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.

Jonathan: Warrior Prince

Have you heard of Audie Murphy? After Pearl Harbor, at 17 years old, he lied about his age so he could join the army. He first saw action in 1943. By the end of the war, Audie received every combat award for valor the U.S. had to offer. He won French and Belgian awards for heroism as well. He became the most decorated soldier for combat action in U.S. military history.

It’s easier to remember some of the bigger names from World War II, like Patton, Eisenhower, or MacArthur. But Audie’s heroics are the stuff of legend. He fought in France, in Sicily, and the liberation of Rome. During one battle, he ordered his men to fall back from an onslaught of tanks and infantrymen. Alone, he mounted an abandoned, burning tank destroyer and, with a single machine gun, contested the enemy’s advance. Wounded in the leg during the heavy fire, Murphy remained there for nearly an hour, repelling the attack of German soldiers on three sides.

In 1955, Audie played himself in the hit film To Hell And Back, which was based on his actions during the war. The movie held the record as Universal Studio’s highest-grossing film for 20 years.

1 Samuel is full of unforgettable characters. But perhaps the most inspiring is Saul’s son Jonathan. It can be easy to overlook his life or at least find it overshadowed by some of the other personalities in the book. He lived during an incredible period of change and transition in the history of Israel, and his story is surrounded by two of the most dramatic characters in all the Old Testament: David and Saul. David, of course, is the poet-king, the giant slayer, the sweet psalmist of Israel, the ancestor of the Messiah. He has his own covenant with God! Obviously, he’s a big deal. And then we have Saul, Israel’s first king, who starts with such power and promise but takes a path of pride, selfishness, and paranoia. We watch in horror as his heart-breaking story turns tragic.

In the midst of all of that, we have this other character – Jonathan. He’s truly remarkable. He’s part judge, part prophet, part prince. He’s a bold warrior and a loving family man. He’s deeply devoted to God and to the people of God, and he does not flinch, even in the hardest of circumstances.

Charles Ellicott wrote this:

“The character of the princely son of Saul is one of the most beautiful in the Old Testament story. He was the type of a true warrior of those wild, half-barbarous times—among brave men seemingly the bravest—a perfect soldier, whether fighting as a simple man-at-arms or as the general of an army—chivalrous and generous—utterly free from jealousy—a fervid believer in the God of Israel—a devoted and loyal son—a true patriot in the highest sense of the word, who sealed a devoted life by a noble death, dying as he did fighting for his king and his people. The long and steady friendship of Jonathan no doubt had a powerful and enduring influence on the after life of the greatest of the Hebrew sovereigns. The words, the unselfish, beautiful love, and, above all, the splendid example of the ill-fated son of Saul, have no doubt given their colouring to many of the noblest utterances in David’s Psalms and to not a few of the most heroic deeds in David’s life.”

I want us to look at Jonathan’s life from 3 perspectives: Jonathan the warrior, Jonathan the friend, and Jonathan the son. We’re given more than one story from each angle. In each, we’ll see how brightly he shines and serves for us as both instruction and inspiration.

Tonight, we want to learn from Jonathan as a warrior. The account of his life falls between 1 Samuel 13 and 31, beginning and ending on the battlefield.

Some context might help. Jonathan lived about 1,000 or 1,100 years before Christ’s birth. The nation of Israel was coming out of the time of the Judges, which was about 300 years of “political, moral, and spiritual anarchy and deterioration.” During this time, the Philistines are the main antagonists of God’s people. They had a lot of power and technology and determination. They had huge armed forces, not only in numbers but also in stature. We remember that giants like Goliath lived with and fought for the Philistines. We’re don’t know for certain, but using our best estimates, it seems that Jonathan is in his late teens or early twenties when he’s introduced to us in 1 Samuel 13.

1 Samuel 13:2 – 2 [Saul] chose three thousand men from Israel for himself: two thousand were with Saul at Michmash and in Bethel’s hill country, and one thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin. He sent the rest of the troops away, each to his own tent.

The people of Israel had demanded a king, and God allowed it. After a great victory against the Ammonites, Saul retains a relatively small force, two-thirds with him, one-third with his son about four and a half miles apart in these two places. In-between was Geba, where the Philistines had established a garrison.

1 Samuel 13:3-4 – 3 Jonathan attacked the Philistine garrison, in [Geba], and the Philistines heard about it. So Saul blew the ram’s horn throughout the land saying, “Let the Hebrews hear!”, 4 And all Israel heard the news, “Saul has attacked the Philistine garrison, and Israel is now repulsive to the Philistines.” Then the troops were summoned to join Saul at Gilgal.

What we find throughout Jonathan’s story is that he was a man of selfless courage who consistently sought out ways to glorify God and His anointed one. He did so at great personal expense, great peril, and sometimes he had to do it alone, but he did not falter in his faithfulness or his daring or his expectation that God was going to do things on behalf of His people.

Some commentators suggest that Jonathan simply tore down a Philistine pillar or flagstaff. Others suggest that he only assassinated one official in Gibeah, but it seems clear that the plain meaning is what happened. Jonathan took his 1,000 soldiers and destroyed this military outpost.

This action kicked off a major fight between Israel and the Philistines. But the little footnote we see there is that Saul was taking credit for the win at Gibeah.

Two things are important to note: First, as readers who love Jonathan and (rightly) disapprove of Saul, we think, “Hey, that’s not your victory!” But, the truth is, Jonathan wasn’t fighting for his own glory. He was fighting in the service of the king. His accomplishments did belong to the crown. And that leads us to our second important note: Jonathan does not complain. Later in the book, we see Saul complaining, right? He gets mad when he hears the song that “Saul has slain his thousands but David his ten thousands.” But Jonathan doesn’t complain or demand recognition. His heart is empty of selfish ambition. Even though he didn’t get his well-earned accolades that day, look what God did. Because Jonathan honored the Lord, the Lord ultimately honored him and made him shine like a star in the heavens. The truth is recorded and has been proclaimed for 3,000 years.

