Revelation 19 – Part 5

“Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” Revelation 19:15

For centuries believers have prayed for Christ’s return to earth to set up His kingdom (cf. Matthew 6:10; Revelation 6:10; 22:20) and now the apostle John records the answer to their prayers (Revelation 19:11-21). Last time we saw that King Jesus is “Faithful” and “True” in contrast to the unfaithfulness and deception of the beast who leads the armies of the world to fight against Christ at Armageddon when Jesus returns with His church to the earth (19:11, 19; cf. 13:1-18; 16:12-16). The apostle John continues his description of Jesus Christ before he records His return to earth.

“His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had names written and a name written that no one knew except Himself.” (Revelation 19:12). Reference to Jesus’ “eyes” being “like a flame of fire” emphasizes His penetrating and all-knowing judgment of sin, that takes all things into account (cf. 1:14; 2:18). 1 Jesus has an instinctive “ability to render perfect judgment of every person and every situation (Hebrews 4:13).” 2 His gaze will be able to pierce the darkness of the kingdom of the beast and the very center of the souls of its citizens, exposing their deepest thoughts and motives. 3

Likewise, Christ is fully aware of all our thoughts, words, actions, and motives which is meant to motivate us to live holy lives before Him (cf. Hebrews 4:12-13). Only Jesus is qualified to judge us at the Judgment Seat of Christ. This is why the apostle Paul writes, 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.” (cf. I Corinthians 4:3-5). Sin-scarred Christians cannot accurately judge the lives and ministries of other Christians let alone their motives. 4 This is why Paul told the Corinthians it really didn’t matter if they judged him. In fact, he didn’t even judge himself because “He who judges” Paul “is the Lord.” At the Judgment Seat, Jesus “will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts.” Only the Lord Jesus knows all the facts and can render a perfect and righteous judgment. So, it is time for Christians to stop playing God and start preparing for the Judgment Seat of Christ.

The fact Jesus had “many crowns” on “His head” (19:12) suggests He will not only defeat the beast or Man of Sin at His Second Coming, but all the world’s rulers and will acquire their crowns, as it were, upon Himself, 5 signifying His right to rule over the entire world (cf. I Chronicles 20:1-2; Psalm 47:8). 6 This image of Christ wearing “many crowns” inspired Matthew Bridges to write a majestic hymn that believers still enjoy singing:

“Crown Him with many crowns,

The Lamb upon His throne:

Hark! How the heav’nly anthem drowns

All music but its own!

Awake, my soul, and sing

Of Him who died for thee,

And hail Him as thy matchless King

Thro’ all eternity.” 7

Even though Christ’s glory will be openly manifested at His Second Coming, some aspects of His Personhood will remain beyond human comprehension 8 as implied by the phrase “He had names written and a name written that no one knew except Himself.” 9In John’s vision, he saw crowns having many “names” and one crown having “a name written that no one knew except” Jesus. Vacendak explains that this is like Isaiah 9:6 which describes Jesus the Messiah who will rule on the earth. Christ has multiple aspects to His nature and Person that are knowable: “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). However, not all facets of Christ’s Being are understandable to people; hence, Jesus possesses a name that is known only to Him – a name that reflects qualities beyond human understanding! 10

“Throughout the ancient world a name revealed the nature of an individual, who he is and what he is. The unknown name of the Christ comports with the fact that His nature, His relationships to the Father, and even His relationship to humanity, transcend all human understanding.” 11

“It is possible that there is another thought. Those who practiced magic in the first century believed that to know a name gave power over him whose name it was. John may well be saying that no-one has power over Christ. He is supreme. His name is known only to Himself.” 12

Swindoll writes, “Why would John bother to mention that Jesus had a secret name? Perhaps the secret name indicates a unique relationship with God the Father that nobody else shares.” 13Christ also extends the promise to overcoming (faithful) believers that He will give them a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it”(2:17). This demonstrates the deep personal and inseparable relationship that faithful believers will enjoy with Christ in His coming kingdom. What Christ is by nature (unique, eternal, divine Son of God), faithful believers will reflect in a limited way by grace (adopted, finite, glorified children of God). 14

Next John writes, He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.” (Revelation 19:13). In the context, the reference to Christ being clothed with a robe dipped in blood” foreshadows His bloody judgment of His enemies – the beast and the armies of the world (19:19-21). In this vision, John did not see a meek and mild Savior who would shed His blood for the sins of the world, instead he saw a Warrior-King Who would establish His reign on earth by force. 15 His robe would be soaked in the blood of His enemies (Isaiah 63:3-4). 16

“His name is called The Word of God” because every thought, word, and action of Christ expresses God’s mind, words, and actions 17 even in events such as the bloody destruction of His enemies at Armageddon. 18 Not only does this title “The Word of God” represent the manifestation of God’s revelation, but it also signifies the manifestation of God Himself (cf. John 1:1). The “Word of God” is always “Immanuel… God with us” (Matthew 1:23). 19

Christ did not return to earth alone at the end of the Tribulation period. “And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.” (Revelation 19:14). The clothing (“fine linen”) of these “armies in heaven” connects them with the Lamb’s faithful followers from the church age (19:7-8; cf. 2:10, 17, 25-27; 3:5, 10-11; 17:14). Since Christ’s troops are faithful believers from the church age, the fact that they are following King Jesus “on white horses” which symbolize victory, is an incredible testimony to their victorious lives. 20

Other Scriptures also inform us that God’s angels will accompany Christ to earth as well (cf. Matthew 16:27; 25:31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). But it is not likely that angels will be riding on horses since Revelation 17:14 tells us that those who are with King Jesus when He returns to earth are called, chosen, and faithful,” a reference to resurrected, glorified, and rewarded church age believers 21 (cf. Matthew 20:1-16; 22:1-14).

Only King Jesus will have a weapon with which to defeat His enemies when He returns. “Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” (Revelation 19:15). You may recall in Revelation 6:2 that Jesus sat on “a white horse” carrying “a bow” in contrast to Him using a “sword” herein 19:15.

“The bow is the weapon of long-range warfare, whereas the sword is the weapon used in close combat with the enemy. If the rider of 6:2 represents Christ as the Initiator of all God’s judgments upon His enemies, it is clear that throughout the Tribulation He fights with them, so to speak, at long range. For the judgments of the Tribulation are such as fall from heaven to earth while the King is absent. But in chapter 19, the King comes personally to earth and now the conflict with the forces of evil is waged at close quarters and, with the sword, the last battle is won. And just quite naturally the sword is thought in connection with His Word – for it proceeds out of His mouth – so also may the bow be linked with the same Word. As the prophet Habakkuk has written, 22

“Your bow was made quite ready; oaths were sworn over Your arrows.” (Habakkuk 3:9). Hence, the judgment-bringing Word of God is seen first under the figure of a “bow” foreshadowing Jesus’ conquests over His enemies from long range in heaven (6:2) until the final battle when He returns to earth in Chapter 19 as the last, white-horse Rider fighting and winning at close range with a “sword” (19:11-21). 23

Instead of King Jesus using physical weapons of mass destruction, the “sword” He will use will come “out of His mouth” to “strike the nations” who have gathered with the beast at Armageddon (cf. 16:12-16; 19:19). This “sword” is the powerful and supernatural Word of God (cf. Hebrews 4:12). 24 Just as Jesus spoke and the universe was created (Genesis 1; John 1:2-3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:1-2), so He will speak, and the nations of the world will be demolished (Revelation 19:15; cf. Psalm 2:5; Zechariah 14:12). 25

This stern judgment King Jesus will bring against His enemies will characterize His reign as King over all the earth during the Millennial Kingdom as He “will rule” the nations “with a rod of iron” (cf. Psalm 2:8-9). Under King Jesus’ reign, there will be inflexible righteousness. All who live on planet earth during His one-thousand-year reign will be commanded to live according to the laws and decrees of the King. Believers in Jesus who already have glorified bodies will obey Him perfectly because they will be “like Him” (I John 3:2). 26

So strick will King Jesus’ rule be during the Millennium that those who do not believe in Christ could be in danger of “hell fire” for calling someone a “fool.” During Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He applied the fulfillment of the Law to the Millennial Kingdom when He would rule with a rod of iron. 27 Christ said, “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Matthew 5:22). Christ’s reign during the Millennial Kingdom will be so strict that a person could go on trial (“judgment”) for unjustified anger (“angry… without a cause”) with his brother. Whoever bullies his brother and calls him “Raca,” which means“numskull” or “empty one,” 28 would go on trial before the “council” or Supreme Court. If worse language is used (“You fool”), the offender may be thrown immediately into “hell.” The decision will be up to King Jesus, the Judge, to determine if they go to hell during the Millennial Kingdom.

This severe of punishment is reserved for nonbelievers since a believer in Jesus cannot lose eternal life (John 6:35-40; 10:28-29). Amazingly, there will be many nonbelievers who will rebel toward the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ (Revelation 20:7-10). But for believers in Jesus, both then and now, this picture of kingdom righteousness challenges us to live like kingdom subjects by refraining from inappropriate expressions of anger.  

King Jesus will punish His enemies gathered at Armageddon like the trampling of grapes in a “winepress” which portrays “the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (19:15b). Ruling includes destroying the wicked, not just reigning over the righteous. 29

“The treading of this winepress by Christ will result in the blood of His enemies flowing like a river for two hundred miles at a depth of about four or five feet” (14:19-20). 30

Once King Jesus tramples His enemies under His feet, His reign will be absolute and worldwide and He will bear a name that only He deserves. 31 “And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:16). This title for Jesus identifies Him as the supreme human Ruler over all the earth (“KING OF KINGS”) and also as God Almighty (“LORD OF LORDS”)! Jesus Christ is King over all who call themselves “king,” and Lord above all who call themselves “lord.” 32

Because Jesus is “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS,” “conquering every enemy on earth will be a matter of relative ease. It will be a matter of speaking.

