Tag Archives: Rapture

Will the Real 144,000 Please Stand Up? (Rev. 7:1-17)

Revelation: Because the Time Is Near

Study #12: “Will the Real 144,000 Please Stand Up?” (Rev. 7:1-17)

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Viktor Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor. When he arrived at Auschwitz, the infamous death camp, he was stripped of everything—his family, his property, even his life’s work, a manuscript hidden in the lining of his coat. The book outlined concepts he later called logotherapy—the necessity of finding purpose in life. He wrote, “I underwent and had to overcome the loss of my spiritual child. Now it seemed as if nothing and no one in life would survive me; neither a physical or spiritual child of my own! I found myself confronted with the question of whether under such circumstances life is worth living.”

While still wrestling with that question, the Nazis made the prisoners give up their clothes. Frankl recalls, “I surrendered my clothes and inherited the worn-out rags of an inmate who was sent to the gas chamber. Instead of my manuscript, I found in the pocket of his coat a page torn from a Hebrew prayer book. It contained the sacred prayer, Shema Yisrael. “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one God, and you shall love the Lord your God with all you heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” “How should I have interpreted such a ‘coincidence’ other than as a challenge to ‘live’ my beliefs instead of merely putting them on paper?”

Looking back, Frankl explained how he survived the death camp. “There is nothing in the world that can so effectively help one survive even the worst conditions as the knowledge that there is a meaning in one’s life. He who has a ‘why’ to live for can bear almost any ‘how.’”

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The evidence for that statement is found in this study. In our last lesson, we read about a future holocaust of God’s people that will make Hitler’s Holocaust seem small by comparison. Innumerable multitudes will be martyred for their faith. For that reason, Revelation 6 ended with a statement and a question, “For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (6:17) This week’s study answers that question. In Revelation 7, we read the testimony of two distinct groups of believers who will suffer the horrors of the Tribulation but ultimately overcome both Satan and his Antichrist. The first group, described in verses 1 to 8, are Jews who will survive both temptation and death. The second group, described in verse 9 to 17, are Gentiles who also overcome the lies of Antichrist, but not without dying for their faith.

As we learn about each group of overcomers, look for the “why” that made their suffering bearable. It may give you strength to endure the trial you’re facing.

  1. 144,000 JEWS FOR JESUS

Some time ago, my wife and I were visiting our community, knocking on doors and sharing our testimony for Christ. At one door, we were met by a confident fellow who asked, “What can I do for you folks today?” “Well,” I explained, “we’re surveying your neighborhood for our church and wondering, ‘Do you attend church in our community?’” “No, we don’t go to church,” he firmly replied, pointing to something on his doorpost. “We go to synagogue.” It was a Mezuzah, a decorative case with Shema Yisrael inside it. So I quickly backtracked and tried to establish some common ground. I told him how much we appreciated the Jewish people. “After all, you not only gave us our Bible, you also gave us our Messiah!” “Is that so?” he said with a condescending grin. “Well, it’s good to hear that one of our boys finally made good!” Gulp.

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Sad to say, that’s been the attitude of most Jews down through the centuries. Not all Jews. In every generation, there’s been a believing remnant who have worshiped Jesus as their Messiah. But as a whole, the people of Israel have been opposed to the Gospel since it was first preached. In the first century, they were responsible for much of the persecution against the church. Remember Paul before his conversion? Today, their opposition is more passive. They just don’t care! As a result, God has temporarily set Israel aside as His chosen vessels, and is now working through a new body called the Church. (See Romans 9 to 11.)

But the good news is that one day Israel’s blindness will be healed! In Romans 11:25-26, Paul warns his Gentile readers against anti-Semitism and pride: “For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that hardening in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved!” One day God’s work with the church will be finished. One day the last Gentile sinner will accept Christ and the Bride of Christ will be removed from earth to heaven at the Rapture. At that point, God’s focus will shift back to the Jews, who will become His special witnesses on earth. The first-fruits of that generation are found here in Revelation 7—144,000 Jewish evangelists who will win the world to Christ. Notice three important facts about them.

a. Their Sealing

John writes in Revelation 7:1-3, “After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, ‘Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.’”

 

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Who are the mighty angels who will stand at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth? The context makes it clear. They are the four angels who are about to blow God’s trumpets of judgment. For John says they have been given authority to “harm the earth and the sea.” Much of the damage will be the result of drastic weather changes on earth, for their judgments are directly connected to the blowing of the wind. Those of you who have been through a tornado, a hurricane, or a forest fire fed by the wind know its awesome power. Furthermore, officials at the National Weather Service warn that capricious jet streams flowing through the upper atmosphere can also cause sudden shifts in weather patterns that can result in floods, blizzards, and droughts. Imagine the carnage that will take place when these natural forces are empowered by the supernatural judgment of God.

Before these angels can release their judgments, however, a special act of mercy is performed for the servants of God. They are sealed on their foreheads. What is the purpose of this sealing? In Biblical times, a king would seal a document by pressing his signet ring into melted wax on a scroll. This signified possession because the document now bore the king’s image. So it will be with the 144,000! This sealing will, first of all, identify them as belonging to Christ. Revelation 14:1 says they will have “His Father’s name written on their foreheads!” This is in direct contrast to the followers of Antichrist who, as a sign of loyalty to him, will choose to wear the mark of the Beast “on their right hand or on their foreheads.” (Revelation 13:16) From the outset of the Antichrist’s reign, God will make it clear who it is that truly speaks for Him.

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The second purpose is protection. The fact that they are sealed before judgment comes indicates that this sealing will protect them from all the plagues that are about to fall upon the earth. It also guarantees their survival until Christ’s return at the end of the Tribulation. For when “the Lamb” sets foot on Mount Zion in Revelation 14:1, the 144,000 are there waiting to greet Him. Matthew 24:34 further supports this opinion. Speaking of the great tribulation, Jesus said to His Jewish listeners, “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will be no means pass away till all these things are fulfilled.” Jesus wasn’t referring to a span of time. The word generation is genea from which we get the words “genealogy” and “genocide.” He was referring to a race of people, promising that just as Hitler failed to exterminate the Jews in World War II, the people of Israel will miraculously survive the coming holocaust of Antichrist. Many Jews will be martyred, but all 144,000 will remain alive to enter the Kingdom of God.

By the way, though only the 144,000 will be sealed in this manner, we who love Jesus need to remember that we too enjoy a miraculous sealing. Ephesians 1:13-14 says, “In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.” So take heart! No matter what disappointments or dangers you face today, you are precious and protected. The moment you received Christ, He wrote His name on your heart and sealed it with His Holy Spirit, so that nothing can touch you unless it’s by His divine permission and for your eternal good.

