Saturday, February 20, 2010

Revelation 15:1-4

Chapter 15

Verse 1 “And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God.”

Now seven angels (again the number of perfection, seven) appear before the throne of God and they carry what we shall soon see are vials which are filled with the wrath of God. Note that we are told that now and only now is God’s wrath being poured out. Before now none of the plagues which were afflicting mankind were referred to as God’s wrath. In Rev. 10:7 it said that when the seventh angel sounds his trumpet the mystery of God would be finished. Then in 11:15-18 the seventh angel sounds his trumpet and the kingdoms of the world become Christ’s again. (The mortgage reverts to its owner.) The twenty-four elders then announce that God’s wrath has come. All of this has been shown to occur at the end of the 1260 days. When the first angel in chapter 14 preaches the gospel, he also announces that the hour of God’s judgment has come. We are told by Paul in 1 Cor. 15:52 that at the last trump (the seventh trumpet, the one sounded in Rev. 11) that the dead will be resurrected and the rapture will occur. We know that we are not appointed to God’s wrath, so the rapture has to occur before God’s wrath can be poured out. All of these things confirm that the rapture has just occurred in chapter 14 after the 1260 days, and that God’s wrath or the seven vial/bowl judgments which occur at the last trump or seventh trumpet are now about to be poured out. There were seven seals, the last seal being the seven trumpets. The seventh trumpet announces and contains the seven vials of God's wrath. If one were to write this in outline form, the seven seals would be Roman numerals I-VII. Under Roman numeral VII would be alphabet numbers "A-G" which would be the trumpets. Under "G" , the seventh trumpet would be numbers 1-7 which are these vials. This negates any theory that the seals, trumpets, and vials are simultaneous judgments, as some preach. They are consecutive.

Verse 2-4 “And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.”

It may appear at first reading that this is a repeat of the multitude which appeared on the sea of glass after the sealing of the 144,000. Its following the mention of the 144,000 might initially make some think that this is a replay of that first group, but a closer look (just as a closer look at the 144,000 revealed the difference) shows that they are not the same. The first group is said to have come out of the tribulation and have washed their robes and made them white (had to be purged of their compromises). They have made it to heaven, but they were not victorious over the beast's campaign against them, although victorious in that their salvation is secure. The second group has gotten victory over the beast and the mark. He has not been able to kill them. They are victorious not only in the spiritual sense of enduring to the end, but also in the physical sense. The first group was martyred. The second group has lived through it all to be raptured, so they have ultimately been victorious in that they have lived through the beast's reign and have beaten him. In the first group, they held palm branches and said, “Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb.” There is no connection to the Old Testament. In this group, they hold harps. This group sings the song of Moses and the Lamb. The songs of Moses were victory songs about the escape from Pharaoh, and God's provision for them in all that was happening. This group would have experienced the same sort of escape, protection, and provision that the children of Israel experienced during the exodus and wilderness wanderings. This group also sings the song of the Lamb. Again this seems to indicate, as mentioned in the last chapter, that these are both Messianic Jews and Gentiles who are observing the commandments and keeping a more Judaic style of Christianity (as opposed to a paganized style of Christianity with the pagan Sabbath, holy days, and even music, which is how Christianity is observed today). Ps. 111.10 "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever." They have not had to be purged of all the sins and problems that were mentioned in the letters to the seven churches. This group is the Philadelphians. While the first group in chapter seven only sang to and about the Lamb, because at that point that is his role, this group sings about Christ the King, as He has now taken up his crown and scepter and is reigning. All of the nations will now be required to worship Him for now His judgment of mankind is going to be manifested. In other words, God's wrath is now going to commence and be more than just a threat. It is going to be manifest or actually come to pass. It has been merely a prophecy, or promise, or threat up until now. Now, in these final vials God's wrath is going to be poured out. Again, this confirms that the other judgments were not God's wrath, which only again confirms that the rapture has just taken place.

Also in this passage the sea of glass is mingled with fire. This group has literally come out of fire. The world has been undergoing a purging fire in various places since the trumpet judgments began, and it will finally be completely purged in the bowl or vial judgments.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Revelation 14:12-20

Verse 12 “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.”

