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Introduction to Personal Bible Study - Videos (2007)

4 short introductory video studies First recorded in 2007, posted to GodTube in 2010  These short videos were made nearly 14 years ago. ...

Thursday, February 27, 2020

The Revelation - Part 13 - Spiritual Realities

We pause once again to think beyond our natural human minds. The very concept of God is impossible for us to fathom in these mortal minds. This is why God has to reveal tremendous truths in language and images we can understand. This is how we must understand the Trinity. God is a spiritual reality. He is One, yet understood in Three Persons. This is how he presents Himself to us. These concepts and images are necessary for his creatures to try and understand the incomprehensible.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
"For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts."

-Isaiah 55:8-9

Sometimes these images are in the form of parables. As we have noted many times, parables have a two-fold purpose. They are given to so the rebellious will not understand greater truths (Matt 13:11) while simultaneously the one who seeks to "search out a matter" in regard to God's "secrets" (Prov 25:2) can find tremendous, inspiring, encouraging truths. This why we work hard at "rightly dividing the Word of Truth," that we may not find ourselves "ashamed" at his appearing (2 Tim 2:15).

We see a lot of imagery in the Revelation. I have presented the idea that while these images and visions are in regard to literal truths, they themselves are not necessarily literal. Clearly, when John sees a beast coming out of the sea (Rev 13:1, etc.), he is seeing representation of a literal truth.

Circling back on the idea that our minds are literal, let me suggest one other thing to consider: perhaps even literal and real things reflect truths we cannot understand. There are spiritual realities that we can only experience as physical realities.

For example, maybe the horse we know is merely an earthly version of a heavenly creature beyond comprehension. This may seem somewhat existential and even fanciful, but we have an example of this in scripture. The Tabernacle is a representation of a heavenly reality.

The earthly high priest entered the holiest place to sprinkle the animal blood sacrifice on the mercy seat. But this was simply a picture of reality we cannot fully understand.

Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 
-Hebrews 9:23-24

We see the physical reality (in this case, the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies) which represent "heavenly things." We see "copies of true things." We understand that God uses images in the Revelation, but we need to allow that even the "real" things we see are merely representative.

When Ezekiel sees the "living things" and the images of faces, we sense we are in that in-between world of the real and the use of imagery. Could this not be true of other things? When the Lord and the armies in heaven come on "white horses" (Rev 19:14), what kind of creatures might these be?

One last thought while we're here: the picture of the priest entering the holy of holies as Christ entered the true holy place to offer his final sacrifice tells us two things.

  1. The sacrifice is complete, wholly sufficient, never to be repeated.
  2. Only one can enter that place.

Unfortunately, most of Christendom has rejected that finished work in one form or another. As people "give up" something for Lent or attend mass (the "perpetual sacrifice" which is never complete or sure), they call the sacrifice of Christ and unclean thing, unable to save.

When we rightly divide the Word of Truth, we must reject all earthly ordinances. We must rest solely in the death, burial (lack of decay) and resurrection of our Great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace is not a "covenant." We have no earthly hope or promise (as Israel does). As Gentiles in the current dispensation, we claim only Christ.

Practicing Lent will not cause one to lose the free gift, but it can be, at best, a tremendous hindrance to understanding our calling and, at worst, a mockery of the finished work.


Monday, February 24, 2020

The Revelation - Part 12 - The 144,000

We trudge ahead into Chapter 7 and the 144,000. I have posted a study on this previously and will be copying some of that material plus related material from another study. But to keep in sync with this series, we first want to note the very unambiguous descriptor of this group.

Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.
-Rev 7:4 

These are not "spiritual" tribes or some illusion to Christendom. We are given the names of the twelve tribes in the verses that follow. We will come back to this group in Revelation Chapter 14.

The Great Multitude Out Of All Nations

"After these things I saw, and lo, a great multitude, which to number no one was able, OUT OF all nations, and tribes, and peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne, and before the Lamb, arrayed in white robes, and palms in their hands..."
-Rev 7:9 (Young's Literal Translation)

This verse is often used to teach that God saves men "of" every nation and language etc. But is that accurate?

We pause to note here the "four" angels, "four" corners of the earth, and the "four" winds. The number four being connected to things of the earth (creation). This reminds us that much of the future has to do with the earth. We've seen rewards, and crowns, the Kingdom, and the New Jerusalem all connected to the earth and/or to the promised land. 

As we've seen, the context of Revelation 7 is clearly Israel. Verses 1-8 prophesy of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists called out of the 12 tribes of Israel. These go out and call Jews from the four corners of the earth. This is all yet future. We must "rightly divide" scripture (2 Tim 2:15) and not rip verses from their contexts.

Part of the common problem in Christendom with the application of verse 9 is the translation of the Greek word "ἐκ" by the use of the singular word "of." The more accurate translation is "out of" (see: Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon). The 144,000 evangelists are calling the elect nation, Israel, OUT OF* all the other nations. We see this calling out in the parables of Matthew (another Jewish book).

Note those in verse 9 are "arrayed in white robes." What does the context tell us about this multitude? Again, we have the writer asking for guidance in understanding (a practice we should all adopt).

"Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?” And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in His temple.-Rev 7:13-15 

  1. They came out of (ἐκ) the Great Tribulation
  2. They believed in the Lamb of God
  3. They serve day and night in His temple

This is a multitude of Jews called out of all the nations.

Unfortunately, verse 9 is often used to rob Israel of her promises. Does the Lord save people of all ethnicities (nations)? Surely he does. We are Gentiles, but our promises in this age are not found in the Revelation.


*I'd say "out from among" is even better. We see this in the "ἐκ" resurrection of Philippians 3:11. There, Paul hopes to attain a special resurrection. Most translations read "resurrection from the dead," but that's ALL resurrections. Paul wishes to attain a resurrection "out from among" the dead. Why would Paul simply hope for resurrection? That is secure in Christ (1 Cor 15). He hoped for a resurrection "out from among" the other dead. 1 Cor 15 speaks of resurrection according to rank and order. In service, we may attain a "better resurrection."

This rare usage of "ex-anástasis" is only used here. However, in Luke 24:46, it is said of Christ:
Thus it hath been written, and thus it was behoving the Christ to suffer, and to rise out of the dead [αναστηναι εκ νεκρων] the third day,
-Luke 24:26
Christ rose "out of" (out from among) the dead.


The Final Sowing of the Gospel of the Kingdom

If you followed the sowings from the Parable of the Sower study in Matthew 13, you will notice a fourth and final sowing of the gospel of the Kingdom. As we have seen, the sowings are for Israel and Israel will one day soon again be at the center of the God's dealings. Attention will turn back to the earth, to the promised land, to the Kingdom, to David's throne, the twelve tribes.

12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel will be called out to again preach the promises of the Kingdom on earth (Revelation 7 & 14) along with the two witnesses of Rev 11.

