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Welcome to The Bible Blog!

Welcome to The Bible Blog. Thank you for checking it out. As a concerned Christian and the author of three published books, I decided to start a blog as a forum for anyone interested in studying and sharing ideas about the Bible. In a world where we are expected to agree with and accept the current (politically correct) opinions of others, I thought it would be fun and helpful to have a place where the truth can be discussed without fear of judgment or condemnation, even if it differs from the accepted norm.  Ideas expressed in this blog will likely be someone’s opinion.  Everyone’s opinion is important and helps us learn.  The one and only standard for absolute truth is the Bible. It is my prayer that this blog will help us all come to a better understanding of God’s will.  The world desperately needs some good news today!

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Restoration Movement

    The Restoration Movement

Many Christians today, including this author, have been grounded in the religious tradition known as the Restoration Movement for several generations. This religious revival began in the late 1700’s in America. Frustrated by the many divisions among mainstream Christian denominations, many church preachers and leaders in the late 18th and early 19th centuries began to look for a way back to religious unity. Several of these folks independently, and later collectively, began to call for a “restoration of New Testament Christianity.” They pleaded for everyone to return to only the Bible as the sole guide for faith and practice in religion.

One of the primary mantras of this group of Christians was, “In matters of faith, unity; in matters of opinion, liberty; in all things, love.” These early pioneers of our faith understood there had always been, and always would be, differences in opinions regarding various “issues,” especially those that were not clearly stated in Scripture. They also understood the gospel message of salvation was the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was one’s belief in and obedience to this simple message that made one a child of God and Christian fellowship should be based on these principles alone.

They allowed a wide range of differences in matters of opinion regarding the various “interpretations” of how the details of worship and practice within the church should be defined. Matters of opinion would no longer be linked to fellowship, and people were free to disagree and still be part of the body of Christ.  They understood the two fundamental principles upon which all of God’s laws have forever been based; 1) love God, 2) love people. They knew any interpretation of Scripture that violates one of these principles is not correct. They took seriously Paul’s admonition to the church in Rome, “Who are you to judge another man’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, because God is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:4).

People by the thousands from every denomination united in this call for unity based on the Scriptures alone. What resulted over the next generation was a religious revolution comparable in size and importance to the Great Reformation, started by Martin Luther, in Europe a century earlier. Driven by the desire for freedom that was prevalent in the new American spirit, and emboldened with the ability to own one’s own copy of Scripture as a result of the invention of the printing press a few centuries earlier, thousands of these pioneer Christians were excited to leave the authoritarian religious organizations and simply follow what the Bible taught. The church of Jesus Christ experienced a renewed awakening and missionary zeal not seen for centuries. Christians were eager to study and learn the Scriptures for themselves and share the good news with their neighbors.

All went well for about a hundred years. Unfortunately, some people simply cannot resist the urge to impose their own “interpretations” of Scripture on others. “Matters of opinion,” differences on certain issues and things about which the Bible was silent, slowly became “maters of faith.” Other slogans which were used by original proponents of this movement to describe the restoration effort were; “We are not the only Christians, but we are Christians only,” and “We will speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent.” These principles also took a back seat to a more legalistic interpretation of Scripture. By the early 20th century many of these Christians could no longer fellowship other Christians with whom they disagreed. Some began to believe and preach “we are the only Christians,” and if you do not belong to “our fellowship” you are not a Christian. In matters about which the Bible is “silent,” instead of remaining silent, these later leaders of the Restoration Movement came up with many rules to teach their own opinions. They even created their own “doctrine of silence” by which they attempt to bind their rules on the entire fellowship. These self-appointed “guardians of the faith” have created more divisions (denominations) within the body of Christ than existed prior to the start of the movement.

However, this is not to say the Restoration Movement failed, or was a bad idea. It is to say restoration is not a one-time-and-it’s-done thing. The concept that fueled one of the greatest revivals in Christian history is a wonderful, Biblical idea. We should simply follow what God says, not bind our opinions on others, love God and our neighbors and do everything in our power to keep the unity of faith in the bond of peace. We should not judge or look down on our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ just because they do not share “our view” on every issue (Romans 14:10). The Restoration Movement proved that the simple message of the gospel has great appeal when it is presented as the inclusive invitation from a loving God and not encumbered with man-made rules to exclude all who do not “measure up” to human standards. Unity in the church is not based on agreement on all issues. We are one because we all have the same Father. The church is a family. We do not decide who our siblings are…God does!

We also must understand that Christianity is not a hand-me-down religion. Every generation must have its own “restoration movement.” It behooves each of us to study the Bible and see for ourselves exactly what God says…and do that. We should not accept ideas, religious practices and beliefs based on what some preacher, elder, church or council says. We must stop selectively interpreting Scripture to support our traditions and take an honest look at what God says.

It is past time for another “restoration” of New Testament Christianity. Many have already seen the need to start fresh with only the Scriptures. A growing number of existing churches have realized their allegiance to tradition must change in favor of a more Biblical stance and independent Bible churches are springing up all across America and around the world. Christian unity is still a worthy goal. Our world today desperately needs a Christian revival. May God help us to be part of the solution, not the problem. The church is not ours…it belongs to Jesus.

To HIM be the glory!

The Devil Made Me Do It (Part 3 of 3)

     Part 3 of 3:

One might imagine the appointed time when the devil was finally defeated was at the crucifixion of Jesus. We tend to think that everything concerning salvation and Jesus’ victory over death, hell and the grave was accomplished at the cross. That is simply not the case. Jesus was indeed the lamb slain for the sins of the world on the cross. However it was not the death of the Passover lamb which made atonement for sin; it was the blood offering from that sacrifice made in the Holy of Holies.

In the case of Jesus’ sacrifice, His blood was not taken into the temple in Jerusalem, which was a type of the Holy of Holies in heaven.  It was to be offered in heaven, before the throne of God, in the real Holy of Holies. That is where the final struggle between God and the devil took place.  All eternity awaited the outcome.

John sets the stage. Revelation 10:7 says, “But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.” In Revelation 11:15 the seventh angel sounds his trumpet and “there were loud voices in heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.’ ” Continuing in verse nineteen we read, “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a severe hailstorm.”

The Ark of the Covenant was first introduced in the tent tabernacle constructed as God had outlined to Moses. The ark was housed in the room called the “Holy of Holies” and nobody but the High Priest was allowed to enter, and only once each year to offer a blood sacrifice for the sins of the people.  When the permanent temple was constructed by Solomon in Jerusalem, it was also built according to the same pattern and the Ark of the Covenant was moved into the Holy of Holies in that temple.  This was the most sacred place on earth and represented the place where God dwelt.

Now we see the Ark of the Covenant in heaven itself; the real one in the very presence of God! The devil knew what happened on that ark! So it is no surprise that the next thing we see is a short review of how the dragon (devil) had tried to stop Jesus when he was born, when he lived, when he died…all to no avail.

And the next thing we read in Revelation 12:7-17:

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”

The devil declared war to stop the atonement sacrifice from being offered on the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant in heaven. Satan knew this was his last chance.  Once the atonement was complete, the devil’s power was destroyed. But he lost. The atonement sacrifice was made and Satan was cast out of heaven. Continuing in Revelation 12 we read,

“Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.’ 

When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach. Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent.  But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.” 

How was the war in heaven won? How was the devil and his angels defeated? By the blood of the lamb! ATONEMENT! First we see the devil and his angels cast out of heaven and hurled to the earth.  The earth had been his kingdom, now it was his only place of refuge from the fury of God and the Lamb. But his time ruling on earth was also short, so he was furious.

As we follow John’s Revelation through the next few chapters we have a detailed and vivid portrayal of the judgment of God. The devil does everything in his power to overcome. He marshals all his forces, but he is unable to prevail because the blood of Jesus paid the price for sin forever. Once the atonement was made in heaven, Satan no longer had power over people. And by the time we get to Revelation 20:9-10, “They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”

The devil had been completely defeated and was cast out! This time he was thrown into the lake of fire. He no longer had access to heaven and had no power on earth. He was crushed!  And all by the blood of the lamb!

