58. Come to the mountain!

It is one of the most powerful metaphors in the whole Bible. God chose a mountain for the Israelites to meet with Him. Moses went up the mountain to receive the Law in the presence of the Most High. When the Israelites were slaves they worked in the pits of Egypt making bricks for the Pharaoh’s ambitious architectural projects. In the desert of their journey to the promised land was Mount Sinai, the mountain of God.

Images of mountains on earth are mostly majestic and awe-inspiring. Mountains are measured and conquered with incredible passion and devotion. Two examples of mountain-scriptures have been spiritual pillars in my life for many years.

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace;

the mountains and hills will burst into song before you,

and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. (Isaiah 55:12, NIV)

It is the words of the singing prophet, Isaiah, painting a picture of mountains that burst into song. Praise God in harmony with the mountains!

I learnt about the verse in Habakkuk 3, in my early twenties when I read the spiritual classic, Hind’s Feet on High Places (Hannah Hunnard) the first time. Since then, it was a pillar of strength throughout my life.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;

    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

    he enables me to tread on the heights. (Habakkuk 3:19, NIV)

Many years ago, my brother had a freak accident while horse riding one Sunday afternoon. He died in hospital six days later. Looking back, it was certainly one of the darkest, most heartbreaking times of my life. In spite of all the tears and questions, God “prepared” my mother for his death by “giving” her a Word from the Bible the Saturday night of his passing, just before she received that terrible telephone call. She “heard” about the mountain of heaven.

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22-24)

If ever there is an image planted firmly into my mind’s eye, it is the mountain of the new Jerusalem, the joyful assembly of the righteous made perfect. How can death ever have a sting, when this city of the living God is in your mind? John elaborated on this wonderful vision of heaven.

It is the image of the church in glory!

The number, 144 000, is the symbol for all faithful saints (7:1-17). They are sealed and numbered and form the perfect cube (10x10x10=1000 and 12×12=144). The perfect cube is like the Holy of Holies in the Temple and the representation of the Presence of the Most High, accessed through the Cross of Jesus for all who would call on His name. It is once again a symbolic number and not to be interpreted literally.

Mount Zion is the symbol for communion of the saints with the Father and feasting in His presence while receiving His word. The name of the Father on their foreheads will identify them in contrast to the name of the beast of the previous chapter (13:16,17).

In the ancient world a mark was important. It depicted:

  • Ownership: slaves and animals were branded. There was no dispute about ownership and no removal possible.
  • Loyalty: soldiers willingly branded themselves with the name of a respected general.
  • Security: a mark was stamped onto a person for safekeeping in time of death. We are marked in life and death.
  • Dependence: the Arab chieftains used branding to mark the people they were responsible for and who were dependent on them. We are dependent on the love and grace of the Lamb.
  • Safety: Syrians tattooed their god on their wrist or neck. The temple of Heracles possessed the right of asylum – any slave escaping in there received a sacred mark to secure him. None could touch him. In the Lamb we are safe and secure.

The voice of God with the sound of the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder, at the same time sounding like an orchestra of harps. Thunder and sweetness together, an exceptional and unique description of sound, bring peace and calm to the troubled heart.

The Lamb’s company can sing about experiences in life and redemption. No other creature like the angels and beings of heaven know what it is about. The redeemed can sing about suffering, strength while being attacked and spiritual growth with Jesus himself as teacher of the deeper things of life. They are virgins; free from spiritual adultery, made pure by the Blood and redeemed by the righteousness of Christ, the acceptable sacrifice.

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, (Ephesians 3:10)

The words of Jesus to His disciples when He called them were: “follow Me“. (John 1:43, Mark 2:14) He also requested that from the rich young man in Mark 10:21and to the unknown disciple in Luke 9:59.

We should not bother about the excuses mentioned in Luke 9. Our priority is to follow Jesus.

Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” (John 21:22)

 These words are just as true today. We are His followers (Revelation 14:4); wherever He goes, sometimes into the wilderness. (Song of Solomon 3:6)

Jesus was the sacrifice of firstfruits, the first fruit of the church to be accepted by the Father after the crucifixion when He said to Mary not to touch Him. It is the best of the harvest, the symbol of that which is to come. It is the best for God. Jesus is God’s best for us.