In a recent study we noted the coming Great Tribulation yet to come on Israel. In the passage we reviewed in that study from Matthew 24, we have this:

But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. -Matt 24:13-14

We know Matthew 24 and 25 are parallel passages with the Revelation. The preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom is the fourth sowing of Matthew 13, and it will bear much fruit among the good soil, cleansed through the fiery trials of the tribulation. This has nothing to do with us in this age.

This fires of the parables and seen in this section of Matthew have to do with judgments of the latter days in view. It involves his return to the earth as judge. Daniel helps give us some context. I see here figurative fire (as we have covered in earlier studies), denoting testing.

“As I looked,

“thrones were set in place,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
His clothing was as white as snow;
the hair of his head was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire,
and its wheels were all ablaze.
 A river of fire was flowing,
coming out from before him.
Thousands upon thousands attended him;
ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
The court was seated,
and the books were opened.
“Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire.

-Dan 7:9-11

The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.

-Rev 1:14

You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.

-Rev 5:10-11

This is what will happen at "the last trump" (which will come to shortly in this series). This is where the fulfillment of the passages in Isaiah and the prophets will come to fruition. We can start to see some of the parallels between the three sets of seven judgments and the outline of the end of the age in Matthew 24-25. This concerns the earth and the promised land.

Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying:

“We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty,
The One who is and who was and who is to come,
Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.
The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come,

And the time of the dead, that they should be judged,
And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints,
And those who fear Your name, small and great,
And should destroy those who destroy the earth.”
 -Rev 11:15-18

We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality [resurrection]. 
-1 Cor 15:51-53

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first [resurrection].
-1 Thess 4:16

Note the other gospel proclaimed in the coming age. This one to the gentile nations:

Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people— saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”

-Rev 14:6-7

Neither of these gospels do we preach in this age.

Hopefully, we are getting a picture of this future time. It is Israel-centric. As to the details, they will understand John and the Prophets. They will know who the Antichrist is. They will experience these things and understand them fully. That is, the remnant who serve Christ will have their understanding opened just as the chosen Apostles of  the Lord had their understanding opened after his resurrection.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

-Luke 24:30-32

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. [Jewish]” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
-Luke 24:44-48

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Revelation - Part 11 - The Four Horsemen

First Seal: Rider on a White Horse

This section of the Revelation is familiar to most because of its use in popular culture. Ironically, unlike some other oft-referenced passages, popular culture, at least, gets the timing somewhat correct. However, let's just look to the text itself and see what we can glean.

Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the [seven] seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, “Come and see.” And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.

-Rev 6:1-2

The rider here has a bow, but no arrow. He has a crown indicating political power. This is the leader who "by peace shall destroy many" (Dan 8). The world is desperate for peace, especially Israel, and many will fall for his offer of peace.

I don't know who the Antichrist is, but based on Daniel 8:8-12, I am going to suggest that he arises out of the the four kingdoms of the Greek empire. Below is one map of the possible distribution of Alexander's conquests, however, I've discovered the many maps of the split tend to vary to some degree. Regardless. this is a pretty good representation of the area.

The Antichrist will a have peace plan. Israel will have some reservations, but will be eager for peace. Now when I say "Israel," I mean a slightly different Israel than we have today. There are still 21 years (3 weeks) left on one of Daniel's clocks. For the first 14 years, there will be a rebuilding of the Temple and mass immigration of Jews back to Palestine. We may or may not see this time.

Second Seal: Rider on a Red Horse

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

Here we have the loss of peace on the earth. I want to pause here to say that I haven't yet concluded exactly what "earth" or "land" represents in every occurrence in the Revelation. In some places it seems more obvious than others, but let me suggest three possibilities:

  • The Land of Israel
  • The Entire Earth
  • The Known Inhabited Earth of the Prophetic Word (Spain to the Indus River)

Summation of Seals One Through Six

At this point we remember not only the important passages in the prophets which we have seen, but the Lord's own words in the Olivet Discourse concerning the end of the age (Matt 24-25). Feel free to compare and contrast these with that portion of Matthew.

24:5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. [First Seal: White Horse]
24:7a For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. [Second Seal: Red Horse] 
24:7b And there will be famines, pestilences [Third and Fourth Seals: Black Horse and Pale Horse] 
24:9 Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.[Fifth Seal: Martyrs crying out for justice] 
24:7b and earthquakes in various places [Sixth Seal: great earthquake and signs in the heavens] 
24:13-14 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

We will return to Matthew 24 as we look at the other sets of 7 judgments as well.

So, we jump to the conclusion from Matthew 24: "he who endures to the end shall be saved." Here the word "saved" is not used in the sense of granting immortal life. It is a reference to rescue and deliverance. We looked at the Rich Young Ruler's pursuit of "eternal life." We note that Paul states, from prison, that he hoped the prayers of believers would lead to his "salvation" (Phil 1:19).  He meant that the "the supply of the Spirit" would succor him in prison (or he meant simply, deliverance from prison). We need to be careful with words and how they are used.

That carries through six of the seals, which leaves one. We see the seventh seal in Chapter 8. We will deal with it in due course, but between the six seals of Chapter 6 and the seventh seal of Chapter 8, we have the 144,000 called of Israel who we will see again in Chapter 14. We will deal with them next study.

There are visions of horses and chariots in Zechariah which we will also look at in a future study.

Monday, February 17, 2020

The Revelation - Part 10 - The Scroll and the Lamb

As we start to get into the prophetic future concerning Israel and the time of Jacob's Trouble, we again pause to say that we cannot be dogmatic. We will cruise fairly quickly through these pages, stopping to make certain points which may help us in our understanding. We will be looking back to the Major and Minor prophets for help as well.

The Scroll

And I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals; and I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I wept much that no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. Then one of the elders said to me, “Weep not; lo, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered [overcome], so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

-Rev 5:1-5

Couple of quick notes. First, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and the Root of David remind us we are on Jewish ground. These titles have no application to the Gentile apart from recognizing the Lord's place as King of the Jews.

The Lord Jesus Christ is said here to be the "root of David." In 2 Timothy he is said to be the "seed of David." This reveals the duality of the Lord's Person. He is both man and God. As we've noted in other studies, when a Jew called to the Lord as "Son of David," he responded. When a Gentile does the same, he does not. He ignores her until she addresses him as "Lord."

The Lord is said to have "overcome." The Greek word is translated here in the RSV as "conquered," but it is the same word we have seen in the letters to the seven churches and in the judgments. Those who do "overcome" do so in the power of the Lord. Faithfulness and trust in him leads to the power to do what is righteous.

The scroll here reminds us of the parallel Book of Daniel. All of Daniel Chapter 12 should be read here if you are not familiar, but, for now, I will just quote a few relevant verses.

"At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people [Israel], will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people [Israel] — everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered... But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.”
Daniel 12:1,4 

I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, “My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?” He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.

