2709.) Revelation 12

September 19, 2019

Rev12 woman dragon

Revelation 12  (NRSV)

The Woman and the Dragon

Chapters 12 – 20:  The Judgment of Beasts

A great portent appeared in heaven:

This is the first of seven signs that John relates, and is described as a great sign. In Revelation chapters 12, 13, and 14 the main figures of the Great Tribulation are described, and this great sign introduces the first of the seven:

  • The woman, representing Israel
  • The dragon, representing Satan
  • The man-child, referring to Jesus
  • The angel Michael, head of the angelic host
  • The offspring of the woman, representing Gentiles who come to faith in the Tribulation
  • The beast out of the sea, representing the antichrist
  • The beast out of the earth, representing the false prophet who promotes the antichrist

–David Guzik (and all following comments in red)

a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth.

The woman appears to be the heavenly representative of God’s people, first as Israel (from whom Jesus the Messiah was born, v. 5), then as the Christian Church (which is persecuted by the dragon, v. 13).  (The New Oxford Annotated Bible)

Then another portent appeared in heaven: a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born.

The dragon is identified in v. 9 as the Devil or Satan. 

And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron.

Psalm 2:7-9  (NIV)

I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:

He said to me, “You are my son;
    today I have become your father.
Ask me,
    and I will make the nations your inheritance,
    the ends of the earth your possession.
You will break them with a rod of iron;
    you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

But her child was snatched away and taken to God and to his throne; and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, so that there she can be nourished for one thousand two hundred sixty days.

Prepared uses the same ancient Greek word Jesus used in I go to prepare a place for you (John 14:2-3). This demonstrates that God’s careful planning works on earth as well as in heaven.

The church is sustained by God.  (The New Oxford Annotated Bible)

Michael Defeats the Dragon

Victory of St. Michael by Raphael, 16th century

“St. Michael Vanquishing Satan” by Raphael, 1518 (The Louvre)

And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon.

This is a dramatic scene of battle between good angels and bad angels, faithful angels and fallen angels. The dragon represents Satan (Revelation 12:9), and Satan is not the counterpart of God — God has no counterpart. If anyone, Satan is the counterpart of Michael, who seems to be the chief angel opposite this chief of fallen angels.

The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

This single verse uses many different titles for our spiritual enemy, including Dragon, serpent of old, the Devil, Satan, and he who deceives the whole world. These titles describe Satan as vicious, an accuser, an adversary, and a deceiver.

His angels are also the same as the third of the stars of heaven described in Revelation 12:4. Since Satan only drew a third of the stars of heaven, it means that two-thirds of the angels remained faithful to God.

A very strong theme in the Book of Revelation is the frustration of Satan. The story of his failures is told in the visions in chapter 12.

10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming,

“Now have come the salvation and the power
    and the kingdom of our God
    and the authority of his Messiah,
for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down,
    who accuses them day and night before our God.
11 But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
    and by the word of their testimony,
for they did not cling to life even in the face of death.

Here are our keys for being an overcomer and getting victory over Satan’s accusations, over his deception, and over his violence! 

The blood of the Lamb:  Satan can remind us of all our sins and actually our sins may be worse than what he says, but the blood of Jesus has washed us clean and we are made righteous by the work of Jesus on the cross. 

The word of our testimony:  And once we have seen and heard and experienced God’s love and grace and forgiveness, we can reject his lies.  Remember that Martin Luther would rebuke the devil’s temptations, saying, “I am baptized!”

In the face of death:  And if we do not cling to our lives, what threat really does Satan have over us?  If we believe to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21), then how can Satan’s violence against us be effective?

Rev12 v-11

12 Rejoice then, you heavens
    and those who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea,
    for the devil has come down to you
with great wrath,
    because he knows that his time is short!”

The Dragon Fights Again on Earth

13 So when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle, so that she could fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to her place where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.

15 Then from his mouth the serpent poured water like a river after the woman, to sweep her away with the flood.

by Pat Marvenko Smith

by Pat Marvenko Smith

16 But the earth came to the help of the woman; it opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. 

What might this mean?

