Thursday, December 29, 2016

Unholy Trinity

1 Then I (John) saw a beast rising up out of the sea. It had seven heads and ten horns, with ten crowns on its horns. And written on each head were names (titles) that blasphemed God (blasphemy). 2 This beast looked like a leopard, but it had the feet of a bear and the mouth of a lion! And the dragon (Satan) gave the beast his own power and throne (seat) and great authority. 3 I saw that one of the heads of the beast seemed wounded beyond recovery (deadly wound)—but the fatal (deadly) wound was healed! The whole world marveled (wondered) at this miracle and gave allegiance to the beast. 4 They worshiped the dragon for giving the beast such power, and they also worshiped the beast. “Who is as great as the beast?” they exclaimed. “Who is able to fight against him?” 5 Then the beast was allowed to speak great blasphemies against God. And he was given authority to do whatever he wanted for forty-two months. 6 And he spoke terrible words of blasphemy against God, slandering (even vilifying) His Name and His Temple (Tabernacle)—that is, those who live in heaven. 7 And the beast was allowed to wage war against God’s holy people (saints) and to conquer them. And he was given authority to rule over every tribe and people and language and nation. 8 And all the people who belong to this world worshiped the beast. They are the ones whose names were not written in the Book of Life before the world was made—the Book that belongs to the Lamb who was slaughtered (sacrificially slain for sins). 9 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand. 10 Anyone who is destined for prison will be taken to prison. Anyone destined to die by the sword will die by the sword. This means that God’s holy people (saints) must endure persecution patiently and remain faithful.

11 Then I saw another (second) beast come up out of the earth (land). He had two horns like those of a lamb, but he spoke (roared) with the voice of a dragon. 12 He exercised all the authority of the first beast. And he required all the earth and its people to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. 13 He did astounding miracles (signs), even making fire flash down to earth from the sky while everyone was watching. 14 And with all the miracles (signs) he was allowed to perform on behalf of the first beast, he deceived all the people who belong to this world. He ordered the people to make a great statue of the first beast, who was fatally wounded and then came back to life. 15 He was then permitted to give life to this statue so that it could speak. Then the statue of the beast commanded that anyone refusing to worship it must die. 16 He required everyone—small and great, rich and poor, free and slave—to be given a mark on the right hand or on the forehead. 17 And no one could buy or sell anything without that mark, which was either the name of the beast or the number representing his name. 18 Wisdom (discernment) is needed here. Let the one with understanding (insight) solve the meaning of the number of the beast, for it is the number of a (certain) man. His number is 666. Revelation 13:1-18 (NLT)

Revelation chapter 12 ended with the evil fiery-red dragon standing by the seashore (Revelation 12:18) after his failure to devour and kill the woman and her male Child (Jesus) (see Revelation 12:3-6, 13-17). The fiery-red dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil or Satan—went off to make war against the rest of the woman’s offspring—those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus (Revelation 12:9, 17).

Revelation 13 opens with John, the human author of Revelation, seeing a grotesque beast rising out of the sea with seven heads and ten horns, and ten crowns upon its horns (Revelation 13:1; see also Revelation 11:7). Written on each head of the beast were blasphemous and insulting names that cursed the true God of heaven and earth (Revelation 13:1). The fiery-red dragon, Satan, gave his power, his throne, and great authority to the beast (Revelation 13:2). One of the beast’s heads seemed to have a severe and deadly wound, but its wound was healed, similar to Jesus’ wound in Revelation 5 (Revelation 13:3, 12, 14; see also Revelation 5:6). Apparently, the dragon miraculously restore the beast to life in imitation of God’s resurrection of Jesus. The whole earth marveled and worshipped the evil dragon and the beast (Revelation 13:3-4).

Many commentaries call this first beast a counterfeit or the antichrist! The beast here, first mentioned in Revelation 11:7, is described in similar terms to the beasts (especially the fourth) in the vision of Daniel 7. Importantly, the beast’s power comes from Satan (the dragon).

The beast was given a mouth uttering arrogant, self-centered, and blasphemous words and the beast was allowed to exercise authority for 42 months (Revelation 13:5; see also Daniel 7:8, 11, 20, 25; Daniel 11:36; 2 Thessalonians 2:4). God allowed the beast to operate 42 months just as Satan has given the beast limited power through God's permission. Furthermore, the beast opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming His Name, His dwelling (the Temple), and those who lived in heaven (Revelation 13:6). Moreover, the beast was allowed to make war against God’s people (the saints) and given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation (Revelation 13:7). Sadly, the people of the earth (pagans) whose names were not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life worshipped the fiery-red dragon and the beast (Revelation 13:8).

