Revelation 14 – Part 6

“And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, ‘Thrust in your sickle and reap, for the time has come to reap for the harvest of the earth is ripe.’” Revelation 14:15

Growing up in the Midwest, I can remember singing the stirring words of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” in elementary school. Since the writing of this song by Julia Ward Howe in 1861, many people have sung this song unaware that its inspiring word pictures originated from the book of Revelation. Some of the powerful words contained in this song are based in part on Revelation 14:14-20. These words summon God’s people to spiritual battle to spread the gospel around the world and at the same time they also warn nonbelievers of coming judgment when God’s wrath will be poured out upon the wickedness of the earth. 1

After receiving revelation about Satan’s two wild beasts (the World Ruler and the False Prophet) who will triumph during the last half of the Tribulation period (13:1-18), the apostle John receives revelation that describes both what happens 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). Following the four announcements that will provide motivation for believers to remain faithful to God and resist the beasts during the last half of the Tribulation period (14:6-13), John receives a vision (14:14-20) that provides background information about the final judgments to be recorded in the last chapters of the Tribulation period (Revelation 15-19). These coming judgments are compared to a grain harvest (14:14-16) which preview God’s bowl judgments (Revelation 15-16)and a grape harvest (14:17-20) which previews the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:13-21; 19:19-21). 2

“Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat one like the Son of Man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.” (Revelation 14:14). The phrase “And I looked” (kai idou) introduces a new scene, and a transition to another subject. 3 John sees someone “like the Son of Man” sitting on “a white cloud.” Many interpreters understand this to be the Lord Jesus Christ because “Son of Man” is a Messianic title for Him (cf. Daniel 7:13-14; Mark 13:26). 4 However, it is better to understand the identity of this being as an angel who represents “the Son of Man” because he is Christ’s agent in this judgment. In addition, verse 15 refers to “another angel” and the closest antecedent for “another” is the previous character mentioned here in verse 14. 5

The “white cloud” upon which this angel sits represents heaven’s purity of the judgments about to take place on the earth. This judgment is fair and just because “the harvest of the earth is ripe” (cf. 14:15). 6 The “golden crown” on this angel’s head signifies that this angel cannot fail in carrying out this judgment on Christ’s behalf. 7 Since the “sickle” in his hand is “sharp,” the angel will be able to do his work speedily and fully in carrying out the bowl judgments. 8 The “sickle” here is an instrument to inflict judgment and death on those who received the mark of the beast and rejected God. The word “sickle” is mentioned seven times in these verses (14:14-19) to emphasize the impending doom for those who reject the Lord during the last half of the Tribulation period. As a tool used to harvest grain in an agrarian culture, the sickle is a very appropriate image for God’s judgment because a “harvest” of people’s wickedness during their lives on earth is in view (14:15). 9

“And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, ‘Thrust in your sickle and reap, for the time has come to reap for the harvest of the earth is ripe.’” (Revelation 14:15). A second “angel” comes out of the heavenly “temple,” urgently “crying with a loud voice” to the first angel “who sat on the cloud,” to “thrust in” his “sickle and reap… the harvest” which was “ripe” or past its peak because the earth-dwellers were withered and spiritually lifeless, and ready for the bowl judgments. The use of the Greek word for “ripe” (exērainō), which means to become “dried up” or “withered,” 10 suggests that the condition of the wicked world during the last half of the Tribulation had become “overripe” with evil. 11 Three previous angels had announced that judgment was coming (14:6-11). This angel says it is time to execute the judgment without delay. 12

“So, he who sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.” (Revelation 14:16). Like grain being cut down by the harvester, “the earth was reaped” with swift and devastating judgments during the bowl judgments. The conciseness of this verse emphasizes the suddenness of this judgment. 13 Like an overripe grain field that requires an immediate response by the harvester, the evil of humankind will call for quick and decisive justice. While God is patient and merciful in giving people an opportunity to get right with Him, the time will come near the end of the Tribulation when the world experiences the agony of His “terrible, swift sword.” 14

The fact that God waited until the harvest of humanity’s wickedness was overripe (14:15-16), reminds us that God is patient, and in His mercy, He has postponed judgment for as long as possible. The Bible tells us, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9). God has delayed His coming for His church, so people in this Church Age may have the opportunity to get right with Him. The word “repentance” (metanoia) means “a change of mind.” 15 God is giving people the opportunity to change their minds about whatever is keeping them from believing in Jesus Christ for His gift of eternal life, so they can then believe in Him, because the Lord is “not willing that any should perish” in hell.

What about you, my friend? Do you know where you will go after death? God does not want you to “perish” forever in hell. Please keep in mind that hell is a real place. Jesus described “hell” as a place “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:47b-48). In this brief statement by God the Son, we learn three things: 16

1. Jesus considered hell to be a real place, not a figment of one’s imagination. Many people today deny the existence of hell, but their claims are contrary to the authoritative teaching of Jesus Christ.

2. Hell is a place of agonizing suffering, both inwardly and outwardly. The “worm” signifies the source of the internal pain – like the gnawing of a parasite within one’s body. The “fire” symbolizes the source of the external suffering, whereby one’s flesh burns forever without any decrease in the excruciating pain.

3. Christ also teaches that hell is eternal. Some teach that nonbelievers are “annihilated” after death, but Jesus says their “worm does not die” and “the fire is not quenched.” The torment of hell, therefore, is never-ending. What makes the good news of Jesus Christ so good is that the bad news of hell is so bad!

What is the good news of Jesus? Through His death and resurrection nearly two thousand years ago (cf. I Corinthians 15:3-6), Christ made it possible for us to receive eternal life as a gift and escape future judgment for our sins in hell if we would simply believe in Him alone. Christ said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” (John 5:24). What does Jesus say you must do to have eternal life and be delivered from God’s future judgment of our sins? He says you must “hear” and “believe.” All that Jesus requires for everlasting life is believing, not behaving.

Some of you have been brought up in religion which says you must do this or not do that to earn God’s eternal life and forgiveness. But this is contrary to the authoritative word of Jesus Christ. According to Jesus, when a person “hears” His Word and “believes” what He says, Jesus says he or she “has everlasting life.” That means right now, not after you die. How long is everlasting life? It is forever! It cannot be lost or taken away from you (John 10:28-29).

Next, Christ guarantees that you “shall not come into judgment.” That is a promise and God does not break His promises. A believer in Jesus Christ will not be judged for his or her sins in the future because Christ was already judged for our sins when He died in our place on the cross. Such a one has “passed from death into life.” That means death is behind us, not before us. It is past, not present or future.