Now we are told that here....finally.... at this moment in time..... this is where the patience of the saints will pay off and be rewarded. They have had to endure much (those that are still alive) to get to this point. Note that these saints are described somewhat differently from the saints who first appeared on the sea of glass earlier. That group washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb to make them white and came out of the tribulation. This group is a group of which it is said that they keep the commandments of God along with having faith in Christ. That is not to say that Christians do not keep the commandments, but Gentile Christians tend to stay away from the Old Testament, having their faith and lives revolve pretty much solely around the New Testament. Many feel the Old Testament is irrelevant, as they believe the Law is passe since we are under grace. Today's Christians for the most part do break one of the commandments continually. They do not keep the Sabbath as defined by God. I have discussed that the ten commandments do not precisely specify the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath, it only specifies it as being one day out of seven, and we have no way of really knowing which day of the week is actually the seventh day from the time of creation. That said, it still is true that Sunday is not the Sabbath according to Judaism or Christ. He expected the Sabbath, as kept by the Jews, to still be kept when He returned. I still believe that keeping the spirit of the commandment is more important than which day of the week you are able to observe (some jobs such as doctors, police, etc. require work every day of the week thereby giving days off on various days of the week), but Christians do not even keep the spirit of that commandment. They seem to be as busy on that day as any other. Multiple services, meetings, and rehearsals seem to be the norm for most churches. Nobody actually rests on that day. If you ask a Christian about the Ten Commandments, they will refer to the verse where Christ condenses the entire ten to two - love God, and love your neighbor, thereby skirting the issue. It seems that it is felt that those two do not include the commandment about the Sabbath, but that is not true. The Sabbath fits in with the loving God half of the two. They tend to dismiss that commandment as no longer being valid. Even though the Bible does not teach that Christ's resurrection did away with that commandment, that is how Christianity has rewritten it. That, however, is not how God feels about it. Christ said that if we love Him we would keep all of His commandments.

Getting back to the point, to this group of saints, the commandments of God are important. This would seem to indicate that this group comprises people who are either Messianic Jews or what I like to call Judaic Christians. That is Christians who have embraced both Old and New Testament teachings as was originally intended. (Yes, it was originally intended that had the Jews accepted Christ, the temple sacrifices and Judaism would have continued as the religion. Once more for emphasis, Judaism and sacrifices will be re-instituted during the millennium. Christianity as we practice it today will cease to exist. And again, no, that does not undo Christ‘s sacrifice on the cross.) The vast majority of Gentile Christians will have perished during the tribulation. They are mostly all gone by this time. What will be left are the Philadelphian Christians and Jews.

I realize how it may be perceived as to what all of this is implying. I am not advocating that Christians abandon the teachings of the New Testament and revert to Judaism as a means of salvation. That is absurd and strictly warned against by Paul. The laws do not save us. Plus, many rules have been lifted from our shoulders (such as what we can eat). And we are not actually talking about all of the laws here, we are talking the Ten Commandments. What I am saying is that we need to understand our Judaic roots and even possibly consider embracing certain parts of Judaism, such as celebrating the Scriptural holy days that God gave to His people. After all, the fall festivals are about Christ’s Second Coming. We only celebrate pagan holy days that have been sanitized for Christian consumption. (Sunday, Easter, and Christmas are all derived from pagan holy days.) I do not think God really appreciates that. (Yes, I am guilty of celebrating Christmas. I am also beginning to embrace Old Testament holy days, though. It is a work in progress.) The point is, this group is as concerned about God's commandments, holy days, etc. as they are about salvation by faith.

Verse 13 “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”

Again, from a superficial reading, one would think that this is speaking of the time of tribulation, as people die in the Lord during that time, whereas if we are at the end, why would any more be looking forward to dying? Well, if remembered, all Israel will be saved, but much of that occurs when they see Him whom they have pierced. (Zech. 12:10.) As that occurs at the time of the Second Coming and rapture, they will miss the rapture and have to go through God’s wrath. Many may not survive it, but they will be saved and will die in the Lord. Also there are Gentiles who have not taken the mark, and they may turn to the Lord also, yet die during God's wrath since "the rain falls on the just and unjust alike." Given that there are people from every nation going into the millennium, this would seem to be the case.

Verse 14-16 “And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.”

