Monday, January 30, 2017

The LORD'S Strength

"O LORD, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth." 
(Isaiah 25:1)

Isaiah breaks forth into praise as he considers God's love toward those that seek Him as well as God's intentions to redeem Israel as a nation. Isaiah could not control the decisions of His countrymen, but he could choose personally to praise God. He claims the Lord as his own; and someday all of Israel will do the same. Unlike man's gods, the Lord seeks a personal relationship with individuals. After Adam and Eve had sinned, they hid themselves from God. The Lord responded to this action by calling out, "Where art thou (Genesis 3:9)?" This question was designed for their benefit. On that day, man's personal relationship with God was broken because of sin; and God immediately put into motion a plan for that relationship to be restored through Christ (Genesis 3:15). He did this because He wants to be the personal God of every man who will receive Him. It is not enough for Him to be the God of a one's father, mother, pastor or friend. He must be one's own God through simple faith in the Person of the Messiah. Isaiah understood the importance of this.

The verb exalt means to rear up. As a horse rears up on its hind legs, Isaiah desired to lift up God's greatness before all. After her conversion at the end of the Tribulation Period, Israel will do the same as she bows before Christ.

The verb behind praise means to confess. God-honoring praise is the result of humbly confessing the Lord's worthiness while repentantly acknowledging one's own sin and degradation.

The noun behind wonderful is the same Hebrew word used for Christ's name Wonderful in 9:6. The gracious and wonderful works of God are personified by the Lord Jesus Christ. All who have ever come to Him for salvation have found this to be so, and someday the Jewish people will discover the true wonders of God by turning in faith to their Messiah.

Isaiah's joy and the joy of every believer is not a product of one's own worthiness; it is a product of God's faithfulness and truth. "...God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)." The Lord's firmness makes salvation possible. Israel does not understand this now, but she will.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Sixth Trumpet (Part II)

"And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them. And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone. By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths. For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they 
do hurt." (Revelation 9:16-19)

The word behind thousand is literally myriads. A specific number is not in mind but rather an innumerable army of demonic horsemen. As with the locust, the text presents this cavalry as being real. They are definitely demonic but at the same time they are a physical terror.

Their armor burns with the fires of hell. Jacinth is a deep red or blue color and represents the intense heat of the pit from which they come. Brimstone is burning sulfur and this is used as a means to kill thousands if not millions of people. In keeping with the percentages described in chapter eight, one-third of the earth's population is murdered by these demons. As Jesus so aptly stated concerning Satan, "...He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him...(John 8:44)." Separation from God in a place of eternal torment is the ultimate reward of those who reject the gift of Christ. The Lord offers eternal life to the repentant sinner, but Satan offers only eternal death. The moral man would be tempted to view the victims of this passage as only those who are very evil according to man's standards. However, God presents every man outside of Christ as destined for the same fiery end (Romans 1-3).

"And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts." (Revelation 9:20-21)

After experiencing such horrific things, one would think that world-wide repentance should be the result. Not so. People want what they want, and few things will stop them. Despite being tormented by Satan's demon-locust and ultimately murdered by his demon-cavalry, the vast majority of mankind will resume its blasphemy of God, idol worship and immorality.

Jeremiah said, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it (Jeremiah 17:9)?" The Lord Jesus Christ preached, "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies (Matthew 15:19):" Despite this, many people (including many believers) are foolish enough to believe that they can understand and predict their own hearts. This thought process is against the Bible's teaching. God knows the heart; therefore, the utmost care must be given to the Bible's instruction concerning a man and his direction in life.

This passage describes a group of people so completely hardened by sin that they cannot be turned from their evil ways. Eternal death in hell is their only alternative. Romans 1:29-32 describes the miserable end of those who continuously reject the knowledge of God. Verse 31 ascribes to them the trait of implacable. This word means irreconcilable. Literally, the hardened souls of Romans chapter one had found themselves in a place where they had neither the desire nor the ability to be redeemed. The state of those here in Revelation seems to be similar. Continual rejection of God's convicting Spirit leads to irreparable damage (Mark 3:29).

