Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Woe of the Spoilers

"Woe to thee that spoilest, and thou wast not spoiled; and dealest treacherously, and they dealt not treacherously with thee! when thou shalt cease to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled; and when thou shalt make an end to deal treacherously, they shall deal treacherously with thee. O LORD, be gracious unto us; we have waited for thee: be thou their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble. At the noise of the tumult the people fled; at the lifting up of thyself the nations were scattered. And your spoil shall be gathered like the gathering of the caterpiller: as the running to and fro of locusts shall he run upon them." (Isaiah 33:1-4)

The exact identity of the spoiler is difficult to pinpoint. Perhaps the Lord is referring to the ungodly citizens of Judah who scorned the rebukes of the prophets while persisting in their oppression and perversity. Perhaps God is pronouncing judgment against the Assyrians who were not known for their fidelity. The remaining three chapters are focused on the end times leading up to the millennial kingdom. In light of this, could God be referring to the enemies of Israel who will persecute her in the last days? This is certainly a possibility. Regardless, the days of the wicked man are numbered.

In the middle of trouble, whether it be the imminent invasion of Assyria or the future persecution of the antichrist, Isaiah calls upon God for unmerited favor. Apart from drawing close to God's grace, no man will be victorious. In the Hebrew text, the phrase we have waited for thee is emphatic. It reads, "For Thee have we waited (intently)." The chaos and confusion brought about by man's reasoning can be overwhelming; but there is something liberating about waiting upon God. Isaiah petitions the Lord to be the arm of strength and source of salvation for every God-fearing man.

Whether it be the Lord's anger against the Assyrians or His final victory over Satan's followers, the principles remain the same. There is no match for the awesome power of God. Years of military preparation on Assyria's part were completely overwhelmed by a single move of the Lord's Angel.

The locusts swarms of the middle east move in waves of destruction. Behind them, nothing green remains. The final end of God's enemies will be as the green tree which is devoured by the hordes of locusts. Concerning the plundering of Israel's enemies in the days of Jesus' second coming, Zechariah wrote, "And Judah also shall fight at Jerusalem; and the wealth of all the heathen round about shall be gathered together, gold, and silver, and apparel, in great abundance (Zechariah 14:14)."

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Judgment of the Great Whore

"And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication." (Revelation 17:1-2)

The Scriptures take a short detour to describe the nature of this future Babylon which will be destroyed. The many waters represent the people groups of the world. The same wording is found in Isaiah 60:5 where God calls the Gentile nations "the abundance of the sea."

This future Mystery Babylon will have worldwide influence. Few will escape her allurements. The fornication represents participation in the philosophies and practices of this evil entity. Physical fornication will abound; however, the moral impurity is the result of a spiritual corruption.

"So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration." (Revelation 17:3-6)

The Spirit of God carries John away to the wilderness much like He did to Ezekiel the prophet (Ezekiel 37:1). The wilderness is a place of desolation. Dry and scorched by the heat of the sun, the wilderness is an adequate representation of how the rejection of God's authority brings spiritual destitution. The woman's posture should be noted. She is riding the beast. This position suggests that she will both subject and profit from the beast - at least temporarily.

The woman's attire suggests no lack of wealth. She is arrayed in the finest apparel, and her ornaments bespeak of her monetary abundance. The filth contained within her cup shows clearly that with this woman comes immorality and all that is against the righteous plan of God. Her influence is global; her philosophy will reach into the most remote areas of the world.

She will be against the saints of God who stand for the holiness and authority of Jesus Christ. She will persecute them to the death. Her drunken state reveals the abundance of holy blood which will be shed by her. As John looked on, he became astounded. The word behind admiration means amazement or astonishment. Perhaps John was taken back by the fact that she rode and subjected such a ravenous animal.

She is given the name of Mystery Babylon. She represents an ideal, a religious philosophy upon which the physical city of the future Babylon will be founded.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Second Woe of the Egyptian Alliance (Part V)

"Until the spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest. Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field." (Isaiah 32:15-16)

Isaiah caught a glimpse of Israel's future redemption. Both Joel and Ezekiel prophesied of the day when the eyes of the Jews will be opened and their hearts converted to faith in the Messiah.

