Revelation 11: The Third Woe; Just Deserts Given!

Revelation 11

15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”
16 And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God,
17 saying, “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.
18 The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”
19 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.

Image above: Abrecht Durer: Angels with Seven Trumpets Public Domain Engraving; edited.


As I have stated in previous posts—

Chapter 11 gives us a view into what God’s people will be experiencing as they witness to the Gospel of Christ between His Resurrection-Ascension and Second Coming.

In the section of Revelation 11 for this post we are at the end of the age as far as the church is concerned—

V. God has removed His people out of this world and has vindicated them before the watching world; and now, He pours His wrath out on those who have rejected the Gospel invitation. 

It seems that all is over, and in a sense, it is. However, there are more details that have to be filled in. We are viewing Revelation from the interpretive perspective of progressive recapitulation (see Hendriksen, below). With the end of Chapter 11, we are half way through the book of Revelation.


vs. 15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” 

With the 7th Trumpet the end of the age has arrived. This Langenzenn_Stadtkirche_-_Fenster_Wilhelm_II_3will be followed by the pouring out of the cups of wrath (in chapter 16). The church has already gone to be with the Lord. All that will be saved have been saved. There is nothing but wrath for those remaining on the earth.

The voices in verses 17-18 are presumed to be from all of heaven’s inhabitants. They rejoice that the world is now under the total control of the Lord. The past tense is again used because the event is so certain that it can be spoken of as past. (Image right above is “An angel blows the ‘last trumpet'”, as in 1 Corinthians 15:52, stained glass window from Langenzenn, Germany, 19th century; Wikipedia.)


vs. 16 And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God… .

Saint_John_on_PatmosThe beings that sit on these thrones are obviously an angelic order involved in the worship of God in heaven and are involved in the fulfilling of his purposes on the earth. The number twenty-four is suggestive of the twenty-four courses of priests in I Chronicles 24. Many commentators think that the elders represent the elect of all ages. Just as the courses of Priests represented the totality of the Priesthood, the twenty-four elders represent the totality of the elect of all ages. Some of the elect have already died and are already there in heaven. Some are still unborn, but these angels represent them all. (Image above right is St. John on Patmos by Limbourg brothers public domain.)


vs. 17 saying, “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.

Note the part of the phrase “and is to come” is dropped from the description of the Triune God. This is because He has already come at this point in the Revelation!

The ESV translates the phrase, “You have begun to reign.” The 24 elders assume their usual position prostrate before God. Note that the tense of the word “reign” is past tense (aorist). This is taken as an ingressive aorist—begin to reign. God is said to have “taken his great power” (dunameis from which we derive our English word “dynamite”). He has assumed what was his by right. He was King all along. The only difference is that now he enforces his reign over every living being. Before he permitted some to rebel. Now he no longer allows  rebellion. He is absolute King. The reign is said to begin with the sounding of the 7th trumpet.


vs. 18 The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”

The_Four_and_Twenty_Elders_(William_Blake)

The Four and Twenty Elders circa 1803-5 William Blake

The time (kairos) for the Last Judgment has arrived. Kairos is “opportune time” versus “chronological time.” As a great friend of mine used to say, “The Lord is always on time. He is not early, but He is never late!” This is the meaning of kairos. The prayers of the martyrs have long been on the incense altar of heaven awaiting answer, but now they are given God’s full attention!

The Lord will reward his servants, and punish those who have rebelled against him. It is interesting that the rebellious are said to be those who are destroying the earth. Those who are wicked and break God’s holy laws are the ones who bring the calamities on the earth! 

“When the judgment day arrives, then the full meaning of Psalm 2:7ff., and of Daniel 7:14 (cf. Luke 1:33) is going to be revealed.” (see Hendriksen, pp. 132-133, below.)


vs. 19 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.

Temple_Naos

The Temple in Heaven is the sanctuary (naos) in heaven. (pictured above from image adapted Wikipedia Commons.) It is the place where God and his angelic hosts and his people dwell.

The Ark in the vision John sees is a symbol of God’s covenant faithfulness. All of the wrath and Judgment that comes out of heaven is righteous. It comes as a result of the activity of God himself. It seems now to us as if he has forgotten his promises. Men go free for their  crimes. Not so! God will avenge his people at the end.


Chart Applying the Truths of Chapter 11 to Our lives

Application Chart for Revelation 11

Next time, we will move into the last half of the book. We will begin with Chapter Twelve.

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 11: The Vindication of Christ and His Church

Revelation 11

11 But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. 13 And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.

14 The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come.

Image above — Jesus’ ascension to Heaven depicted by John Singleton Copley in Ascension (1775) Wikimedia Commons


We still need to remember that we are dealing with apocalyptic literature. We are not reading a newspaper account of the end of this age. Rest assured we are dealing with the Second Coming of Christ for his saints who have been slain on the earth for their testimony for Him. There will be some Christians who are alive at this point. The outward expression of Christianity—the Church—has been destroyed by the ungodly. Some pockets of believers still remain.

This is no secret rapture! Those who killed them will see them rise. Christians may be killed in ignominy, but they will rise in glory to meet their Lord! As in a battle, the dead are often not given a proper burial.

Shallow Grave of War Dead

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania graves pictured above. Unfinished Confederate shallow graves near the center of the battlefield. image from https://www.pinterest.com/manuelfocus/civil-war/

Note the little mentioned verses from Matthew’s Gospel Chapter 27—

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. [ESV; emphasis mine.]

It is my opinion that this passage in Revelation 11 is echoing our Lord’s ministry, death, resurrection and ascension. (1) Our Lord witnessed as Messiah ≈ 3½ Years; (2) He was crucified in ignominy; (3) those who did it thought they finally had done with Him for good; (4) He lay in the tomb ≈ 3½ days; (5) Many Old Testament saints were raised and came out of their tombs and appeared to many in the city when He was raised; and (6) He ascended in a cloud to His Father in heaven. (see Beale, p. 229, below.)


As I have stated in previous posts—

Chapter 11 gives us a view into what God’s people will be experiencing as they witness to the Gospel of Christ between His Resurrection-Ascension and Second Coming.

In the section of Revelation 11 for this post we are at the end of the age as far as the church is concerned. (More will follow for the wicked.) 

IV. Christ will return and resurrect his faithful and vindicate those who have been faithful witnesses to His Gospel.

vs. 11 But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them.

The tense of the verb is significant. It shifts with this verse to the past (aorist) tense to indicate that the events are so certain that he can speak of them as if they are already in the past.

Quinten_Massys_Vision_des_Propheten_Ezechiels

Quentin Metsys the Younger ” The Valley of Dry Bones Lives” (ca. 1543 – 1589) Public Domain image from Wikimedia Commons

It seems John may have in mind Ezekiel’s “Valley of Dry Bones” (see Ezekiel 37:1-14). Like the saints who were raised when Jesus was and went into the city, the ungodly recognize Christians that are raised at the Second Coming of Christ. Just when the world thinks the church is dead and they are rid of its testimony, the church is resurrected. This will be the case at the end of the age.

Gustave_Doré_-_2_Kings_2_-_11

vs. 12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. Left Gustave Dore’s engraving of Elijah going to heaven in the clouds (II Kings 2:1-12). 

