Tag Archives: angels

LUCIFER HAD A GREAT FALL! (Rev. 12:1-17)

Revelation: Because the Time Is Near

To listen to or download the audio message of this study click the study title.  Study #16: “Lucifer Had a Great Fall!” (Rev. 12:1-17)

invasion-chase

Imagine the panic that would ensure if thousands of extra-terrestrials suddenly invaded your community, secretly taking over the minds and bodies of leaders in government, business, law enforcement, and education. Sound like the farfetched plot of a low budget science fiction movie like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” or “The War of the Worlds?” It’s not. It’s what is actually going on in every community on the face of the earth. In this case, the extra-terrestrials are not invaders from outer space. Nor are they visible to the human eye. For they are spiritual beings called angels—millions of fallen angels who sided with Lucifer in his rebellion against God and are now fighting day and night to lull Christians to sleep, so we don’t share the truth about Jesus, and confuse the minds of unbelievers in preparation for the coming Antichrist.

Paul warns us in Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

That becomes vividly clear in this week’s study. In Revelation chapter 12, John gives us a glimpse behind the scenes at the power energizing the Beast and his kingdom. We learn that it is none other than “the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan.” He is the one who has deceived man and woman from the beginning and will someday soon day demand the worship of everyone on earth. So be watchful as we study! These facts aren’t just interesting Bible trivia; they’re vital spiritual insights into what’s happening in your community this very moment. And as we unearth what’s underfoot, we need to take action—resisting temptation, praying without ceasing for those who do not yet believe, and sharing the truth with anyone who will listen. This is a war for men’s souls, and we need to be ready. The first thing to notice in this chapter are—

TWO GREAT SIGNS IN HEAVEN

Chapter 12 begins John’s second vision in the book of Revelation. In chapter 1, he was told to write “the things which you have seen, the things which are, and the things which shall take place after these things.” But that writing assignment was completed in chapter 11. The Tribulation came to an end and “the kingdoms of the world” became “the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. So now John is told to “prophesy again about many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.” In other words, he’s to go back and color in the details of the Tribulation by describing its key characters and events. Chapter 12 introduces the first prophecy. Two signs appear in heaven identifying both the villain of the Tribulation and his intended victims.

1. The Sign of the Woman

moon

Verse 1 begins, “A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.”

The Bible often uses women as symbols of religion. For example, Ephesians 5:26 calls the church the Bride of Christ. On the other hand, Revelation 17 calls the false religion of the Tribulation “Babylon the Great, Mother of Harlots.” But here in chapter 12, John sees “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve staffs.” What religion does this represent? Two details make her identity clear.

First, her clothing. Perhaps you remember the dream of Joseph in Genesis 37 in which he saw the sun, moon, and the stars bowing down to him. There was no question in his or his brothers’ minds what this symbolized. It was a picture of his family, the household of Israel, bowing down to him in the future—once God exalted him to the position of second ruler of the land of Egypt. Here we find the same symbolism, making the identity of this woman clear. It is another picture of Israel, this time describing her future suffering during the Tribulation.

josephs_dreams_sun_moon_stars_sheaves_of_wheat

You can see that even more clearly in the description of her child. Verse 5 continues, “She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to His throne.” This is an obvious reference to Jesus Christ who following His death and resurrection, was caught up to the throne of heaven and who will someday rule this world with “a rod of iron.” Consequently, who must this woman be? Not Mary, because Mary never suffered the persecution described in this chapter. Nor could it happen to her, since she is now safe and secure in God’s presence. Instead, it’s a reference to the nation of Israel through whom the Messiah was given to the world.

Why would focus on Israel at this time? To emphasize the central that she will again play in the divine drama on earth. For the past 1946 years, Israel has been set aside while Christ has built His Bride, the church. But God has not forgotten His chosen people. Romans 11:25-26 says that “hardening in part has happened to Israel,” but that one day soon “all Israel will be saved.” And yet, before that time of blessings can come, another period of suffering is predicted for Israel. That’s symbolized in the second sign John sees in heaven—

2. The Sign of the Dragon

 

Picture4

Verse 3 explains, “Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his head.”

Who is this dragon? Verse 9 identifies him as “that ancient serpent called the devil, who leads the whole world astray.” Red symbolizes his thirst for blood. We know that because the same word is used in chapter 6 to describe the “fiery red” horse that brings warfare to earth. Jesus Himself called him “a murderer from the beginning.” (Jn. 8:44) And we find that here as well, that Satan will inspire a future bloodbath of unprecedented proportions, especially for the people of Israel. The “seven heads and ten horns” tell us how he’ll do it. If you compare this to Revelation 13:1, you’ll find that this is a symbol of Antichrist, indicating that it’s through him that Satan will bring destruction on earth. The “seven crowns,” on the other hand, picture the seven world empires that he has controlled in the past, reminding us that if he has been able to do it before, he is more than capable of doing it again.

Picture5

Verse 4 adds, “His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth.” This describes the breadth of his power. For who do the stars represent? They are the devil’s partners in crime. For example, we saw in our study of Revelation 1:20 that stars are symbols for angels. John was told, “the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches.” In this case, however, they do not represent good angels, but evil angels who followed Lucifer in his rebellion against God. The Bible also refers to them as demons and unclean spirits. How many are involved? John says one-third of the angels God created. The good news, however, is that there are twice the number of good angels on our side than those on Lucifer’s side.

John continues, “The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born.” This refers to Satan’s desire to prevent Jesus from being born. Who can forget Herod’s attempt to kill the newborn King by ordering that all the baby boys in Bethlehem two years old and younger be slaughtered? But Satan’s plan was thwarted by God when He warned Joseph in a dream to take the Child and His mother into Egypt until Herod was dead. In fact, it was only on the cross that Lucifer’s plan was finally successful—for just three days! There he succeeded in having Jesus crucified, but three days later He rose from the dead, dealing a fatal blow to the devil. Hebrews 2:14 explains, “Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death, He might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil.”

Panorama of Jerusalem old city. Israel

Panorama of Jerusalem old city. Israel

Having failed to kill the Savior, the devil searches for a way to vent his anger. So what does he do? Verse 6 says the target of his hatred is the woman. Unable to prevent the birth of her Child, he tries to exterminate the people of Israel. This began in 70 AD when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, killing and enslaving millions of Jews. It continued during the Crusades of the 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th centuries, when hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered. Hitler killed 6 million more in World War II. Stalin persecuted millions more in the Soviet Union. Now Antichrist will lead the world in another Holocaust greater than that of Hitler. But all these efforts will fail. Why? Because God has promised to preserve the people of Israel forever!

Napoleon was asked by one of his generals, “What do you believe to be the greatest miracle of all time?” The conqueror answered without hesitation, “The Jews!” He was right! More than any other phenomenon in history, the survival of the Jews is proof that the God of the Bible exists. Who would have guessed that after wandering throughout the world without a homeland for 1878 years, Israel would again become an independent nation? But to the world’s amazement, they did so in May of 1948, going on to become the most powerful nation in the Middle East, winning war after war against Muslim nations much larger than they. And at the end of the Tribulation, with all the nations of the world gathered together to destroy them, who would believe that a kingdom would again be born in Israel? But that’s exactly what will happen through the supernatural goodness and intervention of Jesus their Messiah and King.

THE GREAT ANGELIC WAR IN HEAVEN

In verse 7 to 12, John now turns from Satan’s past history of crime to his future activities in heaven and on earth. Make no mistake! There is ferocious spiritual warfare taking place in the heavenlies right now, events about which you and I can only speculate. But at the midpoint of the Tribulation, a great angelic war of unprecedented proportions will break out in heaven, determining not only the final dominion of the angels, but also the persecution and suffering that is about to be experienced on earth.

1. The Description of Satan’s Defeat

Verse 7 reads: “And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth and his angels with him.”

A-paradise-lost-angels-cast-out-remake

According to John, the war that is about to break out in heaven will pit the angelic armies of Michael against the demonic forces of Lucifer. That’s appropriate since Michael’s name, which means “Who is like God?” is the perfect answer to Lucifer’s boast, “I will be like the Most High!” This is not the first time the two have met in conflict. Daniel 10 says they once battled over the delivery of a prophetic message sent to Daniel. Jude 1:9 adds that they also argued over the body of Moses. But this will be their last and greatest battle. For verse 8 says at this point the dragon and his angels will be defeated and confined to the earth with no more access to heaven.

