James – Practicing Faith – 02 (“The Sin of Partiality”)

James – Practicing Faith – 02 (“The Sin of Partiality”)(“The Sin of Partiality”) 

1.    SCRIPTURE READING:

James 2:1-13 (ESV) ~“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonoured the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honourable name by which you were called? 

If you really fulfil the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

2.    INTRODUCTION: 

“It is told that John Wesley once dreamed that he was at the gates of hell. He knocked and asked, ‘Are there any Roman Catholics here?’ ‘Yes, many,’ was the reply. ‘Any Church of England men?’ ‘Yes, many.’ ‘Any Presbyterians?’ ‘Yes, many.’ ‘Any Wesleyans here?’ ‘Yes, many.’ Disappointed and dismayed, especially at the last reply, he turned his steps upward and found himself at the gates of paradise. Here he repeated the same questions: ‘Any Wesleyans here?’ ‘No.’ ‘Whom have you, then, here?’ he asked in astonishment. ‘We do not know of any here which you have named. The only name of which we know anything here is ‘Christian’”(Source: Unknown).

3.    THE SIN OF PARTIALITY:

James starts this part of his letter by addressing his brothers in Christ. Brothers in this case referred to the men in the household of God. Good evidence exists that believing Jews at the time of Jesus frequently referred to themselves as brothers ~ “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day”(Acts 2:29). From the beginning it seemed natural for Jewish Christians to call each other “brothers”(that is, “siblings”)- the term included both male and female. Members of gentile religious communities also called each other brothers, so the name found a home in the gentile churches as well.

In fact, along with “disciple” (in Acts) and “saint” (always plural in the writings of Paul and the book of Revelation), it was one of the most popular names for Christians and the only one used in James and 1 John. Each Christian was called “brother,” and the Christians collectively were “the brothers.” The name stressed the intimacy of the Christian community. That is, the relationship of believers to one another was as close as that of blood kin. The title brother points to equality among members of the Christian community.

We see in 2:1 that he is not only calling them “brothers,” but he also calls them ~ “…men that hold to the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

James is not beating around the bush, because he immediately, after addressing them as brothers in Christ who is holding to their faith in Christ, tells them not to show any partiality. This is a similar point that Paul made in 1 Tim.5:21 ~ “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.”

What does the word “partiality”or “favouritism”mean? We could define it as follows: “Partiality is the unfair treatment of a person or group in preference to another. Favouritism is shown in Scripture as causing division both in the family and in the church. It is warned against in the administration of justice. The human tendency to partiality is contrasted with God’s impartial dealings.” 

In the original text (Greek)the word that is used here, is προσωπολημψία (“prosopolepsia”)and it literally means, “to make unjust distinctions between people by treating one person better than another – ‘to show favouritism’ (Louw-Nida).

We find several instances in the Word of God where people showed partiality towards certain people and we can divide these examples in different categories:

First, we find partiality, in… 

  • Family Life:We read in Genesis about partiality in Isaac’s household ~ “Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob”(Gen.25:28).

Secondly, we find partiality in church relationships.

  • Church Relationships:“Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution”(Acts 6:1). We also find a warning that partiality is not allowed in the justice system.
  • Justice System:“But you have dishonoured the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court?” (James 2:6).

In contrast to this, we see in Job 34:19 that God has no favourites.

  • God has no Favourites: “God…who shows no partiality to princes, nor regards the rich more than the poor, for they are all the work of his hands?”(Job 34:19)and Matt.5:45 ~ “…so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Many people believe that the Jews are still God’s favourite nation, but God does not differentiate between nations.

  • God does not Differentiate Between Nations:For God, there is no difference between Jewish and Gentile Christians – we see that in Romans 10:12 ~ “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.

Another very important fact about God is that He judges all without favouritism.

  • God judges all without favouritism:2 Chron.19:7 ~ “Now then, let the fear of the Lord be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the Lord our God, or partiality or taking bribes.”

James is building on this same theme when he tells his brothers in 2:2-3 that they are not allowed as believers, to show partiality. He uses two examples by comparing a rich man with a gold ring and fine clothing, with a poor man in shabby clothing and both entering the assembly. He warns them and tells them that if they discriminate between these two men by offering the rich man a good place to sit, while the poor man must stand or sit on the floor, they are judging with evil thoughts and are making distinctions.

In 2:4 James asks a rhetorical question, “…have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges?” Without waiting for an answer, he tells them in 2:5-7 that God has chosen… ~ “…those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonoured the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Furthermore, the rich are the ones who blaspheme the honourable name of Jesus Christ, the One by which they as his brothers, were called.”

This, of course is a very strange remark by James, because is it really true that the rich are dragging the poor into courts and are the rich in general blaspheming Christ? What is James’ motivation with such a statement?  What is the background for this remark? Why does he use this comparison? How must we understand it?

Roman courts always favoured the rich, who could initiate lawsuits against social inferiors, although social inferiors could not initiate lawsuits against them. In theory, Jewish courts sought to avoid this discrimination, but as in most cultures people of means naturally had legal advantages: they were able to argue their cases more articulately or to hire others to do so for them. With regards to the poor man that has to stand and the rich man who could sit, Matthew Henry explains this in the light of the fact that… “The wealthy apparently were applying legal pressure to the poor, perhaps regarding wages, rent, and other forms of debt”(Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume).

4.    THE EFFECTS OF PARTIALITY:

When we look at King David, we see that his partiality blinded his eyes to his children’s evil actions, particularly Amnon’s rape of his half-sister, Tamar; and Absalom’s murder of Amnon and his rebellion against David himself (2 Sam.13-18). Later, he ignored Adonijah’s preparations to take over his throne, in spite of his expressed desire to have Solomon succeed him (1 Kings 1).

In the story of Esther, Haman’s prejudice almost cost the lives of all the Jews living in the Persian Empire (Esther 3-8). Only an act of great courage and self-sacrifice saved the Jews from annihilation (Afrikaans: “uitwissing”).

The Bible contains a host of other examples that thoroughly demonstrate the insidiousness (Afrikaans:“verraderlikheid”)of this potential sin. It is clear that the effects of partiality are the real problem. 

We read in 2:13 ~ “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”From this we can clearly see that partiality and judgment are synonyms, in other words, when we apply partiality (or discrimination)towards other people, we are judging them and to judge someone is to be merciless towards them – how can we then expect mercy from God if we are merciless towards other people?

Piper, points seven reasons out, that James gives for why we should not show partiality:

  • Partiality contradicts faith in Jesus Christ as the Lord of glory ~ “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory”(2:1).
  • Partiality reveals a judging heart and behind it evil thinking ~ “For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ while you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there,’ or, ‘Sit down at my feet,’ have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (2:2-4).
  • Partiality to the rich contradicts God’s heart, because he has chosen many of the poor for Himself ~ “Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?” (2:5).
  • Partiality dishonours people created in the image of God ~ “But you have dishonoured the poor man” (2:6a).
  • Partiality to the rich backfires and becomes your downfall ~ “Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honourable name by which you were called?” (2:6b-7).
  • Partiality makes you a transgressor of the law of liberty ~ “But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law” (2:9-11).
  • Partiality is not mercy. But if you don’t show mercy, you will perish ~ “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (2:13).

God is so good to us not merely to tell us what to do, as if He were only an authority, but to tell us why. He has reasons. He wants us not only to submit, but to submit with some understanding. He wants us to see the beauty and the wisdom and the goodness of His commands. So, He gives us reasons to do what He says.