The martyrs go the same way their Lord did—they ascend in a cloud. (cf. Acts 1:9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.) John uses the definite article in referring to the cloud. It seems to confirm the premise that the church’s history is to match its Lord’s—(1) A period of testimony (2) Followed by a period of seeming defeat; (3) Followed by resurrection and ascension. This would have given great assurance to the early church as they suffered for the Lord. They were a minority wondering if what they were doing counts for eternity. In this vision they see it does!

Destruction_of_Pompeii_and_Herculaneum

The volcanic earthquake that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum was well know in the Mediterranean world.

vs. 13 And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.

Calamity interrupts the celebration, making sure it is short lived. The Greek reads, “At that [very] hour… .” The resurrection of the church is followed by cataclysmic occurrences. The irrefutable testimony and the judgments force men to acknowledge that God has done it. It does not bring about the repentance of the remaining ones, however.

This is the first tremor of the cosmic shaking that will remove move the first heavens and earth (cf. 20:11; 21:1), the great quake that we have seen in the vision of the sixth seal (6:12-17) and will see again when the seventh bowl is poured out, shattering the “great city” Babylon into three pieces, causing the cities of the Gentiles to fall, and removing moving islands and mountains (16:17-21). (see Johnson, D, E. below).

The number of people affected—7,000—is approximately 1/10th of the population of ancient Jerusalem. Since Jerusalem is a symbol of worldwide opposition to God, this verse refers to a portion of the world and its population being destroyed by the cataclysmic judgments inflicted at the resurrection of the church. “This is not the end, but it is the beginning of the end.” (paraphrase of Winston Churchill’s famous quotation.)

vs. 14 The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come.

The Woes — In 8:13 we were told that the last three trumpets were so terrible that they are called woes. Two have occurred in chapter 9. Now we are told that the third is about to occur. With the Third Woe, we are brought to the end of the age in another of the cycles of Revelations judgments. We have called this method of interpretation progressive parallelism, after William Hendriksen (1939).

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 11: Seeming Defeat of Christ’s Church and Celebration over it.

Revelation 11

7 And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, 8 and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. 9 For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, 10 and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth.

Image above John Martin, Belshazzar’s Feast, c. 1821; Wikimedia Commons.

In Chapter 11, we are given a vision of the truth that the church will experience various trials and triumphs during its time of witness on earth.

III. The Church will experience seeming defeat at the end of this age. vss. 7-10. 

vs. 7 And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them…

This marks a final stage in redemptive history. According to Revelation 6:9-11 the martyrs are told to rest until their number is complete.

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.

“At this time, the church will have completed its role of bearing witness to Christ before the world, and will appear defeated (so Matt. 24:9-22).” (see Beale, p. 226, below).

The Beast & the Church — There is a limit to the physical protection of the Church. When the period of testimony is over, the day of grace is past. The Lord will permit the seeming destruction of the Church. The Beast from the abyss will accomplish the deed of destruction. He will be identified later in chapter 13.

la_bete_de_la_mer

Left Image from Wikimedia Commons: A medieval tapestry, this detail of which shows John, and the Beast. We should be mindful that the figures in Revelation do not take physical form, but are intended to illustrate spiritual realities behind the sufferings of the church.

vs. 8 and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.

The Identification of the City — The city is identified as the earthly Jerusalem which rejected and crucified Jesus. Later on, it is also expanded to ultimately refer to the whole world. Jerusalem was a microcosm. Its attitudes and actions symbolize those of the entire world in opposition to God and His Redemptive Plan for it. The Cities of Sodom, Babylon, Jerusalem, and Rome are combined as a symbol of the world in its opposition to God and His Covenant people.

Nero Torching Christians

“The painting depicts a group of early Christian martyrs who are about to be burned alive as the alleged perpetrators of the Great Fire of Rome, during the reign of emperor Nero in AD 64. People from many different social spheres, including the emperor himself, are present to watch the burning, which takes place in front of the Domus Aurea (Nero’s Golden House). The motif is based on the descriptions by Suetonius and Tacitus.” Text and Image above from: WikiPedia; Painting in Public Domain by Siemiradski Fackeln, 1876

vs. 9 For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb…

The Time Period of the Beast’s Triumph — Note that 3½ days is a short time in comparison to the 3½ years of testimony. Jesus testified 3½ years, and laid in the tomb for approximately 3½ days. This is a possible reference to the church’s experience being like her Lord’s. There will be a period of testimony followed by a period of seeming defeat.

vs. 10 and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth.

The Celebration over the Church’s Demise — The inhabitants of the earth (literally, “earth–dwellers” in Greek) are those who are settled down in this earth. They are dominated by this world system. They oppose God and his plans in this world.

This passage always makes me think of Belshazzar’s Feast in Daniel five. One would have thought he would have learned the lesson his father Nebuchadnezzar had learned from his insane period (Daniel 4). Belshazzar sent for the vessels of Solomon’s temple to make his feast an idolatrous meal. Daniel 5:4 They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone (ESV). (see the image at the head of this post.) 

Gifts Sent — The Greek reads, “They shall send gifts to one another.” They will throw a party to celebrate the destruction of the church. The word doran means “a gift” such as someone would send to a birthday party.

Why the celebration? — The inhabitants of the earth regard the ones who preach salvation through Christ alone as those who are tormentors. The Greek word basanizō means “to torture or torment.” The noun form basanistēs is used of a jailer who tortures his prisoners (see Matt. 18:34; ESV).

Baal_thunderbolt_LouvreFor instance, Ahab regarded Elijah as the one who tormented Israel. I Kings 18:17-18 records the interchange.

17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals.

Right above is a stele of Baal holding a thunderbolt. He is God of fertility, weather, rain, wind, lightning, seasons, war, sailors. Yet, he was not able to call down fire on a sacrifice at Mt. Carmel. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Those who oppose God mistreat God’s people because they remind them of God’s commandments and statutes.

The last word hasn’t been said yet! Next time… .

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WikiMedia Commons for most images

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 11: Christians Stand Before God as They Witness for Him!

Revelation 11

4 [The two witnesses] are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5 And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. 6 They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire.

Image above by Douglas W. Krieger – “The Visions and Prophecy of Zechariah” issued under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 from Wikimedia Commons

As we saw in the last post, Chapter 11 gives us a view into what God’s people will be experiencing as they witness to the Gospel of Christ between His Resurrection-Ascension and Second Coming.

II. God’s people have at their disposal divine weapons to exercise in prayer against God’s and their enemies. vss. 4-6

vs. 4 [The two witnesses] are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.

The Background to the Symbols — The Church is identified with symbols from Zechariah 4. In this passage the lampstand is prominent as a symbol of the Church. Earlier in Rev., there were 7 lampstands. In Zech. the oil from the olive tree is a definite symbol of the Spirit’s enabling of the Church in its witnessing.

“Though the prophetic witnesses live in a world of danger, they are never far from their Lord’s sovereign presence, and nothing can separate them from their secure relationship with Him.” (See Beale, p. 222, below.)

You and I ought never forget that it is in the presence of the Lord God that we stand as His servants! We go forth in His name to witness and work. Our protection is of the Lord God we serve! Elijah was conscious of this as he faced wicked Ahab. 

I Kings 17:1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” (ESV; emphasis mine.)

Olive Trees — “Zechariah speaks of the two witnesses, the king and the priest, who reestablish a literal temple, whereas John sees two witnesses helping to build the heavenly temple. In contrast with Zechariah, the two witnesses are not individuals but represent the church universal.” (see Beale, p. 222, below.)

vs. 5 And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed.

