Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 26, The Third Horseman Of The Apocalypse

In today's study the Lord opens the third seal and the third horseman rides out.

"When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, 'Come!' I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in its hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, 'Two pounds of wheat for a day's wages, and six pounds of barley for a day's wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!'" (Revelation 6:5-6)

The rider on the black horse brings famine. Famine often follows war and, as we learned yesterday, the red horseman brought war with him. The peace the rider of the white horse promised was nothing but an illusion. The people of earth have endured war and are now faced with something as deadly as war: hunger.

The prices the voice quotes are heavily inflated. It will take all that most people earn each day just to put food on the table. Similar situations have followed wars mentioned in the Scriptures. For example, after Jerusalem fell to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, those who were not killed in the battle or who were not taken captive to Babylon were barely surviving. Their circumstances were so dire that the prophet Jeremiah said they'd be better off dead, "Those killed by the sword are better off than those who die of famine; racked with hunger, they waste away for lack of food from the field." (Lamentations 4:9) Another Biblical example of severe famine is when Samaria, the capital of Israel after the ten northern tribes split from the two southern tribes, was besieged by the king of Aram. The people trapped inside the city were so hungry that they resorted to cannibalizing their dead, and we are told that food prices were so heavily inflated that "a donkey's head sold for eighty shekels of silver, and a quarter of a cab of seed pods for five shekels". (2 Kings 6:25)

The rich will not suffer during the famine of the Great Tribulation to the extent that the middle and lower class will suffer. The voice speaks of not damaging the oil and the wine. These represent luxuries, and luxuries will still be available for those who can pay the price. But eventually even the wealthy will not be able to buy or sell anything under the rule of the Antichrist unless they are willing to submit to him and receive his mark on their right hands or on their foreheads. We will study this in more detail when we reach Chapter 13 but will briefly speak today about the cashless society that's going to come about during the Great Tribulation.

We are already moving toward a cashless society. All manner of ideas are coming out of the woodwork for paying for goods and services without using cash, checks, or credit cards. Plus, identity theft is an ever-growing concern, so banks and medical facilities are continually having to upgrade the security measures in their computer systems in an effort to prevent the theft of funds and private information. The perfect setup is already in place for the Antichrist to move the world to a cashless society and to promise to protect our money and our private information at the same time. I believe he will do this by requiring the citizens of earth to be implanted with a microchip.

We have this technology now. For many years we've been implanting microchips in our pets in case they are lost or stolen. It has even been suggested by some law enforcement agencies that it might be a good idea to start implanting babies and toddlers with microchips in case they go missing or are kidnapped. Such perilous times will come upon the world in the last days that implanting children with microchips may seem like a logical safety precaution. With inflation rising to such unprecedented heights, unscrupulous people might be tempted to kidnap a child for ransom.

Because it will be so difficult to purchase basic necessities in the last days, thieves will have to constantly come up with newer and better ways to hack into people's bank accounts or to steal their identities to obtain credit. It's not much of a stretch for us to imagine the Antichrist presenting the world with a microchip that is able to protect the financial information of every citizen. This information will be stored, not in some huge database somewhere, but in the person's own body. If that person wants to buy something at the store, he simply allows the cashier to scan his forehead or his right hand.

This technology will work for medical needs as well. If a person has to go to a doctor or hospital, the doctors and nurses can find out his medical history, his current medications, his allergies to any medications, his blood type, and anything else necessary to treat him by simply scanning his forehead or his right hand.

The Antichrist may ask, "How better to protect your financial and medical information than to carry it in your own body at all times?" He might promote this technology by assuring people it will save time when it really counts in an emergency. And while they are at it, why not protect their identity and their money in the same way they're protecting their medical information?

I can almost picture the commercials that will run on TV for this theft-deterring technology. The Antichrist will explain how good it is for everyone. Never again will anyone have to worry about identity theft. People won't have to ever see or touch their money. It will be electronically deposited into their accounts and all they have to do is be scanned at the checkout and the money will be electronically transferred to the store's bank account. Payment for medical services will work the same way. The Antichrist will stress the ease and convenience of this technology. People will start lining up in droves to be implanted with the microchip. At first they will do it because it seems like a practical idea. Later they will do it out of necessity. The cashless economy of the Antichrist will become the only way to obtain any type of goods and services. What better way to control the citizens of the world than to control the money? As his true motives become more and more apparent, people will be presented with only two choices. They can take the chip and continue to have access to money, food, and medical care. Or they can refuse the chip and face the wrath of the devil himself.

I am so thankful that our faithful Bridegroom has promised to take us---the bride who loves Him---out of the world before the Great Tribulation. I wouldn't want to be here when the most wicked man of all time controls the financial system. I wouldn't want to be on the earth when the one whom the Apostle Paul called the "man of sin" (2 Thessalonians 2:3) controls access to basic necessities like food and medicine. We are already seeing conditions in the world becoming right for these things to take place, but thanks be to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, He is going to call us out before the most dreadful days ever known befall the earth. He promised our present church age in Revelation 3:10 that because we have kept hold of Him, He will keep us from the "hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world".