The woman is now the church.  The dragon pursues the woman.  The Christians of John’s time, suffering under the persecution of the Emperor Domitian, now know that Domitian is the dragon, the devil’s instrument.  Ironically, Domitian regarded himself as the incarnation of Apollo, a pagan god.

Given wings, the woman flees to safety, as, possibly, very many Christians had gone, for the present, to be with God.  The event then reaches in to the riches of the Exodus story for some of its meaning.  The dragon spews water after the fleeing woman,  The earth swallows the water, making a safe way for her.  The church is saved, just as the people of Israel had been saved during the Exodus when God parted the waters, allowing them to move to safety over dry ground.

–Robert H. Conn

17 Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her children, those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus.

The First Beast

18 Then the dragon took his stand on the sand of the seashore.

_________________________

Music:

HERE  Jeremy Camp sings “Overcome.”  Such an encouraging piece!

_________________________

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Images courtesy of:
woman and dragon (from Frank Breaden, Pictorial Aid for Bible Study).  https://www.srcchurch.org/the_child_of_our_victory#!singlePhoto/0/
Raphael.   https://fromrome.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/saint_michael.jpg
Revelation 12:11.   https://bibledaily.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/blood-lamb.gif
Smith.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/rev12-dragon-flood.jpg
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2708.) Proverbs 30

September 18, 2019

Proverbs 30   (NRSV)

Sayings of Agur

The words of Agur son of Jakeh. An oracle.

All we know of Agur is found in this chapter. Not much personal information about him. But wonderful, marvelous truth from him.

Thus says the man: I am weary, O God,
    I am weary, O God. How can I prevail?
Surely I am too stupid to be human;
    I do not have human understanding.
I have not learned wisdom,
    nor have I knowledge of the holy ones.

“Earthbound mortals cannot find transcendent wisdom apart from the transcendent Lord. Real wisdom must find its starting point in God’s revelation; in his light, we see light.”

–Bruce Waltke

4 Who has ascended to heaven and come down?
    Who has gathered the wind in the hollow of the hand?
Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment?
    Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is the person’s name?
    And what is the name of the person’s child?
    Surely you know!

Most English translations ask about the name of (obviously) God’s son. “The Christian interpreter, however, cannot but think of the Son of God here and recall that he came down from above to reveal the truth to his people (John 3:31-33). Also, since ‘God’ is the only possible answer to the questions here, it is striking that the text speaks of his ‘son.’”

–Duane A. Garrett

Every word of God proves true;

Psalm 12:6   (ESV)

The words of the Lord are pure words,
    like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
    purified seven times.

    he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
Do not add to his words,
    or else he will rebuke you, and you will be found a liar.

Two things I ask of you;
    do not deny them to me before I die:
Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
    give me neither poverty nor riches;
    feed me with the food that I need,
or I shall be full, and deny you,
    and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or I shall be poor, and steal,
    and profane the name of my God.

These verses contain the only prayer in the book of Proverbs. The prayer is short and to the point. It contains two petitions, one covering the spiritual life and the other covering the physical life.

First, Agur wanted his life to be worthwhile and honest. He didn’t want it to be wasted on trivia. He didn’t want to major on minors, and he didn’t want to deceive others or to be deceived.

As to the physical, he asked to be delivered from the extremes of poverty and riches. He would be satisfied with the provision of his daily needs. He was saying, in effect, “Give me this day my daily bread.”

–William MacDonald

10 Do not slander a servant to a master,
    or the servant will curse you, and you will be held guilty.

11 There are those who curse their fathers
    and do not bless their mothers.

The generation that disobeys God’s command to honor father and mother (Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:2) puts its folly on full display. That generation sows seeds of conflict that will grow into a bitter harvest of personal and community strife.

–David Guzik

12 There are those who are pure in their own eyes
    yet are not cleansed of their filthiness.
13 There are those—how lofty are their eyes,
    how high their eyelids lift!—
14 there are those whose teeth are swords,
    whose teeth are knives,
to devour the poor from off the earth,
    the needy from among mortals.

Pro30 3 plus 1

Verses 15-31:  This section contains five numerical sayings, each in the “three plus one” format — a literary formula used to produce a sense of climax. Each set of sayings reflects on observations from nature and ties them to human life. Sometimes, the connections between the items in the list are difficult to discern. Perhaps the riddle-like quality of the connection is meant to remind us that we can’t always discern God’s wisdom because our capacity to understand is limited to those aspects which God chooses to reveal.