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Fifth and Sixth Trumpets

"And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men. And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle. And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months. And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon." (Revelation 9:7-11)

Some people's speculations as to the meaning of the locust's appearance are quite fantastical. A few have gone so far as to suggest that they are helicopters! Delving into descriptions and meanings beyond what the text presents in matters such as these can leave one on shaky ground. These demonic creatures are evil, destructive and under the control of their dark master. Beyond this, little is known.

Their presence and power to hurt obviously makes them a formidable foe, well able to overcome man's defenses. Both the Hebrew and the Greek title for the angel mean destroyer or destruction. This angel is obviously Satan. The devil's antichrist is labeled the son of destruction (perdition) in II Thessalonians 2:3. The Greek word behind perdition shares the same root as the title Apollyon.

"One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter. And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates. And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men." (Revelation 9:12-15)

The sixth trumpet releases four demons who are responsible for murder on a mass scale. Somewhere beneath the waters of the ancient Euphrates River lie four demons awaiting their time to be used of God. The phrase an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year expresses the thought of a very specific time. God knows, to the very last moment, the appropriate time in which to release these servants of darkness.

The Scriptures speak of certain demons who are not permitted to roam about freely. Both Jude and Peter describe briefly the imprisoned state of select fallen angels whose past choices have brought upon them the fierce wrath of God (Jude 6, II Peter 2:4). The demons spoken of here fall into a similar category. Apparently too dangerous to roam at will, they are detained beneath the Euphrates; and their release will result in the devastation described in the following verses.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Fifth Trumpet

"And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads. And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man. And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them." (Revelation 9:1-6)

The fifth trumpet brings an assault of demons in the shape of locust. They are loosed by an angel which has fallen from heaven. The fact that God uses the title of star to represent a fallen angel will be important in the proper interpretation of 12:4.

It should be noted that this demon can do nothing without God's authority. The fallen angel has no key but must be given one. The Greek word behind bottomless pit would be transliterated as the abyss. It is the same word translated deep in Romans 10:7 and Luke 8:31. This is the abode of the dead and of demons.

Although these creatures are clearly born out of hell, there is no reason to allegorize either their function or appearance. The text presents them as physical creatures inflicting physical pain. This pain is limited to the torment of Satan's servants. Having rejected God, these souls are given over to the wiles of the master whom they have chosen. Ultimately, Satan does not reward his own but rather destroys them. God gives peace to those who serve Him, but the devil only rewards with evil.

Some things are worse than physical death. Rejection of God brings frightening consequences. The individual who refuses to submit to his Creator will have no peace either in this life or in that which is to come. The hopelessness of this situation should be considered well. What comfort will these people find? The pain of the plagues will be too oppressive to desire life and the fires of hell will be too fearful to desire death. A man's own way seems so appealing at the beginning, "but the end thereof are the ways of death (Proverbs 14:12)."

In principle, some believers have found themselves in similar situations due to a decision to run from God. Jonah caught a glimpse of rebellion's impassable road when he did the opposite of what God commanded him to do. Rejection of God's authority is hard and dangerous on any level.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Fourth Trumpet

"And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise. And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!" 
(Revelation 8:12-13)

The fourth trumpet brings about a series of bizarre eclipses and astronomical events which are difficult to explain this side of the Tribulation. Man has long been fascinated by the lights of the heavens. Throughout the ages, the heavenly bodies have been the objects of man's worship. However, in the end, they will be used by the God Who made them for the purposes of His glory.

No part of the earth is unaffected by night and day. The Psalmist said, "Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard (Psalm 19:2-3)." In every corner of the globe, these astronomical wonders will be witnesses of God's wrath and power.

God's grace is displayed in the angel's message as he pleads with the inhabitants of the world to heed the imminent judgments. The Lord makes a distinction between the children of darkness and the children of light by using the term inhabiters of the earth. In Revelation, this title is used exclusively to identify the devil's children versus the children of God. One does not have to worship Satan openly in order to have this title. He simply has to be alienated from Christ through unbelief.   

