Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Demise of Edom (Part III)

"And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever. But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it: and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness. They shall call the nobles thereof to the kingdom, but none shall be there, and all her princes shall be nothing." (Isaiah 34:9-12)

The streams are torrent valleys or wadis. This barren region south of Judah had no continuous river, but it was marked by various riverbeds that experienced flash floods during the rainy seasons. Instead of being filled with water, these seasonal stream beds would be dried up and scorched by the sun's intense heat.

The Lord promises desolation. No longer would Edom be inhabited. Today, this area is barren and void of any significant settlement. This desolation did not happen overnight but, similar to the decline of Babylon, came steadily over time. The Scriptures declare that Nebuchadnezzar and his armies wreaked havoc on the Edomites (Jeremiah 27:2-7, Lamentations 4:21-22). After the Babylonian conquests, the Nabateans attacked the Edomites from within under the guise of peaceful trade relations. This did much to move Edom toward desolation. During the Hasmonian dynasty of the intertestamental period, Edom experienced further subjugation by Judah which was at least a partial fulfillment of Ezekiel 25:14 and Obadiah 18. Lastly, the Romans slaughtered the Edomites after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD and in process of time, the nation passed off the scene of history through the invasions of the Arab tribes.

Edom's desolation today is an indisputable fact; yet, it would seem that Scripture intimates a revival of the nation in the end times. More than one passage speaks of the Lord Himself conquering and ruling over Edom in the context of the millennial kingdom (Numbers 24:17-18, Isaiah 11:14, 63:1-6, Obadiah 21). If such is the case, then Edom will be resurrected in the last days only to experience a final and complete subjugation by the Lord Jesus Christ Who will forever put to rest Edom's fierce hatred of God's ways.

I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth. And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly. Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city (Numbers 24:17-19).

The exact identification of the animals mentioned in the Hebrew text is difficult to pinpoint. Rather than labor over the uncertainty of each creature's exact identity, it would be better to give a brief description of each while focusing on the overall emptiness of the scene. A cormorant is a type of pelican. A bittern represents a porcupine. This same creature is mentioned in the desolations of Babylon (Isaiah 14:23). The owl and the raven are not difficult to picture. These birds paint an especially barren and lonely scene.

The Hebrew words behind confusion and emptiness are seen in Genesis 1:2 where they have been translated as without form (WhT) and void (WhB). As the condition of the earth was chaotic prior to the intervention of God's perfecting hand, even so will Edom be chaotic under the curse of the Creator.

In the text, the kingdom is literally called Nothing There. Edom's princes took great pride in their kingdom. Many of her cities and fortresses were actually built into the rocks and cliffs. Such a vantage point encouraged the people of Edom to rest in a false security. Obadiah's prophecies clearly display this reality.

The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground? Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the LORD (Obadiah 3-4).

Despite Edom's pride, all would vanish. To this day, only a few archaeological tourist attractions remain. As the text says, there is no kingdom there. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Babylon's Licentiousness (Part II)

"And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double. How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her." 
(Revelation 18:4-8)

In his prophecies of double reference, Jeremiah warned God's saints to flee from the coming destruction of Babylon.

Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul: be not cut off in her iniquity; for this is the time of the LORD'S vengeance; he will render unto her a recompence ... My people, go ye out of the midst of her, and deliver ye every man his soul from the fierce anger of the LORD (Jeremiah 51:6, 45).

Here in Revelation, the Holy Spirit reminds the tribulation saints to practice the biblical doctrine of separation, and the believer of today is reminded to keep his distance from the world's philosophies and practices.

In Genesis 18:21, the LORD told Abraham concerning Sodom and Gomorrah, "I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know." Sodom's sins had ripened to the full. They had come up before God, begging for swift judgment. In like manner, the tribulational Babylon will come to the point of no return. Her sins will be horrendous and many, but they will not be permitted to continue for long.

John hears the heavenly voice continue its cry for righteous retribution against Babylon. The word behind double means two-fold or twice as much (Matthew 23:15). The law of sowing and reaping says that a man will always reap more than he sows. John sees Babylon's cup of sins filled two-fold and returned to her hand. Blessed is the man or woman who chooses to live for God because the reward will be greater than the service; but woe be to the man or woman who uses what they have for evil, because the fruit will be more disastrous than the effort.

