We Are Two Reviled And Preachy Guys (Revelation 11:1-14)

It was a $125m error.

On September 23, 1999, NASA’s Mars Climate Orbiter crashed into the red planet. After an investigation it was determined that a piece of software had calculated the force of the thrusters in imperial measurements instead of metric.

In 2001 the Los Angeles Zoo lent Clarence, a 75-year-old Galapagos tortoise, to Moorpark College. The school would need to build an enclosure.

They asked how big the tortoise was. The zoo told folks at Moorpark College that Clarence weighed 250. They assumed Clarence weighed 250 pounds. Clarence weighed 250 kilograms, or roughly 551 pounds. Clarence escaped but happily he did not get far.

The United States is the last nation to use imperial units. The solution is obvious. The rest of the world should switch.

John is called upon to take measurements.

Rev 11:1  Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the Temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there.”

Measuring the “Temple” is straightforward enough.
Measuring “those who worship there” adds an illustrative element.

As we work through the text, we will do a little measuring of our own. I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 God The Holy Spirit Is Your Measure, and #2 God The Holy Spirit Is Yours Without Measure.

#1 – God The Holy Spirit Is Your Measure (v1-2)

God the Holy Spirit is in verse four where we read, “These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth.” The words come directly from the fourth chapter of the Book of Zechariah. The prophet saw “a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps. Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left” (v2-3).

Lampstands with a constant supply of oil illustrate the unlimited resource of God the Holy Spirit available to the Jews who had returned from captivity in Babylon to rebuild their Temple.

Zechariah would be told, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the LORD of hosts” (v6).

Knowing that John was alluding to Zechariah, we ‘see’ God the Holy Spirit at work.

Rev 11:1  Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the Temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there.

One first century system of measure was the “reed.”The “reed” given to John would be about 10’ long by our way of measuring.

Daniel and Jesus confirm that there will be a Temple in the Great Tribulation. They both refer to a particular event that occurs in the inner chamber called the Holy of Holies. The man we popularly call the antichrist will enter it and defile it by proclaiming himself ‘god’ and demanding worship. His actions are ominously described as “the Abomination of Desolation.”

A Muslim Temple, Dome of the Rock, is said to be built on the site of the Holy of Holies. Does it have to be destroyed for the Jews to build their Temple?

Not necessarily. In 1969 there was construction work in the vicinity of the Dome of the Rock. Dr. Ze’ev Yeivin went to the site and made some drawings of an exposed ancient wall.


Not long after, Dr. Asher Kaufman identified the section of wall seen by Dr. Yeivin as the eastern wall of the Temple’s Court of the Women. Kaufman concluded that the site of the Temple is not where we suppose.

The Dome of the Rock is not on the site of the Holy of Holies.

Other sites have been proposed based on more recent research. Both structures could coexist.

Remember, too, that the Jewish Temple consists of two small chambers called the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. Together they measure 675sq feet. A makeshift Temple, e.g., a tent, could quickly be erected. The Temple Institute in Jerusalem has manufactured all the implements needed to begin sacrifices, and they have trained the priests.

The measuring includes the “altar.” Since Jews could gather there, this must be the brazen altar outside the Temple upon which animals are sacrificed. Animal sacrifice will occur during a portion of the Great Tribulation.

Merely bringing a sacrifice does not indicate that someone is a believer. They may be going through the motions, performing empty rituals. Thus John was told to “measure… those who worship there.”

Were they sheep? Or were they goats?

This measuring of Temple, altar, and worshippers leave no doubt that there will be a Temple in Jerusalem during the Great Tribulation. To us, that information is interesting. To Jews, it is awesome. John wrote after the Romans destroyed the Temple. It was in ruin and they were dispersed. The hope of a return to Israel and worshipping in Jerusalem – huge.

Rev 11:2  But leave out the court which is outside the Temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.

“Given to the Gentiles” indicates a time of cooperation. It will be short-lived. For a period of “forty-two months,” Jerusalem will fall into Gentile control and Jews will be a target of persecution.

Forty-two months is three-and-one-half years and it is one thousand two hundred and sixty days. The Great Tribulation lasts for seven years separated into a first half and a second half by the Abomination of Desolation that occurs at the mid-point. Jesus described it this way:

Mat 24:15  “Therefore when you see the ‘ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand),
Mat 24:16  “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.
Mat 24:17  Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house.
Mat 24:18  And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.
Mat 24:19  But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!
Mat 24:20  And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.
Mat 24:21  For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.”

The opening of the first five seals occurs slowly in the first half of the Great Tribulation.
The opening of the sixth seal is a preview of things to come in the second half of the Great Tribulation.
The opening of the seventh seal releases the seven trumpets and the seven bowls coming at an accelerated pace in the second half of the Great Tribulation. Jesus compared it to a woman’s labor pains.

We have the Word of God as our measure for life and godliness. We have indwelling us God the Holy Spirit to use God’s Word to measure our beliefs and behaviors:

Thanks to the Word of God, we know what to think and do, and we know what not to think or do.
Thanks to God the Holy Spirit, we can think and do what we ought to.

We can measure some things by verses. A common need for measuring is when presented with behavior that strikes us as questionable. We can measure it by a verse like First Corinthians 10:23, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.”
Our measurement is the “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit” standard.

#2 – God The Holy Spirit Is Yours Without Measure (v3-14)

Jesus is the main actor throughout this great drama. There are multiple supporting roles; an ensemble cast. John introduces “My Two Witnesses.”

Rev 11:3  And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.”

Jehovah will empower two prophets as special witnesses.

They are the true & unique Jehovah’s Witnesses.

“Sackcloth” was a kind of uniform for Old Testament prophets of woe. It was uncomfortable.

Uncomfortable circumstances are often necessary for the Gospel to be brought into focus.

It’s pretty clear that these guys prophesy in at least part of the second half of the Great Tribulation. They may start sometime in the first half and go for “one thousand two hundred and sixty days.” It the same number of days as either half of the Great Tribulation, but that doesn’t mean their days of ministry can’t overlap both halves.

Rev 11:4  These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth.

More Zechariah. The Jews had stalled in the rebuilding of their Temple. God promised to provide His Holy Spirit to empower the two leaders, Zerubbabel and Joshua. He said, “These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth” (4:14).

The connecting of the lamps to the trees is intended to depict a constant, spontaneous, automatic supply of oil flowing into the lamps. Better than cold-fusion.

Their ministry looked forward to, and was a figure of, the ministry of the Two Witnesses of the Revelation. Their light is the prophecy they share and it will be empowered without measure by God the Holy Spirit.

Rev 11:5  And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner.

Fire is a favorite superhero power: The Human Torch, Ghost Rider, Phoenix, and Drew Barrymore (in Firestarter).

There is that scene in every superhero movie where the police or military shoot the super bad guy only to have their bullets bounce off. He then kills them in some horrific manner. The Two Witnesses originated that genre.

They give an entirely new meaning to being “on fire for the Lord.”

Rev 11:6  These have power to shut Heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.

Right here is an excellent verse to launch into the question, “Who are those guys?”
We are not told who they are.

It’s telling of our curiosity that right after commentators admit the identity of the Two Witnesses cannot be known, they dedicate most of their comments deciding who they are.

I’ll satisfy our curiosity, but only a little. The casting call includes the following:

On account of the miracles performed, they seem like Elijah and Moses. Another point in that column is that Elijah and Moses met with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration to discuss the End Times.

A lot of folks believe that the Old Testament patriarch Enoch, not Moses, will join Elijah. God took both to Heaven without ever dying. The ancient church, including Tertullian, Irenaeus, and Hippolytus, was consistent in identifying the two witnesses as Enoch and Elijah.

A tiny minority of scholars say they are Zerubbabel and Joshua based on a super-literal reading of Zechariah.

They could be two ordinary believers that God anoints. I like this more-and-more because it is just like the Lord to raise up nobodies.

I like not knowing.

It is better to stay a “whosoever” than to make a name for yourself. (You-so-ever?).

Rev 11:7  When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.

Some ministries have a definite, even abrupt, ending. The ending can seem a defeat. The important thing is that the Holy Spirit leads it.

“The beast” is mentioned for the first time. Critics of the literal, futurist approach to the Revelation might ask you this trick question: “How many times is the antichrist mentioned in the Revelation?” The answer is, “None.” This same person, however, is called the beast thirty-six times. He has a bunch of names in the Bible: Man of sin, man of destruction, the little horn, the Assyrian, etc., etc.

“Make war against them, overcome them, and kill them” describes an extended campaign. We can only wonder how many special operatives or squads or units or armies are incinerated. The Two Witnesses will be indestructible until their ministry ends.

The Two Witnesses had the Holy Spirit without measure. They were indestructible and performed amazing acts. Having the Holy Spirit without measure did not save them from martyrdom.

Having the Holy Spirit without measure doesn’t mean you will do the miraculous. Especially in the Church Age in which we are living.

Rev 11:8  And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.

Not lying in state to honor them, though they deserve nothing less. Lying “in the street,” lying in shame.

Jerusalem is the city where “our Lord was crucified.” If words mean anything at all, this is literal, not symbolic.

Jerusalem is likened to “Sodom and Egypt” due to its spiritual condition in the Great Tribulation. It will be a place where people are held captive by the unbridled immorality of their flesh.

Rev 11:9  Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves.

How could “peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations” simultaneously for “three-and-a-half days” see the Two Witnesses? They couldn’t. Not until almost the mid-1960s.

John predicted the advance of instantaneous global telecommunications technology. John was a prophet accurately predicting the future of mankind.

This book is a prophecy not an apocalyptic allegory.

They would “not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves” means they did not intend to bury them but to keep them on display. Think of big game hunters and their taxidermied prey.

Rev 11:10  And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.

We’ve all seen footage of protestors dancing in the streets, burning effigies, and shouting “Death” to their enemy. (Usually the United States for using imperial units).

What would be an appropriate “gift?” How will they celebrate? Will Hallmark have time to produce cards? It’s sick, indicative of the values of the inhabitants of Earth.

The Good News of salvation is not a “torment.” It’s the greatest news anyone can give you. You can have your sins forgiven, be a new creation, and live forever in a blissful eternity with a glorified body. To John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, “Tell me more, tell me more.”

Rev 11:11  Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them.

Can you imagine being in the queue, shuffling past the bodies, when suddenly they are raised from the dead? Heart attack.

Rev 11:12  And they heard a loud voice from Heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they ascended to Heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them.

These Eternals, in glorified bodies, ascend to Heaven similar to Jesus in His ascension. The inhabitants of Earth don’t have much time to reflect because,

Rev 11:13  In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of Heaven.

These are precise numbers, not symbolic. God required a “tenth,” a tithe, from Israel. Once the damage is calculated, and they realize it is a tithe, the people will know that the “earthquake” was the hand of God.

“Seven thousand people” can be translated as “seven thousand names of men.” These are men of some renown.

The likelihood is that world dignitaries are gathered together as representatives of their nations at this horrible antiChristmas. They will be killed, probably in the earthquake and maybe all in one location.

Many in Jerusalem repent and turn to God. Robert Thomas writes, “It comes here as an encouragement just before the last blast of the seventh trumpet falls. Since the inhabitants of Jerusalem will be mostly Jewish, this could very well be the future repentance of Israel that will accompany Jesus Christ’s Second Coming.”

Rev 11:14  The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly.

The second of three “woe[s]” that is “coming quickly” is the blast of the seventh trumpet in the very next verse.

There are three Persons in the Trinity – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. God the Holy Spirit is a Person.

Never treat God the Holy Spirit as if He were something rather than Someone.

It is biblical to “ask” for more of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised, “How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
It’s OK to call it a fresh filling or pouring out upon us.

The Bible uses those as illustrations of the result of yielding to Him. We shouldn’t come away from them thinking that He is a commodity, like the Force in Star Wars.

It might help to think of our relationship to God the Holy Spirit in romantic terms.

Listen to this stanza lifted from a love poem by American poet Sara Teasdale:

Oh plunge me deep in love – put out
My senses, leave me deaf and blind

She compared an all-consuming passionate relationship to a deep plunge into depths of water that would overwhelm her senses of sight and sound. It isn’t a ‘something’ she could tap into; it was ‘someone’ to love.

Asking for God the Holy Spirit, asking to be filled afresh, is a plunge into a Person, not a request for resources.

When I am with my wife, and she wants to relate and talk, I can pay full attention or no attention. I’m usually somewhere in between. I don’t experience her as much as I could. I’m not immersed in her.

God the Holy Spirit is yours without measure. He is always paying attention to you, always ready for you to take the plunge.

BitterSweet Talkin’ Guy (Revelation 10:1-11)

Adele Edwards, an otherwise normal Florida mother of five children, has been eating the foam inside cushions for more than twenty years. She keeps pieces of foam in her purse to snack on throughout the day.

Last year she ate twelve couches.

People with pica compulsively eat items that have no nutritional value. They might eat relatively harmless items.

Or they might eat potentially dangerous items, like flakes of dried paint or pieces of metal.

A 62-year-old Frenchman used his stomach as a piggy bank over the course of ten years, swallowing 350 francs and Euro coins totaling $650. His family said he would steal coins when he visited others’ houses to save for a snack. He needed every bit of it, and lots more, for the surgery to have them removed.

There are two Old Testament Bible characters who ate scrolls.

Jeremiah said, “Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts” (15:16).

Ezekiel wrote, “Moreover He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and He caused me to eat that scroll. And He said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly, and fill your stomach with this scroll that I give you.” So I ate, and it was in my mouth like honey in sweetness (3:1-3).

The apostle John ate a scroll.

“Then I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter” (v10).

Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and John did not have prophet-pica.

These prophets ate God’s Word to strengthen them for their service.

John was at a crucial moment in the Revelation. He was about to hear the blast of the seventh trumpet. It will release seven angels to pour out upon the inhabitants of Earth seven bowls of the last of God’s wrath in rapid succession. He was told, “there should be delay no longer” (v6). It makes sense he get some nourishment for the grand finale.

Before the finale, however, there will be a slight delay: John “must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings” (v11). It makes sense he get some nourishment to finish strong.

Focus, John, and finish strong.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 A Steady Intake Of God’s Word Helps You Focus, and #2 A Steady Intake Of God’s Word Helps You Finish.

#1 – A Steady Intake Of God’s Word Helps You Focus (v1-7)

Monster promises you it will Unleash the beast.

Red Bull Gives you wings.

Other energy drinks promise Go full throttle or go home, AMP yourself, Enjoy the power, and The massive hit that improves you a bit.

We can relate to times during the day when a hit of energy can help our focus.

God’s Word is compared to many foods. Milk, honey, bread, and meat are the most common.

Jesus frequently employed food as an illustration: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

Jesus defeated the devil’s wilderness temptations by quoting the Old Testament, “man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

God’s Word provides 100% of our complete spiritual nourishment.

Chapter nine ended with the blowing of the sixth trumpet. We are understandably excited for the seventh and final blast. Not so fast.

Rev 10:1  I saw still another mighty angel coming down from Heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire.

We don’t know how many angels can dance on the end of a pin, but we can speculate that angels are on pins and needles waiting for the resurrection and rapture of the church. Once we are gone, their workload increases, and they are excited for it.

We’ve been suggesting that the things John sees are like a dramatic performance.

Costumes and wardrobe make an important contribution to any dramatic performance.

This “mighty angel” is arrayed with impressive clothing and accessories befitting his mission.

“Clothed with a cloud” is reminiscent of the cloud of the glory of God that guided and protected Israel during their Exodus from Egypt.

