Friday, March 28, 2014

A Small Scroll, An Open Book ...

Near the end of the sounding of the sixth trumpet outlined in John’s book of Revelations of Jesus Christ is presented a new scene and description of events.  Indeed in what has been foretold of 3 great woes in the sounding of the last 3 trumpets; it is this scene that takes place BEFORE the second woe is completed.  Based on our earlier examination in the study of the series of the seven trumpets then, the timing for what John is going to reveal here must be near “the last days”.  Whether the sixth trumpet is to be interpreted in a political, or spiritual, or modernistic method; all interpretations point to a time period in the mid 1800’s that continues till Jesus returns, the central idea being it is a last message that goes out prior to the permanent establishment of kingdom of our Lord.  So as we examine what John reveals to us of Jesus Christ within chapter 10 of his book of Revelations, we find a sense of urgency for us as readers, for it appears this message is directed more to those who live on the earth in the last days before He returns.
John begins in verse one saying … “And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire:”  John here refers to an angel, a mighty angel coming down from heaven.  The description of this angel is reminiscent of Christ.  His face shining as the sun, his feet as pillars of fire, clothed with a cloud and a rainbow upon his head – all indicators and descriptions of Jesus as outlined in other passages.  However, John knows Jesus personally.  John has Jesus revealed to him in the form of the Lamb of God in an earlier vision.  He has seen Jesus glorified as the Son of God walking amidst the candlesticks and delivering messages of love and redemption to His churches in the earlier visions recorded in this book.  So given that John knows Jesus in His earthly form, and has seen Him in His divine form, it is possible that this is a different angel coming to our world, and not Jesus Himself.  Perhaps the angel descending is Gabriel who had replaced Lucifer when he abandoned his post as angelic leader.  Lucifer at one time was the third highest created being second only to the Godhead.  He was at one time chief servant of all, and lead servant of the most high.  With that proximity to God the Father, His countenance might well have an effect on those who are near Him.  When Moses returned from Mt. Sinai, his hair was white, and face carried a radiance that did not originate within him, but was reflected by him as he had been in the presence of our God.  So too might this angel having been so close to God, might be reflecting characteristics of the Most High in his assigned mission to our world.
John continues in verse 2 … “And he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth,”  The mighty angel carries to our world a little book, that is both open and unsealed.  Unlike the book John earlier described that was sealed seven times, this one is made open to begin with.  The destination of the angel is to put his right foot upon the sea, and his left upon the earth.  This may indicate that the message contained in this open book will be one of world-wide consequence.  It is not intended only for a small group, but for all of our world, across every sea.  There are those who believe the open book is a representation of the Bible.  However the designation “little” might preclude this idea.  But perhaps a particular book within scripture, perhaps the previously sealed up book or prophecies of Daniel that are a part of scripture (i.e. small), but not the whole of it, might be the message that is here conveyed.
John continues in verse 3 … “And cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices. [verse 4] And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not.”  This is most unfortunate.  When engaged in the study of our God, the more information we have, the more details we have, the more we want.  We can and will spend an eternity getting to know who our God truly is, and trying to grasp the enormity of His love.  Here, John alone is privileged to know the meaning of the messages contained in the seven thunders.  What might they have said?  What clarity might they have added to this vision?  What might the world, and our faith have benefited from the revealing of what now will become secrets to us?  The seven thunders were preceded by a loud cry (as when a lion roars).  There is no clear discernable message in the loud cry, other than perhaps like the trumpets to garner our attention.  Perhaps it is designed to wake us from our spiritual slumber to the reality of our position in the soon ending fabric of time.
John continues to relay what he witnesses in verse 5 … “And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, [verse 6] And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer:”  First, it is worthy to note that we humans are forbidden to sware by anything in heaven or earth.  To do so, is to attempt to make a promise fueled by our own will, determination, and control.  Since we control nothing, we are to simply let our “yes” be yes, and our “no” be no.  This angel however, seems to want to call our attention to the source of his mission.  He points out in his oath, the nature of the God his declaration is coming from.  God, as his oath attests, is the God who “lives forever”.  God is immortal and the source of all life.  It is God who FIRST created heaven and the things that are there.  BEFORE we were created, before this world was transformed from a dark asteroid in the void of space that was without purpose into the blue green orb of abundant life that it is today; God created heaven and its inhabitants.  Angels predate mankind.  The other sentient life forms John describes as the four beasts predate mankind.  The city of heaven predates mankind.  Lucifer and the fallen angels predate mankind.  Creation is NOT isolated to us alone, but is instead a characteristic and manifestation of the love of God that has existed as long as God has.
Those who believe the big bang theory happened on day one of our creation are likely a bit misguided.  “Let there be light” might well have been about the positioning of our planet out of the void of deep space and into a solar system or galaxy where light would be present to the face of our world.  But as creation predates mankind, so too could a different declaration of the separation of light from darkness would have been the result of our God’s power many eons before our existence came to be.  And for those who would restrict the power of our God, who is to say, that the creation of “this” universe is the “only” universe He may have made?  Perhaps like the innumerable cells that make up our bodies, this universe is only one of many collections of galaxies that make up a greater vision of what existence means than what we are today able to discern. 
