Revelation: The Culmination of Scripture – 20 (“The 5th Trumpet – 1st Woe”)

Revelation: The Culmination of Scripture – 20 (“The 5th Trumpet – 1st Woe”)

1. INTRODUCTION:
The focus of today’s teaching is the 5th Trumpet Judgment and we find that in Rev.8:13-9:11.

In the previous trumpet judgment (the 4th trumpet judgment) we saw that it ended with the sun, moon, and stars darkened which is similar to the 9th Plague (Ex.10:21-23). The focus of the first four trumpet judgments was primarily focussed on creation. Now, however, there is a warning of three approaching woes (Afrikaans: “weeklaag”) and links them with the final three trumpet blasts. In the 5th and 6th trumpets, God judges unbelievers, who respond with a stubborn devotion to wickedness and refuse to repent ~ “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, 21 nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts” (Rev.9:20-21). The 7th and final trumpet comes after the 2nd interlude.

In our previous teaching we’ve seen four angels who were ready to release the winds of God’s destruction and judgment, but a fifth angel told them to hold back, because he first had to give all believers God’s seal of protection, but now the angel has completed his task and everything is ready for action.

2. SCRIPTURE READING:
Rev.8:13-9:11 ~ “13 Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!”
9 And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the Bottomless Pit. 2 He opened the shaft of the Bottomless Pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. 3 Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth. 4 They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5 They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone. 6 And in those days, people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them. 7 In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, 8 their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth; 9 they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. 10 They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails. 11 They have as king over them the angel of the Bottomless Pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon.”

In our Scripture portion for today, John focuses our attention on the next trumpet by giving more than twice as much space to its description as it gives the previous four trumpets together – this will be the case with the sixth trumpet as well.

3. AN EAGLE (8:13):
We can assume the angel who had to seal God’s children is finished with his task because the other three angels are ready to blast their trumpets. But before the fifth angel blasts his trumpet, an Eagle was flying overhead and called out ~ “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth (8:13). This eagle is announcing a coming judgement… ~ “…on those who dwell on the earth” (8:13). This reminds us of Jeremiah’s prophecy in Jer.48:40 ~ “For thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, one shall fly swiftly like an eagle and spread his wings against Moab; the cities shall be taken and the strongholds seized.’”

Trumpets or shofar trumpets (usually made of a ram’s horn) were used by the Jews as signalling instruments. They sounded alarms for war or danger, as well as signals for peace and the announcing of the new moon, the beginning of the Sabbath, or the death of a notable. Trumpets were also used to throw enemies into panic (Judges 7:19-20). Their use as eschatological signals of the Day of the Lord, or the return of Christ, is well-established in the Old and New Testaments ~ “Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near…” (Joel 2:1) and Matt.24:31 ~ “And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

The expression inhabitants on the earth is used ten times in Revelation and is used to describe the unbelievers on earth who rejected and opposed God and persecuted God’s people.

The threefold “woes” is a proclamation of the certainty of God’s judgment on those who rebel against Him and it is also a prior sign, or prefiguration of the next three trumpet judgments which are at hand. It is almost like the Afrikaans saying which says, “moenie sê ek het jou nie gewaarsku nie” (directly translated: “Don’t say, I didn’t warn you”). The Lord Jesus Christ also wants to say to us today, “don’t say I did not warn you! God’s judgment is a certainty and is at hand!”

4. A STAR (9:1-2):
In verses 1 and 2 of chapter 9, we see that a fifth angel blew his trumpet. This angelic Messenger was sent from God as an agent of judgement. This angel opened the shaft of a bottomless pit and from this shaft roses smoke like the smoke of a great furnace. The smoke from this furnace was so dense that it darkened the sun and the air.

God stands in sovereign control over the entire universe, the underworld included,
and gives this angel the key to the opening of the Bottomless pit or the Abyss, a term used seven times in Revelation to refer to the abode or prison for the demon locusts (Luke 8:31); Apollyon, the king of the locusts (9:11); the beast (11:7); and Satan (20:1, 3) – names that we will still discuss.

But, we still don’t exactly know what the Bottomless Pit refers too? Before we can carry on looking at the rest of the 5th trumpet judgment, I want us to briefly look at this term, namely Bottomless Pit.

The different terms used in the Bible for Heaven and Hell are Sheol, Hades, Gehenna, the lake of fire, and Paradise.

· Paradise: The word Paradise is used as a synonym for Heaven (2 Cor.12:3-4; Rev.2:7). When Jesus was dying on the cross and one of the thieves being crucified with Him asked Him for mercy, Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:34). Jesus knew that His death was imminent and that He would soon be in Heaven with His Father. Therefore, Jesus used Paradise as a synonym for Heaven, and the word has come to be associated with any place of ideal loveliness and delight.

· Sheol: In the Hebrew Scriptures, the word used to describe the realm of the dead is Sheol. It simply means “the place of the dead” or “the place of departed souls/spirits.” The New Testament Greek equivalent to Sheol is Hades, which is also a general reference to “the place of the dead.” The Greek word Gehenna is used in the New Testament for Hell and is derived from the Hebrew word Hinnom. Other Scriptures in the New Testament indicated that Sheol/Hades is a temporary place where souls are kept as they await the final resurrection. The souls of the righteous, at death, go directly into the presence of God – also called Heaven, Paradise, or Abraham’s bosom (Luke 23:43; 2 Cor.5:8; Phil.1:23).

· The Lake of Fire: The lake of fire, mentioned only in Rev.19:20 and 20:10, 14-15, is the final Hell, the place of eternal punishment for all unrepentant rebels, both angelic (Satan and his demons) and human (Matt.25:41). It is described as a place of burning sulphur, and those in it experience eternal, unspeakable agony of an unrelenting nature (Luke 16:24; Mark 9:45-46). Those who have rejected Christ and are in the temporary abode of the dead in Hades/Sheol have the lake of fire as their final destination.

But those whose names are written in the Lamb’s “Book of Life” should have no fear of this terrible fate. By faith in Christ and His blood shed on the cross for our sins, we are destined to live eternally in the presence of God.

· The Bottomless Pit: The Bottomless Pit or Abyss comes from the Greek term, “abyssou” (ἄβυσσος), which means a deep hole – so deep that it seems bottomless or immeasurable. In the Bible and in Jewish theology, the Abyss is often a metaphorical reference to the place of evil spirits. Sometimes the Abyss is pictured as a deep or bottomless hole in the earth. In Luke 8, Jesus cast the Legion of demons out of a man, “…and they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss” (Luke 8:31). The Abyss is obviously a place that the demons fear and try to avoid.

In Revelation a number of times we see the Abyss as a place of confinement for evil spirits (Rev.9:1-3, 11).

In all of these instances, the Abyss is a place for the containment of evil spirits. Many Bible scholars believe that this is the same place referred to in 2 Pet.2:4 as Hell,” where some evil spirits are “in chains of darkness to be held for judgment.” The word Hell in 2 Pet.2:4 is a translation of the Greek “tartaroõ” (ταρταρόω), which can be thought of as the deepest pit or the lowest part of Hades.

It is clear from Scripture that God has ultimate power over all evil spirits. Some of the demons have been consigned to the Abyss and held captive there, while others seem to be able to move more freely upon the earth. Ultimately (on the Judgment Day), all evil spirits will be consigned to the lake of fire, along with all unbelievers (Rev.20:10-15).

In order to summarise: The saved ones are going to Paradise, whilst the lost, first go to Sheol or Hades and then after the judgment, they go to the Lake of Fire or the Bottomless Pit. Back to our text.

We see then, that some demons are already confined to Sheol, but others are still busy with specific earthly assignments, as we see in Luke 8:31, where Jesus commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the demon possessed man and then we read ~ “And they begged him not to command them to depart into the Abyss.” Some demons are still busy amongst us and definitely don’t want to go to Sheol.

5. LOCUSTS (9:3-6):
After the star that fell from heaven to earth, opened the shaft of the Bottomless Pit, smoke rose from it, like the smoke of a great furnace, it was so dense that the sun and the air were darkened, but together with this smoke, powerful locusts came out. The imagery of locusts, appearing like armies, advancing like a cloud and darkening the heavens, goes back to Joel’s vision of the locust army that came on as Israel as a judgement like that of scorpion stings (Joel 1:6; 2:4-10). This, together with the fact that they do not eat grass, shows that these locusts are something other than ordinary earthly insects. Indeed, they have the special task of inflicting a non-fatal injury on the beast worshippers, who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. This may imply that these locust-like creatures are not simply instruments of a physical plague, such as those in Moses’ day or under the first four trumpets, but are demonic forces from whom the true people of God are protected. These demons were allowed to torment those who do not have the seal of God for “five months.”

The five months of agony may refer to the lifespan of the locust – a limited period of time. So severe is the torment they inflict that their victims will seek death ~ “Death shall be preferred to life by all the remnant that remains of this evil family in all the places where I have driven them, declares the Lord of hosts” (Jer.8:3). The problem with these people is that they will not be killed and therefore they will experience this torment.

This scene is another indication of God, sometimes permitting demons or evil agents to bring judgement on evil human beings, but their powers are limited and always serve God’s sovereign purposes.

6. SCORPION-LOCUSTS (9:7-10):
In vss.7-10, John sees locusts that looks like horses preparing for battle. Again, this must have been a terrible and indescribable scene to John, therefore he once again tries to describe the scene by using the expression, “…they were like.”

The complete picture that John was seeing, suggests something unnatural, hence demonic. It is also clear that John uses the Joel 1 and 2 background to combine human and animal-like features to describe these diabolical monsters. The details of the description are not as important as the terrifying effect upon those who hear the description. These cunning and cruel creatures are being permitted to bring judgment upon those who oppose God and persecute His people.

7. THE ANGEL (9:11):
These horrific creatures have a king and he is called the angel of the Bottomless Pit – in Hebrew it is Abaddon (Ἀβαδδών), meaning the place of death and destruction and in Greek he’s called Apollyon (Ἀπολλύων), meaning destroyer. According to 2 Pet.2:1, this king from the Bottomless Pit is the destroyer of souls by means of heresies, deceit and temptation ~ “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.”

Clearly, these cannot be literal locusts. Besides, according to Prov.30:27, locusts do not have kings ~ “the locusts have no king, yet all of them march in rank.” All this speaks of complex beings waging complex warfare. These are beings with multifaceted capacities for destruction. They can only be spirits of evil and their king is therefore, none other than Satan himself ~ “…you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” (1 Cor.5:5).

We therefore see, that Satan leads his demon army to carry out judgments permitted by God against the unrighteous.

8. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
Indeed, our battle is not against flesh and blood, but real principalities and powers. But woe unto the unbelieving world! For it is not shielded from the attacks of the horrible locusts. They have neither the shield of faith nor the helmet of salvation. The breastplate of righteousness, like the belt of truth, they can never acquire even by the most peerless deeds. Such is the exposure of the unconverted.

Kobus van der Walt

Many people in our day asked the question, “is God really still in control?” In several passages in revelation, we have already seen that God’s sovereignty in judgement extends to His ability to pull back His restraint and allow evil to destroy itself, thus accomplishing His sovereign purposes. Revelation 17:16–17 is a good example of this ~ “And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, 17 for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled” (Rev.17:16-17).

One thing is certain, God will judge evil and God desires that the wicked will repent, but we as believers also need to remember the God protects us against demonic attacks.

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Revelation: The Culmination of Scripture – 19 (“The 7th Seal and the First Four Trumpet Judgments”)

Revelation: The Culmination of Scripture – 19 (“The 7th Seal and the First Four Trumpet Judgments”)

1. INTRODUCTION:
In the passage that we are studying today, we will see a continuance of more judgments on earth. We also see that the description of these judgments is so immense that they actually seem unreal. That is why John, in his description of what he sees, uses words like, “something like…” – “The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire” (Rev.8:8). He struggles to find words to explain what he sees. I don’t know about you, but I’ve wondered many a time before, how my father, who passed away in 1974, would have reacted to things like the television, mobile phones, computers, Skype, etc. were he alive today. Imagine what Calvin would have said if he saw us, reading the Bible from an iPad or even listening to an audio Bible – he would not have had the vocabulary to describe it. That is exactly what happens to John when he sees the next judgments.

We see in Revelation, three sets of judgments. First, we have the Seal Judgments, then the Trumpet Judgments and thirdly we have the bowl judgments and in both the seal- and trumpet judgments we have a 4+2+1 pattern with an interlude before the last element.

2. SCRIPTURE READING:
Rev.8:1-12 ~ “When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. 2 Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. 3 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, 4 and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. 5 Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake. 6 Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to blow them. 7 The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth. And a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up. 8 The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. 9 A third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed. 10 The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. 11 The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many people died from the water, because it had been made bitter. 12 The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of their light might be darkened, and a third of the day might be kept from shining, and likewise a third of the night.”

In today’s message, we will see how God responds on the prayers of His people by pouring out the first four trumpet judgments on an unbelieving world.