There will be no falsehood in their mouth, no deceit (Psalm 32:2) to be found in the true church of Jesus. A deceitful tongue cannot be trusted; shocking betrayal hurts deeply. Deception twists the truth on all levels of life – family and friends, politics and business.

Jesus is without blemish and perfects His church. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice (Ephesians 1:4, Colossians 1:22). The church must be glorious and pure. (Ephesians 5:26,27).

Three angels are summoned to worship and proclaim the good news of the perfect Lamb. The second angel foretells the doom of Rome and the judgment and destruction for those who have denied their faith and worship the beast.

The gospel for everybody; no exclusion, all embracing.

 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)

The everlasting, age old, unending and unchanging message is like God – no beginning and no end. According to Romans 16:25 it is the eternal purpose of God.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away. (Matthew 24:35)

The Gospel is always double-edged – it saves and judges and spells doom for those who reject it. It is the call to all from the God who created all. Paul’s preaching in Lystra (Acts 14:15) confirms this call through all the ages, through the prophets, all of nature and the earth itself.

H.B. Swete called this “an appeal to the conscience of untaught heathenism, incapable as yet of apprehending any other.”

During the time Revelation was written, Babylon was seen as Rome. Rome would fall and made the nations to drink from its immorality and failure. The Romans conquered and ruled with the feet of iron – cruel and unrelenting (14:8).

Babylon is also the symbol of the occult, idolatry and immorality. The city is already judged and therefore the inhabitants drink the wine of the wrath of God. Worship to the beast, Babylon, is a corrupting force luring the nations into insane immorality. It is the image of a prostitute who fills a man with wine so that he will not resist the seduction. On the other hand the fallen will drink from the wrath of God.

In the hand of the Lord is a cup full of foaming wine mixed with spices; he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth drink it down to its very dregs. (Psalm 75:8)

Jeremiah (25:15,16) and Isaiah (51:17) talk about the cup of God’s wrath. God’s judgment is true and righteous. He is the perfect judge and His wrath is never to be feared. It will only come to pass when all the calls for repentance are rejected. Even the judgment and consequences of sin, are invoked to bring people to repentance. The core message of the Gospel never changes throughout all the ages. It is to save, redeem and restore.

The third angel announces that worship to the beast causes torture and no compromise in judgment. The consequences of sin in the presence of the angels and the Lamb present the opportunity for redemption. There is a choice to be made. There is no rest for beast-worshippers. The peace of God is absent in their lives. Only God can give peace. There is no peace and joy for the wicked. The source of life in its fullness is God and only God.

The doom of the apostate is the worst. The vengeance on betrayal of the Gospel, is described in Isaiah 34:8 – 10:

For the Lord has a day of vengeance,

    a year of retribution, to uphold Zion’s cause.

Edom’s streams will be turned into pitch,

    her dust into burning sulfur;

    her land will become blazing pitch!

It will not be quenched night or day;

    its smoke will rise forever.

From generation to generation it will lie desolate;

    no one will ever pass through it again.

 God’s blessing, promised over generations will be lifted. Our choices are important for our offspring. The wonderful promise of Isaiah 44, 65:23 rings true in our lives, because of our submission to the Gospel of Jesus.

For I will pour water on the thirsty land,

    and streams on the dry ground;

I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,

    and my blessing on your descendants.

They will spring up like grass in a meadow,

    like poplar trees by flowing streams. (Isaiah 44:3,4,NIV)

 There is rest of the faithful soul in death (Revelation 14:13). The promise of rest in death is confirmed in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 1 Corinthians 15:18 and stands in dramatic contrast to Revelation 14:11: and the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever.

Let us sing with Paul that we have kept the faith. We run the race with all the problems in a world under the beast, BUT we keep the faith. Even in the face of church betrayal and disappointment in our limited vision of God’s work on earth, we take no offense with God. We trust our God, Who is abounding in goodness and truth.

The challenge is to accept His love as unconditionally as He gives it to us.

Our victory is guaranteed. (Jude 24) We are tried and tested like gold (Revelation 3:18) and purified like silver in fire (Psalm 66).

In the final vision of this chapter we see the Son of man as described in Daniel 7:13,14 and the angels come the temple and altar for the harvest.

