Monday, April 25, 2016

Revelation 13:1-10

From the beginning, Satan has been the great deceiver. In Eden, he used deception to try to establish a new law and create a new race of rebels against God. At every point in history he has sought to be the great usurper and imposter of God. In place of God, the great deceiver has been constantly seeking to establish himself as the sovereign ruler over mankind. He is not Sovereign, and he is not ever going to be. His destruction is declared throughout scripture, and as we have studied Revelation, especially in chapter 12, we have seen clearly the foiling of all Satanic enterprises.
Now, in Revelation 13, Satan seeks to continue his great deception. From the depths of the earth, a new creature arises. Satan, the dragon, has commissioned this creature to come forth and deceive the inhabitants of the earth. In describing this creature, the imagery is strikingly similar to the details that we know of Christ. It is as though Satan has attempted to create another Christ. Just like Paul warned of “another gospel that is not gospel,” Satan presents another Christ that is not Christ. Just as Christ had been slain and rose from the dead, this imposter had been injured but was now healed. The deception was flagrant, but many would still be willingly deceived by this faux-Messiah.
As Satan, the dragon, unleashed his misleading beast on mankind, he issued claims that mirrored the claims of the resurrected and omnipotent Christ. “Who is like the beast? Who can war against him?” The arrogant confidence was meant to mislead mankind into imagining they had finally found the all-powerful one that their souls longed for. Furthermore, as Scripture tells us in Ephesians 1:13 that all believers and children of God have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, the beast seals all of his own with a mark, signifying his seal on them.
This satanic scheme of deception is dark and wicked. Following the agonies of the previous months, many turn to this false savior in the hope that he will alleviate their suffering. Instead of repenting, they seek shelter in a lie. The final call of this text is to endure faithfully in the face of dangerous blasphemy and agonizing apostasy. John writes to the readers of this vision, “Endure and have faith.” Do not let the darkness of your souls in the face of such a powerful imposter deceive you. Stand firm in the faith. Know Whom you have believed in. Do not lose sight of the “Lamb who was slain” for you. He has not neglected or forgotten you. Endure to the end.

Reflect: Read through Revelation 13:1-10. List some of the deceptive comparisons that Satan seeks to accomplish through the beast that is revealed in this passage?

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Revelation 12:13-17

When you therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee in to the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. – Matthew 24:15-18

For the Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: So the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him. – Deuteronomy 32:9-12

Having seen the fall of Satan and his fiery attempts to destroy and devastate the life and health of the chosen people of God, John continued to watch his vision unfold. The dragon, Satan, was defeated and banished from heaven. However, in diabolical rage he unleashed his most vicious attacks on the offspring of the woman, Israel. Chronologically speaking, it is best to understand verses 13-17 as occurring during the time of Great Tribulation. It has already been clear throughout the vision of John that during this period Satan will unleash his most ardent assaults on the chosen people of God.
Now, as the draconic terrors increased, the woman fled into the wilderness. In fulfillment of the prophecy of Jesus on the Mount of Olives, the day will come when the persecution of Israel will be so unbearable that they will flee into the wilderness to hide from it. In this moment of Satan’s cruelest endeavors, God showed John that protection was given to God’s people. In a supernatural turn of events wings of protection were given to her. This does not mean that the people of God will grow actual wings, rather, the language seems strongly figurative, and speaks of God’s intervening power in the face of Satan’s greatest destructive schemes. Just like God carried Israel out of the clutches of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, God will sweep away His people in the time of their distress and will protect and care for them like a mother bird cares for her offspring.
Having his attack plan miraculously thwarted by God, Satan continues his storm with a new torrent of evil. With flood-like resources, he poured out his next onslaught against Israel. But despite his greatest efforts, God still protected His own. Nothing that Satan issued against God’s chosen people could ever harm them. Satan, in his most vehement attack, was no match for the magnitude and awesomeness of an omnipotent God. Satan’s greatest attempts are always checked by the power of Providence. Ultimately, even if the power of Satan seems impressive and nearly overwhelming, we have already learned what the outcome of all of his efforts will be. In the chapter prior to this, John had given the prophetic glimpse of the finality of all things – Jesus will reign forever as King and Lord over all things. Satan was doomed from the outset, no effort of his will ever undermine the Divine power and purpose of a Sovereign Lord.