This may be confusing to some. After all, wasn’t Satan cast out of heaven ages ago? He was and he wasn’t. According to the Bible, there are several phases in Satan’s judgment, some of which have passed and some of which are yet to come. At his first attempt to make himself equal with God, Lucifer was cast down in the sense that he lost his original position in heaven. This is described in Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28, and here in verse 4. At that time, one-third of the angels sided with him in his rebellion. Jude 1:6 adds, “The angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these He has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great day.” That doesn’t mean that Lucifer has lost all his access to heaven. It simply means that his original power and glory were stripped away from him.

I liken it to former president Richard Nixon who left office in disgrace. At his resignation, he no longer enjoyed the power or privileges of the presidency. But did visit the White House from time to time. And so it is with Lucifer! He no longer has any official position, but he still has access to God’s presence. We find that in the first two chapters of the book of Job. And here in verse 10, we’re told that he still has the ability to accuse us before God day and night.

Other judgments in Lucifer’s career include his defeat at the cross. Colossians 2:15 says Christ “disarmed the powers and authorities” and made a “public spectacle of them, triumphing over them.” His next major loss will take place at the end of the Tribulation and the beginning of the Kingdom when he is confined in the bottomless pit for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3) and no longer able to tempt mankind. And finally, he will be forever damned when he and his demons are cast into the lake of fire which burns forever and ever. (Rev. 20:10) But, again, the primary concern of our passage is his final war with Michael, at the midpoint of the Tribulation, when he is cast out of heaven and confined to the earth.

Picture9

What incites such a war in heaven? Some say his hatred of Christ will spur him to make one final assault on God’s throne. But Dr. Warren Wiersbe offers another explanation which may have more merit. After the church is taken up to heaven in the Rapture and the Tribulation is set in motion, the first order of business in heaven will be the Judgment Seat of Christ and rewarding of the saints. (2 Cor. 5:10-11). There the works of Christians will be examined and rewards will be given out. But guess who still has access to heaven? Satan, who will accuse the saints pointing out all our faults and flaws. But Jesus Christ, our heavenly advocate (1 Jn. 2:2), will also be there and stand up for us before His Father’s throne, arguing our case and reminding all of creation that He secured our salvation by His death on the cross. Imagine how furious Satan will be when the church comes through this judgment “without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing!” Warren Wiersbe concludes, “When the accuser of the brethren sees that his tactics have failed, he will become furious and threaten the very peace of heaven.”

Picture8

2. The Results of Satan’s Defeat

Verse 10 announces, “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say, ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcome him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore, rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them.”

  • Rejoicing in Heaven

Why is heaven so happy at Michael’s victory? Because Satan, the accuser of the brethren, is no longer allowed to find fault with us. That’s always been one of his most cutting tools. The name devil means “accuser.” And day and night he stands before God’s throne leveling charges against us—if not about our words and actions, then attributing wrong motives to us. The best example is found in the book of Job, where after snooping about the earth, Satan appears before God’s throne. So God asks him to consider his servant Job. Immediately, Satan criticizes him, accusing him of serving God for gain. And he does the same to us today. He accuses us inciting gossip in the church, which ought to make us very careful about repeating rumors that we hear. For in so doing, whose will are we carrying out? Not God’s, but Satan’s! He also accuses our consciences with sins already confessed and forgiven. How do we overcome these painful lies? John pinpoints three keys to victory in verse 11.

Glory

First, “they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb.” In other words, the first thing to do when the devil comes knocking at your door is to remind him that Jesus already shed His blood for those sins, and they don’t have to be paid for again. Our salvation is not based on any good deeds that we have done, but by the finished work of Christ’s grace on the cross.

Just as I am without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me,

And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

Second, “they overcame him by the word of their testimony.” A second fact to remember when Satan comes calling is that his strategy to intimidate us and make us feel unworthy of sharing our faith in Christ. Hal Lindsey issues the following warning:

“The devil will use every clever device he has to keep us from sharing with others what God has done in our lives. A guy who may have been the life of the party and never at loss for words before he trusted Christ can be intimidated by Satan to clam up like a shell when it comes to witnessing for Christ. Grown men will tremble in front of youngsters when asked to give a word for Jesus. Remember Peter in the Gospel of Mark and the young girl who asked him if he’d been a friend of Jesus; Peter not only denied it but swore at her also! The reason this is such a threat to Satan is that God has chosen to give His children the privilege of bringing men into His Kingdom by their testimony—both by what they say and how they live. For this reason, nothing gives Satan more pleasure than to foul up a believer’s testimony in word and life.

So don’t let him intimidate you! The next time the devil comes peddling guilt or fear, remember who it’s coming from, why he’s doing it, and that he is a liar and the father of lies. And remember one more thing. Satan is more afraid of your testimony than you are to give it. For, as Romans 1:16 says, “it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.”

Third, they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. You see, as long as we cling to this life and the things it offers, Satan will render us ineffective by threatening to take them away from us. But when we commit ourselves and everything we own to Christ, it sets us free. So, as Corrie Ten Boom, the Nazi concentration camp survivor, advised, “Learn to hold all things loosely in your hands, so that it doesn’t hurt too much if they’re snatched away.

Heaven rejoices at Satan’s expulsion, but John foresees a very different outcome for those living below on earth—the greatest time of suffering the world has ever experienced.

  • Persecution on Earth

Verse 12 warns, “But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” The word fury is different from the one used to describe God’s anger. This word means a “violent outburst of anger,” like a rebellious child whose will is thwarted. The devil vents his rage by throwing a 3 ½ year temper tantrum on earth. But unlike a child, Satan’s temper can do great harm. For he is a powerful, vicious being capable of terrible destruction. This destruction begins with his persecution of Israel. Verse 13 explains, “When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.”

 

persecution-pleasure

That raises two questions. Why does Satan hate the Jews? Reason #1 is because she gave birth to Messiah. Satan has always hated the Jews for providing the world with a Savior and means of salvation. Therefore, once his access to heaven is cut off, his first impulse will be to persecute the woman who gave birth to Messiah, sparking a new wave of anti-Semitism, that is beginning even now. Radical Islam’s goal is to destroy both the nation and people of Israel. Even in America, which has long been a safe harbor for the Chosen People, the FBI now reports that 18% of hate crimes are committed against the Jews. Reason #2 is Satan’s desire to prevent the Kingdom from coming to earth. The Bible teaches that in order for the Kingdom to be set up, a Jewish remnant must remain alive to welcome their King and repopulate the earth for God. (Zech. 14:1-4) So convinced that he can keep the Kingdom from coming, Satan will again try to exterminate the Jews. Will he be successful? No! That’s the second point in these final verses—God’s faithful protection of His Chosen People. That’s seen in three ways:

First, the length of Satan’s tantrum. Verse 12 says his wrath is great, “because he knows his time is short.” Or to put it another way, God has him on a short leash. Specifically, verse 14 says he will be allowed to persecute the woman “a time, times, and half a time.” This refers to the 3 ½ years or 1260 days mentioned in verse 6. The point is, Satan is limited in what he can do, and he knows it. He is subject to God’s plans and can only do what God permits.

The prince of darkness grim—we tremble not for him. His rage we can endure. For lo, his doom is sure! One little word shall fell him.

Picture6

Second, the place of God’s protection. Verse 14 promises Israel, “two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert.” The wings of an eagle are a symbol of God’s protection. For example, when God led the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt, the Bible says He bore them “on eagles’ wings” (Ex. 19:4) and cared for them in the wilderness as an eagle cares for her young (Deut. 32:11-12.) Hal Lindsey speculates that this may refer to an American airlift which will transport the people of Israel to the ancient fortress city of Petra. But the text gives no such explanation. All we can say for sure is that God will somehow save His people from destruction. Warren Wiersbe cautions, “We do not know where this sheltered place will be, nor do we need to know. But the lesson for all of us is clear: God cares for those whom He wants to use to accomplish His purposes on earth.”