3. PREPARATION FOR THE SEVEN TRUMPETS (8:2-6):
With the breaking of the 7th seal, a couple of things are going to happen before the seven trumpet judgments will begin.
· Silence in Heaven (8:1): The breaking of the 7th seal brings a dramatic pause of silence in heaven before the seven trumpet judgments begin. In the Rev.7 we had the 144,000 and the great multitude, singing praises to God for their salvation, in fact, their praise is not for their own accomplishment, but for salvation that proceeds from God – it is His work and so all honour and praise are due to Him alone for it. They sang these words ~ “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev.7:10) and in response to that, the angels… “…fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen” (vss.11-12), but now suddenly, with the opening of the last seal, there is almost a “tangible silence” in heaven.

In contrast to the first six seals, John now sees and hears nothing… ~ “…for about half an hour” (8:1). This silence reminds us of the words in Hab.2:20 ~ “But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him,” where the message of Habakkuk, was clear. For it said, “Stop complaining! Stop doubting! God is not indifferent to sin. He is not insensitive to suffering. The Lord is neither inactive. He is in control. In His perfect time Yahweh will accomplish His divine purpose.” Habakkuk stood in humble silence, a hushed expectancy of God’s intervention.

30 Minutes is not a long time, but half an hour of absolute silence can seem like an eternity. What is the purpose of the long silent pause? In the Jewish temple, musical instruments and singing resounded during the whole time of the offering of the sacrifices,

A Censer or Fire Holder

which formed the first part of the service. But at the offering of incense, solemn silence was kept. At the end of the Holy compartment of the tabernacle, next to the curtain dividing it from the Most Holy, was located the incense altar (Ex.30:1; 37:25; 40:5, 26, 27). Every morning and evening the sacred incense was burned (Ex.30:7, 8; 2Ch.13:11). Once a year on the “Day of Atonement” coals from the altar were taken in a censer, or fire holder, together with two handfuls of incense, into the Holy of Holies, where the incense was made to smoke before the mercy seat of the ark of the testimony (Lev.16:12-13) ~ “And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the Lord, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small, and he shall bring it inside the veil and put the incense on the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so that he does not die.”

At various places in Scripture a pattern of silence is associated with the recognition of God’s holiness and righteous judgment ~ “From the heavens you uttered judgment; the earth feared and was still, when God arose to establish judgment, to save all the humble of the earth. Selah” (Ps.76:8-9).

After the first interlude and the opening of the 7th seal there was silence in heaven, because every creature (the 144,00 and the angels) knew that the holy God was about to pour out His righteous judgment and vengeance on all unbelievers – this is the final judgment that will take place at the “end of days.”

The silence in heaven therefore, creates the setting for God to hear the prayers of the saints (6:10) ~ “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” These prayers are now going to be heard and answered by God which will lead into the trumpet judgments.
· The Seven Angels (8:2): After the short silence of 30 minutes, John now sees ~ “the seven angels” and each one receives a trumpet (8:2). The fact that these are angels’ trumpets distinguishes them from the trumpet of God (as we see in e.g. 1 Cor.15:52; 1 Thes.4:16) and from other New Testament trumpets (e.g. Heb.12:19; Rev.1:10; 4:1)., We see however, in other parts of the Bible that trumpets were specifically given to angels ~ (Matt.24:31; 1 Thess.4:16; 1 Cor.15:52; Rev.4:1, 4).

These seven angels were most probably the seven arch angels of Jewish tradition (Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Saraqa’el, Gabriel, and Ramiel) and they were given each a trumpet, which indicates that God is the ultimate source of the judgments to come and He is about to deliver His final judgment.
· Another Angel (8:3-6): But before these seven angels can blow their trumpets, another angel appears on the scene and he was carrying or holding a golden censer and approached God presence by standing at the altar – the altar which refers to the one altar in heaven as we’ve already seen in Rev.6:9 ~ “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.” This angel then receives a censer similar to the one which was used by the High Priest to carry burning coals and two scoops of incense into the Most Holy as already explained. This angel received the incense, as well as the prayers of all God’s people (note: not just the martyrs). This angel carried the censer with the incense to God as a fragrant aroma. A fragrant aroma is always an aroma that is acceptable and pleasing to God ~ “I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God” (Phil.4:18). It is an acceptable and pleasing aroma that this angel brought to God – the importance of a sacrifice’s aroma is not the smell but what the smell represents – the substitutionary atonement for sin and we know that the substitutionary atonement refers to Jesus Christ dying as a substitute for sinners.

Now that the last seal has been broken open, the book of God’s eternal plan of redemption is opened for the Lamb to read to the blessed ones in heaven. As already mentioned, on the great Day of Atonement, the high priest would put incense on the coals in the censer and, with the blood of the sacrifice, enter the holy of holies (Lev. 16:11–14). But in this scene, the angel put the incense on the altar (presented the prayers before God) and then cast the coals from the altar to the earth! The parallel in Ezekiel 10 indicates that this symbolised God’s judgment; and the effects described in Rev.8:5 substantiate this view. A storm is about to begin! (see Rev. 4:5; 11:19; 16:18).

The fire or coals from the altar cast upon the earth speaks of the wrath of God about to be poured out on unbelievers. The seven angels stand ready for action, and then their trumpets sound one by one.

4. THE FIRST TRUMPET (8:7):
The sorts of judgments characterising the judgments of the trumpets and bowls are mainly taken directly from the ten plagues of the Exodus (except that they are numerically adjusted to seven), but the sequence and even number of the plagues are not important for the point made by the image:
     Revelation                                                                                                                       Exodus
1st Trumpet (8:7)             Hail and Fire mixed with blood 7th Plague                    (9:22-25)
2nd Trumpet (8:8-9)      Burning mountain turns sea into blood 1st Plague       (7:14-24)
3rd Trumpet (8:10-11)    Blazing star makes fresh water bitter 1st Plague           (7:14-24)
4th Trumpet (8:12)          Sun, moon, and stars darkened 9th Plague                   (10:21-23)
5th Trumpet (9:1-11)       Hoard of scorpion-locusts 8th Plague                             (10:1-20)

We see then that the first trumpet recalls the 7th plague where God sends lightning, thunder, and a huge hailstorm that devastates the land. Revelation adds fire and blood – elements that are often associated with judgment, e.g. Joel 2:30-31 ~ “And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.” This devastating judgment, where everything that is green (trees, grass) are burned up, is like that announced by most of the trumpets, and primarily affected a third of the earth.

It is also interesting to note, that the intensity of these trumpet judgments has increased from the “one-fourth” of the seal judgments, but it has not yet progressed to the fullness of the bowl or vial judgments, where no fractions are used.

5. THE SECOND TRUMPET (8:8-9):
The second trumpet judgment alludes to the first Egyptian plague in which God turns the Nile River into blood. The mention of a fiery mountain might have reminded John’s readers of a devastating volcanic eruption, such as the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, which destroyed the Roman cities Pompeii and Herculaneum (I was privileged to visit Pompeii in 1973 and 1974 – man, animal – everything was wiped out).

This judgment results in the destruction of one-third of the sea life and ships. Note that John did not say that an actual burning mountain was cast out of heaven, but that the fiery object was like a great mountain. A triple judgment resulted: a third part of the saltwater turned to blood, a third part of the marine life died, and a third of the ships were destroyed. This will be an ecological and an economic disaster of unprecedented proportions.

6. THE THIRD TRUMPET (8:10-11):
The third trumpet judgment refers to a great blazing star that fell from the sky onto a third of the rivers and springs of water and it had a strange name of “wormwood.” This star is called “wormwood” for its affect. How must we understand this? “Wormwood” is a shrub which is an aromatic herb indigenous in the Middle East and has strong aromas and bitter tastes and was used to repel midges (Afrikaans: “muggies”), fleas, moths, intestinal worms and to treat malaria. As a result of its bitter taste, the “wormwood” became the symbol for bitterness and sorrow.

We also see that the word “wormwood” is metaphorically used in the Old Testament of the idolatry of Israel ~ “Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the Lord our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit” (Deut. 29:18).

This third trumpet judgment, which reminds us of third first plague in Egypt where the water became blood, turns a third of all water into a bitter and undrinkable poison, which will kill many people.

7. THE FOURTH TRUMPET (8:12):
The fourth angel announces the fourth judgment and we see that a third of the sun is struck as well as a third of the moon and the stars. This plague echoes the ninth plague in Exodus 10:22–23. The days and nights will be 33% darker than in the past. Not only serves darkness as a symbol of divine judgment, it may also hint that people experience darkness in the day and intensified darkness in the night because of their sins, but the Lord gives them enough light by day and by night that they may forsake their moral darkness for life in the light of His presence.

Kobus van der Walt

8. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
In the first four trumpet judgments we see clear parallels with the plagues of Egypt, and this Exodus typology clearly demonstrates three realities:
· First, through the plague judgements God is demonstrating that He is Lord over creation and human history and will reign victoriously over every competing God or idle.
· Second, God responds to the cries of His people by punishing wickedness, but He does so in a manner that allows for unbelievers to repent. We should however, not be too quick to pray and call on God to bring justice by punishing one’s enemies. It is not a cry for human vengeance (self-centred), but a cry for divine justice (God-centred).
· Third, the plague judgements also serve as a prelude to God’s deliverance of His people.
· We also learn from our text, that God will judge wickedness.

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Revelation: The Culmination of Scripture – 18 (“The 1st Interlude – Salvation belongs to our God”)

Revelation: The Culmination of Scripture – 18 (“The 1st Interlude – Salvation belongs to our God”)

1. INTRODUCTION:
We began to look at the first part of the first interlude between the 6th and the 7th seal judgments in Rev.7. We saw that there are two groups of people mentioned in this interlude – there are the 144,000 and secondly there are an uncountable white-robed multitude.

Today we will be looking at the second part of the 1st interlude and we will determine who these multitudes are and what they are doing.

We must also keep reminding ourselves that the images and figures mentioned in Revelation are symbolical images and numbers. As already mentioned earlier, we must also remember that the different occurrences and unfolding of events in Revelation are not always written in chronological order.

In today’s teaching we will see that…
· God is busy redeeming a great multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language.
· The fitting response to God’s gracious redemption by those who are saved, is worship.
· By believing in Christ’s sacrificial redemptive provision on the cross, we will experience tribulation in this life.
· We as believers will experience God’s protection through tribulation, especially spiritual protection, in order to eventually receive eternal salvation.

2. SCRIPTURE READING:
Rev.7:9-17 ~ “9After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” 13Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15“Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. 16They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 17For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

3. THE CONTEXT (7:9-17):
We are busy looking at the first interlude in Revelation. This interlude has two perspectives. In Rev.7:1-8 we see how God gave instructions for His children to be sealed – to be protected against the judgments that are to follow the moment the four angels let the winds loose (7:1) – they will primarily be protected from the spiritual onslaught during the last days. The other side or perspective of this interlude, is where we will see the same saints busy glorifying God for His protection during the last days and for the victory He gave to them.

4. THE GREAT MULTITUDE (7:9-10):
In contrast to the 144,000 people that John saw in 7:4, we now see in vss.9-10 that he saw a great multitude of people that no one could count and they were from all over the world, in fact, from every culture, from all nations and tribes and people and languages. This is a fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham in Gen.15:5-6 ~ “And he brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ 6 And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”

This innumerable number of people were all standing before the throne of the Lamb. They were all clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands, while crying out with loud voices, saying ~ “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (7:10).

This great multitude of people represent the triumphant church – the saints that survived the tribulation and who were saved from God’s judgement. The fact that these people are coming from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (7:9) not only indicates that God saves people from all over the world and that they are part of one unified church – the bride of Christ, but it is also an expression of the unity between God the Father and God the Son Jesus Christ.

The multitudes are clothed permanently in white robes which symbolises victory and purity ~ “Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels” (Rev.3:4-5 – also see 6:11). It also reminds us of the white robes that the martyrs in 6:11 received when the fifth seal was opened. The white robes symbolise salvation and victory (vs.10), and those who wear them obtained them by… ~ “(washing) their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

They stand before God in the imputed, perfect righteousness of the Lamb (7:14). They have instruments of worship in their hands – these instruments are palm branches of joy, celebration, praise and victory and they are crying out (continually) in a loud voice (see 7:2), “Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Deliverance from sin and victory over Satan are ours because of the Father on the throne and the Son (Lamb) at His side.

5. THE COMPANY OF ANGELS (7:11-12):
In 7:11-12 we see that the angels once more, as in 5:11-14, join in the worship of heaven ~ “Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!’ 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might forever and ever!’ 14 And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.” Like the elders in 5:14 the angels fell on their faces before the Lord. This scene is holy; this time is sacred. Like the saints in 7:10, they speak not of what God has done but who God is. Sandwiching a sevenfold blessing is the word “Amen.” And in their sevenfold blessing they affirm what the saints have said and then add their own words of adoration, praise, and worship. The word worship is not temporary; it is eternal. It is not for a moment but forever.

6. THE IDENTIFICATION OF THE GREAT MULTITUDE (7:13-14):
In 7:13, one of the elders asks John a leading question and receives a polite response from John ~ “Sir, you know” (7:14). This elder who asked John the question, then answers the question. John is told who the multitudes are – those whom Christ has redeemed from out of the great tribulation.