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions (Joel 2:28).

Neither will I hide my face any more from them: for I have poured out my spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord GOD (Ezekiel 39:29).

The days following Pentecost and God's work in this special age of grace are but a small fulfillment of the promises contained here (Acts 2). The Lord's kingdom will turn spiritual desolation into abundance. The fear of the Lord and righteous faith will flourish where there was once rebellion and ignorance. The face of the earth will also be changed. The blessings of Christ's kingdom will turn the wilderness into a garden. Because the face of the ground will become so fruitful, Isaiah likens what was once a wilderness to a profitable field and a profitable field to a rich, green forest. The same wording is used in 29:17.

The Lord Jesus Christ is both judgment and righteousness. God is called the Judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25); and the title of The LORD our Righteousness is ascribed to Jesus by Jeremiah (23:6, 33:16). Christ's presence in the kingdom will bring worldwide peace and abundance of goodness. Righteous judgment will be exercised by those who serve the Lord thus making for an environment rich in God's truth.

"And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever. And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places; When it shall hail, coming down on the forest; and the city shall be low in a low place." 
(Isaiah 32:17-19)

In the Hebrew text, the word righteousness has a definite article. A specific righteousness is being presented. Ultimately, the righteousness is none other but the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The work of this Righteousness is peace. The word for effect is service or labor. The Lord's work serves to bring about quietness and assurance. The works of the flesh (the works of men) result in turmoil and eventually death; but the works of God's Spirit bring peace, quietness and life. The believer finds this to be true in his daily life. When the Spirit is filling him, peace, assurance of God's presence and grace are the result. However, when the old man is permitted to take the wheel, discontentment, anger, lust, turmoil and doubt are the effects.

In any age, the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ is for the saint peace (II Thessalonians 3:16), quietness (I Thessalonians 4:11) and assurance (Hebrews 10:22) forever.

The Holy Spirit draws a scene of serenity as He predicts the future peace of Israel's state. Each inhabitant of the millennial kingdom will find peace and security under God's hand. This reality is in stark contrast to the fear and turmoil which gripped the nation in Isaiah's day.

The Hebrew conjunction translated as when can also be translated as but. It would seem that Isaiah's focus is momentarily brought back to Judah's present trouble in the face of the Assyrians as well as the future troubles that would plague Israel. The city is likely Jerusalem. Before the bright day of Jesus' kingdom comes the low estate of Israel brought on by rejection of the Lord's righteousness.

"Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters, that send forth thither the feet of the ox and the ass." (Isaiah 32:20)

It would seem that Isaiah returns to his millennial prophecies and predicts the future abundance of his people in the long-awaited kingdom. However, that may not be the only connotation of this verse. The man whose heart is tender toward God's truth and whose hands are willing to build upon every promise given by the Lord will find a blessing in the end as he sows the seeds of righteousness while trusting that God will bring forth the everlasting fruit in His good time (Matthew 13:18-23).

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Second Woe of the Egyptian Alliance (Part IV)

"Rise up, ye women that are at ease; hear my voice, ye careless daughters; give ear unto my speech. Many days and years shall ye be troubled, ye careless women: for the vintage shall fail, the gathering shall not come." (Isaiah 32:9-10)

Isaiah directs a word of rebuke to Judah's women whose attitudes reflected the apathetic state of the nation. The audience is commanded to arise from their apathy and to open their ears to the pronouncements of coming judgment. The Hebrew participle behind careless means to trust. A false sense of security had gripped Isaiah's countrymen as they continued to walk contrary to a purifying faith in the Holy One of Israel.

In her unconcerned state, Israel was saying "Let us eat and drink (22:13)." Therefore, the Lord promised to remove the things that the people lusted after. The food and drink afforded by the harvest and the vintage should have been viewed as the blessings and mercies of God. Instead, they were seen as a means to satisfy a sensual and lazy lifestyle. In spite of Hezekiah's reforms, an attitude of banqueting and revelry had survived much like that revealed by Amos the prophet (Amos 4:1-3).

