and justice involved in the judgment.

  • Revelation 16:4 Then the third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of waters; and they became blood. 5 And I heard the angel of the waters saying, “Righteous are You, who are and who were, O Holy One, because You judged these things; 6 for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. They deserve it.” 7 And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.”

The third wrath bearer was sent to foul fresh water rivers and springs – making the polluted and of no use. The commentary suggests that this was in response to the bloodshed of martyrdom in the final age. The angel reaffirmed the righteousness of God in the judgment – a point we will return to later – because even the church today finds it hard to do. We emphasize God’s love and grace, and hesitate to annunciate the equal eternal truths of God’s power and justice. The God of the modern church often sounds more a passive paternal Santa Claus – not an absolute Sovereign and Righteous judge.

  • Revelation 16:8 The fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun, and it was given to it to scorch men with fire. 9 Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give Him glory.

The fourth angel was directed toward daylight with its intensive sunshine. The searing heat pressed upon man – and his response was to hurl insults to God, as though He had no Divine right to inflict them. Lost man, at his core, believes God (if He exists) – certainly possesses no special right over him, for he has been educated past both Creation and a Creator – and feels no responsibility to recognize rights of God. Further, in his political ideals of democracy and inherent disdain for slavery, he has been “enlightened” to the point that he can no longer be called upon to please an owner. Modern man has liberated himself from God – the only trouble of such a state of self-made position is this: It is not true to reality. Believers need to be careful not to adopt these attitudes… God has rights. Through most ages of western history, this case would not have had to be reminded.

  • Revelation 16:10 Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became darkened; and they gnawed their tongues because of pain, 11 and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds.

Yet another angel was directed to pour out wrath- this time against the place of the evil one that caused the mark on man. The response of people was to “gnaw on their tongues” because of the pain. The term for PAIN (ponos) is the word for distress. The darkness was not painful, it was disconcerting and distressing. The bit upon their tongues; but did not do so long enough to cease wagging them in front of God. They did not change. They would not change. They felt wronged when the Master of Creation insisted that they were not His equal, nor His judge. They argued like the sound of the violator when caught by the policeman. In guilt, there is often a good reason – or so the perpetrator argues.

  • Revelation 16:12 The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river, the Euphrates; and its water was dried up, so that the way would be prepared for the kings from the east.

The sixth angel folded back the waters of the rivers that had defined civilization since the end of the Neolithic age – Mesopotamia. The basins of the two rivers – Tigris and Euphrates – yielded the Sumerians, the Akkadians, the Babylonians and Persians. Some of man’s greatest early achievements were founded in them. The base sixty system found on the face of our modern watch has its foundation in Babylon. The angel caused the river system to stall, offering passage from the east to the Holy Land without land obstacle. From this, the author offers three observations:

The first observation was the enemy’s response to the removal of the obstacle – to incite war against God and His people. The enemy drew man’s national forces together. They were not one world government – but rather separate nation states that were drawn by one authority to fight. Some demonic arm twisting was offered to persuade men around the globe that the fight was in their own self-interest.

Revelation 16:13 And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs; 14 for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty.

The second observation was an added remark that seems to have been the collaborating Savior’s quote. He was one of the writers noted in Revelation 1, and He interjected this: Get ready, because the time is very short. I suggest this was directed to any who are alive in that moment – that they should see the days as nearly over.

Revelation 16:15 (“Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.”)

Finally, there was a marker to reveal the nature of the final struggle and its locale – a war in the Near East. Let me be clear: the end of all rebellion will be fought on Near Eastern soil. For this, many of my Muslim friends and I agree. The end is in fire, and the place of the war is in that part of the world.

Revelation 16:16 And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon.

  • Revelation 16:17 Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, “It is done.”18 And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder; and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty. 19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. 20 And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. 21 And huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe.

The seventh angel is called upon to do his work – the great finishing sound that appears to yield the quake that devastates the earth. So much can be said of this event, but there is an expansion of it when we look carefully at Revelation 19, so “stay tuned”.

Step back for a moment, because the final pummeling of the earth in the wrath of God is a horrid scene for lost humanity. We cannot simply dispassionately offer a report like a newsman at the scene of a horrendous natural disaster. God has reasons for revealing the wrath end of man.

Five Truths from the Final Judgment

Let me suggest there are at least five lessons that I see in this reckoning of wrath. Each is significant, but for time economy, we will touch them lightly:

Truth #1: Wrath is not God’s desire, but it is His responsibility – so we should be understanding.

A father must both discipline and protect. A government must aid provision as well as defend right. God is BOTH a King and a Father. He has no desire to harm man, but rebellion cannot be rewarded nor overlooked. For this reason, wrath is inevitable and Hell is both eternal and irreversible to those who will not yield to His authority. The Bible is not silent on this:

  • Revelation 14:11 “…the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever and they have no rest day and night”
  • Revelation 20:14 “This is the second death, the lake of fire” 15 “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire”

Truth #2: Evil has an end – so we should be encouraged.

We must take heart that wrong will be righted, that injustice will be remembered. Every victim can rest assured that this life may let “the heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing” – but there is coming a day when all the wrongs will be paid for entirely. I do not seek to evoke a hunger for revenge in us, but simply to acknowledge on behalf of anyone who has ever cried out to God: “It is not fair! Don’t you see that?” He did. He saw it. He will make it right. Count on it and take courage – God misses nothing.

Truth #3: Effect has a cause – and we should not be deceived.

The revelation of wrath closes a Biblical loop between cause and effect that is part of God’s Holy Plan. We have to admit to a problem. People don’t connect punishment with anything positive in modern life, but there is a benefit to knowing the punishment before the crime is committed. The knowledge of punishment is both a DETERRENT and an EDUCATION to reality – everything has consequences. Heaven’s story is incomplete without the revelation of God’s wrath. Why? Because disconnecting the penalty of judgment from the mutiny of man removes the real sense of the heinousness of sin.

  • When we disconnected sex from pregnancy, people took it as a way to make wrong behavior more convenient. Birth control was not, in my view, immoral in and of itself – but it did seem to quickly have the net effect of promoting promiscuous behaviors. When pregnancy was a more likely result, more care to maintain purity seems to have been inferred – because cause and effect were connected. Now health care professionals, faced with a deluge of sexually transmitted diseases, seek to move on to eliminating other symptoms of our wrong choices. One day, perhaps, they will wake up to the fact that there are psychological and spiritual effects that cannot be passed over with a simple pill.
  • When we disconnected educating our children from parents to outsourcing, many people divested themselves of the responsibility to pass on values. Again, public education is not immoral in itself, but it has contributed to the sense of the responsibility of raising a child being shifted to the state and common society – and not back onto the shoulders of nuclear families.
  • When we disconnect our marriage commitment from our parental duty, we quantifiably diminished natural child bonding and balanced child rearing. People now make a proud statement that “I didn’t want to stay together just for the children.” I keep asking, “Why not?” When did our personal pleasure become more important than taking responsibility for the decision to bring children into the world and raise them in a stable home environment, providing both a father and mother – God’s obvious biological plan for the home? Why is selfishness and lack of self-control in learning to get along with your chosen spouse now a celebrated value among adults that are trying to train children not to exhibit the very same trait of selfishness? We need to admit that our children KNOW that love is a choice. If we choose to stop loving our spouse, we can choose to stop loving our children – and they already know that. Their security, in part, IS drawn from our commitment to marriage.
  • When we systematically disconnect work from sustainability – that is, pay people for not working, we can easily slip from aiding the downtrodden to de-linking cause and effect. In the end, people can end up seeing greater benefit from the freedoms they feel in NOT working. The net effect is not a more energized and creative work force, but a lazier and less motivated one – that possesses even higher expectations from their society to provide for their needs. We need to reassert that WORK IS GOOD, and as Paul reminded Timothy – the “hardworking farmer is the one who benefits first and most from his labor.” (2 Tim. 2).

Truth #4: Second chances are not guaranteed – so we should be warned.

This week thousands of Americans will file for extensions for taxes. A system that was designed as a failsafe has become a regular part of American expectation – there should always be a way for me to get another chance, because my circumstances are not the same as everyone else. I am not arguing against the measure of grace afforded by the US government, nor am I suggesting an extension is a sin – only that we can slowly begin to adopt an attitude from it.

God’s absolute right as Creator to insist that all things belong solely to Him must not be diminished in the grace message of salvation through Christ alone. God is not my buddy – He is my King. He is not just my friend – He is Righteous altogether. The Bible defines what God considers His responsible duty – to stamp out all effects and power of sin and rebellion. John wasn’t embarrassed to report that is exactly what He will do. He knew and wrote of God’s absolute right to judge and crush all rebellion.

Truth #5: Warning is a blessing – so we should be changed.

Without cause and effect, Grace is indistinguishable. We can only understand the sacrifice of Jesus and our undeserved salvation BECAUSE we know what SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED to sinners like us. We rebelled and continue to live in varying shades of rebellion – and we know it. Our nature is to grow downward into the mud of self. When God acts in wrath, He openly repays rebellion. When God writes about it ahead of time – He offers GRACE and invites CHANGE!

John thought this sign was something “great and marvelous” because it ended the war introduced in the Garden of Eden. Seven angels dumped out saucers of wrath. As they were emptied – all of man’s insurrection was crushed, and God’s holy right over His wayward Creation was publicly and permanently restored. All legal requirements were satisfied. All opposition was stopped… that day is coming soon. You don’t have to face God’s wrath – He has warned you today.

