65. Old words, new meaning.

All of us know the emotions of change. There is always a double-sided feeling of a divided soul. Even when the change is good, flowing from our good decisions, some elements of the old haunt us and might even come to bite our heels. Soul changes are the hardest, getting rid of bad habits, old wounds, roots of bitterness fed by the hurt and offence we suffer because of other people’s sin. With all life’s challenges and strife our heart might look like an overgrown, untamed garden with some beautiful flowers and shrubs (caring and loving nature) struggling to grow beneath the thorn bushes and briers of resentment and anger.

I truly rejoice in the promise of the new in the Word of God. Not now and then – daily! God does new things, forgives continually and bring us up to the new heaven and the new earth whenever we ask and set our life focus on His realm. The invitation stands for all eternity.

“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord.

Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;

Though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool.

If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the best of the land;  (Isaiah 1:18,19)

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentation 3:22,23)

Chapter 21 of Revelation leads us into the ultimate “new” that God has for us as much as we could grasp with the description in earthly words and concepts.

Doom of the wicked is described in contrast to the “bliss of the blessed.” It is the dream of true new beginnings, so beautifully sung by Isaiah (65:17). When God creates new, the former things are not even remembered.

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.

Let us rejoice in the caption of this chapter – All Things Made New.

Looking around us in our world today, we need some serious new.

Just think of the wonderful elements of the new. Sorrow is to be forgotten; sin is to be vanquished; darkness is to be at an end; the temporariness of time is to turn into the everlastingness of eternity.

The promise of no more sea was a welcome relief to the ancient world. Their attitude towards the sea was well established from mythological roots. The sea was the enemy, the dwelling place of chaos. Sea faring was dangerous and clothed in mystery. In the earliest times of sea travel they hugged the coast with no compass. Sea storms were fierce and scary, especially when darkness blotted out the stars and made navigation impossible. (Acts 28)

The New Jerusalem (21:2) has its roots in Greek philosophy.

One of the great contributions to the world’s philosophical thought was Plato’s doctrine of ideas or forms. He taught that in the invisible world there existed the perfect form or idea of everything upon earth, and that all things on earth were imperfect copies of the heavenly realities. If that were so, there is a heavenly Jerusalem of which the earthly Jerusalem is an imperfect copy. That is what Paul is thinking of when he speaks of the Jerusalem that is above (Galatians 4:26), and also what is in the mind of the writer to the Hebrews when he speaks of the heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22).

This conception of preexisting forms may seem strange, but at the back of it is the great truth that the ideal actually exists. It further means that God is the source of all ideals. The ideal is a challenge, which, even if it is not worked out in this world, can still be worked out in the world to come.

The New Jerusalem in the era after Christ is the church. Jewish thought provided full restoration, supremacy and rule for the Jewish people. This was echoed in the prophets and always held as the physical restoration of Jerusalem.

For us, the church is the only possible interpretation. The true church is the perfect “city” providing for its inhabitants. The bride is prepared for Jesus. (21:2). The souls of men are the precious stones (Malachi 3). The streets of gold are the gifts of the Holy Spirit guiding our walk on earth in Jesus. We walk upon the royal paths when we are saved. Everything precious in our lifetime is to be found in Jesus. God provides the light; there is no need of the sun. Everything we know to be natural is replaced by the perfection of God’s realm.

We enjoy unbroken fellowship with God as He wipes away the tears (21:3,4). His presence resolves the sorrow. (Ezekiel 40:1-48:35)

John used all the visions of the perfect city to invoke the picture of the realization of all dreams ever. In the light of the recent destruction of the earthly Jerusalem (70AD) he speaks in faith to revive and encourage.

The New Jerusalem, the church, is eternal and precious. It can never be destroyed. Destruction is of the earthly. We lift up your eyes and see the perfect. Our eyes should be anointed to “see” clearly and truly into the unseen, by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is our challenge today and every day. To truly see Him in faith on His throne within the pain and strife of this life, is kingdom living.

And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. (Exodus 14:13)

Moses challenges the people to see the opposite of their fear. Just like them we face “our” Egyptians every day. We have to live in the evil plans of God’s adversary, Satan and face all the problems, crisis, and panic that come with his territory. The only solution is our fellowship with God (21:3-4).

A loud voice, as we have seen, a voice with the authority of the presence of God, announces the tabernacle, the dwelling place of God amongst men. The word used is skene, which means tent. The

Tabernacle in the desert was a movable structure, tent-like. It is a temporary dwelling and a foretaste of the glory to come. God made his dwelling with people.

Here on earth, we experience heaven in the constant awareness of the Presence.

The Greek word skene and the Hebrew word schecinah became closely related in early Christian thought because of the connection in sound. Skene came to mean dwell with God and schecinah came to mean God dwelling with men. Shechinah was associated with a luminous cloud, which came and went. In Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 8:10-11) the shechinah glory filled the house.

[This concept resonated through the Old Testament: Leviticus 26:11-12, Jeremiah 31:33 and 32:39 – 41, Ezekiel 37:27, Song of Songs 6:3]

All the benefits of heaven reverberate through Isaiah (25:8, 35:10, 65:19). There will be no weeping, no sorrow, and all the tears wiped away. The promise is repeated and confirmed in Matthew 5:4 and Philippians 3:10.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

In Christ all things are new (21:5-6). A child of God is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). New things are promised in Isaiah 43:18-19.

“Do not remember the former things,

Nor consider the things of old.

Behold, I will do a new thing,

Now it shall spring forth;

Shall you not know it?

I will even make a road in the wilderness

And rivers in the desert.

John is commanded to write it down. It reminds us of a contract, true and trustworthy. We can go back to check and hold the parties responsible to fulfill the articles of the agreement. These are faithful words, so scarce these days.

All is complete within Christ. There is no other God. (Isaiah 44:6)

He is the Beginning, arche meaning the source of all things and the

end, telos meaning more than the end, the goal of all things.

For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:36)

…one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:6)

Is there anything more to say about God? His promise stands: I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. (21:6) We have free access to all the splendour and glory. Is there better to be desired in this life?

Glory and shame (21:7-8)

The greatest promise of all (21:7): I will be his God and he will be my son. He said it to:

  • Abraham – Genesis 17:7
  • David about Solomon – 2 Samuel 7:14
  • Psalms 89:27 – “I will make him the first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth“.
  • Us the same as to Abraham, to David and to Jesus.

There is no higher reward possible.

The condemned is named: fearful, cowards, unbelieving, sorcery (drugs), idolaters, fornicators (immorality), liars. We can never be arrogant and look down on these sins and sinners. They all have spiritual application as well. Immorality rules in worldly lifestyles, lying prevails for our own comfort, drugs are widely used to ease emotional and physical pain. It can easily get out of control and become idolatry.

These condemn us all except that we find our righteousness in Christ.

Our inheritance is the city of God (21:9-27). This is our dwelling place. We dwell with God, in Christ.

The bride is shown by a surprise messenger – the bringer of the bowls of the plagues. The same angel, who acts as the bringer of the judgment of Babylon, now shows the Bride. The angel speaks what God commands and the messages vary.

John is carried to a high mountain, just like in Ezekiel’s vision (40:2). The outlook from higher ground changes the perspective. We have to elevate ourselves above the circumstances. We are still earth-bound. We do not fly into the universe. We have to be removed from the ordinary in order to hear and see deeper and fuller. There is an actual mountain outside Jerusalem.

Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth,

Is Mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.  (Psalm 48:1,2)

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains,

and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.  (Isaiah 2:2)

The light of God is like the radiance of jasper. God’s glory reflects in the precious stones. The precious stones are the saints – Philippians 2:15.

The city is walled, strong enough to protect against all evil.

 In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:

“We have a strong city;

God will appoint salvation for walls and bulwarks. (Isaiah 26:1).

He promises an insurmountable bulwark, built by faith to guard the church. Zechariah 2:5 talks about the wall of fire and His glory inside.

The twelve gates represent the tribes, through which all gained entrance. The Messiah was born from the tribe of Judah as promised to give access for all. The word for gate is pulon (normally it would be pule.) Pulon could indicate two things. It could either be a large house built around a courtyard with big gate in the outer wall or the gate-tower of a walled city.

There is more than one entrance through the revelation of Jesus within the tribes. There are three gates in each direction. (Ezekiel 48:30-35)

East, where the sun rises depicts the morning of life when we find Christ young.

North is symbolic of cold for those who find Christ through intellect and cold rationalization.

South is symbolic of warmth. There is the gentle and soft way to find Christ through love and kindness.

