Friday, June 27, 2014
The Revelations of Jesus Christ to his servant, the prophet John continue with events so close to the return of our Lord, they can nearly be seen already. To say these events occur in the last days would seem obvious. But when trying to pinpoint a more precise timeframe, one need only look at the sequence of events in terms of what has been completed already, and what is still left unfulfilled. The sequence of seven that is the method of these revelations since the start of this book is once again to be employed as the last plagues of God’s judgments are poured out upon the evil in this world. But to gauge where we are today consider the previous sequence’s. The messages to the seven churches show you and I to be living in the days of Laodicea the last church before He returns. The sixth seal has been opened. The sixth trumpet has been sounded. The history of the great disappointment, and work of the two witnesses is in our past now. The plan of the enemy in raising three beasts to war against the lamb has seen us witness the rise of the third beast. The ability to conduct commerce to be tied to the compulsion of conscience on a worldwide basis is something only our country has the power to implement. And we are fast on our way to seeing it done. Our direction in that regard has already been set; all that remains is to see our direction achieved. Whether by those atheists, or believers of other religions who deny Christ altogether; or by those zealous fundamentalists Christians who believe only their version of doctrine is correct; the compulsion of conscience and attacks of our identity as followers of Jesus Christ is certain to be seen in our near future.
What remains undone to place us along the timeline of events that John has revealed to us is … the completion of the latter rain in the harvest described by the work of the Lamb and the fourth angel in the prior chapter. The fulfillment of His work within us in the sealing of the 144,000 first fruits who have a special mission in the last days of our world’s history (likely tied closely to the work of the fourth angel). The worldwide implementation of the Mark of the Third Beast which will restrict commerce unless we forfeit our identity as individual followers of Jesus Christ. After which follows the seven last plagues which fall upon the evil in this world about to be described, as well as the work of the fifth and sixth angels who see a harvest of blood reaped among the wicked through these events. These sequences conclude with the “seventh” church, or seal, or trumpet, or angels mission, or plague all being the culmination of His return and the beginning of our reunion with our Lord and our God.
We, you and I, live perilously close to the end of all things. While for believers to have thought that the last days have been with us for hundreds of years prior to now is also true. In no other time has our country been in the position it is in today financially and with its ability to influence the financial systems of the entire world economy. Our worldwide network of computer systems are now the backbone of immediate controls of wealth from every nation on the planet, and no nation can survive financially without participation in these systems. In no other time has our nation had such a tremendous momentum to tie politics to fundamentalist beliefs in the right wing of the Republican party, or such fervor to see religion denied altogether from far left wing of the Democratic party. Regardless of which political power triumphs, the ultimate compulsion of the conscience and attack on our identity as followers of Jesus Christ alone is imminent. People today have more of a desire to look to men to find salvation than to submit to Jesus Christ. Believers of all religions are more willing to follow their human leaders, than to seek Christ with a submissive heart and allow His transformation to be completed within them. Instead we would rather follow the Pope, or Joel Osteen, or the Dali Lama, or a Cleric, or Rabbi, cult leader, or local pastor – most of all the man in the mirror; than to trust in ONLY Jesus Christ to save us from ourselves.
So while the delay in His return and the messages of warning cries about its nearness have persisted so long we have become hardened to them; the events needed to transpire to see the end emerge have crept up upon us like a thief in the night. We sit now on the edge, on the precipice of the end of all things, and yet go about our lives with no sense of urgency or even joyous anticipation. We marry and divorce with no thought other than to find what pleases our hearts as they are. We attend our churches and try to find food in our sermons, but we tire of the idea of living as if tomorrow may be our last day, and today our last opportunity to see love reflected through us, inspire another to find Jesus and their salvation. We have come to a point where prophecy is only decried by extremists wearing sandwich boards on the streets and in electronic forums predicting nothing but doom and fear as the reasons to seek God before it is too late. But these revelations were not given to us to inspire fear; or as an attempt to use fear to bring us back to God. In fact, quite the opposite. The revelations were provided so that as events unfold they would NOT surprise us, or cause us fear. We can be prepared for them both mentally, and spiritually. We can take heart knowing that while danger and attacks are employed by the enemy of souls, the ultimate triumph of the Lamb is foretold in the same passages – both within us, and external to us.
All of the revelations described in this book, were intended to be of a redemptive nature. Even what follows of the plagues in this chapter is to give comfort to those who accept His redemption and refuse this final mark against our identity as followers of Jesus Christ alone, that all is not lost. The judgments of God against evil and the pain it has so long caused, are NOT poured out upon His servants in these last days. For God is not indiscriminant in pouring out the cup of His wrath, His wrath is reserved against evil alone, and is reserved only for those whose choice He must respect to remain apart from the salvation He offers. Unlike His enemy, God does NOT compel the conscience of men. He offers them salvation, through the power of His love, but He does not force them to take it. If we choose to remain true to our love of self, we will ultimately be allowed to make this choice, and remain aligned with the ranks of His enemy. It is for those who make this choice, who the following passages will inspire fear. Those who have elected to be saved from the love of self, will see only His protective hand in the final sequence of events in this world’s history. Like Noah before them, they will find grace and protection from the Lord during the destruction that lies all around them.
So John begins in verse one saying … “And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth.” John does not specify if the voice who begins these plagues is that of God, or of the Lamb, or of an Angel, or one of the 4 beasts in front of the throne. We assume it is the voice of God, because no human was allowed entry into the temple while the plagues are to be poured out as we learned in the previous passages. John continues in verse 2 … “And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image.” What is past is prologue. Egypt, due the hardness of the heart of the Pharaoh, suffered plagues and judgments from God because Pharaoh thought of himself as god, instead of submitting to the power of the only true God. So now after the Mark of the Third Beast has been universally implemented which places the time of these plagues very close to when we live, the first vial of His wrath contains noisome and grievous sores to be poured out on those who have accepted this mark. The men of our day accept no god greater than themselves. They would rather worship self, or other men, than to worship Christ alone. They would rather declare against Jesus and remain able to conduct commerce and live, than to risk starvation, persecution, and death by the majority who bare the mark of the beast.
