Revelation 17: Unveiling The Mysterious Woman Riding the Beast

Revelation 17:3b-7

Image above of “Vanity Fair” by Frederick Rhead, from The Pilgrim’s Progress from this world to that which is to come, by John Bunyan, New York, 1898. Public Domain illustration found at https://scrap.oldbookillustrations.com

I have spent a great deal of time in this Blog trying to discern the message of Revelation to First Century Christians. I believe the book has application to every age, but I see application for us today as derived from the message of the text to the first century believers. For example, John didn’t see planes dropping bombs or helicopters flying in battle. He saw visions of apocalyptic warfare in terms of his own day. Most of the symbols are taken from the Old Testament. John is up-dating the prophecies of the Old Testament prophets for his audience. 

This chapter reminds me of a scene from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. (Sorry for its being animated, but it is not just a cartoon version of the book.)

In the last post, we saw the theme of Chapter 17—The woman riding the Beast symbolizes enticing evil behind the kingdoms of this world. The application of Revelation 17 is—

God will thoroughly destroy all religious-economic-political alliances
that seek to dominate people’s lives. 

I. Believers must resist all attempts by Godless alliances to usurp the place of God in their lives. vs. 3

vs. 3 And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns.

The words “and I saw” indicate another vision has occurred. It is true that the wilderness is a place where God places His people for their protection. However, the wilderness is not a physical location, but it illustrates a spiritual truth.

“Whatever person or system—whether political, social, economic, or religious—cooperates with Satan by exalting itself against God’s sovereignty and by setting itself up to destroy the followers of Jesus, or entices them to become followers of Satan through deception, idolatry, blasphemy, and spiritual adultery, embodies the beast of Revelation 13.” (see Johnson, A.F., p. 525, below.)

Desert_-_panoramio

Image of desert by Panoramio licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported from WikiMedia Commons.

Why does the scene take place in a wilderness area? The wilderness is the place where God protects His people while judgments are falling on His and their enemies. John is wafted off to this desolate place to see the woman and beast judged. Why? This act tells us that the wilderness is not only a place of protection, but it is also a place where God’s people understand events happening in the world around them more clearly. (see Johnson, D.E., below.) 

II. Believers can best discern the evil behind the scenes in our world by remaining disconnected from mainstream society. vs. 4

vs. 4 The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality.

ABOVE-PICTURE-The-harlot-city-Babylon-the-apostate-church-world-Burgkmair-1523-AD-Wikimedia-US-Public-Domain.jpe

The kings’ and the nations’ acquiescence to immorality refers not to literal immorality, but figuratively to acceptance of the religious and idolatrous demands of the ungodly earthly order. (see Beale, p. 354, below.)

The woman was clothed like a queen in regal garments. But, in her hand was a cup filled with wickedness. Jeremiah 51:7 says—Babylon was a golden cup in the Lord’s hand, making all the earth drunken; the nations drank of her wine; therefore the nations went mad.

The Babylon of old was a mighty force for conquest in the Ancient Near East, but just like Babylon of old, Babylon of John’s and ours will fall. “Abomination” is bdelygma—”detestable thing” such as an idol. In Matt. 24:15, quoted from Daniel, it causes desolation. The word “filth” is akathartēs—uncleanness or impurity, especially that of immorality. It is often associated with demons in the New Testament. The outward scenes of adultery painted in the movies and magazines are those of  pleasure and delight. On the contrary, its true inward character is uncleanness and impurity.

Isaiah 21:1-2 seems to give the background of John’s words here.

1 The oracle concerning the wilderness of the sea. As whirlwinds in the Negev sweep on, it comes from the wilderness, from a terrible land. 2 A stern vision is told to me; the traitor betrays, and the destroyer destroys. Go up, O Elam; lay siege, O Media; all the sighing she has caused I bring to an end.

III. Believers must always bear in mind Babylon is a corrupter of human beings made in the image and likeness of God. vs. 5

vs. 5 And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” 

The writings of Juvenal and Seneca state that it was the custom of Roman prostitutes to wear their names on a piece of lace that encircled their foreheads. Jeremiah 3:3 says—Therefore the showers have been withheld, and the spring rain has not come; yet you have the forehead of a whore; you refuse to be ashamed. (see Johnson, A.F., below.)