“And I saw in the night visions, and, behold with the clouds of heaven, there came one like a son of man and he came to the ancient of days, and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him.”

More angels come with harvest instruments to the temple and altar for the harvest on the earth, written in the metaphor of wheat fields and vineyards (Isaiah 5).

It is two familiar metaphors: Joel 3 describes the harvest and many things Jesus said confirms this metaphor. (Mark 4:29, Matthew 13:24 – 30 and 13:37-43)

The winepress is often a symbol of God’s judgment. (Lamentations 1:15 and Isaiah 63:3)

The winepress was outside Jerusalem. It is symbolic of the gentiles to be brought to Jerusalem and judged there. Inside the city would be redemption in the Presence of God. Joel 3:2,12 talks about the nations gathered in the valley of Jehoshaphat to be judged.

On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. (Zechariah 14:1-4)

The angels and the Son of man will reap the harvest – not the church. Jesus confirms this in the parable of the tares in Matthew 13. The church is not to judge – wonderful liberty to preach the Gospel with no condemnation. God will judge and do it in His righteous perfection.

The description of the blood that runs deep and wide is qualitative and not quantitative. It confirms that the judgment is complete. The measurement, 1600 stadia (about 300 kilometers) was seen as the length of the land of Palestine, in other words the whole country will be full of blood. The judgment of sin is horrible and utterly gruesome.

[A Stadia is a Greek measurement and is about 192 meters long. So this makes 1,600 Stadia about 300km (180 miles) long and horses’ bridle is about 1.5m (4 ft 6 in) high.]

Let the church rejoice in the perfection of the Plan of God on this earth.

 Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Romans 16:25-27)

 

 

 

 

57. Underworld of the unknown

The unknown is scary, frightening, creepy, terrifying – yes all of this, and sinister, threatening and evil. All of these words and every synonym conceivable could describe the feelings of the ancient world towards the sea. It is understandable. The sea was a mystery of gigantic creatures and dark, unknown waters erupting in violent storms ripping their wooden ships apart and drowning the helpless seafarers. Yet, so much travelling had to be done over the sea. Judea was a treacherous sea journey away from the rest of the Roman Empire and Rome.

This chapter (13) starts off like a dramatic poem:

And the dragon (Satan) stood on the sandy shore of the sea. Then I saw a [vicious] beast coming up out of the sea…

The anti-Christ will rise out of the sea, here a symbol of chaotic, political events.

The fuller picture of the counterfeit trinity that emerges in this description is super important to equip the saints with the grand plan of evil, opposing God on every possible level.

Satan delegates his power to two beasts. The beast is composite of Daniel’s monster in Daniel 7: 2-7. It describes the incarnation of all evil – a lion with eagle’s wings – a symbol of Babylon, a bear – the symbol of Media, a leopard with four wings – a symbol of Persia and the fourth beast that is not named with ten horns is a symbol of the Greeks under Alexander the Great trampling all that had gone before. All of these could be seen in the Roman Empire as described by H.B. Swete:

 The empire has the vigilance, craft and cruelty of the leopard, ever ready to spring upon its prey; it has the crushing strength of the bear; it is like the lion whose roar terrifies the flock.

Paul was respectful towards the Roman authorities, using his citizenship as a tool for the advantage of his missionary calling. Here in Revelation we see a shift in the attitude towards the Romans. It is all out war between the government and the church and Rome is the representation of all evil.

The first beast represents the reality of anti-Christian government and political power. The second beast represents anti-Christian religion, philosophy and ideology. Together they produce the ultimately deceptive and seductive anti-Christian secular society, commerce and culture. The third beast is the False Prophet (13:11).

The beast of Revelation includes everything that Daniel described. Seven heads and ten horns indicate the rulers of Rome and the many consequent organizations and political powers. Many emperors and rulers took for themselves blasphemous names. They called themselves God, Saviour, Divine and so forth.

Blasphemy is all irreverent speech. To call what is human divine and to call evil good is the lie of the world we are living in today. It is a parody of the cry of the saints: “Who is like our God”. (Exodus 15:11)

It is enormously important that we know we are living in the realm of the counterfeit trinity and are informed about their ways. God does not want us to be ignorant and perish because of lack of knowledge. We are the saints, faithful and strong. It is our response to difficult times.