West is symbolic of the setting sun and the dying. Even in the evening of their days, they will find Christ. We hear of so many deathbed conversions.

The twelve foundations depict the apostles who built the church. The tribes and the apostles incorporate the old and the new.

The measurements (21:15-17) remind us of the measuring rod of Ezekiel (40:3).

The shape of the city is a square. It is the perfect cube, a symbol of perfection in the Greek philosophy. The Jews were familiar with the shape of the altar of burnt offering, the altar of incense and the High Priest’s breastplate. (Exodus 27:1,30:2,28:16) In Ezekiel’s temple and Solomon’s Temple the Holy of Holies was a perfect cube. (1 Kings 6:20) which indicates sufficiency, enough space for everyone. The dwelling place of God has no exclusion. So must the church be also.

The height of the wall is very low. It was not for defense purposes. It was only to show the city limits and not meant for exclusion. A wall is not important, but only to show the differentiation between the city and the rest.

The gold of the city looks white in the sun, as if it is clear glass. The foundations were adorned with precious stones. Jasper is a translucent green, sapphire is mentioned in Exodus 24:10 on which God stood, sky-blue flecked with gold more like lapis lazuli, chalcedony looked like silicate of copper, sort of green as a dove’s neck or a peacock’s tail. Emerald is well known, the greenest of all green stones. Sardonyx looked like onyx with layers of red and brown and used for cameos. Sardius originated from Sardis and was blood-red. Chrysolite is of uncertain origin and was shiny like gold according to Pliny. Beryl was sea-blue or sea-green in colour and topaz was a transparent greenish-gold (Job 28:19). Jacinth was a deep violet-colour, bluish-purple and the amethyst was purple. Eight of theses stoned mentioned were in the breastplate of the High Priest (Exodus 28:17).

The splendour of the city was much more than the known stones. Originally, the city of the Greek gods was built according to the signs of the Zodiac and every sign had its stone. They were exactly these twelve stones. No other city with precious stones existed. John replaced the city of the gods to wipe out all confusion. With this description he included all the beliefs about all precious stones to show one God over all.

John gives the signs of the Zodiac in reverse order, to submit them all under the authority of God. It is staggering to imaging each gate is one big pearl. Pearls were especially valuable. They were taken from the sea at great peril. The parable confirmed this when Jesus talked about the pearl of great price, worth everything you possessed in Matthew 13:46. Gates of pearl depict unimaginable and inaccessible wealth.

God is present in this great city. (21:22-23). It is a city with no temple. It is surprising. To the Jews, the Temple was everything. Now there is no need for the temple. God everywhere. The city is in its entirety the Holy of Holies.

God will be your everlasting light says Isaiah 60:19-20. In Your light we see light (Psalm 36:9) In the light of God we truly see.

But… in this city there is no night. In the light of God there is no darkness possible. The ancient people were afraid of the dark. God’s light drives out fear.

Space for all nations is a theme throughout the writings of the prophets. [Isaiah 2:2-4, 11:12, 45:22, 49:6, 51:5, 55:5, 56:6-8, 66:19. Jeremiah 3:17, 16:19-21. Daniel 7:14. Zephaniah 2:11, 3:9. Zechariah 2:13, 8:20-23, 14:9. Also in Joel 2.]

In the Jewish writings between our two Testaments, the theme of the Messiah gathering all nations was prominent. John paints the picture of divine hope for the Jews as well as the Gentiles.

The nations will bring gifts. The Greeks will bring their philosophy in which they were constantly seeking God. The Romans bring administration, law and organization and the Hebrews brought the true God and the Messiah. We bring our gifts and talents to the church.

Only those who are given access by the Lamb’s Book of Life can enter. Abominations and lies are caused by the rejection of Jesus. God is insulted when Jesus is rejected.

Jesus is His gift, His best to us.

 

 

64. Where do you write a naught?

What is a lifetime these days? What is there in our lifetime that lasts throughout? Change comes so quickly. Looking back over just the last five years of any life, so many things have changed. It is hard to keep track of the transformation of many aspects of our circumstances, people in our life and the course of events.

What about a thousand years? Would anybody like to weary your thoughts with possible events over a time period of a thousand years? I think we are already struggling to figure out a hundred years, that only a few very strong humans reach.

So what is the mentioning of a millennium to us? A thousand years is well out of our reach as a life span, and really hard to imagine.

I remember so well, discussing figures and numbers with my mother. She was a businesswoman and worked in an era without computers and spreadsheets. She made her own spreadsheets, sometimes pasting sheets together to make bigger pages for an overview of the calculations. It was easy to put an extra naught in or leave one out. I think she realized a mistake in one of her many little sums, when she philosophized over naughts in general.

It matters where you put the naughts in your life, she said. Naughts before the one means nothing. Naughts after the one, multiplies quickly. Make sure to put your life’s naughts (own little efforts) after the One. When we “calculate” our life, it is only what comes after the One, written in the shape of the Cross of Jesus, that counts.

So we are again contemplating numbers in this 20th Chapter of Revelation. The whole idea of reigning for a thousand years finds its basis in Jewish beliefs. The “doctrine”, if one could call it that, was greatly varied and changed from scholar to scholar as they reached prominence in society and social status amongst the leaders.

The origin of this doctrine is not specifically Christian but is to be found in certain Jewish beliefs about the Messianic age, very common in the century before the birth of Christ.

Before Jesus was born, scholars felt that this world was so incurably evil that the Kingdom of God could never finally come in this realm. So there emerged the conception that the Messiah would have a limited reign and that after his reign the final consummation would come.

Some of the ancient scholars see history as a series of weeks. There are seven weeks of past history. The eighth is the week of the righteous, when a sword is given to the righteous, sinners are delivered into their hands, and the house of God is built. In the ninth week the evil is written down for destruction, and righteousness will flourish. In the tenth week comes judgment; and only then comes the eternal time of goodness and of God.

In Psalms 90:15: Make us glad as many days as You had afflicted us, and as many years as we have seen evil. It was, therefore, held that the period of bliss would correspond with the period of affliction.

Even more popular was the notion that the age of the world would correspond to the time taken for its creation and that the time of creation was 6,000 years.

A thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday. (Psalms 90:4)

One day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (2 Peter 3:8)

The ancient Jewish scholars taught that each day of creation was a thousand years. It was, therefore, held that the Messiah would come in the sixth thousand of the years; and the seventh thousand, the equivalent of the Sabbath rest in the creation story, would be the reign of the Messiah.

On the basis of this passage of Revelation, Millenarianism was very widespread within the early Church, but never universal.

It was Augustine who dealt Millenarianism its deathblow. At one time he himself had been a Millenarian. He longed for spiritual blessings. A summary of Augustine’s position: “He had learned to see in the captivity of Satan nothing else than the binding of the strong man by the stronger than he which the Lord had foretold (Mark 3:27; Luke 11:22); in the thousand years, the whole interval between the first Advent (birth of Christ) and the last conflict; in the reign of the saints, the entire course of the kingdom of heaven; in the judgment given to them, the binding and loosing of sinners; in the first resurrection, the spiritual share in the Resurrection of Christ which belongs to the baptized” (Augustine: The City of God 20: 7). Augustine spiritualized the whole idea of the Millennium.

The everlasting dominion (great rock) that was prophesied in Daniel 2:44 and 7:14 and 27 is the kingdom that was confirmed by Jesus in His first words of ministry. Matthew 3:2 – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

One can safely accept the interpretation that we are living in the symbolic millennium, a time period ruled by Jesus, the expected Messiah, introduced by Him when He lived on earth. John wrote to include all the legends and teachings of the Jews that made them blind for what really happened. He collected all the beliefs and even superstitions about the Messiah, to submit them once and for all to the coming of Jesus.

Psalms 50:10 says that the cattle on a thousand hills belong to God; and Job 9:3 says that a man cannot answer God once in a thousand times. Thousand is simply used to describe a very large number.

The serpent is that ancient enemy of the human race, who, in the shape of a subtle snake, deceived the first parents of mankind, and brought sin and death into the world, with an incalculable train of evils attendant on them. The devil is the malicious and false accuser of God’s saints. Satan is the grand adversary both of God and man. All these names for demonic manifestations are mentioned in 20:2.

The abyss is a vast subterranean cavern beneath the earth, sometimes believed to be the place where all the dead went, sometimes seen as the place where special sinners were kept awaiting punishment. It was the abyss which the devils feared most of all. In the story of the Gerasene demoniac the request of the devils was that Jesus would not command them to leave the man and to go out into the deep, that is, the abyss (Luke 8:31).