Paul reminded the first century believers at Thessalonica:

1 Thessalonians 5:1 Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 3 While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; 6 so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. 7 For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. 8 But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.

God told us the story of final judgment against the rebellious earthly system of men because He wanted us to know and face important truths.

Perhaps you’ve seen the famous French sculpture’s work called “The Thinker.” The first cast of the statue (originally referred to as “the Poet”) from 1902 was part of Auguste Rodin’s larger work ‘The Gates of Hell” – an ornamental door for a proposed Palace of Decorative Arts. Critics believe they know what the thinker was thinking about. The nude man (probably a nude Dante), stripped of all his adornments as the day he was born – contemplated in mute amazement the end of lost man. He sat before the gates of hell –contemplating the wrath of God and an un-yielding man’s fate. Perhaps we should sit beside him for a moment, and ponder it as well.

The End of the World: “The Moment”- Revelation 15

The red light never went on before – except during the drills and tests. This time the buzzer sounded, and the red light blared in the control room. Men scrambled to stations as they looked anxiously at dials and fiddled nervously with switches and dials. The pressure valves were stuck shut, and the water behind the massive dam was now piling up. There was no relief for the pressure, and the back pressure on the wall was already well into exceeding tolerances. Transfixed, each man, on his own station – the control room quiet was shattered by the loud crackle of the Motorola handset. “Engineer six, what is your status?” the com signal echoed. “Holding, five. Pressure building. No surface fissures…. Wait…cancel that. I am seeing the beginning of cracks…Yes, five, she is losing integrity. Repeat… she is losing integrity…” The men knew it was a matter of moments from the largest disaster anyone in that room had ever seen.

There is a moment – just after the bullet is fired, but before it strikes the target. There is a moment – just after the beautiful crystal glass has slipped from your fingers – and before it shatters on the ceramic tile floor… the story of this chapter of Revelation IS that moment. This is the story of judgment and wrath hanging in the air above the physical universe. This is a glimpse into the throne room before the final rush of God’s complete and total victory over mutinous humanity. It is the moment before the dam broke above the on the feeble defenses of the arrogant. It isn’t the story of the destruction – that will come. It is the story of the moment before – the moment just before the deluge.

The glimpse into this moment is very revealing. It reveals the feeling in the room as judgment is set to fall. It reveals the swift nature of the end of rebellion and sin. It reveals something about how God feels about sin and rebellion. Most of all, it is given to the church because it uncovers a strange encouragement – God knows how hard the mutiny has been on all of us.

Key Principle: Opening Heaven’s window and pulling back the curtain on this moment before judgment is unleashed should help us understand two essential truths: First, we must accelerate sharing the message of God’s escape from wrath. The Gospel offers the way of escape. Second, seeing Heaven frozen in that moment should encourage us – God knows the effects of sin have been hard for us to navigate.

This Polaroid of Heaven exposes a moment that shows God’s judgment as holy and as necessary as the revelation of His coming rewards. Heaven’s story is incomplete without the revelation of God’s wrath. Why? Because disconnecting the penalty of judgment from the mutiny of man removes the real sense of the heinousness of sin – and diminishes God’s absolute right as Creator to insist that all things belong solely to Him. Strangely, the Bible writer doesn’t so squeamish about God’s rights and man’s mutiny. The Bible defines what God considers His responsible duty – to stamp out all effects and power of sin and rebellion. John wasn’t embarrassed to report that is exactly what He will do. He knew and wrote of God’s absolute right to judge and crush all rebellion.

Read with me the few verses that show the picture of this moment before destruction:

Revelation 15:1 Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished. 2 And I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, holding harps of God. 3 And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations! 4 “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; For ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE YOU, FOR YOUR RIGHTEOUS ACTS HAVE BEEN REVEALED.” 5 After these things I looked, and the temple of the tabernacle of testimony in heaven was opened, 6 and the seven angels who had the seven plagues came out of the temple, clothed in linen, clean and bright, and girded around their chests with golden sashes. 7 Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever. 8 And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power; and no one was able to enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.

John thought this sign was something “great and marvelous” because it ended the war introduced in the Garden of Eden. Seven angels were paraded out with saucers of wrath. It wasn’t the size of the saucer, but the fact that when they were emptied – all of man’s insurrection would be crushed, and God’s holy right over His wayward Creation will be publicly and permanently restored. All legal requirements will be satisfied. All opposition will be stopped.

Don’t rush through the passage. Take a moment and think about the picture we see. We must be careful to recall three important principles in the background – the “wall setting” of the picture we want to gaze upon:

  1. The small size of the chapter is not an indication of the importance of the principle exposed in the writing – because it is by far the shortest chapter selection from this book. It is important to remember that good writing expresses the author’s thought process wellgreat writing does it with an economy of words and stark clarity of imagery. The Gettysburg address wasn’t long, but it was powerful enough to shape an army.
  1. The chapter represents a moment in time when the pressure that was pent up over thousands of years on earth was relieved by an explosion. This is a frozen frame of the moment before the break. There was a crack in the surface of the great dam of human history. The conditions were all fulfilled, and the stage was completely set for the small fissure to explode, ending in a massive flood of destruction. The just demands of God’s Holiness pushed down for all the generations since Adam will be completely satisfied in a public display. God will get to sign the end of His story by crushing evil and replacing it with His holiness.
  1. Finally, this moment was recorded for seven churches, and later for believers throughout the ages. It isn’t the revelation of a theoretical time – it is the exposure of the coming day. In the next chapters we will see the undoing of every rebellious human institution: religion, economy and philanthropy. Man will fold in on himself as the wall of wrath tears through all that he built in the village below the dam of God’s pent up wrath. Why would God tell this story? Doesn’t He realize that a vengeful God will not be nearly as popular as a, “ALL TOLERANT ONE”?  He does, but He has a bigger plan… more on that later in the teaching.

Look again at Revelation 15. We are staring at the snapshot of those who have been victorious over the beast standing together in celebration of God’s character. They are singing the “Anthem of the Rescued” in the presence of God. Just as the saints stand before the temple of God, the bowls of wrath are poured out on pagan and rebellious humanity – those who follow the beast. The massive day of battle destroys the military might of man. The fall of Babylon  – the economic, political and spiritual systems are also pummeled and destroyed in an hour. Satan’s centers of control are unraveled – and this is the moment that unleashed it all. Is that not part of what the Tribulation is about? Remember the Tribulation has several purposes in the Bible:

  • First, it is to get the stubborn nation of Israel to bow in trust to her estranged husband – the Father in Heaven that selected her as His own special love.
  • Second, it is God’s final evangelistic run at mutinous mankind – with a team of 144,000 witnesses that will gather the last of the great harvest among the nations.
  • Third, it is to dislodge and destroy the godless, pagan system at its peak – in the hands of the Antichrist and his false prophet on the way to exposing and castigating the Dragon that empowers their work.

God back to the verses, one by one. Look carefully at the words of this chapter’s opening:

Revelation 15:1 Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished.

John wrote that he saw “another sign”, connecting it with the sign of the war between the dragon and the woman in Revelation 12 – the attempts by Satan to destroy Jesus, and then the Jewish people in human history. The word for sign is “SEMION” a distinguishing marker or event. This word occurs seven times in the book of Revelation – all beginning in 12:1 and ending at the end of the Tribulation in 19.. (12:1,3; 13:13,14; 15:1; 16:14; 19:20). As one commentator put it: “This is verbal art”.

Revelation 15:2 And I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, holding harps of God.

When John wrote that he saw something like a “sea of glass”, he referred to an image building on the transparent crystal platform or pavement God’s heavenly throne sits upon, referred to in Revelation 4:6. He saw God’s magnificent throne – lest anyone would mistake where all judgments of the Tribulation initiate. God is in command of the end, and He was at the beginning.

Surrounding the throne in this snapshot are those who had victory over the beast. They fought his mark, the number of his name, and they gave all for the Kingdom of God – surrendering even their lives. It may be hard to be a believer today in a culture that is turning its back on the face of Jesus – but it will be MCUH HARDER then. They will know suffering and death. They will give all for the cause, because they love the Savior more than they love anything here on earth. Don’t forget that the WORD VICTORY is that which described those who were KILLED. Faith was the victory and death was not a failure – it was their graduation and HOPE.

Can we say that Jesus is more important than our life? Is Jesus more significant to you than fortune, fame, power and pleasure? Is the delight of Jesus bigger in your heart than the delight of your children, your spouse – your SELF? They lived that truth! The end of the verse says that the singers held harps before God. Their lives supplied the sheet music of praise in the Heavens!

15:3 And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!

The song of Moses is a rescue anthem – a song of thankfulness for God’s miraculous guidance, skillful and timely protection and wondrous provision for His people. Moses saw it. The Lamb knew it.

  • Great and marvelous are Your works (megala kai thaumasta): huge and awe inspiring are your accomplishments – remember No one stands over the Grand Canyon to boost their self-image!
  • Righteous and true are Your ways (dikaiai): totally just are your plans or paths.

There is no debate about what comes next. The pressure was about to break from Heaven, and the choir was well contented that it was neither hasty nor reactionary – the priestly dressed angels knew their jobs and the clock was now counting down.

15:4 “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; For ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE YOU, FOR YOUR RIGHTEOUS ACTS HAVE BEEN REVEALED.”