“This is nothing new, though. From Genesis to Revelation, Jesus is pictured as possessing an authoritative Word. John 1:1 says of Jesus, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ At creation Jesus spoke the words, ‘Let there be light’ (Genesis 1:3), and by His Word light came about. It was by that same authoritative Word that Jesus caused the devil to flee in the wilderness (see Matthew 4:1-11) and sent a legion of demons out of a demon-possessed man and into a herd of pigs (see Mark 5:1-13). In each of these instances, the way He brought out powerful results was by speaking His Word. And it shall be at the end of time.

“Likewise, for followers of Jesus, we must not simply know God’s Word or study it, but also verbally quote it. So, when was the last time you actually quoted God to another person or even to the devil in order to handle a specific situation? If you have truly received authority from God – which all believers have – and you quote the Word accurately to people or forces of Satan, it carries intrinsic authority to accomplish God’s purposes. In some cases, it draws a person to salvation. In others, it causes a hardened sinner to be without excuse for his or her conduct. In no situation, however, will a child of God verbally quote and obey the Word of God and have that Word return empty (see Isaiah 55:11).” 33

Prayer: Heavenly Father, as we watch the world increase in chaos and conflict as evil continues to increase, we are deeply grateful for this vision John receives of King Jesus before He returns to earth to defeat His enemies at close range using His sword – the powerful Word of God – to establish His universal reign on the earth as King of kings and Lord of lords! Thank You Lord God Almighty for entrusting the Word of God to those of us who believe in Jesus to share with a lost world so that same Word may persuade them to cross over from eternal death into eternal life simply by believing in Jesus for His gift of salvation. Lord of lords and King of kings, we not only look to You to conquer evil and sin in the future Tribulation period, but we also trust You to lead us into victory over evil and sin in our own lives. Help us not only to know and study Your Word, but to speak it to others including Satan and his followers, so Your purposes will be accomplished for Your glory. May we never underestimate what Your spoken Word can do in any situation we may face. Please bring Your Word to our hearts and minds especially in times of spiritual battle so we may speak it to our enemies whether they be physical or spiritual. In Your mighty name we pray, King Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 210.

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. 1574.

3. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 342.

4. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 1980.

5. Constable, pg. 210.

6. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), location 6275 to 6280.

7. Swindoll, pg. 343 quotes Matthew Bridges, “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” in The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration (Dallas: Word Music, 1986), no. 234.

8. Evans, pg. 2415.

9. The majority of Greek manuscripts add the phrase “names written, and” (onomata gegrammena kai).

10. Vacendak, pp. 1574-1575.

11. Constable, pg. 210 quotes 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), pp. 279-280; cf. Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John, 2nd ed. (London: Macmillan and Co., Let., 1907), pg. 252; William Barclay, The Revelation of John, Vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible series, 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 232.

12. Constable, pg. 211 quotes Leon Morris, The Revelation of St. John, Tyndale New Testament Commentary series, Reprint ed. (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), pg. 230.

13. Swindoll, pg. 343.

14. Adapted from Ibid. Swindoll thinks Revelation 2:17 applies to all believers, but I believe this promise is limited to overcoming believers who are faithful to Christ to the end of their lives on earth (cf. 2:10b, 25-27).

15. Evans, pg. 2415.

16. Swindoll, pp. 343-344; Constable, pg. 211.

17. Constable, pg. 211.

18. Vacendak, pg. 1575.

19. Swindoll, pg. 344.

20. Vacendak, pg. 1575.

21. Swindoll, pg. 344; cf. Constable, pg. 211.

22. Zane C. Hodges, “The First Horseman of the Apocalypse,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 119:476 (October 1962), pg. 333.

23. Ibid., pp. 333-334.

24. Vacendak, pg. 1575.

25. Ibid.

26. Ibid.

27. Zane C. Hodges, Grace In Eclipse: A Study On Eternal Rewards (Grace Evangelical Society, 2016 Kindle Edition), pp. 36-38.  

28. 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. 903.

29. Constable, pg. 212.

30. Vacendak, pg. 1575.

31. Ibid., pg. 1576.

32. Swindoll, pg. 345.

33. Evans, pp. 2415-2416.

Revelation 19 – Part 3

“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” Revelation 19:7

Following the first three outbursts of praise toward God in heaven for the destruction of Rome (19:1-4; cf. 18:1-24), the apostle John recorded a fourth outburst of praise for the coming rule of God on the earth (19:5-6) and the marriage supper of the Lamb (19:7-10). Last time we looked at the first part of this praise involving the coming reign of God on the earth. Today we will focus on the marriage supper of the Lamb.

“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” (Revelation 19:7). The fourth song of praise continues with the command to “be glad and rejoice and give” God “glory for the marriage of the Lamb has come” when Christ will escort His bride, the church (Revelation 3:14, 20; 21:2, 9; 22:17; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-32), to earth for their marriage celebration which will last one thousand years on the earth during the Millennial Kingdom (19:7a; 20:1-6; cf. Isaiah 25:6-9; 35:1-10; 55:12). 1

The reference to the Lamb’s “wife” is the third metaphor in Revelation that describes women: the “woman” in Revelation 12 is Israel (12:1-6), the “harlot” in Revelation 17-18 is “Babylon,” the code name for the city of Rome (cf. I Peter 5:13), and now the “wife” or “bride” of the Lamb in Revelation 19 is the church. 2

The nation of Israel cannot be Christ’s bride because this bride comes to earth with Christ when He returns to the earth, and because Old Testament believers will not experience resurrection until after Christ returns to the earth (cf. Daniel 12:1-2). 3

We can understand the general time and place of the marriage supper of the Lamb by comparing it with marriage customs in the ancient Near East. In the Galilean culture of Jesus’ day, the first stage of wedding customs involved the groom going to the bride’s house to present a wedding contract to the bride. When he proposed marriage, he would offer her a cup of wine. If she drank it, she was accepting the betrothal.

This betrothal stage takes place during the Church Age, when the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, came to the world to offer His gift of salvation to all who believe in Him. The Church Age began at Pentecost when God the Holy Spirit indwelt those who believed in Christ and placed them in His body the church (Acts 2:1-11; I Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:26-27).

The second stage of marriage customs in Jesus’ day involved the groom informing his bride that he was to go to his father’s house to prepare a place for her. Likewise, this is what Jesus told His disciples He would do when He said, 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2). Since ascending to heaven after His death and resurrection nearly two thousand years ago (Acts 1:9-11), Jesus has been preparing our eternal mansions in His Father’s house in heaven.

In Jesus’ day, when the the bride accepted the groom’s wedding proposal, she would typically respond, “When are you coming back?” The prospective groom would reply by saying, “Only my father knows!” The groom then returns to his father’s house to prepare for his marriage by adding a room to his father’s house where he and his bride will live. In Galilean culture, his father determines the exact time when his son returns to his bride’s house to bring her back to his own. When the groom returns for his bride to take her to his father’s house, the wedding takes place. 4

Similarly, when Jesus said, “3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3). When God the Father determines that it is time for Jesus to return for His bride, Christ will come for His church in the air (I Thessalonians 4:16-17). This is why Jesus said only His heavenly Father knows “that day and hour” of His return for His bride, the Church, at the time of the Rapture (Matthew 24:37; Mark 13:32). Just as the bride did not know when her groom would return, so Christians do not know when the Rapture will take place. 5

It is at this stage when the marriage of the church to Jesus takes place. At this time in heaven Christ will present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27). No longer will the church be tainted with conflict, division, or false teaching. 6

The third event of Galilean wedding customs in Jesus’ day involved the groom providing a feast or banquet for his bride and friends, at his home, to celebrate their wedding. Typically, this lasted several days. 7

The spiritual wedding celebration of Jesus and the church will last one thousand years on the earth after the Tribulation period. 8 This will be an incredible period of tremendous blessings and fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel (Psalm 2:6-9; 72:10-11; Isaiah 2:3-4; 11:6-9; 25:6-9; 35:1-10; 55:12; 65:20-22; Ezekiel 40-46; Zechariah 14:3-9; Matthew 19:27-28; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27; et al.).

We also see in this fourth song of praise in heaven that the Lamb’s “wife has made herself ready” (19:7c). Christ’s “wife” or bride, the church, “has made herself ready” for her Bridegroom and their marriage supper by being obedient to Christ “until the end” (cf. Revelation 2:26).

“And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” (Revelation 19:8). “It was granted” to the Lamb’s wife, the church, “to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” The “fine linen” the bride will wear (the glory and splendor she will exhibit) “is the righteous acts of the saints.” This fine linen cannot represent salvation because it represents “the righteous acts of the saints.” Salvation from hell is “by grace through faith… not of works” (Ephesians 2:8-9; cf. Romans 4:5). Notice also this is the attire of “the saints” – people who have already believed in Jesus for eternal life (cf. I Corinthians 1:2; Ephesians 1:1). 9 So, their righteous acts follow their conversion.

Keep in mind that the Lord Jesus Himself will be clothed in dazzling white garments that will outshine all others. His glory will be supreme. 

“When at the Mount of Transfiguration, He appeared in His glory, ‘His clothes became as white as the light’ (Matthew 17:2). Special clothing is not insignificant, because it honors a person. The more glorious the garments, the more honor to the wearer.