15 The leech has two daughters;
    “Give, give,” they cry.
Three things are never satisfied;
    four never say, “Enough”:
16 Sheol, the barren womb,
    the earth ever thirsty for water,
    and the fire that never says, “Enough.”

17 The eye that mocks a father
    and scorns to obey a mother
will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley
    and eaten by the vultures.

 


18 
Three things are too wonderful for me;

    four I do not understand:
19 the way of an eagle in the sky,
    the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
    and the way of a man with a girl.

20 This is the way of an adulteress:
    she eats, and wipes her mouth,
    and says, “I have done no wrong.”

21 Under three things the earth trembles;
    under four it cannot bear up:
22 a slave when he becomes king,
    and a fool when glutted with food;
23 an unloved woman when she gets a husband,
    and a maid when she succeeds her mistress.

Pro30 lizard
24 
Four things on earth are small,

    yet they are exceedingly wise:
25 the ants are a people without strength,
    yet they provide their food in the summer;
26 the badgers are a people without power,
    yet they make their homes in the rocks;
27 the locusts have no king,
    yet all of them march in rank;
28 the lizard can be grasped in the hand,
    yet it is found in kings’ palaces.

Pro30 rooster

29 Three things are stately in their stride;
    four are stately in their gait:
30 the lion, which is mightiest among wild animals
    and does not turn back before any;
31 the strutting rooster, the he-goat,
    and a king striding before his people.

32 If you have been foolish, exalting yourself,
    or if you have been devising evil,
    put your hand on your mouth.
33 For as pressing milk produces curds,
    and pressing the nose produces blood,
    so pressing anger produces strife.

Choose one proverb from this chapter, which fits your life today. Memorize it. Read it aloud several times, emphasizing a different word each time. Close your eyes and recite it. Repeat this process several times until you are confident you know it. Pray and ask God to bring it to mind several times today. Recite it mentally each time it occurs to you. At the end of the day, take a moment to consider how it has applied to your life.  Repeat indefinitely!

—LBC

_________________________

Music:

What a wonderful God our God is!  HERE  is “You Are God Alone”  by Phillips, Craig & Dean.

_________________________

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)    New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Images courtesy of:
Proverbs 30:5.   https://dailyverses.net/2016/3/9
Proverbs 30:4.   https://www.anonymouschristian.org/blog/son-of-god/
Godliness with contentment.   http://modernproverbswoman.blogspot.com/2013/11/1-timothy-66-7.html
3 plus 1.    http://www.stepcamera.de/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/3plus1-e1321123244948.jpeg
ship:  Montague Dawson, 1895-1973 British, “Fresh Winds, High Seas.”
   https://www.artdependence.com/articles/fresh-winds-high-seas-by-montague-dawson-at-sothebys/
lizard.    https://lorijones.life/2017/09/15/webs-and-tails/#jp-carousel-803
rooster.    http://cdn.backyardchickens.com/d/d5/350x700px-LL-d53dbf43_bob.jpeg

2707.) Revelation 11

September 17, 2019

Rev11 two-witnesses

Revelation 11  (NRSV)

In the passages of the Revelation which we are now about to approach we will on many occasions meet the figure of Antichrist. We may lay it down as a general principle that Antichrist stands for the power in the universe which is against God. Just as the Christ is the Holy One and the Anointed King of God, so Antichrist is the Unholy One and the King of all evil. Just as the Christ is the incarnation of God and goodness, so Antichrist is the incarnation of the Devil and of evil.

–William Barclay

The Two Witnesses

The identity of the two witnesses has fascinated and intrigued commentators for centuries. Are they particular individuals (Moses / Elijah / Enoch), or the two blameless churches in the letters sent out early in the book (Smyrna and Philadelphia), or representative symbols (for the prophetic ministry of the church)? Opinions vary. Whoever they are, they are heralds of the end.

Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Come and measure the temple of God

Sometimes in the Old Testament, the idea of measuring communicates ownership, protection, and preservation. When Habakkuk prophesied, He stood and measured the earth (Habakkuk 3:6), the idea was that the Lord owned the earth and could do with it as He pleased. When this temple is measured, it shows that God knows its every dimension, and He is in charge.

God is in charge. This is one of the glorious, mighty themes of the Book of Revelation.

–David Guzik (and all further comments in red)

The temple:  Of historical Jerusalem? Of heaven? Many scholars see the sanctuary of God and its worshipers as a symbol of the Church protected by God.

and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample over the holy city for forty-two months. And I will grant my two witnesses authority to prophesy for one thousand two hundred sixty days, wearing sackcloth.”

Sackcloth would seem to indicate that their message is one of repentance.

These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes; anyone who wants to harm them must be killed in this manner. They have authority to shut the sky, so that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have authority over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire.

When they have finished their testimony, the beast

Here is the first emergence of Antichrist in the form of the beast from the abyss, and the temporary triumph of Antichrist which results in the death of the two witnesses.

that comes up from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them,

The witnesses are killed, but their testimony is not cut short (“After they have finished their testimony . . .”). Death cannot take us too soon. This speaks again of the control God has over the world.

and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that is prophetically called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days members of the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb; 10 and the inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and celebrate and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to the inhabitants of the earth.

I can imagine this playing out on television’s nightly news!

11 But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and those who saw them were terrified.

Here follows the restoration to life of the witnesses and the consequent repentance and conversion of the Jews.

–William Barclay

12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud while their enemies watched them. 13 At that moment there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.

14 The second woe has passed. The third woe is coming very soon.

The Seventh Trumpet

15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet,

The seventh trumpet leads, not to the end as one expects, but to worship that forecasts the end. So confident are those in heaven of God’s victory on earth, that they sing as though it were already accomplished.

–Robert H. Conn

and there were loud voices in heaven, saying,

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord
    and of his Messiah,
and he will reign forever and ever.”

Finally, here is the first sketch of the final triumph of Christ, the thousand years of his initial reign, the rising of the nations, the defeat of the nations and the judgment of the dead, and the establishment of the Kingdom of God and of his Anointed One.

The seventh seal brought forth a profound silence (Revelation 8:1); the seventh trumpet initiates joy at the inevitable resolution. There can’t be a more glorious proclamation than this: The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!

_________________________

Music:

You are already singing it, I am sure!  HERE  is the Hallelujah Chorus, from Handel’s Messiah, performed by The English Concert and Choir.

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16 Then the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 singing,

“We give you thanks, Lord God Almighty,
    who are and who were,
for you have taken your great power
    and begun to reign.

God is in charge. This is one of the glorious, mighty themes of the Book of Revelation. Revelation 11:17 again uses the title Almighty for God. The Greek word for Almighty is pantokrater, and it describes “the one who has his hand on everything.” Nine out of the ten times this word is used in the New Testament, it is used in Revelation. This temple will be the scene of great horror and great glory, but God is in charge, working through both the good and bad actions of man.

18 The nations raged,
    but your wrath has come,
    and the time for judging the dead,
for rewarding your servants, the prophets
    and saints and all who fear your name,
    both small and great,
and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”

19 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is Twila Paris and “God Is In Control.”  The promise is sure!

Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)

Fear not, for I am with you;
    be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

_________________________

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)   New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Images courtesy of:
Two witnesses.   http://gentleshepherdbaptist.blogspot.com/2011/11/dead-prophets-holiday.html
Trumpet.   https://fpgm.org/studies-in-revelation/2015/12/the-seventh-trumpet-revelation-1115a
verse 15.   http://www.wtv-zone.com/Marvaline/ES/esigs2/Rev11_15.html

2706.) Revelation 10

September 16, 2019

Rev10 angel

Revelation 10  (NRSV)

The Angel with the Little Scroll

Revelation 10 and Revelation 11:1-14 is a kind of interlude between the sounding of the sixth and the seventh trumpets. The sixth trumpet has already sounded, but the seventh does not sound until Revelation 11:15, and in between there are terrible things.

–William Barclay

And I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire.

Is it Jesus? Is it the archangel Michael? Is it someone else? Opinions vary. But clearly he has come straight from the presence of God.