If you have not yet believed Jesus’ promise of eternal life and a judgment-free future, you can simply take Him at His word right now when He says, “he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” If you believed Jesus promises in this verse, you now have “everlasting life” and “shall not come into judgment” for your sins.

Notice that John 5:24 affirms the equality of the Father and the Son. He who hears Jesus’ Word and believes in the Father who sent Christ, has everlasting life. To believe in the Father, you must hear and believe in Christ since the Father sent Jesus that people might believe in Him. To believe in the Father was to believe in Christ because Jesus is the perfect reflection of the Father. Believing in the Son is one way to honor the Father who sent Him (cf. 5:23).

God wants to use you now to share this good news with your family and friends before it is too late for them to get right with God (Mark 16:15; Acts 10:24-48; 16:23-34). When you believed in Jesus, God gave you His Holy Spirit to live inside you and help you grow in your new relationship with Christ (John 7:37-39; Romans 8:11). The Holy Spirit will give you the power or ability to tell others the truth about Jesus so they can believe in Him and have everlasting life both now on earth and in the future with Him in His heaven forever (Acts 1:8; cf. Revelation 21-22).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we praise You for this graphic description of Your upcoming bowl judgments at the end of the Tribulation period which are compared to a grain harvest. These terrible judgments remind us that You are holy and just, and You will one day pour out Your terrible wrath upon those who have rejected You during the last half of the Tribulation period. Right now, we want to express our eternal gratitude for Your mercy which led You to postpone this judgment so we could come to faith in Jesus and receive His gift of eternal life. Thank You, Lord God, that Your word guarantees we shall not come under Your judgment for our sins in the future because Christ already did when He died in our place on the cross. Please open doors for us to share this good news of Jesus with those who are perishing without Him, before it is too late for them. To You Lord God be all the glory for the great and mighty things You have done and are going to do. In the matchless name of 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. 270.

2. Ibid., pg. 271.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 162.

4. Ibid.; Swindoll, pp. 271-272; 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 5895 to 5901.

5. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1553; Constable, pg. 162 cites David E. Aune, Revelation 6-16 World Biblical Commentary series (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), pg. 849.

6. Vacendak, pg. 1553.

7. Ibid.

8. Constable, pg. 162.

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

10. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pp.684-685.

11. Swindoll, pg. 273.

12. Constable, pg. 162.

13. Ibid., pg. 163 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pg. 221.

14. Swindoll, pg. 274.

15. Bauer, pg. 640.

16. These three observations from Mark 9:47-48 are adapted from Tony Evans, pp. 1611-1612.

Revelation 13 – Part 5

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

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

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

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

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

“Now let’s intensify that scene.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 254.

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

3. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 336.

4. See Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 1077.

5. Constable, pg. 150.

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

7. Hitchcock, pg. 342.

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

9. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1548.

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

11. Hitchcock, pg. 337.

12. Swindoll, pg. 255.

13. Ibid.

14. Hitchcock, pg. 338.

15. Vacendak, pg. 1549.

16. Hitchcock, pg. 339.

17. Ibid., pp. 339-340.

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

19. Ibid.

20. Hitchcock, pg. 340.

21. Ibid., pg. 342.

Revelation 11 – Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

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

2. Adapted from Ibid., pg. 224.

3. Ibid., pg. 224.

4. The words translated “have become” is a prophetic use of the aorist participle egeneto. See Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament [with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!], 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Locations 221057-221060.

5. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition  (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1539.

6. Ibid.

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

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

9. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 137 cites Paul N. Benware, Understanding End Times Prophecy (Chicago: Moody, 1995), pg. 219.

10. Ibid.

11. Pentecost, pg. 198.

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

13. Ibid.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid., pp. 198-199.

16. Ibid., pg. 199.

17. Hitchcock, pg. 168.

18. Ibid, pp. 167-168.

19. Ibid., pg. 168.

20. Ibid., pp. 168-169.

21. Swindoll, pg. 227.

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

23. Ibid.

24. Swindoll, pg. 227.

25. Vacendak, pp. 1539-1540.

26. Ibid., pg. 1540.

27. Ibid.

28. Swindoll, pg. 229.

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

Revelation 6 – Part 3

15 And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, 16 and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!’” Revelation 6:15-16

The first four seal-judgments involving four horsemen depicted utter destruction of the world in general from the Lamb in heaven (6:1-8). These first four seals are “the beginning” (Matthew 24:8) of a series of judgments that take during the first half of the seven-year Tribulation period. They will be followed by a period of persecution (6:9-11), after which the earth-shattering judgments of the sixth seal will take place (6:12-17). This is exactly what the Lord Jesus predicted in His Olivet Discourse:

1. Wars, famines, pestilences (Matthew 24:6-8).

2. Persecutions (Matthew 24:9-14a).

3. Then the end will come (Matthew 24:14b). 1

In anticipation of this persecution, John writes, “When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.” (Revelation 6:9). When Jesus “opened the fifth seal,” John “saw under the altar” in heaven “the souls of” believers “who had been slain for” their commitment to “the word of God and for the testimony which they held” during the reign of the World Ruler or Beast of Revelation (cf. Revelation 13:1-7; Matthew 24:9-22). This verse makes it clear that people will be saved during the Tribulation period, but many of them will be martyred. More will be said of these martyrs in Revelation 7.  2

“Some Amillennialists believe these martyrs are all Christians who die for their faith during the entire Church Age, which, according to their view, are all the believers who will have died from Christ’s ascension to His Second Coming.” 3  “Preterists view these people as Christians who died in the first century of the church’s history.” 4

But in the context of Revelation 6:9, a literal understanding places these martyrs in the future Tribulation period. Since the church is already pictured in heaven as represented by the twenty-four elders (Revelation 4-5), these people in verse 9 must be those who died after the Rapture, since all Christians living at the time of the Rapture will experience bodily resurrection and go directly into Jesus Christ’s presence to escape the coming wrath of the coming Tribulation (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 4:15-17). The people John describes in verse 9 are those who come to faith in Christ after the Rapture (cf. Matthew 24:9; Luke 21:12). They had become believers during the first half of the Tribulation through the preaching of the Two Witnesses (Revelation 11:1-10), and then had suffered martyrdom for their faith. John saw their “souls” in heaven, not their resurrected bodies, because God had not resurrected them yet. The resurrection of Tribulation saints will not occur until the end of that seven-year period of judgments on the earth (cf. Revelation 20:4). 5

“Obviously, then, people will come to faith in Jesus following the rapture because believers of the church age all will have been removed from earth. Notably, this is the first seal in which God’s judgment comes in response to the cries of people.” 6

In the last three-and-a-half years, as the Beast assumes worldwide authority (cf. 13:3), he will set out to rid the world of the witnesses of Christ who are spreading out all over the earth to share the gospel and will succeed in killing multitudes (cf. Matt 24:9, 14; Rev 12:17).” 7

These martyred Tribulation saints Cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’” (Revelation 6:10). These believers “cried with a loud voice” asking the Lord Who is “holy and true,” how long they would have to wait until He would “judge” their murderers.