The head of the beast has been wounded by the Cross, but is healed to continue the deception and evil purposes. Some Roman citizens and even some in the early church believed that Nero, a particularly vile and cruel emperor, was revived after his death to inflict more torture on the church.

Revelation 13:9,10 reminds us of God’s judgment against Judah in Jeremiah 15:2,3. The persecuted are to maintain patient trust in God and not adopt the methods of the Beast and Dragon. It is repeated by Jesus in Matthew 26:52 (Amplified):

Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back in its place; for all those who habitually draw the sword will die by the sword.

The gospel of love cannot be defended by the violence of man. God will defend and revenge.

Another beast is the false prophet (13:11), the mouthpiece of the Beast. He is described as being like a lamb as a parody of the true Lamb. Caesar worship (as described in Pebbles nr 42) is symbolic of finding your salvation in politics and all idolatry. Satan can also do magic and convict with signs and wonders in the occult for the purpose of deception.

To the unbeliever, the crucified Christ is not the victor. He only perceives the “healed head” of the Beast and it looks acceptable and even attractive to him. Only the true believer knows the victory of the Cross. The unbeliever is easily deceived. He sees the fire and the image and fall down to worship. The unbeliever would never acknowledge worship, but in actual fact, the practical consequence of rejecting Christ, is worship of the Beast.

The mark (666) is the counterfeit of the “seal of the living God” of Revelation 7:2-4. Rome issued certificates for Caesar-worship.

Hebrew and Greek had no separate numerical system. All the letters of their alphabet carried numerical numbers, hence the number 666 which is the numerical value of his name.

The Jews literally wore the Word on their forehead and wrist according to the commandments in Exodus 13 and Deuteronomy 6 and 11. The slaves were branded. It was called a stigma and it denoted property, one man belonging to another. You belong to one you worship. We carry the mark of God, the seal of baptism.

The warning to be alert to this deception can be found in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12:

Let no one in any way deceive or entrap you, for that day will not come unless the apostasy comes first [that is, the great rebellion, the abandonment of the faith by professed Christians], and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction [the Antichrist, the one who is destined to be destroyed], who opposes and exalts himself [so proudly and so insolently] above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he [actually enters and] takes his seat in the temple of God, publicly proclaiming that he himself is God.

Just reading the Word of God secures us for the deceit and treachery of the world order and the agenda of the counterfeit trinity.

Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed)? This is the antichrist [the enemy and antagonist of Christ], the one who denies and consistently refuses to acknowledge the Father and the Son. (1 John 2:22)

and every spirit that does not confess Jesus [acknowledging that He has come in the flesh, but would deny any of the Son’s true nature] is not of God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming, and is now already in the world. (1 John 4:3)

The Lamb’s Book of Life is a heavenly register of those belonging to God. According to 1 Peter 1:20 our names have been written there since the beginning, since the foundation of the earth. This fact should not be interpreted as predestination. It is merely the statement of God’s foreknowledge. He wants everyone to be saved (2 Peter 3:9), but he knows who will choose rightly and who will reject him until the very end. He is above time and sees all of history and the future in a moment. As mentioned so often in Revelation, time is irrelevant for God.

Nothing that the Beast does or could ever plan, can pluck us from His hand.

 

 

 

56. A baby and a dragon – really?

We live in the age of fantasy stories. I sometimes get the impression the filmmakers are enjoying themselves even more than their audiences, who travel into magical and mysterious worlds with life-like characters appearing real. The discussions around the latest idiosyncrasies of authors and directors, sound bizarre and outlandish. It is a weird world created in the imagination and realized on film or in books.

Revelation, as a sequence of events in metaphor and symbols, could be classified into this genre of fabulous fantasies. No filmmaker, however, has even come close to endeavour a version of this ready-made script. The four horses of the apocalypse have found their way into some film adaptations, but not recently. Scary horses are part of so many stories – just think of the blood-sweating horses of the black riders in The Lord of the Rings. The four horses are only the first four seals of the seven seals mentioned in Revelation. What about the action of the trumpets and the bowls?