5.    CONCLUSION & APPLICATION: 

As South Africans we are no strangers to partiality. We are no strangers to the concept of favouritism, or its twin brother discrimination. We see partiality all around us. We see it in our country’s history, we see it in our current government, we see it in business and sport, we see it in Xenophobia, and we see it in our own hearts.

As we’ve already seen, the Bible is clear that favouritism is a sin and God calls us to avoid discrimination. 

James is calling on us to be impartial, just as our God is impartial. In fact, we are to take special care of those who are less fortunate, or vulnerable, or different to us, because that is what God does! For example, we can reach out to strangers (at the church, at the work in our neighbourhood), to other races and people of other cultures. We can have fellowship with people even if we are not on the “same social, intellectual or financial level.”Look at your own attitude, stop laughing at others, make jokes of others, gossip about others who are less intellectual, less fortunate or poor. Stop being condescending (Afrikaans:“neerhalend”) towards others (“down talk”).

We must investigate our hearts and determine whether we are guilty of the sin of partiality; of discrimination; whether we are giving special attention to some people and act condescendingly towards others. And if we find that we are guilty, we must confess our sin and repent of it. 

Beloved, James is very clear in 2:12-13 that those who are law-breakers will face God’s judgment. Judgment without mercy will be shown to all those who have shown partiality towards others. Surely, we cannot expect God to act mercifully towards us if we are not prepared to show mercy to others. Discrimination shows that we lack mercy and will therefore come under judgment. 

And notice the answer to the favouritism and discrimination that flows so naturally from our sinful hearts. The answer is: mercy. We are to treat others kindly, with compassion, and sympathy, and understanding – with mercy. That’s what God does, and that’s at the heart of “loving our neighbour as ourselves.

In order to treat others (all people) with mercy is also to have empathy with them. Empathy is to get into someone else’s shoes. Empathy is the capacity to feel another person’s feelings, thoughts, or attitudes. The apostle Peter told Christians to have ~ “…compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous” (1 Pet.3:8 NKJV). The apostle Paul also encouraged empathy when he exhorted fellow Christians to ~ “…rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn”(Rom.12:15).

Empathy is related to sympathy but is narrower in focus and is generally considered more deeply personal. Compassion, sympathy, and empathy all have to do with having passion (feeling)for another person because of his or her suffering. True empathy is the feeling of actually participating in the suffering of another.

The apostle John asked, ~ “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 Joh.3:17). Pity in this verse is related to empathy, and both require action. As Christians we are commanded to love our neighbour and to have intense love for fellow believers (Matt.22:39; 1 Pet.4:8). 

Notice the humdinger(Afrikaans: “knaller”)at the end of 1:13 ~“Mercy triumphs over judgment.”Those who act mercifully towards others will experience God’s mercy and they will avoid His judgment. What a profound phrase… Think about it… We cannot expect God to not discriminate against us (and show us mercy)if we are not prepared to fight our sinful tendencies to discriminate against others.

Hebrews 10:26 says ~ “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.”

The Gospel of the Lord Jesus tells us that there is forgiveness to be found in Him for the sin that fills our hearts. Pray that God will forgive our sins of partiality and that He will help us to love all His people, just the way He has made us.

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James: Practicing Faith – 01 (“Testing Your Faith”)

James: Practicing Faith – 01(“Testing Your Faith”)]

James 1:1-18

Greetings. 
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also, will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures
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2. INTRODUCTION:

The letter by the Apostle James is sometimes called “the Proverbs of the New Testament,”and it is also considered one of the General Epistles, like the epistles of Peter, John, and Jude. The book of James practically and faithfully reminds Christians how to live, from perseverance, to true faith, to controlling one’s tongue, submitting to God’s will and having patience (therefore the title for this series: “James, Practicing Faith”). This book aids readers in living authentically and wisely for Christ. 

Many have claimed that James and the apostle Paul differed on the question of faith versus works, but in reality, the spiritual fruit that James talks about simply demonstrates the true faithof which Paul wrote. Their writings are complementary rather than contradictory. 

Possibly one of the earliest of the New Testament writings (A.D. 40–50), the book is believed to have been written by Jesus’ brother James – Gal.1:19 ~ “But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother.”

This letter is addressed to “the 12 tribes scattered among the nations”(James 1:1). It is likely Peter wrote to the Jewish Christians scattered to the West (1 Pet.1:1), whilst James addressed the Jewish Christians scattered to the East, in Babylon and Mesopotamia.

This letter has a marked Jewish flavour. Someone once said that, this book has the substance and authority of the Prophets and the style and beauty of the Psalms. The book of James is as much a lecture as it is a letter. Though it opens with the customary salutation of an epistle, it lacks personal references common in a letter and it has no concluding benediction.

In “The Bible Knowledge Commentary,”Stylesays:“ In addition to his unique and innovative style, James furnishes an unusual number of references or parallels to other writings. He makes reference to Abraham, Rahab, Job, Elijah, to the Law and the Ten Commandments, and includes allusions to passages in 21 Old Testament books (Genesis through Deuteronomy, Joshua, 1 Kings, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and 7 of the 12 Minor Prophets).


James’ teaching strongly resembles that of John the Baptist (e.g., James 1:22, 27 with Matt. 3:8; James 2:15-16 with Luke 3:11; James 2:19-20 with Matt. 3:9; James 5:1-6 with Matt. 3:10-12). Probably James, like Peter, John, and Andrew, had heard John the Baptist preach. Amazing parallelisms exist between James’ letter and the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. James did not actually quote the Lord’s words, but he obviously had internalised His teachings and reproduced them with spiritual depth.”

3. GREETING (1:1):

James just introduces himself as James a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” He did not indicate his “status” in the church or that he was the Lord’s brother, nor that he was an Apostle. The lack of title suggests that he was well known and had the authority to send a letter of this kind.

We also see in 1:1 that he addresses this letter to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion.”Who are therecipients of this letter?: 

12 Tribes: The letter was written not for Jews (the “twelve tribes” in a literal sense) but rather for Christians (2:1 ~ My brothers…). Paul would definitely not call all members of the twelve tribes of Israel his brothers, thus we can be certain this letter was sent to his Christian brothers. Still, it may have been written for Jewish Christians (i.e., Christians who belong to the literal twelve tribes), or at least for Christians who have a strong appreciation of their Jewish heritage.

Furthermore, although the 12 tribal divisions ceased to function as geopolitical units in 722 BC, biblical writers continued to use this designation for Israel. The prophets used this term to refer to the future restored people of God. We read in Ezek.47:1 ~ “Thus says the Lord God: “This is the boundary by which you shall divide the land for inheritance among the twelve tribes of Israel. Joseph shall have two portions. Isaiah penned this fact, when the Lord spoke to him and said in Isa.49:6 (ASV) ~ “It is too light a thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.” Here of course, the Lord referred to the end of the 12 Tribe System and pointing forward to the coming of Christ Jesus who will save His people from ~ “…every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Rev.7:9). In short then, this specific reference to the 12 tribes therefore, does not refer to a literal 12 tribes (the descendants of Abraham), but to a metaphorical 12 tribes which are all the believers (true Christians) who are the new Israel.

4. TESTING YOUR FAITH (1:2-3):

In 1:2-3, James tells the believers that when they meet trials of various kinds, they must count it all withjoy.

He furthermore says by implication that, when they experience trials and they rejoice in it, they can be assured of spiritual growth (steadfastness). Note, that he does not say IFyou experience trials. No, he says WHENyou experience trials. In other words, every Christian WILLexperience trials of various kinds. 