Since we know perilous times are coming, what should we---the church---be doing before Christ calls us out of the world? We should be fulfilling the great commission, which is to share the gospel with as many people as possible. (Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15, Acts 1:7-8) We should live our lives in such a way that unbelievers see the love of Christ in us so that they will want to know Him for themselves. We should testify to the goodness of Christ and tell others how He has changed our lives. Time is short and it's growing shorter each day. We don't know how much longer we have to be the "light of the world". (Matthew 5:14-16) While we are here, let's shine as brightly as we can.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 25, The Second Horseman Of The Apocalypse

The Lord opens the second seal on the scroll and the second horseman rides forth.

"When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, 'Come!' Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword." (Revelation 6:3-4) Yesterday we saw the Antichrist riding the first horse, the white horse. He pretended to have pure motives and to come in peace, but the rider on the red horse reveals the true plan of the Antichrist. It is to bring war and death, not peace. Though the Antichrist will engineer a temporary peace treaty in the Middle East, it is for the purpose of gaining the admiration of the nations, and once these nations are under his thumb he will violate the treaty himself. The rider on the red horse who brings war and death provides further proof that the rider on the white horse in yesterday's passage cannot be Christ, as some scholars of past centuries have proposed. When Christ brings peace to the world, it will last forever.

The rider on the red horse has a sword and he intends to use it. He will be given permission, for a time, to use it. His power is "given"; he does not take it or earn it. If the Lord didn't grant this rider permission to bring war to the earth for a season, he could do nothing on his own.

Later in Revelation we will see how the nations will hand their power over to the Antichrist. Dr. Tim LaHaye, in his book Revelation Unveiled, says it will be too late once they realize they have made a mistake. "Obviously, in the Antichrist's takeover of the world, some dissatisfied nations will have waited too long to make their play to avoid his domination. Yet, rather than remain slaves, they will revolt, thus inaugurating a world war." Too late they will realize that their awesome leader who was able to make peace in the Middle East is the worst deceiver and dictator the world has ever known. They will see that they have allied themselves with the most evil man on the face of the earth. They may not realize that this leader is literally possessed by Satan himself, but they will know they have been duped. The wicked rulers of all the ages past will be nothing compared to him.

While we are on the subject of evil rulers, I want to stop here and point out something quite interesting, and it's something that proves to us that Satan is not omniscient like God. The devil is aware, naturally, of many of God's plans, since Satan is an angel (though now fallen) who was created by God and who was once privy to many of the things God did and said regarding His plans for mankind and for the entire creation. In addition to this, the devil is able to read and he knows the Scriptures; he even dared to quote the Scriptures to the Lord Jesus in the wilderness. But Satan doesn't know when the end times will begin. He doesn't know the day when the Lord will call the church out of the world and he doesn't know when his chance will come to deceive the world on a scale never before possible. This means that, in every era, he has had to have a man prepared who could become the Antichrist.

For example, if the 1940s had been the time prepared by God to usher in the Great Tribulation, then most likely Adolf Hitler would have been the Antichrist. Hitler and a number of the other top ranking Nazis were obsessed with the occult, and it has always been my opinion that these men may actually have been demon possessed. I am not sure how else to explain the atrocities that these men perpetrated. I can easily imagine Adolf Hitler and his henchmen being willing to "sell their souls to the devil", so to speak, for the victory they sought. If the Great Tribulation had been scheduled to begin in some other era, then some other leader with a wicked heart was probably picked out by Satan to become his man on earth. In ancient times, it might have been a madman such as Nero or Herod the Great or Antiochus Epiphanes. In in our own lifetime, we've witnessed the evil deeds of men like Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, and if the Great Tribulation had been scheduled to start while these men were alive, perhaps one of them would have been the Antichrist. I don't know whether the man who will become the Antichrist has been born yet. I lean toward believing he has because I think we are living in the last days leading up to what will be the last days. But his identity has not yet been made evident. He may still be a child or a very young man. Or he may be an adult who is not yet on the political scene. It could be that we who belong to Christ will not know who he is before we are called up to be with Him. Looking around us and speculating whether this or that political figure may become the Antichrist is not a profitable way to spend our time. If we are indeed living in the final days leading up to the rapture of the church, our focus should be on sharing the gospel as much as we can.

The war we will study in Revelation may be a world war or it may be confined to the nation of Israel and those nations who would like to see her gone from the earth. Like many other madmen before him, the Antichrist will harbor an especially rabid hatred toward the Jewish people. He may think that if he can wipe Israel from the earth, he can prevent Christ from coming to assume the promised throne of David from which He will rule the world. The prophet Ezekiel (see Ezekiel 38) foresaw a military action that may be the military action that takes place in Revelation. Ezekiel saw a coalition of nations coming against Israel with a weapon capable of destroying her, but this is a weapon from which the Lord will miraculously save His people Israel. The Lord spoke to Ezekiel in a time when Israel had been conquered and when it looked impossible for her to ever be a nation again. The Lord promised that Israel would once again be a sovereign nation in the world, a promise that came true in 1948. The Lord also said that an enemy from the north, that will ally itself with other enemies of Israel, will invade the land. In Ezekiel 38 where we find this prophecy, names of ancient enemies of Israel are used, but their locations correspond with areas of the world in our day such as Iran, the Sudan, Libya, central and eastern Turkey, and possibly Russia. In our own times we can easily picture an alliance of Iran and Russia. Iran desperately wants nuclear weapons, and the modern leaders of Iran have explicitly said that they would love to wipe Israel from the earth. Russia has been quite sympathetic to Iran, so it's not difficult to picture these two nations banding together and turning on Israel.

