Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Seventh Trumpet

"And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven." (Revelation 11:11-13)

One of the most encouraging titles for God's Spirit is found in the opening verse. He is called the Spirit of life. Romans 8:2 uses the same title in its description of salvation. "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." Everything about God's Spirit exudes life. When the repentant sinner calls upon Christ in faith, the Spirit of life regenerates that person and makes him or her forever a child of God (Titus 3:5). When the believer chooses to yield to the Spirit's power rather than to his flesh, spiritual health and life are the results (Romans 8:13-14). Yes, everything about God's Spirit breeds life, and He rightly fills the Prince of life (Acts 3:15) Who gives eternal life to all who call upon Him in faith.

Unlike the temporary resurrection of the beast, these men will be raised to die no more. One can only imagine how abruptly the world's victorious joys will end when it witnesses such a terrifying and miraculous event. The sight of this resurrection and the fear of the events that follow will bring many to their knees in glorification of God's awesome power.

"The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly. And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever." (Revelation 11:14-15)

The third woe is synonymous with the seventh trumpet (Revelation 8:13). This trumpet marks the termination of the world's powers and the advent of Christ's kingdom. A few plagues remain, but for all intents and purposes, the battle has been won. Even though the events of Revelation have yet to unfold, the Christian lives daily in the reality that His King has won the victory. Every kingdom, regardless of past, present or future opposition, is indeed the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Two Witnesses (Part III)

"And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will." (Revelation 11:5-6)

Evil times will call for harsh measures. Pain is often the only thing that the rebel understands. In light of this, the two witnesses will be given unusual power from God to gain people's attention as well as to ward off their bitter enemies who will care nothing for their godly admonitions.

"And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth." (Revelation 11:7-10)

Because the text calls the antichrist and his kingdom the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit, some believe that the antichrist will be an individual that dies but is then resurrected by means of satanic power. If such is the case, his pseudo-resurrection will be short-lived. Satan's attempts to mimic the power and blessings of God always fall far short of the divine reality.

The city in which the two witnesses are killed is pictorially identified as Sodom and Egypt and the place where our Lord was crucified. Indisputably, these titles identify the city as Jerusalem. Apart from the righteousness of God, the holy city (Nehemiah 11:1) is no better off than Sodom and Egypt. The root sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was that of pride (Ezekiel 16:49-50). From this was born the wickedness described in Genesis 19. Human pride and the resistance of God's authority expressed through faithlessness has always plagued the Jews; therefore, the Lord identifies Jerusalem as a spiritual Sodom. The Lord also used the term Egypt. In their hearts, God's people often turned back into Egypt (Acts 7:39), desiring its gods and its goods, its luxuries and its lifestyles. Because of this, the Holy Spirit names Jerusalem for that which has always been in her heart. Apart from true conversion, the most famous religious center is no better off than Sodom and Egypt.

An international holiday will follow on the heels of the righteous man's death. The text does not describe how so many people will view these dead bodies. Perhaps modern technology will enable such wide-scale participation. Regardless, the party will not last long. The vocal testimony of these men which went unheeded for three and one half years will lie silent for three and one half days before the awesome power of God is once more displayed.

It should be noted that the work of these men could not be stopped as long as God's will kept them in their purpose. However, once the Lord was ready for them to come home, the work ceased. The believer needs to be surrendered to the power and will of God. The work cannot be stopped nor can it be prolonged beyond what God desires. He knows best.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Israel's Chastisement

"Hath he smitten him, as he smote those that smote him? or is he slain according to the slaughter of them that are slain by him? In measure, when it shooteth forth, thou wilt debate with it: he stayeth his rough wind in the day of the east wind. By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin; when he maketh all the stones of the altar as chalkstones that are beaten in sunder, the groves and images shall not stand up." (Isaiah 27:7-9)

To illustrate His intentions of preservation toward Israel, the Lord asks a series of rhetorical questions. In order to better understand verse seven, it would be helpful to insert names in the places of the personal pronouns. "Hath [God] smitten [Jacob], as [God] smote [the nations] that smote [Jacob]? or is [Jacob] slain according to the slaughter of [the nations] that are slain by [God]?" In other words, the Lord would, and will, bring Israel's enemies to an end, but He would not, and will not, completely destroy Israel. Jeremiah 46:28 compliments this truth.

Fear thou not, O Jacob my servant, saith the LORD: for I am with thee; for I will make a full end of all the nations whither I have driven thee: but I will not make a full end of thee, but correct thee in measure; yet will I not leave thee wholly unpunished.

Verse eight is very difficult to translate; however, it seems to be reinforcing the fact that God does not delight in punishing His people nor does He use chastisement for destruction but rather purging and ultimate healing.

The demonstrative pronoun this seems to be referring back to the chastisement of God mentioned previously. Through the Lord's merciful and planned correction of Israel, she will be delivered eventually. In speaking of Israel's future redemption, Paul quoted this verse in Romans 11:27.