Whore of BabylonFalse religion flaunts its sin. What is written on the forehead band is in dispute, however. Is the word “mystery” a part of the title or a part of the introduction to the title? The Greek New Testament punctuates the verse so as to exclude the word from the title. It makes it an adjective modifying the entire title—i.e., “A name was written on her forehead, a mysterious one… .” A mystērion in Scripture is a divine allegory or secret that is revealed. One New Testament scholar defines mystery as “an open secret.” It is that which can only be known by revelation. The verse should be translated—”And she had a name written on her forehead, a mysterious one: Babylon the Great the Mother of Prostitutes and of the Abominations of the Earth.” The mystery is that the woman is the mother of all of the filth the earth-dwellers have gotten involved with. (Image above right is from Pinterest at https://www.pinterest.se/emc2csc3559/revelation-17-18-19-fall-of-babylon/.)

IV. Believers must understand that Babylon is intoxicated by martyring believers. vs 6

vs. 6 And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.

“The narrator identifies this city as Vanity, home of a great and ancient festival called Vanity Fair, where tawdry products are traded and Beelzebub is worshiped. At Vanity Fair, Faithful and Christian are mocked, smeared with dirt, and thrown in a cage.” (summary from Spark Notes at https://www.sparknotes.com/lit/pilgrims/section3/). 

The image of “being drunk with blood” is a symbol of “the lust for violence.” Two groups are mentioned as being killed at the woman’s instigation—(1) the saints (2) and the martyrs. False religion allied with evil government is the source of the persecution of God’s people since the beginning of history. For instance, read the history of the Scottish Covenantors struggle with the British government allied with the high church party. Thousands were slaughtered because they would not affirm the English Monarch as the head of the church. The Covenantors would only affirm King Jesus as the head of the church. This was not a massacre of Christians by pagans. It was a slaughter of Christians by other professing Christians.

John says, when I saw her. I was greatly astonished. John did not understand the vision at first glance. John is awestruck (Greek word is thaumazō = “astonished out of one’s senses”) by the woman. John was whisked away to the wilderness lest he form an understanding on his own. Note also that the earth-dwellers marvel over the beast. John needed explanation from God. The earth-dwellers make up their own explanation in opposition to God. They thus form a false religion around the beast.

Christian and Faithful Beaten at Vanity Fair

Christian and Faithful beaten at Vanity Fair; image by David and William Bell Scott; 1857 Wood engraving; Illustration for Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. Scanned image and text by George P. Landow

We ought not to be awestruck by any government or organization that claims to be a secular savior for mankind. In the end they will martyr all who profess to serve Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Governments can tolerate criminals, but they refuse to tolerate those who will not conform to their dictates and laws. We must stay awake and not be lulled to sleep by the siren-songs of godless society around us!

Sirens-and-Odysseus-1200x588

“Ulysses (Odysseus) and the Sirens,” 1891, by John William Waterhouse,
shows the Greek warrior-king bound to his ship’s mast as the Sirens’ song calls to him. (Public Domain)

Next time we will move on to Rev. 17:7-14.

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.

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© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 17: God’s People Witnessing the Execution of Babylon

Revelation 17:1-3

Image above is “The fall of Babylon”; Cyrus the Great defeating the Chaldean army. By J. Martin, 1831; from Wellcome Images

Whore of Babylon

Image shared under CC SA License from https://villains.fandom.com/wiki/Whore_of_Babylon_(theology)

The interpreter’s approach to the entire book determines the interpretation of the woman in chapter 17. If the interpreter approaches Revelation as prophecy fulfilled in the 1st Century (preterist view), the woman is Rome.  If the interpreter looks upon Revelation as entirely end time prophecy, the woman on the beast as Antichrist’s kingdom of the end time—futurist view. The idealist looks upon the woman as a symbol of the world arrayed against Christ in all ages—(spiritualized view).  

There has been a blending of the different views in the recent approach to the book. The most popular blend is the preterist/futurist position. The woman is both 1st century Rome and the final manifestation of Antichrist’s kingdom at the end. The approach taken by this study is a blend of three positions—preterist/idealist/futurist position.

The woman is evil behind the kingdoms of this world in all ages which
includes the final manifestation of it
under Antichrist’s rule at the end of the age.

