Posts by rickbarbareblog

I am a retired Clergyman and College instructor. I live in Trenton, SC in Edgefield County.

Revelation 16: The Final Plagues that will Destroy Godless Civilization, Pt. 1

Revelation 16:2-7

“Whoever refuses to be warned by the trumpets of judgment (Rev. 8:11) is destroyed by the bowls of wrath.” (see Hendriksen, p. 161, below.)

Note carefully that there is a striking similarity between the seven bowls of God’s wrath in Rev. 16 and the ten plagues upon the Egyptians in Exodus. However, “…the outpouring of each bowl is not a physical action but a symbol of world-devastating judgment that is purposed by God’s sovereign will and executed by His almighty power.” (see Johnson, D. E., below.) The Angels with the bowls come out of the sanctuary of God’s presence. Watch this short film clip (29 secs) summarizing the Exodus plagues. 

Chapter 16 teaches us that God will execute His final judgment on the Beast-worshipers
by turning nature itself against unrepentant people.

I. The final judgment strikes servants of the Beast’s health, so that their own bodies turn against them. vs. 2

bowl poured out2 So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.

In a passage parallel to Leviticus 26, Moses rehearsed on the plains of Moab the sanctions that should motivate Israel to covenantal fidelity: blessings for obedience (Deuteronomy 28:1-14) and curses for disobedience (Deuteronomy 28:15-68). (I linked the verses rather than printing them in this post to save space.)

First PlagueIt is evident to us that the people trusted the Beast to protect them from any and all harm. The mark of the beast, a sign of their loyalty to and trust in him, did not prevent the sores from breaking out on their bodies.  The mark was on the head and hand of those who serve him. It is an invisible mark, but demonstrating: (1) their thinking is under his control, and (2) their work is also directed by him. Compare I John 2:15-17—

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

Notice the world system’s gifts to those loyal to the Beast’s cause: (1) things which appeal to the lusts of the flesh—pleasure; (2) things which appeal to the eyes—possessions; and (3) things which appeal to the status of one’s life—position. This list from John’s first epistle gives us what a life looks like that is lived for the Beast’s agenda. It is clear that the beast’s largess will not prevent their suffering. 

II. The final judgment strikes the sea, so that it turns against the servants of the Beast. vs. 3

Bowl Poured out 23 The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing died that was in the sea.

This plague will make the sea difficult and distasteful for navigation and trade. The Ancient Romans were so self-centered that they called the Mediterranean Sea simply “Our Sea.” Britain was so Imperial that they have a song children sing at parties—”Rule Britannia.” I heard a group of children singing this at a birthday party when I was in the UK for part of the summer of 1974—

“Rule Britannia!
Britannia rule the waves
Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.”

In the final judgment no one will be able to navigate the seas. No one will “rule the waves.” The wildlife in the waters will die and the odor will be oppressive. The phrase “like that of the dead” is added to emphasize the stench. The bloody sea is “corrupt and loathsome.”

III. The final judgment strikes fresh water, so that it turns against the servants of the Beast. vs. 4

bowl poured out4 The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood.

This plague visits the judgment on the fresh waters. Fresh water turned to blood “signals again an escalation in the intensity of the judgment.” (see Johnson, D. E., below.) 

MARTIN_John_Great_Day_of_His_Wrath

John Martin “Great Day of His Wrath” public domain
image from Wikimedia Commons.

IV. The final judgment will be the fulfillment of the saints prayers in Rev. 6:9-11, that was deferred in Chapter Six. Vss. 5-7

5 And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say, “Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was, for you brought these judgments.
6 For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!”
7 And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!”

“They thirsted after blood and massacred the saints of God; and now they have got blood to drink!” (see Clarke, below.) God’s judgments are just and deserved by the persecuters of God’s people. 

V. The final judgment strikes the sun, so that it turns against the servants of the Beast. vs. 8

Bowl Poured out 28 The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. 9 They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.

This plague affects the sun, like the fourth trumpet. However, it has the opposite effect. The fourth trumpet brought darkness to the sun, but the fourth bowl intensifies the heat of the sun. “Given power” reads literally “it was granted to it.” The use of the passive voice indicates an implied divine agency. God granted the sun to harm instead of helping mankind.

sodom-and-gomorrah

“The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah,” John Martin, 1852.

In this verse, the bowl judgments are first called “plagues.” Plēgē is a “wound,” a “blow,” a “stroke,” or a “bruise.” God is the one who has authority (exousia) over these judgments. Since God could stop them, the beast-worshipers curse him (blasphēmeō). Furthermore, they refused to repent (metanoeō) and give God glory (doxa). 

All of nature seems to turn against the servants of the Beast in the Final Judgment! The reason the full wrath of God falls on the people in the end is that they are sin-hardened and blasphemous. Another reminder to us that “today is the day of salvation, now is the time of salvation!” (II Corinthians 6:2).

The next time we will look at the last three bowls. 

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

Clarke, A. Accessed 28 January 2021 from https://biblehub.com/commentaries/clarke/revelation/16.htm

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Hendriksen, W. (1939). More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

 

Revelation 16: The Curtain Rises on the Last Act

Revelation 16:1-2

The image above is “The destruction of Babylon” from Pierre Mortier’s Bible, ca. 1700. Phillip Medhurst Collection Creative Commons 3.0 license (no changes made).

We observed in studying Rev. 15, that it provided us an index to chapters 16-19. Chapter 15 is also an interpretive interlude to chapter 16. The first section of the chapter (vs. 2-4) deals with the victors over the beast who have been caught up to be with the Lord. The second section (vs. 5-8) deals with the seven angels bearing the bowls of judgment. In my view of the structure of Revelation, 15:2-4 describes the effect of the Second Coming—the redeemed are “caught-up” just before the wrath of God is visited upon all who opposed His plan and persecuted His people.

Second Coming and Bowls Poured Out

So, the “rapture” is a part of the Second Coming. The Lord descends and catches up the living church and raises the dead ones. They in turn participate in the events that follow. There is no “secret rapture,” but it takes place before the eyes of the watching world. Matthew 27 records an incident that is often overlooked—

50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. 51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

Jesus’ resurrection was witnessed by Old Testament saints being raised also. They went into the city and witnessed of Jesus as Messiah whom God had raised from the dead. In the end, when Jesus returns, the dead in Christ will be raised and caught up with the living to participate in the events of the Second Coming. Everyone will see this resurrection of saints as they did in Matthew 27. 

The bowl judgments are all carried out one after the other. Chapters 17-18 describe the destruction of Babylon. “The great harlot, Babylon, is Satan’s anti-Christian seduction, which [strives] to steal the hearts and pervert the morals of believers. At that time the harlot revealed herself as the city of Rome. So, when Satan falls, the beasts and the harlot also fall. They rise together; they go down together” (see, Hendriksen, p. 20, below).

What is the message to the Church of the first century and all centuries that follow?

God’s undiluted wrath will fall in the end on those who persecute His church and reject His Word.

People invariably say that surely people will repent when Christ appears. However, many remain unchanged in their refusal to submit to Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Lewis wrote in The Great Divorce, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’” Lewis insists that “the gates of hell are locked from the inside.” (see Alcorn, below.) paradise-lost-satan-in-council-drawing-by-gustave-dore-gustave-dore

In the end, God’s enemies are hardened in their sin, not sorry for it. Their rebellion continues forever. (see Witmer, p. 38 blow.) John Milton in Paradise Lost agrees when he puts words into Satan’s mouth—”Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heaven.” 

Image to the right, “Satan in Council,” drawing by for Paradise Lost by Gustave Dore colorized by Travis Perry on Nov 21, 2019

“In Revelation, God’s judgments do not undermine his holiness. Rather, they demonstrate it.” (see Witmer, p. 38, below.)

I. Wrath and judgment both are aspects of the God who reveals Himself to us in Revelation.

vs. 1 Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.” [ESV]

This verse (16:1)  links the broad, generalized description in chapter 15:5-8. The background for this vision seems to be Isaiah 66:5-6—

5 Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at his word:
“Your brothers who hate you and cast you out for my name’s sake have said, ‘Let the Lord be glorified,
that we may see your joy’; but it is they who shall be put to shame.
6 “The sound of an uproar from the city!
A sound from the temple!
The sound of the Lord,
rendering recompense to his enemies!