He held a little scroll open in his hand. Setting his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land,

His stance “indicates complete authority over the entire earthly situation.”

–John F. Walvoord

he gave a great shout, like a lion roaring. And when he shouted, the seven thunders sounded.

The seven thunders sounding could be a reference to the seven voices of God in Psalms 29:1-11 —

A Psalm of David.
Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
   ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;
   worship the Lord in holy splendor.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
   the God of glory thunders,
   the Lord, over mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
   the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
   the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
   and Sirion like a young wild ox.

The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
   the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl,
   and strips the forest bare;
   and in his temple all say, ‘Glory!’

The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
   the Lord sits enthroned as king for ever.
May the Lord give strength to his people!
   May the Lord bless his people with peace!

And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.”

Then the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and the land raised his right hand to heaven 6 and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it: “There will be no more delay,

but in the days when the seventh angel is to blow his trumpet, the mystery of God will be fulfilled, as he announced to his servants the prophets.”

Rev10 detective

In Biblical vocabulary, a mystery isn’t something no one knows. A mystery is something no one could know unless it was revealed to him. If you could know it by intuition or personal investigation, it isn’t a mystery, because mysteries must be revealed. Therefore, something can be known and still be a mystery in the Biblical sense. In this context, the mystery of God probably refers to the unfolding of His resolution of all things, the finishing of His plan of the ages. Life today is full of mysteries, but it will not always be so. A day will come when all questions of this age will be answered.

–David Guzik

Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, “Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll; and he said to me, “Take it, and eat; it will be bitter to your stomach, but sweet as honey in your mouth.” 10 So I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it; it was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter.

Sweet, because it contains God’s words; bitter, because it involves his terrible judgments.  (The New Oxford Annotated Bible)

Jeremiah also spoke of eating God’s word:  Thy words were found, and I ate them, and thy words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart. But he goes on to say, Thou hast filled me with indignation. Again the sweet and the bitter (Jeremiah 15:16-17).

11 Then they said to me, “You must prophesy again about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.”

The Word of God has already been given to the churches. Now it must go out to the rest of the world.

_________________________

Music:

I love the image John gives us of “the mighty angel” with one foot on land and one on the sea!  Such power and authority!  Looking at the picture above brought a hymn and a memory to mind. . .

Years ago, when my children were small and we lived in Italy, I played the organ for the English-speaking community’s Anglican church in Naples. How many times I looked over the list of hymns for upcoming Sundays and thought I was familiar with them, only to find, at practice, that the tunes were utterly unknown to me.  HERE  is such an example — “Jesus Shall Reign” — the rhythm is a bit tricky to get right! But the text is by Isaac Watts, so I can certainly enjoy that!

_________________________

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)   New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Images courtesy of:
the mighty angel.    understanding-daniel-revelation.com/R-10.html

2705.) Revelation 9

September 13, 2019

Rev9 scorpion

Revelation 9  (NRSV)

And the fifth angel blew his trumpet,

This is the fifth angel that sounded a trumpet. There were seven seals, followed – thematically if not chronologically – by seven trumpets. In their arranged order, they are similar.

The first four seals and trumpets presented judgments directed against the earth. In the first four seals, these were the “four horsemen” bringing tyranny, war, famine, and death on the earth. In the first four trumpets, these were the ecological destruction of the vegetation, seas, fresh waters, and sky.

The last three seals focused upon heaven: the cry of the martyrs, cosmic disturbances, and the heavenly prelude to the seven trumpets. The last three trumpets will speak of hell, in terms of the demonic.

–David Guzik (and all comments in red)

and I saw a star that had fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit;

A star that had fallen:  One of the fallen angels? Satan himself? Someone else entirely? Opinions vary.

And from your friendly English teacher! — The falling of the star and its trail of destruction are recorded in the English word disaster, aster being the Latin word for star. A disaster is a fallen star, a bad star.

he opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given authority like the authority of scorpions of the earth.

“A visual representation of the hordes of demons loosed upon the earth.”

–John F. Walvoord

They were told not to damage the grass of the earth or any green growth or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were allowed to torture them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torture was like the torture of a scorpion when it stings someone. And in those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will flee from them.

