Friday, March 31, 2017

The Lamb of Mount Zion

"And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth." (Revelation 14:1-3)

A look at the Lamb of Mount Zion is an encouraging way to end this explanatory interlude. The Lamb of God is seen permanently standing on the same ground temporarily occupied by the antichrist. The Lamb's servants are pictured by His side with the unmistakable mark of God. This mark may be physical, or it may represent the presence of the Holy Spirit in their countenance. God's Spirit marks His own, giving an undeniable witness of true conversion.

Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity (II Timothy 2:19).

But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his (Romans 8:9).

These 144,000 are the same as those presented in chapter seven. Like every saint, these men are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. Christ's blood is a precious thing, and it has been given in redemption of those who will turn to Him in faith. His blood purchases. This purchase is irreversible. Once the transaction is made, the product (believer) cannot be sold back or given up.

And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth (Revelation 5:9-10).

"These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God." 
(Revelation 14:4-5)

A man once said, "The word virgin in the Bible simply means a young woman." This statement is false. The word virgin which is used to describe Mary's premarital condition (Luke 1:27) is the same word used here. The passage here clearly uses the word to describe the abstinence of intercourse. Sexual impurity has become the norm in today's society, but things will be worse in the Tribulation. The amplified influence of idol worship will serve to add to the commonality of this particular sin as people participate in immorality out of worship to their false gods. The Lord's servants will be marked not by their participation but by their abstinence from such things. Any believer is capable of horrific sin if he chooses to give in to his evil flesh, but one does have to wonder about a professing believer who habitually practices something which is openly forbidden by God. Likely, the world will become so evil in the end times that any trace of a normal marital relationship will vanish. All physical interactions will be wicked and outside of God's original plan. In the middle of all this, the testimony of these saints will stand out clearly.

They are also marked by their willingness to follow the Lamb wherever He might lead them. These men will truly "go against the flow." Any believer can follow this example. God's power is sufficient in any age. Nothing but a lack of faith prevents a believer from departing from the worldly norm and finding grace "whereby [he] may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear (Hebrews 12:28)."

The text calls them firstfruits. Simply stated, they are a foretaste of what God is about to do on a national scale with Israel. As Christ's blood will redeem these 144,000 Jews who turn to Him as their Messiah, even so will His blood redeem the nation when they turn to Him with all their heart (Isaiah 33:20-24).

The blood of Christ enables the believer to stand blameless before the throne of God. Though imperfect in the flesh, the believer is positionally faultless in the blood of Christ. In Jesus, the saint is made the very righteousness of God (II Corinthians 5:21).

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Woe of Ariel (Part II)

"And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust. Moreover the multitude of thy strangers shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the terrible ones shall be as chaff that passeth away: yea, it shall be at an instant suddenly. Thou shalt be visited of the LORD of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire. And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel, even all that fight against her and her munition, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision. It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite: so shall the multitude of all the nations be, that fight against mount Zion." 
(Isaiah 29:4-8)

The Babylonians completely destroyed Jerusalem and its temple. The city and its inhabitants were brought down as the text says. Jeremiah described these events.

Now in the fifth month, in the tenth day of the month, which was the nineteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, which served the king of Babylon, into Jerusalem, and burned the house of the LORD, and the king's house; and all the houses of Jerusalem, and all the houses of the great men, burned he with fire: And all the army of the Chaldeans, that were with the captain of the guard, brake down all the walls of Jerusalem round about (Jeremiah 52:12-14).

How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger, and cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel, and remembered not his footstool in the day of his anger (Lamentations 2:1)!

The pride of Judah's citizens would be broken and their speech would be brought down to the dust. This phrase probably has other connotations as well. Even though Jerusalem would be destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and also by the Romans (70 AD), her voice would still be heard out of the ruins. Not all life and hope would be removed. The voice would be low and soft, but it would be there nonetheless. Eventually, Zion would be resurrected.

The apocalyptic flavor of this passage is strong. Babylon's invasion is the near fulfillment of these things but there is a far fulfillment which has yet to come. Zechariah clearly prophesied of a time near the end of the Great Tribulation when Jerusalem will be conquered and terrorized by her enemies.

Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem ... Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity...(12:2, 14:1-2).

