Saturday, January 23, 2016

160124 Who Are These?

Revelation 7:9-17 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” 13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
As John looked on the unfolding scenes before him he must have been literally shocked by the wrath of the Lamb. Six seals have been opened. With the sixth came an awesome earthquake followed by the atmosphere being filled with smoke. All of this demonstrates the wrath of God against sin. God’s wrath means that he intensely hates all sin. For those religionists who think of “gentle Jesus meek and mild” they are in for a real awakening.
Before the opening of the seventh seal John saw a multitude that no one could number. First, he saw 12 groups of 12,000 making a total of 144,000 that were sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel. I choose not to try to interpret this group of people sealed as the servants of God because their listing of tribes of Israel is different from what we find in the book of Genesis. I’m sure there’s some kind of significance but as of now I have not been comfortable with any of the explanations I have heard.
So we will look at the multitude that I believe are more interesting because they are representative of most people on earth. As the great multitude was revealed in the eyes of John the elder turned to John and said, “Who are these…?”
The opening of the sixth seal had led to a revealing of the wrath of God and of the Lamb. Usually, the wrath of God is purported to be an Old Testament concept that should be out of the New Testament. Well, it’s true that…
God was provoked to wrath in the wilderness. Moses recorded the event in Deuteronomy 9:7-8. Remember and do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the Lord. Even at Horeb you provoked the Lord to wrath, and the Lord was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you.
The people of Israel repeatedly rebelled against God during the Exodus from Egypt and the crossing of the wilderness. Even at the base of the mountain where God revealed himself to Moses, and issued the law in the form of the 10 Commandments, they rebelled against God and deserved his wrath. Had it not been for the intervention of Moses it seems that God would have destroyed them in the wilderness.
They needed a mediator to stand between them and God. Moses was that mediator. He quickly reminded God that it was necessary for God to bring these people through the wilderness to prove that he did not bring them out of Egypt just to kill them. Moses was a type of Christ! Just as Moses stood between God and Israel Jesus stands between God and his chosen people in the church today. Thank God that he made arrangements for us. Paul told Timothy about it! There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 2:5)
God’s wrath is not limited to the Old Testament. There are many passages in the New Testament that teach this truth. Let’s begin with Romans 1:18. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
Here in the beginning of the letter to the Romans, Paul extensively shows how human nature rebelled against God. And, contrary to most people’s beliefs, all people everywhere know enough about God to turn to him. Instead, they become futile in their thinking. Their foolish hearts were darkened. They think they are wise but instead they have become fools in giving up the glory of God for images made by human hands. The consequence of their rebellion is that God “gave them up” to the natural result of their sin.
God allowed mankind to descend into chaotic evil and all kinds of unrighteousness. As a result, they have no excuse. Oh, by the way, this is not just a past record but a continuing process! No one today has any excuse for their rebellion against God. God is very patient and his kindness is meant to lead us to repentance but instead…
Hardhearted mankind stores up wrath. Let’s read a little further down. Romans 2:4-5 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
The hardness of man’s heart causes the wrath of God to be accumulated. If it is not entirely released in our lifetime it will certainly be released in the age to come. Revelation, throughout, reveals the wrath of God being released on mankind. We have already seen that under the altar before the throne are the prayers of the saints asking to be avenged.
I have often thought of the wonder that we have in heaven an inheritance that is kept for us. Peter tells us, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3-5) What a tremendous blessing this is that we have an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven where it is perfectly safe. But we need to remember that there is also a storing up of God’s wrath against all those who rebel against him. His patience allows an accumulation of unsatisfied wrath.
The psalmist struggled with the appearance of the ungodly escaping from any evil consequences. He held his tongue until he understood. In order to understand he entered into the sanctuary of God and saw their end. He could see that they were going to fall to ruin and be destroyed in a moment. (Psalm 73:18) Just as God has a treasure for his people stored up in heaven he also has an accumulation of wrath stored up that will come in his time and his way. Mankind has caused this accumulation of wrath and it will be released in God’s time.
The hard heartedness of mankind includes…
Earthly passions that draw God’s wrath. Colossians 3:5-8 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
The evil earthly passions are like a metal pole extended into the sky that draws lightning. These things: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness are attracting the wrath of God.
This is a drawn-out description of the shortened statement, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Without a doubt, as Job’s friend Eliphaz said, “we are all born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.”
That horrible truth, “all have sinned” puts us all in serious trouble! Without a doubt we were born in iniquity and conceived in sin. We have all come short of God’s glory. We are born separate from God and as soon as we possibly could we began to accumulate our own “sin debt”. The horror of that is that “the wages of sin is death,…” (Romans 6:23) Meaning that we all deserve death and hell…
However, we have an advocate. Job had said that he wanted someone to stand between him and God and be his advocate. Praise God, we have one. 1 John 2:1-2 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
John, yes the same one who wrote the Revelation, in his first little book assured his readers that we all have sinned. In fact, he says that any denial of our sin calls God a liar. (1 John 1:10) But, when we sin — and we will — God the father has already arranged that Jesus Christ the righteous is our advocate.
The great multitude that could not be counted will be seen in heaven because of the advocacy of Jesus on their behalf. You see…
Jesus’ sacrifice turned aside God’s wrath. Let’s look at the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 3:24b-26. Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
The word “propitiation” means, “a sacrifice that bears the wrath of God against sin and thereby turns God’s wrath into favor: “This was to show God’s righteousness because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins” (Rom. 3:25). Paul realizes that if Christ had not come to pay the penalty for sins, God could not be shown to be righteous. Because he had passed over sins and not punished them in the past, people could rightly accuse God of unrighteousness, the assumption being that a God who does not punish sins is not a righteous God. Therefore, when God sent Christ to die and pay the penalty for our sins, he showed how he could still be righteous—he had stored up the punishment due to previous sins (those of Old Testament saints) and then, in perfect righteousness, he gave that penalty to Jesus on the cross.” Grudem’s Systematic Theology, P. 515-6
And consequently redeemed a great multitude. Let’s return to Revelation 7:9-10. After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Praise God, there is going to be a great multitude in heaven. In fact, it has been 2000 years since that great multitude began to be accumulated. When those that have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ are added to all of those who were obedient to God in the Old Testament there is an uncounted number. Sometimes we think there are very few who truly believe. We become like Elijah in the Old Testament. He found himself facing the evil queen — Jezebel and saw no one standing with him so he ran away into the wilderness because he felt all alone. God met him in the wilderness and among the things he showed him was that he had, at that time, 7000 who had not bowed their knees to Baal! We should be encouraged that God has people we do not yet know about who put their faith in him.
The believers found in the seven churches of Asia must have been very encouraged by the book of Revelation. As they struggled to get the gospel out into their world in the midst of the beginnings of persecution and Satanic opposition they now can see that God is the ultimate Victor. A long time ago Isaac Watts said it best, “Jesus shall reign where’er the sun dose his successive journeys run; his kingdom spread from shore to shore, till moons shall wax and wane no more. To him shall endless prayer be made, and endless praises crown his head; his name like sweet perfume shall rise with every morning sacrifice.” Are you part of his kingdom? If you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised from the dead, you will be saved.” Let today be your day!
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