"Tremble, ye women that are at ease; be troubled, ye careless ones: strip you, and make you bare, and gird sackcloth upon your loins. They shall lament for the teats, for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vine. Upon the land of my people shall come up thorns and briers; yea, upon all the houses of joy in the joyous city: Because the palaces shall be forsaken; the multitude of the city shall be left; the forts and towers shall be for dens for ever, a joy of wild asses, a pasture of flocks;" (Isaiah 32:11-14)

Once again, through the rebuke of Israel's apathetic female citizenship Israel is called to repentance. In the face of Assyrian invasion, the Jews are commanded to demonstrate a change of heart through the outward expression of mourning. Although the word sackcloth is not found in the Hebrew text, it is certainly implied since the command to strip off is immediately followed by the command to gird on. The idea is to remove the luxurious and expensive clothing of royalty and be clothed with what manifests a changed heart.

The promise of war would bring with it the deprivation of nursing children, fields of grain and vineyards; therefore, God calls for lamentation. The presence of these things contributes to a happy lifestyle, but their removal would be the result of war which Israel would bring upon herself through rejection of God's authority. The wording of the Hebrew text could also present the idea of smiting upon the breast in mourning.

Isaiah already promised a change in the nation's agriculture in the aftermath of war (7:23-25). Continuing this same thought, he presents the desolation which would come through the enemy's invasion. Jerusalem's joy would be turned into morning. The strong fortress cities and the pleasant villages of Israel would become coverts for wild animals.

Indeed, these things did come to pass through the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions; yet one cannot help but sense a deeper meaning in these pictures of desolation. Israel's continued rejection of the Lord would bring a spiritual emptiness which will last until the return of her Messiah. The greatest tragedy is not the absence of physical food but the absence of spiritual wellness. The following verses support the conclusion that these physical judgments represent a spiritual destitution which can be healed only by the return of Israel's true King.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Second Woe of the Egyptian Alliance (Part III)

"And the eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken. The heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly." (Isaiah 32:3-4)

The people of the nations will no longer see without actually seeing, and neither will they hear without actually hearing. Instead, the hearts of people will be open to the truth of God. The word behind rash is a plural participle which may be translated as the ones who are hurried. The world is hurried and foolish. People commonly speak without thinking and do not have time to stop, listen and truly understand. In the day of the revelation of Jesus' glory, the hurried individual will "be still and know that [He] is God (Psalm 46:10)." Stammerers are those who speak inarticulately. The word plainly means glowing, dazzling or clear. The healing presence of the Creator will be manifested in the very speech of the world's peoples.

"The vile person shall be no more called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful. For the vile person will speak villany, and his heart will work iniquity, to practise hypocrisy, and to utter error against the LORD, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail. The instruments also of the churl are evil: he deviseth wicked devices to destroy the poor with lying words, even when the needy speaketh right. But the liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand." (Isaiah 32:5-8)

The sin of man's heart encourages him to see good for evil and evil for good (Isaiah 5:20). All over the globe, the things in which God delights are disdained while that which He hates is exalted. Christ's kingdom will correct these atrocities. Liberal means honorable or generous. The wicked fool will no longer be labeled as good. A churl is a rascal or a knave. A man of defective character appreciates others who are like him. The Lord makes it clear that such people are in no wise moral. Regardless of man's attempts to warp the moral principles of God, darkness will remain darkness and light will remain light. God exposed the true heart of such people by displaying their works. They are villains who rejoice in wrongdoing. Their hearts are full of hypocrisy and doctrinal error. Their lifestyles are openly against God. They deprive people of physical, spiritual and emotional necessities. In short, their lives do not parallel Scripture's truths.

On the other hand, the truly generous and noble individual consistently devises and practices the things that please God thus demonstrating a heart changed by faith in Christ. Because of this man's faith in God's righteousness, his actions are in keeping with what pleases the Lord. In the judgment, he will stand.

A believer must guard against support of those who are against the principles and commands of God. Family pressures, personal agendas and other influences can encourage anyone to support those whom God is against. People can be deceived by church leadership who live contrary to the Bible. Because of ignorance and fear, a believer can easily find himself supporting an ungodly individual who holds a position of authority. By God's grace, the saint needs to separate from hypocrites (regardless of position), and find godly fellowship. The Christian who wishes to please Christ is commanded to be "a lover of good men (Titus 1:8)."