However, because of the power and promises of God, she will not be permanently subjugated. Once the Lord has accomplished his will in breaking the pride and disbelief of His people, He will come and destroy the enemies of Israel.

And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it. In that day, saith the LORD, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness: and I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah, and will smite every horse of the people with blindness ... Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle ... And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth. And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great tumult from the LORD shall be among them; and they shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbour, and his hand shall rise up against the hand of his neighbour 12:3-4, 14:3, 12-13).

God's enemies eventually come to nothing. Where is the wealth and grandeur of the Babylonian Empire? What remains of Babylon's magnificence? Jerusalem continues because of God's righteousness and His plans for her restoration, but the world's kingdoms are doomed to failure. Upon the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, the antichrist and his kingdom will be no more real than the banqueting of a hungry man's dream.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Woe of Ariel

"Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt! add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices. Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be heaviness and sorrow: and it shall be unto me as Ariel. And I will camp against thee round about, and will lay siege against thee with a mount, and I will raise forts against thee." (Isaiah 29:1-3)

The title Ariel means lion of God. In Ezekiel 43:15 and 16, the same Hebrew word is used to describe the altar of God's temple. The place of this poetic title is clarified by the phrase the city where David dwelt. Jerusalem is the city which God is addressing through Isaiah. Although Jerusalem has been and remains to be a troubled city because of unbelief, she is a city which has a special place in God's heart. She is His lioness. The righteousness of the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5) will someday clothe her completely. On his deathbed, Jacob prophesied of Judah's final triumph through the fear of the Lord.

Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father's children shall bow down before thee. Judah is a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be (Genesis 49:8-10).

Even though Jerusalem is God's lion, she still had to face punishment for her rebellion. To a small degree, this punishment came through Sennacherib when he invaded Judah; however, the text says that God would besiege Jerusalem by the use of mounts and forts. This is something which did not happen during Sennacherib's siege (Isaiah 37:33). In light of this, the Babylonian invasion is also being referenced. Nebuchadnezzar did besiege and conquer the city in 586 BC. However, this is not the end of the matter. As the following passages will declare, Jerusalem's destruction in the last days of the Great Tribulation seems to be in view.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Woe of Ephraim (Part IX)

"For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod. Bread corn is bruised; because he will not ever be threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen. This also cometh forth from the LORD of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working." (Isaiah 28:27-29)

Being smaller and more delicate, cumin is not harvested in the same manner as wheat. The tiny bits of grain are removed from the plant by tapping them with a rod. The wheat however is threshed. This process is more violent. The Lord knows what each man and nation can handle. With the weak, He is more gentle; and with the strong and proud, He is more forceful. Israel could have found comfort in this. The Lord knew how to administer the appropriate amount of help and correction to her while dealing with the stronger nations of the world according to their strength and character.

Verse 28 is difficult to interpret. The main thought seems to be that of God's ability to bring chastisement while simultaneously preserving what is useful. Even during the times of harshness when God sees fit to crush the grain, the end result is not in excess of that which is befitting the overall plan of God.

The passage ends with a declaration of God's unsearchable wisdom. Only He could exercise such skill and ability. The affairs of this world are far beyond the capabilities of any man; but the man who commits himself into the hands of the master Husbandman may rest quietly.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Beast (Part IV)

"And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live." (Revelation 13:11-14)

The appearance of the beast's prophet clearly illustrates how Satan is constantly attempting to mimic the work of God. The devil will attempt to follow the same format as the Trinity by having himself as the head, the antichrist as his unholy offspring and the prophet as the driving force for the evil spirit behind it all.

The false prophet will do amazing things including miracles which parallel those of Elijah (I Kings 18:36-38, II Kings 1:10). The text does not hide the power and impressive nature of his miracles; however, the text also declares the unbiblical nature of them. Contrary to the Scriptures, the false prophet will use his miraculous powers to bring about the construction and worship of an image. His miracles will contradict, not compliment, the truth and authority of God's Word. This is an important principle to identify. Too many people are taken in by the smooth talk and impressive tricks of false teachers everywhere. Works are only as valuable as they are obedient to the doctrine of God. Most Christians today live not by doctrine but by emotion and sight. As the foolish Israelites in the days of the judges, professing Christians are setting aside God's truth for in exchange for that which is right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25). This way of living destroys people. It will lead many away in the end times, and it is taking its toll on millions today.