The word trials” and the expression various kinds” show us that we as believers WILL experience several occasions of trials – trials will come and go or in many cases, some believers might even experience trials on a permanent- or semi-permanent basis (think of poverty, constant pain, discrimination in the workplace, etc.). 

Trials of various kinds”may also be severe afflictions (Is.48:10) and attacks from Satan (Job 2:7). Whatever the source of the testing, it is to our benefit to undergo the trials that God allows, because, when we experience trials, we are in actual fact experiencing a testing of our faith. How will we act upon trials? How will we handle it? What does a testing of our faith mean?

  • When God tests His children, He does a valuable thing. David sought God’s testing, he asked Him to examine his heart and mind and see that they were true to Him (Ps.26:2; 139:23). When Abram was tested by God in the matter of sacrificing Isaac, Abram obeyed (Heb.11:17–19)and showed to all the world that he was the father of faith (Rom.4:16).
  • In both the Old and New Testaments, the word “test”means “to prove by trial.” Therefore, when God tests His children, His purpose isto prove that our faith is real. Not that God needs to prove it to Himself since He knows all things, but He is proving to us that our faith is real, that we are truly His children, and that no trial will overcome our faith.
  • In His Parable of the Sower, Jesus identifies the ones who fall away as those who receive the seed of God’s Word with joy, but, as soon as a time of testing comes along, they fall away. Perseverance in testing however, results in spiritual maturity and completeness.
  • James says that the testing of our faith develops perseverance, which leads to maturity in our walk with God (James 1:3-4). 
  • James goes on to say that testing is a blessing, because, when the testing is over and we have stood the test,” we will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him”(James 1:12). Testing comes from our heavenly Father who…~ “…works all things together for good for those who love Him and who are called to be the children of God”(Rom.8:28).

We must also be aware of the fact that we as Christians are not the only people who experience trials, tribulations and hardships, but the world experience all these things too, but with the difference that it is not a testing of their faith, because they don’t have faith in Christ Jesus. The most important difference is that they don’t have an answer on their tests, like we have and therefore, we as believers who have the answer, must reach out to these people and offer them the solution – the solution that lies in Christ Jesus ~ Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others”(Phil.2:3-4) and Matt.5:14-16 ~ You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

5. STEADFASTNESS (1:4-12, 17-18):

In 1:4-12 and 1:17-18, James gives us the results of perseverance through the testing of our faith. He says that if we persevere through our trials, the perseverance will produce steadfastness. The Greek word for “steadfastness,”is ὑπομονή,ῆς (hypomenõ)and it literally means to have the capacity to continue to bear up under difficult circumstances – to ‘endure,’ ‘being able to endure.’If we look at 1 Thes.1:3, we see that this endurance is inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ ~ “Remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Our motivation; our drive through trials, must have a goal: our perfection and completeness in Christ Jesus, meaning that we will not lack anything. Our goal then, is to become perfect adults in Christ who is longing for solid spiritual food ~ “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil”(Hebr.5:14)…and to be complete in our entire being, spirit, soul, and body, without blame ~ “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”(1 Thes.5:23).

In 1:5 James says that people who lack wisdom must ask God for it, because He gives generously when His children ask Him for wisdom. At first this may sound strange, because the question is, what has wisdom to do with trials? This kind of wisdom that James refers to is the knowledge of God’s plans and purposes and the ability to live accordingly. In other words, wise people can identify the nature and purpose of their trials and understand how to overcome them and if you don’t have that kind of wisdom – ask for it.

There is however, a condition when asking and that condition is faith and with no doubt(1:6). When we doubt and have no faith, we are like a ship without a rudder and will surely run aground – we will not be able to withstand trials and reach our ultimate goal with the trials that we experience, namely to become perfect and complete in Christ.

James 1:9-11 is one of those “theme interrupters”that doesn’t seem to flow with the letter. In verses 1-8, James discusses our attitude in temptation. He picks up the theme again in verses 12-27, but right in the centre, we find verses 9-11. James discusses the whole issue of one of the trickiest temptations for Christians and that is to look at our outward circumstances as a sign of God’s approval. Michel Lankford explains this as follows: “Making unhealthy comparisons between brethren is a snare to both rich and poor alike. Those who are wealthier tend to fall into the trap of believing that they are approved by God and that their prosperity is the proof. It can lead to elitism and pride. For the poor, focusing on their circumstances and comparing themselves to their wealthier brethren can lead them to feel contempt for their brothers, or worse, rejected by God. This can be a dangerous trap because those circumstances are temporary. They will fade away. One of the keys to true spiritual health and happiness is not to judge your outward and temporary circumstances as an indicator of your relationship with God, (cf. Matthew 5:45; Philippians 4:12-13). Notice that James told both the rich and poor to ‘glory in their situation.’ In every life there are times of sorrow and tragedy. The grass always looks greener on the other side, but in every life, there are times of prosperity and rejoicing. The key to true happiness is to learn how to cooperate with God in whatever circumstance we find ourselves.”

James concludes this whole issue of steadfastness by saying in 1:17-18 that God gives only good and perfectgifts to believers and would not vary from that principle – He knows what is good for us ~ And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose”(Rom.8:28).

6. TEMPTATION (1:13-16):

In 1:13-14 James warns all believers, that there is a huge difference between trials and temptation. As we’ve already seen, trials come from God and the goal is to help us grow spiritually, but James says that when believers experience temptation, that it is not God who tempts them, but their own fleshly desires – their inner enticement (Afrikaans: “verlei”) to sin. Believers must therefore, never excuse their sin by blaming God for the temptation. James’ point here is to lay responsibility for sin clearly at the door of each individual. It is our own “evil desire” that is the real source of temptation.

To reinforce his teaching that God does not tempt people, James reminds us of what God does do: He gives his people good and perfect gifts. God’s supreme gift to us is the new birth – salvation in and through Christ Jesus. 

7. CONCLUSION & APPLICATION:

As we’ve already seen during the sermon, during times of trials, there are a couple of things to remember.

  • Trials are valuable. We have to pray during times of trials for discernment, in order to understand that our trials are valuable.
  • Proof of real faith:We must be thankful and we must praise the Lord for our faith. Trials show whether our faith is real or not. 
  • Maturity and completeness:To be able to endure in trials, we have to share our time of testing with brothers and sisters and not shy away from them. Our brothers and sisters will help us to get perspective and to grow in our faith. 
  • Perseverance:We must accept trials because it teaches us to persevere. Instead of trying to avoid trials, ask God to use it to accomplish good purposes in your life.
  • Blessing: We will be blessed, if we withstand and endure through trials…

Keep in mind that God never allows hardships into your life simply to punish you, but only to correct and train you. Choose to repent of your sins and learn from your mistakes and pray for the strength to continue to follow Him, and know that He will reward you in heaven for your faithfulness.

Kobus van der Walt
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No, ‘Saul the Persecutor’ Did Not Become ‘Paul the Apostle’

No, ‘Saul the Persecutor’ Did Not Become ‘Paul the Apostle’

I keep coming across a “sticky” misconception that God (specifically, Jesus) changed the name of an important figure we now typically refer to as “Saint Paul.”

In a recent sermon, I heard: “Just like Saul the persecutor can become Paul the apostle, God is gracious to us.” On an exam, one of my brightest students wrote: “It is Saul, who is re-named as Paul, who is the primary messenger of the gospel.” A church member asked me, “Wait, you mean Jesus didn’t change Saul’s name to Paul on the Damascus Road?”

 

The problem is that such a view, however common, isn’t accurate. I hate to ruin the fun.