The weapon may very well be a nuclear weapon, but if so, the Lord turns it back on Israel's enemies. I like to picture this as a God-caused malfunction of the computer system that guides the nuclear missile, so that it boomerangs back on the nation that sent it out. The Lord says that upon the enemies of Israel He will "pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur". (Ezekiel 38:22) He says the enemies of Israel will fall where they stand when He sends fire on them. (Ezekiel 39:5-6) Whatever this weapon is, it sounds as if it contaminates the area, because we are told it will take seven months to bury the dead and cleanse the land. (Ezekiel 39:12-16)

This prophecy is a prophecy that has not been fulfilled, and we don't know whether this military action will take place before or after the church is removed from the world. The Jewish people have long considered the war in Ezekiel's prophecy to be a military action that takes place right before the Messiah comes to rule the earth. Since the Great Tribulation takes place immediately prior to Christ coming to rule the earth, the battle in Ezekiel may be linked with end time events. We know the church will be called out before the Great Tribulation, but some world events which set the stage for the Great Tribulation may begin while we are still here. Either way, I think it's possible that this battle against Israel could be what paves the way for the Antichrist to assume power. The entire world will be shocked by the use of a nuclear weapon in the Middle East, if indeed this is the type of weapon Ezekiel foresaw. The region may become so destabilized that the world will accept any political leader who can restore order. That's the type of situation the devil can use to put his man in place.

The rider on the red horse is going to bring war. This means that there will be civil unrest, military action, and death on the earth leading up to the great battle of Armageddon. The Antichrist's promise of peace is a lie. The treaty he brokers in the Middle East is a treaty he never intends to enforce. The nations who don't want to submit to the man of sin will have to fight against him and many will die in their efforts to be free of this dictator. Yet, even during those dark times, there are still going to be people who will come to believe in Christ as their Savior. The Lord spoke of the perils coming against those who accept Him in the end times, warning them of the war and unrest on the earth during those days. But He also said, "When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." (Luke 21:27)

What does He mean by this? He means, "I am coming soon." Those who turn to Christ during the Great Tribulation will endure persecution and, in some cases, will even be martyred. They will witness natural disasters on a scale never before seen. They will be surrounded by war and tyranny. But the Lord speaks words of hope to them, "When these things happen, look up, because I'm coming soon." The Great Tribulation is limited to a seven-year span---a short time when compared with how long man has been on earth, and an extremely short time when compared with eternity. Those who come to faith in Christ during the Great Tribulation won't have long to wait until Christ comes to make war with His enemies and with the enemies of His people. They won't have long to wait until they see the righteous One being crowned King of kings. They will be able to take hope in His words.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 24, The First Horseman Of The Apocalypse

We begin Chapter 6 today and in it the Lord Jesus Christ will open the first of the seven seals on the scroll. The opening of the first seal will cause a horseman to ride forth---the first of what are commonly known as "the four horsemen of the apocalypse". The Lord is in charge of the Great Tribulation events. The happenings of the end times are going to take place one by one in an orderly fashion. The inhabitants on earth during those days may feel as if everything is spinning out of control, but at no time does anything happen that is outside of the Lord's will.

John says, "I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, 'Come!' I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest." (Revelation 6:1-2)

Some Bible scholars of the past attempted to to interpret this rider as Christ, but in modern times most scholars and theologians have abandoned this idea. I agree that the rider on the horse is not Christ. For one thing, at this point in Revelation, Christ is standing before the throne holding the scroll in His hands. Throughout the opening of the seven seals He will still be standing in the same place. Later in Revelation, we will see Christ coming to earth riding a white horse, but that will occur at the end of the Great Tribulation. Right now we are still at the very beginning of the things He has told John "are to come".

One reason scholars of old confused the rider on the horse with Christ may be because the horse is white. The color white usually symbolizes purity and holiness. But we must keep in mind that Satan has always tried to imitate Christ. There is a reason why the Lord Jesus referred to Satan as the "father of lies" in John 8:44, and that's because everything that comes from Satan is counterfeit. If Satan can't entice human beings to worship him, then he considers it the next best thing to divert their worship away from the only One who deserves praise.

Most scholars today feel that the rider on the white horse is the Antichrist, and I see no reason to disagree. From the very beginning, war is in his heart, but he tries to give the impression that he seeks peace on the earth. He chooses a white horse to imply that his motives are pure, but in ancient times a horse was what a king would ride into battle. A king coming in peace would ride a donkey. So we see that he pretends to want peace with everyone when what he actually wants is control over everyone.

Another aspect of this rider's appearance is that he carries a bow but no arrows. Several commentators suggest that this means the Antichrist will come to power not by winning a military battle, but by brokering a peace treaty in the Middle East. His ability to do what no other politician has ever done will cause many who were left behind at the rapture of the church to feel that he deserves to rule the nations. A number of United States presidents have tried very hard to convince the enemies of Israel to live at peace alongside her, but every attempt has failed so far. But this man who will come to power in the last days (we know he comes to power because he is "given a crown" in verse 2) will succeed where so many others have failed.