The word for ‘temple’ is naos in Greek, the inner sanctuary of the temple. As we have seen before, God’s throne room is in fact a circular sanctuary—the center of reality, both of things “visible and invisible.” John is relating to us that the severe judgments which are to follow fall on the earth at the express decree of God himself. They are neither arbitrary nor indiscriminate. However, they are intense! Hebrews 12 warns—

25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire. [ESV; emphasis mine)

Bowl Angels

The Giving of the Seven Bowls of Wrath / The First Six Plagues,
Revelation 16:1-16. Matthias Gerung, ca. 1531
public domain image from Wikimedia Commons

Note that the seven angels are sent forth as a group. The trumpets were blown one after the other over a period of time. The 7 bowls will be poured out in rapid succession one after another until they are all emptied. Note also, the trumpets affected 1/3 of the earth. The bowls affect 100% of the earth.

Comparison between trumpets and bowls

The word for “wrath” in Greek is thymos—”anger which flares out at someone.” (English derivative is thermo as in “thermo-neuclear.”) In human beings, anger is considered a passion. Passions often are capricious. In God emotions are real emotions, but they are not passions. They are always holy, just, and right in their expressions. God’s wrath is an expression of his holy hatred of sin. 

A person questioned me recently about my years in a previous denomination. I replied that I was a Presbyterian. He probed further—PCUSA or PCA? I replied that I was in the PCA. His comment next was telling. “Oh, hell-fire and brimstone, I imagine.”

Let me say this, judgment is not God’s ordinary way of dealing with people. Isaiah 28:21—For the LORD shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act. [KJV; emphasis mine]

Judgment is not God’s usual way of dealing with people. Psalm 145 states—8 The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. 9 The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works. [KJV; emphasis mine]

God’s default work is grace, mercy, and forgiveness. However, when those called by His name who apostatize, rather than being on His people’s side, he will be on their enemy’s side. “God was to be on the side of the enemies of his people, who were to suffer as the Philistines had suffered in the olden time. This punishment of His own people by the sword of foreigners was strange work on God’s part — a strange act. But it was their strange conduct which caused God’s strange action. They had become as it were, Philistines.” (see Pulpit Commentary, below.)

II. The Lord closes the offer of salvation and Christ returns to pour out His righteous judgment on the unbelieving world. 

Isaiah 55:6-7 record the offer of salvation and the warning that the offer has a use-by date —

6 “Seek the Lord while he may be found; Seek-the-Lord-300x300
call upon him while he is near;
7 let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. [ESV; emphasis mine.]

With the first bowl is poured out, the offer of salvation has ended.

bowl poured outvs. 2 So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.

There does not seem, at first glance, to be a connection between the 1st trumpet and the 1st bowl. However, note that they both affect the land (gēs = “earth” or “land”). “Sore” (helkos in Greek) is translated “sore,” “wound,” “abscess,” or “ulcer” elsewhere in Greek literature. In Luke 16:20-21, Lazarus is said to have sores (helkoi)—” 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 

Two further adjectives are added in Rev. 16 to describe the “sores”—(1) kakos—”bad” (2) ponēros—”evil.”
The idea is that the sores are “malignant” ones. They are not benign. The KJV says that they are “noisome”— they stink. Note that the sores only come on the worshipers of the beast. The miracle-working beast is not
able to heal his followers.

Let us not put off committing our lives to Christ if we haven’t! He is near at present to save all who call upon Him!

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Alcorn, R. (2014). Banished from Humanity: C.S. Lewis and the Doctrine of Hell. Accessed 19 January 2021 from https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/banished-from-humanity

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

KJV. (1611). Accessed 19 January from https://www.biblegateway.com/

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Pulpit Commentary. (1890). Isaiah. Accessed 18 January 2021 from https://biblehub.com/isaiah/28-21.htm

WikiMedia Commons for Images

Whitmer, S. (2015). Revelation (Knowing the Bible) Crossway. Kindle Edition.

© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 15: God’s Final Plagues

Revelation 15:5-8

Image above from Pinterest at: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/858428378943268977/

As we saw in previous blog posts, the application of chapter 15 to our lives is —

We look back at our suffering in the past as permitted by the loving providence of our all-wise God; and we also look forward in hope to the time when all things unjust will be set to right by that same all-wise God.

Verses 5-8 show God sending His righteous wrath from His heavenly throne to fall on the wicked.

Calvin-preaching-e1587363855273

John Calvin (pictured left preaching) says this —

“Preaching is the public exposition of Scripture by the man sent from God, in which God Himself is present in judgment and in grace.”

The preaching of divine wrath serves as a black velvet backdrop that causes the diamond of God’s mercy to shine brighter than ten thousand suns. Faithful pulpit ministry requires the declaration of both judgment and grace. The Word of God is a sharp, two-edged sword that softens and hardens, comforts and afflicts, saves and damns. (see Lawson, below.)

 


What a difference one omitted detail from a story can make!

I heard a story told about a man relating a personal story from his life. He began by saying, “I got out of my truck and went straight to the house. I knocked the front-door down, ran in, snatched a child from its bed, and brought it outside.”

He asked his friends, “Wasn’t that a great thing to do?”

They replied, “No! You are a kidnapper and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

He slapped his forehead and amended his earlier account, “Oh! I forgot to tell you the house was on fire!!!”


The Gospel preached without judgment will result in many perishing without Christ. We cannot omit the “bad news” from our Gospel presentation and see people converted. 

R-C-Sproul-Quote-The-gospel-is-only-good-news-when-we-understand

God’s final response to persecutors is put forth in 15:5-8. How will that affect us as believers? 

I. God’s righteous indignation will be visited upon the unrepentant persecutors of His people. vs. 5.

vs. 5 After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven was opened…

“After these things” (meta tauta) once again announces that a new series of visions are about to appear. In this new vision the sanctuary (naos) of the tabernacle (skēnē) of testimony is opened in heaven. This is the heavenly pattern for the earthly tabernacle of Moses’ day. It is the throne room of God. 

Verse 15:5 is an expansion of the vision of the seven angels which John began to view in v. 1. However, now the tabernacle witnesses no longer to divine mercy but to judgment, since it is introduced in v. 5 to show that it is the source of the following bowl plagues. (see Beale, G. K., p. 322, below).

What was throughout the Seals, Trumpets, (and Thunders) is now changed from an offer of forgiveness to a series of plagues containing the wrath of God against the unrepentant.


C. S. Lewis on reversed roles in modern times CS-Lewis

The greatest barrier I have met is the almost total absence from the minds of my audience of any sense of sin. The early Christian preachers could assume in their hearers, whether Jews or Pagans, a sense of guilt. Thus the Christian message was in those days unmistakably the Good News. It promised healing to those who knew they were sick. We have to convince our hearers of the unwelcome diagnosis before we can expect them to welcome the news of the remedy.

The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man, the roles are quite reversed. [Man] is the judge: God is in the dock [on trial]. He is quite a kindly judge; if God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty, and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that man is [is judge]  and God is [on trial].”

― C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics,
from https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/1241712-god-in-the-dock


Last_Judgement,_by_Lucas_van_Leyden

Image “Last Judgement, by Lucas van Leyden” (1494-1533);
from Wikimedia Commons; public domain.

II. God will have the last say in judgment at the end. vs. 6

vs. 6 and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests. 

The judgments of God on unrepentant humanity come out of the very Holy of Holies in heaven. The last seven judgments are called “plagues” (plēgas). They are the final “blows, wounds, bruises” that God will inflict on humanity. The angels perform priestly functions as indicated by their clothing which is similar in appearance to Jesus’ clothing in Rev. 1.

III. The mercy seat in heaven will become the place from which God answers the prayers of His people for righteous judgment. vs. 7 

vs. 7 And 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…

Mercy_Seat-wiki-public-dom.

The high priest before the Mercy Seat in the Most Holy Place
on the Day of Atonement. 
(public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The four living creatures are an angelic order that watches over and exercises providential care for the people of God while they are on their earthly sojourn.