There’s another devotional application for us here – sometimes serving God will make us “repulsive” to the unbelieving world. Of course, these were real battles, with real lives lost. Naturally, the Philistines weren’t happy about being attacked, but going God’s way will sometimes lead to a backlash from the world. If that happens, don’t compromise. Rally to the Lord, rally to His people, and be strong and courageous.

In response to Jonathan’s attack, the Philistines amassed a vast army. Thousands of chariots. Troops as numerous as the sand on the seashore. The Israelites were terrified, and they fled to caves and thickets, anywhere they could go to escape the danger. It is then that Saul offered his unlawful sacrifice, and the Lord sent Samuel to say, “I’m giving the kingdom to David.”

That’s the context of what we read in verse 23:

1 Samuel 13:23 – 23 Now a Philistine garrison took control of the pass at Michmash.

Michmash is where Saul had stationed himself with 2,000 troops in verse 1. Not long before that, in 1 Samuel 11, three hundred and thirty thousand soldiers had rallied to Saul to help deliver Jabesh-Gilead. But, by this point in 1 Samuel 13, Saul had sent 99% of them away. And now, after a stunning victory by Jonathan, Saul has lost his own position and had to fall back.

1 Samuel 14:1 – That same day Saul’s son Jonathan said to the attendant who carried his weapons, “Come on, let’s cross over to the Philistine garrison on the other side.” However, he did not tell his father.

From the human perspective, their circumstances were terrible. Yet, Jonathan was hopeful and wanted to go out and glorify God. Make no mistake about it – they were in real trouble here. Because, not only had they lost 2,400 of their 3,000 troops, but a few verses earlier, you read that in this whole group, there were only two swords – one for Jonathan, one for Saul.

After taking stock of these circumstances, Jonathan thinks, “That’s plenty! Let’s see what we can do!” This is a great mentality for ministry. We’re not just supposed to do things for the sake of doing them, as we’ll see that’s not what Jonathan is doing here, but you don’t have to wait for a ton of resources to do God’s work. More resources can be helpful and can, sometimes, increase the scope or the reach of your efforts, but all of us can go out and do what we’ve been called to do right now. After all, Jesus sent the 12 out with nothing but a walking stick. No bread, no extra shirt, no money in their belts. God can do a lot through a little. Five loaves and two fish. One smooth stone in a sling. A widow’s two mites.

We see, too, that Jonathan was not impulsive. He’s thoughtful. He chooses not to notify his father of what he was doing, undoubtedly because Saul would’ve forbidden him from doing it. The king was sitting around under a tree, not doing what needed to be done, so Jonathan did not feel the need to be held back by him. Saul sits while Jonathan seeks.

1 Samuel 14:4-7 – 4 There were sharp columns of rock on both sides of the pass that Jonathan intended to cross to reach the Philistine garrison. One was named Bozez and the other Seneh; 5 one stood to the north in front of Michmash and the other to the south in front of Geba. 6 Jonathan said to the attendant who carried his weapons, “Come on, let’s cross over to the garrison of these uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will help us. Nothing can keep the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.” 7 His armor-bearer responded, “Do what is in your heart. Go ahead! I’m completely with you.”

Jonathan’s perspective here is a great one. “We need help. God will help us. And He will help us through our effort and obedience.” But he makes no demands of God. He said, “Perhaps the Lord will help us.” He was courageous and daring, but he’s submitted to God’s will.

We also see that Jonathan had no interest in living at peace with the Philistines. Saul is waiting around, hoping the battle won’t come. He does the same thing during the Goliath incident. Not Jonathan. He knows what God has provided and called them to do, and his fervent faith inspired those around him to join in the Lord’s work, which was hard, dangerous work.

This pass that they had to cross would’ve been covered in thorn bushes, very difficult to navigate. It would leave them exposed to the enemy – no surprise attack. But Jonathan did not shrink.

1 Samuel 14:8-14 – 8 “All right,” Jonathan replied, “we’ll cross over to the men and then let them see us. 9 If they say, ‘Wait until we reach you,’ then we will stay where we are and not go up to them. 10 But if they say, ‘Come on up,’ then we’ll go up, because the Lord has handed them over to us—that will be our sign.” 11 They let themselves be seen by the Philistine garrison, and the Philistines said, “Look, the Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they’ve been hiding!” 12 The men of the garrison called to Jonathan and his armor-bearer. “Come on up, and we’ll teach you a lesson!” they said. “Follow me,” Jonathan told his armor-bearer, “for the Lord has handed them over to Israel.” 13 Jonathan climbed up using his hands and feet, with his armor-bearer behind him. Jonathan cut them down, and his armor-bearer followed and finished them off. 14 In that first assault Jonathan and his armor-bearer struck down about twenty men in a half-acre field.

While so many other Israeli soldiers were hiding in fear or had even defected, Jonathan willingly showed himself to his enemies, knowing that if God was for him, none could be against him. As we read the account, it is, again, clear that Jonathan wasn’t acting for personal glory. His plan was bold, but he waited for identifiable leading before he proceeded.

Crawling up on his hands and feet would mean that he had no weapon at the ready. His faith is breath-taking. And, even in victory, we see his heart. He said in verse 12, “the Lord has handed them over to Israel.” Not “to me,” but to Israel. God’s glory and God’s people were his focus.

As a result of this attack, the Philistines fell into confusion, and the army started melting away. Rather than take advantage of this miracle God was working on their behalf, Saul uses his time to find out, “Who left the camp without my permission?” Finally, he realizes what an incredible opportunity he’s about to waste and he finally joins the fight.

1 Samuel 14:21-23 – 21 There were Hebrews from the area who had gone earlier into the camp to join the Philistines, but even they joined the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan. 22 When all the Israelite men who had been hiding in the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were fleeing, they also joined Saul and Jonathan in the battle. 23 So the Lord saved Israel that day.

