Monday, November 30, 2009

Revelation 10&11 - A Sweet Taste with a Sickening Aftertaste & Two Powerful Witnesses

Before being shown the 7th trumpet judgment, John is shown a mighty angel descending from heaven with a cloud; a rainbow is on His head, his face shines like the sun, and his feet are like pillars of fire. I personally believe that as you continue to follow the narrative, this angel or messenger is identified as Jesus because He refers to the two Hebrew witnesses as “my two witnesses.” This would not be the first time in scripture that Jesus is referred to as an angel (Genesis 16:10, 22:15-16, Exodus 3:2). The Lord is holding a book in His hand and is standing with His right foot on the sea and His left foot on the earth. I think this represents His authority over both. He then says something that is responded to by the voice of seven thunders (probably God the Father). For some reason John is instructed not to record what he heard.

The Lord then lifts His hand to heaven and swears by God that it is time to bring an end to the kingdom of Satan. The blowing of the 7th trumpet will represent the beginning of the end. Point is made that these events will fulfill all that was foretold by His prophets. John is then instructed (by the voice of God the Father I believe) to take the little book from the Lord Jesus. When John asks for the book, the Lord instructs him to eat it, but warns him that although it will taste good, it will make him sick to his stomach. This is obviously a very descriptive way of telling John to read and absorb the contents of the book. As he does, he will joy in the fact that the kingdom of the enemy will be destroyed, but he will be sickened by the events that will accompany that destruction.

Chapter 11 is a continuation of John’s experience in the previous chapter. John is given a measuring rod to measure the temple of God, the altar, and those that worship there. He is specifically instructed to leave out the court of the Gentiles. He is then told that Jerusalem will be under the authority of the Gentiles for 42 months. This is another indication to me that the Lord’s focus during this 70th week is on the Jewish people and the city of Jerusalem (again as was foretold to Daniel).

Point is made that the Lord will send two witnesses clothed in sackcloth to testify of His truth for 1,260 days. They will be supernaturally protected from the attempts of men to kill them. Anyone who tries to hurt them will be destroyed when they breathe fire out of their mouths. They will also have the ability to prevent it from raining, to turn water into blood, and to send plagues among the nations during the days of their ministry as they so choose. Because of the prophecy of Malachi (chapter 4), most identify one of the witnesses as Elijah; the identity of the other is not given. Some speculate that it will be Moses because of the similarity to the miracles and plagues. Others speculate that it will be Enoch since he never experienced physical death, which is unique to him and Elijah in scripture. Others speculate that the other witness could be Zerubbabel based on the prophecy of Haggai. Frankly, I don’t think their identity matters. The truth is that the messenger is not what is important, it is the ministry and service to God and the declaration of His message that are important.

Only when the ministry of the two witnesses has been completed will the beast that ascended from the bottomless pit be able to kill them. Their death will be celebrated as their bodies are left lying in the streets of Jerusalem. The nations will be so happy that people will send presents to one another in celebration of the death of the prophets. After lying in the streets for 3.5 days, God raises them back to life. This causes great fear among men. They then ascend to heaven in the sight of their enemies. As referenced earlier, this resurrection is accompanied by another earthquake that destroys a tenth of Jerusalem and results in the death of 7,000 men. This scares the believing remnant of Jews, and they respond by giving glory to God.

At this point the 2d woe, or 6th trumpet is declared past. This clarifies to me that the witnesses were serving during the first half of the 7-year tribulation period since their death comes at the midpoint. It also fits in with the events John will be shown in the next chapter regarding Satan being cast out of heaven and given 3.5 years to wreak havoc.

Finally, the seventh angel blows his trumpet and John hears great voices in heaven declaring that Jesus will soon establish His kingdom. John then sees the 24 elders again fall on their faces in worship of God and recognition that it is time for the dead to be judged, the saints rewarded and those who are destroying the earth to be destroyed (Satan and his followers). It’s interesting to note that the elders are talking about the prophets, saints and those that fear God’s name in reference to a category of beings different from themselves. This is just another verse that makes me think these elders could be the angels/watches referred to in Daniel.