Friday, January 20, 2017

The First, Second and Third Trumpets

"The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up." (Revelation 8:7)

Through the first trumpet, God will destroy one-third of the earth's greenery. That color which is so common and so calming to the human eye will someday be removed from much of the world. The color of the Lord's original creation encourages a peaceful feeling in man, but man's sin will bring about the destruction of even this simple good. This judgment will also result in food shortages for both man and beast.

"And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed." (Revelation 8:8-9)

By the second trumpet, God curses the oceans. This object which appears as a fiery mountain may be a meteor or something similar. Its impact upon the sea results in the waters turning to blood. The physical effect of this alone would be staggering. A tsunami would be an unavoidable byproduct. This alone would be sufficient to destroy much of the mainland as well as numerous islands; however, in addition to this, the sea will be turned into blood. The text presents this as a literal thing and not simply a red tide. The ancient avenue of man's commerce and power will become a graveyard for both man and sea creatures. The terrifying sight and unimaginable stench of such a disaster is mind boggling.

"And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter." (Revelation 8:10-11)

After the sounding of the third trumpet, a second heavenly body falls upon the earth's freshwater supply. Little by little, God is removing the things necessary for man's survival.

Wormwood is an herb known for its bitterness and toxicity in high doses. Much of the earth's water supply will become poisonous, and those who were not destroyed by the oceanic disasters will be touched by this curse.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Preparation of the Trumpets

"And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets. And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand. And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake. And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound." (Revelation 8:1-6)

This is the calm before the storm, the peace before the tempest. In reverent awe of what God is about to do, the heavenly events are halted.

In the first six verses appears the preparation of the trumpets. Each trumpet will bring about a different judgment upon man; however, before this, the longstanding prayers of the saints are answered.

The final punishment of evil and the irreversible establishment of God's kingdom is a reality that should be endeared by every believer. The simple prayer of "Thy kingdom come (Matthew 6:10)" expresses a longstanding desire on the behalf of Christ's own. The heart of this prayer is about to be answered as God gathers up these supplications and mixes them with His incense. The incense may be thought of as the Holy Spirit. The desires of God's Spirit are mingled with the prayers of His people to produce a fragrant smoke that is precious to God. Alone, the believer's prayers are incomplete and immature. As Paul said, "...We know not what we should pray for as we ought...(Romans 8:26)." Therefore, these longstanding prayers which have been carefully guarded by God are mixed with the perfecting work of God's Spirit so that His complete will might be accomplished.

...The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).

The fire of the altar gives the impression of judgment. God's holy fire, the righteous prayers of His people and the perfecting work of His Spirit are all combined to produce a fearful mixture of judgment which results in natural disasters intended to gain the sinner's attention.

Knowing that one's prayers are not forgotten is encouraging. Sometimes God answers the prayer then and there; and sometimes He tucks it away for future granting. Regardless, He is not ignorant of His people's righteous desires. David prayed, "Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book (Psalm 56:8)?"

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Burden of the Last Days (Part IX)

"Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the LORD of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously." (Isaiah 24:23)

With an indisputable declaration of Christ's millennial glory, the passage ends with the magnificent splendor of His yet future reign.

In the face of the Messiah's blinding glory, even the lights of the heavens will be ashamed. That which God gave to rule the night and that which He gave to rule the day (Genesis 1:16) will both alike pale in comparison to the purity and radiance of Christ's holy countenance. By personally witnessing the surpassing nature of God's Light, millennial Jerusalem will be given a taste of the New Jerusalem's glory where Christ's countenance will be the sole light of the city (Revelation 21:23).

The text says that JEHOVAH of the armies will gloriously reign before His saints. Knowing that Jesus Christ will be the millennial kingdom's King, one may apply the title of JEHOVAH directly to the Son of God.

The Holy One of Israel will gloriously reign in the face of His ancient ones. The days of the prophets witnessed the rule of elderly men who gave counsel contrary to the Scriptures, but the millennial reign will witness godly old men whose hearts are in line with the heart of God. The world needs Christian servants like that today.