Compare the prayers of Jesus (Luke 23:34) and Stephen (Acts 7:60), in which they asked God to be merciful to their murderers, with the prayers of these Tribulation martyrs.  The difference is that, for the martyrs’ murderers, the time of God’s longsuffering had now ended, and He had begun to pour out His wrath on rebellious humanity. 8

“This plea to God for justice and vengeance finds its roots in the Old Testament imprecatory psalms—prayers calling God to take His stand against the enemies of righteousness. Psalm 94:1-5 provides a perfect example of this sentiment.

“O LORD, God of vengeance,

God of vengeance, shine forth!

Rise up, O Judge of the earth,

Render recompense to the proud.

How long shall the wicked, O LORD,

 How long shall the wicked exult?

They pour forth words,

they speak arrogantly.

All who do wickedness vaunt themselves.

They crush Your people, O LORD,

And afflict Your heritage.

“This prayer for judgment and vindication acknowledges several important theological truths. God is a God of justice, holiness, and truth who will keep His promises of salvation for His people and retribution against His enemies. But the psalmist, like the saints under the altar in Revelation 6, acknowledges that such vengeance is a strictly divine prerogative. Paul exhorted the Romans, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay’” (Rom. 12:19, quoting Deut. 32:35). Though the martyred saints will have to wait a little longer while their fellow Tribulation martyrs join them (Rev. 6:11), the Lord will keep His promise to avenge the murder of His saints (2 Thes. 1:6-8). In fact, the sixth seal portrays the fulfillment of this promise of vengeance against the enemies of God’s people.” 9

One important question about the fifth seal is, how will the deaths of believers be a judgment for the world? Remember, the seals are divine judgments. The death of God’s people brings judgment in two ways. First, the removal of God’s people, the salt and light of the world, will allow darkness and corruption to overrun the earth unchecked. It will be a case of the blind leading the blind. Second, as the enemies of God murder His people, they are unknowingly heaping more judgment upon themselves. Also, God will answer these martyrs’ prayers for vindication when He pours out His wrath on His enemies.” 10

Next John writes, “Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.” (Revelation 6:11). Each martyr was given “a white robe” and told to “rest a little while longer until” the full number of martyrs “was completed.”

These Tribulation martyrs are reminded that even though God’s justice is delayed at times, it always comes. God misses nothing and eventually He will bring complete justice in response to every wrong committed. 11

The sixth seal will provide God’s answer to the cries of these Tribulation martyrs. “I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood.” (Revelation 6:12). After Jesus “opened the sixth seal” John saw a “great earthquake” occur as the Beast and his armies gather to make war against Christ (cf. Revelation 19:19). 12 This earthquake resulted in “the sun” becoming “black as sackcloth of hair,” which is likely because of volcanoes erupting and discharging ash that blocks the sunlight. 13  In addition, “the moon” will become red “like blood” (6:12a).

Next, John observes, 13 And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. 14 Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place.” (Revelation 6:13-14). Meteor-like “stars of heaven” will fall “to the earth” and “the sky” will recede “as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island” will be moved “out of its place” perhaps due to the great earthquake and meteorites (6:13-14). The universe will seem to be imploding before the eyes of all who dwell on the earth. 14

All kinds of people all over the world without Jesus will panic and seek to protect themselves instead of turning to the Lord for mercy and deliverance. 15 And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, 16 and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!’” (Revelation 6:15-16). Without Jesus as their Savior, they would rather have “the mountains and rocks” fall on them and kill them than face “the wrath of the Lamb.” This indicates that the unbelieving people’s perception of God (“Him who sits on the throne”), and the “wrath of the Lamb,” in heaven, will be far more terrifying to them than the physical consequences of this judgment. Whereas the martyrs cry, “Avenge us!” (6:10), these unbelievers cry, “Hide us!” 15

“What sinners dread most is not death but having to stand before a holy and righteous God.” 16

Those who refuse to trust in Jesus during this unprecedented time of worldwide suffering will say, “For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Revelation 6:17). “The splitting of the sky and shaking of the earth that is occurring is so unprecedented that the followers of the Beast clearly recognize their guilt and culpability before God and His Son. They have not one ounce of hope.” 16

This sixth seal “reveals the horror of unbelievers who must face the full wrath of God and His appointed Judge, Jesus Christ. The absolute panic experienced  by these wicked people doesn’t grip them because God is unjust, but because they know He will give them exactly what they deserve!” 17

Oh, my dear friends, as you read this portion of the Word of God, please understand that this is not some science fiction novel or symbolic description of various troubles that have already taken place on earth. This is a literal description of an unprecedented time of worldwide suffering that will take place in the future on earth. Everyone on earth at that time will not only know it is God’s judgment, but they will act like it by seeking death to escape from God’s wrath. You do not have to go through this terrible period of unprecedented suffering. God has provided a way of escape.

Jesus Christ said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” (John 5:24).  Have you heard Jesus’ promise of eternal life?Do you believe or trust Him alone for eternal life?

If you heard and believed Jesus’ promise, Christ guarantees that you now have everlasting life which is a forever personal relationship with the true God (John 17:3) which can never be lost (John 6:37; 10:28-29). If you could lose eternal life, Jesus just told a lie in John 5:24. Jesus is qualified to give you eternal life because He is God (John 1:1; I John 5:20) and He paid for this free gift (Romans 6:23b) when He died on the Cross for all of our sins and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-8).

Jesus promises that you “shall not come into judgment.” You will not be judged for your sins because you have everlasting life. You have complete forgiveness (Colossians 2:13-14). You are now God’s child forever (John 1:12). You are completely covered by His love without a single fault (Ephesians 1:4; cf. Romans 8:31-34).