Their purpose and period is expressly governed by God, to bring repentance (see verses 20-21). Death will offer no escape from this prolonged torture. Their power is described like the power of scorpions, and the bite of a scorpion, though extremely painful, is rarely fatal.

In appearance the locusts were like horses equipped for battle. On their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth; they had scales like iron breastplates, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. 10 They have tails like scorpions, with stingers, and in their tails is their power to harm people for five months.

Don't take it so literally!

Don’t take it so literally!

“There can be no specific answer to the question of exactly who or what is symbolized by the plague of locusts. All we can know for sure is that in the period immediately before the end the wicked will be subjected to a time of unprecedented demonic torment. Exactly how this will take place will remain unknown until disclosed by history itself.”

–Robert H. Mounce

11 They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon (meaning Destruction), and in Greek he is called Apollyon (meaning Destroyer).

Their king:  One of the fallen angels? Satan himself? Someone else entirely? Opinions vary.

12 The first woe has passed. There are still two woes to come.

13 Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, 14 saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.”

The Euphrates River

The Euphrates River

These angels were connected with the Euphrates River because the Euphrates was a landmark of ancient Babylon. It was the frontier of Israel’s land as fully promised by God (Genesis 15:17-21). It was also the boundary of the old Roman Empire, which will be revived under the Antichrist.

The Euphrates is also associated with the first sin (Genesis 2:10-14), the first murder (Genesis 4:16), the first organized revolt against God (Genesis 11:1-9), the first war confederation (Genesis 14:1), and the first dictatorship (Genesis 10:8-10).

15 So the four angels were released, who had been held ready for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, to kill a third of humankind. 16 The number of the troops of cavalry was two hundred million; I heard their number. 17 And this was how I saw the horses in my vision: the riders wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur; the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths. 18 By these three plagues a third of humankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths. 19 For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; their tails are like serpents, having heads; and with them they inflict harm.

This is a powerful picture of horror, destruction, and demonic association.

20 The rest of humankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands or give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk. 21 And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their fornication or their thefts.

Almost hard to believe — but it was business as usual for those who remained. 

_________________________

Music:

Amid all these awful images of a dark future, there is one thing to remember, and  HERE  it is in a song by Point of Grace, an all-female contemporary Christian music group. We can face what is coming in our lives unafraid, for “Jesus Will Still Be There.”

_________________________

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)   New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Images courtesy of:
locust on the wing.    https://dailyoffice.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/locusts-revelation-498.jpg
hot dog!   https://lifehacker.com/kick-off-your-long-weekend-early-in-this-weeks-open-thr-5550204
Euphrates River.   https://sosyalforum.org/euphrates-river
horses.   https://freedombikerchurchfayetteville.com/12-04-16-hell-on-earth-revelation-9/

2704.) Revelation 8

September 12, 2019
"Seven Angels, Seven Trumpets" by Pat Marvenko Smith

“Seven Angels, Seven Trumpets” by Pat Marvenko Smith

Revelation 8  (NRSV)

The Seventh Seal and the Golden Censer

When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

The sealed scroll was introduced in Revelation 5, and the seals were opened one by one up to the sixth seal in Revelation 6. We waited for the last seal to be opened and the contents of the scroll to be revealed — but then were given a pause with Revelation 7, the revealing of the 144,000 and the great multitude out of the great tribulation. Now the idea of a pause between the sixth and the seventh seal is emphasized by this silence in heaven for about half an hour.

This silence is striking; some have seen it as “breathing space,” or, that the angels are silent so the prayers of the saints can be heard, perhaps even the cry of the martyrs of Revelation 6:9-11.  Or perhaps this silence in heaven demonstrates a sober, awestruck silence at the judgments to come, now that the seals are off and the scroll can be opened.

–David Guzik

And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.

Another angel with a golden censer came and stood at the altar; he was given a great quantity of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar that is before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.

Rev8 evening-sacrifice

Here we have the idea that prayer is a sacrifice to God; the prayers of the saints are offered on the altar and, like all other sacrifices, they are surrounded with the perfume of the incense as they rise to God. A man may have no other sacrifice to offer to God; but at all times he can offer his prayers and there are always angelic hands waiting to bring them to God.

–William Barclay

Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth; and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.