The purpose of the judgment was clearly stated – to get people to RECOGNIZE GOD AS GOD. Man should revere the name of their Creator. Whether in the university classroom or the science laboratory – the mystery of life should be tied up in HIM. He alone is distinct from all others. No man can hold that place in another man’s heart. No man can hold the throne of his own heart for himself and not be judged.

  • God alone is to be honored as highest.
  • God alone is to be worshiped.
  • God alone will be seen in the final acts of judgment.
  • Men’s strength will collapse.
  • Their armies will evaporate.
  • Their economic strategies will dissipate into the air.
  • Their lofty arrogance and pagan slurs will vanish in the heat of God’s presence.
  • The Creator will once again be the One and Only God – and that was cause for the choir to sing aloud!

15:5 After these things I looked, and the temple of the tabernacle of testimony in heaven was opened, 6 and the seven angels who had the seven plagues came out of the temple, clothed in linen, clean and bright, and girded around their chests with golden sashes.

John saw angels coming from the Most Holy Place of Heaven’s Tabernacle (the heavenly reality modeled in history by an earthly Temple and the Tabernacle before it). The seven angelic reapers of judgment stepped out of their Temple service – dressed as priests. The work of judgment is HOLY WORK. It is the work of rescue and restoration. It is the work of reconciling the universe to its Creator.

15:7 Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever.

The bowls of judgment are a specific type – the phiales – or flat lipped bowls. These are shallow saucers that were familiar items associated with various functions of the temple worship, such as wine and blood sacrifice. The picture was of a wide plate with a rim – something that could be quickly emptied. It is the swiftness of the judgment that will shock men on earth. In one hour, Babylon will fall flat before God.

The word wrath (thumos) used here is a boiling or flaming anger. Instead of the common word orge (anger from a settled disposition). Thumos is used only 11 times, and 10 of the 11 are in Revelation. It is God’s overflowing anger towards sin contained in the bowls.

15:8 And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power; and no one was able to enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.

John described a moment right after the angels came out of the Temple, saying that great smoke from the power and presence of God filled Heaven’s Temple so that neither angels nor human beings could go back into worship until the completion of the judgment. No created being, for that stretch of time, will have access to the presence of God on His throne until the end of the Tribulation judgment – for God will not be dealing with people in mercy but in judgment.

When the Tabernacle (Ex. 40) and First Temple (1 Kings 6-8) were dedicated, God’s glory and presence was seen in the smoke that filled them. Now it was different. This was no mere display. Commentator William MacDonald offers: “The fact that no one can enter the temple until these seven plagues are completed may mean that no priestly intercession can now delay God’s wrath.

That’s the story. A choir singing, a parade marching, smoke billowing…Heaven on the edge.

Earlier I asked why this moment was frozen in time and recorded for seven churches, and later for believers throughout the ages. Why show the believers of the ages the eventual overthrow of every rebellious human institution? Should we feel relieved that God finally got even? No, I don’t think that is the purpose at all.

I think we don’t understand how God feels about the destructiveness of sin, and how He longs to see the conditions that we have come to accept as NORMAL stomped out completely. He looks at us through the eyes of that child services worker that interviews the repeatedly raped child who acts like it is perfectly normal. He is enraged by our pain, and longs for the end – but He must elect to wait until the whole story unfolds showing who He is to all creation. To intrude early would undo all the work that went in to making the story clear.

God hates sin the way a child of an alcoholic hates that bottle. It destroyed everything. It took the fun out of life and the joy out of the relationship. God hates sin, and cannot wait to crush it!

He hates sin because it KILLED the joy He had walking with US, and eventually it KILLED HIS SON to supply the blood that transfused us with new life. All that keeps us hopeful is that He is ready and able to crush it. Keep your eyes on the sky – He is growing restless to pull us free from its grasp.

It seems we have not only become dulled to God’s feelings about sin in our modern world, but we have also lost our distaste for HELL. The UN has had much to say about a population explosion – but there is one place where the explosion of population should deeply concern and sicken us – the population of HELL. It was said that D.L. Moody reduced hell’s potential population by as many as two million. Billy Graham may have also done that. Yet, hell is still getting too many, and God offers this warning that wrath will come, to remind believers of the need to get busy with the Gospel. Hell is real. Wrath is coming. Judgment is not a fairy tale.

There is yet a third reason that the wrath of God is so carefully choreographed for the believer in this book –zand it is this thought that I want to finish on… It also relates to sins devastation. It is not about those who are going to hell, but for the benefit of those who have already been living in it here on earth. It is to answer the tears of God’s people that have walked through the fires of fallen humanity. It is to encourage you.

That’s right! God told the story of the moment before judgment so that you would be encouraged when things are working against you in this life:

  • When you are honest and the boss fires you but keeps the liars – the fall flexes its muscle.
  • When you are betrayed though you have been faithful and right – demons dance.
  • When you eat right, exercise, drink proper amounts of fluids, and then get news of a disease that is beyond your control and beyond the doctor’s expertise – the weeds of the garden are taking root in your life.

Many people have tried to decide why bad things happen to good people. All of them have noticed that it is hard to face trouble when you don’t know where it is HEADING. An old Roman sailor’s proverb says, “When the pilot does not know for what port he is headed, no wind is the right wind.” In times of trouble, I can open God’s Word and see the end of the tunnel. It is a long tunnel – and many lives hang in the balance – but it is an encouragement that GOD KNOWS THE END of the story, because sin will be crushed from His holy Temple – and delivered by His holy corps of angels.

Here is the perseverance of the saints. God wins. God ends the pain of sin. God crushes its power and finally removes its pain. Separation from loved ones – gone.  Persecution from angry men – finished. Reason rallies spewing hatred toward God and His followers – silenced.

  • Go to the religions of the east, and learn of an endless cycle of reincarnation – punishment and reward as we climb the ladder through thousands of lifetimes – how exhausting and entirely impersonal. It is a scenario of living life trying not offend the thousands of gods and demi-gods on my way to the next rung of the ladder. The end for us is not attaining perfection; it is falling into the arms of the Perfect One.
  • My Muslim friends may answer the question of “bad things” by saying, “Allah has willed it, and you must learn to accept his will.”
  • My Jewish friends may echo Rabbi Harold Kushner’s book entitled, Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? It became a NYT best-seller. His answer was that “God is limited in His power, and therefore He is not a participant in our lives. Instead, He is a spectator watching us with interest.” He says, “God wants to see good things happen to His people, but He is not always able to arrange it.

How very sad! His conclusion is a less than able God in need of our forgiveness of Him for His shortcomings. The Rabbi says that it is our turn now to forgive God for His failures.

Our story ends differently. It ends with a powerful God that makes no apology for His Sovereignty. His choir sang the anthem of His Supremacy. His love for His fallen drove Him to action.

In Max Lucado’s book, The Applause of Heaven, the author tells about a young man, Robert Reed, who has cerebral palsy. He writes: “He can’t brush his teeth or comb his hair or bathe himself. He can’t dress himself, or button his shirt. He has to depend upon other people to do that for him. He can’t take a walk. He can’t go from one place to another by his own power. But his handicaps did not rob him of graduating from high school, & finally earning a degree from Abilene Christian College.” The writer says that Robert Reed decided that he would study to be a missionary. He taught a couple of years in a Junior College in St. Louis. and took five trips to different mission fields. Finally he settled in Lisbon, Portugal. Robert Reed found a hotel owner who would rent him a ground-floor room. He found a restaurant owner who would feed him after hours each day. He found a tutor who would teach him the language. And every day he wheeled out to the city park & passed out Christian literature to people who walked by. He spoke to them in his voice that sounded like a record player whose batteries are about to run down. He told them about the love of God through Jesus Christ. In 6 years Robert Reed won more than seventy people to Jesus. One of them was a young girl by the name of Rosa, who later became his wife. Lucado recalls, “I sat in an audience of thousands & watched as strong men grabbed his wheelchair, with him sitting in it, & lifted him to the platform so that he could speak to this vast audience of people….I watched him as he took his stiff fingers & tried to turn the pages of his Bible. And along with thousands of others, I wiped away tears of admiration. Here is one who could have complained, one who could have been bitter, one who could have asked `Why me?’ One who could have asked, `Why do bad things happen to God’s people?’” “But instead,” he said, “Robert Reed read in his drawn out way the Words of God & gave his testimony. And when he came to the end of it, he lifted up his bent hand & arm & said, `I have everything I need.’” Lucado adds, “His shirts are held together with velcro. But his life is held together with the joy of God.”

Lift up your head and see the power of God. Sin will be defeated. Death’s separation will be erased. Cancer will be a word long forgotten. Divorce will be a word from the ancient past. Rape, incest, murder, pornography, theft, cheating, lying –all will be erased from our existence – a distant memory of a war fought on far away fields long before. God hasn’t forgotten to rescue us – the pressure is building and Heaven’s dam is about to burst.

Opening Heaven’s window and pulling back the curtain on this moment just before judgment is unleashed should help us remember – God knows the effects of sin have been hard for us to navigate… and He hates sin. Don’t despair – sin is on short time as Heaven’s death row is emptied.

