John the Baptist – Matthew 3:1-6

Matthew writes in a manner that packs a ton of information and references in just a few sentences. Remember, he’s writing to people who would have probably either met, or would have heard from second hand sources about this John the baptist fellow. First, we find that this man is in the wilderness of Judea preaching. This is important for two reasons.

We can notice verse 3, that Matthew quotes Isaiah 40. What do you find when you go back to Isaiah 40? This is the first chapter after speaking about Hezekiah being threatened by Assyria, becoming sick, getting well, and then entertaining Babylon. Isaiah prophesied to Hezekiah in chapter 39 that during the time of his children the Babylonians would come into Judah and ransack the land, the palace, and the Temple. Because this man showed them everything, they will come and devastate in order to take everything. Isaiah 40 starts by prophesying, “Comfort, yes, comfort my people…”

When we read the context of Isaiah 40, we find another one of those Matthew moments when he is saying that something is being fulfilled, but then the context of Isaiah 40 doesn’t grant this. We continue through Isaiah 40 to find that God redeems Israel, and that God comes and rules over Israel Himself. We find that the glory of God is revealed, and the nations are counted as nothing.

This is not a passage about Jesus’ first coming. This is a passage about the second coming. Yet, Matthew is saying that John the Baptist is the one preparing the way…

How can we explain this?

I would like to use timelines, charts, and other drawings to employ, but for this kind of revelation, it must be revealed by the Holy Spirit. It almost seems diminished to attempt another way of expressing it.

Time in the prophetic and apostolic mind is not linear. It cycles, and each cycle results in a deeper progression of God’s plan of cosmic redemption. So, for example, you have from the beginning the Kingdom established. When Adam and Eve took of the forbidden fruit, they were exiled from Eden, which we can liken unto that Kingdom. However, God didn’t cast them away without hope. There are progressions throughout history of how it is that God is bringing it all back together. You have two seeds spoken of in Genesis 3:15. Cain builds a city, but there is no mention of such a thing with the sons of Seth. It is with Seth’s birth that men started to call upon the name of the LORD. With Noah and the flood, we begin a new cycle, with an ‘everlasting covenant’. It is Shem who is most highly blessed at the end of Genesis 9, and Canaan/Ham that is least. Yet, when we read Genesis 10, it is the descendants of Japheth that brought about the second city mentioned in the Bible: Babel.

From Babel comes Babylon. Notice the peoples associated with this in Genesis 10:10-12. We have Assyria also mentioned, which is why in Isaiah the Assyrian often sounds like the Antichrist. As we progress in the narrative, we find Abraham being chosen. From Abraham we find Isaac is chosen. It continues to narrow down who this “seed of the woman” is, until you  have twelve chosen – the twelve sons of Jacob. Israel is the firstborn son of God (Exodus 4:22), and is the seed of the woman. Egypt in Exodus represents the kingdom of darkness in flesh. Israel represents the Kingdom of God. God delivers Israel, thus establishing His Kingdom upon the earth with the conquest of Canaan.

There is the same story repeating over and over again. Enoch (the city) is destroyed through the flood, when God delivers a people for Himself (Noah and his sons). Babel is destroyed, and God chooses a people for Himself (Abraham and descendants). Egypt collapses, and God chooses a people for Himself (Israel). Canaan is conquered, and God establishes Israel and the Land as His physical Kingdom on this earth. Jerusalem is conquered, and God chooses David to rule from there. Here it is another step in the progression. Each time the Kingdom of God is revealed more deeply and exactly.

It is no longer a foreshadowing that is spoken of here. Now we have Christ Jesus, the physical incarnate God. With John the baptist, he is preparing the way for the Kingdom of God, because the actual, physical, real, tangible Kingdom is to be established through Jesus. Now, what many commentators miss is that this is not the final progression. There still will come a deeper expression of the Kingdom with the return of Jesus, and therefore another moment when this verse in Isaiah is applicable. The establishment of the Kingdom of God is progressing in deeper and deeper expressions, until you finally come to the end of the age, with the Millennial Kingdom, and God’s glory is beheld unto all the earth, the nations themselves are coming up to Jerusalem to behold that glory, and Jesus rules – God in the flesh – over all peoples.

Many times the New Testament writers show how with Jesus’ first coming there is a fulfillment of these Old Testament prophecies. But that doesn’t mean that those prophecies are now done away with and thrown to the side. There is a pattern in the Bible, which the prophecies are reiterating and expecting to continue. These patterns are not just there for us to call “dispensations”, but are instead cycles to help express the ultimate climax. There shall be an ultimate climax where history comes to a pinnacle. It won’t always be that  we’ll find cycle after cycle, world without end. Time will come to a close, and there is “an age to come”. Matthew is pointing out that with Jesus’ first coming, we do have the actual Kingdom of God being manifest, a deeper expression than before, and yet at the same time it is the exact same expression as before.

Which brings me to another point.

There is this idea that what we have in the ‘new covenant’ (New Testament) is better than what they had in the ‘old covenant’ (Old Testament), and therefore the old is obsolete. What is not understood is that the old is an expression of the eternal, one progression further than where Abraham was, but not to the point where God Himself ruled over Israel and all nations. Here is why that is important: The same Spirit that has been poured out upon us is the same Spirit that the prophets had. What you see expressed throughout the Old Testament in the saints is the exact same thing that you and I have. Saul was converted after leaving Samuel to go back home, and it says that he “became another person”. That is the exact same conversion that Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 5:17. The prophets did say that the Spirit came upon them, but it also says that the Spirit was in them (Daniel 4:8, Genesis 41:38, Numbers 27:18, etc).

The second reason that the wilderness is important in verse 1 is for the sake of verse 4. To many Christians who are not familiar with their Old Testament, this seems like just an abnormal description of John the Baptist. However, when you cross reference 2 Kings 1:8, you find that this was the exact dress of Elijah. Why is that important? Malachi 3:1 says that before the Messiah comes, God shall send Elijah as the forerunner. Once again, this is the pattern being revealed, and Matthew is showing John the baptist to be Elijah. We don’t find Malachi 3:1 quoted here (unlike in Mark 1:2-3), but we do find Jesus insert this later in Matthew 11:10.

In Matthew’s Gospel, John’s message was, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” Matthew stresses the issue of repentance to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, where Mark stresses repentance for the remission of sins. Both Mark and Luke speak of that remission, but in Matthew’s Gospel, such words are strangely absent. Later in the passage, Matthew explains to us what “entering the Kingdom” is, by revealing that all Jerusalem (go back again to Matt 2:3), all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to John, confessing their sins. We then progress from that into verse 7, to speak on the unrepentant Pharisees, and verse 10 signifying the uprooting (casting off – Matt 2:6, Micah 5:2-3) of the of those without repentance.

This “all the region around the Jordan” practically quotes the same phrase from Genesis 13:10-11. This is the region that Sodom and Gomorrah was in. This only shows one more time the pattern of redemption, not only for individuals, nor even for nations, but for the land itself. The place that was inhabited by wickedness, and was left desolate through judgment, is the very place God chooses, and the very place of whose inhabitants come out in repentance before God through confession and the baptism of John the baptist. All the strings tie together somehow – even the strings we weren’t looking for.

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The Covenant Reaffirmed – Exodus 6:1-13

In Exodus 5, we left off with Pharaoh tormenting the Israelites, and Moses lamenting before God. Here in chapter 6, God is beginning to respond. He affirms to Moses that He shall indeed redeem and give inheritance. In verses 2-3, God even says, “I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name YHWH I was not known to them.” I have heard it said, and seen it written, that this verse is often interpreted that the patriarchs didn’t know the name YHWH.

Here is my contention with that: in Genesis, they address God as “YHWH”. Even within Genesis 2, we find LORD God, YHWH Elohim, and this is only in verse 4. So, if from the very start of human history recorded in Scripture, YHWH is being used, then how can we claim that the patriarchs didn’t know this name? To claim Moses wrote these books doesn’t cut it for me. Instead, I would like to suggest something else.

Associated with the names of deity are their power and character. We have something similar today. When you give someone your word, you are putting forth your reputation and everything that people know of you on that promise. We can even think of sayings like, “smeared his name through the mud”. To smear someone’s name is to smear their reputation, their esteem, through the mud. It isn’t about making their “name” ignominious, but but rather the very person and character.

What I want to posit is that this promise to the patriarchs was based utterly upon God’s character. God promised to Adam and Eve a deliverer (Gen 3:15), He promised to Abram a son who would inherit the land of Canaan (Gen 15:4, 7, 18-21), but He didn’t show them the fulfillment of that promise. In fact, when you get to the book of Hebrews, you find the author saying, “having obtained a good testimony through faith, all these did not receive the promise”. The next verse does not say, “But you…” Instead, it says something  better is presented to us, that together with us they might be made complete.