You have “passed from death into life.” You never have to be afraid of dying because you now have everlasting life which means you will live with Jesus forever in His Father’s house in heaven (cf. Matthew 6:9; John 14:1-3; Revelation 21-22) after you die or are raptured from the earth (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:21-23; I Thessalonians 4:15-17), whichever takes place first.

Those who refuse to believe in Jesus for eternal life are promised not to “see life, but the wrath of God abides on” them both now (John 3:36), during the Tribulation on earth if they are alive then (Revelation 6), and in the lake of fire for eternity (Revelation 20:15).   

The Bible promises to remove believers in Jesus from the earth to live with Him in heaven forever in the third heaven or Paradise before this great outpouring of God’s wrath takes place on the earth (2 Corinthians 12:1-4; I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-18). Knowing this should comfort and encourage us to live for Christ until we see Him face to face (I Thessalonians 5:6-11).

As believers in Jesus, it is important for us to have Christ’s love for those who are lost, who will one day face this horrific future on earth and do what we can to tell the good news of the gospel of grace to those in need of Christ’s salvation and eternal life. Let us speak of the joy that could be theirs through faith alone in Jesus and His atoning sacrifice and warn of the wrath to come and the eternal suffering that awaits those who refuse to believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God for His gift of everlasting life. 18

Prayer: Holy and true God, thank You for revealing the horrific judgments which will take place in the future during the seven-year Tribulation on earth. Because You are holy, You cannot let any sin go unpunished. Millions of believers throughout history have suffered and died at the hands of Your enemies. Your message today underscores that You will severely repay those who have persecuted Your people. Thank You also for reminding us that those who believe in Jesus for eternal life are not appointed to this coming wrath on earth. Our future is free from Your wrath. Please give us Your heart for the lost so we may boldly and lovingly warn them of Your wrath to come on the earth and in eternity, so they may believe in Jesus for His gift of eternal life and forgiveness of all their sins and escape Your wrath to come. In the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1523. 

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

3. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 89 cites as an example Gregory K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, The New International Greek Testament Commentary series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., and Carlisle, England: Paternoster Press, 1999) pg. 39.

4. Ibid., cites as an example Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John 2nd ed., (London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1907), pg. 92.

5. Ibid.

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

7. Vacendak, pp. 1523-1524.

8. Constable, pg. 89.

9. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 153-154.

10. 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. 284.

11. Evans, pg. 2382.

12. Vacendak, pg. 1524.

13. Evans, pg 2382.

14. Vacendak, pg. 1524.

15. Constable, pg. 91.

16. Ibid., cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1—7: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 456; cf. Swete, pg. 94.

17. Swindoll, pg.  154. 

18. Adapted from Elizabeth Haworth’s daily verse entitled, “What Does Revelation 6:8 Mean?” at knowing-jesus.com.

Revelation 1 – Part 4

“And in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.” Revelation 1:13 

While on the island of Patmos, the apostle John heard a trumpet-like voice instruct him to “write in a book” the visions he sees and “send” them to “the seven churches which are in Asia” Minor (1:10-11). Then he writes, “Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands.” (Revelation 1:12). As he slowly turned toward this booming voice, the first thing John sees are “seven golden lampstands,” “each holding an oil-burning lamp.” 1 These “seven lampstands,” represent “the seven churches” (Revelation 1:20). God intended local churches to illuminate their communities with the light and life of Jesus Christ. 2

“And in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.” (Revelation 1:13). John’s eyes now focus on the source of this mighty and majestic voice. Standing “in the midst of the seven lampstands” was “One like the Son of Man.” The phrase, “like the Son of Man,” is an expression used in Daniel 7:13-14 referring to the Messiah-God, the Lord Jesus Christ.3 “Son of Man” was a favorite title Jesus used of Himself in the gospels (Matthew 8:20; 9:6; 10:23; 11:19; 12:8, 32, 40; 13:41; 16:13, 27-28; 17:9, 12, 22; 18:11; 19:28; 20:18, 28; 24:27, 30, 24:37, 39; Mark 13:26; 14:21, 41, 62; et al.). This magnificent “voice” (1:10) that John heard belonged to none other than Jesus Christ, God’s ultimate and final voice to mankind” (cf. Hebrews 1:2). 4

It is extremely noteworthy that the messianic title “Son of Man” is used here in light of the fact that it is a title connected to Jesus in His role as Judge. Jesus said, The Father… has committed all judgment to the Son… and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.” (John 5:22, 27). This title portrays Jesus as “the Son” (God) and as “Man.” Christ is best qualified to judge humanity because He is the God-Man.

 Seeing Christ in His role as Judge is a key element in understanding Revelation.” 5 First, He is seen judging the seven churches in Asia Minor (Revelation 1:12-3:22) and then He is seen judging the whole earth during the Tribulation (Revelation 6-16). He will also judge Babylonianism (Revelation 17-18), world rulers at Armageddon (Revelation 19:19-21), Satan (Revelation 20:1-3, 10), the whole earth during the Millennium (Revelation 20:4-6), the rebellious earth at the end of the Millennium (Revelation 20:7-9), and all unbelievers at the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11-15). Then King Jesus will live with His people forever on the new earth (Revelation 21-22).

John now sees Jesus in a much different way than He was portrayed in the gospels. This is not the Baby born in Bethlehem Who grew up to preach to the multitudes, heal the sick, and then suffer and die on a cross, and rise from the dead to eventually ascend to heaven. No, this depiction of Jesus is similar to when Christ was transfigured on the mountain before John, Peter, and James (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36). It was there that this apostle briefly witnessed the unveiling of Jesus’ glory. Now, near the end of John’s life, he was given a vision of the ascended Lord Jesus Christ in all His glory. 6

We learn what Jesus, the Judge, will be like as John attempts to describe His attributes using symbolism. Jesus was standing amid the churches “clothed” like a Judge with a long robe (“a garment down to the feet”) and a “golden band” around His chest. His robe is “girded” perhaps because the Judge is ready to take action (cf. Luke 12:37; Ephesians 6:14), the “golden band” “possibly foreshadowing His judgment via the golden-banded angels possessing the bowls of wrath” (cf. Revelation 15:6-7). 7

John tells us, “His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire.” (Revelation 1:14). “His head and hair” were very white “like wool” and “snow,” signifying His wisdom and longevity as an eternally preexistent Person like the Ancient of Days (God the Father) described in Daniel 7:9. 8 By describing “His eyes like a flame of fire,” John referred to His piercing judgment and all-seeing assessment of the saved and unsaved (cf. Revelation 2:18, 23; 19:12). 9

Next, we learn, “His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters.” (Revelation 1:15). “His feet” looked “as if refined in a furnace,” so He could walk among the seven churches to purify and correct them (Revelation 2:1), and then trample down the unbelieving when He returns to earth (Revelation 14:19-20). “The figure of heated, glowing bronze feet also connotes strength and stability (cf. Daniel 2:33, 41).” 10 “The brass itself stands for strength, for the immovable steadfastness of God; and the shining, glittering rays stand for speed, for the swiftness of the feet of God to help His own or to punish sin.” 11

Keep in mind that John was living on the island of Patmos at this time. The sound of the ocean waves roaring and beating against the shore would never have been very far from him. 12 When John says Jesus’ “voice” sounded like the mighty rushing “waters,” this meant that the Judge’s authoritative and powerful voice conveyed irresistible orders.