As we’ve already seen previously, some people view this great tribulation as an especially evil time that immediately precedes the second coming of Christ, with some restricting it to seven or even three-and-a-half years duration, while we as Amillennialists see it as descriptive of the entire time of the church’s pilgrimage, from the resurrection of Jesus to his second advent. Jesus promised that we would have trouble or tribulation in this world ~ “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (Joh.16:33). Paul describes our entrance into the kingdom of God as through many hardships (Acts 14:22); and John sees himself as a companion in the believers’ tribulations (Rev. 1:9). Jesus also tells us, however, to be of good cheer because He has overcome the world (Joh.16:33) and that after the tribulation of these days He would return (Matt.24:29-31; Mark 13:24-27).

The great crowd of the blessed ones are in “white robes.” The Bible has much to say both about white robes and about soiled robes. In the ancient world, this was a very natural picture, for it was forbidden to approach a god with robes which were not clean. The picture was still further intensified by the fact that, often when Christians were baptised, they were dressed in new white robes. These robes were taken to symbolise new life, and to soil them was the symbolic way of expressing failure to be true to the baptismal vows.

Isaiah says in Is.64:6 ~ “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.” In preparation for receiving the commandments from God, Moses orders the people to wash their garments (Ex.19:10,14). The psalmist prays to God to wash him thoroughly from his iniquity, to purge him with hyssop, to wash him until he is whiter than snow (Ps.51:1–7). Here is a picture which is present all through Scripture, of those who have stained their garments with sin and who have been cleansed by the grace of God. It is of the greatest importance to remember that this love of God does not only forgive people their stained garments, it makes them clean – as white as snow.
This passage however, also speaks of “the blood of the Lamb” (7:14). Blood means life, but also death – if there is no blood, there cannot be life. When the New Testament speaks about the blood of Jesus Christ, it means not only his death but his life and death. The “blood of Christ” stands for all that Christ did for us. With that in mind, let us see what the New Testament says about that blood.

It is the blood of Jesus Christ which is cleansing us from all sin (1 Joh.1:7). It is the blood of Jesus Christ which makes atonement for us (Rom.3:24), and it is through His blood that we are justified (Rom.5:9). It is through His blood that we have redemption (Eph.1:7), and we are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ like that of a lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Peter 1:19). It is through His blood that we have peace with God (Col.1:20). His blood purges our conscience from dead works to serve the living God (Hebr.9:14). It is clear therefore, that through the life and death of Jesus Christ, Christians have been given a purity and a victory which they could never achieve for themselves.

7. THE MULTITUDE COMFORTED (7:15-17):
Verse 15 starts off with the word “therefore” and by now we know that when a verse/sentence starts with “therefore,” we must ask “wherefore?” In order for us to answer this question, we must go back to the previous verses (context) and we then see, that because they are washed white, the multitudes can enter God’s holy heaven ~ “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates” (Rev 22:14). And Eph.5:26-27 ~ “…that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” The oldest manuscripts read ~ “…that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.”

The implication of this, is that the multitude may appear before the throne of God. The Greek says that they may be in the presence of God Almighty ~ “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt.5:8). They were accepted by God through the blood of Jesus Christ and because they stood for truth at a time when lies were popular and Satan was in charge. Their white robes and palms symbolise victory: they were true over-comers!

Verse 15 goes on to say that the multitude will serve God in His temple. The expressions “before God” and “in His temple” are connected because we can approach the heavenly King only through priestly mediation; therefore, Christ is at once King and Priest on His throne.

Not only will the saints be in the presence of God in His temple, but they will be in His presence day and night. Because there is no day and night in heaven, the multitudes will therefore serve God in His presence and in the temple for ever – in eternity ~ “And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev.22:5).

We also see in 7:17 that God will remove all sources of distress, grief, and pain and therefore the multitude will no longer experience hunger, thirst, or exposure to the elements. The Lamb (Jesus Christ) will be their shepherd. In ancient times, religious and political leaders are often portrayed as either good or bad shepherds, e.g. 2 Sam.5:2 ~ “In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the Lord said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.’” In similar fashion, Christ will be the multitude’s good Shepherd and therefore, He will “wipe away” or remove all sources of distress, grief, and pain ~ “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev.21:40) or Isa.25:8 ~ “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.”

8. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
In conclusion, we can learn from this passage, that God’s Kingdom consists out of all races, languages and nations – heaven (eternity) will thus have a multicultural character, in fact Christ’s church on earth will and must consist out of all cultures ~ “And they sang a new song, saying, “Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people” (Rev.14:6). The fact that the idea of a multi-cultural church and heaven is repeated at least seven times in Revelation (e.g.: Rev.5:9; 7:9; 10:11; 13:7; 14:6) is an indication of God’s love for all people, but it is also a reminder to us that segregation on grounds of culture and race in the church on earth is not Biblical.

Seeing that we as believers are in the midst of troubling and difficult times – times of tribulation – the end times, we must put a strong emphasis on fellowship and corporate worship, because we do need one another and will need one another in future, but we must always remember that we will conquer by relying upon the finished work of Jesus Christ and by imitating His manner of life.

Kobus van der Walt

One last and very important thing that arises from our passage for today, is that of the importance of corporate worship. The “great multitude” in heaven serves God primarily through worship – corporate worship and therefore we must also cultivate an atmosphere and practice of sincere corporate worship in and through our lives and the life of the church.

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Revelation: The Culmination of Scripture – 17 (“Spiritual Protection for God’s People”)

Revelation: The Culmination of Scripture – 17 (“Spiritual Protection for God’s People”)

1. INTRODUCTION:
In chapter 6 of Revelation, we have seen Christ opening the first six seals of the scroll which was handed to Him by God. We see at the end of Rev.6, that the people of the world are in fear of God’s justice and wrath which is at hand. We’ve continued with Rev.6 and in vss.15-17 we read the following ~ “Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

Now, at the beginning of chapter 7, we would expect that Christ will open the 7th seal, but instead of doing that, something else first happens – God gives His people spiritual protection.

2. SCRIPTURE READING:
Rev.7:1-8 ~ “After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. 2 Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, 3 saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” 4 And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: 512,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed, 12,000 from the tribe of Reuben, 12,000 from the tribe of Gad, 612,000 from the tribe of Asher, 12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali, 12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh, 712,000 from the tribe of Simeon, 12,000 from the tribe of Levi, 12,000 from the tribe of Issachar, 812,000 from the tribe of Zebulun, 12,000 from the tribe of Joseph, 12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.”

· In today’s teaching, we will see that God will bring judgment upon the wicked according to his sovereign timing.
· The judgements of God include allowing evil forces to carry out their destructive activity.
· God’s people are marked with the seal of the living God, assuring them that they belong to God and will be protected spiritually from divine judgements.

We have here, the first interlude in Revelation – it stands between the sixth and seventh seal judgements. Interludes in Revelation often shed light on the current situation of God’s people and offer insight into their present responsibilities and future hope.

We’ve seen in Revelation 6 that the chapter concluded with a question: “Who can withstand the wrath of God and the Lamb,” and the answer was very clear: “No one.” It is as if there is some missing words after the answer of “no one” – the word, “but…” – “…but there is hope, because God’s servants will be able to endure or stand before God’s throne of judgment, because of God’s protective seal on their foreheads.”

This interlude then pictures the people of God being sealed prior to the outpouring of His judgements and the same people later celebrating in heaven. God’s people are protected from His wrath but not from the wrath of the beast and his followers.

3. THE FOUR WINDS (7:1):
When we look at vs.1 we see ~ “…standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree.” In apocalyptic literature Angels are sometimes put in charge of nature ~ “And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say…” (Rev.16:5). The fact that these angels are standing at the four corners of the earth indicates to us that they control nature on every part of the world. They are holding back the four winds of the earth. God often uses the wind as an instrument of judgement. We see this beautifully depicted in Ex.10:13 when Moses stretched out his staff over Egypt which brought locusts to devour everything that was green ~ “So Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and the Lord brought an east wind upon the land all that day and all that night. When it was morning, the east wind had brought the locusts.”

The reason for holding back the four winds is the reason why Christ didn’t open the seventh seal immediately. These four winds in chapter 7 are destructive forces which are now held back by the angels on God’s command, because something must first be done and that is the sealing of God’s elect in order to protect them against God’s judgements. The servants of God, from all parts of the earth, first had to be sealed on their foreheads. This is confirmed by the fact that the fifth angel came from the east and calls to the other angels not to release their destruction until the servants of God have a “seal” on the foreheads (7:2). As already indicated, a seal was an indication of God’s protection and ownership. These “sealed people” therefore, are the people of God and this sealing are related to their salvation as in the comparable figure used by Paul in 2 Cor.1:21-22 ~ “And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”

4. THE SEAL OF GOD (7:2-3):
We read in 7:2 about a fifth angel ~ Then I saw another angel.” This fifth angel is the one who carries the seal of God and he and his helpers (see vs.3 where the 5th angel says ~ “until we have sealed the servants of our God”) first want to put God’s seal of ownership on the foreheads of the saved children of God.

Why and from what are these saved people to be protected? That we will see in chapter 8, when the 7th seal is opened. What we can say however, is when we look at Rev.16:6, those who have the seal of God are worshippers of God and will be the objects of His abiding grace. In 16:2, the bowl of God’s wrath appears to be directed exclusively toward those who have the mark of the beast, thus excluding those with the seal of God (16:6). Even when facing persecution and martyrdom at the hand of the beast, they can be certain that no plague from God will touch them, but that they will be in His presence for ever because they are His very own possession.

John witnesses the sealing of God’s 144,000 witnesses, and he hears the praise song of an unnumbered multitude. It is important for us to contrast these two groups of people.

However, before we can look at these two groups, there is one thing we must clarify. At the end of chapter 6 we had the terrible judgement of God poured out on all men on earth who hadn’t had the seal of God – so, the judgement is already completed – it is final, but now here in chapter 7 we read about the 144,000 who received God’s seal – how is that possible? First condemnation and then suddenly salvation and as we will later see, again condemnation. How must we understand this? Why would God now be sealing people after He had already judged everybody?

In order to better understand the unfolding or deploying of Revelation, I’ve compiled the following diagram:

So, we must remember that Revelation is not written in chronological order. When we get to chapter 7 we go all the way back to the beginning of chapter 6 – we call this an interlude. It is as if we go through all these judgements and then the question comes, “who can stand and survive these judgements?” Then John sees a picture which goes back to chapter 6. It is like a video that you rewind in order to see the whole drama again to see whether there are survivors and then John sees 144,000 survivors ~ “After this (after the sealing of the 144,000) I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth” (vs.1). This goes back to Zech.6:1-5 ~ “Again I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, four chariots came out from between two mountains. And the mountains were mountains of bronze. 2 The first chariot had red horses, the second black horses, 3 the third white horses, and the fourth chariot dappled horses—all of them strong. 4 Then I answered and said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” 5 And the angel answered and said to me, “These are going out to the four winds of heaven, after presenting themselves before the Lord of all the earth.” This is also from an apocalyptic book, speaking of horses coming before judgement are going to take place. They are ready because they’ve been given authority to execute judgement.

If we therefore read chapter 7 in chronological order, it does not make sense. The only way that it makes sense is when we read it as if chapter 7 was placed before chapter 6. At the end of chapter 6, the question is asked ~ “…for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (6:17). Now in chapter 7, the answer follows on that question before the vision proceeds with the opening of the 7th seal in chapter 8 – “Who can stand?” “Only the 144,000 and the unnumbered multitude.”

5. THE 144,000 (7:4-8):
In vss.4-8, we see 144,000 who are “sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel.” In Scripture, a seal indicates ownership and protection. Today, God’s people are sealed by the Holy Spirit ~ “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Eph.1:13-14). This is God’s guarantee that we are saved and safe, and that He one day will take us to heaven. The 144,000 will receive the Father’s name as their seal (Rev.14:1), in contrast to “the mark of the beast” that the Antichrist will give those who follow him ~ “And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulphur” (Rev.19:20 – also see: 13:17; 14:11; 16:2).

This seal will protect these chosen ones from the judgements that will “…hurt the earth and the sea” (Rev.7:2), and occur when the first four angels blow their trumpets (Rev.8).

The question is, who are these sealed Jews? First, we must understand that not all Jews were or are doomed. In every age, God has had His faithful remnant. Elijah thought that he was alone, but God had 7,000 who were yet faithful to Him (1 Kings 19:18). The sealing described in Rev.7 certainly had its background in the Ez.9:1-7, where the faithful were sealed before God’s judgement fell. Second however, although this sealing is pictured in terms of the tribes of Israel (vss.4-8), we cannot take this picture as a literal list as many people do. Some believe that Christ has two groups of people, namely the Jews and Gentiles and God offered the kingdom to the Jews. When they refused the offer, God put a “plan B” into action and offer the kingdom to the Gentiles. The problem is that God still have to save his first choice of people namely the Jews and therefore, according to these people, the rapture occurs with God taking the Gentile church out of the world and now He can deal with His people Israel. The mentioning of the tribes of Israel are offered as a prooftext for this theory. This is the most common position taken today.