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Second Woe of the Egyptian Alliance (Part II)

"Turn ye unto him from whom the children of Israel have deeply revolted. For in that day every man shall cast away his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which your own hands have made unto you for a sin. Then shall the Assyrian fall with the sword, not of a mighty man; and the sword, not of a mean man, shall devour him: but he shall flee from the sword, and his young men shall be discomfited. And he shall pass over to his strong hold for fear, and his princes shall be afraid of the ensign, saith the LORD, whose fire is in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem." (Isaiah 31:6-9)

God calls for a return to the true Deliverer. To experience personally the loving care of God and consequently to reject it is the deepest form of rebellion (Hebrews 6:4-8). In the fear and pressure of the siege, the Jews would reject their idols and seek God. Perhaps this action was also born out of a repentant heart as each person considered the miracle of Assyria's defeat. While the Bible attests to Hezekiah's strong reforms, it also bears witness to the fact that many people returned to their idolatrous and oppressive ways.

The language emphasizes the nature of the sword by which Assyria would fall. No human effort would bring about Sennacherib's defeat. This was not man versus man but man versus God and His divine sword of judgment. The night following God's promise of deliverance to Hezekiah, 185,000 military troops were killed by God's death angel (II Kings 19:35-37). Sennacherib quickly turned from being the pursuer to being the pursued. In response to this, the Scriptures declare that he fled to his fortress in Nineveh where God's wrath pursued him to the grave. The flag of the Egyptians fell on the battlefield, but God's flag conquered and struck terror into the hearts of Assyria's surviving troops.

"Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment. And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land." (Isaiah 32:1-2)

The opening verse is a messianic prophesy. Upon His return, the Lord Jesus Christ will reign as King. This prediction sets the millennial context for the rest of the chapter. Even the most righteous of Israel's kings failed at some point, but the Lord's kingship will be spotlessly righteous. Under Him, princes will exercise godly judgment. The coming kingdom of the Lord will see godly men with pure motives judging according to the heart and letter of the Scriptures. The future judgments of these godly men will be so refreshing that God likens them to a hiding place from both storm and heat. Christ's kingdom will expose the repeated failure of man's judgment while highlighting the perfection of Christ's personal rule.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Second Woe of the Egyptian Alliance

"Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD! Yet he also is wise, and will bring evil, and will not call back his words: but will arise against the house of the evildoers, and against the help of them that work iniquity." 
(Isaiah 31:1-2)

Once more the words of Isaiah strike at the faithless and disobedient hearts of his countrymen. Humanly speaking, Egypt's chariots and war horses were something to fear. In His rebuke of Job's perspective, the Lord illustrated His creative wonders through a description of a horse trained and prepared for war.

He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men. He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword. The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield. He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage: neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet. He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting (Job 39:21-25).

The physical strength of Egypt's military had captured the gaze and appreciation of the Israeli nation. The Hebrew word behind look means to gaze upon or to look at with interest. A husband would be angered and deeply hurt if his wife began to look with admiration upon some other man; even so, the Lord is deeply pained when His people lose their admiration for His love and become enamored with the world's allurements.

In spite of Egypt's power, the Lord promised that He is wise and that He will not pronounce vain words. When children are disobedient, human parents are guilty of promising punishments which often do not materialize. God does not give empty warnings. He follows through with what He promises.

"Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit. When the LORD shall stretch out his hand, both he that helpeth shall fall, and he that is holpen shall fall down, and they all shall fail together. For thus hath the LORD spoken unto me, Like as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them: so shall the LORD of hosts come down to fight for mount Zion, and for the hill thereof. As birds flying, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it." (Isaiah 31:3-5)

God reminds Israel (and all who read this) that the physical perception of security cannot be trusted. In the end, there is but one God; and He is not frail flesh but everlasting spirit. The Lord says, "...the Egyptians are men, and not God." They are dust, not spirit or strength. The Hebrew word for man (~da) and ground (hmda) are very similar. God created Adam from the dust of the adamah (Genesis 2:7). Regardless of military strength, every man in his basic form is just dust. Only God offers lasting deliverance. Psalm 33:16-22 says it best.