“People are not always what they seem to be. Although we know this is true intellectually, we may still be easy prey for the flashy image, the manipulative hype, the convincing come-on that had its origins in the garden, when the serpent persuaded the woman that it, not God, had her best interests at heart” (See Johnson, D. E., below). 

bowl poured outThe Relationship between the sixth and seventh bowls and what followsRev. 17:1–19:10 is a large interpretative snapshot of the sixth and seventh bowls, which have foretold the judgment of Babylon (which was first explicitly prophesied in 14:8). (see Beale, p. 353 below.)

Revelation 17 depicts the truth that —

God will thoroughly destroy the worldwide religious-economic-political-elitist alliance
that seeks to dominate people’s lives. 

I. God will bring to an end all false religion and culture in league with “Babylon.” 

vs. 1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters… .

This verse makes it clear that chapter 17 is connected with chapter 16. It is one of the seven angels holding the seven bowls that steps forward to give John the explanation of the vision unfolding before his eyes. It is interesting that the Greek contains the present tense of echō (“has”) whereas the NIV/ESV have the past tense of echō (“had”). The seven angels still have the bowls in their hands. This indeed makes the vision all the more vivid. This fact also reinforces the idea that the time span the seven bowls judgment is very short.

John uses krima (“judgment’) which literally means “sentence,” “condemnation,” or “punishment .” The -ma ending of the Greek word has the idea of “the result of judgment,” hence, the “sentence passed.” John is not going to a trial. He is, rather, going to an execution. 

The angel describes the person in the vision as a “whore.” The Greek word is pornē (from which the English word “porn” is derived). It can mean either “prostitute’ or “whore.” In this context. it refers to a prostitute. Frequently in the Old Testament, the image of an  unfaithful spouse is used to illustrate spiritual unfaithfulness to the Lord. Remember that God’s people are said to be married to the Lord. Idolatry is unfaithfulness to Him. Anything metal, material, or mental that we substitute for the Lord is an idol. Compare Hosea 1, 2 for an apt illustration of this image.

“The great whore” sits on many waters. The image of “sitting on waters” is explained in Rev. 17:15—And the angel said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages.”

The waters are a symbol of the nations of the world. The fact that the woman sits on the waters is symbolic of  the “influence that she wields over all the peoples of the world.” The central question facing the interpreter is who is the woman? Several answers have been suggested by different commentators over the years. (1) The most often suggested is that the woman is the Roman Empire. John’s announcement of the impending destruction of Babylon is an announcement of the destruction of the Roman Empire in the future beyond John’s lifetime. (2) Another suggestion is that the woman is Jerusalem. The announcement of the impending destruction of Babylon is an announcement of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army in A.D. 70. (3) A better explanation is that the woman as symbolic of “all entrenched worldly resistance to God. Babylon is found wherever there is satanic deception.

“Babylon is a trans-historical reality that includes idolatrous kingdoms as diverse as Sodom, Egypt, Babylon, Tyre, Ninevah, and Rome. Babylon is an eschatological symbol of satanic deception and power; it is a divine mystery that can never be wholly reducible to empirical earthly institutions. It may be said that Babylon represents the total culture of the world apart from God, while the divine system us depicted by the New Jerusalem. Rome is simply one manifestation of the total system.” (see Johnson, A. F., emphasis mine; below.) 

Babylon Burning on the left; New heavens and Earth on the right.

As one commentator said, “Revelation 17-19 is a tale of two cities.” (Gordon Fee) Which city will we choose?

II. God will judge those who have allied themselves and their fortunes with the false religion and culture of “Babylon.”

vs. 2 …with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.”

The Greek word describing the sexual sin here is porneuō. Compare this with the noun referred to above porē (“whore”). The verb describes the “immoral behavior” of the “immoral woman.” It is the most general  word for immoral behavior in the New Testament. It includes adultery as well as immorality by unmarried persons. The rulers of the earth are said to be those who have engaged in immoral behavior with the woman. The “earth-dwellers” is a symbol of those who are thoroughly at home on the earth and who are not looking for a home with the Lord. The “earth-dwellers” are “drunk on the wine of the woman’s immorality.” This is a reference to idolatry and the intoxicating effects of “false religion.” “Immorality” always goes hand in hand with idolatry. Compare Romans 1:18 ff. Immorality and perversions follow idolatry.

III. God’s Judgment shows that for all pretense of power and glory, Babylon is a mirage.

vs. 3 And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. 

Woman inticing

John is in an ecstatic state when he experiences the desert vision. He emphasizes this by adding that he was “taken away in the Spirit” or “by means of the Spirit.” The fact that John is in the desert is in keeping with the geography of ancient Babylon. The literal city and region has become a symbol of satanic deception of the world.