While reading on into the more intimidating and daunting code, we should once again keep our goal in mind. This study is an introduction into the “secret language”, if I may call it that, of the first century Christian message, delivered into a hostile and risky environment of the Roman Empire desperately clinging to the glory it once had, with all the inglorious means it could muster.

In this atmosphere of power play at the highest level, the first Christmas is celebrated. A baby is born to a very ordinary couple, caught in the administration of an Empire, much bigger than the parents themselves could ever care to think about. Whatever one believes about the century-old Christmas story and how many “mistakes” are made in our narrative and nativity scenes, including the date, circumstances or people involved, this event was noticed in the highest circles of government, eventually precipitating the worst trial in recorded Jewish history and the nastiest of execution-styles of the ancient world. Many Jewish scholars have written about the gross miscarriage of justice of the Sanhedrin that fateful night of the trial of Jesus and their sly scheming to bring on the execution by the Romans by whom the Jews were legally forbidden to perform a death penalty. We know the story. It is written in the Gospels. We hang the golden balls to celebrate the season – rightly so.

Let us look deeper as the Word of God always calls us to do.

Our Christmas story is what happened in the physical realm. A baby in a cave or manger – you can choose; an angel choir appearing to shepherds watching over the lambs being prepared for slaughter at the Passover, who rush to witness the arrival; wise men brought to the place by a miraculous star; wide-eyed parents who marvel at the wonder of the truth of prophecy and a mad king who slays babies to calm his own uncertainties – quite a story!

Walk with me into the miraculous scene of Revelation 12 as John uses all the signs of divinity and beauty to describe the spiritual images of the first Christmas.

The sun and moon are often used in divine descriptions. God’s garment is light as described in Psalm 104:2. In Malachi 4:2 Jesus is named the Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings. The Song of Solomon’s loved ones is fair as the moon and clear as the sun (Song 6:10). In this dramatic description of the woman of heaven, John also added something the pagans would understand – she is crowned with a garland of the 12 signs of the Zodiac.

We must always remember, whatever heavenly bodies of the universe paganism or false religions may use, the symbols and signs of the universe belongs to God. Nothing in this earthly realm, used in whatever distortion and deception, could be hijacked from us as the children of the Creator.

The woman is the Messianic community from whom the Messiah is born. She is in labour, symbolizing the pain of their oppression and the expectant lingering for the Promise to be fulfilled.

Women in the Old Testament were often the symbol of the bride of God.

For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name; (Isaiah 54:5)

Jeremiah talks about the harlot being unfaithful in Jeremiah 3:6-10 and Hosea with his unfaithful wife, is a life lived in the metaphor of God as the lover of Israel and the people’s betrayal of that love. God promises betrothal (Hosea 2:19-20) with all the joyful expectancy of a wedding feast with the protection and provision implied in such a union.

Revelation tells of the marriage of the Bride of the Lamb (19:7, 21:9) and Paul writes that we are betrothed (promised) to God as pure.

 For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:2)

The church is now the community from whom the Messiah is proclaimed. The church is always referred to as female. Jerusalem is also female. The old Jerusalem has literally fallen and failed the purposes of God. The new Jerusalem is the church and carries the purposes of God spiritually. The forces of destruction – evil and human – are resolute to destroy this community, but it is under God’s protection and cannot be destroyed.

The great fiery red dragon is a well-known symbol of Babylonian mythology, which depicts a red-gleaming serpent. The image appears in the Old Testament as Rahab in Isaiah 51:9: Are You not the arm that cut Rahab apart, and wounded the serpent?

The dragon had seven heads and ten horns and seven royal diadems, which all depict mighty power over the kingdoms of the earth as opposed to the kingdom of God. There are two players in the struggle for mankind. Evil is trying to destroy all that God made good. The struggle culminates in the Cross.

The Child, who will rule with an iron rod, is Jesus. The Child is snatched up to heaven out of reach. This is the protection God guaranteed for the fulfillment of His purpose. Satan, in the shape of the dragon, may have a plan of destruction, but God will protect what is His. Heaven is not the far away place, somewhere in the vastness of the universe. It is the Presence of the Father. It is the secret place of the Most High and the shadow of the Almighty. It is the ultimate place of safety.

