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Revelation (scene 4 of 7)

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Scene 4 of 7:  “A pause/interlude for seven messages.”(chapters 10-14)  As noted at the end of the last post, scene 4 chapters 10-14, provides the background information necessary to understand the Great Tribulation and God’s judgments.  John, like us, needs to be introduced to a few of the key participants in this great drama.  I find it useful to break these four chapters down into seven messages.  

Pause 1 (chapter 10, angel with a little scroll):  In chapter 10 John receives a message from a mighty angel with a little scroll.  John notes that the message of this angel is in the form of Seven Thunders.  However, John is not allowed to record the message of the seven thunders.  But, as John notes in verse 7, “in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound the seventh trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to His servants the prophets.”  Thus we know that something very important about God will be revealed at the time of the seventh trumpet.  We also know that aspects of these revelations can be found in the books of Daniel, Ezekiel, and the other prophets.

The message is not yet complete.  In verse 8-10 John is directed to receive the little scroll book from the angel and to eat it.  As John complies, the book tastes sweet – the knowledge of God is always sweet.  However, once eaten, the knowledge found in the book makes John’s stomach sour.  The angel makes this message clear in verse 11.  Is spite of the fact that what you are about to see is quite bitter, you must continue to experience the visions and record the prophecies that you will receive.  This prophecy MUST be reported to many peoples, nations, languages, and kings.

Pause 2 (chapter 11, two witnesses):  In chapter 11 we are introduced to two witnesses who will prophesy for 1,260 days (3.5 years).  These two men are described figurative as: olive trees and lampstands.  Many think this is a reference to Moses and Elijah, others lean toward Enoch and Elijah.  The symbolism of olives trees signifies a connection to Israel, while the lampstands denote them as leaders of the church.  These two leaders have great authority and power from God, similar to the power that Moses experienced in the Old Testament. 

After 42 months these two great witnesses are killed, left in the street for three days, and then resurrected to heaven.   The comparison between this message and the crucifixion of Jesus cannot be missed.  Many humans will gloat at the defeat of these two great witnesses.  From verse 14 we can conclude that these witnesses are active on earth prior to the time of the sixth Trumpet (second woe).  From verse 15 we can conclude that they are called to heaven prior to the sounding of the seventh trumpet.   In heaven, the second woe (the great battle) has ended.  In heaven, the seventh trumpet has just sounded!  But John needs to learn a bit more before he returns to earth and sees the results of the seventh trumpet…

Pause 3 (chapter 12, the woman and the dragon):  Chapter 12 is introduced as a great sign in heaven.  This great sign seems to take place in the ancient past.  As we read this chapter it is clear that John is providing a summary of the fall of satan, and the fact that one third of the angels fell with Satan.  Secondly, we are provided a summary of the birth of Jesus from the tribe of Israel.  And thirdly, a record of satan’s attempt to wage war on the Child - and later on humanity.  It was important for John (and us!) to understand that the bitterness of the coming judgment is a necessary part of His plan.  It is the plan from ancient times.

Others, including MacArthur, see a bit more detail encoded in chapter 12.  From verses 13-17 MacArthur believes that we are provided with satan’s three-phase battle plan.  Phase one (verses 13-14) happens early in the tribulation as satan attacks Israel.  During phase two (verses 15-16), satan expands his battle to include those allied with Israel.  And finally, in the final phase (verse 17) satan expands his battle to include the Church.  

Another theory is held by some.  They see the Vision of chapter 12 as a reference to constellations.  Using software that can display the stars (constellations) through time from any location on earth, they find interesting arrangements.  If they assume that the constellation virgo is the "women" referred to in chapter 12, they are able to find the twelve stars on her head at various dates.  Many dates have been proposed, the latest of which is September 23, 2017.

Pause 4 (chapter 13, the ANTI-Trinity is introduced):  Chapter 13 is simply fascinating.  We are introduced to the ANTI-Trinity:  The dragon (anti-God), The beast (anti-Christ), and The false prophet (anti-Spirit).  John first mentions the beast (anti-Christ) in chapter 11; it is this same beast that kills the two Godly witnesses.  In John’s vision he notes the dragon (satan) standing on the shore of the sea.  He immediately adds that he “saw a beast coming out of the sea.”  The beast rises up as Satan looks on, still thinking that he is the rightful owner of the earth.  John continues his description of the beast:  “It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name.  The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion.” 

A very similar vision of a beast is recorded by Daniel (Daniel 7).  From Daniel, we learn that the lion described Babylon, the Bear was described the Medes/Persians, and the Leopard represented Greece.  A forth great beast with iron teeth was the Roman empire.  From Daniel we also learn that horns represent kings or kingdoms, specifically ten horns represent ten kingdoms.  John’s beast resembled a leopard (Greece), but had feet like a bear (Medes/Persians), and a mouth like a lion (Babylon).  John also described this beast as having ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns.  I think it is clear that the anti-Christ (the beast coming from out of the sea) is a leader with characteristics of Greece, Persia, and Babylon.  The ten horns is likely symbolic of ten nations (governments) that we join forces with the government of the beast/anti-Christ. 