Popular But Unbiblical

I’m unclear on the origins of this idea—though some industrious person has no doubt studied it—but it seems this Saul-renamed-Paul notion is a clever re-reading of an Old Testament storyline onto that of the great apostle.

As is well known, God prominently changed the names of two Old Testament patriarchs: Abram to Abraham (Gen. 17:5) and Jacob to Israel (Gen. 32:28). The idea seems to be that something similar happened to Paul when he encountered Jesus on the Damascus Road (Acts 9).

There is no scriptural evidence, however, to support a name change for Saul/Paul. Here are six lines of biblical evidence that prove the popular notion wrong:

1. Jesus addresses him as “Saul, Saul” during the christophany (Acts 9:4).

Nothing in the narrative suggests Jesus subsequently changed Saul’s name. In Galatians 1:15–17, Paul speaks of being set apart before birth to preach to the Gentiles, but there is no mention of any name change.

2. Ananias addresses him as “Saul” after his conversion (Acts 9:17).

There is no mention of a name change, and he is still calling him “Saul” after the christophany.

3. The Holy Spirit calls him “Saul” before his first missionary trip.

Acts 13:2 says, “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’” It would be odd for the third person of the Trinity to keep calling this man by his “persecutor” name if the second person of the Trinity had changed it to his “apostle” name four chapters earlier.

4. After the conversion experience, he is called “Saul” 11 more times.

Again, this would be odd if Jesus had changed his name to Paul.

5. The decisive shift from “Saul” to “Paul” in Acts happens only once Paul sets off on his missionary journeys away from Jerusalem.

This subtle shift occurs in Acts 13:13: “Now Paul and his companions set sail.” The person who “changes” his name is not Jesus, but Luke.

6. Saul and Paul were two names for the same person all along.

Acts 13:9 is the clincher: “But Saul, who was also called Paul, [was] filled with the Holy Spirit.” Here the converted person is being called both Saul and Paul—not “Saul the tyrant who was renamed Paul the Christian.” Saul and Paul are dual names of one man, both before and after his conversion.

Paul Is Saul  

As it turns out, “Saul”—derived from the famous first king of Israel, from the tribe of Benjamin, to which Saul/Paul himself belonged (Phil. 3:5)—is simply the Hebrew name for this person.  “Paul”—a normal koine name—is his Greek name, derived from the Latin surname Paulus.

For someone born in Tarsus (Acts 21:39) but educated under Gamaliel in Jerusalem (Acts 22:3) in a strict form of Pharisaism (Gal. 1:14; Phil. 3:5–6), this is not unusual. Much as many immigrants to English-speaking worlds take an Anglicized name on top of their ethnic name, many Greek-speaking Jews in Paul’s day would have a Jewish/Hebrew name and a Hellenistic/Greek name.

Here’s the smoking gun: When Paul recalls his conversion, he specifically notes that Jesus was “saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’” (Acts 26:14). Paul draws attention to how Jesus addressed him in his Hebrew name, and makes no mention that it is now abandoned.

When Saul/Paul launches his Gentile-focused ministry among primarily Greek-speakers (beginning with Acts 13:9), it’s natural for Luke, the author of Acts, to begin referring exclusively to him by his Greek name. Nor is it surprising that he’s later referred to as “Paul” in Jerusalem, since there were Greek speakers there too. Indeed, Luke could be making a thematic point by shifting from Saul to Paul around chapter 13, given the broader theme of Acts (e.g., 1:8). After all, the church’s nucleus is shifting from predominantly Jewish-centered Jerusalem to the Greek-centered “ends of the earth,” such as Rome.

The apostle’s two names is not unique. Several other figures in the New Testament have two given names: Joseph, later called Barnabas (Acts 4:36); Simeon, also called Niger (Acts 13:1); and Thomas, also called Didymus (John 21:2); among others.

Why It Matters

So why does clarity on this issue matter? Why would I rain on the parade of someone for whom a divine name change from Saul (bad guy) to Paul (good guy) is a cherished illustration of God’s grace?

Theological ideas not rooted in God’s Word—even if attractive and useful—are ultimately unwarranted. I can imagine how easy it is to draw powerful applications from the notion that Saul the persecutor met the risen Jesus and was so transformed that Jesus gave him a new name. That will preach, especially given how closely connected naming and identity are in Scripture. Nevertheless, without biblical evidence for such an idea, we should not use it. Even if it spoils the fun.

This principle applies well beyond this situation, of course. Another common error is the conflation of the magi with the shepherds at the manger. The magi were not there at the same time; they found Jesus months later. We can derive the right doctrine from the wrong text, and we can derive the wrong doctrine from the right text.

As God’s people we should endeavor to read God’s Word closely and be as faithful to it as possible, in every area. Application that appears to draw on Scripture but isn’t actually scriptural—even if it’s “useful” or “cool”—can easily undermine someone’s faith once they realize they’ve been misled all along.

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Spiritual Stability

Spiritual Stability

1. SCRIPTURE READING:
Phil.4:1-9 (ESV) ~ “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. 2I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. 3Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have laboured side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. 4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

2. INTRODUCTION:
We must agree that the church in general is very unstable and both the church as well as many of God’s children, seemingly do not remain standing against the onslaughts of Satan. In addition, we experience divisiveness; various problems; anxiety; pain and heartache, as well as disillusionment, etc.

The question now is; why does this happen? Because we so often do not conform to the requirements of the Word of God and consequently we have a lack of stability in our own lives and in the life of the congregation. In addition, the church and believers are under a full-scale and never-ending attack of the enemy. ln Joh.16:1-4 Jesus prepared us to expect this combat ~ “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.” We must be aware of these satanic attacks, and that is why Jesus warned us to be vigilant. Peter and Paul constantly refer to this matter in their letters. We must never underestimate our own fleshly desires. So many times, we want to be considered as important, accepted by others, and often we want to be pitied for our own selfish reasons. We often compromise with the world making so-called love our excuse.

What I want to say is that we so often – give in to the attacks of Satan and our own sinful desires, as well as our sinful inclination. Paul issues a clear warning in our Scripture reading in order to ensure that we have no misconceptions regarding these matters.

3. SPIRITUAL STABILITY:
Our Scripture reading starts with the word “therefore” and I’m sure that you all know that when a verse or a paragraph in Scripture starts with the word “therefore,” we must immediately ask the question “wherefore”? In this case, the “therefore” is a glorious bridge between chapter 3, with all its great doctrinal statements, and the intensely practical chapter 4. Verse one summarises the preceding doctrines in one practical issue. Because of what Jesus Christ has done for us – because of His life, death, and resurrection and the resulting victory over sin and the devil – we are now to stand firm in Him and united as God’s soldiers against a spiritually hostile environment.

4. THE CHURCH IN PHILIPPI:
We must not be misled regarding the church in Philippi. They had an excellent relationship with Paul and he loved them dearly. They befriended and supported him under very difficult circumstances (4:16). For a lengthy period of time they were the only congregation that supported him financially (4:15). They worked closely with him (1:5); he held them in his heart (1:7); they prayed for him (1:19) and he longed to be with them (2:24).

All these admirable attributes did not imply that they were faultless. When we read through the whole Epistle we find that there was selfishness. Some people had fallen from a position of spiritual stability to become proud and haughty and consequently regarded their own interests as more important than those of others, or even more important than what God expected from them. There was conflict and the fact that Paul found it necessary to resolve these issues implies that the leaders were not doing their duty. People were also ungrateful, signifying what we often encounter in churches today.