The attitude of this future city is reflected in the philosophy of her ancient predecessor who said, "...I shall be a lady for ever ... I am, and none else beside me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children (Isaiah 47:7-8)." The Babylonians of days gone by had the same prideful spirit, yet the Almighty destroyed them just as He will destroy the future Babylon. "But these two things shall come to thee in a moment in one day, the loss of children, and widowhood: they shall come upon thee in their perfection for the multitude of thy sorceries, and for the great abundance of thine enchantments (Isaiah 47:9)."

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Demise of Edom (Part II)

"For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment. The sword of the LORD is filled with blood, it is made fat with fatness, and with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams: for the LORD hath a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Idumea. And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness. For it is the day of the LORD'S vengeance, and the year of recompences for the controversy of Zion." (Isaiah 34:5-8)

As the longstanding enemy of Israel, Edom is placed under the judgment of God's sword. The name Edom actually appears in the Hebrew text. Idumea is a Greek form referring to the territory of Edom in New Testament times. Edom's early hostility against Israel may be seen in her refusal to give the Jews passage through her land (Numbers 20:20-21). Later, Edom would aid in the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar (Psalm 137:7, Obadiah). The Edomites never lost their hatred of God's chosen people, and this very fact is one reason why God's anger was stirred against the nation of Edom (Amos 1:11).

God calls them the people of my curse. Malachi uses similar language when he titles them The people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever (Malachi 1:4). To resist the will and worship of God while persecuting those whom He has blessed is to court certain death. The Edomites were not randomly picked out by God to be those whom He especially hated. Esau's rejection of God's righteousness and the resultant rejection of God by Esau's offspring are responsible for the divine curse brought upon the country.

God pictures His judgment upon Edom as a sacrifice of the finest animals. Each ruler and officer would become, for all intents and purposes, as helpless as a sacrificial lamb in the presence of God's righteous indignation. Paul illustrated the futility of resisting God when he said, "...All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do (Hebrews 4:13)." The city of Bozrah in the land of Moab is likely not the location to which God makes reference (Jeremiah 48:24). The Bozrah mentioned here was located in Edom proper and seems to have been a major city. The name Bozrah means a sheepfold. This name seems to suggest that flocks of sheep and goats were a major source of industry for the city (Micah 2:12). The Holy Spirit is making a play on words as he foretells a sacrifice of sheep and goats in the city named sheepfold. Again, Edom is the name behind Idumea.

The unicorn likely refers to an ox. The bullock is the young bull or steer. The word behind bulls means mighty or valiant. Both the great and the small would fall together. The picture is one of both strong and expensive sacrificial animals as well smaller and more inferior ones coming down together. God does not respect persons in judgment. Every Edomite, both small and great, was trusting in the security of his position; yet, each would be destroyed on God's altar.

Continuously at odds with Israel and her right to the land promised her by God, Edom's disputes against Zion would be answered by the LORD of hosts.

But upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions. And the house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble, and they shall kindle in them, and devour them; and there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau; for the LORD hath spoken it (Obadiah 17-18).

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Babylon's Licentiousness

"And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies." 
(Revelation 18:1-3)

For many, this Babylon is symbolic whether it be of Rome, the kingdom of the antichrist or of some other evil entity. However, the wording and the context suggest that this is a real city. The prophet Zechariah spoke of a house which would be built for the wickedness which had been sealed in the ephah of the prophet's vision.

Both Haggai and Zechariah prophesied to the Jewish exiles who had returned to build the temple of God during the reign of Persia. Haggai prophesied of things very near. His visions provided the people with guidance for the here and now. Zechariah's prophecies were much more distant. He dealt with the end times and the advent of Jesus' kingdom. In chapter five, Zechariah saw an ephah (a dry unit of measurement equally approximately 35 liters). Inside the ephah, Zechariah noticed a woman sitting. The angelic interpreter told Zechariah, "...This is wickedness." Upon the mouth of the ephah, the angel placed a lead weight thus preventing the escape of the woman who symbolizes evil. Afterward, the ephah, the woman and the lead weight were lifted up and carried away. Zechariah said, "Whither do these bear the ephah?" The angel answered, "To build it an house in the land of Shinar: and it shall be established, and set there upon her own base." Shinar means two rivers. It refers to the plain region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (Genesis 10:10, Daniel 1:2). It is the same location to which Stephen referred when speaking of God's call upon Abraham's life (Acts 7:2). In this area, the Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar's day was built, and in this same region a house will be built from which the powers of wickedness will rule.