Jesus had entered the strong man’s house, bound him, took his possessions and plundered his house (Matthew 12:29). He had crushed Satan under foot (Romans 16:20). Judgement was done. Jerusalem and the old temple were destroyed. The destruction of the earthly temple was the final sign Jesus gave his disciples to watch for so they would know that all things had been done (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21). Now that the real atonement had been made in heaven there was no more need for the earthly temple. Speaking of the atonement ritual, the Bible says in Hebrews 9:8-10, “The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.”

The new order had come! The old temple had to be destroyed so we could have access into the Most Holy Place. The physical kingdom of Israel had become the spiritual kingdom of heaven.  The final scene we see in Revelation 21 and 22 is the new heaven and earth, the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, THE CHURCH, coming down out of heaven from God. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ ” 

This is not some future picture of heaven. This is the fulfillment of exactly what Jesus came to do; destroy the devil’s work and establish the Kingdom of Heaven, the church. How that was accomplished was the great mystery of the ages (Ephesians 1:3-10).  Jesus did it.  Mystery accomplished!

But, you may be thinking, how can this have already happened and there still be sin and death in the world? Because we are looking at the physical and do not see the spiritual. Remember the consequence of sin was death…spiritual death.  Adam and Eve died spiritually the day they ate the fruit.  Sin separates us from God. The atoning blood of Jesus forgives our sin and reunites us with God, giving us eternal spiritual life. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, we have to change our focus. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

But we still die. That actually depends upon whether one is saved by the blood of Jesus or not. Before Jesus raised his friend Lazarus from the dead he asked Martha a question. In John 11:25-26, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ ” Whoever believes in Jesus will never die!  That is what He said.  Do we believe it?  He was talking about spiritual death.  Physical death means nothing if we are alive spiritually.  We simply go on to live forever with God.  Again in John 5:24 Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”

But what about the devil? Has he really been cast out of heaven and earth and thrown into the lake of fire? If that is true, why is there still so much evil in the world?  The real question is how do you know there is so much evil in the world?  That is because you have the knowledge of good and evil!  Satan sinned, but he is not sin. Neither is he evil itself.  He may have been the instigator of evil, but evil is the condition resulting from sin.  Sin is not obedience to Satan. By definition, sin is disobedience to God.  Eve sinned when there was no sin, or even knowledge of it, in the world. The result of her sin was the knowledge of good and evil.

The atonement for sin by Jesus did not take away the knowledge of good and evil. Nor did it take away the free will we all have to make our own choices. The physical effects of sin can never be removed from the earth. The earth is full of evil, not because the devil is alive and well, but because people continue to disobey God. By enticing Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, the devil laid a trap for all mankind which will forever plague the inhabitants of the earth.

Paul’s description of the human condition in Romans 1:18-32 is applicable to every generation since Adam and Eve:

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

There is no mention of the devil in this passage. The evil in the world is due to the choices people make. We cannot blame our bad choices, our sin, on God or even directly on the devil. Because we have the knowledge of good and evil, the choice is ours.  James 1:13-15 says, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” We sin by our own choosing.  The devil does not make us do it!  What else has not changed since creation is the penalty for sin.  Death!  Eternal separation from God.

In the past the devil had complete power over everyone who sinned…which was everyone. There was a time when he could literally possess those under his control.  He no longer has that power. Jesus destroyed the devil and his work.  But Satan’s influence will always be present in this world. Sin is, and always will be, a powerful delusion and the source of evil in our society. When one chooses to sin, rather than obey God, he or she chooses to follow the devil and becomes ensnared in his trap. The wages of sin is still death. But the devil no longer has control.

The good news is there is now a remedy for sin. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin! 1 John 1:5-9 says, “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

The Devil Made Me Do It (Part 2 of 3)

     Part 2 of 3:

When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden the Bible says, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened…” (Genesis 3:7). With the knowledge of evil, and the myriad of temptations Satan was now able to offer mankind, the entire world became increasingly sinful until we read in Genesis 6:5-6, “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.”  The ensuing flood removed all but eight people from the earth, but further proved that, with the knowledge of good and evil, people would continue to sin.  As David wrote in the Psalms, quoted by the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter three, there is not one righteous person; all have sinned!

While there is a lot written about evil in the Old Testament, there is surprisingly little mention of Satan himself. The first mention of the name Satan is not until 1 Chronicles 21:1, “Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.”  Satan appears in only two other Old Testament books; Job and Zechariah.

The most interesting passage concerning Satan in the Old Testament is a conversation between him and God beginning in Job 1:6-12, “One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the Lord, ‘From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.’ Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.’ 

‘Does Job fear God for nothing?’ Satan replied. ‘Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.’ 

The Lord said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.’ Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.”

Satan destroyed everything Job had accomplished in his lifetime; even killed all his children, yet Job still did not sin against God. So Satan tried again. In Job 2:1-7 God reminded Satan that Job still maintains his integrity, “‘though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.’ 

Skin for skin!’ Satan replied. ‘A man will give all he has for his own life.  But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.’ 

The Lord said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.’  So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.”

Despite Satan’s best efforts, and his own wife’s encouragement to “curse God and die,” Job maintained his faith and did not sin against the Lord. While the primary lesson of Job is one of faith, the story does reveal some interesting things about Satan.

Evidently Satan had access to appear before God whenever he chose to do so. And it seems his appearances were designed to accuse God’s people before the Almighty.  In Zechariah 3:1-2 we read, “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?’ ”

It seems abundantly clear that, despite the presence of sin in the world since Eden, Satan did not have the power to force people to do evil. He could entice, lure, and tempt people, but sin was always a result of a person’s own choice. The Genesis account says Cain murdered his brother Able because he was angry, not because the devil made him do it. 1 John 3:12 says, “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.”

The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 6:16 “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” Sin is always the result of a choice; whether to obey God and do right or yield to temptation and do wrong.

There is a lot more said of the devil (Satan) in the New Testament but it is not until we get to the last book in the Bible that we see clearly the serpent, Satan and the devil are the same being. In Revelation 12:9 we read, “The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” Again in Revelation 20:2 the Bible says, “He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.”

The devil and his angels (or demons, as they are usually called) take a more prominent place in the New Testament Scriptures. Matthew and Luke record the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist when the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove from heaven, descended upon Jesus and the voice of God was heard saying, “This is my son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Immediately afterward we have the first direct reference to the devil in the Bible. Matthew 4:1 says, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” When Jesus began his ministry on earth there was no point in the devil using any disguise; no need to impersonate a serpent; Jesus knew exactly who he was.  The devil spent forty days trying to get Jesus to join his ranks, but Jesus refused.  The devil left him, but he had not given up.  He knew what was at stake.  As Luke’s account says, “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.”  The devil would look for other opportunities to tempt Jesus.

Once mankind had the knowledge of good and evil, the devil’s work was to make sin so alluring that everyone would try it. Sometimes evil is presented in the form of fun or pleasure. Sometimes Satan simply made evil look like good. His strategy worked. There has never been a human being that could live a perfect life free from sin. However, the pleasure of sin only lasts a short time while its consequences are devastating and eternal. Ask the addict who would give anything if he or she had resisted the first temptation to try something that now controls every aspect of a life of shame, depression and hopelessness. Even worse, with sin came spiritual death; eternal separation from God. There was no way out. Satan became the ruler of all God’s earthly creation. The world became his kingdom and death was his eternal hold over it. He could stand before God in the presence of the angels and accuse everyone of sin. And for mankind there was no way out.

UNTIL JESUS CAME!

The reason Jesus came into the world was to destroy the devil’s work and his power over death. 1 John 3:8 says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” In John 12:31 Jesus said, “Now judgment is upon this world; now the prince of this world will be cast out.” And in Hebrews 2:14-15 we read, “Therefore, since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity, so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” And the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 1:9-10, “This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

Speaking of his approaching crucifixion Jesus said, “Now judgment is upon this world; now the prince of this world will be cast out.” When, and from where, was the devil to be cast out? To where was he to be sent? The answer lies in how he was overcome. Jesus connected the casting out of Satan with the judgment of the world and said the time for both was now, a result of his coming death.