Next, John sees the temple in heaven open and inside is the ark of the covenant. I personally think this is “the ark of the covenant,” though many would argue that it is just the original from which the earthly ark was fashioned. My understanding is that the ark represented the throne of God and was distinct in that regard from other items associated with the earthly temple. Only the future will tell.

Again, as with the 7th seal, those on planet earth hear voices and thunder, see lightning, and experience an earthquake—this time accompanied by great hail.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Revelation 8&9 – The Trumpet Judgments - Demon Locusts & Demonic Princes

When the 7th seal is opened, there is silence in heaven for about a half hour. I think this is in consideration of the horrendous judgments yet to be poured out on the inhabitants of planet earth.

John then describes seeing 7 angels standing before God and being given 7 trumpets with which they will announce the commencement of 7 more judgments. Another angel appears carrying a golden censer, which is said to contain the prayers of all the saints; and he is given incense to mix with those prayers, which indicate that they are a sweet smelling aroma before God—in other words, He is pleased with those prayers. The angel then takes fire from the altar to add to the censer and throws it to the earth. Why? These prayers represent a stark contrast between the hearts of those that love the Lord and those that reject Him and blaspheme His name. Those on planet earth hear voices and thunder, see lightning, and experience an earthquake.

The seven angels then prepare to announce the upcoming judgments.

1. When the first angel blows his trumpet, hail and fire mingled with blood falls on the earth and burns up 1/3 of the trees and all the green grass.

2. When the second angel blows his trumpet, a big fiery mountain is cast into the sea, and 1/3 of it turns to blood; this, in turn, results in the destruction of 1/3 of the sea creatures and 1/3 of the ships. In my mind this probably references a specific third of the world’s oceans, or it could apply specifically to the Mediterranean.

3. When the third angel blows his trumpet, a big burning star called Wormwood falls from heaven and poisons 1/3 of the rivers and fresh water springs. I would assume this would be the result of its breaking up into fragments that are spread over a specific third of the earth.

4. The fourth angel blows and 1/3 each of the sun, moon and stars are darkened. This results in total darkness for 1/3 of the day and night respectively.

At this point there is an interruption to the announcement of the final three trumpet judgments. An angel appears in the heavens warning the people on planet earth that the coming three judgments are the worst yet.

5. At the blowing of the fifth trumpet a being falls from heaven to earth and he is given a key to the bottomless pit. This seems to indicate that this pit is in the center of the earth. When he opens the pit, the air is filled with smoke, and demon locusts (my label) are released that are allowed to torment only humans. This torment is inflicted with a sting that is compared to that of a scorpion. Those who experience this sting will wish they were dead, but God will not allow them to die. John then attempts to describe the appearance of these locusts. He compares them to horses prepared for battle wearing crowns like gold with human faces; they have long hair like a woman and teeth comparable to those of a lion. They appear to be wearing breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings sounds like many horses running to battle. The tails with which they inflict their stings are like a scorpion’s, and their attack is allowed to extend over a period of five months. You see why I call them demon locusts. These locusts have a king that in Hebrew is called Abaddon, and in Greek is called Appolyon. I personally believe that it is Satan who is known by many names in scripture.

6. When the sixth angel blows his trumpet, John hears a voice from the golden altar positioned before God in His temple telling the angel with the 6th trumpet to release the four angels that are bound in the great river Euphrates. No further information is given to identify these four angels, but they have obviously been confined to this particular area until this moment in time. I personally believe they are the four demonic princes in control of the nations connected with that river, i.e., probably Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran. We know that there are spiritual forces associated with different nations on planet earth because of the message recorded by the prophet Daniel.

Daniel 10:11-13, 20 And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent. And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling. Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia….Then said he, Knowest thou wherefore I come unto thee? and now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia: and when I am gone forth, lo, the prince of Grecia shall come.