The Church’s Weapons — George Whitefield said, “We are immortal until our work on earth is done.” (see Whitefield, below.) This verse certainly refers to protective resources. However, the destruction referred to in this verse and in the following ones is not physical primarily. It is spiritual destruction. It is torment of the spirit and not a desire for public vindication. It certainly includes some actual physical destruction. The words of the witnessing church is destructive. They can heal and harm. The condition of the hearer determines which result is inflicted.


Elisabeth Elliot was often asked about Jim Elliot’s faith in Psalm 91 and his singing of the hymn based on it the night before he went to meet martyrdom along with others.

1
We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender;
We go not forth alone against the foe;
Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender.
We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.
2
Yea, in Thy Name, O Captain of salvation!
In Thy dear Name, all other names above;
Jesus our Righteousness, our sure Foundation,
Our Prince of glory and our King of love.
3
We go in faith, our own great weakness feeling,
And needing more each day Thy grace to know:
Yet from our hearts a song of triumph pealing;
We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.
4
We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender:
Thine is the battle, Thine shall be the praise
When reigning in the Kingdom of Thy splendor;
Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days.
(see Net Hymnal below.)


Jim_ElliotWhy didn’t Jim and his party have the protection of the “shadow of the Almighty” while they were bearing witness for Christ? many asked her.

Elisabeth always added, “Jim had another saying, too!

‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose!'”

John Piper says, “This is where Jim Elliot was slain — in the shadow of the Almighty.” (see Piper below.)

Jim Elliot was! But, he was kept safe there, too. Like all of us, kept safe in the shadow of the almighty until our work is finished; and then, still under that shadow, we are carried home safely to be with our Lord at death! We are never out from under that shadow! 


Jim Elliot Quotation from his Journal

This is the entry of the now famous quotation of Jim Elliot in his own handwriting in his Journal. © Wheaton College 2017


II Corinthians 10

3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ… .
(ESV; Emphasis mine.)

vs. 6 They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire.

Old Testament Symbols — This verse brings to mind two O.T. men — Elijah and Moses. John is saying that the NT Church witnesses in the strength and power of these two OT prophets. We have already seen that the Church’s prayers bring the plagues upon the earth. Those who refuse to repent will experience those plagues.

How can we be protected and yet be martyred at the same time? Our souls are secure and our bodies will be raised at the last trumpet! We can’t lose.

“[The Church] may undergo bodily, economic, political, or social harm, but their eternal covenantal status with God will not be affected. Though they may suffer and even die, they will invincibly and successfully carry out the spiritual mission for which they have been ‘measured’ and commissioned.” (see Beale, p. 223, below).

We move on to the next section of chapter 11, in the next post.

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. (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.

Net Hymnal. (1872-1897). “We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender”. Accessed 13 August 2020 from https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/881

Piper, J. (2016). “Slain in the Shadow of the Almighty.” Accessed 13 August 2020 from https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/slain-in-the-shadow-of-the-almighty

Whitefield, G. (n.d.). Accessed 13 August 2020 from https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/george_whitefield_201221

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 11: Preservation of God’s People During their Testimony

Revelation 11

1 Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, 2 but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. 3 And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”


Image above is from WikiMedia Commons: Artistic depiction of the Solomon’s Temple Sanctuary (Naos).


The Context of Chapter 11 — This chapter is by far the most difficult chapter in Revelation to interpret. The difficulty stems from the presence of “Jewish elements” in it. These apocalyptic images morph from one into another so quickly that one cannot read this chapter like a newspaper account of the future.

high-priest-300x471

King-Priest

Some take a literal view of the chapter and its details. However, the symbols obviously refer to realities beyond literal Old Testament Jews. John uses Jewish elements as symbols for the people of God, both Jews and Gentiles, who are redeemed by the blood of Christ during the entire Church Age. The temple, city, and witnesses are figures used to show the fate of Christ’s church during the last days — the time between the Death-Resurrection-Ascension and the Second Coming of Christ. Note carefully the following: (1) John refers to the Christian Church as God’s kings and priests (Rev. 1:6);
(2) John uses the symbol of a temple (naos = Sanctuary) for the Christian Church (Rev. 3:12).
Therefore, the symbolic view of Chapter 11 is preferred over the literal view for the stated reasons.

Chapter 11 gives us a view into what God’s people will be experiencing as they witness to the Gospel of Christ between His Resurrection-Ascension and Second Coming.

Verses 1-14 — These verses comprise an extended direct quotation from an unstated source. The speaker is simply not identified. John is not a mere spectator to the action described in this scene. As in the last chapter, John becomes a participant.

One realizes from the onset that the chapter is dealing with symbolism and not a literal temple, a literal city, or two literal prophets. The spiritual is represented in terms that first century believers could understand. The OT figures are regularly applied to the NT Church. John is not saying that a literal temple is to be measured. Historical evidence dates the Revelation at ca. A.D. 95. Therefore, Herod’s temple was no longer standing. Scripture does not teach a return to the Jewish sacrifices in the last days. Therefore, there cannot be a restoration of the temple. This would negate the message of the book of Hebrews. (see Hebrews 10.)

Jerusalem_Modell_BW_2

Herod’s Temple as imagined in the Holy-land Model of Jerusalem; east at the bottom. Image from Wikimedia Commons. Only the high building in the center was the sanctuary (naos).

The temple naos (inner sanctuary) (and not a temple complex which would be indicated by the Greek word hieron) is symbolic of the true people of God — the Church of Jesus Christ. This chapter records the ministry of the Church in the days from Christ’s Resurrection-Ascension to His Second Coming.


I. God’s people are assured of His protection against eternal harm from the enemy. vss. 1-3

vs. 1 Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there…” 

He is given a measuring rod (rhabdos). The act of measuring may indicate that one is marking out a thing for preservation or for destruction. Leon Morris, (p. 145), refers the reader to II Sam. 8:2 for a marking out for destruction and to Ezek. 40:3ff. for a marking out for preservation.

Measuring_ruler-N_1538-IMG_4492-gradient

Cubit rod of Egyptian Court Official Maya, 1336–1327 BC (Eighteenth Dynasty) from Wikimedia Commons.

Note that the word “was given” (didômi — in the past tense – aorist) passive voice indicates an implied divine agency. The altar is the incense altar where the worship of the people of God took place inside the temple sanctuary. The worshipers are also marked out for preservation. God is pledging to protect his Church while she carries out her testimony in the world. We should note that the preservation of the Church is promised, but the people of God are not promised preservation from physical harm. 


A Modern Example of Preservation within, but not Exemption from, Suffering

Open DoorsAlthough Vietnam has already lifted its nationwide Covid-19 lockdown, the government still distributes food aid through the local villages to families with meager incomes or those who lost their jobs during the lockdown. But when 18 Christian families—a total of 107 people including senior citizens and children — went to gather their portion, local authorities told them, “You are not the list.”

“When they learned support was coming to their district, they were so happy,” Nguyen* shares. “Instead, the authorities said: ‘You are Christians, and your God shall take care of your family! The government is not responsible for your families!’”

When our partners learned about this injustice, they responded, delivering sacks of rice (55 pounds for each household) to these believers—but even this wasn’t easy. Local authorities soon found out about the distribution at a church member’s home and showed up, demanding they stop and immediately leave the village. Nguyen paints the scene:

“One of our partners, Pastor Foom*, bravely faced the authorities. He stood up to them and said, ‘Our church donated these sacks of rice to help them in this difficult time. Since you could not provide food for them and discriminated against them from receiving aid because they are Christians, our church decided to help them. Why are you stopping us from helping them?’”