-Daniel 12:8-10

Well, the scroll here in the Revelation is about to have its seals broken and the information exposed. But, as with Daniel, we may not completely understand, but we'll do our best to glean what we can. Daniel didn't need to understand for it did not concern him directly, ("I was astonished by the vision, but no one understood it"). But in the days to come, the remnant then will understand Daniel. the Revelation, and much more than we do today.

The Lamb

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders, I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth; and he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints; and they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open its seals,
for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God
from every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on earth.”

-Rev 5:6-10

I don't dare, for a moment, risk taking away from the glory given to the Lamb here. The figure of the Lamb is different here in the Revelation than it is in John's Gospel. We see the crossover here in the Lamb who was slain, but we see a different Lamb as we progress. To the overcomer he is the Lamb on his throne, washing, comforting, shepherding. But to the wicked and rebellious, he is no longer the silent sacrifice.

  • The Wrath of the Lamb (Rev 6:6)
  • And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb (Rev 12:11)
  • And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If any one worships the beast and its image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also shall drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured unmixed into the cup of his anger, and he shall be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. (Rev 14:9-10)
  • They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them (Rev 17:14)

The Lamb is connected to the Bride and the Heavenly City which comes down from heaven to the earth and to "the twelve apostles of the Lamb." These are all in a Jewish context. 

The Book of Jude

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”`

-Rev 5:11-12

Just a quick note to keep us connected to other scriptures. The one chapter Book of Jude (which is placed just before the Revelation in our Bibles) is prophetic and Jewish in nature as well.  I only pull out a couple of verses from a very deep and fascinating book to help us. Jude deals with false teachers and has similar warnings to what we have seen in the Revelation in regard to the churches in Asia.

Now I desire to remind you, though you were once for all fully informed, that he who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels that did not keep their own position but left their proper dwelling have been kept by him in eternal chains in the nether gloom until the judgment of the great day; just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. 
-Jude 1:5-7

All of Israel was saved, baptized (identified) unto Moses in the Red Sea, but were later destroyed. I feel compelled to quote all of 1 Corinthians 10 here. One of the consistent errors in Bible interpretation is applying ALL the warning passages to unbelievers. I cannot seem to make any headway on this topic despite the context of many of these passages is clear. Whether it is 1 Cor 6 or Galatians 5 or Ephesian 4 or Romans 8, 1 Peter, Christians refuse to see the possibility of Christians committing heinous sins to the point of living lifestyles of sin.

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors [Jews] were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it. Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.
-1 Corthinians 10 

We cannot escape these warnings. There is no way to read these as for unbelievers. We do not face the testing of the coming Tribulation age, but we should read these examples and be sure our lives are worthy of reward. Our service should be pure (or maturing and as selfless as possible). We must be careful not just to think about sins of a physical nature. Sins of our attitude and desires are just as dangerous.

We should not be bound by the things of this world. We should be sober-minded. Paul warned that some, "have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows" through the seeking of wealth. The penalty of sin (eternal death) was satisfied in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord, but we will all answer for our service and the deeds done in the flesh (Col 3).

I am in danger of going back to the Book of Jude and carrying on with this line of warning, but we have already seen these things in the warnings to the churches in the Revelation. Readers may become tired of my emphasis on this aspect of scripture. I'm will almost certainly mention it again, but I hope we've made our point and it won't be the central focus in coming studies/

Sodom and Righteous Lot

Before we leave Jude, please note the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah, "the punishment of eternal fire." Is Sodom still burning? And of what is the Lord is his references to the future judgment of Sodom in the gospel accounts? Things to ponder.

Scripture refers to Lot as "righteous Lot" (2 Peter 2:7), yet all we know from Genesis is the man who chose to love in that city so he could make a profit ("Lot... pitched his tent towards Sodom").  We are tempted to follow here the Jewish Book of 2 Peter and its warnings, but we pull back to simply be reminded, Lot came out of Sodom, but lost everything. Lot's wife came out of Sodom, but still desired it in her heart and was turned into a pillar of salt.

The Lord himself points Israel to Lot's wife when he is asked about the coming Kingdom in Luke 17.

In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.

In the Tribulation, as we have seen, those who give their lives for the Lord will be given special honor. "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." Etc.

We pause to note the admonition and warning here in Luke 17 regard to one's "life." The Greek word here is "psychḗ" translated "soul" 58 times elsewhere in the NKJV. Imagine the Lord telling people to "lose [their] souls" as it is commonly used in Christendom. I just insert this here for those interested in the topic of the SOUL.

Just a Final note on Daniel and Jude: both reflect the myriads of heavenly beings around the throne of God.  We will be visiting Daniel 7 when we get to the Beasts of the Revelation, but here we have language very similar to our descriptions of Christ and his throne in the Revelation.

As I looked,

thrones were placed
and one that was ancient of days took his seat;
his raiment was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames,
its wheels were burning fire.
A stream of fire issued
and came forth from before him;
a thousand thousands served him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;
the court sat in judgment,
and the books were opened.
-Daniel 7:9-10

It was of these also that Enoch in the seventh generation from Adam prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with his holy myriads, 15 to execute judgment on all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness which they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
-Jude 14-15

And finally, we tie this back to Paul's Acts Age epistles which reflect an expectation of the Tribulation and the return of the Lord to the earth, in the clouds, just as he left (as the angel promised in Acts 1:9-11).

Therefore we ourselves boast of you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which you are enduring. This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be made worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering— since indeed God deems it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant rest with us to you who are afflicted, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfil every good resolve and work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
-2 Thess 4:4-12

Perfection is Maturity, Not Sinlessness

Here in Revelation 5 we are reminded that the Lamb has ransomed men for God by his blood!

There is a peace is knowing we have the free gift of life. We also know that the Lord understands we are but dust. It may appear that God is asking for unattainable purity of service and life, but a study of the great men and women of faith reveals that even these were flawed people. The Lord is looking for those who seek him and seek his will. He desires we move on towards maturity. Nothing can separate us from the love of God.

Fear and the flesh will drive us from God and the best he has for us. There were 12 spies sent into the land, yet only two came back trusting God. The other ten, and the nation that believed their testimony, all died in the wilderness. They were not sent back to Egypt, they remained redeemed, but they did not enter into full blessing. Be careful who you believe and why.

What is common in all ages to all companies is the call to be faithful and mature in the faith (be ye perfect). The gift of life is free, but that is not a license to sin or an excuse not to study. As we've noted many times, some will be "ashamed" and some will "suffer loss" when he appears.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Revelation - Part 9 - The Door Into Heaven

Best We Can Do From Our Perspective

We now jump back to the progression of John's vision. As we start to walk through the vision, after examining the story of the seven churches and the fate of these believers at the end of the Tribulation and the Millennial Reign, we remind ourselves we are dealing with visions.

