Revelation 7 — Before the Winds of Woe Can Blow

Revelation 7:1

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree.

Featured Image above is by Olaus Magnus – “On the Necessity of the Knowledge of Winds”; 1555; WikiMedia.

Important Note: We are not seeing a chronological unfolding of events. We are seeing the chronological order in which John saw the visions

“[Revelation 7] …functions both prospectively and retrospectively in that it casts light on chapter 6 as well as on chapters 8-11.” (see Johnson below). 

The message of the Chapter is — We cannot avoid trials common to all men, but we can make it through persecution for the faith with God’s help.

Seal_of_Náchod_town_from_1570_(big)

Official Identifying Seal WikiMedia

I. There are difficulties involved with interpreting this chapter. 

Identifying the two groups referred to in chapter 7 poses the most difficult problem for us. (1) Who are the 144,000? (2) Who are the innumerable multitude? (3) What is the relationship between the two groups.

Second, other difficult questions are: (1) Is the reference to the tribes of Israel symbolic, literal, or representative? (2) To what time period does the phrase “the Great Tribulation’ refer? (3) Are the persons described as ‘an innumerable multitude” all considered to be literal martyrs?

These are questions we will answer in future posts.

dore-jakob-engel_grt

Jacob Wrestling with an Angel — G. Dore 1855

II. God governs this world through the agency of angels.

God’s angels are worshipers of God and our servants. Hebrews 1:14 describes their “dual” service –

14 Are not all angels:
(1) ministering spirits
(2) sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?

[The numbering and arrangement of this verse are mine.]

First, note that angels are “ministering spirits.” The word for “ministering” is the Greek word leitourgeô from which we derive the English word “liturgy.” It means to render to God the service of worship. (See Isaiah 6:1-7 for a symbolic glimpse of heaven and angels in worship being sent on errands of service.)

65672_gethsemane

The Angel of the Agony with Christ in Gethsemane

Second, note that angels are spirits who “are sent to serve” believers. The Greek word for “serve” is diakoneô, from which we derive the English word “deacon.” Deacons are servants of the church (for an example of humans doing this service see Acts 6:1-6).

Putting these two concepts together, we see that Angels worship God in heaven and are sent forth from that worshipful atmosphere on errands of service for believers. One area in which they serve us is to protect us from harm. We do indeed have guardian angels sent by God to deliver us in time of trouble (see Psalm 91:11-12). Some of us need more than one, obviously.

Hokusai

Katsushika Hokusai, “Under the Wave off Kanagawa,” 1830–33 (woodblock print).

III. God controls the forces of nature even when he unleashes them in judgment on the ungodly.

First, it is important to see the order of these visions. The vision that John now sees follows what he previously saw in the opening of the first six seals, but it does not necessarily follow chronologically. The present vision is an aside.

“The scene in 7:1-3 is retrospective, and relates to the events described in 6:1-8. In that case the opening words of the paragraph, ‘after this I saw’, relate to succession in order of John’s apprehension, not chronological succession in order of occurrence. Chapter 7:1-8 takes us to a point in time prior to the opening of the seals.” (see Beasley-Murray, p. 142, below.)

Relationship of paragraphs in Rev 7 to Chapters 6 and 8 9

IV. In all the parenthetical sections of Revelation, we are given insight into things on earth from heaven’s viewpoint.

In this chapter we are given an understanding of trial from heaven’s perspective.

weather vane

Four directions

The number “4” occurs three times in 7:1 — (1) four angels; four corners of the earth; and (3) four winds. It is often used in connection with the earth because of the four directions of the compass.

The judgment bought by the Elements are limited as to what they can do in the way of judgment. At this point in the vision, the angels are restraining the elements from striking out at the earth.

V. God “tempers” the trials of his people.

It is amazing how many people come up to preachers and ask where a particular saying is found in the Bible. Usually, the quotation is not even in the Bible. (They do not want to hear that it is not in the Bible, however.)

One preacher has solved the problem of where they can be found, though. He labeled a ‘file folder’ in his file cabinet: “the Book of Hezekiah.” He then wrote down all of the witty aphorisms that are reputed to be verses of Scripture and put them there.