“He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.” (Revelation 1:16).  In Christ’s “right hand” He held “seven stars” which later He tells us represent the angelic messengers to the seven churches (Revelation 1:20). Significantly, Christ held them “in His right hand,” indicating sovereign control and possession. 13 “The hand of Christ is strong enough to uphold the heavens and gentle enough to wipe away our tears.” 14

“Out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword” by which His judgments are carried out (cf. Revelation 19:11-15; Hebrew 4:12). This type of sword (rhomphaia, also referred to in 2:12, 16; 6:8; 19:15, 21) was used by the Romans in a stabbing action designed to kill. Jesus Christ was no longer a Baby in Bethlehem, or a Man of sorrows crowned with thorns. He was now the Lord of glory.” 15

“His countenance” shown like the unclouded “sun shining in its strength,” a portrait of His holiness as the Judge.Just as the physical sun lights the earth and all its inhabitants, so also does Christ in a spiritual sense. John 8:1-11 records the divine Judge driving the adulterous woman’s accusers away because He has implicitly exposed them. Then in v 12 He calls Himself ‘the light of the world’ for the first time (a reference to the physical sun, as John 11:9 makes clear). As the Judge there is nothing at all He does not bring into the ‘sunlight’ of His countenance.” 16

These brilliant features of Jesus’ appearance all pointed to Him as God (Revelation 1:12-16)! John writes, “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.’ ” (Revelation 1:17). Previously during Jesus’ earthly ministry, John laid His head on Jesus’ chest (John 13:25). But now when he sees Jesus’ unveiled glory as the Judge, John “fell at His feet as dead,” depleted of all his strength. This was not an encounter with another man. John was instantly reduced to a trembling sinner lying powerless before the God of the universe! 17

But in all His glory, Jesus had not lost His gentle and kind demeanor. The Lord of glory “laid His right hand on” John to console him. Then He commanded him “not [to] be afraid” because He is the eternal God (“the First and the Last”). He continued, I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” (Revelation 1:18). Another reason John did not need to fear was because Jesusis the resurrected One (“I am He who lives, and was dead, and … I am alive forevermore”), Who possesses all authority over death and the dwelling of the dead (“I have the keys of Hades and of Death”). “Keys” in Scripture are symbols of authority. Therefore, those of us who believe in Jesus do not need to be afraid of hell or even the experience of death itself because Christ holds the keys. For the believer, death is a momentary experience that leads into God’s eternal presence (2 Corinthians 5:8). 18

Three times Jesus uses the words “I am” in Revelation 1:17-18. “I am” recalls Christ’s claims in the gospels (cf. Matthew 14:27; Mark 6:50; John 6:20, 35; 8:12, 58; 10:9, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1) and connects Him with Yahweh in the Old Testament (Exodus 3:14; Isaiah 48:12). The title “the First and the Last” (cf. Isaiah 44:6; 48:12) is essentially the same as “the Alpha and the Omega” (Revelation 1:8), or “the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 22:13). All three titles stress the eternal sovereignty of God. 19

Jesus instructed John, “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.” (Revelation 1:19). This verse provides a divine outline of the entire book of Revelation involving the past, present, and future:

 – “Write the things which you have seen.” This refers to the past vision of Jesus in all His glory (Revelation 1).

 – “And the things which are.” This includes the messages to the seven churches about their present conditions (Revelation 2-3).

“And the things which will take place after this.” This section includes the future Rapture of the Church (Revelation 4-5), the Tribulation (Revelation 6-18), the return of Christ to earth with His Church (Revelation 19), the 1000-year reign of Christ on the earth (Revelation 20:1-9), the final judgment of Satan (Revelation 20:10), the final judgment of all the unsaved (Revelation 20:11-15), and the new heaven and new earth where King Jesus will live with His people forever (Revelation 21-22).

This outline harmonizes beautifully with the concept that most of Revelation (beginning in chap. 4) is future, not historic or merely symbolic, or simply statements of principles. It is significant that only a futuristic interpretation of Revelation 4-22 has any consistency. Interpreters following the allegorical approach to the book seldom agree among themselves on their views. This is also true of those holding to the symbolic and historical approaches.” 20

Jesus then interpreted some of the symbolic things John had seen: “The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.” (Revelation 1:20). These symbols were a “mystery” or previously unclear revelations” 21until the Lord Jesus interpreted them for John. Christ explained that “the seven stars” in His right hand “are the angels of the seven churches.” Most likely these are guardian angels over individual assemblies of believers. “Given the data in the Book of Daniel about angels being associated with individual countries (cf. Daniel 10:13, 20-21), the words of Jesus regarding angels and children (cf. Matthew 18:10), and the response to Rhoda about Peter’s angel (cf. Acts 12:15; cf. Hebrews 1:14), local churches probably have angels that guard them and represent them” (see also I Corinthians 11:10). 22

Then Christ tells John that “the seven lampstands” he saw were “the seven churches.” Christ intends for local churches to shine for Him. To do that, Christ will purify and chastise churches to make them more like Him. Otherwise, He may remove their lampstand or witness for Him (cf. Revelation 2:5). How many churches no longer exist today because they failed to repent and get right with God? I am afraid the numbers would be staggering.

The Book of Revelation, instead of being a hopeless jumble of symbolic vision, is a carefully written record of what John saw and heard, with frequent explanations of its theological and practical meanings. Revelation, with assistance from such other symbolic books as Daniel and Ezekiel, was intended by God to be understood by careful students of the entire Word of God. Like the Book of Daniel, it will be better understood as history unfolds. Though timeless in its truth and application, it is a special comfort to those who need guidance in the days leading up to Christ’s second coming.” 23

Only Jesus Christ is qualified to judge all of humanity in the future (Revelation 1:12-20). As the Judge of all the earth, Jesus is also active among local churches today to purify them and prepare them for His return. Are you prepared to face Jesus Christ as your Judge?