When God moves, it’s not just about adding numbers to our side. Look at the transformation happening here: Men who were too scared to come out into the light of day – men who had turned traitor and had defected to the enemy were now coming back into the fold and were received into the ranks. All because Jonathan walked by faith. Jonathan was the instrument God used to set off this rescue of Israel that day. The Lord saved them from their enemies and, in the case of these defectors, God saved them from themselves. What great grace!

This moment of reconciliation helps us notice something else that’s so wonderful about Jonathan’s life: In many ways, he prefigures the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. In fact, the name “Jonathan” means “the gift of Jehovah,” reminding us of the ultimate gift God would give through Jesus.

In our passages tonight, what comparisons might we make?

First, Jonathan did not seek his own glory. His thoughts were always about God and God’s anointed and God’s people. Jesus said in John 8, verse 50, “I do not seek My own glory.” And, throughout His life, we see that Jesus took the form of a Servant, the ultimate Servant, in His mission to do God’s will. Jonathan, too, lived as a servant. He didn’t have to. He had brothers who were princes with him. His own father often refused to serve or humble himself. But not Jonathan. We’ll see an even greater depth of his servant’s heart when it comes to his relationship with Saul and with David.

Jonathan also prefigures Christ in the way he fought the enemy, head on. With his own hands, his own efforts, his own strength he fought the most important battles when everyone else was powerless to defend themselves. And, on top of that, he brought others with him into victory. Whether it was 1,000 men or just one armor-bearer, he was always inviting people to join him. It’s clear from the story in chapter 14 that Jonathan did not need of his armor-bearer, but he brought him along anyway and included him on that incredible adventure. Saul constantly sent people away, drove people away, isolated himself. Jonathan made it his business to seek out others and encourage them, fight alongside them, and build them up.

In that scene with the garrison and the armor-bearer, only Jonathan had a sword. It reminds us that, as we follow the Prince of Peace, He’s the only One with a sword. We don’t fight with our own weapons, but the one He supplies.

Like Jesus, Jonathan was willing to receive traitors back into the fold. Not all the Israelites simply ran away when the Philistines came against them. Many joined their enemies as defectors. And there’s Jonathan, ready to welcome them home. They didn’t deserve it – they deserved death – but his heart was full of compassion and grace toward people.

Jonathan’s story has been preserved to inspire us and instruct us – to show us an example of serving God passionately and faithfully and without fear. But it also gives us a passing glimpse of the Savior. What Jonathan was in his greatest, Jesus is in His smallest. He, too, is a victorious warrior, who didn’t conquer a Philistine stronghold or two, He defeated death and the grave and sin and the Devil. Prince Jonathan’s brightness is nothing in comparison to the unmatchable splendor of the Prince of Peace. As we look at the son of Saul, it should excite our hearts to love and honor and follow the Son of God.

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).

Prophecy Update #656 – COVID-19 Accelerant

We focus on Bible prophecy each week, calling it a “Prophecy Update.”

We are considered futurists. We interpret the unfulfilled prophetic portions of the Book of the Revelation and the Book of Daniel, and all other unfulfilled prophecies, as future events in a literal, physical, apocalyptic, and global context.

Does COVID19 have anything to do with Bible prophecy? Not directly. Indirectly it has rapidly accelerated expected prophetic trends.

For example, the Revelation predicts a contactless payment system utilizing a person’s hand or forehead. A recent article was titled, The Growth Of Contactless Payments During The Covid19 Pandemic.

Excerpts:

The rise of contactless has been a key feature of this year, as the Covid19 pandemic merely accelerated what was already becoming more popular. With governments encouraging contact-free options to reduce the spread of the virus, the use of these payment methods has boomed. 

There has been a 30% increase in the use of contactless payments since the outbreak of the pandemic. During the early times of Covid19 pandemic, it was observed that there was a sharp rise in adoption of contactless payments all over the globe.

It is safe to say that the future of financial transactions is in favor of contactless payments.

https://thefintechtimes.com/the-growth-of-contactless-payments-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/

Another article reported, “What was previously considered future technology has been deployed ahead of schedule and is being refined with real-world data.”

The world of the future Great Tribulation will be a surveillance tyranny in which governments can track and control your every move.

COVID19 has people leaning toward sacrificing rights for what they think is the greater good.

Another article reported, “Even as the frenzy of emergency responses begins to subside, the emergent forms of surveillance that have accompanied this new normal persist. As a consequence, societies face new questions about how to manage the monitoring systems created in response to the virus, what processes are required in order to immunize populations, and what new norms the systems have generated.”

One researcher warned, “Moments of crisis often recast the roles of governments and the rights of individuals.”

COVID19 is not a pestilence predicted in the Bible. But it is accelerating trends that we expect from our reading of Bible prophecy.

We believe the resurrection and rapture of the church is imminent. It could happen any moment; nothing needs to happen before it. It will happen before the Great Tribulation.

Jesus will return in the clouds.
He will raise the dead in Christ.
He will transform the bodies of living believers to glorified, resurrection bodies.

We will all join Him in Heaven while the earth endures one final seven-year campaign of severe evangelism.

Are you ready for the rapture? If not, Get ready; Stay ready; Keep looking up.

Ready or not, Jesus is coming!

These Are The Days (Acts 28:17-31)

Many of you have been in the Valley long enough to have experienced the head-scratching anomaly that was 104.9FM. For over a year in the late ’90s, if you tuned to that station, you would hear Creedence Clearwater Revival’s rendition of I Heard It Through The Grapevine on repeat, day and night. You can find forum posts where people ask about this legendary oddity. Dig a little more and you’ll find reports on it in both the LA Times and the Washington Post. There were “No commercials, no traffic reports, no deejays,” just one song again and again.