But as the oath of this mighty angel points out, creation did not end in the broader universe, or in heaven.  It continues in the creation of “this” world, and of “these seas”, of the life that exists in both of them.  It is interesting that the angel identifies the 2 traits of God that can quickly distinguish Him as God.  He is immortal and the source of all life, and He has demonstrated His unique ability to bring into existence the contents of His imagination and creativity.  The life He creates, becomes the object of His love.  He cares for His creations, loves them, and shares with them the joy of learning to love others.  It is these 2 characteristics that Satan is always attempting to get mankind to deny, in order that they quit believing in an all-powerful, all-loving God.  Satan attempts to deny that God created life, and that God is the author of this world in particular.  If evolution can supplant creation, then the “need” for a God disappears into the random abyss of meaninglessness, and the worship of self can be elevated and unrestrained.
After describing the nature of the God who this angel takes his oath by, he declares that there should be time no more.  If we were to ponder this text for a deeper meaning, we must ask ourselves, in the light of eternity and a God who made life to be infinite through His power, does “time” still have any relevance?  There may come a day, or a point in our existence, when measuring the linear passage of seconds on a clock, or rotations of planets around a sun that have no end, is not still something we spend any attention on any longer.  Will you really celebrate your 10 thousandth birthday with the same vigor as your 50 millionth birthday, or 50 billionth?  At what point do birthday celebrations lose their meaning when you retain the perfection of agelessness, when you cannot discern the difference between parent, child, grandparent, or 7-generations decedent?  The relevance of time may be changed when our minds truly understand what it means to see His gift of life in us on an eternal basis.
But more likely in this context, the angel is declaring that there should be time no more for a specific purpose.  Whatever the delay has been, whatever the period of time that was allocated for a particular purpose, that purpose has reached its fruition.  John then reveals the contents of the angel’s declaration, “time is no more” and in verse 7 the angel further states … “But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.”  This declaration appears to be one of great hope for us.  It identifies that in the days of the seventh angel, the angel who is intended to sound the seventh trumpet.  We will read later about the events that occur when the seventh trumpet is blown, but most all interpretations identify the seventh of any of these series as the permanent establishment of His kingdom.  This message however is targeted in the days of the seventh angel, and only as he “begins” to sound.  So prior to His second coming and return to take us home, something is about to occur.  “The mystery of God should be finished” as he had declared it to his servants the prophets. 
I believe the “mystery” of our God, is His ability to create, or more precisely in our case, to re-create in us what has been broken by our choice to embrace evil.  I believe it is a mystery to us, how we can be remade at all, because we do not perform any work at it, at all.  It is His work.  It is His love that sees us transformed by His power.  All we do is permit it.  But in so doing, we see ourselves transformed from the sin craving self-loving degenerates we are, into a harmony with His law, and His love for others we have never truly known before.  It is the work of our perfection He offers to us.  This is a work only He can perform.  This is a mystery to us, because we cannot comprehend how His love could have this effect in us.  We cannot comprehend why love would do this for us.  We cannot comprehend the extent to which we will be remade and how different we will think and want and do. 
The mystery of our God is His power to redeem and reconcile unto Himself, in the perfection of His love, you and I who today know only the pain of our lives of slavery to self.  This was the promise of our God to His servants the prophets who carried his messages of love to this world.  The prophets carried His attempts to see us redeemed unto Himself.  Every message, even those of the great consequences of our disobedience were designed to call us to repentance that we might accept His gift of our salvation, and see ourselves embrace perfection before it is too late.  This is a gift we should long to receive right here and right now, without any delay.  For it is His gift, that frees us and gives us a life worth living, both now and forever. To delay receiving that gift, is to deny ourselves what is truly in our own best interests, to deny ourselves the freedom to love, and the joy that comes in the loving.  It is not just the absence of sin that is our goal, but in its place is the immeasurable joy of relationships founded on unselfish love.  We have yet to imagine how good, “good” really is.  We struggle so much against our sins, we have not the imagination to know what it is like to be freed from them, and see what was intended in its true light.
John continues in verse 8 … “And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again, and said, Go and take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel which standeth upon the sea and upon the earth.”  It is important to note, that the direction to go and take the book from the angel comes for the voice in heaven, presumably Jesus Christ.  The attainment of this book, the opening and discovery of this book, is being directed to occur from the voice in heaven.  John continues in verse 9 … “And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey.”  At this point the conversation shifts from hearing the voice in heaven, to discussing with the angel what has been directed.  John asks for the book, and the angel tells him to “eat it up”.  In effect to open this small scroll (perhaps the prophecies of Daniel which until now have been sealed up and little understood), and “dive in” to it.  John is to study this book.  What follows is an analogy of what will occur as John follows the directions given to him.