The End of the World: “The Truth Below the Surface” – Revelation 14

They were all having fun in the sun. As the small waves crashed in, they made a sound that was much bigger than was truly represented by their size. Some of the now reddened sunbathers were enjoying the lazy pursuits of sand castle making, while others were strewn out along the beach, lying out on towels like the resting seals on an island of the Galapagos. Just a few feet into the water there were literally dozens of tube-laden swimmers. Some were riding waves, but most were just bobbing up and down to the rhythm of the sea’s movements. Above them on the shore sat a lifeguard slumped back in his seat, scanning across the surface of the water. The smell of salt air mixed with coconut oil from the Coppertone sunscreen together with the light glistening on the water had a mesmerizing effect – even on the lifeguard. In fact, watching the dancing rays of the sun against the moving water threatened to hypnotize him. Suddenly, the light flashed as it caught a brief point of deflection that snapped the lifeguard from his stupor. It was a fin – and the lifeguard knew what was beneath the water where that fin was exposed – a shark. He stood up on the step that was joined to the front of his seat and looked through his binoculars. As he gauged the danger, he began to blow his whistle. When people were moving too slowly, he raised his hand to his mouth and called out the word that motivated all of them… “Shark! Shark!” People began to flee to the beach. The lifeguard knew an important truth…The power and danger of the shark lay beneath the surface.

It is a lesson worth remembering: It is often not what we SEE that shows the real power – it is only the tip of the power that is exposed. That is true for all that God’s enemy does – but it is also true of God Himself.

Key Principle: What earth sees is a mere shadow of reality. The real world is the SPIRITUAL WORLD that is beneath the surface of the physical universe’s mask. This world perishes – that one preceded it and will be there when this one is finished.

Paul knew this truth. He said: 2 Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

As John introduced this critical truth that will help guide Tribulation believers through troubles in the way it had helped Paul through persecution – John, under Divine inspiration, opened the door to helping the believer see the powers of darkness beneath their extreme earthly troubles. Let me remind you of our story and the “dark team” that was exposed in the last few chapters of Revelation that we have been studying together. They were the “beneath the surface” evil team – an unholy trinity – that was revealed in Revelation 12 and 13:

  • The “father figure” was a dragon that was clearly identified as Satan – who was bested in Heaven and was tossed to the earth (Revelation 12:7-9), ending the whining and droning against the people of God in Heaven’s corridors
  • His fall to earth coincided with the appearance of the “son figure” of this unholy trinity – the Antichrist. Called the “man of sin” and various other names – he burst on the scene as a startling new political force after being mortally wounded and then miraculously raised. His initial legislation purposed to offer bold peace initiatives, all the while stockpiling weaponry and trading power around the earth. A rising confederation of earth’s powers formed an axis of evil at the Antichrist’s command. His confederation acted as ONE, but was swift, powerful and transformative.
  • Eventually, the dragon pulled in a second ally in the Tribulation – a “spirit figure” in the unholy trinity. This beast was described as LIKE THE FIRST and a HARLOT (Revelation 17) that attempted to spiritually satisfy men’s need for relationship outside the God given boundaries of intimacy with HIM. This was both a false religious beast, and a sign oriented magnet pull of popularity. It had a propaganda ability and pointed to the Antichrist. This one was all about spreading the Antichrist’s BRAND.

That team that was built to wound believers and destroy the coming Kingdom was exposed to ENCOURAGE SUFFERING BELIEVERS. It was exposed to bring confidence to the flagging heart. By Revelation 14, it became important for John to make clear that God wasn’t sitting on the sidelines. The Creator had a team prepared also – and His team was accomplishing His desires in stark contrast to what it appeared on earth. Things looked BAD on earth, but they weren’t bad- they were following the long scripted plan of the Most High.

On first inspection you see that both Heaven and Earth are coordinated spiritually in the message and judgment delivered to the earth. God has a bigger team just “beneath the surface” of the physical world. He is not holding back because He cannot marshal His forces – patience alone delays His coming!  God inserted the information about what HE was doing in a PARENTHETICAL statement – the fifth of seven such parentheses in the book according to the old commentator Dake. This one begins: “AND I LOOKED…”

What John described were seven people or events that caught his attention:

  • The 144,000 witnesses that followed the Lamb (14:1-5)
  • Angel #1: The Gospel of the Tribulation Period (14:6-7)
  • Angel #2: The Indictment of Babylon (14:8)
  • Angel #3: Call to both the Marked and the Martyrs (14:9-14)
  • Angel #4: Call to Commence Judgment (14:15-16)
  • Angel #5: Judgment Reaping Begins (14:17)
  • Angel #6: Grapes of Wrath Harvest (14:18-20)

Even a quick glance at the list reveals that six of the seven beings that caught John’s eye were angels that related to judgment. In the Bible, angels have been ascribed the primary role in executing judgment. One such clear example is in the teaching of the seven step parable in Matthew 13, where Jesus clearly enunciated this role for angels:

Matthew 13:24 “…The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 “But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. 26 “But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. 27 “The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 “And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ 29 “But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 ‘Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”…36 “… His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” 37 And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40 “So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41 “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 “Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

In an important way, the record of Revelation 14 is the fulfillment of that incredible promise.

Essentially, the words of Jesus are the outline for Revelation 14: The Son of Man sends the angels to reap. The passage, therefore opens with position of the Lamb and His people, and then moves to the reaping call of the angels:

The Lamb and His 144,000 workers (14:1-5)

Revelation 14:1 Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion

Some may wonder why we don’t begin with the Lamb and His movements – instead of the 144,000 – in light of the fact that the Lamb is clearly mentioned first in the passage. Let me say something that some will find hard to grasp, but if you keep reading and keep studying, it may offer more help than confusion. Taking the text literally doesn’t imply that we don’t understand that even literal speech has common metaphor. When we read that “all the world” went out to hear John the Baptizer – we don’t picture the Chinese of the Han Dynasty on the bank of the Jordan River. We understand there are common ways to say things. When Jesus spoke of the “two or three gathered together” in the context of judgment – He promised to be “in the midst of them”. This was to be a comfort as they judged difficult things… not an implication that He would materialize and “beam down” when they got together. Normal metaphor doesn’t collide with literal understanding, but we must be careful to judge where it appears and where it does not. I mention this because the passage we are in now has a “tricky” part to it – it is not clear where the players are in 14:1-5. It opens with the Lamb on “Mt. Zion”, and it looks to some like Jesus left Heaven and relocated to Jerusalem. Others move Mt. Zion to Heaven and see it as the “Heavenly Zion” (cp. Hebrews 12:22-13), a perfectly reasonable way to see the mentioning of a city in a metaphor (though I do not think that is what he is doing in Revelation 14).

Hebrews 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.

That Revelation 14 is set in Heaven is one of a series of possibilities, but not what I believe is going on in the passage. If you follow the rest of the description of the 144,000 in the coming verses, they appear to be ON THE EARTH, making decisions that would not be made in Heaven – like not defiling themselves sexually. Since they are WITH the Lamb, it seems more proper that the use is a metaphor. I believe John is trying to indicate that God’s witnesses were on earth, remaining undefiled and offering the truth – and that Jesus was their center – they followed Him. I believe he meant it the way I mean it at a wedding, when I tell a couple to FOLLOW JESUS and KEEP HIM IN THE CENTER OF YOUR HOME. I mean metaphorically – not strictly literally – and everyone in the room knows that.

Look at verse one again. It may look to you (as it does to me) that the opening description of the Lamb’s presence is mentioned to assure the reader the 144,000 are following the Messiah, and they are following the Law – since they are Jewish believers. There are many today who really do not understand Messianic believers. They ostracize them, or make them feel really strange. We should keep in mind that if Revelation 14 is to be understood literally, as I believe it should, MESSIANISM will carry the Gospel to the world in the Tribulation Period. They will have no better reputation in the world then they do now – but God will use them as His primary vehicle to reach the world! This doesn’t mean that everything they do is correct today, but it does mean they will carry a very significant role in the coming days.

The Dedication of the 144,000 (14:1)

They are believers that follow BOTH a dedication to the words of the Father (from the estranged Jewish bride of the Father) and follow the Lamb – they are Messianic Jews. Their placement on Zion is another clue to their identity. Zion is used in Scripture as both a Heavenly ideal – and the eternal city at the end of Revelation – and an earthly city of Promise with Messiah the King (Psalm 2, 48, Isaiah 2, 24, Joel 2:32, etc).

14:1b “…and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.

Before we go on with the description of these Tribulation believers, can I ask you a question? What MARKS your head? Are you embracing the world’s system in your thinking so fully that your life is patterned by the way they think. I am not going all fuzzy on the mark of the beast here – I am simply using the pattern of Scripture.  You see, long before, God told Jewish fathers to teach their children the Scriptures in Deuteronomy 6:7:  “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 8 “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9 “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Orthodox Jews have taught their disciples to put a Mezuzah on their doorposts. They were instructed to bind phylacteries on their arms and forehead. We don’t do it in a PHYSICAL way as I was shown in my education in Jerusalem – we take it as a common metaphor, that God wanted fathers to BIND THE LAW on their children by making it relevant to them in everyday life – and illustrating how God worked daily in their home. It isn’t WRONG to buy a phylactery and bind the Law to a child, but a box with little written scrolls stuck to their head won’t draw their allegiance to God any more than sleeping on my Math textbook would naturally cause me to understand Mathematics. The binding must be about TEACHING VALUES or the box binding won’t help.