I do not believe that this viewpoint can refer to a literal group of ethnic Jews. I do not believe that there will be a secret rapture of the church before the Tribulation, because there is nothing in the Bible that teaches this, in fact John says in chapter 1 that he is our partner IN the Tribulation. He does not speak of a future Tribulation, because he says that he is already our partner IN the Tribulation.

God as the sovereign, almighty and omniscient (Afrikaans: “alwetende”) God, does not work with a “plan A” and “plan B,” because it is contrary to His attributes and who He is, in fact I think it is blasphemous to reason like that.

Secondly and related to the first group, is that this list is linked to the prophecy in Rom.11:24, 26 ~ “24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree… 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.’” These scholars then connect the list of 144,000 to Rom.11. These people reason like this because they take a literal approach to Revelation. Now, if you do that, the figure of 144,000 does not match with the words “all Israel.” So, this figure must be a symbolic figure.
Some people (a very few though) see this figure or list, as a remnant of ethnic Jews living during the first century, but there is absolutely no Biblical evidence for such a viewpoint.
Finally, some see this list figuratively, pointing to the people of God as a whole, who was sealed and to make it through the tribulation. I believe that this is the Biblical viewpoint. Why can’t this figure be literal? There are irregularities with the list in vss.5-8 and therefore we cannot take it as literal. Just to mention two or three:
o This list is not repeated in any other part of the Bible.
o The list is out of birth order. Ruben was born before Judah, but is mentioned first, then the sons of the concubines are mentioned and then the sons of the legitimate wife.
o Joseph is part of the list that indicates that this list is of the sons of Jacob and not the tribes of Israel.
o On the other hand, Manasseh is included which points to the tribes and not the sons.
o Ephraim is excluded and if you have Manasseh, you must have Ephraim.
o The same applies to Dan, because he is excluded from the list.

One can easily ask whether John is confused, but that cannot be true because he knows both the list of sons, as well as the tribes.

Numbers in the rest of Revelation are used symbolically, why then just use this literally? This list must be a symbolic list and not literal, it is therefore not 144,000 ethnic Jews.

If this list then is symbolic, it then explains the irregularities in the list. The 144,000 is therefore not speaking of Israel as a nation but of the true Israel, the spiritual Israel, the church, described by the apostle Paul as “the Israel of God” (Gal.6:16).

We must also keep in mind that the number 144,000 is significant because it signifies perfection and completeness (144,000 = 12 X 12) and therefore, the figure of 144,000 is not the numerical figure of people, nor exactly 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes, but this is a symbolic figure, meaning that every person from the Old and New Testament dispensations who belong to God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are saved – the elect is a perfect and complete group of believers and this include saved Jews as well. We know this from Rom.9:6-8, that there are true Jewish believers – those who embraced Jesus Christ as Messiah ~ “But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.”

Furthermore, there is no doubt as to who this multitude is, because one of the elders explained it to John in Rev.7:14. They are Gentiles (and those Jews who believe in Christ as the true Messiah) and they are identified by the angel as those “who have come out of the great tribulation” (vs.14).
We see uncountable numbers of people – Gentiles from all nations who are standing in heaven before God. We know, according to Rev.5:9, that Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God died to redeem people out of “…every tribe and language and people and nation.” This fact is, the fruition of the Lord’s mandate in Mark16:15 ~ “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”
It seems therefore, that this group is exactly the same group as the 144,000 in the third interlude in Rev.14:1, 3. How is that possible? To answer this, we must look at two verses in this chapter. First, 7:4 which starts with the words… ~ “And I heard.” Secondly, 7:9 which starts with the words… ~ “And I looked.” In vs.4 he hears the angels talking about the believers that received the seal from God which will protect them from God’s wrath, but in 7:9 he actually sees them with his own eyes – a great multitude who will be saved through the Tribulation – the Tribulation that started during the first century and is still continuing until the second coming of Christ. This multitude of people represent the whole company of the redeemed in Christ from the beginning of times, till the end before Christ’s second coming. We can say this because, they were accepted by God, for they stood before God’s throne and the Lamb (7:9), and they were continually serving God… ~ “…in the His temple” (7:15).
No doubt that this multitude had been rejected on earth, for they stood for Truth at a time when lies were popular and Satan was in charge.

6. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
This is the praise of all nations and angels that is ringing through the corridors of heaven. Once again, as we saw in chapter 5, the theme of the Lamb is prominent (7:9,10,14,17), as it is throughout Scripture, beginning in Genesis and culminating in Revelation. In Gen.22 God tells Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. When the boy asks his father ~ “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answers ~ “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (22:7-8). On that occasion God would provide a ram (22:13). Two thousand years later He would yet again provide the Lamb. In Ex.12:5 we are told that the Passover must be sacrificed and that the lamb must be without blemish. In Is.53 we meet the Messianic Suffering Servant of the Lord – the perfect Lamb without blemish.

Kobus van der Walt

We are told in vs.7 that He was led as a lamb to slaughter. We then come to the New Testament and the ministry of John the Baptist, who seeing the Lord Jesus declares ~ “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Joh.1:29). Now, in Revelation, we see the eschatological warrior Lamb on the throne with His Father. He had been slaughtered, but now He stands as the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent resurrected Lamb – a Lamb who is a Lion and also, as we now see, a Shepherd.

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Revelation: The Culmination of Scripture – 16 (“The Scroll and the Lamb – 02”)

Revelation: The Culmination of Scripture – 16 (“The Scroll and the Lamb – 02”)

1. INTRODUCTION:
Last week, we’ve looked at the opening of the first three seals of the scroll and we specifically looked at “white horse” with a rider with a bow and crown, but without an arrow. This rider came to conquer. The second horse, was a bright red horse with its rider holding a great sword. He was permitted to take peace away from earth. The third seal revealed a third horse, namely a black horse. Its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. This black horse and its rider convey a message of distress and the beginning of terror, of famine and of death.

2. SCRIPTURE READING:
Rev.6:7-17 ~ “7 When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” 8 And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth. 9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. 12 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14 The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

3. THE FOURTH SEAL (vss.7-8):
The fourth seal reveals a rider on a pale horse (vss.7-8a). Pale denotes a yellowish green (the light green of a plant), or the paleness of a sick person in contrast to a healthy appearance. This sick or even cadaverous colour fits in well with the name of the rider of this fourth horse – “Death.” In contrast to the previous riders, this rider is followed by another figure with the name of “Hades.” This probably refers to the death resulting from pestilence, or plague, which often follows famine ~ “I will send famine and wild beasts against you, and they will rob you of your children. Pestilence and blood shall pass through you, and I will bring the sword upon you. I am the Lord; I have spoken” (Ezek.5:17).

“Death” and “Hades” (vs.8b) were given authority over a large part of the world to kill and destroy (our text says a quarter of the earth and by today’s population figures, it is approximately a billion people) and in their effort, they also employed wild animals to do the job for them ~ “And I will let loose the wild beasts against you, which shall bereave you of your children and destroy your livestock and make you few in number, so that your roads shall be deserted” (Lev.26:22).

The first four seals may be considered as a unit and a general description of the Great Tribulation as an unprecedented time of trouble ~ “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” (Matt.24:21–22).

4. THE FIFTH SEAL (vss.9-11):
With the opening of the fifth seal, this scene shifts from the earth to heaven. The fifth seal leaves the metaphor of the horsemen and discloses a scene of martyred saints under the altar crying out for justice on those who killed them (vs.9). They are told to wait a little longer until their fellow servants are also killed. What are these martyrs? They are referred to again in Rev.18:24 as “all who have been killed on the earth” and in Rev.20:4 as “those who had been beheaded.” In Rev.13:15 they are referred to as those who refused to worship the image of the beast and were “killed.” Some see this group of people, as martyred saints in heaven, but John may be referring to all those who so faithfully follow Christ that they may be characterised as the slain of the Lord. They may or may not actually suffer physical death for Christ, but they have (like John) so identified themselves with the slain Lamb that they have in effect already offered up their lives ~ “As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered’” (Rom.8:36).

The expression “under the altar” in vs.9, places the scene in the temple of heaven. If this is the altar John saw, the prayers of the saints would be for God’s vindication (Afrikaans: “wraak”) of the martyrs of Christ ~ “And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:7-8).

The martyred address God as “Sovereign Lord” (vs.10). This term implies “ownership” and is used elsewhere in the New Testament to denote to slave masters ~ “Let all who are under a yoke as bondservants regard their own masters as worthy of all honour, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled” (1 Tim.6:1). The martyrs cry for God’s vengeance on the evildoers. These saints are following the teachings of Paul in Rom.12:19 ~ “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” In other words, they affirm God’s holiness and truth, perfect character qualities for executing justice, but they question His timetable. God’s people often asked him, “How long?” as a matter of pleading for justice. The martyr’s first ask when God plans to judge the “inhabitants of the earth,” a phrase used throughout Revelation who portray unbelievers who rebel against God and persecuted His people. Second, they ask when God plans to “avenge” their blood.

The martyrs are each given a “white robe” (vs.11), symbolic of purity of faith and victory through trials as well as an evidence of the victory and righteousness before the Judge of all the earth, who will speedily avenge the deaths (vs.11). God then tells them to wait a little longer – in God’s estimate but a fleeting moment, though for us it may stretch out for ages. The expression “until the number of their fellow servants…was completed” is usually taken to mean that the number of the martyred on earth who will be killed, will be completed – all those who will complete the course or will fulfil their Christian calling.

5. THE SIXTH SEAL (vss.12-17):
When the Lamb broke the sixth seal (vs.12a), John feels a great earthquake. The final day of the Lord is so often described in Scripture as an earthquake ~ “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Matt.24:29).

With the opening of this 6th seal, God answers the martyr’s prayers. What John sees, is a scene of catastrophe and distress for the inhabitants of the earth (vss.12b-14). But even more dramatic than the earthquake was the transformation of the heavens with the sun turning black, the moon turning blood red, and stars falling like late figs from a fig tree. The heavens appeared like a scroll being rolled up. At the same time, due to the earthquake, all the mountains and islands were moved from their places. Here again in the sequence of events, the end had not been reached as there was still another seal. But this was the most dramatic judgment thus far in this time of great distress before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The trumpet and bowl judgments, to be revealed later in Revelation, also include great disturbances in the heavens and on the earth before Christ’s second coming.

In vss.15-17, John hears people calling out to the mountains and rocks to… ~ “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” The practical effect of the judgment was fear in unbelievers from all walks of life. They called on the mountains and the rocks to fall on them and to hide them from God’s wrath. Their fear was so great they would rather be killed by a falling mountain than to face the wrath of the Lamb – referring to the anger of the Triune God. Again, this is not a picture of ordinary trouble but the period of greatest distress in world history.

The “wrath” (“anger”) of the Lamb is not only a new metaphor but a paradoxical one. Lambs are usually gentle. But this lamb shows “wrath,” against those who have refused His grace ~ “And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man” (Joh.5:27). Henceforth the wrath of God and of the Lamb is a continuing theme in Revelation and will again be discussed in later chapters (under the images of the trumpets and bowls).

6. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
Taken as a whole, chapter 6 is one of the most important and pivotal chapters in the entire book. It describes the first six seals (the white horse; the red horse; a black horse; a pale horse; the martyred souls and an earthquake with the transformation of the heavens) and also introduces the seventh seal (the 144,000) which consists of and introduces the seven trumpets and the seven bowls of the wrath of God in chapters 8–9; 16.

The contents of chapter 6 should put to rest the false teachings that God, being a God of love, could not judge a wicked world. It also raises the important question contained in the closing words of vs.17 ~ “Who can stand?” Only those who have availed themselves of the grace of God before the time of judgment will be able to stand when God deals with the earth in this final period of great distress. On the other hand, and this could easily be seen as the key verse of chapter 6, also found in vs.17, namely that those who reject grace now will not repent when judgment comes. And then it will be in any case, too late for them!

Throughout history, God’s people have always suffered persecution and martyrdom at the hands of evildoers. The Bible consistently supports a theology of endurance rather than escape (“the rapture”), all the while assuring believers that they will never suffer God’s wrath or condemnation. Jesus Himself told his followers ~ “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33), and “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). The martyrs of the early church were many: James, Stephen, Antipas, those predicted under Nero, and so on. The martyrs of Rev.6 remind us that God’s people should expect to suffer injustice at the hands of the ungodly. and/or as a result of our circumstances.

This text also reinforces the Biblical teaching that humanity is divided into two groups: those who follow God and those who reject Him. As with the message of the profits, Jesus and the Apostles press readers to choose a side. Neutrality is not a long-term option.

Kobus van der Walt

It is clear from our text today that there are at least three points of application for us as believers:
• We should expect to suffer as a result of bearing witness to Jesus.
• Waiting on God’s timing is an essential part of our faith journey.
• We can persevere in faithfulness because we know that one day God will judge evil and vindicate His people.

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Revelation: The Culmination of Scripture – 15 (“The Scroll and the Lamb – 01”)

Revelation: The Culmination of Scripture – 15 (“The Scroll and the Lamb – 01”)

1. INTRODUCTION:
· Covenantal Curse: To understand Rev.6, one must understand something of the concept of the Biblical covenantal curse. The Godhead made a covenant with Israel, and had promised blessing upon obedience, and cursing upon disobedience. These blessings and curses are well stated in Lev.26 and Deut.27-28.