These angels have one purpose—to kill 1/3 of mankind. They have an army of 200,000,000 to assist them; I personally believe this army to be demonic. John’s description does indicate that he is struggling to explain this army in terms the reader can understand. Some teachers make comparisons to use of today’s technology, and I don’t discount that this could be a valid conclusion. I think the wording of verse 20 is quite interesting, “the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not….” I think this is a clear indication that God’s desire is for these judgments to cause men to repent of their evil deeds and be saved, but they choose not to.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Revelation 7 – God’s Jewish Witnesses for the 70th Week and the Raptured Church in Heaven

The next thing John sees are four angels positioned at the four corners of the earth in control of the winds. At that time they are preventing the wind from blowing. Verse 2 tells us that their task is to “hurt the earth and the sea.” Another angel ascends from the east and instructs them not to do anything until the servants of God have been sealed in their forehead. The Greek indicates that this seal is for protection. In Revelation 14:1 we are told that this seal is the Father’s name.

John now tells us the exact number of persons sealed—144,000—12,000 each from the 12 tribes of Israel. This emphasizes to me that this is at the beginning of the 70th week of Daniel, the 7-year period widely known as the tribulation. This time is described in the book of Daniel as “determined upon thy people [Israel] and upon thy holy city [Jerusalem]…to bring in everlasting righteousness….” (9:24) These would be Jewish witnesses who will preach the gospel to their people and whom God will use to separate out for Himself a believing remnant of Jews to enter the millennium, the 1000-year earthly kingdom of the Messiah, and through whom He will fulfill His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

I think it is important to note that the “day of God’s wrath” and the 70th week of Daniel run concurrent to one another, but are directed toward different groups of people for different purposes.

Wrath → against the wicked, God’s enemies → in vengeance
70th week → for Israel → to refine and produce a believing remnant

The next thing John sees is a great multitude of people from every nation, ethnic background and language dressed in white robes, holding palm branches and standing before the throne and “the Lamb” and praising Him. It is quite clear to me that John is seeing the body of Christ gathered before the throne after the rapture. I don’t know how John could take it all in, but he then sees all the angels, elders, and living creatures on their faces worshipping God before the throne.

Because of the wording of verse 14, many assume that this is an assembly of believers who are martyrs from the tribulation period. I think it is a general reference to the church age, which has been full of tribulation/trouble of different types and to varying degrees for all believers.

Point is made that they are presented in robes of white through acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice for their sin. We will be privileged to serve God night and day in His temple, and He will dwell with us. This is the very promise the Lord made to His disciples.

John 14:1-3 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

God will supply our every need, spiritual and physical, and wipe away all tears from our eyes.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Revelation 6 – The Beginning of the End

This chapter begins the narrative of the opening of the seals. Again, I was blinded for a long time by previous well-intentioned teaching. The assumption is that since the seals are being opened, the tribulation is starting. At this point, I don’t agree with that assumption.

The first five seals seem to mirror the “birth pains” Jesus declared would precede His coming. (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) “Birth pains” is a descriptive phrase to signify increased frequency and intensity of a series of specific events that will culminate in the visible return of Jesus Christ to establish His kingdom.

I am reminded that God’s reckoning of time and our reckoning of time are very different.

2Peter 3:8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

Just a couple of days have gone by since Jesus returned victorious to heaven. I think it is important to note that Jesus is the one in authority releasing the first four riders to act on their evil intentions.

Seal 1 – The rider on the white horse is the coming on the scene of the Antichrist to begin his rise to power on a platform of peace. Yes, I believe the Antichrist is alive and is already, in fact, being positioned to assume leadership.

Seal 2 – The rider on the red horse is released to destroy peace and provoke war among men.

Seal 3 – The rider on the black horse is going out to cause famine and wreak havoc on the world’s economy.

Seal 4 – The rider on the pale horse goes out specifically to cause death among men, and “hell” rides with him eager to feed his voracious appetite.

I think it is clear that these riders are all followers of Satan hoping to thwart God’s will. Just as when Satan was given permission to persecute Job, these riders are now given permission to act within prescribed boundaries. Note that they are only allowed to cause the death of ¼ of humanity.