A seal is set on the chasm to ensure the safekeeping of the prisoner, just as the seal was set on the tomb of Jesus to make sure that he would not escape (Matthew 27:66).

The loosing of the Devil meant a testing-time for Christians. There are times when a testing-time is essential, if the reality of the faith is to be preserved. Both he who dies for Christ and he who lives for Christ will receive his reward. Those who have been loyal to Christ are to receive the privilege of judgment.

 The thrones are those of the 24 elders, the church made up of the 12 tribes, our Jewish heritage and the 12 apostles. The elders are mentioned four times in Revelation. They are representative of the church in heaven and on earth. (Daniel 7:22,27, Matthew 19:28, Luke 22:30, Hebrews 12:1,2)

 Beheaded is a symbol of the martyrs or anybody suffering for the Gospel.

Judgment from a throne is an idea, which occurs more than once in the New Testament. Jesus is represented as saying that, when he returns to sit on the throne of His glory, his twelve apostles will sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28). Paul reminds the litigious Corinthians that the destiny of the saints is to judge the world (1 Corinthians 6:2) Again we do not need to take this literally. The idea is that the world to come will redress the balance of this one. Even now, we know the truth, since we know Jesus, the Truth. We have to discern and judge daily in a world of deception and betrayal.

Death has no power over the saints. Physical death is the gateway to the everlasting. (20:6)

Priest means a bridge-builder according to the Latin, pontifex. The priest is the builder of a bridge between God and man. Those who have been loyal to Jesus Christ have the right of free entry into the presence of God and they have the privilege of introducing others to Jesus Christ.

The church will reign with Christ. In Christ the most ordinary man becomes a king and priest (1 Peter 2:9).

In the next verses a final rebellion is described (20:7-10). Satan wants to hasten the day of battle to limit the scope of salvation, but God controls the times. Four corners means worldwide.

A final attack on Jerusalem by hostile nations is one of the standard pictures of the last times in Jewish thought. We find it especially in Daniel 11:1-45 and in Zechariah 14:1-11.

The picture of Gog and Magog is found first in Ezekiel 38:1-23 and 39:1-29. The Gog of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and of Tubal, is to launch the great attack upon Israel. The enemy is to be utterly destroyed in the end. In Jewish thought it came to stand for everything that is against God. The rabbis taught that Gog and Magog would assemble themselves and their forces against Jerusalem, and would fall by the hand of the Messiah.

 It is not a physical military battle. The battle is spiritual. We live in the spiritual dispensation after Jesus’ ascension. The physical Jerusalem has been replaced by the new Jerusalem, the church of Jesus.

In the last verses of the chapter (20:11-15), the final judgment is described.

We shall all stand before the judgment seat of God. (Romans 14:10)

We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:10)

These scriptures confirm the unity of God and Christ. The concept of Trinity makes them one God. This notion is very important to the Jews. One of the core scriptures of old Hebrew teaching, central to Jewish religious principle, forever contrasting them to the many idols of the pagan nations around them, is Deuteronomy 6:4:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!

 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away (Revelation 20:11)

 Heaven and earth will pass away, was a phrase used by Jesus to illustrate the everlasting quality of His words in Mark 13:31. See also 2 Peter 3:10, Psalms 102:25-27.

There are two kinds of books that are mentioned in Revelation: the book that records and the Lamb’s Book of Life. In Daniel 7:10 the books were opened. Man writes his own destiny. Man’s choices itself are a judgment. We rejoice in the opening of the books. The names of the people who talk about the Lord are recorded to become the jewels, the precious possession of God. (Malachi 3:16-18)

 The books of God are mentioned often in Scripture. Moses is willing to be blotted out of the Book of Life, if it will save the people (Exodus 32:32). The prayer of the Psalmist is that the wicked will be blotted out of the Book of the Living and not written with the righteous (Psalms 69:28). Isaiah speaks of those who are written among the living (4:3). Paul speaks of his fellow-labourers whose names are in the Book of Life (Philippians 4:3). It is the promise of the Risen Christ to the Church at Sardis that the name of him who overcomes will not be blotted out of the Book of Life (Revelation 3:5). Those whose names are not written in the Book of Life are given over to destruction (Revelation 13:8). The idea behind this is that every ruler had a roll-book of living citizens under his control; and, of course, when a man died, his name was removed from the roll. Those whose names are in the Book of Life are those who are (spiritually) living, active citizens of the kingdom of God. Nothing, not even death, can remove our names from the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Although a saint (born-again child of God) is physically dead, he is still living and active in the invisible kingdom of God.

The sea gives up the dead is to be understood in the light of the ancient world’s view on burial. A proper burial was of the utmost importance, otherwise the soul wanders. Anybody who died at sea was not deemed buried. John comforts the people and states that it doesn’t matter how you died or had a burial or not, you are covered under God’s jurisdiction. Satan can claim no one, even if they were not properly buried.

Death and Hades were seen as the temporary abode of the dead till the final judgment. When Jesus was resurrected it has been emptied. All the dead in Christ are with Him.

According to one commentator: “these voracious monsters who have themselves devoured so many are in the end themselves destroyed.”

Praise God!

 

 

63. I’d like to teach the world to sing Halleluja!

Let’s face it – the languages of the world are quite something. I am fascinated by it and especially the history thereof. There are so many; so complicated and there are people so talented to conquer cultures, one word at a time. A language is the eye of insight into a nation, the explanation of the soul of the people.

A few decades ago – I know I am seriously dating myself now – Coke had a catchy jingle for their television advertisement. Well, it’s not that long ago, at least television already existed!! They had people from different ethnic groups stand together and sing: I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony. I can remember my feeling as I listened to the song. It felt as if that was exactly what the world needed and if it could be accomplished, it would be the most wonderful thing. I feel the same as I read the chorus of Revelation 19.

The story of the tower of Babel in Genesis 11 is indeed one of the strange stories of the Bible. The people of the earth come together after the flood and plan a tower. The chapter states that they had one language and one speech. They want to build something magnificent – isn’t that good? Still, the unity that comes by language would have enabled amazing power. God Himself said that nothing would be impossible for them. He confuses the speech at Babel and the people scatter to fill the earth as He originally intended they should do after the flood.

Centuries later a miracle of speech unites a people for whom nothing would be impossible. On the day of Pentecost, God uses language to establish His church and give those converts the power that comes from unity. The gift of tongues is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, to be allocated by Him as needed (1 Corinthians 12:4-11).

That is our “church of Christ”- language, but what about the languages of this world, so difficult to overcome. Over many centuries, even before television and digital media revolutionized global communications, some words were recognizable in any language up to this very day.

The word Hallelujah is well known to the simplest person and well established in every language, with some slight variations. The nineteenth chapter of Revelation starts with the singing of a praise song of immense proportions. God’s judgment, describe in the previous chapters, brings joy to us. There is rejoicing in avenging. The multitudes mentioned are made up of the angels (7:9) and the martyrs (5:11). Here everyone comes together in a mighty choir to sing the psalms of praise to the Most High.

 Halal means praise and Jah means Jahweh. It is the first phrase in many Psalms. Psalm 118 is called the Hallel. Every Jew would know it.

They sing about salvation, glory and power. In contrast to the Beast, God brings the miraculous outcome. Salvation brings gratitude, glory brings reverence and power brings a realization of love and therefore trust. These are the elements of real praise.

Sin has to be judged. In the words of T.S. Kepler:

The moral law can no more be broken than the law of gravity; it can only be illustrated.

Judgment is true and just and perfect because:

  • God alone knows all, also the inner being of man.
  • He is pure and judges without prejudice.
  • He is wise and judges right with power to apply it.

God never abandons His own. The praise comes from the church, the 24 elders, (19:3-5) by a universal summons.

These words remind us of Isaiah 34:9-10, where the judgment over Edom is declared. Smoke rises forever. The judgment is complete. The Church and nature come together in praise.

The servants are the prophets (10:7, 11:18 & 22:6) and the martyrs (7:3, 19:2) are part of this outburst of jubilation. The small and the great (19:5) are the Christians of all intellectual capacities and social grades, and of all stages of progress in the life of Christ. The wonderful feast of praise is inclusive and welcoming, as everything in the Gospel.

Praise rises up from the redeemed (19:6-8). According to Ephesians 3:10, the church makes known the manifold wisdom of God to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. It is the purpose of the church in the unseen.