Unto the patriarchs, God has promised the inheritance of Canaan, which is seen in the Hebraic mind as being the very place where heaven and earth meet. This is the very place where God dwells – a Garden of Eden restored. But, the patriarchs didn’t receive the inheritance. Moses is being told here that God had given them the promise, but didn’t give them inheritance. Therefore, the patriarchs did not experientially know the power and glory of the name of YHWH like God will reveal to Moses and his generation. It is about God’s name, His honor, His power, and His character. It is about an experiential knowledge of that Name.

To trace this thought forward in the narrative, not just unto Sinai, but beyond Sinai, we find that God’s name is repeated throughout Scripture. For example, you have God revealing Himself through His name quite directly to the Hebrew children. They experience His power and majesty in the wilderness, and eventually in the Land itself. Joshua leads Israel to inheriting the Promise. Yet, we then find later that the psalmist declares, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest’.” (Psalm 95:7-11)

Let us think this through. The psalmist is not writing about this “today” in the generation of Joshua, who was promised to inherit that rest, but rather centuries after Joshua. The psalmist is writing this while in the land. Somehow, Israel is in the land, inherited the promise, and yet there is a promised rest that if that generation, paralleled with the generation that was killed in the wilderness, will hear God’s voice, they can enter into that promised rest.

It is then the whole point for the rest of the book of Hebrews to show how it is that we haven’t come to the physical promises, but the eternal, which are not separate from the physical, but are interwoven. It is the physical promise that reflects the eternal and heavenly. We have not come unto Sinai, the physical mountain upon which God came down, but unto Zion, the New Jerusalem, which is the throne of God, revealed to us in explicit detail in Revelation 4. It is not Sinai that the prophets envisioned with theophany, in places such as Isaiah 6 or Ezekiel 1-3, but the heavenly Zion.

And so, we see the “better” inheritance that we have, not exclusively as the Church, but together with “them” who are mentioned in Hebrews 11, the saints eternal, they who are called “Israel” by most theologians. There is an connection, then, that cannot (and certainly should not) be severed. It has always been that the prophets perceive beyond the physical and tangible into the spiritual and equally tangible. That is our inheritance as the saints. And, there is an eternal “today”, that if you are willing to humble yourself, ceasing from your own works (namely, righteousness through our own efforts), we can enter into that rest, which from the beginning has been established for all who by faith will enter.

Yet, we cannot conclude that this is the fulfillment. Remember that God put His name upon the physical inheritance – not the spiritual. There must be a physical that is coupled with the spiritual. It is for this reason that we read various texts in the New Testament about the “inheritance” at the end of the age. Jesus promises that His disciples will rule over all Israel upon twelve thrones (Matthew 19:28-29). Paul speaks about we, as Gentile believers even, who shall receive an inheritance with the “redemption of the purchased possession” (Ephesians 1:14). He then further explains what this means in Ephesians 3:1-6, in which he makes the statement that “Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel…”

What is this “body” that is spoken of? It cannot be the Church exclusive, for that would demand a “new” body. The context of Ephesians 3:6 is that this body apparently is already in existence, and hence “same body” instead of “new body”. Don’t quote to me Ephesians 2:14-15, that Christ has made “of the two” “one new man”, and therefore the Church is new and distinct. That isn’t what Paul is saying at all, for only if you skip Ephesians 2:12 can you come to that conclusion. It is because we, even we Gentiles who were aliens and at enmity with God, have been brought near, and made to be partakers of the promise and covenants, being grafted in (to use the language of Romans 11) to the already existent House of Israel. We are not the elite, but the remnant.

Therefore, we know that we have received a spiritual inheritance, even being sealed by the Holy Spirit according to Ephesians 1:13, but that isn’t the fulfillment. It is only the guarantee of the future inheritance at the end of the age, which is not ours exclusively, but unto the whole House of Israel – both the natural and the wild branches. Interestingly to this study, one of the promises to the seven churches in Revelation is that “I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God, And I will write on Him My new name.” (Revelation 3:12)

That promise, in the context of what is written to the rest of the seven churches, cannot be understood as the New Heaven and New Earth, but at Jesus’ return. There might be legitimacy to saying that it is fulfilled to the uttermost in the New Heaven and New Earth, but don’t squash the beauty that is presented in that we rule with Christ for 1000 years. When you parallel the statements of Revelation 2-3 and Revelation 20, you find that there are certain things that are doubled.

Notice again Revelation 22:4. Here it is that having the name of God written upon our foreheads is coupled with seeing God face-to-face. There is a revealing of God intimately that cannot take place apart from the judgment that we experience during Tribulation (not judgment as in condemnation, but judgment as being within the nations who are being judged, and within Israel [the people] who are under judgment). Just as Elijah endured the judgment alongside of his fellow Israelites, and just as Joshua and Caleb had to endure forty years before being permitted to enter the land again, so too must we wait for the second coming – after seven years of Tribulation – before we shall see the fulness of our inheritance in Christ.

The blessed hope of Titus 2:13 is not rapture, as I’ve heard so many say. It is the coming of the King, and with Him the Kingdom of God. It is the redemption of Israel, and with them all the nations. It is worldwide peace. It is the obliteration of the kingdom of darkness. It is the inheritance of promise – heaven and earth becoming one. It is the climax of the covenant, the culmination of the ages, unto which we’ve been progressing since “God separated the light from the darkness”. The blessed hope is the longing of every heart, whether we know how to intuit it or not, whether we’re believers or not. It is a Kingdom that is ruled in justice, equity, and righteousness, instead of bureaucracy, greed, and patriotism. To then take that verse out of context completely, simply to hold that we’re not supposed to endure “wrath” (as if that is even what 1 Thess 5:9 means), is to cast down all hope and all eternal weight of glory that might make out suffering and affliction momentary and light.

 

We’re progressing to a climax. The age is crescendoing. It is our opportunity to work with God or to do our own thing. We can either play church, play Christianity, or we can be the saints in our own generation. The hope that God is giving to Moses in this passage is the very blessed hope that is to give us satisfaction and perseverance unto the end.

Let My People Go – Exodus 5

I find it interesting that the chapter opens to Moses and Aaron going to Pharaoh, inquiring that he let the people of Israel go three days journey into the wilderness to have a feast. What is interesting about this is that there God tells Moses that He will deliver Israel, and they shall come back to Sinai and worship the Lord there. When we read later of that journey, it takes 50 days to get there. It causes me to wonder what a three day journey into the wilderness meant.

What I find equally interesting is that Pharaoh’s response  invokes the reaction that God has visited the Israelites, and that they want to harken unto His voice, lest He bring forth curses and plagues upon them. Once again, when we look at what God has said, He has decreed plagues upon Egypt – even declaring that He would take Pharaoh’s firstborn. So, I wonder where this comes from. Why are they appealing to Pharaoh in this manner?

The Pharaoh then responds by enforcing a harsher slavery upon the people. He claims that the reason these people are crying out to their God is because they are idle without anything to do. How ludicrous does this sound to you? They’re in such terrible oppression they can’t do anything but cry out to the Lord, the Lord hears their cry, and now Pharaoh thinks that they’re just lazy. It’s so obviously a mock that it’s almost humorous. Pharaoh can’t be that ignorant.

What happened to the original plan? Wasn’t the plan to go to Pharaoh and show forth the signs, and let him know that God means business? Yet, there is no mention of this, and even with the end of the chapter, you find Moses crying out to God because all that has taken place is worse bondage than before. It is precisely here that my mind questions where the steadfast Moses is that we will come to know and love later? Why is he so manipulated by the people’s jaunts and complaints, and why is he so quick to doubt what the Lord has told him?

I admit that I see this passage as having end time significance. It is a pattern. The people Israel are held in bondage by a Pharaoh that is not simply “pharaoh”. Just as I discussed last time that the political infrastructure called “Egypt” was ruled by the principalities and powers, so too do I claim that the Jerusalem that we currently see, which represents rabbinic Judaism to the uttermost, is a Jerusalem of bondage. The law, as it is so called, is an object of oppression, seizing the one who attempts to live according to it through the flesh, salvation by works.

Yet, it is to that Israel, the one in bondage, the one who doesn’t yet obey the Lord, the one who grumbles and declares, “The Lord judge between us”, that God has called “my people”. He goes to the Moses, who is the deliverer, and He tells this Moses to go unto Pharaoh. Now, here is where we have a bit of a double meaning. The deliverer is Christ Jesus, who made a public spectacle of the principalities and powers through triumphing over them by the cross. Yet, it is not to Jesus alone that this call goes, but to all who hold to the testimony of Jesus, and who obey the commands of God. Who could that be but we Christians? We are the deliverer unto Israel.