"And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six." (Revelation 13:15-18)

Some believe that trickery will be used in order to give the appearance that the image has life. This may or may not be the case. If God chooses to allow Satan to give physical life to such a statue, so be it. Such power is still under the authority of God, and Satan's miracles still fall far short of God's abilities.

As a seal of their doom, every individual who does not know Christ as Savior will be marked by the number of the beast. Thousands of Christians have frightened themselves needlessly by fearing either the intentional or unintentional reception of this mark. First of all, this damning mark is reserved for the tribulation period. It is not a pre-rapture event. Secondly, for the tribulation saints, the reception of this mark will be impossible. The presence of the Holy Spirit in the believer will not permit the receiving of such a mark (I John 2:27), and the eternal security of the believer also excludes the possibility. The Bible makes it clear that the saint cannot lose his salvation, and to receive the mark is to be condemned to hell (Revelation 14:9-10); therefore, the true believer will not and cannot receive the mark of the beast.

The number of the beast is that which falls short of perfection. In the Scriptures, seven is often connected with the idea of perfection, that which is complete. God's seven Spirits are before His throne. The holy Lamb of Mount Zion is pictured as having seven horns and seven eyes in compliment of His flawless Spirit. Yet, Satan's messenger is characterized by the number six. He comes close; yet, he fails. To come close but to fall short is to fail. The very best that Satan can conjure up still fails to match God's perfection. This number of a man is just that. It is not God's number; therefore, it is not to be feared. It will not triumph. It cannot deliver.   

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Beast (Part III)

"And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints." (Revelation 13:7-10)

The lost will be deceived and will follow the antichrist; however, the Spirit's discernment will prevent such deception on the part of Christ's own. The Holy Spirit is not passive; He is active. His presence brings a discernment between good and evil which is not possible prior to regeneration. The absence of this discernment indicates the absence of salvation (Malachi 3:16-18).

The unbelieving do not have the privilege of God's deliverance. They must rely upon their cunning, strength and weaponry. The unregenerate are marked by a spirit of rebellion, violence and hatred. In the last days, this truth will become even more of a reality as the earth's inhabitants take to living and dying by the sword. The presence of such evil will bring to light the heart of the lost man and his ways. On the other hand, the believer finds a different type of deliverance. His lot is not the sword but rather the power of God. In the tribulation days, the saint will lose his physical life; however, his soul will be safe with Jesus Christ. His demeanor will not be characterized by the violence of the sword but rather the victory of Christ's blood. As He does today, the Spirit will shine through the tribulation saint bringing evidence of charity, mercy, peace and patience before those who desire his death.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Woe of Ephraim (Part VIII)

"Give ye ear, and hear my voice; hearken, and hear my speech. Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? doth he open and break the clods of his ground? When he hath made plain the face thereof, doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and cast in the principal wheat and the appointed barley and the rie in their place? For his God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him." (Isaiah 28:23-26)

The chapter ends with an agricultural illustration of God's work. The specific application is not given; therefore, the illustration stands as an object lesson concerning the general work of God and His precision in guiding the affairs of His creation.

Isaiah asks, "Does the plowman plow all day to sow?" The answer is, Yes. The farmer tills and prepares his land with a definite purpose in mind. He is not toiling aimlessly. The hard work of preparing the soil enables the farmer to plant the valuable seed.

Cumin is a relatively small seed. The word behind fitches seems to represent another form of cumin or some similarly small seed. These tiny seeds are not individually placed into the ground but rather they are scattered abroad or into rows. The larger grains of wheat, barley and spelt are placed into their respective rows in a more deliberate fashion. The point is that each seed is handled according to its unique nature and requirements. Just as God has imparted to mankind the wisdom to grow crops, even so is God the Master of farming His creation. The world is His field and the seeds are men and nations (Matthew 13:38). The Lord knows exactly how to deal with every nation and every man. Not one seed is mishandled, dropped or incorrectly placed by the Lord of the field. If the Lord has seen fit to enable man to cultivate physical food, will He not exercise at least the same wisdom in cultivating the affairs of His creatures?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Woman and the Dragon (Part V)

"Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent." (Revelation 12:12-14)

Faced with the reality of his permanent banishment from heaven, Satan will begin a focused persecution of Israel. Daniel 9:27 says that the antichrist will profane the Jewish temple midway through the tribulation period. In compliment to Daniel's prophecies, the Lord Jesus spoke of terrible persecution against the Jews upon the commencement of the antichrist's blasphemous exaltation (Matthew 24:3-28). In light of these things, it would seem that the beast's persecution of the Jews will come at the Tribulation's halfway point. The 1,260 days (equaling 3.5 prophetic years) presented in the text (verse 6) only adds to the probability of this.

