Revelation 16 – Part 5

“And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.” Revelation 16:21

As the sixth bowl judgment made it possible for the armies around the world to gather at Armageddon for the final battle of the Tribulation period (16:12-16), a seventh angel arrived with the seventh bowl of God’s wrath. “Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’” (Revelation 16:17). This angel pours “out his bowl into the air” we breathe, making its impact the greatest of all.The “loud voice” coming “out of the temple of heaven” probably belonged to God and announced that with this last bowl this series of judgments “is done!” Since people would not receive the Savior’s, “It is finished!” on the cross (John 19:30), they must now receive the horrific, “It is done!” from the “Judge of all the earth” (Genesis 18:25) 1 to finish the outpouring of His wrath on humankind and begin the final phase of His coming back to earth. 2

“And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth.” (Revelation 16:18). The destruction that followed was accompanied by “noises and thunderings and lightnings” that are like the manifestation of God’s holy presence on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:16-19; Psalm 68:8). What got the apostle John’s attention was not the armies of the world gathering at Armageddon, but the mighty acts of God as He begins to convulse nature in opposition to His enemies, 3 beginning with the greatest “earthquake” the world has ever experienced.

This unprecedented earthquake will bring worldwide destruction. “Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath.” (Revelation 16:19). This earthquake will divide “the great city” of Jerusalem(cf. 11:8)4 “into three parts” and destroy virtually all “the cities of the nations,” with Rome, the ”great Babylon,” being given an additional judgment of the “fierceness of His wrath” because of all the suffering she had inflicted upon God’s people and other nations (16:19; cf. 18:20, 24; 19:2). 5 Details of Rome’s judgment are given in Chapters 17 and 18 of Revelation.  

Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.” (Revelation 16:20). This great earthquake will cause a supernatural shifting of the earth’s tectonic plates so that “every island” disappears and “mountains” will be leveled. “As the Flood produced global topographical changes, so will this megaquake.” 6

“And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.” (Revelation 16:21). This seventh bowl judgment will also cause “great hail” to fall “upon men” and crush them since “each hailstone” weighs about one hundred pounds (“a talent”). Hail was often an instrument of God’s judgment in biblical history (cf. Joshua 10:11; Job 38:22-23; Isaiah 28:2, 17; Ezekiel 13:11-13; 28:22-23). 7

“It is as though the creation, formed as an expression of God’s love, is being undone as an expression of His wrath. As in 6:16-17, people know the source of their judgment, yet they refuse to repent or honor God… Their response is as irrational as it is immoral.” 8

Just as Pharoah’s heart remained hard during the plague of hail in Egypt (cf. Exodus 9:24), so the hearts of earth-dwellers will remain hard and blaspheme God instead of humbly believing in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life.

The GOOD NEWS is you and I do not have to go through this time of horrific judgments upon the earth. The Bible says of those who believe in Jesus during this church age: 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. 15 We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet Him ahead of those who have died. 16 For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. 17 Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.” (I Thessalonians 4:14-17 NLT). The Bible assures those who believe in Jesus that they will be reunited with other believers who have died. Christ’s death, resurrection, and victorious ascension to heaven guarantees our own future resurrection and victorious ascension to heaven prior to the Tribulation wrath of God (I Thessalonians 1:9-10) if we have believed or trusted in Christ alone for His gift of salvation.

The Bible tells us, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” (I John 5:13). This one verse is written to “you who believe in the name of the Son of God.” Do you believe in the name of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who died for all your sins and rose from the dead, proving His claims to be God are true (cf. John 20:31; Romans 1:3-4; I Corinthians 15:3-6)? If you do, the Bible guarantees “you may know that you have eternal life.” It does not say you may “think” or “hope” you have eternal life. It says you may “know” with absolute certainty that eternal life is yours. Because Jesus Christ is “the truth” (John 14:6) and cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18), we can be confident He will keep His promise of eternal life to all who believe in Him (cf. John 3:15-16).

The choice is yours. Will you believe in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, for His gift of everlasting life and escape God’s temporal wrath on earth during the Tribulation and His eternal wrath in the lake of fire for eternity? Or will you shake your fist at God and reject His gracious and loving provision for your sin and experience His wrath both now and forever? I pray you will receive God’s free offer of salvation now before it is too late.

Prayer: Father in heaven, thank You for giving us a preview of the outpouring of Your wrath through these horrific bowl judgments near the end of the future Tribulation period. One reason You have done this is to encourage us to prepare for the future by placing our trust in Jesus Christ alone for His gift of eternal life so we may live with Him forever in His heaven and escape Your coming wrath on the earth. Those who do not believe in Christ will not be able to escape Your judgment in the future, whether they be alive on the earth during the Tribulation period (Revelation 6-16) or whether they have already died without Christ and will face Him at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). As world events are rapidly moving toward the fulfillment of end times Bible prophecy, please enable us to bring glory to Your name Lord God by pointing the lost to the One who cried out on the cross, “It is finished!” Open their hearts and minds so they may believe in Christ alone to give them a future home in heaven. To You, Father God, be all the glory both now and forevermore! In the matchless name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 178 cites William R. Newell, The Book of the Revelation (Chicago: Moody Press, 1935), pg. 262.

2. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1561.

3. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2408.

4. Vacendak, pg. 1561; Constable, pg. 179.

5. Vacendak, pg. 1562.

6. Constable, pp. 179-180.

7. Ibid., pg. 180.

8. Evans, pg. 2408.

Revelation 16 – Part 4

“And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.” Revelation 16:16

As the conflict between Russia and Ukraine continues and the various challenges of a global pandemic linger, many people may wonder who is in control of planet earth. But those of us who believe in Jesus Christ must remember that God remains in control no matter what takes places or what others may think. The Lord is bringing events to their appointed end, and one of the important events that crowns the Tribulation period is identified by one menacing word – Armageddon! 1

When the Japanese surrendered in 1945, General Douglas MacArthur uttered these formidable words: “We have had our last chance. If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at the door.” 2 In 1971, then California governor, Ronald Reagan, told a fellow politician, “For the first time ever, everything is in place for the battle of Armageddon and the second coming of Christ.” 3

“Again in 1983, President Reagan said, ‘You know, I turn back to your ancient prophets in the Old Testament and the signs foretelling Armageddon, and I find myself wondering if – if we’re the generation that is going to see that come about. I don’t know if you’ve noted any of those prophecies lately, but, believe me, they certainly describe the time.” 4

Billy Graham in his book, Till Armageddon, writes, “There is no doubt that global events are preparing the way for the final great war of history – the great Armageddon!” 5

The word “Armageddon” is found only one time in the Bible (Revelation 16:16), but it is probably one of the most familiar biblical terms associated with end times prophecy. Most people have heard of Armageddon, but like many other terms, the real meaning of the word often is lost by overuse or misuse. To help us understand end times prophecy, we are going to look at a passage that involves events leading up to Armageddon (Revelation 16:12-16).

In our study of the book of Revelation, we have been looking at the bowl judgments which will take place in rapid succession near the end of the Tribulation period (Revelation 16:1-21). So far, we have looked at the first five bowl plagues that have included malignant sores (16:2), the sea becomes blood (16:3), fresh water supply becomes blood (16:4-7), people are scorched by the sun (16:8-9), and global darkness causes intense emotional anguish (16:10-11). Instead of blaming their own sinful ways for these plagues, followers of the Beast blamed God for them (16:9, 11).

The sixth bowl judgment does not involve an immediate plague inflicted upon humanity but serves instead as a preparation for the final war of the Tribulation period. “Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared.” (Revelation 16:12). The “Euphrates” River has been an important part of world events since the time of Creation. It was one of four rivers that irrigated the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve disobeyed the Lord (Genesis 2:14). It was designated as the northeastern boundary of the land God promised to Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 15:18; Joshua 1:4). The Greek word translated “Euphrates” (Euphratēs) means “sweet water.” 6 Now we see this great river that had previously turned into blood (cf. 16:4) is “dried up so that… the kings from the east” (i.e., India, China, Japan, Korea, etc.) can cross with their armies to converge on the Middle East to join the Beast’s army and other world armies. 7

“It is very likely that the coagulation of the ocean waters (see comments on vv 3-4) will make the transport of foreign troops into the Middle East impossible by sea. When the Man of Sin sees that this 1,780-mile-long river (stretching from the mountains of Turkey to the environs of the Persian Gulf) is now dry ground, he will set out to secure the military might of the countries to the east of the Euphrates… to join him in annihilating the God of these agonizing plagues. The transport of troops by land is now a possibility.” 8

There is no reason to understand the drying up of the Euphrates River as figurative. Previously, God had dried up the Red Sea so the Israelites could cross over from the west on dry land to go to the Promised Land (Exodus 14:21-22). The Lord had also dried up the Jordan River, so His people could cross over from the east (Joshua 3:13-17; 4:23). Elijah, too, divided the waters of the Jordan (2 Kings 2:8). All these previous crossings should teach us to understand a literal fulfillment of this prophecy in Revelation 16. 9

The convergence of the world’s armies for the final war of the Tribulation was not merely a geopolitical maneuver but also a supernatural event. 10 13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. 14 For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.” (Revelation 16:13-14). The apostle John “saw three unclean spirits” or “demons” that looked like “frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon… the beast, and… the false prophet” to deceive “the kings of the earth and …the whole world” using miraculous “signs” so that they gather together “to the battle of that great day of God Almighty,” known as the Battle of Armageddon (cf. 16:16; 19:19; Psalm 2:1-3), when they will think they can defeat this cruel Deity that caused all these terrible plagues.

Something proceeding from the mouths of this unholy Trinity suggests a proclamation of some kind.  The demons are “like frogs” in that they are unclean and repugnant (cf. Leviticus 11:10-11, 41). 11 These world leaders will probably be reminded that the Beast or Man of Sin was victorious over this Deity’s two witnesses who plagued the earth (cf. 11:7-10) and that with their help, victory over God Himself is attainable. 12

This unholy Trinity of Satan (“the dragon”), the World Ruler (“the beast”), and “the false prophet,” know that the return of King Jesus to earth is near, so they will gather the military powers of the world into the Holy Land to resist the coming of Christ Who will return to the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:14). Although these nations will be deceived in entering this war in hope of gaining world political power, the satanic purpose is to defeat the armies from heaven at the Second Coming of Christ. 13

Next the Lord Jesus warns believers: “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.” (Revelation 16:15). Christ is “coming” quickly and unexpectedly like “a thief” to remove believers from this church age (Matthew 24:42-44). Jesus says “blessed” at His coming “is he who watches” by remaining alert “and keeps his garments” by continuing to live a holy life. If a believer is unfaithful at the soon coming of Christ, it will be very embarrassing, like standing in Jesus’ presence “naked.” Others will “see his shame” (aschēmosynēn)which “is a euphemism for a person’s private parts” (cf. Isaiah 47:3; Revelation 3:18). 14

“The Lord wants His children to be ready for His return by holding tight to their robes of holiness no matter how difficult the circumstances may be. The only alternative is to be ashamed at His coming (I John 2:28).” 15

 “And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.” (Revelation 16:16). Using deception, the demons (16:13-14) will gather the armies of the entire world “to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon” to fight against the Lord Jesus Christ. The word “Armageddon” comes from the Greek word Harmagedōn which transliterates the Hebrew phrase “Har Megiddo,” meaning “Mount of Megiddo.” 16 This mountain is about forty miles northwest of Jerusalem and was the site of many Old Testament battles, 17 including Deborah and Barak’s defeat of the Canaanites (Judges 4-5), Gideon’s triumph over the Midianites (Judges 7), Saul’s death in the battle with the Philistines (I Samuel 31:8), Jehu’s slaying of Ahaziah (2 Kings 9:27), and Josiah’s death in the battle with the Egyptians (2 Kings 23:29-30; 2 Chronicles 35:22). 18 Mount Megiddo overlooks a large valley known as the Plain of Esdraelon which is twenty miles long and fourteen miles wide. 19

Some Bible interpreters have argued that the Plain of Megiddo is not large enough to contain armies from all around the world, so they conclude it must be an assembly area for a much larger deployment of troops that covers a two-hundred-mile distance from north to south and the width of Palestine from east to west. 20 However, we must also take into consideration that the many judgments of the Tribulation will have greatly reduced the world’s population by this time (Revelation 6:1-16:16) so a much smaller gathering of troops is likely.