The sound is like a vast multitude, many waters and the roar of thunder. It cannot be ignored. It might be frightening to many, but it is welcoming to the participants. The sound of praise overpowers all other sound in the universe. It is the “sound” of miracles. We recognize and acknowledge the sound. Remember the old song:

I hear the voice of the Supernatural singing

Like only those who know Him can

In Matthew 5:12, Jesus uses the two words chairein and agalian that mean rejoice and be exceedingly glad. We have already talked about the custom of repetition in the Hebrew language, to emphasize and facilitate memorization.

The marriage of the Lamb (19:7) denotes the intimate and indissoluble communion of Christ with the community, which He has purchased with his own blood.

Marriage as a high and respected, unbroken relationship, is a dynamic principle of the kingdom of God and a theme throughout the Bible. The prophet Hosea’s life is lived as a symbol of the relationship between God and His people. In Hosea 2:19-20 God promises his faithful and everlasting relationship with His people.

“I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me

In righteousness and justice, In lovingkindness and mercy;

I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, And you shall know the Lord.

He declares through His prophet Isaiah that our Maker is our husband (Isaiah 54:5). Ezekiel 16:1-63 explains a wonderful course of action by God, reaching out in relationship. It is magnificent in detail to establish hope and encourage our full confidence in the abiding love of God.

The almighty God (19: 6-8) is described as pantokrator, which implies that He has control all things. This phrase is common in Revelation and only used once in another spot in the New Testament (2 Corinthians 6:18). God is omnipotent and whatever life brings, in Him we can only win, never fail.

The New Testament is full of references to wedding feasts and God’s particular view on marriage. (Matthew 22:2, 10-11, 25:1, Mark 2:19, John 3:29, 2 Corinthians 11:2, Ephesians 5:21-33.)

One great truth emerges: a loveless marriage is impossible. The intimate communion of marriage to become one flesh is impossible without love. With love is it a joy and delight. Fidelity implies faithfulness and loyalty.

The worship at the Messianic banquet (19:9 -10) echoes with the long tradition and expectation of the Messiah.

And in this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all people

A feast of choice pieces, A feast of wines on the lees,

Of fat things full of marrow, Of well-refined wines on the lees. (Isaiah 25:6)

Jesus is looking forward to sit down with all the heroes of faith at the wedding feast when he says in Matthew 8:11:

 And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.

This is the amazing reality of the invisible Kingdom that Jesus came to confirm on earth. Now we can sit down in the presence of the Father through the Cross. (Psalm 23 & Revelation 3:20)

John writes:

And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

We can never worship the messenger. Worship is for God alone. The angel is only a servant. Angels played an important role in Judaism, but can never replace God or be used as a mediator.

This is how we test the spirit of prophecy. The true prophet will always put Jesus in the centre of all. The prophet cannot speak until he has heard from Christ himself.

The most dramatic moment of this entire book is the entrance of Christ on the white horse.

 His names are Faithful and True, the victor. He is described according to the Jewish picture of the warrior Messiah. It was common to see a Roman general riding on a white horse when he celebrated victory.

FAITHFUL means to be trusted fully. TRUE means the source of truth and reality as opposed to an illusion.

There can be no perversion of justice, because He is righteous. There is such a need for that – then and now. He is the ultimate Judge in a heavenly court of law on the works and righteousness of His own Son and not by might on the battlefield. It is a deeper justice than the world could ever marshall. Long ago there was a raging debate in medieval England long before the Magna Carta in 1215. Right is might versus might is right. The world is struggling to make justice fair and true.

His eyes like flames of fire, which depict consuming power and representing omniscience, wisdom and eternity. He is crowned with many crowns, royal as well as victorious (diadema & stephanos).

It was common for a monarch to wear many crowns of the countries conquered. Jesus is Lord of all earthly kingdoms; more than those of the dragon.

His name: Yahweh is so holy, it is not pronounced. Only the consonants spell out His name. Maybe it is a new name that we do not know. God in His fullness cannot be revealed to us until we are ready. His name is powerful and causes miracles when we pray.

Jesus revolutionized prayer when he taught His disciples to call God Father, actually a very warm and familiar “dad”. Jesus gave us His name to pray for anything.

Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. (John 16:23)

There is so much more to God than what we know or could understand in this dispensation. Jesus is the revelation to us of what God is and what we need to know now. That is enough to make every knee bow. (Philippians 2:5-11)

The heavenly Christ is the Slayer, not the Slain One. (Isaiah 63:1-3)

 He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood (19:13)

 Why is Your apparel red, and Your garments like one who treads in the winepress? (Isaiah 63:1-3)

Some commentators are of the opinion that it is the blood of the enemies of the church. Some say it is His own blood.

His blood was shed for sin. It is over the church. He never takes it back, but it could be symbolic of the blood shed for us.

The rod of iron depicts firmness, not tyranny.

His name is: the Word of God exactly as it is described in the first chapter of John’s Gospel. To a Jew, words are not just a sound, they imply action. Words are a unit of energy charged with power.

An example is the blessing over Jacob from his father Isaac that could not be reversed. It was energy already in action. (Genesis 27). God’s word is a hammer that breaks the rock, says Jeremiah 23:29. God’s words create. Words carry out the commandment of God.

God’s wrath (19:14-16) is a stark contrast to the wedding feast.

The armies of heaven are mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 26:53. He had them as His disposal.

The sword from His mouth is two-edged as expressed in Isaiah 11:4.

He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.

He himself will trample the grapes of God’s wrath in the winepress of the fierceness of God. Their enemies are drunk on their doom. His name is written on His thigh where it will be visible to all. Hebrew tradition repeats to emphasize.

The doom of the Christ’s enemies (19:17-21) is portrayed in the last verses of the chapter.

The birds are invited to feast on the flesh of the beast and his cohorts. It reminds of the description in Ezekiel 39:17-19 of the slaughter of Gog and Magog.

They will be cast in the lake of fire. It is the consequence of sin and evil. (Revelation 20:14, Daniel 7:11) It is always by man’s own choices that he is condemned. God wills that everybody is saved. The violence of life that sin brings, is hell, even here in this realm.

They are killed by the sword of Christ’s words. Righteous judgment cannot tolerate sin and evil.

 

 

62. Surely it will come.

We are in the first days of a new year. Something new is such a delight. There is deep satisfaction in the idea of new. A clean start, a new beginning, something different and fresh, redesigned, renewed, restored – an inspiring thought.

We have just relived the days of Christmas again. On that first Christmas night, very few people realized the revolutionary change that was imminent. The promise came at last. Over many centuries that moment was prophesied, expected, longed for and maybe even doubted in the delay. It could also be that all the expectation over the generations made the people tired of waiting; one could call it promise-fatigue – doubting the outcome, the promise and even the God promising.

Where do you stand Pebble pal? Do you hold fast, running the race with endurance and faith to press in to your miracle of intervention? Do not give up. Every Christmas and every Easter stand as witnesses of the reliability of God’s promises. Surely it will come. As certain as we are that the seasons will change and day and night will come – a rhythm that has never been interrupted according to the promise of Genesis 8:22.

“While the earth remains,

Seedtime and harvest,

Cold and heat,

Winter and summer,

And day and night

Shall not cease.”

How sure are you about day and night and summer and winter? Exactly that certainty underscores God’s promises. How can we raise our expectations? By faith. There is only one way we can boost our faith.

 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)

We are living in a world where evil surrounds us exactly as we have seen in the previous chapter (17) of Revelation. Immorality, lies, cruelty, oppression, poverty and famine, war and suffering depress my spirit within a few minutes of watching the news. Half the people are thrilled with leaders while the other half cry in despair about seemingly irreconcilable differences in political opinions. I cry out to God to grant wisdom to our world leaders to make the decisions for real progress and upliftment of those who need it most. According to Miriam Webster uplift means to raise to a higher social, intellectual, or moral level or condition. We need that, the world needs that – Jesus is the only One to work a miracle of restoration within a person and his circumstances. He is the answer. What a privilege to know Him.

When we look at the world around us, we see the despair and destruction. When will it end and will it ever end are the questions flung towards the heavens. For any human being the scale of earth’s tragedy is just too big and overwhelming. We need God! We need a good God, an almighty God and a loving God to take care of this mess. This is Who we know, Pebble pal. Our loving Father is “abounding in goodness and truth”, the almighty One, the God of miracles, the Prince of Peace, the wonderful Counselor, the everlasting Father.