In the desert, John saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names. Previously John was told about the prostitute. Now he is shown. The beast is the same one we were introduced to in the first part of chapter 13. This is clear from the fact that the beast here, like the one there, has seven heads. The color scarlet is descriptive of the blasphemies written on the beast. It is similar to the color of the dragon in chapter 12. The Greek words are different, but they are similar. It is in marked contrast to the white garments of the saints and the Lamb. The blasphemous names describe what activity the beast engages in.

“Whatever person or system—whether political, social, economic, or religious—cooperates with Satan by exalting itself against God’s sovereignty and by setting itself up to destroy the followers of Jesus, or entices them to become followers of Satan through deception, idolatry, blasphemy, and spiritual adultery, embodies the beast of Revelation 13.” (see Johnson, A. F., p. 525, below)

“Beast,” in Greek, is thērion—meaning “wild beast.” This is a designation for evil, demonic forces behind human governments. It is taken from the book of Daniel (7:4-6). In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, he envisioned his government as a golden statue. In God’s estimation, human governments under the influence of demonic forces are wild beasts. Government is supposed to support right and punish wrong, but often it does the opposite. It is best to view the number seven as symbolic of fullness of regal power, rather than to identify them with individual nations, kings, emperors, etc. The confusion over which emperor fits which head is proof enough that this method of interpretation is confusing.

The connection between the woman and the beast—If the woman is symbolic of idolatry, it seems that the fact that she rides the beast symbolizes false religion wedded to corrupt government. The end times will witness such an unholy union. Government will come increasingly under a demonic spell. False religion will cause people to worship the corrupt state.

Michael Card sings of Babylon’s fall in his Unveiled Hope album—City of Doom. (It is contemporary music.)

In Revelation, John is removing the screen behind which the deceptive controller of Babylon is hiding and shows it all to be a mirage! 

Next time, on into Revelation 17 further.

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.

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 16: The Final Plagues that will Destroy Godless Civilization, Pt. 2

Revelation 16:10-21

As we saw in the last post, chapter 16 teaches us that God will execute
His final judgment
on the Beast-worshipers by turning nature itself against them.

First Century believers saw this in terms of ancient Babylon’s fall and Rome’s future destruction. John uses these images to describe the final destruction of the world-system at the end. “[Beale] has argued that John’s vision takes the account of the historical fall of Babylon, relates it backward to the defeat of Pharaoh at the Red Sea, and uses it typologically to predict the fall of the latter-day Babylonian world system.” (see Beale, p. 351, below)

I. The final judgment strikes Beast’s throne, so that darkness descends upon the servants of the Beast. vss. 10-11

bowl poured outvs. 10 The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in anguish 11 and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds.

“Thrones” is used by John to symbolize the “stronghold of Satan” at Pergamum in Rev. 2:13 I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.

The “beast’s throne” here is symbolic of “the seat of the worldwide dominion of the great satanic system of idolatry.” By this plague, this system is plunged into darkness. This may be: (1) physical darkness; (2) spiritual darkness. It seems that #2 option is the best. This spiritual darkness plunges the world into chaos and confusion. 

5th Bowl on the Beasts Throne

Note carefully, the sores are still on the bodies of the beast-worshipers. This lends credence to the view that the bowls are poured out in rapid succession. Once again, the beast-worshipers “curse God.” The reason for their cursing is their pain (ponōn) and sores (helkōn). They refuse to pray for help. They are autonomous to the last. They also refuse to repent of their works. They persist in their wicked deeds. As Mounce points out, “they take on the character of the false god they serve.”

Compare Hosea 9:10—Like grapes in the wilderness, I found Israel. Like the first fruit on the fig tree in its first season, I saw your fathers. But they came to Baal-peor and consecrated themselves to the thing of shame, and became detestable like the thing they loved.

Bowl Poured out 2

II. The final judgment strikes the servants of the Beast to deceive them into thinking they could fight God and annihilate His people. vss. 12-16. 

vs. 12 The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east. 