The most important way to prepare to face Him is to believe in Him for His gift of everlasting life. Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” (John 5:24). Christ promises three things to those who “hear” His promise and “believe” it:

“has everlasting life.” Notice this is present (“has”) tense. The moment a person hears and believes Jesus’ promise of eternal life, he or she “has everlasting life.” You do not have to wait until you die to enjoy eternal life. You can start to experience a personal relationship with the God of the universe forever (John 17:3) the moment you believe in Christ. You can enjoy eternal life twenty-four hours a day for three hundred sixty-five days a year! This gives Christians reason to be filled with joy all the time!

“shall not come into judgment.” Christ guarantees you will never be judged for your sins in the future because you now have eternal life. Christ was already judged for your sins when He died in your place on a cross nearly two thousand years ago. So, there is no need for you to be judged or condemned. You are now God’s beloved child. You bring Him joy when He sees you. He is delighted to be with you.

“has passed from death into life.” Notice that this is past tense. That means death is behind the believer, not before him. It is past, not present or future. Before we believe in Christ, we are living in the sphere of “death.” When God looks at our lives before Christ, all He sees are the evil things we have done (Isaiah 64:6). There is no hint of righteousness in us without Jesus in our lives. Our condemnation by God is total. So, when God looks at our lives before we believe in Jesus, all He sees are the bad things we have done.

But when we believe in Jesus for His gift of eternal life, we are translated into the sphere of “life.” When God looks at our lives now, He only sees the good things we have done, not the evil. How can this be? Because God has no charge against the believer (Romans 8:33). The believer is justified (“declared totally righteous”) of all things based on his or her faith alone in Christ alone (Romans 4:5). All our sin has been covered by the goodness of Jesus Christ. We are seen by God as completely holy and perfect because of His grace.

If you have believed in Jesus, then you will NOT have to face Him at the Great White Throne Judgment to determine the degree of your punishment in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). After believing in Jesus, you can face Him in the future at the Judgment Seat of Christ in heaven to determine what if any rewards you will receive from Him (Revelation 22:12; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10). I think you will agree that this is GOOD NEWS!!!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am astounded by the vision John received of You in all Your glory. Words cannot adequately express the brilliance of Your holiness and majesty. Like John, all of us would fall to the ground like dead people in the presence of Your unveiled glory. You alone, Lord Jesus, are worthy to judge all of humanity in the future. Oh precious, Lord, please remove the veil that blinds the hearts and minds of those who do not believe in You for Your gift of everlasting life. Please persuade them to trust in You alone so they will not experience the same eternal judgment as Satan in the lake of fire. Use me to share the good news of Your salvation with those Your Holy Spirit has prepared to hear and believe it. Prepare me to face You as my Judge at Your judgment seat to determine what if any rewards I will receive from You. Thank You, my Lord and my God, for hearing my prayers. In Your glorious name I pray, Lord Jesus Christ. 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. 40.

2. Tony Evans, Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2369.

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

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. 1499.

5. Ibid.

6. Swindoll, pg. 40.

7. Vacendak, pg. 1499-1500.

8. Ibid., pg. 1500; Walvoord, pg. 164; cf. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 23.

9. Vacendak, pg. 1500; Constable, pg. 23.

10. Constable, pg. 23.

11. Ibid. cites William Barclay, The Revelation of John Vol. 1, The Daily Study Bible series (2nd ed. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 62.

12. Ibid., pg. 24.

13. Ibid.; Walvoord, pg. 164.

14. Ibid., cites Barclay, pg. 63.

15. Walvoord, pg. 164.

16. Vacendak, pg. 1500.

17. Swindoll, pg. 40.

18. Vacendak, pg. 1501.

19. Constable, pg. 25.

20. Walvoord, pg. 164.

21. Constable, pg. 26.

22. Vacendak, pg. 1501.

23. Walvoord, pg. 164.

Lesson 1 Part 2 – Sharing the Gospel (Video)

This video provides practical instruction on how to share the good news or gospel of Jesus Christ with those who do not have Christ in their lives. If you are eager to introduce people to the Savior of the world, this video will equip you to do just that! This video is also great for those who do not know for sure they will go to heaven when they die. The contents of this video will clearly show them from the Bible what they must know and believe to go to heaven.

Lesson 1 Part 3 – Assurance and Eternal Security (Video)

This is the third video of our Lesson 1 discipleship training. It addresses the foundational truths of assurance of salvation and eternal security. Assurance of salvation is the certainty that you have eternal life based solely on the promise of everlasting life Jesus Christ makes to all who believe in Him. Eternal security is possessing Jesus’ gift of everlasting life which can never be lost. The believer in Jesus is secure forever.

Receiving Life Freely – Part 2 (Video)

This is the second video in a series about the gospel of John – the only book of the Bible whose primary purpose is to tell non-Christians how to obtain eternal life and a future home in heaven (John 20:31). This video looks at the second miracle Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee involving a nobleman’s son who was near death.

All Scripture are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted. Gospel of John pictures are used with permission from David Padfield/ www.FreeBibleimages.org,  www.GoodSalt.com, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing, www.FreeBibleimages.org. The Gospel of John movie clip is used with permission from Jesus.net. You may view the entire Life of Jesus movie at https://jesus.net/the-life-of-jesus/.

How can I experience security forever? Part 2

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” John 10:27

A second way I can experience security forever is when I BELIEVE IN JESUS ALONE FOR HIS FREE GIFT (John 10:27). Jesus said to His Jewish audience, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” (John 10:27). What characterized those Jesus called “My sheep” was that they listened to His voice. By listening they gave the response of faith to His words and works.

This reminds me of a true story about a man in Australia who was arrested and charged with stealing a sheep. But he claimed emphatically that it was one of his own that had been missing for many days. When the case went to court, the judge was puzzled, not knowing how to decide the matter. At last, he asked that the sheep be brought into the courtroom. Then he ordered the plaintiff to step outside and call the animal. The sheep made no response except to raise its head and look frightened. The judge then instructed the defendant to go to the courtyard and call the sheep. When the accused man began to make his distinctive call, the sheep bounded toward the door. It was obvious that he recognized the familiar voice of his shepherd. “His sheep knows him,” said the judge. “Case dismissed.