National-Bible-Week-2015When someone comes up and asks, “Where is “such-and-such” aphorism found in the Bible, Preacher?” He quickly replies, “I believe it is in Hezekiah.” And then, he makes his exit quickly before they can figure out that Hezekiah is not in the Bible. (This is intended as humorous because many sayings are inspired by the Bible thought not found within its pages.)

Donald Grey Barnhouse, the great Bible teacher at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, had a far better way of dealing with this problem. A person once came up to him and asked where the following is found: “God tempers the wind for the lamb that has been shorn of its fleece.” Barnhouse lovingly replied, “It isn’t in the Word of God, but God does temper the wind.”

V. God tells us what we need to see today from Revelation Chapter Seven.

No trial will ever overcome a believer who trusts in the everlasting God. God has placed the destructive forces of nature under his sovereign control. When he uses the forces of nature to judge wicked people on the earth for their sins and for their evil treatment of God’s people, God aids his people through their difficulties.

Next time, we will look at the 144,000 sealed.

Notes

Beasley-Murray, G. R. (1974). Revelation in the New Century Bible series. Grand Rapids, MI: William B Eerdmans Publishing Co. 

Johnson, A. F. (1996). Revelation (Expositor’s Bible Commentary series). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing Co.

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Application of Revelation Chapter Six, Part 3

Revelation 6:8; 6:10; 6:16

These three verses give us the main symbols in Chapter Six. Around them we make application. Note that this chapter is still as relevant to today’s church as it was to the church in the first century. There is no need to offer separate applications for 1st Century Churches and 21st Century Churches.

Application of Revelation Chapter Six

We now apply the third section of Revelation Chapter Six in this post.

III. Persecution will end finally with the outpouring of God’s Wrath against the ungodly. Rev. 6:12-17. 

Key Verse of the day of wrath section

6:16 [The earth-dwellers] cried out, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb… .”

Since God alone knows when the last martyr is to be slain, we ought to leave the matter of justice and vengeance to Him. God will cause the old world order to collapse and usher in the new heavens and earth! What a horror God’s holy presence is to the wicked!

Thus, under the symbolism of these six classes [of people], John sees the entire godless world seized with sudden fear. He sees them terror stricken and fleeing, fleeing from something far more terrible than crumbling mountains and falling rocks. They even seek safety in death itself. If only death would come to them — John hears shrieks of agony uttered by thousands of voices. Kings and slaves, princes and servants, they are all caught in the same self-inflicted agony of despair. (emphasis mine; see Hendriksen, p. 109, below.)

sodom and gomorrah John Martin 1789-1854

No one will be able to hide within his possessions, or be “off the grid” for lack thereof. The poor often forget that Christ commended the “poor in spirit,” not the poor in this world’s goods. We must avoid the great sin of democracy — envy. Many believe that if you have a dime, you probably took a nickel of it from them. That’s envy. 

Personal Experience

I have taught at several institutions of higher learning over my 40+ years of ministry. I once taught a New Testament Introduction class for a college held at a local high school. I noticed a janitor cleaning a lot right outside my classroom door while I was teaching. I kept the door ajar. He was listening. I saw him at the break and asked if he would like to come in and listen. He said he wanted to ask me a question first.

He said, “Don’t you believe the Bible teaches that rich people won’t go to heaven.” I replied that it is not the amount of possessions or money one holds in his grasp that excludes anyone from a personal relationship with God through Christ (which is a prerequisite for heaven).  I said that I had found it is the possessions and money we have that holds us that excludes us from Christ, whether rich or poor. He like the Rich Young Ruler went away sad and never listened again. 

A contemporary melody to an old hymn is a good one for today when judgment is suppressed in favor of an all-loving God. As one pastor has said, “We have so elevated the love of God beyond His holiness and wrath that we have air conditioned hell.”

Next time, we move into Revelation Chapter Seven!

Notes

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. (1563). “The execution of Dr. Ridley and Master Latimer.” Accessed 25 February 2020 from https://www.exclassics.com/foxe/foxe323.htm

Hendriksen, Wm. (1930) More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Repide, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Maruta of Maiperqat. (ca. AD 325). Accessed 26 February 2020 from http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/marutha_nicaea_02_text.htm
Note on the website: This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2007. All material on this page is in the public domain – copy freely.