Then, John saw a second beast, but this beast rose out of the land or earth (Revelation 13:11). This second beast had two horns like a lamb and the beast roared or spoke like the red-fiery dragon (Revelation 13:11). This second beast exercised all the authority of the first beast and made earth and the people to worship the first beast (Revelation 13:12). Furthermore, the second beast performed great signs and miracles, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people (Revelation 13:13). With these various signs and miracles, the second beast deceived many people of the world (heathens) (Revelation 13:14. Many commentaries call this second beast the false prophet, and he is a deceiver or trickster performing all kinds of false miracles, signs, and wonders (see also Deuteronomy 13:1; Matthew 7:15; Mark 13:22; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 16:13-14; Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:10).

Moreover, the second beast encouraged the people to make a statute of the first beast (Revelation 13:14). The second beast gave breath (life) to the statute of the first beast so that the statue of the first beast could even speak (Revelation 13:15). Most important, the second beast caused the people (heathens), both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked (tattooed) on their right hand or their forehead (Revelation 13:16). No one could buy or sell unless he had the mark (tattoo), that is, the name of the first beast (antichrist) or the number of its name (Revelation 13:16-17). John warned the people that this marking of the beast calls for wisdom. The beast’s marking is the number of a man, and his number is 666 (Revelation 13:18). The antichrist’s mark of 666 represents a symbol of the greatest imperfection and concentration of evil that the world has ever seen even more evil than Nero, a Hitler, or a Stalin. The “mark” of the beast is in contrast to the seal of God and the Lamb given to God’s servants (see Revelation 7:3-4; Revelation 14:1).

Who is this satanic beast representing 666? Over the centuries, a great deal of ingenuity has been expending in attempting to answer this age-old question. Some people have identified this satanic beast as Nero, Hitler, Stalin, and even Saddam Hussein. In the symbolic use of numbers, seven is the perfect number and the number of God. The number six represents man. Often in Jewish apocalyptic literature, six represents an evil number because six represents man apart from God. Thus, many biblical commentaries see 666 as the ultimate concentration of evil.

Revelation chapters 12 through 14 mark a major division in the book of Revelation by introducing three evil characters – the dragon and his two evil beasts. Some biblical commentaries call these three characters the unholy or evil trinity. These three characters are Satan the dragon, the false Christ or antichrist, and the false prophet. These three evil characters actively oppose the true God, His true Christ – Jesus, and His people (the church). John, the human author of Revelation, wanted the church to know these three evil characters—the dragon and his two evil beasts—are the REAL persecutors and enemies against the church (see e.g., John 15:20; Ephesians 6:10-13; 1 Peter 5:8-9). The dragon and his two evil beasts account for the age-long conflict between God and His people.

For centuries, Satan has raised up his leaders or counterfeit agents that persecute God’s people. Similar to the antichrist (Revelation 13:3), these counterfeit agents receive their power from Satan. Even more, Satan has sent out counterfeits or false prophets throughout history to attack God’s people by deceiving and manipulating God’s Word (see e.g., Genesis 3:1-5; Jeremiah 14:14-16; Jeremiah 23:16; Matthew 7:15; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 1 John 4:1-3). Satan and his false prophets take God’s truths and produce a counterfeit version of God's work and teaching. Jesus’ warned His disciples in all three Synoptic Gospels that false prophets and false messiahs will appear who are empowered by and sent by Satan to deceive God’s people (see e.g., Matthew 24:4-5, 10-11, 23-24; Mark 13:5-6, 21-22; Luke 21:8). Jesus instructs His people not to be deceived by these false prophets, false messiahs, and other deceptions!

However, God the Father and Jesus Christ have already defeated the dragon and his two evil beasts (see e.g., John 16:33; 1 John 4:4; 1 John 5:4-5). Moreover, God’s people have defeated the dragon and his two evil beasts by the blood of the Lamb and by the faithful word of their testimony (Revelation 12:11; see also Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; Revelation 3:5, 12, 21). John wrote the book of Revelation to encourage God’s people to remain wholeheartedly faithful to God and NOT TO ACCOMMODATE, COMPROMISE, AND WORSHIP with the unholy trinity—Satan the dragon, the false Christ or antichrist, and the false prophet and not accept their evil values and teaching (see Revelation 12:17; Revelation 14:12; Revelation 21:7-8; see also Mark 13:13; Luke 21:19)! John warned God’s people that these evil characters would appear godly with fatal wounds that have healed and performed numerous miracles and signs, but they are evil and their ways lead to eternal death (Revelation 13:1-3, 11-15; Revelation 14:9-11, 17-20; Revelation 20:10; see also 2 Timothy 3:13-16).  

Apologetics Study Bible: Understanding Why You Believe (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2012).
Ryrie Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1995).
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Senior Professor of the New Testament (Due West, SC: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2016).
Metzger, Bruce. Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1993).
Mounce, Robert H. The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary –New Testament (Victor Books, 1989).