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b. Their Identity

Few passages have been as misinterpreted as verses 4 to 8. My own sister argues that the 144,000 are members of the Watchtower Society who faithfully kept its laws and will one be in heaven. Unfortunately for her, the Watchtower teaches that those positions have already been filled. So her best hope, if she is a good Jehovah’s Witness, is to be resurrected and one day live on a redeemed earth. However, a straightforward reading of this passage makes clear who these servants are. They are not Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormon elders, or members of any other modern cult. They are Jews, Jews, and more Jews! John says, “And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed.” In fact, he lists the tribes by name.

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Dr. Harry Ironside commented, “The way in which so many unscriptural and often heretical sects arrogate to themselves this title would be amusing, if it were not so sad. You are perhaps aware that the Seventh-Day Adventists apply it to the faithful of their communion who will be found observing the Jewish Sabbath at the Lord’s return. They suppose that these will be raptured when the Lord descends and judgment will be poured out upon the rest of the church. Then we have the followers of the late Pastor Russell (Jehovah’s Witnesses) who teach that the 144,000 include only the ‘overcomers’ of their persuasion who continue faithful to the end. . . Besides these, there are many other sects, whose leaders consider their own peculiar followers will be the 144,000 sealed ones at the end of time. All of these overlook a simple fact, which if observed, would save them from their folly. That is, the 144,000 are composed of 12,000 from each tribe of the children of Israel. There is not a Gentile among them. Whenever I meet people who tell me they belong to the 144,000, I always ask them, ‘Which tribe, please?’ and they are invariably put to confusion for want of an answer.”

This does not answer every question, however. For example, we are not told how they will learn from what tribe they come. Such information is lost among the Jews of today. Nor are we told why Ephraim and Dan are replaced by Joseph and Levi. (It may be due to their idolatry in the Old Testament.) Nor is their sudden conversion to Christ explained. The disappearance of Christians at the Rapture may be a wake-up call. But in all probability, like Paul on the road to Damascus, they will receive a personal visitation from Christ Himself.

c. Their Ministry

Although their ministry is not specifically explained in this passage, several facts indicate that they will be evangelists for Christ. First, this has always been God’s purpose for Israel—to be His witnesses to the nations. Speaking of Israel, He says to them in Isaiah 43:10-11, “You are My witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. Before Me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after Me. I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior.” The Jews fell short of their calling due to immorality and idolatry. But these Jews will not “be defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.” (See Revelation 14:4.) And Jesus promised when we follow Him, He makes us “fishers of men.”

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Second, Joel chapter 2 tells us that “in the last days” there will be a miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and we know what the mission of the Holy Spirit has been since Calvary. It is to point people to Jesus Christ. Speaking of this, Jesus said, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Matthew 24:14 confirms that this will continue to be the mission of believers during the Tribulation. There Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to the nations, and then the end will come.” Who will preach the gospel at that time? The church will no longer be on earth, but in heaven. Only the 144,000 will be left to do so. Revelation 14:6 points to their part in this great work. For immediately after describing the 144,000, John says that this gospel will be preached “to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” on earth.

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Third, Revelation 7:9 ties the salvation of the Gentiles to the work of the 144,000. Immediately after describing their sealing in verses 4 to 8, John writes, “After these things I looked,” and he saw a vast multitude of Gentiles saved during the Tribulation. The phrase “after these things” emphasizes a sequential order. First, the 144,000 are sealed; then the multitudes are saved. It is only natural, then, to assume that the first event leads to the second. In other words, the salvation of the Gentiles will be the direct result of the work of the 144,000. This is further supported by Revelation 14:4 which calls the 144,000 “first-fruits to God and the Lamb.” That is to say, the 144,000 will be the first ones saved during the Tribulation, but they won’t be the only ones. Multitudes of Gentiles will respond to Christ as a result of their ministry.

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Their impact is hard to grasp given the lack of spiritual leadership in the world today. But imagine if God suddenly unleashed 144,000 Spirit-filled John the Baptists, Apostle Peters, Apostle Pauls, and Billy Grahams all at the same time. There won’t be a need for any seminaries, mission agencies, or language schools to prepare them. Knowing that the time is short (just 7 years!), these totally dedicated men will put everything aside in their spontaneous desire to preach the gospel. Furthermore, Joel indicates that the true gift of tongues will be revived at this time, so that everyone is able to understand “in their own tongues the wonderful works of God.” (Acts 2:11). What a day of revival that will be! But not without a price. For in the verses that follow we discover that everyone who accepts Christ will then be brutally martyred for their faith.

  1. A MULTITUDE OF MARTYRS FOR JESUS

Immediately following the sealing of the 144,000, John sees a vast multitude standing before the throne of God and clarifies four facts for us about them.

a. Their identity

Verses 9 and 10 say, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” “Then one of the elders,” verses 13 and 14 add, “addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?’ I said to him, ‘Sir, you know.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’”

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The first thing that’s obvious about this multitude is that they are not Jews, nor do they include the 144,000. For these believers are said to come from “all nations, tribes, people, and tongues.” In other words, they’re Gentiles. What Gentiles? Is this just another reference to the Church? No, this is a reference to multitudes of unbelieving Gentiles who turn to Christ after the Rapture has taken place. Let that be of great encouragement to you if you have unbelieving loved ones you fear may be left behind if the Rapture were to take place today. For here John reveals that one of the greatest harvest of souls the world has seen will take place not before, but after the Tribulation begins. So there is still great hope for your family and friends if the Rapture happens soon. Yes, they will have to suffer, but the suffering of this present time is very short compared to the eternal glory and joy that they will experience forever.

By the way, this confuses some who study prophecy. They assume that because the Tribulation brings judgment, then no one will be saved. But we must be careful to let the Bible speak for itself. And when we do, verse 14 makes it clear, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

b. Their number

How many will be saved at this time? John says, “a great multitude that no one could number.” Do you realize what this means? More people may be saved during Antichrist’s reign than all the years of the Church age put together!

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Dr. Tim LaHaye writes: “To assert that a soul harvest of gigantic proportions is scheduled to take place in the future is admittedly to controvert the thinking of most prophetic students. It is nevertheless exciting to think that more people will be saved during that time than responded to the preaching of the apostles, the early church fathers, the Reformation preachers, modern missions, radio and television preaching, and even the present day, when Bible-teaching churches are gathering in such a large number of souls. This is more than an optimistic dream. It is a reasonable conclusion of a number of prophetic realities, all climaxing with the text of Revelation 7:9, “a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues.”

What a testimony to God’s mercy! Where sin abounds, grace much more abounds. The Rapture itself may explain a great deal. Imagine the impact on humanity when thousands of Christian airline pilots, police officers, doctors, and other specialists suddenly disappear from the earth. Add to that the fiery preaching of the 144,000, and many thoughtful individuals who never before gave the gospel a serious hearing, will quickly blow the dust off their Bibles and begin to study the very information you’re studying today. They’ll want to know, “What on earth happened to the Church!” And when the truth of God’s Word, enlightened by God’s Spirit, finally dawns on them, they will soberly turn to Christ in repentance and faith.

c. Their worship

The most inspiring thing about this group is their worship. For the only thing filling their hearts as they stand in God’s presence is the greatness of Christ’s salvation. “Salvation belongs to our God!” The palm branches in their hands are reminiscent of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Here they symbolize His complete victory over sin and Satan. Their robes washed “white in the blood of the Lamb” picture the means of salvation. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” (Titus 3:5)

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Is that the theme of your song? Dottie Rambo captured the greatness of Christ’s salvation in the beautiful lyrics that follow. Those of you who are familiar with Londonderry Aire (Oh, Danny Boy!) might even want to stop at this point and sing the words to Christ in worship, for their message will be the theme of our hearts forever.

Amazing grace shall always be my song of praise, for it was grace that bought my liberty. I do not know just why He came to love me so. He looked beyond my fault and saw my need. I shall forever lift mine eyes to Calvary to view the Cross where Jesus died for me. How marvelous the grace that caught my falling soul! He looked beyond my fault and saw my need.

d. Their rewards

Finally, in verses 15 to 17, John describes three rewards they will enjoy for their martyrdom. “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will shelter them with His presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.  For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their Shepherd, and He will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

 

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The first blessing they enjoy is a permanent place. On earth, these martyrs were men and women “without a country.” Because they refused to worship Antichrist or take his mark, they were hunted down and beheaded for their faith. But in Heaven they find a permanent home. They live “before the throne of God,” serving Him “day and night in His temple,” God Himself dwelling among them. What Hebrews says of the Old Testament saints could be said of them, “These all died in faith and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”

The second blessing they enjoy is permanent protection. During the Tribulation, there will be constant hunger, thirst, and suffering. The 144,000 will be safe from these plagues, but not believers at large. As is so often the case today, God’s judgments fall on both the righteous and the unrighteous. Think about the victims of the latest hurricane, earthquake, or forest fire. Is it only unbelievers who suffer these things? No, the results of the curse fall on all of God’s creatures today. But one day that will end! One day all hunger, thirst, pain, and suffering will come to an end, when we finally arrive safely home in the presence of our loving God.

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The third blessing is permanent peace. Our passage closes with one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible. Here Psalm 23, the Shepherd’s Psalm, becomes a never-ending reality. The Lamb becomes our Shepherd and leads us “to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.” There are some trials and heartaches in this life which seem so devastating that we think nothing can ever ease our pain. But that is not so! The One who was able to calm the storm and hush the sea will have no difficulty speaking perfect peace to our hearts. Just as a little child runs home for the comfort of his mother’s kisses when he’s hurt, so God will wipe away every hurt from our hearts and every tear from our eyes.

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Near the beginning of the last century, Dr. Henry Morrison, president of Asbury College, left on an evangelistic tour of China. After months of exhausting labor, he and his wife returned by ship to the United States, in great need of rest and encouragement. But this was no normal voyage. On board was Teddy Roosevelt, returning from safari in Africa. When the ship entered the harbor, crowds lined the docks, eager for a glimpse of the president. But no one was there to greet the Morrisons, and the missionary was disappointed. “We’ve given our lives to serve Christ, while the president has been having hunting animals. It’s not fair! Where are the crowds to cheer us?” The more he thought about it, the more depressed he became until his wife reminded him, “But Henry, we’re not Home yet!”

Have you found the “why” for persevering under trial? There are many reasons to serve Christ well, but the most encouraging are rewards to come. Keep that in mind as you face the trials of this present time. Keep in mind where your real home is and what awaits you. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My name’s sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for great is your reward in Heaven.” Or as Viktor Frankl learned, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

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Philadelphia: The Great Little Church!

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Study #7: ‘’Philadelphia—The Great Little Church”

Proverbs 30:26 raises a question: What is a coney? The verse reads, “Coneys are creatures of little power, yet they make their home in the crags.” Some versions translate it “rabbits” or “badgers.” But the best research indicates that this was the Syrian hyrax, a strange little rodent about the size of a guinea pig. Sometimes it is called a “rock rabbit.” But it is actually unrelated to any other animal. Its teeth and bones resemble those of a rhinoceros. But that’s as far as the similarity goes. The coney is a helpless creature—easy prey for hawks, snakes, and other predators. So how does this little fellow stay alive? That’s the interesting part. He hides himself in the crags of the rocks, often on the side of a cliff.

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Why are we to learn from this Proverb? That we too are weak, helpless, and vulnerable to spiritual attack. So how do we protect ourselves? The coney knows. The answer is by hiding ourselves in the cleft of the Rock—our Lord Jesus Christ.

You see, contrary to popular belief, it’s not bad to be weak, as long as you’re protected. And we are in Jesus Christ! Believing in Jesus does not eliminate life’s dangers, but it does make us eternally secure in the midst of them. In fact, the Bible says our weaknesses are an advantage in serving Christ. 2 Corinthians 12:9 is a good example. There the Lord tells Paul why he’s suffered what he has. “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” So Paul concludes, “I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” In other words, when we’re weak, we’re forced to depend on Christ instead of ourselves, and that’s where true strength is found. Hudson Taylor, the great missionary, wrote: “God uses men who are weak and feeble enough to lean on Him.”

But our primary example is the great little church of Philadelphia, described in Revelation 3:7-13. The city was 30 miles southwest of Sardis in Asia Minor and built in 189 BC by King Attalus of Peramum whose nickname was Philadelphia due to his special love for his brother. So that became the name of the city. It was also located in an earthquake zone with agriculturally rich soil because of the volcanic ash that was frequently deposited in the area.

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As for the church, Jesus said they only had a “little strength.” This was because they didn’t have the large membership or great resources of churches like Ephesus and Laodicea. But the truth is most of the great churches throughout history have not been large or wealthy. The churches of the great Puritans like John Robinson and Jonathan Edwards were churches of fewer than 200 people. In fact, 60 percent of churches in America today average 89 members. Because it is always just a remnant who truly love Christ and His Word. And yet, when welded to the iron bar of His strength, the copper wire of their weakness made the church at Philadelphia the most dynamic church in the Revelation.

The question is: Will we learn from them? Will we admit our frailty and rely on Jesus alone for our strength? To understand what made them one of the great little churches of history, there are four facts to recognize about them.

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  1. The Nature of Their Greatness

Jesus begins the letter like this in Revelation 3:7-8, ““And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”

Two things to notice here. First, notice how they were corrected. They weren’t, were they? Like the persecuted church of Smyrna, Jesus found nothing bad to say about them. Instead, He speaks words full of encouragement and blessing, reminding us how tender and compassionate our Savior is toward those who do their best for Him. Some of us were raised in negative households, where Mom or Dad always seemed to find fault with us. So it is difficult for us to think of God as being pleased with us. But He is, if we do our best for Him. He’s not a difficult Master to please. His expectations are always in direct proportion to the strength He gives us. “To whom much is given, much will be required.” But to those with only a little strength, only a little is expected of us. Psalm 103:13 is one of my favorite verses. “As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame. He remembers that we are dust.”

The second thing to notice is how they were commended. They were commended for keeping God’s Word. You see, we live in an age when the uppermost thing in people’s minds is not right, but rights. A woman’s fundamental right to choose. A pornographer’s fundamental right to free speech. A homosexual’s fundamental right to promote his lifestyle. Of course, the world isn’t so quick to fight for the unborn’s fundamental right to life or our fundamental right to protest on their behalf. Because it’s rights, not right, people care about, making many Christians wonder, “Should I even bother saying anything? And do I have the right to push my beliefs on the rest of the population?” The answer is: Not only do we have a right to do so, we have a fundamental responsibility to speak the truth in love. After all, how kind is it to quietly stand by while an unwed mother doubles her pain by taking the life of her unborn child? Or how loving is it to say nothing as the LBGT community shortens their lives by sexually dangerous behavior?

stand-firmSo I say, even if no one listens to us, we have a responsibility to take a stand not for what is politically correct, but for what is good and right and decent. Or as Jesus credits them here, “You have pleased Me by fulfilling your fundamental responsibility to keep My Word.

They also did not deny Christ’s name. Why does that matter? Because just as godly wisdom is found only in the Word of God, supernatural power is found only in the name of Jesus. Think back to the crippled man Peter healed in Acts 3. The Sanhedrin asked him, “By what power have you done this?” Peter replied, “Be it known to you all…that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth…this man stands here before you whole…Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

You say, “Isn’t that rather simplistic?” Just be faithful to God’s Word and God’s Son and God will bless?” I often meet that attitude in counseling sessions or planning meetings. People want to see change in their lives or growth in the church. But when you insist that they go back to square one and start again with holiness, honestly, and love, they’re angry.

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Like Namaan the leper, who was told to wash seven times in the Jordan River, they think, “It can’t be that simple! I’ve heard these things for years.” Yes, but have you been practicing them? Are you a doer as well as a hearer of the Word? My wife and I have made many mistakes, but 41 years later, I can testify that God has blessed us with more resources, more friends, and more family joy than we ever imagined. Simple obedience is the surest route to the blessing of God.

The truth is that it doesn’t take a lot of talent or charisma to be useful to God. In fact, those things can actually get in the way of serving Him. Instead, what we need do is give Him the little bit of strength we have, let Him match it with His greatness, and then explode it with divine power. That’s the secret to success with God. Determining to hold fast to His name and His Word no matter what comes your way. And that’s something you can do! You may have just a little strength, but a little is more than enough when God is involved.

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Someone has said, “The mighty oak was once just a little nut who held his ground.” That homey maxim is my philosophy of spiritual growth and ministry. Dig in your heels, hang on to God, and never let up until He blesses. The Philadelphians did that, and not only did they become one of the great churches of the Revelation, they are also the only church which has survived until today.

  1. The Source of Their Greatness

Each of the seven letters, you’ll remember, begins with a description of Christ intended to encourage the church in question. And this church is no exception. The only difference is that this description doesn’t come from the vision of Christ in chapter one. Why not? Because that was a vision of Christ preparing to judge the world. But the weak don’t need to hear about judgment. The unruly need to hear about judgment, but the weak need to be encouraged. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 says, “Admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, support the weak.” So, in order to strengthen their confidence in them, in verse 7 Jesus emphasizes three encouraging truths about Himself.

He begins, “These things says He who is holy.” Throughout the New Testament, Christ’s Deity is proven by the fact that like the Father, He is holy. In John 6:69, when His superficial disciples began falling away, Peter assures Jesus, “We have believed and come to know that You are the holy One of God.”

What does that mean? The word “holy” means to be separate and distinct. It is the opposite of the idea espoused by America’s unofficial religion – the New Age movement. According to the New Age movement, God is the divine “force” which binds the universe together giving it its unity and direction. Nor is there any distinction between God and His creation. God is in everything and everything is a part of God. And it is at this point that Jesus has given us a mandate to stand up and defy our culture, “No, God is not synonymous with His creation. He infinitely higher and holier than the things He has made.” Hebrews 7:26 says, “For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.” Christ is holy, and because He is, He cannot tolerate sin and demands holiness from His people. “Be holy as I am holy, says the Lord.”

Verse 7 continues, “He who is true.” There are two Greek words for “true.” Alethes, which refers to something true as opposed to false. For example, “The ocean is wet” is a true statement, whereas “The ocean is dry” is a false statement. But that is not the word Jesus uses. He uses Alethinos, which means the source of all truth. Jesus, in other words, isn’t just a person who tells the truth. He is truth incarnate, which means anyone who disagrees with anything He ever taught is by definition wrong. He is the standard by which every other thought or teaching is judged. You say, “That’s awfully narrow!” You’re right! It is. But this is who Jesus claimed to be—the only true revelation of God. He said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6). If that isn’t a cause for confidence, I don’t know what it.

Verse 7 adds, “He who has the key of David, who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens.” What does this mean? Jesus is likening Himself to Eliakim, the faithful treasurer of King Hezekiah, described in Isaiah 22. Eliakim held the key to the king’s treasury with the power to open or shut it at will. Now the Savior takes that Old Testament truth and applies it to Himself, saying, “I am the Greater Eliakim with the keys to Heaven’s treasures, so that whatever your need may be, I can supply it.” It is what Paul promised the Philippians when He said, “And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:19)

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Then, just to make sure we don’t misunderstand how important this is, Jesus continues in verse 8, “See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it.” Do you realize how powerful and encouraging that statement is to a struggling church? Think of the problems we face today—economically, politically, morally, spiritually—and realize, we as Christians have been called to do something about it. But how is that possible? Things are so evil, how can we ever hope to make a dent in them? The answer is that victory is not only possible, it is certain because of who holds the key. Every effort we make for Christ—every missionary effort, every witnessing effort, every Bible class taught, every prayer offered—has the potential of eternal life-changing success. Why? Because Jesus Christ has opened the door. Paul referred to this in his letter to the Corinthians. He wrote, “For a great and effective door has opened for me.”

Sometimes we talk about looking for opportunities to serve the Lord. But that’s a cop-out, isn’t it? We don’t have to look for opportunities. Why? Because Jesus has already opened the door. All we have to do is walk through it and take advantage of the opportunities that exist. Will you do that? Think about the unbelievers you know. Isn’t there at least one you could befriend for Christ? Or think about the pressing needs of our missionaries or other believers in your fellowship. Isn’t there are least one need you could meet? Remember, there’s no such thing as being over-qualified for the Lord’s work. If Jesus could wash feet, then what could possibly be beneath us?

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  1. The Threat to Their Greatness

You can see it in verse 11. Jesus warns, “Behold, I come quickly. Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” This is a clear indication that the Philadelphian had already earned a wonderful reward from Christ. There was nothing new or different they had to do. All they had to do was hold on to what they had. But that isn’t easy. For it is possible to serve Christ well, earn a reward, but then, because of lack of unfaithfulness, to drop out of the race before it’s ended and lose everything you’ve achieved. 2 John 1:8 warns, “Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.”

You say, “I didn’t think a Christ could lose his salvation?” You’re right. We can’t. Not if we have truly been born again. 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 assures us that even if our works amount to hay, wood, and stubble, and are burned up at the Judgment Seat of Christ, we ourselves will be saved as from the fire—if our foundation is Christ. It isn’t a matter of heaven and hell. It’s a matter of rewards. We’re warned that unless we’re watchful, we can lose our crowns. Or to be more precise, we can have them stolen from us. Who would do that? The enemy of our souls. Satan knows very well that he cannot take away our eternal life. So he settles for second best. He seeks to tarnish our victory by stealing our rewards. How? Through pride and complacency.

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I’m thinking right now of a well-known pastor who was heard to say many times over the years that the one area in which Satan would never trip him up was his sex life. And yet, it wasn’t long before he was caught having an affair with a woman he was counseling. Isn’t that tragic! To work hard for Christ, but then, because of a lack of watchfulness, to disgrace yourself, your family, and to lose everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve? But it can happen. Paul said it could happen to him. That’s why he wrote 1 Corinthians 9:27. He said, “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” So let’s take nothing for granted. Let’s hold fast to what we have, that no one may take our crowns. Or as Revelation 2:10 puts it, “Be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life.”

  1. The Rewards for Their Greatness

Given the faithfulness of the Philadelphians and the positive tone of this letter, it shouldn’t be a surprise to find this letter filled with promises. And it is!

A.  Vengeance

The first promise is found in verse 9 where Jesus says, “Indeed, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.” That is a promise of vengeance.

The Christians in Philadelphia were suffering severe persecution like the other cities in the region, but in their case it was instigated by the Jews. There was a large synagogue of Jews in Philadelphia who believed that Christianity was a blasphemous lie, and like Paul before his conversion, they wanted to destroy the church. But instead of giving in to bitterness, the believers simply looked to the Lord in faith. Why? Because of what we Christians have been taught for two thousand years now. Romans 12:17-19, “Do not return evil for evil, and do not take revenge, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine. I will repay, says the Lord.”

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It isn’t our job to get even with those who hurt us—parents, brothers, sisters, neighbors, friends, co-workers, fellow church members. For God promises that His judgments are much more just and satisfying. Here He promises that anyone who hurts us, mocks us, or takes advantage of us, because we’re Christians, will one day be made to bow before us in repentance. “Indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.” That should do away with the need for wrath and revenge, shouldn’t it?

B.  Deliverance

Next, Jesus promises deliverance. Verse 10 continues, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.”

This is one of the most important verses in the book of Revelation. First, Jesus warns that there is a period of judgment coming upon the entire earth, not just Philadelphia or the region of Asia Minor. What period of judgment is that? After all, no worldwide judgment against sin has taken place since the Genesis flood. But read the rest of this book and it becomes clear. He is referring to the Tribulation pictured in chapters 6 to 19.

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But He doesn’t stop there. He goes on to make a promise to the Philadelphians which applies to believers in ever age and every kind of church. We know that because the letter again ends with the call, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Rev. 3:13) This is a promise that those who truly love and believe in Christ will be removed from the earth before this hour of trial begins. After all, what bridegroom wouldn’t rescue His bride from disaster if He could. Certainly our Heavenly Bridegroom will. Two facts make this clear:

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First, the preposition “from.” Some versions translate it “out of the hour of trial.” That is the most accurate rendition. For the Greek word ek means “out of” and comes from a root word meaning separation. This indicates that Christ isn’t merely going to protect His Church in the Tribulation; He is going to keep us “out of” it. In fact, those who teach that the church must go through the Tribulation, but be protected by Christ in the midst of it, have problems explaining what follows in the rest of the book. Later chapters reveal that those who come to faith in Jesus Christ during the Tribulation will not be protected from persecution, but will be martyred for their faith.

Second, Jesus says that this hour is designed to “test those who dwell upon the earth.” This phrase is used 10 times in Revelation and always refers to unbelievers, not believers. So, if you think the church might go through the Tribulation, the question you must answer is: Why? What purpose would be served by it? The answer is: No good purpose. This is an hour intended to test “earth-dwellers,” not those whose citizenship is already in heaven.

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In fact, what is striking is how often we have read the word “church” and “churches” in the first three chapters. I counted 19 uses of the word, and in each case the church in on earth. However, once we come to chapter 4, there is never again any mention of the church on earth, because the church is now safe in heaven, represented by the twenty-four elders worshiping before God’s throne. Of course, this is not to suggest that the church will escape all tribulation. In John 16:33, Jesus clearly warned, “in the world you will have tribulation.” But what we won’t go through, if we’re genuinely saved, is the Tribulation. The definite article indicates a very specific time of trial from which we will be delivered—“the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world to test those who dwell on the earth.” (Rev. 3:10)

C.  Permanence

Third, Jesus promises the church permanence. Verse 12 adds, “He who overcomes, I will make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more.” This alludes to the tradition of the Philadelphians who honored their heroes by carving their names on the pillars of their temples. In our case, there will be no physical temple in the New Jerusalem, for Revelation 21:22 tells us that Christ will be the only temple we need. But He will memorialize our good deeds. How? By giving us a status that will cause others to look up to us.

And He promises that we “will go out no more.” That phrase had special meaning for the Philadelphians. Built in an earthquake zone, the citizens spent much of their lives getting in and out of town. An earthquake would strike and the people would run for safety. Then the trembling would stop and they’d return and rebuild their homes. In fact, we’re told that in 17 AD a major earthquake struck the area, destroying 12 cities including Sardis and Philadelphia. Another earthquake destroyed Laodicea in 60 AD.

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So this is a promise of peace and permanence. It is what David sang about in Psalm 23: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

D.  Acceptance

Finally, Jesus promises us three new names: “And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of Heaven from My God. And I will write on Him My new name.” What do these three things signify? Acceptance and belonging. Just as an earthly bridegroom gives his name to his precious new bride, so Jesus will give us His new name, signifying forever that we belong to Him.

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So let me ask you. How strong are you? Chances are, not very. Because what God so often chooses are the weak things of this world to shame the strong. Which means that, despite our outward appearances, most of us are weak, sensitive, and vulnerable. But that’s OK as long as you’re protected. And we are! How? The coney knows. By placing our lives in the care of Jesus Christ. That gives us safety and strengthen for whatever He asks us to do today, and courage and hope for what we face tomorrow. So stay close to Christ. He is our Rock!

(Thanks for studying with us! To download the written lesson, click Written. To download the Powerpoint slides for teaching, click Slides.)

 

COUNTING DOWN THE DAYS

A short excerpt from “Guideposts Magazine” tells this story. You’ll like it. It’s a good one. The author writes, “One hot summer afternoon, my wife and I were invited to a swimming pool party by some friends. As I stood on the diving board, I felt as free as the breeze, when suddenly a frantic voice rose above the din crying out, “My baby! He’s at the bottom of the pool!” No one did anything. People just stared at the woman.

When I saw what looked like a motionless form beneath the water, I dove in, and a baby was there. I swept him off the bottom and laid him on the deck. He was blue and wasn’t breathing. Nor did he have a pulse. So I started CPR praying, “Dear God, help me do this right.” At last the little boy coughed. A breath came, then another. He was going to live. An ambulance was called, and while we waited, I asked the others, “Why didn’t you do something? Why did you ignore that mother’s cry for help?”

1“We didn’t understand her,” they said. “What do you mean? Didn’t you hear her screaming for someone to help her baby?” “No,” they said. “She was speaking Spanish, and none of us could understand her.” “What do you mean, Spanish?” I said. “I heard her screaming in English.” “We didn’t,” they said. “All we heard was Spanish.” “To this day, I’m still bewildered because I don’t speak a word of Spanish either.”

God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform; He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm. You fearful saints, fresh courage take. The clouds you so much dread are big with mercy and shall break with blessings on your head.” We serve an amazing God! He’s amazing in His power, amazing in His wisdom, amazing in His mercy. In fact, if not for His love and His desire for us to know Him, we wouldn’t be able to understand a thing about Him. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

You see, if it were up to us to figure out God, we would never know Him. For how can the finite mind of man ever hope to know the infinite mind of God! We just don’t have the equipment to do that. But then, God hasn’t left us to ourselves. He became one of us in the Person of His only begotten Son, died on a cross for our sins, drew us to Himself through the work of His Spirit, and revealed His plans to us in His Holy Word.

That’s the focus of this study. Our passage is Daniel chapter 9 where we find one of the most powerful prayers ever prayed as well as one of the most pivotal prophecies in all of Scripture. As we study it, what I want to emphasize are three amazing attributes of the God we love. The first is the intimacy of His friendship.

Prayer_Daniel_study1.             The Friendship of God

Daniel has been cultivating a friendship with God all his life spending time in prayer and Bible reading three times a day every day. By the way, if that hasn’t been your habit, start now, not because you ought to but because you’re missing out if you don’t. You know that great feeling of taking time for yourself and relaxing with a cup of coffee and a good book? Now imagine letting Holy Spirit join you in that because that’s what a quiet time is—taking time to rest in God’s presence reading a few verses from the Bible and talking to Him about your needs. Do that once a day and it’ll change your life!

In this case, what Daniel was studying was the prophecy of Jeremiah where God promised that in spite of His people’s sin, He’d forgive them and bring them home from 70 years of captivity in Babylon. And as he rereads the passage, he suddenly realizes—have you ever had that happen, rereading a passage of Scripture you’ve read before and suddenly something leaps out at you that you’ve never noticed? That is the Holy Spirit at work in your mind—and suddenly, as Daniel reads this passage, he realizes that the 70 years are almost over. So what does he do? He goes to prayer and asks God to keep His promise. And God answers way beyond his expectations!

1 John chapter 5 wasn’t written yet; but it was still true both then and now. “And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” Isn’t that an amazing promise? I’d say that’s a verse worth memorizing. What do you think?

One of the best examples is right here in Daniel chapter 9. He says in verse 20: “Now while I was speaking and praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and presenting my supplication before the Lord…while I was still (praying)…the man Gabriel (at least he looked like a man), whom I had seen in the vision previously, came to me in my extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering. He gave me instruction and talked with me and said, ‘O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding.’” The moment Daniel started praying, God answered by sending Gabriel to him, the same angel who later appears to the Virgin Mary. How long did that take? I timed it at home to see how long it takes to read his prayer, and guess what! It took me 3 minutes! 3 minutes for Gabriel to arrive in answer to his prayer!

11As Gaebelein, the German pastor put it, “Heaven is not far away. There is no space and distance for God. The moment we pray in the Spirit and in His name, our voices are heard in the highest heaven.” Why? Because we’re His children—princes and princesses of the Most High King! So take advantage of it! For the Bible says, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us!”

Daniel’s prayer highlights one of the most important truths we can take into our minds, and that’s the friendship of God. Abraham is another example, for what did God do just before He destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah? He told Abraham about it, so he could pray for his nephew Lot. And the same is true of us! Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for everything I’ve heard from My Father, I’ve made known to you.” And that’s Gabriel’s purpose here. In fact, that’s the purpose of all prophecy—God sharing His heart and plans with His friends.

My friend Mark didn’t appreciate this. Mark is the friend from college who led me to faith in Jesus Christ. So we got together some time back to catch up on what the Lord was doing in our lives. I mentioned that I was studying prophecy and was excited about the Lord’s return. His reaction: Why are you wasting time doing that? Don’t tell me you’re one of those Christians who thinks the Lord is coming back in our lifetime!” And when I said, “I think He may,” he got even more irritable. So rather than ruin our time arguing, I changed the subject.

But so often that’s the reaction you get when you talk about prophecy. People rolls their eyes and think you’re naïve and irrelevant. “After all, what’s that got to do with me?” Friends, I hope you don’t feel like that, because not only does this prophecy have a great deal to do with you and me; it’s also the King of the Universe sharing His heart with us His friends.

2That’s the first truth revealed in this passage—the intimacy of God’s friendship. The second truth follows in verses 24 to 27, and that’s the faithfulness of His promises.

2.             The Faithfulness of God

Daniel has been studying prophecy and realizes that the time is short. So he kneels in prayer and not only asks God to keep His promise, but to show him if there’s a role he’s to play in it. Remember! Cyrus the Great is about to conquer Babylon and is going to need some trusted advisers who know the culture and language of Babylon.

So guess who he’s going to enlist as one of his chief counselors! That’s right! Daniel who will show him his name in the book of Isaiah where it says that he, Cyrus, will be the king who gives the decree that God’s people can go home and rebuild their Holy City! All of that is in Daniel’s mind as he goes to prayer. In response, God not only gives him assurance of their present deliverance, but one of the most pivotal prophecies in Scripture, describing the final salvation of His people, both nationally and spiritually.

3But before we get to that, let me say this very kindly. It takes patience to understand this prophecy, just as it does all the prophecies of the Bible. That’s intentional on God’s part. Prophecy is God sharing His heart with His friends. So He makes us dig a little knowing that we who love Him will make the effort, whereas those who don’t won’t bother no matter how important it is.

I’ll never forget working with a history teacher years ago and trying to share my faith with him by telling him about the prophecies fulfilled in the book of Daniel. I thought he’d be interested because it had to do with history. Not a chance! He had no interest whatsoever because he didn’t have a heart for God! As 1 Corinthians 2 explains, “The natural man does not welcome the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he understand them, for they are spiritually discerned.” But you can understand them because you have both the Spirit and a heart for God.

So let’s take a few minutes to try to understand what Gabriel is saying. Verse 24: “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.”

5The first detail to notice is the number “seven” which is the number of completion in the Bible. God completed His work of creation in how many days? Seven! Jacob worked for Laban how many years before he could marry Rachel? Seven! There were how many years of plenty and how many years of famine in the land of Egypt? Seven of both! And how many times did the children of Israel march around the city of Jericho on the seventh day before the walls came “tumbling down”? Seven! The examples go on and on.

That same thing is true here. Gabriel says there will be seventy more “sevens” before God completes His work of redeeming the nation of Israel.  Your Bible may read “weeks” instead of “sevens,” and that can be confusing. But much of the confusion can be overcome if we understand that the Hebrew word here is Shabuwa which means “a heptad” or group of seven. It’s similar to our word “dozen,” which refers to any group of twelve things – a dozen donuts, a dozen eggs, a dozen cookies, etc. So in order to avoid confusion, from this point on in our study, I will use the word “sevens” instead of “weeks.”

In this case, Gabriel says that God’s work of redeeming Israel will be completed after “seventy sevens,” or 490 if you multiply the two figures together. “490 what?” you ask. In this case, he is describing not 490 days, but 490 years. If you consider what Gabriel includes in the time frame here – the rebuilding of the city and temple of Jerusalem, the atonement of Christ, and the end of sin – it is clear that these things could not and were not fulfilled in just 490 years. 

In fact, to make it easier to understand, Gabriel breaks the “70 sevens” down for us starting in verse 25. He says, “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven ‘sevens’ and sixty-two ‘sevens’; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.” The first seven ‘sevens’ or 49 years, then, was the amount of time it took the people of Israel to return and rebuild their city and its temple. That was then followed by an additional sixty-two ‘sevens’ or 434 years of waiting during which God seemed to be silent because there were no more prophets sent to them until John the Baptizer began to cry out in the wilderness, “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand!”

4So add those two blocks of time together (seven “sevens” and sixty-two “sevens”) —remember I said we’d have to do some thinking here—and what do we get? Sixty-nine “sevens” or 483 years before Messiah would appear. Harold Hoehner, a professor at Dallas Seminary, wrote a book about this. Using the Jewish calendar of 360 days and starting with Cyrus’ decree in 444 B.C., that the city of Jerusalem should be rebuilt, he added 483 years to it and pinpointed the exact day on which this prophecy was fulfilled—March 30, 33 A.D! Do you know what happened on that day? The Lord Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem on a donkey offering Himself to the nation of Israel as their long-awaited! God’s Word was literally fulfilled down to the very day. In fact, the Jews could have set their watches by it, if they’d had watches in those days.

Then what happened? Verse 26 says, “After the sixty-two ‘sevens’ the Messiah will be cut off (the phrase means to ‘execute’) and have nothing.” Did that happen to Jesus? It did. The crowd that cheered for Him on Sunday turned against Him and called for His execution on Friday leaving Him with absolutely nothing, not even the clothes on his back! The Roman soldiers gambled for his clothes, and Jesus was made to hung naked upon the cross. In fact, He was so poor that He also had to be buried in the borrowed tomb of a friend named Joseph of Arimathea.

The prophecy continues, “The people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.” “Wait a minute!” you say. “Didn’t we just read about Messiah coming and being ‘cut off’?” You’re right! We did. “Then who is this second prince?” He’s the false prince and counterfeit messiah who will come from the same people group as those who destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple. Do you see that in the verse above? The people came first and their prince comes later. We’ll learn more about that in verse 27.

5But first, who were the people that destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple? Four Roman legions under the command of Titus, who burned Jerusalem to the ground in 70 A.D.! In fact, it is interesting. When Titus marched into Jerusalem with his armies, he ordered his soldiers to leave the Temple intact. But one soldier, acting on impulse, threw a torch into the sanctuary to get a better look at its treasures. That caught the tapestries on fire, and the building was soon a raging inferno, which fulfilled a second prophecy. All that decorative gold in the Temple soon melted and ran down into the cracks in the floor. So when it finally cooled, the soldiers literally overturned every stone to get at it, not only fulfilling Daniel’s prophecy that the Temple would be destroyed, but also the words of Jesus who said, “Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.” (Luke 21:6)

The Word of God is alive and powerful and absolutely trustworthy, not one word of it ever failing to come true. So believe in it and trust it more than you ever have before, both for your salvation and for every other need in your life.