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Application of Revelation Chapter Six, Part 2

Revelation 6:8; 10; 16

These three verses give us the main symbols in Chapter Six. Around them we make application. Note that this chapter is still as relevant to today’s church as it was to the church in the first century. There is no need to offer separate applications for 1st Century Churches and 21st Century Churches.

Application of Revelation Chapter Six

We apply the second part of chapter six in this post.

II. God alone knows how long the church militant will suffer. Rev. 6:9-11

Key verse in Martyr’s blood crying out for justice section:

6:10 [The martyrs] 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?”

He keeps a tally of martyrs (witnesses who are murdered and those who are attacked but do not immediately die from their wounds.

Persecution of Christians

Here is a description of the procession of clergy into the Council of Nicaea — 

Thomas, Bishop of Marash was an object almost frightful to look upon; he had been mutilated by the removal of his eyes, nose and lips; his teeth had been dug out and both his legs and arms had been cut off. He had been kept in prison 22 years by the [Armenians] who used to cut off a member of his body or mutilate him in some way every year.

The fathers took him with them to the Council and when the Emperor saw him, he fell down upon the ground and [honored] him saying, “I [honor] you, O martyr of Christ, who are adorned with many crowns.” Out of 300+ Bishops, only 11 had no marks of persecution. (see Maruta of Maiperqat below.)

None would deny this good man was a martyr. His life was shortened by his sufferings for 22 years even though he did not die immediately from it. 

What God says to us today

Latimer and Ridley oxford martyrs

Etching from an old Bible of the martyrdom of Latimer and Ridley in Oxford.

God would say to modern day church members and clergy worldwide, “I have limited your sufferings. Even though you do not know how long you must endure, I do. I will sustain you to the end.” 

Before being burned at the stake (1555), Latimer’s words to the younger Ridley are most apropos — “Be of good cheer, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.” (see Foxe’s Book of Martyrs below.)

These words are for our situation of increasing persecution for proclaiming the Gospel and living by the Word of God. We should not draw back, but pray for greater power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Word of God and the Gospel! 

Trust in God in the dark places is essential if we are to finish our walk well.

 

Notes

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. (1563). “The execution of Dr. Ridley and Master Latimer.” Accessed 25 February 2020 from https://www.exclassics.com/foxe/foxe323.htm

Hendriksen, Wm. (1930) More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Repide, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Maruta of Maiperqat. (ca. AD 325). Accessed 26 February 2020 from http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/marutha_nicaea_02_text.htm
Note on the website: This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2007. All material on this page is in the public domain – copy freely.

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

The Sixth Seal: Cosmic Disturbances at the End

Photo above from https://www.goodfreephotos.com/public-domain-images

Revelation 6:12-14

12 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14 The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.

John_Martin_-_The_Great_Day_of_His_Wrath_

“The Great Day of His Wrath,” is an 1851–1853 oil painting by the English painter John Martin. WikiMedia Commons picture.

Old Testament Descriptions of the End

The descriptions in these verses are standard apocalyptic descriptions of “the Day of the Lord.” In the OT his visitations were described in terms of cataclysmic disturbances in the skies and on the earth. They are harbingers of the end of the age.

“As later biblical authors seized on the earlier imagery of the theophany on Sinai to describe appearances of God to man (Habakkuk 3:3ff), so John utilizes the archetypal imagery of the Old Testament to describe this terrible visitation of God’s final judgment on the earth. In much the same manner as we would describe a chaotic situation by saying ‘all hell broke loose,’ so the biblical writers use the language of cosmic turmoil to describe the condition of the world when God comes to judge the earth.” (See Johnson, below.)

Our Approach to Revelation

We are approaching interpretation of the Revelation’s four sets of seven judgments as “progressive parallelism.” William Hendriksen clarifies–

“The seven sections of the Apocalypse are arranged in an ascending, climactic order. There is progress in eschatological [end times] emphasis. The final judgment is first announced, then introduced, and finally described. Similarly, the new heaven and earth are described more fully in the final section than in those that precede it. To this conception of the book we give the name “progressive parallelism.” (see Hendriksen, p. 36, below; emphasis mine).

four horsemen (2)

Public Domain photo of a Painting of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. “Death on a Pale Horse” by Benjamin West (1738-1820).