Reflect: How do Matthew 24:15-18 and Deuteronomy 32:9-12 reflect the truths of God that we see plainly in Revelation 12?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Revelation 12:6-12

As John’s vision of the great war between Satan and the angels of God continued, he described the characters in the vision that he was seeing. The first was a woman who represented Israel and who was going to give birth to a child. The second character in the vision was a great dragon who represented Satan and who was waiting to devour and destroy the promised child. The third character was introduced as a man child who represented Jesus and who was born in fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies. As the child was born, God protected Him and He was taken to His throne in heaven with God.
Now, John’s vision continued with the aftermath of the success of the birth and glorification of Jesus. Warfare took place between the angels of God, led by Michael the archangel, and the dragon and his angels. Eventually, the forces of the dragon, Satan, were defeated and were cast from heaven down to the earth. Now, Satan was no longer given access to accuse the saints before God. Instead, he was banished to the earth to grovel amongst mankind. The blindness of the pride of Satan, however, is that he never gives up. Having been plainly defeated by God, he still scraps and scrapes to overthrow and upturn whatever he can. Now that he is exiled to the earth, instead of surrendering to the awesome and indomitable power of God, he lashes out at the people of God and seeks to inflict agony on those who are the followers of God.
But yet again, Satan is not the victor. In verse 11, John tells us that those whom Satan attacked eventually overcame and conquered him by “the blood of the Lamb.” It was not that they were strong enough and warred with the dragon. It is not that they had the self-will to overcome. It was not that they outsmarted, or outwitted him. He is powerful, and deceptive, and cruel. There is no way that these followers of God could overcome such a being with the strength of their own might. Instead, “God sent forth his son, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem them.” – Galatians 4:4
Now the people of God rejoiced at the deliverance offered to them through the conquering blood of Jesus. He had overcome Satan and defeated Him. There was no battle that the saints would win in their own power. All victories would come through the help and strength of the one who had once for all defeated Satan through the sacrifice of His own blood. Jesus offered/offers help to all those who come to him. Satan does not get to be the victor in the future, and he certainly doesn’t get to be the victor in the present. Falling on Jesus and trusting in His atoning work and saving power is the only hope we have at victory of temptation and the wiles of Satan.

Reflect: Read Job 1:6-12. How does this connect to Revelation 12:10?

Monday, March 21, 2016

Revelation 12:1-5

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. - Isaiah 7:14

I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in in him. Psalm 2:7-12

After seeing the end of all nations, and the exaltation of Christ’s throne over all things, John continues describing his vision by travelling back in time and giving the over-arching picture of what has taken place and what will take place on earth. Like any great story it is important to understand the back-story and history before you can fully understand what is happening. John’s vision is just the same. In his vision, he goes all the way back to before the creation of mankind and tells the story of the desperate war that Satan has waged against God throughout the ages. In the story, Satan is pictured as a great dragon that drew a third of the heavenly bodies with him when he was cast to earth.
The imagery used in these verses describes the actions of Satan as he lay in wait to undermine the promised Savior from God. In these verses Israel is described as a woman clothed with the sun, moon, and twelve stars. This seems to be very similar to the language used by Joseph in Genesis 37 in his prophetic dream of his family (his father, mother, and his brothers who were eventually the twelve tribes of Israel). Now, the dragon prowls waiting to devour and destroy the promised child that was to be born out of Israel.
In verse 5, when the child is born, John uses some very specific language to describe who this child is. First, he is a man child. This doesn’t seem like much, but this detail eliminates perhaps more than half of the descendants of Abraham. The second detail is that he comes as one who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. This detail comes from the prophetic language of Psalm 2. Perhaps it would narrow the scope to those who were in the monarchial lineage of David. However, with the final detail there is no room for confusion when John clarifies by saying that he “was caught up unto God, and to his throne.” There is only one who is seated on the right hand of the Father, Jesus.
The great dragon labored vehemently in his desperation to destroy Jesus. In the ministry years of Jesus, we saw this taking place most boldly when Jesus overcame the overt temptations of Satan. The dragon had tried to undermine the work of this promised Savior, but it was to no avail. Jesus is stronger than Satan. There is no overcoming Jesus, one is only overcome by Him.