“Like the sun, the Lord’s garments will have maximum radiance. The garments of great servants like Moses, Elijah, Daniel, Deborah, Esther, and Mary will surely glow brightly. But theirs will be reflected glory, like the glory of the moon that reflects the glory of the sun.

“Would you not want to be identified as closely as possible with the Lord Jesus and glorify Him, even in your clothing? The quality of your eternal garments will be determined by what you do in this life. Once this life is over, it will be too late to influence your worthiness to walk with Christ in white.” 10

Since the clothing of the bride is the “righteous acts of the saints,” this suggests that not all believers will have the same degree of glory or splendor exhibited in their garments because not all believers have the same quality or number of righteous acts. There will be varying degrees of rewards and responsibilities in Christ’s kingdom because there will be varying degrees of preparation made by believers during this life on earth.

“Then he said to me, ‘Write: “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!”’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true sayings of God.’” (Revelation 19:9). The same angel who had guided the apostle John in writing about Babylon (17:1, 15) instructed him to “write” some encouraging words to his readers: “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!”  The word “called” (keklēmenoi) means to “invite.” 11 This Greek word and its derivatives are used often in the New Testament as an invitation to participate in the rewards and glory of the kingdom of Christ (cf. Matthew 20:16; 22:1-14; Luke 19:11-27; I Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15; I Peter 5:10; et al.).

What a blessing it is to be invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb! Every person must prepare and make oneself ready. However, not all believers in Jesus will be able to participate in this great privilege. While every person who believes in Jesus for eternal life will be able to enter Christ’s kingdom (John 3:5-16; cf. Matthew 18:3; Mark 10:15; Luke 18:17), only those who remain faithful to the end of their lives will be allowed to participate in the marriage celebration of the Lamb. 12 Jesus said, “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14; cf. Matthew 8:11-12). Many are “called” or invited to this marriage celebration, but only those who have prepared will be “chosen” to participate. 13 “Few” will be “chosen” to join Jesus in this celebration because they will have failed to remain faithful to Christ “until the end” (cf. Revelation 2:26). 14 They will lack the “righteous acts” needed to be part of the marriage banquet (Revelation 19:8). 15

“The marriage feast of the Lamb destroys the common caricature of heaven as a place where each believer simply sits on a cloud playing a harp. During this thousand-year party, believers’ rewards and responsibilities will be determined by their levels of faithfulness to Christ on earth. Jesus will ensure the complete absence of disorder and discord.” 16

The importance of the invitation to the marriage supper of the Lamb is underscored when the angel said to John, “These are the true sayings of God” (19:9b). John is so overwhelmed by the four great outbursts of praise and the invitation to the marriage supper of the Lamb (19:1-9), that he falls at the angel’s feet. “And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’” (Revelation 19:10). Being so impressed with this new vision, John falls at the angel’s “feet to worship him.” Immediately the angel corrects John: “See that you do not do that!” The worship of angels is forbidden in God’s Word (cf. Exodus 34:14; Matthew 4:10; Colossians 2:18). No matter how glorious an angel is or exalted a saint is – for that matter – they are never to be worshiped.

The angel reminds John, “I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God!” Angels, like humans, can only bear witness to “the testimony of Jesus.” 17 They are messengers, not God. God alone is to be worshiped. Only the true God in three Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – deserves our adoration and worship. 18

The angel points John (and us) back to the focal point of the book of Revelation when he says, “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” All prophecy has always pointed ultimately to “Jesus.” The first ten verses of Revelation 19 are a very appropriate introduction to what is about to be revealed, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This is the subject of the entire book of Revelation (1:1). 19

As I finish up this article, my stomach reminds me that it is time for supper. Revelation 19:7-10 also reminds us of the marriage supper of the Lamb to be served in the future. All people have been invited (“called”) to this celebration. But to be “chosen” to participate in this fantastic thousand-year party, we must meet two conditions:

First, we must be able to enter Christ’s kingdom by believing in Jesus alone for His gift of eternal life. Why? Because all people have sinned against God (Romans 3:23) and deserve to die forever in the lake of fire (Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:15). But God does not want any of us to die forever in the lake of fire, so He sent His only perfect Son, Jesus Christ to die in our place for all our sins and rise from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6). Jesus is alive today in heaven, and He wants you to be able to enter His future kingdom on earth by believing in Him.

Jesus said, 5 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:5-6). To enter God’s kingdom, we must have two birthdays: our physical birth (“born of water… flesh”) and our spiritual birth (“born of … the Spirit”). To be born of the Spirit we must realize that Jesus Christ was “lifted up” on the cross to die in our place so “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:14b-15). The moment we believe in Christ, He guarantees our entrance into His kingdom on earth at the end of the Tribulation period.

Second, to attend the marriage supper of the Lamb, we must live faithfully for Jesus after believing in Him for eternal life.While all believers are called or invited to prepare for the wedding supper with Jesus to share in rewards and the glory of Christ’s kingdom, only those believers who prepared by being obedient to Jesus until the end of life on earth will be able to participate (Revelation 2:25-27; 3:5; 19:7-9; cf. Matthew 8:11-12; 22:1-14). All believers will enter and live with Christ in His eternal Kingdom through faith in Him alone (Matthew 18:3; John 3:5; 16), but only faithful believers will be able to enjoy ruling with Him there (Luke 19:11-27; Romans 8:17; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21).

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for loving us enough to share this invitation to the marriage supper of the Lamb. What a fabulous thousand-year celebration this will be on the earth. Empower those of us who who believe in Jesus to remain faithful to You until the end of our lives so we may receive Your eternal rewards of ruling with You in Your coming kingdom on earth. Please use us to spread Your message of eternal life to those who are perishing without You. In Your matchless name, we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1572; Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 207 cites J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. 5 (Pasadena, CA: Thru The Bible Radio; and Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983), pg. 1048; Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2414.

2. Constable, pg. 205.

3. Ibid., pg. 206.

4. Evans, pg. 2414.

5. Constable, pg. 206.

6. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 331.

7. Constable, pg. 206; 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 6232-6237.

8. Vacendak, pg. 1572; Evans, pg. 2414.

9. Vacendak, pp. 1572-1573.

10. Robert N. Wilkin, The Road to Reward: A Biblical Theology of Eternal Rewards Second Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 46.

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. 503.

12. Vacendak, pg. 1573.

13. Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 796.

14. Vacendak, pg. 1573.

15. Dillow, pg. 796.

16. Evans, pg. 2414.

17. Constable, pg. 208.

18. Swindoll, pg. 331.

19. Walvoord, location 6252.

Revelation 15 – Part 2

“They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: ‘Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the nations!’” Revelation 15:3

Last time in our study of Revelation 15, the apostle John saw believers who were martyred during the last half of the Tribulation (cf. 6:9-10; 8:3-5; 14:18) standing victoriously on a sea of glass with harps of God in their hands ready to praise the Lord (15:1-2)! The crystal-like “sea of glass” before the throne pictures the purity of God and the complete calmness of His throne room in heaven before His judgments resumed on earth. While the “nations rage” (Psalm 2:1) on earth against the rule of God like a “troubled sea” (Isaiah 57:20), all is calm before God’s throne in heaven. In the next verses we see what these martyred believers do in heaven and why.

“They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: ‘Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the nations!’” (Revelation 15:3). These victorious believers are singing two songs. The first is “the song of Moses, the servant of God” which exaltsGod’s “works” in judging His (and their) enemies who hate Him and His people (15:3a).

“Just as Moses sang in triumph after Israel’s Egyptian enemies had been swallowed up by the Red Sea (see Exodus 15:1-18), followers of Christ from the Tribulation will sing at the prospect of Satan, the Antichrist, and the false prophet being overwhelmed with judgment. This song will be even more glorious than that of Moses, though, because the judgment will be carried out by the Lamb of God. Jesus was active in Moses’s day, following Israel through the wilderness (see I Corinthians 10:1-4). But He was not yet openly identified as the incarnate Messiah and Redeemer, as He is here.” 1

The second song is “the song of the Lamb” which seems to be a new song not recorded elsewhere in the Bible. The words to this song are what follows: “Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the nations!” (15:3b). The Lamb is “great and marvelous” in His “works” when He will judge His enemies at the end of the Tribulation period (Revelation 14:17-20; 19:11-21). Notice that the Lamb is called “Lord God Almighty.” Jesus is not merely a human prophet or good moral teacher. He is “Lord God Almighty.” He is also perfectly “just and true” in judging those who hate Him because He patiently gave them ample light (John 1:9) and witness of Himself 2 both indirectly through the things He has made (cf. Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-23) and directly through the Bible (Psalm 19:7-14).

“Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested.” (Revelation 15:4). Although not all people will believe in Jesus during their time on earth, one day all people will “fear” and “glorify” His “name” (cf. Philippians 2:9-11), concluding that He “alone” is “holy” (15:4a). It is possible this occurs during or after the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). 3

After the Battle of Armageddon (14:17-20; 16:12-16; 19:15-21) when Christ will reign for a thousand years on the earth (Revelation 20:1-6), “nations shall come and worship before” King Jesus in Jerusalem (Psalm 2:6-9; 24:1-10; 66:1-4; 72:8-11; 86:9; Isaiah 2:2-4; 9:6-7; 66:18-23; Jeremiah 10:7; Daniel 7:13-14; Zephaniah 2:11; Zechariah 14:9, 16-21) because He dealt authoritatively with the worldwide rebellion of humanity through His “judgments” (15:4b). 4

Revelation 15:3-4 underlines a profound truth about worship. It does not matter if the songs are old (“song of Moses”) or new (“song of the Lamb”), the purpose of worship is to “glorify” God for His awesome Person (“Lord God Almighty”) and His “great and marvelous… works.” 5

The relationship between these two songs in Revelation 15:3-4 is vividly summarized by one commentator: “The song of Moses was sung at the Red Sea, the song of the Lamb is sung at the crystal sea; the song of Moses was a song of triumph over Egypt, the song of the Lamb is a song of triumph over Babylon; the song of Moses told how God brought His people out, the song of the Lamb tells how God brings His people in; the song of Moses was the first song in Scripture, the song of the Lamb is the last. The song of Moses commemorated the execution of a foe, the expectation of the saints, and the exaltation of the Lord; the song of the Lamb deals with the same three themes.” 6

I find it intriguing that these martyred believers from the Tribulation period who are now in heaven, enter into worship prior to the most devastating judgments of God on the earth. To those who were on the earth at the time these believers were martyred, to them it would have seemed that these believers lost to the Beast. But in heaven, these martyrs are celebrating a victory.

This reminds us that things are not always what they appear in God’s plan of redemption. What seems like a defeat is really a victory. God works in different ways than people do. Things are not always what they appear to be. The Beast thought he had permanently defeated his enemies, but they were celebrating the Beast’s upcoming defeat in heaven.

These martyred believers in heaven were also about to witness the entire history of the world coming to a climax in the upcoming bowl judgments about to take place on the earth. They are about to see the glory of God displayed like never before. The plans they once had on the earth no longer mattered in heaven. Their self-importance melts into God-centered worship. And this worship flows from the Person and work of God. This tells us that the more we know the Lord and His ways, the more profound our love for Him will be. We cannot fully worship the Lord until we know Him more fully.

In conclusion, because God is just and right in all that He does, including His most severe and devastating judgments, He deserves all our praise and admiration whether we understand His ways or not (15:3-4; cf. Isaiah 55:8-9). God’s ways are not our ways. None of us will question His judgments when we see them from heaven’s perspective.

Prayer: Lord God Almighty, teach us to worship You for who You are and what You do. Too often our worship of You fades into a preoccupation with our own needs and concerns. Help us to be still in Your presence, not asking for anything, just focusing on Your majesty and awe-inspiring works. You are just and right in all that You do even though we may not understand Your ways. Therefore, we can always trust You with everything. Thank You for reminding us that things are not always what they appear. People on earth may see martyrdom as a defeat, but in heaven it is celebrated as a victory. The world sees Christ’s death as a humiliating loss, but those of us who believe in Christ see it as an everlasting triumph over sin, death, and the devil. Thank You Lord God Almighty for leading us into Your triumph. In Your most powerful name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2405.  

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. 1556.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 284.

6. Ibid., pg. 284 cites John Phillips, Exploring Revelation, rev. id. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1987), pg. 187.

Revelation 15 – Part 1

“And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image, and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God.” Revelation 15:2

After receiving revelation about Satan’s forces of evil (Revelation 13) and what happens to those who do not receive the mark of the Beast (Revelation 14:1-5) and to those who do (Revelation 14:6-20), the apostle John records what he sees next before God’s throne in heaven to heighten our anticipation of the coming bowl judgments near the end of the Tribulation period (Revelation 15:1-16:1).

“Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete.” (Revelation 15:1). The words “I saw” (kai eidon)introduce a new scene in heaven. 1 John “saw another sign in heaven” that was “great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues or bowl judgments which will bring about the completion of God’s “wrath” at the end of the Tribulation period.The previous signs were “the woman” and “the dragon” (Revelation 12:1, 3). This sign is “great and marvelous” because it signifies the climax of the outpouring of God’s wrath on nature, humankind, the dragon, and the two beasts. 2

The sign itself involved “seven angels” who are the agents of God’s bowl judgments on the earth. 3 The word “plagues” (plēgas) refers to a “sudden calamity that causes severe distress.” 4 Literally, it means a “sudden blow” or “wound caused by a sudden blow.” 5 These bowl judgments are not some long, drawn out pandemic like COVID or HIV. Instead, these plagues come with sudden impact that are quick, destructive, severe, and brutal. 6 Humanity will be nearly exterminated, and people will become more rare than fine gold during these bowl judgments (Isaiah 13:12). 7

When John says, “in them the wrath of God is complete,” he is saying the execution of God’s judgments on the earth will be “complete” or finished. That is, there will be no more judgment to be poured out on earth during the Tribulation. 8 These severe bowl judgments will avenge the slaughter that the Beast and False Prophet inflicted upon believers during the last half of the Tribulation period. 9 God’s final judgment of the wicked will not take place until the end of Millennial Kingdom a thousand years later when all nonbelievers will stand before the Great White Throne to be “judged according to their works” to determine their degree of punishment in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15).

Amid God’s severe judgments on the earth, we are also given a picture of His amazing grace and victory. “And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image, and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God.” (Revelation 15:2). Like Revelation 4:6 where “a sea of glass” is surrounding the throne of God in heaven, John sees “something like a sea of glass mingled with fire” (15:2a). Like in 4:6, “the sea of glass” here depicts the holiness of the verdicts coming forth from God’s throne. But now the crystal sea is “mingled with fire,” signifying God’s passionate wrath that is about to be expressed through the horrific bowl judgments. 10

John sees “those who have the victory over the beast, over his image, and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God” (15:2b). Who are these persons standing on the sea of glass? These are the believers who were martyred during the last half of the Tribulation period (cf. 6:9-10; 8:3-5; 14:18). They are depicted here as victorious over three intense pressures designed to lead them to reject Jesus Christ: 11

“over the beast” which signifies the first beast’s political pressure expressed through his charismatic military expertise that persuaded people to give their allegiance to him.

“over his image” which depicts the second beast’s religious pressure exhibited through his deceptive display of supernatural power through the statue (“image”) of the first beast.

“over the number of his name” which portrays the economic pressure when the first beast’s number was required to buy or sell during the last half of the Tribulation period.

Believers in Jesus may experience similar pressures today. Satan, “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; Ephesians 2:2), can use political pressure to discourage Christians from following Jesus. Many believers are being oppressed by human governments today. 12.

Are we willing to take a stand for Jesus Christ, even though it may cost us? When an apartment manager says you cannot share the gospel with his or her tenants, are we going to obey that manager or will we obey Jesus Christ who said, “Go and preach the good news to everyone in the world.” (Mark 16:15 CEV; cf. Acts 4:18-20; 5:29). Does “everyone in the world” include those apartment tenants? Absolutely! When a country’s human government forbids its citizens from preaching Christ, will we obey that government or the God who has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18)!?!

I might add, if we disobey human government, whether it be local, state, or federal, we must also respectfully submit to the consequences as did the early church (Acts 4:3-31; 5:17-32, 40-42; 7:1-60; 9:20-25; 11:19; 12:1-4; et al.; cf. Matthew 26:52; Romans 13:1-7; I Peter 2:16-25; 3:13-4:19), which in some cases could be a verbal reprimand, eviction from an apartment building, jail, the loss of a job, torture, or even physical death.

As Christians, we may also experience religious pressure to reject Christ. Some of the most severe persecution today comes from religious authorities. For example, a former Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, or Roman Catholic may be excommunicated from their place of worship or rejected by their own biological family for having come to faith in Christ. Some of this opposition can result in torture or physical death.  

It is possible to experience opposition even within evangelical Christianity. I can remember being shunned by various Christians and churches for holding fast to the simple gospel of grace which embraces faith alone in Christ alone for salvation from hell. Those who embraced a “faith plus” gospel wanted nothing to do with me because of my commitment to the freeness of salvation. It hurt, but I was also consoled by God’s promises to reward those who remain faithful to Him until the end of their Christian lives (Revelation 2:10, 25-26).  

Like believers in the last half of the Tribulation, believers today can also experience economic pressure to reject Christ. Perhaps your employer fires a coworker for their faith in Christ. This puts pressure on you to conceal your Christian faith to avoid the same fate. Or let’s say you go to the marketplace in your village, but the vendors are non-Christians, and they refuse to sell their goods to you because of your faith in Christ. You see them selling their goods to those of like faith, and over time you begin to wonder if it might be better to yield to your hunger pangs and forsake your faith so you can purchase some food.

There are many stories like this in the world today of Christians who are having to face political, religious, and economic pressures because of their commitment to follow Jesus. 13 What is it that we live in daily reliance on? Is it a politician, a religious leader or organization, or job? Or is it God? Do we trust the Lord for all our needs, including the roof over our heads to the timely words we speak in every conversation?

The victorious believers that John sees standing on the sea of glass are described as “having harps of God” (15:2c). With their “harps” they would offer praise to God because He has chosen to manifest and complete His coming judgments at the end of the Tribulation period (cf. Revelation 15:3-4). Are we offering God our praise in everything we do? Are we taking time to thank Him for what we do have?

What a sight it must have been for the apostle John to see these martyred believers from the future Tribulation period standing victoriously on the sea of glass with harps in their hands ready to praise God! Instead of choosing to save their lives by yielding to the Beast and his wicked regime, they chose to remain faithful to Christ, which probably seemed foolish amid unequalled persecution. But to quote missionary and martyr Jim Elliott: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” 14May God raise up more believers in this Church Age who are willing to live for Christ no matter what the cost!

Prayer: O precious Lord Jesus, I realize that I often depend on other people or things more than I depend on You. Forgive me my Lord and my God! Please guide me in living for You no matter what the cost. Thank You for reminding me that only what is done for You will last. In Your mighty name Lord Jesus, I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 165.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 825.