The Seven Trumpets

Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets made ready to blow them.

The seven angels had seven trumpets. In the visions of the Old and the New Testament the trumpet is always the symbol of the intervention of God in history. All these pictures, and there are many of them, go back to the scene at Mount Sinai, when the law was given to the people. There were on the mountain thunders and lightnings and thick cloud, and a very loud trumpet blast (Exodus 19:16Exodus 19:19).

This trumpet blast became an unchanging part of the apparatus of the Day of the Lord. In that day the great trumpet will be blown and it will summon back the exiles from every land (Isaiah 27:13). On the Day of the Lord the trumpet will be blown in Zion and the alarm sounded in the holy mountain (Joel 2:1). That day will be a day of trumpet and alarm (Zephaniah 1:16). The Lord will blow the trumpet and go out with the whirlwind (Zechariah 9:14).

This picture passed into the New Testament visions of the last day. Paul speaks of the day when the trumpet shall sound and the corruptible will put on incorruption (1 Corinthians 15:52-53). He speaks of the trumpet of God, which is to sound when Christ comes again (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Matthew speaks of the great sound of a trumpet when the elect are gathered in (Matthew 24:31).

–William Barclay

The first angel blew his trumpet, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were hurled to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.

1)  A plague on vegetation

The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea became blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.

2)  A plague on the sea

10 The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. 11 The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many died from the water, because it was made bitter.

3)  A plague on fresh waters

12 The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of their light was darkened; a third of the day was kept from shining, and likewise the night.

4)  A plague on the heavens, and darkness on earth

13 Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew in midheaven, “Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!”

These first four trumpets reveal the severity of God’s judgment. He attacks all the ordinary means of subsistence, such as food and water; and He attacks all the ordinary means of comfort, and knowledge, such as light and the regular rhythm of days.

The first four trumpets also reveal the mercy of God’s judgment; these are partial judgments striking only one-third, and are meant to warn and lead a rebellious world to repentance before the final curtain. For now, God spares more than He smites.

–David Guzik

_________________________

Music:

I have long loved the image of prayers rising to the Lord in heaven as the smoke of incense rises.  HERE  is a song to that effect from Hillsong — “Like Incense.”

_________________________

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)   New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Images courtesy of:
Smith.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/rev8-smith-7angels.jpg
Psalm 141:2.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/rev8-evening-sacrifice.jpg
incense.   http://jesusisgod316.blogspot.com/2018/03/revelation-83-6-power-of-answered-prayer.html

2703.) Revelation 7

September 11, 2019
 “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?”

“Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?”

Revelation 7  (NRSV)

The 144,000 of Israel Sealed

Chapter 7 is an interlude between the sixth and seventh seals: two visions (vv. 1-8 and vv. 9-17) which provide assurance that God’s people are secure from the plagues and judgments.  (The New Oxford Annotated Bible)

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth so that no wind could blow on earth or sea or against any tree. I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to damage earth and sea, saying, “Do not damage the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have marked the servants of our God with a seal on their foreheads.”

And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred forty-four thousand,

We are not told what exactly their service is, but the 144,000 are sealed for a specific and unique purpose. However, the general idea of being sealed is not limited to them.

Jesus was sealed: God the Father has set His seal on Him. (John 6:27)

We are sealed with the Holy Spirit as a down payment of our eventual total redemption. Paul wrote: God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)

This sealing of the Holy Spirit belongs to every believer when they are saved: having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. (Ephesians 1:13)

The sealing of the Holy Spirit is meant to be both a comfort and a challenge to us. We are comforted in that it assures us that we belong to Him. We are challenged by it to depart from all evil and identify ourselves with the One we belong to: Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” (2 Timothy 2:19)  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)

–David Guzik

sealed out of every tribe of the people of Israel:

From the tribe of Judah twelve thousand sealed,
from the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Gad twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Asher twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Levi twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand sealed.

Many Bible scholars regard the 144,000 as converted Jews, who are still identified as Israelites in some manner. They are the beginning harvest of the salvation of Israel.

Romans 11:26 (NRSV)

And so all Israel will be saved; as it is written,

“Out of Zion will come the Deliverer;
    he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.”