Compelled to deliver the aid to the families, Open Doors partners took the sacks of rice to a different village where a believer willingly opened his house to store the aid, despite the risk of interrogation. Representatives of the 18 families discreetly went to the designated home where they finally received the aid. (see Open Doors below; *names changed to protect identity.)


vs. 2 … “but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months.”

The Outer Court — God has no interest in the outer court of the temple, nor in the rest of the city. Ekballô, here rendered “exclude,” is used in an unusual way. Normally, it means “to cast out.” Here it means to “leave out of consideration.” John uses the aorist imperative negated by mê which indicates that the action had not yet began “do not even begin to measure . . . .” The outer court was the court of the gentiles. This was used by those who were not Jews, but who came to worship. The sanctuary (naos) contains the true people of God. The outer court must, then, symbolically contain the heathen. God has protected the true church from destruction. There will be martyrs. But, the Church itself will not be destroyed.

The Gentiles in Chapter 11 — This reference has led many commentators to conclude that the line of demarcation in Rev. 11 is between Jews and Gentiles. However, Alan F. Johnson points out that “Gentiles” (Greek = ethnoi from which we derive our English word “ethnicity”) is regularly used in the same way we use the word “heathen” to describe unbelievers as opposed to Christians.

The reference to “Gentiles” should be interpreted as “unsaved who may or may not be a part of the professing church.” The ”Trampling” of the Holy City — Lk. 21:24 seems to be the background to the trampling under foot of the city. As we have already seen John uses earthly Jerusalem as an illustration of the Church.

Graphs for Revelation 11

Chart Comparing time periods in the book of Revelation

 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Statue of Antiochus IV of Syria

The Time Periods of Chapter 11 — The 42 months is the period of the Church’s testimony in the world between the Resurrection-Ascension and the Second Coming of Christ. It is interesting to note that our Lord was on earth for 3½ years (42 / 30 day lunar months or 1260 days or a time, times, and half a time.) Also Daniel records this as the time that Antiochus Epiphanes controlled Jerusalem. There is no seven year time period in the book of Revelation. There is no division of the seventieth week of Daniel from the 69 weeks. They form a discrete unit.

vs. 3 “And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”

The Two Witnesses. The question facing us is, “Are these two literal individuals, or are they symbols of the church?” It is best to view the two witnesses as symbols of the true testimony of the Church in the world during the last days between the Resurrection-Ascension of Christ and His Second Coming. Note the following reasons: (1) in the O.T. two witnesses were required in order to establish a valid testimony (Deut. 17:6); (2) they seem to be “larger than life figures — i.e. Moses and Elijah resurrected.

The Significance of Sackcloth — Sackcloth was worn as a sign of grief and penitence. A prophetic ministry which damns more people to hell than it brings to Christ is cause for mourning and sorrow. We seem to have lost our ability today to mourn over sinners and the lost. 


An early missionary of the Salvation Army wrote General William Booth a letter in which he decried the lack of response to his ministry.

He wrote, “I have tried everything and failed.”

Booth send a terse reply, “Try tears!”


Maybe it’s time for tears in the Western Church!

On to further verses in Chapter 11 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.

Open Doors. (2020). Accessed 8 August 2020 from https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/stories/die-of-hunger-or-convert-to-islam-a-life-or-death-choice-for-christians-in-covid-19/

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 10: A Divine Commission Accepted

Revelation 10

5 And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven 6 and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay, 7 but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.

Image above from Wikipedia: “An angel appears with a book. Revelation chap 10 v 3. Mortier’s Bible. Phillip Medhurst Collection.” Creative Commons Attribution–Share Alike 3.0

We are continuing this week with the message of Revelation 10 which is given in the key verse of the chapter — verse 11 —

God has commissioned John and us, His people, to preach to all nations — “you must prophesy!” 

As God’s people, we are never without a task given to us by God. We may find ourselves with a shrinking audience, but we are never to give up on our calling!

Paul charged Timothy to continue in such ministry no matter where he found himself. II Timothy 4 —

1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:
2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,
4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (ESV)

Distractions

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Brothers and Sisters, we are living in such a day! I can’t give you a timetable for the coming of the Lord, but people today would rather hear myths than the pure Word of God preached. 

III. The time when men can repent and be saved will come to an end; and then God’s judgment will fall. vss. 5-7.

There will be no one left at this point who will want to repent. Remember from the sixth seal — they cried out to the mountains and the rocks … “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb… .” They didn’t say, “Save us.” He would have, had they called out to Him for mercy! 

vs. 5 — The lifting up of the hand is a signal that someone is about to swear an oath. This further indicates that the person swearing is an angel and not the Lord Jesus. He is described with dignity because of the one he represents.

Vs. 6 — The description of God used by the angel in his oath emphasizes God’s eternity and creative activity. It is evident that the fulfillment of the oath depends upon One who is sovereign in both the earthly and the spiritual realms.

Hourglass

Above is a “Pulpit Hourglass.” When the sand ended up at the bottom an hour had passed and the sermon was over.

The King James Version says “there was no more time.” Many have taken this as the cessation of time altogether. However, it does not imply that in the age to come there will be no such thing as time. This expression is close to our idiom, “I’m out of time.” We do not mean that time has come to an end. We mean that we no longer have any time for a particular activity. This is precisely what the angel means. Time for repentance will come to a halt with the sounding of the seventh trumpet. From then on, the undiluted wrath of God will be poured out. (see the bowls in chapter 16.)

vs. 7 — In this verse the strong adversative “but” (alla) indicates that a contrast is about to be described. Instead of time for repentance, there will be the promised fulfillment of Judgment.

The Greek word mustrêion is not something which is totally hidden. It is, rather, something which must be revealed in order to be understood. The mystery of God is his entire plan of redemption which includes the judgment of evil and the salvation of his people.

The fact that the mystery is finished in the days of the sounding of the seventh trumpet, rather than at the moment of the trumpet sound, leads us to believe that the trumpets cover a period of time and are not just momentary blasts.

The trumpets each are sounded for an extended period of time. The period of time is a “day of grace” accompanied by warning judgments. “Announced” is euangelizô. It is normally translated “proclaim the gospel.” It means “to proclaim news” in this context.

8 Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, “Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” 9 So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” 10 And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. 11 And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.”

IV. Proclaiming God’s Gospel is a mixed experience for us as God’s messengers. vss. 8-11 

George-Whitefield-preaching-crowd-undated

George Whitefield preached in the American Colonies during the First Great Awakening. It is estimated that 75% of those living at the time had heard him in person. He took to the outdoors to preach because the pastors wouldn’t allow him to preach in their churches. 

vs. 8 The scroll is that portion of God’s prophetic purpose which he has allowed mankind to comprehend. John is told to assimilate It. This is for the purpose of giving it out later on. See Ezekiel 2:9-3:3 for the background to this prophetic action on the part of John.

vs. 9 & 10 — The Meaning of Eating the Scroll — The assimilation of truth into one’s life is a good experience. It is good to teach others of those truths. However, there is a dark side. The Bible contains both blessings and curses — both edification and judgment. Ministry involves both if it is a faithful ministry. John would know the sweet and the bitter in the course of his prophetic ministry.

