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!