Armageddon will be the site where the armies of the world will gather to fight against the King of kings at the end of the Tribulation period. The final outcome of this battle is recorded in Revelation 19:19-21 when the armies of Satan meet their doom against King Jesus: 19 And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. 20 Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. 21 And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.” (Revelation 19:19-21). The Lord Jesus Christ will utterly defeat His enemies gathered at Armageddon and leave their dead bodies to be eaten by “birds” of prey. “The beast” and “false prophet” will be taken captive and and “cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone” to suffer torment forever (Revelation 20:10). The devil and all those who rejected Christ will meet the same fate a thousand years later at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:10-15).

Now you know how this battle between God and Satan will end. Would you like to be saved from this horrible judgment? If so, you must have your name written in the Book of Life by believing in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life (Revelation 20:15). If you have not yet believed in Christ alone, then hear and believe God’s promise: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36). Please understand that your works do not determine your eternal destiny. Your response to God’s Son, Jesus Christ, determines where you will be in eternity. Those who do not believe in Jesus Christ alone for His gift of eternal life will face Him as their Judge at the Great White Throne Judgment to determine the degree of their punishment in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11-15). Those who do believe in Christ alone, will face Him as their Judge at the Judgment Seat of Christ to determine the degree of their rewards in heaven (I Corinthians 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12).

To believe in Jesus means to trust or depend on Him alone to give you everlasting life. For example, trusting in Jesus is a lot like trusting in an airplane. When you ride in an airplane, do you have to push it to get it off the ground? No. Do you have to flap your arms to keep it in the air? No, of course not. All you must do is trust a person, your pilot, to take you to your destination. In the same way, God invites you to trust in a Person, His Son Jesus Christ, to take you to your eternal destination in heaven (John 3:36). No amount of your good works can help Jesus take you to heaven because they are all stained with sin (Isaiah 64:6). And since God is holy and perfect, He cannot be around our sin. 

But God loves you so much that He does not want you to die forever in the Lake of Fire (John 3:16; Matthew 18:14; I Timothy 2:3-4), so He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, to take the punishment for all our sins when He died on the cross and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6). Jesus Christ is alive today and He now invites you to believe or trust in Him alone for His free gift of everlasting life.

Let me ask you a very important question. What are you trusting to get you to heaven? 21 Some people trust in their works to get them to heaven. Some people trust in Christ plus their works to get them to heaven. And some people trust in Christ alone to get them to heaven. Those who trust in their works are saying to God, “Your Son’s death was unnecessary.” There was no need for Jesus to die for my sins if I can get to heaven trusting in my works alone. Those who trust in Christ plus their works are saying to God, “Your Son’s death was disappointing.” That is, Jesus paid for some of my sins, and I must pay for the rest. In other words, Jesus did not get the job done. Those who trust in Christ alone are saying to God, “Your Son’s death was sufficient.” Jesus did not say on the cross, “I will help you get to heaven.” No. He said in John 19:30, “It is finished!” Christ did not make the down payment for our sins. He made the full payment for all our sins. Therefore, I can trust in Him alone to get me to heaven because He has paid for my admission there.

If you have never understood this before and you are now trusting in Christ alone to get you to heaven, you may tell Jesus this through prayer. But remember, praying a prayer does not get you to heaven. Only believing in Jesus for everlasting life will get you to heaven. This prayer is a way of telling Jesus you are now trusting in Him alone. You may now pray this prayer to Jesus.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, I know I am a sinner, and I cannot save myself. I believe You died for me on the cross and rose from the dead. I am now trusting You, Jesus, alone (not my good life, my religion, or my prayers) to save me from the lake of fire forever and give me everlasting life. Thank You Jesus for the salvation and the everlasting life I now have. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

When you believed in Jesus, He gave you everlasting life which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). He promises that you will never perish in the lake of fire (John 3:16). He wants to use you now to tell others the good news of His salvation so they also may trust in Him alone to get them to heaven.

Please share this article with those you want to see in heaven because we do not have much time left. Thank you, and may King Jesus richly bless you.

ENDNOTES:

1. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 371.

2. Ibid., pg. 372.

3. Ibid., cites Daniel Schorr, “Reagan Recants: His Path from Armageddon to Détente,” Los Angeles Times, January 3, 1988, articles.latimes.com/1988-01-03/opinion/op-32475_1_president-reagan.

4. Ibid., cites “Reagan: Is Apocalypse Now?” Atlanta Journal and Constitution, October 29, 1983, www.ramsheadpress.com/messiah/PDF/CHAPTER26.pdf.

5. Ibid., cites Billy Graham, Till Armageddon (Minneapolis: World Wide, 1981), pg. 15.

6. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 300 cites M. G. Easton, Easton’s Bible Dictionary, electronic ed. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1996), see “Euphrates.”

7. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2407.

8. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1560.

9. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 174.

10. Evans, pg. 2407.

11. Constable, pg. 175.

12. Vacendak, pg. 1560.

13. Adapted from John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), locations 6009 to 6014.

14. Vacendak, pg. 1560.

15. Ibid.

16. Evans, pg. 2408.

17. Vacendak, pg. 1561.

18. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Zondervan Academic, 2010 Kindle Edition), pg. 337.

19. Hitchcock, pp. 372-374.

20. Constable, pg. 177 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pp. 270-271; John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966), pp. 238-239; and William Sanford Lasor, The Truth about Armageddon (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1982), pg. 146.

21. Adapted from EvanTell’s three circle illustration.  

Revelation 15 – Part 3

“And out of the temple came the seven angels having the seven plagues, clothed in pure bright linen, and having their chests girded with golden bands.” Revelation 15:6

After the apostle John saw believers who were martyred during the last half of the Tribulation standing victoriously on a sea of glass before God’s throne in heaven praising the Lord for His awe-inspiring Person and works (15:1-4), he sees preparations in heaven for the upcoming horrific bowl judgments (15:5-8). 

“After these things I looked, and the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened.” (Revelation 15:5). While martyred believes praised the Lord God in heaven, preparations were being made to severely judge rebellious people on the earth. John “looked” and saw the heavenly “temple of the tabernacle of the testimony.” In the Old Testament, God’s Law was often called the “Testimony” (cf. Exodus 25:16-22; et al.) and was stored in the ark of the covenant in the room called the Holy of Holies (cf. Hebrews 9:2-4). During the Tribulation, people on earth had rejected God’s law and thus His judgments will proceed from the very place where His Law was stored. 1 God’s Law will now judge these rebellious earth-dwellers.

For believers in Jesus, the heavenly temple is open for them to access God’s presence, but for nonbelievers on earth, that same heavenly temple will be the source of terrible judgments. As John’s vision continues, he writes, “And out of the temple came the seven angels having the seven plagues, clothed in pure bright linen, and having their chests girded with golden bands.” (Revelation 15:6). John sees a procession of “seven angels” coming out of the heavenly “temple” from God’s presence. Each angel had received a “plague” or judgment from God (16:6a). 2

The ”golden bands” girding “their chests” represent the majesty of God. As agents of God’s wrath, their attire is like Christ’s (cf. 1:13). Their clothing is “pure” and “bright” because God was perfectly holy and just (15:3-4) in these final judgments which will purify the world of lawless humanity (15:6). 3 Hence, the attire of these seven angels fits their purpose which was to purify the earth. 4

“Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever.” (Revelation 15:7). Remember that “the four living creatures” of Revelation 4:6-9 are angelic beings who offer constant worship to God and assist Him in the outpouring of His wrath.One” of these angelic “creatures” gave each of the seven angels a golden bowl “full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever” (15:7).

The Greek word translated “bowls” (phialē) “refers to a shallow, saucer-like dish used for boiling liquids as well as for ‘drinking or pouring libations.’” 5 It is interesting that God also described the “prayers of the saints” as being held in“golden bowls” in Revelation 5:8. Those prayers may relate to the outpouring of these judgments, that is, the prayers of the saints are being answered through these bowl judgments. 6 This cause-and-effect relationship between the prayers of God’s people and these coming bowl judgments begins “to answer the age-old question of why the wicked seem to go unpunished while the righteous suffer injustice. The truth is that God’s mercy during the Tribulation delayed the full measure of judgment to give people an opportunity to repent (2 Peter 3:9)” 7 or change their mind about whatever is keeping them from believing in Jesus, so they may believe in Him for His gift of eternal life.

While the Mosaic Law was given to humankind from God through angels (cf. Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19), now God’s judgments for lawbreakers are poured out on humankind through angelic messengers. The fact that God is described as One “who lives forever and ever” emphasizes the seriousness of these bowl judgments. 8 These judgments are from the one true God who has no beginning and no end.” 9

“The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power, and no one was able to enter the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.” (Revelation 15:8). As John continued to look into the opened heavenly temple, he saw it “filled with smoke” because the bowl judgments represent the intense wrath of God burning fiercely against the rebellion of humanity on the earth (15:8a). When the Lord descended on Mount Sinai at the giving of the Law (Ex. 19:18), it was “completely in smoke.” The smoke in the heavenly temple is “from the glory of God and His power,” signifying that God is present manifesting His glorious power. 10

Why does John tell us, “No one was able to enter the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed” (15:8b)? Because this is God’s work and His alone. Just as God wanted to be alone when His wrath burned hot against the nation of Israel on Mount Sinai (Exodus 32:10), during the outpouring of His wrath during the bowl judgments God will be alone in the heavenly temple until the bowl judgments are finished. 11

What this tells us is that God alone is worthy to carry out these terrible judgments on humankind who violated His holy Word (15:5-8). Hence, Christians must not be judgmental of nonbelievers or fellow believers, but merciful toward them as God has been merciful to them (cf. Titus 3:4-7; James 2:12-12; 5:7-9).

There are three important contrasts from this scene involving God’s heavenly temple: 12

1. As the temple in heaven is filled with God’s glory and power the earth is filled with God’s wrath. Believers in Jesus can enjoy God’s glorious presence (John 3:36a; 14:1-3), but nonbelievers will suffer from His wrath both temporarily on earth and eternally in the lake of fire (John 3:36b; Revelation 6:16-17; 11:18; 14: 16:1-21; 19:15-21; 20:15).

2. In the past, God’s wrath was poured out on Jesus Christ when He hung on the cross to save sinners (Mark 15:33-34; 2 Corinthians 5:21; I Timothy 1:15; I Peter 3:18), but in the future God’s wrath will be poured out on unbelieving sinners to judge them (John 3:36b; Revelation 6:16-17; 11:18; 14: 16:1-21; 19:15-21; 20:15).

3. While believers in heaven celebrate the triumph of good (Revelation 15:1-4), nonbelievers on earth will agonize with the destruction of evil (Revelation 15:5-16:21).

Of which of these two groups will you be a member? Believers in Christ who will be in heaven enjoying the presence of God or nonbelievers who will be subject to the agonizing wrath of God? Please understand that God loves you and wants you to live with Him forever in His heaven (John 14:1-3; I Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9). But the Bible tells us we all have a problem that separates us from God called sin (Romans 3:23; 6:23a). Because all of us have sinned against God with our thoughts, words, and actions, we deserve to be separated from Him forever in the lake of fire (Isaiah 59:2; Revelation 20:15).

Thankfully, since God does not want us to suffer under His wrath forever, He sent His one-of-a-kind Son, Jesus Christ to earth to live a perfect life and then die on a cross for our sins and rise from the dead three days later (I Corinthians 15:3-6), proving His claims to be God are true (Romans 1:3-4; 9:5). Jesus Christ is alive today and He has the power to save you from the lake of fire and give you everlasting life so you can live forever in God’s heaven.

The Bible tells us, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36). According to this verse we see two very different eternal destinies. Those who “believe in the Son” have “everlasting life” both now and forever with God in His heaven. Those who do “not believe the Son shall not see life.”

What does it mean to believe? It means to be persuaded that Jesus’ death for your sins and resurrection from the dead are true, and then believe or trust in Christ alone to give you everlasting life. What Jesus is asking us to do is trust Him alone so we can experience “life” with Him both now and forever.

A while back, I spoke with a friend’s neighbor. He told me that several months ago they discovered a massive tumor attached to his heart and the doctor recommended surgery. Did he accept as true that the doctor could remove the tumor? Yes. But he did not trust the doctor to remove the tumor until he climbed up on the operating table. Christ is asking us to come to Him as sinners, recognizing that He died for our sins and rose again, and believing or trusting in Him alone to get us to heaven. Christ is not asking us to depend upon our good life… our prayers … or our religion to get us to heaven, but in Him alone for eternal life.

Think about this incredible gift that Christ wants to give us – this eternal life. This is life with God that never ends. What makes eternal life so amazing is that it is absolutely free because Jesus Christ paid the full price for it when He died in our place on a cross and declared, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Trusting Christ, we are forever accepted by God, not based on what we have done or will do for Him but based on what He has done for us. This concept of a free gift is often compromised today. Some say God only gives eternal life to those who obey God or promise to obey. Others say eternal life is given only to those who prove they are Christians by their works. These faulty concepts about eternal life rob God of all the glory because if we can get to heaven based on our obedience or works, then we have something to boast about. But if eternal life is absolutely free (and it is), then all the glory goes to God, which is where it belongs.