During that time, the nation of Israel will be allowed to rebuild the temple, possibly right beside the Dome of the Rock. In recent years it has been the opinion of some archaeologists that what appears to be the outline of Solomon's temple in satellite images from space indicate that the temple lay slightly to the side of where the Dome of the Rock is situated. The peace treaty brokered by the Antichrist will be designed as a seven-year cease fire, and the Antichrist may present it to the parties involved as a "trial period". He may tell the parties to the treaty that after the seven years are successfully completed, they will be rewarded with various funds or government aid if they will sign a permanent treaty. But all along, the Antichrist intends to break the treaty himself. Once he has the nations under his control, halfway through the seven years he will defile the temple by placing an image of himself in it. At that time, he will have so much authority over the governments of the world that he will be able to issue a decree forbidding the worship of anyone or anything but himself.

The prophet Daniel foresaw the deception of the Antichrist and said of him, "He will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven'. In the middle of the 'seven' He will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him." (Daniel 9:27) When the nation of Israel is allowed to rebuild the temple, her citizens will go back to bringing sacrifices and offerings to the Lord at the temple. But halfway through the seven years, the Antichrist will set up an image of himself in the temple, as we will see him doing later in our study. This is what Daniel calls "the abomination that causes desolation". The people of Israel will not be able to worship the Lord in a temple that has been defiled. They will be unable to purify it for further use, for they will be forbidden to enter it unless they are willing to bow down to the image of the Antichrist.

The Apostle Paul, by revelation from the Holy Spirit, when speaking of the one who will insist on being worshiped as a god, said that he will oppose and exalt himself above every so-called god or object of worship, "so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God". (2 Thessalonians 2:4) The reason it is believed that it will be an image of the Antichrist and not the Antichrist himself who sits in the temple is because, later in Revelation, we find the image being given the ability through Satanic powers to speak, causing many citizens of the world to gasp in awe and to give their allegiance to the one whom the image represents.

Why will so many people of earth be willing to bow their knees to the Antichrist? We have to remember that in those days the church is gone from the world. Their godly influence will not be present. They will not be there to point to the Scriptures and warn the world's citizens that they are being deceived. It will still be possible for people to come to Christ during the Great Tribulation, and a large number actually will repent and trust Christ with the destiny of their eternal souls. But an even larger number will give their allegiance to the wicked world leader. They are easy pickings for Satan, for they have long been in the habit of closing their ears to the pleas of the Holy Spirit to repent and be made right with a holy God. They've long been in the habit of closing their eyes to all the evidence that suggests there is a God and that He is holy and that He will someday judge the world by His standards of holiness.

The rider on the white horse in Revelation 6 is given a crown, but not the royal crown placed on a king's head at his coronation. John uses the Greek word "stephanos", which is a crown of victory given to a conqueror. This symbolizes the temporary authority the Antichrist will have during the last days. Although the Lord Jesus Christ certainly deserves a crown of victory for having conquered death, He would more properly be crowned with a king's crown. In Revelation 19:12 we will see the Lord Jesus Christ crowned as King of kings, and at that time John will say "on His head were many crowns", signifying that He is going to be king over every nation of the earth. John will use the Greek word "diadems" to describe these crowns, and that means they are royal crowns. The Antichrist wears no royal crown because he has no right to wear it. He will wear a conqueror's crown, but only for the brief number of years the Lord allows him to wear it.

Once we get it straight in our minds that the first horseman represents the Antichrist, the three other horsemen will make a great deal of sense to us. After the first horseman rides out promising peace and prosperity for the earth, the other three horsemen ride out bringing war, inflation, famine, and death. Whenever people fall for the lies of Satan, bad things are sure to follow. Those will be the days the prophet Daniel said will be "a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then." (Daniel 12:10 Those will be terrible times for the people of Israel, for the Antichrist will hate the Jewish people more than anyone before him ever did, and he will want them wiped from the earth so that the Lord Jesus Christ---the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the heir to David's throne---will have no twelve tribes of Israel over which He can be the head and will have no throne from which to rule the nations. The prophet Jeremiah foresaw how the Antichrist would persecute the people of Israel, and he said, "How awful that day will be! No other will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it." (Jeremiah 30:7)

The Lord, however, will never break the promises He's made to Israel. During our study of Revelation, all the things the Lord has promised Israel will come to pass and she will at last be granted peace on every side. Ever since the Lord first said a Deliverer was coming from the nation of Israel, Satan has tried to wipe the people of Israel from the earth, but he wasn't able to keep Christ from coming. Since he was unable to prevent the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ, there's nothing left for him to do in his attempt to get back at God than to persecute the people of God. He persecutes Christians in an attempt to get them to renounce Christ or to cause them to fall into such sin that their testimonies have no impact on people who are lost without the Lord. He has persecuted the Jewish people (by using various wicked world leaders) throughout the ages in an attempt to eradicate them from the earth and keep Christ from returning to claim the throne that is rightfully His and to rule the nations from Israel. But Satan's plots are all destined to fail. The Lord who spoke the universe into existence has always been and will always be in control of everything. He will carry out His plans for mankind and for the entire creation. At no time, as we study the Great Tribulation, is the Lord not in charge of everything that takes place. Satan's man---the Antichrist---will think he has the world at his feet, but he is nothing but one small piece on the Lord's chess board, and though he thinks he is in charge of his own destiny, he is merely being moved about by the hand of the One who made all things.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 23, The Lamb Who Was Slain

We finish up Chapter 5 today with a fresh look at the person of the Lord Jesus Christ in His role as the Lamb of God who was slain for us. John's vision of Him in our passage is highly symbolic, just as his vision of Him in Chapter 1 was symbolic. But it's important that we take time to rejoice over our Redeemer today and to take comfort in His presence, for in tomorrow's study He will open the first seal of the scroll. When He does, the first horseman of the apocalypse will ride forth, ushering in the advent of the one called the Antichrist. John and the company of the redeemed in heaven are about to view startling and terrible things on the earth, but before they do, they will give glory to the One in whom they've trusted. They will worship the One who whisked them out of the world before the dark days of the Great Tribulation began.