At the time the station was owned by Lemoore Wireless Co. and broadcast from Tipton. “Local radio executives speculate(d) that whoever got the license had money for a transmitter but (hadn’t) set up a studio.” After an innumerable number of repeats, whoever was behind the desk at KZZC made “…a shocking change and switched to different music: the Gladys Knight version of the song.”

We’ve come to the last page of Acts. It ends in much the same way that it began: With a Christian proclaiming a message of salvation, founded on the Word of God. You could let Acts fall open at random and find the same thing happening in some place or another. Whether it was Jerusalem or Caesarea, Malta or Rome, prison or palace, a dungeon cell or a city square, this same song was repeated time and time again. Decades had gone by since Jesus ascended into the clouds, and a whole lot of fantastic things had happened, but beneath it all was the same melody, the same lyrics. God had come, was coming again, and was ready to save anyone who would turn to Him.

The last scene is not between Paul and Nero. It’s not between Paul and one of the war-hardened Roman soldiers he’d be tethered to for the next two years. It’s not a meeting of Timothy, Paul, Silas and Luke. No, it’s yet another sermon being given to some Jews who had gathered together. But, of course, it’s more than that. It’s a sermon and example to us as well.

Acts 28:17 – 17 After three days he called together the leaders of the Jews. When they had gathered he said to them, “Brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors, I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.

Despite all he had been through, we see that Paul was ready to get to work in Rome. In the midst of getting a place to live, going through administrative protocol of being handed off to the Praetorian Guard, he found time to write an invitation and have it sent to the leaders of the synagogues in town.

Some commentators feel that Paul had a political motivation for this meeting – that he was trying to feel out the Jewish community and see how they might react at his upcoming trial. But others point out that this was always Paul’s pattern when he came to a new city: To speak first to God’s people, the Jews, and then bring the message to the Gentiles.

William Barclay writes:

“There is something infinitely wonderful in the fact that…wherever he went, Paul began with the Jews. For…more than thirty years now they had been doing everything they could to hinder him, to undo his work, and even to kill him…yet it is to them first he offers his message.”

He opens the conversation by calling them brothers and assuring them that he was not their enemy. This is a reminder that I know I need in my own life. Our enemies are not our enemies. At least, we should learn to see them as lost and helpless, rather than as opponents to be defeated. Our Lord said: “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Matthew Poole writes:

“The whole economy of the gospel is a doing good for evil.”

Paul wasn’t their enemy. Look how gracious he was to leave out the murder plot, the illegalities of his arrest, the lies and the politicking. Why? Because he was so concerned that they be saved.

Acts 28:18 – 18 After they examined me, they wanted to release me, since there was no reason for the death penalty in my case.

Politicians are famous for pandering to a certain demographic to get votes and then, once they’re in power, their true colors come out. A few weeks ago an article was being widely shared which said, “Pro-life evangelicals for Biden feel ‘used and betrayed’” by his policies. Now, in that case, President Biden hadn’t misled anyone. He had made many pro-abortion promises. But, Paul wasn’t just saying he wasn’t anti-Jewish. A string of courts and officials had concluded the same thing. Lysias and Felix and Festus and Agrippa all recognized this man didn’t hate the Jews. But then why, after such a long and careful legal process, wasn’t he released? We saw why: The powers that be were unwilling to stand for what was right and true, choosing instead to bow to pressure and pick the routes that were the most advantageous to themselves.

Acts 28:19 – 19 Because the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar; even though I had no charge to bring against my people.

Paul felt no grudge toward his people, but felt this appeal was necessary for his survival. There were times that Paul used the legal system and claimed his rights. It happened in Philippi and Jerusalem. But there’s a difference between what he feels is necessary here and using the legal system to attack others. That’s not what Paul did. He didn’t countersue anyone. Though he had been maligned and mistreated, he goes out of his way to assure them that he has no quarrel with them.

We live in a time where Christians and ministries are becoming more and more willing to attack opponents with lawsuits. We need to be very careful and, as always, remember that grace is the way forward. There are times to involve courts, but it’s not every time.

Acts 28:20 – 20 For this reason I’ve asked to see you and speak to you. In fact, it is for the hope of Israel that I’m wearing this chain.”

The hope of Israel was a technical term that would’ve grabbed the attention of these Jewish leaders. The prophet Jeremiah spoke of “the hope of Israel” as God Himself who would leave His throne and arrive as a Savior in time of distress.

Paul expresses to the Jews that his wish is to be at peace with them and to notify them about the coming of the Messiah.

When Jesus arrived He reveled that the hope of Israel was so much more than the simple liberation from Rome. The hope included not only a Savior and Sovereign, but resurrection from the dead and the promise of a future state in glory. This was important news that the nation had missed.

Acts 28:21 – 21 Then they said to him, “We haven’t received any letters about you from Judea. None of the brothers has come and reported or spoken anything evil about you.

These Roman Jews keep things close to the vest, but it seems true that they hadn’t received any tidings concerning Paul’s case. After all the trouble of the previous years, had the accusers in Jerusalem simply given up? It’s possible that their message hadn’t arrived yet – communication by sea was suspended during winter months. Or, it’s possible that they knew, having lost multiple court cases, there was no point in trying again before Nero.

Acts 28:22 – 22 But we want to hear what your views are, since we know that people everywhere are speaking against this sect.”

Rumors had begun to spread about these Christians – that they did all manner of immorality in their meetings. They would be accused of cannibalism, and detestable, criminal superstition. There’s a piece of ancient graffiti found in Rome, they think maybe from the year 200 AD, which shows a Christian worshipping a man with a donkey’s head being crucified. Though it assuredly wasn’t carved on the wall yet in Paul’s time, it demonstrates that Christians were not held in reverence.

But, to the credit of Paul’s guests, they were willing to hear a presentation about Jesus. Why? We have to speculate a bit, but for one thing, clearly Paul did not fit the caricature of Christianity that they had in mind. This was no mad, licentious cannibal. Here was a man full of grace, with Scripture on his tongue, discussing the Messiah who brings salvation to lost mankind.