This gift is eternal, and it is absolutely free. So, if my wife, children, close friends, co-workers, and neighbors have believed in Christ, we are going to live together forever! What could be a better message than the one surrounding this gift!?!

The Bible is telling us that Jesus Christ is the only One Who has the ability to give us the greatest gift imaginable – eternal life. Therefore, we must do whatever it takes to tell others about Christ and what He has done for them so they can believe in Him to get them to heaven and escape God’s coming wrath on the earth. After all, since eternal life is the greatest gift, why not pass it on to others?

According to John 3:36b, what happens to those who do not believe in Jesus? They “shall not see life.” They won’t be with Jesus in heaven because the wrath of God abides on“ them foreverin a terrible place of suffering called the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). 

If you had the cure for cancer and didn’t share it, would that be criminal? Yes! If you had the cure for COVID and didn’t share it, would that be criminal? Yes! If you knew the only way to get to heaven and you didn’t tell it to the people in your life, would that be criminal? Yes!

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:14, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all.” Circle “Christ’s love.” God has never made a person that He didn’t love. Everybody matters to God. And because God cares about people, we must care, too. Doesn’t this compel you to tell others? It does me. How much more should we want to share the greatest gift of all with others? But you may say, “Well I don’t know how or I’m afraid.”

In Matthew 4:19, Jesus said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” About a year after believing in Jesus (cf. Matthew 4:12; John 1:35-4:35), Simon Peter and his brother, Andrew, are casting their fishing net into the sea when Jesus approaches them (Matthew 4:18). Christ invites them to follow Him and promises that He will make them fishers of men. How could Jesus use these men with no formal education or ministry experience to make a difference for eternity? Simple. Their responsibility was to follow Jesus. Christ’s responsibility was to make them fishers of men.

Do you feel inadequate to evangelize the lost? Do you ever think that you do not know enough to share the gospel with non-Christians? Ask the Lord Jesus to help you follow Him daily and He will teach you all you need to know about evangelism. The best way to learn to talk to unbelievers is to walk and talk with Jesus.

When we examine the gospels, we see that Jesus did not have one standard approach to evangelism. He simply started wherever people were at. When He was with the Samaritan woman at the well, He talked about living waters (John 4:1-26). When He was with the fishermen, He talked about fishing for men (Matt. 4:18-20). When He was with farmers, He talked about sowing seed (Luke 8:4-15). In other words, Jesus was being relevant to the people He was with. He used methods and words they would understand and value.

If you have ever fished for an entire day, you know that sometimes you must change bait as the day progresses. What bait worked in the morning may not attract the same fish in the afternoon or evening. Likewise, some Christians and churches are failing to reach the unsaved in the twenty-first century because they are using the same bait that worked in the 1950s and 1960s. The problem is the unbelievers are not biting on that bait any longer. We cannot expect to reach the lost if we are not using methods that best ministers to their needs.

God wants to see all people escape His coming wrath. He wants to see more people believe in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life. God may be placing something on your heart right now that He wants to use to expose more people around the world to His gospel message. Your first response may be, “Lord, I can’t do that.” You are right, you cannot, but God can do it through you if you will respond in faith instead of fear. Remember, with God, all things are possible.

Prayer: Lord God, thank Youfor the contrast between believers in heaven and nonbelievers on earth in Revelation 15. Thank You for reminding us that this world is not all there is. The day is coming when those of us who believe in Jesus will be enjoying Your incredible presence in heaven while nonbelievers on earth will be agonizing with the destruction of evil. Use us Almighty God to expose more people on earth to Your life-giving gospel before it is too late for them to escape Your coming wrath during the Tribulation period and eventually in the lake of fire forever. Thank You for hearing our prayers. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition  

(Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1556.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 168.

3. Vacendak, pg. 1556.

4. Constable, pg. 168 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pp. 242-243.

5. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 285 cites H. G. Liddell and Robert Scott, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), pg. 861.

6. Constable, pg. 168.

7. Swindoll, pg. 285.

8. Vacendak, pp. 1556-1557.

9. Ibid., pg. 1557.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

12. Adapted from Swindoll, pg. 286.

Revelation 14 – Part 2

“Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people.” Revelation 14:6

After receiving revelation about Satan’s two wild beasts (the World Ruler and the False Prophet) who will triumph during the last half of the Tribulation period (13:1-18), the apostle John receives revelation that describes both what happens on earth to those who refuse the mark of the beast (14:1-5) and what happens to those who receive the mark of the beast (14:6-20).

Last time we discovered that the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, was standing triumphantly on Mount Zion in Jerusalem on earth at the end of the Tribulation period along with the 144,000 Jewish evangelists who faithfully proclaimed Jesus’ gospel message to the ends of the earth during the last three and a half years of the Tribulation when the beast ruled without mercy over the earth (14:1; cf. 7:1-8; Matthew 24:14). Because of their faithfulness to Christ to the end of the Great Tribulation, these evangelists will be richly rewarded by King Jesus in His eternal Kingdom (14:2-5; cf. Romans 8:17-18; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21).

In another scene of John’s vision on earth (14:6-13), the apostle hears four announcements that provide motivation to remain faithful to God and resist the beasts during the last half of the Tribulation period. God’s angels will make the first three announcements (14:6-12), and a voice from heaven will declare the fourth (14:13). 1

John records the first angel’s proclamation: “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people.” (Revelation 14:6). This first angel is “another angel” like the archangel Michael (12:7), the closest specific angel in the context. 2 The phrase, “flying in the midst of heaven” (πετόμενον ἐν μεσουρανήματι), literally says, “flying in mid-heaven,” meaning in the sky between heaven and earth. 3

This first angel proclaims, “the everlasting gospel” to all earth-dwellers (14:6a). Unlike the message of the Beast and the False Prophet, which is evil and temporary, this message will be good (euangelion = God’s good news for humans 4) and eternal. It is “everlasting” because “it has eternal significance.” 5 “The ‘new’ [and false] religion of the Beast and False Prophet just described in Chapter 13… will blaspheme the God of the Two Witnesses as a vengeful, evil deity that is out to destroy earth’s environment and inhabitants. The angelic message will counteract these deceptive lies.” 6

This gospel proclamation is also universal in extent. It is not just for one nation, one people group, one ethnicity, or one language group, but for “every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” (14:6a). Why? Because the judgments of God are impacting the entire world during the Tribulation, so the inhabitants of every nation need to hear the truth about what is happening to them instead of the lies of the Beast and the False Prophet.

The content of this “everlasting gospel” is given in the next verse. “Saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.’” (Revelation 14:7). It is important to understand that this gospel message is not the same as the saving message the apostle John gave us in his gospel. That message said all anyone must do to have everlasting life is believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:31; cf. 1:12; 3:15-16, 36; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:29, 35-40, 47; 7:37-39; 11:25-27; et. al).

This gospel message being proclaimed by the angel during the last half of the Tribulation period will counter the falsehood and deception of the Beast and False prophet who will blaspheme God, saying He is an unfair and vengeful god who delights in punishing people (14:7a). The gospel message of this angel will call unbelievers to “fear God and give glory to Him” because the reason for all this worldwide death and disaster is that “the hour of His judgment has come” (14:7b). 

When people on the earth understand why all the calamities are taking place during the Tribulation, they may be more likely to believe in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life. 7 These earth-dwellers are also to “worship” God because He “made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” (14:7c). God is worthy of worship because He is the Creator, and He has the right to judge what He has created (cf. Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 33:6-9; 146:6). “When people refuse God’s authority and set themselves up as God, He has the right to judge them.” 8

However, if people will worship and give thanks to their Creator, God is more inclined to give them more truth (Romans 1:18-23),including the gospel of Jesus Christ which saves them from eternal judgment (Romans 1:15-16; cf. John 3:36; I Corinthians 15:1-8). This also relates to those who have never heard the gospel before.

I sometimes get asked, “What about those who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ? How could God punish them in hell if they have never heard about Jesus?” I believe the best answer is no one is without excuse because God has given every human being some degree of revelation from Him. He has given us general revelation in creation (Psalm 19:1-6) and special revelation in the Bible (Psalm 19:7-14). God has given all humankind evidence that He exists through the things He has made, so no one is without excuse. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). Those who respond positively to general revelation by worshiping their Creator instead of His creation, will receive more specific revelation concerning God’s Son, Jesus Christ, because God “is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

An example of this is seen in Acts 10. A man named Cornelius had never heard of Jesus, but he was seeking God. 1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion… 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.” (Acts 10:1-2). God answered Cornelius’ prayers and sent the apostle Peter to him to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to him and to those close to him (Acts 10:9-48).

Cornelius’ piety (“a devout man …who feared God”), generous giving (“who gave alms generously”), and persistent prayer (“prayed to God always”) did not save him. His fear of God and righteous works did not give him “peace” with God (10:35-36). All his devotion to God, prayers, and alms giving were expressions of his restlessness to be right with God. The apostle Peter correctly perceives this, so he speaks of Christ “preaching peace” (10:36). After declaring Jesus’ death and resurrection to Cornelius (10:39), Peter invites this religious man to “believe” in Christ for the forgiveness of his sins (10:43). And Cornelius did along with his relatives and close friends, and then they were all baptized (10:44-48). What Cornelius could not find in fearing God, prayers, and alms giving, he found in the name of Jesus Christ! Only the name of Jesus Christ has the power to save and forgive all our sins.

There are many people in the world today like Cornelius. They do not know about Jesus Christ, but they are responding positively to what God has revealed to them. They want to know the true and living God Who created the universe. And God is sending people like Peter to them, no matter where they live, so they can hear and believe the good news of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection and live forever with Him in His heaven!

In the future Tribulation period, God will send this first angel to point the unsaved world to the true God and Creator of the universe. If people will respond positively to this message, and fear God, the Lord will send His Jewish evangelists to them to preach the gospel of Christ’s coming kingdom so they can enter His eternal kingdom by believing in Jesus alone (cf. Mark 1:15; Matthew 24:14; John 3:5-16).

What you think or believe about what might happen to those who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ does not mean you are not responsible to God on judgment day. Since you are reading this article, you are now responsible for how you respond to God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Someone once said, “Many things in the Bible I cannot understand; many things in the Bible I only think I understand; but there are many things in the Bible I cannot misunderstand.”

For example, a verse we cannot misunderstand is John 3:36: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” We can live forever with God in His eternal kingdom if we believe in His Son, Jesus Christ. Or we can experience the wrath of God forever if we do not believe in God’s Son. For those who have not heard of Jesus yet, if they respond positively to the revelation God has given them, God will make sure to send a messenger to them to explain the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33). To Him be all the glory both now and forever!

Prayer: Lord God Almighty, Creator of the heavens and the earth, we praise You for Your eternal plan of redemption through Jesus Christ! No matter what age we live in, salvation has and always will be through faith alone in Your only perfect Son, Jesus Christ. Thank You for telling us You will send this first angel to proclaim the everlasting gospel to the world during a time of horrific judgments on the earth. Even amid the outpouring of Your wrath, You still desire that people will be rescued from eternal condemnation. O Lord, please lead us to those like Cornelius, who are responding positively to what You have already shown them, so we may share the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection with them before it is too late. Your Word tells us that You desire all people to be saved (I Timothy 2:3-4) and that none should perish in hell (2 Peter 3:9). Because Jesus is “the way” to heaven (John 14:6), not one of many ways, we must go wherever You lead us to reach those who are perishing without Christ. Thank You for entrusting us with Your gospel. May we be found faithful to share it wherever You lead us. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 157.

2. Ibid.

3. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 1530, 1551.

4. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 402.

5. Constable, pg. 158.

6. Vacendak, pg. 1551.

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.

How Can I Overcome Failure? Real Solutions to Real Problems – Part 2 (Video)

This is the second video in a series entitled, “Real Solutions to Real Problems.” In this presentation you will learn from the Bible three transforming principles for overcoming failure.

All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. Digital images are used with permission from Goodsalt.com, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org, John Paul Stanley / YoPlace.com, or they are creative common licenses.

Revelation 14 – Part 1

“Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and His Father’s name written on their foreheads.” Revelation 14:1

A couple of days ago, my wife and I went to the movie theatre to watch a film after we saw its preview the week before. That’s what previews are meant to do. They show exciting scenes from an upcoming movie to entice viewers to come see the film in its entirety. Sometimes, however, the preview of an upcoming movie leads us to expect one thing, but the producer of the film delivers something entirely different. 1 Fortunately for my wife and me, the movie lived up to the excitement the preview generated in us the week before.  

One thing we can be sure of about God’s previews of the future in the book of Revelation is they will not disappoint us. “Not only does He know the future, but He also controls it. He’s not simply the leading actor in the coming end-times drama; He’s the writer, producer, and director! So when He gives us previews of things to come, we should pay close attention. These scenes aren’t meant to satisfy our curiosity but to warn the rebellious and to encourage the righteous.” 2

After receiving revelation about Satan’s two wild beasts (the World Ruler and the False Prophet) who will triumph during the last half of the Tribulation period (13:1-18), John now receives revelation that describes both what happens to those who refuse the mark of the beast (14:1-5) and what happens to those who receive the mark of the beast (14:6-20). You may recall in Revelation 7, we learned that God would save two groups of people during the first three and a half years of the Tribulation period: He will save and seal 144,000 Israelites (7:1-8) through the preaching of the Two Witnesses (11:1-12), and He will take to heaven a multitude of people from all nations who will die during that time (7:9-17).

Beginning in Revelation 14, John now fast forwards to the end of the Tribulation period where he sees the following: “Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and His Father’s name written on their foreheads.” (Revelation 14:1). 3 John saw “the Lamb,” the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. John 1:29), “standing” victoriously “on Mount Zion,” the earthly Jerusalem,at the end of the Tribulation period. Many prophetic Scripture predicted that at the end of the Tribulation period Jesus the Messiah will return to Jerusalem from which He will rule His kingdom on earth (Isaiah 2:3; 24:23; Micah 4:1, 7; Zechariah 14:1-21; cf. Acts 1:9-12; Revelation 19:11-20:6). 4

Standing with Christ at the end of the Tribulation are the “one hundred and forty-four thousand” Jewish evangelists who faithfully proclaimed Jesus’ gospel message to the ends of the earth during the last three and a half years of the Tribulation when the beast ruled without mercy over the earth (14:1a; cf. 7:1-8; Matthew 24:14). Some religious groups, like the Jehovah Witnesses, teach that these 144,000 people are the sum total of all people who will be saved.  This is not true! We already saw in Revelation 7 that there are an innumerable number of people saved during the Tribulation period (7:9-17) in addition to the 144,000 Jewish evangelists (7:1-8). These evangelistic Jews will prepare the way for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to earth. 5

Because they refused to worship the beast and take up his mark, these 144,000 Jews will be rewarded with the Lamb’s “name” and “His Father’s name written on their foreheads” (cf. 3:12) in contrast with the mark placed on nonbelievers’ foreheads by the False Prophet (cf. 13:16). Because of their faithfulness to Christ to the end of the Great Tribulation, they will rule with King Jesus from Mount Zion in His eternal Kingdom (14:1b; cf. Romans 8:17-18; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21). 6

Notice at the end of the Tribulation that John does not see 143,800 Jewish evangelists. He sees all the 144,000 are supernaturally preserved by the Lord. Not one of them was killed. They have endured all the horrors of the seven-year Tribulation and are still standing victoriously with the Lamb on the earth because God faithfully protected them. 7

So, in this preview, we see in place of the beast from the sea, the Lamb of God. And in place of the beast’s followers with the mark of the beast on their foreheads, we see the Lamb’s followers with His and the Father’s name on their foreheads. In addition, we also observe in place of the pagan-controlled earth we see the God-controlled Mount Zion or Jerusalem. 8  This contrast in scenes is meant to encourage believers in John’s day and ours. While our journey on earth will contain trials and tribulation (John 16:33), it will end with a glorious mountaintop experience. This is intended to motivate us to remain faithful to Christ to the end of our Christian lives.

Next John writes, “And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps.” (Revelation 14:2). Some Bible students think this verse means that “Mount Zion” (14:1) is the heavenly Jerusalem (cf. Hebrews 12:22) since John speaks of this scene in heaven. 9 But the text says John “heard a voice from heaven.” This does not necessitate that the Lamb and His 144,000 followers are in heaven. Since the 144,000 are the same group described in Revelation 7:1-8, they are specifically said there to be sealed and preserved safely through the Tribulation on earth. This preview of their future indicates that they will be kept safe on earth into the Millennial Kingdom without going to the third heaven (Paradise) since this is the meaning of the seal in Revelation 7:3-4. 10

The “voice” John heard “from heaven” was loud like “many waters” roaring at a waterfall or like “loud” claps of “thunder.” We are not told who this voice belongs to. It could be “the voice” of the Tribulation martyrs (7:10), an angel (cf. 6:1; Daniel 10:6), or many angels (cf. 5:8, 11: 7:11; 19:6). But it cannot refer to the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders (14:3). I believe this voice represents the inhabitants of heaven consisting of the Tribulation martyrs and God’s angels.

John also tells us he “heard the sound of harpists playing their harps” (14:2b). In the book of Revelation, we are told that the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders (5:8), and the victorious believers from the Tribulation period (15:2) will all have harps along with those mentioned in Revelation 14:2. The “voice” and “harps” most likely represent the singing and music of the inhabitants of heaven (cf. 19:6). 11

“They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth.” (Revelation 14:3). The “new song” this heavenly group sang “before the throne” in heaven could only be learned by “the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth” (14:3). Please understand that the biblical text does not say the 144,000 were standing before the throne in heaven. It simply says they “could learn that song” which was being sung in heaven by this heavenly choir.

It is quite possible that being able to learn this new song was in itself a reward for these 144,000 faithful evangelists. Vacendak writes, “Since the emphasis here is not on the contents of the song but on the fact that only the 144,000 could learn it, this could very well be a special reward for their dedication to God like the reward of the ‘new name’ in 2:17 that is known only to Christ and the victorious one receiving it. Because these faithful witnesses will have an utterly unique experience in their service to Christ on earth, it is fitting that they enjoy a unique experience with Christ in eternity.” 12

After all, they had earned such a reward. “These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed by Jesus from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 14:4). These 144,000 evangelists “were not defiled with women, for they are virgins” who avoided both sexual immorality and spiritual adultery with the Satanic world system led by the Man of Sin or the beast (14:4a; cf. James 4:4; I John 2:15-16). 13

It is likely these servants of the Lord were unmarried in view of the strenuous times the last half of the Tribulation would bring. This brings to remembrance the apostle Paul’s admonition to singles (“virgins”) who were engaged to remain single in view of the “present distress” or persecution under Nero’s rule (I Corinthians 7:25-26). 14  

The 144,000 followed Jesus “wherever He goes” being forever grateful for the incredible price He paid (“redeemed by Jesus”) for their sins (14:4b; cf. Matthew 16:24-27; Luke 9:23-26). These evangelists were willing “not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29). 15

They were “firstfruits to God and to the Lamb” in that they were the first converts of the Two Witnesses (Revelation 11) during the first half of the Tribulation period who were saved and sealed (cf. 7:3-4). Following their conversion, they were discipled by the teaching of the Two Witnesses before fleeing Judea to begin their worldwide gospel ministry during the second half of the Tribulation (14:4c; cf. Matthew 24:13-22). 16

“And in their mouth was found no falsehood, for they are without fault.” (Revelation 14:5). Even though deception will abound under the reign of the beast, there will be “no falsehood” found in the mouths of the 144,000 evangelists because they boldly shared the truth of the gospel and “are without fault” in that their lifestyle was one of faithful obedience to the Lord, not perfection. By God’s grace, they knew the will of the Lord and faithfully pursued it without stumbling into sin (Titus 2:11-13; Jude 1:24). 17

What do we learn from these 144,000 Jewish evangelists? First, if we are to be effective witnesses for Christ, we must be pure in our relationships with others. The 144,000 Jewish evangelists “were not defiled with women, for they are virgins” (14:4a). If we love the world more than the Lord Who created the world, people will not be as likely to listen to us if we claim to be followers of the one true God. If we are impure like the world around us, we will not have a credible message for those who are confused or lost in the world’s corruption. 18 Ask yourself, “Do I keep myself pure in my relationships with others – especially those who are of the opposite sex? Or do I blur the lines between appropriate and inappropriate behavior and questionable speech? Do I pursue worldly desires and lusts, or do I make it my priority to pursue the things of God (James 4:4; I John 2:15-17)?” 19

Secondly, like the 144,000 evangelists, we must faithfully “follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (14:4b). The Lord Jesus came to earth “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He promised,Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Our responsibility is to follow Jesus. Christ’s responsibility is to make us fishers of men. Do you feel inadequate to share the gospel with the lost? Do you ever think that you do not know enough to share the gospel with non-Christians? Ask the Lord Jesus to help you follow Him daily and He will teach you all you need to know about evangelism. The best way to learn to talk to unbelievers is to walk and talk with Jesus. He will lead you to the unsaved people His Holy Spirit has prepared to hear and believe the gospel (John 16:7-11). Believing this will give you boldness as you go to share Christ with a lost world. Ask yourself, “Do I practice immediate obedience to Jesus or delayed obedience? What keeps me from practicing immediate obedience?”

The more we appreciate what Christ has done for us (“redeemed by Jesus”), the more grateful we will be to represent Him as His ambassadors to a lost world (14:4c; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:15-21). We will be more willing “not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29).

Thirdly, like the Jewish evangelists who were discipled by the Two Witnesses after their conversion (Revelation 7:1-8; 11:1-12), we must also be trained by older believers to effectively live for Christ now (cf. Matthew 28:19-20; 2 Timothy 2:2). Ask yourself, “Have I been taught by an older believer how to live for Jesus? If not, am I willing to place myself under a more mature believer to learn how to follow Jesus? If I have been discipled, am I now discipling others? If not, what is keeping me from doing this?”

Fourth, like the 144,000 Jewish evangelists, we must live a life of integrity, speaking the truth with our lips (“in their mouth was found no falsehood”) and living the truth with our lives (for they are without fault”) (14:5). If our mouths and lives are full of lies, people will not believe us when we tell them the gospel is true. Ask yourself, “Do I compromise the truth to avoid rejection or disapproval? Do I speak half-truths, white lies, and deception to avoid conflict with others? Do I live with integrity in public and in private? Am I hiding any secret sins?” If you answer “Yes” to any of these questions in this paragraph, turn to the Lord, confessing these sins to Him. The Bible promises “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

When we remain faithful to Christ and preach the truth of the gospel amid an array of false gospels and deceptions in this world, we will be richly rewarded in eternity by the Lamb of God Who redeemed us (Revelation 14:1-5; cf. Matthew 16:24-27; I Corinthians 3:5-14; 4:1-5; 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; I John 2:18-3:3, 24-4:6; Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21; 22:12).

Prayer: Precious Lord God, thank You for these encouraging verses that describe the victory of the Lamb and His faithful followers at the end of the Tribulation period. After reading Chapter 13 which is filled with horrific deception and destruction under the Antichrist’s and False Prophet’s regime, our hearts are filled with hope to see Jesus and the 144,000 Jewish evangelists standing triumphantly on Mount Zion in Jerusalem at the end of the Great Tribulation. By Your grace Lord God, we ask You to enable us to be faithful witnesses to the truth of the gospel with our lives and our lips. May Jesus live in and through us so those who are confused and perishing without Christ in this corrupt world, can find the healing and hope that only Jesus can give them. We ask You to remove the Satanic blinders from the hearts and minds of the unsaved so multitudes will believe in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life which can never be lost. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.   

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 263.

2. Ibid.

3. The majority of Greek manuscripts read “the” (τὸ) Lamb in place of “a” Lamb, and “His name and” (τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ καὶ) before “His Father’s name.”

4. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1549.

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), 2402.

6. Vacendak, pg. 1549.

7. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 291.

8. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 154 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pp. 188-189.

9. Constable, pg. 154 cites Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology (Wheaton: Scripture Press Foundation, Victory Book, 1986), pg. 88; J. B. Smith, A Revelation of Jesus Christ, Edited by J. Otis Yoder (Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, 1971), pg. 208; Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 2 (Wheaton: Victor Books, Scripture Press, 1989), pg. 607.

10. Constable, pp. 154-155 cites John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966), pg. 214.

11. Vacendak, pp. 1549-1550.

12. Ibid., pg. 1550.

13. Ibid.

14. Constable, pp. 156-157.

15. Vacendak, pg. 1550.

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid.

18. Swindoll, pg. 267.

19. Ibid., pg. 268.

Let’s Keep the Gospel Clear!

“Praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way that I ought to proclaim it.” Colossians 3:3-4

During my drive from Nebraska back to our home in Iowa recently, I noticed a billboard along the interstate that read, “Where are you going? Heaven or Hell?” with a phone number on it to call. I thought to myself, “I wonder what they are telling callers they must do to go to heaven?” Knowing I had about two hours left on my drive home, I knew this would probably be an animated conversation that would keep me wide awake. So, I decided to give them a call. I will try to convey the main ideas communicated in this call, acknowledging that my quotes are not verbatim.

When a young man answered my call, I told him I noticed their billboard sign and wanted to know what I must do to be sure I would go to heaven in the future. Immediately he told me I must repent and then quoted from Matthew 4:17 where Jesus said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” I asked, “What does it mean to repent?” He said it means to turn from your sin and follow Jesus. To which I replied, “You mean I must turn from all my sins?” “Yes,” he said. “Have you done that?” I asked him. “No,” he responded, “But if I do sin, the Bible tells me I must confess it to the Lord, and He will forgive me.”

In addition, he quoted from Romans 10:9-10 which says, 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” To make sure I understood him, I tried to repeat back what I heard him to say, “So you are telling me that to be sure I will go to heaven, I must repent, believe, and confess Jesus is Lord.” He said, “That’s right.”

Next, I told him my mother taught me John 3:16 when I was a child. After quoting the verse, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life,” I said to him, “Jesus is saying all I must do to have everlasting life is believe in Him.” Quickly he retorted, “We do what we believe, right?” I said, “Of course. But Jesus is saying all I must do is believe in Him for eternal life. So, if I will do what I believe, I will believe in Jesus to get me to heaven, not do good works to get to heaven.”

This man, whose name ironically is John, liked the book of Matthew, so he directed me to Matthew 7:21-23 where Jesus said, 21 Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

I said to John, “Christ is teaching that confessing the Lordship of Jesus and doing good works in His name is not what gains entrance into the kingdom of heaven. It is doing the will of the Father. And what is the Father’s will for entering His kingdom? Jesus tells us in John 6:40, ‘And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.’ According to Jesus, all we must do to enter the Father’s heaven, is see and believe in His Son to receive everlasting life. The apostle John tells us the reason he wrote his gospel is so ‘that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.’ (20:31). Ninety-nine times the apostle John uses the word ‘believe’ in his gospel. He never uses the word ‘repent.’”

The John on the other end of the call said, “Believing is not enough. Listen to what the apostle John, the same author of the gospel of John, writes in I John 3: 4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. 5 And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. 6 Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 9 Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. 10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.’”

I responded by saying, “First John 5:1 says, ‘Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.’ The apostle John makes it clear that believing Jesus is the Christ is all that is necessary to be born of God. “

John responded by turning to I John 1:3-4, 7-10, 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full… 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”

I thanked John for turning to these verses because verses 3-4 explain to us that I John was written so we may have fellowship or closeness with God, not salvation. So, when John talks about walking in the light (1:7), confessing sin (1:9), keeping God’s commandments (2:3), abiding in Christ (2:6), not sinning (3:6, 9), practicing righteousness (3:7), and loving others (3:10), he is providing conditions for fellowship or closeness with God, not salvation. The gospel of John tells us that the only condition for entering the Christian life is believing in Jesus for eternal life (John 1:12; 3:15-18, 36; 5:24; 6:35-40, 47; 7:37-39; 11:25-26; 20:31; et al.). But I John provides many conditions for having fellowship with God.

I told John on the other end of the call that I was very disappointed that he was preaching a different gospel than what the Lord Jesus and the apostles taught. I quoted from Galatians 1:8-9 which says, But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” The apostle Paul made it clear in Galatians that the only condition for being justified or declared righteous before God was to believe or have faith in Christ alone. Paul used the words “believe” and “faith” fifteen times when referring to justification before God (2:16; 3:2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 22, 24, 26) in the book of Galatians. He used no other words as a condition for justification. He warned the Galatians not to support or join those who do not preach a “believe/faith alone” gospel (1:6- 9; 4:12, 21-30; 5:1-12; 6:17). It does not matter how kind or helpful a person is who teaches a different gospel. They are “accursed” by God if they preach a different way to heaven other than faith alone in Christ alone.  

When John on the other end of the call tried to interrupt me, I asked him to wait until I was finished explaining the clear gospel. John hung up on me before I finished talking.

Unfortunately, what John and others with that ministry are doing to the gospel of grace is not uncommon. Rarely do I hear individual Christians or churches use the words God uses the most in New Testament evangelism – the verb “believe” (pisteuō) 1 and its noun form “faith” (pistis) 2 – as the only conditions for salvation. This is devastating because it dishonors the finished work of Christ on the cross. When we start replacing God’s Word with our own cliches or verses taken out of context, we are making it more difficult for sinners to be saved from hell by our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

If John had not hung up on me, I would have told him that he is the one who needs to repent. The word “repent” (metanoeō) in the New Testament means “to change one’s mind.” 3 John and others who distort the gospel need to repent or change their minds and return to the original gospel that Jesus and the apostles taught. Jesus said, 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15; cf. Acts 10:43; 16:31; Romans 4:5; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; I John 5:1, 13; et al.). Jesus Christ was “lifted up” on the cross to finish paying the penalty for all our sin when He died in our place (John 19:30) “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

When the apostle Paul instructed the Colossian believers to pray for his preaching of the gospel, he said, “that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak” (Colossians 4:4; NASB). If the apostle Paul needed prayer to help him keep the gospel clear, then how much more do you and I need this kind of prayer support from others!?! Satan wants to deceive Christians not to use the words God uses most in evangelism (“Believe” and “Faith”) because he knows that these are God’s terms for salvation from hell (cf. Luke 8:5, 12).

God wants Christians to be clear in the way they communicate the gospel of Christ to non-Christians. If you would like to learn more about how to be more effective in evangelism by avoiding unclear evangelistic invitations, please view our training video at https://www.seeyouinheaven.life/lesson-1-part-5-avoiding-unclear-gospel-invitations-video/.

May the Lord Jesus be glorified as we seek to keep His gospel clear by using the words He uses the most in evangelism: believe and faith.

ENDNOTES:

1. Matthew 18:6; 21: 32(3); 24:23, 26; 27:42; Mark 1:15, 9:42; 15:32;16:16(2), 17; Luke 8:12, 13; 22:67; John 1:7, 12, 50; 2:11, 23; 3:12(2), 15, 16, 18(3), 36(2); 4:39, 41, 42, 48, 53; 5:24, 38, 44, 45, 46, 47(2); 6:29, 30, 35, 36, 40, 47, 64, 69; 7:5, 31, 38(2), 39, 48; 8:24, 30, 31, 45, 46; 9:35, 36, 38; 10:25, 26, 37, 38(3), 42; 11:25, 26, 27(2), 42, 45, 48; 12:11, 36, 37, 38, 39, 42, 44(2), 46, 47; 13:19; 14:12; 16:9, 27; 17:8, 20, 21; 19:35; 20:29, 31(2); Acts 2:44; 4:4, 32; 5:14; 8:12, 13, 37(2); 9:42; 10:43, 45; 11:17, 21; 13:12, 39, 41, 48; 14:1, 23, 27; 15:5, 7; 16:1, 31, 34; 17:4, 5, 12, 34; 18:8, 27; 19:2, 4, 9, 18; 21:20, 25; 22:19; 26:27(2); 28:24(2); Romans 1:16; 3:3, 22, 4:3, 5, 11, 17, 24; 9:33; 10:4, 9, 10, 11, 14(2), 16; 13:11; 15:31; I Corinthians 1:21; 3:5; 7:12, 13; 9:5; 10:27; 14:22(2); 15:2, 11; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Galatians 2:16; 3:6, 9, 22; Ephesians 1:13, 19; Philippians 1:29; I Thessalonians 1:7; 2:10; 4:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:12,13; I Timothy 1:16; 3:16; 4:3, 10; 6:2(2); 2 Timothy 1:12; Titus 3:8; Hebrews 11:31; I Peter 1:21;2:6, 7; I John 3:23; 5:1, 5, 10(3), 13.

2. Matthew 9:2; Mark 2:5; Luke 7:50; 17:19; 18:42; Acts 6:7; 14:22, 27; 15:9; 16:5; 20:21; 24:24; 26:18; Romans 1:17; 3:3, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30(2), 31; 4:5, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16 (2); 5:1, 2; 9:30, 32; 10:6, 8, 17; 11:20; 16:26; I Corinthians 15:14, 17; Galatians 2:16 (2); 3:2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 14, 22, 24, 26; 5:5; Ephesians 2:8; Philippians 3:9(2); Colossians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:2; 2 Timothy 3:15; Titus 1:4; Hebrews 6:1;11:31; James 2:1, 23, 24; I Peter 1:21; 2 Peter 1:5; I John 5:4.

3. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 640.

Revelation 10 – Part 1

“I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire.” Revelation 10:1

Christian author John Eldredge notes three truths that surface in every good story, including God’s true story of creation and redemption: Things are not what they seem. This is a world at war. We have a crucial role to play.” 1

The book of Revelation depicts a captivating drama in which we can recognize each of the three parts of a great story. First, things are not what they seem. Although we live in the physical realm, an invisible world also exists, which influences our everyday lives. This spiritual world will become increasingly more “visible” in the future. Second, this is a world at war. Since Satan’s successful temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), the conflict has continued. Not only has it infected human history; it also will one day immerse the whole world in deception and destruction. This all leads us to the third element in the book of Revelation: We have a crucial role to play. This battlefield is no place for distant spectators. Our participation as members of God’s redeemed people is essential. 2

Like an intense thriller movie on TV, the book of Revelation has many intense scenes involving God’s defeat of evil leading to the ultimate victory of Christ and His people. Even as victors in Christ, we can be overwhelmed with the severity of God’s judgments in this book. And just as we look forward to commercial breaks amidst the intense scenes in a thriller movie to process what we have seen and prepare for what is next, so God provides interludes in the book of Revelation that give us an opportunity to pause and process what we have just seen and prepare for what is coming.

The first interlude between the sixth and seventh seals revealed God will save two groups of people during the first half of the Tribulation: The 144,000 Israelites alive on the earth (7:1-8), and a great multitude of people from all nations who will die during that time and be taken to heaven (7:9-17). In Revelation 10, a second interlude interrupts the sequence between the sixth and seventh trumpets. 3 The focus shifts, temporarily, from the outpouring of God’s wrath on unbelieving earth dwellers, to the consolation and encouragement of believers. 4

John records, “I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire.” (Revelation 10:1). In contrast to the demonic assault of the fifth and sixth trumpet judgments (9:1-21), John sees a powerful angel of God appear. Some suggest that this “mighty angel” is Jesus Christ. 5 But the evidence for his being simply “another” (Greek: allon = another of the same kind) “mighty angel” is more persuasive(cf. 10:5-6). 6

The appearance of this “mighty angel” makes the previous wicked angels look plain in comparison. This angel is “clothed with a cloud” because of his heavenly origin and his role as God’s messenger bearing a message of judgment (cf. 1:7; 14:14-16; Matthew 24:30; 26:24; Mark 13:26; 14:62; Luke 21:27). 7 “A rainbow was on his head,” signifying God’s faithfulness and mercy (cf. Genesis 9:12-17). Even amid God’s severe judgments, He will show mercy on those who believe the gospel (cf. Hebrews 8:12; Ephesians 2:4-5). 8 The angel’s “face was like the sun,” reflecting God’s glory, and “his feet like pillars of fire” is reminiscentof the pillar of fire manifested by God to protect and guide His people as they fled out of Egypt (Exodus 13:21; 14:19-24).  

2 He had a little book open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, 3 and cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars. When he cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices.” (Revelation 10:2-3). This mighty angel “had a little book” or scroll “open in his hand.” The “little book” in the angel’s hand may be different from the scroll that Jesus Christ unrolled (cf. 5:1; 6:1). In contrast with the seven-sealed scroll (biblion) in the hand of the Lamb (5:1), John used a different, and rare, Greek word to describe this “little book” (biblaridion). The tense of the Greek verb translated “open” (ēneōgmenon) is perfect passive, and indicates that someone had already opened it, and it was already unrolled in his hand. It probably represents a new revelation from God (10:2a; cf. Ezekiel 2:9—3:3; Jeremiah 15:15-17). 9 The fact that this angel stood with one foot “on the sea” and one foot “on the land,” suggests that his authority and message apply to the whole world (10:2b).

Next the mighty angel “cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars” to overpower his prey (10:3a). The angel’s “loud voice” indicates that God is about to overpower His enemies. Following the loud voice, John hears the “seven thunders” utter their voices, which symbolize God’s voice (10:3b; cf. Job 37:2-5; 40:9; Psalm 29:1-9; John 12:28-29). Psalm 29 makes this very evident as it contains a seven-fold manifestation of God’s voice in relation to thunder (“The God of glory thunders… The voice of the Lord is powerful… full of majesty… shakes the wilderness…”, etc. – Psalm 29:1-9). What John seems to be saying in Revelation 10 is that God’s promise to bring judgment on sinful humankind will be brought to pass by His unlimited power. Thunder warns people that a violent storm is coming soon. 10

“Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.’” (Revelation 10:4). John was not allowed to write down the judgments which “the seven thunders” (God) revealed which means there are some judgments that would take place during the Tribulation that are not revealed in the Bible (cf. Deuteronomy 29:29).

5 The angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised up his right hand to heaven 6 and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there should be delay no longer. 7 but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets.” (Revelation 10:5-7). The fact that “the angel” whom John saw took an oath (“raised up his right hand to heaven”) and “swore by” God as the eternal Creator (“Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven… the earth… the sea”) seems to confirm that he (the angel himself) is not God. Lifting the right hand toward God was and is a customary gesture when making a solemn oath (10:5-6a; cf. Genesis 14:22; Deuteronomy 32:40; Daniel 12:7). The little book must have been in the angel’s left hand. 11

Appealing to God as the eternal Creator (“by Him who lives forever ever and ever, who created heaven…the earth…the sea”) answers evolutionary speculation as to the origin of the earth. 12 As Creator God He has the power to bring to pass whatever He wants when He wants to emphasize the certainty “that there should be” no more delay in carrying out God’s plans (“the mystery of God”) which “He declared to His servants the prophets” (10:5b-7) concerning “the kingdoms of this world” becoming “the kingdoms of our Lord” Jesus Christ (11:15).   

Tony Evans writes, With the rapid pace at which descriptions of judgment have proceeded thus far, it may seem surprising that God’s messenger would say there has been a delay! Yet what has been delayed to this point is the full and final outpouring of God’s wrath. Through the judgment of the seven seals (6:1-17; 8:1-5) and the first six trumpets (8:6–9:21), God has been restraining his final judgment to allow continued opportunity for repentance. As Peter put it, the delay is not slowness but patience: ‘The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance’ (2 Pet 3:9).” 13

“When the seventh angel will blow his trumpet in 11:15, it will mark a shift to the end of the tribulation, when the seven bowls of God’s wrath will be poured out on the earth (16:1-21). At that point, the narrative truly will begin rushing toward the return of Jesus to set up His throne on earth. It might seem puzzling that John would announce a rush to the second coming when there are still twelve chapters remaining in Revelation. However, some of those chapters will rehash from a different perspective events already described. Thus far, God has revealed events to come. Beginning in chapter 11, He will focus on personalities involved in those events. These include the two witnesses, the Antichrist, and the false prophet.” 14

Walvoord explains that “the mystery of God” declared to the prophets is not a “reference…  to hidden truth but to the fulfillment of many Old Testament passages which refer to the glorious return of the Son of God and the establishment of His kingdom of righteousness and peace on the earth. While God’s purposes are not necessarily revealed in current events where Satan is allowed power and manifestation, the time will come when Satan no longer will be in power and the predictions of the Old Testament prophets will be fulfilled. Then all will know the Lord and the truth about Him (Jeremiah 31:34). Here again is evidence that the seventh trumpet introduces the seven bowl judgments of God’s wrath described in Revelation 16.” 15

Remember when the martyred Tribulation believers cried out, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:10)? The mighty angel of Revelation 10 loudly announces that God’s response to their prayers will soon come to an end without delay. 16

It is easy for us to avenge the wrongs that have been done to us and to those close to us. Throughout history Christians have endured intense persecution and suffering. The mighty angel reminds us that God will not delay His full and final judgment of rebellious humanity to avenge the wrongs done to His people. Instead of taking vengeance into our own hands, we are to release it to God so He can make things right in His time and way.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for giving us understanding of Your prophetic Word. Thank You for this interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpet judgments expressing Your grace and mercy to those who have yet to believe in Christ for His gift of salvation. The fact that You have delayed the full and final outpouring of Your wrath upon rebellious earth-dwellers shows that You are not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance, that is, change their minds about whatever is keeping them from believing in Jesus, and then believe in Him so they can enter His future kingdom on earth. Every day that passes by is another expression of Your grace which gives underserving sinners on earth another opportunity to get right with You through faith in Jesus Christ. Father, thank You for Your patience toward us, Your sinful children. Please grant us abundant grace to proclaim Your gospel message to a lost world that is perishing without Jesus Christ. Please rescue the unsaved from the horrific judgments that will come upon the earth in the future and from their ultimate judgment in the lake of fire. Forgive us our sins and help us to forgive others, knowing that vengeance belongs to You. In Jesus’ mighty name, we pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 203-204 cites John Eldredge, Waking the Dead: The Glory of a Heart Fully Alive (Nashville: Nelson, 2003), pp. 26-34.

2. Adapted from Swindoll, pg. 204.

3. The last two paragraphs are adapted from Ibid.

4. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 118.

5. Ibid., cites William W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary Vol. 2 (Wheaton: Victor Books, Scripture Press, 1989), pg. 597 and Gregory K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text. The New International Greek Testament Commentary series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., and Carlisle, England: Paternoster Press, 1999), pg. 522.

6. Ibid.

7. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1534; Constable, pg. 119.

8. Vacendak, pg. 1534.

9. Constable, pg. 119.

10. Vacendak, pg. 1535.

11. Constable, pg. 120.

12. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.

13. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2391.

14. Ibid.

15. Walvoord, pg. 164.

16. Swindoll, pg. 206.

Revelation 7 – Part 2

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands.” Revelation 7:9

During the interlude between the sixth and seventh seal judgments, the apostle John receives two visions of God’s great mercy involving the salvation and sealing of 144,000 Jews on the earth (7:1-8) and the salvation of Gentiles and Jews from every nation who are taken to heaven (7:9-17). Even though this will be a time of trouble on the earth like never before, it will also be a time of salvation like never before—of both Jews (7:1-8) and Gentiles (7:9-17). 1

I often hear a certain religious group responding to our online videos who claim that there will only be 144,000 people in heaven. 2  Some scholars believe the 144,000 on the earth (7:1-8) are the same group mentioned in heaven (7:9-17). 3 But this is contrary to what we see in Revelation 7. There are significant differences between the redeemed group of 144,000 on the earth (7:1-8) and the redeemed group of people before God’s throne in heaven (7:9-17): 4

1. The number of redeemed on the earth is not only smaller, but definite (“one hundred and forty-four thousand” – 7:4), but the number of redeemed in heaven is not only larger, but indefinite (“a great multitude which no one could number” – 7:9).

2. People from all the tribes of the children of Israel” comprise the first group (7:4), but people from “all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” make up the second (7:9).

3. The first group is standing on “the earth” (7:1-3), whereas the second group is standing “before the throne” of God in heaven (7:9).

4. God prepares the first group for imminent peril on the earth (“Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads” – 7:3), but the second group is victorious, secure, and at rest in heaven (“standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands” – 7:9).

5. The first group is prepared for persecution on the earth (7:1-8), but the second group is ascended to heaven after persecution (7:14-15).

There seems to be a cause-and-effect relationship in Revelation 7between the 144,000 Jewish believers in verses 1-8 and the innumerable crowd of Gentile believers in verses 9-17. The ministry of the 144,000 during the last half of the Tribulation period brings about salvation for millions of people. 5 In spite of the turmoil all around them, the 144,000 Jewish evangelists are faithful to God and God uses them to reach many people from all over the earth during the last half of the Tribulation period (cf. Matthew 24:14). 6

Some students of the Bible have concluded that those who heard the gospel before the Rapture of the Church and rejected it, will not be able to get saved during the Tribulation. They refer to 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 for support of this view. 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12).

When Paul speaks of being “saved” (2:10), he is speaking of the salvation or deliverance from the Tribulation on earth by means of the Rapture of the church as seen elsewhere in his letters to the Thessalonians (cf. I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-5:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:1). 7 Verse 12 does not mean that everyone alive at the time of the Rapture who are unbelievers will be given God’s “strong delusion” and be unable to get saved during the Tribulation.

Seemingly when the Rapture occurs the Man of Sin will emerge and will give some explanation for the sudden disappearance of Christians. With this lie will surely come his claim to be God and to offer protection for all who follow him. Many will be deceived by his message. It is not known for sure what the strong delusion will be. But it is known that only unbelievers who did not “believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” will be deceived (2:12). This cannot mean that all the unsaved when the Rapture occurs will be eternally condemned since Revelation 7 states that there will be 144,000 Jewish evangelists who will lead innumerable Jews and Gentiles all over the earth to faith in Christ during the Tribulation. 8

Those who had “pleasure in unrighteousness” are people who heard and yet rejected the gospel in this Church Age. Those in tribes and people groups who have not heard the gospel will not be endangered by this delusion. It is possible that some in countries like the United States, where the gospel is accessible to all, will not have heard the clear gospel, or have not heard it enough, and so some of them will come to faith in Christ during the Tribulation. Likely, however, many people in Christian lands will be deluded when the Rapture occurs and will be hardened in unbelief. Most of the converts of the 144,000 will likely be in third-world countries and unreached areas of the world (Matthew 24:14). 9

This is a powerful reminder for unbelievers not to continue in their unbelief. They are to cry out to God to show them the truth. Their fear of the coming Tribulation is meant by God to motivate them to ask Him to reveal the truth of the gospel to them. 10 During the Tribulation it will be very difficult for those who have continually rejected the gospel to come to faith in Christ. After all, it won’t get easier to be a Christian after the Rapture, but rather more difficult, since the Antichrist will openly persecute those who receive Christ and refuse to take his mark (Revelation 13:7, 16-17). However, to say that it is impossible for anyone to receive God’s mercy during the Tribulation is expanding 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 beyond what the context allows.” 11

Let’s take a closer look now at this second group in heaven. The apostle John writes, “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands.” (Revelation 7:9). The converts of the 144,000 are from “all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues.” Every country, tribe, people-group, and language group will be represented in heaven. This tells us that racial distinctions and uniqueness are retained in eternity. 12

Only Jesus Christ can unite all nations and ethnicities together for all of eternity! Governments, special interest groups, and well-meaning religious groups have failed to bring universal peace to the nations of the world. However, God is at work amid a world that is divided. There are churches today comprised of various ethnicities worshiping the true God, Jesus Christ (I John 5:20)! This is a preview of more to come throughout eternity.

These converts of the 144,000 will be “clothed with white robes.” Thesewhite robes” represent believers in Jesus who have been declared righteous in the sight of God through faith in Christ. One of the twenty-four elders says of this group, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14). Whereas the white robes in Revelation 3:4-5 are an eternal reward given to believers who remain faithful to Christ until they go to heaven, the robes here in 7:9, 14 are symbolic of the complete and eternal cleansing of sin that comes to every person who believes in Christ for eternal life. 13

These believers standing before the thrones of God the Father and God the Son are holding “palm branches in their hands” (7:9), which recalls John 12:13 where the Jews meet Christ at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem with joyful celebration and exalt Him as Israel’s King. (The Jews celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles by waving palm branches as they quoted Psalm 118:25-26.) In a similar manner the redeemed ones before the throne will celebrate the imminent victory of the King at His Second Advent (cf. 19:11–20:3) as well as His coming reign (cf. 20:4).” 14

This innumerable group of redeemed people are, crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:10). The word for “salvation” (sōtēria) here refers to a two-fold deliverance: first, from the Lake of Fire as seen in verse 14 where reference is made to the eternal cleansing of the blood of the Lamb. And secondly, when Christ returns to the earth there will be a deliverance from the Man of Sin (cf. Micah 5:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 19:15-20), physical corruption (cf. Romans 8:21-22; Isaiah 35), and the rebellion of men (cf. Psalm 2:9; Jeremiah 30:23-24; Revelation 19:11-21). 15

Verse 10 underscores that this salvation or deliverance belongs to God the Father(“our God who sits on the throne”)and God the Son(“to the Lamb”). Only God could pay the penalty for all our sins since it took a perfect sacrifice to accomplish such a feat (Hebrews 1:8; 10:1-14). And only God could overcome centuries of sin and death through His return to earth to set up His kingdom and bring universal peace and blessings to the earth (Revelation 11:15-18; 19:11-20:6; cf. Isaiah 11:1-16; 65:17-25). 

In addition to these martyred Tribulation believers (7:14) shouting praises to God the Father and God the Son, John tells us, “All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God.” (Revelation 7:11). Other “angels,” in addition to the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders, representing the church, “stood around the throne and worshiped God.” While the earth is subject to wrath at this time, heaven is filled with worship of God the Father and God the Son.

All the inhabitants of heaven are saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 7:12). “Blessing” (eulogia) or praise is what God deserves because of what He will do for these people (cf. Revelation 5:12, 13). 16 “Glory” (doxa) is the honor due to God because of His good reputation, specifically for delivering them (cf. Revelation 1:6; 4:11; 5:12, 13; 19:1). 17 “Wisdom” (sophia) is God’s infinite knowledge displayed in His plan of deliverance (cf. Revelation 5:12). “Thanksgiving” (eucharistia) literally means “well” and “to give freely,” but it denotes an expression of gratitude for a favor rendered (cf. Revelation 4:9). 18

“Honor” (timē) or esteem is what God deserves because He has planned and provided this salvation (cf. Revelation 4:11; 5:12, 13). 19  “Power” (dynamis) reflects God’s omnipotence that enables Him to overcome all opposition (cf. Revelation 4:11; 5:12; 19:1). 20 “Might” (ischys) or strength refers to God’s inherent power that enabled Him to deliver this multitude from their enemies (5:12). 21 God is worthy of this worship throughout eternity. “Amen” (Amēn) underlines the truthfulness of this sevenfold ascription (cf. 5:13). 22

We must not overlook the oneness of God the Father and God the Son in these verses. While their worship is directed to both God the Father and God the Lamb, we are told they “worshiped God” (7:11) and gave praise “to our God” (7:12). During His earthly ministry Jesus said, “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son.” (John 5:22). The Jews thought it was God alone who would judge the world, but Jesus claims that the Father has given Him that privilege. Why? “That all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” (John 5:23). The Jews believed that only God was to be honored and worshiped. Jesus claims the same right to be worshiped and honored that the Father has. This emphasizes the unity of the Father and the Son. What is done to One, is also done to the other because they are equals. They both have the same divine nature.

This is why all other religions fall short. They cannot truly honor God or worship Him apart from Jesus Christ. This is why Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, Jehovah Witnesses, etc., all fall short because they do not worship and honor God the Father through Jesus Christ. They may say Jesus was a god or a prophet or a good moral teacher, but they do not believe He is the one true God. And by rejecting Jesus Christ as God, they are rejecting His Father because Christ is the perfect reflection of the Father.

But this will not happen in heaven. All the inhabitants of heaven will honor and worship both God the Father and God the Son because they understand the oneness of God. Jesus said, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19b). Jesus taught that God is one (“the name” is singular) in divine nature, yet eternally exists in three Persons (“Father… Son… Holy Spirit”) Who are equal in every way, yet distinct in their tasks and relations to humanity. God is one substance (Deuteronomy 6:4), yet three in Person (Ephesians 2:18; 2 Corinthians 13:14). Students of the Bible refer to this truth as the Trinity or “three in one.”

All three Persons in Matthew 28:19 share one “name,” because they are one Being. This is not self-contradiction, and here is why: Person is not the same as being. Your being is the quality that makes you what you are, but your person is the quality that makes you who you are. For example, we are humans. That is what we are. That is why we are called human beings. But what we are is not the same as who we are. If someone asks, “Who are you?” I should not respond by saying, “A human!” That answers the question of what I am, not who I am. Who I am is Jeff Ropp; that is my person. What I am is a human; that is my being. Being and person are separate.

Unlike a human being, which has only one person, God has three Persons. He is one being, Yahweh, in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Unlike a human being, which has only one person, God has three persons. He is one being, Yahweh, in three persons: Father, Son, and Spirit. He is more than able to exist like that because He is God. If we say God must have only one Person, like humans, then we are making God in our image. Who are we to limit God? It is up to God to tell us Who He is. That is where the discussion should really be between Christians and non-Christians: on revelation, not on the conceptual plane of “Trinity versus _______,” as if our reason alone can dictate or even decipher the nature of God.

Christians and non-Christians should agree that God is greater than we can possibly conceive, more complex than we could ever hope to grasp. We are in no position to determine the intricacies of God’s nature. If God were to inform us that He is one being in one Person, we are obligated to believe Him. If He tells us, “I am one being in three Persons,” who are we to say “No” to God? As believers in revelation, we must turn to divine Scripture to learn about God.

Scripture is the reason why Christians believe God is triune. The doctrine of the Trinity is the best interpretation of the Bible. There are five elements found repeatedly throughout the Bible’s text that are best interpreted through the lens of the Trinity:

– There is only one God (e.g., Romans 3:30) 

– The Father is God (e.g., John 6:27)

– Jesus is God (e.g., John 20:28; Romans 9:5; 2 Peter 1:1) 

– The Holy Spirit is God (e.g., Acts 5:3–5) 

– These three are distinct Persons (e.g., John 14:16–17)

Those who reject this biblical truth of the Trinity, cannot worship God in the way He has revealed in His holy Word, the Bible. They can change their minds now and believe in Jesus alone for His gift of eternal life (John 3:36a) and worship the Triune God “on earth” and “in heaven” forever (Revelation 5:13; cf. Philippians 2:9-11). But if they refuse to believe Jesus Christ for His gift of eternal life, God’s wrath “abides on him” or her forever (John 3:36b) and they will bow down before Jesus as their Lord “under the earth” in the lake of fire (Revelation 5:13; 20:15; cf. Philippians 2:9-11).  

As we looked upon the inhabitants of heaven during the Tribulation on earth, we saw an innumerable gathering of people before the throne of God consisting of Jews and Gentiles from the church age (“twenty-four elders”) and the Tribulation (7:9, 14). What part of this great multitude of people in heaven will be there because of you and me? Because we were faithful to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 16:15) and make disciples of those who believed in Christ (Matthew 28:19-20)?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for revealing Your great mercy during this unprecedented time of judgment on the earth. Thank You that by believing in Jesus we can be a part of this innumerable gathering of people worshiping You and Your Son around Your throne in heaven forever. We praise Your name and thank You that Israel will finally fulfill their covenant promise – to be a light to the Gentiles and to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom throughout the world during the last half of the Tribulation period. Thank You that by Your grace, we can also invest in helping to populate heaven by sharing the gospel with the lost and making disciples of those who believe in Christ during what time we have left on the earth. Please lead us to the people Your Spirit has prepared to hear and believe the gospel so we may share it with them. All blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might belong to You both now and forever, O Lord God. In the matchless name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.   

ENDNOTES:

1. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 1524-1525.

2. Jehovah Witnesses are the most common responders who adhere to this view.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 99 cites as an example Gregory K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, The New International Greek Testament Commentary series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., and Carlisle, England: Paternoster Press, 1999), pg. 424; George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), pg. 116.

4. Adapted from Constable, pg. 99 and Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 167.  

5. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pp. 291-291.

6. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1526.

7. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1149.

8. Ibid., pg. 1150.

9. Ibid.  

10. Ibid.

11. Hitchcock, pg. 244.

12. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2384.

13. Vacendak, pg. 1526.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid.

16. Constable, pg. 100.

17. Ibid., cites W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, (Old Tappan, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell, 1966), pg. 158.

18. Ibid., cites George Abbott-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1950), pg. 190.

19. Ibid., cites F. C. Jennings, Studies in Revelation, (New York: Publication Office of “Our Hope,” n.d.), pg. 230.

20. Ibid.

21. Ibid., cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1—7, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pp. 491-92.

22. Ibid.

23. The last few paragraphs are adapted from former Muslim, Nabeel Qureshi’s book No God but One: Allah or Jesus? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016 Kindle Edition), pp. 55-57.

Revelation 7 – Part 1

“And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed.” Revelation 7:4

John received two new visions that corrected the possible impression that no one would survive the “beginning of birth-pangs” (Matthew 24:6-8) during the first half of the Tribulation judgments (Revelation 6:1-17). God will save two groups of people during the first half of the Tribulation (cf. Matthew 24:14): He will preserve 144,000 Israelites alive on the earth (7:1-8), and He will take to heaven a multitude of people from all nations who will die during that time (7:9-17). John saw both groups in chapter 7, which contrasts the panic of unbelievers described in Chapter 6 (“After these things”) and in answer to the question “Who is able to stand?” (6:17), with the security of believers during this time of unprecedented suffering (7:1a). 1

The mention of martyrs during the Tribulation (6:9-11) leads John to write about what will happen to those who become believers during that time. Though billions of unbelievers will die, many will come to faith in Christ and many of those will be martyred for their faith in Him. In wrath, God will remember mercy (cf. Hab 3:2). Even though this will be a time of trouble like never before, it will also be a time of salvation like never before—of both Jews (vv 1-8) and Gentiles (vv 9-17).” 2

As the hoofbeats of the four horsemen echoed into the distance and the cacophony of geological and cosmic upheavals stilled, John’s attention turned to the center of the earthly end-times drama: the land of Israel. Throughout their history, the people of Israel had been conquered, delivered, devastated, exiled, and restored over and over again as military threats bombarded them from every side. Yet at the beginning of John’s vision of the Tribulation, just as the land of Israel is about to endure the most devastating war in all of history, God’s intervention reminds us that He will keep His promises to Israel.” 3

In between the sixth and seventh seals of judgment, John writes, “After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree.” (Revelation 7:1). The apostle “saw four angels standing at the four corners.” The phrase “four corners of the earth, is an idiom for the four cardinal directions 4 – north, south, east, and west. 5

The four angels in John’s vision have the responsibility of restraining the judgment of God (pictured by “the four winds,” cf. Jeremiah 49:36-38; Daniel 7:2; Hosea 13:15) on nature (“the earth…the sea…any tree”). Most of the trumpet and bowl judgments involve God’s destruction of the earth’s environment in some way (cf. Revelation 8–9, 16). However, as Revelation 11:14 indicates, the first six trumpet judgments take place before the 144,000 go out to preach in the last half of the seven years. 6

Then John sees another angel in addition to the first four: “2 Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, 3 saying, ‘Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.’” (Revelation 7:2-3). “Another” [allon] angel” of the same kind as the first four angels ascended “from the east” (literally – “from the rising of the sun”). In the Bible, divine salvation often comes “from the east” (cf. Genesis 2:8; Ezekiel 43:2; Matthew 2:1; 2 Peter 1:19; Revelation 22:16). 7

This fifth angel had “the seal of the living God.” A “seal” was a symbol of ownership (2 Corinthians 1:22), authentication (John 6:27), and protection leading to final salvation (Ephesians 1:14; 4:30; cf. Genesis 4:15; Exodus 12:7). 8 This “seal” represents God’s intention to protect the twelve tribes of Israel that are mentioned in verses 4-8, much as He protected Noah from the Flood, Israel from the plagues of Egypt, and Rahab and her household in Jericho. 9

“In Ezekiel 9, a linen-clothed angel went forth and put a mark on a select group of people to set them apart from those on whom God’s judgment would fall. The same is true here. The purpose of this seal is to set apart those who will share the gospel in the last three-and-a-half years of the Tribulation and to protect them from the judgments that will be falling on unrepentant mankind (cf. 9:4).” 10

On earth during the Tribulation, the followers of the Beast will bear his mark on their right hand or forehead (Revelation 13:16). During this same time, the Lord will identify His people by placing a seal of ownership on their foreheads (Revelation 7:3). Revelation 7 and 13 use two different Greek words to distinguish these marks from each other. In Revelation 7, God seals the 144,000 on their “foreheads.” The word used there for the verb “sealed” is sphragizō, which symbolizes the spiritual sealing mentioned throughout the New Testament (John 3:33; 6:27; 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). But in Revelation 13, where followers of the Antichrist are given a “mark” (Revelation 13:16-17), the word used is charagma which refers to a literal brand, tattoo, or etching. 11

This angel commands the four angels to whom was given authority “to harm the earth and the sea” to withhold their judgment on the earth until he had finished sealing “the servants of our God on their foreheads” (7:3). God wants His servants set apart and ready before any of the judgments fall on the earth. 12 The “servants” in view are believers in Jesus Christ who are Jews (7:4-8). The sealing of God’s servants sets them apart as God’s redeemed people and guaranteed their physical safety while they preached the gospel during the last 3 ½ years of the Tribulation when the trumpet judgments take place (8:7-21; 11:15-18).