Clearly this is a picture of the Second Coming and rapture. Christ (the Son of man) appearing in the clouds with His kingly crown (He has only been crowned after the 1260 days) on His head and a sickle in His hand reaps (harvests the wheat) the believers. Could there be a more clear description of the rapture? This is exactly how the parable describes it, letting the wheat and tares grow together until the harvest, then gathering the wheat followed by throwing the tares into the fire. Here is where the patience of the saints is rewarded. They have endured to the end and are finally getting out of it all. We have been told that he who endures to the end will be saved. This is the end. The last trump has sounded (chapter 11 at the end of the 1260 days, just before these events in chapter 14 unfold) announcing the bowl judgments. We are raptured at the last trump, just before God's wrath, as we are not appointed unto wrath. Here is the first reaping, the rapture. If there is any doubt of that, can it be anything else? There are not two raptures and this is clearly a reaping of God's saints. It is not a reaping of those alive that will go into the millennium. There is no Scripture that I have found that would indicate that a reaping of that sort takes place. The harvest and reaping always refers to God's saints being removed before His wrath, not the unsaved that will go into the millennium being gathered to a place of safety. The next group is being harvested to be thrown into God's wrath. If God's wrath had already been going on through the seals and trumpets, (pre-trib doctrine) it would be a little late to gather up the first group to protect them, and a little late to gather up the second group to throw them into it. Clearly God's wrath is just now going to fall. Now the second reaping is about to occur, but it is not one in which you would want to participate.

Verse 17-20 “And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.”

After Christ raptures His people, an angel comes out. This angel has power over fire. Since God's wrath is about to fall it seems appropriate that he is the one who tells a second angel to reap the rest (the tares) of the world. The world is going to be purged by fire. A lot of that has already occurred, but there is more to come. The tares get thrown into the winepress of God‘s wrath. An important fall crop that corresponds to the fall festivals and Christ’s Second Coming is the grape harvest. This imagery is found in the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” when the lyrics say, “He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.” In particular this says that it is trodden outside of the city, meaning Jerusalem, and that the blood comes out of the winepress as high as a horse’s bridle.

Beginning with the reference to Jerusalem, this trampling may be looking forward at what is about to occur at Armageddon. When it says that the blood will be as high as a horse’s bridle, that does not necessarily mean that the blood will flow like a river that high. That is probably more blood than even Armageddon could supply. It more likely uses the imagery of what happens to grapes when they are pressed in a winepress. The juice shoots up as the grapes are stomped. In this case, the blood is shooting out of bodies all over to the height of a horse. This would make more sense. It would present a picture of fountains of blood spurting all over and be closer to the metaphor of pressing grapes in a winepress. A thousand and six hundred furlongs is distance of about 184 miles. That is the approximate length of Israel. There is going to be a bloodbath in Israel at the end.

Revelation 14:6-11

Verse 6-7 "And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters."

Now John sees an angel that flies through the skies preaching the gospel to the people on earth. Many commentators merely pass this off as humans preaching the gospel via television, or say that the 144,000 are evangelizing or something to that effect.. (Since those who say that this is the 144,000 evangelizing during the tribulation, and we have shown that this begins after the 1260 days are fulfilled, that view does not work.) Again, we are going to take this literally.

In our timeline we are at the end of the 1260 days. As we will shortly see, the Second Coming and rapture are about to occur. Millions have perished in the tribulation and trumpet judgments. Very few Christians are left on the planet, so there is virtually nobody left to preach the gospel except the angels. God is giving mankind one last chance to accept Christ before He raptures the few who are left and pours out His wrath. Scripture tells us that the gospel will be preached in all the world to all nations, and then the end will come (Matt. 24:14). The end is God's wrath and it is about to fall. The gospel being preached (and this gospel will include the warning of Christ's imminent return and His wrath) by this angel goes out to every nation, kindred, tongue and people. Although today missionaries have pretty much reached every corner of the world, no corner will be left uncovered as far as preaching the gospel goes when this angel does it. With an angel preaching it from the skies, people cannot dismiss it as just another human belief system. To not accept it in light of the supernatural means of its presentation will just show how hard people's hearts have been hardened. The heralding of the Messiah's arrival by angels is not without precedent. This angelic pronouncement is a parallel of the first coming of Christ when angels announced his birth. Because angels do not routinely make announcements today, Christendom tends to dismiss the possibility of supernatural appearances like this in our day and age. I am sure the shepherds in the field were just as surprised when Christ was born as people will be when this angel makes his announcment. Just because it is not routine, does not mean it will not happen as literally as Scripture says it will. There is no need to spiritualize this into being human evangelists of some kind.