The angel predicts that the book will be sweet as honey in John’s mouth.  Or in other words, the first response to the opening and understanding of the prophecies of Daniel will bring John great joy.  But this will be followed by bitterness in the stomach.  Upon digesting what was thought to bring great joy, follows greater disappointment.  It is not that Daniel was wrong, mistaken, or attempting to conceal bad news.  The problem which has occurred many times in history, and likely continues in our day, is that we may first misinterpret the meaning of prophetic scriptures and thus find ourselves disappointed.  The Pharisees were bitterly disappointed when the Messiah came with a mission of peace, instead of sword to drive out the Roman oppressors.  We modern Christians sometimes too become equally disappointed when we realize our own efforts to see us rid of sin, fail repeatedly.  We prefer the control of our own salvation, but come to the realization we have no control at all.  We are wholly dependent on Christ to be MADE free from sin, and are unable to make ourselves free of anything. 
Despite the prediction from the angel, which should be as clear as any revelation given to John … he continues writing in verse 10 … “And I took the little book out of the angel's hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter.”  What the angel had just predicted came to pass exactly as proscribed.  Knowledge of the outcome must also have been doubted or ignored, as nothing was done to change what was predicted.  The “loud cry” of the early 1800’s messages that was preached and taught around the world at nearly the same time, had a consistent message.  The interpretation of the Daniel prophecies led to the conclusion that the cleansing of the Sanctuary would be the return of Christ.  As study evolved, a specific date was selected upon which this event would occur.  Knowledge of the outcome did NOT prevent the “sweet as honey” in our mouths message from going out.  People ignored this analogy.  The bitterness of disappointment that was to follow was ignored or doubted or disregarded.  Christ had said that “no man knows the hour” except His Father in heaven.  Yet a worldwide message was taught naming exactly the day in which His return would occur.
The timing of the prophecies was correct, but the interpretation was not.  The same was true of the Messiah on His first appearing.  He came on schedule.  But He did not come as political conqueror, He came as spiritual conqueror.  He came to show us how to enter His kingdom, not the change the temporary governments of this world.  The interpretation of the cleansing of the temple occurred on schedule, but it did not result in the cleansing of this world.  It had a different context.  It had a different interpretation.  We were warned of our disappointment.  But we paid no heed.  We took the book, ate it, and found it sweet in our mouths.  But in our stomach, came the bitterness of our neglect of the warnings and prediction of the inevitable outcomes.  And still, to this day, various churches, groups, denominations, continue to try to predict the exact day of His return.  They live lives of anticipation, always looking forward, but failing to see a change in their day to day behavior.  And inevitably the council of Christ is ignored, “no man knows the hour”.  Despite calling ourselves Christians, we ignore our leader, and predict His return anyway.  You would think we would learn.  But attempts to lead, and teach scripture, sometimes see us get ahead of Christ, and like all those who came before, we fail.
People wanted to believe the 1844 message.  People wanted to think they knew how much time they had left.  But they did not.  We do not.  It is not for us to live as if a certain future date is when our hopes will be realized.  It is for us to see our hopes fulfilled TODAY.  We can experience the beauty of salvation right here and right now.  We can find the freedom of His re-creation of us right now.  We do not have to look forward to tomorrow or any other date certain.  We can see His redemption in us today.  We prefer the known to the unknown.  We prefer the certain to the things that require our faith.  We prefer control to dependence.  Interpretations of prophecies that give us the feeling of certainty, can take away our dependence on Christ to know “His truth”.  The problem is that we have not learned submission, we have learned to prefer taking control.  But it is our self-deception about the notion of control, that sees us remain bound in slavery to self.  To submit, to let go, is to be made free by His power.  This was the lesson to learn from what history has shown us of the 1844 “great disappointment”.
The angel then gives a message of hope to John at the conclusion of this vision as he continues in verse 11 … “And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.”  Perhaps the angel referred to the idea that “prophesy” itself, the study and interpretation of John’s revelations, would once again emerge as important in the last days.  I am sure John would have preferred a more literal interpretation that he might be resurrected to reveal to us the messages bound in those thunders he was told not to disclose as yet.  But in our day, is there any who would accept the idea that the apostle had risen from the dead?  Do we even think it possible?  As it is, we are skeptical by nature of all those who claim the “gift” of prophecy.  We doubt them, because we doubt ourselves, and our own lack of faith that could see the gift in us.  We judge the messenger before we listen to the message, almost of incapable of separating the two.  Yet all Biblical authors would pale in the spotlight of the misdeeds done throughout their lives.  To open ourselves to the ideas of prophecy in our day, even when it does not conflict with scripture but rather amplifies it, seems almost unfathomable.  Yet the angel foretells it.
Are we to repeat our mistakes in ignoring the predictions of sweet taste, and bitter stomachs?  The angel foretells prophecy being important again.  Are we to doubt this prediction as we have done so often before?  If we are to trust in our God, then we must trust in what He says.  It does not matter if it makes sense to us.  It does not matter if we can see the feasibility of it, or not.  It only matters that He does not lie, and has never been wrong.  To that end, we who live in the days of the beginning of the sounding of the seventh angel, are to see the mystery of God fulfilled in us.  When this occurs, to prophecy is only to reveal what has been revealed to us.  His gift is more than we can imagine.  But the second woe was not completed as yet …

Friday, March 21, 2014

Seven Trumpets [part four] ...