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High

Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;

My God, in Him I will trust.” (Psalm 91:1,2)

The word used for snatch is the same as used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 and 2 Corinthians 12:2 to describe the action to be caught up in heaven. John’s emphasis is on the heavenly Jesus, not His earthly life. It is all about the exalted Christ. In the greater time calculation of God, Jesus’ earthly life was just a flash. Even so, the event had eternal consequences.

They escape to the desert, which is a place of safety and nourishment. For Elijah, as for us, it was a place of divine provision. (1 Kings 17:1-7 and 19:1-8) Shortly after the birth Jesus and his parents had to flee (Matthew 2:13.)

During the evil times of Antiochus Epiphanes, the priests kept the law in secret in the wilderness. Again, after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD, they fled to the mountains, into wilderness-like paces to be safe.

The church today finds solitude and provision in the wilderness. It is there where the table is spread, right there in the shadow of the valley of death. It is a place of provision and communion. Jesus knocks at the door of our heart to sit down for the evening meal, the relaxed chat over good food, which restores our sick and weary souls. (Revelation 3:20)

Satan is the enemy of God. He is in war with God and the saints. It is symbolic of the war in heaven when a third of the angels went against God (Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28). Lucifer was the morning star, the leader of worship. The Pharaoh declared himself the morning and the evening star. Music is still infiltrated with evil and very much on the agenda of deception. At the same time there is an explosion of worship music all across the world, to sing the praises of God and draw people to God.

Lucifer fell because of pride. The saints are warned against pride (1Timothy 3:6).

Satan still has access to the Presence of God as illustrated in- Job 1:6-9 and 2:1-6, Zechariah 3:1,2. Satan means adversary. Balaam (Numbers 22) can be called a satan against the angel. He is always the accuser, for Job; also for Joshua in Zechariah 3.

Be aware of the raspy voice of the accuser in contrast to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit spoken in perfect love in you inner being.

In Greek Satan is diabolos, which means slanderer. In the New Testament satan is called the devil or the tempter. Matthew 4, Mark 1 and Luke 4 describe him where the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness is recorded.

We find good examples of Satan’s work throughout the Bible. Remember, he is not creative. He cannot think of new strategies. He will always go back to age-old methods and invoke them craftily to snare the saints.

Since this is so, we find Satan engaged in certain nefarious purposes in the New Testament.

  • He seeks to seduce Jesus in his temptations.
  • He puts the terrible scheme of betrayal into Judas’ mind (John 13:2, 27, Luke 22:3).
  • He is out to make Peter fall Luke 22:31.
  • He persuades Ananias to keep back part of the price of the possession he had sold (Acts 5).
  • He is the cause of illness and pain (Luke 13:16, Acts 10:38, 2 Corinthians 12:7).
  • He hinders the work of the gospel by sowing the tares, which choke the good seed (Matthew 13:39), and by snatching away the seed of the word from the human heart before it can gain an entry
(Mark 4:15; Luke 8:12).
  • He uses every wile (Ephesians 6:11) and every device (2 Corinthians 2:11) to achieve his seducing

Jesus taught us to pray against him in the Lord’s prayer – deliver us from the Evil One – Matthew 6:13.

He is the ruler of this world.

I will not speak with you much longer, for the ruler of the world (Satan) is coming. And he has no claim on Me [no power over Me nor anything that he can use against Me]; (John 14:30) Also John 12:31,16:11.

Satan’s history is tragedy – once great, now fallen. His future is defeat.

His definition: “the malevolent critic of creation, the sleepless vigilance of evil against good.”

The victory of the saints will be his downfall. Our choice for the true life is his defeat. Our victory is the Blood of the Lamb. There is no condemnation for those in Christ; therefore the accuser has no power over us.

He will always try to injure Christ through the church. When Paul was cruelly determined to wipe out the followers of Jesus, he heard the voice on the road to Damascus. Jesus directly identified with His church and asked Paul:

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting and oppressing Me? (Acts 9:4)

The woman escapes with eagles’ wings.

You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. (Exodus 19:4)

The image of eagles’ wings has always been a spiritual pillar of support.

