Revelation 19 – Part 1

“After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to our God!’” Revelation 19:1

“The classic science-fiction adventure Star Wars ends with the dazzling destruction of the Death Star – a moon-sized space station that had terrorized the galaxy as a symbol of evil and tyranny. The epic trilogy The Lord of the Rings climaxes with the cataclysmic destruction of the dark tower of Mordor – the center of the demonic Dark Lord Sauron’s evil oppression.” 1

In a similar way, the obliteration of Rome (“Babylon”) represents the destruction of everything that is evil and demonic in the current world system. So, it should not surprise us when something as decadent as Rome and its religious/economic system comes to an end, all of heaven will celebrate with a jubilant chorus of hallelujahs. Even in the fictional realms of Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, the victory over evil causes great rejoicing among those who are triumphant. 2

Following the destruction of the great harlot (Rome) which caused the people of the world to grieve deeply and be distressed (18:1-24), we see a much different response to Rome’s destruction in heaven (19:1-10). All the inhabitants of heaven are praising God for what He has done to Rome. As the Tribulation period is coming to an end, the focus in heaven is on God and the nearness of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to earth.

The apostle John writes, “After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to our God!’” (Revelation 19:1). The phrase “After these things” (Meta tauta) refers to the events of chapter 18 and marks a new chronological development in the book of Revelation. 3 In this new vision John “heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven.” Think of a large stadium filled with enthusiastic football fans screaming at the top of their lungs when their team scores the go-ahead touchdown. In heaven, a “great multitude” of heaven’s inhabitants (possibly believers and angels) are roaring with praise toward God’s judgment of Rome.

This heavenly choir is saying, “Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to our God!” The word transliterated “Alleluia” is from the Hebrew compound word: “hallal” (praise) and “Yah” (an abbreviated form of Yahweh). 4 Hence, the word means “praise Yahweh” or “praise the Lord.” The only four occurrences of “Alleluia” in the New Testament are in this section (19:1, 3, 4, 6) although it does occur often in the Psalms. 5This is the biblical Hallelujah Chorus! 6

“Praise” “is the declaration of the glory, greatness, power, and majesty of God, and there is no such thing as silent praise. Unlike worship, which can occur quietly within a believer’s heart, praise in Scripture often is tied to our lips (e.g., Ps. 34:1; 51:15; 119:171). God is not untoward in demanding praise because He is worthy of it. Hundreds of thousands of people attend parades to celebrate championship sports teams, yet God is infinitely more worthy of celebration than any athlete.” 7

This is why we see the inhabitants of heaven crying out, “Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to our God!” Barclay notes, “The salvation of God should awaken the gratitude of man. The glory of God should awaken the reverence of man. The power of God is always exercised in the love of God, and should, therefore, awaken the trust of man. Gratitude, reverence, trust – these are the constituent elements of real praise.” 8

There are two reasons why heaven praises God. “For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.” (Revelation 19:2). The first reason heaven praises God is because “His judgments,” including His annihilation of “the great harlot,” are “true and righteous” (19:2a). The word “true” (alēthinai) conveys that God’s judgments are totally in line with the truth of His Word. The Lord did what His Word said He would do. 9

In addition, God’s judgments are also “righteous” (dikaiai) which carries the idea that God is fair and just in carrying out these judgments. 10 For centuries, pagan and papal Rome seduced people away from the true God with her rituals and superstitions to worship false gods (“fornication”). Her worldly luxuries and pleasures had deceived the nations of the world into believing that joy, security, and meaning in life come through the accumulation of material wealth instead of through their Creator God. God was just to judge her severely for these decadent things.

The second reason God is to be praised for these judgments is because “He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her” (19:2b). Thousands of years ago, the Lordsaid He would judge those who shed the blood of His servants (cf. Deuteronomy 32:42-43), 11 and now He has fulfilled His promise by judging Rome (“her”) for killing His “servants.” For centuries, pagan and papal Rome persecuted those who proclaim the truth exposing her materialistic and idolatrous false religion. History shows that the Roman Catholic Church has shed the blood of many believers and victims of the Crusades and Roman Inquisition. 12But the height of Rome’s hostility toward God’s people will take place during the Tribulation period when she vehemently opposes God’s people on the earth. Rebellious humankind who witnessed God’s judgments blasphemed His name (cf. Revelation 16:9, 11, 21); but the heavenly multitude praised Him because His wrath was “true and righteous.” 13

Another burst of praise breaks forth from the heavenly multitude. “Again they said, ‘Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever!’” (Revelation 19:3). This encore heightens the first burst of praise.14All of heaven praises God a second time for the finality (“rises up forever and ever”)of Rome’s destruction (“her smoke”). Never again will Rome be able to shed the blood of God’s people.

A third burst of praise for God takes place next in heaven. “And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne, saying, ‘Amen! Alleluia!’” (Revelation 19:4). The “twenty-four elders” representing the church in heaven (see comments on 4:1-4) and “the four living creatures” representing angelic beings (see comments of 4:6-8), “fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne,” which is evidently God the Father. Both these groups were crying out, “Amen! Alleluia!” In saying “Amen” (lit., “so be it”), they were giving their wholehearted agreement to the praise already given to God. 15 By shouting “Alleluia,” they were giving God their own praise for His “true and righteous” judgments.

As we have looked at the great mourning that will take place on the earth for Rome’s (“Babylon”) destruction (Revelation 18:9-24) and then the great celebration that will take place in heaven (Revelation 19:1-4), we are reminded that God is still worthy of praise no matter what we face in life.

All God’s decisions are “true and righteous” even when a romance does not blossom as we had hoped, or a job interview does not turn out the way we thought it would. It is important to remember that God is worthy of our admiration and trust even when the effects of sin endanger our families, when pain drives us to our wits’ end, or when misfortune is about to push us over the edge. God gives and He takes away (Job 1:21). 16 He is honored when we return to Him, when we release our worries to Him, and when we rest in Him.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, what a contrast You have shown us between the mourning of the people on earth after Rome’s destruction and the celebration of the inhabitants of heaven. The difference is on each group’s focus. Those on the earth were paying attention to what was lost. But those in heaven were focused on what they had – a God Who is worthy of all praise. Father, whether our lives are filled with grief or gladness, You alone deserve our praise. Thank You for reminding us of this today. May we live our lives focused on who You are and what You have done. In the mighty name of Your Son, 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. 330.  

2. Ibid.

3. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), location 6190.

4. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2413.

5. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 203.

6. Walvoord, location 6200.

7. Evans, pg. 2413.

8. Constable, pg. 203 cites William Barclay, The Revelation of John, Vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible Series, 2nd Ed. (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 218.

9. 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. 1571.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

12. “Bill Salus on Mystery Babylon video on the August 26, 2018, Christ in Prophecy show.

13. Vacendak, pg. 1571.

14. Constable, pg. 203.

15. Vacendak, pg. 1571.

16. Swindoll, pg. 333.

Revelation 14 – Part 5

“Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.’” Revelation 14:13

In another of the apostle John’s visions on earth (Revelation 14:6-13), he hears four announcements that provide motivation to remain faithful to God and resist the beasts during the last half of the Tribulation period. We have looked at God’s angels who will make the first three announcements (14:6-12), and we are now ready for the fourth announcement (14:13).

In Revelation 14:9-11, nonbelievers who have not yet bowed to the beast nor taken his mark during the last half of the Tribulation period are warned not to do so lest they be subject to “the full strength” of God’s wrath in time and eternity. The apostle then encourages believers to persevere in their faithfulness to Christ during this extremely difficult time (14:12). In the next verse he gives them incentive for remaining faithful to God.

“Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.’” (Revelation 14:13). This “voice from heaven” may belong to the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ (1:10-11, 19; cf. 10:4, 8; 11:12; 14:2; 18:4; 21:3). 1 His voice announces that many believers “in the Lord” who live during the last half of the Tribulation will be “blessed” to “die” as martyrs. These believers in Christ who stand firmly against the Beast and refuse to worship him or take his mark, and die as a result, will be “blessed” both now and forever. 2 The phrase “from now on” means “from this time on during the Tribulation,” specifically during the persecution of the Beast and the bowl judgments. Through their martyrdom, these believers will escape the intense judgments and sufferings of the last half of the Tribulation. 3

God the Holy “Spirit” then adds that these faithful believers will be “blessed” beyond the grave in heaven where “they may rest from their labors,” which is the opposite of what will be experienced by those who receive the mark of the beast (14:9-11). 4 Nonbelievers will receive “no rest” and “shall be tormented with fire and brimstone … forever and ever” because of their unbelief toward Christ (14:10-11). But the good “works” of these faithful believers will “follow them” into heaven where they will be rewarded forever by the Lord Jesus Christ (14:13b; cf. Matthew 10:42; Mark 9:41).

“God does not save anyone for his works, but He does reward us for our works. Our works (good or bad) are like tin cans tied to a dog’s tail; we cannot get away from them. They will follow us to the bema seat of Christ.” 5

While we cannot take our material possessions with us when we die, the Bible does teach that we can send eternal wealth ahead of us. Jesus said,19 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19-20). Christ instructs us not to lay up treasure on earth because it is temporary. Perhaps you have had a “moth” eat holes in your clothes or “rust” destroy your possessions made of metal, or “thieves” break in your house and steal your valuables. These earthly treasures are perishable.

But notice Jesus says to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Why? Because it is permanent. In heaven, a “moth” or “rust” cannot destroy your heavenly treasure, nor can a “thief… steal” it.

We usually miss those words “for yourselves.” Jesus makes it clear that there IS a way to “take it with you.” We can send treasure ahead of us by using the time, treasure, and talent God has entrusted to us on earth as a steward for God’s kingdom and glory (cf. Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-26).

Well-meaning Christians have asked me, “Isn’t it selfish to seek eternal rewards? My answer is, “Not according to Jesus.” Since Christ commands us to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven, it is selfish not to obey His command to pursue eternal rewards. Plus, a believer cannot afford to be selfish in nature, for to do so would disqualify him or her for the eternal rewards he or she seeks. Pursuing eternal rewards is one of the strongest motivations for an unselfish and merciful lifestyle (cf. James 2:1-13).

When we get to heaven, the treasure we have sent ahead of us will be reserved there for us to use to bring glory to God throughout eternity. The more treasure we lay up in heaven now, the more we can use to honor Christ in His coming Kingdom.  

Bob Wilkin shares some helpful insights: “While many think of this treasure as a figure of speech for some unspecified blessings, I see it as an eternal trust fund that believers will use to glorify God. The more we have stored up, the more we can give away in service to the Lord.

“What? Who would need money in the kingdom? Well, no one, if the kingdom of God were going to be some ethereal experience, consisting of floating on clouds and strumming harps. However, the description of the eternal kingdom on the new earth in Revelation 21:24 strongly suggests the existence of an economy: ‘The kings of the earth [will] bring their glory and honor into it [the New Jerusalem].” Actually, the majority of manuscripts read, ‘The kings of the earth [will] bring the glory and honor of the nations to Him.’

“In any case, the point is clear. The three wise men who brought gifts to the baby Jesus were types of rulers who, in the age to come, will forever bring gold and other treasures to the Lord Jesus.” 6

Why is it so important to focus on storing up treasures in heaven instead of treasures on earth? Jesus tells us, For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21). What we value the most is what directs our hearts. Wherever our treasure happens to be, that is where our hearts will be focused. God wants our hearts to be focused on Him and the life to come. This is why we are commanded to invest in heavenly rewards. God knows better than we do what will motivate our hearts for Him. If we set our hearts on accumulating the things of this earth, then the pursuit of earthly possessions will guide our hearts. But if we focus on the things of God and the life to come, then that is what will direct our hearts. We cannot focus on laying up treasures on earth and at the same time concentrate on laying up treasures in heaven.

Wilkins writes, “A few years ago, world-class athletes were asked the following question: ‘If you could take a drug that would cause you to win a gold medal, but it would kill you in ten years, would you take it?’ Amazingly, the majority said yes. They’d sacrifice fifty or more years of life for a gold medal.

“What would you give up to have treasure in heaven? Would you drive a lesser car than you could otherwise afford? Live in a more modest home? Have a less expensive wardrobe? Enjoy simpler or fewer vacations? Give up fifty years of life (if called upon to be a martyr, for example)? The answer you give to these questions will depend on where your heart is.” 7

Heavenly treasure is a type of reward that cannot be lost once it has been earned. So, when a believer gives a cup of cold water to one of God’s servants (Matthew 10:42) or does a charitable deed in private (Matthew 6:3-4), prays in private (Matthew 6:6), or fasts in private (Matthew 6:17-18) with the proper motive, a deposit is made into his or her eternal bank account in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). The more deposits you make, the more heavenly treasure you will have with which to honor Jesus Christ in His coming kingdom.

A second type of reward is called a perseverance reward. Believers who remain faithful in their service to Jesus to the end of their lives will be given rewards that include wearing a special white garment (Revelation 3:4-5), ruling with Christ in His kingdom (2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21), eating the fruit from the tree of life (Revelation 2:17; 22:14), eating hidden manna (Revelation 2:17), receiving a white stone engraved with your own special name that only the Lord and you will know (Revelation 2:17), and receiving a special entrance into the New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:14).

A third type of reward has to do with crowns. Believers can earn a crown of rejoicing for making disciples of Jesus (I Thessalonians 2:19), a crown of righteousness for loving the coming of the Lord Jesus (2 Timothy 4:8), a crown of life for enduring trials and temptations until death (James 1:12), a crown of glory for faithfully shepherding others as a servant leader (I Peter 5:4), and an imperishable crown for living a disciplined life (I Corinthians 9:25).

By focusing on eternal rewards, believers in Jesus will develop a greater desire to please God rather than men. Because Christ is first in the life of a disciple and could come back at any moment for His church, a disciple should seek to win as many people to Christ as possible and become more like the Judge who will evaluate his or her life at the Judgment Seat (2 Corinthians 5:9-11; I John 2:28-3:3).

Prayer: Loving heavenly Father, we thank You for Your perspective given to us in Revelation 14:13 which involves encouragement for believers in the last half of the Tribulation period who may suffer physical death for taking a stand against the Beast and refusing to take his mark. You promise them that their good works will follow them into heaven where they will receive eternal rewards from the Lord Jesus. Thank You Father for reminding us that this life is not all there is to live for. As believers in Jesus, we are commanded to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven by living a godly life for You. Please help us to keep our focus on You and the life to come so we may have more treasure in heaven with which to honor You throughout all of eternity. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 161.

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. 1553.

3. Constable, pg. 161.

4. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2403.

5. Constable, pg. 162 cites J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, 5 Vols., (Pasadena, CA: Thru The Bible Radio; and Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983), 5:1011.

6. Robert N. Wilkin, The Road to Reward: A Biblical Theology of Eternal Rewards Second Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 39-40. 7. Ibid., pg. 40.

7. Ibid., pg. 40.

Revelation 14 – Part 3

“And another angel followed, saying, ‘Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.’” Revelation 14:8

In another scene of John’s vision on earth (Revelation 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).

Last time we learned that the first angel proclaimed the everlasting gospel worldwide, calling unbelievers to “fear God and give glory to Him” because the reason for all the worldwide death and disaster during the last half of the Tribulation period is that “the hour of His judgment has come” (14:6-7). 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. 1

Next John records the second angel’s announcement: “And another angel followed, saying, ‘Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.’” (Revelation 14:8). Much has been written about the identity of Babylon. Some believe it refers to the literal city of Babylon on the Euphrates River in modern Iraq that will be rebuilt in the last days. 2 But this is not possible because God said Babylon would become like Sodom and Gomorrah due to the conquest of the Medes (in 539 BC) and become an everlasting desolation never to be inhabited again (Isaiah 13:17-20; Jeremiah 25:11). 3

I understand “Babylon” in the book of Revelation to refer to the city of Rome (14:8; cf. 16:9; 17:1-18:21). That “Babylon” is to be taken symbolically is the use of the qualifying word “mystery” (Revelation 17:5). Compare this with Revelation 11:8 where Jerusalem is referred to as “the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” Likewise, since the apostle Peter was writing from Rome, he refers to the city using the common code name “Babylon” in I Peter 5:13. 4

Since the apostle John wrote Revelation while a Roman prisoner on the island of Patmos, he could not make any derogatory remarks about Rome in his writings, so he used the name “Babylon,” emphasizing that it was a code name by referring to it as “Mystery Babylon” (Revelation 17:5). 5

That John had Rome in mind when he wrote about “Babylon” is his reference to it as the city of “seven mountains” or hills 6 (Revelation 17:9). In the context of the first century, this could only refer to Rome which was known as “the city of the seven hills.” 7 In Revelation 17:18, John refers to Babylon as “that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.” In the first century context when John wrote the book of Revelation, this could only refer to the city of Rome which ruled the world at that time. 8

The doctrine and practice of ancient Babylon will be manifested in its final form in the city of Rome during the Tribulation period. The founder of Babylon (“Babel”) was Nimrod, the grandson of Ham who was the son of Noah (Genesis 10:1, 6, 8-10). You may recall that after Noah planted a vineyard and became drunk from the wine, he passed out naked “in his tent” (Genesis 9:20-21). His son, Ham, entered his father’s tent and “saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside” (9:22). Instead of Ham’s brothers gazing at the nakedness of their father as Ham had done, they covered their father’s nakedness without seeing him naked (9:23).

“Nakedness” in the beginning of the Old Testament was a shameful experience for fallen people (Genesis 3:7). To be seen unclothed outside of one’s marriage was both dishonoring and vulnerable. Ham seemed to look at his father’s nakedness with some kind of enjoyment and even announced it to his brothers instead of covering his father’s vulnerable condition. But Shem and Japheth hid the shame of their father’s nakedness much like God had covered the shame of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). As a result of these two different responses, Noah pronounced a curse upon Ham’s son, “Canaan” (Genesis 9:25) because Ham was not ashamed of his father’s nakedness. But Noah blessed Shem and Japheth who, like Adam and Eve (3:7), sought to cover the shame of nakedness (9:26-27). The descendants of Ham, the Canaanites, became known for their shameless acts of sexual immorality which contributed to their eventual extinction.

Following in the footsteps of his grandfather’s unrighteousness, Nimrod persuaded his associates and followers to join together to “build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:4; cf. 10:10). This was to be a rallying center for those who refused to obey God’s command to “fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28; 9:1). This movement was an imitation of what was real and true, for they had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar” (Genesis 11:3). This has ever since characterized Babylon in all the ages. It will never be more evident than during the Tribulation period when deception will be at its greatest.

God judged these people who were united by one language by dividing them into different languages so they would be “scattered … abroad from there over the face of all the earth” (Genesis 11:8-9) which is what the Lord originally commanded them to do (Genesis 1:28; 9:1). So, the city was called “Babel,” which means confused (Genesis 11:9a).

Walvoord writes, “Later the name was applied to the city of Babylon which itself has a long history dating back to as early as 3,000 years before Christ. One of its famous rulers was Hammurabi (1728-1686 B.C.). After a period of decline Babylon again rose to great heights under Nebuchadnezzar about 600 years before Christ. Nebuchadnezzar’s reign (605-562 B.C.) and the subsequent history of Babylon is the background of the Book of Daniel.

“Babylon was important not only politically but also religiously. Nimrod… had a wife known as Semiramis who founded the secret religious rites of the Babylonian mysteries, according to accounts outside the Bible. Semiramis had a son with an alleged miraculous conception who was given the name Tammuz and in effect was a false fulfillment of the promise of the seed of the woman given to Eve (Genesis 3:15).

“Various religious practices were observed in connection with this false Babylonian religion, including recognition of the mother and child as God and of creating an order of virgins who became religious prostitutes. Tammuz, according to tradition, was killed by a wild animal and then restored to life, a satanic anticipation and counterfeit of Christ’s resurrection. Scripture condemns this false religion repeatedly (Jeremiah 7:18; 44:17-19, 25; Ezekiel 8:14). The worship of Baal is related to the worship of Tammuz.

“After the Persians took over Babylon in 539 B.C., they discouraged the continuation of the mystery religions of Babylon. Subsequently the Babylonian cultists moved to Pergamum (or Pergamos) where one of the seven churches of Asia Minor was located (cf. Revelation 2:12-17). Crowns in the shape of a fish head were worn by the chief priests of the Babylonian cult to honor the fish god. The crowns bore the words ‘Keeper of the Bridge,’ symbolic of the ‘bridge’ between man and Satan. This handle was adopted by the Roman emperors, who used the Latin title Pontifex Maximus, which means ‘Major Keeper of the Bridge.’ And the same title was later used by the bishop of Rome. The pope today is often called the pontiff, which comes from pontifex. When the teachers of the Babylonian mystery religions later moved from Pergamum to Rome, they were influential in paganizing Christianity and were the source of many so-called religious rites which have crept into ritualistic churches. Babylon then is the symbol of apostasy and blasphemous substitution of idol-worship for the worship of God in Christ.” 9

In line with what Walvoord wrote about Nimrod’s wife, Semiramis, Pentecost quotes Ironside: “Semiramis… is reputed to have been the foundress of the Babylonian mysteries and the first high priestess of idolatry. Thus Babylon became the fountainhead of idolatry and the mother of every heathen and pagan system in the world. The mystery-religion that was there originated spread in various forms throughout the whole earth… and is with us today… and shall have its fullest development when the Holy Spirit has departed and the Babylon of the Apocalypse holds sway.

“Building on the primeval promise of the woman’s Seed who was to come, Semiramis bore a son whom she declared was miraculously conceived! And when she presented him to the people, he was hailed as the promised deliverer. This was Tammuz, whose worship Ezekiel protested against in the days of captivity. Thus was introduced the mystery of the mother and the child, a form of idolatry that is older than any other known to man. The rites of this worship were secret. Only the initiated were permitted to know its mysteries. It was Satan’s effort to delude mankind with an imitation so like the truth of God that they would not know the true Seed of the woman when He came in the fullness of time…

“From Babylon this mystery-religion spread to all the surrounding nations… Everywhere the symbols were the same, and everywhere the cult of the mother and the child became the popular system; their worship was celebrated with the most disgusting and immoral practices. The image of the queen of heaven with the babe in her arms was seen everywhere, though the names might differ as languages differed. It became the mystery-religion of Phoenicia, and by the Phoenicians was carried to the ends of the earth. Astoreth and Tammuz, the mother and child of these hardy adventurers, became Isis and Horus in Egypt, Aphrodite and Eros in Greece, Venus and Cupid in Italy, and bore many other names in more distant places. Within 1000 years Babylonianism had become the religion of the world, which had rejected Divine revelation.

“Linked with this central mystery were countless lesser mysteries… Among these were the doctrines of purgatorial purification after death, salvation by countless sacraments such as priestly absolution, sprinkling with holy water, the offering of round cakes to the queen of heaven as mentioned in the book of Jeremiah, dedication of virgins to the gods, which was literally sanctified prostitution, weeping for Tammuz for a period of 40 days, prior to the great festival of Istar, who was said to have received her son back from the dead; for it was taught that Tammuz was slain by a wild boar and afterwards brought back to life. To him the egg was sacred, as depicting the mystery of his resurrection, even as the evergreen was his chosen symbol and was set up in honor of his birth at the winter solstice, when a boar’s head was eaten in memory of his conflict and a yule-log burned with many mysterious observances. The sign of the cross was sacred to Tammuz, as symbolizing the life-giving principle and as the first letter of his name. It is represented upon vast numbers of the most ancient altars and temples, and did not, as many have supposed, originate with Christianity.

“From this mystery-religion, the patriarch Abraham was separated by divine call; and with this same evil cult the nation that sprang from him was in constant conflict, until under Jezebel, a Phoenician princess, it was grafted onto what was left of the religion of Israel in the northern kingdom in the day of Ahab, and was the cause of their captivity at last. Judah was polluted by it, for Baal-worship was but the Canaanitish form of the Babylonian mysteries, and only by being sent into captivity to Babylon itself did Judah become cured of her fondness for idolatry. Baal was the Sun-God, the Life-giving One, identical with Tammuz.

“…though Babylon as a city had long been but a memory, her mysteries had not died with her. When the city and temples were destroyed, the high priest fled with a company of initiates and their sacred vessels and images to Pergamos, where the symbol of the serpent was set up as the emblem of the hidden wisdom. From there, they afterwards crossed the sea and emigrated to Italy… There the ancient cult was propagated under the name of the Etruscan Mysteries, and eventually Rome became the headquarters of Babylonianism. The chief priests wore mitres shaped like the head of a fish, in honor of Dagon, the fish-god, the Lord of life – another form of the Tammuz mystery, as developed among Israel’s old enemies, the Philistines. The chief priest when established in Rome took the title Pontifex Maximus, and this was imprinted on his mitre. When Julius Caesar (who, like all young Romans of good family, was an initiate) had become the head of the State, he was elected Pontifex Maximum, and this title was held henceforth by all the Roman emperors down to Constantine the Great, who was, at one and the same time, head of the church and high priest of the heathen! The title afterwards conferred upon the bishops of Rome, and is borne by the pope today, who is thus declared to be, not the successor of the fisherman-apostle Peter, but the direct successor of the high priest of the Babylonian mysteries, and the servant of the fish-god Dagon, for whom he wears, like his idolatrous predecessors, the fisherman’s ring.

“During the early centuries of the church’s history, the mystery of iniquity had wrought with such astounding effect, and Babylonian practices and teachings had been so largely absorbed by that which bore the name of the church of Christ, that the truth of the Holy Scriptures on many points had been wholly obscured, while idolatrous practices had been foisted upon the people as Christian sacraments, and heathen philosophies took the place of gospel instruction. Thus was developed that amazing system which for a thousand years dominated Europe and trafficked in the bodies and souls of men, until the great Reformation of the 16th century brought in a measure of deliverance.” 10

In Revelation 14:8 the second angel announces that “Babylon the great,” the city of Rome (17:1-9), “is fallen” or “judged by God” because “she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” The angel depicts “Babylon” as a temptress who gives “wine” to a man (“all nations”) to seduce him to commit “fornication” or spiritual adultery against the true God who will punish them with His “wrath.”

For centuries, pagan and papal Rome has seduced people away from the true God with her rituals and superstitions, and has persecuted those who proclaim the truth exposing her materialistic and idolatrous false religion (cf. Revelation 18:24). A detailed description of her upcoming judgment will be given in Revelation 17-18, but prior to that, God wants everyone to understand that her doom is certain.

Regardless of what you think the identity of “Babylon” is in the book of Revelation, one thing is certain – Jesus Christ will be triumphant in the end! Those of us who believe in Christ will be able to share in His victory.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we look to You for life everlasting, not to religion which fails to deliver any lasting satisfaction. Instead of entrusting us with rituals or superstitions to spread around the world, You have entrusted us with the gospel of grace which freely offers eternal life to those who believe in Christ alone. Thank You for calling our attention to the upcoming destruction of Babylon, a materialistic and idolatrous false religion that has ancient roots and dangerous practices. Please open the eyes of those who embrace her deceptions so they may find peace with the true God through faith in God the Son, Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ mighty name, 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. 1551.

2. 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. 362-366; Charles H. Dyer, The Rise of Babylon: Sign of the End Times (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 1991), pg. 182; Henry M. Morris, Revelation Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Prophetic Book of the End Times (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 1983), pp. 348-349; J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Vol. 5 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983), 1, 039.

3. Dr. David R. Reagan’s article, “Mystery Babylon” at www.christinprophecy.org.

4. Gary Derickson; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; Bob Vacendak, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 1370, 1400; cf. Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament [with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!], 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 223503.  

5. Reagan’s “Mystery Babylon.”

6. The Greek word for “mountains” is orē which can also mean “hills” – see 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. 724.

7. Reagan’s “Mystery Babylon”; cf. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2410.

8. Reagan’s “Mystery Babylon”; Vacendak, pg. 1568.

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), locations 6075 to 6097.

10. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Zondervan Academic, 2010 Kindle Edition), pp. 358-360 cites Harry A. Ironside, Lectures on the Revelation (New York: Loizeaux Brothers, [n.d.], pp. 287-295.

Revelation 13 – Part 5

“Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.” Revelation 13:18

Chuck Swindoll writes, “Imagine that you live in an oppressive regime in which professing to be a Christian is outlawed and punishable by death. You cower in a small apartment at night while the heavy boots of soldiers can be heard on sidewalks and streets and people in the neighborhood are arrested, suspected of being Christians. As you pray that the soldiers will pass you by, they force themselves through the door. Lights flash around the room, boots stomp across the floor, and you suddenly find yourself looking into the barrels of automatic weapons.

“’Tell me,’ barks the man pointing his rifle at you, ‘are you a Christian?’

“You have a choice to make. Either deny Christ and live, or confess Him and die on the spot.

“Chances are, most believers reading this would think, ‘I’d confess Christ. Of course I would. That soldier can’t threaten my faith in Jesus as my Lord!’

“Now let’s intensify that scene.

“Imagine that you aren’t alone. Instead, when the soldiers barge through the door they point their weapons not at you but at your spouse and your three small children. ‘Reject Christ or they die!’

“Dying for your faith is one thing. Letting others die for your faith is quite another. Yet this is just the kind of sickening scenario Satan will inspire in the dreadful future John is describing. Because of the impact of earthly disaster, food will be scarce. Yet people will still need to buy and sell food to provide for their families. The alternative to participation in the Antichrist’s economy is a long, slow death by starvation. The book of Revelation tells us that the Antichrist’s regime will force believing parents to choose between feeding their families and defending their faith! As a father and grandfather, I can’t imagine a crueler test of faith than this.” 1

Let’s look at the last three verses of Revelation 13 in detail. In addition to the False Prophet using his persuasive words and profound works to deceive people to worship the first Beast out of the sea (Antichrist) during the last half of the Tribulation period (13:11-15), he will also require people to receive an identifying mark to signify allegiance to the Beast. “He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads.” (Revelation 13:16). This second beast “causes all” unbelievers from various social (“small and great”), economic (“rich and poor”), and cultural (“free and slave”) groups “to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads.”

What exactly is this “mark”? This “mark” will be a brand-like logo, possibly like a tattoo, that will identify beast-worshippers. 2 The word “mark” occurs throughout the Bible. “For example, it is used many times in Leviticus as a reference to a mark that renders the subject ceremonially unclean, usually related to leprosy. Clearly, in these cases the ‘mark’ is external and visible.

“Interestingly, Ezekiel 9:4 uses mark similarly to the way Revelation uses it: “He said to him, ‘Walk through the streets of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of all who weep and sigh because of the detestable sins being committed in their city.’” Here the mark preserved the righteous, similar to the way the blood on the doorposts spared the Hebrews from the death angel in the Exodus. In Ezekiel, the mark is placed visibly on the forehead, which anticipates the practice described in Revelation.” 3

The Greek word translated “mark” (charagma) in Revelation 13:16-17, means “a mark that is engraved, etched, branded, cut, imprinted, mark, stamp.” 4 The same Greek word is used to refer to a brand left by a branding iron. It also described the seal attached to legal documents, the logo of which bore the name of the emperor and the date. 5 Sometimes Roman soldiers branded themselves with the “mark” of their general if they were particularly fond of him.

Some believe this could be an implanted radio “microchip” under the skin of the person that can be used to track billions of people worldwide. But the text says it is “on” their hand or forehead, not “in” (en) their hand or forehead to identify the person as a beast-worshipper. The Greek word for “on” (epi)means “upon” in this context. 7 It will be on the outside of the skin, where it can be seen. Its placement on the skin will make it easy to identify those who are loyal to the Antichrist.

Without this mark of allegiance to the Beast or Antichrist, a person will not be able to buy or sell: And that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” (Revelation 13:17). Without this “mark” upon one’s right hand or forehead, a person will not be able to participate in commerce (“buy or sell”) of any kind during the last half of the Tribulation period.So, there will be a penalty if a person chooses not to receive the “mark of the beast.” There will be no buying or selling for that person. That means no groceries, clothing, medicines, or shelter for you and your family.

In the day of the apostle John, Roman coins bore the stamped “image” of the head, and the inscription of, the emperor. Likewise, those who bear the “stamped image,” or “mark of the beast,” will show by this that they belong to him. When a person burned a smidgeon of incense to “worship” Caesar, he received a certificate attesting that he had done so. This certificate protected him from death by persecution and enabled him to buy and sell. 8

Please understand that it will be far better to refuse the mark of the beast and starve or be beheaded (cf. 20:4) than to receive it and receive eternal condemnation. The Bible tells us, 9 Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.’” (Revelation 14:9-11). God will only allow unbelievers to take the mark and those who do will be hardened in their unbelief. Though they may live during the entire Tribulation period, their eternal destiny will be in the lake of fire because of their continued unbelief. 9

However, believers in Jesus will not face eternal judgment because they have been guaranteed not to come into judgment (John 5:24). They possess eternal life which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). God’s grace will enable believers in the Tribulation not to take the mark or worship the beast. But some unfaithful believers will succumb to the worldwide lawlessness and not be delivered from the Tribulation judgments (cf. Matthew 24:10-12). But those believers who faithfully endure for Christ during the Tribulation will be saved from physical death, except for those whom God allows to be martyred (cf. Revelation 20:4).

Notice in Matthew 24:22, that if the Tribulation period had lasted any longer, no human flesh would have been saved physically. “But for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.” The implication of these verses is that some of the elect will die during the Tribulation because they will fail to persevere. This is supported further by Revelation 16:15: “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.” “The garments” refer to the “righteous acts” of believers (cf. Revelation 19:7-8; cf. 3:4-5, 18; 4:4). The consequence of failing to be watchful for Christ’s return is a lack of righteous acts (loss of garments) and “shame.” This verse teaches that believers can be unfaithful, especially if they have lost sight of Christ’s return. The idea of this verse is that the saints have the garments (faithfulness) but can lose them if they lose their hope of the Lord’s coming.

We learn from Jesus’ judgment of the sheep and goats at the end of the Tribulation period (Matthew 25:31-46), that some Gentile believers (“sheep”) during the last half of the Tribulation period will find ways to help Christ’s Jewish “brethren,” the 144,000 Jewish evangelists. These evangelists will preach the gospel during the last half of the Tribulation period resulting in large numbers of Gentiles getting saved (Revelation 7:1-14). These believing Gentiles in turn will minister to these evangelists by giving them “food, drink,” shelter, clothing, medical care, and comfort when they are in prison (Matthew 25:35-36). Jesus will reward them at this judgment of the sheep and goats for risking their lives to help these faithful Jewish evangelists who will not be able to buy or sell. Christ says they “inherit” the kingdom which refers to reigning with Christ in His Millennial Kingdom on earth (Matthew 25:34; cf. 19:27-29; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21).

John informs us that the “mark of the beast” will consist of “name of the beast, or the number of his name” (13:17b). “The interchangeability of the beast’s ‘name’ and the ‘number of his name’ evidently indicates that the name, written in Greek letters, has a numerical equivalent.” 10

“Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.” (Revelation 13:18). Believers will need “wisdom” during the last half of the Tribulation period to understand and “calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man,” not God: “His number is 666.” Believers during the Tribulation will understand the connection between the mark of the beast and the beast himself and will refuse to worship the beast and take his mark by the grace of God since those who do take the mark will experience eternal damnation (cf. 14:9-11).

The number “666” is one of the most familiar numbers even among the most biblically illiterate people in the world. “In the 1976 horror movie The Omen, Damien is born on June 6, at six o’clock (666) to symbolize his identification as the coming Antichrist.” 11

Throughout history, people have tried to calculate the identity of the man behind this number. “In Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, letters stand for numbers, so anyone with a calculator and a good dose of creativity can slap the ‘666’ label on a number of prominent personalities.” 12

The following people have been proposed to be the Antichrist by the misapplication of numerical calculations: Nero Caesar, the emperor Constantine, Mohammed, the popes, Martin Luther, Napoleon, Abraham Lincoln, Adolf Hitler, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Mikhail Gorbachev, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, 13 Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama. 14

Figuring the identity of the Antichrist by calculating the numbers of his name is not to be applied by those of us living today. It is to be applied by believers who will be living during the Tribulation period. The Bible tells us that the Man of Sin or Antichrist will not be revealed until the middle of the Tribulation period when he takes his place in the rebuilt Jewish temple: Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). It is at this time that believers in Jesus will be able to identify the Man of Sin or Antichrist because the number of his name will be 666. It is quite possible that the Two Witnesses will have disclosed the identity of this first Beast through their teachings before they ascend to heaven (cf. Revelation 11:1-12). So, believers will wisely make the connection between the Beast and the number 666 and avoid taking his mark and worshiping him. 15

We may wonder why God planned for the Antichrist’s name to equal 666? Several Bible prophecy students have taught that the triple six equals man’s number, which is the number six or one short of God’s perfect number, seven. After all, man was created on the sixth day (Genesis 1:26-31). 16

Hitchcock quotes M. R. DeHaan, the founder of the Radio Bible Class: “Six is the number of man. Three is the number of divinity. Here is the interpretation. The beast will be a man who claims to be God. Three sixes imply that he is a false god and a deceiver, but he is nevertheless merely a man, regardless of his claims. Seven is the number of divine perfection, and 666 is one numeral short of seven. This man of sin will reach the highest peak of power and wisdom, but he will still be merely a man.” 17

Adam, the first man, was created on the sixth day, while Jesus, the Second Adam, “was raised from the dead on Sunday, the ‘eighth day’ of the week (the second first day of the week).” 18 Interestingly, “the number of the name Jesus in Greek is 888, and each of His eight names in the New Testament (Lord, Jesus, Christ, Lord Jesus, Jesus Christ, Christ Jesus, Lord Christ, and Lord Jesus Christ) all have numerical values that are multiples of eight.” 19

Jesus Christ is complete perfection because He is God (John 1:1; I John 5:20), while man is a complete failure. The number 666 is God’s way of showing that Satan’s masterpiece, the Antichrist, is a fallen man who is completely inferior to God and is under God’s sovereign control. 20

The technology is available today to accomplish the purposes of the mark of the beast by regulating world commerce and controlling people’s transactions. There are also many remarkable new means of locating, identifying, and tracking people’s lives that foreshadow the global scenario depicted in Revelation 13. This is one more indicator pointing toward the nearness of end time events. 21

Instead of the world getting better and better as some argue, the world will get much worse before Jesus returns to earth. As Christians observe world events today moving rapidly toward a one world government and economic system which will enable the rapid rise of the first Beast and his False Prophet to take place, they are to be motivated to make the most of their time before the Rapture of the Church or death brings an end to their ministry on earth.

Prayer: Loving Father, thank You for revealing Satan’s future strategies for deception and destruction regarding the first and second beasts who will seek to mislead people away from the true and holy triune God to worship a false and unholy triune god. Although the Antichrist and False Prophet will manifest themselves during the future Tribulation period, we know that the spirit of the antichrist is already at work to deceive and destroy people in the present. Please equip each of us who believe in Jesus for spiritual battle today with accurate knowledge, acute discernment, and heavenly wisdom. Empower us to make the most of our time on earth to reach lost people with the gospel of grace and train believers to multiply disciples of Jesus Christ. In the name of the King of kings and Lord of lords, 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. 254.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 150.

3. 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. 336.

4. See 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. 1077.

5. Constable, pg. 150.

6. Ibid., cites Plutarch, Pericles, 26; Herodotus, 7.233.

7. Hitchcock, pg. 342.

8. Constable, pg. 151 cites William Barclay, The Revelation of John, 2nd Ed., Vol. 2 (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 130.

9. 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. 1548.

10. Constable, pg. 151 cites R. H. Charles, Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John, International Critical Commentary series, Vol 2 (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1920), pg. 364; Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. 6 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), pg. 406.

11. Hitchcock, pg. 337.

12. Swindoll, pg. 255.

13. Ibid.

14. Hitchcock, pg. 338.

15. Vacendak, pg. 1549.

16. Hitchcock, pg. 339.

17. Ibid., pp. 339-340.

18. Ibid., pg. 340 cites Henry M. Morris, The Revelation Record (Wheaton, Tyndale; and San Diego: Creation-Life, 1983), pg. 256.

19. Ibid.

20. Hitchcock, pg. 340.

21. Ibid., pg. 342.

Revelation 13 – Part 3

9 If anyone has an ear, let him hear. 10 He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.” Revelation 13:9-10

After the beast’s death and resurrection (13:3-4), Satan will give him great speaking ability as he takes his place in the rebuilt Jewish temple in Jerusalem. “And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months.” (Revelation 13:5). The beast will use his profound speaking abilities to utter “great things.” He will inspire the whole world with his charisma and eloquence. When he speaks, everyone will listen. 1

“He will have a mouth speaking very great things. He will have perfect command and flow of language. His oratory will not only gain attention but respect. Revelation 13:2 declares that his mouth is ‘as the mouth of a lion’ which is a symbolic expression telling of the majesty and awe-producing effects of his voice. The voice of a lion excels that of any other beast. So the Antichrist will outrival orators ancient and modern.” 2

The Antichrist will also speak “blasphemies” against God by “claiming that he himself is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4; cf. Daniel 7:24-25; 11:36). 3 Walvoord writes, “It has always been Satan’s purpose to receive the worship due to God alone, as stated in Isaiah 14:14: ‘I will make myself like the Most High.’ This is Satan’s final form of counterfeit religion in which he assumes the place of God the Father, and the beast or the world ruler assumes the role of King of kings as a substitute Christ.” 4

John also informs us that Satan gave him “authority to continue” this blasphemous assumption of the role of God 5 “for forty-two months” which would be the last three and a half years of the Tribulation period.

“Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven.” (Revelation 13:6). Satan will deceive the beast to think that all the world’s problems are because of God and His followers 6 so he will “blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven,” namely, the church, which will be residing there via the Rapture 7 (cf. Revelation 4:1-4; cf. I Thessalonians 4:13-18) and God’s angels.

Since James 3:6 says the unbridled tongue is metaphorically “set on fire by hell,” we cannot begin to imagine the hellish words that will spew from the mouth of the Antichrist against God, His heaven, and His people who dwell there. His motives and manner of deception will be fueled by the unrestricted power of Satan himself. 8 Since Satan had been cast down from heaven to earth (12:9-10), no longer able to accuse believers before God’s throne in heaven, he would now use the mouth of the beast to speak horrible things against God and His heavenly inhabitants for the next three and a half years on earth.

Not only did the beast use his words against God’s people in heaven, but he would also use his military might against God’s people on earth. “It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.” (Revelation 13:7). Remember how the Two Witnesses were killed by the Antichrist after he rose from the dead at the midpoint of the Tribulation (11:7)? Their murders would mark the beginning of a three-and-a-half-year bloodbath of believers being martyred (“overcome”) by the Antichrist’s regime. 9 Although the beast appears to be victorious during this time, the true overcomers are these martyred believers who will rule and reign with Christ throughout eternity (13:7a; cf. Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21; 20:4; 2 Timothy 2:12).

Because of his persuasive speaking abilities and military success, the beast will become a worldwide dictator with “authority… over every tribe, tongue, and nation.” As Daniel predicted, the Antichrist “shall devour the whole earth, trample it and break it in pieces” (Daniel 7:23).

In addition to the beast obtaining political and military dominion over the entire world, he willalsoabolish all other religions and demand that everyone worship him. “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8). Only unbelievers who dwell on the earth(“whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb”) will worship the Antichrist during the last half of the Tribulation.

“If the thought of a world ruler with such sweeping authority seems farfetched, think of Hitler. If not for a series of providential interventions, he might have achieved the goal of world domination. For example, a snowstorm kept the Germans from conquering Russia, and America’s entrance into World War II pushed them back on the western front. Hitler wasn’t the Antichrist, but he was an antichrist. And his near conquest of the world makes an actual conquest by this future leader seem less implausible.” 10

When the apostle John refers to Jesus as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” he “is emphasizing that Christ’s atoning death for man’s sin from God’s perspective actually is timeless, occurring even before the world was ever created.” 11

Evans states, “The only cause for anyone’s consignment to hell is his or her own personal sin, including rejection of Jesus as Savior. That’s why children who die in infancy and people born with severe mental disabilities go to heaven. They have no conscience, personal sin, or spiritual rejection of the Savior for which to be condemned. Yet when a person knowingly sins and rejects the revelation of God in creation, his or her name is erased from the book of life and only reinserted should he or she place faith in Jesus as Savior.” 12

Finally, God and the apostle John appeal to the readers of the book of Revelation, especially those who will be living during the Tribulation period, to “hear” or pay attention to what God has to say to them. “If anyone has an ear, let him hear.” (Revelation 13:9). It is important to realize that John makes no reference “to the churches,” as he did in similar exhortations in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation (cf. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). This confirms the fact that believers living during the Church Age will not be present on the earth during the Tribulation period because they have been removed via the Rapture (Revelation 4:1-4; cf. I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-5:11). 13

“The dream of many today, of a universal church and a universal religion, will be realized in the end time, but it will be satanic and blasphemous instead of involving worship of the true God. In such a situation, appeal can only be made to individuals who will turn from it to God.” 14

The last half of the Tribulation period will be a very difficult period for followers of Jesus. The cost of discipleship will be much greater during this time than it is now, making it less desirable for people to want to be saved. Everyone who refuses to worship the beast will be under a sentence of captivity and death. 15

Believers in Jesus (those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life) “will have the spiritually enlightened eyes to see through the polished politics and not be intimidated by military might of the Antichrist. They will see him for the monster he really is. But resistance to his regime will have its dreadful consequences.” 16

John seeks to encourage these believers with the following words: “He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.” (Revelation 13:10). Those who are willing to listen are told that their obedience to the Lord Jesus may lead to their “captivity” (imprisonment)or to their martyrdom “with the sword.” Beheading of believers will be the primary form of execution by the Antichrist during this time: “Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands.” (Revelation 20:4).

John is reminding these faithful believers that their persecutors will pay for the wicked acts they have committed against them: “He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword” (13:10). As followers of the Lord Jesus, their response to their possible imprisonment or martyrdom is “patience” (endurance or perseverance) and unwavering “faith” in the Lord, knowing that He will judge those who mistreat them (cf. Revelation 19:19-21; cf. Matthew 26:52; 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10). 17

John also encourages these followers of Jesus with the prospect of receiving the eternal reward of ruling with Christ in His kingdom on earth: “Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:4). After Christ returns to earth with His church (19:7-21), He will resurrect (“lived”) martyred believers in Jesus from the last half of the Tribulation period who “had not worshiped the beast or his image” and “had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands.”

What this tells us is when believers in Jesus are convinced that God will bring to justice their persecutors (13:9-10), they will be able to persevere and be victorious for Christ now and receive the ultimate reward of sitting with Him on their thrones in His kingdom (Revelation 13:1-10; cf. 2:26-27; 3:21; 2 Timothy 2:12).

Recently I received an email about the persecution of Christians today in other parts of the world. “Sixteen Christians are murdered every single day because of their faith. A devastating new report details just how explosive and deadly the persecution of Christians has become around the globe… In Nigeria, Christian pastors are beheaded. In India, Christians are jailed and discriminated against. In Pakistan… Christians [are] on death row for their faith… This new report shows that Afghanistan has become the absolute worst place on earth for Christians. The persecution is excruciating… ‘Men, women and children are subjugated, beaten, and executed for their beliefs that differ from the tyrannical Taliban.’ The Taliban is going door to door looking for Christians to kill and unmarried women to take captive. Christians are hiding in their homes and fearing what the Taliban will do to them – a genocidal persecution.” 18

Let’s pause for a moment and imagine what it will be like in the Tribulation. The kind of persecution described in this new report will be commonplace in the Tribulation. All believers in Jesus around the world will be in danger of imprisonment or martyrdom because the Antichrist will have worldwide authority. What would it be like for us to be among faithful believers during those days when Satan’s power and deception will be unleashed like the world has never seen before? We may huddle together for mutual defense and sometimes we may stand alone before our persecutors. How would we endure such satanic opposition and oppression?

Revelation 13:9-10 tells us when believers in Jesus are convinced that God will bring to justice their persecutors, they will be able to persevere and be victorious for Christ amid persecution so they can receive the ultimate reward of sitting with Jesus on thrones in His kingdom and share a special intimacy with Christ. Some believers will receive greater authority for being faithful than others who have not been as faithful (cf. Matthew 25:20-30; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12). This is intended to motivate believers facing persecution to faithfully endure for Christ to the end of their lives.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for Your Word that points us to Christ whether we are living in the future Tribulation or the current church age. Even though we are not living in the Tribulation, the spirit of the antichrist is already at work in the world promoting opposition to God and His people. We need Your spiritual discernment, Father, in an age of deception and manipulation so that Jesus Christ alone is given our allegiance and the Bible remains our final authority. May the gospel of salvation by grace, through faith alone in Christ alone, be at the center of our lives so more unsaved people discover the hope of everlasting life that can only be found in Jesus. When we face persecution, please grant us the grace to believe You will bring justice our persecutors so we can faithfully persevere and receive the ultimate reward of sitting with Jesus on thrones in His kingdom and share a special intimacy with Him. In Jesus’ mighty name, we pray. Amen.

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. 261.

2. Ibid., cites Arthur W. Pink, The Antichrist, (Swengel, Pennsylvania: Bible Truth Depot, 1923), pg. 81.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 144.

4. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), location 5763.

5. Ibid., location 5769.

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. 1546.

7. Constable, pg. 144.

8. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 249.

9. Ibid., pp. 249-250.

10. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2400.

11. Vacendak, pp. 1546-1547.

12. Evans, pg. 2400.

13. Constable, pg. 145.

14. Walvoord, location 5786.

15. Evans, pp. 2400-2401.

16. Swindoll, pg. 260.

17. Vacendak, pg. 1547.

18. Taken from a February 2, 2022, email from Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice.

Revelation 12 – Part 5

“But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.” Revelation 12:14

Following Satan’s defeat and his eviction from heaven to earth (12:7-12), he directs all his rage at the nation of Israel knowing he has a short time left. Satan can read the book of Revelation too and he knows he is going to be bound in the bottomless pit for a thousand years after Jesus’ return to earth (Revelation 12:13-17; 20:1-3). 1 The apostle John writes, “Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child.” (Revelation 12:13). Since Satan (dragon) could not get to the Christ Child or His church who ascended victoriously to heaven (12:5; cf. 4:1-4), he will persecute “the woman,” which represents the nation of Israel (12:1-2; cf. Genesis 37:9-11), “who gave birth to the male Child.” Satan’s goal during the last half of the Tribulation period will be to destroy Israel and thus render God’s promises to Israel false, making God a liar. 2

Hitchcock writes, Satan focuses his fury on the woman and tries to wipe out the Jewish people once and for all to thwart the promises of God. He will embark on an all-out, worldwide campaign of anti-Semitism. This will mark the culmination of Satan’s agelong war against the Jewish people. But his attempts always backfire. Have you ever noticed that every time Satan tries to wipe out the Jews, they end up with a holiday? After Pharaoh’s brutal enslavement, they got Passover. After Haman’s plot in Esther to wipe them out, they got the Festival of Purim. After the atrocities of Antiochus Epiphanes in the intertestamental period, they got Hanukkah, or the Feast of Lights. And after Hitler’s holocaust, they got May 14, 1948—the rebirth of the modern state of Israel. Satan’s final assault against Israel will also fail. It will result in the repentance of Israel, the second coming of Jesus, and the establishment of the Messianic kingdom.” 3

Swindoll says, Satan has inspired countless attempts at destroying God’s special covenant people. Throughout history, the Jews have been the special object of hatred, ridicule, and persecution. During the Middle Ages, they were looked on with suspicion and treated as outcasts in a world dominated by a form of political Christianity that viewed all Jews as Christ-killers. During World War II, the Nazis attempted to obliterate the Jewish people in a horrific holocaust driven by absolute evil. Even after the birth of the modern nation of Israel in 1948, its neighboring nations in the Middle East have often talked of driving the Jews into the sea and retaking the land. Anti-Semitism has a long and sordid history. Yet God has continued to fulfill His promise to preserve Israel, even in their spiritually blind condition of rejecting Jesus as their Messiah (Rom. 11:28-29).” 4

Just as God has preserved the nation of Israel since her birth over four thousand years ago (Genesis 12:1-3), so He will continue to sustain them during the last half of the Tribulation when all of hell’s fury is directed against them. “But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.” (Revelation 12:14). During the last half of the Tribulation period, many believing Jews will obey Jesus’ command to flee Judea when the Man of Sin takes his place in the rebuilt Jewish temple in Jerusalem (Matthew 24:15-16; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4) and God will give them supernatural speed (“two wings of a great eagle”) that they may quickly take refuge in the “wilderness to her place” of total security. “The comparison between a powerful “eagle,” that can “fly” very fast overhead, going wherever it chooses, and an earth-bound “serpent,” implies the superior protection of God.” 5

This hiding place was not clearly identified. Some suggest that it might be Petra, fortress capital of the Nabateans in Edom, south of the Dead Sea. This city has a narrow access which could easily be blocked but which opens up into a large canyon capable of caring for many thousands of people. Though Scripture is not specific, some believe the 144,000 of chapter 7 are to be preserved here. The Scriptures themselves speak of God’s seal of protection on them.

“The two wings probably do not refer to modern airplanes but rather to God’s delivering power, and are a figure of speech taken from such Old Testament passages as Exodus 19:4 and Deuteronomy 32:11-12. The flight of Israel to a place of safety was also indicated in Matthew 24:16; Mark 13:14; and Luke 21:21.” 6

It is at this place in the wilderness “where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time.” This refers to the three and one-half years of the Great Tribulation with ‘a time’ equaling one year, ‘times’ equaling two years, and ‘half a time’ indicating 6 months (cf. Daniel 7:25; 12:7 with the 42 months referred to in Revelation 11:2; 13:5). References to these specific time periods show that the Great Tribulation is not the entire present Age but the three and one-half years preceding the second coming of Christ.” 7

God would supernaturally feed and protect the Israelites in this place of refuge much like He fed the Israelites in the wilderness and Elijah by the brook Cherith. 8 This would take place away “from the presence of the serpent” (Satan – 12:14) who will try to destroy them by means of the armies of the Man of Sin. 9 15 So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. 16 But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.” (Revelation 12:15-16). When Satan (“the serpent”) realizes his enemies, the believing Jews (“the woman”), have obediently fled Judea, he sends a “flood” of armies after them who will be miraculously “swallowed up” by “the earth.”

In the Old Testament, overflowing waters and floods are sometimes used symbolically to represent military attack (cf. Isaiah 8:7-8; Jeremiah 47:2-3). 10 For example, this image of a flood overtaking Israel is also seen in Daniel 9:26, a prophetic reference to the Roman invasion that destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70: “And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined.” 11 Soon after the Man of Sin sits in the rebuilt Jewish temple, declaring himself to be God (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4), he will discover that his enemies (the believing Jewish remnant) are escaping and will send a flood of soldiers after them. However, just as He did in the past on behalf of His people (cf. Exodus 15:12; Psalm 106:17), God will miraculously open an enormous crevice in the earth that will swallow the soldiers of the Man of Sin alive. 12 Two thirds of these Israelites will die, and one third will escape (Zechariah 13:8-9). 13

We learn an important principle from this particular prophecy: We discover God most powerfully in the context of being overwhelmed. When believers are flooded with opposition, often they are able to watch God supernaturally suck up the flood of despair and avert Satan’s plan for destruction.” (Emphasis mine). 14

Enraged by the escape of all these Israelites, Satan will now focus his attack on the 144,000 Jewish evangelists who are sharing the gospel around the world (cf. 7:1-8; 14:1-5; Matthew 24:14). “And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Revelation 12:17). These evangelists are described as those “who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus.” The 144,000 are more than believers in Jesus. They are committed followers of Christ who are supernaturally protected by God so they can make Jesus Christ known during an unprecedented time of deception and persecution throughout the world.

Revelation 12 teaches us that Israel may be blind and disobedient as a nation, but God has never forgotten them. He never will. His reputation as a promise keeper is at stake. God will remember His people and preserve them. He will protect them when persecution arises, and He will ultimately fulfill His promise to return them to their own land under the Messiah. Although most ethnic Jews have not accepted Jesus as their Messiah, God has still preserved them as a distinct people over the last two thousand years. In Romans 11:1 Paul wrote, ‘God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be!’ The fact of God’s faithfulness even to faithless Israel should give us hope, too! The same God who stands by His promises to Israel stands by His promise to each of us: ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you’ (Heb. 13:5).” 15

We also learn from Revelation 12, that the dragon still comes after children of God, and sometimes he gets them (12:13-17). You and I might face the dragon in different ways, but we still face him daily. For John, that is part of the true meaning of the story of Christ’s birth. The message of the coming of Christ into the world is not peace and joy for all. The world has churned on for two thousand years since the pronouncement of the angels, and there has never been lasting peace on earth or good will toward men. But then, that was never the promise, was it? Notice what it was the angels really promised to the shepherds, “Give glory to God in heaven, and on earth let there be peace among the people who please God” (Luke 2:14 NCV). The promise of peace is for those who please God, those who follow the Lamb. The dragon will continue to attack, but the battle belongs to the Lord. Do you belong to Him?

Prayer: Lord God Almighty, we thank You for our verses in Revelation 12 today which emphasize Your supernatural protection and provision of Your people Israel despite all the fury of hell directed against them. We are reminded that during times when we are most overwhelmed, we discover You in the most powerful ways when You seem to supernaturally suck up the flood of our despair and turn away Satan’s plan for destruction. Your faithfulness to faithless Israel gives us hope because we too can be faithless especially when we are overwhelmed. You are the same God Who keeps His promises to Israel Who stands by His promises to us. When You say, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5), we can be confident You will never abandon us no matter what hardships we face. Thank You for the security this gives us. Thank You for the peace You give to us when we make it our aim to please You. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2398.

2. Ibid.

3. 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. 314-315.

4. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 240.

5. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 138.

6. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), location 5718 to 5724.

7. Ibid., location 5724 to 5729.

8. Constable, pg. 138.

9. 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. 1544.

10. Ibid.

11. Swindoll, pg. 240.

12. Vacendak, pg. 1544.

13. Constable, pg. 138.

14. Evans, pg. 2399.

15. Swindoll, pg. 241.

Revelation 12 – Part 3

“So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Revelation 12:9

Last time in our study of the book of Revelation, we saw that the dragon, Satan (12:9), failed to destroy the Christ Child at His birth and during His life and in His death, so Jesus could ascend victoriously to heaven after His resurrection (12:3-5). Since Satan cannot get to the Christ Child who is now on His throne in heaven (12:5), he is going to go after what is dearest to the Child – His people, Israel.

The apostle John writes, “Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.” (Revelation 12:6). Christ’s birth and ascension to heaven in verse 5 took place some two thousand years ago, but the events described here in verse 6will take place in the future. The nation of Israel, represented by “the woman” (cf. 12:1-2; Genesis 37:9-11), will flee “into the wilderness” immediately at the middle of the Tribulation period when the Man of Sin (the Beast or Antichrist) occupies the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem and declares himself to be God (12:6a; cf. Matthew 24:15-21; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). 1

During the first half of the Tribulation many Jews will believe in the gospel of the kingdom proclaimed by the Two Witnesses from Jerusalem (11:1-6). This believing remnant (“our brethren” – 12:10) will need to get out of Israel as quickly as possible because Satan’s desire is to exterminate Israel so he can render God’s promises to them as false, making God a liar.

If Israel obeys Jesus’ command to flee to the mountains to the “place prepared by God” when the Man of Sin occupies the rebuilt Jewish temple (“abomination of desolation” – Matthew 24:15-16), God will “feed” or provide for her “there one thousand two hundred and sixty days” or three and a half years during the last half of the Tribulation period (12:6b). “God fed millions of Jews for forty years during their Exodus from Egypt, and He will do so again in Israel’s darkest hour.” 2

Hitchcock suggests that this place of refuge prepared by God for Israel could be the rock city of Petra in modern Jordan (cf. Micah 2:12-13; Daniel 11:41). He writes, “This place is also consistently described as being in ‘the mountains’ or ‘the wilderness’ (Matthew 24:16; Revelation 12:6, 14, NASB). Therefore, this city must be prepared by God in advance, must be in the hills and in the wilderness. The city of Petra fits all of these criteria: it is adequate to hold what may be one million Jewish people; it is both in the hills and the wilderness; and it is accessible to the fleeing remnant. Therefore, putting all these points together, it is apparent that God will provide the fleeing Jewish remnant an accessible place of refuge in the wilderness and in the hills that will be like a sheepfold and that will be outside the Antichrist’s domain. The place that best fits the clues provided in Scripture is the magnificent rock city of Petra.” 3

To protect Israel during the last half of the Tribulation, John writes, 7 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.” (Revelation 12:7-8). John then sees a “war” break “out in heaven” between “Michael,” the archangel who battled with Satan over the body of Moses (cf. Jude 1:9), 4 and Satan, “the dragon.” Michael is accompanied by “his” unfallen “angels” and Satan is joined by “his” fallen “angels” or demons (12:7). The angels’ way of fighting here will be like what they do on behalf of all believers today (cf. Hebrews 1:14). The accidents we narrowly escape, and the perfect timing of various life events are not coincidences, but heaven’s divine arrangements of all things for our good. 5

As Michael fought on Daniel’s and Israel’s behalf against demons in the Old Testament era (cf. Daniel 10:13), angels fight for believers today and will fight for Israel in the last half of the future Tribulation. 6 Daniel 12:1a explains this event when it says, “Michael shall stand up,” which undeniably refers to the fact that the archangel is ready to act on behalf of Israel (cf. Daniel 10:21). This war in heaven will occur just before the time of Jacob’s “trouble” – the last half of the Tribulation (cf. Daniel 12:1b). 7

Despite all of Satan’s raging, he, and his fallen angels “did not prevail” over Michael and his angelic army (12:8a). As a result, there was no “place found for them in heaven any longer” (12:8b). Satan and his demonic cohorts are prohibited from entering heaven ever again. Since the fall of humankind, Satan used this God-given access to make relentless accusations against the people of God (cf. Revelation 12:10; Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7), but near the middle of the Tribulation period, this access to God’s throne is stopped. 8 God will no longer hear Satan’s accusations against believers in His throne room. 9 In the end, Satan and his demonic armies will not be able to stop God’s plan for Israel nor His Son’s return to earth to set up His kingdom. 10

Hitchcock states,Both amillennialists and postmillennialists… view the casting of Satan from heaven in Revelation 12:7-9 as parallel with Luke 10:18-19. They point to Mark 3:27 and Matthew 12:25-29 as the fulfillment of the binding of Satan during the earthly ministry of Christ. For them, Satan’s activity and power are restricted during this present age. However, this contradicts the way Satan is pictured in the New Testament. Satan is called ‘the ruler of this world’ (John 12:31; 14:30), ‘the god of this world’ (2 Corinthians 4:4), ‘an angel of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:14), ‘the commander of the powers in the unseen world’ (Ephesians 2:2), and he is ‘like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour’ (1 Peter 5:8). The devil schemes against believers (2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 6:11), hinders us (1 Thessalonians 2:18), accuses us (Revelation (Revelation 12:10), and blinds the minds of the lost (2 Corinthians 4:4). Satan is anything but bound today. He is aggressively opposing the work of God. 11

“As someone once said, ‘If Satan is bound today, he must have an awfully long chain.’ Satan is characterized as the arch-deceiver in the New Testament. Yet, Revelation 20:3 says that when he is bound Satan will ‘not deceive the nations anymore.’ This does not fit the current situation. It demands a later time after the Lord’s coming.” 12

Satan’s defeat in heaven at the midpoint of the Tribulation led to his and his fallen angels’ expulsion to earth. So, the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (Revelation 12:9). God identifies “the great dragon” as “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan.”

What do we learn about Satan in this verse? He is a “great dragon” who is fierce, cruel, and monstrous in nature. 13 As the “serpent of old,” he is crafty and subtle in character (cf. Genesis 3:1-5; 2 Corinthians 11:3). Satan is too strong and crafty for us to overcome his strategies on our own. We need God’s power and wisdom to experience victory over him in our Christian lives.

The name “Devil” (diabolos) means “Slanderer” or “Accuser.” 14 This title for “the evil one would have made a specially strong impact in the first century, for there was a well-known and well-hated figure called the delator, the paid informer. He made his living by accusing people before the authorities.” 15

In this church age the Devil focuses on accusing believers of wrongdoing. But because God has “justified” or declared believers totally righteous in His courtroom the moment we believe in Jesus apart from any works (Romans 4:5), no one can successfully accuse us of wrongdoing before God (cf. Romans 8:33), including the Devil.

The title “Satan” (Satanas) means “Adversary.” 16 Satan is not our friend. He is against us. He is our worst enemy. He hates us and wants to destroy our lives and testimony. But Jesus is our “Advocate” (I John 2:1-2) Who ceaselessly defends us and intercedes before God the Father’s throne in heaven (Hebrews 7:25). Whenever Satan accuses us of wrongdoing, Christ says to the Father, “I paid for that sin, Father.”   

John writes that Satan is the one “who deceives the whole world” (12:9b). The primary strategy Satan uses to accuse and oppose us is deception. The Devil cannot win spiritual battles by exerting authority because he has been defeated on the cross (cf. Colossians 2:14-15; Hebrews 2:14-15). So, Satan must win by deception, influencing our thinking through spiritual and worldly means. We permit Satan to achieve victories in our lives when we act on that deception rather than rejecting it as a lie. 17

How can we overcome Satan’s deception? Jesus tells us in John 8. 31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’” (John 8:31). Christ is talking to Jewish believers who have eternal life, so He is not talking about salvation here. He is talking about the lifelong process of discipleship after we believe in Him for everlasting life.

Hence, the first way to overcome Satan’s deception is to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, so you may have eternal life in His name (John 20:31). The only condition for eternal life is simply believing in Christ for it. Obviously, then if you want to be free from the deception of the Devil, you must believe or trust in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life. And the moment you do, the eternal Son of God comes to live inside of you. If you don’t have Jesus Christ in your life, the only changes in your life will be superficial. You may read your Bible, pray, and go to church or counseling, but you are not going to experience lasting freedom from Satan’s lies without Christ in your life! Only Christ has the power to defeat the Devil’s deception in your life.

But overcoming deception does not stop with believing in Christ. Christ says to these believers, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed” (8:31b). What is the condition for being Jesus’ disciples? Abiding in His Word. To “abide” (menō) in Christ’s Word means “to continue or remain” 18 in Jesus’ teaching – literally, “to make one’s home at.”Where we make our home is where we spend our time. So, notice that you can believe in Jesus and not abide in His word. When believers “abide” or remain in Christ’s word, they “shall know the truth, and the truth shall make” them “free” (8:32).

Note two things. First, there is such a thing as truth. Truth is the absolute standard by which reality is measured. We live in a relativistic society that denies absolute truth, claiming, ‘What’s true for you may not be true for me.’ But truth is not based on our feelings, experiences, or desires. Truth is God’s viewpoint on every matter, and it is not subject to redefinition. Pilate would ask, ‘What is truth?’ (18:38), and the answer to that question is ‘Jesus’ (see 14:6).

“Second, knowing the truth results in genuine freedom. Don’t be confused. Truth alone doesn’t liberate; rather, the knowledge of the truth liberates. Deliverance comes when we know the truth—that is, when we hang out in what God says. When this happens, we will experience the truth setting us free from illegitimate bondage” 19 to Satan’s lies.

I cannot stress enough the importance of being a part of a discipleship relationship with other believers. We always learn from others, truths we would never learn on our own. Other people will help you see insights you would miss and help you apply God’s truth in a practical way. They can also help hold you accountable and I know I need that, don’t you? So, as we abide or remain in Christ’s word, we shall know the truth, and the truth, Jesus Christ (John 14:6), shall make us free from Satan’s deception. The truth will identify the lies we have been believing that have held us in bondage to sin and will also provide the remedy to overcome those lies. It is knowing and applying the truth of God’s Word that will overcome the Devil’s deception.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for reminding us that although Satan is a powerful and aggressive foe, he will not be victorious. Your angels will defeat him at the midpoint of the Tribulation period, so he never has access to Your throne in heaven again. And while Satan accuses us before You every day and night during this current Church Age, we have an Advocate, Jesus Christ, Who ceaselessly defends us and intercedes for us. Not only this, but Jesus also gives us eternal life the moment we believe in Him so we can subsequently abide in His Word and know the truth which sets us free from Satan’s lies. Please empower us, Lord, to know, believe and act on Your truth so that we may become all that You intended us to be for Your glory alone. In the mighty name of Jesus Who is the truth, 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. 1542.

2. Ibid.   

3. 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. 378, 490 491.

4. Vacendak, pg. 1542.

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2397.

6. Ibid.

7. Vacendak, pg. 1543; see also John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), location 5701 and Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 136.  

8. Vacendak, pg. 1543. cf. Hitchcock, pg. 314.

9. Constable, pg. 136.

10. Evans, pg. 2397.

11. Hitchcock, pp. 413-414.

12. Ibid., pg. 414 cites Grant R. Osborne, Revelation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), pp. 702-703.

13. Contstable, pg. 136.

14. Ibid., see also 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. 226.

15. Ibid., cites 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. 161; cf. William Barclay, The Revelation of John Vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible series, 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 102.

16. Ibid., cf. Bauer, pg. 916.

17. Evans, 2397.

18. Bauer, pp. 630-631.

19. Evans, pg. 1779.

Revelation 11 – Part 2

“And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them.” Revelation 11:12

We saw last time that through two witnesses God brings directly to faith in Christ, He will proclaim the gospel of the kingdom during the first half of the Tribulation period, resulting in the salvation of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists who will then evangelize all the nations during the last half of the Tribulation period (Revelation 11:1-6; cf. 7:1-17; Matthew 24:14). These two end-time prophets empowered by God’s Spirit will seem to be untouchable and unstoppable even though their enemies will hate them because of the judgments they bring upon the earth (11:5-6). But like other servants of the Lord, when God says, “Mission accomplished,” He removes His protection from them and permits their enemies to kill them. 1

The apostle John writes, “When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.” (Revelation 11:7). It is only when the two witnesses “finish their testimony” after 1260 days (three and a half years – 11:3) that God will permit “the beast” to “kill” them. They will not die prematurely. This is the first of 36 references to “the beast” in Revelation (cf. Daniel 7:21). 2 He is the Antichrist, as later passages will show (Revelation 13:1-10; 14:9, 11; 15:2; 16:2; 17:3-13; 19:20; 20:10). As John testifies in his first epistle, the Antichrist and his servants, will deny that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah-God, and will mislead many people away from the truth that Jesus alone guarantees eternal life to those who believe in Him (I John 2:18-25; 4:3; 5:9-13, 18; 2 John 1:7; cf. John 11:25-27; John 14:6; Acts 4:10-12). This verse in Revelation 11 describes the Antichrist as having his origin in the “bottomless pit,” the abode of Satan and his demons (cf. Luke 8:31). 3

It is interesting to discover that the Greek word translated “testimony” (11:7),is martyrian, which has the same root as our English word “martyrdom.” Swindoll writes, “Originally, to be a martyr meant to give public testimony about the truth, but that public witness could lead to the sealing of that testimony with death. Thus, these two ‘martyrs’ of the future will follow their Savior and countless saints before them in the path of martyrdom for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” 4

Only “the beast” or Antichrist will be able to stop these two witnesses. At the middle of the seven-year Tribulation (Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15), he will become the world’s dictator and “will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them” (11:7; cf. 13:1-10). His power overrules the power of these two witnesses—but only temporarily. 5

It is important for us to remember that just like these two witnesses, our times are in God’s hand as well (cf. Psalm 31:14-15). We, too, are invincible until the Lord is finished with us, and we have completed our work for Him on earth. What a comforting, strengthening truth this is amid a dark and devastating world. 6

We see the world’s contempt for these two prophets in their response to their deaths. 8 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. 9 Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves.” (Revelation 11:8-9). The beast will add insult to injury by allowing the “dead bodies” of the two witnesses to “lie in the street” of Jerusalem where the “Lord” Jesus “was crucified” (11:8). To leave a corpse unburied was the worst indignity that someone could perpetrate on a person in biblical times (cf. Psalm 79:2-3). 7 “Spiritually” Jerusalem was “called Sodom” because of its pride and iniquity (cf. Genesis 13:13; Ezekiel 16:49) and “Egypt” because of its oppression of God’s people (cf. Exodus 3:7; 20:2). 8

Some “peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations” will not allow the two witnesses to be buried, viewing their corpses for “three-and-a-half days” (11:9). Just as individuals from “all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” will be saved by the blood of the Lamb (7:9), some from every ethnic group will also harden their hearts against God. The beast will engineer all this activity to show he is superior in power to God’s two witnesses and to the God they serve. 9

This viewing of the witnesses’ dead bodies by every ethnic group implies some worldwide display, now made possible by modern technology. 10 Television and satellite communications make this scene seem even more plausible today.

Mark Hitchcock writes, “It means their bodies will be seen simultaneously by people all over the world. If this is correct, it means that John saw something that has only become possible in the last sixty years, almost two thousand years since he predicted it.

“At the time this prophecy was given, and for centuries after, the scope of such a prediction would have seemed impossible. Yet today it’s commonplace. It happens 24/7 every day on cable news all around the world, even in many poor Third World countries.” 11

“As Tim LaHaye says, ‘Ours is the first generation that can literally see the fulfillment of 11:9 in allowing people of the entire world to see such an awesome spectacle. This is one more indication that we are coming closer to the end of the age, because it would have been humanly impossible just a few years ago for the entire world to see these two witnesses in the streets at a given moment of time.’” 12

The entire world will celebrate the deaths of these two witnesses. “And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.” (Revelation 11:10). John informs us that “those who dwell on the earth” will celebrate not only the death of the two witnesses, but the triumph of the beast as well. This celebration will involve gifts, like those given at a Christmas or birthday party, because wicked men and women will delight in the death of two prophets who “tormented” them with supernatural judgments and the preaching of God’s truth. 13

Hitchcock quotes Ray Stedman, They keep telling the truth to people who want only to embrace their delusions. They keep blunting the Antichrist’s carefully concocted propaganda. . . . The vile and godless society of the world under the Antichrist takes the death of the two witnesses as a cause for global celebration. One is reminded of a saying that was common among ancient Roman generals, ‘The corpse of an enemy always smells sweet!’” 14

People all over the world will be so ecstatic these witnesses for God are dead that they will hold a Christmas-like celebration and send gifts to one another—Satan’s Anti-Christmas. This is the only mention of any kind of rejoicing or celebrating on earth during the entire Tribulation period. People will be so thrilled to see these men dead that no burial will be allowed. They will want to watch their bodies rot in the street.” 15

This worldwide celebration of the two witnesses’ deaths will not last long. “Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them.” (Revelation 11:11). John tells us,“After the three-and-a-half days the breath of… God” resurrected the two witnesses causing “great fear to fall on those who saw them.” The two dead bodies that “stood on their feet” will “terrify these onlookers, because these gawking God-haters will be able to do no more to silence their enemies beyond killing them. The use of the prophetic present tense in the verbs in this verse pictures what is future as fact.” 16

Picture the scene—the sun-drenched streets of Jerusalem, the holiday crowd flown in from the ends of the earth for a firsthand look at the corpses of these detested men, the troops in the Beast’s uniform, the temple police. There they are, devilish men from every kingdom under heaven, come to dance and feast at the triumph of the Beast. And then it happens! As the crowds strain at the police cordon to peer curiously at the two dead bodies, there comes a sudden change. Their color changes from cadaverous hue to the blooming, rosy glow of youth. Those stiff, stark limbs—they bend, they move! Oh, what a sight! They rise! The crowds fall back, break, and form again.” 17

As these mockers look on with fear, They heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them.” (Revelation 11:12). Before these God-haters are even able to process all that they are observing, they hear “a loud voice from heaven.” The beast’s bragging will be silenced by God’s voice calling, “Come up here.” At that, the witnesses will be taken up in a cloud while “their enemies” watch. 18 Just as Christ was raised from the dead and ascended in a cloud (cf. Acts 1:9), so these two witnesses will ascend to heaven in a cloud and will be seen by “their enemies.” Their glorious ascension is also like that of Elijah (2 Kings 2:11), and Christians at the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:17). 19

This is a quite a scene. People all over the world will see the two witnesses caught up to heaven on their favorite TV newscast as the analysts will sit around discussing its significance. 20

Shortly after the ascension of the two witnesses, God’s judgment fell upon the city of Jerusalem. “In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.” (Revelation 11:13). A “tenth” of Jerusalem’s buildings are destroyed as “a great earthquake” rips through the city, and kills “seven thousand people.” The people in Jerusalem who survive the earthquake become “afraid” and give “glory to the God of heaven.” As God often does, in this instance He will allow catastrophic events to occur because those events will bring Him greater glory. 21

The biblical text does not say that these survivors believe in Christ for eternal life. Instead, their response is like people who endure frightening events such as tornadoes or typhoons and acknowledge them as acts of God. However, a person who is overwhelmed by God’s power and a person believing in Christ for eternal life are two different things. 22

The great Jerusalem earthquake following the ascension of the two prophets will bring a close to the interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpet judgments. “The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly.” (Revelation 11:14). The “second woe” or sixth trumpet judgment announced in 8:13 had come to pass, leaving only the “third woe” or final trumpet judgment, to come “quickly.” 23

The account of the two witnesses in Revelation 11:1-14 encourages us to remember that no matter how dark things may be, the Lord never leaves Himself without a witness. Paul Benware offers this comforting insight about the life and ministry of the two witnesses: 24

“These two miracle-working servants of God are lights for the Lord in the morally and spiritually dark city of Jerusalem. The two witnesses are a reminder that even in the worst of times God does not leave Himself without witnesses.” 25

When I observe people mocking God and His servants today, I often complain about the lack of Christian influence in the world. But God is convicting me to be His witness in the darkness. This is the challenge from Revelation 11:1-14 to all of us who know the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior. God wants to use each of us regardless of our past or our weaknesses. One day He will send His two witnesses to proclaim His life-giving message to a wicked world. But for now, God has sent those of us who believe in Jesus to announce the truth about the risen and ascended Christ to a world that is reeling in the darkness of deception.

Prayer: Lord God Almighty, we thank You for this amazing account of the two witnesses who were permitted to be killed by the Antichrist only after they had finished their prophetic ministry to the world. What a great reminder that no one can touch us until we have completed the work You have given us here on earth. And just as the death of the two witnesses was not final, nor will ours be. You raised them from the dead so they could ascend to heaven, and You will also triumphantly raise up believers who have died to be caught up together with those believers who remain alive to meet our Lord Jesus in the air when He returns for His church prior to the horrific judgments of the Tribulation (I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-18). Thank You for promising us triumph after tragedy. Please enable us to proclaim your life-giving gospel message with all boldness and faithfulness so more people can be translated into Your presence the moment You tell us to “Come up here.” In the name of the ascended 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. 217.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 127.

3. Ibid.

4. Swindoll, pg. 217.

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2394.

6. 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. 349.

7. Constable, pg. 127.

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. 1538.

9. Evans, pg. 2394.

10. 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 5617-5623.

11. Hitchcock, pg. 350.

12. Ibid., cites Tim LaHaye, Revelation Unveiled (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), pg. 188.

13. Evans, pg 2394.

14. Hitchcock, pg. 349 cites Ray Stedman, God’s Final Word: Understanding Revelation (Grand Rapids: Discovery House, 1991), pg. 220.

15. Hitchcock, pg. 349.

16. Constable, pg. 128.  

17. Hitchcock, pp. 350-351 cites John Phillips, Exploring Revelation (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1991), pg. 150.

18. Evans, pp. 2394-2395.

19. Constable, pg. 128.

20. Hitchcock, pg. 351.

21. Evans, pg. 2395.

22. Vacendak, pg. 1538.

23. Walvoord, location 5628.

24. Hitchcock, pg. 352.

25. Ibid., cites Paul N. Benware, Undersanding End Times Prophecy: A Comprehensive Approach (Chicago: Moody, 1995), pg. 254.

Revelation 8 – Part 2

“And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.” Revelation 8:2

Following the opening of the seventh seal resulting in silence in heaven for about half an hour (8:1), John describes what is happening around the throne of God (8:2-6), giving heaven’s perspective on the next series of judgments about to take place on the earth. In this introduction the prayers of the saints play a key role in the launch of the trumpet judgments. 1

And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.” (Revelation 8:2). The Lamb gives “seven trumpets” to “the seven angels who stand before God.” “The fact that these are angels’ trumpets distinguishes them from the trumpet of God (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16) and from other New Testament trumpets (Hebrews 12:19; Revelation 1:10; 4:1).” 2

The word “trumpets” (salpinges) “refers to an instrument of pronouncement, alarm, or call to arms. The New Testament never uses this term to identify a musical instrument. Instead, it refers to its military use, similar to a bugle used on a battlefield. In Revelation, as in several Old Testament passages (Isaiah 27:13; Joel 2:1), the trumpet announces the coming of the day of the Lord.” 3

In these verses, the “trumpets” are used to announce divine judgment(s) in the day of the Lord (cf. Zechariah 1:14-16). They declare war against rebellious mankind on the earth. 4 

To draw the eyes, ears, minds, and hearts of the world to God, heavenly angels will sound a series of trumpets—unmistakable signs of God’s power over the earth. For some the sounds serve as calls to redemption, but for most they will become terrifying reminders of wrath.” 5

“Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.” (Revelation 8:3). During these thirty minutes of reverent silence in heaven, “another angel” acting as priest approached the “altar” holding “a golden censer of incense.”  This saucer-shaped bowl was used in temple worship to hold burning incense, “an aromatic substance made of gums and spices.6

 “In the Old Testament tabernacle a censer made of copper, probably heavy to handle, was used to carry coals from the brazen altar outside the tabernacle to the altar of incense inside. Later, in the temple, Solomon used censers made of gold (1 Kings 7:50; 2 Chronicles 4:22).

“This offering in heaven corresponds to the custom of offering incense on the altar of incense in both the tabernacle and the temple. The censer would hold the coals, and a separate vessel would carry the incense which was to be poured on the coals once the altar was reached. The resulting smoke was typical of prayer ascending before God.” 7

This angel fills the role of priestly mediator like the Old Testament priest (cf. 2 Chronicles 26:18) and adds an element of sanctity and holiness that is pleasing to God (cf. Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). He reveals that the impending trumpet judgments arise from God’s holy justice and are sent in response to the numerous prayers of godly people in all ages who have prayed for judgment and justice to come on the earth (cf. Matthew 6:10). 8

The offering of incense may also symbolize the earlier impatient prayers of the martyred saints from the Tribulation who cried out to God, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:10). Many of us have been taught that there are three possible answers from God in response to our prayers: “yes,” “no,” or “wait.” In this instance, we see that unanswered prayers are sometimes stored up until God chooses to answer them in His perfect timing and way. 9

“No saint’s prayer is forgotten, but has its effect in due season, in bringing in the Kingdom, that is, our Lord’s return!

“It is the answer at last to ‘Thy Kingdom come’ which the saints of all ages have prayed. No other answer could be given, inasmuch as earth has rejected the rightful King!” 10

Next John writes, “And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.” (Revelation 8:4). The fact that “the prayers of the saints” rise with sweet smelling “incense” suggests it is a pleasant experience for God to receive the prayers of His people. 11 Hence, God prepares to act on behalf of His peoples’ prayers for justice on the earth.

“Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.” (Revelation 8:5). The censer,” previously filled with prayer, is now “filled… with fire from the altar” and is cast to the earth. The ensuing “noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake” are reminiscent of how God manifested His power and presence at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:16-19; Psalm 68:8) and are a forewarning of how God will reveal His power and presence through the trumpet judgments. 12

The time has finally come for God to answer the desperate pleas for justice from His people throughout all the ages. I am reminded of what the Lord said in Deuteronomy 32:35-36: “’35 Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; their foot shall slip in due time; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things to come hasten upon them.’ 36 For the Lord will judge His people and have compassion on His servants, when He sees that their power is gone, and there is no one remaining, bond or free.”

“What a potent force is prayer! The saints go into their bedrooms, close the doors, kneel down, and pray. They spread out before God their petitions, and God hears. The prayers are placed in the scales of judgment.” 13

“So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.” (Revelation 8:6). It is now time for God’s trumpet judgments to begin. “In the heavenly order of things the greatest honour is to be ever ready to be sent on the service of God; and that is the honour these angels possessed.” 14

All the trumpet judgments proceed out of the seventh seal judgment (Revelation 8:1ff). When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, John saw not just one judgment but a whole new series of judgments. There is every reason to conclude that these will follow chronologically. 15

Although some view the seven seals, trumpets, and bowls as parallel and simultaneous, the fact that the seventh seal contains the seven trumpets indicates that the seven trumpets follow the seven seals and that the seven bowls in turn follow the seven trumpets. Also, since the judgments in each series are different and intensify as the Tribulation progresses, the succession view is best.” 16

The trumpet and bowl judgments are the ones that the angel from the east held back until the 144,000 servants of God were sealed on their foreheads (7:3). Therefore, they are more severe than the first six seal judgments. The purpose of these subsequent judgments is to lead hostile unbelievers to repentance, and to announce punitive judgments against hardened unbelievers—but few will repent (cf. Revelation 9:20-21). 17

The coming catastrophic judgments of God during the second half of the Tribulation period are in response to the prayers of God’s people who have prayed for Him to avenge their sufferings (8:1-6). Rather than take vengeance into our own hands when we have been wronged by others, it is best to forgive those who have hurt us and let the Lord deal with them in His time and in His way.

All of us have been hurt and wounded by others, especially those we trusted. From beginning to end, the Bible emphasizes the importance of forgiveness. God even commands us to forgive: “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32).

Jesus taught us to pray, 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors… 14 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:12, 14-15). Forgiveness is so important because it is connected to God’s forgiveness of us. I cannot enjoy fellowship or closeness with God the Father if I am not willing to forgive those who have hurt me. Being unforgiving connects us to our past hurts and makes it difficult to fully enjoy the blessings of our relationship with God and with other people in the present.

One of the ways we can know we have not forgiven someone is we keep rehearsing bitter and defensive thoughts toward those who have hurt us. We keep going “back to court” in our minds with all the things we wish we had said or want to say to them. 18 God invites us to release the hurt others have caused to us. Forgiveness requires the cancelling of a debt (cf. Matthew 18:21-35). Perhaps the person who has hurt us owes us an apology, justice, money, repentance, restoration, suffering, understanding, etc. God wants us to cancel the debt they owe us.

We may tell ourselves, “If I forgive them, they will get off the hook and there will never be any justice.” But the truth is, only God knows what is just. The Bible says, 17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:17-19). God wants us to do our part to get along with people and live at peace with them. But if they still hold on to a grudge or mistreat us, God says He will deal with them.

There have been many barbaric things done to believers in Jesus throughout the ages. Recently, “The Taliban has been going door to door looking for Christians to kill and unmarried women to take captive. Christians in Afghanistan fear the same genocidal persecution suffered by fellow Christians in Iraq and Syria.

“Christians are hiding in their homes in Afghanistan for fear of what the Taliban will do to them.” 19

Today’s verses remind us that the day is coming when God will respond to the pleas of His people for justice. The horrific trumpet judgments during the last half of the Tribulation will be God’s answer to His peoples’ cries.  

Prayer: Father God, what a privilege for us to see what is happening in Your throne room prior to the trumpet judgments on the earth. The fact that the prayers of the saints rise with sweet smelling incense tells us it is a pleasant experience for You to receive the prayers of Your people. Thank You for reminding us not to try to take vengeance into our own hands when we have been wronged by others. For You will respond one day to the accumulative pleas of Your people for justice. And You will repay those who have brought so much pain to Your people. It gives us peace to know that we can trust You to avenge the wrongs done to us. At the same time, Father, we are reminded that we need Your forgiveness because we have also wronged others. Please lead us to live balanced lives filled with Your grace and truth. Grace to forgive others and truth to remind us we also need forgiveness. In the name above all names, 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), pg. 1528.

2. 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.

3. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 176.

4. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 105.

5. Swindoll, pg. 176.

6. Ibid., pg. 177 cites J. D. Douglas and Merrill C. Tenney, eds., The New International Dictionary of the Bible, pictorial ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987), pg. 465.

7. Walvoord, pg. 164

8. Vacendak, pg. 1528.

9. Swindoll, pg. 177.

10. Constable, pg. 105 cites William R. Newell, The Book of the Revelation (Chicago: Moody Press, 1935), pg. 121.

11. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2386.

12. Vacendak, pg. 1528.

13. Swindoll, pg. 178 cites John Phillips, Exploring Revelation, rev. id. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1987), pg. 118.

14. Constable, pg. 106 cites William Barclay, The Revelation of John Vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible series, 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 50.

15. Ibid., cites Merrill C. Tenny, Interpreting Revelation (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959), pg. 71 and George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John, 1972 reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1985), pg. 122.

16. 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. 285.

17. Constable, pg. 106.

18. Michael Dye, The Genesis Process: For Change Groups Books 1 and 2 Individual Workbook (Michael Dye/Double Eagle Industries, 2012), pp. 123-124. 19. Retrieved from a November 22, 2021, email from American Center for Law and Justice’s Executive Director, Jordan Sekulow.

A Cosmic Christmas (Video)

This video is about the birth of Christ from heaven’s perspective as described in the book of Revelation. The message of this video will help you learn how to experience the joy and peace you were meant to have.

All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site: http://www.revelationillustrated.com. Other digital images are used with permission from Arabs for Christ / FreeBibleimages.org, Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing, www.LumoProject.com, GoodSalt / goodsalt.com, or they are creative common licenses.