In Deut.27, the tribes of Israel were divided: half was sent to stand on Mount Gerizim, and half on Mount Ebal. These tribes then had to call out the curses for disobedience to the covenant to each other, across the valley, as a reminder of just how seriously God took his covenant with them.

We know from the Old Testament that the Jews continually broke their covenant with God. They were judged time and time again for their disobedience, and they usually learned their lesson for a short while. During the ministry of Jesus Christ, He made it very clear that the Israelites had broken the covenant with God for the last time, and that God had thus withdrawn His covenant with them to establish a new covenant with another people ~ “Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes’? 43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” (Matt.21:42-44). We therefore see, that many of the judgements recorded in Revelation are the fulfilment of the covenantal cursing in the Old Testament. Jesus Christ was about to institute a new covenant with a new people, and He must first remove the old covenant, which was done in the destruction of the temple and the holy city in 70 A.D. ~ “He does away with the first in order to establish the second” (Hebr.10:9b).

• The Seals- and Trumpet Judgments: Another point we should consider before we turn to the opening of the seals, is the way in which the seal and trumpet judgments are arranged, for they clearly parallel each other. Each of these series of judgments begins with an opening scene explaining the judgments to come. In Revelation 5:1-14, the opening scene has to do with the worthiness of the Lamb to open the scroll, while in Revelation 8:2-5 the scene preceding the trumpet judgments has to do with the seven angels who respond to the prayers of the saints.

There are seven seals and seven trumpets, indicating that when these judgments are complete, God’s wrath will have come to its end, having been poured out against the earth and its inhabitants in all of its fury. When both the seal and trumpet judgments begin, six separate cycles of judgment unfold, followed by a dramatic interlude in which God’s care for his people is reaffirmed, before the seventh and final judgment begins. In both cases the cycle of seven judgments bring us to Christ’s return and to the end of the age – the perfection and fullness symbolised by the number seven.

Therefore, while not predicting a specific war, or a specific famine, or a specific earthquake, or specific events in Israel, in these cycles of judgment Revelation depicts all future wars, all future famine and plague, and all the upheavals of the earth as judgments of God pointing to a final judgment yet to come.

As Christians, who view these matters through the eyes of faith, we should not be alarmed when such events occur, in fact, we should expect them. These things remind us that creation has been corrupted by sin and that the world groans under our feet until the day of redemption. But one day, Christ will return to remove the curse and renew the heavens and the earth. For there is no solution to human suffering and the tumult of the nations except for God’s direct and final intervention in the person of His Son, the very thing to which all of these signs and cycles of judgment point us.

2. SCRIPTURE READING:
Rev.6:1-17 ~ “Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” 2 And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer. 3 When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword. 5 When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. 6 And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!” 7 When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” 8 And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth. 9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. 12 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14 The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

3. THE FIRST SEAL (vss.1-2):
The Lamb is now central in this series of visions, and for the opening of the first four seals the action follows a set pattern. After the Lamb opens a seal, one of the four living creatures, shouts ~ “Come!” and a horseman comes thundering out of heaven. The fifth seal reveals God’s martyrs (Afrikaans: “martelare”), awaiting their final redemption, and the sixth seal shows the end of the age as the dreaded day of the Lord arrives. The seventh seal is opened (8:1) after a brief interlude (Afrikaans: “tussenpose”).

The imagery used in this vision that John received, though used in a different way, is adapted from the angelic horsemen sent by God to patrol the earth in Zech.1:8-11 and 6:1-8.

John has a prime view of what is happening – the Lamb (i.e. Jesus Christ) is opening the scroll (vs.1), but before He can do that, He has to open the seven wax seals that sealed this scroll. The moment the Lamb opened the first seal, the four living creatures say with a voice like a thunder, “Come.” John is told to come and see those things contained under each seal, and to write about it in a book, and send it to the seven churches of Asia Minor. This apocalypse (the complete and final destruction of the earth) was to warn these churches of impending danger.

With each of the first four seals there is a horse and rider, though with each seal something different is represented (vs.2). The horse, again and again in structure, is a symbol of strength and an animal of war and battle. There is a remarkable picture of this in Job 39:19-25 ~ “Do you give the horse his might? Do you clothe his neck with a mane? 20Do you make him leap like the locust? His majestic snorting is terrifying. 21He paws in the valley and exults in his strength; he goes out to meet the weapons. 22He laughs at fear and is not dismayed; he does not turn back from the sword. 23Upon him rattle the quiver, the flashing spear, and the javelin. 24With fierceness and rage he swallows the ground; he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet. 25When the trumpet sounds, he says ‘Aha!’ He smells the battle from afar, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.”

When the Lamb opens the first seal, John sees a white horse (vs.2a) and its rider goes out to conquer with a bow in his hand and a crown on his head (vs.2b). With the bow he strikes far and wide. Having a crown, this victory is sure and his reward secure. The victory is already secured on the basis of God’s foreordination. Because this rider is riding on a white horse many people conclude that the rider must be Christ. But this cannot be, because one rider cannot be a literal person, whilst the other three are mere personifications. Christ will be returning to the earth as a conqueror not at the beginning of the Tribulation but at the end of the Tribulation. Also, the riders on the other horses obviously relate to destruction and judgment which precede the second coming of Christ by some period of time.

A better interpretation therefore, is that the conqueror mentioned here is the future world ruler, sometimes referred to as Antichrist, though Revelation does not use this term. He is probably the same person as the ruler of the people mentioned in Daniel 9:26 ~ “And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed.” This ruler has a bow without an arrow, indicating that the world government which he establishes is accomplished without warfare. The future world government begins with a time of peace but is soon followed by destruction ~ “While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (1 Thes.5:3). In general, the seals, trumpets, and bowls of divine wrath signal the terrible judgments of God on the world at the end of the Age, climaxing in the second coming of Christ.

We must also remember that this rider on the white horse has a crown on his head. The word for crown in Revelation 6:2 is “stephanos,” which means “the victor’s crown,” but the crown that Jesus Christ wears in Rev.19:12, is “diadema,” “the kingly crown.” Antichrist, could never wear the “diadem,” because it belongs only to the Son of God. This then is another proof that this first rider on the white horse, is not Christ.

4. THE SECOND SEAL (vss.3-4):
With the breaking of the second seal (vs.3), John is again commanded, and this time by the second of the beings, to come; it is therefore presupposed, that after the vision of the first seal had ended, and the first image of a horseman had vanished, he had again withdrawn, and taken his original place.

A red horse now appears with a rider empowered to take peace from the earth. In contrast with the first rider who has a bow without an arrow this second rider carried a large sword. This again was a picture of political power with the rider as the world ruler.

As already mentioned, the Antichrist’s conquest begins in peace, but soon he exchanges the empty bow for a sword (vs.4). The colour red is often associated with terror and death: e.g. the red dragon (Rev. 12:3), the red beast (Rev. 17:3). It is a picture of widespread and terrible bloodshed, as we see in vs.4 ~ “so that people should slay one another.” This also reminds us of Mark.13:7-8 ~ “And when you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.” War has been a part of man’s experience since Cain killed Abel, so this image would speak to believers in every age, reminding them that God is ultimately in control, even though He is not responsible for the lawless deeds of men and nations.

This rider is also given a crown (a symbol of political power) by God to execute His judgments.

5. THE THIRD SEAL (vss.5-6):
Again, after Christ opened the third seal (vs.5), the living creature told John to come forward and look. John sees a black horse with a pair of scales in his hands. The colour black is often connected with famine and therefore, the black colour of the horse speaks of famine and death. A pair of scales are also the symbol of scarcity of provisions, when e.g. bread will be sold by weight.

The black horse conveys a message of distress, the beginning of terror in the approaching calamity. It is parallel with Joel 2:5-6 and 2:30-32, with the picture of anguish and terror is seen, and where famine is rampant. Daniel was told of the great dissolution (Afrikaans: “onbinding”) in Dan.12:1 and Christ confirms the statement of Daniel in Matt.24:15 ~ “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand).”

During this time of tribulation, which will be a time of famine and death, bread will be sold for a denarius (vs.6). A denarius, the coin mentioned here in the Greek text, was a day’s wage earned by a common labourer and that was about 17 cents per day, which was seen as good pay for a day’s work. In almost every case where the word occurs in the New Testament it is connected with the idea of a liberal or large amount. But, if you have to pay a full day’s salary for a bread, such a worker would not have been able to afford to feed his family. The result would have been widespread hunger and starvation. This reminds us of the prophecy in Ez.4:16-17 ~ “Moreover, he said to me, “Son of man, behold, I will break the supply of bread in Jerusalem. They shall eat bread by weight and with anxiety, and they shall drink water by measure and in dismay. I will do this that they may lack bread and water, and look at one another in dismay, and rot away because of their punishment.”

The reference to the olive oil and the wine is an indication of the fact that the necessities (wheat and barley) are sold for exorbitant prices, but luxury items (oil and wine) are unaffected. This may point to the role greed can play in intensifying the effects of a famine.

6. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
Taken as a whole, chapter 6 is one of the most important and pivotal chapters in the entire book. It describes the first six seals (the white horse; the red horse; a black horse; a pale horse; the martyred souls and an earthquake with the transformation of the heavens) and also introduces the seventh seal (the 144,000) which consists of and introduces the seven trumpets and the seven bowls of the wrath of God in chapters 8–9; 16.

The contents of chapter 6 should put to rest the false teachings that God, being a God of love, could not judge a wicked world. It also raises the important question contained in the closing words of vs.17 ~ “Who can stand?” Only those who have availed themselves of the grace of God before the time of judgment will be able to stand when God deals with the earth in this final period of great distress. On the other hand, and this could easily be seen as the key verse of chapter 6, also found in vs.17, namely that those who reject grace now will not repent when judgment comes. And then it will be too late for them!

Having heard John’s words, we as believers know how the redemptive-historical drama will turn out. Christ, not the Beast, wins in the end! Therefore, when we are persecuted by the state, when we are hated because we are followers of Christ, when the earth shakes beneath our feet, when war comes, this is not a sign that God is indifferent to us and unable to help. This points us ahead to the fact that one day, God will bring all things into submission to Christ. In fact, these successive judgments are rehearsals of the final judgment yet to come.

Kobus van der Walt

Let us not forget that since God has poured out his wrath upon His own dear Son, when Jesus suffered for our sins on Calvary’s cross, we need never fear that final judgment yet to come, that terrible day to which the seven-seal judgment point us. For wars and rumours of wars, earthquake, famine and pestilence are the signs that all is not right in the world and that “one day” Jesus Christ himself will return to raise the dead, judge the world and make all things new. Only then will there be peace on earth, and only then will creation no longer groan under our feet!

Together with John in the second last verse of the Bible, we can also cry out ~ “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev.22:20).

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Revelation: The Culmination of Scripture – 14 (“The Last Days”)

Revelation: The Culmination of Scripture – 14 (“The Last Days”)

1. INTRODUCTION:
Human curiosity can be a good thing. But it can also be a bad thing. One place where human curiosity often extends beyond legitimate bounds is when it comes to the book of Revelation. People are naturally curious about what the future holds. It is only natural that we seek explanations for those things which plague human existence; evil and human suffering, wars and rumours of wars, earthquakes, floods and famines.

Many preachers and Bible teachers tell us that in the Book of Revelation we will find specific explanations for virtually every current event mentioned on the evening news. We are told that the way we should interpret biblical prophecy is by correlating current events with the things God reveals to us here in the Book of Revelation.

Yes, Revelation addresses the future. But it doesn’t do so by predicting every event which transpires in the Middle East or which affects the global economy. The apostle John is not to be confused with Nostradamus or Siener van Rensburg or the Bulgarian mystic and clairvoyant Vangelia Gushterova, better known as “Baba Vanga,” a kind of latter-day Nostradamus. In apocalyptic literature such as Revelation, John does not intend for us to literally understand the things he reveal. Rather, the apostle paints vivid word pictures depicting the course of redemptive history and the on-going struggle between Christ and his already defeated foe, the Devil, who, like a wounded animal, is all the more vicious before his final destruction (cf. Rev.12:12).

Revelation gives us the big picture of future events by reminding us that God is sovereign over all the affairs of men, and that whatever comes to pass, does so because God has decreed it. Throughout this book, Christ’s church is reminded that God is bringing all of human history to a great and glorious goal, the second coming of Jesus Christ to judge the world, raise the dead and make all things new.

We now come to a new aspect of this vision in Rev.6:1-8:5, where John discusses the opening of the scroll and its seven seals which had been sealed until the time of the end. The scroll reveals God’s purposes during the last days – that period of time between Christ’s first advent and his second coming. The unsealing of this scroll begins a pattern in which God will reveal dramatic information about the future course of redemptive history.