5. Ibid.

6. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 286.

7. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1555.  

8. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2404.

9. Swindoll, pg. 282.

10. Vacendak, pg. 1555.

11. Adapted from Swindoll, pp. 282-283.

12. A February 2, 2022, email from American Center for Law and Justice’s Chief Counsel, Jay Sekulow, states, “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.”

13. Todd Nettleton with The Voice of the Martyrs, When Faith Is Forbidden: 40 Days On The Frontlines With Persecuted Christians (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2021). 14. Swindoll, pg. 283 quotes Elisabeth Elliot, Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot (New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1958), pg. 247.

Revelation 14 – Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

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

2. Ibid.

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

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

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

6. Vacendak, pg. 1549.

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

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

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

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

11. Vacendak, pp. 1549-1550.

12. Ibid., pg. 1550.

13. Ibid.

14. Constable, pp. 156-157.

15. Vacendak, pg. 1550.

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid.

18. Swindoll, pg. 267.

19. Ibid., pg. 268.

Revelation 12 – Part 4

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” Revelation 12:11

After Satan and his fallen angels are “cast” down to earth at the midpoint of the Tribulation period (12:9), the apostle John writes: “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.’” (Revelation 12:10). John hears “a loud voice… in heaven” praise God because the casting down of Satan and his fallen angels to earth signals that Jesus’ coming “kingdom” on earth is near and so certain that it is communicated as if it has already happened. 1 As in Revelation 11:15, this praise anticipates Christ’s coming as if it has already taken place. 2

The coming of Jesus’ kingdom to earth will result in the “salvation” of Israel. In the first half of the Tribulation the 144,000 converts are the “firstfruits” (cf. 14:4) of Christ’s saving work among the Jews, but at Jesus’ return “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26). So in addition to the 144,000 Jews being saved during the first half of the Tribulation, many more Jews will be saved when Christ returns to earth at the end of the Tribulation. Nationally as well as individually, their sins will be forgiven through faith in Christ (cf. Isaiah 59:20-21; Acts 10:43; Romans 11:25-27). The kingdom will be ruled based on the “power of… Christ” and His commands (12:10a). 3

Before Satan is “cast down” to earth at the midpoint of the Tribulation, he is described as “the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night.” “This indicates, first, that God has allowed Satan access to His divine presence. Second, it indicates Satan uses that access to level accusations against God’s people. He does that because he knows the Lord’s righteous character and that human sin breaks their fellowship with God. If Satan cannot prevent a person from being saved, he at least wants to steal the joy that comes from walking in fellowship with God.” 4

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, what sins can Satan accuse you of today? The Devil cannot successfully accuse you of wrongdoing before God because Christ has already paid the penalty of your sin in full when He died in your place on the cross. The Bible says, 1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus… 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” (Romans 8:1, 33-34).  

All of our sins—past, present, and future—have been paid in full by the blood of Christ! No accusation from Satan can stick to us or soil our reputation, because God’s grace and mercy have washed us clean from our transgressions.” 5

When Satan and his fallen angels are cast down to earth, his relentless accusations of believers before God will have ceased, but those who are on the earth will be subject to Satan’s attacks even though he can no longer accuse them in heaven. 6

During the last half of the Tribulation, Satan, “the accuser” of believers, will attack God’s people on earth ferociously. But John informs us, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” (Revelation 12:11). Believers on the earth during the last half of the Tribulation will overcome Satan “by the blood of the Lamb” which cleanses them from all their sins and protects them from the accusations of Satan “and by the word of their testimony” which involves speaking the truth of God to defeat Satan’s lies, even if it means losing their own “lives” (12:11).

Satan lost access to God’s throne in heaven, but God’s people on earth had not (cf. Romans 5:1-2; Hebrews 4:16). These believers had victory over Satan because they would not bow to the image of the Beast (cf. Revelation 13:15) but openly shared “the word of their testimony” even if it meant persecution or death. These followers of Jesus “did not love their lives to the death.” Instead, they loved serving and magnifying Christ more than their own lives. 7

Every believer is saved from eternal condemnation by Christ’s blood no matter what age they live in (Revelation 12:11; cf. Acts 10:43; Ephesians 1:7; Genesis 3:15; 15:6; John 3:14-18; Romans 4:1-25; Revelation 1:5; 5:9; 7:14). Believers in Jesus who defeat Satan’s schemes in life and receive Christ’s eternal rewards do so by a godly public testimony. Secret agent believers, those who are saved but operate undercover, so to speak, will receive minimal (Matthew 6:19-21) or no eternal rewards from Christ (cf. Matthew 10:33; 25:18, 24-30; John 12:42-43; I Corinthians 3:15). Triumphant, conquering believers do not love their lives more than they love God, 8 and the Lord will reward them eternally for their sacrificial service (cf. Matthew 10:32-42; 19:28-30; 25:16-17, 20-23; I Corinthians 3:8-14; Revelation 2:10-11, 17, 25-28; 3:5, 11-12, 21; 22:12).

In view of Satan being cast down to earth and believers overcoming him, the voice that began speaking in verse 10 continues by saying, “Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.” (Revelation 12:12). The inhabitants of heaven are called to “rejoice” or celebrate, but the “inhabitants of the earth and the sea” must beware because “the devil has come down” to them with “great wrath,” knowing he has “a short time” (three and a half years) before Jesus returns to earth to defeat him and bind him in the bottomless pit for a thousand years (cf. Revelation 20:1-3).

As we conclude today’s message, let’s remember that there are two ways we can overcome the schemes of Satan:

LOOK TO JESUS AND HIS DEATH IN FAITH FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF ALL YOUR SINS. We can overcome Satan’s hateful accusations through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ – “they overcame him by the blood of the lamb” (12:11a). Have you placed your faith in Christ Jesus alone for His complete forgiveness? Christ was born into this world despite all the opposition of hell some two thousand years ago (Revelation 12:4-5). What Jesus did for you and me was not easy.He went to war for us and paid for all our sins when He died on the cross (John 19:30; Colossians 2:13-14). He now offers you the greatest gift ever given, and He invites you to take it by placing your trust in Him and His death on the cross

The Bible tells us, “All the prophets say it is true that all who believe in Jesus will be forgiven of their sins through Jesus’ name.” (Acts 10:43 NCV). Does the word “all” include you and me? Absolutely! It includes the best and the worst of people, and everyone in between. It is up to you whether you will receive His gift or not. Will you believe or trust in Jesus alone to forgive all your sins – including past, present, and future sins? If you do, you can be free of the accusations Satan brings against you.

Perhaps you have already believed in Christ for your salvation, but you may be struggling to feel that He has truly forgiven you. Maybe you have trusted Him as your Savior, but you are still living under condemnation, and it is time to let go of the guilt and shame. The devil is defeated every time you refuse to listen to his lying accusations. He may whisper, “What you did was too bad, too wicked for God to forgive!” Or“You can’t change! You’ll never be any different!“ Instead of paying attention to Satan’s lies, you reach out and believe that Jesus really did die to bring you and me a new life! When Christ died for your sins, how many of them were future?ALL OF THEM. Ignore Satan’s lies and receive the hope and transformation that only God’s forgiveness brings! 

The second way to overcome the devil’s schemes is: LET JESUS RULE YOUR LIFE NO MATTER WHAT THE COST – “they overcame him… by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” In other words, they overcame him by speaking the truth and living the truth even if it cost them their lives. We give the devil a black eye when we seek to live a life of integrity. When the person at church is the same person at work or in the home, Satan is defeated. Don’t let anything or anyone intimidate you from living for God, even the threat of death!

If we have believed in Jesus for His gift of forgiveness and eternal life, there is no need to be afraid of death. Christ has overcome death through His victorious death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven. His resurrection and ascension to heaven guarantees our own in the future.

The Bible tells us, 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.” (Hebrews 2:14-15). Through His death, Jesus conquered death to free people from the fear of death.

Evans writes, 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 (2:14). The gun he’s been intimidating you with has no bullets. Jesus Christ emptied its chamber into Himself. Thus, all Satan can do is deceive you into thinking the gun still has ammunition. But the fear of death should no longer make you a slave (see 1 Cor 15:51-57).” 9

Prayer: Father God, thank You so much for the incredible victory Jesus has already won through His shed blood on the cross for the sins of the world! Thank You that the penalty of sin, Satan, death, and hell are overcome through believing in the forever cleansing blood of the Lamb, Who died and rose again on our behalf so we should never die eternally, but be raised from the dead to live forever with our King. Please enable us to live each day for Jesus without fear, knowing He has already conquered our greatest fear which is death. Use us, Lord, to testify with our lives and lips to what Jesus has already done so multitudes may receive His forgiveness by believing in Him and live a life that is free from fear. In the life-giving name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. The word translated “have come” (egeneto) is the aorist tense, signifying a past event.

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. 1543.

3. Ibid.

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

5. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 241.

6. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 137.  

7. Vacendak, pg. 1543.

8. Adapted from Evans, pg. 2398. 9. Ibid., pp. 2243-2244.

Revelation 12 – Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

1. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1542.

2. Ibid.   

3. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pp. 378, 490 491.

4. Vacendak, pg. 1542.

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

6. Ibid.

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

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

9. Constable, pg. 136.

10. Evans, pg. 2397.

11. Hitchcock, pp. 413-414.

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

13. Contstable, pg. 136.

14. Ibid., see also Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 226.

15. Ibid., cites Leon Morris, The Revelation of St. John, Tyndale New Testament Commentary series, Reprint ed. (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), pg. 161; cf. William Barclay, The Revelation of John Vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible series, 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 102.