The “rainbow” is reminiscent of the covenant God made with Noah after the global flood.

A glowing face communicated that, like Moses, the mighty angel had recently been in the presence of God.

A “pillar of fire” was over the camp of Israel at night.

More important than trying to nail down each symbol to one meaning is the big picture idea that the mighty angel was dressed for his part.

Every provision is made by God to fulfill His plan of redemption to the most minute detail.

In Christ, we have outfits to choose from:

We are the bride of Jesus and have opportunity to adorn our wedding garments.

We have the whole armor of God to stand against our enemy.

We are commanded to “put on Christ.”

Bottom line: God equips you for your service. In Him, you lack nothing that is necessary.

Rev 10:2  He had a little book open in his hand.

Theories abound as to the contents of this “little book” (a scroll). We are not told, therefore we cannot know. The import of it is that it will be given John to eat. Whatever it contains is nourishment for him to focus and finish the work.

Rev 10:2  He had a little book open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land,

Whether this mighty angel was huge or regular sized is debated. John will approach him and take the little scroll out of his hand. He can’t be too big.

His stance represents a claim upon the entire Earth.

Rev 10:3  and cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars. When he cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices.

The lion has the loudest roar of all the big cats. It can be heard from as far away as five miles. It is at once majestic and terrifying.

We don’t know what the mighty angel “cried with a loud voice,” but the mention of the “lion[s] roar” reminds us that the Lion of the tribe of Judah, Jesus Christ, is coming as King to rule His kingdom and none will be able to withstand Him.

C.S. Lewis got it right when he chose Aslan the lion to represent Jesus in his Narnia series.

Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.

Rev 10:4  Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from Heaven saying to me, “Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.”

The “seven thunders” must have been intelligible because John was going to write down their content. God wanted the information sealed. One commentary suggests, “Besides the terrors foretold, there are others unutterable and more horrifying lying in the background… So terrible are they that God in mercy withholds them.”

There are things which you will never know in this life. While not knowing might confuse or frustrate you, sometimes it’s good not knowing:

Not knowing keeps you humble. If you think you know everything, and have all of the answers, you have a tendency to get puffed up with pride. Not knowing some things keeps you humble as you must depend upon the Lord each step of the way.

Not knowing keeps you moving. God has a plan for you, but the road can take some weird twists and turns. If you knew some of the difficulties you faced you might draw back. Not knowing keeps you trusting God through each one.

Leon Morris: “Let us not proceed as though all has been revealed.” It’s better to know Who rather than how or why.

Rev 10:5  The angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised up his hand to Heaven
Rev 10:6  and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created Heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there should be delay no longer,

If you are doing some reading on your own as we study the Revelation you might encounter commentators who say this is Jesus. It isn’t. He need not swear an oath. Besides, when the mighty angel was first introduced John said he was “another,” a word meaning another of the same kind. He is an angel.

God’s creation is a theme of the mighty angel’s oath. God created the universe and put Adam and Eve in a beautiful garden paradise and declared, “It is good.” Our original parents sinned and it became “bad.” From that very moment until today God has been working providentially to redeem and restore what was ruined.

In the Book of Romans we are told that, “the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now” (8:21-22).

It’s the kind of thing that takes a few thousand years.

When the seventh trumpet sounds, the timing will rapidly accelerate to the Second Coming of Jesus.

Rev 10:7  but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets.

The Old Testament prophets spoke often about the “finish,” the glorious return of the Son of God and the establishment of His kingdom of righteousness and peace on the earth. The details, however, were not fully revealed to them.

In the Bible, a “mystery” is something you cannot know except by revelation from God. In Matthew 13:11 and Luke 8:10 Jesus tells His first century disciples that “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God…”

The apostle Paul tells you in First Corinthians 4:1 that you are “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.”

Let’s go on a brief biblical mystery tour:

First Timothy 3:16 says, “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh…” The incarnation of Jesus is a mystery revealed.

In Colossians 1:26-28, Paul speaks of another mystery which had been hid from ages and from generations, but was then made manifest to the saints. He calls it the mystery of “Christ in you.”

In his letter to the saints at Ephesus (3:1-11), Paul says that God by revelation made known to him the mystery which in other ages had not been made known, “that the Gentiles should be ‘fellow heirs,’ and of the ‘same body,’ and partakers of His promise in Christ by the Gospel.” It was a revelation that God was going to, in this dispensation, take some Jews and some Gentiles and form of them a “new body” called the Church.

The rapture of the church is a mystery revealed. “Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump” (First Corinthians 15:51-52).

There are other mysteries, but you get the general drift. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself by means of a plan no one could ever have begun to imagine. It was a mystery, but is fully revealed in the Revelation. It culminates in the end with the Lord reigning forever and ever.

Scholar Robert Thomas writes, “The mystery of God consists of the heretofore unrevealed details unfolded in the chapters from here to the end, chapters that tell of the institution of God’s kingdom on earth and eventually in the new heavens and new earth.”

It has become popular for churches to remove future prophecy from their menu. Or to treat it like a child eating his or her vegetables.

If ever there was a time to retain a healthy portion of prophecy on your plates, it is now. At the very least, since prophecy overall occupies 30% of God’s Word, at least that much ought to be in your meal plan.

Taking in prophecy keeps you focused on things above. Without it we tend to get Earth ‘bound,’ focusing on self and not service. We get spiritual indigestion. A daily dose of Ready or not, Jesus is coming, is the pick-me-up we need (pun intended).

#2 – A Steady Intake Of God’s Word Helps You Finish (v8-11)

If Marie Osmond says, “Join NutriSystem,” but looks just the same after as she did before, you’re disinclined to join.

If God’s Word isn’t changing us, why would folks want to join?

The Word of God is powerful, it is alive, it does not return void. God uses it despite the failures of His servants. He can even use it in the mouths of nonbelievers.

Ideally, however, we are to ingest God’s Word, be nourished by it, then grow in order to provide an example to go along with our exposition and exhortation.

Warren Wiersbe suggests that the illustration of eating the Word is intended to remind us to make the Word flesh; to make it incarnate for others to see.

Rev 10:8  Then the voice which I heard from Heaven spoke to me again and said, “Go, take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the earth.”

Same voice – God’s voice. Hearing from God, directly, gave John boldness to approach a mighty angel and ask for the scroll.

The Word of God and the Holy Spirit of God in you will give you spiritual boldness.

Ever been to a dinner theater where they involve audience members? John becomes a participant. Up till now he had been a spectator.

God will ask you to participate in ways you feel totally inadequate. In ways that require boldness that can only come from Him. He wants to prove His strength and sufficiency.

Rev 10:9  So I went to the angel and said to him, “Give me the little book.” And he said to me, “Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.”

It was written in the BSV – the Bitter Sweet Version.

The description of the Word as bitter-sweet surprises us at first. But it is always that way. John himself was experiencing the sweet joy of having Jesus revealed to him, of seeing the future rule of Jesus on earth. Yet he was exiled on the Island of Patmos, being persecuted for the Word of God.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ is inherently bitter-sweet. It is full of beasts and bowls and battles while simultaneously promising a blessing for reading it. Everything in it reveals God’s mercy towards Christ-rejecting men but also His wrath against sin and His judgment upon it.

Rev 10:10  Then I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter.

Yes, we take this literally. Why not? For all we know this scroll was made from edible material. Even if it wasn’t, you can eat paper. Didn’t you ever get caught with a note that had been passed to you in class and have to eat it? Or swallow a spit wad to destroy the evidence?

Rev 10:11  And he said to me, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.”

We haven’t met God’s two witnesses.
Or the antichrist.
Or the false prophet.
We haven’t seen the global, cashless economic system.
Or the attempt at a one-world government and religion.
We haven’t seen the rise and fall of another “mystery” – Babylon, as both a city and a system.
We haven’t seen the return of Jesus Christ in His Second Coming to establish His kingdom on the earth.
Or the final disposition of the saved and the lost to Heaven or to Hell for all eternity.
We haven’t seen the new heavens and the new Earth.
Or the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, coming down from Heaven.

There is a thing called the Internet. While it holds great potential, its primary use is to publish what are called Fails. These are video clips showing people wiping out, or some such failure. We shouldn’t, but we laugh.

Fails of another nature are no laughing matter.

Too frequently “another one bites the dust” as a Christian leader finishes poorly. It’s not an excuse, but a lot of our favorite Bible heroes bit the dust either along the way, or in the end. Noah, Samson, Gideon, and David, are guys with huge fails. Let’s double-down and finish well.

When we say that a steady intake of God’s Word helps your focus and your finish, it doesn’t mean reading the Bible stands alone. The Donut-Man gets it right when he sings, “I read it and I do it.”

The balanced-Bible-diet should encourage you to pray, and to regularly fellowship in a local church, and to tell others about Jesus. Doing those things, in turn, tend to motivate you to stay in God’s Word. They work together.

Do we suffer from pica? It’s possible. We mentioned the Frenchman who ate paper money and coins. If you are laying up treasures for yourself on Earth rather than in Heaven, it’s pica.

Likewise anything that you turn to for strength or satisfaction that is not God’s Word.

Like Jesus, we have food the world knows nothing about – to do God’s will and finish the work.

Jesus said, “he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from Heaven… He who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:56-57).

That’ll Be The Day You Can’t Die (Revelation 9:1-21)

They surged through a portal which had been opened for their invasion. Armored, equipped with horrific weapons, riding powerful mounts. Beasts called Leviathans accompanied them.

They were the Chitauri, the first major threat to Earth that required the formation of the Avengers when they attempted a planetary invasion as part of an alliance between Thanos and Loki.

The MCU has nothing on the Bible.

More than two centuries before the Battle of New York the apostle John saw an invasion of Earth as a ‘portal’ is opened. Not in space, but on Earth:

Rev 9:1  “…I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit.
Rev 9:2  And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace…
Rev 9:3  Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.

No Avengers will rise to defeat them. They will “torment [those who inhabit the earth] for five months [during the future Great Tribulation].” “Their torment [will be] like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man.”

A second supernatural invasion will follow.

It is an effort by God to lead nonbelievers to repentance by showing them who it is they worship.

Take a peek ahead to the end of the chapter. Nonbelievers on earth at the time of these incursions “worship demons…” (v20).

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 You Can Be Saved By God Who Is Worthy, or #2 You Will Be Enslaved By The ‘gods’ You Worship.

#1 – You Can Be Saved By God Who Is Worthy (v4)

The Gospel is the power of God to save you.

For God so loved [mankind] that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. God is not willing that any should perish but that all come to repentance.

God through the Gospel desires all men to be saved. He draws us by His Spirit and grace. Jesus in John 6:44 said no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws Him. Jesus explained in John 12:32 saying, “If I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all to my self.”

Whosoever believes on Him, whoever calls on the name of the Lord, will be saved. Jesus is the Savior of all men, especially those who believe.

God’s power and will to save sinners will infuse the Great Tribulation. The Gospel will be unavoidable:

144,000 sealed servants will share the Gospel during the Great Tribulation. “A great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” (7:9) will respond positively and be saved.

A great eagle will fly around Earth saying, “Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!” (8:13). It serves as a planetary warning system giving nonbelievers opportunity to repent and receive Jesus.

Later in the Revelation we will see the careers of two supernatural witnesses to the Gospel.
Another angel will be “flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting Gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” (14:6).

Jesus announced, “this Gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).

The Great Tribulation will be the setting for the greatest revival the world has ever experienced.

Before we read of the horrific supernatural creatures that will be unleashed, we are reminded of the salvation of God.

Rev 9:4  They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.

144,000 Jewish men from the twelve tribes of Israel have a seal of divine protection on their foreheads. Not one of them will be harmed or lost.

Whatever news outlets exist in the Great Tribulation, they will report that this group is immune from both persecution and the hellish attacks we are going to read about.

Whether or not a nonbeliever can see the seal on their forehead, they will see that they are sealed – safely set apart by God.

The Revelation constantly makes it a point to remind us that these judgments are supernatural. The inhabitants of Earth will know that they issue from God’s throne in Heaven. God thereby condescends to, in a sense, ‘prove’ His almighty power.

There are parallels to the ten plagues God sent upon Egypt when it was time to “Let My people go.” His mighty power to save was on display, highlighted by His judgments.

Our God saves. His death and resurrection are sufficient to save any and all who believe. Believing in Him is the essence of salvation. God justifies the believing sinner and declare him or her ‘righteous.’

Salvation may look a bit different in the Great Tribulation, but it has always been the same. You are saved by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ.

#2 – You Will Be Enslaved By The ‘gods’ You Worship (v1-21)

God warns us in the Psalms,

Psa 115:4  … idols are silver and gold, The work of men’s hands.
Psa 115:5  They have mouths, but they do not speak; Eyes they have, but they do not see;
Psa 115:6  They have ears, but they do not hear; Noses they have, but they do not smell;
Psa 115:7  They have hands, but they do not handle; Feet they have, but they do not walk; Nor do they mutter through their throat.
Psa 115:8  Those who make them are like them…

Psalm 135:15-18 is almost identical.

You become like what or who you worship.

Rev 9:1  Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit.

The “angel sounded” the fifth of seven trumpets.

Each of them unleashes a judgment on those who inhabit Earth.

The “star” is a person because he is able to hold a key. Angels are sometimes referred to as “stars.” In Job 38:7 we read, “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.”

Television commercials occupy too much of our brains. Slogans, jingles, sayings… Reading verse one I recalled a slogan for a bug spray. It promised, “Insects won’t bite; they won’t even light.” “Light,” or “light upon,” means to land on something.

The word “fallen” immediately suggests to our thinking an evil, “fallen” angel, maybe even Satan. However “fallen” could be translated “light upon.” In that case, this angel is another of God’s heavenly host, who “lights” upon Earth.

Indiana Jones #5 is set for a July release. Maybe it will be Indiana Jones and the Key to the Bottomless Pit. Indy will find the key, then have it stolen by Vladimir Putin, whose real name is Abaddon.

“Abyss” is a better name for “bottomless pit.” It describes a subterranean cavern connected to earth’s surface by a shaft whose opening has a secured lid of some type. This abyss was commonly understood by the Jews to be a prison for evil supernatural beings.

If you think about it geometrically the only place that you could have a “bottomless” pit is at the center of a sphere, since at that point, all directions are up.

Rev 9:2  And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace. So the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit.

In the DPV (Deep Purple Version) of the Bible it also says Smoke on the Waters – A Fire in the Sky.

Rev 9:3  Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.

What insect creeps you out the most? The Jerusalem Cricket tops my list.

Did you know there is a red widow spider? It is #2 on the list of 50 most dangerous bugs in America, right after the black widow. It is only found in certain parts of Florida.

Two species of scorpion are high on the list. There is something called the Puss Caterpillar. It is the caterpillar form of the Southern Flannel Moth. It is one of the most venomous caterpillars in the United States. One of???

Somewhere in the Abyss there is a species of intelligent killer locusts.

Rev 9:4  They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.

The mention of them harming vegetation solidifies the fact they really are locusts and not man-made devices.

They won’t hurt those who are sealed. Question: Will those who receive Jesus also be tormented by these creatures? We are not told.

However, in the last two verses of the chapter there is a strong indication that those who “repent” are considered a separate class. They may not be “sealed” the same way the 144,000 are, but they belong to God.

Rev 9:5  And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man.

Entomologists will tell you that a locusts have about a five month period of pillaging. They are restricted from killing anyone but that isn’t a good thing.

Rev 9:6  In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them.

One Greek scholar commented, “Death will not be just hard to find. It will aggressively run away from those pursuing it.” It might be possible to “find” death, to die, but it will be elusive.