We continue our examination of the seven trumpets from part three of this series.  One woe is past, two are yet to come.  The sounding of the sixth trumpet is to correspond to the second woe poured out upon the earth.  The first woe that emerged from the darkness was so thick it inspired a desire for death, rather than to endure the poison of the scorpion locust army that tormented those men who had not the seal of God in their foreheads for a period of 5 months (or 150 years, if we apply the day for a year interpretation).  A darkness so terrible as to inspire a wish for death that would not come, should be enough to give us pause.  Have we embraced the poisoned doctrines of secular atheism that would deny us our meaning and our worth?  Or have we embraced the poisoned doctrines of self-created salvation that would offer us the lie of perfection within our own grasp by simple choice and will, absent the need for a savior?  Indeed the fifth trumpet sounding was to wake us from these woes, but the sixth trumpet is ready to sound, what is the message it carries?
John continues his revelation of Jesus Christ in the ninth chapter and verse 13 writing … “And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, [verse 14] Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.”  The reference to an altar that is “before God” implies another similarity between the original worship system defined for the Israelites who wandered the desert and the heavenly archetype it represents.  Similarly, while the need for the altar and continued sacrifice is no more, having met its fulfillment in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as our Lamb of God, it remains a reminder of what was done in order that you and I might be freed from our slavery to self.  It stands as a memorial to what it took, what Love was willing to pay, to see your value realized, to see your meaning realized, to see your freedom realized. 
The message given from the altar is to the sixth angel to go and loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.  The idea conveyed that something, or some event had up till now been restrained that is about to be loosed and allowed to work its course.  Often the forces of evil are restrained by God, and kept in check.  If this were not the case, evil would overwhelm the world and kill everything in its path.  Evil has no mercy.  Evil has no restraint.  Evil has no sense of enough; it has only a hunger for more.  When once, the slavery of serving self is embraced, its end cannot be found in any other path but death.  It is why our Savior is needed to alter this course, and see us find life, instead of the highway to death our choices would otherwise result in.  The wages of sin being death is not the result of a judging God, but rather the consequence of a hunger that will only deepen until death offers it a final release.
John continues in verse 15 … “And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men. [verse 16] And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.”  The first element to the work of the four angels bound in the river Euphrates who were now loosed was that of the time of their work.  The preparation they had made, or the time they were allotted, was an hour, a day, a month and a year.  The second element uniquely identified to this woe is the number of horsemen being an army of 200 million.  The original scorpion locust army had no such designation in numbers, only thought of as swarms that appear without end.  While the central point of origin is here identified in the region of the river Euphrates, also associated with this woe, is a specific amount of time, and a specific amount of participants.  Also identified here was the goal, to slay the third part of men.  Yet another result being associated with the “thirds” as outlined in the earlier trumpets sounding.
John continues in verse 17 … “And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone. [verse 18] By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths. [verse 19] For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt.”  Very similar to the original scorpion locust army these were horsemen.  They had similar characteristics but to these were added the issue of smoke and fire out of the mouths of these horsemen.  Gunfire is the most apt application for this symbolism were we to look for a more literal association.  But as with the original scorpion locust army, the power to hurt men was still in their tails, in the poison of the doctrines of their mouths, the doctrines of serpents with heads, that cause pain.  And their result was the death of the third part of men they had prepared to kill.  Great is this woe.
John now records the effects of what has been unleashed as he continues in verse 20 … “And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: [verse 21] Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.”  In the days of Israel of old, God would remove His protective hand from them when they used His blessings on themselves, believing they could worship whatever gods they wanted, and perform any acts of selfishness that brought them pleasure, while still claiming to be God’s people by right of birth.  It was when Israel strayed so far, indulging self, and self-passions, that they rationalized it was acceptable to throw the unwanted offspring of adultery with temple prostitutes into the fires of Moloch, or Baal, that it was time for an intervention by our God.  Likewise in the times of this trumpet the forces of the four angels bound in the Euphrates are unleashed upon the earth in order that the evil choices and doctrines embraced by those who claim to serve God might be revealed for the folly they are.  The intent of these interventions was to cause us to see the results of our choices and our embrace of selfishness.
Summarized in these two verses are again a call to love God, and worship Him only, our Creator.  Also is contained the basis of loving each other.  Sound familiar?  When Christ summarized the Ten Commandment law He referred to both of these principles in order.  Love God first, for without this no other love is possible.  After having chosen to love God, we can then begin to learn what it truly means to love each other.  Here in verse 20, is a reference to our love of the real God, having gone astray to instead loving “the works of our hands”.  Whether those works are made manifest in idols of gold or wood, or stone; or whether they emerge as large corporations, or large homes, or large personal accomplishments – what remains the same is our tendency and natural desire to worship what we do, and who we are.  This common thread unites secular atheism, with the Catholicism of the dark ages, with the practices of Islam – the tendency to rely upon self, our actions, and our will, to see us saved from evil.  But again John records the calling out of our loss of the love of the true God.  And he again records the results of what happens when this love is lost.  We begin to think killing is ok, or good.  We begin to think we can substitute sorcery for the power of God.  We begin to think fornication is good, and theft is only natural.  Our conscience towards other men is dulled, by our desire to see self praised and worshiped ahead of any God or any idea of God.