Paul was deeply concerned regarding this church – that is exactly how we should be feeling about the church in general today. This compels us to examine ourselves regularly to ascertain whether there are deep-seated problems in our midst and should there be such problems the question is “What are we doing about it? What IS the leadership doing about it?” The leadership must always begin with themselves. If there is no spiritual stability among the leaders it will be reflected in the congregation.

Where there is no such stability we are being deprived of many things. It is a source of unhappiness and disillusionment for any person caught in this trap.

Not one of us wants to be caught in this whirlpool of sin and unhappiness. All of us want to be happy in the Lord. Every one of us desires to be stable and steadfast and we want to grow spiritually. The question is HOW? How can I be steadfast? How can I be like Christ? How can I live a holy life? How can I become spiritually mature? All these things are basic principles for a Christian life How can we remain standing? How can we prevent being burdened by sin or even succumbing to the attacks of the enemy and the world?

The key to these questions is found in Phil.4:1 ~ “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” Stand Firm in the Lord! Stand firm!

This is not the first time Paul said this to them He also said it in 1:27 ~ “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”

The Greek verb used is στήκω (“steko”) which literally means to defend your territory when it is being attacked. And that explains everything! Take your stand against Satan’s attacks! Don’t give in when being persecuted – don’t compromise – Stand firm!

In 4:2-9 Paul provides them with a few basic and very practical principles on how to live a stable, steadfast spiritual life under the guidance of the Holy Spirit – he gave us the solution as to how to deal with spiritual warfare. In order to live a victorious Christian life, you must study the principles recorded in these verses, which we can see as the Pastoral Heart of the Word of God and they should be practised in the Church.

Let us look briefly at Paul’s instructions and principles:
• Agree: We find the first principle in 4:2b ~ “…to agree in the Lord.” Peace and harmony are prerequisites in a congregation. Whenever a congregation experiences instability or conflict (sin in other words), spiritual stability cannot be expected. Spiritual steadfastness has nothing to do with your circumstances – it has everything to do with your attitude! It involves your thinking? Are your thoughts God-centred or self-centred? This is the same thing that Paul had in mind earlier when he wrote in 2:5 ~ “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (NIV).

In 2:2, Paul singles out two of his Philippian readers by name and asks them to adopt a common mind “in the Lord.” Although the point is disputed by commentators, the disagreement between these two women may have been at the bottom of the disunity that concerned Paul throughout the letter. But Paul’s exhortation to Euodia and Syntyche is simple: He asked them to overcome their dispute with one another (putting down), by putting the qualities that he mentioned in 2:1-4 into practice (putting on). In other words, they should be in a Spirit-produced fellowship with one another and this relationship should be characterised by “tenderness and compassion;” a mutual love, and a unity of purpose. It should, in addition, lead them to put the interests of the other ahead of their own. They must therefore “agree in the Lord.” There must be peace and harmony between these two ladies. This is also an indication to us, to realise the importance of discipline (Matt.18) in the church – in able to enjoy a Spirit-produced fellowship, discipline must be applied if sin is present in the church.

• Rejoice: We find our second principle in 4:4 ~ “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” Why must we always be glad? Let me give you a few reasons – I can rejoice because:
– God controls my life;
– God saved me through His Son and our Saviour Jesus Christ and thus made me His own;
– He promised me an inheritance in Christ Jesus;
– Jesus is coming to fetch me to be with Him throughout eternity. He is already preparing a place for me.
– I am glad because God is enabling me to serve Jesus Christ;
– God is using me to lead others to Christ, as well as to encourage other Christians to love Him more deeply and to serve Him better;
– I am full of joy because I have immediate access to God, through Jesus Christ my Mediator – and He listens to every word I say;
– I am full of joy because death will be my gain.

And so, we can add more reasons for being joyful, Are you full of joy? Just give some thought to who God really is and who you are in Jesus Christ. Re-adjust your focus. Look beyond yourself and focus on God and His Word.

Remember 4:4 ~ “Rejoice…” In other words, Rejoice – NOT in your circumstances, but IN THE LORD!

What, if you have lost this joy? Be still and take your focus away from your circumstances and yourself and put it where it belongs. Remember – That is an instruction – a command! And, whether we want to hear it or not – to disobey this command is a sin (which of course, is never joyful).

• Reasonableness: We read in 4:5 ~ “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” Here we encounter a problem. Let us look at different Bible translations, The NAV (1983 – ‘Nuwe Afrikaanse Vertalig’ – for those of you who are Afrikaans speaking) “praat hier van, ‘inskiklik.’” The OAV (1933 – ‘Ou Afrikaanse Vertaling’) “vertaal ‘reasonableness’ met ‘vriendelik.’” The K.J.V. speaks of ‘moderation.’ The World English Bible translates it as ‘gentleness.’ The Young’s Literal Translation says ‘forbearance.’ The Tyndale Translation says ‘softness’ (German: “nachsicht”).

What does Paul mean? In this instance the Greek is very difficult to translate but the most apt meaning is most probably ‘gracious humility.’

What happens is this. You can for instance say:
– You offended me;
– You ill-treated me;
– You condemned me;
– You gave me a misrepresentation;
– I did not deserve what you gave or said about me;
– You did not give me what I deserved.

We can go on adding to the list. What should my reaction be to all of this? I must say: “You did all of these things to me, but I accept it with gracious humility! I do not make any claims.”

But Paul also says ~ “Let your gracious humility be known to everyone.” Our gentleness – our humility – our reasonableness, must not be hidden. In our dark and cruel world, the light of our Saviour Jesus Christ and His Gospel shines brightly by gentle words and deeds which come from those who are learning Iowliness and meekness from Him who has bidden us to take up His yoke. My dear brother and sister, gracious humility and gentleness may be the first thing that a lost sinner notices about you, long before you have the opportunity to share the Gospel verbally with him, or her.

Gentleness enables a Christian to relate to children and very old folk, to the bereaved and sick sufferers, to those who are depressed and to those who have failed, as well as to those whose life seems “normal” for the time being.

• Anxious: We find our fourth principle in 4:6(a) ~ “…do not be anxious about anything…” Take all your anxieties to God’s throne. Don’t be spiritually unstable, it is unnecessary, because God is with us.

• Prayer: 4:6(b) ~ “…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” We must pray with thanksgiving in our heart – in other words, try to see God’s purpose in all circumstances and trials and thank Him, the sovereign God. Thank Him for…:
– The fact that He is always available;
– His unfailing promises;
– His plan for your life;
– His provision;
– His perfect work in your life;
– The promise of His return and everlasting life.

Thank, God instead of questioning Him. Thank God instead of doubting Him, Thank Him instead of rebelling against Him. 1 Pet.5:7 says ~ “…casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you” and I add to it, “with thanksgiving in your hearts.”

What is the result of such an attitude? 4:7 ~ “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Guard you from what? Guard us from fear, anxiety and doubt.

Beloved, if we give our burdens to the Lord, we will find, peace and rest in our spirits. This peace will stand at the door of our hearts and guard our hearts and minds, so that anxious care and worry cannot enter. It is a glorious peace from the Lord that unbelievers cannot find and cannot explain, and it is a peace that even believers themselves cannot fully understand.

• Truth: To attain and maintain spiritual stability we must focus on the Godly virtues – those Godly virtues mentioned in Phil.4:8 ~ “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely. whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Please note – The last phrase is an instruction. Think about these things! THINK!

What must we think about?
– Whatever is true;
– Whatever is honourable;
– Whatever is just;
– Whatever is pure;
– Whatever is lovely;
– Whatever is commendable;
– Anything that is excellent or praiseworthy.