Petra-1-of-3

Third, the destruction of Satan’s armies. In verse 15, John describes a flood of water which the serpent spews at the woman in an effort to destroy her. To what does this refer? Jeremiah 46 and 47 use the word “flood” to describe tow massive military invasions of Israel. So I assume that’s what’s envisioned here. But God will not allow it to succeed. Instead, John says God will cause the earth to open up and swallow “the river that the dragon spewed out of his mouth, “referring I all likelihood to the massive earthquake which will occur in Revelation 16:18 near the end of the Great Tribulation. But will this cause Satan to give up in frustration? No. Lesson #1 in spiritual warfare is that the old serpent the devil never gives up.

Picture11

Enraged at his inability to kill the woman herself, verse 17 says he immediately turns to attack her offspring. To whom does this refer? John explains that they are “those who obey the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” In other words, when Satan fails to destroy Israel, he will vent his wrath by persecuting anyone who claims the name of Christ. But will he win? No! Why? Because like us, the devil is only a creature, not the Creator.

C. S. Lewis explained, “The commonest question I’m asked is if I ‘believe in the devil.’ Now, if by devil you mean a power opposite to God and, like God, self-existent from all eternity, the answer is certainly No. There is no uncreated being except God. God has no opposite. No being could attain a ‘perfect badness’ equal to the perfect goodness of God; for when you’ve taken away every good thing (intelligence, will, memory, energy, and existence itself), there’d be none of him left.” The question is if I believe in devils. I do. That is to say, I believe in angels, and I believe that some of these, by the abuse of their free will, have become enemies of God and as a corollary to us. These we may call devils. They do not differ in nature from good angels but their nature is depraved. Devil is the opposite of angel only as bad man is the opposite of good man. Satan, the dictator of the devils, is the opposite not of God, but of Michael.”

angels_demons

During the Tribulation, Lucifer will lead them in a war against God and His saints both in heaven and on earth. But because he’s a creature and not the Creator, he will fail miserably and be punished forever. In keeping with His promise to Eve (Gen. 3:15), Jesus Christ, the woman’s seed, will “crush” the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15) and we will be free forever! Hallelujah!

(To download the written message of this study for sharing with others, please click this link –Lucifer Had a Great Fall!” (Rev. 12:1-17) Hallelujah!)

Picture13

WHEN NIGHTMARES COME TRUE: The Trumpet Judgments of Revelation 8 and 9

Revelation: Because the Time Is Near

Study #13: “When Nightmares Come True: The Trumpet Judgments of Revelation 8:1—9:21″

(To listen to or download the audio version of this lesson, click Audio.)

1101890102_400

1988 was the year Time magazine marked the beginning of the end. Every year until then, the magazine celebrated the New Year by naming a man or woman as their person of the year and printing their picture on its cover. But in 1988 they departed from tradition and named “Endangered Earth” as Planet of the Year.

They then invited thirty-three scientists and political leaders from 10 different countries to a 3-day conference in Boulder, Colorado, asking them to come up with a plan to save Planet Earth. Pointing to the destruction of the world’s rain forests, the depletion of the ozone layer, droughts in our own Southwest, and killer hurricanes in the Caribbean, Time concluded: “For decades, scientists have warned of the consequences of all this profligacy. No one paid attention. This year the earth spoke, like God warning Noah” of the Flood to come.

Lester Brown of Worldwatch, warned, “We do not have generations, only years, to turn things around.” John Eddy of the Corporation for Atmospheric Research agreed, “We’ve got to get the earth into intensive care, to monitor the vital signs of our planet.”

Of course, since then, fears have skyrocketed. Now there’s the concern of global warming, the melting of the polar ice caps, mammoth earthquakes, and dozens of other signs that the end is near. All of which is promoted by Hollywood on both the big and small screen in post-apocalyptic films and television shows like “The Fifth Wave,” “I Am Legend,” “Oblivion, and “The Last Ship.”

Picture1

But our question in this study is not what scientists and politicians think about things, but what does God say in His Holy Word? Are we, as Barry McGuire sang in the 1960’s, on “The Eve of Destruction?” The Bible says, “Yes,” not because of man’s abuse of the planet, but because of his rebellion against God. In Revelation 8 and 9, the Lord Himself describes the future of our planet, and the news is not good. The environmentalists’ worst fears are realized. Earth is devastated by plague after plague, leaving it virtually uninhabitable.

But the cause is not global warming, as some predict; it’s Jesus Christ, our Creator, who has reserved the right to judge this world in righteousness–a reminder that more important than our environmental efforts is the need to prepare ourselves body, soul, and spirit for His Return. To see why that’s important, let me emphasize three facts about His judgment.

Jesus-second-coming-002

  1. HOW JUDGMENT IS INTRODUCED IN HEAVEN

In a previous study, we learned that the opening of the seventh seal marks the midpoint of the Tribulation and the releasing of seven trumpets of judgment. Now we see that for ourselves. As Jesus breaks the final seal, seven trumpets are handed to seven angels who are about to blow destruction on the earth. And yet, before they do, three merciful events take place in heaven.

Revelation-Revolution-PT2-slide-1_overview-of-sevens3

First, there is silence in heaven for about half an hour. Revelation 8:1 says, “When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.  And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.” What is the significance of this silence? John doesn’t say for sure, but I think it’s the “calm before the storm.” In fact, what’s ominous about it is that it’s preceded by billions of saints and angels singing God’s praises around His throne. But when the final seal is opened, heaven falls silent in recognition of the terrible judgment about to strike the earth. It is a moment of reverential silence for God’s majesty and sorrow for those who are about to die.

Second, incense is offered on the altar, meaning that we the Church are praying again. Verse 3 says, “Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand.” For centuries the church has been praying, “Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” But sometimes we wonder if our prayers are doing any good. “After all, the world doesn’t seem to be getting any better!” But here we see that our prayers do make a difference! In fact, not one prayer prayed for the coming of God’s kingdom is ever forgotten by God. He stores up every prayer in heaven and will suddenly answer at the opening of the seventh seal.

media_http4bpblogspot_cmnix-scaled500

Warren Wiersbe warns, “Like it or not, the prayers of God’s people are involved in the judgments He sends. The throne and altar are related. The purpose of prayer, as is said, is not to get man’s will done in heaven, but God’s will done on earth—even if it involves judgment. True prayer is serious business. So we had better not move the altar too far from the throne!”

Finally, the third thing that happens before the seventh seal is opened is that thunder and lightning pour forth from God’s throne. Verse 5 says, “Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake. Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them.” These final phenomena are not intended to injure anyone, since they do not proceed from the trumpets. Instead, they’re a final warning to those on earth to repent before judgment falls.

The Apostle Peter reminds us, “God is not willing for any to perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Ezekiel 33:11 adds, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die?” says the Lord. The truth is, judgment is coming and sinners will be punished. But we can be pardoned of our wrongs, if we recognize our sinfulness and turn to Christ in faith. That’s how judgment is introduced in heaven. Now notice—

  1. HOW JUDGMENT IS ENACTED ON EARTH

Trumpet #1: 33% of Earth’s Vegetation Destroyed

1a41c0a1ae0f372229f9647ca94179b4

Verse 7 describes the blast of the first trumpet. “The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down on the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.” This is reminiscent of the seventh plague in Egypt. When Pharaoh refused to let God’s people go, hail and fire rained down from heaven and destroyed every man and beast left outdoors. But this plague is immeasurably worse, for it falls not on one nation, but on the whole earth, consuming one-third of the trees and all the green grass.

This Greek word for trees refers to “fruit trees,” which means that the world’s fruit production will immediately be cut by 33%. The destruction of all green grass will also bring an end to the world’s daily industry, cripple the world’s meat industry, and destroy the wheats and grains that give us our daily bread. Add to that the fact that 25% of the pharmaceuticals in use today contain ingredients derived from wild plants, and it means the new diseases  unleashed at this time will have little chance of being cured. Even now environmentalists worry about the medical repercussions of the world’s rain forests being destroyed. Biologist Daniel Jantzen of the University of Pennsylvania warned, “I know of three plants with the potential of treating AIDS. One grows in an Australian rain forest, one in Panama, and one in Costa Rica.” Add to this the fact that trees are the world’s oxygen-producers, and it means that mankind is in serious trouble.