When the 5th seal is opened, John sees under the altar all the souls that have died because of their faith in the Lord. I believe these are all martyrs since the inception of the church. Again, the deaths of these martyrs are a result of the acts of those who have chosen to follow Satan, the god of this world, in rejection of the Almighty Eternal Living God. It stands out to me that these souls are calling for God to avenge their deaths, and God responds by telling them to be patient until their number is fulfilled. In other words, their desire is justified and will be satisfied. Also, God knows the exact number of church age martyrs who will die for their faith in Him. I personally think that number will be reached right before the rapture of the church.

The opening of the 6th seal is very significant, and in verse 17 is described as the beginning day of God’s wrath. Many things occur with the opening of this seal—
• A great earthquake.
• The sun turns black.
• The moon looks like blood.
• The stars of heaven fall toward earth.
• The heaven appears to roll up like a scroll.
• Every mountain and island moves out of position; this indicates that the earthquake is worldwide.
• Men seek to hide themselves in fear.

Because the scripture is clear in stating that true believers will not experience God’s wrath, I believe the rapture probably happens as part of this seal or just previous to it. Through an article at www.redmoonrising.com I was made aware of David Lowe’s study regarding the connection of earthquakes to resurrections to immortality—in other words, where the one resurrected never experienced another physical death. His conclusions made a lot of sense to me, and a rapture of believers from all over the world would directly connect to a worldwide earthquake. It makes sense to me that this would really set the stage for the Antichrist to be able to broker a 7-year peace treaty with Israel. The world will be in chaos and looking for a leader that can step in with confidence and purpose. I am reminded that scripture declares he will possess the ability to perform “lying wonders” to promote his agenda of deceit.

2Thessalonians 2:8-10 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Revelation 5 – Jesus the Victorious Lamb

John begins this chapter begins with a vision of God the Father on the throne holding in his right hand a book that is written on both sides and sealed with seven seals. I’ve heard this book called the title deed to planet earth and compared to a Roman will. Future contents of the Revelation record affirm that it represents authority over planet earth.

Next, John hears an angel asking for a worthy, qualified person to step forward and open the seals. Then point is made that no “man” in the universe was found that qualified. John understood the consequences of that fact and openly wept. Suddenly, one of the elders announces, “the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals.” (verse 5)

John looks toward the throne and sees “a Lamb as it had been slain” standing in the middle of the elders. He then watches “the Lamb” go and take the book from the hand of the One on the throne. Then the 24 elders and the living creatures fall down in reverence to “the Lamb.” Next thing you know, an innumerable multitude of angels are surrounding the throne joining in worship of “the Lamb that was slain.” (verse 12)

Obviously, the throne is God’s throne and “the Lamb” is Jesus, the Son of God. It stands out to me that Jesus was not on the scene when John first was taken to heaven. Scripture tells us that when He ascended, He took His place at the right hand of the Father on the throne. It also stands out that He appeared as a Lamb having been slain. I think this is a vision of the Lord returning to heaven victorious over the grave after having offered Himself as the sacrifice for our sin. At that point, He was qualified to take the book and remove the seals.

One more observation, if the church were already raptured as represented by John, Jesus would have been there with them.

1Thessalonians 4:16-17 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Revelation 4 – A Scene in Heaven

After carefully giving warning, instruction and encouragement to the body of believers, the Lord transports John to heaven to “see” more. His intent is to show John future events.

I have always been taught and accepted that John’s call to heaven represented the rapture of the church. I no longer believe that to be the case. Though the experience is obviously similar to expectation, I believe this explanation creates unnecessary hindrances to clear understanding of the Revelation as it unfolds that I will reference in the coming narrative.

The first thing John sees in heaven is a magnificent throne surrounded by a rainbow. Encircling the throne are 24 “elders” seated and wearing white clothing and crowns of gold. I have read much regarding the possible identity of these 24 elders. A couple of personal observations from these verses:

• They are in position when John arrives; he is not one of them as one of the apostles.

• They are in position when John arrives. Even if John did represent the raptured church, it excludes the church.

I don’t think we can be certain who they are this side of eternity. I do think that alternate translations for upcoming verses support identifying them as a heavenly council of angels or watchers as described in Daniel 4:17.

This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.

One of those verses is Revelation 5:10 where some translations are similar to the NIV—“and with your blood You purchased men…You have made them…to serve our God, and they will reign….”