Pharaoh refused to accept the supremacy of a god greater than himself. He and his nation bore the consequences. Now, the men of our day, will refuse once again to accept toleration of the voices of dissent among them. They will choose to compel the conscience of others, and in so doing raise themselves to the level of “god”. They will force a choice to deny personal and individual worship of Jesus Christ alone, and instead demand we follow the edicts of mankind. In so doing they mimic the Pharaoh of old and share in his fate. What is past is prologue. When Satan came to tempt Christ, he came in the disguise of angel of light. When men propose the choice to submit to their edicts, or follow conscience to serve Jesus Christ, they will also take on a disguise. They will carry with them the wisdom of the majority in matters of doctrines and beliefs. They will use scripture to “prove” their doctrinal positions are the only correct ones to take.
Islamists often quote the Bible today to attempt to show they are not completely unaligned with the history of other “prophets” of God. However, they do not accept the divinity of Christ, as that would prove the undoing of their entire religion. The Jewish faith of today, still adheres to the scriptures of the Old Testament, but they cannot accept that Jesus Christ was the Messiah. Catholics still believe the Pope has equality to God upon this world, and thus has authority to dictate practices he believes are scripturally based. Protestants believe in a scriptural morality that would see those who dissent die, rather than to pollute the faith. And atheists do not accept any god greater than the man who stands in the mirror. To find any of these groups, or all of them united in purpose to see individual worship of Jesus Christ ended can be no surprise. All of these groups can present excellent arguments and facts to support their various positions. All of them tell elements of truth, and can cite our own scriptures, in an attempt to dissuade us from our various and personal beliefs. But for all the strength of their arguments, their goal remains the same, to attack our individual identity as followers of Jesus Christ alone. Whether we share some basis of belief or doctrines with any of these groups or ideas, it cannot excuse a wholesale denial of allowing ourselves to follow anyone other than Jesus Christ alone. It is not the Protestant doctrines that save me, it is Jesus Christ alone. It is not the Pope, or a cleric, or Rabbi, or a local pastor, or the majority opinion of any group, it is Jesus Christ alone.
Should we find ourselves in sympathy with those who would seek to compel the conscience of others, we have found ourselves on the side of the Beast and the enemy of souls. For compulsion is not the way of Jesus Christ. No matter how devout our faith in a given doctrine of scripture, there is never a reason it needs to be advanced at the point of a sword. The punishment of the wicked must be left to God, not to us. We are commanded only to love them, to love specifically those who hate us and would seek to kill us. We do not show love, when we inflict persecution, and death, in order for their “greater good”. That is not love. That is the tool of the enemy. It is not love we show when we kill our enemies “in order to defend ourselves, or our faith”. It is what it is. It is pain and death, and a vain attempt to advance scripture at the point of a sword. It is blasphemy to think ourselves and our ideas as equal to God, to believe we can take life or allow it to persist based on an acceptance of our ideology. It is the devout thinking of the Pharisees that took this idea and used it to crucify Jesus Christ. Lest we think we are different, we are not. What is past is prologue. We should learn from history, that compulsion of morality can never be achieved.
John continues in verse 3 … “And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea.” The parallels between the second plague and the second trumpet sounding in ages past are undeniable. Both are poured out against the sea. The sounding of the second trumpet affects a third of life in the sea, whereas this plague appears to affect the entire sea. It is not immediately apparent how the alteration of water into blood would result in the deaths of all those on the sea at the time. But consider the effects of the difference in buoyancy between water and blood. Could metal ships and submarines that use water as coolant still function if blood were introduced instead? Could steam be produced from blood as it is from water? The ocean life that lives in the sea, would likely also die. On a worldwide scale this plague would certainly cause a level of devastation like none we have ever borne witness to.
John continues in verse 4 … “And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood. [verse 5] And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus. [verse 6] For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy. [verse 7] And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments.” The third plague turns what is left of the world’s water supplies to blood. All of the fresh water has been turned. Egypt witnessed this plague as well. The corollary to the winepress of the wrath of God which produces blood instead of grape juice springs to mind. The wicked are offered blood to drink, as they have seen fit to believe that the killing of saints, and prophets, were in the best interest of everyone. The “purification” of the church has seen any who dissent give their lives violently for the cause of Christ. In vain efforts at keeping church doctrine pure, countless saints and prophets who actually serve God were murdered. In changing the water into blood and offering it as drink, God shows His supremacy to the men who cling to the ideas of control they have embraced. They have none. They never did.
It is not dissent the makes doctrine impure. It is dissent that causes us to learn, to grow, and to either deepen in our faith and beliefs, or to alter and expand them to embrace greater truth. Dissent is not our enemy, nor those who will not comply with our majority view. It merely represents a different position in the journey to the perfection Christ brings about. Over time, incorrect thinking and beliefs are altered by the power of His love and grace to the point where truth is better understood, and embraced. This process is inevitable. But it happens on different timelines, as each of us are unique. He must bring it about in our lives in the ways in which each of us respond to His love. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and MUCH better than we know each other. We must allow Christ the freedom to change each of us, in His time, and in His manner. To seek to accelerate the process through force is nothing but folly. We cannot compel others to stop believing what they believe, and we need not do so. Christ will take care of the incorrect thinking and beliefs of others. This is the process of salvation. Our “job” is merely to love them through the process, and to realize this process is also going on within us. It may well be “we” who are changed in matters of belief and doctrinal persuasion over time, to believe otherwise is arrogance and pride.