The redemptive nature of this passage's conclusion encourages the reader to be grateful for God's gracious desire to save all people (II Peter 3:9). Christ's reign will be a time when many will come to faith in His Person (Hebrews 8:11). This theme of redemption sets the stage for what will be discussed in the following three chapters.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The 144,000 (Part IV)

"And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." (Revelation 7:13-14)

The question is asked because in a time like this knowledge is important. Too many are content to behold and then to move on without ever considering why.

With an evangelistic tone, the angel declares to John that these have been freed from sins bondage. They were not saved because of their victory over tribulational difficulties, they were victorious because of their trust in Christ. This trust is pictured by the white robe which has been cleaned by Christ's blood.

This cleansing is not repetitive. Once the robe has been washed in Christ's blood through the agency of simple faith, there is no more need of washing (John 13:10). After salvation, the believer need only allow God's progressive work of practical sanctification to take place; however, positionally, the believer's robe is irreversibly whitened through Jesus' victorious blood.

"Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." (Revelation 7:15-17)

God is ever with His people here on earth, and in eternity that closeness is only heightened. Through Christ, God dwells with men because through Him is peace made between God and men. Apart from Christ, there is no peace between sinful man and a holy God.

In a figurative sense, Christ is presented as a shepherd who cares for ever need of his sheep. Christ feeds His people; He protects His people, and He provides life-giving water. As He said to the Samaritan woman, "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water (John 4:10)."

In considering this passage's glorious nature, one cannot help but recite Hebrews 13:20-21.

Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Burden of the Last Days (Part VIII)

"And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth. And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited." (Isaiah 24:21-22)

Lurking in the shadows of every earthly kingdom may be the dark forces of evil. Paul said, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12)." Satan is behind all of this world's dominions be they peaceable or outright violent. At Christ's return, these demonic forces along with their dark ruler will be confined to the abyss for a period of one thousand years (the time of Christ's earthly kingdom).

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, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled...(Revelation 20:1-3).

Along with Satan, the earth's kings will be subjected; and their kingdom's will fall to the King of kings.

The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel (Psalm 2:2-9).

The text says that these rulers will be shut up in prison and visited after many days. After describing Satan's confinement to the abyss, Revelation 20:3 goes on to say, "...And after that he must be loosed a little season." At the end of the 1,000 year millennial reign, Satan will be allowed to gather the rebellious of the earth for one final attack against Jerusalem - an attack which will end in his final demise.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The 144,000 (Part III)

"After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb." (Revelation 7:9-10)

Because these redeemed of many nations appear immediately after the previous sealing, it is assumed that they are the products of the evangelistic efforts of those sealed. This makes perfect sense since God has desired from the beginning that Israel be a light of God's salvation to all the world. The Lord's earliest intentions for Israel will be realized as she takes the knowledge of her Messiah to a world of people caught in a hopeless web of sin. At least to some extent, saved Jews will pursue lost Gentiles. For the most part, the opposite has been true in this present age of the Church.

Salvation's credit belongs to none but God's Lamb. A true salvation experience should result in the reverent praise of Jesus Christ.

"And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen." (Revelation 7:11-12)

All the intrinsic value of blessing, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, power and might was ascribed to God and rightly so, because He is the definition of these things. Likewise, the Christian's life should ascribe these things to God through its conduct. Selfishness and worldliness do not ascribe such traits to God neither does disobedience and pride. However, a life lived in Christian charity and the fear of God will do much to ascribe to Christ the many blessed traits of which He is worthy.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Burden of the Last Days (Part VII)

"Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee, O inhabitant of the earth. And it shall come to pass, that he who fleeth from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that cometh up out of the midst of the pit shall be taken in the snare: for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth do shake." (Isaiah 24:17-18)

No matter where Judah's citizens turned, they would be faced with terror. The Babylonian army would be everywhere; and in the last days, the armies of the antichrist will persecute Israel's citizens on every side.

"The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again." (Isaiah 24:19-20)

From here on, the apocalyptic taste of these passages grows stronger. Jerusalem's punishment through the various kingdoms of the past has served as a directional arrow which points Israel and the world to what is yet future. The language here is poetic, yet one cannot ignore the literal nature of what is described.