There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength. An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength. Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name. Let thy mercy, O LORD, be upon us, according as we hope in thee.

The lion who catches a sheep is not intimidated by the shepherds who come to take it back. The intruder who comes too near the nest will be distracted or attacked by the parent bird or birds. By these two examples, God illustrates His desire and ability to save Jerusalem from the armies of Sennacherib. Following Egypt's fall before Assyria, Jerusalem would become the next Assyrian target; yet as a lion, God would hold onto Jerusalem and would not be intimidated by Sennacherib's threats.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Seventh Vial

"And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done. And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great. And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great." (Revelation 16:17-21)

The seventh vial ends the plagues and ushers in the kingdom of Jesus Christ. The events of chapters seventeen and eighteen are parenthetical descriptions of Babylon's judgments. The verb behind It is done is perfect in its tense. The actions cannot be reversed. God's judgment against evil has come. The kingdom has arrived. The countless promises delivered through the prophets have finally come about. At this juncture, Solomon's words are appropriate, "...There hath not failed one word of all his good promise...(I Kings 8:56)."

The text presents an earthquake of unimaginable proportions. Such seismic activity will greatly change the earth's surface. Zechariah speaks of physical changes to the area south of Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:10). Ezekiel prophesied of a millennial landmass much larger than what currently exists in the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea (Ezekiel 45). Both Isaiah and Micah present a Jerusalem that is exalted above the hills (Isaiah 2:2, Micah 4:1). Many of these things are literal. The intense seismic activity of the end times will bring about extreme geographical changes to the earth.

The great city is quite likely Jerusalem. In the middle of this upheaval before the impending coming of the Lord, resurrected Babylon will meet her doom - a doom which is detailed in the following chapters.

Although no one can give an exact weight, the talent was a large measurement of approximately 75 pounds. One can just imagine the death and destruction caused by such a hailstorm. Such a plague was used of God against both the Egyptians (Exodus 9:25) and the Amorites (Joshua 10:11). The end of God's enemies is the same regardless of dispensation. The hardened state of the peoples' hearts is pictured in their blasphemous response. In Revelation 11:13, men gave glory to God after the earthquake, but here they are seen blaspheming His name. As Christ's coming draws nearer, the human heart grows harder. It must never be assumed that people will repent simply because they fall into miserable circumstances. The human heart is incredibly hard. It must respond to the Lord's working (John 6:44).

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Fifth and Sixth Vials

"And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds." (Revelation 16:10-11)

The antichrist's kingdom begins to crumble as it comes under direct attack by God. Three and a half years of prominence is remarkably short in exchange for an eternity of damnation. These people appreciated the things of darkness; therefore, they received literal darkness. Apparently, these cankerous, open wounds will inflict unbelievable pain upon the ungodly. The presence of dreadful diseases is often a sign of sin's retribution (Exodus 15:26, Deuteronomy 24:8-9, Zech. 14:12, Acts 12:23).

In spite of such agony, they refused to repent. They hardened their hearts beyond hope; therefore, the Lord gave them over to a reprobate mind. These haters of God are utterly irreconcilable.

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them (Romans 1:28-32).

"And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty." (Revelation 16:12-14)

The Euphrates River provides a natural barrier between Israel and the countries to the east. This barrier will be removed so that the armies of the world will not be hindered in their trek toward Israel. Under God's control, the kings who remain will be supernaturally drawn to the largest battle the world has ever seen. Joel prophesied of these days when he said,

Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong. Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD (Joel 3:9-11).

"Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon." (Revelation 16:15-16)

According to the Jewish Mishnah, temple guards who fell asleep at their posts were beaten and their clothes burned. Failing to remain vigilant had painful and embarrassing consequences. Using this practice as an illustration, the Lord reminds the reader to beware of being caught off guard. The events of the end times will pass with rapidity, and the lost man caught in the middle of these things is encouraged to repent and to turn in faith to the Lord Jesus Who will clothe the sinner with His robe of righteousness. Outside of Christ, a man's sin leaves him shamefully exposed before his faultless Creator; however, in Christ there is no shame to be had because His righteousness is imparted to the account of the one who believes thus cleansing away sin and clothing him with salvation.