John continues in verse 8 … “And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. [verse 9] And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory.” The fourth plague in our day could be easily attributable to global warming, or global climate change; but as scientists point out, these changes take place over very long periods of time. The plagues that are falling upon the wicked are thought to happen in fairly rapid sequence and with worldwide dimensions to their scope. This plague in particular only affirms the pattern set by Pharaoh of old, in that repentance is not sought. Instead blasphemy occurs. We think ourselves equal to God, and therefore deny His power in the genesis of this plague, or any other. Despite all the miraculous events that occur during these plagues, atheists do what atheists always do, they look for a scientific explanation that negates the need of God.
But blasphemy is not the exclusive province of the atheist. It is shared in hearts of those who prefer the wealth of this world to the humble service found in the next one. Many who still carry the name of “Christian” will suffer under the weight of these plagues. This will only serve to intensify their passion to weeding out and killing the voices of dissent. They believe that until every soul who refuses to follow their majority view is killed, the plagues will continue. They must all be found and slaughtered, offered as human sacrifice to the vengeful god they serve in order that relief is found. The fact that those who do NOT bare the mark of the third beast, are NOT suffering from any of these plagues has been lost on them. They believe it must be Satan protecting his own, instead of God who alone has the power to perform these plagues, protecting His own. They like the Pharisees of old, accuse the divine protection and healing that comes from God as coming from demons. What is past is prologue.
Suffering does nothing to inspire the wicked to change. This is the mistake even Christians have so long made in their evangelistic efforts. Fear has been presented as a prime motivator to bring people to Christ. But fear and punishment do not deter evil in the slightest. If anything, evil is fed off of fear. The first words of Christ to His servants all throughout time have generally been … “do not be afraid”. Christ does not look for us to fear Him, rather to respond to His so great love. His first concern in almost every dialogue is for us to lose our fear. We cannot think well when we are afraid. We do not reason well, and it is impossible to love under the threat of fear. The reason for these revelations of great plagues upon the evil of this world, is that our fear is to be completely negated. When all these events unfold we will be fully aware, and the peace of Christ will be our pursuit. While the wicked carry sores upon them, our bodies will not. While the wicked are offered only blood to drink, we will find water to sustain us. While the sun bares down in scorching heat upon the men of this world, for only a miraculous reason, we will find none of its ill effects. For we know that our God is God. Like the children of Israel who awaited in eager anticipation to leave what they knew of slavery and find God in a promised land, so we too will wait eagerly knowing these plagues only mark a timeline for His imminent return to take us away, home to be with Him forever.
But three more plagues are to mark that timeline, for what is past remains prologue …
Friday, June 20, 2014
John begins to reveal a new vision in chapter 15 of his book of Revelations of Jesus Christ. The sequence of this revelation matters. It occurs after the works and proclamations of the previous six angels in the prior chapter. It occurs after the rise of the third beast, and after the Mark of the third Beast is implemented on a universal basis in our world. It is against the backdrop of these events where what transpires becomes the final series of events in the history of evil in this world. The sunset of evil has begun. But John does not open this new revelation with a picture of despair, or judgment, or condemnation. Instead as is repeated again and again in this book, and throughout all of scripture, John opens with a scene of hope. The gospel is not about defining what we deserve and condemning us to experience our well-deserved punishment. The gospel is about offering us a gift we do NOT deserve, and seeing the love of God over-ride the justice we deserve. And so even at the end of all things, even when evil is about to suffer its long deserved fate, our scene opens instead with a focus on what hope offers by contrast.
John begins in verse 1 … “And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God.” This would be the third set of seven angels, who will be carrying out the judgments of God upon the wicked of our earth. John continues in verse 2 … “And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.” But the first thing John reveals is NOT an immediate execution of God’s wrath, not an immediate pouring out of the plagues he has just opened this vision with. Instead, John’s attention is NOT drawn to the suffering of the wicked which is obviously on the horizon; it is to the people who stand upon a sea of glass mingled with fire. These people “had gotten” the victory over the beast. First notice that the people to whom John is referring did NOT conquer the beast themselves. Instead they “received” the victory from the Lamb. Then they stand redeemed carrying harps of God, the joy of their redemption song is already starting to emerge.
John continues in verse 3 … “And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. [verse 4] Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.” Offering glory, or perhaps better stated, pointing out the glory our Lord deserves, is the lyric of their redemption song. Asking the rhetorical questions angels and the redeemed love to ask; singing about the power of our God. This is the prologue of events that transpire – BEFORE – the actual plagues are poured out. There is a reason why the suffering of the wicked is not the first event we focus on, even in a revelation of the final 7 plagues in our world’s history. Instead, our attention is drawn to the fact, that not all is lost. Not all have rejected Christ, sacrificed their identity, and taken upon themselves the Mark of the third Beast. Victory through our Savior is possible, and there are those who have accepted this victory.
Satan longs to present our God with his own character. He presents an image of a vengeful stern judging God who cannot wait until He is able to punish the guilty for all of their crimes. But nothing could be farther from the truth. If God lived only to punish those who were guilty, there would have been no plan of redemption, and Satan would have been killed the instant he disobeyed. Instead, love offers the patience of allowing a choice to see it accepted or rejected. And here, even when the judgments of God being poured out upon the wicked is imminent, the first focus of the revelation is not about the punishment but about the hope. The first focus of this revelation is about the fact that victory over the beast is a reality, and has been accepted by those who now sing to God.
Even now there is a delay in the telling of eventualities to focus first on redemption, on salvation, on the freedom that Christ has brought to those who sing the praises of His name. Hope is always what Christ reveals to us first. It is only our stubborn refusal of that hope that sees our ultimate demise. The story of Noah is not dissimilar in this regard. God decides that the evil of mankind must be destroyed. But instead of acting on His decision, He finds Noah and through His grace He waits 120 years while Noah builds a vessel that will save mankind from utter destruction. Noah preaches during these 120 years, and if the people had heeded his message (like those who later heard Jonah in Nineveh), the flood may never have come. Instead we may have been born into a redeemed society full of Enoch’s, instead of into the world of sin in which we now find plagues about to be poured out. God delayed then, even after deciding what must happen. The story of this revelation like that of Noah, focuses first on the redemption that has been offered and accepted. It is this primary focus we should remember, even when telling the story of the last 7 plagues to befall the wicked.