To carry the seal of God, is to know loving Him first, and through gentle submission to Him, find ourselves learning to love like He does.  God does not love and show love to Himself.  Instead He shows it to us, freely, and without restraint, as we allow Him to do so.  The darkness that the four angels unleash continues the woe begun in the sounding of the fifth angel’s trumpet.  That warning went unheeded and now the stakes are raised.  Instead of mere torment, the third part of men find the destruction their actions and beliefs have led to.  Instead of embracing the repentance this woe was designed to illicit, men only deepen in the darkness they have embraced.  They add to their crimes, an embrace of dark supernatural influences in the form of sorceries.  It appears this final warning is to go unheeded as well. 
If we look to interpret this sixth trumpet from a spiritual context in a message to the church we might find several interpretations.  First, it might be found in the rise of the kingdom of Babylon which is predicted to occur right before the second coming of our Lord.  Babylon, and the darkness of self service, combined with a denial of any God, is surely on the rise.  Atheistic leanings invade the church as many believers begin to doubt the miracles outlined in scripture which give example to the power and supremacy of our God.  Creation is doubted, and evolution is theorized instead.  Noah’s ark is considered fable and allegory.  Virgin birth is denied.  Before you know it, the Bible is reduced to story-telling of morals designed to scare or guilt its readers into submission.  And many within Christianity embrace some level of this poison from the scorpion into what they believe, never seeing the pain it will bring, and the results is will bear. 
A second interpretation from a spiritual context might be found in the Time of Crisis that begins in the 1800’s and extends to the final second coming of Christ.  Our faith has long suffered the effects of looking at self to find salvation from evil.  We have perverted texts that discuss the evidence of our transformation from submission to Christ as witnessed in what we do when we are in harmony with Him; as instead pre-requisites we are able to perform by our own sheer will.  We put the deeds ahead of the reason and motives for the deeds.  We claim faith without works is dead, as if works could illicit and inspire faith, instead of the other way around.  The devil has introduced this sophistry to confuse and bewilder, and ultimately depress the believer with the truthful realization he is “not good enough”, and “nor will he ever be”.  Our own actions and will power is simply not enough to see us rid from sin.  We fail repeatedly, until the tempter inspires us to give up, and give in.  But we fail, not because it is impossible, but because it is impossible for us doing it the way we do – of our own strength.  It was never intended to be so.  It is ONLY through submission that we find His perfection worked within us.  It is ONLY through submission that we are brought into harmony with His laws, and learn to love like He does.  The work of our perfection belongs to Him, not to us.  The poison of looking to self for salvation, has stunted the growth of the gospel, and our own Christian experience.  We have no victories to claim, and live like our contemporaries, because we do not allow ourselves to be transformed by His power.  We do not allow Him to change what we want, fearing to lose those things we desire.  We fear His true transformation of who we are, as if we would lose something that actually matters when it does not. 
This poisoned understanding of salvation, that we can do it for ourselves, or in a “partnership” with God, where we do all we can first, and then allow God to make up the difference; it is these poisoned ideas that keep us in a perpetual state of pain, guilt, and grief.  It does not present the freedom and liberation of the gospel to the world.  Instead it presents a picture of self-loathing and judgmentalism of others that offers no appeal, no lure, instead only alienates those who need His love the most.  We are no different than those we are attempting to witness to, because we have not abandoned self any more than they have.  We still want what they want, and do what they do.  We are not truly transformed by Christ into the new creation He intends us to be, because we refuse to rely upon Him to do so.  We look to do this work for ourselves and the poison of the scorpion remains within us.  Our crisis is self-created.  We could end it, with a simple recognition that submission to Christ brings real change, real reform, and a real freedom to love we have yet to truly experience.
To see this trumpet in a more political context could be found in the rise of the Ottoman Empire.  The first element of the prophecy, namely that of timing, (391 years applying the day for a year principle) corresponds to history from 1449 to 1840, or from 1453 to 1844 depending on which events one uses to measure it.  Much like its predecessor, the doctrines of Islam are the motivating influence behind the wars and the conquests that ensue.  And the opposition that fights against this expansion also fights from a misguided sense of spiritual motivation.  In either case the edict of toleration seems to mark the end of this period of work of the powers that emerged from the Euphrates region and swept across one third of the world.  Earlier studies of this trumpet marked the time down to the very day, which offers further evidence that perhaps this method of interpretation has merit.
To see this trumpet sounding in a more modernistic method is to presume another regional war is coming (or has been taking place in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Israel) for some period of time now.  Another Middle Eastern war is not out of the question as recent history has demonstrated.  Kuwait was only recently a victim of this.  Terrorism which while state-less, has its tentacles in nearly every Middle Eastern country could also be seen as factor towards a more modernistic interpretation.  Obviously to see this fulfilled in our day, a 391 day period would be more literal.  And the number of 200 million participants seems to sound more like populations affected, than the literal size of the military effort that might be undertaken in that region.  But who knows, how a future event of that size might transpire?