Trumpet #2: 33% of Marine Life Destroyed

n_the_7_great_trumpets_of_God_clip_image007

Verse 8 continues, “The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.” Exactly what this mountain is, John doesn’t say. It could be a comet, an underwater volcano, or something the world has never before seen. But it brings with it three disasters. 1) A third of the saltwater is turned to blood. This reminds us of the first plague in Egypt, which turned the Nile River to blood and caused all of the fish in the river to die. 2) A third of the creatures in the sea die. Whether this is due to a great explosion or the pollution of the waters with blood, the fishing industry will find itself on the edge of collapse, especially when—

920x920

3) A third of all ships are destroyed. According to the most recent statistics, there are 87,483 ocean-going merchant ships and naval ships on earth. Imagine the economic shock waves if 29,000 of them were suddenly sunk! And what about their cargo? Some of you remember in 1989 when the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound spilling hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil, killing thousands of oil-soaked birds, polluting the coastline, and closing fisheries. That was the result of just one oil spill. Try to imagine the environmental impact if 1/3 of the world’s oil tankers were ripped apart at the seams all at the same time!

Trumpet #3: 33% of Freshwater Destroyed

Verse 10 adds, “The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water— the name of the star is Wormwood.  A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.” Job 9 says that God has named all His stars, one of which is called “Wormwood.” Its mission? To fall to earth at the blast of the third trumpet and poison the freshwater of the world.

water_pollution

The National Geographic lists 100 principal rivers on earth, ranging from the Amazon (4,000 miles long) to the Rio de la Plata (150 miles long). These and the countless streams, lakes, and springs comprise the lifeline of humanity. But at the falling of “Wormwood,”1/3 of them will become undrinkable. In fact, that’s what “wormwood” means. It means “undrinkable,” but many thirsty people will die from trying to do so, because there is no other source of freshwater available.

How could Wormwood be a literal star? If it were, wouldn’t that mean the end of the earth? Not necessarily. Evolutionary scientists have postulated for years that what killed the dinosaurs was a giant meteor that struck the earth 70 million years ago. Besides, if a meteor entered earth’s atmosphere, chances are it would split into countless pieces, raining down its poison on all the rivers and lakes of the world. But given that this is a supernatural judgment, we don’t have to understand how He will do it, for “with God nothing shall be impossible!”

Trumpet #4: 33% of Light Darkened

Verse 12 adds, “The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night.”

Fourth-Trumpet-Sun-Moon-Stars-Darkened-Third-Dark-Seven-Trumpets-Revelation

This is similar to the ninth plague of Egypt, when darkness fell upon the land, except in this case darkness covers the entire earth and lasts not three days, but until the fourth bowl judgment in Revelation 16, when the sun’s power increases scorching everyone who continues to reject Jesus Christ. Nor can this darkness be attributed to an eclipse, because it also affects both the moon and the start. Instead, it’s the cosmic phenomenon of which both the prophets and the Lord Jesus spoke. Joel wrote, “I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.”

If their light is diminished by one-third, it could mean that daylight will only be two-thirds as bright as now—like reading by the light of a 60-watt instead of a 100-watt bulb. Try that tonight and you’ll see the difference. Furthermore, the night will be a third darker than it’s ever been before, throwing the world into a panic. It will also create an energy crisis as the demand for electricity and other light sources increase. And it will lead to an unprecedented crime wave. Jesus warned, “Men loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.” The truth is most major crimes are committed under the cloak of darkness. So, if it remains dark all day long, imagine the immediate rise in robberies, vandalism, rape, murder, and other violent crimes!

03-side-by-side-led-lightbulbs-630

That, then, is how judgment is introduced in heaven and enacted on earth. Now let’s spend our last few minutes noticing how the suffering is exacerbated by hell.

  1. HOW JUDGMENT IS EXACERBATED BY HELL

In verse 13 we find yet another evidence of Christ’s mercy. Before He allows the final blasts of the last three trumpets, He sends an angel to warn the world of greater judgment to come. Some versions translate the word “eagle” instead of “angel.” Warren Wiersbe says this may be the living creature before God’s throne with the face of an eagle who is now sent on a final mission of mercy. John says, “As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in midair call out in a loud voice: “Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!”

Picture2

The word “woe” is a strong word in Greek—a loud verbal warning that something terrible is to follow. The fact that it’s repeated three times emphasizes that the last three trumpets will bring on the most terrible suffering mankind has ever known. And yet, how many listen and repent? Not many. Why? The explanation is found in the phrase, “inhabitants of the earth.” This means more than “people who live on the earth.” The phrase is used 12 times in Revelation. Each time it describes a kind of people—those who love this world and give no thought to heaven to come. They will therefore die in their sins. In this study, we’ll look at the first two “woes,” because the third “woe” doesn’t come until Revelation 11.

Trumpet #5: Demonic Locusts

Revelation 9:1 begins, “Then the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him.” Who is this “star?” Verse 11 is clear. He’s an angel—“the angel of the bottomless pit,” indicating hell is his home. Have we met him before? Yes, he is the evil one described by Jesus when He said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” (Luke 10:18) At his initial rebellion, Lucifer lost his place as a covering cherub (Ezek. 28:14) who guarded the holiness of God. But according to Job 1 and Revelation 12, he still has access to heaven. He is the accuser of the brethren who accuses us “before our God day and night.” But at the midpoint of the Tribulation, that will end. Lucifer will be permanently banned from heaven, leading him to torment mankind in ways that defy description.

fall-of-satan

The torment begins when he is given the key to the bottomless pit. You see, contrary to popular belief, the devil is not the king of hell. Nor does he enjoy unlimited power even in that evil place. For before he can release the demons from the “bottomless pit,” what must happen? Jesus must hand him the key. (See Revelation 1:8.) What then comes out of this pit? Two things: 1) Smoke “like the smoke of a great furnace.” This is a sober reminder to those who scoff at the idea of a literal hell, for both Jesus and John describe it as a “furnace of fire.” In fact, the smoke of this furnace is so severe it pollutes the air and further darkens the sun, which was already darkened by one-third at the fourth trumpet.

0_d7729_9e5c8167_xl

2) Locusts sent to torment mankind. Joel warned in his prophecy, “Blow the trumpet in Zion . . . Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the Lord is coming . . . a day of darkness and gloom . . . a people come, great and strong, the like of whom has never been; nor will there ever be any such after them . . . surely nothing shall escape them. Their appearance is like the appearance of horses; and like swift steeds, so they run. With a noise like chariots over mountaintops they leap, like the noise of a flaming fire that devours the stubble, like a strong people set in battle array. Before them the people writhe in pain; all faces are drained of color.”

Revelation 9:7 adds, “The appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle; and on their heads appeared to be crowns like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men.  They had hair like the hair of women, and their teeth were like the teeth of lions.  They had breastplates like breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to battle. They have tails like scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men for five months.”

locust

Who or what are these locusts? The descriptions make it clear that they are not ordinary locusts. First, they have a king, something Proverbs 30:27 says is untrue of ordinary locusts. Second, they have stingers in their tails, something else normal locusts do not have. Third, they do not devour vegetation. Instead, verse 4 commands them not to “harm the grace of the earth or any green thing.” For the purpose of their existence is to torment those who reject the Lordship of Christ. What, then, could these locusts be? Demons! That’s evident not only from the identity of their king. The Bible often calls demons “the devil’s angels.” But it is clear from their origin. They come up out of the “bottomless pit.” What is the bottomless pit? It is the prison where Satan will be “jailed” for a thousand years during Christ’s millennial kingdom on earth (Rev. 20:3), and it is also the place where millions of fallen angels, who have never been allowed to roam the earth, are being kept until Tribulation. Peter explains, “God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness . . . reserved for the judgment of the great day.” (2 Pet. 2:4)

It’s frightening to realize that right now, hidden somewhere in the depths of the earth, are millions of vicious demons about to be unleashed on this earth like a massive plague of locusts, tormenting all who reject the love of Christ.

Finally, notice their power. Verse 3 says, “And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. And their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man. In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them.”