This is so different from what the world teaches us. Psychologists say we must delve into our past (“the rubbish bin of self”) if we want to get rid of trauma and psychosis, etc. No! We must do what the Word advises us to do. Focus on what is written in the Word of God – Focus on the Truth and you will experience stability. Then you will be spiritually and emotionally healthy. You will overcome the harassment of your traumatic past and you will be able to overcome the onslaughts of this world – you will be able to overcome the onslaughts of Satan and your own flesh. Then you will be happy and you, brothers and sisters, will no longer be stumbling blocks, Think about these things!

• Practice: Paul gives yet another list in 4:9 and he says that we must do these things – we must put these things into practice What are they? Paul says ~ “What you have learned and received and heard, and seen in me – practice these things.” The Philippian believers had to put into practice the truths that Paul has embodied as well as taught them. These truths must be put into practice. We have to live in such a way that the things we say are not drowned out by the lives we live. R.G. LeTourneau, inventor of the prototypes of nearly every piece of earth-moving equipment in use today, said: “If you are not serving the Lord, it proves you don’t love Him. If you don’t love Him, it proves you don’t know Him., because to know Him is to love Him, and to love Him is to serve Him.”

True believers therefore hear. They meditate until they understand. Then they act upon it, putting it into constant practice, thereby showing that their house was built on rock. The result of this? 4:9b – Here we see that the God of peace will be with those who add holy obedience to their convictions and belief.

5. CONCLUSION & APPLICATION:
Our God of peace became Man for us. He died to give us peace with God. He rose again and ascended into heaven and will return to establish His reign of piece and He is with us now.

I know that none of these principles are easy. The difficulty of doing them and living them is where the problem of unity lies. It is one thing to say to each other: “Well, let us be of the same mind and work together. Let us rejoice. Let us show moderation,” but it is quite another thing to put these words into practice. Fortunately, Paul also knew how difficult it is and therefore he has given us the solution to the problem. Have you ever noticed how many times he speaks of “being in the Lord”? In the original text, he mentioned this, three times in the first four verses of chapter four and once he reminded the Philippians that…~ “the Lord is near.” The solution is the Lord Jesus Christ. It is He who will do in our lives, through the Holy Spirit, what we might judge impossible.

Kobus van der Walt

Christian unity will occur only as we surrender ourselves to Him and seek His will as His Holy Spirit enters our lives and begins to make us into the kind of men and women, children and young people that He would have us to be.

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Revelation: The Culmination of Scripture – 22 (“The Angel and the Little Scroll”)

Revelation: The Culmination of Scripture – 22 (“The Angel and the Little Scroll”)

1. SCTPTURE READING:
Rev.10:1-11 ~ “Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a
cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire. 2 He had a little scroll open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land, 3 and called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring. When he called out, the seven thunders sounded. 4 And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.” 5 And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven 6 and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay, 7 but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets. 8 Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, “Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” 9 So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” 10 And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. 11 And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.”

2. INTRODUCTION:
As was the case before the opening of the 7th seal judgment where we had an interlude that featured two visions: the 144,000 in 7:1-8 and the great multitude, we yet again have an interlude before the 7th trumpet is to be blown. In each of these interludes, attention is being drawn to happenings within the church, around whose life all events in history orbit, at least as far as heaven is concerned. While the world of unbelievers is being dealt with punitively (Afrikaans: “hulle word gestraf”) by God, the church is singled out for peculiar protection and commissioning. She (the church) is God’s special agent in drawing to Himself His elect children, by the power of the Gospel.

3. THE MESSENGER FROM HEAVEN (10:1-3a):
In chapter 10 we have a picture of a mighty angel that came down from heaven. There are two camps in the world of theology about who or what this angel might be. Some say that this was an angel who has all the marks resembling Christ Jesus (1:7; 4:3), but who is not Christ, because Christ is never called an angel in the book of Revelation. Another reason that is given as motivation that this angel is not Christ, is because John is not worshipping this angel as was the case in Rev.1:17 ~ “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last…” A further motivation for these proponents is the fact that John refers to this angel as “another mighty angel,” implying that he was no more than an angel than the others preceding him in chapter 9. This angel is therefore, according to this viewpoint, only one that represents Christ and carrying His message.

There are however another group of theologians that say that this must be Christ Himself and they base their viewpoint on the fact that this picture is very similar to the one in Rev.1:12-16 ~ “Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lamp stands, and in the midst of the lamp stands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.” In Rev.1, Jesus is said to have “eyes as a flame of fire.” Here in Rev.10, the “mighty angel” is said to have a “face…as if it was the sun.” In Rev.4:3 “there was a rainbow around the throne” and in Rev.10 the “mighty angel” has a “rainbow…upon his head.” Rev.1:7 told its 1st century audience that Jesus “is coming with the clouds” and “the mighty angel” in Rev.10 is “clothed with a cloud.” In short, both Rev.1 and Rev.10 portray pictures of regal majesty. It is a picture of One Sovereign rather than an angel in submission to the Sovereign One. Although Jesus is never called an angel in the New Testament – apart from Rev.1:12-16, He is, however, referred to several times in the Old Testament as “the angel of the Lord” (e.g. Gen.16:7-13; 22:15-18; Ex.3:1-4; etc.).

Although this angel has all the marks resembling Christ, we still cannot for certain say that this is a description of Christ or an angel, although I tend to agree with the those who say that this “angel” is an angelic being rather than Christ Himself, because three “strong angels” appear in Rev.5:2; 10:1 and 18:21, and the first two are both associated with the scroll of God’s redemptive plan.

This angel had a little scroll in his hand. This reminds us of the scroll in Rev.5 and yet again there are different interpretations between commentators whether these two scrolls are the same or two different scrolls. While there are variations between these two scrolls (e.g. scroll vs. little scroll, sealed vs. open, heavenly scene vs. earthly scene), the similarities suggest that a single scroll is in view here, because both are held by a mighty angel, both draw on Ezekiel’s prophetic calling (Ezek.2:9-3:3), and both concern God’s redemptive plan. The expression of a “little scroll” here in 10:2 most probably wants to emphasise the size of the angel rather than the size of the scroll.

It is also important to note that the scroll was still sealed with seven seals in chapter 5 and then it was opened by the Lamb in Rev.6, but now here in chapter 10, the scroll is open and lies in the angel’s hand.

The angel is robed (clothed) in a cloud, which denotes majesty as we see in Ps.97:1-2 where Jesus’ majesty is described ~ “The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad! Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.” Furthermore, this angel has a rainbow on his head, symbolising one who is faithful to a covenant over which he is given administration. He has a face like the sun because it is glorious to behold, and has feet like pillars of fire, denoting consuming might (Ps.97:3). Coming down from heaven, he must be on a special assignment on behalf of God Almighty.

The angel stood with his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, demonstrating his unrestricted ministry and dominion – it is without frontiers. His power and authority is indicated in a loud voice like the roar of a lion.

After this messenger from heaven – this mighty angel – placed himself on the sea and the land, he opened his mouth and he ~ “called out with a loud voice like a lion roaring” (10:3a). As we’ve noted earlier, the roaring of the lion is often used in prophetic literature to denote God’s judgment ~ “The lion has roared; who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken; who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:8).