As with many prophetic passages, the clear meaning may not emerge. Since the Revelation is given to a future people, in a future age, we can only speculate. We will try to speculate in a way which is consistent with the whole counsel of God in scripture, but we admit we are limited. We are again reminded that Daniel didn't understand his own visions and Gabriel told him not to worry about it, they are for a future time. Might want to remember this the next time some group in you area offers a free seminar on the Revelation. They will take it out of its context and swear to you they know what it all means.

[Gabriel said,] “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.”
I, Daniel, was worn out. I lay exhausted for several days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding. 
-Dan 8:26-27

These visions do refer to literal events, people, and nations, but they obscured. As we have seen, this is somewhat common when the Bible looks at the prophetic events of the last days. Sometimes the Lord is gracious and explains a vision. We saw this in our study on the Parables of Matthew 13. We also see it the Revelation and in companion passages in the Prophets. For example, let us quickly look at God, through his messenger, helping Daniel as the prophet struggled to understand what he was seeing.

“I, Daniel, was grieved in my spirit within my body, and the visions of my head troubled me. I came near to one of those who stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of these things: ‘Those great beasts, which are four, are four kings which arise out of the earth. But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.’

-Daniel 7:15-18

This passage is import in this series as we will see these Beasts again in the Revelation. The image the Lord gave Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2 covers history of the Gentiles from Babylon through "what will be in the latter days" (2:28). The passage quoted above from Daniel 7 is slightly different. It fast-forwards to the latter days.

If we read it as "shall arise," as in some translations, it would seem these are different than the kingdoms represented in Chapter 2 as Babylon was already coming to and end. Daniel sees four beasts coming out of "the sea." These are kings who rise up out of the Gentile nations. We see another version of these beasts in Rev 13. I lean toward the idea that the four great kingdoms from Daniel to Christ have a significance to end time events, even if only in regard to the land affected.

Charles Welch refers to this as "Prophetic Earth" in his Alphabetical Analysis. This is partly derived from the use of the Greek word "oikoumene" in the Septuagint. This is the "habitable world." I include that only for your consideration. Mr. Welch presents for consideration as well.

I note these seemingly minor distinctions to show how difficult it can be to be dogmatic when it comes to our interpretation. One of things which concerns me in modern prophecy ministries is the reluctance to consider any alternatives to the "accepted" view (which usually mirrors Hal Lindsey's "Late Great Planet Earth").  I am far less insistent of a number of my interpretations.

This should also serve as great WARNING when groups come around claiming to know EXACTLY what the Book of the Revelation is teaching. If Daniel and John were confused because the their visions are meant for a future people, beware groups which claim they have the interpretation.

For this middle section of the book (chapters 4-19), I will tend to write in general terms. It is not imperative that those of us in this age be precise, but it does help us and encourage us if we are aware of the possibilities as we look at the world around. It could help explain what we're experiencing.

The Opening to John's Vision from Up Hither

After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.

-Rev 4:1
We just want to notice a few things here. John heard a voice which sounded like a trumpet. John is called "up hither." He is to be shown things which "must be hereafter." There is a teaching that the letters to the seven churches lay out the history of the "church" and that the "hereafter" refers to things which happen after the "rapture" of the church. I once held to this interpretation, but have since discarded it. Primarily because I have a very different view of 1 Thessalonians 4 upon which the doctrine of the Rapture is built, but also because the Revelation is Jewish from the beginning. The references in the seven letters are wholly Jewish and one is hard-pressed to jam them into the context of the One Body.

If you recall, it is my contention that the man to which Paul refers in 2 Corinthians 12. the man who was "caught up into the third heaven" and "caught up into Paradise," is John. We are told that man heard things he was not allowed to utter. John is told in Chapter 1, and all through the book, to "write." In one instance, in Revelation 10, John is told to "write not" what he heard.  God has always hidden things in himself. Similarly, Daniel was told to close up his book. God has secrets and he reveals them according to his will and plan.

The "shofar," so closely related to Israel in reard to her covenant, warnings, and battles is connected to John's vision "up hither."

The Orthodox Jewish Bible translates Revelation 4:1 thusly:

After these things I looked, and, hinei, a delet (door) having been opened in Shomayim, the kol harishon [the first voice, 1:10], the voice like a shofar that I heard speaking to me, said, Come up here! And I will show you MAH DI LEHEVE ("what will happen," DANIEL 2:28f) after these things.

The shofar is important in Israel's history. It called the people to worship and to hear the words of the Lord. The shofar is a ram's horn. In the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament), the same word in Greek translated "trumpet" in Revelation 4:1 is the used in the Law and the Prophets for the shofar. This "trumpet" is an integral part of this book and of the timing of events for Israel and the "Jews first" church.

We also notice the reference to Daniel. That which the Lord shows Daniel "will happen" is that which "will be in the latter days." We've note this, but I did not want to lose sight of what we are dealing with: the latter days. Daniel is told the prophetic 70 Weeks "are determined for your people and for your holy city." That is, upon Israel (Jews) and Jerusalem.

Here is a study of related material if you are interested:   Daniel's 70 Weeks

The Presence of Metaphors and Similes 

Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.
-Rev 4:2-3

John saw things that may not be understood by the mind of man. He is forced to do the best he can. He employs similes. Perhaps he is seeing jasper, etc., but he may only be describing what he sees in language readers can grasp.

We do not want to miss the picture of a throne here. The Lord is completely in charge. I see a lot of Christians, especially with Prophecy ministries, getting excited about Israel building the third temple. While the prophetic implications are exciting, the temple itself will be the temple of Antichrist. It will make very dark days ahead for Israel. God is unmoved on his throne, but terrible times are ahead for the nation until God intervenes.

The Twenty-Four Elders

Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices.
-Rev 4:4-5a

The go-to interpretation of these elders is that they represent the church. Sometimes, when the symbol is not clear or has no specific reference, is not easily found, man imposes his thoughts on a passage. I want to stick to the context of the book as accurately as I can. I believe these 24 represent Israel in waiting. The number Twelve is connected to Israel and governance.

Here is how, in part, Dr. E.W. Bullinger explains it:

Twenty-Four being a multiple of twelve, expresses in a higher form the same signification (as 22 does of 11). It is the number associated with the heavenly government and worship, of which the earthly form in Israel was only a copy. We are told that both Moses and David ordered all things connected with the Tabernacle and Temple worship by direct revelation from God, and as a copy of things in the heavens, Hebrews 8:5; 1 Chronicles 28:12, 19. And the sevenfold phrase (in Exo 40) "as the LORD commanded Moses" witnesses to the Divine ordering of all. It was so with the twenty-four courses of priests in the earthly Temple; these were formed on the "pattern of things in the heavens." Why is it necessary for us, when God tells us anything, to conclude that it means something else? Why, when, in Revelation 4, we read of the twenty-four heavenly elders, are we to assume they are anything but what we read, viz., the leaders of the heavenly worship? Why seek to make them redeemed men, or the symbolical representation of redeemed men? Why not leave them alone? It is by such additions as these to what is written that the people of God are divided up into so many schools and parties.
(E.W. Bullinger, excerpt. Number in Scripture

One of the reasons many see the modern church here is found in Rev 5:9, "For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation..." The "redeemed" is assumed to be the Body of the present time. Dr. Bullinger breaks down the Greek and manuscript evidence here (which you can find in the referenced work on Numbers), but suffice to note for this study, the rendering in the Revised Standard Version.

thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation

But I believe it is the following verse were we can clearly see Israel is in sight.