It is our mandate to go unto the pharaoh of this world, wrestling with the principalities and powers, declaring to them boldly in the authority of our God, “Let my people go!” Yet, if we don’t really believe them to be His people, then how can we make such a demand? And, if we don’t really believe that we have the authority, then how can we say such things with confidence? To this we find Moses, who questions the Lord here, as he has done time and again in the past up to this point. It is like the prophet Ezekiel who looks at the valley of dry bones, and God asks, “Can these bones live?” The prophet doesn’t say, “Yes”, but “you know, Lord”. The question demands a faith beyond the prophet, and yet it is the prophet who is told to prophesy.

Why is it that when we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, anything but the peace of Jerusalem comes? Are we not praying hard enough? It isn’t understood by most that there must be hard times. It must happen that Pharaoh reacts the way he does. It is for this reason that we read in Exodus, as well as in the prophets, that Israel “scatters” (Ex 5:12). In Exodus 5, they scatter throughout Egypt. In the last days, they shall scatter through the whole world. Jesus has predicted it, that when  you see the abomination of desolation that they in Judea shall flee to the mountains. Why? Because when the armies surround Jerusalem, its desolation is near.

There is a parallel happening here. The prophets used a language that suggests a last days exodus for the people Israel. They are sifted (scattered) through the wilderness of the nations, completely groping as one who walks in the darkness, while God has declared that He has prepared a place for them in that selfsame wilderness (Revelation 12:6). That preparation is His Church, for it is written, “and they shall take care of her 1,260 days” (Revelation 12:6). Who is the “they” if not the church? For this reason, the result is that the dragon turns his focus upon “her other children”, who are they that hold to the testimony of Jesus (Revelation 12:17).

The plagues of Revelation parallel the plagues of Egypt (at least some of them). It is a reiteration of this same story. In Exodus, it leads to the redemption of Israel from Egypt, and it continues unto Joshua where they inherit the land. All things in their time: first the natural, and then the spiritual – just like Adam came before the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:42-49). First it was Israel to be redeemed from the physical Egypt and into the physical land, but at the end of the age it shall be from the spiritual “Egypt” and “Pharaoh”, who are Satan and the kingdom of darkness, to come unto the spiritual “land”, which is Zion.  That doesn’t discredit the actual physical land and sifting, but all the more heightens it. There is deeper spiritual significance here, and that spiritual significance doesn’t get annulled simply because Israel shall be redeemed spiritually at the end of the age. Indeed, just as the prophets have spoken, they shall be redeemed, and shall return unto the land of Israel, unto their messiah, and shall dwell with Him as His people forever.

Zion or Babylon – Revelation 14:1-5

And I looked, and behold the Lamb was standing upon Mount Zion, and with him a hundred forty four thousand having the name of him and the name of his Father having been written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice out of heaven as the sound of many waters and as the sound of loud thunder. And the voice that I heard was like that of harpists harping with their harps. And they are singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. And no one was able to learn the song if not of the hundred forty four thousand, having been redeemed from the earth. These are they who have not been defiled with women. They are indeed pure. These follow the Lamb wherever anyhow he shall go. These have been redeemed out from men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb, and in their mouth was not found a lie. They are blameless. Before the throne of God.

Let us begin with some general statements. In our timeline that we’ve been trying to keep, the verses that follow this speak of the destruction of the Antichrist’s kingdom, and the harvest of the earth. Therefore, it follows that this is somehow a leap to the end of the timeline. We left off in chapter 13 with the abomination of desolation, which is halfway through the Tribulation. Now we’re at the very end, where the Lamb is seen upon Zion with His saints. With that much being said, what precisely is this scene? It is my belief that we are seeing the wedding of the Lamb, which is mentioned again in Revelation 19:7. Just like we saw the beast in 13:2-7 is further explained in chapter 17, so we will find this chapter being further explained in chapters 18-19.

In the first verse we see the Lamb set opposed to the beasts, and His followers against the followers of the beast, and His mark against the mark of the beast. Mount Zion is the place of God’s dwelling. It is where His temple sits. And, in Joel 3:5 and Obadiah 17, it is the place of deliverance. Zion is somehow dual. It is heavenly as much as earthly. They are counterparts to one another, and neither are complete without the other. This is also seen in the Body of Christ, where the Church is not complete without Israel, and Israel is not complete without the engrafted Gentiles. The two need one another, and until they are all under the one Head, the deliverer cannot come out from Zion.

It is important to note the character difference between the Lamb and the beast. This beast has been given his throne through self-exultation, but the Lamb has obtained His throne through sacrifice. While the world is steeped in “me first” mentality, it is the character and disposition of the Lamb to defer to another, and to suffer on behalf of that other. The Lamb is gentle, meek and mild. The two poles in Revelation are significant, and should not be ignored in our worship.

We first saw the 144,000 in chapter 7. I defined them as the first fruits of the nation of Israel to be redeemed. It is important to note that they have been redeemed from the earth. They are called sexually pure, as opposed to the prostitute in 17. Jerusalem and the rest of Israel is that prostitute (we’ll get into this with much detail, but see Ezekiel 16, Zechariah 5:5, and 1 Peter 5:13). They are first fruits to God, which we also are called. Here I the mystery. I believe these to be the Jewish people – the true nation of Israel. Yet, notice what Paul says in Romans 11. The chapter begins with a praise that God has preserved a faithful remnant within Israel. There are still some Jews who believe in Jesus.

At this moment in our timeline, there is great likelihood that this 144,000 is actually all of Israel, but that detail is not mentioned here. There is a reason for that. We have not yet gotten to chapter 17 where the prostitute is revealed, and we have not yet heard the cry, “Come out from her my people!” If I am correct in my thinking that this is the wedding of the Lamb, then this is the Church, Israel, and the Land all being married unto the Lamb. We’ll get into that later as well.

For the names upon the head, see Exodus 28:36-37. This seems to reflect the crown placed upon the priests in the Old Testament.

In verse 2, we hear a sound, and we recognize that sound as harpists playing their harps. Compare Revelation 1:15, Ezekiel 43:2, and Revelation 5:8-9.

We can also compare verse 3 with Rev 5:9. “No one was able to learn the song.” There is a certain revelation only given to these 144,000. Something has been displayed to them that no one else has comprehended. It is quite possible that this is new revelation only for them, but it is also quite possible that this is a mystery hidden in God until the appearing of Christ at the end of the age. While it seems these 144,000 are Jewish in 7:5-8 (nowhere else is Israel or the tribes explicitly mentioned), it is difficult to reconcile that here. Somehow the overcomers of 12:11 seem to also be represented. The two have become one. They have been “redeemed from the earth”. Whether that redemption is speaking of our salvation, or whether it is speaking of the overcoming, it is up for debate.

The mystery that Paul expresses in Ephesians 3:1-6 is that the Gentiles shall receive inheritance with Israel at the return of Christ. We have been grafted in, and therefore, like Ruth who has declared, “Your people shall be my people, and you God shall be my God”, we have separated from our original nationalities and inheritance to be engrafted into Israel. We are no longer Ham or Japheth – or even some other part of Shem – but are now “Israel”. Together the Jews and Gentiles in Christ shall inherit glorified bodies at the return of Christ to rule with Him as priests.

In verse 4 we find these 144,000 to be sexually chaste. Compare Matthew 19:12. These are the people who are solely married to their God. What that means is that they do not commit idolatry. For the following of the Lamb, see Luke 9:57. For first fruits, see Jeremiah 2:3, Romans 8:24, 29, and James 1:18.

For verse 5, we can compare Zephaniah 3:13, 1 Peter 2:22, John 1:47, and Malachi 2:6. They are blameless, because they have overcome. It is after this scene that judgment comes to Babylon. It is after that scene that we find the harvest of the earth. This follows the exact pattern we’ve seen all along. In the seals, the wrath of the Lamb comes in the sixth seal, and the end of the age with the seventh. The sixth trumpet seems to bring judgment upon the beast that comes out from the Abyss, and in the seventh trumpet we find the kingdoms of this earth have become the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ. Now we find the same thing in chapter 14. The rest of the book of Revelation shifts focus. While the first half seems to revolve around Israel and outward unto all the world, the last part seems to revolve around the Antichrist kingdom and its downfall. The ultimate question of Revelation is thus posed: Which shall be the City of God – Babylon or Zion?

Final Redemption – Lev 27

*warning: extremely long post*

In Leviticus 27, we find that God says anything vowed or pledged to the Lord is His, and in order to take it back, you must purchase it. Now, this is somewhat obvious in the context of how to interpret. When you give something to someone, it is no longer yours. It is theirs. When you give something to God, it is now God’s. In order to get it back, you must buy it from God. This has a couple implications. The first is the obvious one: don’t be a taker-backer. Don’t be that person that will always remember what it is that you’ve given to someone and hold it over their heads forever. You gave it away, so it is no longer yours. The second implication is in reference to this vowing unto the Lord. Ecclesiastes 5:4 says, “When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vows. It is better not to make a vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin.”