In World War Z, within 12 seconds after contact you begin to show signs you are turning into a zombie. You have only a split second after that to try to kill yourself.

Is it paralysis but with intense pain? Whatever it is, it will be the ultimate ‘fate worse than death.’

Rev 9:7  The shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle. On their heads were crowns of something like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men.

I’ve always assumed they were locust-size. What if they are horse-size?

Their “crowns” might be a physical attribute similar to the “crowns” we ascribe to other species, e.g., white crowned sparrows.

If you’ve seen the 1958 original version of The Fly, think of the ending. The guy who morphed into a fly is caught in a spider web. He still has a human face. Vincent Price watches as the spider approaches, with the fly begging, “Help me!”

Rev 9:8  They had hair like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth.
There are a slew of grotesque artist’s renditions on line. Let’s just say you might not want to Google them before bed.

Rev 9:9  And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle.

The “sound of freedom” is a phrase we use when one or more of the jets from LNAS flies over. These locusts will be the deafening sound of fear & fright.

Rev 9:10  They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. Their power was to hurt men five months.

Are you kidding me? Just when you thought it could not be any worse, they have stinging scorpion-like tails.

Rev 9:11  And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon.

We know from the Book of Daniel that evil, fallen angels have limited authority over provinces on the earth. The angel Gabriel told Daniel about grappling with a supernatural being he called the Prince of Persia.

This evil angel has some authority with regards to the Abyss. I say “some” because under normal conditions he doesn’t have the key. The extent of his oversight of the Abyss we do not know. His name, in two languages, is Destroyer.

Rev 9:12  One woe is past. Behold, still two more woes are coming after these things.

Meaning the sixth and seventh trumpet blasts. I hate telling people that things might get worse before they get better – if indeed they ever do get better.

Rev 9:13  Then the sixth angel sounded: And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,

Previously in the Revelation, Jesus opened seven seals on the seven-sealed scroll:

The first five seals encompass approximately the first 1260 days of the Great Tribulation.
The sixth seal was a preview of everything contained in the seventh seal.
The opening of the seventh seal revealed angels blowing seven trumpets in succession.
The first four trumpets are judgments against those who dwell on Earth using the natural world.
The trumpets we hear in chapter nine are supernatural judgments against those who live on the earth.
The seventh trumpet will reveal angels pouring-out seven bowls of God’s wrath in succession.
The trumpets and the bowls occupy the final 1260 days of the Great Tribulation.

Rev 9:14  saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.”

Good angels are never “bound.” Why these are not free we do not know.

Rev 9:15  So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released to kill a third of mankind.

At the appointed hour on the appointed day in the appointed month and in the appointed year. Once the Great Tribulation begins, it will run its course exactly as written.

Rev 9:16  Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them.

This a precise, not symbolic, number.

Rev 9:17  And thus I saw the horses in the vision: those who sat on them had breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow; and the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone.

We are not told the identity of the horsemen. Probably a fallen angel cavalry. It isn’t Communist China.

These are supernatural judgments.

Later in the Revelation, in chapter sixteen, a reference is made to the Euphrates River drying up so that an army from the east can arrive at the final battle of mankind, Armageddon. It is not the same army that we see here.

Is it just me, or are there a lot of horses in the Revelation? These are another unusual species, having lion-like heads. They are a little like dragons, too, in terms of emitting “fire, smoke, and brimstone.”

Rev 9:18  By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed – by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which came out of their mouths.

These three weapons – not nuclear bombs – will be responsible for the largest death toll in human history to that point.

Rev 9:19  For their power is in their mouth and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents, having heads; and with them they do harm.

Their tails look like Medusa’s hair.

These judgments are meant to lead men to repent. How does it go?

Rev 9:20  But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk.
Rev 9:21  And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.

“The works of their hands” is a phrase associated with idol worship. I read so many lists of modern idols. One of them mentioned cell phones. (I’d call that an addiction).

Idolatry can be understood as the desire to replace God with self. Satan tempted Eve to be like God. To replace God and be her own ‘god.’ Problem is, like Bob Dylan sang, “It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

Serving the devil has awful repercussions. Four of them are highlighted: Murders, sorceries, sexual immorality, and thefts.

“Murders.” According to WHO, every year in the world there are an estimated 40-50 million abortions. This corresponds to approximately 125,000 abortions per day. Abortion is one of the most frequently performed surgical procedures in the United States.

Here is an unexpected oddity. In places where physician-assisted suicide is legal, suicide rates are on the rise as well. They attribute it to “suicide contagion.”

The word translated “sorceries” is pharmakeia, the word we translate “pharmacy.” It has a wider range of meanings. It can refer to magic, but it very often refers to the practice of medicine or what might be called healing arts. Doctors, medications, surgeries; none of these are condemned by the Bible. What the word might point to is mankind’s selfish quest for immortality. Today we are messin’ around with DNA and AI to create a super man.

“Sexual immorality” is any sexual belief or behavior that contradicts God’s Word. Marriage is one biological male and one biological female in an exclusive, monogamous, heterosexual covenant of companionship to last as long as they both are alive. Anything outside of that is spiritually sinful, emotionally damaging, and physically dangerous to humanity.

Biblical marriage has been under attack quite a while. Selfish nonbelievers are playing God by supplementing biology with a false psychology of gender.

“Thefts” could be translated dishonesties. It suggests the breaking down of absolute standards. Mankind has for the most part abandoned the absolutes in God’s Word. The only thing nonbelievers claim to be absolute is that there are no absolutes.

In Psalm 78:34 we read of Old Testament Israel, “When He slew them, then they sought Him; And they returned and sought earnestly for God.”

The word “repent” is repeated twice in the last two verses.

Repentance is the goal of these judgments.

Thanos chided Dr. Strange, “You never used your greatest weapon.”

Our greatest weapon is the Gospel. Let’s prefer it to all others – certainly to all man-made weapons.

A Hush To Judgment (Revelation 8:1-13)

When FedEx employee Chuck Noland’s plane crashed he ended up stranded four years on a deserted tropical island. Wilson the volleyball was his only companion.

Forty-five minutes of Castaway’s one-hundred forty-three minute run time has no dialog.

Silence was almost golden for Tom Hanks who was nominated for an Oscar.

Silence can heighten anticipation. “Do you hear that?” one character will ask another. “I don’t hear anything.” The sudden silence precedes a creature that is about to emerge and attack.

The mother of all silences is going to happen in the future Great Tribulation.

Rev 8:1(ISV) When the lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

If ever a pause could be called “pregnant,” this is it. When the “about” thirty minutes is up, for three-and-one-half years the worst of God’s wrath will be felt by the inhabitants of the earth.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 You Observe The Silence, and #2 You Observe The Scourging.

#1 – You Observe The Silence (v1-5)

It has become popular to categorize the Revelation of Jesus Christ as “Apocalyptic literature.”

Apocalyptic is a genre of literature that is filled with allegories. It isn’t meant to be taken literally.

The Revelation is not in the genre of Apocalyptic literature.

In 22:18 we read the Revelation is referred to as “the words of the prophecy in this book.” Prophecy is an entirely different genre from Apocalyptic literature. Prophecy is to be taken literally. If the prophecy is told in symbols, the Bible will define those symbols for us.

The major portion of the Revelation of Jesus Christ is yet-to-be fulfilled prophecy.

Rev 8:1  When He [the Lamb] opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

R.E. Trotter writes:

“Whereas Jesus was referred to as a Lamb once in the Old Testament (Isaiah 53:7), twice in the Gospels (John 1:29, 36), and once in the Epistles (First Peter 1:19), He is referred to as the Lamb twenty-eight times in the Book of the Revelation. We have to conclude that it is a book of salvation available to the very end.”

The most awful judgments are about to be described. They are sent and meant to be evangelistic. God offers “salvation… to the very end.”

The Revelation is a masterpiece of storytelling. It started with a solid outline. John was told, “Write down what you have seen, what is, and what is going to happen after this” (1:19).

What John saw was a vision of the risen Christ in chapter one.
“What is” refers to the letters to the seven churches in chapters two and three.
“What is going to happen” is in the future, from chapter four until the end of the book.

We saw Jesus, looking like the Lamb, take a seven-sealed scroll from God the Father. The scroll is the operational plan for the seven years. The Lord opened six of the seals in chapter six.

Before opening the seventh seal, chapter seven gave us a flashback and a flash-forward.

That is how it is going to be from this point on. The seventh seal will be opened and we will have lots of flashing back and forward through the Great Tribulation.

Heaven observes a moment of silence. A hushed expectancy. “Do you hear that?” “I don’t hear anything.” It’s the deep breath before the plunge.

Rev 8:2  And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.

“Seven angels” take their assigned places. When the seventh seal is opened the seven angels will blow their trumpets in succession. The seventh trumpet releases seven angels to pour out seven bowls in succession upon those who dwell on the earth.

The seals, trumpets, and bowls give you the linear progression. They set the timeline.

We think of “trumpets” as musical instruments primarily. Trumpets played a major part in the national life of Israel, used in ceremonial processions, in assembling people for war, for journeys, during feasts, and in announcing the new year.

Rev 8:3  Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.

The silence continues as another angel performs his role in the drama. He has, in some form, “the prayers of all the saints.” Not the prayers of all saints from all time. We take this to mean the saints of the Great Tribulation. We met an innumerable company of them in chapter seven.

Maybe they are audio recordings. Why not? Imagine the storage capacity in Heaven’s “cloud.”

“Incense” enhances their prayers. It gives them a pleasing fragrance.

Notice that God adds the incense. If you want to burn incense to give your home a pleasing aroma, go for it. If you want to burn incense to enhance your prayers… Don’t. God isn’t looking for you to add the incense. He’ll do it.

We need always to resist our natural tendency to think that being mystical is being spiritual. Quite the opposite. The more we add ritual to our walk with Jesus, the more distance we create between He and us.

Being in Christ is not meant to be a long-distance relationship.

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

We previously were introduced to a group of saints holding a prayer meeting in Heaven. The saints alive on earth are their “fellow servants and their brethren.” Together their prayers rise with the added incense to the throne.

Rev 8:5  Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.

The martyrs in chapter six asked “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (v10). Their prayers stoked the fire on the altar. It’s all very visual.

“Noises” abruptly break the silence in Heaven. “Thunders, lightnings, and an earthquake” alert those who dwell on the earth that the “great” second-half of the Great Tribulation has come.

It is not uncommon to refer to the final three-and-one-half years of the seven as the Great Tribulation. Those 1,260 days will for sure be way worse than the first days. They will be the time of trouble that the world has never experienced.

The seventh seal is like a director shouting, “Action!” It will be a live, one-take performance. It is carefully blocked and scripted. As Bugs Bunny says, “On with the show, This is it.”

The Church Age is every bit as dramatic. We are to live in the any-moment return of Jesus to resurrect the dead in Christ and rapture living believers. Expectancy ought to build with each passing moment.

We, too, will be gathered by a trumpet call, the “last” trumpet of the Church Age.

While waiting we are compared to a bride, a soldier, a farmer, a builder, an athlete, a flock, a body with Jesus as its head, servants, and a steward. We are all these at once.

Each role has its own set of adventures and challenges.

Each role helps us to understand different aspects of what it means to be loved, protected, and preserved by Jesus.

#2 – You Observe The Scourging (v6-13)

The opening of the first five seals followed a slow pace over the first three-and-one-half-years of the Great Tribulation.

The opening of the sixth seal was like a movie preview. We saw “a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place” (6:12-14).

Those are events that will occur in the last half of the Great Tribulation:

The first five seals relate primarily to the first half of the Great Tribulation.
The sixth seal was a preview of the seventh.
The seventh seal contains the seven trumpets and the seven bowls that further the action in the last half of the Great Tribulation.

Rev 8:6  So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.

If angels need to prep for service, how much more do we?

On one hand, we can already do all things through Jesus Who strengthens us. Everything we are commanded to do in the Bible we are enabled to do by the Holy Spirit.
On the other hand, we are to read the Word, pray, be in fellowship with other believers, and tell others Jesus died and rose from the dead to save them. We thereby discover the good works God has before ordained for us to accomplish by His empowering.

Rev 8:7  The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.

The first four trumpet blasts are similar in that they each use the natural world against those who inhabit the earth. The final three trumpets will release demonic onslaughts.

In keeping with my constantly reminding us that the Revelation is not Apocalyptic literature, commentator J. A. Seiss wrote, “The truth is, if earth, trees, and grass do not mean earth, trees, and grass, no man can tell what they mean.
Letting go the literal signification of the record, we launch out upon an endless sea of sheer conjecture.”

A mighty hailstorm, a real one, accompanied by some sort of fire rains down from Heaven.

“Mingled with blood” is just frightening. It could be the carnage from the deaths of men on the earth as they are caught in the storm. It may be blood accompanying the storm.

There will also be massive fires on the earth as a result of this judgment. In chapter eleven you’ll learn that there has been a three-and-one-half-year drought on the earth – providing ample fuel for the fire from Heaven.

“And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.” I endured many devastating fires when we lived in Southern California. We evacuated more than once. The Panorama Fire in 1980 took over 400 homes. Recall the most devastating fires of the last decade, and think of them happening all over the earth, all at once.

Rev 8:8  Then the second angel sounded: And something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood.

It isn’t a mountain that is thrown down. It is something like a great mountain. It is a giant, solid mass that will hit the earth, surrounded by combustible gases which ignite as it enters the earth’s atmosphere. It impacts one of the oceans and a third of the sea becomes blood.

We don’t have to discover the exact mechanisms that cause these effects. It isn’t on us to prove such things are ‘scientifically’ possible. They are supernatural. If you want to get into some of that, get The Revelation Record, by Dr. Henry Morris.

There are more than a few similarities between the seven trumpet judgments and the ten plagues in Egypt in the Old Testament. Water turning to blood, for instance. One scholar wrote,

“The trumpet and bowl judgments intentionally parallel the ten plagues of Egypt (Exodus 7-12). The ten plagues are prototypes of the trumpets and bowls, providing a framework to understand them.”

We take the ten plagues to be literal, do we not?

Why would the Revelation be non-literal if what it draws from is literal?

The ten plagues occurred just before Israel’s Exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land. It serves as a foreshadowing of the Exodus of God’s people through the Great Tribulation and into their kingdom on earth.

Rev 8:9  And a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.

Notice the precision measurements. It’s one-third – no more, no less. It shows that these are carefully calculated judgments sent by God – not simply nature gone bad, or human beings ruining the environment. This is not global warming or any such thing folks suggest today.

In apocalyptic films, there is always that one guy, usually a disgraced scientist, who discovers the ‘pattern’ to what is occurring. The scientists of the future will conclude this one-third ratio cannot be a coincidence.

Or will they? Nonbelieving scientists can be gullible. Many evolutionary scientists now subscribe to what I call the X-Men theory. Since there are no transitional creatures, they posit that every now and again over billions of years creatures simply leap forward on their own. Like Dr. Xavier and Magneto.

Rev 8:10  Then the third angel sounded: And a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water.
Rev 8:11  The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the water, because it was made bitter.

Another object strikes the earth. It’s called a “star, but is described as “burning like a torch.” That is helpful because the Greek Squad says that it is a phrase often used in Greek writing to describe a meteor.

Or maybe it is God’s version of a Death Star, made just for the occasion.

As it strikes the atmosphere it scatters all over the planet. It affects the earth’s freshwater rivers and the springs from which they flow.