Again, the most salient and important question to ask regarding any potential interpretation of this trumpet sounding is, how do we see the redemption mission of Jesus Christ met in what is relayed?  From a spiritual context, whether as a warning against the rise of the Kingdom of Babylon, or as a rebuke to folly in the Time of Crisis that ends His second coming, it seems the trumpet is sounding to call us to repentance.  If we are to heed the warning call, we must return to loving God, instead of the idolatry of loving the works of our hands.  We must return to loving others, forsaking the sorceries that vie for our attention, forsaking the ideas that killing others in the name of any religion is anything more than fallacy, forsaking the theft that would indulge our self-service; and instead we should embrace the idea of truly loving others like He loves them.   To find His seal in our foreheads will require our submission to Him in order that He might bring us into harmony with His law, and His character.  We must abandon who we are, and seek for Him to re-make us, into who He would have us to be.
From a political context, the rise of the Ottoman Empire has had its day, another in the sequence of our empires.  Rome is gone.  The Muslim alternative remains only another part of the mix of clay and iron in the feet of the statue.  Our God calls us to find our salvation in our Savior.  We are not to look at the magnificent works of art of the great Cathedrals of our faith, and transfer our worship to the images of what they were made to represent.  Great works of art may be admired for their craftsmanship and artistry, but not as substitutes for what they represent.  God is not found in Cathedrals or Mosques, but in the human heart where He belongs, but only as we allow Him a position there.  If we are to be saved, we must be willing TO BE Saved.  One does not save themselves, they are saved by something greater than themselves.  This message is consistent in the sixth trumpet whether looking spiritually, politically, or even with a modern lens.
To find the sounding of the seventh trumpet we would have to jump ahead in scripture past 2 significant other prophecies.  So part five that will conclude this series will be delayed while the other 2 significant prophecies are examined for what they tell us in the meantime.  But there is one more trumpet left to sound …

Friday, March 7, 2014

Seven Trumpets [part three] ...

We resume our examination of the seven trumpets continued from part two of this series.  The first intermission concluded, the first four trumpets having sounded, what we prepare to explore are the three remaining “woes” that are to accompany the last three trumpets sounding.  Having examined the first four trumpets sounding from either a spiritual or political context, there seems to be parallels from a timing perspective to the first four seals being opened, or the first four messages to the churches and periods of church history.  This is not to preclude any more modernistic methods of also interpreting the trumpets sounding, but it does seem to continue a pattern of prophetic interpretation that began in chapter one, and appears to hold true throughout the series-of-seven prophecies outlined so far.  John continues his revelation of the sounding trumpets now in chapter nine of his book of Revelations of Jesus Christ.
He begins in verse 1 … “And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. [verse 2] And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.”  In prior applications, the symbolism of a star falling might have been applied to Attila who descended upon the Roman Empire.  Originally it was applied to Lucifer who fell from heaven.  Now it seems again that another person will play the instrumental role in what is about to transpire by reason of their “fall”.  The bottomless pit symbolism would seem to imply a nearly endless source of darkness.  In this case the darkness rises out of the pit in the form of smoke, and is so thick it blankets the air, and nearly blots out the sun. 
John continues in verse 3 … “And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. [verse 4] And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads. [verse 5] And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man. [verse 6] And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.”  First we should note that what comes next, proceeds from out of the smoke, or out of the darkness.  Often when light is forsaken, and darkness is embraced, the fruit of darkness is pain and death.  In this case, an army like that of locusts emerges from the smoke.  But instead of just being plant eaters, these locusts behave more like scorpions.  In fact, they are told to avoid injuring the planet, and instead to focus only on the men “which have not the seal of God in their foreheads”.  This distinction is therefore quite important.  As stated earlier, claiming to serve God, is quite different than actually submitting ourselves to Him, in order that we might be remade by Him.  Obedience is not a pre-requisite to God, but it is a symptom that He is at work in our lives, altering what we want, and therefore what we do, and how we love.  To be “sealed” of God, does not require living in some particular time in earth’s history, but it does require living in submission to God, in order that He might work the work of perfection within us.
The Commandment laws of God, which were the beginning of the definition of how to love, were not discarded by God at any point in time.  To live by them, to obey them, is simply NOT possible, WHILE we refuse to submit our will to God.  We can claim obedience.  We can make efforts to do, and not do, what is required by the law.  But we will not be in harmony with it.  We will struggle against our own desires, while our own desires remain in harmony with the service of self.  It is this condition that God wishes to change.  He wishes to bring us into harmony with His laws, in point of fact, to teach us what it truly means to love someone else.  When we submit our selfish will to Him, our motives begin to change.  Our desires begin to change.  And what emerges is a natural inclination to obey His laws.  They become engrained within us, a part of how we think, and how we feel, and what we want.  They are “sealed” into our foreheads, as the culmination of His work within us.  We cannot do it for ourselves.  It must be done “to” us, and done “for” us, not attempted “by” us.  This sealing is possible in any age, for its requirements of submission have been the same from Adam to you and I.