I. God’s judgment comes in answer to the saints’ prayers.

Since the four horsemen foreshadow the Day of Judgment and the the saints pray for vengeance to fall, God’s answer to their prayers comes at the End of the Age. The answer is postponed, but it comes at last. John describes the judgment in Old Testament apocalyptic terms. God intervenes in history to bring down those opposed to Him and His ways.

It is important for us to realize God’s people await Christ’s appearance as Judge to set things right. In the Intertestamental period (400-1 BC),  the Maccabees intervened in their own affairs with an army and weapons to overthrow the Syrian control over Jerusalem. We may think we can do the same in our country in the 21st Century. However, the Revelation takes us back to the Old Testament’s way of setting things right—God intervenes directly and sets things right. Our task is to pray and bear witness to the Gospel and veracity of God’s Word. II Corinthians 10:4-5

4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ… .

II. Intervention by God dissolves the old order and brings in the new.

Cosmic disturbances in verses 12-14 summarized below—

(1) a great earthquake and its storm affecting the sun and moon;
(2) the stars falling to the earth;
(3) the astral heavens are rolled up;
(4) every mountain and island on earth is removed from its place;

earthquake-and-fire-in-san-francisco-california-1906

Great earthquake and fire in San Francisco 1906

III. Subsequent terror on the earth follows all of this cosmic dissolution.

“The dread and terror, the awe and consternation of [the judgment] day is pictured under the twofold symbolism of (1) a crashing universe and (2) a thoroughly frightened human race.” See Hendriksen, p. 107, below).

Cosmic disturbance at the end of the age will include earth shattering disturbances.

vs. 12 The Greek word is seismos = “shaking.”

The sun was blackened = “became black like sackcloth of hair.”

The moon was reddened = “became like blood.”

stars fall_.Engraving.by_.Adolph.Vollmy

Adolf Vollmy, engraving from 1889, public domain.

vs. 13 The stars fell = “dissolution of the Astral Heavens.”

vs. 14 The sky vanished = “the atmospheric heavens, the clouds, were parted like a scroll rolling up.”

“Every mountain and island was removed from its place = were moved out of their places.” This is a result of the worldwide earthquake at the end of the age.

IV. This is not a “newspaper literal” description of what will occur at the end.

Symbolism describes the dissolution of the present age in preparation for the institution of the new one.

“What we have here is a symbolic picture of the terror of the judgment day. The symbol, taken as a whole, teaches just one lesson, namely, that the final and complete [out-pouring] of God’s wrath upon a world that has persecuted the Church will be terrible indeed.” (See Hendriksen, p. 107, below.)

Next time we will look at the terror brought upon all segments of society by the disturbances in Rev. 6:15-17. 

Notes

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

Johnson, A. F. (1982). “Revelation,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Vol 12) Hebrews through Revelation. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub.

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

The Fifth Seal: Transition to the End of the Age

Revelation 6:10-11 con’t

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?”

V. We must realize God always hears our prayers.

6:11 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.

The Power of God at Mnt. Sinai


The martyr’s prayers are not denied. They have been foreshadowed in Four Horse-men’s readiness to ride across the nations of the earth in judgment on rejection of God and persecution of His people.

The answers to their prayers are only postponed. Prayers are mentioned earlier in Revelation 5:8 as prayers of the saints which are incense in the bowls which the angels before the Throne of God have. They will be answered in Rev. 6:12-17 when the prayers finally are presented for fulfillment. The white robe in Greek is the stolê. It is white and stretches to the floor. It was the standard garment of a priest. Saints are Kings and Priests of God who offer prayers to God.

The saints in heaven are said to be at rest (anapausis) cf. Heb. 4:5. This is not inactivity, but freedom from toil and stress of sin and persecution.

God will wait until all the martyrs he has permitted to die actually do die; and then he will take holy and righteous vengeance. He will spare nothing. Better for us to leave judgment in God’s hands than take into ours.

VI. We are called upon to live faithfully by the Holy Scriptures in the Old and New Testaments today!

In Fifth Seal Vision, we met the martyrs who had been dealt mortal wounds for bearing testimony about Christ and maintaining their belief in His truthful Word.

A. One Example of First Century Faith that clashed with Government.

Albrecht Dürer: The Martyrdom of St John the Evangelist Wikimedia commons

In first Century Roman Asia Minor, holding to God’s revelation of Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords could mean a death sentence. Caesar was lord to his subjects.