In the same way, I need to ask: What values are bound on your head? Is morality determined in your mind by what a majority of people SAY about things? Did you choose your life path by what would give you the best INCOME, or rather by seeking God for direction? Is right and wrong in your heart determined by People Magazine or God’s eternal truth? Listen to these prophetic words of Al Mohler:  In a day of rampant moral relativism and social experimentation, Americans have been engaged in a free-for-all exercise in cultural revolution. But when the experiment is directed at marriage, the fallout is sure to be uniquely tragic. The legalization and cultural acceptance of same-sex marriage will mean, ultimately, the destruction of marriage itself. Without a coherent vision of marriage, the entire society will eventually find itself completely unable to regulate sexual behavior or personal relationships. What happens when the next “sexual lifestyle” gains civil rights status? Those who charge that even raising such a question is scare-mongering, must face the simple fact that the question is unavoidable. Intellectual honesty demands that we recognize the fact that acceptance of same-sex marriage implies–to anyone who has even the slightest commitment to intellectual integrity–the acceptance of any adult consensual sexual lifestyle as legitimate and ultimately deserving of legalized status. (Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.) So I ask again, Who is setting the bar for the definitions of your heart, and your actions. Do we really believe that soon the church will not be standing alone in the message of sexual purity? If we do, are you prepared to put your life up as an example of it? Who is marking your decision making patterns – whose mark do you carry on your head?

The Direction of the 144,000 (14:2-3a)

Dropped into the middle of their description is a voice and choir from Heaven that gives them direction. They got the cues of their message from Heaven, and truths revealed to them that no one appears to have accessed. Revelation 14:2 And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. 3 And they (in Heaven) sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand

The Description of the 144,000 (14:3b-5)

Look at the description of these 144,000 witnesses and then ask this question: When the church is removed, how many people will think that sexual purity is even a concern. How many care about it even NOW? Watching what is happening in our country in our time, we must see the stark difference between these witnesses and the sweeping European and American remaking of moral codes: Revelation 14:3b “…who had been purchased from the earth. 4 These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. 5 And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.

  • They were PURCHASED out of the earth – they are not like them.
  • They were not drawn into sensual practices – they worked at chastity and abstinence.
  • They followed the LAMB – when everyone else followed the DRAGON.
  • They told the TRUTH – when their world was so deceived it did not believe that TRUTH could even be known.

Sadly, this could be said of Christians in a local high school in many school districts. It could be said of college students that desired to have a testimony on their college campus. The dark standards of our world are permeating our times so very quickly that these description points can already be seen as a HIGH CONTRAST to the prevailing world view of our times!

Now, in a swift pass over the text, let’s see six angels swoop into the scene:

Angel #1: The Gospel of the Tribulation Period (14:6-7)

Revelation 14:6 And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; 7 and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.”

The first angels brings a message of the eternal Gospel (that salvation in every age was always by grace through faith and in no other way). The angel pushed out the message to be sure that all men on earth had the opportunity to know God, though few thought it worth listening to. He also brought the additional part of the Gospel that we don’t preach in the technical giving of the message today: That the church is gone and the last days of judgment had come. The call to worship God is interesting formed around the CREATION MESSAGE that had probably been long removed from society by lab coated men and women of the sciences. Clinging to the message of Creation was part of the final stage of reaching out in response to the truth of God.

Angel #2: The Indictment of Babylon (14:8)

Revelation 14:8 And another angel, a second one, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality.”

The second angel pointed out that the system of men was morally bankrupt, and that was a central truth of the message of the witnesses. It is quickly becoming the central truth to our ministries in these latter days as well.

Angel #3: Call to both the Marked and the Martyrs (14:9-14)

The third angel offered a message to two people groups of the earth. First, he warned people who were making the decision to follow the beast that it had dire consequences that were absolutely eternal. As churches move away from a message of hell, it is easy to hear how collared clergy will line up against such a message: Revelation  14: 9 Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”

That same angel seemed to signal that martyrdom was becoming the order of the day. In my view, the 144,000 get their protection removed at this point, and they begin to be culled from the earth by evil men, which brings a step up in the tempo of Heaven’s judgment against earth’s mutineers: Revelation 14:12 Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. 13 And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.” 14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand.

Angel #4: Call to Commence Judgment (14:15-16)

The tempo of judgment continues with one judgment following another – for the time had come: Revelation  14:15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16 Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped.

Angel #5: Judgment Reaping Begins (14:17)

Still another of God’s army lashed out in threshing the earth… Revelation  14:17 And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle.

Angel #6: Grapes of Wrath Harvest (14:18-20)

The final grape harvest – a wine of blood of men – was now on the horizon: Revelation  14:18 Then another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.” 19 So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God. 20 And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses’ bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles.

Things looked VERY BAD on earth. It appeared that God was LOSING as the earth’s witnesses were being destroyed. In fact, God’s team was accomplishing His long-before scripted plan. I take great COMFORT in that truth. Why? Because it forces me to admit once again that I am not qualified to know when God is losing!

  • When the country ebbs into sin-sickness in our school system – I cry out to God and complain, “Why don’t you DO SOMETHING Lord?” – because I think I can tell who is winning by what is happening – but I cannot.
  • When the political frame of the country seems to be reeling and no candidate seems to be able to identify Biblical values wholly and model them – I wonder why God doesn’t raise up someone different – but I do not know His plan.
  • When the economic values of our homes are decreased and our currency loses its value around the globe I complain to the Lord that mission dollars to not go far anymore – but I must humble myself and recognize that God is working His plan.
  • When our historic foundations are eroded to the point that the influence of Christ and the Gospel in the formation of the country is out rightly denied while damaging beliefs and religious groups gain a more solid foothold of rights in our government than we have – I weep, but God is on His path to victory, and all things are happening as he would have them.
  • When this generation of unborn American children are slaughtered out of a perverse desire for selfish convenience I cry out to Him repeatedly – “God, where are You? Why don’t you stop this terrible nightmare.” He says, “Just do your part, for I know where I am taking your nation.”

When I cry God answers! He shows me the truth. I see only the fin of power. The real power is beneath the wave.

I am no ample judge of the Almighty’s plan. I do not see what the enemy is really doing – nor do I understand how God will take evil and overturn it into GOOD. I see the FIN, but not the FISH. I see the PROBLEMS but not the PLAN.

In the moments I become most angry, I show the most ungodly ego. When I complain about what God is allowing, I am masking the real complaint – what God is DOING. His patience with evil is a constant sore point to me – because I believe I understand the plan.

Israel weeps in darkness and blindness as God has focus His holy attention on the many of us from another nation, people, kindred and tongue. To US this is a marvelous plan… we love being the object of God’s affection. Consider the words of Paul to the Romans 9:22:

“What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make know the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even US, whom He also called, not from among the Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.”

Those words are set in a context that says that God turned His face away from Israel for a time to BLESS the other people of the world, like me – to allow the Gospel to go to the ends of the earth through the temporary, mutual rejection between Israel and God. From my standpoint that is GREAT – because God opened a door for my access. If I were looking from Israel’s standpoint – I would not be nearly so enthusiastic. The salvation of the world sounds great, but I wouldn’t want the darkness to fall on my own family. In the final analysis, if I were Israel, I would have to admit that this is the way God chose to tell His story – and His way is always best. Can we say less about our own times?

Can I not admit that when I am disgusted by the world’s sin sickness – it is BOTH a reminder of man’s mutiny and of God’s patience? That should quiet my heart. It MUST quiet my soul. The fact is that what the earth sees – and what I can see now apart from the discerning light of the Word of God – is a mere shadow of reality. Beneath the surface lurks the SPIRITUAL WORLD operating but masked by the physical universe. The real is hidden, the temporal is seen… and mature believers learn the difference between the two – and which to rely upon.

The End of the World: “Team Builder” – Revelation 13

The year was 1945. The place was central Europe. The last days of power in the Third Reich (Drittes Reich) that began in 1933 were now becoming clear. Though the forces led by Adolph Hitler were clearly facing defeat from Allied powers, the army was ordered to continue destroying without long term rationale or real cause. Though soon to be defeated, these were some of the bloodiest days of the war. Two thirds of European Jewry was already destroyed. Cities across the continent lay in piles of ruins. Priceless artwork was reduced to ash, and architecture of generations was now a blackened cinder hull of its once former glory… Why go on? It seemed like madness – but threatened power is the least rational kind of power.

 One particularly disturbing trend that can be observed if one looks carefully at the waning years of the Reich was this: some people were still joining the war. New recruits had slowed, but the fact that there were ANY is quite disturbing. Why would they do this? The answer may be simple: Many believed the deception of the propaganda they were fed. They didn’t KNOW the end was near, though careful observation should have indicated a problem. The age of recruits was unbelievably low. The weapons handed to them were old and in disrepair.

How did the Reich pull off such a deception? It took three things that revived in a unique way the ancient Roman pallet – SPECTACLE, TEAM WORK and PLANNING. There was a popular process, a political process, and there was a propoganda process. There were sports teams, camps for the young and long standing traditions were co-opted for political and ethical reconstruction. In the end, the team that formed around deception became very proficient at the mass deception game. The description of the end times in Revelation 13 is just like that moment all over again…

Pause… because that should help us understand how such a thing could easily become a reality again, even in our modern world.

To mold a generations values into one (in this case a deception), the long standing differences seeded by religious and ethical thinking must be systematically eroded into accept few (or ideally no) specific underlying fixed truths. The masses must be lulled into political submission by expediency while having their emotional needs met by unifying and satisfying spectacles. Pairing religious deception with political power will produce zealous followers. Believers need to be attuned to the way deception is fed through both channels as the end approaches. Regardless of your political persuasion, is it not now painfully obvious that:

  • We can be persuaded that a nation has harmful weaponry by intelligence reports that may or may not be accurate. In response, we can be persuaded to bankrupt our coffers and borrow extraordinary amounts of money to fight a war that is costly in both human and fiscal terms.
  • We can be led into battle by pundits that assure us there is no other alternative – and we will follow. Our most reliable people can be carted out on TV and change the policy and personality of the nation. It is not hard to imagine.