In doing some recent study I was reminded that both Moses and David patterned the tabernacle/temple respectively from patterns they were given. It made sense to me that when David divided the priests who would serve “at the house of the Lord” into 24 groups, he would have been following the pattern.

Another one of those verses is Revelation 11:18: And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.

In context, these are words of praise to God. They seem to be speaking in reference to men of faith as different from themselves.

John’s attention turns back to the throne from which he hears voices and from which come lightning and thunder. In front of the throne is what appears to be a sea of clear glass. There are also four living creatures “full of eyes” around the throne. (These appear to be the same creatures described in Ezekiel.) The language tells us that John is describing what he sees the best he can by making comparisons. The creatures are described as having faces like a lion, a calf, a man, and an eagle. Many scholars tell posit that these creatures represent Christ as presented in the gospels—as King, servant, man and God respectively.

John makes note that the creatures and elders worship the Lord in unity of spirit and action. This should be the hallmark characteristic of God’s servants in the church today. Specific reference is made to God as the Creator who created according to His own will/purpose.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Revelation 2-3 – The Letters to the Seven Churches

In chapter 2 the Lord begins to dictate letters to each of the seven churches; however, He intends for all seven churches to read each letter. Though the contents of each letter are to the church as a whole, the appeal is for a response from each individual. Each church is representative of the different kinds of churches that have existed since the birth of the church. Scholars much more studied than I explain how they represent the stages of church history, and I have no reason to reject that application. I think the primary application, however, is to all churches throughout the church age. Churches tend to resemble one of these seven types of churches.

1. Ephesus – This church is doing the works of God, but from duty and ritual, not from a heart of love.

2. Smyrna – This church is aptly called the persecuted church. Though it appears to be poor and sickly from a human perspective, God considers them to be rich and vibrant in their faith.

3. Pergamos – This church is tolerant and inclusive. They don’t want to offend anyone. (Sound familiar?)

4. Thyatira – This appears to be a church that is very liberal with little to no spiritual discernment. They embrace false teachers and false teaching. The amazing truth—this church still has a few true believers among its members.

5. Sardis – This appears to be a church in name only. They were doing very little that could be called serving the Lord. Still, this church has a few true believers in it. I would assume they fall into the category of saved, “yet so as by fire.” (1Corinthians 3:15)

6. Philadelphia – This church is spiritually healthy and discerning. They have persevered in spite of the world’s mockery. Sad to say, they are noted as having “little strength.” It just hit me that this is probably a statement as to their influence among the churches. Though they should be the most respected and emulated, their influence is diminished by the more popular wealthier, tolerant and liberal congregations.

7. Laodicea – This church is making absolutely no spiritual impact on the world around it. They are spiritually blind and materially rich.

I think it is important to note that God loves His church. He wants the body of believers to recognize their spiritual needs and respond with repentance. He encourages them with promises of special blessings for their faith and repentance. I just noticed that only the Ephesians were threatened with having their candlestick removed. In my mind this is because they most resembled the Pharisees of Jesus’ day—performing ritual without heart involvement. It also stood out to me that the churches that tolerated or embraced false teachers and false teaching drew harsh words of God’s violent intervention. I think this is because these churches were positioned as major battlegrounds between the spiritual forces of good and evil. Though the letters are addressed to the church as a body, the Lord’s focus is clearly on the individual. He is aware of and always has words of encouragement to true believers in the church.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Revelation 1 – Introducing Jesus

I have deleted my first posts on the book of Revelation and have decided to repost the series with revisions and corrections made since the first set of postings. As always, questions and comments are welcome.

The book of Revelation begins with a statement of God’s desire for His servants, those who accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, to understand what our future holds. We are given a clue as to one reason He chooses to share this truth with us in the book of Genesis.

Genesis 18:17-19 And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.

He expects us to teach that truth to our family as well as others that we care about. He also expects that these truths will impact how we live our lives. The Apostle John is God’s chosen instrument to share this message with us.