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Revelation’s Christmas Story

1 Then I (John) witnessed in heaven an event (sign) of great significance. I saw a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and a crown (tiara) of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant, and she cried out because of her labor pains and the agony of giving birth. 3 Then I witnessed in heaven another significant event (sign). I saw a large (fiery) red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, with seven crowns on his heads. 4 His tail swept away (across the sky) one-third of the stars in the sky, and he threw them to the earth. He stood in front of the woman as she was about to give birth, ready to devour her Baby as soon as it was born. 5 She gave birth to a Son who was to rule all nations with an iron rod (scepter). And her Child was snatched away from the dragon and was caught up to God and to His throne. 6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where God had prepared a place to care for her for 1,260 days (42 months, three and one-half years).

7 Then there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels. 8 And the dragon lost the battle, and he and his angels were forced out of heaven. 9 This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving (seducing) the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels. 10 Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has come at last— salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ (Messiah). For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth— the one who accuses them before our God day and night. 11 And they have defeated (overcome) him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens! And you who live in the heavens, rejoice! But terror (woe) will come on the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you in great anger, knowing that he has little time (short).”

13 When the dragon realized that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male Child. 14 But she was given two wings like those of a great eagle so she could fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness. There she would be cared for and protected from the dragon for a time, times, and half a time (42 months, three and one-half years, or 1,260 days). 15 Then the dragon tried to drown the woman with a flood of water that flowed from his mouth. 16 But the earth helped her by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that gushed out from the mouth of the dragon. 17 And the dragon was angry (furious) at the woman and declared war against the rest of her children (descendants) all who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus. Revelation 12:1-17 (NLT)

Christmas is the most joyous time of the year! During this season, we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior of the World, Jesus Christ born in Bethlehem of Judea (Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:4-7, 10-11).

Many biblical interpreters describe Revelation 12 as Christmas day. However, Revelation 12 differs radically from the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth found in Matthew and Luke’s Gospels. The Gospels of Mark and John contain no birth narrative of Jesus. If not for Matthew and Luke’s Gospels, God’s people would not know about Jesus’ birth and His childhood until Jesus launched His public ministry at about 30 years of age (see Luke 3:23).

Revelation’s Christmas story does not tell of the shepherds, a crazy king named Herod, nor a manger scene. Rather, Revelation gives the miraculous birth of a male Child and the murderous dragon leading a ferocious struggle in heaven to kill Him. The dragon’s attack when Jesus was born launches a series of rebellion, wars, and attacks against God’s obedient people (Revelation 12:17). However, God’s obedient people have victory over the dragon and his evil alliance through their faith and testimony in Jesus Christ (Revelation 12:11; see also John 16:33; 1 Corinthians 15:57-58; Colossians 2:13-15; 1 John 5:4-5). Jesus already defeated the dragon and his evil alliance by His atoning death and resurrection on the first Easter! At the second Easter (Jesus’ second coming), “every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11, NLT).

Revelation 12 begins with a great sign appearing in heaven (Revelation 12:1). A woman clothed with the sun was pregnant and was crying out in agony of giving birth (Revelation 12:1-2). Then, Revelation 12 reveals another sign in heaven of a fiery-red dragon (Revelation 12:3). This fiery-red dragon tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth (Revelation 12:4). Then, the fiery-red dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her Child the moment the Child was born (Revelation 12:4; see also Matthew 2:16). However, the woman gave birth to a male Child – Jesus Christ (Messiah), and this male Child is to rule all the nations with an iron scepter (rod) as a military figure (Revelation 12:5; see also Numbers 24:17; Psalm 2:8-9; Matthew 2:6; Revelation 2:27; Revelation 19:11-15). The dragon’s eagerness to devour the Child explains the violent opposition that Jesus met during His earthy ministry beginning at His birth with evil Herod’s attempt to kill Him (Matthew 2:16). However, God protected the male Child by taking the woman’s Child up to His throne – the ascension of Jesus (Revelation 12:5 see also Psalm 110:1-2; Matthew 16:16). Then, the woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared by God, in which she was nourished and cared for 1,260 days (Revelation 12:6).

Some have variously interpreted the woman clothed with the sun as the Virgin Mary, by others as the Christian church, and by still others as the Jewish people (the nation Israel). The Old Testament often compares Israel a woman and God as her Husband (see e.g., Isaiah 54:5; Isaiah 66:7; Jeremiah. 3:6-10; Micah 5:2-3). Through the nation of Israel, Jesus Christ came into the world (see Matthew 2:1-2; John 4:22; Roman 1:3; Romans 9:4-5). Likely, the woman personified the ideal community of God’s people, first in its Jewish form, in which Mary gave birth to Jesus the Messiah (a Jew), and then in its Christian form (the church), in which it was persecuted by political powers as evil as the dragon (Revelation 12:6). Interestingly, Revelation 12 also has striking parallels to Babylonian, Persian, Egyptian, and Greek mythology. Many biblical scholars believe John may have used these ancient Near Eastern stories in writing Revelation 12.

Afterward, a war arose in heaven (Revelation 12:7). Archangel Michael and his angels fought against the fiery-red dragon and his evil angels (Revelation 12:7; see also Daniel 10:13, 21; Daniel 12:1; Jude 9). The dragon and his angels were defeated because they were not strong enough to defeat God’s angels (Revelation 12:8). The dragon and his evil angels were thrown out of heaven to earth (Revelation 12:9-10). Revelation identifies the great fiery-red dragon as the ancient serpent that is also called the devil and Satan, and he is the deceiver and accuser of the whole world (Revelation 12:9-10; see also Genesis 3:1, 14-15; Revelation 20:2-3, 10).

After that, John heard a loud voice in heaven, shouting, “Now the salvation and the power and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers (and sisters) has been thrown down, who accuse them day and night before our God (Revelation 12:10, ESV; see also Job 1:9-11; Zechariah 3:1). Furthermore, John heard the loud voice declaring, “They have conquered him (the devil or dragon) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Revelation 12:11, ESV; see also Luke 14:26; Revelation 7:14). God’s people have victory over the evil dragon and his alliance through the blood of the Lamb (Jesus). Our faith in Jesus’ precious and sacrificial blood brings our victory and redemption from sin (see Revelation 1:5-6; Revelation 5:9-10). However, John heard the loud voice declaring terror to the earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because “he knows that his time is short” (Revelation 12:12; see also Isaiah 44:23; Isaiah 49:13).

At that time, the evil dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth and he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male Child (Revelation 12:13). However, the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly away from the evil serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she was nourished and cared for forty-two months or three and one-half years (Revelation 12:14; Daniel 7:25; Daniel 12:7). Then, the evil serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood (Revelation 12:15). However, the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowed the river that the evil dragon had poured from his mouth (Revelation 12:16). Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring (descendants) who faithfully keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus (Revelation 12:17; see also John 16:33). The woman’s offspring or descendants are faithful followers of Jesus – the church or the new Israel (Jews and Gentiles) – who obeys God’s commandment and testimony of Jesus.

Revelation 12:17 reveals the dragon’s persistent hostility and persecution against God’s people because he knows his time is short (see also Revelation 12:12; Revelation 13:7). Jesus warned His disciples, “If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20). Today, God’s people are involved in a similar conflict with the evil dragon and his evil alliance (see Ephesians 6:10-13). Satan and his evil alliance are out to persecute and destroy the church (1 Peter 5:8). However, God’s people in any age or situation can rejoice, no matter how difficult their experiences. We have victory over Satan and his evil alliance through our faithfulness to God’s commands and faithfulness to Jesus Christ (Revelation 13:10; Revelation 14:12; see also Revelation 14:15-17). As Jesus informed His disciples before His death and crucifixion, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NLT; see also Revelation 3:5, 12, 21; Revelation 21:7).

Amplified Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987).
New Student Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992).
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Senior Professor of New Testament (Due West, SC: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2016).
Metzger, Bruce. Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1993).
Mounce, Robert H. The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary –New Testament (Victor Books, 1989).

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Witnessing Church

1 Then I (John) was given a measuring stick (rod), and I was told, “Go and measure the Temple (Sanctuary) of God and the altar, and count the number of worshippers. 2 But do not measure the outer courtyard, for it has been turned over to the nations (heathens). They will trample the holy city for 42 months (three and one-half years). 3 And I will give power to My two witnesses, and they will be clothed in burlap and will prophesy during those 1,260 days (42 months or three and one-half years).” 4 These two prophets (witnesses) are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of all the earth. 5 If anyone tries to harm (injure) them, fire flashes from their mouths and consumes their enemies. This is how anyone who tries to harm them must die. 6 They (two witnesses) have power to shut the sky so that no rain will fall for as long as they prophesy. And they have the power to turn the rivers and oceans into blood, and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they wish. 7 When they complete their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the bottomless pit (Abyss or underworld) will declare war against them, and he will conquer them and kill them. 8 And their (dead) bodies will lie in the main street of Jerusalem, the city that is figuratively called “Sodom” and “Egypt,” the city where their Lord was crucified. 9 And for three and a half days, all peoples, tribes, languages, and nations will stare (gaze) at their (dead) bodies. No one will be allowed to bury them. 10 All the people who belong to this world will gloat over them and give presents to each other to celebrate the death of the two prophets who had tormented them. 11 But after three and a half days, God breathed life into them, and they stood up! Terror struck all who were staring at them. 12 Then a loud voice from heaven called to the two prophets, “Come up here!” And they rose to heaven in a cloud as their enemies watched. 13 At the same time there was a terrible earthquake that destroyed a tenth of the city. Seven thousand people died in that earthquake, and everyone else was terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. 14 The second terror is past, but look, the third terror is coming quickly. 15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices shouting in heaven: “The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever.” 16 The twenty-four elders sitting on their thrones before God fell with their faces to the ground and worshiped Him. 17 And they said, “We give thanks to You, Lord God, the Almighty (Omnipotent), the One who is and who always was, for now You have assumed Your great power and have begun to reign. 18 The nations (heathen) were filled with wrath, but now the time of Your wrath has come. It is time to judge the dead and reward Your servants the prophets, as well as Your holy people, and all who fear (respect, revere) Your Name, from the least to the greatest. It is time to destroy all who have caused destruction on the earth.” 19 Then, in heaven, the Temple (Sanctuary) of God was opened and the Ark of His covenant could be seen inside the Temple. Lightning flashed, thunder crashed and roared, and there was an earthquake and a terrible hailstorm. Revelation 11:1-19 (NLT)

In Revelation 11, John has another strange and difficult vision. Many biblical scholars acknowledge chapter 11 as one of the most perplexing sections of the entire book of Revelation.

In this vision, God gives John a measuring stick or rod to measure the Temple of God, including the inner court where the altar stands, and to count the number of worshippers (Revelation 11:1). However, God tells John not to measure the outer court because God has given the outer courts to the nations (Revelation 11:2). Many biblical interpreters relate John’s vision of measuring the Temple to Ezekiel chapters 40 and 41 and Zechariah 2:1-5 from the Old Testament. John used much of Ezekiel and Zechariah’s prophecies from the Old Testament for his writing of Revelation. Measuring property symbolizes ownership and preservation. Thus, many biblical interpreters see the measuring the Temple as similar to the sealing of the 144,000 in Revelation 7:1-8. Similar to the sealing of God’s people in Revelation chapter 7, God continually preserves, provides, and protects His people who faithfully trusts in Him (Revelation 11:1-14; see also Nahum 1:7).

Interestingly, the Romans destroyed the Jerusalem Temple in AD 70. Many biblical commentaries believe John’s references to the Temple means the church headed by Jesus Christ (see e.g., Ephesians 1:22-23; Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18). In the New Testament, the church is described as God's Temple where God dwells. The Apostle Paul, for example, tells the Corinthian believers, “Do you not know that you are God’s Temple?” (see 1 Corinthians 3:16). Later, the Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians, “We are the Temple of the living God” (see 2 Corinthians 6:16). Furthermore, according to Apostle Peter, Christians are living stones, built into a spiritual house (see 1 Peter 2:5). Thus, the whole church is growing “into a holy Temple in the Lord” (see Ephesians 2:21). God dwells in the lives and hearts of His people (Jews and Gentiles) who faithfully love and obey Him (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Ephesians 2:11, 19-22).

Then, God tells John that He will give power to His two witnesses to prophesy 1,260 days (approximately 42 months or three and one-half years) (Revelation 11:3). The Holy Scriptures call these two witnesses “prophets” (see Revelation 11:3, 6). Many scholars believe God will send His two witnesses before the end of the age. Not only do these two witnesses declare God’s Words, but they also do God’s works and perform miracles of judgment, reminding us of both Moses and Elijah from the Old Testament (Revelation 11:6; see also Exodus 7:14-18; 1 Kings 17:1; 2 Kings 1:1-12). God gives His two witnesses power to shut the skies so that no rain will fall during the three and one-half years like the Prophet Elijah (Revelation 11:6; see also 1 Kings 17:1; 2 Kings 1:10). Also, these two witnesses have power to turn rivers and oceans into blood and to send every kind of plague upon the earth as often as they wish similar to Moses (Revelation 11:6; see also Exodus 7:14-18; Exodus 8:12).

Many biblical commentaries describe these two witnesses as possibly Moses and Elijah, Elijah and Enoch, or Enoch and Moses. There was a tradition in Judaism and Jewish apocalyptic literature that Moses, Elijah, or Enoch will appear on earth just before the Messiah’s arrival (see Malachi 4:5-6). From the Old Testament, neither Enoch, Moses, nor Elijah experienced death (see Genesis 5:21-24; Deuteronomy 34:5-8; 2 Kings 2:10-11; Hebrews 11:5).

When the witnesses complete their testimony, a beast or monster will come out of the bottomless pit (Revelation 11:7). The beast from the underworld or Abyss will declare war against on God’s faithful witnesses and then kill them (Revelation 11:7). Essentially, the witnesses are unbeatable until they have finished God’s mission (see Revelation 11:7-10). For three and a half days, the two faithful witnesses bodies will lay exposed and unburied in the streets of Jerusalem — the very place where the Lord Jesus was crucified (Revelation 11:8-9). Sadly, the people of the earth rejoice and celebrate a “satanic Christmas” by exchanging gifts to one another (Revelation 11:10). After three and a half days, God’s Spirit will revive and give His faithful witnesses life (Revelation 11:11). God takes His two faithful witnesses to heaven while the world watches (Revelation 11:12). The world’s satanic celebration suddenly becomes great fear! Then, God sends a terrible earthquake that levels a tenth of the city, leaving 7,000 dead and the people of the earth will temporarily give God glory (Revelation 11:13).

Significantly, the main point of these witnesses is the symbolism. Many biblical commentaries believe these two witnesses remind God’s people what to do during times of tribulation and suffering. Just as the two witnesses, God’s people must faithfully preach and proclaim God’s message to the world and not withdraw in hiding and separation (see also Matthew 28:18-20). God’s people (the church) must continually give faithful testimony to the world despite persecution and rejection. 

Interestingly, when the seventh angel blew the trumpet, there were loud voices shouting down from heaven, “The Kingdom of this world now belongs to our Lord, and to His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15, TLB). Although Jesus the Son is subjected to His Father (1 Corinthians 15:28), Jesus also shares the eternal rule of God. The singular (“He will reign”) emphasizes the unity and joint sovereignty of God the Father with His Son Jesus.

Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Senior Professor of New Testament (Due West, SC: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2016).
Metzger, Bruce. Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1993).
Mounce, Robert H. The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary –New Testament (Victor Books, 1989).

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Mighty Angel

1 Then I (John) saw another mighty (strong) angel coming down from heaven, surrounded (wrapped) by a cloud, with a rainbow over his head. His face shone like the sun, and his feet (legs) were like pillars of fire. 2 And in his hand was a small scroll that had been opened. He stood with his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land. 3 And he gave a great shout like the roar of a lion. And when he shouted, the seven thunders answered. 4 When the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write. But I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Keep secret (seal) what the seven thunders said, and do not write it down.”

5 Then the angel I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand toward heaven. 6 He swore an oath in the Name of the One who lives forever and ever, who created the heavens and everything in them, the earth and everything in it, and the sea and everything in it. He said, “There will be no more delay. 7 When the seventh angel blows his trumpet, God’s mysterious plan will be fulfilled. It will happen just as He announced it to His servants the prophets.”

8 Then the voice from heaven spoke to me (John) again: “Go and take the open scroll from the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” 9 So I went to the angel and told him to give me the small scroll. “Yes, take it and eat it,” he said. “It will be sweet as honey in your mouth, but it will turn sour in your stomach!” 10 So I took the small scroll from the hand of the angel, and I ate it! It was sweet in my mouth, but when I swallowed it, it turned sour in my stomach. 11 Then I was told, “You must prophesy (proclaim) again about many peoples, nations, languages, and kings. Revelation 10:1-11 (NLT)

Revelation chapter 10 is approximately the midpoint of John’s great vision of the future. As a review, Revelation chapters 6 through 19 describe three series of judgments: seven seals (chapter 6), seven trumpets (chapters 8 and 9), and seven bowls (chapters 15-16). In Revelation chapters 8 and 9, John revealed the second series of God’s judgments with the trumpet judgments and God’s six disastrous events with six trumpet judgments. In chapter 10, readers are expecting God’s seventh trumpet to sound. Instead, Revelation 10 along with chapters 11 through 14 provides the second interlude or interruption in John’s great revelation (unveiling or apocalypse) of the future. Revelation chapter 7 was the first interlude between the sixth and seventh seal judgments, and this first interlude contained two interrelated visions of the church triumphant. There will be no additional interlude with the final seven bowl judgments (the final series to come).

In the second interlude, John saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven (Revelation 10:1). John had previously seen and heard a mighty angel in his throne room vision at Revelation 5 (see Revelation 5:2). A cloud and a rainbow surrounded this mighty angel (Revelation 10:1). Moreover, this angel’s face shone like the sun, and his legs and feet flashed with fire (Revelation 10:1). The mighty angel held open in his hand a small scroll – not the scroll of destiny from Revelation 5 (Revelation 10:2; see also Revelation 5:1-14). This angel was so mighty that he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the earth, indicating that his words and authority deal with all the earth – land and sea (Revelation 10:2). The mighty angel gave a great shout that sounded like the roar of a lion and seven thunders crashed their response to the angel’s loud shout (Revelation 10:3).

Some biblical commentaries have taken the mighty angel to be either God or Jesus Christ. Like God on His throne, the mighty angel is surrounded by a rainbow (Revelation 10:1; see also Revelation 4:3). Similar to God and the Son of Man, this mighty angel came with a cloud, and his face shined like the sun (Revelation 10:1; see also e.g., Exodus 16:10; Exodus 19:9; Psalm 104:3; Revelation 1:7, 16). The mighty angel’s legs and feet flashed with fire similar to the glory of God’s presence in the wilderness and Jesus’ feet (Revelation 10:1; see also Revelation 1:15; Exodus 13:21-22; Exodus 14:24). Moreover, the angel’s voice called out like a roaring lion similar to the Lion of Judah (Revelation 10:3; see also Revelation 5:5). However, most biblical scholars reject the mighty angel as either God or Jesus. Since Revelation 1:1 describes an angel sent by Jesus Christ to deliver God’s revelation to John, many biblical commentaries see this mighty angel as simply “another” great angel coming from the very presence of God. 

As mentioned previously, when the mighty angel called out with a loud shout, seven thunders sounded (Revelation 10:3-4). John was about to write down what the thunders said, but he heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down” (Revelation 10:4, ESV). The book of Revelation does not reveal why the heavenly voice forbids John to write what the seven thunders said. Revelation is otherwise an “unsealed” book for the world to hear and know (see Revelation 1:3, 11, 19; Revelation 22:10). Nevertheless, the instruction to seal up what the thunders said was also given to the Prophet Daniel (see Daniel 8:26; Daniel 12:4, 9) and the Apostle Paul (see 2 Corinthians 12:4).

Then, the mighty angel lifted his right hand to heaven and swore by God who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and everything in it and the earth and all that it contains and the sea and its inhabitants, that there should be no more delay (Revelation 10:5-6). The mighty angel declared that when the seventh angel blew his trumpet, then God’s great and mysterious plan originally announced to His servants the prophets will finally be fulfilled (Revelation 10:7).

Then, John heard the voice from heaven speak to him once again saying, “Go and get the unrolled scroll from the mighty angel standing there upon the sea and land” (Revelation 10:8, TLB). The scroll was a special message from God to John. John approached the mighty angel and asked the angel to give him the scroll (Revelation 10:9). The mighty angel said to John, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey” (Revelation 10:9, ESV). John took the scroll from the mighty angel’s hand, and ate the scroll (Revelation 10:10). Just as the mighty angel had previously said, the scroll was sweet in his mouth, but the scroll gave John a stomachache when he swallowed the scroll (Revelation 10:10). This scene reminds God’s people that the Word of God contains sweet promises but also contains bitter warnings and prophecies of judgment. Faithful believers of God will declare all of God’s Word (Acts 20:27) and not weaken the message of God simply to please people (2 Timothy 4:1-5).

Importantly, many biblical scholars see in Revelation chapter 10 the renewing of John’s call to be God’s prophet. Similar to the Prophet Ezekiel’s call experience in Ezekiel chapters 2 and 3, God renewed John’s call to be His prophet. John eating the scroll meant to incorporate God’s Word as part of John’s inner being (see also Jeremiah 15:16; Ezekiel 2:8-3:3). The angel’s directions to John should remind God’s people of our responsibility to embrace the Word of God and make God’s Word part of our inner being. In other words, God’s people must not just read the Holy Scriptures but receive God’s Word as a living part of our whole hearts! God’s Word is bread (Matthew 4:4), milk (1 Peter 2:2), meat (1 Corinthians 3:1-2), and honey (Psalm 119:103).

Then, the mighty angel told John, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings” (Revelation 10:11, ESV). The mighty angel ordered (commissioned) John to prophesy once again because his work was not yet completed. John must continue to declare God’s Word to the peoples, nations, tongues, and kings (see Revelation 5:9).

ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008).
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Senior Professor of the New Testament (Due West, SC: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2016).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary –New Testament (Victor Books, 1989).

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Deadly Sin of Idolatry

20 But the people who did not die in these plagues still refused to repent of their evil deeds and turn to God. They continued to worship demons and idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood—idols that can neither see nor hear nor walk! 21 And they did not repent of their murders, their witchcraft, their sexual immorality, or their thefts. Revelation 9:20-21 (NLT)

Revelation chapters 6 through 19 describe the outpouring of God’s wrath of judgment upon sinful humanity. Each series of judgments increased in intensity from one-fourth in chapter 6 to one-third of the earth in chapters 8 and 9, and finally to total destruction in chapters 15 and 16. God’s wrath and judgment revealed in the book of Revelation was not vengeful but God’s final attempt to bring sinful humanity to redemption and repentance.  Like the watchman and his trumpet in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel, the judgments warn people of impending danger to lead them to God in repentance and redemption (see Ezekiel 33).  The Holy Scriptures reveal God’s grace, patience, compassion, love, and mercy (see e.g., Exodus 34:6-7; 2 Chronicles 30:9; Psalm 116:5-6). In His mercy and patience, God gives everyone an opportunity to repent and turn from their evil deeds and wickedness (Revelation 2:21-22; Revelation 9:20-21; Revelation 16:9, 11; see also Amos 4:6-13; Romans 2:4-5).

Yet with each series of judgments, many people refused to repent of their wickedness and stop “worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts” (Revelation 9:20-21, ESV). Sadly, many people hardened theirs rebellious hearts, cursed God, and continued worshipping the destructive, worthless, and deadly forces of demons and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood (Revelation 13:3-4, 16-18; Revelation 16:9,11, 21; see also Psalm 115:4-7; Psalm 135:15-17; Isaiah 17:8). In other words, many people continued to worship the works of their own hands, which could well include the buildings they constructed, the machines they made, and the cities they built (see e.g., Isaiah 44:6-20; Daniel 5:23).  Their idol worship plunged people into murder, witchcraft, sorcery, sexual immorality, dishonesty, corruption, and thief (Revelation 9:21; Revelation 21:8; Revelation 22:15; see also Galatians 5:19-21). Because of sinful humanities’ continued rebellion and wickedness, God promises to bring total destruction upon the earth (see Revelation 16:1-21). The rebellious people will be thrown into the eternal pit of eternal suffering along with Satan and his allies (Revelation 14:9-11; Revelation 20:10; see also e.g., Matthew 13:36-43, 47-50).