Don’t miss my point. This isn’t a commentary about mistakes in our recent national past – because I don’t claim to KNOW what the right thing to do is – and I am a community leader. I don’t know the facts well enough to judge – that is my honest admission. The point is that we can be moved extremely quickly to get behind an idea based on political punditry. I believe if you look clearly at our current day, you will see that we are in a world that is utterly prepared for the unfolding of the end time. Add to that the fact that our national religious life has become a soup of contradictions that seem hard to grasp just a generation ago – and the pot is on the stove set for boil.

Key Principle: The stage seems very well set for the last hours to come quickly but that isn’t a BAD THING. It is a challenge to the believer of today to work with the sound of a ticking watch in the background. Time is running out and we must pay attention.

Believers are being convinced, more and more, that the literal view of the end is not real. The deception has already eroded our resistance to changes that will bring it all about – even within the community of believers. God’s Word told us it would happen… and those who study it should see its work clearly. Let’s take a look.

When we open this passage, we step into a story already in progress. In our last time together we introduced two essential prophetic texts that appeared to be like small streams coming together, growing into a larger river – one from Daniel 11 and another from Revelation 12. The confluence of events mentioned show both Heaven and earth, as the world barrels toward its end. I want to tell the story of these events, but will tell them in a past tense – as completed – to insert us in the story in proper sequence…

First, the great dragon, Satan, was bested in Heaven and was tossed to the earth (Revelation 12:7-9). His long droning against the people of God was halted, and his access key to Heaven’s corridors was revoked – showing him that his time to deceive and destroy was coming to a close. In human terms, his appearance was seen by his startling empowering of a new political force – a rising star from among men that captivated the world with his political abilities. This new hero quickly pulled such powers to himself as to become a despot (Daniel 11:36). He reversed the direction of his fathers in terms of their historic gods of worship and even boldly magnified himself with a brazenness that was unusual – even for a politician.

Next, that newly empowered ruler offered bold peace initiatives, all the while stockpiling weaponry – buying and trading power and positions as a child would trade baseball cards on a sand lot (Daniel 11:39-40). Once again on earth, a rising confederation of earth’s powers formed an axis of evil that was a mere mask for the demonic underworld’s blood lust. The new leader’s egregious behaviors took him into the heart of the Near East and into Israel – with every action he exalted himself.

From Heaven, it appeared as though God stood back and allowed His estranged bride to be led to the slaughter, but purposed to step in at intervals to keep the dragon from crushing her. Great struggles were eased by only small releases from Heaven. Satan was doing what he does best… He was called a murderer by Jesus, a destroyer by the Apostle John, and blinder by the Apostle Paul. He is the crouching lion according to the Apostle Peter. He appears as light –  Paul told the Corinthians, but is actually the “Lord of the Flies” from the mouth of the Savior. His work was nearing its end – and the Word revealed that he knew it (Revelation 12:12). God made a promise. He told His people that His enemy would face defeat with powerful words like God will soon CRUSH him under your feet (Romans 16:20) – and the time of that delay in fulfillment was waning.

As Heaven was relieved at the loss of the adversary’s voice, they looked on with horror at the impact of the enemy’s thrashing of earth. The great enemy turned his attention first to crush Israel – the estranged wife of the Father in Heaven – but the Creator created a way of escape at each point of destruction. The enemy poured out a river on the dry land to sweep the woman away (Revelation 12:15) but God summoned the land to open and swallow the water. Even the long fallen world responded to its Creator when he summoned action. Frustrated, the great enemy contented himself with destroying earth’s other believers – not a part of the people of Israel around the earth.

We open Revelation 13 with the dragon thrashing against the earth’s followers of their Creator. It is a simple two part story – He has an earthly political structure (13:1-10), and drew in a religious structure as his spokesman as well (13:11-18). Both of these are wrapped in political theater of spectacle – something that will soothe the emotions of those who pass through the events:

The Political Leadership of the Tribulation (Revelation 13:1-10)

Revelation 13:1 seems to suggest that the dragon used a political system that was made of ten nations and ten leaders – seven of which had some elevated status over the others.

  • This confederation of rulers was obviously pagan in orientation – a fellowship of fists raised against the power and plan of God in every way. The dragon came from the abyss, and slid his powers into that pagan system like a hand in a puppet. Look at the description:

Revelation 13:1 And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names.

  • The confederation of nations appeared as ONE BEAST – there was a unity to these nations (Revelation 13:2a).

Revelation 13:2a “And the beast which I saw was…”

  • The confederation of nations was swift in moving people (a leopard) but its footprint in the lives of people was profound (a bear) and its ability to back up its judgments with fierce authority was unprecedented – all because of the empowering by Satan – the adversary of God.

Revelation 13:2 And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority.

By now, you may be asking yourself an incredibly logical question… How could this guy get so powerful so quickly? How could someone rise from obscurity to become such a political force… can something like this really happen in the day of modern media? Keep looking at the description. Something FANTASTIC and beyond explanation unfolds that makes him a “household wonder!

  • The RULER of this new confederation of nations was apparently mortally wounded  and then “miraculously” raised up. I do not wish to challenge the enemy above my place, but I simply must offer this observation: I respectfully submit that the plagiarized spectacle of a resurrection was the best the enemy could come up with after more than two thousand years of planning! Further reading will indicate that the ANTICHRIST was the very one wounded, and that it came as the wound of a sword – perhaps in battle (Revelation 13:14).

Revelation 13:3 I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast; 4 they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?”

Before you read this as HOCUS POCUS in a bizarre way, think of it this way: What if this rising star came from a medical background? What if he had unlocked something in the human genome in a lab that had never been seen before? What if his company controlled the proprietary information that could stop a plague, heal a world wide pandemic, or heal resuscitate a popular leader? What if he controlled both the release of a pandemic and the cure? Can you hear the end of verse 4, as people quietly said in Washington, Brussels, Beijing and Tokyo: “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?”

Take it another way. What if this ruler was cornered and his power was absolutely destroyed. What if the wound was political – and he was utterly disgraced in some way? What if he “came back from the dead” politically to be uncontested and stronger than ever? Wouldn’t this evoke the same awe?

The rest of verses five through ten offer an over-arching retrospective on the leader’s rise and the creation of the confederation:

  • The leader was boisterous, arrogant and blasphemous – because he had appeared to overcome “death”: Revelation 13:5 There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies…
  • The system developed quickly around the time the church was removed from the scene as a resistance point, and the first half of the Tribulation was characterized by the rising power and confederation agreements: Revelation 13:5b “…and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him.
  • The ruler and his confederation were anti-God, and openly hostile to those who sought God – no matter what corner of the earth they were from. People seemed willing to submit to worship and veneration of the new power – except for the few that were reached with the Gospel and had God’s Word to guide them: Revelation 13:6 And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7 It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. 8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.

You cannot escape the religious overtone to the words of the political machine we have been reading about. It may come because of a great military victory (some scholars believe the defeat of Near Eastern opponents from the north of Israel described in Ezekiel 38 and 39 may be the catalyst). It may come from a simple propaganda machine backed up by the spectacular resuscitation of the fallen leader. One thing is certain, the other passages that refer to this “man of sin” and his system confirm over and over again that he speaks POMPOUS WORDS (Daniel 7:8) and that he uses them in a RELIGIOUS TONE (2 Thess. 2:4).

Were the people of God forgotten? No, not at all. They were first introduced to God in Messiah through the protected witnesses of Revelation 7 and they had His Word to explain His temporary inaction for their defense. They trusted Him to come through in the way He said He would. He said:  Revelation 13:9 If anyone has an ear, let him hear. 10 If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.

Herein is the real cruelty of those who would teach the Bible’s prophecy is not to be understood literally. If the story is metaphoric, what comfort can come from its pages in the midst of the trouble. It is no mystery that those who take the Bible literally see a future for the Jewish people. It is also no mystery that most of the Jewish believers today take the Bible’s promises literally. In the midst of the Tribulation – it is the one hope believers will have – that God will do EXACTLY what He said He would do! Consider this:

  • When God promised a Messiah to be a man, born of a woman – He delivered literally.
  • When God promised Messiah would be born of a Jewess in Bethlehem of Judea – He delivered literally.
  • When God said that Messiah would come 173,880 days after the command to rebuild Jerusalem in 445 BCE (Daniel 9:26ff) – He delivered literally.
  • When God said that Messiah would be “cut off” and then the city of Jerusalem would fall – He delivered literally.
  • When God said that Messiah would suffer as a servant of His people and be nailed to a tree – God delivered literally.

What justifies in our minds making an allegory out of God’s re-gathering of Israel, His restoration and total salvation so completely described by Paul in Romans 11 as a FUTURE EVENT to the church age? The church that turns the future prophetic teaching into uncertainty flies in the face of the past and its literal fulfillment.

The Religious Leadership of the Tribulation (Revelation 13:11-18)

The dragon pulled in a second ally in the Tribulation – in addition to political partners. There is no zealot like a religious convert – and the dragon is good at religion building. He has worked at the craft since the Fall in the Garden.