4. THE MESSAGE FROM HEAVEN (10:3b-7):
We see in 10:3b-4 that when the mighty angel shouts, the seven thunders also speak. Thunder is often associated with judgment in Revelation, and here the “seven thunders” are likely yet another series of divine judgments. John hears and understands the message of the seven thunders, but a voice tells him to seal what they say (i.e. keep it secret) and not write it down. A similar command was given to Daniel in Dan.12:4a ~ “But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end.” We can only speculate about why John was told to seal up the thunderous message. In addition, the thunders are sealed but the scroll lies open, indicating that there will be no further intervention. The fulfilment of God’s purposes is at hand.

It is also very interesting to note that this angel in vs.5… ~ “…rose his right hand to heaven and swore by Him who lives forever and ever” (10:5-6). This is the only time in Revelation where anyone swears an oath, and the background is Dan.12:6, where the prophet asks a question about the end of time ~ “How long shall it be till the end of these wonders?” It is important to note that the figure in Daniel also swears by Him who lives forever ~ “And I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream; he raised his right hand and his left hand toward heaven and swore by him who lives forever …” (Dan.12:7).

Allow me at this stage to say something more about taking oaths. Last Wednesday evening I said that we as Christians are not obliged to swore or take an oath in God’s Name when appearing in court, because under South African law, we are not obliged to take such an oath and as Christians we don’t need to confirm that we will speak the truth, because as Christians we have to and must always speak the truth. What I however, did not say, is that it is not wrong to take an oath when in court, especially when the law forces us to take an oath. When you as a Christian take an oath, you ask God as the only Judge of your thoughts, words and works, to be witness of the truth and the implication of that is that, when you lie, you in actual fact ask God to lie with you. Let us always keep Matt.5:37 in mind ~ “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”

In the context of our teaching today, to swear is to solemnly promise to perform a task or affirm a truth, and God is invoked (Afrikaans: “roep” of “betrek”) as witness. Therefore, in this context, the task of promptly bringing to completion the “mystery of God” in the days of the sounding of the 7th trumpet, is what is solemnly promised. What is delayed in Daniel now stands ready to be fulfilled ~ “…there will be no more delay!” (10:6). This “mystery of God” refers to God’s plan to judge evil, redeem His people, and transform His creation, a plan that will soon come to completion – a reference to the events recorded in Rev.19-21. These mysteries or God’s plan, are communicated to the prophets, including the Old and New Testament prophets as Amos 3:7 makes explicit ~ “For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.”

5. THE MANDATE FROM HEAVEN (10:8-11):
So far John has received instructions not to write what he heard from the seven thunders, but in 10:8-9 he is instructed to take the little book from the hand of the mighty angel. Instructions are coming from an unidentified voice from heaven. Unlike before, this time John is required to proclaim the truths of this book with its bitter-sweet effects.

Earlier I said that this book is described as a “little book” most probably because of the massive size of the mighty angel, but another reason can be, because it does not contain the entire purpose of God as does the scroll mentioned in Rev.5:1. This “little book” is open as compared to the sealed scroll in 5:1, or the message from the seven thunders (10:4) which are closed. Being open or revealed, this “little book” is ready for immediate use by man.

John is now instructed to take this book that was lying open on the palm of the angel’s hand, and eat it. First, John went to the angel and asked him to give him the little scroll. The angel in turn said to John, now in the language of Ezekiel (Ez.2:8-3:14), to eat the book. Ezekiel was given the same instruction, namely to eat a book that was given to him and the taste was exactly the same.

Both Ezekiel and John experienced a sweet taste in their mouths – sweet as honey ~ “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts” (Jer.15:16). In both Ezekiel and John’s case, the eating of the book was a symbol of ingesting God’s message – the Word of God and it is clear that the message of the Gospel brings exceeding sweetness to the heart of the believer, because God will conquer evil once and for all, vindicate His people, and bring forth a new heaven. However, when John swallowed the book it made his stomach bitter. This bitterness represents the suffering and persecution that God’s people will endure before Christ’s second advent. The bitterness also symbolises what awaits the unbelievers who rejected the Gospel message and God’s Word.

In 10:11, John is yet again called to preach and proclaim God’s message, no matter how difficult it might be to speak the Truth or how negatively the receivers of the message might respond. This is a repetition of our Lord’s instruction in Matt.28:19-20 ~ “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

6. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
John experienced sweet and bitter when eating the “little book,” likewise we as believers also experience sweet and bitter in our Christian walk.

Much about God and His eternal plan is yet to be known. In fact, it is very improbable that everything will ever be known. As mortals we must learn to accept the fact that since God has not chosen to reveal everything, we will not understand everything. And we should not try to. Each truth God wants us to know He Will unfold at His own chosen time. For each inscrutable situation or uncertainty, we must remember that there is a 7th trumpet yet to be blown.

Kobus van der Walt

However, much else has been revealed about God and His plan for us to be guided by and to work on. All that we need for life and godliness God has disclosed. In His Word, God has given us life changing truths for our own transformation and the transformation of others as well. The privileges that believer’s not only understand as these revealed spiritual things (1 Cor.2:12), but also to be the divinely chosen instrument of their proclamation, whatever their negative effects. To discover God and to reveal Him to others is the greatest honour. As for the world of sinners, their only hope lies in their warm embrace of this very Gospel message, however humbling its truths. Without this, they are unquestionably consigned to the damnation sounded out of the six trumpets and laid bare in the seven seals.

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Revelation: The Culmination of Scripture – 21 (“The 6th Trumpet – 2nd Woe”)

Revelation: The Culmination of Scripture – 21 (“The 6th Trumpet – 2nd Woe”)

1. INTRODUCTION:
In today’s teaching we will see that God continues to judge an unbelieving world by allowing evil forces to destroy their own followers. We will also see that God’s judgment is just and that human sinfulness leads to self-deception and self-destruction and it is so ironic and tragic, that those who are hostile towards God, sometimes prefer idolatry and immorality to repentance.

We will also look at the 2nd woe and the releasing of the four angels, but tragically, also at the refusal of people to repent.

2. SCRIPTURE READING:
Rev.9:12-21 ~ “12 The first woe has passed; behold, two woes are still to come. 13 Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, 14 saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” 15 So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind. 16 The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number. 17 And this is how I saw the horses in my vision and those who rode them: they wore breastplates the colour of fire and of sapphire and of sulphur, and the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulphur came out of their mouths. 18 By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulphur coming out of their mouths. 19 For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents with heads, and by means of them they wound. 20 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.”

In this closing part of Rev.9, we have a picture of war – not any one particular war but war itself, past, present and future. It is an evil war. It is a war fought by Demons against their own followers – those who rejected Christ’s invitation of salvation. We saw in the previous passage that the heavens were struck with partial darkness, reminiscent (Afrikaans: “herinner aan”) of the ninth plague (Ex.10:21-23). In the Old Testament, the darkening of the heavens is connected with God’s appearing in judgement ~ “For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light.” (Is.13:10). An unusual darkness also attended the crucifixion of Christ ~ “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour” (Matt.27:45).

3. THE 6TH TRUMPET AND 2ND WOE (9:12-21):
Yet again, in this passage, we are reminded of God’s sovereignty in all these events that are shown to John, because everything is ultimately initiated from the heavenly throne.

· The 2nd Woe (9:12): As terrible as the first woe has been, the two remaining woes are still worse. The 5th trumpet described as the first woe, brought torment, but this 1st woe is now to be followed by the two final trumpets (6 and 7) also called “woes” ~ “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!” (Rev.8:13).

The second woe (the judgment of the 6th trumpet) brings the release of a demonic army the likes of which the earth has never seen (Rev.9:13-19; 11:14) and D.V. next time we will see that the third woe (the judgments of the 7th trumpet) brings the seven bowls/vial judgments of God’s wrath (Rev.11:15; 15:7; 16:2-4; 16:8; 16:10; 16:12; 16:17).

