Thursday, August 29, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 70, Hallelujahs In Heaven

The false church of the end times is no more. The capital city of the Antichrist is burning. The end times economy has collapsed and those who trusted in the wrong things are in mourning. The main events of the Great Tribulation are finished at this point except for the battle of Armageddon. Hallelujahs break out in heaven because of the righteous judgments of God and because the eternal reign of Christ is soon to begin on the earth.

"After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven, shouting: 'Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are His judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of His servants.'" (Revelation 19:1-2) In Chapter 6 we saw the souls of the martyred saints asking how much longer it would be until the Lord avenged them. The judgment these saints longed for has come. In Chapter 6 the saints called the Lord "holy and true" because they knew His righteousness would not allow Him to overlook the wrongs done to them. In verse 2 of our passage today these saints praise Him for being the "true and just" God they always believed Him to be.

"And again they shouted: 'Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.'" (Revelation 19:3) The judgment of the Babylon of the end times is irrevocable. Babylon will never rise again. I can't say whether this city will literally burn forever or whether it's a symbolic statement when these saints say, "The smoke from her goes up forever and ever." I think it's possible that the city does smoke for eternity so that all the martyred saints of God will have a daily reminder of the faithfulness of God.

There is an underground coal mine fire in Centralia, Pennsylvania that has been burning since 1962. No one knows how to put it out. It's believed now that it can't be put out. The only way this fire will ever stop burning is when its fuel source---the coal---has been entirely depleted. It's not impossible to imagine that a city like Babylon might remain on fire forever, especially when that fire is the result of God's holy judgment. His holiness can never be depleted.

"The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: 'Amen, Hallelujah!'" (Revelation 19:4) The four living creatures stand before the throne of God day and night, as we learned early on in our study of Revelation. We met the twenty-four elders early on too, right after John in his vision was called up to heaven. It is largely accepted by many mainstream scholars that these elders represent the church that was called out of the world in the rapture before the Great Tribulation began. If these elders represent the church, then they have an extra reason to rejoice, for what is known as "the wedding of the Lamb" is soon to take place. This is an event the church (the bride of Christ) has longed for.

"Then a voice came from the throne, saying, 'Praise our God, all you His servants, you who fear Him, both great and small!'" (Revelation 19:5) We don't know the owner of this voice that comes from the area of the throne. Since the voice says "our God", it may be the voice of a saint or of an angel standing very near the throne. This could be the voice of Jesus Christ. Though Christ is God, during His earthly life we found Him addressing God in the same way any of us would, as "our God". When He taught the disciples how to pray, He began the prayer by saying "our Father". Christ identified Himself with mankind in every way, and while He lived as a man on the earth He related to God as a man relates to God, so I wouldn't find it odd if here in verse 5 it's His voice who refers to God the Father as "our God".

"Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: 'Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.' (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God's holy people.)" (Revelation 19:6-8) The praises of the multitude in heaven are so mighty that they shake the ground like powerful peals of thunder. In the same way that a person standing near a great waterfall can hear nothing but the sound of the rushing water, John can hear nothing other than the shouts of praise. I get chills just thinking about this scene. I become teary-eyed imagining how powerful the praise will be when we stand face to face with our mighty God, with nothing between us and Him and with nothing to hinder our praise: no sin, no temptation, no troubles and trials. I praise our God for this blessed hope and for the day when all these hopes come true! I praise the Lord that the day is coming when we can say that, in every way and in every corner of the creation, "The Lord God Almighty reigns!"

We will be taking a short break from our study while I go out of town tomorrow through Monday, so we will pick back up right here on Tuesday morning. A beautiful wedding is going to take place when we return, the most beautiful wedding ever. Our temporary pause in the study allows us to look forward to and imagine this wedding with great anticipation. Like a bride who counts off the days before the blessed event takes place, we are counting off the days until we---the bride of Christ---stand beside our Bridegroom dressed all in white.

Let's close today with a link to a song of praise to our God.
When The Stars Burn Down

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 69, Babylon Is Fallen, Part Four

Today we conclude Chapter 18 and finish studying the fall of the economy and the political center of the end times.

"Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said: 'With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again.'" (Revelation 18:21) The prophet Jeremiah did a similar thing when he predicted the fall of ancient Babylon. The Lord gave Jeremiah His message of condemnation against Babylon in Jeremiah 51, and after Jeremiah wrote down these words on a scroll, he gave the scroll to a man named Seraiah. Seraiah was to read the words of the scroll aloud in Babylon, then he was to tie a stone to the scroll and throw it into the Euphrates River and pronounce these words of the Lord: "So will Babylon sink to rise no more because of the disaster I will bring on her. And her people will fall." (Jeremiah 51:64)

The boulder the angel casts into the sea is compared to the size and weight of a millstone. A millstone was very heavy because it was used to grind wheat into fine flour. In Bible times, no equipment existed that was powerful enough to retrieve a millstone from a body of water. Anything tied to a millstone was going to sink straight to the bottom and stay there. Many scholars compare Revelation 18:21 to the words of Jesus from the gospel accounts when He said of those who cause people to stumble in their faith: "It would be better for him that a huge millstone should be hung around his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depths of the sea." (Matthew 18:5, Mark 9:42, Luke 17:2) The judgment for the person who overthrows someone's faith is worse than if that person lost his physical life by being drowned in the sea. The Babylon of the end times has been nothing but idolatry and deception. Its primary goal has been to prevent human beings from giving their hearts to the living God. Because of this, Babylon is doomed. Just as ancient Babylon has never been rebuilt, the Babylon of the last days will never rise again after it has been destroyed.

The angel who cast the boulder into the sea goes on to say this about Babylon: "The music of harpists and musicians, pipers and trumpeters, will never be heard in you again." (Revelation 18:22a) Music is associated mainly with celebrations, with fun, and with having a merry heart. Music has the ability to enhance our moods and lift our spirits. But the fall of the commercial system of the end times, and the destruction of the capital city of the world, will be nothing to celebrate for those who placed their trust in the wrong things.

Work will come to a halt. "No worker of any trade will ever be found in you again. The sound of a millstone will never be heard in you again." (Revelation 18:22b) There won't be any jobs in the city. No one will be doing any grinding of grain because no meals will be cooked. The city is going to be deserted.

"The light of a lamp will never shine in you again. The voice of bridegroom and bride will never be heard in you again." (Revelation 18:23a) The city will go completely dark and remain that way. None of the normal everyday things will go on there. No celebrations will take place. No one will ever want to use the capital city for a wedding destination ever again. When Babylon falls, God is shutting down the Antichrist's deceptive and hideous theatrical production, closing the curtains on the stage, and turning off the lights for good.

"Your merchants were the world's important people. By your magic spell all the nations were led astray. In her was found the blood of prophets and of God's holy people, of all who have been slaughtered on the earth." (Revelation 18:23b-24) These merchants made a great name for themselves, but it doesn't matter what kind of name a person makes for himself on the earth. Only one name matters, the name above every name (Philippians 2:9), the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. When we stand before a holy God someday, the name we made for ourselves on the earth will mean nothing. The only thing that will mean anything is whether we have confessed the name of Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.

Terrible things have taken place in the Antichrist's capital city. Prophets have been slaughtered for their message of truth. Believers have been persecuted and killed for their faith. A day is coming when God will judge every wicked thing that has ever happened in this world. He will judge the wicked of the earth who are still alive and He will judge the wicked who have already passed on. (2 Timothy 4:1)

It is up to our holy and righteous and perfect God to choose the day of vengeance. It is our job to trust His timing. Not one tear we have ever shed has gone unnoticed by God. Not a wrong done to us has ever been overlooked. Not a single drop of innocent blood has gone unseen. Wickedness will be judged and the Lord Jesus Christ will reign over the whole world in righteousness and peace forever. Never again will we turn on the news and see a horror unfolding before our eyes. Never again will we open the morning paper and spot the obituary of a dear friend. Never again will we stand heartbroken by a casket. The Lord Jesus Christ, in whom we have placed all our hope and trust, will do away with all of this on the day He makes all things new.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 68, Babylon Is Fallen, Part Three

The leaders of the world will mourn when the commercial Babylon of the last days is destroyed. They originally put their trust in the false religious system of the end times, but eventually even an empty religion got in the way of their lust for power and wealth. They rejoiced at the overthrow of the false church, but they will grieve deeply the loss of the booming economy of the last days.

"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." (Revelation 18:9) These kings are said to have "committed adultery" with the commercial system of the last days because they rejected the living God in favor of luxury, wealth, prestige, and power. They were unfaithful to their Creator. They lived in idolatry, favoring lies over the truth and favoring wealth over righteousness.