Armageddon means hill or city of Megiddo. In northern Israel, situated southeast of Mount Carmel, rested the fortress city of Megiddo with the valley of Megiddo just below. This city was one of those fortified by Solomon (I Kings 9:15). Someday this location will be filled with the world's armies which have come to fight a battle with the Lord Jesus Christ - a battle which they cannot win.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Third and Fourth Vials

"And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy. And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments." (Revelation 16:4-7)

First, the saltwater is destroyed; then, the freshwater is removed. That which must be present to sustain life is eliminated as the Lord brings retribution upon the injustices and abuses of mankind. God's goodness provides humanity with that which is needed for surviving and thriving; yet, the Lord retains the power to remove such things when men refuse to give God glory and to be thankful (Romans 1:21).

"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap (Galatians 6:7)." What a man gives is what he receives. What he practices will be what he faces in the end. Not only has Israel rejected the prophets, but so has the world as a whole. Every man's heart is hard.

The angel labels God's judgments or decrees as true and righteous. Even when they are not easily understood, they are still true and righteous. Submission to this reality will circumvent many useless inquiries and self-inflicted torments.

"And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory." (Revelation 16:8-9)

After removing the sources of water, the Lord intensifies the heat of the sun. This plague will be particularly intolerable in the absence of water, not to mention the resultant stench of such heat on seas of blood. In the kingdom of Christ, this very same sun will be used to brighten, nourish and cheer the earth as its radiance is intensified by Christ's presence (Isaiah 30:26); however, for a brief time its rays will be utilized for man's punishment. Such a contrast shows God's absolute power over creation.

The arrogant response of these men illustrates the hardness of humanity as well as the hopeless end of those who cross the line of God's patience. In resistance of the Holy Spirit, these people find themselves in a hopeless condition. Gone is any conviction, any desire of repentance; and in them is illustrated the warning of the Lord Jesus Christ, "But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation (Mark 3:29)."

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The First and Second Vials

"And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth. And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image." (Revelation 16:1-2)

In the previous chapter, the preparation of the vials or bowls was completed; and now, the execution of the judgments takes place. To the seven angels, a general command is given which is immediately followed by a specific description of each plague. This divine wrath is aimed at the earth's unregenerate who have brought irrevocable damage upon themselves through the reception of the antichrist's mark. These judgments are not directed toward the tribulation saints who have found refuge in God's grace (Revelation 9:4).

The word behind noisome means bad or harmful (Greek kakoj). Extremely painful sores, abscesses or ulcers break out upon the flesh of those who have been deceived. These sores are probably open and cankerous. This physical pain is merely a foretaste of the eternal torment which awaits. In the middle of such pain and chaos, the redeemed will find great comfort in the fact that they have been preserved from wrath through belief in the precious blood of Christ. The persecutions and terrors effected by the antichrist against Christ's followers will not compare to the horrors inflicted upon the ungodly at the day of judgment.

"And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea." (Revelation 16:3)

The magnitude of this second plague boggles the mind. The water of the world's seas and oceans will be turned into blood. Some commentators consider this to be a red tide of astronomical proportions; however, in all probability, the text is speaking of literal blood (8:8, 16:4). The sight will be incredibly fearful; the stench will be unbearable; and the effect will be disastrous as every living thing in the sea dies.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Israel's Reconciliation (Part V)

"Ye shall have a song, as in the night when a holy solemnity is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one goeth with a pipe to come into the mountain of the LORD, to the mighty One of Israel. And the LORD shall cause his glorious voice to be heard, and shall shew the lighting down of his arm, with the indignation of his anger, and with the flame of a devouring fire, with scattering, and tempest, and hailstones." 
(Isaiah 30:29-30)

A direct translation of the first part would read, "The song shall become to you as a night of a consecrated (holy) festival." Israel will have a definite song in the day of her redemption. The Feast of Tabernacles was an exalted feast to the Jews and is mentioned with high regard in the Scriptures. This holy festival is perhaps pictured here seeing it had both day and nighttime ceremonies. In the kingdom, attendance at the Feast of Tabernacles will be required for all nations (Zechariah 14:16). The mighty One is literally Rock. The same title for the Lord is used in Deuteronomy 32:4 where God is named the Rock. Having hearts changed by the Spirit of Christ, both Jew and Gentile will gladly make their way to Jerusalem where they will worship the Rock of Israel in sincerity (Isaiah 2:2-3).