“Wormwood” is a plant with a bitter taste appearing in several varieties in Israel. Jeremiah frequently referred to wormwood as a symbol of divine discipline (Jeremiah 9:15; 23:15; Lamentations 3:15, 19).

There is undoubtedly a devotional study by comparing wormwood to the bitter waters of Marah in the Old Testament. In that story, the bitter water was made better when the bitter water was made better with wood. The “wood” is the Cross of Jesus. I’ll let you take it from there.

Rev 8:12  Then the fourth angel sounded: And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night.

This is more than an eclipse. The light from these heavenly bodies is reduced by a factor of one-third. It will result in severe drops in the world’s temperatures, vast meteorological upsets, and climate changes.

Any doubt you may have they are supernatural events and not mankind ruining the earth is removed in verse thirteen.

Rev 8:13  And I looked, and I heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!”

The remaining trumpet blasts, three of them, have the word “Woe” attached to them. It is a special word in the Bible, used as an exclamation of judgment upon God’s enemies or, in the ministry of Jesus Christ, of sadness over those who fail to recognize the true misery of their condition.

When God says, “Woe on you,” those who dwell on the earth ought to respond with “Woe is me,” and repent.

Weird but true fact: The word translated “angel” is odd and is more likely an eagle. Many modern translations get it right.

Here is a suggestion by Dr. Henry Morris: “He is both angel and eagle. [There are] four mighty cherubim, the living creatures of Revelation four… The fourth of these is said to have an appearance “like a flying eagle” (4:7).

I prefer to think of it as an eagle

He could be a descendant of Gwaihir the Windlord.

Sam the Eagle from the Muppets? Not fierce enough. (Is he still one of the approved Muppets?).

Animals have talked in Scripture:

The serpent spoke in the Genesis account of original sin in the Garden of Eden (3:1-5).

His donkey spoke to Balaam. They had a very lengthy conversation. We’re told that “the Lord opened his mouth” (Numbers 22:28-30).

We know that “all dogs go to Heaven.” (That’s not in the Bible. But be nice to your pets, just in case it’s true).

“The inhabitants of the earth” are warned because God is not willing any of them perish. Everyone, everywhere, will hear this warning from Heaven. Everyone everywhere, will have an opportunity to repent.

We understand the phrase “the inhabitants of the earth” to be a technical phrase describing nonbelievers on the earth who have deliberately rejected salvation and who prefer this world over Heaven for their home. They will be without excuse.

Commenting on these judgments, Pastor David Guzik writes,

“[God] attacks all the ordinary means of subsistence, such as food and water; and He attacks all the ordinary means of comfort, and knowledge, such as light and the regular rhythm of days. Man has come to see these aspects of the created order as impersonal, perpetual forces. During the Great Tribulation, God proclaims His Lordship through their agonizing disruption. God strikes one-third. It’s been said that He spares more than He strikes. Judgment is inevitable. The wages of sin is death. But in His divine wrath, God remembers mercy. Men will still have the opportunity to repent.”

The Lord will scourge the earth ahead of the Second Coming of Jesus.

Our God saves any and all who will call upon His Name, trusting in the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross for the forgiveness of their sins.

One commentator put it like this:

“The Lord delights in saving people and is committed to doing that.  Judgment is not what He delights in, but rather the regeneration of lost people.  The Great Tribulation, while having terrible judgments, is primarily a time for salvation.”

I Seal Good…You Knew That I Would (Revelation 7:1-17)

Marine Corps Raiders… Marine Corps Force Recon… Army Green Beret… Army Rangers… Air Force ParaRescue… Navy SEALS…

Search for ‘elite units,’ and these will be on the list.
(If I got something wrong, or overlooked any, don’t blame me; blame military.com. My military knowledge is limited to GI Joe action figures).
Super-special forces are a staple in the movies and on television. Whether it’s the Dirty Dozen or the Suicide Squad, humanity depends on their heroics.

As Nick Fury put it, “The idea was to bring together a group of remarkable people, see if they could become something more. See if they could work together when we needed them to fight the battles we never could.”

There are elite forces in the Bible.

David had a group of warriors called David’s Mighty Men. The International Standard Version calls them “David’s special forces” (Second Samuel 23:8). Their exploits are legendary.
After Judas’ betrayal and suicide, the believers sought the Lord to fill his apostleship. Mathias was chosen and the group was afterward known as “The Twelve” (Acts 6:2). They turned the world upside down with the Gospel.

God has an elite force in the Great Tribulation.

An angel introduces John to them in chapter seven. We’re calling them Sealed Team 144,000.
“One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed” (v7).

Most futurist scholars believe this chapter reveals the success of their mission. The saved “great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” in verse nine were likely evangelized by the Sealed Team.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Seal Me & I Will Be Sent, and #2 Seal Me & I Will Be Heard.

#1 – Seal Me & I Will Be Sent (v1-8)

Jesus said, “And this Gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). It seems straightforward enough.

The Gospel must be preached to every person on the earth before Jesus can return.

Jesus will return to resurrect and rapture His church to Heaven, thereby keeping His promise to keep us out of the Great Tribulation.
Seven years later, Jesus will return to the earth in His Second Coming to establish the kingdom.

When He told His disciples “this Gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world,” Jesus described evangelism that would take place after the rapture of the church and during the Great Tribulation on the earth.

We should do everything we can to reach the world for Jesus. However, it is not something that must occur before we can be raptured.

The rapture is always imminent.

In chapter six we attended a prayer meeting under the altar in Heaven that involved martyrs from the Great Tribulation. Since the church will be gone, who shares Jesus with them?

Deploy Sealed Team 144,000.

Rev 7:1  After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree.

Angels must be eagerly awaiting the Great Tribulation. God will task them with amazing missions.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse rode out in chapter six. It is not a type, or a figure, or an allegory. They are four angels on four heavenly horses. They see to it that the conditions on the earth correspond to the operational plan for the Great Tribulation.

Four additional angels are given a different task. They stand at the four points of the compass to keep the wind from blowing.

I’ve been pointing out as we go that there are many striking performances and pauses in the Revelation. It is a true future history, but God has a flair for the dramatic.

Withholding the wind is positively operatic. An eerie stillness comes over the entire planet. No wind or breeze or air movement anywhere. It is noticeable; it is palpable. God pauses the action to seal His elite force.

Rev 7:2  Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea,
Rev 7:3  saying, “Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”

The five-angel unit is on this support assignment. We’ll see other units of angels as we read further in the book.

The angel tells the four wind-blockers that once the servants of God are sealed, they are cleared to harm the earth.

A “seal” signifies ownership and protection:

These are “servants,” owned by God because He redeemed them from slavery to sin and Satan.
They will enjoy supernatural protection during the Great Tribulation on the earth. The next time we see them, their number is intact.

Will this “seal… on their foreheads” be visible? It will certainly be visible to those in the unseen realm.
Rev 7:4  And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed:

I find it beyond absurd that anyone reading the Revelation would mistake the identity of the 144,000 or claim it for themselves or some other group.

As far as being clear goes, this verse is crystal. “The tribes of the children of Israel” are Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s physical descendants.

God is going to save Israel and the Great Tribulation is how He will do it:

The book of Romans devotes three full chapters (9, 10 & 11) to a discussion of God’s future plans for Abraham’s physical descendants.
We read, “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! (11:1) … So all Israel will be saved” (11:26).
The prophet Jeremiah calls the Great Tribulation the Time of Jacob’s Trouble. Their persecution will make them realize that Jesus is their Messiah.
The Great Tribulation events that Jesus highlights in His Olivet Discourse describe Jews in the Holy Land.
Isaiah (66:19-23) and Joel (Acts 2:16-21) both speak of a group of Jews who will bring the Gospel to the world during the Great Tribulation.

The Lord wanted us to ‘get’ this so much that He added a monotonous breakdown of the numbers.

Rev 7:5  of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand were sealed;
Rev 7:6  of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand were sealed;
Rev 7:7  of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand were sealed;
Rev 7:8  of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand were sealed.

This list includes the tribes of Levi and Manasseh, and it excludes the tribes of Dan and Ephraim. Before you ask “Why?” I should point out that “of the nearly twenty Old Testament listings of the twelve tribes, there are not even two lists that are the same. There are various names excluded from these lists without any explicit significance attached to their exclusion.”

Since the Bible provides no explanation, any explanation is speculation. If God wanted us to know why Dan and Ephraim didn’t make the cut, He would have told us.

Sealed Team 144,000… Jews for Jesus… the 12²… the Maker’s Dozen Dozen… the Durable Dozen Dozen… The Salvation Squad.

They’ve been called “144,000 Billy Graham’s.” With no disrespect, they will be “144,000 apostle Paul’s.”

God deploys an evangelistic army. His seal will supernaturally protect them as they preach the good news around the globe to the last generation before Jesus returns.

#2 – Seal Me & I Will Be Heard (v9-17)

The Revelation is sequential.

It follows a linear timeline:

Jesus will open the seven seals on the scroll He takes from His Father.
When Jesus opens the seventh seal, angels will blow seven trumpets in sequence.
When the seventh angel blows his trumpet, seven additional angels will pour seven bowls of God’s wrath in sequence upon the earth.
Then we read, “It is done.”

There are many events chronicled in the Revelation between the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls. They are flashbacks or flash-forwards.

In the film Saving Private Ryan, a squad of Army Rangers must find Ryan before he is KIA like his three brothers. The film begins at the end of the story… then flashes back… then flashes forward.

Jesus opened the first six seals in chapter six. Instead of the seventh seal, we get a flashback and a flash-forward:

The sealing of the 144,000 in verses 1-8 is a flashback. It happens sometime before Jesus opens the sixth seal.
In verses 9-17 we see a flash forward of those saved by Gospel preaching throughout the Great Tribulation.

Rev 7:9  After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands,

“Which no one could number” is a literary hyperbole. John wanted to communicate the success of God’s program sending out the 144,000.

The “white robes” are actual heavenly garments that additionally serve to illustrate salvation by grace through faith:

Humans are born dead in sin. The Bible depicts us wearing “filthy rags.”
When a person believes God, they are declared righteous thanks to the death of Jesus on the Cross.
Jesus takes away your filthy rags and exchanges it for a white robe of righteousness.
The robe cannot be deserved or earned; it is a gift. Without it you cannot enter Heaven.

In Hong Kong, I was excited to buy brand-name clothing at a fraction of the cost. Too bad the Izod shirts I purchased were knockoffs sized for Hobbits.

All the world’s religions and philosophies are knockoffs – bad knockoffs.

In the end, they are all attempts to launder your filthy garments. None of them can provide you with Jesus’ robe of righteousness.

The stain of sin only comes out by Lamb’s blood.

The saved multitude has “palm branches in their hands.”

It immediately reminds us of Jesus’ triumphal entry when the crowd spread palm branches to make the way for the King. He was rejected in His first coming; Jesus is received in His Second Coming.

Palm branches are prominent at the annual Feast of Tabernacles. Jews build a temporary structure to camp outdoors. The tabernacles, also called booths, commemorate the shelter of the Israelites during their forty years in the wilderness.

The Feast of Tabernacles will be a world-holiday during the Kingdom Age:

Zechariah 14:16 And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.

The mention of palm branches seems to favor a future earthly celebration.

Rev 7:10  and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
“Salvation” in the Bible is three-fold:

You are saved the instant you believe God and He counts it as righteousness.
You are being saved, or we say sanctified, as you walk day-by-day with the Lord.
You will be perfectly saved when you are resurrected or raptured.

Salvation is only available as a gift from God. Jesus was sent from the throne in Heaven to earth as God in human flesh to be the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.

Rev 7:11  All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,
Rev 7:12  saying: “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

In chapter four, we identified the twenty-four “elders” as a heavenly council of supernatural beings who assist God the Father. They appear behind the scenes several times in the Old Testament.

The church is safe in Heaven, but the twenty-four elders are not the church.

Worship is a significant activity in Heaven, as well it should be. They praise God for “Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might.” Each of these words has many definitions, many applications. It is therefore impossible to exhaust their depth and breadth.

Instead of defining them, we each ought to reflect upon them in our own life and circumstances. For example, there are seven praises in the list. Maybe take one of them each day and think about it all day.

Make Taco Tuesday Thanksgiving Tuesday.

Rev 7:13  Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?”

Interestingly, the elder asks John the question rather than vice-versa. You know John must have been wondering what he was witnessing.

Ask questions about a text when you are reading the Bible. But don’t forget to wait on it and let it ask you questions. Interact with it as a living Word.

Rev 7:14  And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

You don’t need to be a know-it-all regarding spiritual things. The man born blind could not answer the probings of the religious leaders. He knew that he was blind but now could see. It stumped them.

If you are saved, you know more about what is essential than the most brilliant nonbeliever.

Every believer can be described as having “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” It isn’t something you do, because you must be given the robe in its already pristine condition.

Rev 7:15  Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them.
Don’t read verse fifteen as a job description. It’s a joy description. One of David’s psalms puts this into proper perspective: “One thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple” (Psalm 27:4).

Rev 7:16  They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat;

These conditions describe a person on the run without resources. They are subject to the elements and malnourished. No more; never again. They are home.

Rev 7:17  for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Jesus was and is unique as the God-man Who alone in all the universe could die in your place as a lamb.

Knowing what it’s like to live as a lamb He is the perfect Shepherd.

Do you know that God saves all of your tears?

In Psalm 56:8 you read, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”

Every tear is accounted for in a ledger. In Heaven, that account will be ‘drained’ as God wipes away every tear. I don’t think it means you will suffer memory loss. You will understand things in a way you cannot until you are glorified.

It isn’t simply that we won’t cry anymore. God will heal every emotional wound and pain once-for-all.

God’s saved sealed servants will be heard and multitudes will receive Jesus. Mission Accomplished.

There is another elite unit we need to discuss. It is the church. In Second Corinthians 1:22 we’re told God “has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”

Ephesians 1:13-14 is even more specific:

Eph 1:13  In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,
Eph 1:14  who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

Apologist Don Stewart writes:

“We do not seal ourselves. It is completely an act of God. There are no outward signs which accompany the sealing of the Holy Spirit. The seal of the Holy Spirit guarantees believers that they are God’s children. Those who have been sealed by the Holy Spirit belong to the God of the Bible. Thus, when the Holy Spirit seals the believer, He guarantees that person’s security. God’s authority is behind the sealing. The sealing is thus a promise that the salvation the Christian receives is granted both now and forever. Whomever He seals, He claims as His own; He will never abandon them.”

You are not sealed to be protected from physical harm. The Church Age is a dispensation during which God is glorified in our weaknesses. Your sealing is far greater. It is the guarantee that He Who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.

Elite units normally have ridiculously high standards.

According to military.com, only about 6% of Navy SEAL applicants meet the requirements. Odds on completing training are 1 in 4.

You are sealed before you are trained.

You are instantaneously equipped with everything you need:

You are indwelt by God the Holy Spirit.
You have access to all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies.

In one important sense, you do not need more of anything except the willingness to yield to God the Holy Spirit.

On With The Scroll, This Is It (Revelation 6:1-17)

Shadowfax, “Lord of All Horses.” He is the white steed in the Lord of the Rings who bore Gandalf on his Middle Earth missions. A horse of Rohan, the chief of the Mearas, he was noted for his speed, “like an arrow.”

Trigger, Silver, and Cochise were once household names thanks to television. Sea Biscuit, the Black Stallion, and Hidalgo ‘starred’ in equine feature films.

By far, beyond any doubt, the greatest of them all:

Quick Draw McGraw.