Man's rejection of God's authority is slowly pushing the world and its inhabitants toward the unbelievably wicked days of the Great Tribulation. Man's sin will come to full blossom as every corner of the world feels the load of Satan-worship. Under this weight of sin, the earth will metaphorically stagger as a drunken man. God did not create the world and its creatures to serve any but Him; therefore, the time will come when creation can bear the load of sin no longer. Paul said,

For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now (Romans 8:19-22).

Even inanimate objects and beasts of the earth look forward to the deliverance which Christ's reign will bring. Satan's earthly kingdom will be destroyed. His dominion will fall and not rise again. Israel's Christ-less kingdom will also fall, and none of its rebellious ways will ever be resurrected.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Burden of the Last Days (Part VI)

"From the uttermost part of the earth have we heard songs, even glory to the righteous. But I said, My leanness, my leanness, woe unto me! the treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously; yea, the treacherous dealers have dealt very treacherously." (Isaiah 24:16)

With eyes on the future reign of Christ, Isaiah sees the converts of many nations giving glory to the Messiah. In compliment of this passage, Malachi wrote,

For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts (Malachi 1:11).

In principle, the heart of this opening statement is being fulfilled in the New Testament age as people of many nations are being converted to faith in Christ. Subsequently, songs of praise are being offered to God by lips made righteous through faith in Christ.

Isaiah's mind quickly returns to Judah's present and yet future distress as he cries "My leanness, my leanness!" Israel's unbelieving spirit has left her very lean. As a malnutritioned individual, Judah appeared sickly and weak. She may have appeared well on the outside, but the spiritual side was full of sores. "From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores...(1:6)."

With an eye on the coming terror of Babylon and likely the future terror of the antichrist, Isaiah laments the treacherous way in which Israel's enemies will deal with her.   

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Burden of the Last Days (Part V)

"When thus it shall be in the midst of the land among the people, there shall be as the shaking of an olive tree, and as the gleaning grapes when the vintage is done. They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing for the majesty of the LORD, they shall cry aloud from the sea. Wherefore glorify ye the LORD in the fires, even the name of the LORD God of Israel in the isles of the sea." (Isaiah 24:13-15)

In His infinite compassion, the Lord promised to reserve a remnant of Israel. He would not permit their complete destruction. Those primarily responsible for Judah's rebellion would be punished; the religious hypocrites would be removed; however, God would permit the survival of many. As a few small olive berries that cling to the outermost branches of the olive tree after gleaning, even so would a few citizens remain in the land after God's chastening. This remnant would return to true religion and give praise to the Holy One of Israel. Postexilic books likes Ezra and Nehemiah bear record to the near fulfillment of this spiritual awakening; however, Israel's redemption at Christ's return will disclose this prophecy's full reality. The Jewish people who survive the tribulation will be converted to true religion and will glorify the name of the LORD.

God commands His people to glorify Him in the fires and in the islands and coasts of the great Mediterranean Sea. Regardless of the trials and deportations, God's people were to remain focused upon Him. They were to glorify Him wherever they might find themselves. A man cannot control many of his circumstances, but he can choose to glorify God's name in the middle of the many "fires" of life.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The 144,000 (Part II)

"And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel. Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nepthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand." (Isaiah 7:4-8)

The supposed "lost" tribes of Israel are not truly lost. They have been dispersed since the Assyrian invasion, and the destruction of the temple in 70 AD struck a hard blow to Israel's recorded chronologies; yet, none of these things are obstacles for God. The Lord knows where every last Jew lives. He also knows how to chasten, protect and reinstate each one. Here, the Lord demonstrates His ability to bring order out of chaos and persecution.

There is no reason to allegorize the numbers presented here. Each tribe will have 12,000 individuals who will turn from sin to Christ during the Great Tribulation. Of course, this passage is one which has been abused by the satanic cult known as Jehovah's Witnesses. From the sealing of these tribes, they surmise that only 144,000 people will be resurrected to rule with Christ (Whom they reject as Jehovah) in God's kingdom. The entire context of Scripture teaches nothing of the sort. These individuals will be Jewish. They will not be the only citizens of Christ's kingdom, and they will be lamps of God's holiness in a dark world.