John continues in verse 5 … “And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened:” After the song of the redeemed, after the focus on the victory occurs, the story must proceed. The “temple of the tabernacle of the testimony” in heaven is opened. Could this be a reference to the testimony of Jesus Christ, combined with the immutable principles of love inscribed on tablets of stone so many years ago? John continues in verse 6 … “And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles.” The angels emerge from this temple. Their clothing is noticed, perhaps representing the purity of the mission they are to perform. For the judgments of Lord are righteous, and His patience has been long suffering. John continues in verse 7 … “And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever.” One of the four beasts, or sentient life-forms from beyond our understanding, offers vials to each of the angels. Each vial holding a plague.
John continues in verse 8 … “And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled.” What must be done, must be done alone. The temple fills with smoke, and the 24 elders, and first fruits of redemption who reside in heaven like Moses, Elijah, Enoch, and those who ascended at the resurrection of Christ, must remain outside of the temple until the plagues are completed. Perhaps this is because our God does not wish us to see Him weep. Perhaps the punishment which the wicked have earned and which must now be poured out STILL causes such deep sorrow in the heart of God, that He wishes to be alone while it occurs, so that we do not see His tears of love rejected. The sorrow that broke the heart of Christ, now perhaps breaks the heart of His Father. What must be done, must be done. But pouring out punishment is not an act which brings Him joy. For us to see Him weep, might well be more than human limits can tolerate and so we must remain outside so we do not see His tears we will never be able to wipe away. Once again, He places our interests, and the care of our hearts, ahead of even His own. Once again, perhaps He demonstrates that He cares more about our feelings than even that of His own. And so He remains alone to do what must be done, and what He wishes was never required to do.
It is not eagerness that sees this day arrive. It is not a thirst for vengeance and blood that sees this day arrive. It has been so long delayed for patience and hope that even one more soul will accept the gift of His redemption. But now, with the third beast having made the whole world make a final choice, there is no one left who will accept. The danger of accepting the mark of the third beast, is that it represents the last opportunity in which we might change our mind. Once that mark is upon us, our choice is forever sealed. The cycle of sin, repentance, and forgiveness is broken. From this moment on, our sin will not be something we repent of. We will no longer ask for forgiveness. We will no longer want it. Those who accept this mark, cut themselves off from the salvation of Christ, one final time. In so doing, they bring about this day of the plague’s arrival. For there is no one left to say “yes” to God. It was not God who created this plan of the third beast. It was not God who attempted to compel the conscience of all men and bring about the end of the world. God only revealed the plans of the enemy. He had no hand in making them transpire.
It is Satan alone who has longed for this day. It is Satan alone who takes great pleasure in the sadness of God. It is Satan and those who follow the dragon, and the beasts he gave power to, who revel in the suffering and death of others. It is the wicked who rejoice in the suffering of others. Christians cannot. Real Christians cannot. If one who claims the name of Christ, finds joy in the pain and suffering of others, they bare that name in error. God Himself, takes no pleasure in the suffering and pain that sin brings into the world. Instead He longs to relieve it. But as of this day, there are no more who will accept the relief He offers. Christians feel the pain of love rejected. Christians share a longing to see pain relieved, and redemption embraced. Christians do not want suffering to be the ultimate destiny of others, but instead only redemption. If Christians do not really feel this, they are not really Christians, instead they deceive themselves. Justice is the last resort of our God, not His first. Judgment was not His first option, but His last. Redemption was always meant to be plan A. Had we remained faithful, He would have had to pay so high a cost to see us redeemed, but He paid it all without a second thought, or doubt. Only after all final efforts to accept His redemption are decided can this day come. And it has arrived.
The prologue is over, the revelation must continue …
Saturday, June 14, 2014
So far in our study of the proclamations and work of this second set of seven angels, three messages have been conveyed to the earth. First, that salvation is come, and it comes on a global scale in the final hours of earth’s history. Second, that Babylon has fallen has fallen, the lament warns us not to trust our historical greatness because it has been overcome by greed and avarice and is no longer what it once was. And Third, that our motives and our actions, can reveal if we are willing to trade in our identity as followers of Christ for commercial expediency in the world of the last days. Should we declare as the third beast wishes accepting the compulsion of our conscience, or should we remain silent yet also having not been willing to have our hearts transformed by the power of Christ, we will have taken on the mark of this beast. In so doing we forever distance ourselves from Christ and the salvation He alone can offer to us.
These messages are delivered in sequence, in order. They are delivered AFTER the rise of the third beast. It is after all the mark of the third beast we are trying to avoid. So from a timing perspective, it is to us who John writes. It is to us, who John is trying to reveal Jesus Christ, and our Lord’s plans for our salvation. If we read the preceding revelations with dread, it is perhaps because we have not yet come to a place in our lives where we are willing to be fully rid of sin. Perhaps some cherished idea, or current habit, still takes a priority in our hearts. The way in which we greet these three messages, delivered against the finality of our existence, should help us see what spiritual condition we are in, in these last days. While there is no such thing as being “ready”, there is the real condition of being in “transformation” by the power of the love of Christ. Our submission of our will, and our desires, to Christ allows Him to alter them. He can alter how we think, what we want, and therefore what we do. This is the basis of salvation, to be saved from the slavery of self-service we have embraced. The revelations of John of these final events were NOT meant to scare us, but to bring us joy. If we have faith in the ability of Christ to save us from ourselves, despite our own inability to conceive of how He could do it, we can remain followers of Christ. Our identity confirmed in the book of Life and records of heaven.