Sheriff Quick Draw originated the iconic saying, “I’ll do the ‘thin’in’ around here and don’t you forget it!”No matter he occasionally shot himself. That’s what hero-horses do.

There are at least nine impressive steeds featured in God’s Word.

Four of them are in the Old Testament. In Zechariah 1:8-10 we read,

Zec 1:8  I saw by night, and behold, a man riding on a red horse, and it stood among the myrtle trees in the hollow; and behind him were horses: red, sorrel, and white.
Zec 1:9  Then I said, “My lord, what are these?” So the angel who talked with me said to me…
Zec 1:10  “… These are the ones whom the LORD has sent to walk to and fro throughout the earth.”
There are five significant steeds from Heaven’s stable in the New Testament. The most majestic is the war horse Jesus will ride in His Second Coming:

Rev 19:11  Now I saw Heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.

There will be a lot of horses when the Lord returns. “And the armies in Heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.” (Revelation 19:14).

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are the most widely known biblical horses. They are prominent as Jesus opens the seals on the scroll that He alone is worthy to take from His Father’s right hand.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 You Hear The Voices Of The Martyrs Crying Out In Heaven, and #2 You Hear The Voices Of The Martyr-ers Crying Out On The Earth.

#1 – You Hear The Voices Of The Martyrs Crying Out In Heaven (v1-11)

The apostle John was “in the spirit,” raptured to Heaven, to attend the Scroll Call ceremony in chapters four and five. Jesus, the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Lamb of God, stepped forward as the unique Person qualified to take the seven-sealed scroll from God the Father’s right hand.

The scroll is the operational plan for the seven-year Great Tribulation.

Rev 6:1  Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, “Come and see.”

We instantly recognize certain celebrity voices. James Earl Jones is at the top of most lists. He’s excellent, but no competition for the angel speaking “with a voice like thunder.”

When he says, “Come and see,” he is not talking to John. The word means proceed. The time has arrived for Jesus to proceed and open the seals.

Rev 6:2  And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.

The colors of the horses, and the outfitting of the horsemen, definitely suggest certain things. We are not free, however, to treat this as a figure or an allegory.

The horses of a different color are horses & the four horsemen are supernatural beings.

The first horse and rider are not Jesus Christ and His white horse:

Jesus rides out of Heaven to end the Great Tribulation, not to start it.

When Jesus returns, multitudes of His saints will follow him on white horses, not three angels on colored horses.

The Lord will be crowned with many crowns, not one.

The Lord will defeat His enemies by the power of His Word, depicted by a sword, not by a bow.

Neither is the first horseman the antichrist. The antichrist will be a human being on the earth. He won’t be sent from Heaven.

These riders are supernatural beings, most likely angels. They are members of Heaven’s Mounted Patrol.

They have power to ensure that conditions on the earth correspond to the first four seals.

On the Tuesday before His crucifixion, Jesus gave His disciples a talk about the Great Tribulation while on Mount Olivet. We title it the Olivet Discourse, but it is also known as the Little Apocalypse. Matthew recorded it in chapters twenty-four and twenty-five of his Gospel. It simplifies and summarizes the eighteen chapters in the Apocalypse that describe the seven-year Great Tribulation.

Jesus understood the seven years to have a very definite beginning, middle, and end. Here is what He said about its inception: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.

And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:4-8).

The first thing Jesus mentioned was “false Christ’s.” The antichrist will be the ultimate false Christ. The color and the equipping of the first horse and rider suggest the conditions necessary for the antichrist to bring peace in a volatile atmosphere of “wars and rumors of wars.”

We know from other Scripture that the antichrist will sign a treaty with Israel guaranteeing peace. We know, too, that peace is the condition on the earth at the start of the Great Tribulation because, in verse four, peace is taken away.

Rev 6:3  When He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come and see.”
Rev 6:4  Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword.

“Wars and rumors of wars” is how Jesus put it to His disciples. In addition to wars, people will be killing one another. Think of any apocalyptic movie. Groups form seeking limited resources and are willing to kill for them.

The red horse and rider ensure that conditions on the earth are tumultuous.

Rev 6:5  When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come and see.” So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand.
Rev 6:6  And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.”

“And there will be famines,” Jesus said in His discourse. A “denarius” was a day’s wage for a laborer. The measures of wheat and barley would be less than one person required each day.

“Oil and… wine” are luxuries. It suggests that there will be a severe gap between classes.

The black horse and rider ensure famine conditions on the earth. It could be as a result of wars, but not exclusively. There are many ways the food supply could be affected.

Rev 6:7  When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come and see.”
Rev 6:8  So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.

“Death” and “Hades” are inseparable companions in the Bible. You could make a buddy movie about them, but it would be very dark.

From Adam and Eve until the resurrection of Jesus, after Death everyone went to Hades. It consisted of two areas:

One was a place of comfort for believers awaiting Heaven.
The other was a place of torment for those who died in their sins, awaiting Hell.

Jesus conquered Death by dying on the Cross. He descended to Hades and when He ascended to Heaven He brought the righteous dead with Him.

When post-resurrection believers die, we no longer spend time in Hades. We are immediately absent from our bodies and present with the Lord. The unrighteous dead are still consigned to Hades to await their final judgment.

The pale rider is identified as Death, and Hades seems to walk alongside him.

“Death” and “Hades” aren’t their names. Sticking with Westerns, in the film Tombstone, Wyatt Earp announces his intention to execute his wrath upon the Cowboys. He tells Ike Clanton, “Run you cur. And tell the other curs the law is coming. You tell ’em I’m coming! And Hell’s coming with me you hear! Hell’s coming with me!”

Wyatt Earp was coming, not “the law” and not “Hell.” Likewise for Death and Hades. When the pale rider appears, Death is coming, and Hades is coming with him.

One “fourth of the earth” is killed. The serial killers listed are:

“Sword,” which could refer to violence in general.

“Hunger” is worse than famine. There will be nothing to eat. Hungry people will take up weapons against those who have food.

“Death” could refer to epidemics and pandemics.

“Beasts of the earth” will be set upon the human race as killers. Cujo… The Birds… Ben…

Rev 6:9  When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.

Jesus said, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake” (Matthew 24:9). People saved during the Great Tribulation have a strong likelihood of being martyred.
The “altar” in Heaven would correspond to the Altar of Incense in the Jewish Temple. I cannot visualize how these “souls” were “under the altar” without more information.

One scholar insightfully pointed out, “The verb tense shows this to be a single, definite appeal, not one that was continually urged.” These Great Tribulation martyrs gather “under the altar” for one specific prayer meeting when Jesus opens the fifth seal.

Rev 6:10  And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”

Their prayer could be read as them asking God to “judge and avenge.” It can also be read as their longing for God’s righteous rule on the earth that will put an end to evil. It is their way of saying, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.

A believer in the Great Tribulation will know that it lasts seven years, starting with the peace treaty, and that it will be marked by certain prophesied events at its middle and end. Yet they ask, “How long?”

Affliction and suffering cause us to question what we know to be true.

John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and told the world that He was the Savior. However, when languishing in prison he sent his followers to ask Jesus if He was the One.

Rev 6:11  Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.

At the Martyr’s Under Altar Prayer Meeting, they will be presented with a heavenly garment, a white robe, and told to rest. All believers get a white robe. This one may have a unique designation. Great Tribulation martyrs are an exclusive group. Not more spiritual than other believers, just distinctive. More will join the group and get robed before the end.

God’s plan to redeem sinful man and to restore ruined creation takes time. It takes the exact amount of time God has ordained. It seems to us to be unfolding at a sloth’s pace. To the Lord, “one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (Second Peter 3:8).

We calculate that there have been seven-thousand years since creation. To the Lord, it’s less than a week.

Whether it is now or in the future Great Tribulation, Christians are persecuted and martyred for “the word of God and for the testimony which they [hold]” (v9).

There are currently in America movements and mandates, pending legislation and proposed laws, that essentially make it criminal to preach what God’s Word condemns as sin. The California Globe titled an article, “The 2021 List of Family Values Killer Bills is Out and It’s Bad.”

Jesus promised the church that he would keep us out of the Great Tribulation. But we also know things are liable to get worse as the time approaches. Each of us can expect a moment of decision when, no matter the human cost, you must take your stand for Christ.

#2 – You Hear The Voices Of Martyr-ers Crying Out On The Earth (v12-17)

Jesus marked the mid-point of the Great Tribulation by saying, “When you see the ‘ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (v15).

It isn’t our subject, and I don’t want to go off on any tangents. Simply put, the ‘abomination’ is the antichrist going into the Holy Place of a rebuilt Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and demanding worship.

Our interest is that Jesus said “the abomination” marks the mid-point of the Apocalypse. He went on to tell His disciples what would follow over the next three-and-one-half years.

“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be… Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from Heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in Heaven…” (v21, 29 & 30).

When Jesus opens the sixth seal, we read about those catastrophic events in the heavens.

Rev 6:12 I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood.
Rev 6:13 And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind.
Rev 6:14 Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place.

John saw the awful, final judgments that precede the Second Coming of Jesus.

You’d think that all there was left to do was to open the seventh seal and rejoice at the Second Coming.

To John’s (and our) surprise, the seventh seal is not the Second Coming.

When Jesus opens the seventh seal, seven trumpets are blown (8:6). The seventh trumpet is not the end. When the seventh trumpet is blown (11:15) seven bowls of God’s wrath are poured out (15:1). When the seventh bowl is poured-out we read “A loud voice came out of the temple of Heaven, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” (16:17).

The sixth seal brings us to the end of the Great Tribulation, then the seventh seal flashes back to show us everything that leads up to the end.

You have probably read a book or watched a movie that starts by telling you what will happen at the end. Then it flashes back to explain how the end came about. The opening of Ghandi portrays his assassination and the world’s reaction to his death. The whole film after that is a flash back of his life leading up to that end.

The Revelation timeline can be confusing because of the flash backs between the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls. Nevertheless it is sequential with a definite beginning, mid-point, and ending

Rev 6:15 And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains,
Rev 6:16 and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!
Rev 6:17 For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”

Meteorites will be striking the earth like a hail storm. Colossal, unprecedented seismic catastrophes will collapse mountains and islands. There will be global atmospheric disturbances.

Instead of turning to the Lord in repentance and receiving the forgiveness of their sins, lost human beings will seek refuge in the rubble. They prefer being entombed on earth then to surrender to the Savior.

Thus begins the beginning of the new beginning.

Refuge in the rubble.

Think of all the places of refuge men prefer over Jesus on this ruined earth:

There are the four “P’s” – philosophy, psychology, politics, and pharmacology.

There is the big “R” – religion.

A Christian therapist put it this way: “Any refuge that I create is something akin to a cardboard box in the rain. The harder the rain, the more boxes I go through.”

Jesus is our refuge. He was dead but is now alive. He conquered Death and emptied Hades.

Your rest is in Him. Your rest IS Him.

I Pray The Lord His Scroll To Take (Revelation 5:1-14)

There is always ‘the one.’

In the Lord of the Rings, it was Aragorn. He was the ‘one’ true king who could wield Andùril, Isildur’s broken sword reforged.
Speaking of swords, only Arthur, the ‘one’ true king, could pull Excalibur from the anvil.
If you’re a fan of the Matrix… I’ll pray for you. Neo was the ‘one.’
Emmet is the ‘one.’ In the Lego movie, Vitruvius prophesies that a person called “the Special” will find the Piece of Resistance capable of stopping the Kragle.

The apostle John was taken to Heaven “in the spirit.” He saw a seven-sealed scroll in the “right hand” of God. A “strong angel” issued a call for someone “worthy to open the scroll.” “No one in Heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll.”

John despaired. Just then, dramatically, the One stepped forward Who was “worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals.”

He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah… He is the Lamb of God… He is Jesus.

We are beyond privileged to witness with John one of the most significant and magnificent moments in the history of the created universe. It is a day Jesus has been waiting upon since His ascension into Heaven. All of creation groans waiting for it.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 You Witness The Beginning Of The End Of Weeping, and #2 You Witness The Beginning Of The End Of Waiting.

#1 – You Witness The Beginning Of The End Of Weeping (v1-5)

If you want to make a movie about earth, it needs to be in the horror genre. Every minute of every day, day after day, unspeakable sufferings are experienced worldwide.

God gets blamed. Why doesn’t He do something?What God has done, is doing, and will do, can be discovered in our text.

Rev 5:1  And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals.

It is common in Bible commentary to become sidetracked by speculating on matters that will not be resolved with certainty.

The scroll in God’s “right hand” – the physical scroll – is in that category. There is a lot of discussion about the exact placement of its seven seals. Some say they run the length of the scroll; others, that they are all at one end. Comparisons are made to Roman scrolls common at the time. Truth is, the scroll isn’t described well enough to come to a definitive conclusion.

One detail that we can comment on is the writing “on the back.” For most any ancient scroll, it summarizes what is written “inside” so you can distinguish it from other scrolls in your scroll pile.

God the Father has in His right hand a scroll sealed with seven seals. As Jesus opens each successive seal, we see on earth an accelerating progression of the wrath of God that Jesus described as “great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time… nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21).

The scroll is the ‘operational plan’ for the seven-year Great Tribulation that prepares the way for the Second Coming of Jesus.

Rev 5:2  Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?”

Some angels work-out more than others at God’s Gym. On his way to see Daniel, the angel Gabriel was delayed by a supernatural being he called the Prince of Persia until the archangel Michael was dispatched to take his place.

We are witnessing a very solemn future ceremony. Chapter four is its prelude:

John, representing the church, was resurrected and raptured from earth to Heaven. We will be evacuated before God’s wrath begins to be poured out.
God’s throne was “set,” indicating readiness.
Twenty-four subordinate thrones were “set” for a subordinate, supportive divine council of supernatural beings.
Beautiful living creatures gave God praise.
The twenty-four beings tossed crowns as they prostrated themselves before God singing “You are worthy O Lord.”

It raised excitement and expectation for this strong angel to step forward with his call.

Rev 5:3  And no one in Heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it.

“In Heaven… on earth… under the earth” describes all the possible locations of men and angels, both good and fallen.

It could be that this angel’s strength is his voice. His call will be heard everywhere. In case you are wondering, Irish teacher Annalisa Flanagan holds the world record for the loudest voice – 121.7 dBA. It is the equivalent of a jet engine.

Fans of the MCU will recall the scene where a few of the Avengers try to lift Thor’s hammer. They can’t do it. The mighty Thor suggests that he alone is ‘worthy’ to wield it.

I’m pretty sure no one came forward to attempt taking the scroll from the Father’s right hand.

The strong angel’s call is a suggestive pause that builds anticipation for what is coming next in this ceremony.

Rev 5:4  So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it.

John did more then shed a solitary tear. “Wept much” describes something more like convulsing. It confirms that there was a pause of some length after the strong angel’s call.

John understood at least this much: Heaven was seeking the One, and unless He stepped forth there was no hope to redeem mankind and restore creation. At the very least, until the One stepped forth things would continue as they were.

Rev 5:5  But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.”

Did John interrupt the ceremony and need to be told to quit weeping?
As far as I can tell, it was part of the ceremony, though a part of it that John was unaware of. Like being called on stage during a performance to become a participant and not just a spectator.

Knowing John the way Jesus does, it followed that the apostle of love would weep for the world’s tragic condition.

We live in a pause between the ascension of Jesus and His return to resurrect and rapture the church. Weeping is appropriate. So is the counsel, “Do not weep.” We must gently encourage those who suffer to look to Jesus. A.W. Tozer said, “It is Jesus, and Jesus alone, Who makes sense out of everything in this world.”