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

This is the "kingdom of priests and a holy nation" promised in the covenant God made with Israel in Exodus 19. The verse also speaks of reigning "on the earth" or possibly "in the land." The Body of the present dispensation has its hopes and blessings in the far above the heavens.

We will look at "every tribe and tongue and people and nation" when we get to Revelation 7.

Seven Spirits of God

Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
-Rev 4:5b

In Revelation 5:6, we see these Seven Spirits of God are the ones sent into the all the earth. They are mentioned in Revelation 1 and Revelation 3. We know Angels are "ministering spirits" (Heb 1:14) to Israel and that Michael the Archangel and Gabriel, in particular, are connected to Israel (Dan 9:21; 12:1).

In this age, Angels have no dealings with the Body. The only mentions we have of these beings in our epistles is the warning in Colossians 2 to avoid the worship of angels and two mentions in 1 Timothy. The first as witnesses to Christ's ministry (1 Tim 3:16) and secondly as witnesses to Paul's instructions in the book (1 Timothy 5:21). And in this last reference, the word could be translated simply as "messengers" and refer to Elders.

The Four Living Creatures and Worship

Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: 
“Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!”

We have previously looked at the Unfortunate translation of these "living creatures" in the King James Version. I only note that here for those using the KJV. I do not want you to confuse the living creatures here and the horrendous beasts also seen in this book. The Greek words translated "beasts" in the KJV are wholly different words.

These living creatures are the Cherubim which surround the throne. They connected to the Garden of Eden. They are part of Ezekiel's vision. As this is not a study of the Cherubim, I will focus on what they looked "like." Ezekiel is a book which is so rich in imagery and prophetic truth, it deserves its own study. We will tie it in as necessary, but unfortunately, I am not equipped at the present time to fully expound it as a whole.

In Revelation 4 we see four living creatures as a lion, a calf (or ox), a man, and a flying eagle. In Ezekiel's vision we see similar imagery.

As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle. 
-Ezek 1:10

We note similar imagery when the glory departs the Temple in Ezekiel's vision in chapter 10

Each one had four faces: the first face was the face of a cherub, the second face the face of a man, the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle.
-Ezek 10:14

Before I comment on the slight difference, let's take a look at the imagery in Rev 4 and Ezek 1. I will use the order listed in the Revelation.

Lion = Matthew's Gospel of the King
Calf  = Mark's Gospel of the Servant
Man  = Luke's Gospel of the Perfect Man
Eagle = John's Gospel of the Great God and Savior

An alternate understanding could be that the four represent the authority over all creation: Man, the fowls of the air, the beasts of the field. The Cherubim are connected to the earth, the tabernacle, Israel. 

J.N. Darby from his commentary on Revelation 4 in regard to Ezekiel:

The cherubim in the temple had two wings, which formed the throne; they looked on the covenant [Israel's], and at the same time, as of pure gold, were characterized by the divine righteousness of the throne to be approached. In Ezekiel they were the support of the firmament above which the God of Israel was: it was a throne of executive judgment. They were like burnished brass, and like fire-a symbol we have considered already. They had four wings: two to fly with, two to cover themselves. From Ezekiel 10:1-22 it appears they were full of eyes (it is not said within) it was to govern what was outside, according to God, not divine intelligence within. In Isaiah 6:1-13 the seraphim (or burners) have six wings as here; they are above the throne, and cry as here, Holy, holy, holy! They, with a burning coal, cleansed the prophet's lips; they were above the throne.

The imagery changes in Ezekiel 10. There we have the departing of God's glory from the temple pictured. There we have the "Lion" gone and replaced simply with the face of a Cherub. Glory departs slowly, but when it returns later in the vision, it returns quickly. God is slow to judge, quick to forgive! 

It may be that the absence of the Lion is a picture of Israel losing it's position as mediators and king over creation. God's promise to Israel is that she will one day be a kingdom of priests. We see that priesthood for individual Jews as reward for faithful service (we looked that in our study on the Lake of Fire). 

As noted, these things are inexorably tied to Israel and to a future age. I cannot be dogmatic. As I continue to study, I pray God enlightens me as he sees fit. 

In Daniel and later in the Revelation we will see "beasts" arising. Gentile nations only appear in scripture from Gen 12 through the Revelation (apart from the last 7 books of the Apostle Paul's ministry) in connection to Israel. As things may have several levels of meanings, I will address the beasts when we come to them.

Praise, Holiness, and Judgment to Come

Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:

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

We hear a wonderful cry of praise which refers to the Lord in his role as creator. As we have seen, the Lord Jesus is the one through whom all things were created (Col 1:16; Eph 3:9). We will see God as creator connected to the "everlasting gospel" of Rev 14. Israel, represented by the twenty-four elders, are connected to this coming age and to earthly rewards and promises.

God's Holiness is connected to his judgments and his throne. We get several pictures of this in the Psalms. Here we can see his righteousness connected to judgment. We are careful to see the figure of a "fire" again is connected to judgment. This is all connected to the earth. This could point to literal fire or to figurative fire (I would argue both), as both are connected to earthly judgments. We see "fire" in both Daniel's vision and John's vision as well as in the other prophets. 

Clouds and darkness are round about him:
righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne.
A fire goeth before him,
and burneth up his enemies round about.
His lightnings enlightened the world:
the earth saw, and trembled.

The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord,
at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.
The heavens declare his righteousness,
and all the people see his glory.
Confounded be all they that serve graven images,
that boast themselves of idols:
worship him, all ye gods
-Psalm 97:2-7 

Friday, February 7, 2020

The Revelation - Part 8 - Book of Life, Lake of Fire, and the Second Death Etc

Step Back from Tradition

We noted in our last study we'd briefly look at the GREAT WHITE THRONE, the BOOK OF LIFE, the SECOND DEATH, and the LAKE OF FIRE.

As we constantly stress on this blog, and throughout this study, we must get the traditional and orthodox view of all things in scripture falling into the heaven/hell or saved/lost constructs out of our thinking. As the vast majority of scripture is directed at believers and companies of different believers in different ages, we must recognize that this includes some of the warnings of scripture.

When we looked at the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3, we noted that the warnings and promises are spoken by the Lord to believers. We will note some of these to further establish this context.

The Book of Life

The idea that The Book of Life is the list of all who have immortal life is extremely problematic. Those who start there are forced to try and explain away how anyone can have a free gift by faith and grace only to have his name "blotted out" of the book based on his works.