Reflect: Read Luke 10:18. How does this verse fit with today’s text?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Revelation 11:13-19

But the Lord shall endure forever: he hath prepared his throne for judgment. And he shall judge the world in righteousness, he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness. The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee. Sing praises to the Lord, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people his doings. When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them: he forgetteth not the cry of the humble. – Psalm 9:7-12

Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. – 1 Corinthians 15:24-28

After a brief interlude describing the two witnesses that would come in the end times, John’s vision of the trumpet judgments continued. Instead of telling what the judgment looked like for the inhabitants of the earth, John explained what effect the trumpet judgment had in heaven. Prior to this, the majority of trumpet judgments were described simply by their effects on the earth, but because this was the last of the seven, John explained what he saw taking place in heaven as a result of the seventh trumpet.
Through the execution of this final judgment, all the dominions and kingdoms of the world would be finally declared “the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ.” The prophetic glimpses of the Old and New Testament find their fulfillment in this one moment. Every nation that has existed in rebellion is finally subdued under the authority of Jesus Christ. It was not that they were not His possession, rather, the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. Rather, these kingdoms were in rebellion and considered themselves to be independent of his power. However, in this definitive moment they are brought under the indisputable power of the Almighty God.
The earth raged, but God’s justice and power was inimitable. He alone had the authority to reign and now he was executing that judgement over heaven and earth. Nothing could stand in His way, the final justice would be executed, and all the forces of rebellion would be turned in total submission to Him.
Now, we must understand that although we see finality of all kingdoms in this chapter, this is not the end of the Revelation narrative. Rather, we have merely reached the halfway point of the book. In this moment, we get a glimpse of the end that is coming. These few verses describe what happens in heaven, but the next several chapters will tell how the final trumpet resulted in unbearable judgment and agony on the earth. Perhaps this contrast might help us see the turning of events from the perspective of a Sovereign God. While the earth peals apart at the seams and rebellious creatures writhe in agony, God is plainly declared king over all. And as God sits on His throne, the heavens shake with the magnitude of His awesomeness. There is something truly fearful and awesome about the greatness of God.

Reflect: Read Psalm 104. Write out some observations of God’s greatness that you see in this psalm.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Revelation 11:1-12