What are the caricatures of Christianity today? Let’s not live up to them! Of course, many of them are unfair and wildly inaccurate. We note that Paul didn’t waste time arguing about cannibalism. Rather, his efforts were toward speaking the truth and winning people. And, because of his heart and the way he carried himself, they realized, “This guy has something to say.”

As Christians, there’s no point in us wasting our time with fluff. We’ve got a Messiah to communicate to people who are a few breaths from hell. When churches slip into a style of entertainment and feel-goodery self-help, they miss the point. The Gospel isn’t supposed to be the same as every Wellness YouTuber. It’s the power of God unto salvation. It’s the news that the Messiah has come and He’s coming again. Paul got that idea across and it made these Jews want to hear more.

Acts 28:23 – 23 After arranging a day with him, many came to him at his lodging. From dawn to dusk he expounded and testified about the kingdom of God. He tried to persuade them about Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets.

A larger crowd came this time. Paul talked with them all day. Twelve hours. This is another one of those sermons that we wish was recorded for us, like Jesus’ message on the Road to Emmaus or Philip’s talk with the Ethiopian Eunuch. But, the truth is, we can piece together these sermons. We’re given all the study material! God’s word is here for us, waiting to be discovered bit by bit, day by day, as we dive into it and see God’s heart, His work, His plan, His Kingdom.

We see that Paul used the Torah, he used prophecy, he talked about Christ, he talked about eschatology. This was a very well-balanced approach to Scripture, taking the whole counsel of God and bringing it together in his effort to convince them. He tried to persuade them about Jesus. To Paul, this wasn’t just a casual talk like you have about which restaurant you should choose for lunch. It was like a hostage negotiation. Lives were hanging in the balance.

Acts 28:24 – 24 Some were persuaded by what he said, but others did not believe.

You know what this shows us? There is no magic method, verse, series of phrases or questions that will guarantee someone will receive Christ. These people were steeped in the Old Testament – they were faithful Jews – they had voluntarily come to hear Paul that day and they listened for 12 hours and still some did not believe. Sometimes we think, “Well if I was a better preacher or had more knowledge,” or, “If that person heard a great evangelist, then they’d get saved.” Listen: We’re called to grow in our knowledge, but even the great evangelists of history didn’t turn every heart. Because it is a heart issue. In the end, a person must make the choice whether they will taste and see that the Lord is good, whether they will take refuge in Him or face eternity alone.

Acts 28:25 – 25 Disagreeing among themselves, they began to leave after Paul made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah

This is an important doctrinal verse. First, we see another reference to the Trinity. Proverbs, speaking of God, says, “Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name and what is the name of His Son?” And here, from Isaiah 6, we are shown the Holy Spirit, who speaks and acts. And that’s a second important doctrine we see here: The doctrine of inspiration. Paul is definitively saying that the Holy Spirit inspired the words written through this man, Isaiah.

Acts 28:26-27 – 26 when he said, Go to these people and say: You will always be listening, but never understanding; and you will always be looking, but never perceiving. 27 For the hearts of these people have grown callous, their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.

Paul had gone to lengths to show he wasn’t against these Jews, but he wasn’t just pandering to them, either. He rebuked the unbelievers and told them the truth. Like Isaiah, he (and we) have been sent to “go to these people and say.” Say what? Say that sin separates them from God and that sin will drag them into hell unless they are born again. That’s not what we want and it’s not what God wants. He’s ready to receive any traitor, heal any wound. But a person must be willing to soften their heart and turn toward Him in faith and surrender.

At the same time, there’s a solemn warning here for those of us listening tonight. It isn’t only the Jews who were able to harden their heart to the word of God. Ours can harden too. Hebrews tells us, “Encourage each other daily…so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception.” And then, “Do not harden your hearts.” We’re called to guard our hearts in Proverbs. God is still speaking and leading and requiring of us. We don’t want to settle and harden into some sort of traditionalism the way the Jews had. Instead, we should take up the words of Hosea, chapter 10:

Hosea 10:12 – 12 Sow righteousness for yourselves and reap faithful love; break up your unplowed ground. It is time to seek the Lord until he comes and sends righteousness on you like the rain.

This is why we believe in the regular, systematic teaching of the Bible. It’s why we try to prioritize prayer and being in God’s presence. It’s why we try to avoid traditionalism and legalism. So that our hearts can be plowed up, soft and ready for that planting or growing the Lord wants to accomplish.

Acts 28:28 – 28 Therefore, let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”

Stanley Toussaint (and others) call this the climax of the whole book. I wonder what the soliders thought as they sat there? They probably had 6 hour shifts, so there were at least 2 who had listened in that day. Do you think, back at the barracks they talked to each other? They were normal people, like us. “Hey, did you hear what that guy was talking about?” “Yeah. But you didn’t hear the end – he said this has to do with us Gentiles too.” We know that, because of Paul’s two years in chains, the Gospel did spread through the whole Imperial Guard.

Acts 28:29 (NKJV) – 29 And when he had said these words, the Jews departed and had a great dispute among themselves.

This verse is probably omitted or bracketed in your Bible. It’s not in many manuscripts. Not to worry, even if it was an addition, the content has already been alluded to up in verses 24 and 25.

Acts 28:30-31 – 30 Paul stayed two whole years in his own rented house. And he welcomed all who visited him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

Paul was still open to receive anyone because the Lord is ready to receive anyone. He welcomes all who come to Him. During these years Paul would write Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians and Philemon. And we get a sweet, devotional reminder that your home is a place for ministry of all sorts. Not just in hospitality or by having a Bible study meet there. God works through His people in all sorts of ways. The dinner table and the writing desk, the talk with the kids while you’re putting them to bed and the prayer on the couch with your spouse. There was no Hall of Tyrannus for Paul to lecture in these 2 years. No Mars Hill or temple visits. Yet, we’re told the ministry went on and went out without hindrance.