What is unclear is the nature of the characteristics of Greece, Persia, and Babylon that we ought to focus upon.  Are they geographic, political, cultural, or physical?  What are we to make of the ten kings (horns), seven head, and ten crowns associated with (or aligned with) the beast?  The answers to such questions will become clear at the time of the seventh trumpet!

Let us turn know to the second beast (verse 11), coming out of the earth.  John describes this beast as having two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon.  Though softer in appearance, this second beast is more deceptive.  Not only does this beast speak for satan, but he/it is empowered by satan to do signs (miracles), even breathing life into an image of the first beast.  This beast orders everyone to worship the first beast (anti-Christ) and kills those who do not comply.       

In verses 16-18 we learn about the mark of the beast, 666.  John provides us with a few facts about this 666 mark:  First, people will be forced to receive this mark on their hand or forehead.  Those that do not have the mark will be unable to buy or sell.  Secondly, this 666 mark is the number of a man involving a calculation.  John further notes that it will take wisdom and insight to determine the calculation.  Many assume that the number, this 666 will be tattooed on people.  While that is possible, I don’t think that is the true message.  Earlier John made reference to the mark of God.  The mark of God is not a physical mark on the exterior of the body but rather a mark on the soul.  I think Satan will attempt to mimic this type of mark.  I think the mark of the beast is far more insidious than a 666 tatooed on one’s arm.  In recent times thoughts have turned to implantable chips.  The specifics of this number will become clearer as we approach the seventh Trumpet.  Whatever the calculation or the form of this mark, we are to be prepared and be not deceived.

Pause 5 (chapter 14:1-7, Jesus and the 144,000):  In the first part of chapter 14, verses 1-7, we meet up again with the 144,000 that we were introduced to in chapter 7.  This time they stand with Jesus on mount Zion.  It is important to remember that this group is marked/sealed by God.  It is because of this passage immediately following the comments on the mark of the beast that I believe satan will attempt to mimic the type of mark/seal of God.  We do not know the precise timing of this announcement but we do know that Jesus is standing alongside the 144,000 in Zion – Jerusalem.  Therefore, I believe that this will occur near the end of the Tribulation.  Since these 144,000 began their work in chapter 7, it seems logical to assume that they have completed their work in this passage.

Pause 6 (chapter 14:8-13, Messages from three angels:  In verses 8-13 of chapter 14 we are introduced to three angels with three messages.  The first angel declares the eternal Gospel.  The second angel states that, “Babylon the Great has Fallen (v8).  The message of the third angel is, “Do not worship the beast or take its mark.”  The three messages of these angels, along with the placement in the text of this message, lead me to the understanding that this is near the end of the Tribulation.

Pause 7 (chapter 14:14-20, The Harvest of the earth):  The seventh and final “pause” can be found in the last seven verses of chapter 14.  Here we learn of the two-part harvest of the earth.  In the first phase, the Son of Man “harvests” those who are made righteous by faith.  They are referred to figuratively as wheat.  In the second phase, a angel gathers those who remain.  They are referred to figuratively as grapes.  They are placed in the winepress of God’s wrath.  As with the above announcements within chapter 14, this one most certainly takes place at the end of the Tribulation.

After completed the seven passages and recording the announcements provided, John is prepared to finish his Visions of God’s Judgment!     

Revelation (scene 3 of 7)

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Scene 3 of 7:   “God’s wrath, seven trumpets.”  (chapter 7-9):  As we begin scene three of Revelation, the focus is shifting from heaven to the earth.  Chapter seven is a parenthetical section where John (and us!) are provided some background information before the action continues.  This vision begins with four angels. 

John notes that these four angels are holding back the fury of God’s wrath, and it is clear that this pause will not last long.  Before Jesus opens the seventh seal, God needs to put HIS seal upon the foreheads of 144,000 servants of God (verse 4).  John takes the time to record the identity of these people in verses 5-8.  There is no need to view this symbolically, this group of "sealed servants" are from the twelve tribes of Israel. 

In verse nine we are introduced to another great multitude, including people from every nation, tribe, people, and language.  In verse 14 we learn that, “these are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

Having identified these two large groups of people in heaven, we return to the action on earth in chapter 8.  Now it is time for the seventh seal to be removed.  Now it is time for the scroll book to be opened.  Now it is time for God to act directly.  In the first few verses of chapter 8 the angels in heaven prepare for what is to come.  Most notably, the prayers of God’s people (incense) rise up before the throne of God.   In Revelation verse 6 the removal of the seventh seal allows the book to be opened AND unleashes the seven trumpets of God’s wrath.  We will consider each of the trumpets individually:   

Trumpet 1 (verse 7, land):  When the first trumpet is sounded, hail and fire, mixed with blood is hurled on the earth.  A third of the earth is burned, a third of the trees are burned, and all of the green grass is burned up.  Some theorize that this hail, fire, and blood is the result of the activity of the angel in verse five.  Others consider this a reference to earthquakes or volcanic activity.  Still others hypothesize solar flares or asteroids.  What we do know is that in a short span of time, one-third of the earth will be burned including the majority of plant life.  Consider the impact that this will have on the remaining human population!     