It's hard to say whether "the smoke of her burning" is a literal or a symbolic fire, but the fact that people must stand at a distance from the capital city of the Antichrist suggests that the city is actually on fire. We don't know what will cause the city to burn. Some scholars propose that a nuclear weapon strikes it. Others think that a natural disaster occurs. There could be a gas leak and an explosion, with fire spreading rapidly from structure to structure. The fire might even be purposely set by enemies of the Antichrist. These enemies wouldn't have to be Christians and probably aren't since setting fire to a city is not Christlike. But a group of malcontents who are unhappy with the direction the Antichrist's government is going might set the fire. A nation with terrorist leanings may cause the fire by setting off bombs or even using planes as bombs as they did on 9/11. We could speculate for a long time about the cause of the citywide fire, but what we need to keep in mind is that this fire is being used by God as judgment on the political capital of the world in the last days. "Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry: 'Woe! Woe to you, great city, you mighty city of Babylon! In one hour your doom has come!'" (Revelation 18:10) The calamity is sudden and shocking and unexpected. The citizens of the city will be going about their business as usual right before catastrophe strikes.

"The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes anymore---cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and human beings sold as slaves." (Revelation 18:11-13) The items on this list are mostly luxuries. These items tell us that many citizens of the world are living lives of comfort and excess. Some of the items indicate cruelty and a lack of respect for the dignity of life, such as ivory poaching and human trafficking. Ivory poaching has endangered the very existence of elephants as a species. Human trafficking is on the rise. In my state of Tennessee, human trafficking is now the second most prevalent crime. In the Antichrist's economy, human trafficking will reach an all time high.

"They will say, 'The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your luxury and splendor have vanished, never to be recovered.' The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn and cry out: 'Woe! Woe to you, great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls! In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!'" (Revelation 18:14-17a) The merchants don't weep in sorrow and repentance over their sins. They weep over the loss of their wealth. The Lord Jesus Christ commanded us to store up our treasures in heaven where they will be safe forever (Matthew 6:19-21), but these merchants stored up their treasures on the earth and now are suffering the loss of these treasures. Still this doesn't compel them to turn from idolatry and greed. Still they don't bow their knees and their hearts to the living God.

"Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off. When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, 'Was there ever a city like this great city?' They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out: 'Woe! Woe to you, great city, where all who had ships on the sea became rich from her wealth! In one hour she has been brought to ruin!'" (Revelation 18:17b-19) The "city" of Revelation 18 is both the literal capital city of the Antichrist and a symbol of the entire commercial system and economy of the last days. The collapse of the capital is also the collapse of the economy. The stock market crashes. All trade agreements fall apart. Even the wealthiest and most influential people of the world will no longer be able to purchase the luxuries they're accustomed to having.

The fall of the capital and the economy is a direct judgment from God. It's a judgment on idolatry. It's a judgment on greed. It's a judgment on cruelty. The angels, along with the saints of God from every period of history, rejoice when God's judgment falls on the most sinful era and the most unholy government of all time. "Rejoice over her, you heavens! Rejoice, you people of God! Rejoice, apostles and prophets! For God has judged her with the judgment she imposed on you." (Revelation 18:20) Ever since God first placed human beings on the earth, Satan has been at work trying to turn human beings away from God. Many people have fallen for his lies. Many people have not only fallen for his lies, but they've persecuted those who were faithful to God. The destruction of the Babylon of the end times is proof that God is going to judge all wickedness. A day is coming in which everyone who has committed adultery against God will have to answer for their idolatry. A day is coming in which everyone who has shunned, slandered, or persecuted believers will stand trial for their crimes. The heavens rejoice when they see the fall of Babylon because the final day of judgment is near. The people of God rejoice because God is about to avenge those who belong to Him. He is a promise-keeping God, and one of His promises is this: "It is Mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them." (Deuteronomy 32:35)

Monday, August 26, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 67, Babylon Is Fallen, Part Two

In today's passage we learn that there are people in the Antichrist's capital city who have accepted Christ as Savior. The Lord tells them to escape the city before He brings judgment on it.

"Then I heard another voice from heaven say: 'Come out of her, My people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes.'" (Revelation 18:4-5) John doesn't say whether this is the voice of God or of the Lord Jesus Christ or of the Holy Spirit, but I believe it must be the voice of one of the three persons of the Holy Trinity. Who else could refer to the redeemed as "My people"?

In the Old Testament, the Lord warned His people through the prophets that they would be taken into captivity. But He also promised them they would return to their land. In speaking of the day when ancient Babylon would be judged, the Lord told His people to leave before His judgment fell. "Depart, depart, go out from there! Touch no unclean thing! Come out from it and be pure, you who carry the articles of the Lord's house." (Isaiah 52:11) "Flee out of Babylon; leave the land of the Babylonians, and be like the goats that lead the flock." (Jeremiah 50:8) "Flee from Babylon! Run for your lives! Do not be destroyed because of her sins. It is time for the Lord's vengeance; He will repay her what she deserves." (Jeremiah 51:6)

The Lord is saying the same thing to the believers living in the capital city of the Antichrist---the "Babylon" of the end times. Anyone still in Babylon when her judgment comes is going to share in the misery of her fall. This is not the same situation as was present when the Lord sent the plagues on Egypt but spared the Egyptian territory of Goshen where the Hebrew people resided. In that case, the people of the Lord were separated from the people of Egypt. The Lord could send plagues down on Egypt's capital where Pharaoh sat on his throne without affecting the people who belonged to Him. But if the believers are mingled in among the unbelievers in the Antichrist's city, they run the risk of becoming collateral damage.

There is another reason why the Lord commands His people to come out of the city. He says it is so they will not "share in her sins". Hanging around in the bad part of town or hanging out with the wrong crowd can influence the Lord's people to compromise their beliefs. I'm not sure why those who have turned to Christ are still residing in the capital city of the most wicked man who has ever lived. It may be because they are afraid of him. It may be because leaving their jobs in the city will present them with financial hardship. Or it could be---and this is the worst theory---that even though they are believers they feel comfortable while completely surrounded by sin and idolatry. If this is the case, then they remind me of Lot, the nephew of Abraham. Lot felt comfortable enough in Sodom and Gomorrah to remain there. Even when warned of God's coming judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot was reluctant to leave, so reluctant that the angels sent to rescue him had to take him by the hand and pull him out of his house. (Genesis 19:16) Once the angels had him and his family outside the city gates, they instructed them, "Flee for your lives! Don't look back, and don't stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!" (Genesis 19:17) The Lord is saying to all those still within the capital city of the Antichrist in the end times: "Don't hesitate like Lot did. Don't allow yourselves to be so comfortable in the presence of sin that you remain in the city until it falls. Flee the city and its sin! Flee before judgment rains down on it!"

The voice from heaven continues to speak of Babylon's coming fall. "Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Pour her a double portion from her own cup. Give her as much torment and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself." (Revelation 18:6-7a) The sins which Babylon has perpetrated against the people of the world are so great that God is going to pay her back double for her greed and deception and idolatry. She has led the people of the earth into sin and rebellion. I think that, in the eyes of God, there is probably no greater sin than leading a human being away from Him and away from salvation. This is such a heinous crime that paying it back according to the "eye for an eye" principle is not enough. The penalty is a double sentence because the crime is so severe.

In this next passage we see the prideful attitude of the sinful city. The city is so wealthy and so self-sufficient that those who have fallen for its lies feel no need for God. There is so much luxury and comfort present that they have lulled themselves into believing life will always go on in the same pleasant manner. "In her heart she boasts, 'I sit enthroned as queen. I am not a widow; I will never mourn.'" (Revelation 18:7b) In His messages to the prophet Isaiah regarding the fall of ancient Babylon, the Lord said that Babylon considered herself the "queen city". (Isaiah 47:1) The world looked upon the riches of Babylon and declared it the "queen of kingdoms". (Isaiah 47:5) Ancient Babylon boasted proudly, "I am forever---the eternal queen!" (Isaiah 47:7) She said of herself, "I am, and there is none besides me. I will never be a widow or suffer the loss of children." (Isaiah 47:8) Ancient Babylon was so wealthy and self-sufficient that she took for herself one of the titles of Almighty God, referring to herself as "I Am". She believed she would last forever, but where is ancient Babylon now? It lies in the dust. Where will the Babylon of the end times someday be? In the dust.

The Lord told His people that the boasting of ancient Babylon meant nothing. He was going to take her down in her prime. While she lived comfortably in pleasure and excess, her day of doom would rush in upon her. While ancient Babylon complacently declared, "I will never be a widow or suffer the loss of children," those very things would happen to her. "Both of these will overtake you in a moment, on a single day, loss of children and widowhood. They will come upon you in full measure, in spite of your many sorceries and all your potent spells. You have trusted in your wickedness and have said, 'No one sees me.' Your wisdom and knowledge mislead you when you say to yourself, 'I am, and there is none besides me.' Disaster will come upon you, and you will not know how to conjure it away. A calamity will fall upon you that you cannot ward off with a ransom; a catastrophe you cannot foresee will suddenly come upon you." (Isaiah 47:9-11)

The Lord has the same message for the Babylon of the last days. "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." (Revelation 18:8)

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 66, Babylon Is Fallen, Part One

For several days we've been studying the fall of the religious Babylon of the end times. Now we begin our look at the fall of the commercial and political Babylon of the last days.