Toward the end of the seven trumpet judgments there is a brief pause in the unleashing of justice on the unrepentant inhabitants of the earth. This pause lasts through chapters 10 and 11. In chapter 10, a great angel stood on the land and on the sea and eventually fed a scroll to the apostle John. Moving into chapter 11, John was then told to use a reed to measure the temple of God. Many have speculated that the temple here might represent the church with an outer court of those who profess to be Christians but are not truly obedient to the truths of Scripture. Others have said that it is an actual temple rebuilt and refashioned in the end times at the heart of Jerusalem. The literal understanding seems to leave us assuming this may refer to an actual rebuilt temple.
Whether this is an actual temple or a spiritual reference to the church, the same principle of prophetic hope still applies. For those who would receive this letter and were facing apostasy from within the church and persecution from without, the glimmers of a future rebuilt temple or even an acknowledgement of the church in a future era should have served as a reassurance that although things were at times troubling, God was still in control and eventually He would carry out His plans on earth. With such heavy demonic themes and the unleashing of the forces of terror, getting a glimpse of the temple must have served as a welcomed respite in the midst of a troubling vision.
As the vision continued, John heard a voice declare, “and I will give unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy.” Here in the last days while the seventh seal was being released, and between the sixth and seventh trumpet, God in His grace sent two messengers to preach for three years. With unrepentance at an all-time high, God dispatched two preachers to declare the truth and challenge the wayward lifestyle of the disobedient. Many have speculated that these two witnesses are Old Testament figures like Enoch and Elijah, but that detail is pure speculation and is not revealed in Scripture. What is revealed through the presence of these two witnesses is that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
Eventually, in his vision, John saw that after three years, a great beast emerged from the bottomless abyss and killed both of the witnesses, leaving their dead carcasses lying in the street for all the world to see. After their death, those who had refused to repent of their sin in the face of dreadful tribulation horrors then began to rejoice at the murder of these two witnesses. No longer would their convicting words and testimony shame and pain the conscience of mankind, instead, the world would revel in their death and the silence of their message. However, John saw that the celebration over the killing of God’s witnesses was cut short when God resurrected them three days later in the face of the whole world. Finally, the supernatural power of God was demonstrated miraculously in plain view of all who scorned and mocked the witnesses as God caused them to ascend up to heaven to be with Him.
God does not abandon His own. He always wins. He is merciful and gracious in His offer of reconciliation to His enemies, but when that offer of peace is neglected, His sure and swift justice is unleashed. This text should demonstrate above anything else that God is gracious, long-suffering, and just. It should engender faith and hope in believers knowing that God is always in control.

Reflect: How does the reaction of the world at the death of the two witnesses mirror the teaching of Jesus in John 15:18-19?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Revelation 10:1-11

And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. –Revelation 5:1-5
As John described the dramatic scene of the opening of the book, he described how that the book in the hand of God was originally sealed closed and no one could open it. Finally, Jesus showed up, took the book from God’s hand and began to open it. As each of the seven seals was unfastened, a different judgment was issued forth from heaven on the inhabitants of the earth. In the final seal, seven trumpets began to sound one at a time issuing seven more distinct judgments.
When we arrive at Revelation 10, we are between the sixth and the seventh trumpet. In the fifth and sixth trumpet judgments, God released a demonic force of millions to wreak havoc on the population of the earth. Now, while the world writhes in calamity, John sees another vision. It is almost as though he is taking a brief interlude between the horrors of the sixth trumpet and the terrors of the seventh.
In John’s vision, a bright and beautiful angel comes down from heaven and stands on the earth. Some commentators speculate that this figure could be Jesus, but I don’t really see John making that point. Rather, this mighty figure comes to the earth as an angel, a messenger, to declare the end of all God’s judgment. It is not over yet, but he declares that the end will be coming soon. The last judgments are being readied and will shortly be poured out on those who writhe in unrepentance.
There are two interesting details worth noting. First, as John beheld this angel coming down and establishing his message, there was the sound of seven thunders that came from the sky. As John began to write what he heard from those seven thunders, a voice stopped him and made him keep from writing. What in the world could John have heard? The entire book of Revelation is filled with awe-inspiring details, what details could possibly be kept back from being written? Was it something that was too terrible? Was it something that would be too confusing? No matter what it was, God chose to not reveal it yet, but on that day, the revelation will be made plain.
The second detail worth noting is the book. In Revelation 5, there was a book that was sealed closed and no one could open it until Jesus showed up. After Jesus took the scroll from God, he began to open one seal after another. Now, in Revelation 10, there is an “open” book that is brought to John. It seems by the word choice that is used to describe the book that John is given, that this is the same book that we saw a few chapters earlier. Now, John was told to take the book and eat it. This is very similar to what Ezekiel was told to do in Ezekiel 3. John, like Ezekiel, takes the word of God in and finds it pleasing at first. However, after the reality of God’s impending judgment sets in, John’s stomach was turned. The task of declaring the upcoming judgment of the seventh trumpet would not be a pleasant thing.

Reflect: What specific words used in regards to the Revelation 10 book would make us think it was the same book as the one in Revelation 5?