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

17. Evans, 2397.

18. Bauer, pp. 630-631.

19. Evans, pg. 1779.

Revelation 9 – Part 1

3 Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power… 5 And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man.” Revelation 9:3, 5

The Devil and his demons have been at work tempting and attacking humans since their sneak attack in the Garden of Eden thousands of years ago (Genesis 3). They have never stopped pursuing their ultimate goals of destroying humankind’s dignity and driving a wedge between people and their Creator God. But Revelation 9 shows us that a time will come when the invisible spiritual warfare that people experience today will seem pale compared to the visible assault of the enemy’s army during the last half of the Tribulation period. As we study John’s vision and observe the armies of darkness battling in the future, we can better understand how similar spirits of wickedness try to plague us today. 1

Following the announcement of three woes warning that the next three trumpet judgments would be worse than the first four (8:13), John continues by recording the fifth trumpet judgment (9:1-12). “In this chapter, there are more occurrences of the words ‘as’ and ‘like’ than in any other chapter in the Bible, which shows how difficult it was for John to describe the scene which he saw in the vision.” 2

John writes, “Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit.” (Revelation 9:1). When “the fifth angel sounded” the trumpet blast, John “saw a star fallen from heaven.” This is not an actual “star,” but either the Devil (cf. Isaiah 14:12-14) or a fallen angel (Revelation 12:3-4a) because “to him was given the key to the bottomless pit.” Just as a key grants us access to a home, office, or car, this key grants this angelic being access to the shaft “to the bottomless pit” or abyss. The abyss is the abode of the demons, according to Luke 8:31, in which demons begged Jesus “not to banish them.” 3

The “bottomless pit” (lit. “shaft of the abyss”) is the future abode of Satan (cf. Revelation 20:1-3), some demons (cf. Luke 8:31; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6), and the beast (Revelation 11:7; 17:8). It is evidently a preliminary prison, not their final abode, which is the lake of fire (or hell – Revelation 19:20; 20:10; cf. Matthew 25:41), from which this angel is about to release some of them temporarily. 4

During the tribulation, this angelic being will be granted authority to unlock this bottomless pit. A principle illustrated in this verse is that Satan and his demons only have as much authority as God grants them. Nowhere in Scripture is that principle more prominently revealed than in Job 1:12 and 2:6, in which Satan cannot harm Job without God’s permission. But what the devil intends for evil, God intends for good. 5

“And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace. So the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit.” (Revelation 9:2). When this angelic being uses the authority given to him to open “the bottomless pit,” so much “smoke arose” that “the sun and the air were darkened.” This may refer to some type of volcanic eruption of a magnitude never experienced on earth. 6

Next John writes, 3 Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 4 They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5 And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man. 6 In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them.” (Revelation 9:3-6). That these “locusts” are demonic creatures who appeared in the form of locusts is confirmed by the fact that they came from the Abyss, the home of demons (Luke 8:31). 7 These creatures were given the “power” of “scorpions” to “torment” people who did not have “the seal of God on their foreheads” with intense pain (9:3-4). These demons will not be able to harm followers of Jesus.

They could not “kill” unbelieving people, but for “five months” they could inflict such severe pain on them like a scorpion’s sting that these nonbelievers “will seek death,” instead of repenting, but would not even be able to commit suicide (9:5-6). They will be forced to live through a period of prolonged, demonic suffering intended for those who do not know Jesus as their Savior.” 8

Swindoll writes, We can marvel at the overwhelming number and startling appearance of these supernatural locusts, but we shouldn’t miss the limitations placed on them. First, note that their power will be ‘given’ to them (9:3). The word ‘power’ (exousia), means ‘authority’ or ‘permission.’ It may appear at first that this swarm is completely out of control, but we must remember that they can do nothing apart from God’s permission.

Second, they will not be permitted to harm the things that locusts usually devour—vegetation, crops, or grass (9:4). These aren’t your average hungry locusts! Their target will not be plants but people.

Third, although they will be told to harm humans, they can only inflict their torment on certain people— ‘men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads’ (9:4). This recalls the remnant of Israel, sealed for protection in 7:2-3. Those saints will be spared from the suffering inflicted by the locusts.

“Fourth, they will be given authority to torment, not to kill (9:5). This torment will be similar to the torment of a scorpion sting—excruciating, burning, even debilitating, but in this case, not deadly.

Finally, God will place a limit of five months on their mission of torment (9:5). But in those five months the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual agony these people will experience will drive them mad. Some of the most haunting words in all of Scripture describe the desperate situation: ‘And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death flees from them’ (9:6).” 9

Having just explained what these demonic creatures will do, John now describes what they will look like from head to tail. John’s vision here is a primarily symbolic vision as the word “like” is used eight times, pointing to a figurative rather than literal interpretation. 10 “The shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle.” (Revelation 9:7a). Locusts resemble “horses” when viewed through a magnifying glass, 11 but this sentence emphasizes the ferociousness of these demonic locusts and their intimidating looks.

“In the Old Testament, locusts were instruments of judgment, as in the eighth plague God brought upon the Egyptians (Exodus 10:1-20) and in the judgment envisioned by the prophet in Joel 1:2-12.” 12 As horses prepared for battle, the demons from the abyss will be extremely swift (cf. Joel 2:4).” 13

“On their heads were crowns of something like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men.” (Revelation 9:7b). Their “crowns” (stephanos) represent their victory over the people they oppressed. 14 The fact that “their faces” resembled “men” points to their intelligence. They are intelligent creatures, perhaps even alluring, utilizing deception and persuasion to attract people. But their goal will be to torture, to tear apart, and to destroy.” 15

Next John writes, “They had hair like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth.” (Revelation 9:8). These demonic creatures possessed an initial allurement with “hair like women’s hair.” Since one of the attractive qualities of a woman is her hair, it is possible that there is something about mankind’s experience of this plague that is similar to sexual attraction. The conjoining of this with ‘teeth…like lions’ teeth’ may indicate that though there is an initial allurement pulling people to this experience, in the end, the experience is like the bite of a lion in its painfulness. In ages past (as well as in contemporary society), sinful people have involved themselves in matters concerning sexual relations with demonic entities (who if they became visible might be beautiful indeed). Yet it is clear that the description given here by John paints their true character—they will be like hungry lions that ravage peoples’ lives.” 16 (emphasis mine)

9 And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle. 10 They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. Their power was to hurt men five months.” (Revelation 9:9-10). Their “iron . . . breastplates,” which covered both chest and back in John’s day, 17 gave them appearance of indestructibility by humans. People will not be able to overcome this demonic army. The “sound of their wings” was terrifying “like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle.”

The fact that this army sounded to John like chariots with many horses running into battle indicates the terror that they will inspire in the hearts of those who have given in to their seductive allure. It can be compared to the terror in the hearts of ancient soldiers who suddenly and without warning find themselves facing a rush of chariots and horses (cf. 2 Kings 7:6-7; Jeremiah 47:3). People overcome by this deception will not experience physical pleasure, but torment similar to the stings of scorpions.” 18

This plague will afflict unsaved people for a period of “five months” (cf. Rev 9:5, 10), which emphasizes that God is in control of the spirit world and over the events of the Tribulation. 19 “Unlike the previous judgments which apparently were short in time this judgment extended for five months… This is important as it refutes clearly the notion that all these judgments will occur in a brief span of time immediately before the second coming of Christ.” 20

The leader of this demonic army is addressed next. “And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon.” (Revelation 9:11). “The names ‘Abaddon’ in Hebrew, and ‘Apollyon’ in Greek, both mean ‘Destroyer.’ Only the apostle John supplied information bilingually in the New Testament (cf. John 1:38, 42; 4:25; 6:1; 9:7; 11:16; 19:13, 17, 20; 20:16; Rev. 1:7; 3:14; 12:9). The objective of these demons, like their leader’s name implies, is to destroy people. God grants this lead ‘angel-king’ creature permission, here in this judgment, to carry out his objective against unbelievers, as part of God’s outpouring of wrath on earth-dwellers (cf. Job 2:6).” 21 (emphasis mine)

Some suggest that this “king over” this demonic army is Satan, 22 but this is unlikely because the text only calls him an “angel.” Also,Satan’s abode is not in the “bottomless pit” or abyss —at least not until he is cast down into it at the end of the Tribulation (Revelation 20:1-3). In contrast, this king’s authority seems to be limited to the demonic army that comes from the abyss itself. 23 

In two passages in Revelation Satan is spoken of by alternate names (12:9 and 20:2). In both places John clearly states that he is speaking of Satan. If the angel of the bottomless pit is Satan, John would have clarified it here as well.” 24

So, who is this “angel of the bottomless pit”? He is probably a high-ranking fallen angel (cf. Ephesians 6:12) serving his master, Satan. 25

Finally, John states, “One woe is past. Behold, still two more woes are coming after these things.” (Revelation 9:12). This verse is transitional, and clarifies that the fifth, sixth, and seventh trumpet judgments are the same events as the first, second, and third “woes” announced by the eagle earlier (8:13). The third woe, then, would be the seven bowl judgments. Although the release of this demonic locust army may seem sufficient from a human vantage point, God says He is only getting started. 26 The second and third woes will be worse.

You may be wondering, “How does the five-month demonic attack in the last half of the future Tribulation relate to us today?” Swindoll shares several insights:

“Although they are invisible, demons are real and aggressive. Not all demons are confined to the abyss (see Luke 8:31). Countless spirits of wickedness roam freely, and as long as they do, they are in search-and-destroy mode. They’ll pounce at any opportunity to strike both believers and unbelievers. Sometimes we’d rather pretend these beings don’t exist—or that they are so limited in power that we don’t need to worry about them. Not true! Ignorance of our enemies gives them an advantage over us. Don’t be naive!