Chapter 18 of Revelation is a doom song, in other languages called a song of sorrow, which is common in prophetic literature. We read in Isaiah 13:19-22 a doom song about ancient Babylon and in Isaiah 34:11-15 about Edom. Jeremiah 50:39 and 51:37 is part of the doom songs about Babylon. God judges evil, but it is always with the sorrow of what could have been if they chose salvation. Zephaniah 2:13-15 contains a doom song about Nineveh, here quoted as an example.

And He will stretch out His hand against the north, Destroy Assyria,

And make Nineveh a desolation, As dry as the wilderness.

Here in Revelation 18 the angel comes with the light of God upon him. John might have been thinking about Ezekiel’s description.

He brought me to the gate, the gate facing east; and behold the glory of the God of Israel came from the east; and the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with his glory.” (Ezekiel 43:1-2)

H.B. Swete writes of this angel: “So recently he has come from the Presence that in passing he brings a broad belt of light across the dark earth.”

Before the destruction, God is calling His people out (18:4), as always throughout history. We need to come out from among them just as:

  • Abraham – Genesis 12:1
  • Lot – Genesis 19:12-14
  • Moses – Numbers 16:23-26 – from the tents of wicked men of rebellion.
  • Isaiah – Isaiah 48:20
  • Jeremiah – Jeremiah 50:8, 51:6,45.
  • Paul asks believers in 2 Corinthians 6:14-15:

 Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial?

… and 1 Timothy 5:22:

Do not participate in another man’s sins; keep yourself pure.

How does one live this practically? One cannot leave this world altogether. In the words of one commentator:

[The words] imply a certain “aloofness of spirit maintained in the very heart of the world’s traffic.” They describe the essential apartness of the Christian from the world. The commonest word for the Christian in the New Testament is the Greek hagios whose basic meaning is different. The Christian is not conformed to the world but transformed from the world (Romans 12:2). It is not a question of retiring from the world; it is a question of living differently within the world.


The vengeance of God on the pride of Babylon (18: 6-8) speaks of punishment. The instruction is to an angel, not to the people. Vengeance always belongs to God. It will come according to His command and always just; more just than humanity could ever hope to be.

Man reaps that which he sows. Jesus said:

The measure you give will be the measure you get. (Matthew 7:2)

The concept of double punishment or double reward, or double payment for loss was often found in Jewish laws. (Exodus 22:4,7,9)

Pride will be humiliated. Rome’s sin is pride. Often sin can be “argued” back to the root of pride. (Isaiah 3:16 -17)

 Tyre is condemned because she has said: “I am perfect in beauty”. (Ezekiel 27:3)

 In Greek hubris means arrogance, which literally means: has no need of God. In the Strong’s definition it is explained further:

Pride is an inwardly directed emotion that carries two antithetical meanings. With a negative connotation pride refers to a foolishly and irrationally corrupt sense of one’s personal value, status or accomplishments

The whole rest of the chapter is a dirges [a lament for the dead, especially one forming part of a funeral rite] for Rome as a symbol of evil society in the same measure as Babylon and all aspects of her social order including the kings (18:9-10) merchants (18:11-16) and shipmasters and sailors (18:17-19). We hear about the greatness, wealth and luxury of evil society.

This part of the vision is almost an echo of Roman literature and the writings of historians on Roman society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius, Satires of Juvenal, Lives of the Caesars and the works of Tacitus.

In comparison with these books nothing John wrote about Rome could be an exaggeration.

Even the Talmud (Jewish Bible) said ten measures of wealth went to Rome and the rest received only one. Scholars think we are babes in the matter of enjoyment and luxury compared to that of the ancient world. There existed almost a desperate competition in ostentation. Everything was done for show. To desire the impossible was deemed impressive. The first century world poured its riches into the Roman Empire from east to west. The money possessed and spent was colossal. Caligula and Nero were among the biggest spenders. It is said that they squandered the income from three provinces in one day.

One Roman historian writes of Caligula: “In reckless extravagance he outdid the prodigals of all times in ingenuity, inventing new sorts of baths and unnatural varieties of food and feasts; for he would bathe in hot or cold perfumed oils, drink pearls of great price dissolved in vinegar, and set before his guests loaves and meats of gold.” He even built galleys whose sterns were studded with pearls. Of Nero Suetonius tells us that he compelled people to set before him banquets costing more than 20,000 British pounds. “He never wore the same garment twice. He played at dice for 2,000 British pounds per point. He fished with a golden net drawn by cords woven of purple and scarlet threads. It is said that he never made a journey with less than a thousand carriages, with his mules shod with silver.”

Drinking pearls dissolved in vinegar was a common ostentation. Cleopatra is said to have dissolved and drunk a pearl worth 80,000 British pounds. Valerius Maximus at a feast set a pearl to drink before every guest, and he himself, Horace tells, swallowed the pearl from Metalla’s ear-ring dissolved in wine that he might be able to say that he had swallowed a million sesterces in a gulp.

In the time when John was writing a kind of insanity of wanton extravagance, to which it is very difficult to find any parallel in history, had invaded Rome.

When Rome fell, the merchants lamented all over the world, as they supplied her extravagance and were enriched in the process (18:11-16). It reminds of the lament of the kings and merchants over Tyre in Ezekiel 26:1-21, 27: 1-36.

The lament of the merchants is purely selfish. The markets and wealth of the merchants and kings stand afar off to watch Rome’s demise. There is, of course, no helping hand, no love since the only bond was luxury and trade.

Rome had a passion for silver. For many years they had as much as 40 000 slaves in silver mines. Pliny tells us that women would bathe only in silver baths, soldiers had swords with silver hilts and scabbards with silver chains. Even poor women had silver anklets and slaves had silver mirrors.

 Precious stones were brought to the West by Alexander the Great.

Of this Plinius said: the fascination of a gem was that the majestic might of nature presented itself in a limited space.

One of the strangest of ancient beliefs was that precious stones had medicinal qualities. Today in New Age tradition all sorts of crystal are sold with the promise of well being and healing.

Of all stones the Romans loved pearls more than any other. Linen came from Egypt. Purple came from Phoenicia. It is derived from phoinos, which means blood red. Ancient purple was redder than today. It was made from a shellfish vein and had to be extracted as the little creature dies. It dried up quickly and only one drop came from each fish. Silk came from China. It was far away and sold for a pound of gold. Scarlet was used for banqueting couches to supplement very ostentatious furnishings.

 Woods, used for the many furnishings in the palaces of the noble, came from North Africa. It was called thyine in Latin. It was a citrus wood, sweet smelling and beautifully grained. The tree was not very large and that made tabletops rare. Tables were made with marble legs. Nero had 300 of these tables in his palace.

 Ivory, from the elephants of Africa, was used decoratively in sculptures, statues and swords.

Bronze came from Corinth, iron from Spain. Rome had a special office to import the finest marble from wherever it was mined. Cinnamon was brought in from India and Zanzibar. All sorts of spices were used in the oils for dressing hair and preparing for funerals.

Incense was made of stacte, onycha, galbanum and frankincense, which are all perfumed gums or balsams (Exodus 30:34-38).

Myrrh was the gum resin of a shrub which grew mainly in Yemen and in North Africa. It was medically used as an astringent, a stimulant, and an antiseptic. It was also used as a perfume and for the embalming of bodies. Frankincense was the gum resin produced by a tree of the genus Boswellia. It was used for perfume for the body, for the sweetening and flavouring of wine, for oil for lamps and for sacrificial incense.

In the ancient world wine was universally drunk, but drunkenness was regarded as a grave disgrace. Wine was usually highly diluted, in the proportion of two parts of wine to five parts of water. Even slaves had abundant wine as part of their daily ration.

The chariots here mentioned was called rede. They were not racing or military chariots. They were four-wheeled private chariots, and the aristocrats of Rome often had them silver-plated.

Slaves and the souls of men mentioned here can be explained by the language of the ancient world. The word used for slave is soma, which literally means a body. The slave market was called the somatemporos, literally the place where bodies are sold. A slave is sold body and soul into the possession of his master.

Roman civilization was built on slavery and fully relied on it for its existence. Any given time there were around 60 000 000 slaves throughout the Empire. It was not unusual for one household to own 400 slaves. They used slaves like the limbs of the body – each for a task. Slaves were also for thinking. The nomenclatores (nobility of Rome) used slaves for comprehensive assistance to everything they did – eating, going to bed, even greeting friends on the owner’s behalf. Slaves learnt poetry, and were required to stand behind the master to provide suitable quotes. Beautiful slaves were used for decoration. Talented slaves had to perform for entertainment and sometimes even present obscene repartee. As entertainment pornographic plays were performed by slaves. Guests wiped their soiled hands on slaves’ hair. Freaky bodily disfigurement, like dwarfs, giants and others was used for entertainment. The angel paints the grim picture of a society that could only lead to doom and punishment. For this the merchants mourned.