Every tribe is mentioned with the exception of Dan for which Manasseh is the substitute. In his departing prophecy to his sons, Israel declared that Dan's influence would be like an adder which hides along the roadside waiting to attack those that pass by (Genesis 49:16-18). Indeed, Dan's idolatry was a stumblingblock not only to those within the tribe but also to the entire nation of Israel. In fact, the tribe of Dan remained in idolatry until the very day of captivity (Judges 18:30-31). Intensely idolatrous influence may be the reason Dan is excluded from the list of those who will be sealed; however, no one can be certain.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Burden of the Last Days (Part IV)

"The new wine mourneth, the vine languisheth, all the merryhearted do sigh. The mirth of tabrets ceaseth, the noise of them that rejoice endeth, the joy of the harp ceaseth. They shall not drink wine with a song; strong drink shall be bitter to them that drink it. The city of confusion is broken down: every house is shut up, that no man may come in. There is a crying for wine in the streets; all joy is darkened, the mirth of the land is gone. In the city is left desolation, and the gate is smitten with destruction." (Isaiah 24:7-12)

When the armies of Nebuchadnezzar came through, they ravaged the land. Those caught in the open fields were subject to the sword, and the fruits of the land became the sustenance of Babylon's army. Obviously, such things left nothing for the citizens of Judah. Hundreds of years prior to this event, the Lord warned Israel that such would be the case if they rejected His authority. "The fruit of thy land, and all thy labours, shall a nation which thou knowest not eat up; and thou shalt be only oppressed and crushed alway (Deuteronomy 28:30)."

Jeremiah gave a glimpse into the lamentable state of Jerusalem after the Babylonian invasion when he wrote,

Mine eyes do fail with tears, my bowels are troubled, my liver is poured upon the earth, for the destruction of the daughter of my people; because the children and the sucklings swoon in the streets of the city. They say to their mothers, Where is corn and wine? when they swooned as the wounded in the streets of the city, when their soul was poured out into their mothers' bosom (Lamentations 2:11-12).

Judah had delighted itself in the intoxicating effects of wine; therefore, the Lord promised that such things would lose their allurement and would eventually cease altogether.

The once joyful city that said, "Let us eat and drink (22:13)" was soon to be dark, destitute and clothed in eerie silence. The text says that the city would be broken down. After his capture of Zedekiah, Nebuchadnezzar sent his men to Jerusalem to burn its houses and to break down its walls (Jeremiah 52:12-14).   

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Burden of the Last Days (Part III)

"The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left." (Isaiah 24:4-6)

Before Israel conquered the land of Canaan, God gave them this warning,

Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you: And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you ... That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you (Leviticus 18:24-26, 28).

Israel's refusal to keep the heart and letter of the Law had brought them to the point where they were just as evil or worse than those before them. Under their rebellion, the land was broken and could not bear them any longer.

The same will hold true in the end times. Iniquity will abound and the earth will be crushed under its load. Man's sin will eventually reach the point of full ripening, and the Lord will give the command through His angel, "Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe (Revelation 14:15)."

The Scriptures are clear. "Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people (Proverbs 14:34)." If God would not pardon the evil of His chosen people, He will not pardon any nation that continues on in disobedience. The United States and many other countries of the world are in severe danger of being judged for their blatant rejection of God's truth.

The text says that Israel had changed the ordinance. They did not necessarily eliminate it, but instead they changed it. Many religious people do the same thing today. They profess the Bible; they read portions of the Bible; they acknowledge the Bible; yet, they will not follow it wholly. Many have simply created their own text and completely changed the written words of God. Many Christians do the same thing by their lives. They would never openly reject the Bible's authority, but instead they have diminished its value by excusing themselves from its straight forward commands on the basis of circumstance and culture. Changing the Scriptures is almost worse than rejecting them altogether, because such behavior gives the allusion of commitment. By this, many have been deceived.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Burden of the Last Days (Part II)

"And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him. The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the LORD hath spoken this word." (Isaiah 24:2-3)

Divine recompense knows no favorites. The enemy's sword would not pass over any because of position, gender or wealth. The iniquity of Judah had blossomed completely; it had to be punished.