Those who preach the heresy and blasphemy of salvation by faith plus works run into a hard and high wall in the promises of life by grace alone as a free gift obtained by faith alone. These blaspheme the work of Christ on Calvary and claim God is in their debt. This study is not an examination of that heretical doctrine (and its brother, "maintaining" a free gift). We note it only to dispense with the notion in regard to the Book of Life. We are coming from the assumption that readers understand that the work of Christ is complete and life beyond the grave is a free gift by grace alone.

Evangelicals are, thus, left to ponder this "blotting" out. Once we get our heads above the traditions of men and allow the scriptures to speak consistently, the book and its contents come into clearer view.

The Book of Life is mentioned seven times in the Revelation. The number 7 is prominent in the Revelation (the number of spiritual maturity/perfection). We will address that later, but I did want to keep that in front of us. It speaks to the divine nature and inspiration of the Revelation. In our last study, I posted all the uses of the Greek word for "former" in the Revelation. It is used seven times (although this is lost in the English translations).

I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

-Rev 3:1-5

In chapters 13 and 17 of the Revelation, we see those who marvel at the Beast and who worship the Beast. They are those "whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world." This appears to be those who were never in the Book of Life. 

We note the words "from the foundation [overthrow] of the world." We pause to reiterate that the current company of believers (current age) are said to be chosen in him from "before the foundation of the world" (Eph 1:4).  we must always know to which family of God scripture is speaking if we are to properly divide and interpret it.

The promises to Israel (and to certain Gentiles through Israel) were made known "since" or "from" the foundation of this age. Those in Revelation 13 and 17 are not written in the book. I have stated that this implies that they were never in the Book of Life. Even if we allow that these are those since blotted out from the beginning, it doesn't change the assertion that the verses referring to those blotted out are believers. We will look at them in their contexts.

If we note the words "are not written" and "have not been written," it suggest these were never in the book. Young's Literal Translation renders the phrase as "have not been written" in both chapters. If this is the case, then we can quickly dispense with the idea that all men are in the Book until blotted out by unbelief. That's a very messy doctrine and really difficult to maintain as consistent for the all seven instances in the Revelation. 

The most consistent understanding of being written in the Book, which fits all instances, is that men enter the Book by faith, but must maintain faithfulness unto death or by sacrificial works to the end to remain in it. It is a Book of works. Therefore, it cannot be a book of salvation (in the evangelical sense). Since we know nothing "shall be able to separate us from the love of God" (Rom 8:39), we know it cannot be a book of immortal life.

"Salvation" or "saved" in scripture must be understood in context as well. In a Jewish context, it can mean entrance into the kingdom. The idea is "rescue." We can be "rescued" from the punishment of death that haunts all men or a Jew could be "rescued" from rejection from the promises. The Lord says some will be "saved" if the "endure to the end." This is also true of other things in scripture such as "eternal life" and "justification." 

So we move on to the place of the Book of Life in the judgments in the Revelation.

The Great White Throne

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

-Rev 20:11-15

Here we are at the GREAT WHITE THRONE judgment. Remember, the Judgment Seat of Christ judgment of believers (Rom, 2 Cor) involves the testing of the works of a believer by a metaphorical fire. Some will "suffer loss" and some will be rewarded. Some may be "ashamed," but even these will be saved "as if by fire" (notice the metaphorical language). We have no trouble seeing fire as metaphorical in that case.

The judgement here in the Revelation involves "books" (plural) and is limited to "works" (repeated in the passage). The Book of Life is part of this judgment, but it is not the whole of the judgment. We note again that only believers have our works and our service judged. Only believers are warned about being blotted out of the Book of Life.

Why the plural "books?" There is a case to be made that the Book of Life assumes martyrdom which would not apply to all believers. However, there are specific verses mentioning those who gave their lives in the Tribulation connected to rewards.

We also want to note here James' promise of the Crown of Life to those who endure temptation (James 1:12). James is written to 'the twelve tribes" (James 1:1). The Tribulation will have many temptations. Part of the promise to the faithful Philadelphia Church: "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try [test, tempt] them that dwell upon the earth." The word "earth" here is the Greek word "ge." In a number of places it is translated "land," in come case as part of "the land of Israel."

Whether the Book of Life is specific to martyrdom and the other books witness to faithful service short of death, we do not know. But all of the books testify to works.

The Second Death

We turn back again to the warnings to the churches in regard to the Second Death. We find this possibility in the Lord's message to the persecuted church at Smyrna. It is juxtaposed against a reward. Not just any reward, but it contrasted with the "Crown of Life." We immediately see that since this "Life" is named in a reward, it is not the gift of immortal life as that cannot be earned. We note yet again, that the same word may have a different meaning depending on its context. I repeat this truth, because tradition often locks men into conclusions which are indefensible or inconsistent. Confusion is the result.

Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.

-Rev 2:10-11

The Crown of Life is promised to faithful martyrs. This is our first clue as to how some with attain unto certain honors in the ages to come. In this case, "death" is the qualifier. The "overcomer" is the subject of the Revelation (beginning and ending). The reward in Revelation 21 gives us what the overcomer is not associated with. We will now look at those in light of the Second Death and its relation to the Lake of Fire.

The phrase "Second Death" appears four times in the Revelation (four is the number of the creation, things that are seen, the earth).

The Lake of Fire

He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

-Rev 21:7-8

The phrase "Lake of Fire" appears only in the Revelation (four times as well, connected to the things that are seen, the creation, the earth).

As an aside, we must make a distinction between a "child" and a "son." All sons are children, but not all children are sons. A son is one who has a claim to an inheritance. Unfortunately, and inexplicably, the King James Version confuses these two. That's a shame because the distinction makes a difference in interpretation. Suffice it to say for this post, we can see that "sonship" is connected to being an overcomer which is connected to being faithful unto death and/or having good works.

In Matthew 8, it is "the sons of the kingdom" who are cast into outer darkness. The context there is a believing Gentile with great faith against the heirs of the kingdom, Jews. Some, through lack of faith or disobedience, who had a claim to the kingdom will be cast out while some Gentiles will sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob "in the kingdom of heaven."  The "outer darkness" appears in two parables in the Jewish book of Matthew; involving service and works. The "weeping and gnashing" in Matthew 8 also appears in parables and is connected to servants, works, and the kingdom.

In our passage in Revelation 21, we note the word "but." This starts this comparison. We have noted in numerous studies (and earlier in our study on the Revelation) that Christians are capable of terrible things. We have seen that Christians have a choice between walking in the new nature or walking in the flesh; walking in light or walking in darkness. We've seen lists of wicked acts and thoughts presented as possible for believers. We've seen the Lord warning believers about having their carcasses thrown into "Gehenna" the place of unquenchable fire in Isaiah 66.