And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins (author's italics).

Israel's past enemies and those of the future Tribulation all share a common bond in that they have served, and will serve, to soften the hearts of the Jews. In the present day, God is using the witness of creation, the proclamation of Scripture and the provocation of the Gentile's salvation to lead His people to their Messiah (Romans 10:16-21).

The Lord continues His proclamation of the coming judgment upon Israel and condemns their groves and images (literally Asherah and incense altars). A new paragraph probably commences with the word when. From this point to the end of verse eleven, the emphasis seems to be on the punishment of Israel through the Assyrians and those nations which would come after. Israel's could not be healed until the idolatry was purged. Reconciliation cannot come until the offense has been dealt with. People are prone to believe that God will accept them and the sin they delight in; however, the sin must be removed before healing can occur. For the Christian, this means that God expects the forsaking of those things that displease Him and a return to the things that glorify Him. The believer who rejects this pattern will find himself under the chastening hand of God.

"Yet the defenced city shall be desolate, and the habitation forsaken, and left like a wilderness: there shall the calf feed, and there shall he lie down, and consume the branches thereof. When the boughs thereof are withered, they shall be broken off: the women come, and set them on fire: for it is a people of no understanding: therefore he that made them will not have mercy on them, and he that formed them will shew them no favour." (Isaiah 27:10-11)

Whether these verses refer to God's judgment against Israel's enemies or against the unrepentant of Israel's citizens, it is difficult to say. In principle, these verses could apply to both. There were many in Israel who would not listen; therefore, many would be slain by the coming enemy. Both the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions brought about the death of many who rejected the prophet's warnings. On the other hand, the Lord has made it clear that the powers of the heathen nations will be broken. The great and wicked city of Nineveh would not continue indefinitely. The year 612 BC would witness Nineveh's fall thus marking the end of Assyrian rule. Babylon would eventually become a place to pasture cows and other animals regardless of the human pride that adorned her construction. Whether Jew or Gentile, the unbelieving heart is ultimately a heart of no understanding, and its end is fearful.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Two Witnesses (Part II)

"And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth." (Revelation 11:3-4)

Even during this time of great evil, God will not be without His witnesses. Their ministry will last 1,260 days - the same number of days which comprise the antichrist's ultimate rebellion. Their attire denotes their attitude. The earth will be in a lamentable condition; therefore, their clothes will reflect a lamenting spirit. Many believers would do well to follow their heart-example. The modern day "church" is plagued by a spirit of pseudo-positivity. Little lamentation exists over sin, and anyone who does not board the ship of ecumenical pseudo-evangelism is immediately marooned on a desert island. God knows His own. Sometimes a spirit of lamentation is the only proper response to what is occurring.

The wording of verse four parallels that of Zechariah 4:11-14. At least in principle, the two anointed ones of Zechariah seem to be the same as the two witnesses presented here. In Zechariah's prophecy, the Lord made it plain that the oil which proceeded from the olive tree and lighted the candle was the Spirit of God Who would enable Zerubbabel and his associates to do the work before them.

...Behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof ... This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it (Zechariah 4:2-7).

The golden oil of God's Spirit enabled Zerubbabel, and the golden oil of His Spirit will enable the two witnesses. Whoever these witnesses of Revelation may or may not be, one thing is for certain, they are men empowered by none other but the Spirit of God. As this Spirit emptied His oil into the lamps of Zechariah and enabled the servants of God to do the impossible and to shine forth for Him, even so will He empty His oil into the lamps of the two witnesses thus empowering them to do the impossible. This same Spirit indwells every believer and therefore gives the needed power to accomplish the will of God in every dispensation. The Lord's Spirit has not been given only to Zerubbabel nor has He been reserved exclusively for the two witnesses; He has been given to every believer, and no task is too great for Him.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Leviathan's Punishment (Part II)

"Fury is not in me: who would set the briers and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together. Or let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me." (Isaiah 27:4-5)

The Lord does not feel threatened by His enemies. His rage is pure and holy, not the byproduct of some insecurity. The treacherous thorns of the Middle East were used as a defense against the oncoming foe and formed an obstacle to be overcome, but such tactics are useless against God. After receiving the interpretation of his dream by Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar attempted to set up a few "thorns" against God by making his ninety-foot tall statue. He soon learned that thorns do not prevail against God.

The verbs would go and would burn are cohortative in the Hebrew and express a strong desire on the part of the subject. These verbs could be translated let me or may I. The Lord is passionate about the subjugation of the wicked and the vindication of His holiness. Ultimately, the individual who resists the Lord's authority in his life will burn as a thorn in the fires of hell.