“We are reminded that demons are organized and committed to our destruction. Like a battle-hardened army, Satan’s forces know how to wage an efficient war to conquer the hearts and minds of all people. From subtle tricks to a full-blown spiritual blitzkrieg, they are ready to use whatever means necessary to win. Take a close look at 1 Peter 5:8: ‘Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.’ How can you be more ‘sober’ and ‘alert’ in light of this warning? Peter gives us some hints in 1 Peter 1:13-16: ‘Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”

“In light of this passage, are you prepared for inevitable spiritual attacks?

We should be encouraged that, although these demons are powerful, they have limitations. We see that even during the Tribulation these wicked angels can only do what they are allowed to do. Today—in the age of the Spirit’s restraining power through the church—their abilities are even more limited (2 Thes. 2:6-8). But don’t underestimate the deceptive and destructive powers of the enemy (Jude 1:8-10). As soon as we drop our guard, we’re liable to crumble under his attacks. We can’t neglect our spiritual lives, forsake our assembling with other believers, or trust in our own strength.

“Finally, we must never forget that these aggressive and insidious creatures flee at the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. At His matchless name they cower in fear, run for cover, and scramble for survival. With a single syllable of rebuke, Jesus Christ can flatten Satan’s entire army. They are no match for Him (Luke 8:26-31). Let Christ handle your spiritual battles for you. Submit to Him. Release all your anxieties to Him through prayer (1 Pet. 5:6-7). Resist the devil in faith, resting in Christ and trusting that He alone can shut the mouth of the roaring lion and quench the flaming arrows of the evil one.” 27 (emphasis mine)

While spiritual warfare today is very real, believers in Jesus can experience the victory Christ has already won in the spiritual realm by wearing the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-19). Please join me in putting on the whole armor of God by praying these Scriptures in Ephesians 6:10-19 back to our victorious God.

Prayer: O Father God, since Satan and his servants are far wiser and stronger than us, please grant us strength in the power of Your might to put on the whole armor of God so we may stand against the schemes of the devil.

Protect us O God with the Belt of Truth. You are truth, Jesus, and in You and in Your Word we find truth. You are the foundation for all of life. We cannot overcome the father of lies (John 8:44) apart from Your truth (John 8:31-32). Please replace Satan’s lies with the truth of Your Word. Please empower us to be truthful and honest.

We pray the protection of the Breastplate of Righteousness over us. Knowing we are covered with Christ’s righteousness at the moment of our salvation (Romans 4:5) can protect us from Satan’s accusations and motivate us to live out that righteousness as we yield to the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1, 4-5).  Help us not to believe the lies from Satan that say we are no good or that we can be good enough to earn Your acceptance. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have been declared totally righteous before You the moment we believed in Jesus. We are completely covered by the righteousness of Your Son so there are no grounds for our condemnation. Please manifest Your righteousness in our motives, words, thoughts, and actions.

We pray the Shoes of the Gospel of Peace over our lives.Protect us from anything that would rob us of Your peace. Please enable us to be prepared to always share the gospel of grace with those who need Your peace. Give us Your compassion and alertness for those who do not know Jesus as their Savior. Help us to see the lost through Your eyes of compassion. As the God of peace, please crush Satan under our feet (Romans 16:20).

Please help us to take up the Shield of Faith as needed.Protect us from the flaming arrows of the evil one. Lead us into a time of praise and worship that invites the Holy Spirit to anoint our faith, so it is kept from becoming rigid and brittle. As we worship You, may the water of the Holy Spirit pour over us, so all the flaming arrows of Satan are extinguished. Help us to place our faith in the promises of Your Word. Enable us to realize who we are in Christ and to appropriate faith in all situations. We can trust You, Father, because You are good, and You are faithful to keep Your Word. You are in control of all things. Thank You, Father, for reminding us of this.

We pray the protection of the Helmet of Salvation on our heads. Satan is out to trick us into doubting our salvation, but we are Your children, Father, by grace through faith in Christ alone and Jesus is more powerful than Satan (I John 4:4). Please protect our minds from doubting Your promises to save us from the penalty of sin in hell, from the power of sin now, and from the presence of sin in the future. Help us remember that we are fighting from victory, not for victory! Please enable us to get God’s Word in our hearts and minds so we can confront Satan in the Spirit as Jesus did (Matthew 4:1-11).

Enable us to be protected and have all power through Jesus Christ and through the Sword of the Spirit, the Bible. Holy Spirit, please enable us to speak Your Scripture to the devil and his servants on the battlefield so their lies and deceptions are exposed and defeated (Matthew 4:1-11). Enable us to submit to You, God, and resist the devil, so the devil will flee from us (James 4:7). We pray the power of the Holy Spirit is ignited in our lives, so that Christ may live His life through us today and every day.

Grant all boldness to us so we may speak Your gospel message to all who need to hear it. Redeem this time O Lord for Your honor and glory. Thank You for what You are going to do. Please make the name of the Lord Jesus more well known. In the name above all names, the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen. 

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 184-185.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 109 cites Charles C. Ryrie, Revelation, Everyman’s Bible Commentary series (Chicago: Moody Press, 1968), pg. 61.  

3. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2388.

4. Constable, pg. 110.

5. Evans, pg. 2388.

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. 1530.

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

8. Evans, pg. 2388.

9. Swindoll, pp. 186-187.

10. Vacendak, pg. 1531.

11. Constable, pg. 112.

12. Evans, pg. 2388.

13. Vacendak, pg. 1531. 

14. Ibid., pg. 1532; Constable, pg. 112.

15. Swindoll, pg. 187.

16. Vacendak, pg. 1532.

17. Constable, pg. 113 cites Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament Vol. 6 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), pg. 364.

18. Vacendak, pg. 1532.

19. Ibid.

20. Walvoord, pg. 164.

21. Constable, pg. 113.

22. Evans, pg. 2389;  Walvoord, pg. 164.

23. Swindoll, pg. 188.

24. Vacendak, pp. 1532-1533.

25. Ibid., pg. 1532; Swindoll, pg. 188 cites Grant R. Osborne, Revelation Verse by Verse, Osborne New Testament Commentaries (Bellingham WA: Lexham Press, 2016), pg. 373; Constable, pg. 113 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8—22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pp. 38-39.

26. Evans, pg. 2389.

27. Swindoll, pp. 189-190.

A Cosmic Christmas (Video)

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

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

Revelation 2 – Part 1

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” Revelation 2:7

John now records “the things which are” (1:19b), consisting of the exalted Lord Jesus’ messages to the seven historical churches in Asia Minor in the first century (Revelation 2-3). Jesus gives these seven local churches warnings and encouragements that are as applicable today as they were in the first century. 1

There has been substantial debate about the meaning of “overcomers” in the book of Revelation. Two major interpretations are at the core of this debate. The perseverance understanding holds that all genuine Christians are overcomers. 2 This view argues that every believer is an overcomer (I John 5:4-5) who inherits eternal bliss (Revelation 21:7) and, therefore, proves his salvation with his works (Revelation 2:26). According to this position all true Christians will persevere in good works to the end of their lives.

The second interpretation understands the “overcomer” to be an obedient Christian who receives rewards for his faithfulness to God. 3 This view understands I John 5:4-5 to be true for all Christians. There is a sense in which all Christians are overcomers when they believe in Christ for new birth. This single act of faith at the moment of salvation is “the victory that has overcome the world” which is antagonistic toward this saving act of faith (I John 5:4b) and is satanically blinded to the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). But this interpretation understands that I John’s statements about overcomers is not the same as Revelation’s statements about overcomers as we shall now observe.

The word “overcome” comes from the Greek word nikaō which means to “be victor, conquer, overcome, prevail.” 4 John uses this word in Revelation to refer to victorious Christians who persevere in a life of faith.

It is important to understand that Revelation 2-3 is addressing Christians because the term “church” refers to believers. 5 The issue is not salvation, but discipleship or Christian growth because the focus is on persevering in works (Revelation 2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15), and not a single act of faith for salvation from hell (cf. John 4:14; 5:24; 6:35, 37-39; 10:28-29; I John 5:1-5, 13). For example, access to the “tree of life” (Revelation 2:7) is not based on a single act of faith in Christ (I John 5:1, 4-5), but upon obedience to Christ’s commands (Revelation 22:14). Revelation is talking about Christians being overcomers through obedience to Christ until the end of their lives so they can gain eternal rewards such as eating from the tree of life or ruling with Christ (cf. Revelation 2:8, 26-27; 3:21; 22:14).

Also, in Revelation there is the call to hear (Revelation 2:7a; cf. 2:10, 17, 29: 3:6, 13, 22). Only those Christians who hear the call and appropriate the promise will be able to live a victorious life for Christ. Jesus is addressing the whole “church” consisting of believers in the letter (Revelation 2:1; cf. 2:8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14), but the call is to the one “who has an ear” and to the one “who overcomes.”

With this understanding, let’s look at the first church Jesus addresses. “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.” (Revelation 2:1). Ephesus was the ‘New York City’ of the first century. Located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, it was a leading center of Greek culture as well as idol worship. Being a city of wealth and commerce, it contained the amazingly ornate temple of the goddess Diana (cf. Acts 19), one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was also a city that had been effectively evangelized by Paul over the course of several years (cf. Acts 19:10, 20) and had become a gathering place of believers earnestly devoted to the Lord and His work. Unfortunately, over time these dedicated believers ‘left their first love.’ Therefore, with great concern the Lord speaks lovingly yet directly to His Bride in Ephesus to woo her back to her original devotion and zeal.” 6

Jesus describes Himself as the One “who holds [authoritatively with power] the seven stars [angels of the churches] in His right hand” and “walks in the midst of the seven lampstands [churches]in that He is involved in these local churches (2:1). Jesus was active among local churches in the first century and He remains active in churches today. Christ knows what is going on in our churches and He first offers encouragement.