Next, the scorpion locust army does not have the primary purpose of killing men who remain unsealed by God, but instead to torment them for 5 months.  If we apply the day-for-a-year principle and use a traditional Hebrew calendar, we arrive at 150 years (30 day months times 5).  Though from a modernist perspective we might truly look for a 150 day event to match this timeframe with as well.  It is important to note, that the result of the scorpions poison, is that men would choose to seek death, rather than to endure the poison’s pain it brings to them.  Whatever the nature of this woe, it must be so dark in nature, that it tends to inspire death over light.
John continues in verse 7 … “And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men. [verse 8] And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. [verse 9] And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle. [verse 10] And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months.”  This series of texts seems to describe characteristics of the locust army as it prepares for war.  It is interesting that locusts are not similar to ants or bees in that they follow no central leader, yet they do attack in swarms.  So in this instance the killing of a particular leader would not cause the swarms to dissipate or change in intentions.
John continues in verse 11 … “And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon. [verse 12] One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.”  So while being compared to bugs, this particular locust army does follow a particular king, or leader, or inspiration.  It is this central motivation that keeps the locust army on the march for a period of 5 months to hurt men.  Again, important to note, that the purpose of this woe is NOT to kill men, but only to hurt them by reason of the effect of the poison.  Men may wish for death, given the pain of the poison, but that was not the goal of the locust army.  In verse 12, is the epitaph of this woe, one down, two to go.
Given the symbolism that is described above, if we look first for a spiritual application of this revelation, we might find it in several interpretations.  First, this could have been Satan’s attack on the Reformation of the church by his counter-reformation.  The woe begins from an emergence of darkness.  While the church began to struggle to break free of practices of paying money for salvation, and trying to compel the conscience of others, keeping the Word of God from the public – Satan had no intention of seeing these victories undone, he therefore intensifies his efforts to inspire persecution of change and reformers.  From a spiritual context, the torture used by the Catholic church in the dark ages would make men long for death, rather than endure the poisoned doctrines that brought about so much misery and pain. 
Another spiritual context of this “woe” might be found in rise of secular atheism throughout the world, and particularly in this country and in Europe.  While Satan might truly be the author of this ideology and its unofficial leader, the locust army would no sooner recognize a dark supernatural leader than it would the God it disdains the idea of.  Secular atheism teaches us there is no God greater than ourselves.  It poisons the meaning of our existence by reducing it to a mere series of purely random events with no greater purpose than chemistry, biology, and science.  Morality becomes a social norm, required cooperation to avoid species extinction, and therefore completely subjective.  Loving of self is actually praised as being this highest form of self-preservation, and therefore perfectly acceptable and understandable.  Sacrifice for others runs counter to this ideology and can rarely be understood by it, because it runs counter to the central premise – preserve self at all costs, no matter who they affect.  This is truly a darkness that has spread across our world with relentless effect, and brings with it a sense of depression and meaninglessness that makes death appear as our only release from its grip.
A third way of seeing this in a spiritual context is through the rise of Islam.  Given the horrific corruption of the Catholic church during the dark ages and the picture of Christ it would have presented to the world, it is hardly surprising that a young seeker of God, who claimed his ancestry back through Ishmael to Abraham would have looked for another way.  Mohammed thought of himself as a prophet of God, and shunned the corruption and materialism he witnessed in the purportedly “Christian” faith, choosing rather to find the purity of a simpler view of God.  It is interesting that Mohammed did not discard the Bible in full, or deny its heroes and patriarchs.  Instead he considered them prophets and men of God as well.  Mohammed embraced the ideas of being a gracious host, caring for the stranger, and the downtrodden.  He embraced the ideas of modesty as well as clean and unclean dietary habits.  He prayed systemically, instead of three times a day like Daniel who faced Jerusalem while in captivity, Mohammed faced Mecca, and prayed five times a day instead.  He bows all the way to the floor to show the Father God, his reverence and acknowledgement of the superiority of God.  On the surface, the comparison with what Mohammed advocated against the practices of the Catholic church in the dark ages, Mohammed seems clearly better.
But where Islam might have been a better restoration of truth, it instead rejected the cornerstone of faith in the person and divinity of Jesus Christ.  Mohammed was willing to accept Jesus as a prophet, but not as the divine incarnation of the Son of God Himself.  The idea of having “one” God, from the perspective of Islam precludes the concepts of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (united in one purpose), and instead equates only to one entity with no distinct divisions.  So while nearly the entire remainder of Islam is something worthy of aspiration, the absence of our Savior, leaves it with no method of achieving perfection or change outside of the power of self-will.  It is this deficit that throughout history has witnessed no “perfect” Islamist person, one without sin.  Instead, it offers the idea that evil is a choice to man, not inherent within him.  Yet no man, seems to have ever chosen to be free of evil.  And thus darkness remains, for the darkness of serving self has no answer in Islam.  For all of its benefits and good intentions, Islam offers no savior, and therefore no way for our escape from ourselves.