Seven Bowls

Image “Seven golden vials full of the wrath of God are distributed”; published under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license; found at https://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/image/L0029273.html

The Greek word for bowl is phialē—from which we derive the English word “vial.” It is a bowl which was used for offerings in the tabernacle worship. The contents of the bowls is the wrath of God. The Greek word is thymos—God’s settled disposition of anger against sin. God does not always pour out his judgment immediately upon deserving sinners. He stores it up until the right moment. 

He is identified as the one who lives unto the ages of  ages. So often, liberals claim that the Bible does not have a word for “eternity.” The Jews spoke of this age and the age to come. Eternity is “the ages of ages” since the age to come will know no end.

I heard an old preacher say the Bible doesn’t have a word meaning “eternity.” I am content to say along with the old preacher—”Isaiah says in 57:15—

For thus saith the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”

The old preacher concluded, We’ll live as long as God does and that’s good enough!” [KJV]

Our Lord decisively set the element of time in [suspension], and took His stand upon the fact and quality of life—life endless by its own nature. Of that eternal life He is Himself the guarantee—”Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19). Therefore said St. Augustine, “Join thyself to the eternal God, and thou wilt be eternal.” (see ISBE, below.)

IV. God’s time for hearing prayers will end with His dispensing judgment on the unrepentant. vs. 8

vs. 8 …and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.

Smoke is often used in the Old Testament in scenes where God appears in the form of a theophany. We do not really see the divine essence. We see a likeness which is suited for us as humans. It both reveals the divine character and conceals the divine essence. Exodus 33:19-23 states that concealment of the divine essence is necessary if we as humans are to be spared from destruction—

19 And [God] said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’  [YHWH] And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 

21 And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

moses-cleft-of-rock

Image from Blog by Ben

The glory of the Lord and the power of the Lord are said to cause the smoke to fill the temple. It seems to be symbolic of the anger of the Lord that burns against sin. The burning anger keeps anyone from entering the sanctuary until the seven final plagues are poured out on unrepentant humanity.

Next time we will move to Chapter 16.

Notes
(Commentaries and articles on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

ISBE. (1915). “Eternal.” Accessed 16 January 2021 from https://biblehub.com/topical/e/eternal.htm

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

KJV. accessed 16 January 2021 from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+57%3A15&version=AKJV

Lawson, S. J. (2014). “Preaching the Wrath of God.” from TableTalk magazine. Accessed 12 January 2021 from https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/preaching-wrath-god/

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 15: Our All-wise and Loving God always Comes to our Aid

Revelation 15:1-4

Image above is of Christ as Pantocrator, Dome, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem, Israel. taken by Oleg Moro and used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

As we saw in the last bog post, the application of chapter 15 to our lives is —

We look back at our suffering and persecution in the past as permitted by the loving providence of our all-wise God; and we also look forward in hope to the time when all things unjust will be set to right by that same all-wise God.

This Chapter reminds us not to place faith in empires and armies. God alone can keep us from an evil end!

I. The glories of heaven await us no matter what our lot in life is here on earth. 

vs. 2 And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing [upon] the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. [ESV]

I like the poem “Go Down, Death” by James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) These lines below are excerpts from a Funeral Sermon.

Go Down Death

Johnson sought to capture the cadence and rhythm of black preaching he heard as a young man, but without using “the misspellings and orthographic tricks often employed in representing black vernacular speech.” He wrote the sermons in poetic form in the book, God’s Trombones (see Johnson, J. W., below).

When our life on this earth closes, we have a great future ahead of us. We may not have that many earthly possessions or money now, but our retirement plan is out of this world, literally!

Note that John saw what looked like a glass sea which had been mixed with fire. “It is a scene of worship, and its imagery is suitable for depicting the majesty and brilliance of God, which the sea of glass is reflecting in a virtual symphony of color. No further symbolic significance than this needs to be sought here.”  (see Johnson A. F., below). John also saw the victorious ones standing upon the glassy/fiery-like sea. 

The righteous have been removed just prior to the pouring out of God’s wrath. Revelation 14-19 are not long drawn out events. All events at the very end occur one after another. They are spread out for study purposes. God will pour out his wrath on the unrepentant world, but never on his church. I Thessalonians 1:9-10 and 5:9 make it clear that God will never pour out his wrath on his church—

I Thess. 1:9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

I Thess. 5:9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. [ESV; emphasis mine]

Michael Card captures this chapter well in his album “Unveiled Hope” about the teaching of Revelation. 

The Greek is literally, “They had harps of God—the harp is the instrument that is most used in the Old Testament. The harps are given to the saints in heaven. It is often associated with prophecy. In Greek the musical instrument is kithara a lyre. “The harp was the national instrument of the Hebrews, and was well known throughout Asia. Moses assigns its invention to Jubal during the antediluvian period. ( Genesis 4:21 ) Josephus records that the harp had ten strings, and that it was played with the plectrum [a pick]. Sometimes it was smaller having only eight strings, and was usually played with the fingers.” (see Smith’s Bible Dictionary, below)

II. God will deliver us safely to heaven because He is sovereign over all our circumstances. 


God can Save us from Death

It was Christmas Eve 1875 and Ira Sankey was traveling on a Delaware River steamboat when he was recognized by some of the passengers. His picture had been in the newspaper because he was the song leader for the famous evangelist D. L. Moody. They asked him to sing one of his own hymns, but Sankey demurred, saying that he preferred to sing William B. Bradbury’s hymn, “Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us.”

As he sang, one of the stanzas began, “We are Thine; do Thou befriend us. Be the Guardian of our way.” When he finished, a man stepped from the shadows and asked, “Did you ever serve in the Union Army?” “Yes,” Mr. Sankey answered, “in the spring of 1860.”

Can you remember if you were doing picket duty on a bright, moonlit night in 1862?”

“Yes,” Mr. Sankey answered, very much surprised.

“So did I, but I was serving in the Confederate army. When I saw you standing at your post, I thought to myself, ‘That fellow will never get away alive.’ I raised my musket and took aim. I was standing in the shadow, completely concealed, while the full light of the moon was falling upon you. At that instant, just as a moment ago, you raised your eyes to heaven and began to sing… ‘Let him sing his song to the end,’ I said to myself, ‘I can shoot him afterwards.’ He’s my victim at all events, and my bullet cannot miss him.’

But the song you sang then was the song you sang just now. I heard the words perfectly: ‘We are Thine; do Thou befriend us. Be the Guardian of our way.’ Those words stirred up many memories. I began to think of my childhood and my God-fearing mother. She had many times sung that song to me. When you had finished your song, it was impossible for me to take aim again. I thought, ‘The Lord who is able to save that man from certain death must surely be great and mighty.’ And my arm of its own accord dropped limp at my side.” (from Our Daily Bread devotional.)


Mariam's Song 1024px-Schnorr_von_Carolsfeld_Bibel_in_Bildern_1860_051

Miriam’s Song by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1794–1872).
Public Domain Image taken by McLeod Gallery

vss. 3-4 3 And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,

“Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
O King of the nations!
4
Who will not fear, O Lord,
and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

It seems two songs are sung since they “sing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb.” However, in fact only one song is heard by the readers. Maybe the two songs have been merged into one. The background to the stanza in verse 3 is definitely the Exodus. The actual wording here may have been drawn from the synagogue and/or early church liturgy (see Johnson, A. F., below). 

Florentinischer_Meister_um_1300_001

Image of “Christ as Pantokrator” from Wikipedia Commons; in the public domain.

I see an echo of Deuteronomy 33:26 in John’s words in Revelation 15:4. “There is no one like the God of [Israel], who rides through the heavens to your help, through the skies in his majesty.”

Feuerbach_Mirjam_2Image to the right is “Miriam the Prophetess” by Anselm Feuerbach (1829- 1880); Public Domain image from WikiMedia Commons; photo by Arianna. →

“Almighty” is pantokratór = One who holds unrestricted power exercising absolute dominion. This term is still prevalent in Orthodox Churches. Jesus is always pictured in the dome of the Church as the icon with Christ’s arms outspread over His people. (See the photograph above.)

The “not” in this question indicates John expects the “no” answer—”Shall [anyone] not fear you and glorify your name, O Lord?” Answer expected, “No! Everyone will fear and glorify your name, O Lord!”

“For” occurs three time in this verse. Each gives the reasons why there is no one who does not fear the Lord and glorify his name.

(1) For He alone is holy (“righteous, pious, and holy”);
(2) For all nations will come before him and worship him;
(3) For His righteous acts of deliverance have been manifested in behalf of his people.


D. L. Moody’s Deathbed Scene

God does not abandon His people when death comes. D. L. Moody pronounced words which are often quoted today when a loved one dies —

“Some day you will read in the papers that D. L. Moody, of East Northfield, is dead,” he had said. “Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now. I shall have gone up higher, that is all — out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal; a body that death cannot touch, that sin cannot taint, a body fashioned like unto His glorious body.”

He wrote his and every Christian’s obituary with these words. 

On his deathbed, his doctor was administering heart stimulation shots to bring him back from sinking again into a coma. At the end he begged them to stop the shots — 

It seemed as though he saw beyond the veil, for he exclaimed: “This is my triumph; this is my coronation day! I have been looking forward to it for years.” Then his face lit up, and he said, in a voice of joyful rapture: “Dwight! Irene! — I see the children’s faces,” referring to the two little grandchildren God had taken from his life in the past year.

“Earth recedes; Heaven opens before me. I have been beyond the gates. God is calling. Don’t call me back.
(from D. L. Moody’s Biography by his son Will Moody, public domain.)


God takes his people to himself when death comes to them. All believers have their triumph and crowning day! We pray for healing. God hears us. However, sometimes He gives ultimate healing—taking us out of suffering, persecution, and death into His loving arms in heaven!

Next time on to Revelation 15:5-8.

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely often without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Johnson, J. W. (1926). “Go Down, Death” from God’s Trombones. Accessed 3 January 2021 from https://allpoetry.com/Go-Down-Death

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Smith’s Bible Dictionary. (1860). Retrieved 3 January 2021 from https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/smiths-bible-dictionary/harp.html [Public Domain]

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© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 15—God’s Justice will Come!

Revelation 15:1-4

The image above “The army of Pharaoh are drowned in the Red Sea” in Duomo, San Gimignano,” photograph  by Livio andronico 2013; Licensed under CC-BY-SA-4.0

The Broader Context of Chapter 15—

Looking back: In chapter 7 the 144,000 is symbolic of the people of God who were sealed before the judgment began. This is the period of the “last days”—the days of Christ’s Death, Resurrection, and Ascension; and continuing through Christ’s Second Coming. In chapters 8-10 God visits the earth with warning judgments. Chapters 11-13 are interludes giving the church the reasons why she suffers so much at the hands of sinful men. Chapter 14 is an index to the final judgment. 

Looking forward: Chapters 15 and 16 set forth the means of the final judgment—7 bowls of wrath. Chapters 17 and 18 describe the specific details of the final judgment. Chapter 19 integrates the final judgment with the Second Coming of Christ.

Connection of Chapter 15 to 16 through 19

The Context of Chapter 15 —

Chapter 15 is an interpretive interlude to chapter 16. The first section of the chapter (vs. 2-4) deals with the victors over the beast who have been caught up to be with the Lord. The second section (vs. 5-8) deals with the seven angels bearing the bowls of judgment. “Chapter 15 is tied closely to chapter 16. Both deal with the seven last plagues of God’s wrath. One is preparatory and interpretive, the other descriptive.” (See Johnson, A. F. below)

The application of chapter 15 to our lives is —

We can look back at our suffering and persecution in the past as permitted by the loving providence of an all-wise God; and then, we can look forward in hope to the time when all things unjust will be set to right by that same all-wise God. 

I am reminded of Rudyard Kipling’s poem, which I memorized and delivered it in Freshman Speech. We must be reminded constantly anti-Christian empires always fall. Like the Titanic, thought at the time to be an unsinkable ship when launched, all earthly empires will eventually fall. “Recessional” By Rudyard Kipling, 1897 on the occasion of the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria. He strikes a warning in the midst of the celebration of the British public. Video is of a reading 1:48. The words are printed below.

Recessional

This Chapter reminds us not to place faith in empires and armies. God alone can keep us from our enemies!

I. The Seven plagues will bring an end to persecuting powers throughout the entire age of the Church. 

vs. 1 Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished. [ESV; emphasis mine]

By calling it “another” great sign John connects it with the vision of the heavenly woman and the dragon who wars against her and her child 12:1, 3 (see Johnson, D. E. below). This verse is a introductory verse to both chapters 15 and 16. There are two other “signs (sēmeion) in the heavens” in this part of the book (12-22). They are in 12:1, 3—(1) the woman clothed with the sun; and (2) the dragon. The word “another” is in Greek “another of the same kind.”

seven-bowls

The Giving of the Seven Bowls of Wrath
The First Six Plagues, Matthias Gerung, c. 1531

Two stories are illustrative as I think about God’s judgment throughout the age of the church. 

An umpire named Babe Pinelli once called Babe Ruth out on strikes. When the crowd booed with sharp disapproval at the call, the legendary Ruth turned to the umpire with disdain and said, “There’s 40,000 people here who know that the last pitch was a ball, tomato head.” Suspecting that the umpire would erupt with anger, the coaches and players braced themselves for Ruth’s ejection. However, the cool headed Pinelli replied, “Maybe so, Babe, but mine is the only opinion that counts.” (Lou Nicholes – Author/Missionary).

God’s Word gives us warning about trusting in our or society’s thinking instead of what God has declared to be true. His truth alone is what matters!

Just before the death of actor W. C. Fields, a friend visited Fields’ hospital room and was surprised to find him thumbing through a Bible. Asked what he was doing with a Bible, Fields replied, “I’m looking for loopholes.” (Source Unknown).

Once our life is drawing to a close, we must realize there are no loopholes in God’s Word. We ought to live each day as if it were our last. Luther once said, “There are only two days on my calendar—today and that day!”

II. The Seven plagues will bring an end to all persecuting armies and nations at the very end.

The bowls will be also the seven last plagues because with them God’s wrath is then completed. The Greek reads, “Seven angels having seven plagues, the last ones, because in them the wrath of God was completed.” The “because”  gives explanation of the reason for the emphasis upon these plagues as “the last ones.” The phrase “in them” indicates “by means of these last seven plagues God’s wrath is brought to completion.” The past tense is used because the event is so certain that it can be placed in the past tense. The passive voice indicates an implied divine agency in the event.

One of the first gospel illustrations that ever made a real impression upon Harry Ironside’s young heart which he heard a preacher tell when he was less than nine years old.

It was of pioneers who were making their way across one of the central states to a distant place that had been opened up for homesteading. They traveled in covered wagons drawn by oxen, and progress was necessarily slow. One day they were horrified to note a long line of smoke in the west, stretching for miles across the prairie, and soon it was evident that the dried grass was burning fiercely and coming toward them rapidly. They had crossed a river the day before but it would be impossible to go back to that before the flames would be upon them. One man only seemed to have understanding as to what could be done. He gave the command to set fire to the grass behind them. Then when a space was burned over, the whole company moved back upon it.

As the flames roared on toward them from the west, a little girl cried out in terror, “Are you sure we shall not all be burned up?” The leader replied, “My child, the flames cannot reach us here, for we are standing where the fire has already been!”

The fires of God’s judgment burned themselves out on Christ, and all who are in Christ are safe forever, for they are now standing where the fire has already burned. (H. A. Ironside, Illustrations of Bible Truth, Moody Press, 1945, pp. 34-35).

This last set of plagues do describe events throughout the age of the Church when empires fall. They also telescope us to the last judgment when all powers opposed to Christ will be vanquished from the battlefield!

Christ and two Thieves

The only safe place in that Day is to be found believing in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior!

I Corinthians 16:22 If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema*; Maranatha!‡

* Anathema = in Greek “to be accursed” or “dedicated to destruction.”
‡ Maranatha! = “Our Lord, come!” in Aramaic 

I echo Paul’s words, “Maranatha!” Our Lord, Come!

Next time on to the 2-4 verses.