The refusal to accept Christ's comings (both first and second) in light of the angelic heralds makes it impossible for people who saw and will see these angelic proclamations to stand before God on Judgment Day and say that they had never heard. They will be without excuse. God gives man every opportunity to accept him right up to the very end. God even gave a world that had no hope of repentance (due to their tainted bloodlines) this chance when Noah preached up to the end in his day. It must be remembered here that there are those who have not taken the mark of the beast, but neither have they accepted Christ. In fact, many will be in that very position at this time or they would not enter the millinnial kingdom. They will be the sheep in the sheep and goat judgement. God really wants all to be saved, but people choose otherwise.

The angel is announcing that God's wrath is about to fall. There are two previous mentions of God's wrath. The first was at the sixth seal. That was not an announcement from heaven of God's wrath, but the cries of people thinking it was God's wrath. That does not qualify as an announcement of God's wrath. The second time it is mentioned after the two witnesses' resurrection when the coronation of Christ as King is announced by the multitude in heaven, and the twenty-four elders announce that God's wrath is come. This occurs at the end of the 1260 days after the trumpet judgments. This again indicates that indeed, the seals and first six trumpet judgments were not God's wrath, but Satan's, as this announcement (and Christ's coronation) comes after those have occurred. God's wrath will fall after He takes His people out in the rapture, and that has not yet happened in Revelation.

Verse 8 "And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication."

There is much to discuss about this verse. In fact, Chapter 17 and 18 are all about this, not to mention numerous passages in the Old Testament. As I would like to cover Babylon when at those chapters rather than now, for the moment we are going to pass over this verse and come back to it later. The only thing to note for now is that Babylon falls at this point in time.

Verse 9-11 "And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, if any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation, and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever; and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name."

Now a third angel flies through the sky warning people of the consequences of taking the mark of the beast. They will be subject to God’s wrath which will be poured out without any mercy or restraint. They will find themselves being eternally tormented with fire and brimstone and will know no respite from their torment. There are people today who are teaching that there is no eternal hell. They say that God could not be that unjust, and that the punishment is to cease to exist. This verse contradicts that, as it says that the smoke of their torment goes up forever. Again people will say that the smoke is what goes up forever, not their torment. They say that it is the smoke left over from people being annihilated which continues to go up, but smoke would not continue to go up forever if that were the case. Once the fire burns out, the smoke would stop. Then there is the problem that they get no rest night or day. If they ceased to exist, there would be rest. As to being just, would it not be grossly unjust after all they have done to God and His people to simply cease to exist as punishment? Where is the punishment in that? The argument is that by missing out on eternal life with God, that is their punishment. But where there is no consciousness, there is no feeling of loss and there would be no punishment. Punishment can only exist if people are aware of the awful consequences of their actions. Hell is the absence of God and people go there because they choose to. They do not want to be with God or have Him in their lives,, so He provides a place for them where He is not, however He does not annihilate them. He judges them according to their works. Because God is not there to ensure goodness, beauty, truth, and light (which is what He is), by default it is a place of fire, torment, and horrors. That is because that is what the absence of God is. It is everything that He is not. There is no intervention to alleviate these horrors. There is no hope of mercy, or forgiveness, or of it ever ending. Hope only exists because of God. Hell and the Lake of Fire are also what the people and spirits who go there make it to be. They will torment each other because they can, with nobody to stop them.

Because of the use of present tense in what the angel is saying, rather than past tense, some would argue that this is a warning that must come before the tribulation rather than here at the end. It would seem that at this point everyone would have already taken the mark or be worshiping the beast, so that the warning is a moot point if it is given at the end. As for that argument, there are those who have not taken the mark or woshiped the beast, as evidenced by the fact that people will make it into the millennium, so these people are told what to expect if they do yet decide to take it. However the use of the present tense, rather than the past, also acts as an announcement to those who have taken the mark. People have not just worshiped (past tense) the beast, they are presently worshiping the beast, so the present tense is not invalid. If a past tense was used, it would not apply as a warning to those who still have not taken the mark, but merely as a declaration of what the recipients of the mark should expect. By giving the message the way it is given, it applies both ways. First it applies as a warning to those who would yet take the mark and then as an announcement of the consequences to those who have. It works in a dual way. Also as previously discussed, there might possibly be the option of removing the mark from your body so that you can accept the Lord. It has already been shown that this narrative picks up after chapters 9 and 10 in the chronology, so this is probably being said to people during what might be the ten "Days of Awe" before the books are closed, giving them that last chance to change where they want their name written. It is doubtful any will choose that last chance option, if they have already taken the mark. That does not stop God from giving them the chance though, just as He did in Noah's day.