God is the best Father, and He knows our human weaknesses. He encourages us to study the book of Revelation by promising us a blessing if we will invest our time and energy in carefully reading the Revelation record and treasuring its teachings. The more we understand of the truths presented in this book, the more visible should be its impact on how we live—in establishing priorities, in the choices we make, in our service to others, in our prayer life, etc.

The Lord chooses to address His message to seven specific churches in existence at the time John received the Revelation. John is clear in identifying the author of the message as God—“Him which is…was…and is to come.”

Revelation 4:8 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.

He then goes on to specifically connect this description to Jesus Christ. In verse 8 this description is expanded to identify Him as “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending.” In other words, He was before all things (from the human perspective on earth) and will be the culmination of all things (from the human perspective on earth). Jesus is identified as the One who “loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,” (verse 5) our Savior and Redeemer. He is also specifically identified as the Son of God.

John next shares the fact that Jesus is coming back to earth and will be visible to “every eye” in the process. It is most natural for us today to believe this possible only because of today’s technology, but I don’t think that is true. Even though I can’t explain how, I believe the glory of the Lord as He descends to earth will be seen by everyone--without the use of modern technology.

It’s also important to note that the Lord’s return will not be a welcome sight for many. John tells us, “all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him.” (verse 7)

John informs us that he was on the island of Patmos when he received the Revelation. This island was used as a prison camp for those deemed enemies of the Roman Empire. John was there at the decree of the Emperor Domitian. Why? For his public declaration of “the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (verse 9)

In verse 11 John begins a description of how he received the Revelation. Johns tells us that he was “in the Spirit,” and I believe he is referencing a special time of worship and communion with the Lord as described in Ephesians.

Ephesians 5:18-21 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

All of a sudden John hears a voice behind him. It sounds like “a trumpet,” (verse 10) very strong and penetrating; and the owner identifies Himself as the “Alpha and Omega, the first and the last” which is declared to be the Lord in verse 8. John is instructed to write what he sees in a book and to send it to the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.

John turns to see the speaker, and he sees the Lord standing in the middle of seven candlesticks. He is wearing an ankle-length robe with a gold belt around the breast. His hair is white like wool, and His eyes like a flame of fire. His feet are like glowing hot brass. His voice is described this time as sounding like many waters (strong and powerful). He is holding seven stars in His right hand and has a sword coming out of His mouth. His whole being shines like the sun.

This whole vision of the Lord is one of power, judgment, purity and holiness. The candlesticks are identified in verse 20 as the seven churches, and the seven stars are identified as the messengers of those churches. Hebrews 4:12 compares God’s word to a sword.

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

The vision was so amazing that John fainted at the feet of the Lord. The Lord strengthens him with the touch of His right hand and tells John not to be afraid. John should have understood that this same Lord Jesus whom he had seen crucified, dead, buried, risen and ascending to heaven hadn’t just disappeared into oblivion. He is alive and has complete authority over hell (a place) and death (a state of being).

John is again told to write what he has seen, what he is seeing, and what he will see.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Solomon’s Concluding Words of Wisdom

Ecclesiastes 12:9-10 And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs. The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.

It was established in the beginning of our study that God had blessed Solomon with wisdom beyond that of any other man. Though Solomon strayed from applying that wisdom in his own life, he determined to impart his wisdom through many proverbs that would provide wise guidance to his people. He chose his words carefully in expressing the truth that God had revealed to him.

Ecclesiastes 12:11-12 The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd. And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

I think it is important to note again that the “words of the wise” do come from one Shepherd, the Lord God.

Psalms 111:10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.”

Proverbs 2:6-7 “For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly.”

Isaiah 11:2 “And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding,”

Daniel 2:20 “Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his:”

Colossians 2:2-3 “… to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”


True wisdom from God as recorded in the scripture motivates one to act according to its truth. True wisdom provides strength like a nail hammered firmly in place. In contrast, the study of the wisdom of men as recorded in a never-ending supply of books results in weariness of the flesh.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 ¶ Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

Solomon’s conclusion after all his observations: Man should fear God and keep His commandments. With all his wisdom, Solomon rests on the words of God declared to His people by Moses.

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 “And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?”