The or presents a hopeful contrast of thought. To resist the Lord is to incur damnation, but to embrace His authority is to gain salvation. The word behind strength means a place of safety or refuge. God's power and revenge are fearful; yet, the Lord is a God of love and compassion. The Lord is a place of refuge for the one who turns from his evil ways. By heeding the command to take hold of God's strength, the repentant sinner can escape death through faith in the righteousness of God - a righteousness which is secured through belief in Jesus Christ. The presentation of God's judgment and mercy in these verses parallels Joel's description of God's salvation invitation as He comes in the end times to punish the sin of mankind.

And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered...(Joel 2:30-32).

The mockers of Isaiah's day would be burned as thorns along with their Egyptian allies, but the ones who made God, and not man, their hope would find redemption. Peace is not found in the resistance of God's authority but in the embrace of it.

"He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit." (Isaiah 27:6)

As a nation, Israel has yet to experience the full impact of this promise. Christ's kingdom will provide the perfect environment for Israel to grow not only spiritually but also physically. At the present, the Jews which inhabit the various nations are not there because of blessing but rather because of punishment. In light of this, the large numbers of Jewish people scattered throughout the world cannot be considered the fulfillment of this promise. Through God's blessing, not His chastisement, the Jewish population will thrive in the millennial kingdom, and God's people will be found in every nation as well as their own.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Two Witnesses

"And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months." (Revelation 11:1-2)

The two witnesses will appear during a time when the antichrist has seized the Jewish temple in Jerusalem and has profaned it through the exaltation of himself as God. History has witnessed two temples in Jerusalem. The first was built by Solomon. Its destruction came about in 586 BC at the hands of the Babylonians. The second temple was constructed by the Jewish exiles who returned under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua (book of Ezra). This structure was eventually expanded and beautified by Herod and the Jews during the reign of the Romans; however, in 70 AD, this temple was also destroyed in response to a Jewish rebellion against Rome (an event which Christ foretold in Matthew 24:2). The third temple has not yet been built. Many believe that its construction will commence shortly after the Rapture, but no one knows for certain. The fact that this temple will be built cannot be disputed by the reality of its presence in the book of Revelation and the reference of Paul to the antichrist's defilement of the holy place. At this point in time, the Jews do not have an official edifice which might be labeled as their temple; therefore, one must be built so that prophecy can be fulfilled.

At some point during the Tribulation, the antichrist will force his way into the Jewish temple, put an end to Jewish worship and defile the Holy of Holies through his very presence. He will demand that all worship him, and him only. II Thessalonians 2:3-4 describes this event.

...And that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

The word behind temple refers to the innermost part of the temple. Just as his forerunner (Antiochus Epiphanes - Daniel 11:30-31), the antichrist will invade the most holy place of the temple and bring about its defilement. Daniel 9:27 clearly indicates that this event will take place midway through the Great Tribulation. The Lord Jesus Christ also prophesied of the antichrist's rebellion against God when He said ...

When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains (Matthew 24:15-16).

As context will soon declare, the forty-two months is calculated using the prophetic 360-day calendar. This means that the antichrist's defilement of the temple and the holy city will last 1,260 days.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Leviathan's Punishment

"In that day the LORD with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea." (Isaiah 27:1)

The context of the Millennium's commencement seems to go on as indicated by the phrase in that day which continues the previous chapter's thought. The exact identity of the sea monster known only as leviathan remains a mystery. This creature is first mentioned in Job where he is used as an illustration of God's magnificent power. Psalm 74 and 104 also reference him in passing. While leviathan's actual existence cannot be disputed, his appearance in this passage seems to be symbolic of Satan and his earthly kingdoms. Ezekiel 29:3 calls Pharaoh the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers. Satan is behind the world's kingdoms and its rulers; therefore, the title of leviathan certainly has reference to him either directly or indirectly.

Because Israel was looking consistently to Egypt for aid against the Assyrians and Babylonians, this passage would have been relevant to them in a near sense. Egypt was never a source of significant help to Israel, and this truth would only grow stronger with time as God continued to remove Egypt's power. With that said, the future destruction of the world's kingdoms and the master behind those kingdoms cannot be dismissed. The Lord's ultimate victory against the dragon of the sea will pave the way for His rule in the millennial Jerusalem. The Almighty's matchless power is portrayed by a severe, great and strong sword which knows no rival. The enemy's helplessness before such magnificence is illustrated beautifully by Revelation 20:1-3 where Satan is rendered powerless before the angel who consigns him to his millennial prison.

And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up... .

"In that day sing ye unto her, A vineyard of red wine. I the LORD do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day." (Isaiah 27:2-3)

This song is toward God's chosen people - the Jews. Israel's enemies are destined for complete destruction, but Israel is destined for complete redemption. As in Isaiah 5:1-7, God likens Jacob's descendants to a valuable grapevine. The word behind red wine means delight or desire. Down through the ages, the Lord has faithfully cared for this vineyard even though it has rejected His salvation. In the last day, the blindness will be removed, and the Jews will realize that the love of Christ has been that which has kept and watered all along. This same jealous love is that which keeps every Christian as well, whether Jew or Gentile.