How can it be that he wasn’t hindered while chained to a guard under house arrest, with a thorn in his flesh? That was his reality, but none of it could stop the work of God. In fact, he never complained about his chains. He wore them like a garment, or a tool belt to do a different kind of work for the Lord.

The circumstances weren’t ideal, but they also weren’t decisive. Because, as we were told at the very beginning, what we’ve been reading for these last 28 chapters is the story of what Jesus began to do and teach. And now, two thousand years later, the story goes on. These are the days of God’s continuing work through His people, who have been sent out further than ever before, to every corner of the world. No longer are we limited to wooden boats sailing the Mediterranean Sea. No longer are we waiting for Luke to finish his books. It’s all been handed on to us.

I can’t help but wonder: Did Theophilus believe? Was he convinced about all these things? More importantly, are we? Seeing what we’ve seen it’s made abundantly clear that God’s work continues. You and I now take up the next chapters of the saga. We’re not called to copy what we’ve seen but continue it. In that sense, here tonight might there be some 21st century Barnabas or Lydia? Some Cornelius or Tabitha or Timothy or Priscilla? Some Apollos or Simon the leather tanner?

These are the days of Christ’s acts through us. The song remains the same. God has spoken through His word. The Messiah has come with salvation in His hand. He’s coming again to establish His Kingdom. We are to spread the word and be full of His glorious life while we wait, watch and welcome others to join in.

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.

Prophecy Update #655 – Where Have All The Dollars Gone?

We focus on Bible prophecy each week, calling it a “Prophecy Update.”

We are considered futurists. We interpret the unfulfilled prophetic portions of the Book of the Revelation and the Book of Daniel, and all other unfulfilled prophecies, as future events in a literal, physical, apocalyptic, and global context.

All indicators in the Book of the Revelation suggest there will be a global, cashless economy leading up to and during the seven-year Great Tribulation.

You would expect the governments of the world to be trending that way…And they are.

forbes.com posted an article titled, China’s Digital Currency Is About To Disrupt Money

Excerpts:

A lengthy article in The Wall Street Journal titled, China creates its own digital currency, a first for major economy, outlines the likely impact of Beijing’s initiative and the strategic possibilities it offers in terms of avoiding US blockades of its companies, how this will boost its role in international transactions, while allowing it to monitor its economy in real time.

The system offers the Chinese government total control over transactions.

The short and medium-term future is more than clear: we can prepare for a scenario with digital dollars and euros sooner rather than later. More than 60 countries have initiated moves to study the issuance of such currencies.

We now face a situation many thought impossible: the disruption of money. The repercussions will be huge.

Another article reported:

To date, countries that have issued their own cryptocurrencies include Ecuador, China, Senegal, Singapore, Tunisia, though these countries will not be standing alone for long with Estonia, Japan, Palestine, Russia and Sweden looking to launch their own national cryptocurrencies. Some of these countries are likely to take it a step further and replace paper tender altogether with China being one nation that is looking to take one step beyond a virtual and paper version.

Cashless, digital economies are what we expected would emerge…And here they come.

We believe the resurrection and rapture of the church are imminent. It could happen any moment; nothing needs to happen before it. It will happen before the Great Tribulation.

Jesus will return in the clouds.
He will raise the dead in Christ.
He will transform the bodies of living believers to glorified, resurrection bodies.

We will all join Him in Heaven while the earth endures one final seven-year campaign of severe evangelism.
Are you ready for the rapture? If not, Get ready; Stay ready; Keep looking up.

Ready or not, Jesus is coming!

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.”

Prophecy Update #654 – Feeling Chipper

These are exciting times for believers in Christ who are interested in Bible prophecy. Many things that are suggested by unfulfilled future prophecies seem to be trending like never before.

We reserve a few minutes Sunday morning to discuss some of those things.

✎ We are careful to use recognized, reliable sources for news and information.
✎ We’re not saying the things we report are the fulfillment of prophecy – only that they are the things you’d expect from reading the Bible literally.

We have long pointed to implanted microchips as consistent with the prediction that in the Great Tribulation a “mark” on the hand will be necessary.

Once dismissed as being absurd, microchipping is making a comeback.

Listen to this headline: Pentagon scientists reveal a microchip that senses COVID19 in your body BEFORE you show symptoms.

Excerpts:

The team at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have been working for years on preventing and ending pandemics.

They assess the issues and come up with ingenious solutions, which at times appear more from a science fiction novel than a working laboratory.

One of their recent inventions, they told 60 Minutes on Sunday night, was a microchip which detects COVID infection in an individual before it can become an outbreak.  

The microchip is sure to spark worries among some about a government agency implanting a microchip in a citizen.

Officials who spoke to the 60 Minutes team said the Pentagon isn’t looking to track your every move.

Retired Colonel Matt Hepburn, an army infectious disease physician leading DARPA’s response to the pandemic, showed the 60 Minutes team a tissue-like gel, engineered to continuously test your blood.

“You put it underneath your skin and what that tells you is that there are chemical reactions going on inside the body, and that signal means you are going to have symptoms tomorrow,” he explained.

“It’s like a check engine light,” said Hepburn.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9460389/Pentagon-scientists-invent-microchip-senses-COVID-19-body-symptoms.html

Articles regarding other non-contact transactions using the hand or head are abundant. For example, this week “Amazon said it is rolling out biometric technology at its Whole Foods stores around Seattle starting on Wednesday, letting shoppers pay for items with a scan of their palm. The system, called Amazon One, lets customers associate a credit card with their palm print. It offers a contact-less alternative to cash and card payments.”

https://www.reuters.com/technology/amazon-let-whole-foods-shoppers-pay-with-swipe-their-palm-2021-04-21/

COVID19 has accelerated our acceptance of contactless transactions. We are surrendering privacy in favor of what we think is necessary for our health.