Jesus’ sheep are intimately known by their Shepherd. You might have expected Jesus to go on to say, “and they know Me.” But He did not. It is the knowledge that Jesus has of His sheep that is the important thing. Because Jesus knows His sheep they are drawn to Him. They trust the One who cares enough to know them.

When Jesus says, “and they follow Me,”some insist this means if a person truly believes in Christ he perseveres in discipleship or obedience to Christ. They say that a true Christian will continue to obey Jesus the rest of His life. But the context does not support this understanding. Jesus is using the word “follow” as a figure of speech referring to belief. Just as Jesus’ reference to sheep, is a figure of speech, so His reference to following Him is the same. Christ was not talking about literal sheep which physically follow a literal shepherd in this verse. Instead He was illustrating salvation by picturing Himself as the Good Shepherd and believers as His sheep (cf. John 10:1-27).

In the context, Jesus addresses the unbelief of His Jewish audience, who questioned if He was the Messiah (John 10: 24). Jesus replied to them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.” (John 10:25-26). People who are not of His sheep do not believe. What then do His sheep do? They believe He is the Christ – the One who gives eternal life to those who believe in Him. They hear His voice and respond in faith like sheep follow a shepherd (cf. John 10:4-5). They trust Him. So in this context the unbelief of His Jewish audience (John 10:25-26) is set in contrast to His sheep following or believing in Him (John 10:27).

Bob Wilkins writes that “the picture of sheep hearing their shepherd’s voice and following him is a picture of childlike faith. In his book The Gospel Under Siege, Zane Hodges says concerning that illustration, ‘That is to say, they [the sheep] commit their safety and well-being to the Shepherd who has summoned them to do so‘ (p. 44). He goes on to say that this is clearly an act of faith, not discipleship.

“Hodges points out two other points which further prove that the figure refers to faith in Christ: the sequence of the coordinate clauses and the analogy of John 5:24.

“The verses in question have five clauses joined by the word and. A definite progression is evident. The sequence of the clauses shows that ‘following Him’ is the condition—not the consequence—of eternal life. Jesus did not say, ‘I give them eternal life and they follow Me.’ Instead He said, ‘They follow Me and I give them eternal life.’ Since faith in Christ is the sole condition of salvation in Scripture and in John’s Gospel, ‘following Him’ must be a figure for faith in Christ.

“In addition, John 5:24 is parallel to John 10:27-28. Both refer to hearing, believing, the giving of eternal life, the guarantee against eternal judgment, and the promise of the permanence of the relationship. The only difference between the two verses is that in John 10:27 believing is expressed by means of the figure of sheep following a shepherd.” 1

Throughout the gospel of John, figures of speech are used to illustrate saving faith such as receiving (1:12; 5:43; 13:20), looking (3:14-15), drinking (4:14; 7:37), hearing (5:24; 10:16, 27), coming (5:40; 6:35, 37, 44, 65; 7:37), eating bread (6:50, 51, 53, 54, 56, 58), entering (10:9), and following (10:27). Christian author Charlie Bing writes: “These pictures of faith all denote receptivity, agreement, or trust. All are essentially simple activities and essentially passive. None communicates the idea of merit, work, effort, or achievement. Neither do they communicate an exchange of one’s life or the ongoing submission of one’s life to Jesus as Master in order to obtain eternal life.” 2

However, following Christ through obedience is necessary to be a disciple of Christ (Mark 1:17-18; Luke 5:10-11; 9:23), not a possessor of Christ. For example, Jesus did not call His disciples to follow Him as His disciples (Mark 1:14-18) until about a year after they believed in Him (John 1:35-2:11).

When you examine all four gospels, it becomes clear that the disciples whom Jesus called to follow Him in Mark 1:16-18 were already believers. In the Spring of A.D. 26 Peter, John, Philip and Andrew met Jesus for the first time (John 1:35-51) and believed in Him. When Jesus invited Philip to follow Him (John 1:43), He was asking him to accompany Him to Galilee, not make a discipleship commitment. Philip trusted in Christ because of spending time with Him (1:45).

Four days after that first encounter, Jesus’ other disciples believed in Him after He turns water into wine (2:1-11). Several days later during the Passover Feast in Jerusalem, Jesus cleanses the temple (2:13-22). During the next several months, Christ instructs these new believers in the fundamental truths of salvation and assurance as He evangelizes Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, and the city of Sychar (John 3-4). John 4:35 mentions 4 months until harvest. The harvest takes place in the months of April or May. Four months prior would be January or February. Thus, between the mention of the first Passover (John 2:13) which is in April, and the time mentioned here (John 4:35), almost one year has passed. During these months, John the Baptist is evangelizing Judea (John 3:22-36) and baptizing. So, several things have already taken place before we come to Mark 1.

Mark 1:14 informs us that John the Baptist is now in prison.  In John 1-3, John the Baptist is still ministering publicly. Now, we see that he is in prison in Mark 1. So, these disciples have known Jesus for at least a year when Christ approaches them in Mark 1:16. Peter is a believer. He has evangelized the city of Sychar with Christ. But now he is fishing for fish.

The gospel of John distinguishes the freeness of salvation (John 4:10-14) from the costliness of discipleship (John 8:31-32). The only condition for everlasting life is belief in Jesus Christ alone for His free gift (John 3:14-18, 36; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 7:37-39; 11:25-27; 20:31), but there are many conditions for discipleship including following Christ (John 8:12; 12:24-26; 21:19-22), abiding in Jesus’ word (John 8:31-32), loving one another (John 13:34-35), and bearing fruit (John 15:1-8).  

The apostle John uses the word “believe” ninety-nine times in his gospel. 3  The word “believe” means to be convinced that something is true, and then trust in that something. Trusting in Jesus is like riding on an airplane. When you ride on an airplane, do you need to push the plane to get it off the ground? No, of course not. Do you need to flap your arms to keep the airplane in the air? Absolutely not. All you must do is trust a person, your pilot, to take you to your destination. In the same way, the gospel of John invites non-Christians to trust in Jesus Christ alone through no effort of your own for His gift of everlasting life. The moment you do, Jesus guarantees you have everlasting which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). Your eternal security is not based upon your good works or your faithfulness, but upon Jesus’ finished work on the cross and His faithfulness to His promise. That is security that lasts forever!!!