"After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor." (Revelation 18:1) When John says "after this", he is speaking of the things he saw in Chapter 17. In Chapter 17 he saw the false religion of the end times represented by a gaudy harlot. He told us that, in time, the Antichrist and the kings of the world would turn against the false church and take her down. In Chapter 18 John will sees the fall of the commercial and political Babylon of the last days.

This beautiful angel, bathed in the glory of God, has a dire message for the economy and government of the Antichrist. "With a mighty voice he shouted: 'Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a dwelling for demons and a haunt for every impure spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable animal. For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth have committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries." (Revelation 18:2-3)

The words of this angel echo the words of the prophet Isaiah, who said when he foretold the fall of ancient Babylon: "Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the pride and glory of the Babylonians, will be overthrown by God like Sodom and Gomorrah. She will never be inhabited or lived in through all generations; there no nomads will pitch their tents, there no shepherds will rest their flocks. But desert creatures will lie there, jackals will fill their houses; there the owls will dwell, and there the wild goats will leap about. Hyenas will inhabit her strongholds, jackals her luxurious palaces. Her time is at hand, and her days will not be prolonged." (Isaiah 13:19-22) The words spoken against ancient Babylon came true. She lies in ruins today. She has never been rebuilt. The words spoken against the commercial and political Babylon of the end times will come true too.

The commerce and greed of the world have done much harm to the animal kingdom and to the ecosystem and the habitats, so it's ironic---and a form of poetic justice---that the animal kingdom takes over the ruins of the Babylon of the last days, just as it took over the ruins of ancient Babylon. Hyenas will birth their pups on expensive handmade rugs. Birds will roost in the rafters of palaces. Wild goats will leap and play in the deserted halls of government buildings. Owls will make their nests in the penthouse apartments of those who were top officials in the Antichrist's political system. Then, later in Revelation, the Lord will restore the earth and the animal kingdom to an Eden-like state where no creature ever preys on another, and this prophecy from the book of Isaiah comes true: "The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox." (Isaiah 11:6-7)

The angel says that the kings of the earth have committed adultery with the commercial and political system. These kings (meaning presidents, monarchs, dictators, and any other type of national leaders) cared more about money and power than about the living God or about the destinies of their eternal souls. They turned away from truth and light. They gave their allegiance to the man of sin, and whether or not all these national leaders believed he was some type of god, they believed he would help them achieve their goals. Because they preferred darkness to light, the Lord calls them adulterers in the same way He told Old Testament idolaters that they were adulterers. These kings are idolaters whether or not they bow to the Antichrist or to his image or to the religious system that will be in place during the Great Tribulation. They've bowed their knees to money, which has been a "god" to untold numbers of people throughout the ages.

In Chapter 17 we learned that a day is coming in which the kings of the earth will despise the religious system of the end times and will tear it down. They will rejoice at its fall. But they won't rejoice when the economy fails. As we continue on through Chapter 18, the Lord is going to hit them where it hurts most---in their pocketbooks. Those who bowed their knees to wealth and greed are going to be stunned to their core. They are going to wail in disbelief when the commercial system they've put their trust in comes crashing down. The stock market crash of 1929 will be nothing compared to the crash at the end of the Great Tribulation.

The Lord is giving the greedy idolaters of the world a final opportunity to turn to Him. When He takes away the booming economy in which they trust, the logical thing for them to do is to search for solid footing. When they're hurting, we would expect them to turn to the living God for answers and for comfort. But instead we will find that most of them do not, for the Lord will issue a call to those who belong to Him (who are in the minority) to escape the Antichrist's capital city before He destroys it. He will rescue them in the same way He rescued Noah and his family from the flood. He will rescue them in the same way He rescued Lot and his daughters from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Those who are true and faithful to Almighty God have always been in the minority, but He is always faithful to those who are faithful to Him. "The Lord knows how to to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment." (2 Peter 2:9)

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 65, Babylon The Great, Part Four

We will be finishing Chapter 17 today and will see the fall of the false church foretold. The Apostle John has seen a vision of a gaudy drunken woman who represents the false church that will be on the earth during the end times. The woman is riding on the beast with seven heads and ten horns. Today the angel will give John extra information about the symbolism of his vision.

We concluded yesterday with verse 9 but we're going to repeat verse 9 again today because it is so closely connected to the verses that follow. It is an angel who speaks these words to John: "This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while." (Revelation 17:9-10)

There are two primary theories regarding who or what the "kings" of verse 10 represent. The first theory is that they are seven rulers of the Roman Empire. The angel says that five have fallen. If the angel is speaking of Roman emperors, then scholars suggest he means Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero. These were the last five emperors who ruled before Domitian, the emperor who is on the throne when John writes Revelation. If these five dead emperors are who the angel means, then Domitian is the king "who is" in verse 10. But then who is the "other who has not yet come"? A number of emperors ruled after Domitian. So scholars suggest that the "other who has not yet come" is the Antichrist who very well may be descended from a Roman emperor.

The second primary theory is that these kings who "have fallen" are not men but empires that were overthrown by Rome or that had to answer to Rome during the days when she was a great empire. In that case, the five who are fallen would be Greece, Persia, Babylon, Assyria, and Egypt. Rome itself would be the kingdom "that is" during John's day. Then the empire of the Antichrist would be the empire that "has not yet come".

The angel makes another statement about the seventh king or kingdom: "The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seventh and is going to his destruction." (Revelation 17:11) This verse has confused many scholars and theologians ever since John wrote it down. How is the final kingdom an eighth kingdom but also part of the original seven? Earlier in our study we talked about the evidence for believing that the Antichrist's kingdom will be some type of revival of the ancient Roman Empire. In that sense, the that beast "was" and "is not" at the present time but "will come" may be the Roman Empire.

How then is the Antichrist a king who is both the seventh and the eighth? It could have to do with him having a mortal wound that was healed, the wound we learned about in Chapter 12. We were told in Chapter 12 that the world would marvel and would worship the beast because of the mortal wound that was healed. When we studied that chapter we talked about the growing popularity of the theory that the Antichrist will stage a fake assassination and resurrection. If the world thinks he dies from a fatal head wound, and if they view his dead body on TV and on the internet, and if some days later he is alive again, this would explain how he can be both the seventh and the eighth king. I don't believe he will really die and resurrect; Satan doesn't have the power to give life. But those who refuse to accept the Lord will fall for the deception and will believe he has died and risen from the dead. In that sense, to their minds, he has lived twice and that would make him the seventh and eighth king of verse 11.

The beast the false church rides on has ten horns. The angel explains what these symbolize. "The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast. They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because He is Lord of lords and King of kings---and with Him will be His called, chosen and faithful followers." (Revelation 17:12-14) The ten kings---or kingdoms---don't yet exist in John's day. In the end times they will ally themselves with the Antichrist. They are going to put all the strength of their military forces behind him, but when we see this happening later in Revelation, we will also see the Lamb and His faithful followers overcoming the Antichrist. This is not going to be a fierce struggle or an ongoing battle where it isn't clear who is going to have the upper hand. The Antichrist is no match for the Lamb of God. Though Satan will deceive some of the people of the earth into thinking the Antichrist is the Messiah, the Antichrist is not Christ's counterpart. The two of them are not evenly matched. The victory of the Lord Jesus Christ is certain.

"Then the angel said to me, 'The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish His purpose by agreeing to hand over to the beast their royal authority, until God's words are fulfilled. The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth." (Revelation 17:15-18)

In the beginning of Chapter 17 we learned that the prostitute (the false church) was sitting by many waters. This means that she appeals to the nations of the world because her doctrine likely includes religious practices from all around the world. She was sitting on the back of the beast beside the many waters. The fact that she was riding the beast tells us that for a time the two of them are in a mutually beneficial relationship. The beast supports her as long as he can use her for his purposes. But a time will come when she no longer serves his purposes. It's likely that in the beginning he used the false religious system to gather the people of the world together, but eventually this system will get in his way because what Satan wants more than anything else is to be worshiped himself. After leading into pagan practices an untold number of people who don't want to bow their knees to God, he's going to turn worship toward himself. We've already learned in Revelation that a day will come when an image of the Antichrist will be set up. People will be commanded to take his mark and give him their allegiance.

It is the Lord's will for "Babylon the Great", the false church, to fall. The angel says so in verse 17. God is going to allow the Antichrist and the nations of the world to turn against the false church and bring her down. The Antichrist (and the devil who possesses him) will think it's his idea to take down the false church, but in reality it's the plan of Almighty God.

In verse 18 the angel tells John that the church has its headquarters in a city that rules over the kings of the world. This is probably the city the Antichrist chooses for his capital. As we discussed earlier in the week, there is some indication that he may take over the Vatican, but we can't say for certain if that's what the angel is referring to when he says the prostitute sits on "seven hills" in verse 9. Rome is known as "the city of seven hills", so this is a clue that the Antichrist may place his capital in Rome, but we can't say for sure whether or not he takes over the Vatican for the false church.

The Antichrist, the second person of the devil's unholy trinity, chooses a bride for himself---the false church. But unlike the beautiful and pure bride of Christ---the true church----the Antichrist's bride is a prostitute. The Antichrist will fall out of love with her. He will divorce himself from her and throw her aside. Isn't it comforting to know that our Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ, will never fall out of love with us? He will never cast His bride aside. Instead, in His eyes, His bride grows more beautiful and precious every day. The vows He made to His bride are eternal. He will be forever faithful and true.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 64, Babylon The Great, Part Three

We continue on today with our look at the false church of the end times. John has seen her symbolized as a woman dressed in gaudy clothes wearing expensive jewelry. She has a cup in her hand that contains something that has made her drunk. Earlier in the week we talked about the cup being filled with sin, and indeed it is, but it also contains something else. John says: "I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God's holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus." (Revelation 17:6a)

The false church will persecute the Christians of the world during the last days. This is why John views her intoxicated by her success in having Christians martyred for their faith. The power she wields has gone to her head and turned her into a sloppy drunk.

John says, "When I saw her, I was greatly astonished. Then the angel said to me: 'Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.'" (Revelation 17:6b-7) The angel isn't going to allow John---or us---to be ignorant about what all of this means. He's going to explain to us the symbolism contained in Chapter 17.

"The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and yet will come up out of the Abyss and go to its destruction." (Revelation 17:8a) It's going to help us a lot if we keep in mind that although the Antichrist is a person inhabited by Satan, the Antichrist also symbolizes a corrupt political and religious system. The Antichrist is so closely connected to the kingdom he will rule over that he and his kingdom are spoken of as if they are one and the same. This isn't the first time such a close connection has been made. When we think of Nazi Germany, don't we also think of Adolf Hitler? Don't we think of that "kingdom" and its "king" as one and the same? There are many examples we could find of this throughout history, but it most often happens when the king is either exceeding wicked or exceedingly powerful---or both. When the angel tells John the beast once was but now is not, most scholars believe he's speaking of a powerful kingdom that actually existed in history, then fell, then will experience a revival in the last days.

We need to look back at the book of Daniel for a clue about the identity of this kingdom. In Daniel 2, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a prophetic dream regarding great empires of the ancient world. These empires were symbolized by a statue made up of a variety of materials. The feet on the statue represented the final kingdom that would be on the earth before the Lord returns to establish His eternal kingdom. The feet and toes were a mixture of iron and clay. This is important, because in Daniel's own prophetic dream about great empires of the world, a beast with iron teeth symbolized both the ancient Roman Empire and the final empire of the last days. (See Daniel 7.) This is why so many scholars and theologians think that the kingdom of the Antichrist will be, in some sort of way, a revival of the Roman Empire. That theory fits well with the angel's words when he says that this kingdom once was, now is not, and yet will come. We can't say exactly why the Roman Empire would be associated with the kingdom of the Antichrist. I think it's possible that he man of sin will be descended from an ancient Roman emperor.

Or it could be that his kingdom will be spiritually much like the Roman Empire with its idolatry and its forced emperor worship. Not only was ancient Rome very idolatrous, but it was a society in which it could be said "anything goes". Prostitution was legal and it involved men, women, and underage youths. Divorce was so easy to obtain that a person could divorce and remarry multiple times in the same year. It was a wealthy society where alcohol flowed freely and where the citizens regularly engaged in drunken, orgiastic feasts given in honor of various false gods. Persecution of Christians became widespread in the Roman Empire during the reign of that madman Emperor Nero, and even after his reign it was common for emperors to exile Christians who wouldn't burn incense to them and declare, "Caesar is God." John himself was living in exile for his faith when he wrote the book of Revelation. So we see that, whether or not the kingdom of the Antichrist is literally connected with the ancient Roman Empire, spiritually it is going to look very much like the ancient Roman Empire.

The angel tells John, "The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because it once was, now is not, and yet will come." (Revelation 17:8b) It appears that the Lord has always known who would accept Him and who would not. There are a number of passages in the Bible that indicate that the Lord knew everything about us long before we were ever conceived in our mother's wombs. The words of the angel indicates that there is a book in which the names are written of everyone who will ever accept the Lord as Savior. Their names are written down long before they ever make that decision. This doesn't mean that the Lord has chosen who will be saved and who won't be saved; I think it simply means that in His omniscience He knows every decision we will ever make before we make it. During the end times, those who have already accepted Him as Lord, and those who haven't yet made the decision but who will soon make it, have their names written in His book. They won't fall for the lies of the Antichrist.

We will conclude with verse 9 today because the remainder of the chapter is going to take some time. "This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits." (Revelation 17:9) Since Rome has long been called "the city of seven hills", this verse has been often interpreted to mean that the Antichrist will set up his headquarters in Rome. If he views himself as a "Caesar" and if he wants to be called "God" as the ancient Roman emperors did, we can well imagine him wanting to place his throne in Rome. If he views his kingdom as being as great as the Roman Empire in its heyday, we can understand why he would place his capital in Rome. If he is descended from an ancient Roman emperor, we can see why he would feel that he should rule his kingdom from Rome. In our day it's becoming easier and easier to trace our genealogy. Even when we can't trace it directly back by our family trees due to the absence of records the farther we go back in time, DNA tests can tell us a lot more than paper records can. We were just talking about those Ancestry DNA tests this week at work. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if the man who will become the Antichrist somehow learns through modern science that he is directly related to an emperor of old. For someone with a mind like his, such a thing will only feed his ego. Such a thing will only confirm what he already believes: that he is entitled to rule the world.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 63, Babylon The Great, Part Two

In our study today we are going to take a closer look at the religious system that will be on the earth during the Great Tribulation. John is going to see the church of the end times symbolized as an immoral woman.

The angel John has been speaking with shows him a vision of the false church of the last days. "Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns." (Revelation 17:3) This woman is in no way connected to the Lord's glorious church or to the nation of Israel. We've already seen the church of the Lord Jesus Christ referred to as a beautiful and spotless bride dressed in white. We've seen the nation of Israel represented by a woman crowned with a crown that has twelve stars. These two women were virtuous and pure. But the woman who symbolizes the false church is a prostitute, as we were told in yesterday's study. She is not beautiful and virtuous and pure, but as we will soon see she is gaudy and immoral and staggering drunk.

Ever since Chapter 4, John has been viewing the events of the end times from heaven in his vision. Now he's viewing the false church from a wilderness. I tend to think this is because the religion of the last days is barren and empty. It's bleak and hopeless, unable to refresh anyone. This is a very sharp contrast to the Christian life in which the Holy Spirit is a stream of living water within us, perpetually refreshing us. (John 4:14, John 7:37-38)

The woman is being carried by the red dragon we met earlier in Revelation 13. She and the dragon are engaged in a mutually beneficial relationship, at least for a time. Later the dragon will hate her once he's done with her. Through his man the Antichrist, Satan has set up and used the false church for his own sinful purposes, in the same way a man who goes to a prostitute is using a woman for his own sinful purposes. The church means nothing to the devil, no more than a prostitute means to a man who pays for her company for an hour. And like a man who takes his leave of a prostitute once their transaction is complete, Satan is going to discard the church once he's finished with her.

While the relationship between the church and the devil prospers, the church is exceedingly wealthy. We know this because of how the woman is dressed: "The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls." (Revelation 17:4a) In the Apostle John's day, purple and scarlet dyes were so expensive that only the wealthy could afford to wear fabrics in those colors. These colors also represented power because it was typical for kings and other government officials to wear them. This is why a purple robe (probably one that had belonged to teh governor Pontius Pilate) was thrown around the shoulders of Jesus when Pilate's soldiers mocked Him by bowing to Him and saying, "Hail, king of the Jews!" The church of the end times is not only wealthy but is also powerful because of her connection to the Antichrist.

This gaudy prostitute is drunk. "She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries." (Revelation 17:4b) She isn't holding a communion cup that contains the wine or grape juice that symbolizes the blood that Christ shed for mankind. She's holding a cup filled with sin and she's drinking it right down to the dregs. She can't get enough of it. The church of the end times may be the wealthiest church that has ever existed. Its main headquarters is probably housed in the most beautiful cathedral that has ever existed. From the outside, everything probably looks fine, but on the inside there's nothing but filth. I'm reminded of what Jesus said when criticizing the hypocrisy of the Pharisees who were concerned with looking good on the outside: "You Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness." (Luke 11:39) The church of the end times is putting on a false front. From the outside it appears to be a place where a person can find comfort and strength, but it's capable of doing nothing but leading people farther down the road to perdition.

Like the Roman prostitutes of old who wore headbands with their names on them, the false church wears a headband with her name on it. "The name written on her forehead was a mystery: 'Babylon The Great, The Mother Of Prostitutes And The Abominations Of The Earth.'" (Revelation 17:5) This church is the culmination of all rebellion against the Lord. It contains every false doctrine it possibly can from around the world. It has something for everyone, so to speak. In our day and in our culture, people want everything customized to suit their own individual tastes and needs. They want to pick and choose what to believe and what to discard. They want to follow only the doctrines that suit the opinions they already hold. They don't want to hear doctrines that contradict the way they want to live their lives. The church of the end times is going to provide her congregants with a customized worship experience where they can participate only in the parts they enjoy and where they can ignore or completely miss the fact that none of the doctrine they are being taught lines up with the holy Scriptures. They'll be taught that they are okay just as they are. They'll be taught that if they've made mistakes, they can make up for their mistakes by performing certain rituals or charitable deeds to counterbalance their mistakes. They won't be told they are sinners. They won't be told they need the Savior. They'll be told that everything they need spiritually can be obtained by human effort.

As we study even more about this church in tomorrow's lesson, we'll learn why she holds such ugly titles. We'll learn that the dragon has seven heads because they represent seven hills, which may mean that the church's headquarters will be located in Rome since it it known as "the city of seven hills". It's possible that the Antichrist, and the church he uses for his own gain, will take over the Vatican. This doesn't mean that the church of the end times is the Catholic church, as some Protestant scholars have suggested in their prejudice against the Catholic church. The church of the end times won't resemble any Christian church of any era, except from the outside. If the false church does take over the Vatican, it will discard everything that points worship to Christ. It will look like a monument to Christ on the outside, but on the inside it will contain nothing but lies and idolatry.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 62, Babylon The Great, Part One

In Chapter 14 John was told, "Babylon is fallen," and in Chapter 16 he was told that God would make Babylon drink the cup of His wrath. Those things have not yet happened at this point in Revelation but they are as good as done because God says so. There is a pause now in the action moving toward Armageddon so that it can be explained to us that the "Babylon" of Revelation represents both the religious system and the political system of the end times. First we are going to take a look at the religious system.

Many times in the Scriptures we find the word "Babylon" used to represent any place that is filled with idolatry, with rebellion against the things of God, and with persecution of the people of God. The area of the world that would later become ancient Babylon is the same place where the first organized rebellion took place against God in Genesis 11 when the people decided to build a tower to heaven. They didn't believe God when He said He would never again send a worldwide flood, so they were organizing a means of escape from future worldwide floods. They didn't obey God when He told them to spread out over the earth and populate it but instead banded together in order to accomplish their sinful ambitions. They didn't respect God as God but in their pride thought the strength of their numbers would enable them to actually enter heaven on their own terms from the tower they erroneously believed they could build tall enough to reach God's throne room. Ancient Babylon lies in ruins today, but the attitude of Babylon is still alive and well. Man's final rebellion against God, and the capital city of the Antichrist, are referred to as Babylon because the same attitude will be present in the end times as was present at the construction site of the tower of Babel. In fact, that same attitude is already present in the world today, for many human beings still don't believe God, don't obey God, and don't worship God as God. Many human beings still think they can enter heaven on their own terms, not on God's terms.

The seven angels with the seven bowls of wrath have already poured their bowls out, but one of them steps forward now to explain to John the corrupt religious system of the end times. This system has already been present throughout Revelation, but it's only now that we receive a clearer description of it. "One of the angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, 'Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits by many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries." (Revelation 17:1-2) Not a great deal has been said up til now about the apostate church, but she has been perpetrating her deception on the people of the earth ever since the Lord called His church out of the world.

Just look at the contrast between the false church and the true church! The church of the Lord Jesus Christ is referred to in the Scriptures as a bride, beautiful and pure, dressed in white. But the church of the end times---the hideous "bride" of Satan---is a drunken prostitute. She is impure in every way she can be impure. She is not ashamed of it but instead takes delight in it.

The angel says in verse 1 above that this prostitute "sits by many waters". These waters represent the nations of the world, as will be explained to us near the end of the chapter when John is told that the waters symbolize "peoples, multitudes, nations and languages". By this we know that the false religious system has permeated every nation on earth. By this we can also assume that the false religion is made up of a hodgepodge of world religious all mixed together. It will be a religion that offends no one, tells no one he or she is a sinner, and helps no one. If it teaches a need for redemption at all, it will teach people that they can obtain redemption on their own. The one thing we can be certain it won't do is point anyone toward the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation.

The angel calls the apostate church a prostitute and says she has caused the inhabitants of the earth to become drunk with the wine of her adulteries. In the Bible we often find the Lord referring to idolatry as adultery. In the Old Testament, when a number of the people of Israel began turning to idolatry, the Lord accused them of adultery because they were being unfaithful to Him. They were breaking their vows to Him. They had accepted the covenant He made with them in the wilderness after He rescued them from Egypt, and now they were breaking that covenant by running after other gods.

In saying that the prostitute of Revelation has made the people of the world drink the wine of her adulteries, the angel is saying that the religious system of the end times is idolatrous and that it has led many people all over the world into idolatry. Everyone involved in the false church is committing adultery against the living God who created them and who loves them and who offers them a means of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. They are not being true to the One who has always been true to them. The message of the false church is intoxicating to those who don't want to bow their knees to God. If they feel a need for redemption at all, something in them wants to obtain it on their own, and the false religious system is going to tell them they can do it on their own. Those who doubt the existence of God or who have no interest in God may join the church for other reasons: because it is popular to be a member of the church, because it gives them a sense of belonging, because it provides an element of structure to their lives as they go through the motions of rituals, or because they want to please the Antichrist by joining the church that he will use to accomplish his dark goals. There are all sorts of reasons why a person might join the apostate church, but whatever satisfaction they gain from it will be a surface satisfaction only. It will never satisfy their deep spiritual needs, but it will allow them to ignore that fact because they will feel like they are doing something productive.

It's going to take us several days to study the apostate church, so please join us tomorrow when John describes her appearance to us and provides us with some clues about where her headquarters will be located.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 61, The Seven Bowl Judgments, Part Three

Today the seventh bowl of wrath is poured out, but the Lord has something to say first to the inhabitants of the world in those days.

"Look, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed." (Revelation 16:15) The event known as the Second Coming of Christ is soon to take place. The people of the earth who haven't accepted Christ as Savior are issued a warning: His arrival will be sudden. They think life will keep going on as usual, day after day, but the end is near. They think there is no day of judgment, but it's on its way. Jesus uses the symbol of a thief, not because He's going to steal anything, but because His arrival will be unexpected for those who don't believe in Him or who don't think they have any need of Him.

No one expects a burglar to show up, but we take precautions against burglars. We put locks on our doors and windows. We install security systems and place signs outside warning thieves that alarms will go off if they break in. We leave lights on if we're going to be away after dark so that thieves will think the home is occupied. But the people of the end times (and many people of our own times) are living like they need to take no precautions regarding the eternal destiny of their souls. They aren't awake and alert, as Christ warns them to be in verse 15. They've turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the truth of the gospel. He tells them to be clothed, meaning clothed in the righteousness of Christ, because so many of them are still wearing the "filthy rags" of their own righteousness. (Isaiah 64:6) What's going to happen if they don't accept the sacrifice Christ made on their behalf? What's going to happen if they don't stand before a holy Judge clothed in the righteousness of Christ? Their sins will be shamefully exposed, as the Lord warns in verse 15. Instead of having Christ to stand up for them as their defense attorney and Savior, they will stand alone in front of a holy God with every wicked thought and every sinful deed exposed for all to see.

If I had to insert a list right here of everything wrong I've ever thought or done, I'd just slink away and seclude myself for the rest of my life. I'd be too ashamed to face any of you ever again. Most of the worst of my mistakes happened before I came to Christ, but I sure have messed up in some ugly ways even after coming to Christ. If I didn't have Him to stand up for me and say, "Her sins are covered by My blood. It's as though they never happened.", I'd just want to crawl in a dark cave somewhere and never emerge. I'd want to hide my mistakes from the world and from Almighty God. But we can't hide a thing from God. We might get away with being "fake" in front of other people, but we can't fool God. When I have to face the righteous Judge someday, I won't face Him alone, and that's why I can sleep peacefully at night. The Lord pauses before the seventh bowl is poured out so He can issue a very urgent warning. Time is growing extremely short at this point in Revelation. People don't have much longer to repent. They need to make things right with the Lord now. Then, even though they are living through the worst era of the whole history of the world, they can face the day of judgment without fear. They can look forward to an eternity living in the light and love of the Lord Jesus Christ.

At the time the Lord issues the warning of verse 15, armies are gathering for a great war. "Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon." (Revelation 16:16) We will be taking a detailed look at this battle in Chapter 19, but right now the troops are still assembling. The people of the world need to recognize the signs of the times when they see these armies gathering for war. I think there are people who will realize this is the battle of Armageddon, foretold in the Scriptures, and they will turn to the Lord. I don't think He would keep issuing a call to repent if it wasn't still possible for people to repent. The Lord is not a deceiver. He wouldn't offer mercy and forgiveness if they weren't available.

The Lord's warning is given right before a massive natural disaster takes place. "The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, 'It is done!' Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since mankind has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of His wrath. Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. From the sky huge hailstones, each weighing about a hundred pounds, fell on people. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible." (Revelation 16:17-21)

People often turn to the Scriptures, to prayer, and to the Lord during times of disaster. Remember how many people flocked to churches and synagogues in the days following the terrorist attacks of 9/11? Nothing gets our attention quicker than some terrible, unexpected disaster. Even though the disaster of Revelation 16 is severe, it's a display of God's mercy. He's using it to get the attention of the citizens of the earth. He's trying to shake them out of their complacency. A day of reckoning is coming and He doesn't want them to be unprepared. He wants them to repent and accept the sacrifice His Son made for them, so that when they stand before the judgment seat, they stand there clothed in the righteousness of Christ. He wants them to be declared blameless, not guilty.

But instead we find people cursing the name of God. The text of verse 21 appears to indicate that they know there is a God and that this disaster is from Him, but we could also argue that some are just using His name in vain. A lot of people do that today: they use the name of God when they curse. Not everyone who uses the name of God believes He exists. In the same way, people use the name of Jesus Christ as a curse word, but their use of His name doesn't mean they believe Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God. If they did believe that, it would be difficult for them to abuse His name.

We can't be certain which city the "great city" of verse 19 is, but since John is a Jewish man we can easily see him referring to Jerusalem as the great city. Some scholars think the city in question is the city where the Antichrist has his capital, and if so then there may be another city in view here. We will be discussing that in greater detail soon in our study when we take a look at what "Babylon the Great" means. In our passage today, we see that the Lord intends to make Babylon the Great drink the cup of His wrath, and when we move on into Chapter 17 tomorrow we are going to learn that the word "Babylon" is used symbolically to represent something that is corrupt. There is nothing more corrupt than the false church of the end times, and she will be represented not as a woman wearing a crown (like the nation of Israel in Chapter 12), or as a beautiful bride (like the church), but as a drunken prostitute.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 60, The Seven Bowl Judgments, Part Two

Three of the seven angels carrying the seven bowls of wrath have already emptied their bowls. The fourth, fifth, and sixth angels empty their bowls in our passage today.

"The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was allowed to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify Him." (Revelation 16:8-9) The atmosphere surrounding the earth has changed. We don't know exactly what happens here to cause the sun to feel hotter than usual, but the ungodly people of the earth recognize it as a judgment of God and yet they do not repent. How wicked their souls must be to endure all the plagues of Revelation and still be able to defiantly curse the name of God!

"The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done." (Revelation 16:10-11) After the scorching heat comes darkness, at least on the city where the Antichrist has his capital. I don't know whether this is a supernatural darkness, although the text indicates that it may be, or whether it's a darkness caused by a massive failure of the power grid. If it's the former, God's power is clearly shown to be superior to that of the Antichrist. If it's the latter, the Antichrist is going to look pretty foolish when he can't turn the lights on in the city he's chosen for his throne.

Those who have followed him are still afflicted by the sores of the first bowl judgment. They are still dealing with the results of the second and third bowl judgments: the lack of food from the sea, from the lack of maritime trade, and from the shortage of fresh water. The sun is hotter than usual and they can find no relief from the sweltering heat, and yet now the city where the Antichrist has his throne is in pitch darkness. This ought to prove to them that God is more powerful than the so-called "god" they've chosen to worship. But still they curse the name of God. Such an aversion to all that is holy is incomprehensible to us, but I think that even in hell there will be those who wouldn't bow to God even if He appeared before them and offered them a way out. Even if it were possible to repent and be saved after the judgment (which is is not, according to the Scriptures), they would not accept redemption. They would rather remain where they are than worship their Creator.

"The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the east." (Revelation 16:12) This river is no longer a barrier to invading armies. They will be able to cross over on dry land.

"Then I saw three impure spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are demonic spirits that perform signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty." (Revelation 16:13-14) Something must be done at this point because Satan fears that people will begin to repent due to the severity of the plagues. He's also afraid that, even if they don't repent and turn to the living God, the leaders of the nations will turn their allegiance away from the Antichrist.

Things are spiraling out of control---not out of God's control but out of the devil's control. The man who is now head of all nations is sitting in the dark. Since he is a human being, it's likely that he's afflicted with the same sores as his followers. He is enduring a shortage of fresh water just like they are. People are beginning to wonder if they've "bet on the wrong horse", so to speak, and the monarchs and presidents and dictators who've willingly given their support to him are beginning to doubt the wisdom of continuing their alliance. In order to deceive these leaders into remaining loyal, the unholy trinity made up of Satan, the Antichrist, and the False Prophet sends out demonic spirits to perform signs and wonders on the earth.

The Bible doesn't elaborate on the nature of these signs and wonders, but they are impressive enough to convince the "kings", as John usually refers to them, not to sever their alliance with the Antichrist. These false miracles are going to be enough to persuade the kings to believe that the Antichrist has a good chance of winning the battle of Armageddon. They decide to keep on backing him by placing all their wealth, their technology, and their military power at his disposal.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 59, The Seven Bowl Judgments, Part One

Today we move on to Chapter 16 and begin our look at the seven bowl judgments. Seven angels have just come out of the temple in heaven holding seven bowls. One by one these angels will pour out the contents of these bowls.

"Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, 'Go, pour out the seven bowls of God's wrath on the earth.'" (Revelation 16:1) Some scholars believe this is God's voice since the temple is filled with the smoke of His glory at this time, according to Chapter 15. We were told that no one could enter the temple while it was filled with smoke. This may be His voice, although if it is, He speaks of Himself in the third person. Other scholars believe that, though no one can enter the temple at this time, there may be angels who are still inside the temple and that one of them gives the order to pour out the bowls.

"The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly, festering sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped its image." (Revelation 16:2) The Lord afflicted the Egyptians with boils in the book of Exodus, but none of the Hebrew people living among them were affected. The same thing happens in Revelation. None of the people who serve the living God are affected by the sores. Those who have given their allegiance to the Antichrist are the ones who suffer with the sores, but this doesn't cause them to repent, so the second bowl is poured out.

"The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead person, and every living thing in the sea died." (Revelation 16:2) In Chapter 8 we saw a portion of the sea turned to blood and a portion of the sea creatures dying. Here in verse 2 the entire sea turns red and everything in it dies. The contents of the first bowl affected the health of the wicked people of the earth. The contents of the second bowl affects their finances and their comfort. A great deal of trade is still conducted by sea. The saltwater fishing industry will come to an end, plus it will become very difficult to do much trading by sea with the bodies of sea creatures rising to the surface and rotting in the sun. Imagine the stench! Imagine the health hazards that will result.

"The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood." (Revelation 16:4) This will put an end to freshwater fishing. It will put an end to all river trade. We don't know whether the waters literally become blood or whether they just turn red like blood. John may be witnessing a worldwide red algae bloom. If you'd like more information about that, you can Google "red tide".

"Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say: 'You are just in these judgments, O Holy One, You who are and who were, for they have shed the blood of Your holy people and Your prophets, and You have given them blood to drink as they deserve.'" (Revelation 16:5-6) I think that, since the creation of man, the angels have observed the actions of man on the earth with a growing horror. They find it difficult to fathom the depths of wickedness to which man is capable of sinking. I think they may find it incomprehensible to imagine why the Lord Jesus loved fallen human beings enough to die for them. But since He thought man was worth dying for, the angels praise Him for His sacrifice. The angels approve of those who give their hearts to Christ and they minister to those who belong to Him. The angels feel righteous indignation against anyone who scorns the precious blood of the Son of God. The Lord didn't have to offer man a means of salvation, but since He did, the angels wonder how anyone dares to reject it. The angels long for the day when God condemns those who turned their noses up at the blood of Christ, and they long for the day when God will punish everyone who persecutes His faithful people. The angel in charge of the waters declares God righteous in His judgment of the wicked.

A voice seconds the angel's declaration. "And I heard the altar respond: 'Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are Your judgments.'" (Revelation 16:7) When John says "the altar" spoke, I think this could be the combined voices of the martyred believers who were under the altar in Revelation 6. Or it could be the voice of the angel in charge of the fire on the altar, since we've encountered him a couple of times already in our study.

A third theory is that this voice is the blood on the altar---either the blood of all the martyrs of all ages or the very blood of Christ that was shed for mankind. I think there is some evidence that the blood of Christ on the altar could be making the statement of verse 7. The book of Hebrews repeatedly reminds us that Christ took His blood into the temple of heaven and poured it out on the mercy seat (or altar) there. The author of Hebrews, when talking about the blood of Christ, warns his readers not to refuse Him who calls them to repent, saying that the blood of Christ speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:24-25a) What does he mean by this? In Genesis, when Cain wickedly slew his brother Abel, the Lord told him that the blood of his brother Abel cried out to Him from the ground. (Genesis 4:10) Abel's blood cried out to God for vengeance. Cain denied having any knowledge of Abel's whereabouts, but Abel's blood testified against him. If Abel's blood cried out to God, and if Abel's blood testified against his murderer, how much more will the blood of Christ testify against those who reject Him and who scorn the sacrifice He made for them? How much more will the blood of Christ testify against those who persecute the people who have accepted Him?

God will never do a single unrighteous thing. It's impossible because there is nothing unrighteous in Him. Any sentence He passes on any human being will be specifically tailored to that person's actions and attitudes. What about the person who was basically an okay human being but who never wanted anything to do with God? In their case, perhaps eternity will simply mean being separated from the God they never wanted to know. This means an eternity without His light and His love, but they lived their lives on the earth without any desire for His light and His love. What about those who actually hate God and hate the people who serve God? What about murderers and abusers? We want to see them judged, don't we? What about the leaders of Nazi Germany, for example? We want to see God's wrath fall on them for their persecution of the Jewish people, don't we? What about the millions of people over the centuries who've been slaughtered for proclaiming the name of God and of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ? We want to see a sentence handed down to them, don't we? Well, that day is coming. Here in Revelation 16 we see that day coming. We see voices in heaven praising God because that day is coming. Someday we will add our own voices to the praise of the God whose judgment is perfect and righteous.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 58, Seven Angels And Seven Plagues, Part Two

When we concluded our study yesterday, the Tribulation saints were singing the praises of the Lord. Now John tells us what happens next.

"After this I looked, and I saw in heaven the temple---that is, the tabernacle of the covenant law---and it was opened." (Revelation 15:5) You will recall that we were told in Chapter 12 that the Lord prepared a place in the wilderness to protect the Jews who would flee Jerusalem when the Antichrist would desecrate the third temple. John was told that the Lord would protect these people for the final 3.5 years of the Great Tribulation. At this point in the end times, the Jewish people may be feeling despair. The temple has an idolatrous image standing in it. The holy city of Jerusalem has been taken over by those who hate everything to do with God. The entire world has gone mad. Natural disasters are occurring on a scale never seen before. Those who fled Jerusalem for their lives may wonder if and when and how the Lord is going to fulfill all the promises He's made to Israel. Right now, by man's standards, the fulfillment of these promises seems hopeless.

But God is a covenant-keeper, and that is why in our passage today we see the temple in heaven opened. The Lord has flung the doors open wide as a reminder that His covenant with Israel still stands. He is going to keep His word to her, and right now we're going to take some time to study a few of the awesome, unbreakable promises the Lord has made to Israel.

In Leviticus 26:42 He vowed: "I will remember My covenant with Jacob and My covenant with Isaac and My covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land." The Lord promised not only to preserve Israel as a nation, but to preserve Israel in her own land. He's not going to set up the final, eternal nation of Israel anywhere but in the covenant land He promised to Abraham's descendants.

The Jewish people have been through dark days at various times throughout history, so the Lord made a promise they can hold onto---a promise that holds firm even when it seems like everything is falling apart. "For the Lord your God is a merciful God, He will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your ancestors, which He confirmed to them by oath." (Deuteronomy 4:31)

Even during times of exile, the Lord reminded His people Israel that His covenant with them would never be broken. "Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you." (Ezekiel 16:60)

God is not like man, who makes a promise and breaks it, or who makes a promise and forgets it. "He remembers His covenant forever, the promise He made, for a thousand generations, the covenant He made with Abraham, His chosen ones, the children of Jacob." (Psalm 105:5-6)

The Lord instructed His people Israel to remember His promises. He knew there would be days when they'd fall into despair unless they stood firm in their faith. "Remember these things, Jacob, for you, Israel, are My servant. I have made you, you are My servant, Israel; I will not forget you." (Isaiah 44:21)

As we study the words of Revelation, conditions on the earth are going to grow worse before they get better, but the descendants of Abraham will be able to endure it by holding fast to the Lord's unchanging word. He is the same God that He has always been. He hasn't become a covenant-breaker. He hasn't cast the nation of Israel aside. It's important that the descendants of Abraham take some time right now, at this point in Revelation, to remind themselves of all the awesome promises their God has made to them. They are going to see dreadful conditions on the earth. The very worst part of the Great Tribulation is about to occur. They have to be able to observe the events taking place in the world through eyes of faith. What is going to be an ending for the rebellious sinners of the world is not going to be an ending for any of the people who belong to the Lord. The end of sin is going to mean the fulfillment of God's promises to Israel. He is going to give her rest on every side from all her enemies. He is going to plant her in her land forever. And He is going to place His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, on the throne of David.

But before these things happen, the wrath of God must be carried out on the ungodly and on everything and everyone that opposes Him and opposes those who've placed their trust in Him. "Out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues. They were dressed in clean, shining linen and wore golden sashes around their chests. Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven bowls filled with the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power, and no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed." (Revelation 15:6-8) This same glory of God filled the Old Testament tabernacle in the wilderness and the temple that Solomon built. This glory reminded the people of God's powerful and protective presence with them. I think He fills the temple in heaven with His glory here at the end of Chapter 15 because when the bowls of wrath begin to be poured out, it's going to seem like the world is about to be destroyed. Those who've placed their trust in the Lord will have to keep in mind that His powerful and protective presence is with them. What looks like an ending is really only the beginning for those who belong to the Lord.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 57, Seven Angels And Seven Plagues, Part One

Now that we're moving on into Chapter 15 we are going to be backing up a bit from where we were in Chapter 14. In Chapter 14 John was shown things that would take place at the end of the Great Tribulation. These things reminded him that the Lord is in control, and I think he needed that reminder before proceeding into this next section which deals with "the seven last plagues".

"I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues---last, because with them God's wrath is completed." (Revelation 15:1) There's a growing trend in modern times for some to reject the idea of a God of wrath. They want to think of Him only as a God of mercy. And He is a God of mercy; He didn't have to provide us with a means of salvation. We are rebellious, sinful, wayward creatures, and God would have been within His rights to decide we aren't worth saving. He could have wiped all human beings off the face of the earth. But instead He sent His very best---His holy and perfect Son---to die for us so that we could obtain redemption through our faith in Christ. What more could He have done to express His love for us? What higher form of mercy could He offer us? But when a person refuses mercy, what remains is wrath. What remains is having to face the penalty for their own sins rather than having Christ stand up and say, "I've paid for this person's sins."

The Apostle Peter once said, "The end of all things is near." (1 Peter 4:7a) In the first century AD there already remained nothing to be fulfilled before the rapture of the church which would then usher in the end times. The end is closer now than it was in Peter's day. The end is closer now than it was when John wrote Revelation. Studying this book ought to break our hearts for those who don't know Christ. Studying this book should drive us to our knees in prayer for those who don't know Him, and it should compel us to share the gospel as often as possible.