I’m sure we’ve all prayed those “if you will” prayers. “God, if you will get me out of this circumstance, then I promise that I will never (fill in the blank).” It would be better to not vow than to at that moment make a hasty vow only to not fulfill it. It reminds me of a joke that I heard about a wealthy Jewish man. He wasn’t observant, never really went to synagogue, didn’t perform the regular traditions. One day he is supposed to be at this important meeting. It’s the most important meeting of his career. This will either make him very wealthy or will sink his company. He does everything that he can to make sure that he will be at that meeting on time and prepared. The day comes, and the man’s alarm doesn’t go off. But, no big deal, he woke up early enough anyway. He just didn’t wake up as early as he had hoped. He gets out into traffic, and there is unexpected roadwork to prevent him from being on time. Frustrated, he eventually makes it through the roadwork and to his office. As he is circling the parking lot, he realizes that because he is later than usual, there are no spaces available. Panicked, the man prays, “HaShem, I know that I’m not a very good observant Jew. If you will come through for me this one time, I will…” At that very moment a car pulls out of their parking spot, and the man says, “Never mind!”

Honestly, it truly is better to keep our mouths shut, even when we’re repenting and saying we’ll never commit that sin again. It is better to be found in honesty before God than to speak sincere lies. You might be sincere and truly detest what you’ve done, but it is not good to confess and say you’ll never do this again only to recommit the same sin a few days or a week later. This is vowing to the Lord only to take it back.

At the end of the chapter, which is really what I want to focus on this time, is this mention that the firstborn is the Lord’s. Only if it is unclean may it be bought back. We looked at Exodus 4:22 multiple times in this series. Israel is God’s firstborn son. And, they are unclean. So, God has established an end time payment for His people. We read in the New Testament of how we have been bought by the blood of Jesus. There is still a future redemption to come, though. I want to lay out as concisely as I can some of these prophetic words.

When Jesus returns, he sets up shop in Jerusalem. It is from Zion that the law goes forth, and out of Jerusalem goes the word of the Lord. Israel is at that time finally knowing the Lord their God, and we will fulfill our purpose of being the priestly nation to the nations. More Scriptures than I can quote speak of the ingathering of Israel, and it is interesting that with many of these Scriptures comes a re-gathering as well. When they are “ingathered” to Christ, they will then also be gathered again from all nations unto which they have been sifted. This implies a final sifting, and that Israel’s current occupancy in the Land will not remain forever.

If the Jewish people dispersed even currently throughout the world, and to be sifted again through all nations, are to come back to Jerusalem, what are some of the terms of that gathering? I think of the Exodus where God told Israel that they will not flee. They will go out with joy like royalty (Exodus 3:21-22, 11:2-3). Isaiah 11:11 that says that God will gather His people a second time from “Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonian, from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah fro the four quarters of the earth”.

My mind flashes to that verse that is later in Isaiah where the prophet foretells of the nature of their coming. “See, I will beckon to the Gentiles, I will lift up my banner to the peoples; they will carry your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on your shoulders. Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground; they will lick the dust at your feet. Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who home in me will not be disappointed” (Isaiah 49:22-23). Just like in the Exodus, Israel does not return in gloom or despair. Contrary to that thought, it is written, “The ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will be upon their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (Isaiah 35:10). God will do great things in their midst. They will see miracles before their eyes as they wander the wilderness of the nations. Isaiah 35 states earlier that “the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped” – obviously an undoing of Isaiah 6:9-10 – “Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.”

Israel will survive their time of trouble because of the providence of God. Miracles will burst forth, both through the Church as well as in the literal wandering of the wilderness. The divine character being manifest to Israel is what God meant when saying: “I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:24-27)

Ezekiel saw the devastation of Israel. God speaks to Him about how He will strike their hearts with fear and terror. By the time they come to this point in the narrative, God has already been striking at that heart of stone. Here in Ezekiel 36 we have cogent and precise words. These are calculated. God gathers them from the nations – even upon the shoulders of kings and queens – and it is in this divine manifestation of love that Israel breaks down and weeps. At the coming of Christ, the people of Israel have already gone through torture. What is a judgment upon them is an act of mercy and love, for Jesus even told the Church in Laodicea, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.” When the power of that people is broken, as is mentioned in Leviticus 26:19, they have finally come to the place where they can see God and accept Him. It takes ruthless breaking upon them for it to come, but so it is with us all.

This is why Isaiah 14:1 starts with the words, “I will have compassion on Jacob.” Jeremiah 3:18 states that “in those days the house of Judah will join the house of Israel, and together they will come from a northern land to the land I gave your forefathers as an inheritance.” That divided house that has been at enmity with one another since the time of Rehoboam will be joined once again. Christ will break down the wall of hostility between them. Yet, Isaiah 14:1 goes a step further in even adding the detail, “Aliens will join them and unite with the house of Jacob.” Not only will Israel and Judah be united, as Ezekiel 37:15-28 also suggests, but even the foreigners and Gentiles will be added to them. Guess who that is!

Zechariah 10:10 tells us that “there will not be room enough for them.” We find the same sentiment in Isaiah 49:20-21 when we read, “The children born during your bereavement will yet say in your hearing, ‘This place is too small for us; give us more space to live in.’ Then you will say in your heart, ‘Who bore me these? I was bereaved and barren; I was exiled and rejected. Who has brought these up? I was left all alone, but these – where have they come from?’”

Jeremiah tells us that among those who return will be “the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labor; a great throng will return. They will come weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them besides streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son” (Jeremiah 30:8-9).

We see in Ezekiel 20:41: “I will accept you as a fragrant incense when I bring you out from the nations and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered.” This, no doubt, comes from the pleasing aroma of God’s sacrifices in Leviticus, which Paul also states that we are the “fragrance of Christ.” We have been brought out of our own nations and unto Zion through Christ. The fragrance of Christ will in that day be at work in Israel, which will cause them to also have “singleness of heart and action” (Jeremiah 32:39). This also reminds me of something Paul said to the Corinthians, where he encouraged them to be one in spirit and heart. Do you see how the new covenant Scriptures affects the way that we live? And yet we also know there is a coming time where the new covenant shall be fulfilled to the uttermost.

The importance of recognizing the return from the nations is critical. We spoke briefly about how the return in 1948 could not be this final return. Do you see why? Though Israel returned with gladness and joy, Isaiah 51:11 tells us that “sorrow and sighing will flee away.” Sorrow and sighing has not fled away, and indeed Israel’s enemies are on every side. The Gentiles did not bring Israel back. Ezekiel 28:26 says that the Israelites will live safely and build houses and plant vineyards. The abundance of Scripture on this subject is simply embarrassing. The fact that we as the Church have pretty well not even recognized this tells us just how Scripturally nonliterate we are. We have every ability to read the Bible, but we don’t.

“So then, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “When people will no longer say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ but they will say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the descendants of Israel up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ Then they will live in their own land.” This passage from Jeremiah 23 shows us that this final sifting and deliverance will be greater than the very exodus itself!

Isaiah 31:5 has an interesting phrase. God says that He will come down upon Mount Zion to do battle, but it says that He will “pass over it and will rescue it.” This, of course, should have us immediately think of Exodus. The Lord came with the spirit of death, and those who had the blood upon their doorposts were “passed over”. What is the blood upon the doorposts? God says, “Like birds hovering overhead, the Lord Almighty will shield Jerusalem; he will shield it and deliver it.” Think back to Isaiah 4:5. “Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of fire by night; over all the glory will be a canopy.”

The blood on the doorposts is the Lord Almighty. We know this to be Christ, our Passover Lamb. Yet, in Isaiah 4, we find some more interesting information here. Christ is the Passover Lamb, and His blood is sprinkled upon the doorposts of our lives. Yet, that same Lord Almighty that will be over Mount Zion as a shield to protect her in Isaiah 31 is described in Isaiah 4 as the cloud by day and fire by night. Above all of this glory is a canopy. What does that mean? This is no doubt a chuppa. Once again we see the redemption of Israel takes place at the marriage of the Lamb.

When Israel is regathered from the nations unto the Land, she is given the obligation to destroy all of her idols. By this time, since the coming of messiah has already taken place, Israel and all the Jewish people are believers. The idolatry in the heart has been eradicated. The outworking of that heart transplant is the destruction of the idols that fill Israel – whether graffiti, occult temples, whore houses, or the abomination of desolation. God gives the clear charge to destroy the idols. In Isaiah 27:9, we read about the altar stones being like chalk stones ground to pieces. No Asherah poles or incense altars will be left standing. The children of Israel will destroy all of her idols, and in that they find their full redemption.

Romans 11:26: “And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The deliverer will come out of Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.’” Here we have a quotation from Psalm 14:7. However, this could also be a quotation from Isaiah. Isaiah 59:20 reads, “The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins…” We discussed briefly the destruction of the idols. Isaiah 27:9 speaks of the destruction of the idols, but the first part of that verse reads, “By this, then, will Jacob’s guilt be atoned for, and this will be the full fruitage of the removal of his sin.” It is not simply that the idols need to be cleaned up because God wants to have the Land purged. The destruction of the idols signifies the full redemption of Israel. This gets back to Leviticus 27.

“Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains and on the hills and under every spreading tree where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places.” (Deuteronomy 12:2-3) “When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come upon you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 30:1-6)

We find that Isaiah prophesied about the time of their regathering, “The fortress will be abandoned, the noisy city deserted; citadel and watchtower will become a wasteland forever, the delight of donkeys, a pasture for flocks, till the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest.” (Isaiah 32:14-15) The Spirit is poured out from on high upon the whole house of Israel. As it is written, “The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them.” (Jeremiah 31:31) What does it mean that they will not break this New Covenant?

Paul answers that in Romans 7. They who are dead are no longer bound to the Law; therefore we who have died with Christ are no longer bound to the Law, but instead are bound to Christ. Israel, while they are currently bound to the law, and therefore bound to death and sin, will be released from their oppression to be made new in Christ. Jeremiah continues: “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.” Compare this with Ezekiel 36: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart” – the same heart mentioned before by Jeremiah with the Law written upon it – “and put a new spirit within you” – the sealing of the Holy Spirit unto Christ – “I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

Isaiah 12:3 speaks of Israel drawing water from the wells of salvation with joy. We know that this water is the living water mentioned in John 7:37-38, of which we as believers of the New Covenant. This baptism of the Spirit for Israel takes place at the return unto a land filled with “vile images and detestable idols” which Israel will have to remove. Ezekiel 11 continues from that phrase to say, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and given them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their vile images and detestable idols, I will bring down on their own heads what they have done.” (Ezekiel 11:18-21)

Zephaniah 3:11-13 adds, “On that day you will not be put to shame for all the wrongs you have done to me, because I will remove from this city those who rejoice in their pride. Never again will you be haughty on my holy hill. But I will leave within you the meek and humble who trust in the name of the Lord. The remnant of Israel will do no wrong; they will speak no lies, nor will deceit be found in their mouths. They will eat and lie down and no one will make them afraid.” Israel shall at this time have a spirit of humility, which is the spirit of Christ. No longer will they be prideful or haughty, not because God will destroy all who have pride and haughtiness, but because God will pour out the Spirit of grace and supplication upon the remnant (Zechariah 12:10). All men are prideful and haughty, thus we cannot say it is somehow that these who survive are not.

We know that it is not because of their lack of pride that they are spared, but rather that God will “judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats.” (Ezekiel 34:17) For this reason we have a verse in Zechariah 9:11-12 about God freeing the prisoners from the waterless pit and restoring twice as much to them. It is “because of the blood of my covenant with you” that God redeems Israel. What exactly is that “blood of [His] covenant”? “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The very wine that we drink, the bread we break, as ministers of the New Covenant is the symbol of Israel’s redemption. Not because of their humility, but rather because of Christ’s atonement will God restore them.

They will meet with God in the wilderness, where God has set a table for them, and that table is Christ. We break the bread and we give them the wine of the New Covenant. We display to Israel during her final calamity the reality of the New Heaven and New Earth at work within us – not because God has already established them, but because though we are in the world we are not of the world. While the earthly Jerusalem is currently the son of the slave woman, the heavenly Jerusalem is free (Galatians 4:24-26). We are not under the bondage of the earthly Jerusalem, but have been freed for freedom’s sake (Galatians 5:1) to drive the Jew to envy. By our mercy they shall obtain mercy (Romans 11:31). For this reason, we lay down our lives as living sacrifices. We are the offering. We are the bread broken for them. Our blood is the wine poured out, because Christ is in us, and we are His body. This isn’t to diminish the work of Christ, but all the more to exult it.

When Israel shall taste of that New Covenant wine for the first time after she has been restored, “a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity. On that day, I will banish the names of the idols from the land, and they will be remembered no more.” (Zechariah 13:1-2) What day is this? It is the day of the return of Christ. Up to this point, Israel has been fed with “the bread of affliction” (Deuteronomy 16:3, Isaiah 34:20), but now “your teachers will be hidden no more.” (Isaiah 34:20-21) Who are these teachers Isaiah is speaking of? They are the ministers of the New Covenant – the Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ Jesus our Lord. They are the wise mentioned in Daniel 11:33-35. “With your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, you ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ Then you will defile your idols overlaid in silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, ‘Away with you!’”.

It is for this reason, because their teachers are no longer hidden from their eyes, and because they drink deeply from the well of salvation the eternal Spirit, that Isaiah later says, “But Israel will be saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation; you will never be put to shame or disgraced, to ages everlasting.” (Isaiah 45:17) Obadiah 17 declares, “But on Mount Zion will be deliverance; it will by holy, and the house of Jacob will possess its inheritance.” Of this inheritance, Paul writes concerning the believers, “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)

Moses asks, “Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by miraculous signs and wonders, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?” (Deuteronomy 4:34) Zechariah 8:6 then continues this thought by comparing it to the end time exodus back to the Land: This is what the Lord Almighty says, “It may seem marvelous to the remnant of the people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?” This reminds me of a question that Jesus asked in Luke 18:8. “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

We saw in Isaiah 10:20-23 that there would come a time when Israel will no longer rely on him who strikes them down – the Antichrist – but now returns to the Lord. In the verses leading up to this statement, we find verse 17: “The Light of Israel will become a fire, their Holy One a flame; in a single day it will burn and consume his thorns and briers.” In a single day… There are few verses that speak of this, but many that speak of “the Day of the Lord.” Why the “Day” and not the “Days”? Some have speculated that the Day of the Lord is a period of time, and that the Hebrew word yom can have that loose translation. I’m not entirely convinced. There are some references to the Day of the Lord that seem to be outside of the return of Christ, this is true. However, the vast majority can all be found in a single day, or maybe to better word it, can be the result of a single day.

The return of Christ is the Day of the Lord. It is upon that one day that all of history pivots. The two advents of Christ are the two hinges that we understand the entirety of the Bible to swing upon. While we understand that there is more that happens before and after the return of Christ, it does seem as though the defeat of the Antichrist, the locking up of Satan in his prison, the redemption of Israel, and the banner set up for the nations to behold the glory of God are all accomplished in a single day. From that day, there are other things that might take longer, such as the rebuilding of the ruins, the bringing back of the Diaspora, the destruction of idols, etc. Yet, those things that might take longer than a day to accomplish in no way should be considered factors to speak against the notion of the Day of the Lord being a single day.

For example, we read in Ezekiel 36:33-36 that “on the day I cleanse you from all your sins,” God will resettle their towns, the ruins will be rebuilt, the desolate land will be cultivated, the cities will be fortified, and the land will be replanted. Do we conclude that because it says, “On the day” that all of these things take place in a single day? Of course not. Yet, we also do not consider that because these things take multiple days that God is intending that “on that day” would actually refer to a period of time. When it says in Zechariah 3:9, and is also repeated in 9:16, “I will remove the sin of this land in a single day,” we can be confident that the removal of sin is indeed accomplished in a single day.

One day, and the whole of the creation is restored back to its original intent in God. Isaiah 66:8 asks the question, “Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment?” Yet, no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children. Does God bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery? There is a travail that takes place in the people of God. That travail is the impregnation and birthing of the nation of Israel. This delivery doesn’t take ages, but only moments. It is upon the return of Christ, of which we can hasten His return according to the apostle Peter (2 Peter 3:12). One thing is certain: we cannot hasten that day by “doing”. It is not about what we do, nor about attaining higher righteousness. Such mentality is still under the bondage of the law. Our hastening of Christ’s coming can only be done in our intercession on behalf of Israel.

To sum up, then, we see that the ultimate redemption of Israel comes about through their resurrection. The payment must be made for them to go from clean to unclean. God Himself made payment for them in His own blood, and just like we as believers have also had to go through death to taste resurrection, the whole nation of Israel will go through death to taste resurrection. This is the beauty and logic of God. We see the Scriptures attesting for us the immense prerogative of God. For God to redeem His firstborn, He must pay for them in His own blood, and then they must also pass from death to life. For, the wages of sin is death, and no one can be set free from those wages. We all taste death. We will either taste it in this life or in the next life, but we will all pay those wages. The difference between the two is that to taste of death in this life will result in the power of God unto resurrection, but in the next life there is no remedy.

This concludes our study of Leviticus. It begins with the means of salvation for the people of God, and it ends with their redemption. Everything in between is the answer to that perplexing question of how we go from the Garden to Zion. The question to ask at this point is: Have you come unto Zion? If not, what is retraining you? If so, is there anything that you now better understand that you need to begin to live out? Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, even though we know that this prayer cannot ultimately be fulfilled until the Lord plants Israel that final time. Until then, we wrestle not with flesh and blood…

The Seventh Trumpet – Rev 11:15-19

And the seventh angel sounded his trumpet. And great voices were in heaven saying, “The kingdom of the world has become of our Lord’s and of His Christ, and he will reign to the ages of the ages.” And the twenty four elders sitting before God on their thrones fell upon their faces and worshiped God saying, “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the one being and who was that you have taken your great power and begun to reign. And the nations were enraged, and your wrath came and the time for the dead to be judged and to give reward to your servants the prophets and to the saints and to those fearing your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who are destroying the earth.” And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of the covenant was seen in his temple, and there were flashes of lightning and thunderings and thunder and an earthquake and great hail.