When we closed yesterday, we spoke about why one of the elders referred to the Lord Jesus Christ as the "Lion of the tribe of Judah" and the "Root of David". These Messianic titles speak of His legal right to rule on the earth. Today we will view Him as the "Lamb", and this gives Him the spiritual right to rule on the earth. Bible scholar and author David Guzik says of John's vision, "Because of the elder's announcement, John expected to see a lion, but saw a lamb instead." I think this is because, to the ones who belong to Him, Christ is as gentle as a lamb. But to those who rebel against Him and blaspheme His name and disobey His precepts for godly living, He is a conquering king.

Keep in mind that everyone who saw Christ after His resurrection saw Him as a man. I think that throughout eternity He will always have the form of a man. But John views Him in Chapter 5 in a form that symbolizes important aspects about His role as the sacrificial Lamb. "Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, encircled by the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of Him who sat on the throne." (Revelation 5:6-7) Tim LaHaye, author of Revelation Unveiled, says, "John sees Him as a sacrificial Lamb, for John sees Him through eyes of faith." When the Lord comes to rule the earth, He will be as majestic and powerful as a lion. We will behold Him in all His glory. But still, because we have been redeemed by Him, a part of us will always think of Him as the Lamb, the One whom Isaiah prophesied would die not for His own sins but for ours: "He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter." (Isaiah 53:7a)

John tells us that the seven eyes on the Lamb represent the seven spirits of God (the Holy Spirit in all His perfection and completeness as He goes into the world and deals with the hearts of mankind). What do the seven horns mean? In the Bible, the word "horn" often signifies power. King David sometimes used the word "horn" when referring to his reign and to his right (given to him by God) to rule Israel. This word was also used as a symbol of victory. Hannah, the mother of Samuel, used the word "horn" when giving praise to God for answering her prayers for a child, saying, "In the Lord my horn is lifted high". So the fact that the Lamb appears with seven horns (seven usually symbolizing perfection and completeness in the Bible) may signify the Lord's power, His right to rule, and His victory. Or this may signify the power and victory we have through Him, and to His promise that we will reign with Him. In addition, these horns remind me of the instructions given in Exodus about building the altar that was to be placed in the sanctuary. It was to have a "horn" on each corner. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest was to anoint each of these horns with the blood of the sacrifice. So the seven horns on the Lamb may represent the perfect and complete atoning sacrifice Christ made for us.

This Lamb is the only One worthy to take the scroll and open its seven seals, so He takes it from the hand of God the Father. Who else could take anything from the Father's hand except the Son? This passage appears to be the fulfillment of the vision given to the prophet Daniel, who saw the Messiah approaching the throne of God and being given "authority, glory, and sovereign power". (See Daniel 7:13-14) When Christ takes the scroll, rejoicing breaks out in heaven. "And when He had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God's people. And they sang a new song, saying: 'You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slain, and with Your blood You purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." (Revelation 5:8-10)

Why does a hallelujah chorus break out at this time? Because God's plans for the earth, for humans, and for the animal kingdom are about to be fulfilled. The Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and for whom all things were created, is about to put an end to all wickedness on the earth. He is going to cast Satan down forever. He is going to take what rightfully belongs to Him, and He is going to reign over the world in righteousness and peace forever.

Now all the angels of heaven add their voices to this thundering praise. "Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: 'Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!'" (Revelation 5:13)

Next something even more remarkable happens. All the other creatures add their voices to the song of praise. This is because the redemption of the created world is about to take place, the redemption it has awaited ever since man fell from grace in the Garden of Eden. "Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: 'To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever!'" (Revelation 5:13) When the Lord Jesus Christ comes to rule over the earth, the creation will be restored to an Eden-like state. This is why the birds in the air, the animals on the land, and the fish in the sea give praise to Him. The Bible tells us that "the creation waits in eager expectation" (Romans 8:19) for Christ to reign on the earth along with the redeemed who will be in immortal bodies like His. The creation eagerly awaits that day because "the creation itself will be liberated from bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and the glory of the children of God". (Romans 8:21)

At the conclusion of a worship service that will eclipse every worship service we've ever seen on earth, "The four living creatures said, 'Amen', and the elders fell down and worshiped." (Revelation 5:14) The four living creatures say, "Amen," which means, "So be it." In saying, "So be it," these creatures are saying, "Let the plan of Almighty God for His entire creation come to its glorious conclusion."

Amen! So be it! Join us tomorrow when the Lord Jesus Christ opens the first seal on the scroll and sets in motion the final seven years of time as the world knows it---the final seven years before He comes to earth as King of kings and Lord of lords and makes all things new.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 22, The Lion Of The Tribe Of Judah Is Worthy To Open The Scroll

When we concluded Thursday's study, John told us that the One seated on the throne held a scroll with seven seals in His right hand. Only One will be able to open the scroll.