Satan is a con artist who tells us that sin leads to happiness. But here is another example of how sin leads to suffering. His demons are not allowed to kill those on earth (Satan can only do what Jesus allows), but are allowed to torment men for five months. This is the normal lifespan of a locust (May to September). How do they do this? With scorpion-like stingers in their tails which inflict such unbearable pain that the victims will want to die, but be unable to do so.

scorpion_locusts

Hal Lindsey comments, “The sting will be so painful that men will wish they could die. History records that ancient Roman soldiers were famous for their ability to take pain without flickering an eye. But when several of them were stung by scorpions in the desert of Egypt, they screamed and writhed in pain. Scorpion stings are among the most painful wounds a person can endure.”

Finally, notice with me the sixth trumpet judgment and the suffering it brings.

Trumpet #6: Demonic Horsemen

Verse 13: “Then the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar that is before God, one saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.’ And the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released, so they would kill a third of mankind. The number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them. And this is how I saw in the vision the horses and those who sat on them: the riders had breastplates the color of fire and of hyacinth and of brimstone; and the heads of the horses are like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths proceed fire and smoke and brim-stone.  A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which proceeded out of their mouths. For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents and have heads, and with them they do harm.”

TRUMPET-3

The sixth trumpet releases four angels who are bound at the Euphrates River. They can’t be good angels, since there is no good reason for a holy angel to be bound. Instead, they are four super-demons who will lead an army of death across the earth! Why are they bound at the Euphrates River? Historically, the Euphrates is the natural boundary between Asia and the Middle East—a barrier that any conquering army would have to cross. But more important than that, it has an age-old spiritual significance. This was the sight of the Tower of Babel and Babylon, the “mother” of idolatry and false religion. Indeed, Revelation 18:2 says that during the Tribulation, Babylon will again become “a habitation of demons, a prison for every foul spirit.” The point is, somewhere right now near the ancient city of Babylon, there is a group of demons waiting to be released, so they can lead an army which shall destroy mankind.

What army will they lead? Some say this is a symbolic reference to Russia’s invasion of Israel in Ezekiel 38-39. Others say they’re “the kings of the east”—200 million Asian soldiers who cross the Euphrates to fight in the final battle of Armageddon. But I believe when the plain sense of Scripture makes good sense, we should seek no other sense. Therefore, since nothing in the context suggests a human army (the description sounds demonic), I believe  like the first trumpet judgment, this is another attack by an army of demons who have been bound until now. How many in their army? John is precise. The Greek literally says, “10,000 times 10,000 times 2” or 200 million demonic horsemen. And then, to make sure we don’t spiritualize it, he adds, “I heard the number of them,” indicating that the number is to be taken literally.

The-200-Million-Horsemen-560x274

Imagine the destruction that would result if 200 million additional demons were allowed to join forces with the powers of evil already at work in the world! John describes their impact in verse 18 to 19. He says it will lead to three more deadly plagues—fire, smoke, and brimstone. The result will be the death of another third of mankind. In Revelation 6:8, John said one-fourth of humanity would die from the first four seals. In Revelation 8:11, he said “many” more will die. Now, as a result of these plagues, a third of the remaining population will lose their lives. This means at least half the world’s population, or using today’s statistics, 3.5 billion of the 7 billion people on earth will die by the end of the sixth trumpet.

But the saddest fact is how the survivors respond to these judgments. You would think that five months of torment would drive unbelieving sinners to their knees in repentance. But such is not the case. Verse 20 says, “The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.”

559a85696abb0

Their sins explain their lack of repentance. “Magic arts” is the Greek word pharmakia from which we get our word “pharmaceuticals.” In other words, the war on drugs will be lost. Those who remain alive will give themselves wholeheartedly to their addictions, seeking escape from the reality of God’s judgment. And in doing so, they will open themselves up to demonic possession becoming slaves to the millions of demons that have been let loose on the earth.

drug-abuse2[2]

Now think back on the judgments you’ve read about. It may seem fantastic, but every word is true and about to take place. Will you be prepared for it? Have you bowed your heart in repentance and receive Christ’s gracious gift of salvation?

The story is told of a prince traveling through France who visited the prison at Toulon where the most hardened criminals were kept. Because of his nobility, he was allowed to release one of the condemned men. So he went from prisoner to prisoner, inquiring why they were there. All claimed to be innocent insisting they were there by mistake. Only one admitted his crime. “My lord, as much as I long to be free, I’m guilty. I’ve committed many crimes and have nothing to say except I deserve to be here.” The prince listened and then in a loud voice shouted, “You miserable wretch! You should not be here among these ‘honest’ men. You are bad enough to corrupt them all.” Then, turning to the officer in charge, he commanded, “This is the man I’ve chosen. Release him at once!”

Picture3

The same is true of you and me. We have sinned many times and in many ways. We deserve judgment. But God in His mercy is willing to pardon us, if we confess our sin and turn to Jesus in repentance and faith. So, if you haven’t done so, turn to Christ today. Why face God’s judgment, when you can be forgiven and free!

(To download the written version of this study, click Written Message.)

Revelation Study #2: “See the Glorified Jesus”

Study #2: Seeing the Glorified Jesus (Rev. 1:12-20)

(To listen to the audio message, click this link – Revelation 1:12-20. To download the audio, right click the above link, choose “save link as,” give it a name, and save it to your computer. You can then burn a CD of it. To download the written message, right click this link, Written Message, choose “save link as,” give it a name, and save it to your computer. You can then email it to a friend. Help us get the word out! Jesus is returning soon, and we need to get ready! If you are a teacher, and would like to use these notes and our Powerpoint slides to teach the Book of Revelation to your group, click this link – Slides.)

_MG_4670_HDR-1What is the most beautiful sight you have ever seen?  The Grand Canyon?  A Hawaiian sunset?  The artwork of Italy?  Dr. Magherini, head of the psychiatric hospital at Florence warns that too much beauty can overwhelm us.  She says, “Some tourists fall to the ground with heart palpitations thinking they’re having a heart attack. Others suffer from delirium or disorientation. But what they’re really having could be called a ‘brush stroke.’ Mix one tired and lonely tourist with a heavy dose of Michelangelo, throw in a fresco by Giotto and a Bernini statue or two, and presto! You have a victim of art illness.”  But she says most victims recover quickly. “All they need to return to normal is a heavy dose of the familiar and the mundane.”

That is fascinating for two reasons: 1) It shows how accustomed we are to the ordinary. 2) It gives us a glimpse of how you and I would react if we witnessed the truly glorious. After all, if people faint from seeing something as mundane as Michelangelo’s David, imagine how we’d react if we came face to face with the Risen Christ!  Revelation chapter 1 is a case in point.  John the apostle has been banished to the Isle of Patmos for preaching the Word of God, when Jesus suddenly appears to him—altogether holy, glorious, and beautiful.  How does John react?  He says in verse 17, “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead!” Why? Faced with the majesty of the All-Glorious Jesus, the only thing anyone can do is fall at His feet in worship.

artworks-000070309829-nzv5yk-original

In this, our second study of the Revelation, John pulls back the veil and reveals the Lord Jesus as He really is.  No longer is He the meek and mild Savior; now He is the All-Glorious King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  As John tells us what he saw, let the majesty of Jesus fill you with awe.  Four facts stand out about Him in Revelation 1:12-20.

  1. His Position

Verse 12 begins, “Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me.  And having turned, I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands One like the Son of Man.”  Two things to notice here.  First, notice what John sees when he turns toward the voice speaking to him.  He sees seven golden lampstands.  What do they possibly represent? There is no need to wonder because Jesus explains it in verse 20, “The seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.”  That’s a fitting symbol for a church, isn’t it?  For just as a lamp is not the source of the light it gives off, but gets its flame from the oil burning inside it, so you and I have no glory of our own.  Instead, where do we get our light?  We get it from Jesus, the Light of the World who commanded His disciples, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  So yes, Jesus is the Light of the World, but it is through the churches, His lampstands, that He makes His glory known.