It is not popular today to hold to absolute truth in God’s revealed Word. In the West we may not be killed for it (not yet, that is). God’s Word is clear about people made in the image and likeness of God. We cannot as a society kill God’s image-bearers and escape judgment.

B. Christians’ Application of the Bible in the Twenty-First Century clashes with government public policy.

We live in a day when legal decisions are based not on the meaning of texts, i.e. The Constitution as written, but on other external factors: modern feelings and sensibilities, “unwritten intentions” read into the text, etc.

“Textualism is adherence to the text of a document—the practice of taking the words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs as they appear… . Conservative Bible scholars sometimes say ‘When the plain sense makes common sense, seek no other sense.’ (see Textualism below.)

C. One Example of Christians’ application of the Bible to life that clashes with government and Society.

Nancy Pearcey

People today bend the Bible to read the way they want to live and think instead of bending themselves to what the Bible teaches. For instance, the abortion issue in law rests not on moral considerations. It is based on modern, psychological “person-hood theory.” (see Personhood Theory below.)

In a First Things magazine article, the idea of Post-birth Abortions is discussed. Since personhood is a value and not a fact, the age when one becomes a person is fluid in the minds of “modern ethicists.” Philip K. Dick wrote a satirical, science fiction short story of the ultimate application of the Roe v Wade decision of the US Supreme Court–“The Pre-persons.”

“Dick imagines a future where the United States Congress has decided that abortion is legal until the soul enters the body. The specific instant is defined by the administration, at present the moment a person has the ability to perform simple algebraic calculations (around the age of 12).” (see Dick below; and Dick, P. K. for the link to read the short story.)

The Basis of the Roe v Wade Decision

The US High Court has ruled that the unborn are human beings, but there is no basis for the claim that they are persons entitled to protection in the womb under the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution (see Pearcey below).

This is a watershed issue since it essentially is decided on the basis of either: (1) what antonymous man thinks; or (2) what the Sovereign Creator has spoken in his Word. God’s judgment continues to fall on those who promote, receive, and practice abortions (unless they repent). We who stand with God are persecuted for believing and acting against the spirit of the age in which we live. After all, persecuters can’t reach God to assault Him directly. His people they can reach! We have the privilege of Hebrews 13:12-13—

12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. (ESV)

For those wishing to maintain Biblical truth amidst all the miasma and confusion of modern thought, I wholeheartedly recommend Nancy Pearcey’s book! We do not speak for the unborn only, but more importantly we speak for God in His Word! In the modern age God doesn’t seem to be given a place at the table. We must still maintain our testimony at the public table even if people do not want to hear! The passage in Revelation 6 teaches us persecution is inevitable for the Christian who bears faithful witness to God’s infallible Word.

VII. We need to bend our lives to Christ as Lord and Savior and not to public policy or opinion!

Evan Roberts, a Welsh coal miner-turned-preacher [preaching in] a revival in 1904 saw 100,000 converts in one year. But what’s astonishing about this story is how the revival came about. Even while he dug in the coal mines, Roberts prayed. In essence, his prayer was “Lord, bend them.” For 11 years, his request went unanswered.

Picture of Evan Roberts

Finally, Roberts attended a Christian convention with evangelist Seth Joshua. While Joshua prayed over a group of believers, Roberts heard him say, “Lord, bend them.” Roberts took up the prayer, applying it to himself: “Lord, bend me!” Within six months, Roberts was seeing thousands of souls come to Christ through his ministry. (see Roberts below; paraphrased in places for meaning clarity.)

If ever we needed faithful living-out of the Word of God as written, it is today. The Lord needs to bring us to the place where we want to be bent by Him.

VIII. God will vindicate those who faithfully adhere to and witness to His Word!

The next paragraph in the chapter relates directly to the prayers prayed under the fifth seal. Note the chart below and the relationship between the three paragraphs of Chapter Six.

Relationship of paragraphs in Rev 6

I have dealt with the Pro-Life witness in this post since it puts us as Bible-believing and -living Christians in the cross-hairs of persecution in the West. Pray, Friends, that God will end this horrible wiping out of His image-bearers!