From here on, we will find a series of judgments which occur in a cyclical fashion. There are the seven seal judgments in Rev.6:1-8:5, the seven trumpet judgments in Rev.8:6-11:19 and then the seven bowl judgments of Rev.16. We should not read these sections of Revelation as though they were historical narrative (i.e. Narrative history is the practice of writing history in a story-based form) in which the seal judgments occur in time, chronologically prior to the trumpet judgments, with the bowl judgments finally coming at the end. In apocalyptic literature each of these cycles of judgment overlap. Therefore, what is depicted in the seal judgments covers the entire period of time between Christ’s first and second advents. The same is true for the trumpet and bowl judgments – although the bowl judgments intensify towards the end of time.
When reading about the scroll we must keep in mind that the earth is the setting for the first four seals, as well as the sixth seal, whilst heaven is the setting for the 5th seal. The seventh seal introduces the seven trumpet judgments.

2. SCRIPTURE READING:
Matt.24:3-8 ~ “3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

Matt.24:21-24 ~ 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.

Matt.24:29-31 ~ 29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

3. THE LAST DAYS:
We’ve already seen that the Lamb was the only one who was worthy to open the scroll and that the scroll itself involves the rest of Revelation – “history to come.” Revelation has to do with the consummation (Afrikaans: “voltrekking/volvoering”) of the mystery of all things to come, the goal or end of history for both the over comers and the worshippers of the beast.

The Lamb has taken the sealed book; He is about to open the seals and declare war on the godless world – to send God’s judgements upon the earth. With the opening of each seal in heaven, an important event will take place on earth. It is also important that one must compare these seals with what Christ taught in His Olivet Discourse (i.e. “The Prophetic Discourse” – Afrikaans: “Jesus se “Profetiese Rede”) about the end times in Matt.24 and 25 (as well as Mark 13 and Luke 21). In these passages the events of the last days fall into three periods:
o The period of the false Christ, wars, famines, pestilences, earthquakes, and death, called “the beginning of birth pains” (Matt.24:3-8);
o The period of “the great tribulation” (Matt.24:21-24) and
o The period “immediately after the distress of those days,” when the sun, moon, and stars will be affected and Christ will return (Matt.24:29-31).

It is also important to note that the eschatological reckoning of time, in other words, the events immediately preceding the end, can stretch out over the whole age of the church, from John’s time until now, and can still be viewed as the “next” (4:1), in the sense that the “last days” began in the first century and are still continuing ~ “18Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore, we know that it is the last hour” (1 Joh.2:18).

When mentioning Matt.24, it is another point where the Post- and A-Millennial roads part. The Post-Mil’s believe that Matt.24 is a prophecy about the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., while the A-Mil’s believe that Matt.24 is a prophecy of the last days before Christ’s 2nd coming will take place. Off course, the Pre-Mil’s has it all mixed up, when they read the rapture and all sorts of other things into these and other texts.

Before we commence with the opening of the Seals, let us first look at the three periods of “the last days.”
· The period of the false Christ: The first period is that of the false Christ, wars, famines, pestilences, earthquakes, and death, called “the beginning of birth pains” ~ “And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.” (Matt.24:4-8). Wars, earthquakes, persecutions, and false prophets are all signs of Jesus’ coming, but they indicate only the certainty of judgment, not its time (vss.6, 8). Such signs characterise the entire period between His resurrection and His coming in judgment. Knowing when Jesus would return would lead His disciples to laziness and laxity in their watchfulness. We must realise that false teachers, natural disasters, persecutions and forsaking of the faith by many, will characterise history. We will always have these things. They are painful, and Jesus likens them to “the beginning of birth pains” (vs.8), but they are not signs that the end of the world is near. These things existed in the disciples’ days, and they have existed in every age of Church history up to and including our own. Indeed, some of them have taken a great deal of time to develop – nation rising against nation and the Gospel been preached throughout the whole world, for instance. But the followers of Christ are not to be deceived on the subject, because according to vs.6, “the end is still to come,” during this period of false Christ’s, it will be increasingly difficult to endure, but Jesus said in Matt.24:13 ~ “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

· The period of the great tribulation: The second period is that of the great tribulation (Matt.24:21-24). We read the following in Matt.24:21-24 ~ “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christ’s and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” Jesus warns us that we will experience great tribulation and care should be exercised. We also see that Rev.7:14 speaks about a “great tribulation.” But the tribulation mentioned in Matt.24 and that of Rev.7 are not the same. The context in Rev.7 indicates, that the word tribulation is used there in a far more general sense – because of our faith, every genuine child of God experience tribulation during his life on earth (see: Joh.16:33; Rom.8:18; 2 Cor.4:17; 2 Tim.3:12). Here in Matt.24:21-24 however, Jesus is speaking about a tribulation that will characterise “those days,” a tribulation such as has never been and never again shall be a very brief period of dire distress that shall occur immediately before His return (Matt24:29-31). It is the period mentioned also in Rev.11:7-9; 20:3b, 7-9a. For the sake of God’s chosen ones, the days of this final tribulation shall be cut short. Herein, too, the love of God is made to manifest.

· The period “immediately after the distress of those days”: We read the following in Matt.24:29-31 ~ “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” The third period is the period “immediately after the distress of those days,” when the sun, moon, and stars will be affected and Christ will return. The “distress of those days” refer to the great tribulation. This third period is a period that follows immediately after the great tribulation, without an extended interval of time. During this third period, there shall appear a variety of cosmic disturbances. Then, immediately following, “the sign of the Son of man will appear,” the sign by which He shows His presence, probably the blinding, dazzling glory which characterises Him alone.

“All that tribes of the earth will mourn” (Matt.24:30). Certainly, all the Jews who have rejected the Messiah, and other peoples as well, will be overwhelmed with grief and despair at the site of the One whom they had despised and rejected. Christ’s return will be physical and visible and will involve an extended exposure to mankind. He will send out His angels to gather the elect from the remotest parts of the earth. Presumably these are only believers living on earth at the time, i.e. Tribulation saints who endured to the end of the Tribulation.

What is in view in these verses is the return of Christ in judgement and has nothing to do with the question of a pretribulation rapture (the Pre-Millennialists / Charismatics / Pentecostals).

4. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
“The End Times” should never be a threat to or source of anxiety or doubt to any genuine believer. If we genuinely believe in the only living almighty and sovereign God, then we should trust in Him for eventual victory, because we’ve seen today, that God rule sovereign over all the affairs of men and whatever comes to pass, happens because God has decreed it and eventually not only human history, but also our lives – we as over comers and worshippers of Christ Jesus, will be brought to a great and glorious end.

We must however, keep in mind that we are already in the midst of the end-times, of the period of “Great Tribulation” – the period of “the beginning of birth pains” (Matt.24:8) and that we as Christ’s children, will endure hardships and persecution, BUT/AND we also have the wonderful promise of Christ’s inescapable return and that we who love Him do not have to fear His judgement, because ~ “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 Joh.5:11-13).

What must we do in order to survive during these end-times? For one, the book by Terry Malone with the title “Tribulation Period Survival Guide” won’t be of any help!

John Piper writes and quotes Greg Beale (Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary) by saying: “Tell-tale marks of the tribulation, according to Daniel 7-12, include persecution and deception through false teaching. The apostles were mindful of how present these things were in their own day, especially the rise of false teaching. Though it seems to have not yet reached its climax, the tribulation clearly has begun (the whole period between Christ’s two comings), and Christians are called to persevere. As individuals, the best antidote is to understand temptation – and know the Bible.

When it comes to Satan, the saying “nothing is new” is very true. The same old tricks, lies and temptations that he used over the past centuries, he is still using in our day. The same way he deceived Adam and Eve at the beginning of history are reproduced by the Biblical authors to characterise his deception at history’s end.

The problem with Adam and Eve were that they did not know God’s word sufficiently or did not esteem it highly enough. When confronted by Satan (in the form of a snake), Eve either failed to remember God’s word accurately or changed it intentionally for her own purposes. First, she minimised their privileges by saying ~ “We may eat,” whereas God had said ~ “You may eat freely.” Second, Eve minimised the judgment by saying, ~ “Lest you die,” whereas God said ~ “You will surely die.” Third, she maximised the prohibition by affirming ~ “You shall not . . . touch,” whereas God originally said only ~ “You shall not eat.”

If Adam remembered God’s Word, then he did not trust it, since he did not come to Eve’s aid when she failed to recollect the word rightly in the face of the serpent accusations. Adam and Eve did not remember God’s word adequately, and they “fell.” When the defence of God’s Word is taken away, all kinds of satanic lies come to fill the void, the desire to resist temptation breaks down, and sin inevitably occurs.

Unlike Adam and Eve, Jesus Christ, knew the Word and, by obeying it, established himself as God’s true last Adam and true Israel. Jesus succeeded against exactly those temptations in which Adam and Israel failed because he remembered God’s Word and obeyed it.”

Kobus van der Walt

The heart of the matter is this: Do you know God’s Word, do you believe it, and do you do it? If not, then the lies of the evil one will slip into your lives and into our churches ever so subtly. When this happens and the process goes unchecked and uncorrected, then the deceptions begin to pour in like an overflowing river ~ “The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood” (Rev.12:15). If not, then the false teaching of those “who have gone astray from the truth” will make inroads into the church (2 Tim.2:18).”

We must study and know and talk and pray the Word of God in order to survive “The Great Tribulation.”

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Revelation: The Culmination of Scripture – 13 (“The Emergence of the Lamb”)

Revelation: The Culmination of Scripture – 13 (“The Emergence of the Lamb”)

1. INTRODUCTION:
Last week we’ve seen the desperate need of John and the rest of the heavenly and earthly creatures, for someone to open the sealed scroll and John was weeping about the fact that there was no-one worthy to open this scroll. But then, in 5:5, one of the elders told John that there is indeed someone who can open the scroll.

2. SCRIPTURE READING:
Rev.5:1-14 ~ “Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, 4 and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 5 And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” 6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” 11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might forever and ever!” 14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.”

3. THE WORTHY ONE (vss.5-6):
There is only One who is worthy of opening the scroll (or book) – the elder calls Him “the Worthy One,” the Lion of the tribe of Judah, that is, the mighty conqueror over His enemies – Satan, sin and death. We see this in Gen.49:8-12 ~ “Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you. 9Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? 10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. 11Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes. 12His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk.” Here we have a picture of divine judgment – judgment over Satan, sin and death. Jesus is the only One who is able to judge the world, because He is the “Lion of the tribe of Judah.”

Many people feel that it is almost blasphemy to talk about Christ as a Judge; one who hates sin; one who will determine the eternal destiny of both believer and unbeliever. Voddie Baucham once said: “If you don’t like speaking about Jesus as the Judge, then we are missing one of the most important aspects of who He is, because what does redemption then mean, if there is no justice? What are you saved from, if there is no wrath of God? What are you rescued from if there is not a day that is going to come when He actually does exact vengeance upon the wicked? What have you been transferred from if not from darkness and judgement to light and redemption? You cannot appreciate the redemption that you have in Christ unless you understand the justice and judgment of God’s will – that must come against the wicked. You will never turn to Christ unless you understand this, because you don’t have anything to flee from if there is no justice or judgment of the wicked. You don’t believe that you need a Saviour if you don’t believe that there is justice against the wicked.”

This is the Gospel message – we are all sinners – everybody on earth are sinners ~ “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom.3:23) and you can only be saved if you believe and honour and follow Jesus Christ ~ “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

The elder also calls the Worthy One, “the root of David.” He was of the household of David, of his family tree, of his blood. Who then is worthy to open the book? The prophesied Son of David, the Messiah and King of the world, Jesus the Christ. He and He alone is worthy to take the book and carry out the events of the end time ~ “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots” (Is.11:1 – Jesse, or “Yishai” is a figure described in the Bible as the father of David and ancestor of Christ). Jesus is also the slain Lamb, that is, one that was once before slain as the spotless Sin-bearer ~ “…as though it had been slain” (vs.6).

After the elder spoke to John, he saw a Lamb with seven horns and seven eyes. The seven horns denote His absolute strength, the seven eyes His omniscience and fullness with the Spirit, by whom He perfects His ministry among the inhabitants of the earth. Indeed, Christ alone conquered sin and Satan. In so doing, He was both fulfilling and revealing a pivotal part (Afrikaans: “deurslaggewende/sleutelrol”) of God’s decree or eternal purpose. His conquest (Afrikaans: “oorwinning”) earned Him this right.

We see in vs.6, that the Lamb stood “between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders” (“the throne” – i.e. the seat of universal control and power; “the four living creatures” i.e. the Cherubim and “the elders” – i.e. the universal Church). This reminds us of Paul’s words in Col.1:17 ~ “And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Because all things were created through Him and for Him, all things revolve around Him. And all things can only revolve around One who is on the throne. Christ, like the Father, is on the throne. The two are one.

Another meaning for the Lamb centrally placed surrounded by the living creatures and elders, is because He is no ordinary angelic servant of God, but the unique Mediator of both creation and redemption (Col.1:13-20). He is the focal point for all of God’s plan (Eph.1:10). He has “seven horns and seven eyes,” symbolic of His worthiness and ability. As mentioned before, horns frequently represent means of power ~ “And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made for himself horns of iron and said, ‘Thus says the LORD, ‘With these you shall push the Syrians until they are destroyed’” (1 Kings 22:11). Eyes symbolise wisdom. In this case the power of Christ’s Spirit-filled eternal life is depicted by the image of the horns and His wisdom by the image of eyes.