Despite the warning nature of the previous message, what follows next is an event of great joy. Keep in mind there are 7 angels who have a work in this sequence of events and so far, we have only heard from three of them. John continues in chapter 14 of his book of Revelations of Jesus Christ in verse 14 saying … “And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.” What follows the emergence of the mark of third beast is a new work of the Son of Man, or Jesus Christ. In this instance He is situated on a white cloud. The imagery itself is reminiscent of how He ascended back to heaven on His first coming, and so may represent His second. John continues in verse 15 … “And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” The fourth angel in this sequence bears a message to Jesus, informing Him that the time has come to reap the harvest of this world. And so in verse 16 … “And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.”
This series of events announced by the proclamation of the fourth angel could be interpreted in 2 ways. The most likely first interpretation is that the reaping described and performed by Jesus Christ is brought about by His physical return. It should however be noted that once before the idea of “cleansing” the sanctuary was interpreted as the physical second coming of Christ and caused a great disappointment. If the reaping described here in this sense, is the second coming, then the Mark of the Beast would have been implemented on a global scale and as such, the only thing left to do is to come back and claim those faithful few who have not taken up this mark by “reaping” the harvest. However, if this interpretation is correct, the work yet to come of the fifth angel makes a bit less sense. And the entire sequence of plagues described in the next chapter of Revelation also makes less sequential sense. Why pour out plagues on a world that has already been destroyed?
The alternative interpretation might be that the “reaping” of the harvest of souls, is more about the work Christ performs in those who refused the mark of the third beast. Humanity has so long waited to see the work of the transformation of Christ fully completed in our lives while we yet live them. Successive generations have gone into the grave still under the process of transformation. Even the apostles never claimed to have seen the work completed in themselves. Only Enoch appears to have seen it done prior to the grave that we are aware of. But in these last days of earth’s history, there is to come a declaration of finality, proclaiming let he who is holy be holy still. We are the farthest things from holy in our current state. But, if the work of transformation is completed within us, while we are still alive, and prior to His return, He may well create holiness where none existed before. In this sense, the final “reaping” of this world may occur after the warnings of the mark of the third beast, but prior to its universal implementation. This may represent the time of the final outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the world of those who continue to follow Christ. This may represent the latter rain poured out upon the earth before He returns to take us home.
Imagine for a minute the effects upon this world of having a broad spectrum of Christians in every denomination, in every country around the world, in every language, finding themselves with the work of transformation of the perfect love of others completed within them. No more hidden agendas. No more attempts to take credit for benevolent actions performed for others. Motives that are pure. Actions performed for the joy of loving others without thought of reward or credit. Imagine too the words of Christ that one day we, His final servants, would perform actions and miracles greater than He did on a global scale before He returns. This was not idol flattery by Christ to His followers. It was a promise that one day, after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that we would be honored to join with Christ in the mission of the redemption of mankind. These final actions would indeed “seed” the earth and cause the final harvest to be plentiful. God does not desire that wicked men and women be lost for all eternity. These revelations are designed to counter that notion at every turn. Perhaps the better interpretation of this fourth angel’s work is see a great number of “former” wicked people redeemed at the final hours and brought into the sheepfold of Christ.
Consider also the imagery of the sickle in gathering the wheat of the harvest. In order be gathered, the wheat must be cut from its roots. It must be separated from the ground in which it grew up, from the nature of the earth that birthed it. But as Christ harvests the wheat, He separates it from what it used to know, and then alters it for a greater purpose than it knew before. We cannot be transformed while we cling to what we once knew, and loved. We must be separated from the love of self. We must be transformed for a higher purpose, to serve others and love others. What we offer of ourselves after our transformation feeds others, not ourselves. The act of cutting us away from what we once knew might seem frightening at first. How will we survive being cut away from our roots, from everything we ever knew? But Christ tells us to trust Him, that in His hands what we will become is greater than anything we ever knew before. Trusting in Him, despite our fears, or apprehension, is what leads to our transformations in the first place.
Whether the work of the fourth angel is in the announcement of His second coming, or in a great outpouring of transformation that will change the world; the news remains happy to all who retain their identity as followers of Christ. Hope has not been lost, it has been amplified. These series of messages and events are not designed to “scare” us into a false submission. They are presented to enlighten us as to the mission of redemptive love we are to see poured out in our each of our lives, by the transforming power of Jesus Christ. If the message of the fourth angel heralds the second coming of Christ, so be it, we are to return with Him to be with Him forever. If the fourth angel describes only a massive harvest of our world of souls that were once lost, to now find Him and entrance into His kingdom, then so much the better. In the latter version, we find ourselves gathered by Christ for a greater purpose, and throughout eternity we will be overjoyed to find those around us, who are there because the redemptive love of Christ was reflected through us in these final days. In either version of events, the joy is overwhelming.
John then continues in verse 17 … “And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.” The fifth angel emerges from heaven also carrying a sharp sickle, apparently there is another harvest yet to come. John continues in verse 18 … “And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.” The sixth angel enters the scene, coming from the altar of God, and noted has having power over fire. He proclaims to the fifth angel that the earth’s clusters are ready for harvest. They are in fact fully ripe. John continues in verse 19 … “And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. [verse 20] And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.”
So if the work of the fourth angel was to announce the second coming of Christ, then the work of the fifth and sixth angels could be interpreted as being the destruction of the wicked who remain at the second coming. First note that the fifth angel emerges with another sickle to perform another harvest. But in contrast with the wheat who are fitted for a higher purpose, the grapes are ultimately to be “cast” into the great winepress of the wrath of God. This harvest is not conducted with a spirit of joy and hope, but instead appears to be punitive. Further the location of the winepress is outside the city, in this version of events perhaps outside the city of heaven. When the winepress is engaged, it is not wine that springs forth (grape juice), instead it is blood deep enough to stand all the way up to a horse bridle. By estimation that may be as deep as 5-6 feet. The area of this product of blood covers a space of 1,600 furlongs or roughly 200 miles. We do not know if John’s intent was to mean 200 square miles, or 200 miles by some other measurement of width. But regardless, this a quite a measure of blood.