One of the twenty-four said, “Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.”

It is one of the superlative lines in all the history of the universe.

It proclaims the incredible time in future history when God will directly and openly intervene in men’s affairs to give mankind one last opportunity to be saved before the coming of Jesus.

A commentator said, “Here [Judah’s] noblest son is fitly called its lion. It aptly pictures kingly might and boldness.”

The One is simultaneously “the Root of David.” The Greek Squad says it can mean that the One was the “root” from which David was born, i.e., David’s ancestor. He is both the ancestor and the descendant of David.

It sounds like a riddle in the dark. How can a person be your ancestor and your offspring? Jesus once used this to stump the religious leaders hating on Him:

Luk 20:41  And He said to them, “How can they say that the Christ is the Son of David?
Luk 20:42  Now David himself said in the Book of Psalms: ‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND,
Luk 20:43  TILL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES YOUR FOOTSTOOL.”’
Luk 20:44  Therefore David calls Him ‘LORD’; how is He then his Son?”

In the last chapter of the Revelation Jesus says, “I am the Root and the Offspring of David…” (22:16).

Jesus is root & offspring by coming in human flesh through the nation of Israel as the unique God-man to die for the sins of the world to redeem mankind and restore creation.

Why doesn’t God do something?

He has done something. He sent a willing Jesus to earth as God in human flesh to suffer and die in our place thereby saving those who believe.

He is doing something. He is calling-out a people for Himself, the church, by sending human servants to preach the Gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation.

He is going to do something. He will unleash upon the earth a time of trouble such as has never been, nor ever will be again. We call it the grace of wrath on the grounds that He continues to call sinners to repentance and salvation throughout it.

The Scroll & the Savior is Heaven’s breathtaking 7-year mini-series of the beginning of God ending weeping once-for-all.

#2 – You Witness The Beginning Of The End Of Waiting (v6-14)

I was tempted to give you a list of how much time is wasted throughout our short lifetimes waiting for things. I decided it would be a waste of time.

Rev 5:6  And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.

John looked to see the Lion; He saw the Lamb.

I am no artist. If I was asked to draw what John saw I would cut-and-paste these images and it would look grotesque.

Heaven and all that is in it is supremely beautiful and wonderful. This portrayal of Jesus is beyond beautiful. When we see Him this way, we’ll think, “OK, that is what John was saying.”

If you are a big fan of some story, you can be pleasantly surprised at how one of its characters is translated to the screen in a film. You think, “OK, that is what a Balrog looks like.”

John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus “the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.” He was the final and the fulfilling sacrifice that all of the animal sacrifices in the Bible were merely representing. It is no coincidence that Jesus was crucified at the exact time the Passover lambs were being slaughtered in the Jewish Temple.

“Horns” are used in the Bible to represent power. “Seven horns” indicate perfect power, or as we would say, omnipotence.

“Seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” Compare this verse from the fourth chapter of Zechariah: “for these seven shall rejoice… these are the eyes of Jehovah, which run to and fro through the whole earth” (v10).

God the Holy Spirit likes to remain invisible and must be depicted by various things, e.g., a dove, oil, water, fire, wind, or in this case, “seven eyes.”

John saw the Lion as the slain Lamb of God Who was very much alive and poised to execute the operational plan of God’s wrath upon the whole earth in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Rev 5:7  Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.

There was some choreography involved in Jesus being “in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders,” and His movement to take the scroll from God the Father.

In relinquishing the scroll God the Father invested Jesus with the authority to open it and accomplish it.

Rev 5:8  Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

It’s the final movement of the ceremony. The four & the twenty-four fall down in acclamation. The twenty-four hold a “harp” in one hand, and “bowls full of incense” in the other.

The “harp” is more than any other instrument associated with praise in the Bible. You might like this. According to Vincent’s Word Studies, “…[the word for] harp signifies an instrument unlike our harp as ordinarily constructed. Rather a lute or guitar… Anciently of a triangular shape, with seven strings, afterwards increased to eleven. Josephus says it had ten, and was played with a plectrum or small piece of ivory.”

“Incense” is “the prayers of the saints.” Which saints? Probably the ones saved during the Great Tribulation. We will read of their prayers a time or two as the Great Tribulation unfolds.

It anticipates the seven years are a time when many will heed the warnings and be saved, even though they will most likely experience martyrdom.

Rev 5:9  And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,

They will sing “a new song,” written for the ceremony, never heard before. It will be #1 for seven years on the charts in Heaven.

I’m reading from the NKJV. It says, “you have redeemed us to God.” It sounds like these are humans that Jesus died to save. Here are some good, scholarly alternate translations:

ESV “by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation…”
ISV “With your blood you purchased people for God from every tribe, language, people, and nation.”
NRSV “by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation.”

You get the idea. These translations and many others acknowledge these are not glorified humans who are singing about themselves. They are supernatural beings singing about God’s plan to redeem humanity.

Jesus’ death on the Cross is the universal payment for sin by which any human being can be saved. He is the Savior of all men, especially those who believe.

God’s Law, given to Israel, lists the requirements for someone to act as a redeemer:

He has to be blood relative who is willing to act as the redeemer.

He would also have to be God. No mere man who was born a sinner could hope to redeem himself, never mind others, from sin and death.

This person who was both God and man would then have to pay any outstanding debt. The debt owed for sin is death. The God-man redeemer would have to offer himself willingly as a substitute sacrifice and die in our place.

When the angel cries, “Who is worthy?,” he isn’t taking applications. It’s not a job-posting. He is announcing that none is worthy except for One – the God-man, the Lord, Jesus Christ.

It’s a little off our topic, however this verse gives us a chance to mention something that has become popular. For reasons that escape me, lately Christians want to contend that angels never sing. I know; it sounds odd. It’s a thing. If we are correct that the twenty-four elders are angelic rather than glorified humans, that settles it. Plus when it says “they sang a new song,” it is grammatically possible that “they” includes the four living ones. Robert Thomas writes, “This angelic host cannot be denied the ability to sing.”

Rev 5:10  And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.”

Those same translations I just referred to all say “have made them kings and priests” and “they will reign.”

The reign they are proclaiming is the Millennial Kingdom on earth after Jesus’ Second Coming. The church will return with Jesus and share in His earthly reign over earth as a kingdom of priests.

Rev 5:11  Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands,

Annually at the Disneyland Resort they hold a Christmas service called Candlelight. It features a full orchestra, multiple choirs and a celebrity narrator. The Main Street Train Station serves as the stage. The first time we attended I was surprised part way through it. All of a sudden we heard loud trumpets from the roof of the Train Station. The trumpeters were in the dark until it was time for them. It was very cool.

Without warning, yet at the right time, John could see and hear innumerable angels adding their voices.

Rev 5:12  saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

In the Millennium, King Jesus will receive these universal accolades. Every knee will bow.

Rev 5:13  And every creature which is in Heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”

It sounds very Narnian. All sentient life, everywhere in the universe, will acknowledge the power and position of God the Father and Jesus Christ. I would include God the Holy Spirit. He is not specifically mentioned, which is in keeping with His humility in remaining invisible while pointing to Jesus.

Rev 5:14  Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.

It ain’t over until the four living creatures “Amen!”

The twenty-four must get up at some earlier point in as much as they “[fall] down” a second time. They continue to worship after the “Amen!”

Thus comes to its conclusion this magnificent future moment. The wait will finally be over. When we turn the page, the Great Tribulation begins.

Waiting is hard. It might encourage you in your waiting to realize that Jesus knows waiting. Jesus consented to leave Heaven and become a man… To live in relative obscurity, working with His hands, for some thirty years… To be hated by those He came to save… To weep over Jerusalem… To be arrested, illegally tried, crucified… Still He waits, not willing that anyone perish. His will is that they would receive eternal life.

Is Jesus waiting for you to be saved?

Endgame Of Thrones (Revelation 4:1-11)

They’re called war rooms or situation rooms:

✎ During the Second World War, a group of basement offices served as the center of Britain’s war effort. They were known as the Cabinet War Rooms.
✎ JFK created the White House Situation Room in 1961 in the basement of the West Wing.
Heaven has a war room.

The apostle John sees “a door standing open in Heaven.” He is taken up through it to witness the execution of Operation 7year Great Tribulation.

It is an unusual war room. Before God declares wrath, the parties in Heaven gather for worship.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 You’ll Be Safe From The Wrath Of God, and #2 You’ll Be Surrounded By The Worship Of God.

#1 – You Will Be Safe From The Wrath Of God (v1)

In verse nineteen of chapter one, Jesus provided us with the outline of His Revelation: “Write 1the things which you have seen, and 2the things which are, and 3the things which will take place after this.” Follow this outline and the Revelation makes sense.

✎ Chapter one was “the things [John had] seen,” a vision of the risen Jesus. It is in the past.
✎ Chapters two and three were “the things which are,” the churches on the earth during the Church Age. They are the present.
✎ Chapters four through the end are “the things which will take place after this” in the future.

The bulk of this book is its detailed description of the Great Tribulation. It occupies chapters six through eighteen, from the release of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (6:2) to Jesus returning on His great white steed in His Second Coming (19:11).

Chapters four and five reveal maneuvering in Heaven prior to the launch of God’s measured campaign of wrath.

Jesus made the church a strong promise that we would not be left on the earth to experience the wrath of God:

“I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (3:10)

The words were carefully chosen by Jesus so there would be no confusion. He will keep His church out of the entire period of global trial. We won’t be kept safe going through it; we will not be in it.

The church will be removed from earth to Heaven. Chapter four begins with a figure, a type, of that removal.

Rev 4:1  After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”

“After [the] things” of chapters one, two and three, John “looked” and noticed a “door standing open in Heaven.” It was a special door, a mystery door, opened just for John to be received into Heaven.

The “first voice” John heard, back in chapter one, was that of Jesus. John compared Jesus’ voice to a “trumpet” that preceded his being taken through the door into Heaven.

It sounds similar to the apostle Paul’s description of the church’s resurrection and rapture in his letters to Corinth and Thessalonica.

John is a type of the church removed from the earth before the Great Tribulation.

✎ The apostle Peter likened the Great Tribulation to “a thief in the night” (First Peter 3:10). The apostle Paul told the believers in Thessalonica that the Great Tribulation would not overtake us [the church] like a thief (First Thessalonians 5:4).

✎ Paul sounded exactly like Jesus when he said to the Thessalonians, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (First Thessalonians 5:9).

✎ The words “church” or “churches” are used some twenty times in the first three chapters, but not at all as the Great Tribulation is described.

✎ Beginning in chapter four of the Revelation the church is conspicuously absent from the earth. The church won’t be seen again until we return with Jesus to end the Great Tribulation at Armageddon.

✎ All seven letters to the churches in the Revelation end with the familiar words, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” We encounter a similar phrase during the seven years, but it reads, “if anyone has an ear, let him hear” (13:9). There is no mention of “the churches.”
✎ The New Testament teaches imminence. The Lord’s coming for His church could occur at any moment. No signs precede it. The only way for the rapture to be imminent is for it to happen sometime before the Great Tribulation. Every other theory of the timing of the rapture undermines imminence.

These observations are strengthened by Jesus’ promise to remove us. This typical ‘rapture’ of John to Heaven is consistent with the pretribulation rapture of the church. He represents the experience of all the believers of the Church Age before the Day of God’s Wrath.

I came across this bit of history in my research:

The British government during World War II relocated citizens out of urban centers to locations where the risk of bombing attacks was low or non-existent. Called Operation Pied Piper, millions of people, most of them children, were shipped to rural areas in Britain and overseas to Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. Almost 3 million people were evacuated during the first four days of the operation, making it the most significant and most concentrated [evacuation] in British history.

Before declaring His wrath, the Lord will conduct a global evacuation & relocation of His church.

#2 – You’ll Be Surrounded By The Worship Of God (v2-11)

Have you seen those, If you remember this memes on Facebook? One of my favorites is the picture of the speakers at the drive-in theater.

Something else I vividly remember: The Cuban Missile Crisis. I was seven years old and it seemed certain I’d never see my 8th birthday. Khrushchev & Castro would disintegrate me while I ducked & covered under my desk at school.

A lot has been written about what went on in the aforementioned White House Situation Room during those tense days in October 1962. I don’t remember anyone reporting that worship was the first priority. It is first and foremost in Heaven.

Rev 4:2  Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in Heaven, and One sat on the throne.

It’s unproductive to be dogmatic about what John meant by “in the Spirit.” The apostle Paul is an I’ve Been to Heaven alumni. He said he was “caught up to the third Heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know – God knows” (Second Corinthians 12:2). God knows the mechanics of it.

If repetition is something we ought to pay attention to, note that the words “throne” or “thrones” occur 14 times in these 11 verses.

We’re not told directly, but the first Person we see on His throne is God the Father. He will be distinguished from God the Holy Spirit and Jesus.

Rev 4:3  And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.

Commentators cannot definitively identify the “jasper and… sardius.” We therefore cannot read anything much into them as symbols.
A pregnant woman seems to glow. It’s a real thing, with a biological basis.

God the Father glows in His glory.

If you took Earth Science, you met ROY G BIV. It’s how to remember the colors of the rainbow. The Wrath Room rainbow is circular and is different shades of green. One commentator said of the rainbow:

It is a reminder that God’s mercy is as great as His majesty, i.e., that there will be no triumph of God’s sovereignty at the expense of His mercy. The disasters portrayed in the following pages cannot be interpreted as meaning that God has forgotten His promise to Noah.

Why so much green? I looked at the meaning of colors in the Bible. There may be a few things we would agree on, but it is mostly subjective.

We futurists who take the Bible literally whenever possible too often make the same mistake non-literalists do. We insist on assigning symbolic meaning to everything.
Sigmund Freud once famously admitted, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

Rev 4:4  Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads.

News flash: I have changed my mind about who these guys are

I used to think they were human beings who represented the church. They could be, for sure, and if you take that position it’s OK.

Who or what these are has nothing to do with believing in the church’s pretribulation resurrection and rapture. It doesn’t have any affect on our premillennialism.
The scholars agree that no one knows who or what these guys are because we are never told. Any position you take is a best guess.

My best guess is that they are created supernatural beings, probably an order of angels. God has supernatural beings around Him.

The Old Testament describes what some call a “Divine Council” or “Divine Assembly” of supernatural beings.

✎ Psalm 82:1 says that “God takes His stand in the divine assembly; among the divine beings He renders judgment” (ISV).
✎ Psalm 89 asks, “Who is like the Lord among the heavenly beings? In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared.”
✎ One translation of Deuteronomy 32:8 reads, “When the High God gave the nations their stake, gave them their place on Earth, He put each of the peoples within boundaries under the care of divine guardians” (MSG).

But aren’t these twenty-four called “elders,” and don’t they have crowns and white robes?

✎ “Elder” is a general title for leaders not just in the church.
✎ There is nothing in the Bible to prove that white robes and crowns are unique to humans.

One of the commentaries gave two solid reasons to think they are probably not human:

“Throughout the [Revelation] they are distinguished from the saints” (7:13-14; 14:3; 19:4-8).
“They are seated on their thrones already, but humans will not be so positioned until some point in the future” (20:4).

It makes more biblical sense that these thrones are occupied by some type of Divine Council or Assembly that God convenes.

Rev 4:5  And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.

“Lightnings and thunderings” are typical of a storm. The storm of biblical proportions… The storm of the centuries… the perfecting storm… Is coming.

There were also “voices.” A scene in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring portrays voices in a storm. The nine members of the fellowship are attempting to climb Mount Caradhras. A diabolical snowstorm breaks upon them.
They discern a fell voice in the storm. It’s the voice of their enemy, the White Wizard, Saruman.