John 3-16

Wikimedia Commons Image

When I was a young man I heard of a lady who approached her pastor and seemed to compliment him. She said, “Preacher, when you first came here I likened you to the Apostle Paul in the way you preached.” He basked in the sunlight of her flattery for a moment. Then she added, “But, I don’t think you can preach at all now! Unless the denominational magazine comes by Friday, you don’t have anything to preach about.”

That was cruel. My mother witnessed this scene. The elderly lady had had her sacred cow ground for hamburger meat in a sermon and didn’t like it. She turned on her pastor and many followed into a campaign against him. Eventually the church was relocated to the affluent side of town and the building sold to another church. The ministry was effective to that community before the critical campaign began.

vs. 11 — John’s Audience — John never prophesied again before a large audience in person. He did do so through his writings, however. This must have greatly encouraged him since he was in exile at the time. As we proclaim John’s message, we are assured of the same promises by the Lord through His angel!

We never really know who listens to what we say or who sees what we do. If they pass it along or replicate our example, those who benefit become a part of our audience!

Application of the truths of Chapter 10

Chapter 10 Application

Next time, chapter eleven.

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. Grenad 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.

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 10: A Divine Commission Given

Revelation 10

1 Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire. 2 He had a little scroll open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land, 3 and called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring.


This Chapter is one that emphasizes the full scope of John’s commission as a prophet. He is to have a worldwide ministry. Although he never carried his message to the whole world in person, nevertheless, his message has been delivered to the world throughout all ages by means of his writings. This passage confirms to John that he indeed has a prophetic call. Remember that he is in exile and needs confirmation that his message needs to be written down. The message applies to God’s people of all ages, as well.

 

Feast of Pentecost El Greco 1600

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. EL Greco painting cs. 1600 from Wikipedia

That brings us to the reason for the interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpets. We had a similar interlude between the sixth and the seventh seals. There was a need for explanation of security of God’s people in the midst of the seal judgments. Here the judgments are more intense and there is need for explanation as to what God’s people are to be doing while judgment falls on God’s opponents. They are in need of assurance that the message is still effective in the midst of active opposition! The key verse comes at the end.

God has commissioned John and His people to preach to all nations — “you must prophesy!” vs. 11


I. God is sovereign over the land and the sea. vs. 2

vs. 1 The Identity the Angel — “Another” is allos = “another of the same kind.” The terminology used rules out the identification of this figure as the Lord Jesus himself. Jesus is always identified forthrightly in the Revelation of John. “Christ is never called an angel in this book, and this angel is not accorded divine honors. — Leon Morris

The angel is invested with divine power because he has a divine mission to perform. The tense of verb is the present tense participle = “coming down.” John actually sees this angel make his descent. The direction of descent in the vision indicates that John is now seeing things from the earthly perspective, whereas before he was seeing things from the heavenly viewpoint. So ought we if we are to prophesy God’s Words to our age.


 

The Holy Spirit rides in the chariot of Scripture, and not in the wagon of modern thought. Scripture is that ark of the covenant which contains the golden pot of manna, and also bears above it the divine light of God’s shining. The Spirit of God works in, by, and through, and with the Word; and if we keep to that Word, we may rest assured that the Holy Ghost will keep with us, and make our testimony to be a thing of power.
— C. H. Spurgeon, from a Sermon delivered at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, April 19th, 1891


The Angel’s Appearance — Clouds are identified in Psalm 104:3 as God’s chariots. The rainbow brings to mind Rev. 4 — a rainbow surrounded the throne. His countenance was brilliant cf. Rev. 1:16.

Blake_-_angel_of_revelation

Angel of the Revelation by William Blake, between circa 1803 and circa 1805

vs. 2 The Scroll in his Hand—The word for “scroll” in Rev. 5:2 is biblion (the Greek word from which we derive our English word “bible”) . Here the word is biblaridion. This is the only use of this word in the New Testament, so it is difficult to determine its exact meaning. It seems to be a diminutive form of biblos (“little scroll”) This small scroll lay open on the hand of the angel, whereas the other scroll (in Rev. 5) was sealed. The tense of the verb anoigô (“to open”) is perfect tense. It had been opened in the past and still lay open on the palm of the angel in the present.

What is the significance of this “little scroll?” It contains God’s purposes which he has been pleased to reveal to man i.e. his program for the end of the world. Since it is a diminutive form, it only contains a portion of that program, and is not comprehensive like the other scroll in Rev. 5 & 6. Humans can only comprehend a portion of God’s wisdom, Therefore, God only entrusts a portion of it to man.

Collossus of Rhodes 1911

The famous Colossus of Rhodes, familiar to all of Asia Minor though long gone by the time of writing. One greater than the ancient Colossus delivered John’s and our commission. 

The Size and Posture of the Ange l — The angel’s posture denotes that he has authority over the entire earth — water and land. The angel’s size defies description. It would be a great  encouragement to a small group of beleaguered Christians to know they had such colossal forces at work in their behalf.

II. God knows all, but we His servants know only what He has revealed in His Word vs. 3-4.

vs. 3b … When he called out, the seven thunders sounded. 4 And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.” 

The Angel’s Shout — The loud shout brings on the sounding of the seven thunders. Note carefully that the phrase has the definite article, and, therefore, is identified as a specific group of thunders.

Thunders2-Best

vs. 4 The Seven Thunders — The seven thunders gave forth revelation about the plan of God for the end of the world. John understood what they revealed, and he was about to write when he was stopped. N.B. the use of the prohibitory subjunctive = me + aorist subjunctive indicating, “Do not even begin to write.”


All we have to help us in interpreting the seven thunders is in Psalm 29. Note the recurring phrase, “The voice of the Lord.”

3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over many waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. 9 The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare, and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”


“Either the seven thunders were [only] intended for John’s [personal] illumination and were not essential to the main vision of the seven trumpets, or the reference is designated to strike a note of mystery with reference to God’s revelatory activities (cf. II Cor. 12:4). As the visible portion of an iceberg is only a small part of it, so God’s disclosures reveal only part of his total being and purposes.”

I take the second view. God makes sure we do not assume to know it all.

A Caveat — The fact that John does not give us all the visions relating to the future should caution us about being so dogmatic about our different systems of interpreting prophecy. We do not have all of the pieces of the puzzle! This portion of revelation was deliberately sealed up. Leon Morris, on page 138 of his commentary, brings out that sealing in apocalyptic writings signifies that which is to be kept hidden (Cf. Daniel 12:4).

When I was in Seminary, there was a clothes closet we visited often. It had books and games. We once took a puzzle. That puzzle drove us all crazy. It didn’t have missing pieces. An imp had thrown extra pieces into it from another puzzle! I took that puzzle back minus the extra pieces. 

Puzzle Wikipedia

We do not have extra pieces in the Revelation puzzle, but we have pieces God has deliberately left out to make us humble as we read it and proclaim it. Like the apostles at the ascension, ““It is not for [us] to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But … [we are to] be His witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 


A father wanted to read a magazine but was being bothered by his little girl, Shelby. She wanted to know what the United States looked like.

Finally, he tore a sheet out of his new magazine on which was printed the map of the country. Tearing it into small pieces, he gave it to Shelby, and said, “Go into the other room and see if you can put this together. This will show you our whole country today.”

After a few minutes, Shelby returned and handed him the map correctly fitted together. The father was surprised and asked how she had finished so quickly. “Oh,” she said, “on the other side of the paper is a picture of Jesus. When I got all of Jesus back where He belonged, then our country just came together.” (see Map and the Face of Jesus, below.)