The political interpretations of the fifth trumpet in a historical context then become obvious.  The rise of Islam brings with it, a quest for political power and counter-power.  The locust army of the heretofore little considered Saracens sweeps across Africa, and Middle East, united by the far more pure teachings of Islam.  But when political aspirations begin to blend with spiritual fervor, power and control become the primary goal.  The religion of peace, becomes an instrument of war.  Christianity takes up the sword, to rid Jerusalem of Islamic forces.  Islam takes up the sword to conquer Constantinople and threaten to de-seat the evil pontiff from Rome itself.  Both sides consider their own motives pure, and believe that they must kill in the name of their respective God.  Both are wrong.  Satan stands behind the carnage of man with an evil sense of fulfillment.  He entices man to kill man, knowing that we are ALL treasured by our God.  As we kill each other in the name of our God, we heap insult and injury on the God who has died to see us redeemed.  And so it seems the whole of the world was thrown into Religious purification at the point of a sword.  Whether it was 150 years of crusades, or Islamic expansion, or the counter attack on the Reformation, the net result was the same to the world – misery.
The modernist view of the fifth trumpet sounding might be found in the Gulf War under Saddam Hussein.  It was during this war that the emergence of the Black Hawk and Apache helicopters came into particular significance, the resemblance to locust’s who behave like scorpions is not lost there.  It was also during this war where Saddam elected to poison the well, so to speak.  He set ablaze the oil wells (from the bottomless pit) that burned for quite a while, before they could be extinguished.  The smoke from these wells, turned the air nearly black, and just about blotted out the sun.  It is not too difficult to see the application of the symbolism described in this revelation applied to this series of modern day events.
Bu the most important question in any of the above applications is again, what does it reveal to us about Jesus Christ and His mission of our redemption?  From a spiritual point of view, I believe the message is a consistent one.  We need a Savior to be saved.  Our salvation is not found in our works.  Our salvation is not found in our will.  If evil were merely a choice we could freely choose to avoid, why have we not made this simple choice?  The pain evil brings to ourselves and to others is obvious.  It is no secret.  Yet we embrace it with regularity.  That is not free choice, and it is not logical.  That is slavery, pure and simple, even if we remain slaves to only serving self.  Secular Atheism offers no relief from this darkness.  Islam offers no relief from this darkness.  The idolatry, forms, and rituals, of the Catholic church of the dark ages offered no relief from this darkness.  All three have in common the idea, that man can liberate and ennoble himself, by what he does, and what he chooses.  All are wrong.  Man is slave to himself.  We require an external force to break our chains, and free us from our slavery to self.  The blowing of the fifth trumpet is sounded to wake us from our sleep, and see us be made free from our darkness, by the only one who can make us free – Jesus Christ.
The message and revelation of Christ is also made clear in the political context; when religion is blended with politics, war and death are the only result.  Christ did not attempt to unseat the pagan Roman Empire that ruled His land in His day.  He made no effort to overthrow the corrupt Roman government.  He made no war with them.  He made no war with anyone.  He did NOT use religion as a motive for war.  Instead He offered LOVE to His enemies, whether Roman or Jewish, or Gentile.  Islam could have been known forever as a religion of peace, but instead it took up the sword, for the same reasons the Christian religion did – to defend itself, and its beliefs.  Today the sword is no less unused.  Christians feel persecuted by secular and Islamist influences and feel the need to once again dust off the sword and “defend ourselves and our beliefs”.  Islam is misused by those with political and powerful ambitions and Jihad is misapplied to “defend Islam from the great Satan, the United States”.  Christians do not look inwardly to see themselves made new through a gentle submission to Christ.  And Islamists do not wage the war of Jihad within themselves to see their better natures emerge in peace and gentleness.  Instead we would rather war with each other to insure we “defend” ourselves, never realizing that in our “defense” is the aggression that all wars rely upon.  War, whether in the Crusades of old, or in the Gulf in recent years, is NEVER the tool by which the Kingdom of God is advanced. 
The religion of peace cannot advance at the point of the sword.  It is the LOVE of God that lures us to follow Him.  It is the LOVE of Christ that caused Him to offer Himself as our sacrifice, in order that He might be allowed to work His work of redemption within us.  He paid our price, so that we might enjoy His benefit and never know the full cost of what we had chosen.  Jesus Christ never took up the sword, not even once in His entire life.  He cleansed His own temple, by overturning tables, and moving out the livestock with the cracking of a whip.  But no one died.  No one was ever killed by Him.  Many were healed.  All who sought salvation, found it.  Who are we, to believe our existence is so important it must be defended by the point of a sword?  Our perceived threats may not be threats at all.  And our ideology should be able to stand on its own, without the need for defense by a sword.  If the Truth of Jesus Christ cannot stand against argument, it is not truth.  But if His Love endures forever, as David said so many years ago, what sword could ever hope to triumph against it?  His Love cannot be defended by our swords; nor can His love be demonstrated by us while we hold on to our swords.
It is from this darkness the fifth trumpet sounds to wake us from.  And there are two more yet to sound …