These are things you expect to be occurring in the End Times based upon a literal, futurist reading of the Bible.

We believe the resurrection and rapture of the church are imminent. It could happen any moment; nothing needs to happen before it. It will definitely happen before the Great Tribulation.

Jesus will return in the clouds.
He will raise the dead in Christ.
He will transform the bodies of living believers to glorified, resurrection bodies.

We will all join Him in Heaven while the earth endures one final seven-year campaign of severe evangelism.

Are you ready for the rapture? If not, Get ready; Stay ready; Keep looking up.

Ready or not, Jesus is coming!

A Life In Our Days (Acts 28:11-16)

Last month, Orlando Bloom was asked in an interview about his daily routine. His response turned a lot of heads and led to quite a few parodies on social media and follow-up articles skewering him.

I’ll give you a sample: “I like to earn my breakfast, so I’ll just have some green powders that I mix with brain octane oil, a collagen powder for my hair and nails, and some protein…Then I’ll go for a hike while I listen to some Nirvana or Stone Temple Pilots.” He spends 20 minutes chanting then adds some Buddhist writings to his Instagram Stories. He says he spends, “a lot of…time dreaming about roles for [himself].” By then it’s close to lunch, which consists of “vegetables or a stew. [Orlando says] I will cook at times, but otherwise, there’s a team of people.” Just a regular guy, right?

Our studies in Acts are coming to a close. The last half of the book has focused on the Apostle Paul, who has, admittedly, had some pretty outlandish and astounding day-to-day experiences, including the last few passages. The shipwreck and the miracles on Malta and all that came before it. But as Acts ends, things become surprisingly routine. Luke will not conclude his account with a big, climactic showdown between Paul and Nero, as we might expect. The story doesn’t finish with caesar’s conversion or even Paul’s exoneration. There will be no more miracles recorded in the verses that follow. No salvations either. As far as events go, there’s just a talk with some Jews and a day of preaching to them and a few travel nuts and bolts found in our passage tonight.

We don’t see what we might be expecting. But what we can see is the Christian faith in operation in regular days and regular circumstances. Of course, ‘regular’ doesn’t mean unimportant or unspiritual. Paul was where he was because God had a specific and important task for him. But though we won’t see Paul healing anyone or being busted out of prison, no riots or shipwrecks, yet as he inches toward Rome, the Holy Spirit within him continues His good work. We see in Paul the fruit of God operating in the Christian life. We detect patience, endurance, thankfulness, graciousness, determination, courage, and a willingness to receive help.

This last leg of Paul’s trip to Rome isn’t all about the fantastic. It’s more about the regular faithfulness and family-ness of the Christian life. And it once again shows us how God keeps His promises and moves us forward even when progress may feel slow, or our lives feel routine.

We pick back up in verse 11 as Paul sails out from the island of Malta.

Acts 28:11 – 11 After three months we set sail in an Alexandrian ship that had wintered at the island, with the Twin Gods as its figurehead.

After a long wait in Caesarea and after coming through such danger on the high seas, there was still some waiting to do. Now, Paul and company have made it through winter, and the Italian mainland is immediately to the north. Still, there will be a few delays. A few days here, a week there. And, throughout, Paul continues to model patience and contentment.

Make no mistake about it – he was very determined to get to Rome. He had wanted to get there, not only to preach to the lost but also to encourage the believers for years. He had said in his letter to the Romans, “[I am] always asking in my prayers that if it is somehow in God’s will, I may now, at last, succeed in coming to you [in Rome].” He wrote that he had been prevented “many times” from getting to them. Now he’s closer than ever but still makes progress only a little at a time. But, he remains peaceful and patient, knowing that God will accomplish His good work according to His perfect timing.

Luke points out that this new ship had the twin gods of Castor and Gemini as its figurehead. These were said to be patrons of seafarers and that if you were in a storm and could see the constellation Gemini, it was a good omen.

Those who had been on the first Alexandrian ship with Paul knew that no painted image could save a ship from the Euroclydon, but there was a God who could and did save them: Paul’s God. I’m sure they took much more comfort in the fact that he was aboard with them than some mythological characters carved on the prow.

Of course, there are people out there who put some sort of stock in constellations. They check their horoscope every day and define parts of their personality according to the zodiac. In that same article, Orlando Bloom said, “I’m a Capricorn, so I crave routine.” That’s to be expected out in the world. The heart without Christ is desperate for help and guidance and protection. But let’s look within for a moment. Christians today, in some traditions, put some stock in patron saints. Some branches of the Church suggest you pray to saints, that sort of thing. Even in evangelical protestantism we find God’s people effectively making political figures like patron saints. Sometimes we see people putting the hope and guidance of their lives in the hands of these characters. None of that is necessary or helpful. If you’re a Christian, the Holy Spirit of God lives within you. And day and night, you have Jesus Christ as your Advocate, interceding for you. If you needed a job done at your house, would you ask the high school woodshop student to do it if a professional contractor was willing to do it for free? You don’t need a horoscope or a patron saint.

This scene illustrates real-world experiences for us. We’re surrounded by Godless individuals and companies. We have to make choices about our liberties and how to be in the world but not of it. Can you sail on a ship that has idols on it? Paul acts in a gracious way here. He didn’t refuse to board the ship because of its figurehead. Nor did it defile him in some way to sail on it. Christians are called to be holy and winsome. Let’s be thoughtful when the next boycott comes around.

Acts 28:12 – 12 Putting in at Syracuse, we stayed three days.

This first little jog was 80 miles, putting them onto the island of Sicily. It had been founded by a Corinthian and was, at this point, the capital of the island. Cicero had once called Syracuse “the greatest and most beautiful of all the cities of [the Greek Empire].”

Acts 28:13 – 13 From there, after making a circuit along the coast, we reached Rhegium. After one day a south wind sprang up, and the second day we came to Puteoli.