The straightforward and vivid prophecies of both Isaiah and Jeremiah are yet another reason for believing in the existence of a future Babylon. Both men speak of a sudden and violent overthrow of the city. Even though Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon did become a desolation over time, she did not experience a sudden and violent destruction. The Persians took the city in 539 BC with little resistance. After the death of Alexander the Great, Babylon did experience a steady decline into oblivion; however, the suddenness of the overthrow described by the prophets has yet to occur. In light of these things, it would seem that God's men saw not only the near destruction of the Chaldean kingdom but also the far away terror of a city built upon the foundations of a worldwide false religion.

For many, Babylon and the ideals upon which it stood are things of the past, but the observant man will soon notice that the rebellion for which Babylon stands is anything but forgotten. After the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein attempted to rebuild the city. He manufactured bricks which contained these words, "This was built by Saddam, son of Nebuchadnezzar, to glorify Iraq." Such events illustrate the reality that the rebel principles upon which Babylon was built are alive and well. It should not be thought impossible that the wealth of a one-world religion will someday be used for the construction of a rebellious city built upon the same principles of those who once spoke against God and said, "Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven...(Genesis 11:4)."

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Demise of Edom

"Come near, ye nations, to hear; and hearken, ye people: let the earth hear, and all that is therein; the world, and all things that come forth of it. For the indignation of the LORD is upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies: he hath utterly destroyed them, he hath delivered them to the slaughter. Their slain also shall be cast out, and their stink shall come up out of their carcases, and the mountains shall be melted with their blood. And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree." (Isaiah 34:1-4)

The Almighty calls for the world's attention. He is about to reveal the demise of His enemies, the vindication of His righteousness and the salvation of His Hebrew people. With a glimpse toward the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, Isaiah describes the defeat of the earth's armies. As a whole, the world's inhabitants are against the things of God, yet they will be defeated in the end. So complete and bloody will be the overthrow, that God pictures the very hills of the surrounding area being melted by the spilled blood of his foes.

This apocalyptic picture would not be complete without the lights of heaven being disrupted by the awesome presence of God at His return (Revelation 6:12-14). Joel uses similar language in his prophecies concerning the end times.

The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining: And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it? ... The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake...(Joel 2:10-11, 3:15-16).

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Woe of the Spoilers (Part V)

"Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off. Thine heart shall meditate terror. Where is the scribe? where is the receiver? where is he that counted the towers? Thou shalt not see a fierce people, a people of a deeper speech than thou canst perceive; of a stammering tongue, that thou canst not understand. Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken." (Isaiah 33:17-20)

It would be absurd to think that these verses find their full meaning in Hezekiah's kingship and the deliverance of Jerusalem from Assyria. At the most, those events were simply pictures of God's intentions to deliver His people in the end. The King in His beauty is ultimately none other than the Lord Jesus Christ - Israel's only true King. Despite the many hardships Israel would face, promises of full and lasting deliverance are sprinkled throughout Isaiah's prophecies.

With the shadow of the enemy looming over them, the hearts of the Jews meditated on the terrorizing prospect of what could be. In the face of Assyria's siege, where was the man who counted the tax money, and where was he who received it into the treasury? Where was the man who counted the towers of the city and presided over the defenses of the city? Life for Isaiah's countrymen had changed considerably. Egypt had failed them. Their choice to find refuge in another beside God had taken its toll; yet the Lord continues His message of hope to the people. The coming defeat of Sennacherib would serve to illustrate the Lord's victory over all of Israel's future enemies. Regardless of past terrors, Jerusalem will someday be a quiet habitation under the reign of Christ (32:17-18). The word solemnities means appointed meeting or gathering. The picture is one of the masses gathering together for a special time of worship. Jerusalem will yet experience the joy of sincere worship and praise of the Messiah. Lest any man question the secure state of God's people, the Lord promises that Israel's redemption is irreversible by stating the permanency of this special "tabernacle."