Many people believe that Satan was cast out of heaven when he sinned against God, sometime before the world was created. Jesus’ statement about seeing Satan fall like lightning from heaven (Luke 10:18) is usually cited as proof of this.  We have already shown above that, from the context, this is not likely a correct interpretation of what Jesus said. We have also noted in several Scriptures how Satan stood in the presence of God in heaven with the angels to accuse people of sin.  Evidently he had not yet been cast out of heaven.  Because of sin, the world was his kingdom, so he had not been cast out of it either. Satan’s control over the entire human race was complete and his power great.  Once a person chose sin he came under the same curse that had existed since the garden. We learn from the gospels that demons had the power to literally possess people and completely take over their lives.

Jesus repeatedly demonstrated during His personal ministry that He had power over demons. He cast them out of people everywhere He went.  He often did not let them speak because they knew who He was. On one occasion we learn that, not only did the demons know Jesus was the Son of God, but they also knew their own destiny should Jesus complete His divine mission.  We read in Matthew 8:28-29, “When he (Jesus) arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. ‘What do you want with us, Son of God?’ they shouted. ‘Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?’ ” Although there were two men for whom Jesus cast out demons, Luke, in his gospel, focuses on only one of them and tells a more detailed account.  As he reveals the story he writes in Luke 8:30-31, “Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Legion,’ he replied, because many demons had gone into him. And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

These demons knew Jesus was the Son of God and that His mission was to destroy the devil’s work and send them into the abyss to be tortured forever at the appointed time.  When Jesus cast these demons out of the men, the appointed time had not yet come, so He sent them into a herd of pigs. When was the appointed time?  Again, the answer lies in how Satan was going to be overcome. We will consider that in the next post.

In the meantime, don’t give the devil more credit than he deserves.  Remember, “The One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

The Devil Made Me Do It (Part 1 of 3)

     Part 1 of 3:

Who is the devil? Where did he come from? What power does he have?

A study of the spirit realm is an interesting one. The world is full of beliefs, superstitions, and tales of spiritual and supernatural beings of every description. The most cursory look at archeology shows every civilization has had some belief system which included celestial or spiritual beings, both good and bad.

Since we cannot physically see into the spiritual realm, what we know about gods, angels, demons, and whatever other creatures we may dare to imagine must be based on the evidence of what we can see or the reliability of historical records. For those of us who believe there is one God, who created the universe, we accept His word, the Bible, as the only reliable source to learn about Him and whatever He has determined to reveal to us about the spiritual realm.  He has revealed everything we need to know for our redemption from the consequences of sin, but there are many things he has not chosen to reveal. As Moses told the Israelites centuries ago in Deuteronomy 29:29, The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” We can learn much from a study of the Scriptures, but we must accept the fact that there will remain things we will never be able to know in this life on earth.

With that in mind, let’s look at what the Bible does reveal about spirit beings, specifically the devil and his angels. It should be noted that the term “angel” in the Bible simply means “messenger.” It appears in at least 290 verses throughout the Scriptures, and in all but three cases refers to the angel(s) of God. Today we normally, and correctly, associate angels with God and view them as “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:4).

However, it does appear that the devil also has “angels” who are ministering spirits to serve his evil purposes. Jesus said in Matthew 25:41, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’ ” And in Revelation 12:7-9 we read, “Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”

In the Old Testament there is no mention of the term “devil.” He is referred to only as the serpent in the Genesis account of the temptation of Adam and Eve. However, the magnitude and consequences of evil that entered the world as a result of that seemingly innocent and insignificant act fills the pages of the Old Testament…without a mention of the devil. Why?  It might help if we spend a little more time looking at what exactly took place in the Garden of Eden.

First it is important to note that sin is, by definition, a transgression of law (1 John 3:4). We might think that the first sin, the one act that brought all the evil into the world, would have been a little bigger than simply eating a piece of fruit from one of the many trees in the garden. But there was only one law…don’t eat that fruit. And that was no ordinary fruit tree.  It was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Prior to their eating that fruit, Adam and Eve had no knowledge of evil, and ignorance was indeed bliss!  Eve did not even know that what the serpent was enticing her to do was a “sin”   …because they had no knowledge of right and wrong, no concept of sin.  To make things worse, except for one tiny word, what the serpent told Eve was true.  The fruit would make them like God, knowing good and evil. But what Adam and Eve did know was that God had told them not to eat the fruit.  It was the only rule they had. And they broke it.

What were the consequences of that first sin? When God warned Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil He said, “The day you eat thereof, you shall surely die.” They ate…but did they die that day? Some would argue they “began to die” that day or they “became subject to death” that day. That is not what God said. If we do not understand the meaning of death, we will certainly not understand the significance and eternal consequences of sin.

Death literally means “a separation.” When Adam and Eve sinned, they died spiritually. They were banished from the garden and separated from the presence of God that day. Physical death may have been a subsequent consequence of their spiritual death, but Jesus proved that physical death cannot separate one from God. If it did, he could not have come back from the grave. Had Adam and Eve not sinned, even if they died a physical death, what would have happened to them? They would have continued to live with God throughout all eternity! When Paul said in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death,” he was not talking of physical death. Neither was God when he told Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit. The consequence of sin is spiritual death, eternal separation from the presence of God. They died the day they ate the forbidden fruit.

Human beings were created free to choose their own actions. They had no knowledge of evil and, therefore, could not be tempted to do evil.  By this time Satan and his angels knew all about evil and wanted to inflict it on God’s new creation.  The only opening the devil had was to introduce Adam and Eve to the knowledge of his realm.  Once they knew about evil, there would be endless temptations they were never created to withstand. Every person who ever lived would, sooner or later, make wrong choices.

When God approached Adam and Eve following their snack, they hid from him. Why?  The Scripture says after they ate the fruit “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked.” They now knew about good and evil. They made clothes from fig leaves but still felt naked and ashamed before God, so they hid. God asked them an interesting question; “who told you that you were naked?” They had been naked since they were created and had never felt ashamed.  It was not their outward appearance that caused their shame and no amount of fancy clothes can cover the shame that comes from sinning against God.  And when asked if they had eaten of the tree, they began to do what every person does when caught in sin; they immediately began pointing fingers at others for their own bad choice.  “She made me do it!”  “The serpent made me do it!”  “It’s not my fault!”  There is a fundamental truth we must all eventually accept when it comes to the evil we do…IT IS OUR OWN FAULT!

There are those who advance the idea that all people, when they are born, inherit the sin of Adam and Eve; that we are all born into sin. That is simply not the case.  What all descendants inherited from our original ancestors was the knowledge of good and evil. Newborn babies are not sinners.  Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). As children grow and mature, they begin to realize the difference between good and bad, between right and wrong.  Once they reach that point in their lives, and willfully choose to do what they know is wrong, they become sinners. Sin is always a choice. With the knowledge of good and evil and the freedom to choose came the responsibilities and consequences of our choices. Eve’s sin was willfully choosing to disobey God. That is the root of every sin.

Satan did not have the power to force Eve to eat the fruit. When she saw it was good for food and would make her wise, she wanted it and ate it.  It was her choice. Later, Cain knew it was wrong to kill his brother because he had the knowledge of good and evil, but he did it anyway because he was jealous. His jealousy, and the subsequent cause of the first murder, was his own choice to disobey God.  God asked him, “If you do right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” Life would have been so much easier not to have been so wise! When we do wrong (and get caught) we would all like to say, “The devil made me do it!” But we all know good from evil and are responsible for the choices we make. We can either choose to obey God and do what is right or attempt to fulfill our own desires and choose evil.

Still, where did Satan come from? Did God create him? The Bible says that God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) created everything from nothing.  Colossians 1:15-17 says, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” God created all things. That includes everything in heaven and on earth; everything visible and invisible; all thrones, all powers, all rulers, all authorities…everything! That includes all the angels.  So the answer is yes, God created Satan.

But He did not create Satan (or whatever his name may have been prior to his sin) to be evil. Everything God created was good. Evidently God created a host of angels (and we have no idea what else, if anything) prior to creating light and life on planet earth. Genesis 1:1-2 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

We have no idea, because it is not revealed, how long creation existed and the earth remained without physical life. Beginning in verse three the Bible says God created light, called the light day and the darkness night, and the earth had its first morning and evening, its first day. This would have been the beginning of time as we know it. Over the next six days God put in order the solar system and everything else necessary for life on earth and created that life, including humans. But He did not reveal what He did prior to the first day, nor does he ever reveal when or how he created everything outside the physical universe we see. But we know that at some point, prior to His bringing life to the earth, He made the angels.