Behold the day, behold, it is come: the morning is gone forth; the rod hath blossomed, pride hath budded. Violence is risen up into a rod of wickedness ... The time is come, the day draweth near: let not the buyer rejoice, nor the seller mourn: for wrath is upon all the multitude thereof. For the seller shall not return to that which is sold, although they were yet alive: for the vision is touching the whole multitude thereof, which shall not return; neither shall any strengthen himself in the iniquity of his life (Ezekiel 7:10-13).

Nebuchadnezzar's armies would murder those who were in the open fields, and hunger and disease would ravage those who remained behind the city's walls. Yet, God would preserve a remnant even in the midst of such devastation.

The sword is without, and the pestilence and the famine within: he that is in the field shall die with the sword; and he that is in the city, famine and pestilence shall devour him. But they that escape of them shall escape, and shall be on the mountains like doves of the valleys, all of them mourning, every one for his iniquity (Ezekiel 7:15-16).

These passages provide lessons for the Church. Nothing trumps obedience to the Bible. Position, age, experience and influence do not immunize an individual to Bible truth. The respected pastor who has lost his appreciation for charity is just as much in danger as the newly-saved church member who struggles with being faithful to church attendance. No one is too good to humbly serve God and to do what he is commanded.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The 144,000

"And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads." (Revelation 7:1-3)

In the middle of the seals being opened, God interjects this parenthetical passage to give insight into His work of salvation during this troublesome time.

The wind is stayed from blowing on the earth. As is the case in 8:1, this is the calm before the storm. God always protects and provides for His redeemed. He would not destroy the righteous with the wicked in Lot's day; He will not send His Church into the fires of the Tribulation, and He will not deal with tribulation saints in the same way He will deal with the earth's wicked. God is faithful. Whether the markings are literal or whether they represent that change of spirit which characterizes Christ's own (Romans 8:9), one may be certain that God's people are noticeably different in His sight and to the world. When it is not so, something is amiss on the part of the one professing Jesus. As will be seen, this divine identification will serve to protect the Lord's saints from the plagues to come (9:1-4). God performed a similar work when He protected Israel from the plagues brought upon Egypt.

And I will sever in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there; to the end thou mayest know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth (Exodus 8:22).

As it was in the days of Moses, so it often is in the Church age, and so it will be in the Tribulation. God's Spirit works in the hearts of the lost as they witness God's protection of His own. The believer's heavenly help in the middle of troubles is a powerful tool against unbelief.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Burden of the Last Days

"Behold, the LORD maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof." (Isaiah 24:1)

As the burdens of the nations draw to a close, the Lord presents passages that are weighted heavily with end time events. The Lord's judgment upon Judah in the days of Nebuchadnezzar is very evident in the first fifteen verses; however, throughout the chapter, God presents a picture of His near and far dealings with both Israel and the world. Unknown to Isaiah, as he penned these passages, his eyes beheld Judah's impending doom as well as its yet future tribulational and millennial destiny.

The Hebrew word for earth could be translated land or country. Context will declare the best interpretation. Before the Almighty, the world is pictured as sick and ready to fall. Sin has taken its toll upon the land, and people are scattered from their homes and cities because of the divine curse upon man's wickedness. Why is Israel no longer the beautiful nation it once was? Where is the fruitfulness and plushness described in the book of Joshua? Why has so much of Israel's beauty depleted over time? God's judgment of man's rebellion has left Israel's grandeur a mere fragment of what it once was. Does the sin of a country affect its physical beauty over time? Absolutely.

So that the generation to come of your children that shall rise up after you, and the stranger that shall come from a far land, shall say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses which the LORD hath laid upon it; And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath: Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger? Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD God of their fathers...(Deuteronomy 29:22-25).

In the days just prior to Christ's return, the world will experience this same type of turmoil and emptiness. Ravaged by sin and God's judgment of it, the earth will fall under the load; and all would be lost were it not for the promise of Jesus' victorious return.