"But there the glorious LORD will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby. For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us. Thy tacklings are loosed; they could not well strengthen their mast, they could not spread the sail: then is the prey of a great spoil divided; the lame take the prey. And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity." (Isaiah 33:21-24)

The Lord will effect Israel's deliverance. Her works will not save her. Her perceived righteousness will fail her. Only the glorious and majestic JEHOVAH God will be able to do this amazing work - the same God Who is bringing many to saving faith in Christ during this present dispensation. The salvation of the Lord is likened to a broad river or stream. There is no want of thirst-quenching water with the Lord. The galley ship symbolizes the terror and oppression of the enemy. The broad rivers of God's salvation are not compatible with the enemy's navy.

The LORD is given three titles. He is the Judge, the Lawgiver and the King. Unlike man's judgment, the Lord's judgment is flawless. His Law is perfect. As Psalm 19:7 says, "The Law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul... ." It is the great Schoolmaster which brings before the eyes of every man his insufficiency while simultaneously pointing him to the righteousness and grace of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:19-31). The kingship of the Lord is magnificent. He rules with both tenderness and firmness. Under His rule, no one is oppressed nor is any permitted to disrupt the peace and security of His righteous empire. Such prospects of the Lord's reign served to encourage Isaiah and those who sought the Lord with him.

God illustrates the fall of His enemies through the picture of a ship which has lost its mast and sail. In a small way, God pictured Israel's future deliverance through the fall of this Assyrian "ship," but the picture's completeness is found in the future events described in Revelation. So complete will be the fall of Israel's enemies that God says the lame will take the spoils of the enemy. No human strength will be needed to plunder the opponents of God's chosen people because God's strength will fully accomplish the work.

The most encouraging part of Isaiah's prophecy is reserved for the end of the chapter. Every inhabitant of Jerusalem and her surrounding villages will someday be redeemed by faith in the blood of Christ. No longer will the Jewish nation be spiritually sick. Instead, the salvation of God will shine into the heart of each Jew just as it has in the hearts of many Gentiles in this present age of grace. Instead of being known as the city of the wailing wall, Jerusalem will be known as the city which bears the name "The LORD our righteousness (Jeremiah 33:16)." Only by God's grace will these things come to pass. Apart from His unalterable intentions to deliver His people, none of this could be. By opening the eyes of men to the fear of the LORD, God has brought millions to faith in Christ; and someday all of Israel will join the ranks of the redeemed when God makes, once and for all, the fear of the LORD her treasure.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Judgment of the Great Whore (Part IV)

"And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled. And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth." (Revelation 17:15-18)

The angel makes it clear that the sea represents the many peoples of the earth as already discussed (Isaiah 60:5). Many see the whore as the one-world religion which the antichrist will use in order to gain world dominance. This is certainly a possibility. False religion has always been used of Satan to accomplish his purposes. This woman rides the beast initially which seems to indicate that a one-world religion will find structure and support in the final kingdom of Satan. She is wealthy. This quality often accompanies false doctrines. The woman is named Mystery Babylon which suggests that she is an ideal and not an actual city as is seen in chapter eighteen. The woman is drunk with the blood of God's people. True Christianity is the only belief system which is not welcome in a cooperative religious setting. All of these facts strongly suggest a one-world religious philosophy used and supported by the beast and his followers.

In the end, Mystery Babylon is destroyed by the ten kings with the approval of the beast. No longer needed, Satan will remove the one-world religion used to gain the world's loyalty and will replace it with the worship of himself. Quite likely, this casting off of the woman takes place when the son of perdition sets himself up as God in the inner temple of God (II Thessalonians 2:3-4).

All of these events are declared to be in accordance with the divine will of God. The Lord is omnipotent and perfectly capable of using the plans of even the most wicked individuals in order to accomplish His will. The destruction of this Mystery Babylon leads into the destruction of the physical Babylon described in the next chapter. It is only fitting that with the fall of false religion comes the fall of its fruits.