This second beast is LIKE THE FIRST (as indicated by the use of allos as “another” of the same kind). She is empowered by the enemy, and she lives to make a mockery of the MARRIAGE of both the Father to Israel and the Son to His Church. She is a HARLOT (Revelation 17) and satisfies man’s need for relationship outside the God given boundaries of intimacy with HIM. Look at her description:

  • The religious character, cloak and symbolism is undeniable – it is pictured as a sacrificial lamb. I suspect the picture shows the public persona to be peace-loving and gentle – while the reality is the very opposite: Revelation 13:11 Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon.
  • His operation is within the confines of the power of the political beast, causing honor and veneration to fall upon the political leadership. Revelation 13:12 He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed.
  • His religious work is found in the performing of signs like that of Elijah – the control of lightning. With each passing year I marvel at how the church is setting up a generation of “sign crazed” people – who think you can tell what is right by what is popular and what appears powerful: Revelation 13:13 He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. 14 And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life.
  • His work included the propaganda machine that gave BREATH to the message of the beast. Could this be a media giant? Revelation 13:15 And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed.
  • His work also includes BRANDING and positioning of the BRAND. This could be a citizen identification mark that allows people to operate within the financial system – that wouldn’t even be hard to imagine. The mark itself identifies one as BELONGING TO THE SYSTEM, just as the witnesses of Revelation 7 were sealed on their forehead or the believers of Revelation 14 have their Heavenly Father’s name on their heads. The great counterfeiter of the ages duplicates the identity mark to THE MAN who rules. People will take a side – belonging to HIM or following at great peril to themselves, the real King of the ages. Revelation 13:16 And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, 17 and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name. 18 Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.

Pairing religious deception with political power will produce zealous followers. Believers need to be attuned to the way deception is fed through both channels as the end approaches. As an American, we see a change going on in front of our eyes, and it is much deeper than a simple political one… it is aimed at people of faith from all corners of our own government:

  • When in February of 2009 – the US government officially announced plans to revoke “conscience protection” for health workers who refused to participate in medical activities that go against their beliefs, (fully implemented later in the plan in February 2011) – and some Christians wondered aloud if this was directed at them – because of their open opposition to abortion.
  • Two months later, others were concerned to learn that the US administration officials in would only allow the President to speak at Georgetown University, if the monogram symbolizing Jesus’ name covered during his speech. When Christians cried out about historic foundations, “Reactionary!” cried the press about the Christians.
  • In April of 2010, the US Pentagon dis invited Rev. Franklin Graham from their National Day of Prayer event because of complaints from those who saw his overt evangelism as “offensive”.
  • Last year, the US government eliminated federal grants to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for their extensive programs that aid victims of human trafficking because the Catholic Church is anti-abortion, according to the Washington Post.
  • Later, in one month, the Air Force Academy both rescinded support for Operation Christmas Child, that sends holiday gifts to impoverished children across the world, because the program is run by a Christian charity, and paid $80,000 to add a Stonehenge-like worship center for pagans, druids, witches and Wicca. (source: David Barton and Wallbuilders).

This slide began long before the current administration, but I think we can make the case that many who are running our country are coming out of the closet and believe that Jesus and His church are no longer a force to be reckoned with. Perhaps they are right in the political realm – but they are DEAD WRONG in the spiritual realm. The clouds may be coming… but we aren’t DONE YET.

  • Today, I have the freedom to talk to my next door neighbor about how much Jesus loves them, and why He died for them – and today I won’t go to jail… but will I do it or hope some else takes the call more seriously?
  • Today, I have the right to open, study and learn God’s Word without any fear of retaliation from the authorities – but will I avail myself of the opportunity or find more pressing personal issues to attend to?
  • Today, I have the privilege of praying for those who are in authority over me without the fear of Daniel’s lion’s den – but will I bow my knees or hope that someone else will bring them before the Lord?
  • Today, I can engage my public officials, and question policies that appear to shift away from America’s historic foundations of faith – but will I engage them or hope that some organization will do it for me?
  • Today, I can teach a child about the faithfulness of the Lord, and tell them what He can do in and through them if they will live for Him – but will I work at it or will I hope that they get that from a Sunday school teacher or friend?
  • Today, I can show my community how a godly man or woman should respond when their values and their Savior are attacked – but will I offer any positive response, or just quietly hope it goes away.

Believers need to be attuned to the way deception is fed through both channels as the end approaches. The stage seems very well set for the last hours to come quickly but that isn’t a BAD THING. It is a challenge to the believer of today to work with the sound of a ticking watch in the background. Time is running out and we must pay attention!

The End of the World: "Woman Chaser"- Revelation 12

She was alone and she knew it. The sound of a man stepping on a small piece of glass in the dark parking garage caught her attention. Fear shot through her… The kind of quick stinging fear that feels like bumping a nerve. Just knowing someone else was in that place pushed her mind down a slope and panic set in. “Where is my car? Where are my keys?” She thumbed through her purse nervously. Just as she lay her hands on the keys, another startling sound erupted… The window on her car went down! Through the space of the window in complete darkness, she saw her smiling husband. A tear welled up in her eye, because she knew she was safe. He came to surprise her, but she knew the truth… He was her rescuing angel.

Key Principle: The enemy KEEPS aiming his sights on God estranged bride, but God won’t let her slip away into his hand. Attacks are NOT a surprise to the Creator. God knows how to protect His people – and He never neglects His duty!

Last time we looked into Revelation 12, we saw that a series of signs were flashed across Heaven to inform John of Satan’s war with God. We noted that these signs were actually a CAST OF CHARACTERS THAT WERE RECORDED to tell us of what is ahead. Though not a pretty picture for many, understanding the vision will help us navigate in the present, and have real implications for what we do in modern life. We saw that the signs tell the story – but we have to learn to look at them and understand both the blessing of their warning and the truth of their message!

The first part of the passage is about the CAST – Three Persons that form the story (Revelation 12:1-6)

Remember, the first part of the passage told us about three people, and how they showed the story of God and His great enemy. The three persons were:

1: There is a Woman at the center of the story.

Revelation 12:1 A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars…5 And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations ….6 Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.

She was formed in Heaven, and not the creation of some political movement in the past of the present. She was neither a contrived ancient robber nation that disposed the Canaanites of old, nor some modern Zionist plot to dispossess modern Arabs of their land.

She was a woman beloved and wedded by God as Hosea 2:16 and Isaiah 54:5 call Israel. She had the description that aligned her with the nation and its people, that had become hostile to her former husband – the Living One of Heaven. God wrote Israel a certificate of divorce. As evidence to her continual hostility to her former husband, God wrote in Romans 11:28 and her enmity at the time before her eventual restoration: Romans 11:28 “From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” Israel was depicted in the Epistles of the Christian Scriptures as the divorced wife of God that is awaiting her restoration to Him in a future time that will come about because of a terrible Tribulation. The fact is that she was put away only after they had a son together – and He constitutes the second sign.

2: The Child of the woman is set for great things.

Revelation 12:2 “and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth… 5 And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.

First, He was ruler appointed by God. (As God specific promises to David through Nathan the prophet in 2 Samuel 7). Second, He would come FROM Israel, but RULE ALL THE NATIONS one day. This seems in keeping with what we saw in Revelation 11:15 … “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” The rod of iron with which He would rule is identical in wording to Revelation 19:15 …and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and …on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” Third, He would be caught up to God’s throne room. Did not the book begin with a vision of the Risen Christ in the throne room of God in chapter 1? Did not Acts 1 show Jesus being “taken up to Heaven”?

3: The dragon wants to kill both the woman and the Son.

12:3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. 4 And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.

A third person comes into view. He is the great red dragon. Ha-satan occurs 13 times in the Masoretic Text, in two books of the Hebrew Bible, including Job 1–2 (10x) and in Zechariah 3:1–2 (3x). Biblically, he was behind the attempts at Israel’s destruction in Haman’s plot, and his fingerprints were on Herod’s killing spree of the babies of Bethlehem.

He took a third of the stars and threw them to the earth. When Satan rebelled, something changed about his characteristic lodging in heaven, because we read: “How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!” (Isaiah 14:12). Jesus made a glancing reference to it when He said: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). It could even be that the STAR that fell to earth in Revelation 9:1 was that of Satan himself – though that is not certain. We are told that an “innumerable company of angels” was created by God (Hebrews 12:22), and here one third of them chose to rebel with him.

The dragon was not only spiritual, but seen in the political realm – one with seven heads and ten horns. If you follow the pattern of Daniel’s visions, like that of Daniel 7, a head was a national kingdom, and a horn was a ruler of that kingdom. Satan built a national coalition through human surrogates – but it is nevertheless HIM behind it all! Satan stood before the woman to devour the child. A good reference point could be simply Matthew 2:13, where God thwarted the attempt of Herod to kill the baby Jesus.

God has an ultimate plan for both the believers of the church age and the people of Israel. God’s future for Israel does not guarantee that all they do in their current unregenerate state is acceptable behavior, but we must wise up to the rise of an increasing wave of ANTI ISRAEL thinking that is putting even churches in opposition to any future for that people. Replacement theology – that the church is the new Israel – is reaching into churches and denominations and moving them to enmity with Israel and any future plan of God specifically for them.

Before I read another verse, let me be as clear as I am able to be in words:

  • The future of Israel is not in the hands of the Netanyahu government – for though they have elected him their Prime Minister – he cannot protect her from an attack that has been perpetrated upon her with Satan’s backing.
  • The future of Israel is not dependent upon her by the so-called “Quartet” government peace initiatives. Each of these governments has their own interests and agenda – and they cannot guarantee Israel’s safety.
  • The future of Israel is not in the hands of President Obama or our Congress. They can pledge to stand at her back, but we are borrowing just to stay afloat in our own economy, and with a rising number of American Muslims in our national scene – that dependable source of friendship has deep limitations.
  • The future of Israel is not in the hands of the UN. If one is to look past the veneer of the surface you will discover a deep and abiding disrespect (read: hatred) of Israel by many nations that have little to do with the Arab cause or any direct insult that Israel may have made to them.