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, You are the Good Shepherd Who laid down His life for the sheep. Like a sheep that hears the voice of its shepherd and trusts him for its safety and security, so You are my Good Shepherd. The moment I heard Your voice say to me when I was nineteen years of age, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life,” I believed or trusted in You alone to give me Your gift of everlasting life. You guaranteed then that I had everlasting life and that I would never be judged for my sins. My relationship with You is permanent because I had passed from death into life. You gave me security that can never be taken away from me! That security is not based on my faithfulness, but on Yours to keep Your promises to those who believe in You. Thank You so much my Lord and my God. I worship You for Who You are and what You have done for me. In Your name. Amen.   

ENDNOTE:

1. Dr. Bob Wilkin, “Is Following Christ a Condition of Eternal Life?” Grace in Focus (Grace Evangelical Society, April 1990).

2. Dr. Charlie Bing, “The Condition For Salvation In John’s Gospel,” Journal Of The Grace Evangelical Society, Vol. 9:16, (Spring 1996): 31.

3. John 1:7, 12, 50; 2:11, 22, 23; 3:12(2), 15, 16, 18(3), 36(2); 4:21, 39, 41, 42, 48, 50, 53; 5:24, 38, 44, 46(2), 47(2); 6:29, 30, 35, 36, 40, 47, 64(2), 69; 7:5, 31, 38, 39, 48; 8:24, 30, 31, 45, 46; 9:18, 35, 36, 38; 10:25, 26, 37, 38(3), 42; 11:15, 25, 26(2), 27, 42, 45, 48; 12:11, 36, 37, 38, 39, 42, 44(2), 46, 47; 13:19; 14:1(2), 10, 11(2), 12, 29; 16:9, 27, 30, 31; 17:8, 20, 21; 19:35; 20:8, 25, 29(2), 31(2).

How can I grow closer to the Good Shepherd? Part 3

“And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” John 10:16

We can also grow closer to the Good Shepherd whenwe REALIZE HIS INCLUSIVE LOVE FOR OTHERS (John 10:16). During His earthly ministry, Jesus primarily ministered to the people of Israel. But He also loved Gentiles. Jesus said, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” (John 3:16a). God the Father gave His one and only Son because He loved the entire world – all humankind, without exception (cf. Hebrews 2:9; 1 Timothy 2:6; 1 John 2:2). God’s love excludes no one, including you.

Jesus said to His Jewish audience, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” (John 10:16). Christ has “other sheep [Gentiles] which are not of this fold [Jews].” Christ says that these other sheep (Gentiles) must be brought into the fold by Him which at the time was mostly Jews. Jesus did not come to give His life for Jews only. The “other sheep” that Jesus would save are Gentiles or non-Jews who would believe in Him so that the church (“one flock”), would consist of both Jewish and Gentile believers (cf. Romans 12:5; I Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 2:11-22; 3:5-7).

This is consistent with the fact that Jesus is not only the Savior of Jews and Samaritans, but of the whole world. After the Samaritans came to Jesus and heard Him teach, “They said to the woman, ‘Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.’ ” (John 4:42). It does not matter to Jesus how wealthy or poor you are; how much or little education you have; what your skin color is or what religious community you belong to. He loves all people the same and He wants to save all people (I Timothy 2:3-5).

In Christ’s body, everyone is important and necessary to our “one Shepherd.” There are no distinctions. Listen to Galatians 3:26-28: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” It does not matter if you are black or white, Jew or Muslim, Catholic or Protestant, Atheist or Hindu, rich or poor, male or female – if you believe in Jesus Christ alone for His gift of salvation, you are God’s child and you have equal privileges and worth in God’s family!

When we started a church in central Iowa several years ago, we planned to reach white middle class Americans because church planting experts said we would be most effective reaching people like ourselves. But God had other plans. After our Grand Opening, we began to see fewer white middle class Americans coming to our new church. Instead, the Lord began to bring people from other cultures who were seeking Jesus.

I think one of the greatest testimonies to Jesus Christ, our “one Shepherd,” is when He gathers people of different cultures and colors and unites them in one body, the local church. Church planting experts may say you cannot do that. And I would partially agree with them. People cannot do that on their own, but our “one Shepherd” can. Every time a church obeys Jesus and preaches the gospel to all people and makes disciples of those who believe (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15), we are getting a preview of what heaven will be like.

Listen to what the apostle John says about heaven in Revelation 7:9-10: “9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ ” Jesus Christ, our “one Shepherd,” can unite all people from all nations, tribes, people groups, and language groups into one family that loves everyone equally.

When Jesus says, “they will hear My voice” (John 10:16), it brings to remembrance Christ’s words in John 5:24: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” The way Gentiles will be added to God’s flock is the same way the Jews were added – by hearing and believing Christ’s promise of eternal life (cf. Acts 10:34-15:-17). There is no other way to become of a member of Jesus’ flock.

For centuries governments and educated people have failed to unite people of different cultures into one unified body. But Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, can unite people from all nations into one body because He has the power to change the human heart by His grace. Governments, educational systems, economic systems, and special interest groups like Black Lives Matter cannot change the human heart. But our “one Shepherd” can. He can change selfish hearts into serving hearts. He can change an angry heart into an accepting heart. He can transform a greedy heart into a generous one. He can make a bitter heart better. He can heal the broken heart. And all of us have broken hearts because we have all sinned against God (Romans 3:23; 6:23).

But when we understand and experience the all-encompassing love of Jesus Christ, we will be drawn closer to Him and we will begin to love others as He does. The world could use a lot more of this kind of love. And it begins by entering a personal relationship with the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

Do you have Jesus in your life? If not, you can receive Him into your life right now. The Bible says, 11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” (I John 5:11-13). Eternal life is a gift from God and it is found in God’s Son, Jesus Christ. You can receive this gift from God by believing in the name of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. If you will do that, the Bible says “you may know that you have eternal life.” Knowing you have eternal life is the foundation for growing in Jesus’ love for you and others.

Prayer: Lord God, I come to You now as a broken sinner. I am very distraught by all the division and violence in the world. Hatred towards people of different color and religion is rampant. No politician or professor or pastor or priest can unite all cultures and colors of people into one body. But You, Lord Jesus, can if we will come to You on Your terms. As best I know how, I believe You loved me so much that You were willing to die in my place on a cross for all my sins and rise from the dead as You promised. I am now believing or trusting in You alone, Lord Jesus (not my religion, or good life, or prayers), to give me everlasting life and receive me into Your family forever. Thank You my Good Shepherd, for the everlasting life and forever family I now have. Please use me to love others into Your family. In Your blessed name I pray. Amen.