160117 The Lamb and the Seals

Revelation 6:1-6 Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer. When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword. When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!”
After the flood of Noah’s day God made a promise. He told Noah, “… never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” (Genesis 9:11) The apostle Peter tells us, “… The heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire…” (2 Peter 3:7) Revelation seems to describe the events that Peter saw. As we go on with the visions of John we see the throne room in heaven revealing amazing events.
These events John saw all happened in the throne room in heaven. Remember, John saw these things and had the awesome responsibility of putting them into human words and thoughts. There are many different interpretations but I think we should stay as closely as possible to just what the Bible says. So now let’s look at what happened when…
The first seal opened. The first seal is accompanied by a rider on a white horse. It seems to me that this rider and the white horse represent the early days of the church. A promise was given in Isaiah 66:12. For thus says the Lord: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream…
Through Isaiah God promised a period of peace. The rider on the white horse with a bow and a crown came out conquering and to conquer.
During the early days of the church the Roman Empire was conquered. There was opposition, even serious persecution, during those years. But the church stood fast and proclaimed the name of Jesus Christ rather than worship Caesar. This often resulted in martyrdom, or exile, but it never suppressed the church. In fact, the early understanding of Christian leaders was “the blood of the martyrs, is the seed of the church.” According to Tertullian an early church father. The growth of the church during the first three centuries seem to be spurred on, rather than diminished, by the opposition the church met from the Romans.
The same kind of situation has existed in our day. There are hundreds of examples of missionaries and Christian leaders who have gone into new lands only to face martyrdom. And that would be followed by a successful penetration of that country with the gospel.
So the first seal seems to represent the expansion of the church that would have been seen by the people who lived in the seven churches of Asia. After that…
The second seal opened. After Isaiah spoke of peace he went on to say in Isaiah 66:15-16. For behold, the Lord will come in fire, and his chariots like the whirlwind, to render his anger in fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. 16 For by fire will the Lord enter into judgment, and by his sword, with all flesh; and those slain by the Lord shall be many.
This passage seems to me to be representative of the second seal that revealed the second horse whose rider was able to take peace from the earth. The fall of the Roman Empire took several hundred years. Just as the establishment of the Empire had taken several hundred years. The second rider came onto the scene predicting the beginning of serious rebellion, war and civil conflict. With all that destruction going on…
The third seal opened. We’ll move away from the Old Testament to see the words of Jesus concerning things that would be happening in the years ahead. Turn with me to Mark 13:6-8. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.
The removing of the third seal revealed a black horse! The rider on the black horse had in his hand a pair of scales. At first this seems to be a strange tool to introduce onto the scene. What on earth could a pair of scales have to do with the death and destruction that was being revealed?
It seems to me that this rider brings onto the scene the natural result of death, destruction and warfare. Famine was now spread across the world. The evidence of famine is that a quart of wheat would cost a day’s labor and “the oil and wine” would not be affected. In other words those who could afford food would not be hurt while those who lived on day labor would go hungry. Now let’s continue to read…
Revelation 6:7-11. When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth. When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.
The natural response to warfare and famine would be the pale horse and its rider whose name was “Death” with the grave and Hell following behind.
The fourth seal opened. It seems that Ezekiel saw a very similar vision recorded in Ezekiel 14:21. “For thus says the Lord God: How much more when I send upon Jerusalem my four disastrous acts of judgment, sword, famine, wild beasts, and pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast!”
Just when we would think things can’t get any worse they do! We need to remember that it is God who is releasing all of this. He is not idly sitting by allowing humans and the devil and his demons to pour out havochave a on the earth. Nothing happens on this earth that our God is not aware of, and in control of. Many things happen to us and around us that are not pleasant but they serve God’s purposes and are therefore good.
With the four Horsemen behind us…