(There are alternative interpretations:  the Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, once said their entire group were these sealed ones, until they surpassed 144,000 in number. Now they say that the 144,000 are only a select group of Witnesses who go to heaven.)

–David Guzik

The Multitude from Every Nation

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying,

“Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

11 And all the angels stood 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 singing,

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor
and power and might
be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

A hymn of praise from the multitude of humans leads to a sevenfold declaration of adoration from the angels.

–Ian Boxall

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

The great tribulation (ordeal in NRSV) refers to that expected time of trial which God’s people would undergo in the last days. For the early Christians, this was believed to have begun with the death and resurrection of Christ. This vision assures the churches that, far from being overwhelmed by this, they will be enabled to pass safely through it. Their local difficulties are incorporated into a larger picture by what John sees. Generations of Christians ever since have found the same inspiration to hold to the values of the Lamb.

–Ian Boxall

15 For this reason they are before the throne of God,
    and worship him day and night within his temple,
    and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
    the sun will not strike them,
    nor any scorching heat;
17 for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
    and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

It would be impossible to number the people who have found comfort in this passage in the house of mourning and in the hour of death.

There is spiritual promise here, the promise of the ultimate satisfying of the hunger and the thirst of the human soul. This is a promise which occurs again and again in the New Testament, and especially in the words of Jesus. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). Jesus said: “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger; and he who believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). Jesus said: “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37). God has made us for himself, as Augustine said, and our hearts are restless till they rest in him.

But it may well be that we should not entirely spiritualize this passage. In the early days many of the Church’s members were slaves. They knew what it was to be hungry all the time; they knew what thirst was; they knew what it was for the pitiless sun to blaze down upon their backs as they toiled, forbidden to rest. Truly for them heaven would be a place where hunger was satisfied and thirst was quenched and the heat of the sun no longer tortured them. The promise of this passage is that in Christ is the end of the world’s hunger, the world’s pain, and the world’s sorrow.

We do well to remember that John found the origin of this passage in the words of Isaiah: “They shall not hunger or thirst; neither scorching wind nor sun shall smite them; for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will lead them” (Isaiah 49:10). This is a supreme example of an Old Testament dream finding its perfect fulfilment in Jesus Christ.

–William Barclay

_________________________

Music:

“Behold a Host” is in my top three favorite hymns, and the words are based on a question and answer from this chapter. This beautiful melody is a Norwegian folksong; Edvard Grieg later made an arrangement of it. The words were put together as early as the mid-1700’s. This hymn was sung at my mother’s funeral and will be, I hope, sung at mine.  HERE  it is performed by the Mandal Kantori, a church choir from Mandal, Norway.

Den Store Hvide Flok (Behold a Host)

1 Behold a host, arrayed in white,
Like thousand snow-clad mountains bright!
With palms they stand;
Who is this band
Before the throne of light?
Those are the saints of glorious fame,
Who from the great affliction came
And in the flood
Of Jesus’ blood
Are cleansed from guilt and shame.
They now serve God both day and night;
They sing their songs in endless light.
Their anthems ring
As they all sing
With angels shining bright.

2 Despised and scorned, they sojourned here;
But now, how glorious they appear!
Those martyrs stand,
A priestly band,
God’s throne forever near.
On earth they wept through bitter years;
Now God has wiped away their tears,
Transformed their strife
To heav’nly life,
They now enjoy the Sabbath rest,
The heav’nly banquet of the blest;
The Lamb, their Lord,
At festal board
Himself is host and guest.

3 O blessed saints in bright array
Now safely home in endless day,
Extol the Lord,
Who with His Word
Sustained you on the way.
The steep and narrow path you trod;
You toiled and sowed the Word abroad;
Rejoice and bring
Your fruits and sing
Before the throne of God.
The myriad angels raise their song;
O saints, sing with that happy throng!
Lift up one voice;
Let heav’n rejoice
In our Redeemer’s song!

_________________________

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)   New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:

dressed in white.   https://www.lovinggrace.org/single-post/2017/08/16/See-How-The-Redeemed-Souls-In-Heaven-Immediately-Minister-To-The-Lord
They won’t hunger.   https://verseimages.com/revelation-7-16-17/