SevenStars

That raises the question.  What kind of light are you giving off?  Is it bright enough for others at your workplace to see?  Or what about your neighbors?  Can they see the likeness of Jesus in you?  Several years ago I met with our church’s nominating committee to consider new elders and deacons.  Someone suggested the name of one of the sharpest and most successful men in our congregation.  But right away someone nixed his nomination.  Why?  They said a friend of theirs ran a store in town and whenever this man came into his shop, he acted like a “jerk,” cursing about this or that.  The friend said, “If that’s what the people at your church are like, my family and I will never attend one of your services.”  Anyone, of course, can have a bad day.  But apparently this was a habit, reminding me that people are watching! And if we say that we are Christians, they’re expecting to see a reasonable likeness of Jesus Christ in us.

Even more important, however, is where Jesus is in relation to the lampstands.  Verse 13 says He is “in the midst of them.”  This signifies two truths about Him.  First, His presence with us—that He will never leave us nor forsake us, but is with us until the end of the age.  For even though Jesus has ascended to His throne in heaven, He is still with us in the Person of His Holy Spirit.  And not only is He with us, He’s watching us.  This is the point of Revelation 2:1, which says He “walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.”  This is not a leisurely stroll He is describing; it is our Commander-in-Chief inspecting His troops, listening to our worship, watching the way we do business, and examining the thoughts and intents of our hearts.  Even in the heated atmosphere of a business meeting, we need to remember that Jesus is with us, watching what we say and how we say it.  So be careful what you say and do!

Second, it emphasizes His centrality.  Throughout the book of Revelation, Jesus is pictured at the center of everything.  Here He walks in the midst of the seven churches.  In chapter 4, He is the center of Heaven’s worship.  In chapter 6, He becomes the source of the world’s future judgment.  And in chapters 21 and 22, He becomes the Light and Temple of the New Jerusalem and the new heavens and the new earth where righteousness dwells.

So an appropriate question to ask is:  Is Jesus Christ the central focus of your life?  If He is, what difference will it make?  Certainly, it will lead you to spend daily time with Him in Bible study and prayer.  It will also make you more faithful in serving the church to which you belong. But most telling of all, it will affect the decisions you make as a mother, a father, a student, an employee, a neighbor, and a citizen.  Simply stated, when you realize that Jesus is present in every part of your life, it will radically transform how you think and what you do.

Picture6

Are you familiar with this illustration from Campus Crusade?  The first circle represents a person who has given Christ center place in his life.  Self has been dethroned and Christ is in charge, bringing him joy and fulfillment by putting all things in their proper order.  But there is a second possibility for the Christian, illustrated by the second circle.  Christ is in this person’s life, but He is not in control.  Self is on the throne making the decisions.  As a result, life is filled with chaos, frustration, and discouragement.  Everything is out of order. Why?  Because you and I were never designed to be the masters of our lives.

Which circle represents your life?  The good news is nothing prevents you from enjoying the abundant life Jesus came to give you.  All you need to do is yield to Him the same place He enjoys throughout creation.  Will you step down from the throne of your life and give Jesus control.  My prayer is that you will do that right now in the quietness of your heart.

  1. His Appearance

Verse 13 continues, He was “clothed with a garment down to the feet, and girded about the chest with a golden band.  His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; He feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace.”

Lampstand+Picture

Bible commentators disagree about the meaning of Christ’s clothing.  Some say it is a symbol of His priesthood.  Others say it pictures His kingship.  I think it is a symbol of both. Like Aaron the high priest (Exod. 28:34), Christ does wear a robe reaching all the way to the ground.  But, unlike Aaron, His waistband is made of gold, not purple or scarlet, indicating that Jesus is our royal high priest.  Therefore, as Hebrews 7:25 puts it, He is the guarantee of “a better covenant” than Aaron.  Because “He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them.”

Doesn’t that make you feel secure?  Jesus offered Himself as the complete payment for your sins, crying out from the cross, “It is finished!  Paid in full!  Nothing more need be done!”  But He also loves you so much that He is praying for you before the Father’s throne, ensuring that nothing will ever steal your salvation.  It reminds me of Jesus’ words to Peter before his temptation and fall.  “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you like wheat: but I have prayed for your, that your faith should not fail.”  If you are a disciple of Jesus, that is what He is doing for you each and every moment of your life as your royal high priest.  He is at the Father’s right hand praying for you, that your faith may not fail.

Notice also the color of Christ’s hair.  Verse 14 says, “His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow.”  Again scholars disagree.  Some say it is a symbol of His purity or wisdom.  Surely both are true.  But Daniel 7:9 gives the best explanation for this symbol. In describing the Messiah, it says, “His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool…I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated.” This, then, is a picture of Christ’s eternity, ruling forever and ever as our Lord and King.

jesusglory

Have you recognized this about Christ?  That He is God in human flesh? Most religious people are happy to call Jesus a great teacher or a mighty prophet.  Mahatma Gandhi, the holy man of India, openly declared his admiration for Jesus and said he was glad to give Him an equal place with Buddha, Confucius, and Mohammed.  But he said, “I cannot place Jesus Christ on a solitary throne.”  Yet, that’s what Jesus demands.  He demands that we give Him the throne of our lives.  For He is more than a prophet or a teacher.  He is God incarnate, co-equal with the Father and deserving of your worship and obedience.  Jesus said in John 8:24, “If you do not believe that I AM (the Old Testament name for God), you will die in your sins.”  So bow your heart to Him today.  Remember Doubting Thomas’ reaction when He saw the Risen Christ.  He fell at His feet saying, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)  You need to do that.  You need to recognize who Jesus is and give Him the worship He deserves.

Verse 12 adds, “His eyes were like a flame of fire.”  What does this mean?  Revelation 2:23 unlocks the mystery. Something we discover as we study this book is that each description in chapter 1 is repeated in one of the letters to the churches, emphasizing an attribute of Christ they were forgetting.  So how does Jesus describe Himself to the compromising Christians in Thyatira?  Revelation 2:18-25 says, “These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire…and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.”

This is a symbol of His perfect knowledge and judgment.  Often we fool ourselves pretending that Christ doesn’t notice the little compromises we make with sin—things we read, things we watch, the ways we talk, and the ways we spend our money.  But we’re wrong! As Hebrews 4:13 reminds us, nothing escapes His notice, for “all things are naked and open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.”  So the challenge is to hide nothing from our Savior, but to confess all our sins to Him, asking for forgiveness and the grace to begin again. Do you know the song we teach children in Sunday School? It’s true for adults as well.

O, be careful little hands what you do. O, be careful little hands what you do. For the Father up above is looking down in love. So be careful little hands what you do!

There are other verses to it as well.  “O, be careful little eyes what you see.  O, be careful little ears what you hear.  O, be careful little lips what you say.”  The point is: Someone incredibly holy is watching over us who cares about everything we do.  So, in a grown-up way, we need to ask ourselves, “How will this look to the One with eyes like a flame of fire?”

3190882868_eef848319a

Notice also Christ’s feet.  Verse 15 says, “His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace.” In other words, they’re red hot and ready for judgment.  That is what furnaces picture in the Bible.  They are symbols of judgment.  Remember the fiery furnace into which Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were cast?  The same is also true of feet.  The way that a conquering general demonstrated his power and victory over an enemy was by placing his foot on his neck.  Is there anything more like that mentioned about the feet of Christ in the book of Revelation? Yes!  Notice what Revelation 19:15 says the feet of Jesus will do.  First, it says He will rule the nations with a rod of iron, and then it adds, He will “tread the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.”  To sum up, then, what does Christ’s appearance to John picture for us?  His eternal power and glory as earth’s coming King.  Now notice a third fact about Him.

  1. His Power

We immediately see a hint of this in verse 15, where John says, “And His voice was as the sound of many waters.”  I learned the meaning of this while visiting Narada Falls with my family.  Compared to Niagara Falls, Narada Falls is a baby waterfall.  But still I found as I stood in its spray, all other sounds were drowned out by the roar of its waters.  So it is with the voice of Christ.  When Jesus speaks, all other voices lose their impact.  At creation, He commanded, “Let there be light!”  And there was light.  At Bethany, He shouted, “Lazarus, come forth!”  And a dead man came hobbling out of his tomb.  But the greatest display of His power will be at His second coming.  Jesus said, “The hour is coming…when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God…and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” (John 5:25-29)

10793

Today our ears are assaulted by the foolish babble of arrogant men trying to impress ud with their wisdom.  But one day soon Jesus will return, and when He speaks, all other voices will be silenced in His presence.  “For,” Isaiah 11:9 says, “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”  In other words, what Jesus says will be the only topic of interest in that day.  So let me ask you.  Whose voice are you listening to today?  The voice of the political pundits and late night comedians?  Or are you faithfully studying what God says in His Word, eagerly responding to the promptings of His Holy Spirit?