We also know, from the evidence of Scripture, that angels must have had the freedom to choose whether or not they wanted to obey God. 2 Peter 2:4 says, “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment…” And again in Jude 6 we read, “And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.” A lot of interesting stories have been made up to explain how these angels became disobedient, but God does not tell us so we cannot know for sure.

It is also assumed by many that Satan was one of these fallen angels. He may have been, but it is also possible he was some other form of spiritual being. He could have been any one of the “thrones, powers, rulers, or authorities” mentioned in Colossians as part of God’s creation. Some say Isaiah 14:12 and Ezekiel 28:13-16 are passages that describe Satan’s fall from heaven after being a perfect angel of God who decided to revolt and lead an angelic coup against the Almighty. This is a simple case of taking Scriptures out of context to support a concept that is completely foreign to the text.  A more careful examination of these passages shows clearly that Isaiah 13-14 is a prophecy against Babylon and Ezekiel 28 a similar prophecy against the king of Tyre. It is possible that Satan may have been an angel who led a revolt against God, but these particular Scriptures do not speak to that.  God does not reveal how Satan came to be the prince of darkness.

Some people believe that Jesus’ statement in Luke 10:18 is about Satan falling from his good standing with God in heaven and being kicked out because of his sin. Considering the context of Jesus’ conversation with his disciples, this is a very unlikely interpretation. Jesus had sent seventy-two of his disciples into the surrounding towns to announce the Kingdom of Heaven was near.  When they returned, they were very excited about things they had seen.  They told Jesus, “even the demons submitted to us in your name!” He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

The Greek word for “saw” or “beheld” (KJV) in this verse is “THEOREO” which means one who looks on as a spectator. The literal translation of the phrase is, “I was watching Satan, as lightning from heaven, fall.” This passage does not say Jesus saw Satan fall from heaven.  It says Jesus saw Satan fall…like lightning from heaven.  Every time one of the disciples spoke in the name of Jesus, the demons were powerless…they fell, like lightning from heaven.  Jesus did not change the subject to some prehistoric fall of Satan.  He was confirming exactly what His disciples were telling him; “in the name of Jesus, the demons fall down, they submit.” And Jesus told them He had given them this power over demons, and had watched them use it…but not to rejoice over that power, but that their names were written in heaven.

Below are some of the more exact translations of this statement of Jesus:

American Standard Version (ASV) published in 1901 “I beheld Satan fallen as lightning from heaven.”

Young’s Literal Translation says, “I was beholding the Adversary, as lightning from the heaven, having fallen.” 

Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB) “I was seeing Hasatan (Satan) falling like lightning from Shomayim (heaven).”

We shall see later why it is important to understand that Jesus gives people the power to make Satan fall like lightning. However, it is true that Satan was good when created by God, because everything God created was good.  At some point, we do not know when, where, or why, Satan decided to disobey God and fell from his former position.  He evidently became the leader of many fallen angels whose eternal purpose is to fight against everything God does and tempt all creation to join him in his evil ways.

We have all obliged!

Revelation: Part 12

     Revelation 21-22:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’

He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death’ ” (21:1-8).

Before we immediately jump to the conclusion that he is describing heaven after we die physically, let’s examine what John said here in light of other passages of Scripture. Twice in this text John described the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

Compare this with what the writer of Hebrews said concerning this same heavenly Jerusalem. In Hebrews 11:10, concerning the promise made to Abraham, “For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” In chapter 12:18-21 he first described the time Moses received the old covenant when God was setting up the physical kingdom of Israel which would serve as a pattern for the spiritual kingdom promised to Abraham. He said, “You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.’ The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, ‘I am trembling with fear.’ ”

Then comparing that physical kingdom to the much superior spiritual kingdom of Jesus Christ, in verses 22-29:

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

See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” 

The Hebrew writer clearly identified the heavenly Jerusalem as the church. He further stated that the old physical kingdom of Israel was passing away and, “…we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.” John and the writer of Hebrews are referring to the same heavenly Jerusalem, the church. This is the city promised to Abraham whose builder was God. Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

The church is the “kingdom of heaven.” In John 18:36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” As the Apostle Paul said, our citizenship is in heaven. While we recognize the eternal, spiritual nature of this heavenly Jerusalem, the church, we are not waiting for the physical universe to be destroyed for it to be established by God. John was describing that eternal kingdom in which we enjoy citizenship now as well as throughout all eternity.

That John was not speaking of life with God in heaven after we die physically is further underscored by his wording when he said, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.” Jesus said in John 14:23, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” Yes, we will live with God in heaven forever. In the meantime, he lives with us through his Holy Spirit, whom he gives to all who obey his will.

Some may say this cannot be a description of life in the church on the earth because John said, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” As is the case from beginning to end of John’s Revelation, he was explaining how Jesus fulfilled Scripture at the “consummation of the ages” when the “mystery of God” would finally be revealed. In this description of the “heavenly Jerusalem” identified in Scripture as the church, he was referring to Old Testament prophesies that were being fulfilled.

Isaiah 25:7-8, “On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth.” When did Jesus “swallow up death” and “remove the disgrace” (sin) of his people? Surely it was in his death, resurrection and atonement for sin.

Prophesying about the coming spiritual kingdom in Isaiah 35:8-10 the prophet said, “And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”

And in Isaiah 65:17-19, “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 the Apostle Paul said, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

Again, in Isaiah 49:8-10, “This is what the Lord says: In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’ They will feed beside the roads and find pasture on every barren hill. They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat upon them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.” In a typical “this is that” passage Paul quoted from this very same Scripture in Isaiah, indicating its fulfillment in the church, when he said in 2 Corinthians 6:2, “For he says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” He said the prophet’s message is fulfilled NOW.

All the above prophesies, and many more, clearly indicate that in the kingdom of heaven, the new Jerusalem, the church, there will be no more sorrow, hunger, death, crying, etc. This does not mean these things will literally disappear from the earth, nor are these Scriptures referring to heaven after we die. The comparison is between the physical kingdom of Israel and the spiritual kingdom of heaven. The physical kingdom was subject to all these physical problems; wars, captivity, calamities, sorrow, hunger and death. The spiritual kingdom of Jesus Christ is vulnerable to none of these things. Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of Hell will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). In John 5:24 he said, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” Again, in John 11:25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Paul, writing to Christians in Thessalonica said, “We do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). The concept of “no tears, no sorrow, no death” relates to the spiritual nature of the kingdom of heaven as compared with the former physical kingdom. The former things have passed away, all things have become new.

“One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using. The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass” (21:9-21).

There is no question that John here was describing the church. In Ephesians 5:25-27 the Apostle Paul wrote, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” The church is the bride of Christ. It is also the heavenly Jerusalem. Hebrews 12:22-23, “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.” It is also God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19-20). 

“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (21:22-27).

The temple in Jerusalem was built to house the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies. That is where the High Priest would go to make the annual atonement sacrifice for the sins of the people. It represented God’s presence with the kingdom of Israel and was a prototype of heaven itself. There is no need for a physical temple in heaven since that is God’s dwelling place. He and the Lamb are the temple. The gates into the kingdom of heaven are always open to anyone who will submit to the king. We become citizens of the kingdom of heaven when we obey the Gospel message. As was the case with the Jews on, and following, the Day of Pentecost, the Lord adds to the church all who are saved (Acts 2). He writes their names in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Eternal life begins the moment a person is cleansed of his or her sins by the blood of Jesus. We live in victory for the duration of our days on earth, then, when we die physically, we simply go to be with the Lord forever in heaven.

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. The angel said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place’ ” (22:1-6).

Jesus said to the woman at the well in John 4:10, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” Jesus was speaking of the water of life, pictured here in Revelation flowing from the throne of God. This is a continuation of the description of the church, the kingdom of heaven.

“Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book. I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, ‘Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!’

Then he told me, ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.’

Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.’

The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen” (22:7-21).

The identity of the servant who showed John this vision of the church is not revealed, but his message should not be missed. Worship God!