If we read Revelation to find the place Jesus deserves in our hearts and lives, instead of looking for times and seasons, He’ll put us back together right and our country as well!

Next time more on Revelation 10.

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

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.

Map and the Face of Jesus. (2020). Accessed 2 August 2020 from ttps://www.thepathoftruth.com/falsehood-exposed/sappy-stories/map-face-of-jesus.htm

Spurgeon, C. H. (1891). Accessed 2 August 2020 from https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/spurgeon_charles/sermons/2201.cfm

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Chapter Nine Summary: Repent!

Image above in the public domain “The Adoration of the Golden Calf” by Nicolas Poussin.


Revelation 9

20 The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, 21 nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.


The last paragraph in Revelation 9 gives us the intent of the Fifth and Sixth Trumpet judgments —

The judgments of God even though severe are intended to bring men to repentance.

I. Mankind’s attempt to satisfy its desires apart from God and His ways ends up creating false religion.

Revelation 9:20-21 gives us a view of the religion of evil times. It affords us a rare look into the heathen society in which John lived in the First Century and the one in which we live in the Twenty-first Century.

False religion involves idolatry which is in reality the worship of demons — I Corinthians 10 —

18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. [ESV]

Colossians 3:5 underlines the same warning about substituting false gods for the worship of the true God —

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. [NIV]

Behind an idol is a demon manipulating the circumstances of the worshiper.

The_worship_of_Mammon

1909 painting The Worship of Mammon (or wealth) by Evelyn De Morgan

The power of the idol is dependent upon the trust the person places in it. The worshiper will appease the idol and place trust in it to avert danger from his own life. All the while, the demon is making things happen to buttress the person’s confidence in the idol. It is a vicious cycle. In the West, the idols are wealth and materialism which create envy and greed.

This idolatry/demonic element is evident when visiting developing countries. Animistic practices bring about bondage to people who are not committed to Jesus Christ as Lord. In the West, we think we have outgrown such superstitions. Read the story of a Vietnamese family who turned to Christ.

After a [Vietnamese] friend shared Jesus with…Thuan* and his wife Hien*, they chose to also follow Jesus—at great risk. The couple lives in an area of northern Vietnam where believing in Jesus rather than traditional beliefs—including ancestor worship—is considered a betrayal not only to the family, but also to their whole ethnic identity.

A few days after Thuan and Hien became Christians, local authorities came to their home and told the couple they must return to ancestor worship, or they would be kicked out of the village. The authorities also pressured Thuan and Hien’s relatives to threaten the couple and try to convince them to leave their newfound faith.

But Thuan and Hien refused. As a result, the family now lives in isolation, shunned by their community after the village chief publicly denounced them and their new beliefs. Even children in the village are banned from interacting with Thuan and Hien’s kids. The family has lost everything because they have chosen to follow Jesus. On September, 30 a group of relatives, villagers and local authorities destroyed the family’s house, fruit trees and killed or stole their livestock. [See Open Doors, below.]

Idolaters hate those who worship the true God. However, “Their arms are too short to box with God.” James Weldon Johnson (pictured below) sought to capture in poetry the cadence and rhythms of gifted black preachers of the past in his book God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse [African-American instead of “negro” is more acceptable today.] — 


James_Weldon_Johnson Wikipedia

Portrait from Wikimedia Commons

The Prodigal Son

Young man —
Young man —
Your arm’s too short to box with God. …

There comes a time,
There comes a time
When ev’ry young man looks out from his father’s house,
Longing for that far-off country [Babylon]. …

Oh-o-oh, sinner,
When you’re mingling with the crowd in Babylon —
Drinking the wine of Babylon —
Running with the women of Babylon —
You forget about God, and you laugh at Death.
Today you’ve got the strength of a bull in your neck
And the strength of a bear in your arms,
But some o’ these days, some o’ these days,
You’ll have a hand-to-hand struggle with bony Death,
And Death is bound to win.

Prodigal son Pompeo_Batoni_003

The Return of the Prodigal Son (1773) by Pompeo Batoni

Young man, come away from Babylon,
That hell-border city of Babylon.
Leave the dancing and gambling of Babylon,
The wine and whiskey of Babylon,
The hot-mouthed women of Babylon;
Fall down on your knees,
And say in your heart:
I will arise and go to my Father. [See Johnson, J. W., below] 


I shared this poem with a class in the early 2000s. They said that they had wondered why people read that at Church during black history month. The church hadn’t explained the readings to the hearers. Tradition had become traditionalism. “Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. And, I suppose I should add, it is traditionalism that gives tradition such a bad name.” (see Pelikan below.) Modern preaching in both black and white mainline churches is not as it once was! Both have become a blind following of tradition wedded to the spirit of this age. Faithful preaching must always call for repentance and a return to God through Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is central in the lives of His people! He supplies all we need.


II. We are created by God to worship and serve Him alone.

Carlo_Crivelli_-_St._Augustine

St. Augustine by Carlo Crivelli ca. AD 1478

St. Augustine of Hippo stated this well in his Confessions — “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” [See St. Augustine below] 

Mankind is incurably religious by nature. Blaise Pascal gives us this concept best —

What else does this craving [for God], and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself. [See Pascal below.] 

Pascal_Pajou_Louvre_RF2981

Blaise Pascal Augustin Pajou, 1785, Louvre

What did Pascal mean? “As one can see, when God created humans, he wanted them to look around for Him and search for Him. This is one of God’s plans, and in doing so, He created this “hole” [in man’s soul] that cannot be filled by any other; in short, that ‘God-shaped hole’ was created by God for us to look for Him [to fill it].” [See God-shaped Hole, below.] 


III. God’s intransigent opponents refuse to repent and worship Him, the true and living God.

Their Lack of Repentance — In vs. 20, the sin is idolatry. Now John catalogues the sins which flow from idol worship in verse 21. Idolatry always leads to a sinful lifestyle.

… In the ancient world, religion involved the use of drugs to cast spells, to poison, and to make potions. All this darkness is preferred by sinful men over the light of God. Some men will never repent. These ones God reserves for the last judgment. However, even at this time, God is still trying to persuade men to repent. He is a gracious God. “But when God’s works and words are persistently rejected, only judgment remains.” [see Johnson, A. F. below.]

Henry Van Til summed this up in his oft-quoted definition —”Culture is simply the service of God in our lives; it is religion externalized.” (see Van Til, p. 200, below.)

The Greek word for “sorceries” (pharmakôs) is the one from which we derive the English word “pharmacy.” In the NT it refers to a purveyor in witchcraft. Potients were widely used to bring people under a spell, e.g. a love potient.

Pervitindose

A Pervitin (Methamphetamine) canister from WWII given to Nazi soldiers to make them fierce and in little need of sleep.

Drugs  have been used to alter person’s behavior for the worse. Drug use was widespread at all levels of the Nazi regime —


In his bestselling book, The Total Rush — recently published in English as Blitzed — Norman Ohler found that many in the Nazi regime used drugs regularly, from the soldiers of the Wehrmacht (German armed forces) all the way up to Hitler himself. The use of methamphetamine, better known as crystal meth, was particularly prevalent. A pill form of the drug, Pervitin, was distributed by the millions to Wehrmacht troops before the successful invasion of France in 1940.