Shipmasters were the businessmen of the ports important to transport the goods. They were wealthy because of the obscene extravagance of the caesars. They lament, not for Rome; only for themselves. There is a complete lack of friendship and love.

Friendship is a gift from God – don’t take it for granted. Just to have somebody who feels sorry for what you are going through and pray with you, is more valuable than any wealth or fame.

There is joy in the middle of everything (18:20). Joy in God’s vengeance and judgment, brings rest and peace. We do not have to judge or punish. Leave it all to God. (Deuteronomy 32:43 and Jeremiah 51:48)

 Final desolation is described in 18:21-24. Rome will be obliterated, illustrated by the symbolic action of throwing a millstone into the sea. The heavy rock will be impossible to haul out again. There will be no way that the final judgment of God could ever be reversed.

…then you shall say, ‘O Lord, You have spoken against this place to cut it off, so that none shall remain in it, neither man nor beast, but it shall be desolate forever.’ Now it shall be, when you have finished reading this book, that you shall tie a stone to it and throw it out into the Euphrates. Then you shall say, ‘Thus Babylon shall sink and not rise from the catastrophe that I will bring upon her. And they shall be weary.’” (Jeremiah 51:62-64)

God said Tyre shall never be rebuilt (Ezekiel 26:13).

Let us rest in God’s judgment. He is just and faithful and wants everybody to be saved. He is a good God, always. This is His word. Heaven and earth will pass away, but His word will never pass away.

 

61. The woman rules the mountains

We hear a great deal about women in our society today. Rightly so. I look back in history and understand the obsession with equality. Since the earliest times and over many centuries women have been treated appallingly, oppressed and abused. Although Eve was made for Adam as a wife and the other half of mankind, things quickly deteriorated into the pattern of the pagans, including polygamy.

So God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27)

The promise of a great nation and many descendants came to Abraham and his wife Sarah. When they acted to “help” God’s plan along, the slave woman Hagar was humiliated and driven out of the household. God blessed Ishmael. He became a great nation and lived in hostility with his brother just as the prophecy over his life stated in Genesis 16:9-12. The son of the promise still came to Sarah, the recognized wife of Abraham, as God promised.

God always honoured his institution of marriage. In the geneology of Jesus Solomon is called the son of David by Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah.

Throughout the Old Testament, women were treated as inferior to men, having no rights at all. In spite of this, Biblical history is full of strong women, in political as well as spiritual leadership. It is a thrilling study to research the strong women of the ancient nations, like Deborah in the time of the judges and Hulda, the prophetess in the time of Josiah. Take a closer look at Proverbs 31 and see an accomplished career woman with a husband and children who support and encourage her.

Jesus came to change all this. He acted liberally regarding women in society around the first century. The mere fact that he talked to a woman at Jacob’s well in Samaria must have been quite a story and enough to condemn him by the church. Many Pharisees were called the bleeding Pharisees. They were not allowed to even look at a woman passing by in the street. They would then, very piously, close their eyes and bump into walls and pillars, picking up scratches and bruises in the process.

Women played an important role in the life of Jesus and the early church. Priscilla was one of the leading theologians in the church as seen in Acts 19. Many scholars are of the opinion that she might have been the author of Hebrews and withheld her name for fear of discrimination about the fact that she was a female in leadership.

Today we have the feminist movement active in the Western world. They rant and rave about every possible inequality. It is obvious that they work towards a society where women would take the lead as the stronger sex, refuting centuries of opinion to the opposite. In so many dramas and TV series, the women are the judges, advocates, doctors, government ministers and presidents, leading pathetic men who cannot make decisions without them. Why can’t the strong women become the humble, wise male heroes of whom history and society are full? They act like the men we all hate – rigid and loud, shouting down opposition and violently dealing with it.

Here in Revelation is the ultimate woman of our nightmares. She is sitting on a scarlet beast, the colour of brothels, suggesting she is a harlot herself, deceiving with her female wiles. The phrase: She sits upon many waters denotes the confusion and chaos of the nations of the earth (17:15). The harlot is clothed in royal colours, attractive and authoritative. She is bedecked in jewels, gold and pearls, suggesting money and luxury, symbolic of the allure of riches. She looked very attractive – even John was stricken with wonder (17:6).

Babylon was built on the Euphrates river and is the symbol of all evil and sin. The nations are drunk with her wine, suggesting they want more and more. Money, sex and power rule the world in its many manifestations on many levels of life. She rules in the desert with no possibility of a harvest or fruit, just hunger and thirst. Her name is a secret. She is worshipped by so many who do not even know they are bowing down to her rule. Sin can be a variety of things and even very unique and secretive – known to only those involved.

The people are bedazzled by evil (17:8). Evil should be identified and rejected. It is a beast that is not always easy to see clearly. We need the wisdom of Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to discern and resist. The angel had to tell John the secret meaning of the woman. Sin does not look like sin! You need insight and warning.

The golden cup is mentioned in Jeremiah 51:7 as a symbol of power.

Babylon was a golden cup in the Lord’s hand, that made all the earth drunk. The nations drank her wine; therefore the nations are deranged.

She had a name on her forehead (17:5)

MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, 
THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS
AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS
OF THE EARTH.

Rome’s prostitutes had a frontlet with their names. Today the pimps have their sign tattooed on sex slaves. Even the wife of Claudius, an emperor of Rome, Messalina, served in the brothels of Rome for money. Into this horror, Christianity was born and men converted to chastity as opposed to instant and always available sexual pleasure. Disciplined moral behaviour is a miracle of the Cross. Secular society has not changed much. Our community is permissive and evil and the church can only stay standing in the power of the Cross.

The word “mystery” is, perhaps, part of the name. It serves as a prefix which tells us that the name is not literal, but symbolical.

For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. (2 Thessalonians 2:7)

She is drunk with the blood of the saints – the cruel spirit of hounding and harassment marked pagan Rome. She is always set on destroying the church with merciless persecution throughout the centuries.

Woman sits on the beast of blasphemy and idolatry and it happens when her power and her allure are called salvation. So many seek redemption in the idols of money, power, sex and even sacrifice children to it.

The beast on which she sits has seven heads and ten horns depicting power. The angel describes the beast as the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

In the victory of Christ the beast that was, in other words that had in successive ages been seen in the great world-powers, is slain, or, as the angel expresses it, is not. But though he is not, he will show signs of vitality. He will rise into temporary power. He shall come up out of the abyss. The march of his power, however, is only a march to perdition. He will be utterly destroyed (17:8)

The seven mountains mentioned in 17:9 are the “mountains” of society as a whole and has been identified by some scholars as Religion, Family, Education, Government, the Media, the Arts and Business. It suggests complete control of the beast over society.

For us, the mountains will dance – rejoice, Church of the living Christ!

“For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace;

The mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. (Isaiah 55: 12)

Kings that have fallen could be Rome and subsequent empires. Seven kings depict a complete number of persecuting forces.

The one hour mentioned in 17:12 denote the time of the bloody struggle within Rome during the civil war of June 68AD – December 69AD.

Sin was often symbolized by cities like Nineveh in Nahum 3:4, Tyre in Isaiah 23:16-17 and even Jerusalem in Isaiah 1:21 and Ezekiel 16:15. Hosea’s life is a metaphor for the fornication of God’s people with a harlot and God’s unfailing love to win them back.

The desert is a place of visions for so many faith heroes like Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist and Jesus. It suggests distance from the city of confusion, with silence, focus and protection. When we find ourselves in the desert of the rule of the harlot, our God is there to make rivers and pathways in the wilderness. Our provision is at the table set before us and in the face of our enemies, in the valley of the shadow of death (Psalms 23).

The beast is on the way to destruction (17:11). He is on the losing side. We have hope for deliverance from the Creator and His creation.

 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. (Romans 8:19)

The Lamb will conquer and those loyal to the Lamb with Him. The church will share His victory (17:14) Victory comes by the Cross and the Crown of Jesus.

The harlot will be devoured by fire. It is the same punishment prescribed for the daughter of the priest who has been found guilty of sexual immorality (Leviticus 21:9). Her own lovers will turn against her. There is no loyalty in evil; no honour amongst thieves.