On that fearful night of Sennacherib's punishment, the Lord brought down His arm of judgment upon the Assyrian army. In similar fashion, His mighty arm of judgment will intercede against the enemies of Israel at the fall of the antichrist's kingdom when "The LORD ... shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem (Joel 3:16)."

"For through the voice of the LORD shall the Assyrian be beaten down, which smote with a rod. And in every place where the grounded staff shall pass, which the LORD shall lay upon him, it shall be with tabrets and harps: and in battles of shaking will he fight with it. For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it." 
(Isaiah 30:31-33)

Once again Isaiah's familiar message is proclaimed. Only through the Lord's power can the enemy be defeated. This principle holds true for Israel today. Struggle as she may, she will never deliver herself from the oppression of her enemies. Only by divine intervention can Israel be saved.

The word behind grounded means foundation. The word behind staff is simply another term for rod. While the terminology is a bit odd, the idea seems to be the destruction of the Assyrian army followed by the triumphant cries of Israel. In every place where the rod of Assyria passed in defiance of God, Israel would come behind and rejoice over her destruction. Shaking literally means waving. The picture is that of a warrior wielding his weapon, killing and wounding the enemy with every stroke. The sword of the Lord would destroy the enemy with every blow and exultant songs of praise to the Lord would follow in the aftermath. This very picture is presented in the prophecies of the end times. The sword of the Messiah will be unsheathed against the enemies of Jerusalem, and the Lord's people will follow behind with songs of humble worship (Zechariah 14).

Tophet was in the valley of Hinnom on the south end of Jerusalem. In this place was burned the rubbish of the city and even the dead bodies of criminals. Here, the Lord uses this familiar valley as a picture of hell's fires (Mark 9:44-48). This valley may have served as an actual burying place for many Assyrian soldiers; however, it stands mainly as a symbol for the fearful fate of the one who rejects God's authority and chooses his own way. Gehenna (which is pictured by Tophet) eventually served as Sennacherib's final destination. At Christ's return, this same place of torment will ensnare the antichrist and his followers. The fiery valley of Tophet is not reserved only for the extremely wicked. Any individual outside of Jesus Christ will be sent there, because sin's judgment is satisfied only through faith in Christ's position as Savior and God.

The chapter ends with another encouraging message for the one who seeks the Almighty. God is a God of judgment, and keeping promises is part of righteous judgment. Over and over again, the Lord promises to deliver the one who will, in faith, wait for Him.

Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD (Psalm 27:14).

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Israel's Reconciliation (Part IV)

"Behold, the name of the LORD cometh from far, burning with his anger, and the burden thereof is heavy: his lips are full of indignation, and his tongue as a devouring fire: And his breath, as an overflowing stream, shall reach to the midst of the neck, to sift the nations with the sieve of vanity: and there shall be a bridle in the jaws of the people, causing them to err." (Isaiah 30:27-28)

Isaiah's focus is now turned to the advent of God as He comes to punish the wickedness of men. The Lord's second coming and His intervention against Sennacherib are both in view as Isaiah beholds the overpowering nature of God's presence. As an expert, mighty man of war, the LORD of the armies moves against His enemies. His anger cannot be extinguished nor can it be resisted. This anger is completely righteous. It has been aggravated by man's rejection and abuse of God's people. The Lord's breath, lips and tongue symbolize His holy Word which does not go forth in vain. Concerning the Lord Christ, Isaiah has already declared, "...With the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked (11:4)." This same truth is presented once again in Revelation 19:21 where the wicked are destroyed by the Word of God at Jesus' return.

The word for stream means torrent-valley or wadi. As the flash-floods of the middle eastern wadis come without warning and overpower all in their path, even so will God's salvation fight against the enemies of righteousness. In the valleys surrounding Jerusalem, Sennacherib's motives and actions were sifted and weighed by God. The Assyrian king was found wanting, and this event pictured the helpless condition of the rebellious nations which will be judged by the holiness of Christ in the last day.

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left (Matthew 25:31-33).