The future of Israel is UP TO GOD. Let me show you by looking at the balance of Revelation 12, with what Paul Harvey would say is … the rest of the story.

The second part of the chapter is about the CLASH – Six Events that unfold between Satan and the Woman and Child (Revelation 12:7-9)

Event One: Satan is tossed from Heaven

Revelation 12:7 And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, 8 and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

Long before this passage was written, Daniel prophesied the day was coming for the Heavenly wrestling match that would end in Satan’s tossing from Heaven.

Daniel 11 offers the description of some earthly events. A ruler will arise, according to 11:36, and he will be a despot. He will do whatever he pleases, even magnifying himself to be like a god in the eyes of other men. Daniel 11:37 says he won’t have regard for the god of his own father, but will be a stockpiler of weapons and will create a federation of states by buying off powerful people. Daniel 11:40 argues that some will be unhappy and attack him, finally coming into Israel and even gaining control of many Near Eastern countries. He will establish himself in Israel, but will eventually himself be taken out of power, with no friends to help him remain. At that time, Daniel 12:1 says: “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.”

Remember that the Tribulation on earth is about the Jewish people, for the Jewish people. It is to get the estranged wife of the Father to see the truth about the world and its empty gods and worthless promises. Satan’s arrival after the war in Heaven steps up an already virulent hatred against the Jewish people world wide.

The dragon is clearly called Satan in 12:9. In other places in Scripture he is called “The murderer from the beginning” by Jesus. He is called a “destroyer” in Revelation 9:11, and shown to have a deep connection to ruling people and blinding them to truth in this age in 2 Cor. 4:3-4:

2 Cor. 4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

At the same time, the battle between Michael and Satan is not new. Jude 1:9 showed this battle went on in the past:

Jude 1:9 But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”

For a time, God allowed the enemy to keep up his attack and accusation against the brethren day and night. Heaven had to be tired of Satan’s constant harassing voice of the deciever. Now might be a good time to recall that SATAN IS A DEFEATED ENEMY!

Paul ended the treatise to the Romans with these encouraging words: Romans 16:20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

John knew it would happen as well: 1 John 4:4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.

The whole defeat was a DONE DEAL when Jesus died on the Cross at Calvary: John 12:31 “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. 32 “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” 33 But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.

Don’t go on… stop! Look at what we have just read! Jesus said that HIS DEATH would defeat the enemy. He said that what was given to us as His followers was stronger than what the enemy has to hold us back. He said He will soon CRUSH the enemy. The heel bruiser is about to get stomped on! What an exciting promise.

The great thief of the heavens is about to get jailed. The great murderer of thousands is about to get the electric chair. The rapist, the vile abuser, the kidnapper – he is about to be cut off from ever harming or maming again. His work – the destruction of men and women, the slow and painfulkilling of cells and planets is about to be reversed – and Jesus will bring it all about. We will not mourn his passing – for the Creator of all will crush him once and for all.

Event Two: Striking up Heaven’s Band

12:10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “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 brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.

The other night I sat in a Jerusalem restaurant with the fire alarm going off the whole time. It was a high pitched squeal, and it was clearly out of order. The whole meal was Aaron and I having a conversation with a screeching behind us…..I about went nuts.

I cannot help but think that some of the rejoicing in Heaven is nothing more than Heaven throwing a party over the fact that the slithering, whining, irksome voice of the enemy has been silenced. Like the voice of a foul mouth co-worker that just grinds on you – he is finally barred from the office – and Heaven breaks into praise. The screeching of the baby has ended. The screaming voice of the emo band has gone silent – suddenly a sign comes up from the choir of the Heavenly host!

NOW we are finally going to see an end to this harassing of Heaven. Now we are rescued from his mouth. Now the kingdom is set to move ahead. Now the authority of the Savior is becoming seen in all Heaven and earth. The problem is that what is good for HEAVEN is bad for EARTH….

Event Three: Earth Warriors Helps Heaven’s Angels

Heaven quieted down, but earth got that much more perilous. Satan’s entry permit to Heaven was cancelled. Heaven prevailed. The shocking part is that EARTH appeared to play a role in the victory. Look at the verses:

Revelaiton 12:11 “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. 12 “For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time.

We are so accustomed to the pagan notion that earth is subject to Heaven, that we forget that this is not the Bible’s position. Heaven is affected by earth as well. In 1 Corinthians, Paul argued that rebellion among women was a danger to the angels in Heaven.

1 Cor. 11:8 For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; 9 for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake. 10 Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.

Here in Revelation, the work of the witness of the believers who had lives on earth that were able to be lost because of their testimony aided Heaven’s victory. The stone of Messiah crushed the work of the enemy as Daniel 2:44-45 showed in the vision. His reign is established in the hearts of believers on the way to being established in all the earth! The martyrs and witnesses helped overthrow the wicked one’s case from Heaven’s court when they finished the job the JOB began at the time of the Patriarchs long ago!

Look at the power a believer surrendered has to affect Heavenly things! They overcame the enemy by speaking the truth and living the truth. They gave the enemy a punishing blow when  they lived in integrity. They shamed him when there was no hidden areas in their lives he could use against them… they – and we – can defeat the devil because he doesn’t have anything to accuse us with. If all he can do is make things up – his power diminishes over us!

Recently I heard Dieter Zander, the pastor of the first GenX church in America speak at a conference about reaching people in the age of relativism. He cited a Barna study that asked people to use single words to describe Jesus. They responded, “wise, accepting, compassionate, gracious, humble.” Then he asked them to use single words to describe Christians, they said, “critical, exclusive, self righteous, narrow and repressive.””There is a difference between knowing the good news and being the good news, Zander said. “We are the evidence! How we live our lives are the evidence. Everything counts–all the time.” “With previous generations, a strong preacher could give a good message, even if the church was hypocritical and critical and people would still get saved,” Zander continued, “but not any more. I’m seeing a change in what seekers are looking for. Not something they can relate to. They are looking for a transcendent God. They don’t want to be entertained they want to be transformed.” (sermon central).

We have an enemy that is facing defeat, a Savior that has been proclaimed victor, and Spirit that empowers us and provides a way of escape. Why not start living like we actually ARE on victory’s side?

Event Four: Tribulation Persecutions Against Israel

Now on earth and seeing the end in sight, the enemy has but one ploy up his sleeve. He did not stop the King by death – for the King rose again. He did not corrupt the world by impregnanting the women (Genesis 5). What was left?

Revelation 12:13 And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child. 14 But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.

Satan put a full court press into the persecution of Israel. What else was there? If you cannot kill the King, try to nuke the Kingdom. It would stop the future plan – and that is his end game. It has always been his end game… try to show he can defeat the Creator. Just as he tried, God provided a special and unpredicted wing of escape for the Jewish people.

Event Five: God’s Blockers Come Through

One need only be in the desert during a delue to know how dangerous water can be to a desert landscape. Satan poured our a river:

Revelation 12:15 And the serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, so that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood. 16 But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth.

It seems that God has more answers than Satan has questions. A problem seems to arise, and one of God’s many tools, seldom used in the past, is employed to aid His people. Not since the swalowing of men in the Genesis account was such a method used by God’s hand and recorded in Scripture.

When I was young, I recall reading about how Heaven helped the earth’s missionaries: I read of a Norwegian missionary, Marie Monsen, who served in China in the 1950s. She testified to the intervention of angels when Christians were in great danger. They had taken refuge in the mission compound only to be surrounded by looting soldiers and they were astonished to find that they were left in peace. A few days later the hostile men explained that they were ready to break down the flimsy wall when they noticed tall soldiers with shining faces on a high roof in the compound. Marie Monsen wrote, “The heathen saw them, it was a testimony to them, but they were invisible to us. (sermong central illustrations).

God isn’t limited to the size of the team we can see. His heavens will respond to His command. His earth will eat up the flood waters. He is able to wipe the place clean – but has decided to be patient with men.

Event Six: International Believers Get Pressed

Unsuccessful at annihilating Israel, the enemy moves to other believers around the world, to martyr them and torment them:

Revelation 12:17 So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

His rage is placed against them. The “offspring of Israel by faith” as Paul called the believers among the Gebtiles in Galatians 3:6-9, share the wrath of the enemy once reserved for the Jewish people. When the enemy can’t get what he wants, he goes after someone he doesn’t – just to wound, mame, destroy… it is his way.

The enemy KEEPS aiming his sights on God estranged bride, but God won’t let her slip away into his hand. Attacks are NOT a surprise to the Creator. God knows how to protect His people – and He never neglects His duty!

Oh, dear ones… we should see the day approaching. The clouds are gathering. It is not Iran we should fear. It is not an election that should raise our hackles. It is not the plethora of causes that should make us feel as though we are drowning… it is simply this.

We serve a risen Savior that desires us to lift high His holy name. We serve a Savior that longs for His own people to believe in His ability to conquer temptation, His power to completely clean the inner prison of self guilt, to conquer death’s sting and provide peace, power and purpose. We can follow Him, and the enemy’s ability to wound us firther will be blocked by His good hand. Can we not learn to trust Him?