The purposes of God are active and victorious even if it looks like the purposes of earthly kings and evil. God is always working for the good of mankind. (Romans 28:8 and Nehemiah 13:2.) These scriptures are pillars of encouragement to be remembered in all trials and tribulation.

The last verses of this chapter (17:14-18) are a summary of the message of Revelation.

For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. (17:17)

 

 

60. Could this be love?

Our world defines love very specifically, even arrogantly as if anybody knows what it really means. The world around us would like to be the all and everything of perfect love. It might be in a moment’s sexual pleasure – of course, that is why they say they “make love”. It might be in small or gigantic charitable deeds, when people’s efforts are measured against the destruction and vengeance of the beast and the tragedy surrounding us. Whatever this world might think love is, it can never measure up to the Source of love, the One by whom we are all being made able to love.

Ancient Greek had four words for love – philia meaning brotherly love and love of friendship, thus love between equals, eros, meaning romantic love and storgé, meaning love or affection between children and their parents, mostly used for family relationships or patriotism and “loving” a sports team.

The fourth word agapé was hardly used in ancient texts outside the New Testament. The Greek language had the word, but it is as if it lay in waiting to be defined by the Source of love in human form. Jesus used it. Just the definition would blow you away by the sheer force of the power that the word itself exerts.

Agapé is unconditional love; love by choice and by act of the will. The word denotes unconquerable benevolence and undefeatable goodwill. Agapao will never seek anything but the highest good for fellow mankind. Agapao (verb) and agapé (noun) are the words for God’s unconditional love. It does not need chemistry, an affinity or a feeling. Agapé is a love by choice, rather than philos, which is love by chance, engaging the will rather than emotion. It is a self-giving love that gives freely without asking anything in return and does not consider the worth of its object.

Agapao is a word that exclusively belongs to the Christian community. It is a love virtually unknown to the writers outside the New Testament. It is a word to which Christianity gave meaning. It was rarely used in Greek philosophy and writers of ancient Greek wisdom.

This definition of God’s love must be firmly established in our minds by prayerful meditation as we consider the sixteenth chapter of Revelation.

The seven angels are ready with the seven bowls of God’s wrath. Remember, all calamity is geared to bring people to repentance. God is waiting for the cry of the afflicted to provide salvation and outcome and is ever ready to provide for all by powerful, miraculous intervention.

The plagues mentioned here remind us of the ten plagues of Egypt, although they do not exactly correspond in all the details.

For the sake of our study – here is a short summary of what we know.

 First, we set out the ten plagues when Moses confronted Pharaoh with the wrath of God.

(i) The water made into blood (Exodus 7:20-25).

(ii) The frogs (Exodus 8:5-14).

(iii) The lice (Exodus 8:16-18).

(iv) The flies (Exodus 8:20-24).

(v) The plague on the cattle (Exodus 9:3-6).

(vi) The boils and sores (Exodus 9:8-11).

(vii) The thunder and the hail (Exodus 9:22-26).

(viii) The locusts (Exodus 10:12-19).

(ix) The darkness (Exodus 10:21-23).

(x) The slaying of the first-born (Exodus 12:29-30).

Second, we set out the terrors, which followed the sounding of the seven trumpets.

 

(i) The coming of hail, fire and blood, through which a

third part of the trees and all the green grass are withered (Revelation 8:7).

(ii) The flaming mountain cast into the sea, whereby one third of the sea becomes blood (Revelation 8:8).

(iii) The fall of the star Wormwood into the waters, whereby the waters become bitter and poisonous (Revelation 8:10-11).

(iv) The smiting of one third of the sun and the moon and the stars, whereby all is darkened (Revelation 8:12).

(v) The coming of the star who unlocks the pit of the abyss, from which comes the smoke out of which come the demonic locusts (Revelation 9:1-12).

(vi) The loosing of the four angels bound in the Euphrates and the demonic cavalry from the east (Revelation 9:13-21).

(vii) The announcement of the final victory of God and of the rebellious anger of the nations (Revelation 11:15).

Third, we set out the terrors of this chapter.

(i) The coming of the ulcerous sores upon men (Revelation 16:2).

(ii) The sea becoming like the blood of a dead man (Revelation 16:3).

(iii) The rivers and fountains becoming blood (Revelation 16:4).

(iv) The sun becoming scorchingly hot (Revelation 16:8).

(v) The darkness over the kingdom of the beast, and its agony (Revelation 16:10).

(vi) The drying up of the Euphrates to open a way for the hordes of the kings of the east (Revelation 16:12).

(vii) The pollution of the air and the terrors in nature, the thunder, the earthquake, the lightning and the hail (Revelation 16:17-21).

The trumpets have a limit, one third of the earth. Trumpets always called to alert the people to repentance and return to God. The bowls’ destruction is comprehensive and final on the enemies of God.

NOTE: the terrors befall the unbelievers.

… came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. (Revelation 16:2)

 In this final series of terrors John seems to have gathered together the horrors from all the stories of the avenging wrath of God and to have hurled them on the unbelieving world in one last terrible deluge of disaster. [William Barclay]

The first four hit the environment. The last three hit the realm of the beast. The brief descriptions suggest simultaneous execution, rather than successive development. It is not only physically; the calamities are felt in the spiritual realm as well.

God’s loud voice unleashes the terror.

Sores are a direct consequence of disobedience, as described in Deuteronomy 28:35.

So Satan departed from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome boils and agonizingly painful sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. (Job 2:7)

Water that turns into blood makes water as life-giving source to become the source of death. The disaster hits every source of earth’s water. There is no escape for God’s enemies in the final judgment. The church is always the first to suffer from persecution. The blood of the saints becomes death to the world. Every living creature in the sea dying depicts final and full judgment.

The judgment is retributive; it is of equal weight to the crime.

The voice of the altar (16:7) speaks of Christ’s suffering and blood. The voice of the martyrs calls for judgment. The altar is the place where the prayers of the saints and lives of martyrs are offered.

To the Christian, even darkness is not bad. Darkness as described here as thick darkness is confusing and scary, but in Exodus 20:21 Moses found God in the darkness.

 So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.

 “Then you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the midst of heaven, with darkness, cloud, and thick darkness. (Deuteronomy 4:11 and 5:22)

That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness. (Zephaniah 1:15)

The day of the Lord, is a day of rejoicing for God’s people. For us, there are treasures in the darkness, to be discovered with the help of our Lord who brings outcome and victory in all and every situation.

I will give you the treasures of darkness

And hidden riches of secret places, (Isaiah 45:3)

There is a disturbing refrain in 16: 9,11 and 21. The judged curse God. Even as they could see God’s hand, they obstinately reject His call. So often today we hear the argument how can a God of love allow such suffering? It is the refrain of the pigheaded, unmoved in their affliction. My response is that if they think, by the asking of the question, that He is powerful enough to make a difference, it will be worth their while to talk to Him about it. Just ask Him. If anyone acknowledges His power to control what is happening, He is worthy of worship.

For John the throne of the beast is Rome. Rome is persecuting the church. In the spiritual world it is all out war, and it has never stopped.

The drying up of water is a sign of God’s power (16:12). He did it at the Red Sea and the Jordan. It was done in God’s vengeance as described in Jeremiah 51:36 and Zechariah 10:11.

When Persia defeated Babylon the hostile army dried up the Euphrates. They deflected the river into a lake and followed the dry path into the city. The drying up of water suggests entrance of the enemy. Water is life giving and the sources of it like rivers, fountains, and wells, suggest blessing. God makes rivers in the desert and gives the water of life as outcome in our life’s desert just as He did for the Israelites in the desert. There are many, many scriptures in the Old Testament to support this. For example:

For I will pour water on him who is thirsty,

And floods on the dry ground;

I will pour My Spirit on your descendants,

And My blessing on your offspring; (Isaiah 44:3)

In the words of Jesus:

He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38)

And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. (16:13)

Unclean spirits are likened to frogs. Speech is powerful. The word for spirit in Greek is pneuma, which means breath. The false trinity breathes evil forces. Unclean beings bring unclean influence. In the Persian religion it was known that frogs bring plagues. The words of the false trinity are empty lies that only bring plagues and torment.

The church is warned against the false prophet in Mark 13:22.

For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

 True religion’s worst enemy is impostors and deceivers. They falsely interpret the Word. They can do miracles and signs and seduce people way from true worship with false doctrines. Paul and John in his epistle write grave warnings against impostors and false doctrine. We need the Holy Spirit to warn our inner beings against these teachings.