“As an eagle that protects its nest, that flutters over its young,

He spread out His wings and took them, He carried them on His pinions. (Deuteronomy 32: 11-12)

But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] will gain new strength and renew their power;

They will lift up their wings [and rise up close to God] like eagles [rising toward the sun]; they will run and not become weary,

They will walk and not grow tired. (Isaiah 40:31)

The wings of an eagle are symbolized in the outstretched arms of Jesus on the Cross. It is always inclusive and welcoming to all.

The serpent is enraged by the escape of the woman. He invokes the flood to destroy, but the waters will not destroy the woman. The earth opens to swallow the river. In God’s hands Nature is used to save, rather than destroy. Water in Asia Minor often went underground to reappear later.

The promise to the saints stands firm. God controls the flood. (Psalm 42:7, 124:4, 32:6.)

 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

And through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you.

When you walk through fire, you will not be scorched,

Nor will the flame burn you. (Isaiah 43:2)

God promises that the flood will not prevail against you. You will be victorious.

 

55. Calendars and calculators.

Counting and measuring are the brushstrokes of the mathematicians to illustrate and colour the world into a comprehensible picture. I am in awe of the astrophysicists, the astronomers, the geologists, archaeologists and numerous other disciplines that count, name and number our universe. Our sciences are expressed in the results of the measuring rods of our time, becoming more sophisticated as technology develops into smaller and more accurate measuring devices and calculators.

In the garden of Eden it all started as God commanded Adam to name his world. Our earth and universe are constantly being discovered over thousands of years. For all the years and complexity of our sciences, most of the academic world would agree that there remains so much to learn, and so the measuring and calculating are continuing. The passion of a learned man or woman, lying in the dust of some ancient site, paintbrush and dental tools in hand, never ceases to amaze me. The call of our universe from the ruins to the stars is so strong that the brightest minds devote their entire lives to the discovery of a part of the incalculable whole and find fullest satisfaction therein. A wonderful example of this is the passion and talent portrayed in the movie: The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015).

Measuring was common in the prophets of the Old Testament. It is no surprise that we find a command to measure in the first verses of Chapter 11. The measuring rod to measure and seal was for the protection from demonic powers. God knows exactly the extent of His own. Every heart that whispers and flutters towards Him is measured. Nothing slips; none is lost. It is always exact and precise.

A measuring rod was a reed marked in cubits (elbow to tip of middle finger).

He took me there, and behold, there was a man whose appearance was like the appearance of bronze. He had a line of flax and a measuring rod in his hand, and he stood in the gateway. And the man said to me, “Son of man, look with your eyes and hear with your ears, and fix your mind on everything I show you; for you were brought here so that I might show them to you. Declare to the house of Israel everything you see.” Now there was a wall all around the outside of the temple. In the man’s hand was a measuring rod six cubits long, each being a cubit and a handbreadth; and he measured the width of the wall structure, one rod; and the height, one rod. (Ezekiel 40:3-5)

To Ezekiel comes the command to measure and declare the magnificent Temple of the Lord, which I think was a majestic description of the universal church of Jesus. More probably Zechariah’s description was in John’s mind when he describes the measuring in this part of the vision.

Then I raised my eyes and looked, and behold, a man with a measuring line in his hand. So I said, “Where are you going?”

And he said to me, “To measure Jerusalem, to see what is its width and what is its length.” (Zechariah 2:1,2)

A few verses further God promises His presence in the midst of what is measured. This is the core quality of the true church.

For I,’ says the Lord, ‘will be a wall of fire all around her, and I will be the glory in her midst.’ (Zechariah 2:5)

Amos (7:7-9) also saw the Lord with a plumb line in his hand. Measuring takes place in preparation for building but also for destruction. Here it means preservation and protection. It is the sealing of the servants of God as described in Revelation 7:2-4. The seal is for the Temple, a symbol of the invisible church of Jesus.

The Temple in Jerusalem had 4 courts before the Holy of Holies. A balustrade to the rest of the space where only Jews were allowed divided the Court of the Gentiles. Transgression meant death. The Court of the Women was also restricted. The Court of the Israelite for ordinary Jewish men and then the Court of the Priests, where we found the Altar of the Burnt Offering made of brass and the water bowl for cleansing.

The Temple described here in Revelation, is the church of Jesus – universally. We are the living stones (1 Peter 2:5). Jesus is the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20-21). According to 1 Corinthians 3:16,17 and 2 Corinthians 6:16, we are the Temple.