In the next couple of blog posts, we look into Rev. 6:12-17.

Notes

Dick, Phillip K. (1974). “The Pre-persons” stub article accessed 18 February 2020 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pre-persons
Note: This article gives us basic information about Dick and his literary output.

Dick, P. K. (1973). “The Pre-Persons,” available online at Pro Life New Zealand, December 29, 2012, http://prolife.org.nz/the-pre-persons-phillip-k-dick/
Note. Phillip K. Dick’s works have inspired the following movies: Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, Paycheck, Screamers, and The Adjustment Bureau. No one even alludes to the “Pre-persons” short story today except Pro-Life groups.

Pearcy, Nancy. (2018). Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Personhood Theory. (2012). “Infanticide and the Deadly Threat of ‘Personhood Theory'”. In First Things. Accessed 18 February 2020 from https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2012/02/infanticide-and-the-deadly-threat-of-personhood-theory

Roberts, E. (2012). “Lord, Bend Me!” Blog post from Revolutionary Faith: Taking back Christianity Blog. Accessed 14 February 2020 from https://revolfaith.com/2012/11/07/lord-bend-me/
[This story is widespread in different accounts, but I thought this the most succinct telling of it.]

Textualism. (2020). “Textualism: What is It?” Accessed 14 February 2020 from https://www.compellingtruth.org/textualism.html

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

The Fifth Seal: Cry for Justice! Part 2

Revelation 6:9-11 con’t

how long before you will judge and avenge our blood… .

There is a “cost to discipleship,” as Bonhoeffer reminds us in his book by that name.

Photo above from Open Doors. Women from a Christian village in Cameroon recover after having their ears chopped off by members of Boko Haram. 

III. The faithful church must bear witness during turbulent times.

“The Word of God” is the Greek word logos tou Theou indicating the content of the witness these martyrs had. Remember that John in his Gospel used logos in the first chapter to refer to Jesus.

In our day it costs to remain faithful to God’s Word. However, we must witness to God’s image in man. We must defend the Biblical teaching on marriage, which is between a biologically-born-male and a biologically-born-female because marriage is the symbol of the union between Christ and His church! There is no distinction in Scripture between sex and gender! Genesis 1 makes this clear —

In-His-Image-.00126 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (emphasis mine.)

“Witness” is the Greek word martyrion from which we derive the English word martyr.

“Had borne” is imperfect tense indicating that this testimony was one that was maintained over a long period of time.

Ideological Colonization.

I have already referred in previous posts to African Bishops crying out against “ideological colonization.” (I will place the link to the full article in the notes below.)

BrainwashingWe therefore implore you [the West] to end the filthy campaigns that promote a civilization of death on our continent. …contraceptives, sex education programs fabricated elsewhere, purely technical and deprived of moral content, so-called “safe abortions,” have become commodities that are more accessible to Africans than the way of delivering integral development, of which we have such a vital need.

It can no longer be denied that under the euphemism of “sexual and reproductive health and rights,” such programs are plainly imposed as a condition for development assistance.

Such is also the case of the so-called “gender perspective,” according to which motherhood, the filial and nuptial identity of the human being and the family based on marriage between a man and a woman would be “discriminatory stereotypes.” No! Women and men in Africa are not mere individuals, autonomous from their parents, spouses, children… .

These political and economic pressures have but one objective: the drastic control and reduction of the African population, the planned destruction of marriage and the family. We Africans must categorically say No to this plan, which is killing our continent. (see Fitzgerald below; emphasis mine.)

The African Church is increasingly persecuted partly because they will not give up the Biblical Teaching on the family! You might think, well, that’s over there. How long until Biblical Teaching on gender and the family will be classified as Federal Hate Crimes! (It is currently being considered in Switzerland.) If it becomes law here in America, we will see who is faithful. 

Altar-of-Sacrifice

Blood pouring out of the sacrificial animals onto the ground under the altar of sacrifice from https://hoshanarabbah.org/blog/2017/03/04/altar-of-sacrifice/

IV. This prayer for vengeance is consistent with Christ’s teaching about “loving our enemies.”

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?”

Earth-dwellers is a technical term for those who are at home on the earth and who have no desire for anything more. They stand opposed to God and his will for the earth. The idea of avenging blood is based upon Gen. 4:10. The martyrs are crying out for righteous vengeance. It will not be denied, even if it is postponed!

WORLDVIEW-header

Carl Sagan, “The cosmos is all that there is, was. or ever will be.” For earth-dwellers, they have all they want here and now. They see nothing but what they want to see.

I have heard on two occasions preachers in the heat of anger call down imprecations upon their personal enemies. One said, “If my enemy opposes me, I pray he has a heart attack.” I do not believe this is justified by Scripture.

The Imprecatory Psalms must be adjusted in application to people today according to redemptive history. Jesus said any thought of holy war is to be waged through evangelism and discipleship. (see Matthew 28:16-20.) 

Tremper Longman issues this caveat about using the imprecatory psalms today —

…The imprecations are not just expressions of anger; they allow us to turn our anger over to God for him to act as he sees fit. These prayers do not ask God for the resources and opportunity to take vengeance on our enemies; they ask God to do so and acknowledge his freedom to act or not act as he sees fit. In this way, the imprecations conform to the advice that Paul gives to his readers: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:17–19; Firth, 2005). (see Longman below; emphasis mine.)

imprecatory-psalm-part-2-of-2-fullIf we pray the imprecations of God’s word, they must be directed against the evil one and his minions behind the scenes pulling the strings of evil people in our world. (see II Corinthians 10:4-5; and Ephesians 6:10-20.) I like the old KJV — “leave room for the wrath of God.”

The Greek word for Lord is despotes from which we get our word despot. It means “sovereign Lord.” It was a title of the Caesars. Here it is applied to the Lord of glory.

Next time we will look into Rev. 6:12-17.

Notes

Alexander, J. A. (1850). Commentary on the Psalms. Riverside, CA: E4 Group. Kindle Edition.

Altar of Souls, The. (2011). Accessed 3 February 2020 from http://www.messianicjudaism.me/yinon/2011/07/28/the-altar-of-souls/

Fitzgerald, R. (2015). “African Bishops Sick of West’s ‘Ideological Colonization’”. Accessed 8 February 2020 from https://www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/african-bishops-sick-of-wests-ideological-colonization

Hendricks, S. (2016).”‘God is dead’: What Nietzsche really meant.” Accessed 8 February 2020 from https://bigthink.com/scotty-hendricks/what-nietzsche-really-meant-by-god-is-dead

Longman, T. (2014). Psalms: 15-16 (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

Schaff, P. (1910). History of the Christian Church. accessed 8 February 2020 from https://ccel.org/s/schaff/history/About.htm

StudyLight. (2020). Accessed 4 February 2020 from https://www.studylight.org/lexicons/greek/4969.html

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

The Fifth Seal: Cry for Justice! Part 1

Revelation 6:9-11

Etching above from The Illustrated History of the World Published by Ward; Lock & Co; 1890 


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.

Souls under the Altar

I. Although the Four Horseman do not ride to punish Christians, they are “fair game” for persecution in times of upheaval.

In Revelation 6:1-8, the judgment of the ungodly nations is portrayed. The Four Horsemen are not riding against Christians! They are riding in punishment of nations that deliberately forget God. Psalm 9:17 (ESV) states — The wicked shall return to Sheol (hell), all the nations that forget God.

J. A. Alexander writes of this verse —

17. The wicked shall turn back even to hell…all nations forgetful, of God. The enemies of God and of his people shall be not only thwarted and repulsed, but driven to destruction; and that not merely individuals, but nations. (see Alexander below.)

Hell by Gustave-Dore-Ferinata-
Hell” from Dante’s Inferno illustrated by Gustave Doré (1832-1883).

Europe’s rebellious nations rejoiced when Nietzsche proclaimed, “Gott ist tot!” (“God is dead”). Nietzsche thought this could be a good thing for some people, saying: “… at hearing the news that ‘the old god is dead’, we philosophers and ‘free spirits’ feel illuminated by a new dawn.” “Nietzsche was an atheist for his adult life and didn’t mean that there was a God who had actually died, rather that our idea of one had.”  (see Hendricks below.)

How has that worked out for them? Are not they dead while God Almighty still lives!

Christians, who still hold to the Scriptures, are caught in the middle between God and His judgment on unbelievers. Unbelievers cannot strike out directly at God, so any true believer nearby often becomes an object for them to lash out at. 