Notes (Commentaries on which I rely sometimes without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

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© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 14: Gathering the Wicked for God’s Winepress of Wrath

Revelation 14:1-20

Image “Harvesting Lambrusco grapes” is by snoopsmaus; shared under CC License 2.0.

Let’s remember chapter Fourteen’s theme —

We must not allow current events in space and time to rob us of the fact that Christ, and we in Him, have already triumphed.

The Structure of the two Visions in Revelation 14:14-20

[1] The harvest of the grain symbolizes the gathering of the church for salvation 
[2] the grape harvest portrays the gathering of the wicked for destruction.
(see Johnson, D. E, below; emphasis mine.)

Let’s continue to see how the final judgment gives us as Christians stability in the present while awaiting the Second Coming of Christ. 

I. God’s decrees are enforced despite the opposition of the powerful. vss 17-18

Vss. 17 Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18 And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” 

Many think, “I see evil prosper all around me, and I live according to God’s Word. When will I get justice?

The Psalmist in Psalm 37 observes this —

34 Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off.
35 I have seen a wicked, ruthless man, spreading himself like a green laurel tree.
36 But he passed away, and behold, he was no more; though I sought him, he could not be found.

Robert Murray McCheyne (1813 – 1843) was Scottish pastor and hymn writer. One of my favorites of his is “I am a Debtor.” The first and third verses  have always been favorites for me. (Many more verses make up the hymn as written by McCheyne.) The verse usually omitted deals with the final judgment —

2
When I hear the wicked call

On the rocks and hills to fall,
When I see them start and shrink
On the fiery deluge brink, –
Then, Lord, shall I fully know –
Not till then – how much I owe.

The world’s only hope is in Christ! No one can put off making this commitment to Him as Lord and Savior. There will be date when this offer will expire when Christ removes Christians in a harvest and then gathers the wicked to suffer His wrath in the wine press of His justice at the Last Judgment.

The Harvest and the Wine-Press of Blood

Left is a woodcut of both sections of Revelation 14:16-20, by Hans Leonhard Schäufelein (1480-1540) CCommons CC0 1.0

Now the imagery shifts from grain harvest to the harvest of the grapes. John uses these images to describe the one reality of the final judgment of the world. The Old Testament provides the source for this imagery (Isaiah 63:1-6; Lam. 1:15; Joel 3:13).

John describes this as another (allos) angel of the same kind as the others. This angel had, literally, “authority over the fire.” This angel differs somewhat from the previous three. He comes “from (ek) the altar.” This is the altar of incense before the throne of God on which the prayers of believers are offered up for answer. After what seems to us as a long delay, Jesus Christ will return for His own people and judge the wicked. The prayers of the suffering church in Rev. 6:9-11 are answered. 

9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.
10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?
11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

II. God will cause those who’ve persecuted His people to receive just retribution in the end.

RG-Lee

R. G. Lee (1886 – 1978) was the pastor at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis from 1927-1960. He…was called “a veritable paragon of excellence in the preparation and delivery of sermons,” by W. A. Criswell. His most famous sermon is “Payday Someday.” He is said to have preached it over 1200 times across the country. (see Famous Sermons, below). 

When I came to Edgefield in 1989, I met people who had lived there all their lives. I mentioned to Mr. Frank Timmerman that I knew the famous preacher R. G. Lee once served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Edgefield [EFBC]. I said I had heard on the radio Lee’s most famous sermon, “Payday Someday.”

Mr. Timmerman acknowledged that what I told him was so. In fact, Lee pastored EFBC from 1918 to 1921 (after graduating from Furman University, in Geenville, SC, magna cum laude in 1913). He then proceeded to tell a story from Lee’s ministry in Edgefield that I didn’t know. (I have found if you tell stories, people will share stories with you.) (see Lee, R. G. below.)

R. G. Lee had written the sermon “Payday Someday” while he was in Edgefield in 1919. A man only identified to me as Mr. Norris attended a Wednesday Evening Prayer Meeting where Lee delivered the famous sermon for the first time. Old Mr. Norris then made a “prophetic” statement to Lee, “That was a good sermon, R. G.! If you work on it, it could be a great sermon!” What a positive encouragement to a young pastor who went on to be a very famous preacher! How many preachers are crushed by a church not wanting his sound preaching.

Here is a brief excerpt — “Did God mean what He said, or was He playing a prank on royalty? Did pay-day come? “Pay-day—Someday” is written in the constitution of God’s universe. The retributive providence of God is a reality as certainly as the laws of gravitation are a reality. And to Ahab and Jezebel, pay-day came as certainly as night follows day, because sin carries in itself the seed of its own fatal penalty. (see Famous Sermons, below.)

What we witness in John’s vision in Revelation Chapter 14 is “Payday that Day.” Remunerative justice comes to God’s people as Christ gathers the grain harvest. Retributive justice falls on the wicked who have opposed God and His people. 

Flying_angel_in_Prague

“Flying Angel in Prague” image taken 2016 by Pampuco;
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License

III. God’s delays are not God’s denials — God’s wrath falling on the wicked is certain! vss. 19-20 

When Does God Settle His Accounts?

The story is told of a farmer in a Midwestern state who had a strong disdain for God. As he plowed his field on Sunday morning, he would shake his fist at the church people who passed by on their way to worship. October came and the farmer had his finest crop ever—the best in the entire county. When the harvest was complete, he placed an advertisement in the local paper which belittled the Christians for their faith in God.

Near the end of his diatribe he wrote, “Faith in God must not mean much if someone like me can prosper.” The response from the Christians in the community was quiet and polite. In the next edition of the town paper, a small ad appeared. It read simply, “God doesn’t always settle His accounts in October.” (see Settling Accounts, below.)

In vss. 19-20, God settles His accounts. He pays wrath to those who have rejected His ways and unjustly persecuted His people.

vs. 19 So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.  [ESV]

The imagery of this verse is from Isaiah 63. The phrase “winepress of God’s wrath” means the winepress “which is the wrath of God.”

1545_Bale_Revelation_Chapter_14

Woodcut by John Bale (1545); author MVT_555
image is in the public domain

vs. 20 And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.

This seems to be a reference to Armageddon. John collects all of the anti-God forces together and merges them into one symbol. Later he will call it “Babylon.” The forces will be judged by a power that is outside of their territory. The battle is fierce and bloody. It is obvious that the imagery is not intended to be taken literally. It is supposed to strike terror in those who are unrepentant.

We must flee from the wrath to come by embracing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Many of us did this years back, but it helps to continuously to keep this eternal truth before our minds as evil abounds and good seems to be deserted.

Next time Chapter 15.

Notes

(I list commentaries on which I rely sometimes without direct quotation.)

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Famous Sermons. (2018). “Payday Someday by RG Lee.” Accessed 16 December 2020 from https://sbchistory.com/blog/2018/07/07/famous-sermons-payday-someday-by-rg-lee/

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic

Lee, R. G. (n.d.). “The Life of Dr. R. G. Lee.” Accessed 16 December 2020 from https://www.uu.edu/library/archives/collections/lee.cfm

Lowell, J. R. (1844). “The Present Crisis”; accessed 15 December 2020 from https://poets.org/poem/present-crisis

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Settling Accounts. (2002). From 10,000 Sermon Illustrations. Galaxie Software. Accessed 16 December 2020 from https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermon-illustrations/78979/when-does-god-settle-accounts-by-sermoncentral
Note: I have used this story since I first read it in Our Daily Bread devotional. When I first want into the ministry, more than 44 years ago, I used stories like this to help me learn how to use illustrations in a sermon. Later, I had many stories from my own life experience I could introduce material of my own. 

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© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 14: Gathering the Harvest of Believers out from the World

Revelation 14:14-16

Image above by Gustave Dore, 1866, from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Chapter Fourteen’s theme is —

We must not allow current events in space and time to rob us of the fact that Christ, and we in Him, have already triumphed!

Let’s remember —

The Structure of the two Visions in Revelation 14:14-20

[1] The harvest of the grain symbolizes the gathering of the church for salvation
[2] the grape harvest portrays the gathering of the wicked for destruction.
(see Johnson, D. E, below; emphasis mine.)

Let’s see how the final judgment gives us stability in the present while awaiting the Second Coming of Christ. 