The “seven spirits of God” are the sevenfold fullness of the Holy Spirit, as in Rev.4:5 ~ “From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God.” We also read in Is.11:2-4 the following with regard to “the seven spirits of God” ~ “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 3And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, 4but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.” (Is.11:2-4).

4. THE SCROLL (vss.7-10):
Last week I explained that the scroll is the key element in this part of the vision given to John. John wept because he knew that God’s plan of judgment and redemption will not be fully completed, if the plan that is written in the scroll, is not revealed. If the scroll is not opened, there will not be ultimate judgment for a sinning world and no ultimate salvation for the believers – no hell, no heaven and no future inheritance for God’s people. And the only One that can open this scroll is the Worthy One who fulfilled God’s plan of judgment and salvation, namely Jesus Christ.

Christ, now takes the scroll from God’s hand. What is written in the scroll? The fullness of God’s plan of judgment, redemption and inheritance. The message of this scroll is now prophesied as the seals are broken and the events of the last days are seen. Note the size and thickness of this particular scroll. It takes seven seals to seal and bind it and it has words and sentences on both sides of the scroll. All that is in the rest of Revelation is contained therein.

Note also, that the book is in God’s hand. History is in God’s hand. He is in charge. He has a plan, a purpose for the universe. Who is worthy to carry out this plan, this purpose? Who can rule and reign over these events? The idea is that Christ and Christ alone, is worthy and therefore, by taking the scroll from God’s hand, Christ is claiming that He now exercises His rule. And the heavenly realm recognised this claim as true, because the 4 beasts and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb in worship.

We see in vs.8 that each elder had “a harp and golden bowls full of incense,” which was interpreted as the prayers of the saints ~ “Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!” (Ps.141:2).

After the glorious song in Rev.4:8 where the four living creatures sang ~ “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come,” we now hear a new song, sung by the four living creatures and the 24 elders – vss.9-10 ~ “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

When looking at these words it is clear that the theme of this song is one of redemption. The Lamb had been slain and had purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. Those He purchased with His blood were made a kingdom and priests to serve our God (Rev.1:6), and to reign on the earth. Because of this, Warren Wiersbe says that this song is a Gospel song, but it is also a devotional hymn, for it announced our unique position in Christ as “a kingdom of priests.” Like Melchizedek of old, believers are kings and priests ~ “We shall reign on the earth” (Gen.14:17; Hebr.7; 1 Pet.2:5–10).

After this glorious song, John hears how the 4 living creatures and the 24 elders are joined by the entire created order, all proclaiming Christ’s worthiness. What is even more astonishing is the fact that even the unsaved – those “under the earth” – are praising the worthy Lamb (vs.13).

This doxology (Afrikaans: “lofsang”) has reference to the power and blessings of Christ at the commencement of his reign ~ “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign” (Rev.11:17). It is also closely similar to that sung to God in Rev.7:12 ~ “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” These doxologies also remind of the hymn of Phil.2:9-11 ~ “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

After this series of heavenly visions, the scene shifts to the devastation on earth. Before that happened, it is significant that all of creation is seen as willed by God, made by God, ruled by God, and praised by God. This is John’s way of telling us that the ideal world, the world as it really is and will yet be, should never be forgotten, though our visions of glory fade and earthly chaos threatens to overwhelm us. God is still on His throne, and His created order, though now in rebellion against Him, is still subject to Him and in some inexplicable way doing His will, and thus offering praise to Him.

We see how the heaven and earth join in the concert and closes with their Amen, and end as they began, with a low prostration before the eternal and everlasting God. Thus, we have seen this sealed book passing with great solemnity (Afrikaans: “plegtigheid/eerbied”) from the hand of the Creator into the hand of the Redeemer.

5. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
The fear of a criminal society, “landgrabs,” bombs, an unstable economy, the environment, the drugs, and the other massive problems of our country and the rest of the world seem to have no answer. But God does: He is going to bring history to a climax and establish righteousness throughout all the earth.

We should all bow in utter humility and dependency upon God, for He is higher above us than even the outer reaches of space.

We should pay close attention to the book of Revelation, study and live in its message. It is the revelation of God’s will for the end time, the events that are yet to take place throughout the universe.

Kobus van der Walt

Those of you who are not sure of your salvation must also take cognisance of the fact that Christ will, on the last day, judge all the unrighteous and the life-important question that you must answer for yourself today, is whether you are standing on the assurance of Christ’s redemption and acquittal – will you receive judgment and condemnation or will you hear the words from the Lamb ~ “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt.25:21).

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Revelation: The Culmination of Scripture – 12 (“Who is Worthy to Open the Scroll?”)

Revelation: The Culmination of Scripture – 12 (“Who is Worthy to Open the Scroll?”)

1. INTRODUCTION:
In John’s vision of the throne room of God in chapter 4 of Revelation, we have a scene of Angels and the 24 elders joined together in worship and acknowledgement of God as Creator of all things, and as the purpose for which all things were created and they are doing this whilst singing the words ~ “You are worthy O Lord to receive glory, honour and power…!” The basis for the worthiness? “For Thou hast Created all things…” This is the song of worship to our Creator. God created us, the world we live in, and sustains it and us, and everything we know and love. All creation owes Him worship and acknowledgement, and it would be the height of impiety (Afrikaans: “goddeloosheid”) and arrogance to refuse to worship Him.

We’ve also seen in chapter 4 that God is a holy God and the problem with mankind is unfortunately exactly this – we are indeed arrogant and we refuse to worship the Holy, Creator God with all of our heart. We read in Rom.1:21 ~ “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” Mankind is lost and doomed! But, as we see right through the Word of God, that He is also a gracious God and therefore we see in Rev.5, that a new song is given which is an answer to these problems caused by our fall into sin and depravity. In the new song sung in the very throne room of God, lies an adequate, complete answer to the human dilemma ~ “You are worthy…because you were slain and have redeemed us unto God by your blood…” (Rev.5:9).

2. SCRIPTURE READING:
Rev.5:1-5 ~ “Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, 4 and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 5 And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

3. THE INACCESSIBLE SCROLL (vss.1-4):
In the first century there were primarily two types of written documents – parchments (2 Tim.4:13) and scrolls. Parchment was made from the skins of sheep and goats, and its name is derived from the Latin word “pergamena.” This refers to Pergamum, which was a centre of parchment production and traditionally believed to be the place of its invention. Parchment was more expensive than papyrus, but its greater durability and “erasability” (Afrikaans: “kon woorde uitvee daarop”) caused it to become the predominant book material by the fourth century A.D. Scrolls were made of papyrus from the Nile delta in Egypt and usually written on one side. This was the side on which the fibres ran horizontally, which made it easier to write on with a pointed reed pen dipped in black ink made from charcoal, gum, and water.

The scroll that John sees in God’s hand is called an “opisthograph” because it has writing on both sides. The writing on both sides suggests that the scroll is completely filled, with maximal contents. God’s plan contains all the details. Ezekiel, in his initial vision, also saw a two-sided scroll containing words of lament and mourning and woe (Ezek.2:9-10) (Afrikaans: “rouklaag/ween”). Prophets often recorded their visions on a scroll (Jer.36:1-32). However, when a scroll was sealed, its contents could not be read by unauthorized readers (Isa.29:11; Dan.12:9).

The key element in this vision is the scroll. Of course the question is, what is the scroll? Many different answers have been given:
• A title deed to the earth;
• A last will and testament;
• Ezekiel’s book of lamentation, mourning, and woe (2:9-10);
• The sealed book of the end time in Daniel 12:4. The simple answer to this question, is that it is the remainder of the book of Revelation (chs.6 – 22). Don Carson says it is a book of “blessing and cursing” (Rev.5). It is a book of judgment, salvation, and restoration:
o Judgment – seals (vs.6), trumpets (vss.8-9), bowls (vss.15-16), lake of fire (20:11-15)
o Salvation – Jew and Gentile (vss.7,14; 19:1-10)
o Restoration – new heaven, new earth, new Jerusalem (vss.21-22).

Vss.1-4 dramatically depict the world’s desperate need for a Saviour. John sees God the Father on His “throne,” a word appearing more than 40 times in Revelation. Some even call Revelation, “a throne book.” This is the place of sovereignty and authority. God is holding a scroll sealed with seven seals. No member of the heavenly entourage is worthy to open it; nor can anyone on or under the earth do so (vss.2-3). John’s response of weeping loudly (vs.4) indicates that the resolution of history – the defeat of evil, sin, and death – all depends on the opening of this scroll.

These first three verses stand in close parallel with Dan.12:4, which makes it clear that the scroll is a heavenly book containing God’s plan and the destiny of the world ~ “But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” There is no doubt therefore, that God has a definite plan for history and its consummation. It is mapped out. It is set. It will not fail. The unsealing of the book implies the accomplishment of the things God has purposed.

In vs.2, a mighty angel rhetorically asks who has the requisite spiritual authority (Afrikaans: “vereiste/nodige geestelike gesag”) to open the scroll. The question was not, “who is willing,” but, “who is worthy?” The ranks of the living and the dead, those on earth, those in heaven, and those in hell, are combed (Afrikaans: “deursoek”) for a worthy king – for someone who is worthy to open the scroll. But the response of vs.3 is disheartening to say the least, because not a single one is found to be worthy enough to open the seals or for that matter, “even to look in it.” A deep silence descends upon the scene, as every voice is hushed and the angels themselves cease to sing. Not a voice is raised to say, “Here am I, Lord, give that scroll to me!” God Himself is worthy as the Creator (4:11), but no created being in heaven or earth has the rank or status to do so. The importance of such a document is indicated by who has the clearance to open and read it. In this case, the response is disheartening to say the least, because no one could be found to open and/or read it, because no-one was worthy enough to do so.

John’s response in verse 4 is understandable: “I cried and cried because no one was found worthy.” The word worthy is crucial, appearing four times in our text (vvs2,4,9,12). For a brief moment a survey of heaven reveals no one possesses the merit to approach God, take the scroll, and open the seals. Not Abraham or Moses. Not Joshua or Caleb. Not Elijah or Elisha. Not Jeremiah, Ezekiel, or Daniel. Not James, Peter, or Paul. Not an angel or even an archangel. A universal search is made. No one is worthy.

John weeps (vs.4) and longs for God’s purposes to be accomplished because the destiny of John – of the church – of the universe itself, hangs in the balance over the question of whether someone can open the scroll and it appears to be impossible to open the scroll, because this scroll was sealed and when a scroll was sealed, it indicated that the document had not been tampered with and its contents were secure. In this case, seven seals sealed this scroll – the number seven indicates completion; the contents were completely inaccessible (Rev.22:10; Isa 29:11; Dan 12:4). Apart from the fact that the seals were not tampered with, it also confirmed that there is only one person who can and may open this sealed document and that is the person to whom it is addressed to.

The reason why no other person is worthy to open this specific book or scroll, is because of its contents. The book is the destiny of the world – what is to happen in the end time at the end of the world. Chapters 6-21 show this clearly. It is the book of judgment. Every person on earth past, present and future will appear before God’s throne of judgment and not a single person, or being, or creature are worthy or in a position to acquit any person – all are doomed. That is the one reason why John is crying ~ “As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. 10A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened” (Dan.7:9-10).

The other reason why John is weeping, is because this scroll is not only a book of judgment and doom, but also a book of redemption (Luke 21:28; Rom.8:22-23; Eph.1:13-14). God’s people are to be redeemed and the evil and corrupt people are to be overthrown and judged. Human history and all matter throughout the universe – all that is corrupt, deteriorating, decaying, and dying – is to be overthrown and consumed. And a new earth and a new heaven are to be created. All the redeemed are to inherit and inhabit the new earth and heavens. This is both the fate and the redemption of the world. This is history written before it happens. Therefore, the person who opens this book must be a person who can grasp exactly what the book is saying, and then he must be able to carry out God’s will and execute the events. The person must have the very mind and power of God. Who can execute and rule over the events of the end time? John is weeping because no one was found worthy (vs.4) to open the scroll and reveal the name of a worthy one that can announce the good news to the redeemed.

Then there is a third reason why John is weeping. The contents of what is going to be revealed between Rev.5 and the end is not only about what is going to happen at the end, namely the judgment and salvation, but also what is going to happen in between – between John’s vision here in the throne room of God and the judgment seat of God at the end. He is weeping because he wants to know what is going to happen between his vision and the end, but no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.

4. THE GREAT ENTRANCE (vss.5-8):
But then we see in vs.5 that an elder speaks to John and say ~ “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” There is only one Person that can open this scroll: The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, because He has been victorious so that He may open the scroll and its seven seals. At last, there was someone who was worthy and you can imagine the relief that John experienced.

5. CONCLUSION & APLICATION:
The question may arise why man cannot get insight in the destiny of the world? Will everything be revealed or not and if not, why not?

We must first realise that the future of the universe (between John’s vision and the end) are not and cannot be revealed in the next 15 chapters of Revelation. Obviously because it will take many, many more chapters than fifteen to cover that, but on the other hand, not everything is meant for us to know. Even Jesus does not know the day that He will come back ~ “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matt.24:36).