Rarely do unrepentant sinful leaders of nations attribute their sufferings to God’s judgment against them. (See Isaiah 36-37 for an incident where invaders attack God’s people and Hezekiah, King of Judah, humbles himself and repents of sin against God.) Usually godless nations turn upon Christians rather than acknowledge God as Sovereign. 

environmental-science

Modern rejection of God’s judgment.

One modern case is the rejection of God and attribution of climate change to people. (“Green Warriors” usually fly on jet planes to deliver their messages that the common people’s carbon footprint is too large and this is the chief cause of climate change.) I do not recommend wilful misuse of natural resources, but neither do I worship the earth and its ecology.) God brings judgment in the form of climactic calamities. Exodus 9:18 — “Behold, about this time tomorrow I will cause very heavy hail to fall, such as never has been in Egypt from the day it was founded until now.”

Compare this with Revelation 8:7 —

The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth. And a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.

I cannot predict the Second Coming of Christ based on climate change, and I am not trying to. I am saying God is in control and even if the climate is changing, He is still Creator and Sustainer of this world. (see Christian below for a Creationist perspective on climate change.)

Such judgment does not bring people to repentance, but issues in persecution of believers. Christians are often at the bottom of the social order. When times of unrest and scarcity occur, Christians are caught in the middle. Since the four seals apply during the last days between Christ’s First and Second Coming, we see judgment of God falling on nations and Christians persecuted by the ungodly for their faithful witness to God and His Word. 

II. Martyrs are not necessarily murdered, but they bear faithful testimony to God and the veracity of His Word for this they are persecuted.

Hebrews_4-16

These witnesses are in the very presence of God and are “martyrs.” They carried their faithfulness to God to the point of death. The Jews spoke of the departed righteous as being under the altar.

Similar descriptions of the heavenly altar and throne are found within rabbinic texts —

The Holy One, Blessed be He, took the soul of Moses and stored it under the Throne of Glory … Not only the soul of Moses is stored under the Throne of Glory, but the souls of the righteous are also stored there … Rabbi Akiva used to say … “Whoever is buried under the altar is as though he were buried beneath the Throne of Glory.” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan 12:4, 26:2). (see Altar of Souls below.)

“Slain” is literally “slaughtered” (sphazô), the same word that is used of the Lamb in Rev. 5. It is perfect tense here. It means “to put to death by violence” or “to deal a mortal wound to.” (see StudyLight below). Note the description of the Confessors at Council of Nicaea —

Some, as confessors, still bore in their body the marks of Christ from the times of persecution… . Patamon of Heraclea in Egypt, had lost one eye in the last persecution; Paphnutius had one eye bored out and his legs cut off during Maximin’s persecution. Another bishop, Paul of Neocaesarea, had had his hands burnt by the red-hot irons. (See Schaff, Chapter 9, pg. 626, below).

These men are martyrs even though they did not die immediately from their torture. Surely their lives were shortened by the persecution of ungodly, unrepentant people. 

More on the fifth seal next post!

Notes

Alexander, J. A. (1850). Commentary on the Psalms. Riverside, CA: E4 Group. Kindle Edition.

Altar of Souls, The. (2011). Accessed 3 February 2020 from http://www.messianicjudaism.me/yinon/2011/07/28/the-altar-of-souls/

Christian, M. (2008). “Global Warming in Perspective”. accessed 8 February 2020 from https://answersingenesis.org/environmental-science/climate-change/global-warming-in-perspective/

Fitzgerald, R. (2015). “African Bishops Sick of West’s ‘Ideological Colonization’”. Accessed 8 February 2020 from https://www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/african-bishops-sick-of-wests-ideological-colonization

Hendricks, S. (2016).”‘God is dead’: What Nietzsche really meant.” Accessed 8 February 2020 from https://bigthink.com/scotty-hendricks/what-nietzsche-really-meant-by-god-is-dead

Longman, T. (2014). Psalms: 15-16 (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

Schaff, P. (1910). History of the Christian Church. accessed 8 February 2020 from https://ccel.org/s/schaff/history/About.htm

StudyLight. (2020). Accessed 4 February 2020 from https://www.studylight.org/lexicons/greek/4969.html

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved