Tag Archives: Revelation

The Gospel Will Overcome All Its Enemies – Rev. 14:6-20

Do you worry about the demise of Christianity in our country? While it is true that most Americans still claim to be Christians, the facts say differently. For example, in a Barna survey exploring how many adults have a Biblical worldview, they discovered that only 9% do.

For the purposes of the survey, a “biblical worldview” was defined as believing that absolute moral truth exists; the Bible is totally accurate in all the principles it teaches; Satan is considered to be a real being or force, not merely symbolic; a person cannot earn their way into Heaven by trying to be good or do good works; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; and God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today. In the research, anyone who held all those beliefs was said to have a biblical worldview.

The definition given above is not only a concise description of historic Christian doctrine, it also reflects the values and thinking of those who are genuine followers of Jesus Christ. This likely explains why there is such a sharp cultural and political divide in our country. Half of our populations has abandoned the Judeo-Christian beliefs on which this nation was founded, while half are still trying to hold on to some form of it. What is especially alarming are the answers given when the Barna group interviewed people who call themselves as “born again Christians.” Only 19% have a Biblical outlook on life, as defined above.

So, we worry that the gospel has lost its power to penetrate our post-Christian culture and maybe the world beyond us. But we need not worry. Wherever the Gospel is preached (not a watered-down version found in many “seeker-friendly” churches), some reject it because its demands are so high. “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23) While others open their eyes to the lies of the world and the truth of Jesus. “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.“ (1 John 2:16-17) See our last post where hundreds of Nicaraguans are receiving new life by believing in Christ.

In this study, we see the power of the Gospel illustrated in five messages from Heaven to the Apostle John. The first is the preaching of the Gospel exposing the lies of the Antichrist.

  1. THE PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL

Do you remember the promise of Jesus in Matthew 24:14? He said, “This Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come.” It is clear that this goal has not yet been achieved. The Church has sent missionaries far and wide, but not every people group has been reached yet. Some have interpreted this to mean that the Rapture of the Church cannot take place until everyone has heard about Christ. But I take a different position. For “the end” to which Jesus referred wat not the Rapture, but the Tribulation. Jesus was promising that the Tribulation would not end and the Kingdom would not come until every nation on earth has a chance to hear the truth and believe.

How will this task be achieved? Revelation 14:6 explains. Not only will the 144,000 canvas the world telling others about Christ, but it adds, “Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth – to every nation, tribe, language, and people.” This is an amazing, one-of-a kind event.

Prophecy teacher, Hal Lindsey, comments, “For centuries, angels have wanted to get in on the act of world evangelization. Peter tells us that the angels are intensely interested in the whole story of redemption (1 Peter 1:12). They have been itching to preach the Gospel—but God has given that privilege to us. The angels would love to push us to one side and really get the job done right…Now at last the angels will have their chance!”

What will be the content of the angel’s message? Only a portion is revealed, but what is revealed is fascinating. It is a call back to the basics. The Antichrist has so confused the minds of those on earth, that it is necessary for him to repeat the spiritual A, B, C’s—that God, not the Beast, is the Creator, that He alone is worthy of out worship, and judgment is soon coming to those who refuse to do so. He says in verse 7, “Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of judgment has come. Worship Him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and the springs of water’—the very target of His judgment thus far in the Tribulation.

By the way, does mankind need this message today? More than any other time in history. Man’s heart has become so ungrateful and his mind has become so darkened that he no longer even recognizes the existence of a Creator. Through the clear propaganda of many in the science community, Darwin’s evolutionary theory is now considered “accepted fact.” One cannot visit a museum or listen to a science documentary without hearing that the “universe is billions and billions of years old.” Consequently, if all we are is the result of chance plus time, then anything goes, doesn’t it? Abortion. Same-sex marriage. Euthanasia of the elderly. Without a Creator to hold us accountable, anything goes.

But if you think this pattern is widespread today, wait until the Tribulation. Crafty beyond belief, the Beast will include in his system New Age teachings promising man a radical leap forward in our evolution. Like the Serpent of old, he will urge us, “Ignore the voice of God and bite into this lie, and you will be like God.” People’s minds will be so confused it will take an angel from heaven to correct their atheistic thinking. How gracious of God to send him.

2. THE FALL OF BABYLON

Verse 8 continues, “A second angel followed and said, ‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.’”

Here we find the reason for the success of Antichrist’s brain-washing efforts. It is Babylon the Great. To what does this refer? In chapter 17 and 18, we will find that this is a reference to both the false religious system and the economic structure that dominates the world during the Tribulation. There we will try to identify where this city is located. But here we rejoice with Heaven at the crushing of these two entities which form the basis of Antichrist’s Kingdom. Impressed with her great wealth and military might, this “great city” will assume that she is above judgment. But such is not the case! In one day God will bring her down.

Revelation 18:8 gives the details: “Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her. When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry, ‘Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom come has come.’”

3. THE PUNISHMENT OF ANTICHRIST’S FOLLOWERS

Verse 9: “A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he too will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of His wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.’”

Today both cult leaders and liberal theologians question the idea of eternal punishment. “After all,” they say, “how could a loving God send anyone to hell?” But this passage leaves no doubt about it. John says, “The smoke of their torment rises forever and ever.” Those are the very same words used in Revelation 4:10 to describe the eternity of God. This means that the Jehovah Witness’ idea of annihilation of the wicked has no basis in Scripture. The wicked will not merely be “zapped out of existence.” They will continue to suffer as long as God is God, having no rest day or night forever.

Another pastor writes, “When I was a teenager I used to say to the gals I went with: ‘I’m going live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse!’ Little did I know what hell was! My pals used to say, ‘I want to go to hell. All my buddies will be there and we’ll play poker forever.’ I used to laugh with them until someone asked me, ‘Have you ever seen anyone play poker in a blast furnace.”

And yet, even here notice the evidence of God’s grace. The Greek test of verse 9 literally says, “If anyone continues to worship the beast and his image. This means that even after being deceived by Antichrist, there is still a chance to repent and turn to Jesus. Why? Because God isn’t eager to send anyone to hell. Instead, 2 Peter 3:9 assures us, He is “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

Hell is never pleasant to talk about. But we must be true to Scripture, and the Bible is clear. There is a Heaven to gain and a hell to shun. In fact, no one ever talked more about hell than Jesus, whose Spirit is urging us even now to turn from our sins and be saved.

4. THE REWARDING OF BELIEVERS

In contrast to verse 11, which says there is no rest for the wicked, verse 13 says there is eternal joy for those who love Jesus. “Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.’”

That is comforting for two reasons. First, it reminds us that our suffering will not last forever. No matter what we endure in this life—illness, heartache, fatigue—the moment we leave this place all sorrow will immediately end. Absent from the body will be at home with the Lord. Second, John says, our “works follow” us. Why does that matter? It means that unlike our human bosses who often fail to take notice of or forget our faithful service, God never will. Jesus promised that even ‘a cup of cold water’ given in His name will receive a reward.

 

5. THE HARVESTING OF THE EARTH

In Revelation 14:14-20, John pictures the punishment of the beast and his followers in terms of a harvest. Actually, there are two harvests seen here, each one intended to portray something about the final judgment of the earth.

The first harvest is a harvest of grains. Verse 14 says, “I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one ‘like a son of man’ with a crown of gold on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand.’ Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to Him who was sitting on the cloud, ‘Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.’ So He who was seated on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.”

This first harvest anticipates the separation of believers and unbelievers at the end of the age. Right now God allows saints and sinners to grow up side by side within the same home or church, so that it is sometimes difficult to tell the two apart, since many sinners know all the right religious terminology. I have served in churches where such people were present. As long as we stressed love and fellowship, they were “with us.” But the moment we called for personal repentance and commitment, they doused our zeal with opposition or indifference. Jesus spoke of this danger in the parable of the wheat and the tares. He said the enemy would sow tares (weeds) to hinder the growth of the good grain. But He also warned that nothing should be done about it until the harvest, lest we “uproot the wheat with tares.”

Well, the harvest has almost arrived. Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, is about to separate the wheat from the weeds. He Himself will not do the dividing. Matthew 13:41 says He will send His angels to do the reaping, gathering the wicked for judgment and leaving the righteous to enter the Kingdom of God and repopulate the earth that has been destroyed.

The second harvest is a harvest of grapes. Verse 17 continues, “Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, ‘Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.’ The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.

This is a preview of Christ’s final judgment at the battle Armageddon. There Revelation 19:15 says He will “tread the winepress of the fierce wrath of God.” Two other facts are worth emphasizing here. One is the place of judgment. Where will this great bloodbath take place? “Outside the city,” indicating that Jerusalem will be ground zero for God’s final blast of judgment. Speaking of the same event, Zechariah 14:2-3 says that the Lord “will gather all nations against Jerusalem” and then “the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fought in the day of battle.”

The second fact to notice is the extent of judgment. Verse 20 says the blood of this winepress will rise “as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.” How far is that? If you look in the margin of your Bible, you may find the answer. My Bible says, “180 miles!” It is grizzly to think about, but the whole valley of Armageddon down to the Gulf of Aqabah will be filled with the blood and bodies of those who have followed Antichrist and rejected Jesus the Savior. It will be a terrible time of judgment, but what follows will be worth it. For it is not until these enemies are finally dealt with that God’s Kingdom can come and His will can be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

An old TV ad asked the question, “How do you spell relief?” Their purpose was to see a certain brand of antacid guaranteed to stop the pain of heartburn.

A similar question could be posed as we come to the end of this study. Having endured the heartache of life’s trials, we may wonder, “How and when will I ever find relief?” John’s visions of the future remind us that there is only one lasting solution to life’s troubles. We need Christ! Only when Jesus comes will there be lasting peace and rest. But that day is coming soon. So, hold on! When life’s trials begin to make you sad or mad, think back to these glimpses of the future and let them give you hope. For Christ is coming soon to give you an everlasting vacation from all the sorrow, stress, and suffering that you are currently enduring.

(To download a Word document of this lesson, click Word. To download a PDF file of this study, click PDF. To listen to or download an mp3 audio version of this lesson , click  Audio.)

GLIMPSES OF VICTORY BRING HOPE! (REV. 14)

I tend to be an intense individual. Two of my greatest assets are my ability to concentrate for long periods of time without distraction and my commitment to the tasks at hand. That’s true of my studying. That’s true of my planning. That’s true of my teaching. It’s also true of my praying. Whatever I do, I tend to be all in. Those are my strengths. But with every strength comes a corresponding weakness. In my case, I can be too intense at times and forget that not everyone is built like me, particularly members of my own family.

The first time this struck home our daughter was 3 years old. Rebecca hadn’t seen much of me for two weeks. Every time she tried to get my attention, I was headed out the door to a meeting. What she didn’t know was that I was busy for her. We were about to leave on a long vacation to Orlando, Florida, which meant I had to finish several projects before we could go.

But she didn’t know that. All she knew was she hadn’t see her Daddy for two weeks, and that made her sad. When I finally saw how sad she was, I decided to have a talk with her. I got down our calendar and explained to her in 3-year-old terms that we were about to leave on vacation and she was going to have me all to herself for 3 weeks. But first, I had to finish my work. To my surprise, she got it right away. “3 weeks with no church people to bother us?” “Yes,” I said, and showed her on the calendar when we’d leave and how long we’d be gone. Her attitude instantly changed. Instead of being mad or sad, she was excited! Why? She got a glimpse of the future and what lay in store for her and our family.

God’s children are like that. We labor long and hard, often enduring great disappointment in the process of pleasing our Heavenly Father. So, from time to time, He renews our hopes by giving us a glimpse of what is ahead. That is the purpose of Revelation 14. Our last two studies focused on bad news. Revelation 12 pictures Satan’s wrath poured out on the earth after being cast out of heaven. Chapter 13 then follows by describing the suffering brought about by Antichrist and the False Prophet. But now in chapter 14 our Father give us a refreshing break from the gloom and doom. The message is serious but full of hope.

John writes, “Then I looked and behold…” This is the eighth time he’s used that phrase in Revelation, and each time it’s a prelude to something awesome he’s wants us to see. In this chapter, it occurs three times and introduces three great visions—the victory of the 144,00, the victory of the gospel, and the victory of believers in the day of judgment.

  1. VICTORY #1 – THE 144,000 OVER THE ANTICHRIST

The first vision is a touching scene of the Lamb reunited with His sheep on Mount Zion. For seven years of tribulation, the 144,000 have been hunted down by Antichrist for their faithful preaching of the Gospel. What has kept them faithful? Their longing to see the Jesus face to face. Now that day has arrived! The Lamb is reunited with His sheep and the Kingdom is about to be set up. Notice three facts John emphasizes in describing their reunion:

A. THE LOCATION OF THE 144,000

John says, “Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with Him 144,000 who had His name and His Father’s name written on their foreheads.”

Where at the 144,000 at Jesus’ return to earth. They are waiting to meet Him on Mount Zion. That’s significant because Isaiah 2 and Zechariah 14 say that Mount Zion (the hill on which Jerusalem stands) will be the capital of Christ’s Kingdom. The fact that the 144,000 are there to greet Him means each one has survived the tribulation and are ready to take their places of service in His Kingdom. What a tribute to the power of God to protect His people. Think of it! By this time, half the world’s population has been destroyed by plague and persecution. The 144,000 Jewish evangelists (see chapter 6) have meanwhile been hunted and starved due to their refusal to worship the beast and receive his mark. But when Christ returns, they are alive and well. What is their secret? Instead of “the mark of the beast” (see chapter 13), they have the seal of God on their foreheads, reminding us of God’s power to protect us even amid grave danger.

Felix of Nola found himself in similar circumstances while fleeing persecution. Calling on God for help, he took refuge in a cave. Scarcely had he entered it than a spider began to spin a web over its opening. Seeing it, his enemies didn’t even bother looking inside. They assumed that no one could enter the cave without disturbing that lacy curtain of silk. So, they road on and the life of one of God’s great servants was spared. Later, Felix summed it up like this. “Where God is, a spider’s web is a wall; where He is not, a wall is but a spider’s web.”

B. THE SONG OF THE 144,000

John continues, “And I head a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.”

Why are the 144,000 the only ones able to sing this song? Because their experience has been unique. No other group has endured the hardships they will endure. Of everything on earth, only they will come through the tribulation alive, unscathed, and completely faithful. This makes their testimony different from all other testimonies that have ever been given.

As a pastor, it’s been my privilege to listen to the testimonies of hundreds of Christians over the years. In doing so, I have discovered that there is something unique about the faith story of one who has suffered for Christ. Such a believer not only radiates a love for Christ, which goes beyond understanding, but he or she is also able to give supernatural comfort to others.

Cheryl and I learned this firsthand when our daughter Heidi contracted cancer. We appreciated the support of all God’s people. But it was a couple whose child had died of cancer who gave us the most comfort and hope, that “no matter what happens, God will carry you through this.” Likewise, the song of the 144,000 will be an eternal reminder that God’s grace is sufficient for every trial.

C. THE LOYALTY OF THE 144,000

The most outstanding characteristic of this group is their loyalty. John gives three evidences of it. First, their holiness. Verse 4 says, “These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure.” The words “did not defile themselves with women” doesn’t necessarily mean that all 144,000 are bachelors, though being constantly hunted and on the run, will make marriage difficult at that time. Paul uses the same term in 2 Corinthians 11:2, where he says to the church at Corinth, I want to “present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” The point is not that they are unmarried or that being single is superior to being married. The Bible says that both can be pleasing to God, that “marriage is honorable among all and the bed undefiled.” (Hebrews 13:4) The point is at the end of the sentence where John adds, “for they kept themselves pure.” They are fully devoted to Christ, using all their time and energy to preach Christ to others, and refusing to succumb to Antichrist and his temptations.

Second, he emphasizes their truthfulness. Verse 5: “No lie was found in their mouths.” What a contrast to Satan’s tactics! Antichrist’s power is the power of deception. And of his spiritual father, the devil, Jesus said, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44) But not the 144,000! No matter how the world tries to take advantage of us, God’s people fight fair. 2 Corinthians 10:4 says, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.” In other words, no matter how personally threatening it is, we’re to speak the truth in love and trust God to defend us.

Is that true of you? As Jesus commanded, “Is your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ ‘no?’” Or do you leave “loopholes” in your promises and sprinkle your words with half-truths and little white lies? “Tell whoever is on the phone, I’m not here!?”

Third, he emphasizes their witness. “They follow the Lamb where He goes” and “were offered as first-fruits to God and the Lamb.” The term “first-fruits” carries with it the idea of a harvest to follow. For example, when the ancient Israelites offered their first-fruits in the Temple, it was an act of faith symbolizing their confidence that God was going to bless them with a bountiful harvest to follow. In the same way, the 144,000 are just a foretaste of the innumerable multitude that is going to be saved through the ministry of the 144,000. That promise is seen in the phrase, “they follow the Lamb wherever He goes.” For what did Jesus say would happen when we follow Him? He said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)

The lesson? You cannot please Christ without caring for souls. That doesn’t mean we should knock on doors or pass out tracts on streets corners. If God calls you to do that, by all means do so! But it does mean that we will be witnesses for Him. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be My witnesses.” (Acts 1:8) What about you? Have you passed that test of loyalty? Is your greatest desire in life to help reach others for Him?

I wonder, have I done my best for Jesus, Who died upon the cruel tree? To think of His great sacrifice on Calvary! I know My Lord expects the best from me.

How many are the lost that I have lifted? How many are the chained I’ve helped to free? I wonder, have I don’t my best for Jesus, when He has done so much for me?

 (To download the written message as a Word document, click Word. To download it as a PDF file, click PDF. To listen to or download the audio message, click Audio.)

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

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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.

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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

 

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

 

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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!)

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“A Bittersweet Prophecy” (Rev. 10:1-11)

“REVELATION: BECAUSE THE TIME IS NEAR!”

Study #14: “A Bittersweet Prophecy” (Rev. 10:1-11)

(TO LISTEN to or download the audio version of this lesson, click AUDIO.)

Have you ever listened to the locker room interviews following the “big game?” The winners are delirious with joy, anointing each other with champagne and basking in the thrill of victory, while the losers suffer the agony of defeat.

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That fact came to mind several weeks ago as I watched a sports documentary about the Buffalo Bills, arguably one of the greatest teams in history. The 1990 to 1993 Bills were the only team to play in four consecutive Super Bowls. Sadly, they are also the only team to lose four Super Bowl in a row—to the New York Giants in 1990, the Washington Redskins in 1991, and the Dallas Cowboys in 1992 and 1993. Twenty-five years later, the sting of those losses has faded, but as I listened to the Bills players being interviewed, it was clear that the memory of those disappointments is still very strong. I came away from it wishing, though I was never a Buffalo fan, that both sides could have won. But that isn’t how life works. Whether it’s sports, politics, or spiritual warfare, there are inevitably two sides—the side destined for victory and the side doomed to defeat.

In spiritual warfare, which is the focus of this study, the winners are those of us who love our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. We look forward to His coming with great eagerness, praying “Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” But before we lose ourselves in the ecstasy of that knowledge, let’s not forget that there will also be some tragic losers in that day. Unbelieving friends, neighbors, and loved ones face excruciating judgment, making the Second Coming of Christ bittersweet. In Revelation 10, John describes it as tasting sweet to his mouth like honey, but turning bitter in his stomach. Why? Because the longer he pondered this great revelation, the more he realized that though it means eternal joy and glory for him, it will mean eternal death and damnation for millions who have never accepted Christ.

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This chapter is important to study, then, for two reasons. First, it includes several interpretative problems which could, if answered wrongly, undermine the doctrine of the Deity of Christ. Second, it provides us with a powerful reminder as we look forward to His Return. It reminds us that we have an obligation to do more than enjoy our salvation; we have a duty to rescue as many souls as possible before the fire of judgment falls. Let’s strive for both goals—comprehension and compassion—as we study what John has written.

JOHN MEETS A MIGHTY ANGEL

1. Who Is This Mighty Angel?

John says in verses 1 and 2, “And I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven … and he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land.”

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The first issue to resolve is the identity of the “mighty angel” in verse one. Many commentators say it is vision of Jesus Christ returning to earth. Their reason is the similar description of Jesus in chapter one (e.g., the rainbow on His head, His face like the sun, His feet like pillars of fire). But this claim is both wrong and dangerous. The danger is seen in what Jehovah’s Witnesses do with this verse. They use it as one of their proof texts for denying the Lordship of Christ. They say this “mighty angel” is Michael the archangel who is, in fact, Jesus Christ. In other words, Jesus Christ is not Lord; he is a creature—one of God’s archangels. Given this distortion, we should be careful about identifying this angel as Jesus Christ. Two facts make such an identification impossible.

First, the meaning of the word “another.” John literally describes this angel as “another angel, a mighty one.” The Greek word is allos, which means “another angel of the same kind.” But that isn’t the word John would have used if he were describing Jesus. He would have used the word heteron, which means “another of a different kind.” For the Scripture indicates that Jesus Christ is uniquely different from every other being who has ever existed. For example, Hebrews 1:4-6 says that He is “better than the angels,” and that all the angels are commanded to worship Him. Furthermore, John 3:16 calls Jesus “the only begotten Son of God. That phrase means “one of a kind,” indicating that there will never be another one like Him.

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Second, the timing of the Second Coming. According to Zechariah 14:4, Jesus will “touch down” on the earth in much the same manner as this angel. But the question is: When will He do so? This angel stands on the earth just prior to the blowing of the seventh trumpet, whereas Jesus Christ will return to earth at the end of the Tribulation (Rev. 19:11-14), at which point the Mount of Olives will split in half, creating a new valley and freshwater source, and Christ’s kingdom will begin. Furthermore, when Jesus returns to earth, it won’t be as an angel but with angels surrounding Him like the clouds of heaven. (See Matt. 25:31.)

Who, then, is this “mighty angel?” It is possibly the archangel Michael who is not Jesus Christ, but one of the “mighty angels” of God. Daniel describes him as “the great prince who stands guard over” the people of Israel. (Dan. 12:1) John later describes him casting the devil and his angels out of heaven.

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But here he simply forewarns the Antichrist and his followers that Christ is about to repossess the earth for man. The place where he stands is also significant—“his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land.” In ancient times, the purchaser of a piece of property would show his ownership by putting one foot on what he already owned and the other foot on what he was acquiring. In other words, he is symbolizing God’s sovereignty—that the kingdoms of this world (including both the land and the sea) are about to become the “kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.” (Rev. 11:15)

2. What Does The Angel Look Like?

John continues, “And I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire.” (Rev. 10:1)

Picture5If this is not Jesus, but simply an archangel, then why does he look so much like Jesus? The simplest answer is usually the best. He is ministering in the power and authority of Christ. For example, Jude 1:9 says that when contending with the devil about the body of Moses, Michael did not dare to bring a reviling judgment against him, but simply said, “The Lord rebuke you.” He stood in the Lord’s power and authority. Here that power takes on a visible appearance. That shouldn’t surprise us, for it’s not the first example of its kind. Exodus 34 says whenever Moses entered into God’s presence, his face shone with God’s glory, so he had to veil his face so as not to startle the people. Likewise, the same can be true of us. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “But we all, with unveiled faces, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

Is this happening to you? Are you taking on more and more of the likeness of Jesus Christ? Nathaniel Hawthorne pictured what can happen in his story, “The Great Stone Face.” Once upon a time, there was a kingdom ruled so perfectly than when their great monarch died, the people determined that they would never have another king until they could find a man just like former ruler. Then, to keep his memory alive, they carved a great profile of their king on the side of a cliff. Beneath that cliff lived a little boy named Ernest. His mother assured him that one day another great man like king would come to rule their kingdom. But as the years passed and searches were made, no one like him was found. Then, one day, one of the king’s counselors stopped at the humble cottage at the base of the cliff and listened to a young man named Ernest deliver a discourse to his neighbors. Suddenly, in that young man’s face he saw the likeness of the king! How did the change take place? By meditating upon that great image day by day, as he plowed his field and cult his wood, the little boy grew to be like him, not only in the way he looked, but also in the way he thought and talked.

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This, the Bible says, is our goal as well—to be transformed into our King’s likeness by meditating upon His greatness.

3. What Is In The Angel’s Hand?

Revelation 10:2 says, “And he had a little book open in his hand.” This is the second interpretative question we need to solve. What is this little book in the hand of the angel? Some say it’s a new book that John is about to be given. But a better explanation is that it’s the same scroll we’ve been reading for the last three chapters. However, now that all but one of the seals has been opened, the scroll is described as a “little book open” in the hand of the angel. It is “little” compared to when we first read about the scroll in Revelation 5. Having read and released its judgments, all that remains of it now is the title deed to the earth, which gives Jesus the authority to reclaim and redeem the world for mankind.

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4. What Warning Is Given to John?

Revelation 10:3-4 continues, “and (he) cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars. And when he cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices. Now when the seven thunders uttered their voice, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered and do not write them.’”

Notice two important facts here. First, the roaring of the angel. This is a symbol of God’s power and authority. Several Old Testament passages (Isa. 31:4-5; Hos. 5:14; 11:10; Amos 3:8) use it as a metaphor of His coming in glory. Whereas Satan often roars like a lion to frighten his prey (1 Pet. 5:8), this roaring is a declaration of victory. Standing in the authority of Christ, Michael lets loose with a mighty roar notifying the earth that the King is about to appear.

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The second fact is the sounding of the seven thunders. Why was John forbidden to write what they said? Because there are some things about the future that God wants to keep secret. This should be a warning to those who seek “new revelations” today. The truth is everything we need for “life and godliness” has been revealed to us in the Bible. (2 Pet. 1:3; 2 Tim. 3:16-17) Hebrews 1:1-2 further emphasizes that no “new revelations” will be given beyond what has been revealed through the prophets and apostles about God’s Son. He is God’s final word to mankind. In fact, the book of Revelation issues a strict warning on its final page. “If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book.” (Rev. 22:18)

So be careful about anyone who claims to be receiving “new revelations” from God! The Book of Mormon, the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, tracts left at your door by the Watchtower Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses), and the teachings of Rev. Moon are not new information from God. They are deceptions from the devil designed to confuse your mind and lead you away from the one true Christ.

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JOHN HEARS GOOD NEWS FROM THE ANGEL

In verses 5 to 7, the angel announces the most important and welcome news the world has ever heard. Its significance is seen in two ways:

1. By the Oath Taken

Revelation 10:5 continues, “And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land lifted up his hand to heaven and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it.”

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The scene is that of a courtroom. The angel lifts his hand in a solemn oath that what he’s about to say is “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” This should not surprise us. When God first made His promise to Abraham, He took a similar oath. (See Hebrews 6:10.) It’s not that God’s Word was ever in doubt; it’s that you and I are people who are given to doubt. Therefore, to help us trust Him, God puts His messenger on the witness stand, reassuring us that every word we are about to read is faithful and true.

Isn’t that interesting? American presidents will not testify in court during their terms of office because they feel it could be a threat to the independence of the presidency. Consequently, no president in modern history has appeared in court. Even Gerald Ford would not appear in court to testify against his would-be assassin. Instead, he appeared by videotape. But Christ has no such misgivings. The promise which is about to be given is so wonderful that He doesn’t want us to miss a bit of its blessing. He is so patient with our doubts that He orders His messenger to take a solemn oath, swearing to its utter veracity.

2. By the Promise Given

Revelation 10:6 adds, “… that there should be delay no longer, but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets.

The promise at the end of verse 6 is highly significant. The angel swears there shall “be delay no longer.” To what does this refer? He’s promising that the Tribulation is about to end and the long-awaited Kingdom is about to be set up. This is another evidence for the position I’ve taken earlier—that chapter 11 marks the end of the Tribulation and the beginning of the Kingdom. For notice, what does John say will happen when the seventh angel has sounded? “The mystery of God will be finished.” Or as Revelation 11:15 announces, “The kingdoms of the world have become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.”

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You see, down through the centuries, unbelievers have scoffed at the idea of the Second Coming, especially in this scientific age. Corrie Ten Boom told about a heckler who interrupted one of her meetings. He laughed, “Don’t tell me you believe that Jesus Christ is coming back to earth again! Fools have been predicting that forever!” “Yes,” she said. “In fact, I’m more certain of it now than ever. Your very words convince me that His coming is very near.” “What do you mean?” the heckler asked. “Well,” Corrie explained, “you’ve just fulfilled Peter’s prophecy. ‘Knowing this first, that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”’ So, you see, these must be the last days! Because you’re the very kind of person Peter was talking about.” Gulp!

Christians, on the other hand, believe this promise with all their hearts. And yet, even we wonder, “Lord, why so long?” That, you’ll remember, was the cry of the Tribulation martyrs in Revelation 6:10, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?” Now the Lord answers both questions with a resounding, “No longer! There will be delay no longer. They mystery of God will be finished.” To what does the “mystery of God” refer? The word means “a sacred secret” which has been hidden to the world, but has now been made known to the people of God. The specific mystery to which John is referring is the age-old problem of evil. Why does God allow the wicked to prosper and the righteous to suffer? Just as in Job’s case, the answer to “why” is not given, but the final solution is. All sin and sorrow will now be put to an end by the return of the King of Kings!

Consider your situation for a moment. Have you allowed the disappointments of life rob you of your joy? Then arrest that joy-stealer by remembering the coming of Christ. Titus 2:13 counsels us, “Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Why is that helpful? Because when He comes, all tears will be wiped away.

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Oft-times the day seems long, our trials hard to bear, we’re temped to complain, to murmur and despair; but Christ will soon appear to catch His Bride away, all tears forever over in God’s eternal day.

It will be worth it all when we see Jesus, life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ; one glimpse of His dear face all sorrows will erase; so bravely run the race till we see Christ.

JOHN IS GIVEN BITTERSWEET INSTRUCTIONS

Chapter 10 closes with two bittersweet instructions to the Apostle John. First, he is told to eat the little scroll which remains in the angel’s hand. Second, he is told to prophesy again about several key topics and characters that are to be involved in the Tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ.

1. John’s Bittersweet Reaction

Revelation 10:8-10 continues, “ Then the voice which I heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, ‘Go, take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the earth.’ And I went to the angel and said to him, ‘Give me the little book.’ And he said to me, ‘Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.’ And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth. But I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter.”

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The eating of the scroll is important because it pictures God’s attitude toward judgment. In Ezekiel 33:11, the Lord says, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” 2 Peter 3:9 adds, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing for any to perish but that all should come to repentance.” Here in verse 10 that attitude become visible as John eats the “little book.” At first, its news is “as sweet as honey” in John’s mouth, because he realizes that now the righteous will finally be avenged! But as he swallows it, it upsets his stomach realizing that though it means joy for him and God’s people, it also means death and damnation for millions of others.

Let that be your sentiment as you look forward to the Lord’s coming. Be excited about the blessings you and God’s people are about to inherit. But don’t be in a hurry for judgment to fall. Remember, there are multitudes who are to perish without Christ, multitudes who need your prayers. Will you do that for them? More than that, will you make a conscious effort to tell them about Christ’s love? The choice is up to you. Who will be the model for your life? Will it be John? Or will it be Jonah, who longed for God’s judgment to fall.

2. John’s Bittersweet Responsibility

Finally, Revelation 10:11 is a commandment to John, “And he said to me, ‘You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.’” This is the most important verse for understanding the rest of the Revelation. As I’ve said before, chapter 11 marks the end of the Tribulation. As soon as the seventh trumpet sounds, “the kingdoms of the world become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.” (Rev. 11:15) You ask, “Then where do the rest of the chapters of Revelation fit in the chronology of events? Verse 11 is the clue. It reveals that following the seventh trumpet, John is to prophesy a second time.

 

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You’ll remember back in Revelation 1:19 John was instructed to “write the things which you have seen (his vision of the Glorified Christ in chapter 1), and the things which are (the letters to the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3), and the things which will take place after this” (the events of the Tribulation found in chapters 4 through 11.) However, before he can finish the first prophecy, a second assignment is given to him. In Revelation 10:11, he is commanded to “prophecy again about many peoples, tongues, nations, and kings.”

Don’t miss this point! The details in chapters 12 to 19 are not events that follow chapter 11 chronologically. Instead, they are topical studies about key figures and events that will occur during the Tribulation which was just described. John is approaching his work like an artist preparing a canvas. Having sketched the general outline, he is now ready to go back and color in all the details. And again, the reason it upsets him is because of the horror of judgment to come.

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Judgment is always a blessing and a tragedy. For those who love Jesus, it’s a blessing, because of the deliverance it brings us. The Bible tells us that the planet itself will breathe a sigh of relief at Jesus’ return. (See Rom. 8:19-22.) But it won’t be a blessing to everyone. This chapter reminds us that for those left behind at the Rapture, it will be a tragedy of eternal proportions.

The News Tribune printed such a real-life horror story. It described the events following midnight exercises in the Mojave Desert. The men were anxious to get back to base. To remain in the scorching heat ((1200)) and dehydrating humidity (4%) not only meant misery, but certain death for anyone left behind.

080306-M-8774P-051 U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Mendoza, of Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, leads fellow Marines during a live-fire village raid exercise on Range 210 at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twenty-nine Palms, Calif., on March 6, 2008. Marines with the unit are participating in Mojave Viper, the Marine Corps’ premiere pre-deployment desert training. DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Chad J. Pulliam, U.S. Marine Corps. (Released)

DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Chad J. Pulliam, U.S. Marine Corps. (Released)

So the trucks began to roll, carrying thousands of Marines back to the safety of Twentynine Palms Base. Everyone except Marine Lance Corporal, Jason J. Rother. He’d been assigned to direct traffic in the dark. Before the final truck pulled out, he was to be picked up and carried back to the base with the rest of the men. But signals got crossed. No one remembered Rother until it was too late. The Marine in charge of arms reported that his rifle was missing, but the officers assumed that he was AWOL. In fact, it wasn’t until two days later that they decided to return to the desert and search for him.

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Imagine the terror that gripped Rother’s heart as he watched that last truck disappear from sight? As the hours passed, he must have wondered, “What do I do now? Do I stay here and hope they come back for me? Or do I start walking while the night air is still cool?” No knows for sure how long he sat and waited and prayed, but finally he began to hike toward the highway 18 miles away. He made it 17 miles. Then overcome by the heat, he laid down and died.

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What a needless tragedy! What a horrifying way to die! That’s a small picture of the eternally greater tragedy that’s about to befall many unbelievers you know. Christ is about to call His troops home, and when He does, a time of suffering will begin the likes of which no one has ever seen. But you can do something to make the bitter news a sweeter. You can begin to pray for one of the unbelievers in your life, that God will use you to lead them out of danger to safety in Christ. Remember, wherever there’s a spiritual winner, anticipating the thrill of victory, there’s a spiritual loser suffering the agony of defeat. So act now while there is still time. It’s the only thing that makes sense in light of His grace and love.

(To download the written message, click on this link – WRITTEN MESSAGE.)