This is the return of the Lord. As we see in 1 Corinthians 15:52, the return of Jesus takes place at the last trump. We saw similar language in 8:5, 11:19, and 16:18, all seeming to point to the same event. Because this is the return of Jesus, the language makes sense. Now the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of the Lord and His Christ. Now he will reign forever and ever. Now he has begun to reign. The nations were angry, but now His wrath has come – just like we saw in 6:12-17 was the return of Jesus and “the wrath of the Lamb”. Now has come the time for judging the dead and the rewarding the prophets and saints. It all makes sense under the ideology that this is somehow the return of Jesus.

For such a small passage, it is absolutely full of quotations. In the first statement of verse 15, we can compare Isaiah 27:13, Matthew 24:31, 1 Thessalonians 4:16. It is quite often that the coming of the Lord is considered to be with trumpets. In Isaiah 27, the context is absolutely the Day of the Lord. For “the kingdom of this world”, see Matthew 4:8. “Our Lord and of His Christ” is an Old Testament expression from Psalm 2:2.

The Kingdom of Christ and God is one. In Ephesians 5:5, we read of “the Kingdom of Christ and God”. In 1 Corinthians 15:24-28, the Son resigns His mediatorial Kingdom to the Father, that God might be “all in all”. But later, Christ too was conceived as “all in all” (Ephesians 1:23, Col 3:11). The Kingdom is for everlasting (Daniel 2:44, 7:14, 17, Psalm 10:16, Exodus 15:18, Luke 1:33).

Notice in verse 17 that it is “who was and is”, and no longer “is to come”. Christ has come. We can compare this verse to Psalm 93:1-2. In verse 18 there is a progression. We find this to be our chronology: 1) angry nations, 2) wrath, 3) judging the dead, 4) rewarding those worthy, and 5) destroying they who destroy the earth. We see this in chapters 19-22. Of course, this has duality. We see in the coming of Jesus this very thing, and then again in the larger picture of chapters 19-22.

With the coming of Jesus, we see that the nations rage (19:19). We see secondly that Jesus executes the wrath against them (19:20-21). Then, we see the dead are judged – or at least the nations are judged – from Joel 3:1-3 and Matthew 25:31-46. Jesus shall reward those who are worthy, as we read in Revelation 22:12, which is at Christ’s coming. Lastly, the destruction of those who destroy the earth occurs. This would be the finality of the judgment seen in Matthew 25, which is a parable based upon Daniel 12:2. It could be pressed, but I wouldn’t press too hard, that 20:9-10 would be the destroying of they who destroy the earth.

In regards to the larger picture, we see that the nations rage in 19:10 and 20:8-9. We see that wrath comes upon those raging nations in 19:21 and 20:9. Then, immediately following destruction of that army in 20:9 is the Great White Throne. It is upon this throne that everyone is judged, and thus rewarded or condemned.

For the individual phrases, we fine “nations enraged” comes from Psalm 2:1 and 5. “Time for the dead to be judged” implies Revelation 20:11-15, but Matthew 25:31 also speaks of judging at the return of Jesus before the 1000 years. “To give reward” i.e. Revelation 22:12. Compare Psalm 115:11, 13, 118:4, 135:20. “Destroy those destroyers of the earth” could be compared to Revelation 19:2. It may come from Jeremiah 51:25.

The final verse reports of the heavenly temple being made manifest in a manner that all can behold it. The trumpets start with the offering of prayer upon the altar of incense (8:3). The second woe opens with the answer to that prayer (9:13). Now, at the final trump, with the end of the age, the Holy of Holies is opened and the Ark of the Covenant is seen. The ark is God’s throne, as established in Revelation 4. Jeremiah 3:16-18 tells us that Zion shall be God’s dwelling place, and Jerusalem His throne. This signifies the uniting of the earthly and heavenly. Zion is no longer twofold, and Jerusalem no longer contrasted by New Jerusalem. They are one. Compare the end of the verse to the sixth seal and the seventh bowl of wrath.

The Great Multitude – Rev 7:9-17

In Revelation 7, the progression of thought is from Israel to a great multitude. First, we see Israel being sealed. Then, we find a new scene being introduced: an innumerable amount of people with white robes. As we’ve discussed back in Revelation 3:5, the white robes seem to be an illustration of resurrection. Of course, we see that the white robes are “the righteous acts of the saints” in Rev 19:8, if we grant that the fine linen given to the Bride is the same as these white robes. Notice, though, that the context of these white robes is never displayed as obtaining them before the coming of Christ. In chapter 6 we saw the martyrs crying out (fifth seal), and they were given white robes. This is placed just before the return of Christ – most likely the resurrection that Paul addresses in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, where the dead will rise first.

After these things I looked and behold a great multitude, which no one was able to number, out of every nation and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and the Lamb, having been clothed with white robes, and palm branches in their hands. And crying with a loud voice saying, “Salvation to our God sitting on the throne and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and they all fell before the throne upon their faces and worshiped God saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength to our God to the ages of the ages! Amen.”

This great multitude is μετα – after and with. It is after the sealing in progression of vision, but this multitude is to be understood as “with” the 144,000. They are only distinguished by symbolism, namely, what the 144,000 represent. These two groups are united. The one represents the first fruits of “all Israel”, and the other represents all who came out of the Great Tribulation (verse 14). We can see in Romans 11 and Ephesians 2:12-16 this concept of the two coming together.

Having palm branches signifies the Feast of Tabernacles. The apostle John uses the language of the feasts quite regularly, focusing in upon their messianic and prophetic significance. He points out Jesus as our Passover Lamb (dying at the exact moment the lambs were being slain), our first fruits (resurrecting three days later, on the day after the Sabbath), Christ is our sacrifice of atonement and our scapegoat (the significance being that he not only made atonement for us, but also for the whole world – just like the Day of Atonement was for the sins of the whole nation of Israel), Jesus returns at the Last Trump (signifying the Feast of Trumpets), and finally we see here with the metaphor of the Millennial Kingdom that the multitude wave palm branches.

When we go to Leviticus 23:40, we find the command to wave these branches. The disciples used this as a metaphor for both the triumphal entry (John 12:13) and the second coming (as seen here). The idea of the Feast of Tabernacles is that God has “tabernacled” with us. We see this language in the Gospel of John, at the very beginning in 1:14. He has “tabernacled” with us. Yet, there is still a future expectation of His return, which also is quite emphasized in John’s Gospel. It is to that return that we believe God to actually dwell with us.

Leviticus 26:11-12 gives the promise that God will actually dwell among His people and walk in their midst. How is it that God will actually walk in the midst of His people? There is the obvious connotation to get us back to Genesis, in the Garden of Eden, where God walked in the cool of the day. However, even with God walking in the Garden, the question is posed, “How can a God who is spirit walk upon the earth?” The answer is found in Isaiah 9:6. We read that a child will be born, which implies humanity. Yet, one of the names of this child is “Mighty God.” You don’t give a mere human being the title of “Mighty God”. That title is for HaShem alone. So, we find this implicit. Unto us a child will be born – human – and he will be called Might God – incarnation. The Feast of Tabernacles has been fulfilled. Here it is that Jesus has returned and God walks in our midst. God Himself is in our midst.

Compare the praise given by this multitude to the praise found later in Rev 12:10 and 19:1. It is derived from Psalm 3:8. Interesting that on the Feast of Tabernacles, on the last and greatest day, the crowd would chant hosanna (God save us!) louder and louder as the high priest poured out living water and wine down the isle of the sanctuary. We find later in Rev 22:1, we read of a river of life flowing from the throne of God – more Tabernacles language. Here the cry of “God save us” is no longer heard. Now the praise is unto the God who has saved.

And one of the elders answered saying to me, “Who are these having been clothed with white robes, and from where do they come?” And I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are those coming out of the Great Tribulation, and they washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Because of this, ‘they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple, and the One sitting on the throne will tabernacle over them. They will not hunger any more, neither will they thirst anymore, nor shall the sun fall upon them, nor any scorching heat, because the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them, and he will lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’

We can compare this question of who this multitude is with the question Joshua asks in Joshua 9:8. Jonah 1:8 also holds a similar way of posing the question, when the sailors ask Jonah to tell them about himself.

John calls the angel – this elder – his Lord (κυριε). See Genesis 19:2, Daniel 10:16, Zechariah 1:9, and in addressing a man, Gen 23:6, 31:35, and John 12:21. Compare this statement to Ezekiel 37:3.