The Hebrew for the word “fear” references both being afraid and showing reverence. When we are showing reverence, we have no reason to be afraid of God. When we are afraid of God, it’s likely a result of not reverencing Him. I connect reverence to a healthy fear. A healthy fear of God shows recognition of the awesome authority and power of God. There is no greater authority or power. I love the sections of Isaiah in which God testifies about Himself.

Isaiah 43:11-13 “I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour. I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God. Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?”

Isaiah 45:5 “I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me:”

Isaiah 45:21-22 “Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.”


One who responds to that truth with faith, submission and obedience no longer has to be afraid of God; he can count on the blessings associated with the promises of God as recorded in His word.

Psalms 34:9 “O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.”

Proverbs 14:26 “In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge.”

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Growing Old

Ecclesiastes 12:1 ¶ Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;

This last chapter begins with words of wise counsel for young people. It is usually when we are young that one is most full of energy and physically strong and healthy enough to most enjoy God’s wonderful creation. It is in our youth that our gifts and abilities are at their peak and the limitations to our service before the Lord are least. In my experience, age doesn’t diminish the desire to enjoy life to its fullest and give God our best, but the aging process does begin to limit our physical capabilities.

As I continued to look at these verses, the word “remember” stood out to me. In other words, don’t let the enticements of the flesh that are so strong in our younger years interfere with your relationship with your Creator, Almighty God. It also implies that this will take a conscious effort; life is full of distractions.

Ecclesiastes 12:2 While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:

This verse begins a series of word pictures as to the effects of aging. I remember reading this chapter with a whole new sense of understanding when I first became aware of this connection.

Though not as obvious to me as some of the other word pictures, this verse is understood by many to be referencing the functioning of the mind. In connection with the previous verse, it is a well known fact that our learning capabilities are at their peak when we are young. As we grow older, our mental capacities seem to darken; we become more forgetful. It’s a time that we fear the onset of dementia in some form or other.

Ecclesiastes 12:3 In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,

This verse goes on to describe the weakening of our arms and legs (the keepers of the house) and the change in posture that often results from bone loss and lack of exercise. Many begin to lose their teeth (grinders) and our vision (those that look out of the windows) begins to suffer and to be more dependent on light. I can already relate to this observation. My mom used to nag me about reading in better light; that is no longer necessary since I can’t read many things without additional light at this stage of life.

Ecclesiastes 12:4 And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;

This verse seems to be referencing the gradual loss of hearing that many experience. It seems we are always asking our children to be a little quieter as parents; by the time we are great-grandparents we often want them to speak a little louder. Also referenced is the tendency to wake up with “the voice of the bird” in the early morning; you don’t seem to be able to sleep as well as you once did.

We are very blessed in this day and age to have the knowledge, medical advances and technology to slow down and/or compensate for many of the natural effects of aging.

Ecclesiastes 12:5-6 Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets: Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.

As we get older, we tend to become more fearful of heights or situations that pose difficulties due to our weakening physical capabilities. The flourishing of the almond tree is a reference to the budding white blossoms and seems to paint a picture of our hair turning white.

Other translations indicate that “the grasshopper shall be a burden” is referencing the difficulty in mobility that often accompanies weakness and joint afflictions such as arthritis.

The desires of the flesh no longer hold the temptation they once did. The Hebrew makes specific reference to the caper berry, an aphrodisiac, and could therefore be specific reference to waning sexual desire.

The last part of the verse is referencing approaching death. I learned a bit more this time through regarding the silver cord, golden bowl, pitcher, fountain and wheel at the cistern. I had just made the reference to death in general. Some of the commentaries connected the silver cord to the spine, the golden bowl to the brain, the pitcher at the fountain to the heart and bloodflow, and the wheel at the cistern to the digestive system. Death usually results from a breaking down of bodily function in one of these areas.

Ecclesiastes 12:7-8 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.

At death the body naturally decays and turns back to dust. Solomon recognized that there is a life force, the spirit, that he pictures as returning to God. I think he is emphasizing that as the Creator who gave that spirit life, God will determine the eternal future of that spirit. Solomon’s conclusion as he observes the natural flow of life is that it is worthless and empty unless one remembers the Creator in the days of his youth (cf v1).