To make sure nobody misses the point made in the beginning of the Revelation and misunderstands the time frame for the events described in this book, the Spirit directs John to repeat FIVE TIMES in the closing verses these things were going to happen SOON.

Revelation 22:6 “The angel said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.’” 

Revelation 22:7, “Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.” 

Revelation 22:10, “Then he told me, ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near.’

Revelation 22:12-13, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” 

Revelation 22:20, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

In Daniel 8:26 the Bible says, “The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future.” John was told, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near” (Rev. 22:10). How can 490 years be the “distant future” and two centuries and counting be “very soon,” “at hand,” “at the door,” “what must soon take place,” “near?” We do not need to explain God’s time statements in these passages any more than when John the Baptist said, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The meaning did not change, and we have no Scriptural authority to change it now. What is confusing people today are all the modern “philosophies of men” concerning the “end of time,” of which the Bible does not speak.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ as revealed to the Apostle John is not to be taken lightly. It contains a sobering warning. “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19).

One final thought about John’s writing seems appropriate. If the coming of the Lord is to destroy the earth and bring to an end the possibility of one more sinner hearing the gospel and being saved, why would Christians want to hasten his coming? If, on the other hand, the Lord’s coming was to usher in the spiritual kingdom, to proclaim the completion of the atonement sacrifice of Jesus for sin, to destroy death and Hades, to reveal the mystery of God’s redemptive plan so that every sinner might hear the gospel message of reconciliation and have the opportunity for salvation, then by all means…AMEN! COME LORD JESUS!

He came! MYSTERY ACCOMPLISHED!

Revelation: Part 11

     Revelation 20:

“And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time” (20:1-3).

The Abyss has already been identified in chapters 9, 11, and 17 as the abode of Satan. The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry also reveal the same truth. In Matthew 8:29 the Legion of demons Jesus cast out asked him, “What do you want with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time? Luke includes another request these demons had in Luke 8:31, “And they begged him repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.” The demons knew they were destined to the Abyss at “the appointed time.” During Jesus’ earthly ministry that time had not yet come. Jesus sent them into a herd of pigs. In John’s Revelation, their time had come. Satan and his demonic messengers were thrown into the Abyss and sealed there for a thousand years.

When did Jesus bind the Devil in the Abyss? Speaking with the Pharisees about casting out demons in Matthew 12:29 he said, “How can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house.” 1 John 3:8 says, “He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” And in Hebrews 2:14-15, “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” When Jesus died he entered the Devil’s house, destroying his power over death because death only had controlling power over one who had sinned. He bound Satan so that he could never again possess people against their will. As James 1:14-15 says, “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” Sin is certainly still in the world today but, “The Devil made me do it” is no excuse. God even controls the amount of temptation we face. 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” 

“I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years” (20:4-6).

To comprehend the thousand years, during which Satan was bound and the righteous dead came to life and reigned with Christ, one must first understand how the term is used in Scripture. This was not a literal one thousand years. The term “thousand years” is used figuratively throughout Scripture to denote the whole of something, all there is or from beginning to end, as the following passages demonstrate.

Deuteronomy 5:9-10, “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” God does not show his love for exactly one thousand generations and not one day longer. It is a term used in this context meaning forever.

Psalm 50:9-10, “I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.” Again, the Psalmist does not mean that God only owns the cattle on exactly one thousand hills. He owns them all.

Psalm 105:7-10, “He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth. He remembers his covenant forever, the word he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac.” God does not remember his covenant for exactly one thousand years, but forever.

Psalm 90:4, “For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.” The Apostle Peter, explaining to the first century Christians that Jesus would come in that generation as he had promised, quoted from this same Psalm in 2 Peter 3:8, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” These passages do not mean, as many today would suggest, that when God says something will happen in “this generation” he may mean a thousand generations. The point the Psalmist and Peter made was that God can remember forever as easily as we can remember one day, and he will always be faithful to his promises. In the context of 2 Peter, Jesus promised he would return in that first generation. He did!

It is also important to understand the thousand years in these passages was the time between the resurrection of the righteous dead and the resurrection of the unrighteous ones, during which time Satan was bound. It is NOT the duration of the reign of Christ. His reign is forever. Isaiah 9:7, “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”

When Gabriel was explaining to Mary that she would give birth to the Son of God, he said in Luke 1:30-33, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end. Nowhere does the Bible say Jesus will reign on a physical throne on a physical earth for one thousand years. The reign of Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords is forever.

Predicting the resurrection of Jesus and the righteous dead, Psalm 68:17-19 says, “The chariots of God are tens of thousands and thousands of thousands; the Lord has come from Sinai into his sanctuary. When you ascended on high, you led captives in your train; you received gifts from men, even from the rebellious— that you, O Lord God, might dwell there. Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” The Apostle Paul, speaking of the fulfillment of this promise in Ephesians 4:7-10 wrote, “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: ‘When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.’ (What does ‘he ascended’ mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)” When Jesus arose from the grave he loosed the righteous dead from the power of the grave and set the captives free.

Hebrews 2:14-17, “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” This was the first resurrection.

According to Matthew’s Gospel account of the crucifixion, there were two graphic demonstrations of the spiritual significance of that holy death. Matthew 27:50-53, “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” The tearing of the physical veil in the temple signified that the barrier between people and the presence of God would be taken away. The physical opening of the graves of many righteous souls demonstrated the death of Jesus would result in the overcoming of death for all the righteous.  It is important that these righteous souls were not seen alive by others until after Jesus’ own resurrection. At the resurrection of Jesus all the righteous souls were freed from death to reign with Christ as victors over sin. A few of them were given physical bodies and went into Jerusalem to be seen as proof that death had been overcome.

The spiritual significance of the timing of the resurrection of the righteous dead cannot be overstated. The first resurrection occurred when the sins of the righteous were blotted out by the sacrifice of Jesus. We overcome death when we are baptized. When a person accepts the atonement of Jesus in obedient baptism he is raised from spiritual death in sin to new life in Christ. That is the first resurrection. 1 Peter 3:21 “This water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Romans 6:4, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” “Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them.” Unlike the righteous, whose thousand year reign would be forever, the Devil and all his followers faced a far different fate…the second death.

When did the reign of Jesus begin? Paul wrote in Romans 1:2-4, Jesus “…was a descendant of David, and was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead.” The same writer said in Ephesians 1:19-23, “That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” The apostle clearly taught that Jesus was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection. He was anointed king over all authorities and powers after his resurrection, and the kingdom over which he was made king was the church. It is important to remember, however, that the kingdom (church) was not established at the time, or by the single act of his resurrection from the grave. Because he had no sin, death and the grave had no power over him. His resurrection proved his sinless life and made it possible for him to then make atonement by his own blood for the sins of mankind, thus overcoming death, Hell, and the grave for all the righteous.

Paul addressed this same subject in his letter to the Corinthian church. Discussing the resurrection of the dead, he wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he ‘has put everything under his feet.’ Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.”

From the above passage it is clear the following things happened, or would happen, each in its turn:

  • The resurrection of Jesus
  • The resurrection of the “firstfruits”
  • Jesus’ return
  • The resurrection of the righteous dead
  • The end will come
  • All dominion, authority and power destroyed
  • Jesus reigns until all enemies are subdued
  • The last enemy to be destroyed is death
  • Jesus delivers the kingdom of heaven to his Father
  • Jesus made subject to the Father
  • God is all in all

These are exactly the same events in the same order John saw in the Revelation of Jesus Christ. The Lion of the Tribe of Judah was able to open the seals of the Scroll because he had triumphed over death by the power of his resurrection (Revelation 5). At the death and resurrection of Jesus the graves were opened and those who had been held captive by Satan’s power over death and the grave were set free. Many of them went into the city of Jerusalem as living proof that Jesus had overcome and “led the captives in his train” (Matthew 27:52-53, Ephesians 4:7-9, Hebrews 2:14-16). The faithful of Israel were the first to be offered to God as “firstfruits” of the harvest of the earth (Revelation 14). Once the atonement was complete in heaven and the time was fulfilled, Jesus returned in the clouds, all the righteous dead were raised, and the “time of the end” had come (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, Daniel 8:16-18, 9:25-27, 11:34-36, 12, Habakkuk 2:2-4, Matthew 13:38-40, Hebrews 9:25-27). The “great day of the Lord” had come, the city of Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed, the remainder of the dead were raised, and the judgment of Almighty God was pronounced on all peoples and nations. Jesus had overcome all authorities, powers and dominions, death was destroyed forever, and the kingdom of heaven was now a reality. The “consummation (fulfillment) of the ages” had come (1 Corinthians 10:11, Hebrews 9:25-27). Jesus came into the world to destroy the Devil’s stronghold (Hebrews 2:13-15, 1 John 3:7-9). He had succeeded in his mission and could now deliver the kingdom to his Father. The promise of God to redeem mankind was now complete and, with his Son now back at his side, he was truly “all in all.” MYSTERY ACCOMPLISHED!