The Bible teaches that man was created with the ability to make moral choices and that he is responsible for those choices. The Fall of Man was not a predetermined event in which Adam and Eve were hapless victims of a “Puppet-Master God.” On the contrary, Adam and his wife had the ability to choose obedience (with its attendant blessing) or disobedience (with its consequent curse). According to Gen.3, they knew what the result of their decision would be, and they were held accountable. But, we are not the sovereign masters of our fate. Only God is sovereign. His sovereign control is called “providence.” He has chosen to give us a free will, and He has created a moral universe in which the law of cause-and-effect is a reality. But God is God alone, and there are no “accidents” in the universe.

As Christians, we must always remember that an all-wise, all-powerful God must have a plan, so it should be no surprise that the Bible speaks of a divine plan. God’s plan, since it belongs to God, is holy, wise, and full of grace. The providence of God is working to bring about His original plan for creation and because of our sinfulness, we are not worthy of being in a position to see His plan and the eventual destiny of the cosmos – we are just not that important. You and I are just not big enough and important enough and worthy enough to have insight in the sovereign, almighty God’s plan with His creation. Therefore, not all concerning the future will be revealed to John – to us, in the next chapters of Revelation.

God is described in the Bible as all-powerful and all-knowing (Ps.147:5), outside of time (Ex.3:14; Ps.90:2), and responsible for the creation of everything (Gen.1:1; John 1:1). These divine traits set the minimum boundary for God’s sovereign control in the universe, which is to say that nothing in the universe occurs without God’s permission. God has the power and knowledge to prevent anything He chooses to prevent, so anything that does happen must, at the very least, be “allowed” by God.

This fact must also be a tremendous encouragement, comfort and assurance to us, to know that we don’t have to worry about the outcome of anything and especially not our end, or the end of the plan and end of earth’s future, because God (our God) is in full control.

One particular place of rest and application in relation to God’s sovereignty and rule is His guidance and work to accomplish His purposes for our lives individually and corporately. Paul has this in mind, at least in part, in Phil.1:6 when he says ~ “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

The second question is, who is this “Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David”? How will the saved ones be saved and acquitted?

Kobus van der Walt

Today we must take to heart that we should honour, worship and glorify God for He is in control of everything and He will open the seals and the scroll, in fact next week, Lord willing, we will see that He already did and we will see who is this “Lion” who did it.

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Revelation: The Culmination of Scripture – 11 (“The Characters in the Throne Room”)

Revelation: The Culmination of Scripture – 11 (“The Characters in the Throne Room”)

1. INTRODUCTION:
Last Sunday we had a look at the throne and the throne room of God. We started to look at the relationship between the first three chapters of Revelation (the letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor) and the following nineteen chapters. In other words, what happened in the seven churches in Asia Minor, are also happening in churches all over the world, through all the ages until today and will happen in churches in the future until Jesus’ second coming.

We also said that we will get a glimpse of the real principles and powers operating behind the various situations noted in the seven churches. We will learn more about all the social, political, economic, ecological, cosmic and spiritual factors that happens in and around churches (and individual believers) and how these factors will unfold towards the end when Jesus will come back.

And in additional to this, we shall see the unveiling of the final destinies of both the church and her opponents.

We also focused on Rev.4:1-5 and spoke about a couple of very interesting, but also very important symbols as portrayed in the throne Room of God in heaven.

We saw that John was in the spirit, meaning that he was physically on Patmos, but his spirit was elsewhere. We also saw that a similar thing happened several times to Ezekiel when God took him to Jerusalem to see the sinful things happening there (Ez.8:13).

While in the spirit, John was taken into the throne room of God and there he saw a throne. When the Bible speaks of God’s “throne,” the emphasis is on God’s transcendence (i.e. that God exists above and independent from His creation).

Another very important fact that we looked at, was that the throne of God need not be thought of as a literal throne. God the Father is incorporeal (“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” – John 4:24 – Afrikaans: “ontasbaar/”onliggaamlik”). Not having a physical body, God does not literally “sit,” or God does not really have “hands,” “eyes,” etc. We call this anthropomorphisms – i.e. descriptions of God expressed in human terms out of deference to our limited knowledge, in other words, God has to describe Himself in ways we can understand.

In similar fashion, God’s throne and throne room are also not literal things and places and we saw that we must understand these expressions (the throne and throne room) as follow:
• The throne room is a place of power and authority
• A place of majesty and honour
• A place of perfect justice
• A place of sovereignty and holiness
• A place of praise
• A place of purity
• A place of eternal life
• A place of grace.

2. SCRIPTURE READING:
Rev.4:1-11 ~ “After this (i.e. after John has received the praise, warnings and commendations to the seven churches) I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. 3 And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. 4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, 6 and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: 7 the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. 8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” 9 And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

3. THE CHARACTERS IN THE THRONE ROOM OF GOD (vss.6-8a):
We now are going to look at the rest of what John saw in the throne room as well as getting a glimpse of God and who He is, whereby He wants to assure us of the fact that He is in control and that He governs from His throne and as a result of that, nothing, absolutely nothing will overcome His church – will overcome us as His children. Should widespread persecution again brake out against the Church of Christ, we ought to look afresh through the open door of Rev.4 and see that our God is in control and even more important, no man or principality, or power, or demon will lead us astray… ~ “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29).

• Revelation of God (vss.2-3): John is in the Spirit and the Lord gives him an astonishing vision which he is to share with the church throughout the ages. He is in the throne room of God and he sees a throne, with a Being on this heavenly throne – a Being not having bodily parts or form (this Being is incorporeal – without material form or substance). This Being is none other than God the Father. God reveals Himself through His attributes (character). Figuratively God is presented as Jasper, which is a transparent stone that stands for God’s holiness; Carnelian, a blood and red colour, represents God’s wrath; and a rainbow, signifying God’s mercy and grace (think back at Gen.9:13-17 – Noah and the rainbow). God reveals Himself as One who is holy, merciful and gracious. Because God is holy He punishes evil, hence He is also a God of wrath. And yet in His wrath He shows abundant mercy and grace. As the revelation to John unfolds, it will become clearer that in the government of God’s universe, a combination of these attributes, characterise His operations among men – e.g. when man sins, God’s reaction and action will be characterised by His attribute of holiness, or if someone confesses his sins, God’s attribute of grace and mercy will be displayed.

Some of God’s attributes are beautifully described by Paul in Rom.11:33-36 ~ “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35“Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

• Twenty-four Thrones and Elders (vs.4): John also sees “twenty-four thrones” which seated, “twenty-four elders” who were “clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads” (vs.4). Who exactly are these elders? Some people say that these twenty-four is made up of the 12 tribes of Israel in the Old Testament and 12 Apostles in the New Testament. So, these 24 elders stand symbolically as representatives of the whole church of God throughout the old and the new dispensations.

Others again, say that the 24 elders denote the 12 Patriarchs and the 12 Apostles, the totality of God’s people in the New Testament Church. This is made possible by God taking the kingdom from Israel and giving it to the Gentile world (Matt.21:43).

A third group even say that these 24 elders were angels, this however, cannot be true because we read in Rev.5:9b ~ “…you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,” therefore these elders could not be angels because angels were not redeemed by the cross of Christ.

These elders, must have been redeemed humans, but that is all that we can say about them. Who exactly they were, we don’t know, although the majority of theologians reckon that they were representative of the Old- and New Testament Church (twelve from the Old- and twelve from the New Testament). Rev.21:10-14 may support such a viewpoint ~ “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”

• Lightening, Thunder and Fire (vs.5): What else did John see in the Throne Room in heaven? Vs.5 ~ “From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God.” He saw “flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder” which are indications or signals of a coming storm which reminds us of God’s awesome power.

These “storm signals” will be repeated during the time of judgment at the end of times and it always proceeds from the throne and temple of God (Rev.8:5; 11:19; 16:18). God has indeed prepared His throne for judgment, as also portrayed in Ps.9:7-8 ~ “But the LORD sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness.”

• Seven Spirits (vs.5): We also read about seven spirits in vs.5. These seven spirits of God should be understood to represent the Holy Spirit rather than seven individual spirits or angels ~ “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear,” (Isa.11:2-3) and Rev.5:6 ~ “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” With God the Father seated on the throne and the Holy Spirit represented by the seven spirits, the stage was then set for the revelation in chapter 5, of Christ Himself as the slain Lamb, but D.V. next time more about that.

• Sea of Glass (vs.6): Apart from God Himself, the throne, the 24 elders and the Holy Spirit, there were also other characters or figures and images in the Throne Room.

Vs.6 starts off with a reference to a sea of glass, clear as crystal. It is not quite clear what the meaning of this is. The mirrorlike reflecting quality of the sea could symbolise the fact that before the sight of God, all is revealed – nothing is hidden from Him ~ “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebr.4:13).

• Four Living Creatures (vss.6-9): We also see that there are four living creatures. Many interpretations have been given of the four living creatures. As the Holy Spirit was seen symbolically in the seven lamps, for some, the four living creatures symbolically represent the attributes of God: The lion indicating majesty and omnipotence (Afrikaans: “almag/alomteenwoordigheid”); the ox, typical of faithful labour and patience; the creature with the face of a man, indicating intelligence; and the eagle, the greatest bird, representing supreme sovereignty.

Another possible view is that they represent Christ as revealed in the four Gospels: in Matthew, the lion of the tribe of Judah; in Mark, the ox as the servant of Yahweh; in Luke, the incarnate human Jesus; and in John, the eagle as the divine Son of God. Another alternative is that the four living creatures are angels (Isa.6:2–3), who extol (Afrikaans: “besing”) the attributes of God.

The most probable explanation is that these four creatures are angels which can be linked with Isaiah’s Seraphim and Ezekiel’s Cherubim. We read in Ezek.10:20 the following ~ “These were the living creatures that I saw underneath the God of Israel by the Chebar canal; and I knew that they were cherubim” (also see: Is.6:3 and Ezek.1:5-25). They are heavenly creatures of the highest order, involved with the worship of God and His government, as well as guarding the holy things of God ~ “He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life” (Gen.3:24) and Ex.25:20 ~ “The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be.” The fact that they were “full of eyes” may give the impression of their exceeding knowledge of God. Their six wings give the impression of unlimited mobility in fulfilling God’s commands and which they use in part to express their reverence and humility, and in part to show readiness and expedition in performing the orders and commands of God. Their position “in the centre, around the throne” suggests that one is before, one behind, and one on either side of the throne. The four living creatures appear throughout Revelation (5:6, 8, 14; 6:1; 7:11; 14:3; 15:7; 19:4).

4. THE SONG (vss.8b-11):
The Cherubim do not stand idle before God, like bodyguards, they ceaselessly proclaimed the holiness of God in the words of Is.6:3 ~ “And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” Vs.8 of our text for today says ~ “…they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy…,” which means that they never stop praising and worshipping God.

This song or this hymn is the first, not only of the five sung by the heavenly choirs in chapters 4 and 5, but also of a number of others in Revelation (4:8,11; 5:9-10, 12, 13;7:12, 15-17; 11:15, 17-18; 12:10-12; 15:3-4; 16:5-7; 18:2-8; 19:2-6). These hymns are very important: they relate to the interpretation of the visions and provide a clue to the literary structure of Revelation. The theme of this first hymn is God the Creator, while in Rev.5 the elders praise God the Redeemer. The praise in Rev.4 is given to the Father on the throne, while in Rev.5 it is directed to the Son (the Lamb) at the righthand side of the throne. The closing hymn (Rev. 5:13) is expressed to both, another proof of the deity of Jesus Christ. What is the deity of Christ? It is the right to forgive sins – something only God can do – as it is God who is offended by sin (Acts 5:31; Col.3:13; Ps.130:4; Jer.31:34). In close connection with this last claim, Jesus is also said to be the One who will “judge the living and the dead.”

There is also a gradual increase in the size of the choirs: the last hymn is sung by “…every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth” to “him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb” (5:13).

The second hymn praises God for his creation and is sung by the twenty-four elders (vss.9-11). When the living creatures confess the truth of God’s holy deeds, the response of this highest order of God’s heavenly creatures is to relinquish (Afrikaans: “neerlê”) the crowns of honour before the feet of Him who alone is “worthy” of “glory and honour and power,” because He alone is the source and stay (Afrikaans: “begin en einde”) of every creative thing (Ps.33:6-9; 10:25; 136:5).

The expression ~ “…by your will they existed and were created” (vs.11) present a translation difficulty, but without going into technicalities, these words can be translated as follow: “because of God’s will, they (the twenty-four elders) continually exist and have come into being.”

Why is God worthy to receive glory? First, “because (He has) created all things.” Only God is eternal – the universe is not. Only God is eternal – matter is not. This God spoke into existence all that exist (Gen.1). Second, He is worthy “because of His will they exist and were created.” God willed and creation happened. God wills it and creation continues. Had He not willed it there would be nothing. If He does not continue to will it, they will be nothing. You and I are still here because He willed it.

Kobus van der Walt

5. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
One of the most important ways in which we can acknowledge God as Creator and Sustainer is to be aware of the character of the Holy Spirit (Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord). How often do you pray that your behaviour will be characterized by the character of the Holy Spirit? My advice to you is to pray it and that you will ask God to work it in and through you all the time.

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