When it came to Nazi leaders, Ohler’s research suggested, they all favored their own particular drugs of choice. In an interview, … Ohler clarified: “Not all of them took every drug. Some more, some less. Some of them were on methamphetamine — for example, Ernst Udet, the Chief of Aircraft Procurement and Supply. Others were on strong anesthetics, like Göring, whose nickname was actually ‘Möring,’ from morphine.” [see Nazi Drug Use below.]


We ought to be careful about the use of controlled substances (apart from legitimate doctor-issued prescriptions for our health issues). Drugs have been used in the past to capture men and women’s minds and rewire them to do the will of evil men.

The current anarchy at work in our society seems to be drug-fueled. For instance a recent Tweet states — “Drug use among [anarchist organization] members is rampant. 81% report using an illegal substance on a semi-regular or regular basis. Cocaine and heroin are the top drugs of choice while meth is a close 3rd place.” Another person in response tweeted — “This is crazy. I take Ritalin and have a medical marijuana card.” (Obviously, this is an illegitimate use of prescription drugs.) A last response hit the nail on the head — “Mind control is real.”

All I can conclude is, “what a waste of young lives in our time!” If you doubt, watch the “Frontline Report” 2020 on “Opioids, Inc.” on PBS. [see Opioids, Inc., below for the link to the Article and the film.]

I can leave you with the only hope I know — turn away from evil and embrace Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior!


This chart below summarizes the application of the ninth chapter.

Graph for Rev 9

Next time, on to chapter ten!

Notes

Bible quotations from https://www.biblegateway.com [ESV and NIV]

God-shaped Hole. (2014). “Where does the concept of a “God-shaped hole” originate?” Accesssed 23 July 2020 from https://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/2746/where-does-the-concept-of-a-god-shaped-hole-originate

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

Johnson, J. W. (1927). “The Prodigal Son”, poem in God’s Trombones. Accessed 23 July 2020 from https://docsouth.unc.edu/southlit/johnson/johnson.html

Open Doors. (2020) “New believers lose home, family, community to follow Jesus in Vietnam.” Accessed 23 July 2020 from https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/stories/new-believers-lose-home-family-community-to-follow-jesus-in-vietnam/ [* true names were changed to obscure their hiding place from ancestor worshiping persecuters.]

Opiods, Inc. (2016). “How Bad is the Opioid Epidemic?” Webpage article. Accessed 23 July 2020 from https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/how-bad-is-the-opioid-epidemic/ The Film version is available at https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/opioids-inc/

Nazi Drug Use (2017). Inside the Drug Use That Fueled Nazi Germany. Accessed 23 July 2020 from https://www.history.com/news/inside-the-drug-use-that-fueled-nazi-germany

Pascal, B. (1662). Pensees, Book VII, ¶ 425. Accessed 23 July 2020 from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/18269/18269-h/18269-h.htm

Pelikan, J. (1983). From ” The Vindication of Tradition: The 1983 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities.” Accessed 25 July 2020 from https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/713639-the-vindication-of-tradition

St. Augustine of Hippo. (ca. AD 400) Confessions, 1,1.5. Accessed 23 July 2020 from http://www.vatican.va/spirit/documents/spirit_20020821_agostino_en.html 

Van Til, H. (1972). The Calvinistic Concept of Culture. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker. 

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

The Plague brought by the Sixth Trumpet

Revelation 9

12 The first woe has passed; behold, two woes are still to come.

The judgments are so severe that they are no longer just called trumpets. They are hereafter referred to as “woes.”

As we noted in the last trumpet, if lesser warnings are not heeded, more severe ones come.

The first four trumpets touched man’s environment. They are indirect. The fifth is more direct but falls short of the death of human beings. Now with the sixth trumpet, people are directly killed by the plague the sixth trumpet brings. It will be fulfilled ultimately at the end of the age.

The-End-of-the-World 2

The End of the World by John Martin (19 July 1789 – 17 February 1854)

13 Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, 14 saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.”

I. The sixth trumpet brings a plague on the Church’s persecuters that is a result of the prayers of the saints. vss. 13-14

If we find ourselves hemmed in on all sides, we still have an opened access to heaven. We can and must pray. The golden altar where the saints’ prayers are offered in Rev. 6:10 is the location of the voice that releases this severe plague.

The Voice Speaking — This voice comes from the golden altar described in Rev. 8:1-5. No doubt the speaker is the angel who hurled the censer to the earth in answer to the saints’ prayers. The saints’ prayers are still being answered. The times in which God’s people live are never too evil that God doesn’t hear and answer their prayers.

Incense altar

The Release of the Four Angels — The second woe is similar to the first one. It is also a release of a demonic horde. The only difference between this woe and the last is that these angels have the ability to kill people. This appears to be a demon invasion that leads to war among peoples: international, civil within nations, and local wars.

The Euphrates River was considered to be the boundary of the Holy Land. Beyond it lay the nations — the enemies of the people of God who persecuted and enslaved them. The Romans even had difficulties with the Parthians whose empire lay beyond this river.

The Number “4” — The number four, the four points of the compass, leads us to think of the earth. This demonic invasion is one that involves the whole earth just before the end of an age or the final end of this age.

We have had two world wars in the 20th Century. War always destroys civilizations. It undermines moral standards and allows people to escape from Biblical upbringing that would have controlled sinful tendencies.

Immigrants to our nation in each generation are always of two kinds. There are foreign immigrants who come from other countries to our shores and are in need of instruction about the Biblical basis of liberty. However, we are not sufficiently aware of a second group of immigrants who are in need of instruction, as well. They are biological immigrants — our children. Our country since WWII has failed to initiate its own children in the true meaning of liberty. The late Judge Robert Bork reminds us—

Bork Book Cover“Every new generation constitutes a wave of savages who must be civilized by their families, schools, and churches. An exceptionally large generation can swamp the institutions responsible for teaching traditions and standards. …[Since World War II] heap after heap of human beings have been dumped on to the historic scene at such an accelerated rate, that it has been difficult to saturate them with traditional culture. This is what Rathenau called ‘the vertical invasion of the barbarians.'” (see Bork below, p. 21.)

15 So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind.

II. God releases the hoard, so He is sovereign over all circumstances related to it. vss. 15-16

Four Specific Angels — These four angels are a specific group of angels. This is indicated by — (1) the use of the definite article before their name and the participle describing them; and, (2) the use of the definite article before hora (hour)

Tigr-euph

The Tigris-Euphrates River courses Wikipedia

Specific Time for Release — Note that all the time words are joined to the one definite article by kai (”and”). It is a specific time for which they have been prepared. The hour, day, month, and year of their release has been specified. God is in control!

Specific Mission — Again, we see the 1/3rd part killed stressing that even this judgment is partial and not total. God is still warning men. It is not too late to repent.

16 The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number.

The Number of the Demonic Horde — This demonic horde is under the command of the four angels which have just been loosed. John heard the count, but did not see the actual 200,000,000 ride by him.

angels-and-demons

Gustave Dore public domain

17 And this is how I saw the horses in my vision and those who rode them: they wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur, and the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths.

III. The otherworldly character of the horses and riders are indicative of demons not modern technology. vss. 17-19

The Appearance of the Horses — John saw the appearance (horasis) of the horses and their riders. The word is from horao (to see) . He did not see the whole advancing army. The breastplates were tri-colored — red, blue, and yellow. These ‘animals’ are fierce. They symbolize a demonic horde. Sulfur is what the Elizabethians called “brimstone.”

demon-rider

Demonic Rider from Copyright © 1freewallpapers.com 

18 By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths.

The Plagues of the Horses — The fire, smoke, and sulfur are described as ‘three plagues’. All of these are associated with hell — the abode of the demons. This supernatural phenomenon is not in the physical realm.