Many Christians today believe and teach that “the end” spoken of in Revelation and other Scriptures is the end of the physical universe and is still in our future. There is only one “end” prophesied in the Bible and it is the end of the physical kingdom of Israel which was replaced with the new Jerusalem, the church, the kingdom of heaven. That happened with the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in A.D. 70. If Jesus has not yet returned, death has not yet been destroyed, the righteous dead are still held captive by the power of the grave, and the church has not yet been established. This is simply false doctrine.

As has been pointed out many times before, the confusion comes in our failure to understand the difference between physical and spiritual death and life. Jesus was not crucified and resurrected to overcome physical death, but spiritual death…eternal separation from God. He did not make atonement so we can have physical life, but eternal spiritual life with God. The church is a spiritual kingdom, not a physical one. 1 Corinthians 15:50-57, “I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Paul said at the sounding of the last trumpet the dead would be raised and all who were still living would be changed. The perishable would be clothed with the imperishable, the mortal with immortality. He was not speaking of physical changes, but spiritual. He clearly said the physical (flesh and blood) cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The perishable (physical) cannot inherit the imperishable (spiritual). What brought about this change from physical to spiritual, from mortality to immortality? 2 Timothy 1:9-10, “This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.”

Life and immortality was the “good news” of the Gospel of Christ. It had been promised before the beginning of time, foretold by the prophets, and heralded since the day of Pentecost. But at the time of Paul’s writing to the Corinthian church the last trumpet had not yet sounded. The angel in Revelation who introduced this seventh and final trumpet said, “There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets” (Revelation 10:7).

The Apostle Paul explained the mystery of God in his letter to the church in Ephesus. Ephesians 1:9-10, “And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” Ephesians 3:6-12, “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus…His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” The mystery of God did not change between Ephesians and Revelation. The sounding of the seventh and final trumpet would signal the completion of this mystery. It would also signal that the times were fulfilled, the “time of the end” had come, the physical temple could be removed, opening up the way into the Holy of Holies so we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

We learned from Hebrews 9:8, “The way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing.” The first tabernacle stood until it was destroyed by the Roman invasion of A.D. 70. That was the final God-directed event Jesus had said would signify his “coming in the clouds.” This “second appearing” of our Great High Priest proclaimed to all that the atonement blood was accepted by the Father and our sins were forgiven. The last trumpet had sounded. The physical temple was no longer the place of atonement, so it was forever destroyed. Animal sacrifices were no longer needed. The way into the Holy of Holies was open. The mystery of God was accomplished. The kingdom of heaven, the church, was complete. Gentiles and Jews were now members of one body. Death had been destroyed. The righteous dead were raised imperishable. Life and immortality were now a reality. The fate of all who were living, and all who would ever live, was instantly changed. The fulfillment, or consummation, of the ages had come. In the twinkling of an eye, everything had changed.

Victory in Jesus does not spare us from physical death. It spares us from spiritual death so we may live forever with God, here on earth and in heaven when we experience physical death. That is why Christians have no fear of physical death. It no longer has any power over our eternal destiny. Jesus has destroyed its power. If death has not been destroyed, the new covenant in Christ is not yet a reality, the mystery of God has still not been accomplished, and we are still living under the Law of Moses. Paul said in the above Corinthian passage the sting of death is sin and the power of sin was the law. If death has not been destroyed, sin still has its sting and we are still under its power…the law. That would mean the death and resurrection of Jesus failed to accomplish the very thing he came to do – destroy the Devil’s power, overcome the sting of death, and bring life and immortality to fallen mankind.

The Devil’s power and his kingdom have been destroyed. This brings us back to the “thousand years” during which the devil was bound and the righteous dead came to life and reigned with Christ.

“When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (20:7-10).

Satan was released at the end of the “thousand years.” Again, the term is used to describe the period of time Satan was bound, not the duration of Jesus’ reign. Revelation says the Devil would be bound for a thousand years. Nowhere in Revelation, or the entire Bible, does it say the reign of Christ would be limited to this same time period. Nowhere in Revelation, or the entire Bible, does it say the reign of Christ will ever end. There is no mention in Revelation, or the entire Bible, of a “thousand year reign of Christ.” As a matter of fact, Revelation teaches just the opposite. There was a “thousand year reign of the righteous dead” with Christ. The Lion of the Tribe of Judah had prevailed. Satan’s reign over death and the grave ended. His power over mankind was destroyed. Jesus was victorious. He had accomplished his mission to atone for sin and establish the eternal kingdom of heaven. When he finished his divine task he delivered the kingdom to the Father, and reigns with him forever. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever (22:3-5).

There was a thousand-year binding of Satan which began when Jesus was exalted to the throne in heaven after his resurrection. The Devil was loosed at the end of the thousand years and gathered all his demons, along with the unrighteous dead, to make one final attempt to overcome the Lamb of God. The time Satan was locked in the Abyss was called a thousand years. While the term was used in the usual figurative sense, meaning as long as his time lasted, his reign was not forever and the remainder of his time was relatively short. This “thousand years” was the entire time it took to finish the divine work of atonement at which time all the dead would be raised to face the eternal judgment of Almighty God. This time period began when Jesus overcame the power of the grave and the righteous dead were raised. That was when he arose from the dead. It ended at the “time of the end” on the “great day of the Lord” when he was loosed for a short time. He marshaled his forces for one final stand; the battle of Armageddon. God’s judgment was pronounced and fire came from heaven and devoured them. Keep in mind that according to Scripture “the end” was the end of physical Israel, NOT the end of the world. The Bible speaks of “the time of the end,” it NEVER speaks of the “end of time.”

Like the return of Jesus, many Christians today also believe the judgment is still in our future. Again, this is simply not the case in Scripture. John 5:22-30, “Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” When Jesus overcame the power of the grave and completed the atonement ritual for sin, judgment had to occur. That is why Jesus, speaking of his own death, said in John 12:31, Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.”

Satan was bound by the resurrection of Jesus. He was loosed when the atonement was complete and God was ready to judge the world on the “great day of the Lord.” That was at the “time of the end” when the earthly kingdom was destroyed (A.D. 70), replaced by the eternal kingdom of heaven, the church. The thousand years was from the time he was bound until the “time of the end.” It was the entire time Satan had left before his kingdom of death would be forever destroyed and his eternal fate, and the fate of all those who have his mark (sin), was sealed forever.

If one were to substitute “the time of the end” for “a thousand years,” the verses in Revelation would read as follows:

“He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him until the time of the end. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the time of the end. After that he must be set free for a short time” (20:2-3).

“They came to life and reigned with Christ until the time of the end. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the time of the end.) Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him until the time of the end. At the time of the end, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle” (20:4-8).

Prophesies concerning Gog and Magog are found in Ezekiel chapters 38-39 and, like so many other Old Testament prophesies, were a physical foreshadowing of the final spiritual battle John saw in his Revelation. Ezekiel 38:14-16, “Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say to Gog: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: In that day, when my people Israel are living in safety, will you not take notice of it? You will come from your place in the far north, you and many nations with you, all of them riding on horses, a great horde, a mighty army. You will advance against my people Israel like a cloud that covers the land. In days to come, O Gog, I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know me when I show myself holy through you before their eyes.” This is one more example which shows how every prophecy concerning the future of Israel and the eternal kingdom was fulfilled in Christ. John was shown the Revelation of Jesus Christ and how the Lion of the Tribe of Judah opened the seals and fulfilled everything written in the Scroll.