The “great tribulation” seems to recall Daniel 12:1, Matthew 24:29, and Mark 13:19, where we read of “unequalled distress”. Only here in all of Scripture is it called “the Great Tribulation”, to be distinct from all other tribulation mentioned in 1:9. “Ye shall have tribulation”, but this one is something altogether different. This one is unequalled from any other time in history, and therefore cannot be placed in the past (what event do we dare to say is “unequalled”, and by what right do we claim there will not be a greater in the future?).

The statement “in the blood of the Lamb” should probably be “through the blood”. Compare 12:11. See also 1 John 1:7, Romans 3:25, 5:9, Hebrews 9:14, 1 Peter 1:2, Exodus 19:10, 14, Isaiah 1:8, and 1 Corinthians 6:11.

This final and glorious three-verse explanation has much reference to both the Feast of Tabernacles and the book of Isaiah. For this service day and night see Philippians 3:3, Acts 24:7, Romans 9:4, and 12:1. This goes back to Revelation 4 – the throne room being the Holy of Holies. The eternal service unto God is one of servanthood, which is ruling. This cannot be New Jerusalem. There has to be an intermediate stage between the end of the age and New Jerusalem, where the Christ will reign and we will reign with Him. This kind of service cannot happen at the New Jerusalem, because in 21:22, we read that there is no more night in the New Jerusalem. There absolutely must be some sort of segueing between this age and that age – found in the Millennial Kingdom.

The “tabernacling over”, or “spreading a tent over” comes from Isaiah 4:5-6 and 30:22. It represents a chuppa, which is signifying marriage. Examine Isaiah 62:4-5 for this marriage of God unto the Land and His people. This denotes marriage as well as protection. Once again, this language of tabernacle goes back to the completion of the Feast of Tabernacles.

Compare verse 16 with Isaiah 49:10. Also se Psalm 121:6. For thirst, see John 4:14, and see Rev 7:17 – “He will lead them to springs…” All of this once again goes back to the Feast of Tabernacles, not only because the final day has the pouring out of the living water, but because throughout the week they are teaching and learning of how salvation and living water are paralleled, and how God is the one who brings us to streams of living water, and how God’s Spirit is likened to Living Water. While all of this is being taught, the people are living in “booths” (tabernacles) to remember what it was like to come out of Egypt and live in tents. It is a reminder of the old tent, which we can see in 2 Corinthians 5:1-4 is our natural bodies we currently preside in. God dwelt among us in a tabernacle as well, but that kind of dwelling could never be the expected glory that was promised. We, with the Israelites, look forward to a day when God will dwell upon the earth in unadulterated splendor, and we will be clothed in new bodies – incorruptible – to see Him face-to-face and yet live.

Compare Revelation 7:17 with Ezekiel 34:23-24, John 10:11, 14, Hebrews 13:20, 1 Peter 2:25, Isaiah 40:11, and Psalm 23:1, 3. “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” – see Isaiah 25:8.

The Pattern of Daniel – Rev 6-19

To continue in Revelations, we need to examine the book of Daniel. While I know that many of my faithful followers will benefit from this, I also know that there will be other who read future posts and won’t understand what I’m saying because they won’t have this background. What do you do? I decided to write out this small intercession.

For the sake of not having 5000+ words in this segment, I am specifically going to keep my writing to the book of Daniel as much as possible. Trust me, I can easily get off into how these things relate throughout the rest of the Scripture, and even into much of what Paul or Peter or John have written. Know that with everything I am putting here, I have details from other books as well to add and reveal that this is indeed the correct interpretation. This is seen from Isaiah through Malachi, and from the Olivet discourse to the words of Paul to the book of Revelations, and all of the other apostolic proclamation in between.

To begin our trek to understand the basic foundations for the end times, we look at Daniel chapter 2. Nebuchadnezzar has a dream, and in this dream he sees a statue with four different elements, but the fourth element contains two distinct parts. The head is gold, and the interpretation says that this is Nebuchadnezzar. After him shall come Medo-Persia, who will then be followed by Greece, who will then be followed by Rome. It is interesting to note the feet of iron and clay. Something about this fourth kingdom is being revealed. There is one sense in which we can see with the inception of the Caesars that Rome was changed, and indeed this is when Christ was born. Yet, to another degree, we see that this kingdom with the ten toes being ten kings reaches unto the end of the age.

When we pick up in Daniel 7, we find four beasts. The first beast is like a lion with wings of an eagle. This represents Nebuchadnezzar (see Daniel 5). The second is bear with three ribs in his mouth and raised up on one side. Just like the Persians were stronger than the Medes, so too was this bear raised up on one side. Medo-Persia had three conquests, represented by the three ribs. The third beast is was like a leopard, which had four wings and four heads. This beast represents Greece. First, Alexander takes over the known world, and then when he dies, his four strongest commanders were given quarters of his kingdom. Lastly, this final beast represents Rome, but specifically has ten horns just like those ten toes were pointed out in Daniel 2. This is the Antichrist kingdom.

Continuing in the narrative, we find this “little horn” to come up upon this fourth beast. This takes us to Daniel 8, and we’ll come back to Daniel 7 in a moment. In Daniel 8, there is a ram with two horns – one longer than the other. Remember the bear lifted on its side? This is the same symbolism for Medo-Persia. Then, a goat comes flying across the land. This goat represents Alexander the Great. When this goat is successful, his horn falls off and four replace it. Once again, remember the four heads and the four wings on the leopard. These are the four rulers of the four segments of Greece. Then, a “little horn” grows up on one of the four horns. Notice in Daniel 7 that this little horn uproots three horns, but here it grows on top of one horn. This is telling us details to how to identify the Antichrist – he shall come out of one of those horns from Greece, but will uproot three other kings in the kingdom of the beast.

Daniel 7 reveals to us that out of this fourth beast shall come a little horn, and he shall boast against the Lord with mighty blasphemous words (verse 8). Then, we see the establishment of the throne of the Ancient of Days, and the coming of the Son of Man upon the clouds when the little horn (Antichrist) is throne into the lake of fire. This sounds an awful lot like Revelation 19. Daniel 8 then adds that this little horn will “set itself up to be as great as the Prince of the host”, and will take away the daily sacrifice and bring the sanctuary low (verse 11). “Because of rebellion” (Dan 8:12), the host of the saints and the daily sacrifice will be given unto him, which explains to us how this man will enter the very temple area itself in Revelation 11 and establish the abomination of desolation in Revelation 13.

When we come to Daniel 9, we find seventy weeks. These are sets of seven year intervals. At the 69th week, Jesus is crucified (the text says, “the anointed one will be cut off, but not for himself”). The 70th week is then describing what we saw regarding this little horn in chapters 7-8. All scholars separate this 70th week from the first 69. The question is how for forward it is pushed. Most preterists will claim it took place in 70 A.D. with the destruction of the temple. Premillinnialists will say that it is still yet future.

There is a covenant confirmed for one week (seven years). Halfway through it, we find the estblishment on the wing of the temple the “abomination of desolation” – referred to by Jesus in Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14, and Luke 21:20 (in Luke it doesn’t use the exact phrase) as a future event (it cannot be fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanes).

We find this abomination being referenced in Revelation 13:14-15, where a statue is erected in honor of the beast. This happens halfway through the week, which we see in Daniel 11:21-45 is an elaboration of this wee (follow the Hebrew antecedent from verse 45 backward to come to verse 21 as the beginning of this character). So, for the first three and a half years, there is an illusory peace established, and for the last three and a half years, we find stark terror.

To connect this man in Daniel 11 with the Antichrist, we see him to “come to an agreement” and coming to power “with only a few people” (Daniel 11:23, and remember the confirmation of the covenant in Daniel 9:27 and the “little horn” seems to speak of a small insignificant man who would rise to power). This man will attempt to invade Israel, but will be stopped by ships from Kittim, and will turn back in fury against the holy covenant (Dan 11:30). He will then show favor to them who forsake the holy covenant (remember Daniel 8:12 with the language of rebellion). Then, his armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and abolish the daily sacrifice (remember Daniel 8:10-11). He will establish the abomination of desolation (the exact phrase used in Daniel 9:27 and Matthew 24:15 as a future event).

We see after this that the Antichrist will corrupt those who violated the covenant, but they who know their God will resist him firmly. This is where the “time of Jacob’s trouble” enters (Jeremiah 30:7). This is the last three and a half years. In Daniel 11:33-35, we read about this man killing by the sword, burning alive, capturing, and plundering anyone who resists him. The abomination of desolation, according to the Olivet discourse (Matthew 24 and parallels), is the destruction of Jerusalem and the time of the Gentiles when they shall have power over that land. During that time, anyone who opposes the Antichrist will be persecuted most severely. This is where the church enters in, because we are those wise who will refine and purify and make spotless the Jewish people who are being persecuted with us. The appointed time is the return of Jesus, where the coming of the Son of Man upon the clouds shall throw the Antichrist into the lake of fire (Dan 7:11-14), and the Church and Israel shall marry their God, and shall dwell in the Land together with Him forever (Dan 7:26-27).