Trumpet 2 (verse 8, sea):  At the blast of the second trumpet, something like a huge mountain is thrown into the sea and a third of the sea is turned to blood.  A third of the sea creatures die and a third of the sea going ships are destroyed.  Many speculate that this is a reference to a large meteorite striking an ocean.  If this is the cause, those remaining on the earth will suffer from massive disruption in weather patterns, commerce, and transportation.

Trumpet 3 (verse 10, water):  As the third trumpet is sounded, a great blazing star caused one third of the fresh water on the earth to become bitter.  The name of this star is Wormwood.  Wormwood is a bitter tasting and poisonous plant.  It is possible that the earth could intersect with the tail of a comet.  If comprised of some noxious material the fallout from a comet could cause devastation to much of the earth's freshwater.  The connection to Wormwood will be clear at the time of the third trumpet.

Trumpet 4 (verse 12, the heavens):  The fourth trumpet results in a third of the sun, moon, and stars to be darkened.   Some speculate that this is a reference to a (strange) type of eclipse.  Others hypothesize that this is caused by particulate matter in the atmosphere, perhaps the result of the first three Trumpets.  What is clear is that most heavenly bodies will be dimmed significantly as viewed from the earth.   As the earth reels from the devastation of the first four Trumpets, an angel declares, “woe, woe, woe.”  This is because the next three Trumpets focus directly on humanity.  In addition, rather than physical calamities these upcoming three woes include an evil, spiritual component that will be devastating.

Trumpet 5 (verse 9:1-11, evil tormenting locust):  The fifth Trumpet, the first woe, unleashes hordes of demonic locusts.  These locust-like creatures are controlled by Satan and have the power to torment those not sealed by God.   John uses a couple of symbolic descriptors which will be quite clear to those experiencing the fifth Trumpet.  These locust-like creatures have the ability to painfully sting humans as does a scorpion.  Another very locust-like quality is that these creatures only act for five months.  However, five months will seem like an eternity, people will seek death rather than the torture of these demon-creatures.

But we know these creatures are not typical locusts because they do not consume plants.  Beginning in verse 7 John provides addition detail about these locust-creatures:  “... looked like horses prepared for battle.  On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces.  Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth.  They had breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses…”  Many have speculated on what John is witnessing here and I’m not sure that is wise to do.  As Satan controlled beings they will be deceptive.  They will have a physical nature but more importantly, they have spiritual nature controlled by Satan (verse 11). 

One final note:  Since John specifically mentions that these creatures are only allowed to torment those not sealed by God, we can assume that some of God’s people are on the earth during this period. 

Trumpet 6 (verse  9:13-21, a great battle):  The second woe is released as the sixth Trumpet sounds.  A voice from heaven declares, “Release the four angels who are bound at the river Euphrates.”  As an aside, the Euphrates originates in Turkey, flows through Syria and Iraq, before terminating in the Persian Gulf.  John notes that these four angels have been “kept for this very hour and day and month and year…”  This is a very specific, very exact time.  John continues by declaring that these four “angels” will be responsible for leading a battle that will kill one-third of humanity (billions of people).   In verse 16 John is given another very specific number, 200,000,000.  This is the number of battle-ready infantry troops following the lead of the four “angels.”

Beginning in verse 17 John provides a description of this infantry of 200-million.  Keep in mind that John is using first-century language to symbolically describe future events.   “Their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulfur.  The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and sulfur.  A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths.  The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails;  for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury.”    

Some have speculated that this represents tanks, and others nuclear missiles.  I do not think it wise to speculate too specifically;  it will be very clear at the appointed time.  We should note the elements mentioned by John:  red, blue, and yellow.  Fire, smoke, and sulfur.  Power from the mouth (front) and from the tail (rear).  Most importantly, that billions of people will be killed by the triple plagues of fire, smoke, and sulfur that came out of the mouths of these warriors. 

In spite of the fact that billions of people will be killed in this battle, there are still many humans on the earth.  Even after learning about this terrible battle, those remaining continue to sin, continue in idolatry, and continue to ignore God. 

Note:  At this point we come to an interlude, similar to the one that preceded the seventh seal.  Only this break is longer.   Maybe John needed a moment.  In any case, the next few chapters differ substantially from what we have just read.  I am convinced that John (and us) needed some background information to understand the details of the upcoming tribulation.

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