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (20:11-15).

In this next scene John witnessed and recorded the judgment of the dead. These were the spiritually dead. The righteous had already come to life and were reigning with Christ. They were never judged because they had been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. They did not have the mark of the beast (sin) and, therefore, had no accusation against them requiring judgment. With the sacrifice of Jesus, their sins had been removed. This was the first resurrection. The second death would have no power over them.

The dead (in sin) are the only people in John’s Revelation who faced the judgment of Almighty God. The books were opened. There was a single volume, called the Lamb’s Book of Life, and another set of books that could be called the Record of Works, in which were recorded the names and deeds of every person to be judged. It is critically important to understand:

  • Every person’s name was recorded in only one book.
  • Only those whose names were in the “Record of Works” were judged.
  • The dead (spiritually) were judged by their record.
  • Not one single soul was saved by his or her works.
  • All those judged according to the “Record of Works” were thrown into the Lake of Fire.
  • Those whose names were in the Lamb’s Book of Life were not judged because they were not in the “Record of Works.”

Jesus made very clear the connection between the establishment of the kingdom of heaven and the judgment, and that they would both occur in that first generation. “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom(Matthew 16:27-28). When Jesus completed the atonement, having destroyed death, judgment had to be rendered. Otherwise there would have to be another “holding place” for the dead, other than the grave while they wait for some imagined “end of time,” neither of which are found in Scripture.

Every person, at some point in his or her life, chooses to eat of the forbidden fruit. The wages of sin is death…spiritual death; separation from the presence of God. This is the first death. Those who do not accept the atonement of Jesus for their sins will suffer eternal separation from God, which is the Lake of Fire, or the second death. Those who accept Jesus as Lord receive forgiveness from sin and are raised to life – eternal, spiritual life. This is the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them. The righteous who died prior to the coming of Jesus experienced the first resurrection when Jesus atoned for their sins. They came to life and reigned with him.

People today also experience the first resurrection when they accept Jesus’ atonement for their sins. That is why baptism was the symbol chosen for our salvation. We die to sin, are buried in baptism by immersion, and raised sinless (first resurrection) to live a new life in Christ. “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4). Those who object to baptism as being necessary for salvation because they see it as a “work” of man simply do not understand the symbol. It is a physical demonstration of our willingness to die to self, to bury our old sin nature, to completely renounce any hope we have of saving ourselves, and trust fully and completely in the grace of God and the blood of Christ Jesus. We are not saved by our faith, but only by his grace. When we are baptized into Christ, we are clothed with him (Galatians 3:27) and our name is removed from the “Record of Works” and entered into the Lamb’s Book of Life. Judgment for both sets of names has already been rendered and the sentence handed down. Our eternal destiny is determined by the choice we make while living on earth. When we die physically, if our name is in the Lamb’s Book of Life, we go to be with the Lord forever in heaven. If our name is not in the Lamb’s Book of Life, we experience the second death, eternal separation from the presence of God. Physical death has nothing to do with either, except that it brings to a close the time we have been given to make our choice. As Moses challenged the Israelites before entering the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 30:19), we have a choice between life and death. CHOOSE LIFE!

Revelation: Part 10

     Revelation 18-19:

“After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor. With a mighty voice he shouted: ‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird. For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.’

 Then I heard another voice from heaven say: ‘Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes. Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Mix her a double portion from her own cup. Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself. In her heart she boasts, I sit as queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn. Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her’ ” (18:1-8).

In this passage the children of God are told to leave this city and not share in her sins, for they are piled up to heaven. God is going to unleash his judgment on her and she will be consumed by fire.

“When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry: ‘Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!’ The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more— cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and bodies and souls of men.

They will say, ‘The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your riches and splendor have vanished, never to be recovered.’ The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn and cry out: ‘Woe! Woe, O great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls! In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!’ Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off. When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, ‘Was there ever a city like this great city?’ They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out: ‘Woe! Woe, O great city, where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth! In one hour she has been brought to ruin’ ” (18:9-19)!

Some have suggested the city receiving God’s judgment in this vision is Rome. However, Rome was the capital of the beast the woman was riding, not the woman.

“Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you. Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said: ‘With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again. The music of harpists and musicians, flute players and trumpeters, will never be heard in you again. No workman of any trade will ever be found in you again. The sound of a millstone will never be heard in you again. The light of a lamp will never shine in you again. The voice of bridegroom and bride will never be heard in you again. Your merchants were the world’s great men. By your magic spell all the nations were led astray. In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth” (18:20-24).

The adulterous woman was the city of Jerusalem. Israel was the only nation ever betrothed to God. No other nation and no other city could have been described in this way. Jeremiah 3:6-8, “Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery there. I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me but she did not, and her unfaithful sister Judah saw it. I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery.”

The prophet Hosea was told by the Lord to marry an adulterous prostitute as a demonstration of how Israel had been unfaithful to God. Hosea 1:2, “When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, ‘Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord.’ ”

Revelation 18:24 says, “In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth.” In his discussion with the Pharisees Jesus said in Luke 11:47-51, “Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them. So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’ Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.” Jesus identified this adulterous city which would be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets and saints, Babylon the Great, as Jerusalem. And just as he did in his discussion with the apostles in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, Jesus said “this generation,” the one in which he and the apostles were living, would be held responsible. John saw the destruction Jesus, and all the Old Testament prophets before him, had predicted. This “Babylon the Great” (Jerusalem) was destroyed by the beast she was riding (Roman Empire) in A.D. 70.  God poured out his judgment on Jerusalem, but as we shall soon see, he was not finished. 

“After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.’ And again they shouted: ‘Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.’

The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: ‘Amen, Hallelujah!’ Then a voice came from the throne, saying: ‘Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!’ Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’ (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)

Then the angel said to me, ‘Write: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ And he added, ‘These are the true words of God.’ At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, ‘Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy’ ” (19:1-10).

Following the destruction of Jerusalem, that great prostitute who had corrupted the earth with her adulteries, the saints sang the praises of God and the Lamb. In chapter five they sang the praises of the Lamb who was able to open the seals of the scroll of God, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” In chapter six, with the opening of the fifth seal of death, the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God cried out, How long until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood? With the destruction of the great city in chapter eighteen they were told, “Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you. They had to wait no longer; they rejoiced!

The saints were also rejoicing because, once the atonement was complete and the old temple had been destroyed, the way into the Holy of Holies was now possible (Hebrews 9:8), the bride (church) was now ready, and the wedding of the Lamb had come. The concept of the church as the bride of Christ is confirmed throughout the New Testament. Jesus spoke in parables of the great wedding banquet in Matthew 22 and Luke 14. The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:25-32 said, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.”

To fully comprehend the wedding of the Lamb that John saw, one needs to understand the Jewish marriage customs of the first century. The following description based on information from the Concord Messianic Fellowship http://messianicfellowship.50webs.com clarifies this part of John’s vision:

Shiddukhin refers to the first step in the marriage process; the arrangements preliminary to the legal betrothal. It was common in ancient Israel for the father of the groom to select a bride for his son. The next phase of this step was the Ketubah. Ketubah, written in Hebrew as “hbtk,” means “written”. The ketubah was, and still is today, the “marriage contract.” The ketubah includes the provisions and conditions of the proposed marriage:

  • The groom promises to support his wife-to-be.
  • The bride stipulates the contents of her dowry indicating her financial status.

The Mohar, or bridal payment, was sometimes called the bride price. It is a gift paid by the groom to the bride’s family, but ultimately belongs to the bride. It changed her status and set her free from her parent’s household. We see this illustrated in two Biblical examples:

  • Isaac and Rebecca – Gen. 24:53
  • Jacob and his wives – Gen. 29:20,27

To prepare for betrothal, it was common for the bride and groom to separately take a ritual immersion. The ritual immersion, or mikveh (taken from the Hebrew “hwqm”), was prior to actually entering into the formal betrothal period, and was symbolic of spiritual cleansing.

The shiddukhin started with the father’s selection of a bride for his beloved son. So too were we selected by the Father to be his Beloved Son’s loving precious bride. Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:4, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” We also have a legal contract, a ketubah (hbtk), which is the new covenant itself in which:

  • The groom promises love and care for his bride and to give Himself for her. He also paid the proper price (Mohar) for his bride; his own life.
  • The bride promises to pay her dowry. In our case this is not money, but a yielded life kept pure for him. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

Both bride and groom have undergone the waters of mikveh, or immersion; Jesus at the beginning of his ministry (Matthew 3:13-17) and we, his bride, when we are washed of our sin in the cleansing water of baptism. Acts 22:16, “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” Romans 6:1-7, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life…For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” 1 Corinthians 6:11, “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Next came the Eyrusin, which means betrothal. The period is also called kiddushim, meaning “sanctification” or “set apart.” This word truly defines the purpose of the betrothal period. It was a time in which the couple prepared themselves to enter into the covenant of marriage. The Jewish understanding of betrothal has always been much stronger than our modern understanding of an engagement. The betrothal was so binding that the couple would need a religious divorce in order to annul the contract. This option was only available to the husband, as the wife had no say in any divorce proceeding. This point is very important when we view the spiritual relationship we have with Jesus.

After the couple had undergone their Mikveh (hwqm-immersion), each separately, they would appear together under the Huppah, or canopy, and in public they would express their intention of becoming betrothed or engaged. From ancient times the wedding canopy has been a symbol of a new household being planned (Ps. 19:5; Joel 2:16). While under the Huppah the couple participated in a ceremony in which some items of value, such as rings, were exchanged and a cup of wine was shared to seal the betrothal vows. After the ceremony the couple was considered to have entered into the betrothal agreement. This period was to last for one year. During this time the couple was considered married, yet did not have sexual relations, and continued to live separately until the end of the betrothal. In sharing the wine of the last Passover meal with his disciples Jesus was looking forward to the coming marriage when he said, “I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29).

Following this betrothal ceremony the groom would return to his home to fulfill his obligations during the betrothal. But just prior to leaving he would give his wife to be a Matan (ntm), or bridal gift; a pledge of his love for her. Its purpose was to be a reminder to his bride during their days of separation of his love for her, that he was thinking of her, and that he would return to receive her as his wife. Jesus’ bridal gift to his future bride was the Holy Spirit, given to comfort and guide them and guarantee their inheritance when he returned. Ephesians 1:13-14, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”

During betrothal the groom’s responsibility was to focus on preparing a new dwelling place for his bride and family. In Biblical times this was most often done, not by building a new home, but by simply adding additional rooms to the family’s existing home. It was not the groom’s duty to determine when the place he was preparing for the bride was ready. His father would make that determination and give the go ahead to receive his bride. John 14:1-4, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

The bride also was to keep herself busy in preparation for the wedding day. During this period the bride would consecrate herself and prepare holy garments for the upcoming marriage. Paul puts this preparation in very clear terms in the passage already noted in Ephesians 5.

The culminating step in the process of the Jewish wedding was called Nissuin. The word comes from the Hebrew verb “hsn” (nasa), which means “to carry.” This is a graphic description, as the bride would be waiting for her groom to come carry her off to her new home. The period of the betrothal was a time of great anticipation as the bride waited for the arrival of her betrothed. One of the unique features of the Biblical Jewish wedding was the time of the groom’s arrival; it was to be a surprise. The bride took the betrothal seriously, expecting the bridegroom to come at the end of the period of the betrothal. She knew the approximate timing but the exact day and hour was uncertain. It was the father of the groom who would give the final approval for the marriage to begin. Speaking of his return, Jesus said in Matthew 24:36-42, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man…Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” They knew the approximate time because Jesus had just told them, “This generation will not pass away until all these things have happened” (Matthew 24:34). But nobody but the Father knew the exact hour. The entire New Testament is filled with the anxious and excited anticipation of the Bridegroom’s return.

Since the time of his arrival was a surprise the bride and her bridal party were always to be ready. This is the background of Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25:1-13. It was customary for one of the groom’s party to go ahead of the bridegroom, leading the way to the bride’s house and shout, “Behold, the bridegroom comes.” This would be followed by the sounding of the shofar. At the sounding of the shofar the entire wedding processional would go through the streets of the city to the bride’s house. The groomsmen would again set up the huppah. Again the couple would say a blessing over the cup of wine. The ceremony finalized the promises and vows. The pinnacle of this joyful celebration was the marriage supper. It was much more than just a sit down dinner for all the guests. It included seven full days of food, music, dance and celebration. After the festivities the husband was free to bring his bride to their new home to live together as husband and wife in the full covenant of marriage.

Nothing could possibly illustrate more clearly the Revelation of Jesus Christ from the time of his personal ministry until his promised return to claim his bride than this picture of the Jewish marriage. No wonder the saints shouted, “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.” And the record goes on to say, “Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’ (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)” He came!  We now are married to Christ and can proclaim to the world, as the angel said to John, “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” If, as many today teach, we are still waiting for Jesus’ return, we are not yet married, the church is not yet the bride of Christ. This concept is totally against all teaching of Scripture. 

“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: 

KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (19:11-16).

In chapter 6:2, when the Lamb opened the first seal, John saw a white horse. “Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.” The first seal was the covenant God made with Adam. The white horse was a symbol of the sin-free world over which Adam was made ruler. He was told to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:26-28). In Revelation we see him going forth to conquer, just as God had told him. Although Adam sinned and brought death into the world, he was the first prototype of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 15:45-49 the Apostle Paul wrote, “So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” Everything that was lost by the first Adam was regained by the atonement sacrifice of the second one.

In John’s vision the first Adam rode out alone. Jesus, the second Adam in chapter 19, came riding out with all the redeemed of the ages. They were also riding white horses and wearing white robes. They were, once again, sinless! They had reason to sing the praises of God and the Lamb.

“And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, ‘Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.’

Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh” (19:17-21).

God had promised centuries before that he would one day redeem his people and avenge their enemies. The scene John saw was the fulfillment of this very specific promise made through the prophet Ezekiel. The exact same symbolic language is used so there can be no doubt that in the Revelation of Jesus Christ is found the fulfillment of what had been written in the Scroll. Once again we see how a thorough knowledge of the Old Testament prophesies is key to understanding John’s writing.

“Son of man, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Call out to every kind of bird and all the wild animals: ‘Assemble and come together from all around to the sacrifice I am preparing for you, the great sacrifice on the mountains of Israel. There you will eat flesh and drink blood. You will eat the flesh of mighty men and drink the blood of the princes of the earth as if they were rams and lambs, goats and bulls—all of them fattened animals from Bashan. At the sacrifice I am preparing for you, you will eat fat till you are glutted and drink blood till you are drunk. At my table you will eat your fill of horses and riders, mighty men and soldiers of every kind,’ declares the Sovereign Lord.

I will display my glory among the nations, and all the nations will see the punishment I inflict and the hand I lay upon them. From that day forward the house of Israel will know that I am the Lord their God. And the nations will know that the people of Israel went into exile for their sin, because they were unfaithful to me. So I hid my face from them and handed them over to their enemies, and they all fell by the sword. I dealt with them according to their uncleanness and their offenses, and I hid my face from them.

Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will now bring Jacob back from captivity and will have compassion on all the people of Israel, and I will be zealous for my holy name. They will forget their shame and all the unfaithfulness they showed toward me when they lived in safety in their land with no one to make them afraid. When I have brought them back from the nations and have gathered them from the countries of their enemies, I will show myself holy through them in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord their God, for though I sent them into exile among the nations, I will gather them to their own land, not leaving any behind. I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the house of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord” (Ezekiel 39:17-29).

The prophet Joel had predicted that in the “last days” of Israel God would pour out his Spirit, redeem the righteous, and bring judgment on the ungodly. The Apostle Peter, preaching the very first Gospel sermon in Acts 2, said, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel…” The Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost. The “last days” ended with the return of the Bridegroom and the final destruction of the kingdom of Israel and its temple in A.D. 70 by the Roman army. God was faithful to his promise. The souls of those who were crying out under the alter in chapter six had to wait no longer! The “great day of the Lord” had come! Jesus returned in the clouds with power and great glory, exactly as and when he said he would in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. And just as he had told Peter, John lived until he returned to witness and record the events of the Revelation of Jesus Christ (John 21:20-22).