19 For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents with heads, and by means of them they wound.

The Power of the Horses — These fierce demons hurt with both ends of their bodies.

The Four Horsemen from The Apocalypse

The Four Horsemen, from The Apocalypse
1498 by Albrecht Dürer

Conclusion about the fulfillment of the Sixth Trumpet

Are we at the final end of the age itself? I can’t say, but at the least end of Western Civilization which has been under the driving force of secular humanism since the enlightenment.

R. J. Rushdoony was a philosopher as well as a preacher. I can’t say I agree with all his ideas — e.g. theonomy. I do agree with his critique about our age.

The death of an age is a bloody business. Men, disillusioned with the promises of their faith, yet unwilling to surrender them, strike out at everything in rage and in frustration. Like a rudderless ship, the civilization loses its direction and is driven by events instead of driving through them. Today, in the last days of humanism, as men steadily destroy their world, it is important for us to understand the meaning of the times and act in terms of that knowledge. The humanists in their blindness celebrate “the death of God” when it is in fact the death of humanism and their own funeral they are racing to in their heedless course. Humanism is dying because its faith is false, and its promises bankrupt.

Humanism is dying, if not dead. Living with a corpse is no pleasant matter. It does not require documentation to tell us that a corpse is far gone. The answer to our problem lies elsewhere, not in documentation on death, but in reconstruction for life. Humanism is dead, but the triune God lives and rules, sovereign over all. (see Rushdoony, below.)

Next time we will sum up chapter nine and its primary teaching for us.

Notes

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

Bork, R. (1996) Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline. New York City, New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

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

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.

Rushdoony, R. J. (2013). The Death of an Age and Its Faith. Accessed 18 July 2020 from https://chalcedon.edu/resources/articles/the-death-of-an-age-and-its-faith

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

The Plague of the Fifth Trumpet

Revelation 9

1 And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. 2 He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. [ESV]

Image above from Ben Curtis/AP

We should understand from the woes that more severe plagues come upon persecuters of Christians if the warning of lesser plagues is not heeded. 

vs. 3 Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth.

1358px-The_angel_of_death_striking_a_door_during_the_plague_of_Rome_Wellcome_V0010664

The angel of death striking a door during the Antonine plague of Rome: an engraving by Levasseur after Jules-Elie Delaunay (1828-1891). Wikimedia commons image

Some attempt to see armies of men, tanks, etc. in this vision. However, only a demonic invasion does full justice to what is described in this chapter (see Keener, below.)

The background to the locust image

Exodus 10:12-15 records the locust plague on Egypt that led to the liberation of the children of Israel from the land of Egypt. The locusts were literal predatory insects with which we are familiar. 

Joel 1:4 and 2:1-2 record an army invasion compared to a locust infestation. 

Locust_sward_Reuters

Locust swarm in Africa 2020. Image from Reuters News on https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/02/smart-drones-africa-locust-swarms

John uses the images from the two previous passages to depict a demonic invasion. The locusts’ power in Greek is exousia (authority). Their authority is like that of a scorpion sting. The sting of a scorpion usually does not kill. It merely produces an intense burning. This is not a part of the normal make up of locusts. This is a demonic invasion from the spiritual world to the physical world. It is invisible. Yet, its effects are visible. It is probably an intense anxiety and mental anguish. (see Johnson, D. E. below.)

Locusts on a tree

Locusts on a tree that they have stripped. Images from https://www.dw.com/en/east-africa-why-are-locusts-so-destructive/a-52165354

vs. 4 They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.

God’s command to the locusts

The passive voice is used without a definite subject indicating an implied divine agent. The speaker himself is not identified. The important detail is not the identity of the speaker, but the fact that demons are under the sovereign control of God.

Prohibition against eating greenery 

These locusts are not literal locusts because they do not do what normal locusts do not eat greenery. They sting humans. They bring torment to unrepentant men. It is not torment physically, but spiritual and mental anguish. Nothing is so excruciating mentally as having a demon tempt you to sin, and then, having him turn around and torment you in your conscience for having done so. Multiply this scenario by a thousandfold and you will see the pangs of the lost who will not come to Christ for cleansing. They are miserable and will not come to Christ the balm of Gilead. See Johnson A. F., below; I have relied heavily on this commentary in the past especially for my notes in 1992-93.)

Harm comes only to the unbelieving, persecuters of God’s people

We are assured that torment is not the lot of the children of God. Over God’s children the demons have no authority. The seal of the living God safeguards his own.

vs. 5 They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone. 6 And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them.

A Further Prohibition

Death eludes those who are stung. The persons are tormented for five months. The question arises as to the reference of the five months torment. (1) Is the plague of  five months duration? (2) Or, does the sting itself last for five months? It is interesting that the normal life of a locust is five months. The reference is most likely to the short duration of the torment. The locusts are only around for five months. The time is short. If it were not, men would die from the mental anguish of it.

The sting of the Locusts

Scorpions do not as a general rule kill. But, their bite is painful. In any case, these locusts with scorpion bites are spiritual realities, not physical ones.

People are not able to die

Note the double negative ou me — “they will by no means find it.” It is a strong negation. Death will not come as a result of the sting. Men, who are not willing to kill themselves, will often say, “I wish I would just go ahead and die!” But, the sting is not sufficient to threaten life. “Elude” is present tense. Death keeps on fleeing from them.

Sphinx from Spata-570BC

Sphinx from Spata, Attica (570 BCE) – NAMA

The appearance of the locusts

vss. 7 In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, 8 their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth; 9 they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. 10 They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails.

Note that he does not say that they had crowns of gold on their heads or that they actually had men’s faces. He said that their likeness (homoios) was like (hos) this. The description defies our ability to even imagine what it would look like. This is a clear indication that John saw spiritual reality and not physical reality. This is a fierce demonic horde that is bringing torment upon the unrepentant. 

Christian and apollyon

Apollyon (top) battling Christian in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. ca. 1850.

vs. 11 They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon.

The Destroyer 

The Angel of the Abyss may be the identification of the fallen star in vs. 1. Both Abaddon (in Hebrew = “Destruction”) and Apollyon (in Greek) mean “Destroyer.”

The irony of torment by Satan and demons

Let me quote from Dennis E. Johnson’s commentary on the irony of the demonic attack on those who serve Satan’s purpose — 

This vision discloses the tragic double irony of serving Satan. First, as the angel of the abyss, the fallen star releases these demonic hordes not to afflict his enemies, the servants of God (for he cannot touch those shielded by God’s seal), but rather to afflict his allies “who dwell on the earth,” who receive the beast’s mark and worship his blasphemous image (14:14-17). The devil rewards his loyal subjects with cruel torture. Second, the relief that the tortured think they would attain through death is denied them, for the malevolent spirits that poison their minds are forbidden from taking their lives. (See Johnson, D. E. below.) 

I would add, it doesn’t pay to serve Satan’s purposes for treasures that will not last. He is not grateful, but torments human agents who can have what he can never have — salvation from sin and a life of abundant joy serving God.

On to the Sixth Trumpet next week.

Notes

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

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.

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved