Revelation 22 – Part 11

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” Revelation 22:21

Pastor and author J. Vernon McGee observed that the Old Testament concluded with a curse (Malachi 4:4-6), but the New Testament ends with an extension of God’s grace to “all” who read the book of Revelation (Revelation 22:21). 1 This blessing of grace is in high demand today in a world that is spiraling downward into the darkness of sin and shame.

People desperately need to hear this message of grace today. As the brokenness of the world dips deeper into the degradation of sin, the need for God’s grace to rescue and restore people has increased exponentially. However, many people do not know about God’s grace because churches are not clearly communicating it to them. Instead of hearing that God offers eternal life and complete forgiveness freely to those who believe in Christ, people are being told they must clean up their lives first or turn from their sin before they can become eligible for this grace. Or they may hear about God’s grace from the pulpit on Sunday mornings, but they do not experience that grace in their relationships with those who espouse it.

The apostle John has written twenty-two chapters of Revelation given to him by the ascended and glorified Lord Jesus Christ through His angel (1:1). This may come as a surprise to many of us, but I will risk saying it any way: Christ entrusted John with this disclosure of future events so people who read this book may experience God’s grace. This may seem strange to us when we consider the many dire predictions of judgment recorded in the book of Revelation, but the Lord wants His grace to have the last word! 2

The final verse of the Bible says, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” (Revelation 22:21). The Greek word translated “grace” (charis) in this context refers to “Christ, who gives undeserved gifts to people.” 3 Grace means getting what we do not deserve. We do not deserve eternal life nor forgiveness from God. We do not deserve to be rescued from the coming wrath of God during the Tribulation period (Revelation 6:1-19:21) nor from the eternal wrath of God in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). Yet “our Lord Jesus Christ” offers it “freely” to anyone who believes in Him (22:17; cf. John 3:15-18, 36; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:35-40, 47; 7:37-39; 11:25-26; 20:31; Romans 3:23-4:5; 6:23b; 11:6; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 1:13-14; 2:8-9; I Thessalonians 1:9-10; 4:13-5:11; I Timothy 1:16; I John 5:1, 13; Revelation 21:6; et al.).

This “grace” can only be found in “our Lord Jesus Christ.” You cannot obtain this “grace” from your church, your parents, your peers, your pastor, your priest, your imam, your religion, or your own performance. This grace can only be found in the Person of Jesus Christ. The apostle John tells us in his gospel, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14). The “glory” that John and the other apostles “beheld” in Christ was “full of grace and truth.”

Christ was full of grace and truth. He has the perfect ability to tell us the awful truth about ourselves, while holding us up by His grace. Because He is full of truth, He was the perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 3:18). Because He is full of grace, you can come to Him just as you are, without having to clean up your life first. And because He is full of truth, you can come in complete confidence knowing that He will keep His promise to forgive you and grant you eternal life the moment you believe in Him. Jesus promised, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47).

Please notice, however, that John does not mention Jesus’ truth at the end of Revelation. Instead, He focuses on “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” God knew that as the world races toward the future events recorded in the book of Revelation that what “all” of us would need the most is His grace. He knew about the global pandemic and the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. He knew about the increase in political, racial, and religious tensions. He knew our society would become more sexualized and temptations would abound. He foresaw the devaluation of human life and the Satanic assault on His design for marriage and family. He understood the world would turn away from Him and spiral downward into the consequences of sin. Yet God still extends His grace to “all” of us.

For the nonbeliever, this grace invites them to come to Christ in “faith” to be forever saved from the penalty of his or her sins. The Bible says, 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Being “saved” from hell is “by grace … through faith… not of works.” “Grace” precedes “faith.” God’s undeserved favor (grace) draws the non-Christian to place his or her faith in Christ alone. This salvation is “not of yourselves.” It is not based on your determination or dedication because it is “the gift of God.”

When you receive a Christmas or birthday gift, do you have to pay for it? No, of course not. Why? Because it is a gift. It has already been paid for so there is nothing left for you to pay. If you offered a gift to someone and they insisted on paying for it, how would you feel? If you are like me, you would probably feel hurt or offended because they are telling you that you did not finish paying for that gift.

Think about how God feels when we refuse to receive His gift of salvation on His terms (faith alone in Christ alone). God can offer salvation from hell freely because Jesus Christ paid for it all when He died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead (John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6). God the Father accepted Jesus’ perfect sacrifice as the full payment for the sins of the world. Since God was forever satisfied with Jesus’ payment for all our sins (Isaiah 53:11; John 19:30; I John 2:1-2), we must also be satisfied with what satisfies God. God cannot accept anything we do as payment for our sins because He has already accepted His Son’s payment for all our sins when He died in our place on the cross.

But when people trust their works or faith plus their works to receive Christ’s gift of salvation, they are insulting God by telling Him that His Son, Jesus Christ, did not get the job done, so they must help Jesus finish paying all their sin debt back to God. God says to those who are not satisfied with what satisfied Him, “I never knew you, depart from Me you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:23). Jesus will reject those who confess Him as “Lord” while relying on their own good works (“prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name” (Matthew 7:21-23) because they failed to do “the will of” His “Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21) which is to believe in Jesus alone for everlasting life (John 6:40; cf. John 3:5-16; Matthew 18:3, 6; 21:32; 27:42). God is telling us if people will not believe Jesus paid their sin debt in full, then He will let them pay their entire sin debt to Him in the lake of fire forever because they have rejected God’s terms for receiving salvation from hell (John 3:18, 36; Revelation 20:15).

This blessing of grace at the end of Revelation is also intended for Christians. God’s grace invites them to continually come to His heavenly throne in prayer to receive mercy and grace in their time of need no matter how much they have struggled with failure because Christ understands and sympathizes with them: 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

This grace also teaches believers how to persevere in godliness until Christ returns for them: 11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11-14).

While the New Testament ends with God’s grace (Revelation 22:21), we also see that it begins with this same amazing grace. Starting with “the genealogy of Jesus Christ,” we see several examples of the Lord’s grace (Matthew 1:1-17). The Lord God orchestrated the coming of His Son to earth through imperfect people such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who were deceivers and liars (1:1-2; cf. Genesis 12; 20; 26; 27; et al.); Tamar who posed as a prostitute to commit incest with her father-in-law Judah (1:3; cf. Genesis 38),  Rahab, a prostitute (1:5a; cf. Joshua 2; 6; Hebrews 11:31); Ruth, a Gentile from Moab outside the covenant of Israel whose people worshiped idols (1:5b; cf. Ruth 1:1-4); King David who committed adultery and murder (1:6b; cf. 2 Samuel 11); Solomon who had many wives and concubines, and whose life ended as an idolator (1:7a; cf. I Kings 11); and Manasseh, one of Israel’s most wicked kings (1:10a; cf. 2 Kings 21), to name a few. Would we have chosen these people to be the ancestors of the Messiah-God? Probably not.

It is humbling to realize that God’s grace still uses imperfect sinners to bring His Son to others through the preaching of the gospel. The Lord takes unlikely people and uses them greatly to accomplish His purposes regardless of their circumstances or character. Truly, God’s grace is unlike anything we could ever create.

Although the book of Revelation speaks primarily of future events, it points believers and nonbelievers to God’s grace to help them prepare for what is coming. May His amazing “grace” be with us all!!!

Prayer: Gracious Lord Jesus, thank You for extending Your amazing grace to us during this church age prior to the outpouring of Your wrath on the earth. Your grace not only saves us from Your eternal wrath in the lake of fire the moment we believe in You, but it will also save us from Your temporal wrath during the Tribulation period through the sudden removal of Your church from the earth at any moment. As the world rapidly moves toward end-time events, we desperately need Your grace to enable us to persevere in godliness and communicate Your love to the lost with our words and actions. Please lead us by Your Spirit to those You have prepared to hear and believe the gospel so they may come to faith in You alone for eternal life and enjoy eternity with You on the new earth in the New Jerusalem. Hallelujah Lord Jesus for Your Revelation! May all honor and glory and power and dominion be Yours both now and forever! Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 404 cites J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. 5, I Corinthians – Revelation (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1981), 1080.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 259 cites George Raymond Beasley-Murray, The Book of Revelation, New Century Bible Commentary series, revised ed., (London: Morgan & Scott, 1974; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., and London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1983), pg. 350.

Revelation 22 – Part 10

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20

Chuck Swindoll writes, “The book of Revelation was written during a difficult time in Christian history. The emperor Domitian, having declared himself to be ‘lord and god,’ tried to force Rome’s traditional religious practices on everyone – especially the Christians. This involved persecuting the Christian ‘atheists,’ who worshiped a God who couldn’t be seen. How difficult it was for Christians to hang on to their faith, their hope, and their love in the midst of such persecution! How tempting it would be to succumb to fear, to deny the source of eternal life in exchange for temporal living. How encouraging the prophecies and promises of Revelation must have been to those first-century Christians whose faith was hanging by a thread!

“Today, in a world increasingly antagonistic toward biblical truth and the claims of Christ, Revelation’s vivid, striking images and dire predictions of doom offer a strangely satisfying form of comfort to us as well. In effect, the persecuted righteous still hear the righteous Judge say, ‘Don’t lost heart; remain faithful; I will vindicate your suffering soon.’” 1

Following Jesus’ previous testimony (22:12-19), Christ once again promises to come quickly: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). Jesus is the One “who testifies to these things” previously mentioned about His soon coming to reward people, both saved and unsaved (22:12-15), the divine origin of the book of Revelation (22:16), the free offer of eternal life (22:17), and the warning not to alter the book of Revelation (22:18-19).

Even though many Christians avoid the book of Revelation because of its symbolism, there are certain truths of which they can be certain. The first is Jesus is coming soon. Christ promises, “Surely I am coming quickly.” The Greek word translated “quickly” (tachy) means “soon, in a short time.” 2 The words “quickly”and “soon” both convey God’s perspective about His return for His church. His coming is always “soon” from “the standpoint of the saints’ foreview of the future, and when it occurs, it will come suddenly or quickly.” 3 This is the third time in this chapter that Christ makes this promise (22:7, 12, 20; cf. 3:11; 16:15).

Jesus’ promise to come soon (22:20) is in response to the prayers of “the Spirit,” the church (“the bride”), and anyone who “hears,” to “come” (22:17). 4 The implication of these words of Jesus for first-century Christians was that His coming could take place at any day or hour or moment in their lifetime. 5 This is also true for us today. The next event on God’s prophetic calendar is the return of Christ for His church (Revelation 4:1-4; cf. John 14:1-3; I Corinthians 15:51-58; I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-5:11).  

We can understand that the Lord Jesus is coming soon even if the details of the Rapture, Tribulation, the Second Coming of Christ, the Millennium, and New Heaven and New Earth are not clear to us. 6 This is one reason why Christ repeats this promise three times in the last chapter of the Bible. He wants us to look for His coming at any moment.

The second truth Christians can be certain of from this verse (and the entire book of Revelation) is seen in the apostle John’s response: “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” The word “Amen” (Amēn) “comes from a Hebrew exclamation based on a verb that means ‘to confirm, support, uphold… to be certain.’” 7 Literally this word means, “So be it!” 8 John’s “Amen” expresses a worshipful affirmation of what Jesus just promised. John then prays, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” There is enough clear teaching in the book of Revelation for you and me to look forward to the soon coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. If reading this book makes you a better worshiper of Christ, then it has achieved its goal. 9

The soon return of Christ depicted in the book of Revelation is intended to motivate apathetic or indifferent people to wake up because their present choices will have eternal consequences connected to Jesus’ coming. For the Christian, they will have to stand before Jesus at His Judgment Seat to determine what, if any, eternal rewards they will receive for the way they lived their lives on earth since being saved (I Corinthians 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12). Since Christ could return at any moment or we could lose our lives today, we cannot afford to neglect our walk with Jesus for one moment. 10

For the non-Christian, the soon return of Christ at any moment is intended to encourage them to receive Jesus’ free offer of eternal life simply by believing in Him (22:17; cf. John 4:10-14; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26). God does not promise you tomorrow on the earth, so today could be your last opportunity to get right with Him. Jesus said to a religious leader who thought the way to heaven was by doing good works, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5). Entering God’s eternal kingdom on the new earth is not by your behavior, but by your births.

According to Jesus, you need two birthdays to enter His eternal kingdom. The first birthday is your physical birth (“born of water … that which is born of the flesh is flesh” – John 3:5a, 6a). Since you are reading this article, you already have this birth. But you also need a second birth which is spiritual (“born of… the Spirit… that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” – John 3:5b, 6b).

Jesus explains that the way to be born of the Spirit is to believe in Him for eternal life: “Even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14b-15). Christ was “lifted up” on the cross to pay the full penalty for all our sins (John 19:30) so “whoever believes in Him should not perish” in the lake of fire “but have eternal life” both now and forever in the world to come. At the moment of faith in Christ, God’s Spirit baptizes or places us into the family of God (I Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:26-27). We are NOT born of the Spirit by being baptized with water, taking communion, speaking in tongues, casting out demons, or performing miracles. We are born of the Spirit by believing in Christ alone for His free gift of eternal life. 

If you have never understood and believed this before, but now you do, you can tell God this through prayer. But praying this prayer does not get you to heaven. Only believing in Jesus for His gift of eternal life gets you to heaven. This prayer is a way of telling God you are now believing in His Son.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, thank You so much for bringing to my attention that You could return for Your church today. I want to be part of that wonderful event. I am coming to You now as a sinner who cannot save him or herself from sin. I believe You died in my place for all my sins and rose from the dead, and You are alive today. As best as I know how, I am believing or trusting in You alone to give me the gift of eternal life. Thank You for the eternal life I just received and for my spiritual birth into Your family today. Thank You also for the future home I will have in Your eternal kingdom. Please help me learn how to follow You and share with others how they can enter Your eternal kingdom. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 405.

2. 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. 993.

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), Kindle Location 6654.

4. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 258.

5. Ibid., cites Joseph A. Seiss, The Apocalypse (Charles C. Cook, 1900; reprint ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973), pg. 523.

6. Tony Evans, CSB Bible by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2425.

7. Swindoll, pg. 404 cites R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, eds., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), Vol. 1, pg. 51.

8. Swindoll, pg. 404.

9. Evans, pg. 2425.

10. Swindoll, pg. 405.

Revelation 22 – Part 5

“And he said to me, ‘Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand.’” Revelation 22:10

After the angel redirected the apostle John to “worship God” alone (22:9), he then instructed him, “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand.” (Revelation 22:10). Since God wants the book of Revelation to be available for His people to read and be encouraged to prepare for future events, the angel instructs John not to “seal the words of the prophecy of this book.” God does not want His prophetic word to be concealed or hidden from His redeemed people because “the time is at hand” or near for the fulfillment of these prophetic words. God’s people need to be aware of what is going to happen in the future so they can prepare for those events.

All servants of God are to get the message of Revelation out to His people! They are not to conceal it or avoid it. Yet, few churches and their leaders are proclaiming the message of this book. This is a great disservice to God’s people. More than ever in my lifetime, the people of God need God’s prophetic word from the book of Revelation. They need to know what is going to happen especially when we watch the world spiraling out of control.

For example, the next event on God’s prophetic calendar is the Rapture or sudden removal of the church from the earth (see comments on Revelation 4:1-4; cf. I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-5:11). Failure to inform God’s people of this robs them of the comfort and encouragement God intended for His people (I Thessalonians 4:18; 5:11) during a time when they are being misinformed about being in the Tribulation already (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:2-3).

The apostle Paul wrote, “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.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3). The apostle Paul is correcting his readers’ misconception about the coming of “the day of Christ” (2:2) which refers to the Judgment Seat of Christ (cf. I Corinthians 1:8; Philippians 1:6, 10; 2:16; cf. Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). 1 False teachers were telling them that “the day of Christ had come” (2:2), and therefore, Paul’s readers had missed the Rapture of the Church which precedes the Bema and the Tribulation wrath to come (I Thessalonians 1:9-10; 4:13-5:10; cf. Revelation 4:1-4). Paul explains that two events will precede the “day” of Christ:

1. “The falling away” (2:3a) may refer to the false teaching that will accompany the administration of “the man of sin” (cf. Matthew 24:15-24; Revelation 13:1-7, 11-18). All the false teachings of the current church age simply foreshadow the ultimate apostasy of the man of sin.

2. The revealing of “the man of sin” (2:3b) who will exalt himself as “God in the temple of God” (2:4) will take place in the middle of the Tribulation period (cf. Matthew 24:15). The temple which was destroyed in 70 A. D., must be rebuilt in Jerusalem before the man of sin takes his place there.

3. “He who now restrains” must be removed before “the lawless one will be revealed” (2:6-8). This Restrainer is most likely the indwelling Holy Spirit in all believers that comprise the church today (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13-14; I Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:2-3; Ephesians 1:13-14). So, for the Restrainer to be removed, the church must be removed through the Rapture which Paul discussed in detail in I Thessalonians (1:9-10; 4:13-5:11).

Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians reminds us that how we view the future directly influences how we live today. His readers thought they missed the Rapture and were living in the Tribulation which “troubled” them (2 Thessalonians 2:2) and caused some to stop working and earning a living (3:6-15). Paul corrects this error in their thinking about future events to “comfort” them (2:16-17) and encourage them to keep working (3:12-15).

Likewise, God wants the prophetic words of the book of Revelation to comfort and encourage His people to prepare for the Rapture now. How can they do that if the church neglects to teach this or misinforms the church about the Rapture, saying it has already happened and we are in the Tribulation now?

The angel just encouraged the apostle John to get the message of Revelation out to people (Revelation 22:10), but then he says to John, “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.” (Revelation 22:11). The angel reminds John that even though the time is near for the prophetic events described in the book of Revelation to be fulfilled, there will be people who do not want to listen or be persuaded. The angel says to let “unjust” and “filthy” people remain in their “unjust” and “filthy” condition. 2 This tells us that there will be people who are in rebellion against God who will not listen to the book of Revelation and will continue in their wickedness.

This is a very strong warning to unbelievers not to delay becoming a believer in Jesus Christ. It portrays the hopelessness of the final condition of unbelievers. When King Jesus returns to earth with His church at the end of the Tribulation, unsaved people will not be able to change their eternal destiny. What they are when Jesus returns, they will remain forever! 3 People are not given a second chance after death (Hebrews 9:27). They are only given one life on earth to come to faith in Jesus Christ.

Refusal to believe in Christ for eternal life results in eternal condemnation. Jesus said, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18). When a person refuses to believe in Jesus Christ, he or she is rejecting God’s offer. They are condemning themselves. When a person refuses to believe in Christ alone for His gift of eternal life, they are in essence saying to God, “I reject what Jesus Christ did in my place as my Substitute.” Therefore, God has no choice but to let them pay for their own sin, through eternal separation from Him in what the Bible calls hell (Matthew 25:41, 46; Mark 9:43-38) or the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). Those who go to hell are going there of their own choosing because they have rejected Christ and His free offer. God has not rejected them; instead, they have rejected God.

The angel also reminds John that there will be those who respond positively to the book of Revelation: He who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.” (Revelation 22:11b). There will be those who receive the message of Revelation, and they will continue to move in the direction God wants them to go (“righteous… holy”). 4 This will prepare them to be richly rewarded by the Lord Jesus when He returns (22:12). We will talk more about this next time.

Prayer: Thank You heavenly Father for making the book of Revelation available for all people to read. Forgive us for neglecting to read and heed the message of this prophetic book. Starting today, use us to share this prophetic message with Your people and with a lost world so all of us can prepare for the future. Although most of humanity will continue in the direction they are already going, lead us to those whom You have prepared to hear and obey this prophetic book. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 1147-1148.

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. 1589.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 253. 4. Tony Evans, CSB Bible by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2424.

Revelation 22 – Part 3

“Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” Revelation 22:7

Chuck Swindoll quotes Ravi Zaharias, “Our society is walking through a maze of cultural land mines, and the heaviest price is exacted as we send our children on ahead.” 1

Swindoll continues, “Mazes, land mines, and exuberant youth who rarely watch where they’re going or look before they leap: That about sums up the present world.

“The twentieth century saw the rise of a generation that not only rejected much of what their elders held as unassailable truth but even began to doubt the concept of ‘truth’ itself! The tragic result has been a philosophical system known as ‘relativism’ or ‘postmodernism.’ It’s the belief that truth should be defined as merely the commonly held beliefs of a particular culture or society. As such, the belief systems that individuals or groups use to make sense of their world aren’t necessarily valid for another person or group.

“Through the media, academia, and other opinion formers, this idea continues to shape the thinking of most people in the twenty-first century. Younger generations are left to grope aimlessly through the relativistic maze, feeling insecure, fearful, and overwhelmed. They don’t realize that land mines await them around every turn – destructive deceptions and immoral acts that can bring calamity, even an early death.

“Paul the apostle warned his young protégé Timothy that a primary characteristic of the latter days would be the widespread rejection of truth (I Timothy 4:1-2; 2 Timothy 4:3-4). In light of this warning, the book of Revelation provides exactly what the coming end-times generation – and every generation – needs: objective, certified, reliable truth. When armed with this truth, people can face their fallen world with greater security, deeper faith, and stronger courage.” 2

All the visions that the apostle John had received from Revelation 4:1-22:5 had now ended. In the conclusion of the book of Revelation (22:6-21), the Lord Jesus Christ personally emphasizes some essential truths that He wants His listeners in the local churches to hear and embrace. 3

“Then he said to me, ‘These words are faithful and true.’ And the Lord God of the spirits of the prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place.” (Revelation 22:6). Since the visions of the future ended with 22:5, the angel who now speaks to John is probably the original angel whom Jesus sent to John at the beginning of the book of Revelation (cf. 1:1). 4 This angel assures John that “the things” prophesied to “shortly take place” (4:1-22:5), which John had just seen, were “faithful and true.” 5The purpose of the book of Revelation is not to bewilder and confuse but to reveal many certainties about future events. 6

“This directly contradicts the point of view of many scholars that the Book of Revelation is an imponderable mystery for which no key is available today. This book is the Word of God and not the imaginations of John. In addition, it is intended to describe future events. When taken in its literal, ordinary meaning, this is exactly what it does… The Word of God was not given to be obscure. It was given to be understood by those taught by the Spirit.” 7

The reason why these prophecies are “faithful and true” is because “the Lord God of the spirits of the prophets,” the Lord Jesus Christ, “sent His angel to show His servants,” of whom one is the apostle John, “the things which must shortly take place.” The book of Revelation records future events, which, from God’s point of view, will come upon humankind very soon. 8

In our confused culture, believers in Jesus are to anchor their souls in what is “faithful and true.” Since the book of Revelation comes from the Lord Jesus Christ Who is “the truth” (John 14:6) and cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18), it is very reliable. This inspired source of truth can be fully trusted. 9

The Lord Jesus Christ Himself speaks next! “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Revelation 22:7). When the Lord Jesus says, “Behold…” He is telling us to stop what we are doing and pay attention to what He is about to say because it is extremely important. Jesus then announces, “I am coming quickly!” The Greek word translated “quickly” (tachy) means “soon, in a short time.” 10 The words “quickly” and “soon” both convey God’s perspective about His return for His church. His coming is always “soon” from “the standpoint of the saints’ foreview of the future, and when it occurs, it will come suddenly or quickly.” 11

The events of the Rapture of the church, the next event on God’s prophetic calendar (Revelation 4:1-4; cf. John 14:1-3; I Corinthians 15:50-57; I Thessalonians 4:13-18), will take place very quickly, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” the apostle Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15:52.

The Greek word for ‘moment’ is atomos, from which we get our English word atom. Atomos refers to something that is indivisible, that cannot be divided. When Paul wrote these words, no one could imagine splitting the atomos. Today, we would translate this ‘in an instant,’ ‘in a split second,’ or ‘in a flash.’

“The second phrase that describes the duration of the Rapture is ‘in the twinkling of an eye.’ The Greek word for twinkling is rhipe. This might refer to the time it takes for light to reflect in the human eye. Others believe that it refers to the time it takes to blink your eye – ‘in the blink of an eye.’ Blinking is the quickest movement in the human body. People everywhere understand what ‘in the blink of an eye’ means.

“The main point is clear. All the events of this Rapture will happen instantaneously. In a flash. It will all happen so quickly that it will be completely unobservable to the human eye. Like replaying in slow motion a split-second catch in a football game, the Lord slows down the Rapture film for us so we can see exactly what will happen” 12 in I Thessalonians 4:13-18.

A brief outline of the events of the Rapture from I Thessalonians 4 includes:

  • The Return of Christ in the air with Christians who have died– “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” (4:14)
  • The Resurrection of the bodies of Christians who have died –15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep… 16 And the dead in Christ will rise first.” (4:15, 16b)
  • The Rapture of living Christians – “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up…” (4:17a).
  • The Reunion of both living and dead believers with the Lord in the air– “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (4:17). 
  • The Reassurance from this truth – “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (4:18).

“But don’t let God’s slow-motion version of Rapture in I Thessalonians fool you. The Rapture will occur in a split second. Suddenly, corpses all over the world will be raised and reunited with perfected spirits, and living believers everywhere will be caught up to heaven [with] transformed body, soul, and spirit. The Rapture will shock the world. It will change everything.” 13

Jesus’ announcement of His soon coming in Revelation 22:7a is a message that both nonbelievers and believers must hear and respond to. For the non-Christian, he or she is to get right with God by believing in Jesus. The Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). The word “believe” (pisteuō) in the New Testament means “to consider something to be true and therefore worthy of one’s trust.” 14

God is inviting all of us to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” alone to save us from the penalty of our sins because all of us have sinned against God with our thoughts, words, and actions (Romans 3:23). The penalty for our sins is “death” (Romans 6:23a) or separation from God. Because God is holy, righteous, and perfect, He cannot be around our sin (Habakkuk 1:13; Isaiah 59:2). The Bible tells us that the final punishment for our sin is death in the lake of fire (Mark 9:43-44; Revelation 20:15).

God does not want any human being to die forever in the lake of fire so out of love for us, He sent His only perfect Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16), to earth to live a perfect life (since He is God – John 1:1; I John 5:20; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18), and then die on a cross in our place and rise from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6; Romans 5:8), proving His claims to be God are true (Romans 1:3-4). Jesus Christ is alive today and He invites you to believe or trust in Him alone to save you from sin’s penalty and give you eternal life so you can enter His heaven in the future (Acts 16:31; John 3:16; Revelation 21-22).

Those of you who are reading this article need to ask yourself, “What am I trusting to get me into God’s heaven?” Are you trusting your works to get you into His heaven? Are you trusting Christ plus your works? Or are you trusting in Christ alone to get you into God’s heaven? The Bible tells us in Acts 16:31 to “believe” or trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone (not our works or Christ plus our works) to save us from the penalty of sin so we can enter God’s heaven when we die or are Raptured, whichever takes place first.

If you have never understood and believed this before, and now you do, you can tell God this through prayer.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for showing me that You are coming soon to remove Your church from the earth. Before today, I was not prepared to hear this. I did not understand that I am a sinner who deserves to be separated from You forever. I thought if I lived a good life and treated people like I want to be treated, I might make it into Your heaven. But Your Word reveals to me that I am a sinner who deserves to be punished for my sins forever separated from You in the lake of fire. However, my sin does not keep You from loving me and wanting to be in a personal relationship with me. I now believe You died in my place for my sins and rose from the dead. Right now, as best I know how, I am trusting You Lord Jesus to save me from sin’s penalty and give me everlasting life as a free gift. Thank You for the salvation I now have and for the future home I will have with You in Your heaven. Please help me to share this good news with others who do not know You so they can be ready for Your soon return. In Your precious name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Those of us who believe in Jesus for His gift of salvation are to respond to His announcement of coming soon by keeping His commands (cf. 22:9, 14). Jesus said, “Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Revelation 22:7b). God has given us “the words of the prophecy of this book” [Revelation], not only so we might learn about future events, but so we may also prepare (“keeps”) for them and be “blessed.”

In view of Jesus’ soon return, believers in Jesus are to take the words of the book Revelation seriously and act on them. 15 We are to anticipate what God has predicted. People today often doubt whether we can know anything for certain about the present and the past, much less about the future. 16 There is so much fake news in our world today, that we are prone to doubt nearly everything we hear. However, as believers in the God of truth, we can trust what He has said about the future: “Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.” (Isaiah 46:11).

We are to live in a constant state of readiness, not neglecting our duties or failing to prepare for the future, but always looking forward to the soon-coming of Christ to take us home.” 17

It is tragic that this last book of the Bible which promises a blessing to those who read it, hear it, and keep what is written in it (Revelation 1:3; cf. 22:7), is often neglected by churches and individual Christians alike more than any other book of the Bible. This is so ironic because of all the books in the Bible, the book of Revelation contains more promises of blessing than any other book. 18 Perhaps Satan is behind this avoidance of this profound prophetic book because he does not want God’s people to receive God’s blessings nor be prepared for what is coming.

Prayer: Glorious Lord God, thank You for the book of Revelation which informs us of many future certainties so we can prepare for what is coming and receive Your many blessings. Every word in the book of Revelation is faithful and true. Help us to read and keep the words of this prophetic book so we can face a world that has rejected Your truth and is spiraling out of control as a result. May we be armed with Your truth so we can face this broken world with more security, unwavering faith, and greater courage in the days ahead. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 397 cites Ravi Zacharias, Recapture the Wonder (Brentwood, TN: Integrity Publishers, 2003), pg. 27.

2. Swindoll, pp. 397-398.

3. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1588.

4. Ibid., pg. 1589.

5. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 251.

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), Kindle Location 6644 to 6649.

7. Ibid.

8. Vacendak, pg. 1589.

9. Swindoll, pg. 398.

10. 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. 993.

11. Walvoord, Kindle Location 6654.

12. 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. 129.

13. Ibid., pp. 129-130.

14. Bauer, pg. 816.

15. Tony Evans, CSB Bible by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2424.

16. Swindoll, pg. 398.

17. Ibid.

18. Constable, pg. 252; cf. Walvoord, Kindle Location 6656.

Revelation 20 – Part 2

“And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. 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 the thousand years.” Revelation 20:4

There is a lot of confusion about heaven today. Ask the average Christian and you will get a variety of answers. Yet the Bible clears up a lot of this confusion when we take time to study it. For example, did you know that the Bible says believers in Jesus will experience heaven in three stages?

First, believers will experience heaven with Christ after the Rapture or sudden removal of the church from the earth before the Tribulation starts (I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-5:11). At any moment the Lord Jesus could come for His church to snatch it off the earth to be with Him in the third heaven where God now dwells (Revelation 4:1-4; 2 Corinthians 12:1-4). Following the removal of the church, there will be seven years of terrible tribulation on the earth (Daniel 9:27; Revelation 6-19).

Second, following the seven-year Tribulation period, the Lord Jesus Christ will return to earth and establish His thousand-year earthly kingdom (Revelation 20:1-6).

Third, at the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth, there will be a new heaven and new earth where believers in Jesus will be with Christ for eternity (Revelation 21-22).

By far, the most is said in the Bible about the second stage, the earthly kingdom of Jesus Christ that precedes the new heaven and new earth. We call this earthly reign of Christ the Millennial Kingdom.

In our study of the book of Revelation, the Lord Jesus Christ returned to earth from heaven with His heavenly armies to cast the beast and false prophet into the lake of fire and destroy all His human enemies who had gathered to war against Him at Armageddon (19:19-21). Then a mighty angel bound Satan in the bottomless pit so he could not deceive the nations “till the thousand years were finished” (20:1-3).

Next the apostle John writes, “And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. 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 the thousand years.” (Revelation 20:4). Once His enemies have been defeated and Satan has been bound, King Jesus finishes His descent to the earth with His heavenly armies to reign on the earth. The “they” (20:4a) refers to the only ones left after John’s vision of the beast, false prophet, and human armies being defeated and Satan being bound – King Jesus and His heavenly armies who accompanied Him from heaven to earth (19:19). 1

The King of kings and Lord of lords is now sitting on His throne in Jerusalem (cf. Psalm 2:6-9; Zechariah 14:1-21). But the Lord Jesus will not be reigning alone for these thousand years. Two groups of people are mentioned reigning with Him in Revelation 20:4. The heavenly armies accompanying Christ to earth (19:14) consisted of angels (Matthew 16:27; 25:31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9) and faithful church age saints (19:7-8; cf. 2:10, 17, 25-27; 3:5, 10-11; 17:14). These church age believers comprise the first group seated on “thrones” to whom “judgment was committed” (20:4a; cf. I Corinthians 6:2). They have already been resurrected and glorified at the Rapture of the Church (cf. Revelation 4:1-4; I Thessalonians 4:15-17). 2

Jesus told His original disciples, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:28). Notice Christ says, “you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones.” Following Christ was necessary for Christ’s disciples to rule with Him in His kingdom. Believing in Jesus for eternal life was necessary to enter Christ’s kingdom (John 3:5-6, 15-16), but following Jesus was necessary to reign with Him in His kingdom.

John expands this idea further in the book of Revelation to include all faithful followers of Christ from the church age. 25 But hold fast what you have till I come. 26 And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations— 27 ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’— as I also have received from My Father.” (Revelation 2:25-27). Remaining faithful to Jesus till He comes or “until the end” of one’s Christian life is necessary to reign with Him in His kingdom (cf. 2:25-27; 3:21; 2 Timothy 2:12).

Not all true believers in Jesus keep Christ’s works till the end of their lives, including Jacob’s sons (Genesis 37:20-35), the 250 well-known community leaders (Numbers 1:16; 7:1-9:14; 16:2-3, 11, 30-32; Deuteronomy 1:11-15; Exodus 14:31), King Saul (I Samuel 10:1, 6-11, 24; 116; 12:14, 25; 13:13-14; 15:24-25; 18:21, 29; 19:9; 22:17-18; 24:16-21; 26:21, 25; 28:3, 6, 15; I Chronicles 10:13-14), King Solomon (I Kings 1:1-12:33), the kings of Israel and Judah (Rehoboam – I Kings 12:6-14:24; 2 Chronicles 11:13-17; 12:1-14; 13:7; Jehu – 2 Kings 9:1-10:36; Joash – 2 Kings 12:2; 2 Chronicles 24:1-24; Amaziah – 2 Kings 14:3-4; 2 Chronicles 25:2-27; Azariah – 2 Kings 15:3-5; Uzziah – 2 Chronicles 26:4-20; Asa – 2 Chronicles 14:1-16:12), Balaam (Numbers 22:7-24:16; 31:16; Deuteronomy 23:4-5; Joshua 13:12; Micah 6:5; Nehemiah 13:2; 2 Peter 2:14-16; Jude 1:5-12), the carnal wilderness generation of Israelites (Deuteronomy 1:35; Exodus 4:31; 14:31; Jeremiah 2:1-3; Psalm 78:8; I Corinthians 10:1-11; Hebrews 3:7-11), Lot (2 Peter 2:7-9; cf. Genesis 13:12-13; 18:23-32; 19:8, 33), Simon Magus (Acts 8:9-24), the carnal Corinthian believers (I Corinthians 1:1-11:30), the carnal Christian readers of Hebrews (Hebrews 5:11-6:8), and the carnal Christian readers of James (James 1:1-5:20). 3 They will be “in” Christ’s kingdom, but they will be “the least” in His kingdom (Matthew 5:19) 4 in that they forfeited ruling with Christ (cf. Matthew 22:1-14; 24:45-50; 25:18-19, 24-30; Luke 19:20-26; 2 Timothy 2:12).

The apostle Paul refers to carnal Christians as those who practice “the works of the flesh” and “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21). The New Testament distinguishes “entering” the kingdom from “inheriting” the kingdom. We “enter” the kingdom of God by faith alone in Christ alone (Matthew 18:3; 19:14; Mark 10:15; John 3:5, 15), but we “inherit” the kingdom of God through faithful, sacrificial service and suffering for Christ (Matthew 19:27-29; Romans 8:17b; I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21b; Ephesians 5:3-5; Colossians 3:23-24; Hebrews 1:2, 5, 9, 13-14; 6:12, 17; 9:15).

For example, “entering” my house is different than “inheriting” my house. Entrance into my house is free. But if you want to inherit or possess my house, you must pay for it. When you pay for it, then you are entitled to certain privileges or authority. When you inherit my house, you can decide how to arrange the furniture and what colors to paint on the walls. But if you just enter my house, you don’t have those privileges. The same is true in the spiritual realm. You enter the kingdom of God through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. But you will not have all the privileges or authority that come with inheriting the kingdom. You must earn those privileges through faithful service to Jesus.

Just because Christians have eternal life now which can never be lost (cf. John 3:16; 10:28-29), does not mean they can live however they want on earth without facing any consequences. God wants believers to live like the “saints” that they are (I Corinthians 1:2) by virtue of their position in Christ lest they experience grief and shame because of the loss of rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ (cf. Matthew 25:24-30; I Corinthians 3:8-15; 6:9-10; I John 2:28).

The second group of believers in Revelation 20:4 consists of martyred Tribulation saints “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” (20:4b). During the Tribulation period, these believers were not afraid to confess Christ before the beast and his followers (cf. Matthew 10:32-33) and therefore they lost their lives because of “their witness to Jesus and for the word of God” which they obeyed rather than men (cf. Acts 5:29; Revelation 15:2). 5

They obeyed God by refusing to worship “the beast or his image” or by not receiving “his mark on their foreheads or on their hands.” Their devotion to Christ “will be so great that they will choose death over disobedience.” 6 When Jesus returns to earth, these Tribulation martyrs will be resurrected (“they lived”), and because they kept Christ’s works until the end (cf. 2:26-28), they will receive authority over the nations and will “reign with Christ for a thousand years” (20:4 c). The Bible clearly teaches that bodily resurrection and kingdom entrance will be experienced by all Old Testament, Church-Age, and Tribulation believers in Christ (both faithful and unfaithful) according to John 6:39-40. But the Bible is also clear that only faithful believers in Jesus will reign with Christ 7 (Revelation 2:25-28; 3:5, 21; cf. Matthew 24:45; 25:16-17, 20-23, 31, 33a, 34; Luke 19:15-19; Romans 8:17-18; 2 Timothy 2:12).

These faithful followers of Christ will be the only rulers over the earth with King Jesus. None of them will be corrupted by deception, “money, greed, pride, or power. Imagine what that would be like. No more political conspiracies in the headlines! No more scandals exposed on the news! No more bribery, quid pro quo, filibustering, waffling, or broken campaign promises!

“The corruption of all earthly governmental systems will be gone forever… The righteous, not the wicked, will be in the majority, and a holy Leader will be in authority.” 8

Those who are subject to their rulership will be unfaithful believers from all periods of history leading up to the Millennium Kingdom along with the offspring of the mortal Tribulation saints who did not die in the Tribulation (Matthew 25:31-46).

“But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.” (Revelation 20:5). This verse implies that all who have not been resurrected physically by the time the Tribulation martyrs are resurrected physically, will “not live again until the thousand years” are over. Jesus’ words in John 5:28-29 demonstrate that by this time all who have died possessing eternal life through faith alone in Christ alone are now resurrected bodily and physically. When John states, “This is the first resurrection,” he is explaining what the first resurrection is about without going into specifics. 9

“Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:6). The phrase “has part in” (ho echōn meros en) can mean “possesses a portion in” and refers to an inheritance reward in the first resurrection that is conditioned on obedience (Revelation 20:4; cf. Colossians 3:23-24), as the remainder of verse 6 attests. 10 

The phrase “the second death has no power” or authority over them is best taken as a litotes (an understatement in which a positive affirmation is expressed by negating the opposite) and is clarified by the statement that “they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” 11 These resurrected co-rulers with Christ “are as far from being under the authority of the second death as they could possibly be since they themselves have authority as king-priests with Christ.” 12

The thousand-year reign of King Jesus with His faithful followers will be the paradise for which the world longs. There will be no war (Isaiah 2:3-4). The lion will lie down with the lamb (Isaiah 11:6-9). There will be topological changes to the earth. Jerusalem will be changed with new mountains and valleys. A river will flow from Jerusalem to both the Mediterranean and Dead Seas (Zechariah 14:3-9). Deserts will be transformed into gardens; the territory of Israel will be transformed into a place of remarkable beauty reflecting God’s glory (Isaiah 35:1-7). The lifespan of people will increase exponentially as in the early years of the Old Testament (Isaiah 65:20). 13

There will be industry and development (Isaiah 65:21-22). After the terrible Tribulation and Armageddon, much rebuilding will need to be done. There will be time to do things you have wanted to do: other careers, exploring, developing relationships. A renewed earth will more than adequately provide for the world’s population. There will be perfect government and swift justice as King Jesus rules with a rod of iron (Psalm 2:6-9), making no allowance for rebellion. Faithful believers from all ages will have many opportunities to rule with Christ. Since they will have glorified bodies, each person will be perfectly suited to carry out his or her responsibilities. 14 Some will hold positions of authority like Presidents, Governors, Mayors, City Council Members, Judges, Senators, Representative, and the like. There may also be transportation companies, publishers, developers, utilities, entertainment, and sports companies, etc. All these businesses will need people in various levels of management. We can have one of those positions of authority if we live faithfully for the Lord Jesus until we go to be with Him.

The Christian life is like a long, grueling race (Hebrews 12:1-2). You may be running that race God has set before you now. But what about 10 or 20 years from now? Will you keep living for the Lord even when life gets tough? Will you finish strong for Him? Knowing what God has in store for us in the Millennial Kingdom, should motivate us to live for Him until we go to heaven to be with Him. Together, we can finish our Christians lives well for Jesus if we keep our eyes on Him.

Prayer: Gracious heavenly Father, thank You that Jesus Christ is coming back for His church at any moment to snatch us off the earth to be with Him in Your heavenly house. Following the removal of the church, many more people will be saved during the terrible Tribulation period. Together, church age believers and Tribulation believers in Jesus will reign with King Jesus for a thousand years on earth following His return to at the end of the seven-year Tribulation. With great anticipation, we pray and live for Your coming Kingdom on earth when much of the curse will be lifted and life on earth will be what the world has longed for. Please use us to share Your gospel of grace so many more people can enter Christ’s kingdom through childlike faith in Him. In Jesus’ mighty name we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 355.

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. 1578.

3. Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 503-536.

4. Ibid., pg. 520.

5. Vacendak, pg. 1579.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. Swindoll, pg. 356.

9. Vacendak, pg. 1579.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid., pp. 1579-1580.

12. Ibid., pg. 1580.

13. Tony Evans, CSB Bible by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2418.

14. Ibid.

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 2

“She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.” Revelation 12:5

As the apostle John continued to survey the seventieth week of years (Daniel 9:27) a second time (cf. Revelation 10:11) in the book of Revelation, he focused on specific characters who will appear on stage as the drama unfolds. Beginning in Revelation 12, the apostle will describe the conflict between God and Satan in the spiritual realm that has taken place throughout history since Satan’s rebellion against God (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:11-18) so we can understand how it will be manifested in the physical realm during the second half of the Tribulation period, especially during the bowl judgments (Revelation 16). 1

Last time John introduced two characters involved in the conflict: a woman and a Child (12:1-2). We learned that the woman represents the nation of Israel (12:1; cf. Genesis 37:9-11) and the Child represents the Lord Jesus Christ (12:2). Today, we will look at the third character in this spiritual battle.

“And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.” (Revelation 12:3). This second “sign” is described as a “fiery red dragon.” God identifies this dragon as “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan.” (Revelation 12:9; cf. 20:2). The color “red” might indicate the bloodshed Satan causes during this last half of the Tribulation period. 2

Why is the dragon used as a symbol of Satan? Pharaoh, king of Egypt, in his cruelty to God’s people, and in proud and haughty independence of God, is termed ‘the great dragon’ (Ezekiel 29:3, 4). Nebuchadnezzar is similarly spoken of in respect to his violence and cruelty (Jeremiah 51:34). Gathering up the numerous scripture references in the Book of Psalms, and in the first three of the greater prophets, to the crocodile, the sovereign of the seas, who is identified with the dragon, insatiable cruelty seems the main feature. The Egyptians regarded the crocodile or dragon, according to their hieroglyphics, as the source and author of all evil, worshipped under the name of Typho. The color of the dragon, red, denotes his murderous, bloodthirsty character. This is the first time in Scripture that Satan is directly spoken of as a dragon. The heathen monarchs, Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar, enslaved and oppressed the people of God, and, thus far acting in satanic power, merited the appellation of dragon. But at the time treated of in our chapter, Satan is the prince of the world—its virtual ruler. The Roman power is the instrument through which he acts. Hence the title ‘great red dragon’ can now for the first time be used of him.” 3

Satan is described as “having seven heads and ten horns” (12:3b), which are the same as the Beast (Antichrist) possesses during the last half of the Tribulation period (Revelation 13:1; 17:3, 7). Revelation 13:2b clearly tells us that this individual derives his authority from Satan: “The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.” This demonstrates that Satan is seeking a governmental authority over the woman’s “offspring” (Revelation 12:17), the nation of Israel, which authority rightly belongs to Christ Himself (Revelation 12:5; cf. Psalm 2:6-9; Matthew 2:2; 27:11, 37). 4

The “seven heads” and “ten horns” probably represent seven nations and ten rulers (12:3b; cf. Revelation 17:12) and the “seven diadems” represent political authority in the Tribulation period (12:3b; cf. Revelation 17:10-12). 5 Ten kings will rule under Satan’s authority in the Tribulation period (12:3b; cf. Daniel 7:7, 23-24; Revelation 13:1; 17:7, 12), but when the Beast (Antichrist) rises to preeminence among them, he will subdue threeof them, leaving only seven (Daniel 7:7-8, 20, 23-24; Revelation 13:1). 6

“His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.” (Revelation 12:4). God was coming down to Satan’s turf on earth! And the old dragon was not about to let that happen without a fight! John informs us that Satan’s “tail drew a third of the stars of heaven” or fallen angels who followed Satan’s rebellion against God “and threw them to the earth” to try to prevent the birth of Jesus the Messiah (12:4a). When Jesus is born into the world, Satan is there, with his cohorts, waiting to destroy Christ. While shepherds are watching and angels are singing, Satan is waiting to make his move.

The attempt to kill the Christ Child John sees in this vision is probably a reference to king Herod’s attempt to kill Jesus. Herod was the Roman government’s puppet king over the nation of Israel. The book of Matthew tells us that when Herod learned that Jesus had been born, he had all boys two years old and younger be murdered (Matthew 2:1-16). Herod was afraid, because he knew that he wasn’t the rightful king and that Jesus was, so he did what political leaders do when threatened, and he tried to exterminate the competition. John pictures Herod’s brutal attempt to kill Jesus as a Satanic attempt to stop Jesus in fulfilling His mission.

So, when we celebrate the birth of Christ, I believe the Lord would tell us that we ought never forget the great conflict that was being waged in the heavenlies to get the Savior to earth. Think about how vulnerable Christ made Himself! Here He was, the Creator of the world, lying helpless and hungry in the arms of a woman that He created! The Savior who came to bring peace and restore God’s creation was the object of the greatest hatred ever known to God’s creation. And He found Himself in the middle of the greatest conflict to be waged yet on this earth.

“She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.” (Revelation 12:5). In this version of the Christmas story, Jesus goes from being born at Bethlehem (“She bore a male Child”) to ascending to heaven where He would sit on “His throne.” Satan failed to destroy Jesus at His birth, and because he also failed to destroy Him during His life and in His death, Jesus Christ ascended victoriously into heaven 7 where He would sit on His throne until His enemies will be made the footstool of His feet (cf. Hebrews 1:10). The Messiah’s kingdom will come in spite of any and all attempts of the dragon to prevent it. 8 Christ will “rule all nations with a rod of iron” in His Millennial Kingdom on earth after He returns from heaven to earth with His church (Revelation 19:11-20:6; cf. Psalm 2:8-9). John uses this one verse to summarize the birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and future reign of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Satan not only used Herod in an attempt to kill the baby Jesus, but He would later use Judas to betray Him (John 13:27) andPilate to condemn Him (Mark 15:15) andthe Romans to crucify Him. All the fury of hell would be released against the child born on that silent night.

As Jesus lay in the manger, somewhere in Palestine there grew a tree, straight and strong. One day that tree would be cut down and fashioned into a cross. And it would become the ultimate Christmas tree upon which was hung the ultimate gift! On that cross the perfect Son of God would take our punishment for our sin and defeat the devil once and for all. This was predicted in the first book of the Bible.

When the first man and woman disobeyed God, the Lord pronounced a curse on the serpent, the woman, and the man (Genesis 3:14-19). Regarding the serpent, God said: And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” (Genesis 3:15). God said there would be a perpetual struggle between Satanic forces and humankind. It would be between Satan and the woman, and their respective offspring or “seeds.” The “offspring” of the woman was Cain, then all humanity at large, and then Christ and those collectively in Him. The “offspring” of the serpent includes demons and anyone serving his kingdom of darkness, those whose “father” is the devil (John 8:44). God’s pronouncement was ultimately fulfilled when Satan would bruise Jesus’ heel (“he shall bruise His heel”) through Christ’s sufferings and death, but Christ, would deliver the fatal blow to Satan when He defeated the Devil through His death and resurrection (“He shall bruise your head”).

How? Christ 14 wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” (Colossians 2:14-15). Through His death on the cross, Christ “wiped out” or erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us (2:14). When a person was executed under Roman law, the sentence was attached to the accused’s cross (cf. John 19:19). All our sins were attached to Jesus’ cross. Jesus took all of Satan’s accusations against us away, effectively nailing our certificates of debt to His cross. He paid our sin debt to God in full; He died for our guilt and shame. God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

In doing so, Christ also disarmed “principalities and powers” – Satan and his forces – disgraced them and triumphed over them (Colossians 2:15). A fallen angel is no match for the Son of God, who took away Satan’s rulership. Satan’s accusations against us are empty because Christ paid the penalty for all our sins.

If somebody has a gun pointed at you, whether or not it’s loaded is a huge deal. The devil doesn’t want you to know that his gun has been emptied by the cross of Christ. Now, if you don’t know that, you’re still going to cower and run, living in fear and shame. But you don’t have to listen to him. Though he is right about your sin, your debt has been paid by Christ. You are free to live for God. Satan still has power, but he no longer possesses final authority in history.” 9

The Bible tells us in Hebrews 2:14-15: 14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Jesus Christ became a man without ceasing to be God, to render the devil powerless over us. Through His death, Jesus conquered death to free people from the fear of death (2:14-15). If the Son has set you free, then, the only power the devil has over you is what you permit him.Satan is “the father of lies” (John 8:44), so he’ll try to trick you into giving him permission to exercise authority over you. But the devil no longer has the power of death.Hence, the fear of death should no longer make you a slave (see 1 Corinthians 15:51-57). 10

This cosmic war between God and Satan is won through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. John wants us to see the manger through the lens of the cross in Revelation 12:1-5! He wants us to understand that Jesus’ victory began on the day He was born.

When John wrote, “And her Child was caught up to God and His throne” (Revelation 12:5b), he used the Greek word haparzō (“caught up”)for the ascension of Christ from earth to heaven after His death and resurrection (cf. Acts 1:9-11). This word means to snatch, seize, or take suddenly.” 11 This is the same word that the apostle Paul uses to describe the Rapture or sudden removal of the church from the earth prior to the Tribulation. “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up (haparzō) together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus, we shall always be with the Lord.” (I Thessalonians 4:17).

It is interesting to observe in Revelation 12:6 that John then fast forwards in time from Christ’s ascension to Satan’s hostile attacks against the woman representing the nation of Israel during the Tribulation period. John skips over the entire history of the church here. Why? 

“For one thing, the emphasis in the book of Revelation is not on what happens to the church during the present age but on what will happen to Israel and Gentile believers during the future Tribulation. Second, ever since Pentecost the church has been spiritually united with Christ through the baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:12-13), so we share with Christ in His destiny. Just as the male child was caught up to God and rescued from Satan’s earthly wrath, the church also will be caught up to God to be rescued from the coming wrath of the Tribulation (1 Thessalonians 4:17; 5:9-10).” 12

Christ’s resurrection and ascension guarantees our own resurrection and ascension to heaven through the Rapture of the church (I Thessalonians 4:14-17). Instead of facing the wrath of the Tribulation period on earth, the church will be caught up to be with the Lord Jesus in heaven (Revelation 4:1-4; cf. I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-5:11). What a glorious future awaits those who believe in Christ during this Church Age. Satan hated Jesus and He hates Christ’s church. But Jesus loves us infinitely and has provided an incredible future for us with Him in heaven (John 14:2-3). May all the glory go to Him!!!

Prayer: Precious Lord, thank You for Your Word which gives us heaven’s perspective about earthly events. Since his rebellion, Satan has aggressively opposed You and Your people. The Devil failed to destroy Jesus at His birth, and because he also failed to destroy Him during His life and in His death, the Lord Jesus ascended victoriously into heaven. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we who have believed in Jesus will also be resurrected and caught up to heaven in victory to be with Christ forever when He returns at any moment for His church. We praise You, Lord, for the plans You have for us, to prosper us and not to harm us. Plans involving a future that is filled with hope. Satan on the other hand, is a liar and a murderer who seeks to devour us. Please use Your Holy Spirit to expose his strategies, we pray, and open the eyes of those who have been blinded by his deceit. We ask that many more people on earth will hear and believe the gospel of grace before Jesus returns for His church, so Christ is most glorified. In the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pp. 132-133 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8—22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pg. 117.

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), locations 5673 5679.

3. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Zondervan Academic, 2010 Kindle Edition), pg. 287 cites Walter Scott, Exposition of the Revelation of Jesus Christ (London: Pickering and Inglis, [n.d.]), pp. 249-250.

4. Pentecost, pg. 287.

5. Constable, pg. 134.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid., pg. 135.

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. 1542.  

9. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2148.

10. Ibid., pg. 2243-2244.

11. 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. 134.

12. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 235-236.

Revelation 11 – Part 3

“Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple.” Revelation 11:19

Since the first century when Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10), Christians have been praying this prayer often. By the time the apostle John wrote the book of Revelation in 96 A.D., reciting this prayer was probably a widespread practice. 1

Although Christians have faithfully prayed this prayer since the first century, most of this ancient prayer has not been answered literally. In Matthew 6:10, Christ prayed, “Your kingdom come.” If we are honest with ourselves when we look at world affairs, none of us would conclude that God’s kingdom has literally come to earth where His will is “done on earth as it is in heaven.” As a matter of fact, when we turn on the news, it seems more like Satan’s kingdom has come and his will is done all around the globe.2

During this church age Christians are to make disciples of Jesus by preaching the gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection to a lost world (Mark 16:15; I Corinthians 15:3-6), followed by baptizing those who believe the gospel as the first step of discipleship, and then teaching them to obey all Christ’s commands (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19-20). But the day when King Jesus rules on the earth so that the Father’s will is “done on earth as it is in heaven” will not take place until after the seven-year Tribulation on earth (Revelation 11:15-19; 19:11-20:6).

What a glorious day that will be when Jesus sits on His throne in Jerusalem and rules with a rod of iron so that all His subjects will obey Him, and universal peace will be established (Isaiah 2:4; 9:6-7; 11:6-9; Psalm 2). As glorious as Christ’s kingdom on earth will be, we must not forget that it will be preceded by terrible judgments during the final part of the seven-year Tribulation. With the sounding of the seventh trumpet judgment, God prepares the apostle John, and us (Revelation 11:15-19), for the seven horrific bowls of wrath (cf. Revelation 16) immediately before Christ returns to set up His kingdom on earth. 3

The apostle John writes, “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’” (Revelation 11:15). When “the seventh angel sounded” his trumpet, “there were loud voices in heaven saying, ‘The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord (God the Father) and of His Christ (God the Son), and He shall reign forever and ever!’” These voices in heaven refer to the future reign of Christ on the earth in the past tense as if it has already taken place. 4 Their declaration of King Jesus’ future reign is anticipatory. 5

The actual coronation of Christ will not come to pass until He returns to earth after the seven-year Tribulation is complete, but heaven is already singing about it and viewing it as accomplished. Once He is crowned as king, Christ will ‘reign forever and ever!’ ‘And of His kingdom there will be no end’” (Luke 1:33).” 6

Some Bible students believe Revelation 11:15 refers to the Rapture of the church at the midpoint of the Tribulation, equating “the last trumpet” in 1 Corinthians 15:52 and I Thessalonians 4:16 with the seventh trumpet in Revelation 11:15.  7 There are several flaws with this midtribulation rapture position:

1. It fails to realize that the church was raptured at the end of the church age as represented by the twenty-four elders in heaven (cf. Revelations 4:1-4; see Revelation 4 – Parts 1 and 2 articles) and is therefore already in heaven when Revelation 11:15-19 announces the future reign of Christ on the earth.

2. It fails to distinguish the Rapture with the Second Coming of Christ. The Rapture is when Christ will come in the air to receive believers into heaven (I Thessalonians 4:13-18; cf. John 14:1-3; Revelation 4:1-4). He will not come all the way down to earth in the Rapture. He will only do that at the Second Coming, when He will be accompanied by the church age saints (Revelation 19:7-21; cf. I Thessalonians 3:13; Jude 1:14). 8

3. It fails to distinguish the “last trumpet” of the church age in I Corinthians 15:52 when church age believers are caught up to meet Jesus in the air (I Thessalonians 4:16) from the seventh trumpet judgment in Revelation 11:15 which announces Christ’s return to earth at the end of the Tribulation with church age saints to judge His enemies (cf. Revelation 19:11-21). 

“Simply because the trumpet in 1 Corinthians 15 is called the ‘last’ trumpet does not mean that it is the last trumpet in God’s whole prophetic program. As Paul Benware notes, ‘Those of us in school settings know that during the day there are a number of ‘last’ bells that ring. The last bell for the eight o’clock class rings but that is not the last bell of the day. ‘Last’ must be understood in relationship to the context in which it is found.” 9

“Furthermore, the seventh trumpet in Revelation 11 is not the last trumpet in the Tribulation. At the second coming of Christ a trumpet is blown to gather God’s elect (Matthew 24:31). So, the last trumpet argument actually undermines” 10 the midtribulation rapture view.

4. The trumpet that summons the church is called “the trumpet of God” (I Thessalonians 4:16) while the “seventh trumpet” is an angel’s trumpet (Revelation 11:15). 11 Strombeck well observes: In the search for ‘the last trump’ one must, then, be guided by the fact that it is God’s own trumpet, sounded by the Lord Himself. In view of this one would hardly be willing to contend that the last trumpet of God is the last of a series of trumpets blown by the priests of the Aaronic priesthood. These were not in a class with the trumpet of God. Remembering that the angels are only a little higher than man, it is just as contrary to the laws of logic to say that ‘the last trump,’ which is God’s own trumpet, is the last of a series of trumpets blown by angels. Both men and angels are creatures of God. They cannot sound the trumpet of the Creator.” 12

5. The trumpet for the church is singular (I Corinthians 15:52; I Thessalonians 4:16). No trumpets have preceded it so that it cannot be said to be the last of a series like the trumpet in Revelation 11 that closes the Tribulation period as the last of a series of seven. 13

6. The trumpet in 1 Thessalonians 4 issues in comfort and hope, while the trumpet in Revelation 11 issues in judgment upon God’s enemies.

7. In the I Corinthian passage the trumpet sounds “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (15:52). In Revelation 10:7 the indication is that the seventh trumpet shall sound over a continued period of time, probably for the duration of the bowl judgments that fall under it (Revelation 16), for John speaks of the angel that shall “begin to sound.” The duration gives evidence of the distinction in these two. 14

8. The trumpet in 1 Thessalonians 4 is distinctly for the church. Since God is dealing with Israel in particular, and Gentiles in general, during the Tribulation period (cf. Daniel 9:24-27), this seventh trumpet, which falls in the period of the Tribulation, could not have reference to the church without losing the distinctions between the church and Israel. 15

9. While the church will be rewarded at the time of the Rapture, yet the reward given to Your servants the prophets and the saints” (11:18), cannot be that event. The rewarding mentioned in Revelation 11:18 is seen to take place on the earth after the Second Coming of Christ to earth, following the judgment of His enemies. Since the church is rewarded in heaven following the Rapture (see Revelation 4:1-4; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10), these must be two distinct events. 16

10. While the midtribulation rapturist agrees that Christians will be spared from the wrath of God that is poured out on the earth, they hold that the wrath begins at the midpoint of the seven-year Tribulation with the seventh trumpet. 17 The problem here is this contradicts what Jesus taught when He surveyed the entire seven-year Tribulation period in Matthew 24:4-14. Christ said God’s wrath would be poured out upon the earth in the first (Matthew 24:4-8) and second (Matthew 24:9-14) halves of the Tribulation, with more details given about the second half’s more intense judgments (Matthew 24:9-22). Matthew 24:5-8 describe the first half of the Tribulation period consisting of judgments depicting the second, third, and fourth seal judgments of Revelation 6:3-8 which take place long before the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11:15.

11. Finally, the midtribulation rapture position undermines the doctrine of imminency which is drawn from several New Testament passages stating directly or indirectly that the Rapture could happen at any moment without any warning or signs: 18

– Matthew 24:36: “But of that day and hour no one knows.” Throughout Matthew 24:5-31 there are many observable “signs” or “warnings” that signal Christ’s future return to earth. In Matthew 24:32-35 Jesus commands His disciples to “learn this parable from the fig tree” and “When you see all these things, know that it [His return to earth] is near.” But when we come to Matthew 24:36, Jesus says, “But of that day and hour no one knows.” Now Jesus is talking about His coming without any preceding observable signs that signal His return. Jesus is talking about two different aspects of His Second Coming – one that involves observable signs before Christ returns to earth to judge His enemies (Matthew 24:4-31; cf. Revelation’s description of the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments prior to King Jesus’ return to earth) and one that involves no observable signs before Jesus removes His church from the earth to meet Him in the air (Matthew 24:36-44; cf. I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-5:11; Revelation 4:1-4).

– I Corinthians 1:7: “eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Why would Paul be “eagerly waiting” for Christ’s return if many observable signs must take place first?

– I Corinthians 16:22: “O Lord, come!” Why would the apostle Paul ask the Lord to “come” at this time if His coming was a long way off?

– Philippians 3:20: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Believers in the first century expected to meet their Savior at His return, not judgments on the earth.

– Philippians 4:5: “The Lord is at hand.” How can Paul expect the Lord’s return to be “at hand” or near if many observable signs must take place first?

– I Thessalonians 1:10: “wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” The verb “wait” (anamenein)is in the present tense which means they were to wait continuously and literally means to “wait up for” like a parent waiting up for and looking for a child that he or she expects to be home at any moment. 19

– I Thessalonians4:15, 17: 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep… 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” The apostle Paul includes himself among those who expected to be “alive” when believers would be “caught up” to meet Jesus “in the air” to “always be with” Christ in heaven. In his mind, Christ could return for His church at any moment.

– Titus 2:13: “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Why be constantly “looking” for Christ if He can’t come at any moment?

Hebrews 9:28: “To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” Why “eagerly wait” for Jesus’ coming if it is a long way off?

– James 5:7-9: 7 Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord… 8 You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!” How can one expect the Lord’s coming to be “at hand” or near if many observable signs must take place first?

– I Peter 1:13: “Be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

– Jude 1:21: “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”

– Revelation 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20: “I am coming quickly.”  Why would Jesus promise that He is coming quickly if His return was delayed?

All these Scriptures refer to the Rapture and speak of it as though it could occur at any moment. In some ways, anticipating Christ’s return could be compared to living in California and waiting for an earthquake. You can be certain, living there, that an earthquake will happen; it’s only a matter of time. It may be soon or it may happen a decade from now, but it will most assuredly happen. It could also happen at any moment. And it could happen without warning. Sure, there could be tremors ahead of time, but not necessarily.

“This is similar to the way pretribulationists think about the Rapture. When it comes to imminency, they have three main ideas in mind: it could happen at any moment; it could happen without warning; and it will certainly happen, even if it doesn’t happen soon.” 20

Christ warns in Matthew 24:45-51 that if a believer removes the imminency of His return (which midtribulationism does since many observable signs must take place prior to Christ’s return), and begins to think, My master is delaying his coming” (24:48b), it is more likely to lead to a self-indulgent lifestyle now (he begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards” – 24:49), and the loss of rewards in the future (Matthew 24:50-51).