Significantly, God prohibited many of the sins listed in Revelation 9:20-21 from His Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3–17; see also Luke 18:20; Romans 13:9). Sinful humanity broke the first two commandments by making and worshiping demons and idols (see Exodus 20:3-4). In their murders, they violated the sixth commandment, and in their thefts, the eighth commandment was violated (see Exodus 20:13, 15). By their sexual immorality, un-repented humanity violated the seventh commandment (see Exodus 20:14). In Revelation 22:15, those who practice murder, thief, magic arts, sexual immorality, and falsehood (lying) have no part in the new heaven and earth (see also Revelation 21:7-8).

Idolatry is a deadly sin that seeks to worship and trust in anything other than the true and living God.  Ultimately, idolatry leads to the worship of Satan and his demons (see 1 Corinthians 8:4-6; 1 Corinthians 10:19-20). Satan has always wanted to be worshiped as God (see e.g., Isaiah 14:12-15; Matthew 4:8-10). However, the Lord God and His Son Jesus the Lamb must be faithfully worshipped, loved, and obeyed (Revelation chapters 4:11; Revelation 5:12-14; Revelation 14:6-7; see also, Deuteronomy 6:13-17; Deuteronomy 10:12-13, 17, 21; 1 Samuel 7:3; Matthew 4:10; Luke 4:8). The Holy Scriptures repeatedly teach that life, joy, and peace comes with our love and worship of God and obedience to His moral commandments (see e.g., Deuteronomy 28; Joshua 24:14-15; John 15:1-17). There is only one true God, the Father, who created everything and only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made everything and through whom we have been given life (see e.g., Psalm 86:10; John 1:1-5; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 4:5-6; 1 Timothy 2:5).

Throughout the entire universe and the Holy Scriptures, the true and living God has revealed His gracious and invisible presence to all humanity (see e.g., Genesis 1:1-2; Deuteronomy 6:4-6; Psalm 19:1-6; Acts 14:17; Acts 17:24-27). Even more, the Old Testament and New Testament writers reveal God’s repeated efforts to draw people to worship Him as the true and living God.  Despite God’s loving presence and patience, many people refuse to worship Him and obey His moral commandments. Instead, many people continue to seek and worship the destructive habits of demons and worship idols (gods) of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood (see Romans 1:18-25). God has given everyone free will to either follow Him as the only true God (see e.g., Deuteronomy 4:35, 39; 1 Corinthians 8:4) or follow the path of destruction, death, and wrath (see e.g., Ephesians 5:3-7; Colossians 3:5-6).

God does not want anyone to perish, but He wants everyone to enjoy the abundant and eternal blessings of light and life through repentance and redemption (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14-15; John 3:15-21; John 17:3; see also 2 Peter 3:9). God does truly love the world, and He wants no one to perish (see John 3:16; Luke 15). However, when people repeatedly reject God and His commandments, then judgment must fall (Romans 2:4-11)! God is not vindictive, but He will honor humanities’ free will that often leads to eternal destruction and death (see e.g., Romans 1:18-32).

Despite God’s outpouring of judgment and wrath, many people refused to repent of “their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts” (Revelation 9:21, KJV). “Sorceries” include magical arts, potions, witchcraft, and poisons (Revelation 18:23; Revelation 21:8; Revelation 22:15; see also Galatians 5:20). Interestingly, the word translated “sorcery” is the Greek word pharmakia, which means “the use of drugs.”  Thus, many biblical scholars noted their religious activities involve worship of idols and demons (devils), and sorceries or witchcraft, with the use of magic potions and mind altering drugs. 

Repentance is an active step and a radical redirection of one’s entire life from the ways of the wicked to the fruits of goodness (see e.g., Matthew 3:1-2, 8-10; Galatians 5:19-23). Jesus Christ, the true author of Revelation, called upon His churches and the inhabitants of the earth to repent of their wickedness and evil and turn wholeheartedly in faith and obedience to the living God (see Revelation 2:5, 16, 21-22; Revelation 3:3, 19; Revelation 16:11; see also Matthew 4:17). If His Church and inhabitants of the world do wake up and turn from sin, Jesus promises He will “come like a thief” and visit them in judgment and wrath (see Matthew 24:42-44; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10). 

Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Senior Professor of New Testament (Due West, SC: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2016).
Metzger, Bruce. Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1993).
Mounce, Robert H. The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary –New Testament (Victor Books, 1989).