The voices in the storm of God’s wrath are not fell, but full of compassion as God calls upon mankind to repent of their sin and be saved.

We will see Him calling to men through two incredible human witnesses. They appear in chapter eleven to preach the Gospel with power for one-thousand two hundred sixty days.

We will see God calling to men through 144,000 Jewish evangelists. They are sealed to serve then sent out as His voices.
In chapter fourteen an angel flies through the atmospheric heavens having the everlasting Gospel to preach to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people who dwell on the earth.

We have discussed the “seven spirits of God” several times in our studies already. It is a descriptive way to recognize the perfect working of God the Holy Spirit. His presence in this scene is represented as “seven lamps of fire burning before the throne.”

The Holy Spirit is always invisible and must be represented in some way:

At the baptism of Jesus He was represented in the form of a dove descending upon the Lord.
Jesus likened the Holy Spirit to wind.
At the church’s birth He was represented by tongues of fire resting above the believers gathered in the upper room.

Oil, fire, water, breath, rain, wine, and clothing are other ways God the Holy Spirit is represented.

When God the Holy Spirit is performing His perfect work He brings glory to Jesus Christ. If He is at work in and through us we will not bring attention to ourselves.

We should be invisible as we serve

Rev 4:6  Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal…

John reported what he saw. I think we take it as an accurate description, with no symbolic ramblings about what “a sea of glass like crystal” represents.

Rev 4:6  … And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back.
Rev 4:7  The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle.

“Creature” is an unfortunate translation. The word means Living Ones. They resemble the Cherubim that the prophet Ezekiel saw in his vision of God’s throne (Ezekiel 1:4-14; 10:20-22), and their praise reminds us of the Seraphim Isaiah saw in his vision of God’s throne (Isaiah 6).

Here is a non-exhaustive list of some supernatural beings we encounter in the Bible: Archangels, Angels, Seraphim, Cherubim, Hosts, and Authorities. Then there is the devil and his fallen Angels, Principalities, Powers, and the Rulers of the darkness of this age. There were wicked supernatural Princes in Persia and in Greece.

John saw the Living Ones positioned one on either side, one behind and one in front, of God’s throne.

This does remind us of something from the Old Testament. In the Book of Numbers, God told the nation of Israel how they were to set up camp around His presence in the wilderness Tabernacle. One on either side, one behind and one in front, of God’s Tabernacle. Each of the four sides were to be encamped by three tribes:

✎ The tribes of Judah, Issachar and Zebulon were to camp on the east and were collectively called the camp of Judah. What was the symbol on the flag of Judah? A lion.
✎The tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin were to camp on the west side and were collectively called the camp of Ephraim. What was the symbol on the flag of Ephraim? An ox.
✎The tribes of Reuben, Simeon, and Gad were to camp on the south side and were collectively called the camp of Reuben. What was the symbol on the flag of Reuben? A man.
✎ The tribes of Dan, Naphtali, and Asher were to camp on the north side and were collectively called the camp of Dan. What was the symbol on the flag of Dan? An eagle.

There is a deliberate emphasis in chapters six through eighteen on the nation of Israel. All living Israelites on the earth will recognize Jesus as their Messiah and be saved.

The Tribulation, or the Great Tribulation, are the popular titles among Gentiles. That’s OK, as long as we don’t overlook the facts that ground zero in those seven years is Jerusalem and the Jews.

✎ In His Olivet Discourse on the End Times Jesus said, “For then there will be great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21). Later in the Revelation we will be introduced to martyrs who are described as “the ones who come out of the great tribulation” (7:14).

✎ The prophet Jeremiah called the Great Tribulation the Time of Jacob’s Trouble (30:7). It is called Daniel’s 70th Week (Daniel 9:27).

Rev 4:8  The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!”

If you are a massive fan of some book, you will either be delighted or disappointed at how your beloved characters are portrayed on film. Ben Affleck is mostly panned as both Daredevil and Batman. Sometimes a studio reveals an actor it almost cast in an iconic role who would have been disastrous. Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, Chevy Chase, and Bill Murray were considered for the role of Han Solo.

The four supers around the throne are perfectly cast. They seem monstrous and creepy, but we know that everything in Heaven will be beautiful beyond our imaginings.

If you think modern worship choruses are too repetitious, they are preparing you for worship in Heaven. “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” is repeated and repeated and repeated and Pete & RePeated.

Rev 4:9  Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever,

These angels have other responsibilities during the Great Tribulation, e.g., they release the Four Horsemen in chapter six. When they are not on some particular assignment, they worship giving “glory and honor and thanks” to God.

We have full, immediate access to God’s throne. Our default position in all things is to give Him glory, honor, and thanks. Those are to become characteristic of our belief and behavior.

Rev 4:10  the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:

The popular Christian band, Casting Crowns, is a cover band. The original “casting crowns” are these twenty-four elders.

The casting of crowns indicates total submission to the authority of the One Who sat on the throne. They are ready to do His bidding.

Rev 4:11  “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.”

The Great Tribulation is not just a show of God‘s wrath. It is an important part of his plan to redeem and restore what was forfeited in the Garden of Eden. Mankind’s sin ruined His creation. At once God revealed His plan to. He’s been sustaining His creation these few centuries while providentially working out His plan. When all is ready, He will assemble in the SitRoom, and a major spiritual offensive in God’s plan of redemption and restoration will be flawlessly executed.

A shout from the Lord… A Trumpet blast… A door opened to Heaven… “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (First Corinthians 15:51-52).

“Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” (Revelation 22:20-21).

The Hurl Of Great Price (Revelation 3:14-22)

Two words you never want to hear: Induce vomiting.

When I was a young warthog… “Induce vomiting” was a common suggestion on labels for things you shouldn’t have swallowed.

We always had in the medicine cabinet an emergency bottle of Ipecac Syrup. It was right next to the Mercurochrome, which was right next to the Iodine.

If you had those three miracle products, you had a good chance of surviving childhood.

Ipecac Syrup is no longer recommended. Research proved it not only ineffective but dangerous. If you want some, I’m pretty sure the bottle in my childhood home is still in the medicine cabinet. Along with Witch Hazel, Geritol, and Brioschi.

Throwing-up ¹ can make things worse. That doesn’t stop well-meaning folks from posting on the world-wide inter-web the best natural home remedies to induce up-chucking:²

✎ Drink Coca-Cola that has run out of its bubbles. Drink it every hour, which will make you sick and want to heave³. After you drink your Coca-Cola, drink mineral water as a follow-up to trigger regurgitation⁴︎. 
✎ Gargle with egg whites.
✎ Expose yourself to disgusting smells.
(I hope you’re not one of those who get nauseous just thinking about it. If so, today might be rough).

Best barfing⁵︎ in a movie, you ask? The Exorcist. Honorable Mention goes to Tom Hardy in Venom.

The church of the Laodiceans made Jesus want to vomit them.
🤢 🤮

“So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth” (v16).

The Lord’s nausea was triggered by their spiritual temperature. They were “lukewarm.”

Jesus had not yet spewed⁶︎. He was hoping He wouldn’t have to. He suggested a remedy for His nausea was for them to “be zealous and repent” (v19).

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Jesus Takes Your Spiritual Temperature, and #2 You Can Tweak Your Spiritual Temperature.

#1 – Jesus Takes Your Spiritual Temperature (v14-17)

We’ve become familiar with someone taking our temperature before being allowed to proceed.

Jesus takes our spiritual temperature when we gather in His name.

Rev 3:14  “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:

The “angel of the church” is its pastor. He was the most likely individual read aloud to those gathered.

There is a subtle difference in this greeting from the previous six letters. Instead of saying “the church in Laodicea,” Jesus calls them “the church of the Laodiceans.”

It might be an Easter egg. Not the Cadbury kind, but the kind that is a hidden clue in a movie. The word “Laodicea” roughly translates into English as self-rule.

The Lord addressed them as their own masters rather than as His bondservants.

Jesus was going to give an eye-opening testimony about the spiritual condition of the people in this church. He was going to expose their hearts. Before doing so, He established Himself as an expert witness capable of such pronouncements.

You’ve seen movies and TV shows where they call upon expert witnesses. Sometimes the experts contradict one another. I just learned, for example, that bite marks are junk science.

No one could contradict the Lord. There is no junk science in His spiritual evaluations.

✎ Jesus’ testimony was from “the Amen.” Think of it as having the final, authoritative word. Whatever Jesus says, it is “Word.”
✎ Jesus’ testimony was from “the Faithful and True Witness.” As “Witness,” He sees everything, including the heart of man. His assessment of what He witnesses is “Faithful and True.”

The “Beginning of the creation of God” cannot mean Jesus was created because elsewhere we learn He is Creator. Colosse was a city in the same region. In his letter to them, the apostle Paul said, “For by [Jesus] all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him (1:16).

“Beginning of the creation” means that Jesus is the origin of Creation.

Is this a not-so-subtle clue as to false teaching in Laodicea? Had they begun to teach that Jesus was not very-God of very-God, but a created being? Can’t say for sure. It fits with self-rule.

Rev 3:15  “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.

We can’t comment on hot, cold, and lukewarm without some enlightening background. This is going to blow your mind, but it is true.

Laodicea had almost no water sources of its own
According to one document, I read “No other city in the Lycus Valley was as dependent on external water supplies as Laodicea.” They purchased water from Hierapolis and Colosse:

✎ Hierapolis, about six miles away, was known for its natural hot spring water. The baths of Hierapolis attracted citizens from all over the Roman Empire.
✎ Colosse was known for its cold water. Located about eleven miles from Laodicea, it was situated at the foot of Mount Cadmus, which peaked at 9000 feet. Ice-cold snow-fed streams rushed down the mountain.

One water was naturally hot 🥵 at its source; one water was naturally cold 🥶 at its source. By the time either arrived in Laodicea, it was lukewarm.

We normally think that being “hot” is something good, and to be desired, and being “cold” is something bad, and to be avoided. “Cold” can be a good thing. It was a special treat to drink icy-cold water 💦 at a time before there were any means of refrigeration.

The bigger picture that Jesus was drawing for them was that of a banquet. He will famously say He is at the door, knocking, to share supper. (v20).

Jesus was talking temperature in the context of sharing supper with them.

Rev 3:16  So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.

Lukewarm food can be deadly.
☠️

If hot food, or cold food, sits out too long at room temperature, it can allow bacteria to grow to dangerous levels that can cause severe illness.

Think how much worse this was in ancient times. Just ask Alexander the Great. He died in Babylon at 33yrs of age. Doctors at the University of Maryland studied historical accounts of Alexander’s symptoms and death. They say he died from typhoid fever caused by Salmonella typhi. It can be found in “raw or undercooked eggs, raw milk, contaminated water, and raw or undercooked meats.”

The US Department of Agriculture calls it “the Danger Zone.” It’s the range of temperatures (40° – 140° Fahrenheit) in which cooked food sits out for longer than two hours. During that period, bacteria can grow rapidly.

I made a delicious Avocado Egg Salad last week. Properly stored, egg salad will last for three to five days in the refrigerator. Egg salad should be discarded if left out for more than two hours at room temperature.

Other foods must be heated to a certain temperature to kill existing bacteria. Meats, for example.

I believe that this is what Jesus had in mind when He said they were neither hot, nor cold, but had become lukewarm.

The Laodiceans had assumed a toxic lukewarm temperature by preferring to be out in the world.

This might be a good time to address the issue of whether the folks in the church of the Laodiceans were saved.

In Laodicea, we’d say that the majority were unsaved. It shouldn’t shock you. Many so-called churches are led by, and attended by, nonbelievers.

The minority who were saved in Laodicea could also be addressed this way on account of their preferences for the things of this world. Commentators talk about what they call “Nominal Christians,” who take on the characteristics and habits and pursuits of the world, so much so that it is hard to distinguish them from the average nonbeliever. They might not be doing anything sinful, but their heart is in the world.

We too quickly interpret ourselves out of a verse. If this letter were only directed toward nonbelievers, we could ignore it. We’ll see at its end that, like all six previous letters, it is for everyone who has “ears to hear.”

Room temperature food that has been out too long; and food not thoroughly cooked; makes you blow chunks⁷︎. Jesus wanted to sup with them, but He might ralph⁸︎ on account of the lukewarmness in Laodicea.

We see them too long out in the world in v17:

Rev 3:17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ – and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked –

✎︎ “Rich” means rich. They had plenty of money. Too much money.
✎︎ “Have become wealthy” is better translated as increased with goods. They used their too much money to buy more-and-more of this world’s goods. They invested heavily in the world, not in Heaven.

Rich people who surround themselves with the comforts of this world trust in the external rather than the eternal. It’s easy to begin to think you have need of nothing.

Maybe we’re not rich or wealthy or increased with goods. We can still want to be. The love of those things, the love of the world, will just as quickly ‘lukewarm’ us as actually having riches, wealth, and goods.

You’re familiar with eating-disorder sufferers who look in the mirror and, even though they are dangerously thin, see themselves as overweight. Jesus held up His mirror to the church of the Laodiceans to show them they were “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” They saw themselves otherwise, but spiritually they were blind beggars so wretched and miserable that they didn’t even have clothes to wear.

Jesus is the only expert witness on the condition of the human heart. His Word is the mirror we look into to be shown, and to hear, His testimony. It isn’t to find us guilty. It’s to lead us to grace.

#2 – You Can Tweak Your Spiritual Temperature (v18-22)

The church of the Laodiceans made a classic blunder, the most famous of which is… “Never get involved in a land war in Asia.”

Their classic spiritual blunder was thinking that worldly success, wealth, and comfort signify God’s favor. It too often leads us away from Him.

The Lord meets us where we are at. We should love Him for His condescension to us. Jesus spoke to the rich church of Laodicea like a financial adviser.

Rev 3:18  I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.

He counseled them to “buy.” Trouble was, the things Jesus listed could not be purchased.

There are three more things that you need to know about the city of Laodicea:

It was noted for its many banks.
They manufactured a medicinal eye ointment.
They bred and raised sheep with unusual black wool and were noted for the garments made with it.

They deposited gold into the many banks. Maybe you follow the stock market. Me, not so much. I do own one share in Disney. My dividend last year was $0.98.
Jesus is a gold-broker. He can store up your rewards in Heaven where they are safe from theft and corruption.

He says here it is “gold refined in the fire.” Jesus can make gold out of your trials. He’s talking about what we might call Job-gold. Job said, “But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” (23:10).

Jesus next said, “buy from Me… white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed.”

Laodicea, with its black wool, was a garment district. I’m sure the Laodiceans were clothed in the finest apparel. They could afford to visit their tailors, and have custom-made outfits suitable for every occasion.

None of their earthly garments, however, would stand a chance in Heaven. They’d all be disintegrated – leaving them naked.

The Bible uses clothing to illustrate your salvation.

When you get saved, Jesus takes upon Himself your filthy and inappropriate garments. He gives you, instead, His robe of righteousness. It’s the only garment that is Heaven-approved.

Jesus next said, “… and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.” A popular eye ointment known as Phrygian Powder was produced in Laodicea.

No amount of Phrygian powder would restore sight to the blind. But Jesus does – especially to the spiritually blind.

Rev 3:19  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.

This sounds like family discipline, does it not? There were believers in the church. They should be “zealous” to repent – eager to, and wholeheartedly, turning to God and from the world.