Notice also how John describes Christ’s hand.  The hand of God is a symbol of His power.  Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.”   But here John also emphasizes its contents. “He had in His right hand seven stars.”  To what does this refer?  Verse 20 explains, “The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches.”  What is that about?  Who are the angels of the seven churches?  The Greek word angelos simply means messenger.  It can mean a heavenly messenger if the context warrants it.  Or, as in this case, because of the context, it refers to a human messenger.  After all, what would be the purpose of writing letters to angelic beings?  For example, Revelation 2:1 says, “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write.”

So, if these are not heavenly angels, what are they?  Most Bible teachers agree that it is a reference to the pastors of the seven churches.  I like what the late J. Vernon McGee wrote: “I like to think that it refers to the local pastors. It is good to hear a pastor called an angel; sometimes we are called other things.”  If this does refer to the pastors of the churches, it should be a great encouragement to church members. Why?  Because of where they are—right in the center of Christ’s hand.  Which implies that as faulty and flawed as we are, Christ is in control of us, and when you pray for us, your prayers make a difference.

Picture1

Next John says there is a “sharp two-edged sword” coming out of Christ’s mouth. This refers to the power of God’s Word.  Ephesians 6:17 calls it “the sword of the Spirit,” our weapon for destroying Satan’s lies.  Hebrews 4:12 adds that it is “sharper than any two-edged sword.”  But the word for “sword” is different in this passage.  It refers not to the small sword used by Roman soldiers in hand-to-hand combat, but to the large two-handed sword used to decapitate the leader of a defeated army.  As such, it signifies the complete and final victory of Jesus Christ over all His enemies. This is something that will come about not by some great excruciating effort on His part, but simply, 2 Thessalonians 2:8 says, “by the breath of His mouth” and “the brightness of His coming.”  Revelation 19:15 adds, “Out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations…”

Finally, notice how John describes the face of Jesus. He says that looking into the face of the glorified Christ is like staring into the “sun shining in its strength.”  Have you ever tried that? To stare into the brightness of the sun?  How long could you do it?  It’s actually not a good idea because it can damage your eyes.  But that is what the disciples saw on the Mount of Transfiguration.  (Matt. 17:2)  Jesus was transformed before them, so that “His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.”  It was so overwhelming that the disciples, like John here on the Isle of Patmos, fell on their faces in worship.  Why?  Because the face of Christ is simply the most glorious sight that human eyes can see.  Revelation 20:11 says it will be so glorious that heaven and earth will flee away from Him in terror.

But that is not His desire for us.  Instead, His desire is to comfort the Apostle John saying in verse 17: “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen.”  Maybe this is what John was looking back on when he wrote, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears is not made perfect in love.” Just as comforting is His statement, “I have the keys of Hades and Death.”  In popular culture, the devil is in charge of hell.  But Jesus corrects that misconception.  The truth is that the devil is just a creature, whereas Jesus is the Creator in control of everything that happens in His universe.  Therefore, if we belong to Him, we never need fear death or hell again.

Those of you involved in jail ministries can appreciate this.  Once that door clangs shut behind you, you want to be sure the jailer remembers you and that your name is on his list. Why? Because he is the only one with the authority to let you out.  Similarly, we who belong to Jesus Christ don’t need to fear death anymore.  Why not?  Because He holds the keys to both death and hell.  And finally, consider one more fact about Christ.

  1. His Assignment

In verse 19, John is given an assignment: “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.”  To miss what John is told here is to fail to understand everything else that is written in this book, for this is the key verse and outline for everything that follows.

Picture7

To summarize it, John was told to write about three things: (1) “The things which you have seen.” This refers to his vision of the glorified Christ in chapter 1.  (2) “The things which are.” This refers to the events of the seven churches which he will address in chapters 2 and 3.  This part of the outline will be helpful when we try to decide when Jesus is returning for His church—whether it’s before or after the Tribulation—for in chapters 2 and 3, much is said about the church on earth.  But in chapter 4, when John writes about (3) “the things which will take place after this” (the third division of the Revelation), nothing more is said about the churches on earth.  This should make us wonder.  If the church is still on earth during the Tribulation, why is there nothing more said about it until the Bride of Christ is mentioned in Revelation 19:7-10?

One other fact I must point out, though it is not found in chapter 1.  While there is only one revelation in this book—the Revelation of Jesus Christ—there are actually two prophecies.  Revelation 1:19 records the first prophecy, which is a chronological account of the Church Age, the Tribulation that follows, and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. An outline looks like this:

Prophecy #1—Revelation 1:19

  1. The Things Which You Have Seen—Revelation 1
  2. The Introduction to the Revelation—1:1-11
  3. The Vision of the Glorified Christ—1:12-20
  4. The Things Which Are—Revelation 2 to 3
  5. The Letter to the Church in Ephesus—2:1-7
  6. The Letter to the Church in Smyrna—2:8-11
  7. The Letter to the Church in Pergamum—2:12-17
  8. The Letter to the Church in Thyatira—2:18-29
  9. The Letter to the Church in Sardis—3:1-6
  10. The Letter to the Church in Philadelphia—3:7-13
  11. The Letter to the Church in Laodicea—3:14-22
  12. The Things Which Will Take Place After This—Revelation 4 to 11
  13. The Worship of the Church in Heaven—4:1-11
  14. The Seal Judgments—5:1—7:14
  15. The Trumpet Judgments—8:1—11:14
  16. The Return of Christ and the Hallelujah Chorus—11:15-19

But jumping ahead to Revelation 10, we find the second prophecy of this book.  John is told to eat the “little book” that lies in the angel’s hand.  This is all that remains of the seven-sealed scroll that Christ has opened.  When he eats it, he is told, “You must prophesy again concerning many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.”  This is a characteristic of Jewish writing.  Having given a chronological outline of the last days, John is now told to go back and fill in the details.  In other words, chapters 12 through 22 is a topical study giving us details about characters and events like the Beast and False Prophets, the Bowl Judgments, the Battle of Armageddon, the Return of Christ, the Thousand-Year Kingdom, the Judgment of Satan, and the New Jerusalem. Here is an outline:

Picture8

Prophecy #2—Revelation 10:11

  1. War in Heaven Between Lucifer and Michael’s Angels—12:1-17
  2. The Beast and the False Prophet—13:1-18
  3. The Lamb and the 144,000 on Mount Zion—14:1-20
  4. The Bowl Judgments—15:1—16:21
  5. The Judgment of Religious and Political Babylon—17:1—18:24
  6. The Return of Christ to Earth—19:1-21
  7. Thousand-Year Kingdom of Christ and Great White Throne Judgment—20:1-15
  8. The Advent of the New Earth and the New Jerusalem—21:1—22:21

It happened one spring day just prior to the Civil War.  A young man stopped by Wrothy Taylor’s farm looking for work.  The farmer knew nothing about him except his name was Jim and he claimed to be a hard worker.  So he gave him a job milking cows, cutting fire wood, and doing other odd jobs.  Jim ate in the kitchen, slept in the hayloft, and as summer passed, found himself falling in love with the farmer’s daughter. So he summoned up the courage and asked him, “Mr. Taylor, may I marry your daughter?”  “No,” was his reply.  “You have no name, no money, no prospects for the future.”  And he roughly sent him away.  Thirty-five years later, the farmer decided to build a new barn.  So he tore down the old hayloft where Jim had slept.  And there wouldn’t you know it, the farmer found that Jim had carved his full name on one of the rafters—“James A. Garfield”—who went on to become the 20th president of the United States.

Picture9

We tend to overlook the meek and humble, regardless of what might lie beneath the surface. That is especially true of the One many of us worship today.  For 20 centuries, mankind has seen Him as the ever-patient Lamb of God, slain for sinners.  But that perception is about to change.  Jesus is coming soon, and when He does, we will see Him in all His glory.  What will be our reaction?  We will fall on their faces in worship, confessing that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.  But it will be too late for salvation then.  Today is the day of salvation!  So if you have not yet given Him center place in your life, do so today.  It will bless you both for time and all of eternity!