6th_vial_into_the_Euphrates,_Battistero_di_PadovaThe Euphrates River was the location of the ancient kingdom of Babylon. Babylon is “the great anti-God throne.” It is symbolic of satanic opposition to God and his people. The Euphrates River was the location from which the Eastern hordes were to invade Israel—symbol of God’s people in the New Testament. In this passage the reference to the Euphrates dying up points to that time in the end when “the unseen rulers of this world” are preparing to do battle with God. He describes the last, great eschatological battle between Satan and God in terms of Israel’s ancient warfare and enemies. This passage does not describe a future invasion of the nation of Israel. 

vs. 13 And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. 14 For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty.

The Second Coming has already begun at this point, the church has been removed, and the righteous dead raised before the wrath of God falls. The Beast and his servants haven’t had time or the sense to realize their “enemies” have slipped away. 

“The world’s rulers gather for the war only because the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet have deceived them. From those three villains’ mouths spring three demonic spirits in the form of frogs.” (see Johnson, D. E., below.)

Three FrogsThis is the description of a demonic invasion of this world by the spirits that drive Satan’s kingdom on earth. Frogs are unclean animals that were avoided by the Jews, and which symbolize demonic spirits. In this passage, the beast from the land is called “the False Prophet.” Under this Judgment, the evil forces are merely gathered for battle, not actually engaging in battle. This will come under the 7th bowl. “The unclean spirits proceed from the mouths of the unholy triumvirate, suggesting the persuasive and deceptive propaganda which in the last days will lead men to an unconditional commitment to the cause of evil.” (see Mounce, blow.) Compare I Kings 22:19-23—

19 And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; 20 and the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. 21 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ 22 And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ 23 Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has declared disaster for you.” (see ESV below; emphasis mine.)

The demons perform signs—sémeion, the standard word in the Gospels and Acts for “miracles.” The “signs” of the demons are “counterfeit miracles.” They entice the world’s leaders to do battle with God and his people. “World” is oikomenē—inhabited earth.” So this plague affects unrepentant men.

vs. 15 (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”)

This passage connects the Second Coming of Christ with the last Battle of Armageddon. “Nakedness” was a sign of shame in the Old Testament. There is a need for constant vigilance in order to be prepared for the Second Coming.

vs. 16 And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Har-mageddon.

The proper name in Hebrew referred to is Har (“hill of”) Megiddo. Megiddo was a city located in the northern Israel. It was geographically strategic in the ancient world. The problem facing the reader is that there is no literal place known as “the Hill (har) of Megiddo.” Armageddon, like Babylon, is a symbol. Armageddon is symbolic of the last, great eschatological battle. It is not a geographical location.

Tell Megiddo

Picture of Megiddo today above. I have visited it 45 years ago. It is not a mountain, but a “tell”—a mound of dirt that has risen because city after city has been built on top of one another. (Image by Avram Graicer on Wikipedia.) It was a scene of battles and marauding armies since the way of the hills and the way of the sea ran through its valley.

“Har-Mageddon is symbolic of the final overthrow of all forces of evil by the might and power of God. The great conflict between God and Satan, Christ and Antichrist, good and evil, which lies behind the perplexing course of history will in the end issue in a final struggle in which God will emerge victorious and take with him all who placed their faith in him. This is Har-Mageddon.” (see Johnson, D. E., below.) 

III. The final judgment culminates in the total destruction of the world system along with the servants of the beast. Vss. 17-21.

Bowl Poured out 2vs. 17 The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” 18 And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake.

San_Francisco_1906_earthquake_Panoramic_View

Panoramic view of San Francisco after earthquake and fire damage from Stanford Mansion site, April 18–21, 1906. (public domain image from Wikipedia.) 

These cataclysmic events “symbolize the destruction of all the anti-God forces at work in the world.” “Earthquake” is seismos—”shaking.” Compare Hebrews 12:26b-27—26 …“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.

Seventh_vial

“The Seventh Vial: the earthquake and destruction on earth”
Public Domain Image from 13th Century

vs. 19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath.

“It is wrong to separate the great city from the cities of the nations. Nor does the subsequent reference to Babylon imply yet another city. The division of the great city into three parts indicates the completeness of its destruction. That all the cities of the nations fall with [the great city] indicates the dominant role of the great capital in its network of imperial communications.” (see Mounce, below.) This is the description of Babylon being judged for her wicked treatment of God’s people. The specific details will be given in chapters 17 and 18.

vs. 20 And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found. 21 And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe.

“John signals the approach of the “new heavens and new earth” by describing the breakup of the old order. Compare the language here with Rev. 6:12ff

We will move on to chapter 17 next week.

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.

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© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

 

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]

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 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/

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