I. Christ, the executor of judgment, may seem slow in setting things to right, but He is on time according to His plan.

vs. 14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand.

Laurel wreathThere has been a great deal of speculation as to the identity of “the one on the cloud.” (1) Some identify the figure as Christ himself. (2) Others identify him as a mighty angel. John gives us some clues as to the figure’s identity —

(a) the figure is “like a (or “the”) son of man. The symbolism in the verses is from Daniel 7:9-14 The phrase is used of Jesus in Rev. 1:13. In this context, the phrase would be interpreted as “a son of man”; in other words, the figure was “like a human being”;
(b) the figure had a victor’s crown (stephanos) on his head (see picture above left from WikiMedia Commons);
(c) the figure had a sickle in his hand with which to reap the harvest.

II. God the Father has a comprehensive plan for what happens to His people in time and space and in eternity.

vs. 15 And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” 

The Last Judgment

The Last Judgment,” Albrecht Dürer, 1510, Woodcut

The angel in this verse is said to be another (allos) angel. Allos means “another of the same kind.” The second angel conveys a Divine message from the throne-room of God, to the one sitting on the cloud to reap the harvest. This is in keeping with Jesus’ status as the Messiah —  

“Christ must be informed by God [the Father] about the time for judgment to begin, since “of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Mark 13:32; Acts 1:7). “Angels in Revelation never announce a message which has its ultimate derivation from themselves, but are always mere conveyors of messages representing the divine will.” (see Beale, page 310, below.)

This illustrates what theologians call the Economic Trinity —

In one sense, the Son and the Father are identical. In another sense, they are distinguished. From all eternity, within the ontological Trinity, the Father begets the Son, and the Son is begotten of the Father. From all eternity, God also freely decrees the salvation of yet to be created human beings in what theologians refer to as the “covenant of redemption.” (see Sproul, below.)

covenant

Image from DeYoung’s Blog

In simple terms, the covenant of redemption — or in Latin, the pactum salutis — refers to the eternal agreement between the Father and the Son to save a people chosen in Christ before the ages began. In slightly more detail, Louis Berkhof describes the covenant of redemption as “the agreement between the Father, giving the Son as Head and Redeemer of the elect, and the Son, voluntarily taking the place of those whom the Father had given him.” (see DeYoung, below).

John 5:19-23 sheds a great deal of light on our passage —

19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.
20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.
21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.
22 For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son,
23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. [ESV]

clouds of heaven

Image licensed under the CC BY-NC:
by “Fir0002/Flagstaffotos”. “Crepscular rays”

The person on the cloud is Jesus Christ. See Daniel 7 —

13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.
14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

The Messiah is here called the Son of man; he was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, and was found in fashion as a man, but he is the Son of God. [see Henry, below] 

The second angel, is said to “come out of the temple.” He announces God the Father’s decree.

The word for “temple” is naos — inner “sanctuary” versus the entire temple complex (hieron) as we have seen previously in our studies of the Revelation. The phrase “the time to reap” is literally ”the hour to reap” (a comparable phrase used in John’s Gospel). It is not just a seasonal thing. There is an appointed time for that harvest to begin. Note also that the verb “ripe” (exerainō) means ”overripe,” or “withered.” The time to bring judgment on the earth for the crimes that had been committed against God’s people has long been past.

III. Believers are taken out of this world before the wrath of God falls on an ungodly world. 

vs. 16 So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.

Jesus Christ gathers in His own people. The word “harvested” (etheristhē) is used only once in the Greek NT. The Lord himself used the harvest as a symbol of the final judgment of the world. See Matthew 13:30, 38-39.

30 Let both [wheat and tares] grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”
38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.

behind the dim unknown - God within the shadow

Image from Pinterest.

The timing of the Second Coming brought a piece of poetry to mind —

Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight,
Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right,
And the choice goes by forever ‘twixt that darkness and that light.

Careless seems the great Avenger; history’s pages but record
One death-grapple in the darkness ‘twixt old systems and the Word;
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne, —
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.
(see Lowell, below; emphasis mine.)

John 17:11-12 assures us no matter what goes on around us we are secure in Christ! We might think sometime that there is no praying for us. We must not forget Jesus is praying for us!

11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. [ESV; emphasis mine.]

Next time, The winepress of the wrath of God.

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

DeYoung, K. (2019). “Theological Primer: Pactum Salutis.” Accessed 16 December 2020 from https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevin-deyoung/theological-primer-pactum-salutis/

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Henry, M. (1708–10). Exposition of the Old and New Testaments. Accessed 16 December 202 from https://biblehub.com/commentaries/daniel/7-13.htm

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic

Lowell, J. R. (1844). “The Present Crisis”; accessed 15 December 2020 from https://poets.org/poem/present-crisis

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Sproul, R. C. (2014). “What’s the Difference between the Ontological and the Economic Trinity?” Accessed 15 December 2020 from https://www.ligonier.org/blog/whats-difference-between-ontological-and-economic-trinity/

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 14: Announcement of Final Judgment and Eternal Salvation!

Revelation 14:6-8

Featured Image above is “Angel of the Revelation” by William Blake, circa 1805. The image is in the public domain from WikiMedia Commons.


An integral part of the Gospel message involves —
(1) judgment for the earth-dwellers;
(2) salvaion for believers.


Hendriksen’s Story about Waiting until It’s too late

“The first angel is sent to those who “sit on the earth.” That characterizes men in general on the eve of the judgment: they sit on earth. They are easy-going, indifferent, unconcerned, listless, and careless.

Think of the artist who found a convenient spot on top of an ocean rock from which to paint the beauty of the village and its surroundings. He is altogether unaware of the fact that the returning tide is surging about the base of the rock. So absorbed is he in his painting that he pays no attention to the lashing of the waves against the rock. He fails to heed the warning voices. He just sits and sits, absorbed in his painting. By and by the waves will bury him.” (see Hendriksen, p. 153, below.)


Let’s see how God will bring abut about His two-fold work of judgment and salvation.

I. The “good news” is for everyone, but has a use-by date on it.

vs. 6 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.

Archangel_Michael_of_PalekhAngels are spirits and are usually invisible, but they appeared in material form to deliver God’s messages in the Old Testament—cf. Acts 7:53 “You…received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” Galatians 3:19 “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an Intermediary (Mediator = Christ). John Calvin says of this verse, “[Paul’s] meaning is, that the angels were the messengers of God, and his witnesses in publishing the law, [in order] that the authority thereof might be firm and stable.”  (see Calvin below; ESV)

This is the gospel as we know it and find it in the  Word of God, that is described here in this verse. There is not a different gospel for different times. The message involves judgment. This is a necessary part of the gospel. The good news is directed toward the saints in this case. It will be good news when the nations who oppose God are judged. Individuals can repent and be saved, but at this point, it will be too late for those whose heart is hardened by following the beast. The proclamation by an angel is indeed unusual. However, the Law was mediated through angels (cf. Acts 7:38; Heb. 2:2), and it is not unusual to find them speaking for God.

“The three angels of verses 6, 8, and 9 belong together. They have one purpose, namely to warn mankind with respect to the coming judgment in order that men may turn to God in true faith.” (see Hendriksen, p. 153, below).

Isaiah declares that God’s salvation is for the present time, and one should not wait.

55:6 “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; 7 let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”

There will be time when it’s too late to seek the Lord. His day of grace and forgiveness is no longer offered.


When I was younger, my pastor told me a story I’ve never forgotten. A man was sharing his testimony about receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. After he finished with his testimony, he urged the man to repent of his sins and believe in Christ. The man replied, “Not now. I’ll do it later.” The pastor said, “Tomorrow isn’t promised. Do it now before it’s too late.” The man retorted, “It’s never too late. Remember the thief on the cross!” The pastor asked, “Which one?”

Two thieves were crucified, but one only responded positively to Jesus Christ on the center cross. It wasn’t too late for him, but when death came, it was to late for the other thief. He died in the sins.

Three Crosses and scripture


II. The only safety in times of judgment comes from receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior.

vs. 7 And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

The essence of O.T. faith is “the fear of the Lord.” It involves two aspects:

1. fear of punishment; the immature response of a child.
2. fear of marring a relationship; the mature response of an adult. 