Rev 3:20  Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

Haters like to say that this verse should not be used for evangelism since Jesus was addressing a church. But the church was nearly all unsaved. It is an appropriate verse for anyone, nonbeliever or believer, in whatever spiritual state you find yourself.

If you are not a Christian, the sinless, risen, ascended, Son of God sends His Holy Spirit to knock on your heart, by grace freeing your will to open it to Jesus.

He’s “knock, knock, knockin’ on your heart’s door” – and that means you are being enabled to answer the knocking. Open the door to Him. Don’t be one who says, “I hear you knockin’ but you can’t come in.”
✊ 🚪

As for His knocking on a believer’s heart… I have no problem thinking of Jesus knocking on my heart’s metaphorical door. His knocking can shock me into the realization I have kicked Him out, at least temporarily, while I self-rule.

Jesus knocks, and He will keep knocking. Knock… knock… knock… knock… knock.

Louder at times, too. Each knock is intended to capture your spiritual attention.

Today we surveil our doors with cameras. In those days, a knock on the door would be accompanied by the knocker identifying himself. Knock-knock… “It’s Jesus. Thought I’d do a pop-in to let you know you’re blowing it, and unless you repent, I’m going to retch⁹︎.”

Jesus wants to “dine” with you. There are a present and a future application of this dining experience:

✎︎ In the present, Jesus wants to have a relationship with you that can be likened to friends sitting down and conversing over a meal.
✎︎ In the future, at His Second Coming, Jesus will dine with you as His bride in what is called later in this book, the Marriage Supper.

Rev 3:21  To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.

It is the Christian who overcomes, not the overcomer who becomes a Christian.
You overcome the world by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Jesus was raised from the dead ascended into Heaven, and rewarded with a seat at the Father’s right hand, from which He will return to rule the universe.

In Colossians 3:1 we learn that we “have been raised with Christ.” We already share in His life, in His power. Our position is with Him, on His throne.

We will be physically raised from the dead or raptured, then rule with Jesus in the Kingdom on earth.

These self-ruling, self-sufficient, miserable, poor, wretched, naked, blind people are nevertheless promised they can rule with Jesus.

Not just that they might barely make it into Heaven; but that they will share a seat of honor.

You didn’t see that coming.

Rev 3:22  “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Did they listen to Jesus? According to the Biblical Archaeology Society,

The church at Laodicea… became the seat of a Christian bishop, and a Christian council was held there in the fourth century AD. Archaeologists have discovered about 20 ancient Christian chapels and churches at the site. The largest church at Laodicea [called Calvary Chapel of Laodicea] took up an entire city block and dates to the beginning of the fourth century.

That is the way to repent.

Laodicea started as the church in Laodicea, but the pull of the world led them to be the church of the Laodiceans. They repented and returned to their original foundation.

Without sounding in any way puffed-up, we are a church in, not a church of. Let’s remain that way by continuing in the Spirit, and by resisting the downward spiral of the world.

This quote attributed to Voddie Baucham might stir you as a believer: “No matter how good things get in this world, it’s all Egypt! There will never be enough gold chains, fine linen… or anything else to satisfy the yearning [for Him] that God has placed in us.”

If you are not a believer… Not saved… Jesus is knocking, and saying to you, “Let My love open the door.”

O Key Door Key (Revelation 3:7-13)

When our daughter was moving out of our home, I asked her to turn in her house key. It seemed appropriate to me; and by “me,” I mean only me.

Both she and Pam disagreed with my request. Like Ricky Ricardo, I asked them “splain it to me.”

They were more than happy to oblige.

Jesus presented Himself to the church in Philadelphia as “He who has the Key of David.”

“David,” of course, is King David of Israel. God promised him a descendant who would establish the Kingdom of God and rule it forever.

Jesus’ possession of the Key of David is proof that Jesus is the descendant of David who will establish the Kingdom of God and rule over it forever.

The Lord’s comments to the faithful believers in Philadelphia assured them of their future entrance into the forever Kingdom. Since Jesus’ comments to the churches in the Revelation are to all churches for all time, He is likewise assuring those of us who are in Christ that we, too, are assured our future entrance into the forever Kingdom.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 No Great Tribulation For You, and #2 New Jerusalem Awaits You.

#1 – No Great Tribulation For You (v7-10)

Monsters Inc is my favorite Pixar film. The explanation of the monster under your bed, or in your closet, is pure genius.

To enter the human world, the monsters had to go through a door. That sequence at the end, the door chase, is classic. You never know where the next door is going to take them.

We know where our “door” is taking us.

Rev 3:7  “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “HE WHO HAS THE KEY OF DAVID, HE WHO OPENS AND NO ONE SHUTS, AND SHUTS AND NO ONE OPENS”:

“The angel of the church” is referring to its pastor in his role of delivering God’s message to the church.

Even though all seven churches in the Revelation were contemporary, and geographically near one another, Jesus had a separate, unique message for each of them.
We should expect God the Holy Spirit to have a unique message for our church, and for each of us, every time we come together to worship the Lord.

Jesus revealed Himself to Philadelphia as “He who is holy, He who is true.”

✎ “Holy” is a title for the Messiah (e.g., Mark 1:24).
✎ “True” means genuine or real.

If you are on twitter you’ve noticed famous people use the preface “@TheReal” to designate that it is really them. When I get famous, I’ll be @TheRealGenePensiero.

“Holy” and “True” means Jesus is @TheRealMessiah.

“HE WHO HAS THE KEY OF DAVID, HE WHO OPENS AND NO ONE SHUTS, AND SHUTS AND NO ONE OPENS.”

In your employment, some of you are Key Holders. You open and shut your place of business.

Jesus is a Key Holder.

✎ In Matthew 16:19, He tells Peter “And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.”
✎ In Revelation 1:18 Jesus said, “I have the keys of Hades and of Death.”
✎ In our verses, He has “the key of David.”

🗝 A couple of chapters after Jesus said that He would give the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven to Peter, He makes it clear that He will give them to every believer in the Church Age (Matthew 18).

Peter becomes an example for us of a believer using the key to the Kingdom:

✎ On the Day of Pentecost, he presented the Gospel, and three thousand Jews were saved (Acts 2:41).
✎ Later in the Book of Acts, Peter and John are instrumental in the conversion of the Samaritans (Acts 8:14).
✎ Then Peter is the one sent to give the Gospel to the Gentiles as he visits Cornelius (Acts 10).

When a Christian shares the Gospel with nonbelievers, we are using the key in the sense that we have authority on earth to declare that their sins can be forgiven by believing in Jesus. They can be saved; or they will perish.

🗝 The Keys of Hades and Death open two terrible doors to those who die having rejected the Gospel:

✎ Hades is a temporary holding cell, a place of torment for souls awaiting final judgment.
✎ “Death” is what the Bible calls the Second Death. It is resurrection to eternal separation from God in the Lake of Fire.

🗝 The Key of David looks forward to the future Kingdom on earth. In Second Samuel God said to David, “Thus says the LORD of hosts… I will appoint a place for My people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more… Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish His Kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of His kingdom forever… And your house and your Kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever” (Ch 7).

(Theologians call the unconditional promises that God made to him the Davidic Covenant).

By “Kingdom” we mean that Jesus will return in His Second Coming and establish a Kingdom on the earth that lasts one-thousand years. When that Millennial Kingdom ends, Jesus will reign over the new heavens and the new earth forever and ever.

In the five previous letters, Jesus used a description of Himself borrowed from John’s vision of the Lord recorded in chapter one. Regarding “keys,” in chapter one Jesus said, “I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (v18). Why, then, does He say He has the Key of David?

Rather than focus on which key he pulls from His key back, the important thing is to see that Jesus is the Key Holder.

He has the power and authority to save you, then to consign you to Hades and Death or to welcome you into the Kingdom.

Rev 3:8  “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.

They had commendable “works,” so “little strength” cannot be referring to spiritual strength. It most likely refers to their small size in comparison to the other churches.

I have no problems with mega churches. The church started as a mega church. In the Book of Acts, “three thousand souls” were added on the first day. Not long after at least another five thousand were saved – and that number might not include biological women.

Truth is, the majority of churches are mini-churches. In the US, that means under 100 saints.

It’s more important that a church have a testimony of how the Holy Spirit led them to be established. After that it’s up to the Lord how little or large it will be.

Among their “works,” Jesus said they had “kept [His] word, and [had] not denied [His] name.” There was some pressure to deny the Lord. They were enabled to instead [keep] His word.”

The “Key of David” has entirely to do with the future Kingdom of God:

✎ In v7 the topic was the future Kingdom.
✎ In v9, where we will read, “worship before your feet,” we will see it refers to the future Kingdom.
✎ v12 is entirely about our life in the future Kingdom.

The “door” that this key “OPENS AND NO ONE SHUTS, AND SHUTS AND NO ONE OPENS” is our guaranteed entrance to the Kingdom of God.

@TheRealMessiah was guaranteeing Philadelphia’s finest that He would open the door for them to the Kingdom. They could therefore have assurance of their salvation.

Rev 3:9  Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie – indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.

They were Jews, physically. They were “not” Jews because of their unbelief.

Satan had taken over their synagogue. They were especially called-out by Jesus for lying – probably lying to the authorities about the Christians.

Churches can be the Church of Satan.

I just read about a self-described “progressive Christian” church in Nashville that declared the Bible is not the Word of God.

They say it is “a living and dynamic” “multi-vocal library of texts” that is “a product of community” as “a human response to God.” Huh??

The article said, “Though receiving pushback from Christians, they did receive applause for their criticism of Scripture from popular atheist commentators.”
Expect a lot more of this apostasy nonsense as, tragically, churches rush to seem woke.

Jesus said, “I will make them come and worship before your feet…” We can rule-out that Jews, or anyone for that matter, will “worship” us. In terms of the future Kingdom on earth, we know that every knee shall bow to Jesus. When the people of the earth worship Him in the Kingdom, we will be present as He is worshipped.

“I will make them… know that I have loved you.” It won’t be hard for people to see that the Lord loved the church. We will return with Him having been resurrected or raptured. Every eye will see us, too. We will have glorified physical bodies that are similar to our Lord’s resurrection body. We will be holy and unblemished. We will be perfect. Transformed by His love.

Rev 3:10  Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.

The Philadelphians were promised 100% they would be “[kept] from the hour of trial.” The “hour of trial” is the seven-year Great Tribulation that will be meticulously described in chapters 6-19.

There is no Great Tribulation for the church.

First, the words “keep you from” literally translate to “keep you out of.”
Second, the church will be kept out of the entire period of time – not somehow be kept safe through it.
Third, when Jesus said they “kept [His] command to persevere,” He wasn’t exhorting them to persevere during the Great Tribulation. It is past tense. They had already persevered in their walk and work and witness, and they would be delivered from the Great Tribulation entirely.

Since the church is not going to be on the earth during the Great Tribulation, it presupposes that the Lord will return to resurrect the dead in Christ, and to rapture living believers, before the Great Tribulation.

The Great Tribulation will “test those who dwell on the earth.”
“Those who dwell on the earth are nonbelievers. In Revelation 17:8 you read, “those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life…”

God gives them opportunity to repent. It’s why we call this series in the Revelation, The Grace of Wrath. God will be pouring out His wrath, yet still offering salvation by grace to sinners. In His wrath God remembers mercy and calls out, through many means, to every human being on the planet, urging them to repent and receive the forgiveness of their sins, and eternal life.

The Great Tribulation is not to prove or purify the church. Jesus does that a different way:

Eph 5:25 …Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,
Eph 5:26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,
Eph 5:27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.

Jesus is not going to purify His church by leaving us on the earth to suffer the wrath of God.

“No Great Tribulation for you!”

#2 – New Jerusalem Awaits You (v11-13)

Have you seen somewhere online, Hilarious Misspelled Tattoos? There are several examples of where they were going for No Regrets, but the finished tattoo reads, No Regerts. Then there are these:

You Only Life Once
Never Don’t Give Up
It’s Get Better
No Pen, No Gain
Thunder Only Happens When Its Raisin

An honorable mention goes to one full back piece, that gets three points of the compass wrong.

I mention tattoos because there is a chance you might be inked in Heaven. (Hold that thought).

Rev 3:11  Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.

“Quickly” doesn’t mean soon. It’s that word from which we get our word tachometer. When you put the pedal to the metal in your car, the tach redlines all at once.

Jesus is coming “quickly,” and before the Great Tribulation. It is the Doctrine of Imminence.

The Bible mentions different “crowns” as potential rewards for believers. For example, every believer gets the crown of life as a result of salvation; but only those who die for Jesus get the martyr’s crown.

Coupled with His command to “hold fast,” I think Jesus meant to motivate us to go for it serving Him now so that we can earn even more crowns, even more rewards.

The word translated “hold fast” means to seize. Remember the popularity of the phrase, Carpe diem, “Seize the day?” “Crown” in Latin is corona. “Seize the crown” would be, Carpe corona. Alas, thanks to the corona virus, another great slogan bites the dust.

“That no one may take your crown” can’t mean your crown can be stolen. It’s in Heaven, where we are told no thief can enter in and steal.

Let’s say God has a work for you, but you refuse to perform it. God will raise up someone else to do it. They will take the crown you could have received.

Rev 3:12  He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.

Are you an overcomer? If you are a believer, you are. The apostle John wrote elsewhere, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (First John 5:4-5).

It is the Christian who overcomes,
not the overcomer who becomes a Christian

Jesus promised them, and us, that we all are going to be “pillars” in Heaven. You’re familiar with calling someone a “pillar in the community.” Every one of us will be “pillars” in the community of saints.

“He shall go out no more.” One of the songs we sing, Golden City, captures the sense of this:

Soon your trials will be over
Offered up by mercy’s hand
A better view than where you’re standing
A doorway to another land
We will meet in the Golden City in the New Jerusalem
All our pain and all our tears will be no more

Rev 3:12 … I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.

We will see the New Jerusalem at the end of the Revelation. It isn’t Jerusalem, in the Middle East, rebuilt. It is a city being built, that comes down out of Heaven and is in orbit above the earth.

It’s the brilliant, pearl-gated jeweled city whose streets are made of gold, where our mansions are being prepared for us by Jesus.

If you have a problem now with tattoos, you’re really gonna have trouble in Heaven. Jesus is going to ink you. You’re going to get at least three lettering tattoos:

“The Name of My God.”
“The name if the city of My God, the New Jerusalem.”
“My [i.e., Jesus’] new name.”

I’m having some fun with this idea of being tattooed. But there are other passages in which believers are said to be marked:

✎ In Ezekiel 9:4 we read, “Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it.”
✎ In Revelation 7:3-4 we read, “Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed…

You won’t have any regerts. You might want to think about fonts and colors.

Rev 3:13  “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

This is the common closing to these letters. We should always approach God’s Word expecting Him to speak to us through it.

The United States is the one country in the world that has historically been the place everyone wants to live.

“A shining city on a hill.” Ronald Reagan loved the phrase. He used it over and over again to describe his vision for America.

No one talks about living the French dream, or the Cuban dream. It’s the American dream that motivates people to risk everything to get here.

Taking nothing away from the Great Communicator, or from the American dream…

Achieving the American dream can make the future Kingdom of God seem less urgent to us.

Those more in need… Who are oppressed… Persecuted… You who are weary… Weak… Grieving… Sick… Dying. The Kingdom of God is their city.

We are not home. We therefore ought to be constantly homesick. It is the sick who appreciate the physician. And that includes being homesick.

A.W. Tozer said it better: “In nature, everything moves towards the direction of its hungers. In the spiritual world it is not otherwise. We gravitate toward our inward longing, provided of course that those longings are strong enough.”