God's mercy will preserve His people from complete destruction during these events. Undoubtedly, this time of intense trouble will provide many opportunities for God's chosen people to reflect upon their disbelief in His righteousness. Perhaps many Jewish hearts will be softened toward the Lord Jesus as they consider the reality of His provision.

Some have speculated that this hiding place will be in the crags and caves of Edom's desolate wilderness; however, no one is certain. In the end, only God knows the hiding place which He has prepared for His people - a hiding place spoken of many years prior by the prophet Isaiah.

Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain (Isaiah 26:20-21).

Jeremiah prophesied of this troublesome time when he said, "Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble... ." However, he went on to say, "...but he shall be saved out of it (Jeremiah 30:7)." On the heals of this brief persecution comes an eternity of God's blessing upon the Jews.

The time, times and half a time is in reference to the 1,260 days previously mentioned (3.5). Daniel used similar language when he described the antichrist's reign in Daniel 7:25.

"And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." (Revelation 12:15-17)

Furthered enraged by his failure to annihilate the Jews, the devil will attack the followers of the Messiah. The text calls them those "who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." A truly converted individual is one who loves and respects the commands of his Redeemer. The evil of the tribulation days will leave no room for those who wish to ride the fence.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Woe of Ephraim (Part VII)

"For the LORD shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act." (Isaiah 28:21)

This verse references King David's victories over the Philistines at Baal-Perazim and Gibeon (II Samuel 5:20, I Chronicles 14:11, 16). The LORD miraculously interceded in behalf of His people in order that He might save them; however, He would now intercede not to save but to destroy. This role reversal is why the Lord called His work strange (foreign). The Lord's heart is broken over the need to do such things, but rebellion cannot go unchecked.

"Now therefore be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong: for I have heard from the Lord GOD of hosts a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth." (Isaiah 28:22)

"How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation...(Hebrews 2:3)?" It is a dangerous thing to disbelieve the God of the whole earth. Previously, Isaiah had warned the people of a consumption, even determined, in the midst of all the land (10:23), and now he reiterates the fact that it will devour Judah and Israel. The Assyrians were already gobbling up the surrounding countries, so how could little Israel in her godless condition escape?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Beast (Part II)

"And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven." (Revelation 13:3-6)

Because one of the heads is pictured as being resurrected, some believe that the antichrist will be a man who has been killed and consequently resurrected by satanic power. This is certainly within the realm of possibility. The Lord will allow the powers of darkness to manifest great ability for the purpose of deceiving those who have rejected the Lord. If the antichrist is a man who is resurrected, this restoration to physical life will be brief. His time will be limited to approximately seven years before he is permanently consigned to damnation's flames. Satan's counterfeit works of divinity always fall short of the genuine works of God.

Another possibility is that this resurrected head pictures the Revived Roman Empire. The iron which was mixed with the clay of the statue in Nebuchadnezzar's dream indicates that the antichrist's kingdom will contain certain elements that resemble the ancient Roman Empire. That empire was never completely destroyed as were its predecessors. The character and philosophy of the Roman Empire awaits the day when it will be revived under the headship of Satan and his pawn.

The antichrist's kingdom is depicted as possessing great power. This future kingdom will conquer the world. It will not accept any rivals. It will not care for human rights. It will be a kingdom that operates on the principles of lies and oppression. Mankind views government as an impressive statue composed of lovely and valuable metals (Daniel 2:31-35), but God views human government as a destructive beast which cannot be restrained indefinitely (Daniel 7:1-7). As a wild animal eying the helpless viewers on the other side of the cage's bars, human government constantly patrols its boundaries tirelessly searching for that weak spot through which it might escape.

God will permit His name to be horribly blasphemed but not indefinitely. In the middle of the tribulation period, the son of perdition will desecrate the Jewish temple, invade the Holy of Holies and command all the world that he alone be worshiped as God (II Thessalonians 2:3-4). The forty-two months corresponds to 1,260 days or 3.5 prophetic years. This is the amount of time which God will permit this evil man to do his worst. However, the antichrist's time of triumph is incredibly short in comparison to his eternal damnation.

...Yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him (Daniel 11:45).

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Beast

"And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy." (Revelation 13:1)

The sea is figurative for the nations and peoples of the earth (Isaiah 60:5, Daniel 7:2-3). The title of beast is often used to designate the person of the antichrist. While this is not wrong, it must be remembered that the title of beast more accurately identifies the kingdom of the antichrist. The title pictures the entire structure and character of this satanic kingdom which will be spearheaded by an extremely wicked individual. Daniel's visions of this future kingdom provide valuable aids for correct interpretation.

The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces (Daniel 7:23).

The seven heads represent seven kings and their kingdoms. The ten horns identify ten kings which will arise and ally themselves with the antichrist (Revelation 17:9-13).

"And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority." (Revelation 13:2)

The beast's power was witnessed by Daniel in his visions of this future kingdom.

After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns ... Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet (Daniel 7:7, 19).

The use of the leopard, bear and lion to describe the kingdom seems to indicate that it will share many of the characteristics found in the kingdoms of Babylon, Persia and Greece. Daniel used these same animals to describe these three kingdoms respectively.

The first was like a lion (Babylon), and had eagle's wings .. And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear (Persia), and it raised up itself on one side ... After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard (Greece), which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl...(Daniel 7:4-6).

It is not odd that this kingdom will taste of empires which have come and gone. Man's wicked philosophies and passions remain unchanged regardless of time. If anything, they grow worse.

The Woe of Ephraim (Part VI)

"From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you: for morning by morning shall it pass over, by day and by night: and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report. For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it." (Isaiah 28:19-20)

The way of the transgressor is hard (Proverbs 13:15). Assyria's march through the land would incite terror in the hearts of the people. With each passing day would come new reports of Sennacherib's conquests and the horrific treatment of his captives. This vexation of soul and mind recalls the words of Deuteronomy 28:66-67.

And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life: In the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even! and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see.

The Hebrew word behind report is the same word translated doctrine in verse nine. The people mocked Isaiah's doctrine; however, the day was fast approaching when they would be faced with the frightening truth of it.

The bed of Israel's alliances with the godless was insufficient to meet the need. Proper rest cannot be had when a man cannot stretch himself comfortably upon a bed, and insufficient blankets only add to the frustration. The rulers of Judah had made their bed, and now they must sleep in it; but a night without God's protection is a frightful prospect.

I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety (Psalm 4:8).

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Woe of Ephraim (Part V)

"Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it." (Isaiah 28:16-18)

In rebuttal of Israel's hellish alliances, the Lord presents the true means of Israel's salvation as well as that of the Gentiles - the saving work of Jesus Christ the Messiah.

On the surface, the Lord pointed the people toward His temple in Jerusalem. The edifice stood as a magnificent reminder of God's steadfastness, holiness and deliverance. Underneath the surface of the physical temple lies the deeper symbolism of the Lord Jesus Christ as seen by the New Testament writers. The Lord Jesus is presented as the foundation which cannot be moved. Man's righteousness fails. Alliances fail, but the Messiah's righteousness never fails. He is the tried stone. This refers to a stone that has stood the test. It has passed through the fires of God's testing and emerged victorious. The Lord Jesus is also the precious or rare corner stone. A cornerstone joins two walls together and acts as a foundation and anchor-point. The Lord Jesus Christ is that Rock upon which salvation stands. He is the stone upon which the repentant sinner may fall and find healing through the brokenness of a repentant heart, and He is that stone that crushes the pride of the unrepentant man and brings him to nothing. "And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder (Matthew 21:44)."

Paul quoted verse 16 when discussing Israel's failure to seek God through faith in His righteousness (Romans 9:33). Just like the Jews of Paul's day, the audience of Isaiah was not interested in seeking redemption through faith in the Messiah's righteousness. The Lord promised that the one who would believe in the saving work of this Cornerstone would not make haste. He will not need to fear the coming judgment of God but will rest safe in the day of retribution.

Peter also quoted this verse in presenting Christ as the only means of salvation. "Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded (I Peter 2:6)." This chief Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20) assures the believer a place of safety in the day of judgment, but He is a stone of stumbling to the faithless (I Peter 2:7-8).