The angel is calling men to faith in God. He calls upon men to shift their ascription of glory from man and his abilities to God the Creator. “Has come” is the past tense of the Greek verbso certain it is put in the past tense even though it is future. Proverbs 29: 25 warns us of the danger of fearing a person or groups of persons more than we fear God — “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” Matthew 10:28 states this warning too — “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”


III. That God will bring judgment on this world system is absolutely certain.

vs. 8 Another angel, a second, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.”

Belshazzars_Feast

According to Daniel 5:1-31, King Belshazzar of Babylon takes sacred golden and silver vessels from the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem by his predecessor Nebuchadnezzar. Using these holy items, the King and his court praise ‘the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone’. Immediately, the disembodied fingers of a human hand appear and write on the wall of the royal palace the Aramaic words “MENE”, “MENE”, “TEKEL”, “UPHARSIN,” Mene = “God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end”; Tekel = “you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting”; 28 Peres = “your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” ( Rembrandt’s “Belshassar’s Feast,” 1636-1638 in the public domain.)

The experience has been preserved in our modern proverb, “I see the handwriting on the wall.” So has this world and its system seen in Revelation 14 its handwriting on the wall! We as believers cannot cozy up to the world system in our day and build our lives on its principles.

This verse begins the “table of contents” of the rest of the book. It prefaces the very end. It tells us what will happen to this world system when the judgment of God falls upon it. “Fallen” is so certain that it is placed in the past tense. Babylon is symbolic of this world system which stands for the pride of man molded into a heathen city-empire opposed to the things of God. (see Morris, p. 180.)

The reason for the destruction is due to two things:

1. Babylon had an evil influence upon the whole world by leading the nations away from God to immorality with substitutes — idols, etc.
2. Babylon has brought the wrath of God down upon her for her sin.


IV. People decide judgment or salvation depending on their allegiance either to beast or to God.

vs. 9 And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand,
vs. 10 he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 

I have heard people say, “You have to go along to get along.” I also read in God’s Word Matthew’s Gospel about two ways to go in life —

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

broad_and_narrow_way

Public domain image. “The Broad and Narrow Gates,” by Paul Beckmann ca. 1866, from an idea and commission by Charlotte Reihlen. On the left, a big fancy arch leads to sin. On the right, a small gate for plainer folk leads to a fountain and a cross. (full painting is available from this link

John uses two words for “wrath” here —

1. thymos – passionate outburst of anger;
2. orgē – anger from a more settled disposition.

The usual word for divine wrath is orgē. However, thymos is used appropriately here because it is time for the divine fury. The angel describes the “reward” of the beast worshipers — judgment and torment. The drinking from the cup describes what will happen in time — when the wrath of God is poured out in the bowls. The tormenting with fire and sulfur will occur in eternity. The practice of mixing wine with water and spices is referred to in verse 10. The wrath in the cup is undiluted. Compare Isaiah 51:22, 23 for the image of the cup of wrath.

vs. 11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”

The “time” period covered by the torment is eternity. There is no doubt that there is to be eternal punishment for the wicked. There is no hint of annihilation here.


V. The only safety for God’s people lies in patient persistence in their trust in Jesus Christ!

vss. 12 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. 13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”

“Perseverance” is an active bearing up under the pressure of trials. Obedience and faith characterize the people of God. God’s people persevere because they know that he will judge the wicked.

Adoration_of_the_sheperds_-_Matthias_Stomer

Jesus is the only light in a very dark world. Image “Adoration of the Shepherds”
by Matthias Stomer ca. 1650′ Public domain image from WikiMedia Commons.

It is difficult to know where to connect the phrase “from now on” (ap’ arti). Some MSS omit “yes” (nai). This would allow ap’ arti to go with either the preceding phrase or the following phrase. The reading should probably be, “from henceforth, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors.” They had been laboring and suffering. From now on, they will rest.

Kopos means “to labor to the point of exhaustion.” Ergon is “work,” but does not carry the meaning of “painstaking labor.”

I often have paraphrased verse 13 at the burial of a saint of God who had been faithful to Christ through many trials. “Rest peacefully, valiant warrior, your works follow you and your Lord’s reward awaits you!”

The Christian life is a difficult one especially when rewards on earth go to the folks on the broad way and not to those on the narrow way. But, Oh, the destination makes it worth all the trouble! 

Next time, the Harvest of the earth.

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

Calvin, J. (1548). Commentary on Galatians and Ephesians. Accessed 10 December 2020 from https://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom41.html

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

 

Chapter 14: God’s Holy Army Gathered Home

Revelation 14:1-5

The image above is “144,000 with Trumpets, 1860 woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Karolsfeld” from WikiMedia Commons public domain Public Domain

In Revelation 14-15 we are taken to a new set of visions that recapitulate the age from the resurrection/ascension of our Lord to His Second Coming. Only now, the focus is more one the very end of the age. We have adopted the viewpoint of progressive parallelism. Each new set of visions traverse the same ground, but with each we focus more on the end.

I remember a story from Our Daily Bread devotional I read in the past. A son from the congregation had returned as a fresh seminary graduate. He was asked to preach for his home church on the next Sunday. The church was crowded and, though no one noticed, the custodian slipped in at the back and sat to listen to the “lad” he had seen grow up. The newly minted graduate wanted to impress his church, so he preached on the Book of Revelation. He asked the congregation what the message of the book was. After an uncomfortable silence of a minute, the old custodian said aloud, “We done won!”

That is the message of the book of Revelation in a nutshell! We must think and act like victors, not pose  victims! We have already won even though the battlefield is still being cleared of enemy combatants who are beaten but not yet vanquished from the field. As we begin this new section I see a truth we need at this very hour!

We must not allow current events in space and time to rob us of the fact that Christ, and we in Him, have already triumphed.

Let’s see what comfort God gives to his people by assuring them of His victory over all Satan’s forces!

I. God can and does bring His people through all persecution and suffering.

vs. 1 Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.

This 144,000 is the same group which was sealed in chapter 7 before the persecution began. Here in chapter 14, the same group is viewed after they have safely passed through persecution. Alan F. Johnson points out, “A glance back at chapter 7 reminds us that there the 144,000 were merely sealed; here, however, they are seen as already delivered.” (see A. F. Johnson, below).

They have not lost one of their number sealed before the persecutions began. The group is the entire Church viewed from the standpoint of an exact number. God knows those who are his. He makes sure that they pass through any and all tribulations in this life without being lost. Developing nations today are keenly aware that God brings His people though tribulation. He does not exempt them from persecution. See World Watch Map below.

Persecution map of the church in the world-over.
Open Doors UK found at https://www.opendoorsuk.org/

Mount Zion is a reference to the dwelling place of God. Three interpretations of this symbol have been offered—

(1) the literal hills around the Jerusalem area
(2) in the prophetic tradition of the Old Testament, Mount Zion became a symbol of the place where the Messiah would gather to himself the great company of the redeemed
(3) it may simply be a figurative way of saying that the saints are secure in the Lord

It seems to me that a combination of 2 & 3 is best. The Lord will gather his people to himself, both all along during this age, and at the end. The saints have been resurrected just prior to the pouring out of the wrath of God and are safe with Him. He is poised to return in glory and execute his judgment.

They have the seal of ownership marking them as God’s property. This is in contrast to the mark of the beast in chapter 13. It is this seal which guarantees the protection of the saints while they are in this world.

Waterfall

Picture of Angel Falls in Venezuela the world’s tallest waterfall at 3,212 ft.
Wikipedia image by Diego Delso licensed under
 CC BY 3.0

II. While final judgment is being executed, the saints in heaven sing the high and holy praises of God.

vss. 2-3  2 And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, 3 and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.

If you have ever stood at the base of a great waterfall, you know how overwhelming the sound is. If the praise of heaven will drown out all clamor below on earth, why not drown it out now down here in praise to the Triune God! 

I have always had three pictures in the various studies at churches I have served—(1) Charles H. Spurgeon; (2) G. Campbell Morgan; and (3) D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. “Doctor,” as Lloyd-Jones was known, was a physician who left his practice to preach the Gospel. He was pastor at Westminster Chapel, Buckingham Gate in London (1939-1968). His sermons were recorded live and the person recording taped the song before the sermon. Now, Doctor was not a musician, but the singing of that congregation is electric. Listen to a recording of “The Strife Is Over, the Battle Done.” The Doctor is exuberant if not in tune all the time (1:47).