The ship passed between Sicily and the boot of the Italian mainland. They were having a bit of trouble with the wind until a helpful south wind arose.

This wind brings two principles to mind. First, the Bible talks about the importance of not being a person “blown about by the wind.” Meaning we’re not to be driven by circumstances or by various teachings and doctrines, from one breeze to another. These south winds of Acts 27 and 28 give us a picture. One wind led to disaster, the other to the hoped-for destination. Instead, we’re to grow in our knowledge and intimacy with Christ. We’re to be taught by Him and conformed to His image. His word is unchangeable, and so we are to moor our lives to it and navigate by it.

Second, as the breeze started to blow, I wonder if some of the survivors of the last wreck found their anxiety rising. After all, the south wind had started their long disaster back in chapter 27. Just because we weather one storm doesn’t mean there isn’t another one brewing over the horizon. We tend to think (or hope) that once we’ve made it through a trial, then we no longer have to deal with that kind of difficulty again. But, so many of you know that isn’t true. Sometimes cancer comes back. Sometimes relational breaks aren’t mended. The struggles we face as Christians aren’t like achievements in a video game, where once you beat a level, you’re done with that for good. After all, Paul endured four shipwrecks! Life is full of trouble. But the Lord is always present, and we can always trust Him, just as Paul did as he boarded this boat.

From Malta to Rome is about 500 miles. By Puteoli, they’re about 75% of the way there.

Acts 28:14 – 14 There we found brothers and sisters and were invited to stay a week with them. And so we came to Rome.

The way it’s written makes it seem that Paul and his friends went on a hunt to see if there were any Christians in town. There were, and not only were they there, but they were ready to shower love on these newfound brothers who came in from the docks. We don’t know who started the church there, but we admire the readiness to serve. You know, we read about the Bereans, and we are rightly impressed by their devotion to Scripture. We name ministries after them still today. At the same time, we should be stirred up by the faithful brotherly love of the Puteolians. It’s certainly not always easy to be welcoming and warm-hearted to strangers, but what a precious part of the life of the Body that we’re all invited to participate in. To be ready to be in relationship with believers around us.

The verse ends with a momentous sentence: “And so we came to Rome.” So much had led up to this. So much waiting and so much struggle, and now they were finally taking the walk into town. Between Paul and Luke, there must’ve been a lot of excitement and apprehension. Paul had to assume that he might die after his talk with Nero. And yet, despite the danger and the unknown, they could rejoice in the faithfulness of God. God had kept His promise. God had given Paul the desire of his heart. Despite the false charges and being beaten nearly to death, despite being abandoned by the Christians in Jerusalem and the attempted assassinations and the red tape and sitting in a jail cell for two years and the raging sea and almost being killed by the soldiers and then the shipwreck and then being bitten by a viper, despite all that, nothing could stop the will of God from being accomplished. They could not be separated from God’s love or God’s work in and through them.

Acts 28:15 – 15 Now the brothers and sisters from there had heard the news about us and had come to meet us as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.

We don’t know who exactly came or how many were in the group, but Paul probably knew at least some of these folks. There’s a very probability they had all read Romans (which had been written and sent to them about three years earlier). In Romans 16, Paul sent greetings to 26 friends there, including Priscilla and Aquila, who were living in Rome and had a church meeting in their home.

What a wonderful moment this would have been for Paul, who had been so isolated for multiple years. Yes, on the voyage from Caesarea to Malta, he was joined by Luke and Aristarchus, but now to see his brothers and sisters, who walked some 35 miles, some 45 miles, so that they could turn around and usher him into Rome. What a beautiful act of love and fidelity.

Luke references the Three Taverns. Ancient historians describe that town as being “full of boatmen and cheating innkeepers.” The sleazy shops and idolatrous ships remind us that we Christians have to navigate a pagan world. Sometimes it will come against us. Sometimes it will try to entice us. Sometimes it’s just doing its thing in the background. We get to shine the bright light of God’s love and truth in all the Appi Forums we find ourselves. That includes online forums, by the way.

There’s something important for us here: The Apostle Paul is an amazing figure. Who can we think of that was more mature and more full of God? He’s working miracles and writing Scripture and having face-to-face chats with Jesus Christ. And even he needed Christian fellowship! To be gathered with other believers filled up his heart with courage and motivated him to praise and thank the Lord.

All of us need actual, genuine, Christian fellowship. It’s not just a good thing – it’s a necessary thing. It is one of the gifts God has given us so that we might receive ministry and help and repair. Let’s treasure it, involve ourselves in it, and guard it.

Acts 28:16 – 16 When we entered Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself with the soldier who guarded him.

I almost forgot that Paul had a soldier in tow. In fact, for the last two years and for the next two years, he will spend every day chained to a Roman soldier. Even this dehumanizing inconvenience would have spiritual benefits thanks to the power of God. Paul would later report that the whole imperial guard would hear his testimony for Christ. And, if you’re the kind of person who people often conspire to kill, it was probably nice to have a personal bodyguard.

Paul was shown grace in this first Roman imprisonment. We’ll learn in verse 30 he was allowed to rent his own house rather than be thrown in some dungeon. That’s what would happen the second time. For now, he’s going to live a regular, routine life. But even though it wasn’t fantastic, it was still full of God. There he was able to write Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians, and Philippians. He was able to preach to the people around him – some of them peasants, some of them rulers. Most importantly, he was just as able to draw closer to his Lord. God isn’t only near during the shipwrecks or during the healing miracles. He’s there with you moment by moment. While Orlando Bloom is mixing up his brain octane oil, the Lord is moving around in our hearts, bringing us into specific positions, working all things together for the good for those who love God and are called according to His unstoppable purposes. Embrace His leading and allow His Holy Spirit to cultivate those precious riches of patience, grace, endurance, fellowship, and usefulness in your life.