 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.

A time, times and half a time is mentioned in Daniel 7:25 and 12:7. It is 42 months, which is 1260 days – a 3,5 year limited period of suffering.

As far as the Jews were concerned, the peak of the manifestation of evil was connected with one terrible episode in their history. This is commemorated in Daniel’s picture of the little horn. The little horn was Antiochus Epiphanes [215BC – 164BC], a Hellenistic Greek king of the Seleucid Empire who reigned over Syria. His name means “God Manifest”. His original name was Mithradates, but he assumed the name Antiochus, after he ascended the throne. He was determined to introduce Greek ways, language and Greek worship into Palestine. He regarded himself as the most important missionary of Greek culture. The Jews resisted. Antiochus Epiphanes invaded Palestine and captured Jerusalem. It was said that eighty thousand Jews were either slaughtered or sold into slavery. To circumcise a child or to possess a copy of the Law was a crime punishable by death. It was a deliberate attempt to wipe out the religion of a whole people. He desecrated the Temple. He erected an altar to Olympian Zeus in the Holy Place and on it sacrificed swine’s flesh. He turned the rooms of the Temple into public brothels. The gallantry of the Jewish commander, Maccabees with his five sons, leads to the first religious war in history. The Maccabean revolt restored the Temple and conquered Antiochus. Antiochus was the incarnation of all evil. The Jews called him “Epimanes,” which means “mad one.” His persecution of the Jews lasted exactly 1260 days (42 months or 3,5 years). The victory of Maccabees is the source of the Jewish feast Hanukkah, which is celebrated around Christmas. When the lamp was lit in the Temple after the victory, there was only oil enough for one day. This little oil lasted eight days, enough to give the priests a chance to restore the oil supply.

The two witnesses have various interpretations. Many scholars are of the opinion that they are the Law and Gospels or the Law and Prophets. Others say they are Moses and Elijah; the two figures on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:4) and associated with many miracles. Fire proceeded from Elijah’s mouth and burnt his enemies (2 Kings 1:9-10). He also commanded that no rain would fall in the time of Ahab. Moses is associated with the miracle of the staff turning into a snake and the plagues of Egypt as described in Exodus.

Jerusalem was a great city, but called by terrible names like Sodom (gross spiritual perversity) and Egypt (opposing God’s plans and purposes) in Isaiah 1:9,10. The symbols of sin present in the city were to make slaves of people. The wickedness of Jerusalem culminated in the crucifixion of Jesus. The name is taken away because there is a New Jerusalem – the church. The church of Jesus is the New Jerusalem

In ancient times it was a terrible thing not to be buried.

 Their blood they have shed like water all around Jerusalem, and there was no one to bury them. (Psalm 79:3)

…your corpse shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.’” (1 Kings 13:22)

Even worse evil will be that their deaths will be celebrated as a festival. Even in the worst evil, God says today, redemption is available. His witnesses are killed and (their deaths) celebrated, just as the prophets who warned the people of their sins and Jesus were killed, as with all the martyrs over the centuries.

Like Jesus the witnesses are resurrected. Death has no power over truth. The witnesses, like the church, proclaim the truth. A natural disaster, a great earthquake, is the consequence. The earth shook when Jesus died, but still most of the people did not see and realize. Those who gave glory to God, were saved.

Repentance is the way to give glory to God. Here the story of the Cross and resurrection of Jesus is emphasized and confirmed. Life is sacrificed and then given again in resurrection.

Evil is conquered in the process, not by force but by sacrifice and suffering.

The seventh trumpet is a summary of things to come. It seems like the end, but so much more detail is given in following chapters. It is all mentioned in the worship song at the end of the chapter.

Victory of the Anointed One – Psalm 2:2

God’s supreme authority and the Millennium – 11:17.

Attack of hostile powers and their final defeat and judgment -11:18.

In verse 19 we are with John back in the vision as he is describing his experiences. The heavenly Temple is a mirror image of the church on earth. The Ark of the Covenant is a symbol of His presence and covenant relationship to everyone who believes in Jesus.

It is the picture of the full glory of God, defeating His enemies and an uplifting promise to the people of the Covenant.