The imagery of architecture continues as God promises to make judgment a line and righteousness a leveling instrument. The verse could also be translated, "Judgment also will I give for a line and righteousness for a leveling instrument." Israel's alliances were false and faulty but the salvation of God's tried Stone is straight, level and infallible.

The waters overflowing the hiding place picture the realities of invasion as Sennacherib would come and conquer city after city in the land of Judah. Water always runs down. A man cannot hide in a pit from a flood of water, even so would Israel's enemies find her wherever she sought to hide.

Through the invading armies, God would abolish Israel's agreements and alliances. Her alliances with hell would not stand in the day of His punishment. The Assyrian scourge from which they thought themselves safe would tread them down. In a distant sense, the Lord will someday make void Israel's alliances and places of refuge. At the Second Coming, Christ alone will be the Jews' only means of deliverance.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Woman and the Dragon (Part IV)

"And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death." (Revelation 12:10-11)

Although a few more events must unfold before the actual advent of the millennial kingdom, the text presents the victory as immediate on account of its sure nature. The devil's fall is just one more step toward the irreversible kingdom of God.

The name Devil means accuser, and the name Satan means adversary. Satan is quick to find fault either legitimate or illegitimate with God's people. His accusations of God's redeemed are a reproach to the sufficiency of Christ's blood which has forever washed away the sin of the believer. Satan is also busily engaged with resisting God's people. Satan's twofold work of accusation and resistance may be clearly seen in his fight against God's work through Joshua the high priest.

And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire (Zechariah 3:1-2)?

Undoubtedly, many of the devil's accusations are true; yet, the validity of their condemnation melts away in the presence of Christ's righteousness.

The text declares the threefold victory of the saints: the blood of the Lamb, the Word of their testimony and they loved not their lives unto the death. Christ's blood washes away sin. It enables a man to "draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having [his heart] sprinkled from an evil conscience, and [his body] washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:22)." Without it, sin remains and victory is impossible. Secondly, the Word of God brings deliverance by pointing the lost man to Christ and by guiding the saved man into the pathway of sanctification. Adherence to the Word is a demonstration of salvation; therefore, the text links the two in an inseparable fashion. Thirdly, the victorious saint of the text chose the kingdom of God over the kingdom of Satan. A man serves only one of two masters. The Tribulation persecution of believers will serve to weed out the false professors and intensify the reality of this truth. Jesus said, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it (Matthew 16:25)."

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Woman and the Dragon (Part III)

"And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him." (Revelation 12:7-9)

What a battle that will be! Daniel caught a glimpse of this when he saw Michael's defense of the Lord's people.

And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book (Daniel 12:1).

The battle has already been decided. The redeemed of God are forever recorded in His book of life, and they cannot be lost. Michael's victories will come not of his own strength but through the strength of his Creator. "Yet Michael the archangel ... said, The Lord rebuke thee (Jude 9)." Every one of God's servants acts upon the foundation of this principle - "Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies (Psalm 60:12)."

For the time being, Satan has a place in heaven, but someday that will change. Eventually, their place (heaven's temporary place for Satan and his own) will be removed. Let search be made for it, yet it will never be found again. However, the saint's position is not so precarious. Washed in the blood of the Lamb, the believer holds a permanent place in heaven through the mercy of God.

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37-39).

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Woe of Ephraim (Part IV)

"Wherefore hear the word of the LORD, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem. Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves:" (Isaiah 28:14-15)

Isaiah's focus now turns fully to Judah. The fact that Isaiah calls his audience scornful suggests that they were mocking his preaching in verses nine and ten. The princes were not interested in finding rest in the righteousness of God. They were preoccupied with making alliances with the world. The exact nature of their alliance is not given. It may be safely concluded that at least in part this alliance involved the aid of the Egyptians (Isaiah 30:1-7, 31:1-3, 36:6). This heart of unbelief toward God and of fear toward man plagued the reign of Ahaz who, in his rejection of God's safety, dedicated a portion of the Lord's house to Tiglathpileser in return for his aid (II Kings 16:18). The language also reveals their level of comfort in the choice they had made to reject faith in God and to find help in men.