If following the first interpretation that the fourth angel heralds the second coming, then the work of the fifth and sixth angel may be a fulfillment of the promise of God, that those who take the mark of the beast will drink the wine of the wrath of God from the cup of His indignation. This imagery described here is certainly to be seen as the winepress that creates the blood drink to be given to those who took the mark of the third beast. In any event the destruction of the wicked will occur at the second coming so this series of events could support that interpretation of the revelation.
Another interpretation might be found in what occurs to those “Christians” who claim the name of Christ but who have no love for others within them. The division between the wheat and the tares will become more apparent at the end of days. While the transformation is poured out and completed in those who submit their lives to Christ. It is fully rejected by those who do not wish it to occur in themselves, choosing rather to retain sins, than give them all away. These keep the name “Christian” but reflect no love of Christ through them at all. For love of others is not inherent, because no transformation has taken place, only the love of self is evident in their lives. These “Christians” will be genuinely surprised at the return of their Lord, expecting fully to partake of His kingdom, without ever having known how it works beforehand. They go as far as to work miracles in the name of Christ, but have never visited the sick, met the needs of the needy, or seen to those in prison. In His commission for us to love others, Christ did not limit us to love only our own families, or other “deserving” peoples. Instead He intended us to love those who did NOT deserve our love. We were to love our enemies, not just those who love us.
Perhaps the winepress of the wrath of God has been reserved to stamp out of these purported Christians, the results of the love of self. Perhaps what is revealed from the engagement of the winepress is the blood of those who have been hurt and abused by those who bore the name of Christ. Throughout history, those who truly love others as Christ loves, have been systemically killed by others who carried the name of Christ, but knew nothing of His love. Purported “Christians” in every denomination have by omission, or direct negative action, seen those who truly loved, put to death for their dissent with the majority. The Catholic church of the dark ages is not unique in this. Puritans were no less forgiving in earlier ages. And our modern churches are content to watch the suffering in the world around them and do nothing to relieve it. We give our money, but not our time, or personal energy. We would prefer to buy ourselves free time, while others actually engage in ministry using our means. Modern Christians are all eager to enact laws of “morality”, and attempt to compel the conscience of those with dissenting beliefs. In so doing they align with the beast and the dragon behind him. As this course will end in only one outcome, the same one it has always followed, the death of those who would dissent.
Perhaps what is seen emerging from the winepress of this harvest is the produce of blood that is inevitable when sin is embraced, when love of self, triumphs over transformation offered by Christ. If the work of the fourth angels heralds not the second coming, but rather the final outpouring of the Holy Spirit and transformation of all who will yet hear before it is too late, then the work of the fifth and sixth angel must begin after the probation of God has expired in our world. The time to decide must have ended as now the choices of the wicked are to be allowed to fall upon them. The mark of the third beast is in full universal effect. No more will the protective hand of God, keep the wicked from bearing all the consequences of their own evil actions. Instead the winepress will engage, and the blood resulting from the deeds of the wicked will be seen, mixed with that of their own.
Every attempt at avoiding this fate has been made in this series of revelations and the work of these angels. But as in the days of Noah, evil will not be permitted to go on indefinitely. It will come to an end, if not of choices to find the salvation offered by Christ, then by the final edict that time has expired by a God who will not see us live in torture forever. The work of the seventh angel begins in chapter 20 of this book. We will study its description in more detail later, however it centers around the millennia between the second coming of Christ, and the last great judgment and end of evil that occurs after that final thousand years. What occurs next is the final seven last plagues that are poured out upon the earth. The sequence of these events is important to the understanding and interpretations we can gather from what is presented here by John.
The work of this second set of seven angels begins AFTER the rise of the third beast. What happens AFTER the work of the fifth and sixth angels are the final seven last plagues. Perhaps it makes more sense then, that the work of the fourth angel described here is more about the transformations completed in our lives, than about the second coming of Christ. If taken in context, and in sequence with what follows in chapter 15, this interpretation seems to make more sense. However as stated before, in either interpretation, the news for those who have retained their identity as followers of Christ, the news is good either way. The relevancy and immediacy with which we should take these final messages cannot be understated. For we live now in a world where compulsion of the conscience is considered acceptable, even by those who carry the name of Christ, let alone by those who oppose Him. Given the time in which we live, the messages and works of these angels could not be more relevant to us. Our salvation is here. Our Babylon has fallen. And our world is nearly ready to enact a mark of the third beast, intended to deny us commerce if we do not submit and declare against Christ. This is the time in which we live. It is not intended to be a time of fear, but rather one of hope.
Our salvation is here. This is the great hope we should center our attention upon. Submission to Christ is our key to finding perfection in the here and now. A transformation of how we love others, is to see reflected in us, His perfect love. We, the broken tools of His mission, are to be used to help point others to Him, and see salvation spread across our world. As we love others without limit, or precondition, or restraint, there can be no other result. This is the message of hope and the revelation John offered to those of us who live in our day.
And the revelations were not completed yet …
Friday, June 6, 2014
The message of John continues as he reveals a series of proclamations by seven angels who deliver them at the end of time. In our prior study we learned that they begin with a message of world-wide importance, the gospel or redemption of Christ is here. Its relevance is even more important because the hour is late, and the final disposition of evil in the world is soon to be at its end. Those who embrace through submission the gift of Christ, are to be made free from the evil that lives within them. Those who refuse this gift, are left to struggle and fail against their own evil natures, a battle against the slavery of self-service that without Christ, simply cannot be won. The second angel delivers the sad lament, that the great city of Babylon has fallen, has fallen. What was once hoped to be the pinnacle of social order, prosperity, and enlightenment, has become corrupted by greed and avarice and is now fallen. These two proclamations find extraordinary relevance to us, in our day, in our nation. They proclaim to us the importance of freedom from evil that only Christ can bring. And they open our eyes, that our nation, and perhaps even our corporate church structures, have fallen from what they once were. We are not to be blinded by living looking backwards at former glory, but instead we are to look forward to the fullness of Christ in us.