2 I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.” (Revelation 2:2-3). Christ commends this church for their hard work, perseverance (“patience”), and discernment of false teaching and teachers (2:2-3). “They tested everything by the Scriptures and rightly found that some so-called apostles did not teach pure doctrine.” 7 “In general this church had continued in its faithful service to God for more than 40 years.” 8

Next, Christ Jesus rebukes this church. “Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” (Revelation 2:4). The order of words is emphatic in the original language; the clause could be translated, “Your first love you have left” (τὴν ἀγάπην σου τὴν πρώτην ἀφῆκας). 9

While this church had excelled in their service for Christ and their orthodoxy, they had left their “first love.” This refers to their original love and devotion to Jesus. They were doing the right things now, but not with the same love and devotion they had in the beginning.

“They had correct doctrine, but not a correct heart. The key word here is first, not love. As with romantic love between a man and a woman, first love always involves passion. Yet there was not passionate pursuit of an intimate relationship with Christ in the church. They were merely following a program. Duty had replaced devotion.” 10

This can happen to any church or individual Christian. We start out passionate in our love for Jesus considering all He did for us in saving us from our sins. But as the years pass by, we can easily shift from passionate love for our Savior to more of a program mentality whereby we function out of duty instead of devotion to Christ. We go through the motions, but our heart is not connecting to the Lord like it was in the beginning of our Christian lives. We can become so familiar with the teachings of the Bible that we become less sensitive to what God is saying to us. Familiarity can produce apathy in our Christian lives.

How can we regain our first love for Jesus? How can we restore that original devotion and passion we had for our Savior? The Lord gives us three commands in this one verse: “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.” (Revelation 2:5).

REMEMBER. We can regain our first love for Jesus if we “remember” our original love and devotion for Him. Think back to what it was like when you first became a Christian. Remember how the Bible came alive for you? It was so new and life-giving. The beauty of Jesus’ love and grace for us captured our hearts. Talking to the Lord was such a joy. It is important to remember those early days in our Christian life to rekindle that original love for Christ.

– REPENT. The word “repent” (metanoeō) means a “change of mind.” Jesus was calling the church to change their thinking about their love for Him. Jesus was not a program; He was a Person Who loved them infinitely. As their thinking about Christ changed, so would their affections. The more they could see Jesus as Someone Who loved them and enjoyed their presence, the more passion they would have about connecting with Him and serving Him. The same is true for us today.

– RETURN. Jesus was also inviting them to return to “the first works” that increased their love for Him. As a new believer in college, I remember memorizing the book of I John. I worked at the University of Iowa Hospital until 11 pm at night, so when I walked home it was very dark outside. I would recite my I John verses aloud as I walked home. Those were some of the most intimate times I ever had with the Lord Jesus. God is inviting His church to return to those works we did early in our relationship with Christ that brought us closer to Him.

Should the church at Ephesus (or any church) refuse to “repent,” the Lord would “remove” their “lampstand” or witness and close their doors which eventually happened in the fifth century. 11 In fact none of the seven churches in Revelation 2-3 exist today because each one failed to maintain a repentant attitude toward the Lord. Such will be the fate of any church whose activity is about them rather than about the Lord Jesus. Failure to prioritize intimacy with God will result in the removal of one’s influence for Christ. As one commentator notes, The church that loses its love will soon lose its light, no matter how doctrinally sound it may be.” 12

Following this warning, the Lord Jesus added one more commendation. “But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” (Revelation 2:6). The Greek word for Nicolaitans means “to conquer the people.” 13 Little is known of the Nicolaitans, but their name typifies any system that focuses on dominating people rather than serving them. 14

Jesus then says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7). Jesus is addressing the whole Ephesus church consisting of believers (Revelation 2:1), but the call is to the one “who has an ear” and to the one “who overcomes.” Only those Christians who hear the call and appropriate the promise will be able to live a victorious life for Christ till the end of their lives on earth and receive Christ’s promised reward.

Thus, the overcomers spoken of here in chaps. 2–3 are those people who not only believe in Christ for eternal life, but also walk in godliness (cf. 2 Peter 1:5-11) and remain faithful to Him until the end of their lives (cf. Matthew 25:20-21; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:26).” 15

Jesus promises to reward the overcomer for his or her faithfulness by giving them the privilege “to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” “There is a connection between the ‘tree of life’ and man’s rule over the earth. Adam in his unfallen state had access to this ‘tree,’ but when he fell, God kept him from it (Genesis 1:26-28; 3:22).” 16 The tree of life will be “in the midst of the Paradise of God” in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:2, 14).

This reward is reminiscent of the original paradise in Genesis 1– 2 where Adam and Eve were allowed to eat from any tree in the Garden, including the tree of life. At the end of the Book of Revelation, the tree of life is described as bearing twelve kinds of fruit, one for each month, with leaves that bring healing to the nations (22:2). Not everyone has the right to eat from the tree of life (22:14). A person can forfeit the right to eat from the tree by adding to or taking away from the words of Revelation (22:19). Aside from this, little is known about the tree of life, but its vagueness makes this reward even more tantalizing and motivating.” 17

People love to eat! I enjoy eating food every chance I get! The Lord Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows what will motivate us to live faithfully for Him till the end of our Christian lives on earth. Christ promises the faithful believer access to “the tree of life” in the New Jerusalem in the future (Revelation 2:7; cf. 22:2, 14). Eating the fruit from the tree of life may give faithful believers the resources to rule more effectively on the new earth (Revelation 2:25-27).

Imagine standing before the Judgment Seat of Christ to receive your rewards from King Jesus (Romans 14:10-12; I Corinthians 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10). He tells you that because you were not faithful to Him till the end of your Christian life, you will forfeit certain rewards which include ruling with Him and eating from the tree of life (cf. Revelation 2:7, 25-27; 3:21; 22:2, 14). Think of the regret, sadness, or shame you will have at this time (cf. Matthew 25:18-19, 22-30; Luke 19:15, 20-26; I John 2:28). If only you had remained faithful to Christ, such rewards could have been yours.

Now fast forward to the New Jerusalem on the New Earth (Revelation 21-22). You are sitting at a table in the New Jerusalem with your friends or family, and one of them receives a call from the office of King Jesus, informing them that they have a special meeting with the King in an hour. At this meeting, fruit from the tree of life will be served for all to enjoy who are invited to this gathering. Because you were not faithful to Jesus till the end of your Christian life, you will not receive such a call nor have access to this special fruit.

Even though there “shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying…” and “no more pain” on the New Earth (Revelation 21:4), you will not be able to experience as much closeness and enjoyment with King Jesus as those who were faithful to Him to the very end. Only those believers who hear the call and appropriate the promise (“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says”) will be able to live a victorious life for Christ (Revelation 2:7). All believers will be in heaven, but not all believers will experience the same degree of rewards in heaven. Specifically for the church at Ephesus and those like it, those who do not lose passion for Christ in this life will experience a special place of intimacy with the Lord” 18 in heaven. Knowing this now is intended to motivate us to live faithfully for Christ with an undying love and devotion for Him.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, as we listened to Your message to the church of Ephesus, our hearts have been stirred. We know that we have lost the love and devotion we once had for You. Instead of prioritizing intimacy with You, we have focused on programs and performance. We have done things for You, but not with You. Thank You for loving us enough to confront us and woo us back to our original love and devotion for You. Lord, we want to regain our first love for You. Help us to remember the beauty of Your love and grace for us at the beginning of our relationship with You. Grant us a change of attitude toward You so we are not so careless to put ourselves ahead of You. Enable us to return to those things we did when we were passionately in love with You. May our love for You in some small way reflect Your incredible love for us. Thank You for promising us access to the tree of life if we will remain faithful to You to the end of our lives on earth. In Your glorious name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1501.

2. James Rosscup, “The Overcome of the Apocalypse,” Grace Theological Journal, 3:2 (1982): pp. 261-286; John F. MacArthur, Jr., The Gospel According to Jesus, Revised and Expanded Edition (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988, 1994), pp. 123-133, 134-148, 164-172, 188-194, 252-254.

3. Harlan D. Betz, “The Nature of Rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ” (Th.M. Thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1974), pp. 36-45; Zane C. Hodges, Grace in Eclipse (Dallas, TX: Redencion Viva, 1985), pp. 97-111; Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings (Miami Springs, Fla.: Schoettle Publishing Co., 1992), pp. 37, 470, 474; Arlen L. Chitwood, Judgment Seat of Christ (Norman, Okla.: The Lamp Broadcast, Inc., 1986), pg. 48.

4. pg. 673.

5. Zane C. Hodges, Grace in Eclipse, pg. 108.

6. Vacendak, pg. 1502.

7. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2371.

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

9. Ibid.

10. Evans, pg. 2371.

11. Walvoord, pg. 164.

12. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 31 cites Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary Vol. 2 (Wheaton: Victor Books, Scripture Press, 1989), pg. 572.

13. Vacendak, pg. 1502.

14. Constable, pg. 31.

15. Vacendak, pg. 1504.

16. Constable, pg. 33.

17. Vacendak, pg. 1504. 18. Evans, pg. 2372.