That congregation was made up of 1500 persons in 1961 when this recording was made. I believe overpowering congregational singing is a little taste of heaven. 

The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. The harp is the first century equipment that aids those in this vision to praise God. Compare Rev. 5:8. The song comes from the 144,000 gathered safely in heaven. The angelic choirs in heaven have to sit this one out. They are in a learning mode since they have not been redeemed. See I Peter 1—

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

I read the section above in one church I served. I said, half jesting half serious, “Just think of the empty seats as occupied by the angels who are longing to learn of redemption.” At the door as I greeted the worshipers after the service, one elderly man replied, “It’s a shame we can’t pass the collection plate to the angels.”

I had intended the comment for the comfort of people who realized the church was small but fulfilled a greater purpose in God’s plan.  Ephesians 3 gives us more insight into the church’s ministry to angels.

8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places [reference to the angels].

III. Though we may live in a sinful world now, a time will come when we and where we live will be pure.

Vss.  4 It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, 5 and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.

The picture is of the Church as the Bride of Christ as a chaste and pure Bride. It means that they have not been defiled by the whore of Babylon who is to be presented in chapter 17. The marriage is to happen in chapter 19. The bride of Christ comes to that marriage pure and undefiled. In the Old Testament adultery is a symbol of idolatry.

Bride of Christ 2
Image from http://www.heavenquestions.com/the-bride-of-christ-1.html

Christ’s bride follows the Lamb and not the beast. This is a reference to the discipleship of the Lord’s people.
They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. The firstfruits were wholly dedicated to God. They were offered as an offering to him and could not be put to secular use (cf. James 1:18).

No lie was found in their mouths means complete truthfulness is the mark of Christ’s followers. This may be a reference to their refusing to take blasphemous statements of the beast cult on their lips. ”Blameless” (amomos) is used of sacrificial victims to indicate their acceptableness to God. This could also indicate that Christian service is sacrificial.

Next time, verses 6-13.

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 13: the Mark of the Beast, “666,” Part 5

Revelation 13:16-18

The image above is from WikiMedia Commons — “Beast from the earth makes people adore the image of the beast from the sea” — by Shakko, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International.


We see in these verses the continuation of the message about the Beast from the Land —

The triple alliance between Satan (Dragon), the state (Beast from the Sea), and false religion (Beast from the Land) results in fruitless opposition to God but furious persecution of His people.

Let’s see further results of worshiping the Beast from the Sea


II. The State/Civil-Religion union desires conformity of its citizens and will punish those who dare to think otherwise.

Satirical Image to show how media affects our group thinking from https://www.behance.net/gallery/11314027/Positive-Posters-design

Vss. 16 Also it [the beast from the land] causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, 17 so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name.

Our media-saturated world is a tool for group-think in the extreme. “The medium is the message” is a phrase coined by the Canadian communication theorist Marshall McLuhan. It means that the nature of a medium (the channel through which a message is transmitted) is more important than the meaning or content of the message. McLuhan frequently punned on the word “message,” changing it to “mass age”, “mess age”, and “massage”. (see The medium is the message article from Wikipedia for a summary of McLuhan’s still timely thinking).

The mark (charagma in Greek) is a leveling instrument. It tears down all of the distinctions in society. (It is a counterfeit to the mark placed upon God’s people in Revelation seven.) The mark on the hand affects humans’ work. The mark on the forehead affects humans’ thinking. Unless a person thinks like those around him/her, they will not be able to get a job.


Persecution Stories from Open Doors USA

2020 World Watch List from Open Doors USA length (2 mins. 44 secs.) Well worth the viewing!

The mark is a sign of loyalty to the Beast’s worship cult. It has as its background the following possibilities —

1. The branding of slaves;
2. The branding of soldiers as a sign of loyalty to the commander;
3. The sealing of contracts;
4. The stamping of coins;
5. The certificate of sacrifice to the gods given to those loyal to the imperial cult.

*6. A thing carved, a sculpture, a graven work of idolatrous images

“T” for thief was branded on the “light-fingered” criminal’s hand. – Photo by Dave Doody from https://research.colonialwilliamsburg.org/Foundation/journal/spring03/branks.cfm

The idol is the statue of the Beast from the Sea. The mark on a human says, “I follow the government/false religious way of thinking.” Wearing the mark of a particular person means giving allegiance to that person. Whatever the background, the reference is to an invisible mark, like the invisible mark the saints bear (cf. Rev. 7). Even though the mark is invisible to the eye, it is nevertheless idolatry.

18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.

“Theology is the study of that which concerns each of us ultimately and its bearing on everything else… . With the preceding point in mind, it is worth noting that some people’s ultimate concern is money. For others, it is sex, drugs, etc. For others, it is their family, nation, or job.” (see Patheos, below.)


III. The State/Civil-Religion union always falls short of perfection, try as it may.

Vs. 18 This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.

Leonardo Carrera Gómez is a Mexican professional wrestler best known under the name Damián666. Image by
Alejandro Islas
CC BY-SA 3.0

“His number is 666” — “This is a summons to “work out a number for the Beast’s name” (see Michael Wilcox, p. 128-131, below).

The enigmatic numbers are to be a code or a stock symbol to stand for the Beast. John then proceeds to offer a suggestion — 666. Since 7 is the number of perfection, 6 falls short of that perfection three times. The satanic trifecta attempts to attain perfection but always falls short no matter how many times it tries [cradle to grave care of the citizens]. Three attempts mean three failures. There is no reference to numerical equivalency of names of persons alive at that time or in the future — [Gematria is is an alphanumeric code of assigning a numerical value to a name, word or phrase based on its letters, e.g. some in the 1970s said Henry Kissinger’s name added up to 666.]

Later, Mikhail Gorbachev’s birth mark was the mark of the beast. My mother told me Hitler or Mussolini was the public choice during WWII. Six-six-six is simply a crypto-graph for the Beast.

Chart tying in Revelation 11-13

I have shared the chart above earlier. I re-post it in this blog post to show the link between the three Chapters in Revelation.

The beast from the [land], called in later visions “the false prophet” (16:13; 19:20; 20:10), is in no way a rival or a competitor of the beast from the sea, but on the contrary is strictly subordinate to the first beast. Its mission is not to exalt itself or to demand worship for itself, but solely to make sure that the earth’s inhabitants worship the beast from the sea (vv. 14-15). Possibly John’s readers noticed here a kind of twisted parallel to the Christian [Trinity] — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (see Michaels, below.)

False religion is a tool of the dragon to further persecute the Church. In our day, secular humanism is false religion that dominates the West’s thinking and actions. Religions that accept secular humanism’s ideas, get along well with evil governments. Those who do not conform are ostracized and persecuted.

Churches today must return to affirmation of the crown rights of King Jesus, no matter what the cost! God give us strength to be the church instead of going to a church building.

Next time on to Chapter Fourteen!

Notes (Commentaries on which I rely sometimes without direct quotation.)

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

Death of an Age. (2013). Faith for all of Life May issue. Accessed 5 November 2020 from https://chalcedon.edu/resources/articles/the-death-of-an-age-and-its-faith

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Michaels, J. R. (1997). The IVP New Testament Commentary Series – Revelation. Accessed 29 October 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/ivp-nt/Beast-Earth

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

National Park Service. (2016). “A New Version of Making America Great (Again).” Accessed 10 November 2020 from https://chalcedon.edu/magazine/save-this-page-add-my-notes-a-new-version-of-making-america-great-again

NIV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Patheos. (2014). “Your Ultimate Concern Is Your God.” Accessed 19 November 2020 from https://www.patheos.com/blogs/uncommongodcommongood/2014/09/your-ultimate-concern-is-your-god/

Weaver, R. M. (1948). “Ideas Have Consequences” article from Wikipedia. Accessed 20 November 2020 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideas_Have_Consequences

WikiMedia Commons for Images

Wilcox, M. (1984). The Message of Revelation. Bible Speaks Today series. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic. © 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

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