The fifth seal opened. And John saw beneath the altar those who had received martyrdom. Let’s look ahead to Revelation 7:13-14. Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
As the vision unfolds John saw very clearly the multitudes of those who worship in heaven. With the opening of the fifth seal John understood that the very altar in the throne room of heaven provides a resting place for the millions who have given their lives in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
What better place to rest than before the throne of God underneath his altar? They will rest there until God is finished with his enemies. Those who call themselves “The Islamic State” and all the others who today are taking the lives of Christian believers are simply building up a reserve of God’s anger towards them and they will be killed. But they won’t rest in the throne room of heaven. Nor will they find themselves in some kind of paradise. They will go into hell and afterwards will be put into the lake of fire that burns forever and ever.
Let’s continue reading…
Revelation 6:12-17 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14 The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”
All of these events that occur as the seals are being opened were seen earlier by the Old Testament prophets and recorded for us.
Seals one through five have been opened releasing the great and mighty things that John could not have imagined. Then suddenly he saw…
The sixth seal opened. There are lots of things going on this passage and we won’t have time to cover them all now.
Isaiah had seen a vision very much like what grew out of this seal and recorded it in Isaiah 2:19-21. And people shall enter the caves of the rocks and the holes of the ground, from before the terror of the Lord, and from the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth. 20 In that day mankind will cast away their idols of silver and their idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship, to the moles and to the bats, 21 to enter the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs, from before the terror of the Lord, and from the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth.
“The day of the Lord” was described by Isaiah in very similar words to those of John. It could be that as John saw this unfolding before him he remembered the words of Isaiah. We don’t know because the Bible doesn’t say he did. But still the words are very similar. We see…

The Wrath of the Lamb. What John called the wrath of the Lamb is similar to what the prophet saw and recorded in Joel 2:11. The Lord utters his voice before his army, for his camp is exceedingly great; he who executes his word is powerful. For the day of the Lord is great and very awesome; who can endure it?
“The day of the Lord” that Joel saw is much the same as what John saw and called “the wrath of the Lamb”. In both cases the prophet asked the question who can stand before it or who can endure it?
John tells us of a time when the sky vanishes like a scroll that is being rolled up. It’s interesting to me that the light we see from the stars is years old before we see it here on earth. The closest star, Alpha Centauri, is about 4 ½ light years away from us. In other words, most of what we see in the night sky could be gone already! To be rolled up like a scroll would simply be a matter of God taking away the stars beginning with those farther away and coming down to Alpha Centauri. Then, 4 ½ years later we would no longer see any lights in the sky beyond our solar system.
Of course, I don’t know that that’s what will happen but there’s no reason to believe it couldn’t. Let’s read a little further in the prophecy Joel 2:30-32. And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 32 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.
Joel saw wonders in the heavens and on the earth. John also saw wonders in the heavens and on the earth. Joel saw blood and fire and columns of smoke John also saw these things in a little different format but much the same.
I believe that many of the events pertaining to the second coming of Christ, found in the Gospels, have probably already happened. But the events in Revelation seem clearly to have begun happening over the past 2000 years and may very well be still in the process of happening.
Alongside the things we have looked at today are at least two other visions of seven things. There are seven trumpets and seven bowls yet to happen or happening at the same time. It seems to me that they happen simultaneously. Or at least they are happening in the same timeframe in the end together. At the same time, it may well be that they will happen consecutively. There are lots of good scholarly work on all sides of this question.
All of these events occurred in the vision shown to John. There is going to be a recurring theme of fire, death, and destruction throughout the next several chapters in the book. The writer of Hebrews tells us “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” When John saw the visions of what is “to take place after this” prophecies throughout the Old Testament came true before his eyes. Are you prepared to meet your God? He has made a plan of salvation for us. Before it is too late, surrender your life to the Lord Jesus Christ.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.