(The next study? The letters to the churches in Ephesus and Smyrna.)

ANGELS: GOD’S SECRET AGENTS

John G. Paton was a missionary to the New Hebrides Islands, a chain of islands 1200 miles east of Australia and known today as Vanuatu.  “Survivor” fans will remember that one of its seasons was filled on Vanuatu.  Paton and his wife Mary arrived on the island of Tanna on November 5, 1858.  At that time the natives on Tanna were cannibals.  In his diary Paton records the dangers this posed for him and his family.  One of the most terrifying experiences took place early on, shortly after their ship deposited them on the beach all by themselves.

2Paton and his wife quickly built a cabin in which to live.  But the natives made it clear that they did not want the missionaries on their island.  So one night they surrounded their home intending to burn it to the ground with them inside.  With no one to turn to but the Lord Himself, the two missionaries fell to their knees and spent the entire night praying for God’s protection.  When daylight dawned, they peeked out the window and were amazed.  Not a single cannibal was in sight! They had all returned to their village.

One year later, by God’s grace, Paton led the chief of the tribe to commit his life to Jesus Christ.  Still curious about that night, Paton took the opportunity to ask him. “What kept you from burning our cabin to the ground?”  “It was the men with you!” the chief explained.  “What men?” Paton asked.  “We didn’t have anyone with us.”  “Oh, yes, you did!” the chief argued. “We saw hundreds of big men in shining garments with swords standing guard in front of your home. That is why we didn’t attack. We were afraid for our lives?”  I wonder. Who were those big men in shining garments standing guard around Paton and his wife?

melanesia-melanesia-new-hebrides-sacred-drums-antique-print-1900-117871-pBefore you answer, let me remind you what Gehazi saw.  He and his master, Elisha the prophet, were surrounded by the Syrian army, and Gehazi was certain that they were about to die.  So how what did Elisha do to comfort him? He said in 2 Kings 6:16, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”  And then he prayed, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.”  So the Lord opened the eyes of his servant and “Behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

3One more example: this time from the Battle of Britain. In the early days of World War II, Hitler and the German high command ordered the Luftwaffe with its fighters and bombers to cross the English Channel and destroy the British military infrastructure. They bombed their railroads, their airfields, their factories, their shipping centers. But by the grace of God, the Royal Air Force managed to survive that 3-month long battle, making the Battle of Britain the first great turning-point in the War for the Allies.

How did they do it? Air Chief Marshall Hugh Dowding gave his explanation at a celebration in his honor at the end of the war. He described his pitifully small complement of men and how rarely they slept. Yet they kept on flying. He told about pilots who were also hit and left incapacitated. Some of them were even killed. Yet their planes kept on flying and fighting! In fact, he said in some cases, airmen in nearby planes saw figures still operating the controls even after the pilots had died. Who kept those planes aloft and helped the British win that crucial battle? Dowding was convinced that God has sent His holy angels to fly those planes and stop the advance of Hitler’s forces.

4Is that possible!  Not only is it possible; it has been the reality many, many times even when we haven’t been able to see them with our eyes.  God’s angels are at work guarding and guiding those of us who love Christ.  Hebrews 1:14 calls them “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation.”  Or as Billy Graham put it in the title of one of his books, they are “God’s secret agents” sent to help His children in time of need.

That’s my topic as we come to Daniel chapter 10. Daniel has been helped by angels several times in this book.  So before we come to the end of his prophecy (and there are just 3 chapters remaining), I want to address the topic of angels from a Biblical position, because there is a great deal of confusion about angels in the world around us, and I do not want any of us to be led astray.  For that reason, let me explain 3 important facts that each one of us needs to understand about angels.  In this post I will address the reality of angels.  Then in the next two posts, I will focus on the nature and ministry of angels.

Strmline-AngelShepherds_E1.  The Reality of Angels

When I was a boy, almost no one talked about angels.  I remember asking my parents when I was 6 or 7 years old, “Is there such a thing as the devi? And what about angels? Are they real or not?”  My parents were devoted church members who took us to Sunday School every weekend.  But their answer was: “No. They are simply symbols of the good and bad inside each one of us.”  Because that was the scientific age when if you couldn’t see it, hear it, or feel it, it wasn’t real.  But today we find people at both extremes: those whose faith is still in science as well as those who call themselves spiritual and are in touch with all sorts of spirits.

Where am I on that continuum?  I believe in angels, not because of what I or others have experienced, though I believe that my family and I have been the recipients of angelic help on several occasions .  But there is a danger in seeking an encounter with angels.  Seeking is the key word, by the way. The danger in seeking an encounter with angels is that you could meet the wrong kind of angel who appears as an angel of light and leads you away from the God of the Bible.

angel-of-the-lordI believe in angels first and foremost of all, then, because God’s Word says there are angels.  34 of the 69 books of the Bible mention angels – 108 times in the Old Testament and 165 times in the New Testament.  The Lord Jesus spoke with great authority on this subject. For example, when Judas came with the Jewish rulers came to arrest Him, Jesus ordered His disciples to put away their swords, saying to them, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of (72,000) angels?” (Matt. 26:53 NASB)  On two critical occasions, Jesus Himself was also strengthened by angels – once following His temptation by the devil in the wilderness (Matt. 4:11) and again while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:43).

Gethsemane_Carl_BlochAnd yet, in spite of all that is written about angels in the Bible, the sad fact is how little clear teaching there is about them in the churches.  Ask yourself: When was the last time I heard a message on angels?  Let’s try to rectify that by examining what Daniel has to say about angels in chapter 10 of his prophecy.

As the curtain opens, we see Daniel fasting and praying for his people Israel and mourning over the future trials they are to suffer.  In fact, he has been in prayer for 3 long weeks, when suddenly a special visitor arrives with a  message for him. That, by the way, is what the word “angel” means in both the Old Testament and New Testament. The Hebrew word is malak meaning “messenger.”  The name Malachi (“my angel” or “my messenger”) is derived from it.  The same is true of the Greek word angelos.  It also means “messenger.”

DAN-8-GABEAt first, Daniel says his visitor was “a man.”  But it quickly becomes clear that this is no mere human being standing before him.  Daniel says of him in verses 5-6: “I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, a man clothed in in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like beryl (or yellow serpentine), his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude.”

The angel standing before him was glorious.  And yet, as we read on, we find that as impressive as he was, he has been in a great battle with an even stronger spirit, trying to deliver his message to Daniel.  He explains that he tried to come sooner but the Prince of Persia resisted him for 21 days.  Who was he referring to?  A mighty fallen angel who had control over the King of Persia and his realm.  We’ll take a closer look at what that means in our next study.  But the main point here is that angels are real. They think.  They communicate. They express emotion. They may even become visible to our eyes at times. But whether we see them or not, there are angels all around us fighting spiritual battles on our behalf. The reason we cannot see them (I for one am glad we can’t.  I already have enough to discourage me.)  is because our eyes aren’t calibrated to see them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThink about it for a moment. Can your dog hear noises you can’t hear? Can a deer smell odors you can’t smell? Can an owl see things at night that you can’t see? Yes, they can. So why should it surprise us to find that there are spiritual realities we can’t pick up with our five senses?  1 Corinthians 11:10 suggests that there may be angels in this room right now watching us worship!  I say that based on Paul’s statement that our worship should be decent and in order “because of the angels,” implying that angels watch us worship.  We just don’t have eyes to see them.  “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Cor. 13:12 KJV) One of our girls’ favorite songs growing up was written by Amy Grant who sang:

1

(Click this link to listen to Amy Grant’s song – Angels.)

Angels surround us who love Christ, guiding and protecting us.  Balaam, who proved to be a false prophet and more stubborn than his ass, failed to grasp that fact and almost lost his life.  He beat his poor beast to continue on a path God had forbidden him – cursing the nation of Israel – until his donkey spoke up and the prophet’s eyes were opened to the danger before him – a mighty angel about to kill him because of his opposition to the people of God. (Num. 22:33)

(Next time – “The Nature of Angels”)