All of these things are related and, in light of the full counsel of God in scripture, we know that "fire" is often used as a metaphor for destruction. In the case of believers, it it used (as we have seen) as the figure for testing our works and service and then destroying any worthless works. The parables speak of metaphorical fires. Colossians 3 (for this age) tells us we will answer for all deeds done in the body. Judgment of service and works is present all through scripture. We lose this in a simplistic saved/lost or heaven/hell dichotomy.

The Lake was created for the Devil and his angels as stated by the Lord in Matthew 25. There, those entering this fire are "nations"  We cannot ignore the context in Revelation 21 either. We stress again the context of these passages.

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.

-Matt 25:31-32

  • Time: "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him"
  • Place: "then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory"
  • People: "before him shall be gathered all nations"
  • Criteria: Works in regard to Israel (his brethren) (vs.41-45)
  • Punishment: Fire and everlasting punishment (vs. 41, 46)
  • Reward:"the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (vs. 34, 46)

The Lord says "the King" is the one speaking (v.34). And we note again the kingdom here is "from" the foundation of the world. It involves the earth and earthly promises. The context of the entire discourse is "the end of the age" (Matt 24:3)

It is foolish to use this passage and apply it to all men of all ages. As with the other judgments, there is no mention of faith at all here. This is not an evangelical salvation passage. The other parables in Matthew 25 involve "virgins" and "servants." The "wise" virgins are juxtaposed against the "foolish" virgins. The "good and faithful" servants are set against the "wicked and lazy" servant.  Israel is called "Virgin Israel" in Jeremiah and "servants" in the Law.

Parable of  the Virgins
  • Reward: entrance into the wedding feast
  • Punishment: denial of entrance

Parable of the Talents
  • Reward: ruler over many things
  • Punishment: cast into outer darkness

Faithfulness and service are being judged. nations are being judged. A kingdom, a wedding, ruling over many, rejection, outer darkness, and fire are all through this discourse about "the end of the age." Works are being judged. In the previous chapter the Lord warns his servants to be faithful until he comes. He speaks of Israel as the Fig Tree. We must mark these things and rightly divide.

Matthew 24 and 25 are parallel passages to the Revelation.

When we come to the judgments at the end of the Revelation, we see similar figurative language. First, we note judgment at the end of the Tribulation, and then again at the Great White Throne and, finally in regard to entrance into the New Jerusalem ("the city whose builder and maker is God" sought by those striving for a "better resurrection" in Hebrews 11).

The Distinguishing Marks of Those Who Suffer Loss

But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” -Rev 21:8
But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. -Rev 21:27

We can find these things connected to Christians walking in the flesh, walking in darkness, throughout the gospels, Acts, Acts Age epistles, Post Acts epistles, and in the Revelation. The hopes and rewards may differ, but in all, if the believer wants the reward in view, he must "qualify."

Those subject to the Second Death and those refused entrance into the New Jerusalem led wicked lives and were not faithful. Remember the conditions for ruling in the coming age.

And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years... Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. -Rev 20:4, 6

  • Lived and reigned with him vs not reigning
  • Second Death had no power over them vs being subject to the Second Death
  • They shall be priests vs cast out of the kingdom

Do not read gift of life into "the kingdom." If you do, you will find great confusion in scripture.

The rewards and loss in the Revelation all pertain to Israel, the earthly kingdom,. the covenants and promises. If we want to be consistent in regard to the Lord's ministry to Israel, we must line up all these scriptures. When we do, a clearer picture emerges..

Charles Welch sums up the relationship of these judgments found in the Revelation:
Someone who was timid, who had flinched under the dreadful persecution of the time of the Beast and False Prophet, this one who fell and against which sin Paul even warned Timothy (2 Tim. 1:7), he has his part in the lake of fire, whereas any one that defiled was excluded from the heavenly Jerusalem. Yet this, while it sounds odd enough, will be seen more strange, for in one verse the abominable and 'All' liars are destined for the lake of fire, while in the corresponding verse Anything that worketh abomination, or maketh a lie is excluded from the Heavenly Jerusalem! Surely, if the Scriptures are inspired, this means that the reference to the lake of fire, the reference to the second death, the reference to the book of life and the reference to the entry into the heavenly city are to be read together. This lake of fire is said to have been 'prepared' for the Devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41), in contrast with the kingdom that had been 'prepared' for those who received the Lord's commendation (25:34), the 'Bride' also is prepared for her husband (Rev. 21:2). 
In each case they are exceptional, and cannot be spread wider than the contexts will allow. This dreadful lake of fire had not been 'prepared' for any other than the Devil and his angels, but if anyone yielded to the pressure or the temptation of the last days so as to ally himself with the Devil and his emissaries, he could be 'hurt' of the second death, he would find that the fire that destroyed the enemy, would also burn up his fleshly 'works', and he could 'suffer loss' even the loss of the Heavenly city, yet 'he himself could be saved so as by fire'. 
(Excerpt: An Alphabetical Analysis, Part 9, Prophetic Truth)

Those who do not qualify are not raised to rule for the thousand year reign, not allowed to be priests in the earthly kingdom, cast out into the darkness of the nations. They have their works burned up. All of these are judgments of wicked servants and disobedient children.

We have rewards, crowns, and a prize to "attain" in our age (Phil 3:11; etc.). We can rule with him from "the far above the heavens" (not on earth). To qualify, we must take up our cross ("if we suffer with him, we will reign with him"). We must believe the testimony of the Apostle Paul in regard to the Mystery revealed to him in Ephesians. We must walk worthy of the calling unto which we were called. We must walk in the light according the new, divine nature. As sad as it is, there are Christians who "enemies of the cross of Christ." Beware those who would rob you of your reward (Col 2).

If we deny him, he will deny us (2 Tim 2:12).

Some may miss out on rewards and crowns in all callings, but their life in eternity beyond the ages is secure.

Moving Forward

So far in our look at the Revelation, we have covered the seven churches. We have looked at the different blessings and punishments related to the believers of the coming age. We have seen that there is a judgment of service and faithfulness of Christians in all ages. We have seen the many warnings to Christians (including Christians in the current dispensation) they need to choose to walk in the light and in the new nature and not in the darkness nor in the flesh.

We must now go back and start to deal with John's visions of the Tribulation from chapter 4 through chapter 19.

Here are some helpful related entries on the topics in Part 8:

Matthew 24-25 The Olivet Discourse
The Fig Tree in Matthew 21
Parable of the Wicked Servant
Parable of the Ten Virgins
Parable of the Sheep and the Goats
The Final 6 Churches of Rev 1 & 2
The Hope of the Present Age -Part 1
The Hope of the Present Age -Part 2
Understanding Eternal Life

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

The Revelation - Part 7 - The Two Resurrections

The First Resurrection  

And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.

-Rev 20:4-5

 Note that the ones being addressed in this passage are rewarded with ruling an reigning for what they did and didn't do. That is, works. Remember the promise to the overcomer at the Church at Thyatira, "And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron." And even in the lukewarm Church at Laodicea we see this promise, "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne."