Compare Revelation 16:15 with 3:18. We, the church, are ready for whatever it takes. Problems come unexpectedly and there could be no shame, when we have our white robes, gold and eye salve to discern and walk in victory within disaster. Deliverance of shame is an important promise. Our suffering is worthy and highly esteemed in the eyes of God. Indescribable blessing awaits the over comers.

Armageddon as the final conflict is an old idea found amongst others in Psalm 2. Magedon (various spelling) is the plain between Egypt and Damascus on the highway. It was a popular battlefield in Hebrew history. Armageddon is the city and Harmageddon the mountain. Ezekiel 38 and 39 predict the battle of Gog and Magog would be won in the mountains of Israel.

Our battle is not physical; it is spiritual against the frogs (demonic powers). The seventh bowl affects the air, which is also a source of life. Nature itself makes war on sin. There are earthquakes like never before. Babylon is split and its power destroyed.

Islands and mountains change in this ongoing struggle. Islands grow and are destroyed throughout history. Hail is a well-known judgment on the enemies of God’s people as found in Joshua 10:11, Isaiah 28:2 and Ezekiel 38:22. Hail, fire and brimstone (sulfur) are indicative of volcanoes. Earthquakes, volcanoes and meteorological storms are daily occurrences over the earth today. We are made aware of this through global media reports on worldwide scientific data collection of natural disasters.

God remembered Babylon and will act upon the wickedness (16:19).

Men can lock their hearts to God. Choice is the great gift to mankind. Even in the fiercest misfortune, men can resist the call of God’s love.

But for us:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:3-7)

It is only in the knowledge of what we inherit that we could pray that God shares a measure of His love through us. We do not have love and we cannot love by ourselves. We only love with a measure of what God is. He is the Source of all love, even the love that the ungodly shows. There is no other source of love. We can only love with the love of Jesus.

Now that you know about the evil, the consequences of sin, do you recognize the love?

 

59. The two songs of heaven – come and sing it now!

From my heart the very best for 2017!

I pray God’s richest blessing on all of you and your plans for this year. May every promise in His wonderful Word be the content of your year and future. May you be filled with hope and faith and that every day will be a field of action to build up and not break down. May you find your dwelling place in the tent of testimony…

Images of dreadful distress fill our television screens daily. The anguish and misery of the human and animal world are heartbreaking and depressing. Volunteers and relief workers from world organizations and individual countries are called in and called up to be the Hands of Jesus extended. Pebble pals, we are the church of Christ on earth. We are the answer, whether they accept the message of Jesus or not. Our walk in love and grace is a Jesus-walk. Goodness and love has only one Source.

As I write this piece, the reporting on Aleppo in the Syrian war takes your breath away. Physical relief might be at hand, but the inner wounding of those people will take time to heal and ultimately become their soul scars. Images of their time of suffering might never leave their mind. It is not our own experience? Bad things happen to good people in a broken world of evil and destruction.

How will we know it is Christ’s adversary working? In the words of our Lord Jesus:

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows]. (John 10:10)

It is when our peace, joy and fullness of life are “stolen”, destroyed and shattered, that we know it does not come from the One, defined as “abounding in goodness and truth” (Exodus 34)

We walk on through more revelation to come in this 15th chapter of Revelation. The seals have been opened and the trumpets have proclaimed, now the angels hold the bowls of terror and calamity. It is typical of apocalyptic writing, to write in groups of seven and three. The third and last group of terror upon the earth denotes completeness.

The scene in heaven is glass mingled with fire. It reminds of the Red Sea miracle when the Israelites were caught between the Egyptian Army and the Red Sea and God split the sea to let them walk on dry land, while destroying their enemies in the same miracle. God’s presence was in the column of fire. Our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12) – it is for our good.

The beast comes out of the sea of chaos, but God brings deliverance by the sea. The sea of chaos is our miracle while destroying our enemy.

The sea of glass depicts God’s majesty and unapproachableness. In His Presence it is an outpouring of reverent worship. The worship will rejoice over the victory of the martyrs (church) and those who overcome.

It is the high function of our worship on earth. It focuses our mind on the power and miracle-working love of God and diminishes our worry and fear of our circumstances.

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 16:25)

The two songs of Revelation to be sung – the Song of the Lamb (Revelation 14:3) and the Song of Moses – a song of victory on the greatest deliverance in Israel’s history (Exodus 15). It is symbolic of our rebirth in Christ, repentance which brings us out of the slave pits and baptism through the Red Sea.

…all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,

(1 Corinthians 10:2)

The words of the song of Moses are repeated throughout the Old Testament. Isaiah often sings: Who is like you Oh God to reverberate in the heavenlies. The song is entirely composed of quotations from the Psalms and prophets.

(Psalms 92:5, 98:1,145:17, 86:9, 99:3, 111:9, 98:2, 1 Samuel 2:2)

There follows in verses 3 and 4 a lyric outburst to sing about the greatness of God:

“Great and marvelous are Your works,

Lord God Almighty!

Just and true are Your ways,

O King of the saints!

 

Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name?

For You alone are holy.

For all nations shall come and worship before You,

For Your judgments have been manifested.”

In the chaos of life on earth, this is our song. Our victory is not brought about because of our own achievements.

“In the perfect vision of God self is wholly forgotten.”

 Just rejoice in the Song of Miriam, the Song of Hannah and the Song of Mary. It all serves to focus on the God of heaven and earth for Whom nothing is impossible. It is the perfect illustration of role of praise in our life and the seal of our testimony.

The tent of witness, tabernacle of testimony is opened. (Numbers 9:15,17:7 and 18:2)

Now on the day that the tabernacle was raised up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the Testimony; from evening until morning it was above the tabernacle like the appearance of fire. (Numbers 9:15)

It is in this atmosphere that the rod of Aaron sprouted, bloomed and blossomed in ONE day.

And Moses placed the rods before the Lord in the tabernacle of witness. Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses went into the tabernacle of witness, and behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth buds, had produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds. (Numbers 17:7,8 and 18:2)

Just think of this for a moment. Could it be that your outcome will come in one day? Raise the level of your expectation Pebble pal! This is the Word of God for the New Year.

The tabernacle of witness is a symbol of the Presence of the Most High. It is only in His presence that miracles happen. The angels come from God.

They were clothed in pure white linen. White robes are the priestly dress with a golden girdle like the High Priest; royal and heavenly. It is clear that the judgment is from heaven.

One of the living creatures (we don’t know which one of the lion, ox, man or eagle) gave seven golden bowls of judgment to the angel. Nature itself hands the bowl of wrath.

In Isaiah 6:4 the presence of God is described like smoke. It is common in the Old Testament. God is unapproachable as depicted in Exodus 40:34-35.

 Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

 Moses could not enter. The ideas and purposes of God are often clouded and unclear. Because of His holiness we cannot enter in our own right. The Cross is access; always through Jesus. We need to be reminded that our salvation is through Jesus – never on our own righteousness. The cloud will bar us from approaching unworthy.

The LORD said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron that he shall not enter at any time into the holy place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, or he will die; for I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. (Leviticus 16:2)

Smoke went up from His nostrils, and devouring fire from His mouth; Coals were kindled by it. (2 Samuel 22:9)

Smoke is also mentioned in Job and Psalms. Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep of Your pasture?

 We might experience smoke as confusing and negative, but in the Song of Solomon it is associated with beauty and attractiveness.

Who is this coming out of the wilderness Like pillars of smoke, Perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all the merchant’s fragrant powders? (Songs of Solomon 3:6)

And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. (Revelation 8:4)

Compare Revelation 15:8 and Isaiah 6 where the presence of God is represented by either cloud or smoke. Both proceed from the throne of God and both are glorified.

[It is] proof of the majestic presence and extraordinary interposition of God in the execution of these judgments: [Benson Commentary]

Often smoke over cities was the sign that they have been judged. It signifies the destructive power of God, which is always bittersweet – blessing and judgment at the same time. Within destruction there is always a miracle of outcome to be found, which is often not reported or proclaimed in the media.

If we trust in the purposes of God, we will not be confused by the smoke, only rest in His Plan.

In the Temple, God’s presence in the Holy of Holies was expressed through the seat of mercy, only seen by the High Priest once a year. God’s plans spring forth from the seat of mercy, never condemnation. Remember, mercy means to hold back the punishment. Jesus took our punishment on the cross (Isaiah 53) so that we can go free. Rejoice in the mercy of God’s judgment.

The plagues in the golden bowls in the next chapter, explain the punishment for sin that should call the people to repent.