Now, the next proclamation is to be revealed. This one will carry even more weight to us, than it perhaps did to the readers in John’s day. John continues in chapter 14 of his book of Revelations of Jesus Christ in verse 9 … “And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, [verse 10] The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:” First we must note that the emergence of the mark of the beast, does not occur until after the third beast has been identified. Worship of a false beast, or of anything outside of Christ, has long been a problem for mankind. So in that sense, it is possible to have seen a fulfillment of this warning in any age. However, there is special significance to the placement of mark of the third beast in the forehead or in the hand, and with respect to the timing of this proclamation. It all occurs AFTER the emergence of the third beast.
The reception of the mark of the third beast can occur in our foreheads. How we think, what we want, what we declare, what motivates us, are aspects of who we are. They form the basis of our identity as individuals. To sacrifice our service to Christ, in order to maintain our prosperity, is to reveal our identity as unaligned with heaven. It is this challenge to our identity that the mark of the beast is intended to reveal. Should we choose worldly expediency over the freedom within us Christ offers, we declare we are followers of the beast and the dragon behind him. The intent is to “force us” into this declaration. Should we steadfastly adhere to Christ, and refuse to deny him, the beast intends to deny us commerce of any kind. We will not be allowed to buy or sell until we give up our voluntary, but sworn allegiance to Christ. We are to be starved to death, excluded from prosperity, cast out of jobs, homes, and relationships, until we submit ourselves to the beast. Or so are his intentions.
But the reception of the mark of the third beast can also occur in our hands. What we do, how we act, the results of who we are, are revealed by our lives. We do in essence what we want. This is why our desires and thoughts and motives are so important. It is why the freedom of Christ, is not found in our actions first, but rather in our hearts first. When we sin, it is because we continue to desire to sin in our hearts. We still “want” things we should not want. We therefore “do” things we should not do. The actions reveal the heart, even if they do not define it. If our identity as followers of Christ is revealed to be false, it will be seen in what our hands find to do. The journey towards perfection is not an instant one. Along the road, we fall because we have not learned to fully trust, and fully submit. Our human nature recoils at the idea of “giving up” some indulgence we have long fostered. But over time we begin to see that what Christ wants for us, is actually better than anything we wanted for ourselves. What He does, He does within us, changing who we are from the inside out.
After that kind of transformation, our hands remain a clear indicator of our hearts. The difference is that after the transformation by Christ of who we are, of what we want – what we do is something different. Many believers in the end of time will be content to never declare against Christ with their mouths, but will be equally content to never submit and be changed either. While their lips will never deny Him, their hearts will. Thus their hands will reveal their true disposition, and their true identity. They follow Christ with their mouths, but are not interested in having their lives altered to follow Him with their hearts. Despite a lack of declaration, they follow the beast without even knowing it. They live self-deceived that they are Christians, blinded to the hate for others in their words and deeds. They are not in harmony with the law of God, because at its core serving self precludes us from harmony with a law based on serving others. In this condition our hands become the revelation that we have assumed the mark of the beast. It is the worst of all worlds. Still forbidden to conduct commerce, and persecuted for a lack of public declaration, but neither are they made free from sin within them, for a lack of submission to Christ. To exist in this state of misery, it will not be long before the lips begin to echo what the hands already state.
Whether through open declaration, or through actions that reveal our choice, the rejection of the gospel of Christ has the same results. It leaves us slaves to ourselves. It leaves us servants of the beast. It leaves us in a state of perpetual hunger, where good is just never quite good enough. When the heart hungers to please itself, there is no end to the hole it must fill. Drug addicts can never seem to get enough drugs to be “happy”. The rich and powerful can never seem to get enough wealth to make them “happy”. Those who seek sexual fulfillment can never seem to find enough of it, to make them “happy”. Our sins of self-service reveal the fundamental flaw in the arguments of Satan; nothing will ever truly make us happy in his systems, because they are not designed to do so. To abandon self-service and choose to love only others, is the way of God, not of His enemy. So to divert away from the perfect fulfillment God offers leads to only one other course, misery and eventually a longing for death to see the misery end.
The wine of the wrath of God, is simply when God ceases to intervene to spare us from the consequences of our own actions and choices. When it is poured out without mixture, or dilution, into the cup of His indignation, we are left completely unshielded from the course we have embraced. The love of God, for even those who steadfastly choose to remain His enemy, has long kept these erring ones from bearing the full weight and consequences of the evil they do. At the time of the end, when the mark of the third beast comes into existence, when the forced choice and compulsion of conscience becomes the norm – it is then when the removal of the protections of God even upon the wicked will be withdrawn. God’s indignation at our refusal to accept His love, and instead continue to choose pain and death, will have exhausted His patience. Those who have consistently through words or deeds blasphemed His name and trampled on His love, will now feel the full effects of the choice they have made. The final attempt by the enemy and beast to compel the conscience on a worldwide basis will be the last act permitted in his constant series of attacks. It will be this final challenge to our identities, that will end the patience of God with evil in this world.
Finally, the ultimate disposition of evil, is to be cleansed with fire before the Lamb, and the angels at the end of all things. There is to be no further redemption or reclamation at that point. What is done is done. What has been chosen is to be respected for all eternity. Those who have chosen to submit to Christ and be transformed by Him, will remain “holy still”. Those who have refused the love of God, and freedom He offers, are to have their choices respected too – and put to rest in final fires for all time. John continues in verse 11 … “And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. [verse 12] Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” The final penalty is to be a permanent one, bearing permanent consequences. The smoke, or evidence of the consumption of evil, and the torment which evil inevitably brings, is to rise up forever and ever. Those who meet the final fires are to exist no more for all eternity. They are to become consumed in these fires, nothing left of the evil and torment of their lives, but the residual smoke seen rising in the aftermath. This is the final disposition discussed several times in His book of Revelations.
However, the warning is not just about avoiding the final disposition of evil. Heaven is not merely a fire escape. Those who worship the beast and his image, those who have taken the mark of the third beast into the heads or hands, are to have no rest neither day or night from the choices they have made. Long before the final fires, the way of the enemy is not one of luxury and ease. He sells them that way. But even those of means find, there is only emptiness and stress. Our anxiety flows from worry that we will not maintain what we have amassed, nor obtain the next level of wealth we seek. The stress of never being content, never being secure, never having enough, will plague those who are permitted to conduct commerce for their sworn allegiance to the beast and his image. Sleep is lost to worry. Lives are lost to hearts failing for fear and stress. Rest is lost altogether, for none can be taken without the trust in God required to enjoy it. Neither during the day, when we focus our efforts at work to obtain that next goal; or at night when we try to unwind from the day filling our minds with distractions and meaningless indulgences – do we ever find real rest or relaxation. Stress is ever present. The ways of those who accept the mark of the third beast, who deny their identities as followers of Christ, are ways of want, hunger, pain, and a longing for death.
The acquiescence to the power of the state, and its ideas of legislated morality, do not bring rest (as promised), but rather only increased stress. Despite our continued ability to conduct commerce and avoid a physical death (in theory), the stress of filling a hunger that cannot be filled is something that can never go away. Death is its only release. Torment is not something reserved for the physical pain of final all-consuming fires, it is the condition we find ourselves already in when we refuse to accept the gift of relief that Jesus Christ alone can bring. It was He who said to come to Him and find rest. Those who adopt the mark of the third beast, are in so doing, moving as far from Christ as possible. Therefore they are moving as far from rest as possible. The revelation of John was intended to bring all this to our attention NOW, before we find ourselves having taken on this dreaded mark. It was to make us see, that our lives under the system and slavery of the beast constitute nothing short of torment NOW. Forget the final fires that will eternally purge evil from the universe, we should be seeking that purge today within us. To be freed from evil here while still living is the message of good news of the gospel of love.
It is in this context that John declares “here are the patience of the saints”. It is our steadfast faith in Jesus Christ alone as the sole source of our salvation that sees us transformed to be in harmony with His laws, and enable us to keep them, perfectly serving others and not ourselves. Here is where rest is found. Here is where stress is thrown out the window of our lives. Here is where a trust in God replaces our anxiety about keeping and growing “our stuff” with a peace we have yet to experience. Contentment replaces hunger. Rest replaces stress. Peace replaces anxiety. These are the gifts He so longs to give us in the here and now. There is no reason to wait to see this enacted in us. The patience of the saints is revealed in our recognition this process may take time, but its results are eternal and worthy, and the reason we can worship and bow ONLY to Him who offered them to us. Our gratitude to Christ for what He does within us, cannot be made to be silent. We cannot deny Him either with words, or with what our hands find to do, because our hearts are in pure sympathy with Christ. We begin to love like He loves, without pre-condition, or limitation of any kind. And this love changes us, and the entire world we encounter. For it is His love, reflected through us.
John concludes the message of the third angel in verse 13 as he reveals … “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.” Comfort and hope are to be offered to those who face the perils of the enemy in these last days. Earthly death is not to be dreaded by those who have found Jesus Christ. Instead we are to consider it a form of blessing. To rest in the graves, in the full assurance of transformations begun or finished within us before that time, is to be unaware of the blink of an eye in which time is no longer relevant to us. One thought ends, the next begins, and the nanosecond between them could encompass the years between our physical demise, and our physical reawakening at the last trump of God in His resurrection calling. We already know what death is like, we practice it every night when we sleep. Time passes briefly and we awake in the morning refreshed and ready to begin the day. Death is quite literally the same thing. We would have reason to fear Death, if there was to be no morning on the other side of it, nothing to awaken to after the passage of time. But the entirety of the gospel is presented to destroy this lie, and reveal the truth of a God who intended life to be forever. For those who sleep the sleep of death in Christ, the morning is going to be the greatest one of their lives. The awakening they are destined to experience will be like none other. It is for this reason, we are to have both hope and comfort. For literally nothing can forever separate us from the love of God, not even our physical demise in this world of pain.
Then John adds the icing on the cake. Not only do we sleep resting in the assurance of our own salvation founded in Jesus Christ. But our labors follow us. The works of love we have done in selfless service to others, the “seeming” sacrifices we made for another, the unconditional love we showed to those in need – these all bear a harvest we could not imagine. Our broken-tool-lives utilized by God in the united mission for the redemption of mankind are going to bear fruit through the power and blessing of His Holy Spirit. What follows us into His kingdom are the fruits of love we planted while still living in this world of pain. There is no higher calling. There is no greater reward. Not all the eons of time we spend in a life with so much joy we cannot describe it, will equal the value of seeing just one more person there with us to share it with us, because of the love of Christ we reflected unto them. Indeed the true treasure of humanity, is found in the redemption of humanity. The value of just one, is so infinite, and so precious, and so unique, and so irreplaceable, that nothing will ever matter to us more in the light of eternity, than to see just one there to share it with us.
This is why Christ would have come, lived, and died just for you and only you, if you alone were all who would have accepted His gift. Just to have you in heaven with Him, was enough for Him to be willing to die to see just You there. Praise be to God, that you, and perhaps many like you, will be willing to accept that gift. Praise further, that He would so honor us, as to reflect His love through us, and thus make us tools in the mission of the redemption of mankind. We will share His joy, at the redemption of just one more soul. We will learn to value each person we encounter with the precious individuality of the love of God, for just that person. This is another revelation of Jesus Christ made in the writings of John. He reveals how precious each of us is to Jesus Christ. He reveals that this work of redemption is the ONLY thing that matters. Our deaths in this world are inconsequential to the accomplishments we can make living only one day under the transforming power of Jesus Christ in our lives. Here is the patience of the saints. Here are they who keep the commandments of God, through the transforming power of faith in Jesus Christ alone as the sole source of our salvation. Lives like this, are the only ones worth living.
But the work and messages of this group of seven angels were not over yet …