What about the seventieth “seven”? Has that been fulfilled yet? No. That’s still future. You see, something unexpected happened when Israel rejected their Messiah. God’s time clock for Israel temporarily stopped leaving one more “seven” to be fulfilled. And it will be fulfilled right on schedule just as the first sixty-nine “sevens” were fulfilled!

6How do we know when it begins again? Verse 27 says, “He will make a firm covenant with the many for one ‘seven’.” In other words, God’s prophetic clock for the nation of Israel will begin ticking again when a Roman prince signs a peace treaty with Israel for a period of seven years. That has never happened at any time in history. There has never been a prince rise out of the region that Rome once ruled, promising peace to Israel. “Nor will that ever happen!” you say. “There will never be peace in the Middle East!” Not genuine peace perhaps. But that is what he will promise. In fact, that’s how Orthodox rabbis say they will recognize the Messiah when He comes. He will bring peace to Israel and the conditions under which they can rebuild their Temple. Unfortunately, he won’t be the true Messiah; he will be the antichrist who betrays them in the middle of the last seven years and tries by the power of Satan to destroy the Jewish people once and for all.

Verse 27 says, “He will make a firm covenant with the many for one ‘seven’ but in the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate.” Do you realize that none of this was possible just 70 years ago? Because for 1878 years, there was no Jewish nation! Israel did not become a nation again until May 14, 1948. Furthermore, prior to 1945, all of Europe was involved in a great war, making a European union over which the antichrist could rule absolutely impossible. But what was impossible then is more than possible today!

Alan Franklin, editor of “The Free Press” and a frequent guest on “Christ in Prophecy” said this in a recent message. “In Europe the Roman Empire has returned. At Christ’s First Advent, Rome was ruling the earth, and when He comes back, Rome will be ruling again.” José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, said it this way: “Sometimes I like to compare the EU to the organization of an empire because we have the dimension of an empire.” Very understated but that’s what they intend to do.

6In fact, here are their stated goals and the way they plan to do it: 1) Move the headquarters of the United Nations to Europe and replace America as the leader of the world; 2) Bring all of Europe under one jurisdiction making it one great super-nation with one central bank and one central court of justice; 3) Expand their jurisdiction into North Africa and the Arab nations as Ancient Rome once did; and 4) Eliminate the borders, so there’s no distinction between Europeans, Africans, and Middle Easterners. Their goal is to unite all of Europe under one central rule which is highly bureaucratic and has absolute power.

How likely is all of this to happen? Just as likely as the first sixty-nine ‘sevens’ were fulfilled! Both the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation say that there is a day coming when the whole world will united together under a final dictator known as the beast or antichrist. How soon that happens is something that God alone will decide. He can allow it to happen very soon, or He can hold it off for another hundred years. But even now I think we see the stage being set for it. In fact, having lived in Europe from 1995 to 2000 and having made more than a dozen ministry trips to Europe since then, I can tell you that their goals are well on the way to being realized. Did you know, for example, that 75% of the laws made in Europe today originate not in the individual countries but in the European Parliament where there’s virtually no debate and members rarely understand what they’re voting for? Sound familiar?

Of course, all of this talk about the antichrist and his reign of terror can cause a great deal of anxiety, can’t it? But we don’t need to be anxious, if we are trusting in Jesus, for we are His beloved, and He always looks out for those He loves. In fact, it’s my belief that the Lord will remove His Bride from the world before the last ‘seven’ begins. For the seventy ‘sevens’ are about Israel, not the church! And just as there was no church on earth when the first sixty-nine ‘sevens’ were took place, I don’t believe the church will remain on earth when the seventieth ‘seven’ is fulfilled. After all, remember who we Christians are! We’re the Bride of Christ, and what kind of Husband would He be not to rescue His Bride from danger? That’s “Job 1” for a Christ-like husband – protecting his wife from harm.

Now on to God’s amazing grace. The first great truth about Him is the intimacy of His friendship; the second great truth is His faithfulness to His promises; and the third great truth about Him is His amazing grace towards those He loves.

73.             The Amazing Grace of God

Two examples are found right here in our passage. The first is written between the lines in verse 27. It’s that long, gracious gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks that Daniel wasn’t told about at the time. In fact, it isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Old Testament, but it’s on virtually every page of the New Testament. For what took place immediately following Christ’s death for our sins and before the antichrist could appear? Something incredibly gracious! God opened the gates of His kingdom to us miserable Gentile sinners and welcomes us to become fellow members of His family and one day walk the streets of New Jerusalem with great Jewish saints like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Sarah, Ruth, and Esther, Moses, David, and Daniel.

That’s what’s written between the lines here in verse 27—the great age of God’s grace in which we now live, which has lasted almost two thousand years and during which time both Jew and Gentile can become brothers and sisters in Christ and members of God’s forever family called the church. That was the gracious secret God kept to Himself in the Old Testament. But now that Christ has shed His blood for our sins and miraculously risen from the dead, He wants everyone in every place to know about it.

Paul explains the secret in Ephesians 3:4-6. By the way, that’s he means by “mystery” in these verses. He’s talking about something incredibly wonderful that was kept secret in times past, but is now to be made known to every person in every place under heaven. He says, “In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.”

bigstock-Pause-D-Button-8446993Do you realize what he’s saying! He’s saying that the reason God punched the pause button on His prophetic clock and made the Jewish nation wait two thousand years for their kingdom to begin was to allow enough time for you to be born, give your heart to Christ, and win the rest of your family to Him as well. Isn’t that amazing grace! God did that because He has loved you from eternity past and wanted you to be His child!

Finally, one last comment about verse 27: God is also going to be incredibly gracious to the nation of Israel, who rejected His Son at His first coming and will turn to antichrist when he appears. Jesus said to them, “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.” (John 5:43) Consequently, what does the Jewish nation deserve? Whatever antichrist does to them! But that’s not what they get—at least not those who resist him. They get salvation both nationally and spiritually.

Verse 27 concludes, “On the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.” In other words, the antichrist, not Israel, is the one that’s destroyed and punished forever. And Israel? Both Daniel, Zechariah, Paul, and Jesus Himself say that it’s at that moment that the Lord Jesus will return from heaven and all Israel will be saved. That’s grace!

So if you’re in need of love and compassion, look no farther than the Lord Jesus Christ because He is here and He has loved you from time began. You’re going to see that portrayed at the Lord’s Table tonight. So as I bow my head and close this time in prayer, open your heart to Him and ask Him to come into you and fellowship with you, and He will! For He is your friend, the Friend that sticks closer than a brother!

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