"And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, 'Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?' But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside." (Revelation 5:2-4) John is heartbroken. He desperately wants to know what's inside the scroll. If I had been in John's shoes I would have wept too. What a sad development this must have been.

The search for someone worthy to open the scroll is, I think, done only for John's benefit and for our benefit. Everyone in heaven knows there is someone worthy to open the scroll. They know His identity. But the search is made so we will understand that the only one who can open it is the One for whom it was always intended: God the Son, the heir of all things, the One by whom and for whom all things were created. "Then one of the elders said to me, 'Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals." (Revelation 5:5)

I can't help picturing this elder (one of the twenty-four elders who represent the redeemed) leaning forward and putting a soothing hand on John's shoulder when he speaks these comforting words. Who better to know the worthiness of the Redeemer than one of the redeemed? It's fitting that it's not the strong angel who comforts John, but a fellow member of the Lord's church. This elder uses the Greek word "enikesen" which was translated into English as "triumphed" but actually means "to conquer". The elder literally says, "The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered." He has conquered the world as He promised in John 16:33. He has conquered death and now holds the keys to death and the realm of the dead in His hand as He told us in Revelation 1:18. Is there anyone else of whom these things can be said?

Why does the elder call the Lord Jesus Christ the Lion of the tribe of Judah? This is where we must be familiar with the Old Testament. When the patriarch Jacob blessed his twelve sons, he was led by the Holy Spirit to prophesy about the future of each of their tribes. The Lord revealed to Jacob that the tribe of Judah would be the royal line of Israel, and this was long before Israel was a nation and long before Israel had a throne or a king to sit upon it. Jacob said of the tribe of Judah, "You are a lion's cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness---who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until He to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be His." (Genesis 49:9-10) Jacob's son Judah was not the lion of the tribe; he was a lion's cub. But from his descendants would come a long line of kings (other lion cubs), and eventually the King would come to whom the throne rightfully and eternally belongs. This King will rule, not only over Israel, but over all the nations of the world. The Lord wants us to know here in Revelation that He is fulfilling a promise made in Genesis. We are in the last book of the Bible, but the promises made in the first book of the Bible still stand. The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the One to whom the scepter and the ruler's staff belong, is soon to take His place on the throne of David and be king over all the earth.

Why does the elder refer to the Lord as the Root of David? Again, we need to know the Old Testament. The Lord gave a message to the prophet Isaiah to relate to the kingdom of Judah. In Isaiah's day, the kingdom was already split, with the ten northern tribes being known as Israel and with the two southern tribes (the large tribe of Judah and the quite small tribe of Benjamin) being known as Judah. The Lord had allowed the northern kingdom of Israel to be conquered by Assyria because the northern kingdom repeatedly refused His pleas to turn away from idolatry. Isaiah's mission was to warn the kingdom of Judah that they were going to be conquered by Babylon if they didn't turn back to the Lord. As we know, the majority of the people didn't heed the warning of Isaiah, of Jeremiah, or of any other prophet the Lord sent to them during those years. They were conquered by Babylon and carried off into captivity. Since the days when Israel and Judah were conquered, there has not been a king over any of the twelve tribes.

The Lord knew that, even after being restored to the land, the people would wonder whether the kingdom would ever regain its former glory. He knew they would wonder if a king of the royal line of Judah would ever rule again. So He made them the promise that, although it appears as if the royal line has been cut all the way to the ground, it is not dead. A fresh new shoot will sprout from the root. The entire eleventh chapter of Isaiah speaks of the kingdom of Christ on earth and how glorious it will be, so if you have time you should read it, but the passage the elder in our study today is referencing is this one: "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit...In that day the root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to Him, and His resting place will be glorious." (Isaiah 11:1,10) Jesse was the father of King David, and Christ is that Root which sprang up from the line of David, from the royal line of Judah.

"Lion of the tribe of Judah" and "Root of David" are Messianic titles, and the only One who can claim these titles is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the only One worthy to open the seven seals. As we studied yesterday, in the Roman Empire a will had to be sealed with seven seals. The Lord Jesus Christ is the heir of all things and the only One with the right to open and execute this will. He will begin to open these seals in Chapter 6, and as soon as He does the Antichrist will appear and the Great Tribulation will begin on the earth, but before He opens the seals we are going to conclude Chapter 5 tomorrow with the image of Christ not as the Lion of the tribe of Judah but as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of all who trust in Him. He will be a conquering king in the book of Revelation, but to John and to the redeemed who are standing around the throne, He is the Lamb who gave Himself to save mankind from sin and death.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 21, The Elders Cast Their Crowns At The Lord's Feet/The Scroll With Seven Seals

In today's study we're going to conclude Chapter 4 and begin Chapter 5. In Chapter 4 we met the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures. We ended yesterday with the four living creatures saying, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come."

Now John tells us, "Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne and who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: 'You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive honor and glory and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they were created and have their being.'" (Revelation 4:9-11)

In our lesson on Tuesday we discussed the evidence for believing that these twenty-four elders represent the body of Christ as a whole (the church, the bride). In the Old Testament, there were twenty-four courses of priests who served in the temple, and these twenty-four priests represented the priesthood as a whole, and since they served the Lord on behalf of the nation they were in a sense representing the nation of Israel as a whole. The Lord said that those faithful to Him would be a "kingdom of priests, a holy nation" in His sight. (Exodus 19:6) We who are in Christ are also called a kingdom of priests. (1 Peter 2:5,9, Revelation 1:6, Revelation 5:10, Revelation 20:6) So in today's passage we find these twenty-four elders, who most likely symbolize believers (both the living and the dead who were called up to heaven in the rapture of the church), bowing before the Lord and placing their crowns at His feet.

Why do they do this? Because they owe Him all the honor and glory for being in heaven at all. If not for Christ, they'd have no hope, much less crowns to wear. An expert on Biblical prophecy, the late Dr. John Walvoord, said of this passage, "In casting their crowns before the throne they testify that if it had not been for God's grace, salvation, and goodness, they could not have had victory over sin and death." Chip Ingram, who teaches the program Walk Thru The Bible, feels that not only are these elders thanking the Lord for His mercy, but they are also acknowledging His sovereignty when they speak of Him as the One who created all things. "There is absolutely nothing that happens in the universe that is outside of God's influence and authority. As King of kings and Lord of lords, God has no limitations. Just as peasants always bowed before their king for fear of offending the one who had the authority to take their life, God's sovereignty compels us to bow before Him. But unlike corrupt earthly kings who abuse their authority to terrorize their subjects, God rules in love. He loves you and wants the best for you."

The elders bow before the Lord because He is God, because He is the Maker of all things, and because He has the right to do with His creation whatever He chooses. They bow before Him because, although He has the right to do whatever He chooses, everything He does is done with love. Even the Great Tribulation is going to be a display of His love and mercy, for the events of those years will cause many to repent and turn to the Lord and receive salvation. Dreadful as those days will be, we must think of them as discipline and correction. When a parent disciplines a child, or when the justice system disciplines a lawbreaker, the desired outcome is that the disobedient child or the lawbreaker will correct his ways. During the Great Tribulation, the Lord is giving a disobedient and lawbreaking world a chance to correct its ways. But what happens when disobedient lawbreakers refuse to change their ways? On earth we often find repeat offenders and those whose crimes escalate in severity being sentenced to life in prison without parole. In God's courtroom, the unrepentant repeat offenders who have rejected His mercy at every turn will be sentenced to an eternity separated from Him. There will be no parole offered from that eternity. There will be no appeals and no overturning of their conviction.

It's important that the twenty-four elders acknowledge the sovereignty of God at this point in Revelation, for the Lord Jesus Christ is soon to open a scroll with seven seals, and as He opens each seal a new and dreadful thing will occur on the earth. (Remember, the church is in heaven with Him at this point.) But because He created the world and everything in it, He is sovereign over it. He has the right to unleash the events of the Great Tribulation by opening the seven seals.

"Then I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals." (Revelation 5:1) John would have recognized this document as a will, for in the Roman Empire it was the law that a will had to be sealed with seven seals. This lines up with what the twenty-four elders said at the end of Chapter 4, that by the Lord's will all things were created and have their being. Because everything was created by the Lord's will, and because He is the One who sustains the creation and because He is the One who gave every living creature its being (its consciousness and its spirit) He can do with the creation whatever He wills. This seven-sealed document contains God's will for the earth and its inhabitants during the seven years known as the Great Tribulation. It is not, therefore, His will for the church, which is already in heaven. It is His will for those who, at the rapture of the church, were left behind due to their rejection of Him. But as we said earlier in our study today, His primary intention in bringing the contents of the scroll to pass is to bring the inhabitants of the earth to repentance. However, judgment is included in His will for those who still refuse to give their hearts to Him.

When is a will opened and read? After the death of the person who made the will. The will is usually opened and administered by someone who practices law. Who has died in this case? The Lord Jesus Christ, as we will see in tomorrow's passage. And who is going to open and administer the will? The Lord Jesus Christ because, although He died, He rose again and is able to administer the will Himself. The Lord Jesus Christ is going to open and administer this will, for He is the lawgiver, and He is the one by whom and for whom all things were created, (1 Corinthians 8:6, Colossians 1:16, Hebrews 2:10, John 1:13), and He is the one whose laws have been broken. Who else is worthy to open this will and carry it out? No one, as well will learn tomorrow. A search will be made in heaven, on earth, and under the earth for someone who is worthy to open the seals and look inside the scroll, and it will be determined that no one other than the Lamb of God who was slain, and who rose in victory over death and over the power of the grave, is "able to open the scroll and its seven seals". (Revelation 5:5) Rejoicing will break out in heaven at this news. The redeemed of Christ will sing a new song. The angels---so many that it's impossible for John to count them---will encircle the throne and the company of the redeemed to give praise to the Lamb. John will hear even the animal kingdom giving glory to the Son of God before the Lord Jesus Christ begins to open the seals which usher in the end times.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 20, The Four Living Creatures Around The Throne

Our passage today is highly symbolic as we take a look at four living creatures which John says were before the throne. John uses the Greek word "zoon" to describe them. This word simply means "living creatures" but it is generally understood to mean living creatures other than humans. It is often translated as "animals" and you'll recognize our modern word of "zoo" contained in the Greek word John uses.

Before he tells us about these creatures, he says: "From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal." (Revelation 4:5-6a) John is doing his best to describe everything he sees and hears. He doesn't understand everything he sees and hears, which is why we sometimes have to speculate on what these things may mean.

Why is there lightning and thunder around the throne? If we look back at the book of Exodus, when the Lord gave the law to the people of Israel, a similar thing happened at Mount Sinai. When the people assembled for God to speak to them, the Bible tells us, "On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled." (Exodus 19:16) The people trembled in awe and reverent fear. This display of God's might was probably intended to help them understand the seriousness of obeying His laws for holy and righteous living. It also helped them to understand the seriousness of breaking His laws.

Earlier in our study we talked about how the number seven symbolizes perfection and completeness, and that the "seven spirits" may represent the Holy Spirit in all the duties He performs.

I have not been able to come to any firm conclusions about the meaning of the sea of glass in front of the throne. I've consulted many commentaries and books and articles about it and am no closer to an answer. In 2 Chronicles 4 we find a "bronze sea" being constructed for the temple. It was a large basin for the priests to wash in before performing their duties in the temple. In that sense, the sea of glass before the throne of God may represent the cleansing that is necessary to enter into His presence. There's one other explanation, of all the theories I came across, that I'm particularly fond of. The prophet Micah foresaw a day in which our sins would be forgotten, and he said to the Lord: "You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea." (Micah 7:19) Perhaps the sea before the throne is where all our sins have been hurled, never to be seen again. Through our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have been washed clean of our sins, and they've sunk to the bottom of the sea.

Now we take a look at the four living creatures who may seem quite bizarre to us at first. "In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back." (Revelation 4:6b) Do they literally have eyes all over them or is this meant to be taken symbolically like the sword John saw coming out of Jesus' mouth in Revelation 1? I tend to think the eyes are symbolic and that they mean these four creatures see everything that's going on at all times. We use similar symbolism today when we refer to someone who always knows what's going on as "having eyes in the back of their head". Whatever these creatures are, they don't miss a thing. They may symbolize the omniscience of God, from whom nothing is hidden.

John doesn't know what these creatures are called so he can't tell us what they are called. All he can do is describe for us what he sees. "The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle." (Revelation 4:7) The prophet Ezekiel apparently saw these same creatures when God appeared to him in Ezekiel 1. He said each of them had four faces; in other words, a face on each side of their head. One face was human, one was the face of a lion, one was the face of an ox, and one was the face of an eagle. When John sees these creatures, he evidently only sees whichever face is currently facing him. But what does all this mean? Do the four faces represent the four highest examples of God's creation? In the animal kingdom, the eagle was the most revered of birds. The ox was considered the strongest and hardest working of domesticated animals. The lion was regarded as the most majestic of wild animals. And of course man is the crowning glory of everything God created. So these four faces may symbolize God's eyes watching over all creation.

Some scholars speculate that the four faces represent the four gospels of Jesus Christ, for Matthew presents Him as the Lion of the tribe of Judah (the face of the lion), Mark shows Him to us as a strong and humble servant of God (the face of the ox), Luke presents Him to us as the perfect man (the face of the man), and John's gospel lifts Him up to the sky as the Word of God who came from heaven (the face of the eagle).

We aren't going to solve this mystery today, but what we do know is that these four living creatures serve Almighty God and give glory to Him. Their appearance (whether literal or symbolic) is quite strange but we need not be put off by that. These are creatures our Lord created and they do the things He created them to do, and that should be good enough for us. "Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.'" (Revelation 4:8)

The prophet Isaiah had a vision of the Lord while he was praying in the temple, and he saw creatures with Him which he referred to as seraphim. Each of them had six wings and he tells us they were calling to each other, saying, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory." (Isaiah 6:1-3) I think John, Ezekiel, and Isaiah all saw the same creatures around the throne of God. Right after Isaiah saw these things in his vision, he was commissioned by God to take a message to the people. Right after Ezekiel saw these things in his vision, he was given a scroll containing a message of God for the people. Right after John sees these things in his vision, in Chapter 5 he will see a scroll given to the Lord Jesus Christ, and this scroll contains a message John is to pass along. So it would seem that whenever the four living creatures are involved, a message is about to follow. This message contained in the scroll of Revelation is about the Great Tribulation, and as Christ opens each of the seven seals on the scroll, something happens. This is where the action is really going to pick up in Revelation, for the first four seals unleash what is known as the "four horsemen of the apocalypse". The fifth seal deals with the martyrdom of some who come to Christ during the Great Tribulation. The sixth seal brings on a dreadful massive earthquake. The seventh seal causes what may be a giant asteroid to hit the earth.

Keep in mind that we---the church---will be in heaven when the time comes for those seals to be opened. We will be viewing these things from heaven just as John does in his vision. Also keep in mind that the things that take place on earth will not be puzzling in the way that the identity of the twenty-four elders was yesterday and the way that the four living creatures was today. John does the best he can to explain to us what he sees in heaven, but those things are beyond human ability to explain. We will have to see them for ourselves. But it will be far easier for him to understand and explain the things he's going to see taking place on the earth.

For now, all we need to know is that whatever these four living creatures are, they perform important duties for the Lord. We don't need to be afraid of them because of the strange symbolism related to them. The same loving God who created you and me, who created the dogs and cats, who created the birds of the air and the fish of the sea, created these beings too. They love and serve Him. We know they do because they give Him glory, saying, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty." They set an example for us, for we too should give Him glory.

Today I'm posting a link below to a song that was written about the chapter we're studying. It's one of my favorite songs and I hope you'll like it too.
Revelation Song