Saturday, September 5, 2009

A pause for an explanation

Before going on to chapter 11 it is necessary explain some things about how to understand Revelation. It is a chronological book, but not as in a through-reading of the book from chapter one to the end. In other words, there are pauses in the narrative to go back and fill in details. There are some places where you have to go back to the beginning, or at least some designated starting point, and put in the details that were left out the first time around. They will be happening simultaneously within the overview that has been covered so far. In understanding the chronology of Revelation, one has to understand how God teaches. As a person with a teaching degree, I have taught a lot of children over the years. There is one thing about teaching children, actually about teaching anybody, that is crucial to being understood and having as little confusion as possible. That is to keep on topic and finish a complete thought. You should not go off on tangents or try to insert things that are not in the same thought process. For instance, children have to learn arithmetic, history, geography and English. You would not teach a child these subjects in the following way. "To multiply by a two digit number, you first multiply by the ones column, then George Washington became our first president. He was a surveyor in his youth and surveyed America which has 48 contiguous states with the other two being separated by commas when you list them in a group listing." If you were to try to cover the subjects in this manner, nothing would be learned. You have to finish math, then teach the history lesson, then the geography lesson, then the English lesson. Even if all of them were basically covering the same subject. To do otherwise causes total confusion and nothing is learned. It would simply be a mish-mash of information that is nonsensical.

Well, we are students of God's Word and He naturally will teach us in the best and most comprehensible way. He finishes a train of thought before stopping for every detail or moving on to the next thought. To illustrate what I mean, I was amazed some years ago when on a PBS show on the book of Genesis, I heard a group of non-Christian scholars (well that's debatable (the scholars part, it was obvious from their comments that they were not Christians)) try to explain the creation story. I could not believe my ears when I heard them say that there were two creation stories in the first couple of chapters of Genesis. I had no idea about what they were speaking. Read the story to any child and they will immediately understand that God first gives the history of the creation days - one through seven - and then goes back and gives the history of man on day six. While they happen at the same time (on day six), the two are two different histories. One is of the planet. One is of man. God completed the one thought before moving on to the next. This is a teaching technique that avoids confusion. It is also a the technique a journalist uses. They give the basic information, then they go back and fill in the details. God is a good teacher (or a good journalist). He does this a lot through scripture. Jesus never tried to explain the parables as he was telling them. He did so after. He finished the topic or thought first. Then he went back and explained. As seen above, trying to insert information that may be relevant and may be running in the same timeline does not necessarily make for better understanding. It can create total chaos and confusion.

Here we see that we have reached the end of the 3 1/2 years or as we went over when studying the Second Coming in Luke, forty-two months from the time of the abomination of desolation until antichrist's reign ends. We shall shortly see that this time is also 1260 days. If God did not give us this number of days, we could still arrive at that number by multiplying forty-two by thirty, which is the prophetic number of days per month. From this point at the end of this time frame, God's wrath will be carried out.

We have been given the history of the seals. God did not stop to insert every little thing that was going on to other people or places during the course of the events, as this would have broken the train of thought and continuity. Other things are running their course simultaneously, though. We have to find out what is happening to Israel. We have to find out about antichrist. There are two men called the witnesses that have a history line. There is a whole story about Babylon to be covered. All of these things are running simultaneously, and we will see that all of these things come to some sort of conclusion at the end of the forty-two months. The time of Jacob's trouble will be over at that time. Israel's history is going to change from that point on. While having so far used the term Jacob's trouble and the tribulation interchangeably, that is not truly the case. As said before, one has to teach things in a way that does not cause confusion, so I did not try to teach this before now. While starting at the tribulation, Jacob's trouble does not end when it does. It continues until the forty-two months are over. It is when they see Him whom they have pierced, that Israel comes to salvation. Rev. 1:7, Zech. 12:10. That will not be until the three and half years or forty-two months are finished, and Christ returns to pour out God's wrath. God may have sealed the 144,000 for protection, but the rest of Israel will feel the wrath of Satan through his ugly minions just as the rest of the unbelieving world will. Antichrist, the witnesses, Babylon - each one will have its history covered as a separate topic, just as school subjects are taught.

A way of picturing this is to think of a guitar. It has six strings which run next to each other from the tuning pegs down to the bridge. They all end at the bridge. They run alongside each other, but they do not overlap in each other's way as that would be confusing. Yet they are played together at the same time. Such is how God is presenting this information. He began with string one, the seals. He has completed that part of it up to the bridge, or end of the 3 1/2 years (42 months, 1260 days) where Satan's reign ends. Then He goes back up to the tuning pegs to string two, the witnesses, and covers their history up to the bridge, or end of the forty-two months. He then covers the third string, Israel's history, Christ's birth and death, and Satan's war on God and mankind up to the bridge or forty-two months. Then it is antichrist, as his history of power ends at the end of the forty-two months. He saves Babylon's history until after the bowl judgments are done, as Babylon has two judgments upon it. One is the wrath of antichrist, and the second is the wrath of God. The final judgment coming at the end of the 1290 days according to Daniel. He brings everything up to the bridge, because from the bridge on, there is really only one string running, and that is His wrath. Everybody will fall into that string. That is why he did not allow John to write down what the angel and seven thunders said, and told him that he had to prophesy again first. He does not want to present the information in the little book, which is His wrath, until all of the other strings are brought up to the bridge. Once everyone is caught up, he can go back and finish the seventh trumpet judgment. That is why there are several chapters of information between the sixth and seventh trumpets. It is a change of venue. This way of teaching is a good technique that avoids confusion. The book of Revelation is confusing enough to people without making it more so. God is trying to make it as intelligible as possible for us. The problem seems to be that people do not understand this teaching technique. I have heard all sorts of timelines given for the events in this book. Some that say that the seals, trumpets, and bowls all run simultaneously. That clearly shows a lack of understanding of this book. They follow one another as we have clearly seen. It would seem that they even precipitate the next one in line many times. People cannot seem to see how simply he has outlined it. In fact, outline is a good word. If this book were put in an outline, it would look something like this. (I am doing a condensed and incomplete example).

I. Introduction
II. Letters to churches
A. Ephesus
B. Smyrna
C. etc.
III Presentation of the Lamb
IV. History and opening of the Seals
A. #1 False christs
B. # 2 War
C. etc.
V. Interlude
A. Sealing of 144,000
B. Arrival of martyred tribulation saints
VI. History and opening of Seventh Seal
A. Hail and fire
B. Etc.
VII. Christ claims possession of earth and pronounces judgment
VIII. History of two witnesses
IX. History of Israel, Christ, and Satan's war
X. History of Antichrist , etc.

Because it is given in this way, he does make connections between the strings using certain events or references, so that we can figure out how the timelines run together. As will be seen, the first, second, and third woe are the connections between the seals and the witnesses. All of this will fit together and become clear as we proceed.

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