Isaiah already referred to Assyria as both a flood and a scourge (Isaiah 8:7, 10:5). In these verses, the two terms are combined to refer to the Assyrian invasion. Some also view this as an indirect reference to the future peace treaty between Israel and the kingdom of the antichrist; however, the primary application is Israel's attitude toward the impending invasion of Assyria's king.

The Lord gives His holy view of Judah's so-called refuge under which she had hidden herself. He calls it a refuge of lies and falsehood. They had rejected God's righteousness and strength (28:5-6) and sought to make peace with hell itself. The natural man finds most attractive the alliance that promises safety while demanding no spiritual change; however, a man cannot make peace with hell, and death takes no survivors. Only through repentant faith in the righteousness of God can an individual find genuine and lasting deliverance. But this type of deliverance means turning from idols to God (I Thessalonians 1:9), and people hate that concept.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Woman and the Dragon (Part II)

"And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days." (Revelation 12:6)

A description of the woman's tribulation occupies the remainder of the chapter. Daniel 9:27 says that the antichrist will profane the Jewish temple midway through the tribulation period. In compliment to Daniel's prophecies, the Lord Jesus spoke of terrible persecution against the Jews upon the commencement of the antichrist's blasphemous exaltation (Matthew 24:3-28). In light of these things, it would seem that the beast's persecution of the Jews will come at the Tribulation's halfway point. The 1,260 days (equaling 3.5 prophetic years) presented in the text only adds to the probability of this.

God's mercy will preserve His people from complete destruction during these events. Undoubtedly, this time of intense trouble will provide many opportunities for God's chosen people to reflect upon their disbelief in His righteousness. Perhaps many Jewish hearts will be softened toward the Lord Jesus as they consider the reality of His provision.

Some have speculated that this hiding place will be in the crags and caves of Edom's desolate wilderness; however, no one is certain. In the end, only God knows the hiding place for which He has prepared for His people - a hiding place spoken of many years prior by the prophet Isaiah.

Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain (Isaiah 26:20-21).

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Woman and the Dragon

"And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:" 
(Revelation 12:1)

The next three chapters comprise an interlude designed to shed light on the finer details of the tribulation period. The woman is called a wonder. This word means a sign. The woman is symbolic, and she represents Israel. She is clothed with the sun. She stands upon the moon, and twelve stars constitute her crown. In Genesis 37:9-11, Joseph described to his family how he had dreamed that the sun, moon and eleven stars bowed before him. Jacob instantly recognized that the symbolism pertained to his family and so he rebuked Joseph by saying, "Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?" From this passage, it may be concluded that the sun represents Jacob, the moon Leah and perhaps Rachel, and the stars the twelve sons of Israel.

"And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered." (Revelation 12:2)

The woman's travail is a physical illustration of a spiritual truth. Because of Israel's disbelief in God, the history leading up to the birth of the Messiah was fraught with many troubles. At the time of Christ's birth, Israel was subject to the Roman Empire. When she should have been the head, she was consistently the tail (Deuteronomy 28:13). The Jews' rejection of the Lord's righteousness added much pain and sorrow to the events which brought about the advent of the Christ.

The fact that Israel did birth the Messiah as God promised is the positive side to this picture. Regardless of man's failure and Satan's attack on Christ's lineage (II Kings 11:1-3), God's promises concerning Christ's birth have come to pass.

"And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne." (Revelation 12:3-5)

Both the dragon and his beast have seven heads which represent seven major world empires (Revelation 17:9-10). At the time of John's vision, five of the empires had already passed away: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia and Greece. Rome was that which ruled in John's day. The seventh is yet to come. Its familiar title is that of The Revived Roman Empire (the antichrist's kingdom).

The devil's tail drew one third of heaven's stars and cast them to the earth. The title of star has been used to identify angelic beings (Revelation 9:1); therefore, it would seem that this passage references Satan's host of fallen angels who forever lost their original position by joining his rebellion against God. Rebellion always affects others in addition to the rebel.

The picture of the dragon's attempt to devour the child speaks clearly of Satan's efforts to destroy the Christ Child through his servant Herod.

...The angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt ... for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him ... Then Herod ... was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under...(Matthew 2:13, 16).

The efforts were useless. God's providence preserved His Son. The Messiah fulfilled the will of the Father, died on the cross, rose from the dead and ascended on high where He awaits to receive His kingdom. The text declares that He will rule with an iron rod. The word behind rule is to shepherd. That great Shepherd of the sheep (Hebrews 13:20) will tenderly lead His people; yet, against His iron shepherd's crook there will be no rising up.

Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel (Psalm 2:9).

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Woe of Ephraim (Part III)

"Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear." (Isaiah 28:9-12)

Verses nine and ten are the answer of Isaiah's audience to God's warnings. They considered his prophecies to be nothing more than repetitive instructions worthy only of teaching to a child. Verses 13, 14 and 22 support this conclusion. Rejecting the heart of Isaiah's message, the people responded with an attitude of weariness and mocking. Verse nine indicates that they viewed his words as necessary for children but not for themselves. Instead of recognizing God's Word as a deliverer from the snares of sin, the people viewed it as repetitive nonsense not appreciative of their "advanced" spiritual state. They were weary of hearing the same admonitions of repentance and faith toward God. The principles of truth must be laid stone upon stone with the intent that the hearer understand, receive and grow. However, when the hearer rejects what is being given continuously, the truth becomes to him nothing more than repetition, a mere waste of his time.

Because of their hardness, God promised to cease speaking to them through an understandable prophet and to begin speaking to them through the foreign and harsh language of the enemy. Many years prior, the Lord forewarned Israel of such things if she chose to rebel.

Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the LORD shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee. The LORD shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand; a nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the old, nor shew favour to the young (Deuteronomy 28:48-50).

Paul quoted verses 11 and 12 as a rebuttal of the undisciplined, self-focused use of tongues in the church. He said,

In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe (I Corinthians 14:21-22).

In Israel's case, the strange language of the foreign enemy was the product of Israel's rebellion. They had rejected the clear teachings of prophecy; therefore, they were given the alien language of the enemy. With this in mind, Paul warns the Corinthian believers of minimizing prophecy (giving of God's Word) while exalting tongues when, in fact, tongues were used to punish disbelieving Israel. Rejection of clear truth gives birth to confusion and trouble.

The Lord declared to Israel that the Law and the Prophets were intended but for one purpose - to bring rest and refreshing from the oppression of sin. Had Israel seen God's Word for what it is, she would have been well. The same holds true today. The hard things of Scripture are meant to bring the weary soul into a right relationship with God thus finding peace.

"But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken." (Isaiah 28:13)

Using the same rhetoric as his opponents, Isaiah continues his denunciation of Israel's scornful attitude and declares to them that their rejection of God's rest would result in the fall of the nation. The Word can be one of two things to a person. It can be that which heals and guides, or it can be that which condemns and punishes. Because they would not lean upon the Stone of help, they would be crushed by it. They saw themselves above such simple and petty rebukes; therefore, the same rebukes would be their judges in the end (John 12:48).

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Woe of Ephraim (Part II)

"But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment. For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so that there is no place clean." (Isaiah 28:7-8)

These verses give insight into the spiritual deterioration of Isaiah's day. The priest was to abstain from wine and strong drink when performing the service of God so as to maintain both his physical and spiritual awareness (Leviticus 10:8-11). Of all people, the priest should have been conscious of alcohol's affects on both mind and judgment. The truths of Proverbs should have been close to his heart (Proverbs 20:1, 23:20-35). Rather than seeking avenues to feed his flesh, the priest was to be the example of temperance and holiness. "For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts (Malachi 2:7)."

Likewise, the prophet's role was to provoke the people to the fear of God; however, Israel's prophets were using their position to encourage sensuality and excess. Such a situation reminds one of the modern day condition of the professing church. Instead of being examples of temperance and holiness, many believers have busied themselves with finding loopholes in the Law of Christ. Christian growth and edification should be commonplace in the local church, but oftentimes these things are replaced by self-indulgence, apathy, laziness and a desire for the world's appetites. What has happened to the Christian spirit that desires distance from the world rather than fellowship with it? Why have simple truths such as "prove all things; hold fast that which is good (I Thessalonians 5:21)" become so difficult to understand? In their sensuality and unconverted state, Israel's religious leadership hotly pursued its lusts. The leadership refused to be admonished. Perhaps this same spirit of apostasy is what plagues the professing church.

The average Christian would read these verses and see no personal application because he himself does not drink alcohol; however, an undisciplined, rebellious and self-indulgent heart was behind Israel's sin of drunkenness, and this heart attitude can be practiced by anyone.