Now John sees the Tribulation saints who most likely lost their lives for their faith. "And I saw what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name." (Revelation 15:2a) In Revelation 4:6 we were told there was a sea of glass in heaven before the throne of God. In Chapter 15 John doesn't say whether the sea of glass is in heaven or on earth, but I think we can assume it's the sea in heaven because we will be told that God has given harps to the saints standing by the sea. This time the sea is glowing like fire, and this may symbolize the trials these saints have been through. Trials in the Scriptures are often symbolized by fire. Trials in the lives of believers are not intended to burn them up but to purify them in the same way the heating of precious metals causes the dross to rise to the top so it can be skimmed off. Job, in spite of his deep sorrow, realized that he would be a better man after his trials than he was before, and he said, "When He has tested me, I will come forth as gold." (Job 23:10b)

"They held harps given to them by God and sang the song of God's servant Moses and of the Lamb: 'Great and marvelous are Your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are Your ways, King of the nations. Who will not fear You, Lord, and bring glory to Your name? For You alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed.'" (Revelation 15:2b-4) The verses included in their song come from Psalm 111:2-3, Deuteronomy 32:4, Jeremiah 10:7, Psalm 86:9, and Psalm 98:2. Some scholars believe this song is called the song of Moses and of the Lamb because both Jews and Gentiles will sing it. Others think that referencing Moses and the Lamb in this way represents the law of the Old Testament and the grace of the New Testament. I can't say which theory is correct or if either theory is correct. But Moses was the author (by inspiration of the Holy Spirit) of the first five books of the Old Testament, and Jesus Christ is the author (because He dictated His words to John) of the last book of the New Testament, so perhaps mentioning Moses and the Lamb together is intended to symbolize all the Scriptures as a whole from beginning to end.

The Lord gave these saints the strength to stand firm and now they are standing in His presence forever. When do we give our most joyful praise? Isn't it when the Lord has brought us through something? Isn't it when something that looked impossible has been accomplished---not by our own strength, but by His strength? John doesn't tell us how many saints sing this song to God, but I believe they represent a huge number, and I think they sing the song at the top of their voices. I think the sound of their song resounds from one end of heaven to the other.

The saints sing about the King of all kings. Before much longer now in our study, we will see the King of kings coming to rule over the world, and the prophecy Isaiah spoke of Him will come true: "The government will be on His shoulders." (Isaiah 9:6a) Here in Chapter 15 we don't yet see Him enthroned, but the saints break into anticipatory song anyway. They can't wait until His coronation day; they can't be silent. His reign is already assured and, in faith, these people raise their voices in song to the One of whom Isaiah said, "He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of His government and peace there will be no end." (Isaiah 9:6b)

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 56, The Winepress Of Wrath

John received a vision in yesterday's study about the coming judgment. He saw the Lord taking a sharp sickle and cutting down dry and withered vines. The information he's given in today's passage also has to do with judgment and it involves a winepress. Most Bible scholars and students of prophecy believe the winepress of wrath in Chapter 14 has to do with the battle of Armageddon.

"Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle." (Revelation 14:17) An angel had already previously come out of the temple in Chapter 14, and that angel implored the Lord to use the sickle He held in His hand to harvest the earth. The Lord cut down dry vines with the sickle, the dry vines most likely representing those who still---in the face of the coming judgment and despite all the proof that there is a God---refuse to acknowledge their Maker. Even more specifically, those who are being harvested may represent those on the earth in the last days who not only reject God but who persecute the nation of Israel. Some of the commentaries I consulted suggested that since John sees the angels of Chapter 14 coming out of the temple in heaven, and since the temple on earth is connected to the Jews and not to the Gentiles, that John is foreseeing the judgment of those who mistreat the Lord's people Israel in the end times.

Now another angel emerges from the temple and he has a sickle in his hand. We know he's about to do some harvesting with it. He's followed by yet another angel. "Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and cried 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.'" (Revelation 14:18) At this point in Revelation, John is foreseeing a battle yet to come. It will not take place right here in our present chapter, but will take place at the Second Coming of Christ in Chapter 19. In His revelations to John, the Lord has "skipped ahead" in Chapter 14 to give John a glimpse of how things are going to end up. I think this is probably because the worst part of Revelation is yet to come, and as John views the events of those days he's going to need something to hold onto. If he didn't see the coming judgment of the wicked people of the last days, and if he didn't see the judgment of the unholy trinity of the devil, he might faint under the strain of the revelations he will be given. The final days of the world before Christ returns are going to be very dark.

John, like the prophet Daniel who was given visions of the end times, finds the information he's being given upsetting and disturbing. Daniel said he was overcome with anguish because of the visions he was given. (Daniel 16b) Like Daniel, John wants to know, "What will the outcome of all this be?" (Daniel 12:8) Daniel was told that the end times events wouldn't take place in his lifetime and that the visions he'd been given wouldn't be understood until a later time. John, however, was told in the beginning of Revelation that the time is at hand. Christ could call His church out of the world at any moment. There are no prophecies that still need to be fulfilled before that glorious happening. We are living in the last days leading up to the last days, as we've discussed before.

The angel with the sickle harvests the grapes, and this harvest is not the type of harvest over which a vineyard owner would rejoice. These grapes are appointed for judgment---in other words, for the wrath of God. We get the expression "the grapes of wrath" from this next verse. "The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God's wrath." (Revelation 14:19) In John's day people would throw the ripe grapes into a winepress, then step into the winepress and start stomping the grapes to extract the juice. This is the image we are meant to imagine when the angel throws the grapes into the winepress. The grapes are being trampled and crushed.

Our final verse today tells us something about where and when this trampling of the grapes will occur. "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 1600 stadia." (Revelation 14:20) The battle will take place just outside of Jerusalem. Whenever the Bible simply says "the city" it's a reference to Jerusalem which was the city---the greatest and holiest city on earth---to the people of Israel.

In the Old Testament book of Joel we find a reference to this harvesting of the grapes, to God's wrath, and to the final battle. Keep in mind that prophecies having to do with the end times are often prefaced with the words "in those days" or "in that day" or "in the day of the Lord", meaning Judgment Day. The Lord promised the prophet Joel that a day was coming in which He would free Israel forever from all her enemies and that He would judge everyone and every nation that has done harm to her. "In those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all nations and bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will put them on trial for what they did to My inheritance, My people Israel...Let the nations be roused; let them advance into the valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit to judge the nations on every side. Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow---so great is their wickedness! Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and moon will be darkened, and the stars no longer shine. The Lord will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the heavens will tremble. But the Lord will be a refuge for His people, a stronghold for the people of Israel." (Joel 3:1-2a, 12-16)

The prophet Zechariah was also given information about this great and final battle. He said that armies would gather outside Jerusalem, but that the Lord would avenge His people Israel. "Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as He fights on a day of battle." (Zechariah 14:3) There's something different about this battle, for Zechariah says it will be a day like no other. And at that time, the King of kings will come to the earth: "Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with Him." (Zechariah 14:5b) Later in Chapter 16 we will see the armies of earth gathering to fight against the Lord and to fight against His people Israel. "Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon." (Revelation 16:16) But in Revelation 19 we will see the Lord Jesus Christ on His battle horse, coming with all the holy ones of heaven, to the battle of Armageddon: "I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider was called Faithful and True. With justice He judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on His head are many crowns. He has a name written on Him that no one knows but He Himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped with blood, and His name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following Him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean." (Revelation 19:11-14)

So we see that the gathering of the grapes and the trampling of the grapes in the winepress is an event that will happen at the end of the Great Tribulation. The battle will take place near Jerusalem. The battle will spread out over 200 miles (1600 stadia) and the battle will be bloody, with blood splattering as high as the bridles on horses. I don't know whether this means fighting will be done on horseback or whether John is merely using horses for height reference. I tend to think the latter since a battle occurring with modern technology won't be likely to involve soldiers fighting from horseback. I think the trampling of the grapes and the splattering of the grape juice are used symbolically for the casualties of battle and for the blood that, like grape juice, splatters upwards to stain the garments of the one who tramples the grapes in the winepress.

The prophet Isaiah foresaw the day of the Lord's wrath and said this about it: "Who is this coming from Edom, from Bozrah, with His garments stained crimson? Who is this, robed in splendor, striding forward in the greatness of His strength?" (Isaiah 63:1a) The Lord answered, "It is I, proclaiming victory, mighty to save." (Isaiah 63:1b) Isaiah then asked the Lord why His garments are stained crimson like one who has been trampling grapes in a winepress. The Lord answered that His garments are stained because He has been treading the nations in the winepress of wrath, and that, "Their blood stained all my garments, and I stained all My clothing. It was for Me the day of vengeance; the Year for Me to redeem had come." (Isaiah 63:3b)

Scary as all this sounds, we have to remind ourselves that no one will be trampled in the winepress of wrath except those who reject and scorn Almighty God and His offer of salvation. The blood the Lord's garments are stained with is the blood of His enemies and the blood of those who have been enemies to those who belong to Him. These people have rejected the Lord in favor of worshiping the Antichrist, or in favor of worshiping nothing at all, or in favor of serving only themselves. They are persecuting those who have come to Christ during the Great Tribulation. They are trying to wipe the people of Israel off the face of the earth with a hatred that exceeds the hatred of Nazi Germany. The Lord will judge these people because they have earned judgment. They have chosen their destiny and He is going to deliver it to them in person.