• The Troops (9:13-17): When the sixth angel sounded his trumpet, it was followed immediately by a voice coming from the four horns of the Golden Altar that is before God. This reminds us that John is still in the heavenly scene that began with his being “in the spirit” and thus transported so as to be, “before the throne in heaven” (4:2). At the same time the altar that was first introduced into view in 8:3, and without explanation, is now envisioned in its Old Testament expression, including it being made of gold and having four “horns.”

These horns now speak with a single “voice” to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, telling him to release the four angels which are bound at the great river Euphrates. These four angels were pictured in 7:1 as standing at the corners of the earth, holding back the plagues against the earth until God’s people had been sealed. Now four angels are themselves pictured as bound, and are located geographically at the Euphrates River. For Israel this river (and therefore Babylon) was considered “north,” since most foreign invasions came from that direction, coming “down” against Israel along the coastal plain.

The voice comes from the four horns of the one heavenly altar in Revelation (Rev.6:9). As in 14:18 (an angel comes from the altar) and 16:7 (the altar itself speaks), God indirectly gives instructions for carrying out His will.

According to vs.14, the voice from the altar gives divine authorisation for the sixth angel to release four angels who are currently “bound,” suggesting their demonic character. Unlike the four angels of 7:1 who held back the four winds, these four angels appear to be evil in character and they are most probably the four destructive winds themselves. Dan.7:2 supports this suggestion ~ “Daniel declared, ‘I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea.’” These four angels appear to lead the demonic horseman described in Rev.9:16-19, much like the angel of the Abyss leads the army of the demonic locusts in the 5th trumpet judgement.

The torment of the previous trumpet now gives way to death. Whereas the fourth seal brought death to a fourth of the earth (6:8), the demonic army now kills a third of humanity. Again, the context suggests the only people hostile to God are vulnerable to attack ~ “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?’” (Rev.6:10; 8:13).

Rev.9:15 is yet again a clear indication of God’s sovereignty over the specific timing of the coming judgment ~ “So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind.” Why do so many believers fear the coming judgment of God and the hardship that will go along with the days ahead of the coming judgment? We are sealed with God’s mark and He, the sovereign God, is in full control even in control of Satan and his demons.

In Rev.9:16, John hears that the demonic troops will number, “twice ten thousand times ten thousand” (if you do your calculations, you will see that this number amounts to 200 million) – two hundred million demons! Compare this number with the number of angels worshiping in Rev.5:11 ~ “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…” The angels in Rev.5:11 or Dan.7:10, were half the number of demons. It is striking to realise how small God’s army seems by comparison, but the Lord always does His most powerful work through human weakness – think of David and Goliath (1 Sam.17), or think of Gideon’s 300 men who defeated the Midianites – Judges 7:12 ~ “And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the people of the East lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance.”

The horsemen are not in themselves important, but they wear brightly coloured breastplates of fiery red, dark blue, and sulphurous yellow, more suggestive of supernatural than natural riders. More important are the horses, which have heads resembling those of lions; they; rather than their riders are the instruments of death by the plagues of fire, smoke, and sulphur, that come from their mouths. Furthermore, these horses have tails like snakes that are able to kill, unlike the locusts’ scorpion like tails that do not inflict death but only injury (9:5).

In many church environments, these 200 million troops are seen as soldiers from different countries involved in a 3rd World War in the Middle East, after which the end of the world will come, but if you listen to experts in military logistics, they will tell you that it is totally impossible to conscript, support and move 200 million troops to the Middle East without disrupting all societal needs and capabilities; God has made men with certain limitations and the actual raising and transporting of an army of the size spoken of in vs.16 completely transcends human capability. All the Allied and Axis (the “Axis powers” formally took the name after the Tripartite Pact was signed by Germany, Italy, and Japan on 27 September 1940, in Berlin. The pact was subsequently joined by Hungary, Romania Slovakia, and Bulgaria) forces at their peak in World War II numbered only about 70 million.

Thus, it seems better to understand the vast numbers and the description of the horses as indicating demonic hordes. Demons who are utterly cruel and determined and manifest themselves in pestilences, epidemic diseases, etc.

· The War (9:18-19): We read in Rev.9:18 ~ “By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and Sulphur coming out of their mouths.” This fire, smoke, and Sulphur had a plague-like effect, killing one-third of mankind and it reminds us of the 5th trumpet, where smoke from the bottomless pit was seen darkening the sky (9:1-2). The language indicates a hellish invasion, accompanied by great destruction. These creatures are not of the earth; “fire and Sulphur” belong to hell (19:20; 21:8), just as smoke is characteristic of the Abyss (9:2).

· The Survivors (9:20-21): It would have been only natural to think that the remainder of all humanity would take warning from this dreadful fate; but they did not, and carried on worshipping their idols and demons and continued in the evil of their ways. It is the conviction of the Biblical writers that the worship of idols was nothing less than devil-worship and that it was bound to result in evil and immorality.

God’s purpose behind the plagues is first of all a judgment on humanity for wilfully choosing idolatry and the corrupt practices that go with it – vs.21, murders, sorceries, sexual immorality and theft. We must remember that idolatry or an idol is anything that takes God’s place in our lives.

John had earlier called on the churches to “repent” of their faithless tendencies, lest that they too should share in God’s judgement (2:5, 16, 21-22, 3:19). In 9:20-21 we see the end result of refusing to turn to God. This stubbornness leads to worship of demons as well as the worship of cultic objects made by human hands. The problem with this, is that it robs the true God of His glory ~ “Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (Rom.1:22-23) and worshipping demons and cultic objects leads to consorting (Afrikaans: “omgaan met”) with evil spirits that corrupt man.

This demonic corruption is manifest in the inhuman acts of those who have given up God for idols – acts of murder, sexual immorality, and thefts ~ “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves” (Rom.1:24) and Rom.1:28-31 ~ “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” In general, these are violations of the 10 Commandments. “Magic arts” means “a practice of sorceries” or “witchcraft” (Ex.7:11; 9:11; Gal.5:20; Rev.21:8; 22:15).

The second purpose of God review in the agonising plaques described in chapters 8 and 9 is to bring societies to repentance ~ “They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory… … and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds” (Rev.16:9, 11). God is not willing that any person should suffer His judgement but that all should repent and turn to Him ~ “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3) and 2 Pet.3:9 ~ “The Lord is not slow to fulfil His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” But when God’s works and words are persistently rejected, only judgement remains ~ “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph.5:6).

4. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
The passage that we were looking at today, reasserts a theme that runs throughout the entire Bible: God’s justice in the face of human sinfulness. God’s judgements are not handed out arbitrarily (Afrikaans: “willekeurig”) or frivolously but are poured out on those who stubbornly refuse to repent. Such people have repeatedly rejected God’s gracious overtures/offerings (Afrikaans: “aanbieding van iets”) and have preferred instead gods of their own making.

The message of the 6th trumpet also confirms the depths and deadliness of human sin. Any form of Idol worship is, in reality, demon worship, and these evil spirits are intent on destroying their own followers. In spite of repeated invitations to repent and find life, sinful humanity remains hostile to God and His people. Therefore, God’s judgements are just.

Kobus van der Walt

To summarise then:
– God is patient and long-suffering, desiring all people to repent and find life.
– God is also holy and righteous and will judge sin when people refuse to repent.
– Believers should be warned not to be deceived by idolatry.

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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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