The context is reward for works. And not only works, but he who "keeps my works unto the end." We recall the Lord's words when he spoke about the Tribulation and the end of the age in Matthew 24, "But he who endures to the end shall be saved." The context is, thus, believers. Jewish believers. For only believers can be overcomers. Only believers have works and service judged. These are not passages about the forgiveness of sin. That's a free offer by the blood of Christ alone.

We've seen this pattern with all rewards: Works, Faithfulness. We won't repeat the argument here, suffice to say scripture is clear that our rescue from the grave (not our reward) is "not of works, lest an man should boast" (Eph 2:9). And scripture is clear that God has already reconciled himself to the world and does not hold the sins of men against them (2 Cor 5:19). Servants are judged for their work. Yes, I know I am repeating myself, but I'm up against years of tradition.

And it appears the greatest work is faithfulness unto death, a very real prospect in that terrible time to come. Death may very well be the qualifier.

The Former Resurrection

We know turn to the final part of this promise. The ones who had not worshiped the Beast are blessed in the "first" or "former" resurrection. That is, the first of a pairing of the same company. There are a number of resurrections in scripture, but these two in the Revelation go together.

We can see this pattern of "former/latter" when scripture refers to the "first" covenant. Well, the first covenant in scripture is the covenant God established with Noah. He also established a covenant with Abraham. Later, he would establish a covenant with David.

So how are we to reckon this verse in Hebrews 8? "For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second." Clearly the writer is referring to the "Old" and the "New"covenants with Israel (as the context shows). But as we've noted, the Old and New Covenants are neither the first nor the second (respectively) in time or sequence.

The next chapter itself gives us the same Greek word translated as "former."

There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. 
-Rev 21:4

The idea is the first of a pair. That is, the two go together. They may be rendered "former" and "latter" as we've noted. This helps us understand the phrase "the rest of the dead." This would be the rest of the same group.

The Greek word for "rest" is "loipoi." In the KJV, here is how the translators translated it:

  • other, 15x; other things, 1x; others, 7x; remnant, 4x; residue, 1x; rest, 12x; which remains, 1x

Let's see it's usage in this book (from Strong's Concordance) :

But unto you I say (5719), and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have (5719not this doctrine, and which have not known (5627) the depths of Satan, as they speak (5719); I will put (5692upon you none other burden.

Be (5737watchful (5723), and strengthen (5657) the things which remain, that are (5719) ready to die (5629): for I have not found (5758thy works perfect (5772before God.

And I beheld (5627), and heard (5656an angel flying (5740through the midst of heaven, saying (5723) with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters (5723of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet (5723) to sound (5721)!

And the rest of the men which were not killed (5681by these plagues yet repented (5656not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship (5661devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can (5736see (5721), nor hear (5721), nor walk (5721):

And the same * * hour was there (5633) a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell (5627), and in the earthquake were slain * (5681) of men seven thousand: and the remnant were (5633affrighted, and gave (5656glory to the God of heaven.

And the dragon was wroth (5681with the woman, and went (5627) to make (5658war with the remnant of her seed, which keep (5723) the commandments of God, and have (5723) the testimony of Jesus Christ.

And the remnant were slain (5681with the sword of him that sat (5740upon the horse, which sword proceeded (5740) out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled (5681with their flesh.

The "rest of the dead" is limited to the rest of the group in view.  It does not mean "all the dead who ever died." If the traditionalist wants to force this meaning upon it, he runs into trouble explaining why millions, already in fiery torment, are being resurrected to have their works judged. The rest here are said to "live not again" until the end of the millennium. This limits to believers who did not overcome during the Tribulation.

If you've followed this blog, and our studies about resurrection and death, this makes sense. We understand that only believers have "life." Only believers have resurrection. When one is dead (unbeliever or believer) he is dead. He knows nothing. When we interpret the Bible, as best we can, we need to try to be consistent. If we cannot find that consistency perfectly, the fault is ours. It only means we need to keep on studying.

The first resurrection group has a very specific description, "them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands." Just as this "first resurrection" cannot be all believers of all time, "the rest" cannot be the unbelievers of all time. If "the rest" is every person not yet raised, we are ALL on that list!

Clearly, the people in view here are people who lived during the Tribulation. How they perform determines if they will see the millennium and if they will be able to enter the New Jerusalem. We recall the "better resurrection" of Hebrews 11. That is a different company of believers, but the idea of suffering is present. These not only had faith, they "were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection." We do not "obtain" the free gift, but we can "obtain" rewards, etc.

Obviously there is a chance that some might NOT obtain the better resurrection. In our dispensation, we are striving for the "out from among the rest of the dead" resurrection of Philippians 3:11, a resurrection to which Paul said he had not yet "attained." It is attained by service, faithfulness, and works.

The Latter Resurrection

Those not blessed of the first resurrection are destined to the latter of the two in view in this vision/book. 

I can be inferred that these were guilty of the sins and failures to listen spoken in the indictments of five of the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3 of the Revelation. We looked at these warnings in our  last study. The Lord chastises them (as does with hos sons/heirs), but if they fail to overcome, they will not get any reward. Part of that reward for faithful service is resurrection and rulership in the Millennial Kingdom.

Since these believers who failed in their service are not in the millennium, they are not numbered with those who rebel along with Satan at the end of the thousand years.

Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. 
-Rev 20:7-10

We see the rebellion against the Lord. Remember, the Millennium will be a time better than other ages, but it will not be without evil. Many will only feign obedience. The Lord and his overcomers will rule an reign. Israel will have her promises. But many will hold hate in their hearts.

Man is inherently wicked. Even in light of perfect rule and the absence of Satan, some men will still prefer to live in the flesh. 

During the millennium, the Lord will rule the nations with a rod of iron (Psalm 2:9; Rev 2:27; 12:5, 19:15). Men will "rage" against his rule. The overcomers will reign with him (as we have seen) as a reward.

Putting together our timeline:

The Tribulation Testing of Jewish Believers
    The Return of the Lord to establish his kingdom
        The overcomers rule and reign with Christ 1000 years (Satan bound)
            Satan loosed, the wicked rebel and are vanquished
They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night [to the ages of the ages].

-Rev 20:9-10 
The armies destroyed. Satan cast into the Lake of Fire with the Beast and the False Prophet. This is where "the rest of the dead" (those who did not overcome in the Tribulation) are raised.

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades [KJV: Hell] delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

-Rev 20:11-15
This is the setting for the GREAT WHITE THRONE, the BOOK OF LIFE, the SECOND DEATH, and the LAKE OF FIRE. The context and subjects of this scene are believers who failed to overcome. These failed in faithfulness and service. The warnings to these believers, spoken to the seven churches, limited to that age, will now come to pass.

We will look at these and related issues next time.