“Evidently God will give these 144,000 believers special protection in the last half of the Tribulation, because its calamities will be much more severe than those in the first half. Antichrist will also mark his followers in a similar way (13:16-18; 14:9, 11; 16:2; 19:20).” 13

Next John writes, “And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed.” (Revelation 7:4). When God’s Word says, “all the tribes of the children of Israel,” He means it. Unfortunately, “most posttribulationists and amillennialists believe the 144,000 are members of ‘spiritual Israel,’ a title of theirs for the church. 14 “Many interpreters take the number 144,000 as symbolic of all God’s servants in the Tribulation.” 15

Swindoll writes, Many Christians today are convinced that God’s plan for ethnic Israel has come to an end. Some believe that the promises of a glorious nation and blessing in the Holy Land have been abolished because of Israel’s past unfaithfulness. Others have determined that these promises were fulfilled in a spiritual sense through Christ in the church. Some theologians propose that Israel has been replaced by the church and that ethnic Jews have been divorced by God, without a future in God’s plan.

“However, the New Testament assures us that God plans to bring about the fulfillment of those promises through Jesus Christ. Although most ethnic Jews have been in a state of unbelief since the time of Jesus, God will one day bring a remnant to faith in Christ and restore them to the land promised to their forefathers (Genesis 13:15). Jesus Himself promised the apostles, ‘In the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel’ (Matthew 19:28). Before Christ’s ascension, the disciples eagerly inquired about the timing of that earthly kingdom when they asked, ‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’ (Acts 1:6). It is significant that Jesus didn’t reject their literal interpretation and expectation of a future fulfillment of these earthly promises. Instead, He told them that they would not know the timing of this restoration (Acts 1:7-8). 

Years later, the apostle Paul addressed the problem of Israel’s unbelief by declaring that this rebellion would one day be reversed: ‘A partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved’ (Romans 11:25-26). In other words, when God has accomplished His purposes through the church, He will again turn His attention to the nation of Israel and bring them to faith in Christ. We can see the beginnings of this future for Israel with the sealing of the 144,000 in Revelation 7:1-8.

“Why is the restoration of Israel so important? Because God’s very reputation as a Promise Keeper is at stake! With explicit reference to the calling of Israel, Paul said, ‘For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable’ (Romans 11:29). It’s as simple as this: If we cannot trust God to keep His promises to Israel (Jeremiah 31:35-37), how can we trust Him to keep His promises to us (Romans 8:35-39)? Never doubt it: God will do what He says He will do!” 16

That God is referring to ethnic Israel is underscored by the fact that John heard the names of twelve tribes of Israel with 12,000 from each tribe “sealed” and thus protected: 5 of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand were sealed; 6 of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand were sealed; 7 of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand were sealed; 8 of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand were sealed.” (Revelation 7:5-8). Nothing in this text suggests a symbolic understanding. The fact that specific “tribes” were named “and specific numbers from each tribe were indicated would seem to remove this from the symbolic and to justify literal interpretation. If God intended these verses to represent Israel literally, He would have used this means. Nowhere else in the Bible do a dozen references to the 12 tribes mean the church. Obviously, Israel will be in the Tribulation, and though men do not know the identification of each tribe today, certainly God knows.” 17

The number of sealed servants of God, with specific numbers from each tribe in contrast with the indefinite number of 7:9, underscores the literal understanding of these verses. “If it is taken symbolically, no number in the book can be taken literally.” 18

Hitchcock gives several reasons why the church cannot represent Israel in Revelation 7:1-8: “Why would the Holy Spirit begin to mix the church and Israel in the book of Revelation, the final book in the New Testament, when He has so carefully distinguished the two groups in the previous twenty-six books of the New Testament? Why begin to identify the church as the true, spiritual Israel at this late point in the New Testament? It does not make good sense and is inconsistent.

“Second, if one holds to the pre-Tribulation timing for the Rapture, the church is already in heaven as pictured by the twenty-four elders in Revelation 4–5. Thus, it doesn’t make sense that the group in Revelation 7, which is on earth, would be the church. The church has already been raptured.

“Third, it is interesting that Jews and Gentiles are clearly distinguished from one another in Revelation 7. The 144,000 Jews are listed in 7:1-8 while 7:9-17 presents an innumerable host of ‘every nation and tribe and people and language.’ Merging these two groups does not do justice to the distinctions that Revelation 7 makes:

“Jews from twelve tribes of Israel (Revelation 7:1-8), Gentiles from every nation, tribe, people, and language (Revelation 7:9-17); numbered—144,000 (Revelation 7:1-8), not numbered—“a great multitude which no one could count” (Revelation 7:9-17); standing on earth (Revelation 7:1-8), standing before God’s throne (Revelation 7:9-17); sealed for protection (Revelation 7:1-8), ascended after persecution (Revelation 7:9-17).

Furthermore, Revelation 7 clearly distinguishes between Jews and Gentiles, but this distinction is inconsistent with the New Testament picture of the church—Jews and Gentiles are seen as one in the body of Christ (Galatians 3:27-28; Ephesians 3:6). Since Galatians 3 and Ephesians 3 unite Jews and Gentiles as one and since Revelation 7 does not reflect that unity, the Rapture must reinstitute a division between Jews and Gentiles. Revelation 7 reflects that division.

So then, who are these 144,000 servants of God? If the Scriptures are interpreted literally, then the 144,000 are a literal group of 144,000 Jewish men—12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel—raised up by God during the Tribulation to serve Him. They are not spiritual Israel (the church), but actual Israel.” 19

The most important fact taught here is that God continues to watch over Israel even in the time of Israel’s great distress. There is no justification whatever for spiritualizing either the number or the names of the tribes in this passage, to make them represent the church.” 20

In conclusion, God’s faithfulness to His promises is seen in the fact that ethnic Israel will retain her national identity before God during the Tribulation period, and He will resume dealing with them again as His chosen people during this time (7:1-8; cf. Daniel 9:24-27). Jehovah Witnesses or any other Gentiles who claim to be a part of this group fail to accept the final authority of God’s Word which clearly states that these 144,000 servants of God will be physical descendants of the twelve Israelite tribes. When they are sealed (7:1-8), they will know their tribal roots, and their sealing will take place after the Rapture of the Church (4:1-4).

How can we apply this to our lives today? Just as God prepared the 144,000 Jewish servants for service by giving them His seal (7:2-8), so God has prepared us for His service by giving us the Holy Spirit to empower us to be His witnesses to the entire world (Acts 1:8). We are not alone when it comes to sharing the gospel with a lost world. God the Holy Spirit indwells us (John 14:16-17) and will give us the boldness (Acts 4:29-31) and words to speak to those who need Christ in their lives (Matthew 10:19-20).

The 144,000 Jewish servants will boldly proclaim the gospel of Christ’s coming Kingdom during the Tribulation period. There appears to be a cause-and-effect relationship in Revelation 7 between the 144,000 Jewish believers (7:1-8) and the innumerable crowd of Gentile believers in heaven from all nations (7:9-17). The preaching of the gospel by these 144,000 Jewish evangelists during the last half of the Tribulation period will results in an innumerable number of people being saved. They will be the greatest evangelists the world has ever seen. These sealed servants of God will fulfill Matthew 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” Revelation 7 provides a panorama of God’s saving work during the Tribulation. The 144,000 reveal God’s passion to save people even amid the unspeakable judgments of the Tribulation. To the very end, our Savior will graciously continue “to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10). 21

Does our passion for the lost reflect that of our Savior Who desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (I Timothy 2:3-4)? I am convinced that the closer we grow to the heart of the Lord Jesus, the more our hearts for the lost will reflect His. Christ promises that if we follow Him, He will make us fishers of men (Matthew 4:19). Do you feel inadequate to evangelize the lost? Do you ever think that you do not know enough to share the gospel with non-Christians? Ask the Lord Jesus to help you follow Him daily and He will teach you all you need to know about evangelism. The best way to learn to talk to unbelievers is to walk and talk with Jesus.

Swindoll reminds us that this interlude between the sixth and seventh seal judgments in Revelation 7 teaches us several things: “To reaffirm Christ’s central position, remind us of God’s great plan of redemption, and reassure us that God’s wrath isn’t without mercy. John needed that interlude. So do we. In fact, it might be wise for us to follow God’s example and work interludes into our own lives.

“Interludes do at least three things for us—all of them essential in a world filled with relentless stress, hardship, busyness, and drama.

“First, interludes reaffirm for us who’s first… Interludes strengthen the centrality and preeminence of Christ. When we are alone for even a short period of time, we get a desperately needed opportunity to focus on Him. Strive to make this ‘time with God’ a daily appointment. Consider not only setting aside a few hours on Sunday morning to remember who’s first but also devoting the whole Lord’s Day to Christ-centered activities.

Second, interludes remind us of what’s important. In the fast pace of modern life, we frequently get our priorities jumbled up. The nonessentials of life tend to bleed over into the essentials—and vice versa. When we pause, step back, and gather our thoughts, we give ourselves a chance to reorder our priorities. Such occasions to ‘regroup’ can be monthly getaways or annual retreats. Each of us is different, but all of us need a chance to reconsider priorities, set things straight, and form a plan to keep life’s essentials on top. Consider dedicating a portion of a vacation to thinking and praying through your priorities. What a difference it will make for the rest of the year!

Third, interludes refresh us with why it’s all worth it. In the depths of despair, in the thick of tragedy, in the throes of suffering, we need interludes in order to recharge spiritually with the faith and fortitude to carry on. Interludes can help us endure suffering, loss, disappointment, and the death of dreams. They massage us back to a fresh new start. We reenter the fray with a new perspective, centered on God’s goodness and on His plan and purpose. Sometimes we just need a shelter from the storm.

“It’s easy to lose sight of God’s goodness, grace, and mercy in the midst of the daily turmoil of life in this fallen world. Only during interludes of reflection are we able to evaluate our priorities and passions in light of the central position of Jesus Christ, which equips us with a new sense of purpose as we place our trust in Him.” 22

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for this amazing interlude in heaven between the sixth and seventh seal judgments which underscores that Your wrath is accompanied by Your mercy. Only You can give us security amid a world that is spinning out of control. Your judgments can awaken people for their need for Your mercy through the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank You for remaining faithful to Your promises to Israel and to those of us who are Gentiles. We can trust You to keep Your promises no matter how difficult life becomes. Please show us how to work interludes into our own lives that enable us to renew our commitment to Christ. We need to detach from this hostile world and renew our love relationship with Jesus. Make us more like You, Lord Jesus, so Your love for the lost becomes ours. Use us to proclaim Your message of grace through faith to a world that is perishing without You. Protect us from the evil one and equip us with a renewed sense of purpose as we place our trust in You. In Your mighty name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 94.

2. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 1524-1525.

3. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 162-163.

4. Ibid., pg. 163.

5.  Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2382.

6. Vacendak, pg. 1525. Regarding Revelation 11:14, Vacendak says, Since the death of the two witnesses and the subsequent earthquake occur after the first and second ‘woe’ (i.e., trumpet judgments five and six), one may conclude that the first six trumpet judgments occur during the first three-and-a-half years of the Tribulation” (pp. 1538-1539).

7. Constable, pg. 95.

8. Ibid.

9. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.

10. Vacendak, pg. 1525.

11. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 290.

12. Vacendak, pg. 1525.  

13. Constable, pg. 96.

14. Ibid., cites as examples William Barclay, The Revelation of John Vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible series 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 30; Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, New International Commentary on the New Testament series (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1983), pg. 168; Leon Morris, The Revelation of St. John, Tyndale New Testament Commentary series, Reprint ed. (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), pg. 175; George Raymond Beasley-Murray, The Book of Revelation, New Century Bible Commentary series, Revised ed. (London: Morgan & Scott, 1974; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., and London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1983), pg. 140; George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John, 1972 reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1985), pp. 114 116; Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John. 2nd ed. (London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1907), pg. 99; James Moffatt, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine,” In The Expositor’s Greek Testament Vol. 5 (1910), 4th ed. Edited by W. Robertson Nicoll 5 Vols. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1900-12), pg. 395; Gregory K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, The New International Greek Testament Commentary series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., and Carlisle, England: Paternoster Press, 1999), pg. 413; David E. Aune, Revelation 6—16, Word Biblical Commentary series (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), pg. 447.  

15. Ibid., cites as examples Alan Johnson, “Revelation,” In Hebrews-Revelation Vol. 12 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary 12 vols., Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), pp. 463 and 481; Ladd, pg. 117.

16. Swindoll, pp. 156-157.

17. Walvoord, pg. 164.

18. Constable, pg. 96 cites Thomas, Revelation 1—7, p. 474.

19. Hitchcock, pp. 288-289.

20. Walvoord, pg. 164.

21. Adapted from Hitchcock, pp. 291-292.

22. Swindoll, pp. 168-169.