Swindoll writes with regard to the trumpet blasts of I Corinthians 15/I Thessalonians 4 and Revelation 11:15, that, it appears that these two trumpet blasts refer to separate prophetic events. Paul’s ‘last trumpet’ announces the resurrection, rapture, and rescue of the church from the earth before the seven-year Tribulation period. The seventh trumpet blast of Revelation 11 brings the series of trumpet judgments to a close, previews both the wrath and reign of Christ, and makes way for the visions leading up to the seven bowls of wrath (chapters 12–16).” 21

With this said, let’s continue to look at Revelation 11:15-19. Next, the apostle John writes, 16 And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God. 17 saying: ‘We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was and who is to come, because You have taken Your great power and reigned.’” (Revelation 11:16-17). We already saw in Revelation 4:1-4, that “the twenty-four elders” represent believers from the church age who have already been raptured and rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ (see Revelation 4, Parts 1 and 2 articles).

When these church age believers heard the announcement in verse 15, they “fell on their faces and worshiped” the eternal “God” whose existence was uninterrupted (“who is and who was and who is to come”), making His endless reign on the earth possible (11:17). 22

Until now God had allowed powers hostile to His people to control the earth, but now He will begin to rule directly.” 23

These elders were giving thanks to God because He has taken His “great power and reigned.” The often-recited prayer, “Your kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10), will soon be fulfilled. Finally, the many Old and New Testament prophecies of Jesus’ Second Coming to rule on the earth will be actualized. This will be an incredible victory whereby the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ (11:15-16).

The establishment of Christ’s reign is so certain, it is communicated in the past tense. Swindoll states, In John’s vision, these events are viewed as already accomplished, but we should not let this fact confuse us. From our perspective, all of the events described in 11:16-18 are still in the future. However, because the purposes of God cannot change and the prophesied events are certain, we can join the heavenly throng in praising God for what He will do.” 24

This worship in heaven will be contrasted with the rebellion of humanity on the earth. “The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your name, small and great, and should destroy those who destroy the earth.” (Revelation 11:18). At the end of the Tribulation period when the Lord Jesus returns to earth (Revelation 19:11-21), there will be a time of intense “wrath” in which the angry nations of the world under the control of Satan will be defeated by Christ, making way for the establishment of Jesus’ throne on the earth (11:17b-18a; cf. Psalm 2:1-12). Then another resurrection will take place when John writes, “and the time of the dead, that they should be judged” (11:18b). This is not the resurrection of church age believers because that occurs at the Rapture (I Thessalonians 4:13-18). This is the resurrection of God’s Old Testament “servants the prophets” (cf. Daniel 12:1-3) and Tribulation “saints” who will be given the “reward” they are due along with those who “fear” His “name,” both the insignificant (“small”) and influential (“great”)(11:18c).

When Jesus returns to the earth, He will “destroy those who destroy the earth,” which is most likely a reference to the judgment of the great harlot (cf. Revelation 17:1), whose devastating and destructive influence over the nations is referred to three other times in Revelation (cf. 14:8; 18:3; 19:2). Hence, “the twenty-four elders give anticipatory thanks because Christ reigns, evildoers are judged, and the faithful in Christ are rewarded.” 25

“Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in the temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.” (Revelation 11:19). John then saw “the temple of God… opened in heaven” where “the ark of His covenant was seen in the temple,” a symbol of God’s presence and faithfulness. In the Old Testament the presence of God dwelt between the cherubim on the ark (cf. 1 Samuel 4:4). It was the ark of God that led Israel across the Jordan and into their inheritance (cf. Joshua 3–4). Just as God protected and kept His promises to His people in the Old Testament, God will also do the same for His people in the Tribulation. 26

The accompaniment of “lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail” signifies the awesome power of God. As great as God’s judgments were in Revelation 6-11 leading up to the bowl judgments, the storms He will send on rebellious humankind in Revelation 12-19 will be even worse, like none the world has ever seen before (cf. Matthew 24:21). 27

John’s vision of the open temple in heaven (Revelation 11:19) shows us that believers in Jesus have unlimited access into God’s presence at any time which is based on the grace of God whose forgiveness was purchased for us by the blood of Christ. In addition, as His beloved children, we are also free from His coming wrath on the earth. Christians will not experience the seventh trumpet judgment nor any of the other judgments in Revelation 6-19 because they will have been removed from the earth via the Rapture of the church (Revelation 4:1-4; cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; 4:13-5:11). We will have already been transformed and taken to heaven at Paul’s “last trumpet” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). While unbelievers endure the Tribulation on earth, the church will be preparing to return with Christ to earth where He will reign a thousand years (Revelation 17:14; 19:7-20:6). 28

If you were to die right now, do you know for sure you will enter the door into God’s temple in heaven? It is open to all who come to God on His terms.The “ark of the covenant” inside God’s heavenly temple (11:19) contains the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 10:2), which are a constant reminder of God’s holy standard. The Bible tells us that all of us have sinned and fall short of God’s righteous standard (Romans 3:23). The penalty for our sin is death or separation from God (Romans 6:23).

In the Old Testament, God would meet with His people above the atonement cover or mercy seat over the golden chest of the ark between the two cherubim (Exodus 25:22). On the Day of atonement (Leviticus 16), the high priest sprinkled blood on the mercy seat to cover or make atonement for Israel’s sin (Exodus 30:10). The atonement cover represented for Israel what was later accomplished by Christ, Who as the Lamb of God (John 1:29), made atonement for sin (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 9:11-14) by His shed blood (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19).

Through His death and resurrection nearly two thousand years ago (cf. I Corinthians 15:3-6), Jesus made it possible for us to receive eternal life and unlimited forgiveness of sins if we would simply believe in Him alone (John 3:14-16; Acts 10:43). Christ said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” (John 5:24). What does Jesus say you must do to have eternal life and enter His temple in heaven?He says you must “hear” and “believe.”

When one “hears” His Word and “believes” what He says, Jesus says he “has everlasting life.” That means right now, not after you die. How long is everlasting life? It is forever! Next, Christ guarantees that you “shall not come into judgment.” That is a promise and God does not break His promises. A believer in Jesus Christ will not be judged for his or her sins in the future because Christ was already judged for our sins when He died on the cross. Such a one has “passed from death into life.”That means death is behind him, not before him. It is past, not present or future.

Again, I will ask you, have you heard Jesus’ promise of eternal life and believed Him for it? If so, you now have unlimited access into God’s presence in heaven. You can boldly approach Him at any time about anything because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16). What is your greatest need right now? You can boldly approach God in prayer to meet that need. If heaven’s door is open to you, take time to enjoy your unlimited access to your heavenly Father. 29

In summary, while judgment is taking place on the earth during the Tribulation period, the occupants of heaven are worshipping and giving thanks to Christ as they anticipate His return when He will reign on earth, judge evildoers, and reward faithful Old Testament and Tribulation believers (11:15-19). As Christians living today during a time of spiritual decline throughout the world, we can worship and give thanks to the Lord Jesus Who will return one day to rule the earth, judge those who have rejected Him and His Word, and reward those who lived faithfully for Him. May He find each of us who know Him as our Savior, faithful to Him.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for this seventh trumpet blast which announces the certainty of Jesus’ return to earth to defeat His enemies and establish His throne. John was so clear and certain of this that he used the past tense to declare this long-awaited truth. May our response also be one of confidence and hope. Please use us to proclaim the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection so more people will have unlimited access into Your presence the moment they believe in Christ. In His matchless name, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 223.

2. Adapted from Ibid., pg. 224.

3. Ibid., pg. 224.

4. The words translated “have become” is a prophetic use of the aorist participle egeneto. See 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 Locations 221057-221060.

5. 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. 1539.

6. Ibid.

7. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Zondervan Academic, 2010 Kindle Edition), pp. 196-197 cites Norman B. Harrison, The End (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Harrison Service, 1941), pg. 75.

8.  Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2395.

9. 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. 137 cites Paul N. Benware, Understanding End Times Prophecy (Chicago: Moody, 1995), pg. 219.

10. Ibid.

11. Pentecost, pg. 198.

12. Ibid., cites J. F. Strombeck, First the Rapture (Moline, Illinois: Strombeck Agency, Inc., 1950), pg. 109.

13. Ibid.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid., pp. 198-199.

16. Ibid., pg. 199.

17. Hitchcock, pg. 168.

18. Ibid, pp. 167-168.

19. Ibid., pg. 168.

20. Ibid., pp. 168-169.

21. Swindoll, pg. 227.

22. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 130.

23. Ibid.

24. Swindoll, pg. 227.

25. Vacendak, pp. 1539-1540.

26. Ibid., pg. 1540.

27. Ibid.

28. Swindoll, pg. 229.

29. Adapted from Ibid., pp. 229-230.

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 7 – Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– The Father is God (e.g., John 6:27)

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Ibid., pg. 1150.

9. Ibid.  

10. Ibid.

11. Hitchcock, pg. 244.

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

13. Vacendak, pg. 1526.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid.

16. Constable, pg. 100.

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

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

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

20. Ibid.

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

22. Ibid.

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