It is this seven year cycle that Revelations 6-19 repeats. When we reach chapter 20, we find the Kingdom of God established upon the earth, which is what Daniel 7 speaks of. We find the cycle going over and over again through the book of Revelations, and so when we come to the seals, the question is where they fit in the timeline. When we come to the trumpets, the question is where they fit in the timeline. When we come to the woman in the wilderness, the establishment of the Antichrist, and the harvest of the earth (Rev 12-14), the question is where that fits on our timeline. Where do the seven bowls of wrath fit in our timeline? It is not one big chronology, but the same events repeated over and over again. Yet, I don’t want you to think that this means the seals are the trumpets, the trumpets are the bowls or wrath, and all of the above is somehow tied together with the other narratives in Revelations. They are all distinct, though they are within the same timeframe.

So, when we begin to look at Revelations 6, understand that we’re looking at a parallel between the seven years marked out in Daniel and the seals. That connection will be made clearly in the next post, but for you who cannot live without knowing, examine the three records of Jesus’ Olivet discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21) and how they parallel the six seals. Then, notice how the Olivet discourse parallels Daniel’s prophecies.

Philadelphia – Revelation 3:7-13

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

These things says the Holy One, the true One having the key of David, opening and no one will shut, and shutting and no one opens, “I know your deeds. Behold I have set before you a door having been opened, which no one is able to shut it. Because you have little power, and you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold I give those of the synagogue of Satan, those declaring themselves to be Jews but lie. Behold I will cause them that they will come and will worship before your feet, and they shall know that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I also will keep you out of the hour of the trial being about to come upon the whole inhabited world, to try those dwelling upon the earth. I am coming quickly. Hold fast what you have, so that no one might take your crown. The one overcoming, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and no he shall not go out anymore, and I will write upon him the name of my God and the name of my God’s city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from my God, and my new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

For the title “the Holy One”, see Habakkuk 3:3, Isaiah 40:25, Proverbs 9:10, and Acts 3:14. As for “the True One”, this word is never used in relation to God in the Old Testament. However, His faithfulness is. Truth in John’s gospel means ‘genuine’ as opposed to a lie. In this sense, ‘Holy and True’ seem to suggest beyond categories and without deception, as contrasted with Satan, “the father of lies”. Compare Revelation 12:9-10, 13:6, 11, 14.

The ‘key of David’ is found in only one other place in Scripture: Isaiah 22:22. We find in verse 8 that Christ as placed a door open before Philadelphia. This is Christ’s authority as the “Root of Jesse”. In Isaiah 22, Shebna has taken to himself authority that it appears God did not grant. Likewise, the ‘synagogue of Satan’ sits and persecutes the believers of Philadelphia. But, God raises Eliakim and places the key of David upon his shoulder. Here in Revelation, Christ being defined as the offspring of David, and the one who holds the “key of David”, goes back to the promise given in Isaiah 9:6. Note that the key is placed “upon the shoulder”. In Isaiah 9:6 we read of the government being placed upon his shoulder. The key is the Kingdom. Matthew 16:19 would also seem to speak to this key being “the keys to the Kingdom”, which therefore makes the “door” symbolic of the entrance to the Kingdom. Looking ahead to Revelation 4:1, we see an open door in heaven that leads directly into the throne room of God. This may explain why the ‘Jews’ will fall at the Church’s feet (verse 9). These are a people ushered into the throne to rule with Christ. This open heaven will protect them from any kind of attack during the Tribulaiton (verse 10). To overcome is simply to endure (verses 11-12), which establishes this Church as a pillar in the Temple – possibly another symbol for the throne room.

In relation to this “open door”, see 1 Corinthians 16:9, 2 Corinthians 2:12, Colossians 4:3, and Acts 14:27. Interestingly, we see the door being a means of witnessing: an open door to the Kingdom for all who may come. Also see John 10:7, 9. I would interject that these three things (throne room, missions, and Jesus) are all explaining the same symbol in various manner. To be beckoned into the throne room is to be given an open door to witnessing, which is to have an open door for any and all who would come into the Kingdom. We see the three interconnected here, that Jesus is the door (the way the truth and the life?), the door is open unto all who shall come, and in coming, we are beckoned directly into the presence of God (Hebrews 10:19-22).

In verse 9, where the ‘Jews’ will worship at Philadelphia’s feet (for explanation of the synagogue of Satan, see this blog where I explain it), the language is almost exclusively from Isaiah 60:14 where the Gentiles are described as submitting to Israel. Also see Isaiah 45:14.

Εγω ηγαπησα σε (I have loved you) comes from Isaiah 43:4.

The promise of being kept from the hour of trial seems to be more in line with what the sealing of the 144,000 represents than a rapture. One thing I would point out is that according to the pre-trib rapture theory, it is Laodicea that gets raptured, and not Philadelphia. This promise simply can’t refer to that in any means, especially when we continue reading and Jesus tells them to continue in endurance and that they are to overcome. What is there to endure or overcome if they are taken out? Rather, this is a promise to those who will be in the midst of the Tribulation, and yet will not face the persecution from Satan and his Antichrist (see Revelation 13:7 for example). Also compare John 17:6, 11-12.

The time of testing is coming upon those who live upon the earth. Compare this with Revelation 12:12, 13:6, and Ephesians 2:6. They who are in heaven are not spiritual beings alone, but anyone and everyone who is in Christ. The polarization of these two terms refer to those who are in Christ (therefore seated with Him in heaven) and those who are not regenerate (and therefore living upon the earth, and by all of the worldly principles).

‘The word of the patient endurance’ – see 2 Thessalonians 3:5.

Ερχομαι ταχυ (I am coming quickly) presupposes the Second Advent, and thus the Church will remain until that time.

‘Take you crown’ seems to parallel Smyrna (2:10), the only other church that wasn’t rebuked. Compare James 1:12 and 1 Peter 5:4.

The pillar is used as symbolic expression elsewhere: 1 Timothy 3:15, Jeremiah 1:18, and Galatians 2:9. Also see 1 Kings 7:21 (are Jakim and Boaz people?). In Revelation 21:22, there is no temple in the New Earth. Two thoughts: this could be metaphoric (1 Peter 2:5), or this refers to the Millennium and not the New Earth. Εξω ου μη εξελθη ετι (out no not shall he go anymore) may be reflecting back to Isaiah 22:25 to assure the reader they will not be taken way as a pillar.

For the new names, see Isaiah 62:2 and Hebrews 1:4 as examples. Also see Revelation 19:12. There is also a hint of this promise in Isaiah 56:4-5.

To back up and examine the passage as a whole, we see that Jesus begins by calling Himself Holy and True, who holds the key of David. Then, we see by the character of Philadelphia, that the people who are being addressed are also “holy and true (faithful)”. The key of David is directly linked to the open door, and the open door is directly linked to the keeping from the hour of trial. The open door is the entrance into the eternal presence of God, entering behind the veil and into the Holy of Holies. Once through that veil, these blessed saints – only one Church out of seven – will be guaranteed preservation unto the end. It is whilst in the presence of the throne room that they will be given the name of the Father, and be given the name of the New Jerusalem, and be given the new name of Christ Jesus. This is the making of pillars – the foundation of truth to then pour out to the rest of the world while ruling and reigning with Him.

Again, realize that this is only one Church in seven. This isn’t the promise to every believer. Why is it that Smyrna was also found blameless, and yet would be locked up and persecuted for ten days? Only God knows. What is to be taken from Philadelphia is the awe of being brought into God’s eternal presence. Everything is based and surrounded in God’s glory. The whole of the message to them from beginning to end is about the communion of the saints with Him eternally. This is a costly thing to aquire, and it isn’t for everyone. But for they who have the open door, who are being called up the mountain with Him, do not ever neglect so great a call. They whose branches go up must have roots that go down. To go up the mountain is to dig deeply into the ground, for it is in the deepest depths of the earth that we find the gold, silver, diamonds, and other precious stones. It takes much endurance, and indeed this spiritual endurance is much more difficult than the endurance to not deny Christ’s name, but it is worth it every time.

Smyrna – Revelation 2:8-11

And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write:

These things says the first and the last, who died dead and came to life, “I know your tribulation and your poverty, but you are rich, and the blaspheme of those claiming themselves to be Jews, and are not but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison that you might be tempted, and you shall have tribulation ten days. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. The one having an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one overcoming, no, shall not be injured by the second death.

This passage is only four verses long, and yet has much content that causes us to scratch our heads. What is this mention to a synagogue of Satan and ten days of persecution? Before we get there, lets try to recognize what kind of church Jesus is speaking to. He calls Himself the first and the last – an obvious comfort for they who will suffer persecution – and the one who has died and rose again – an obvious statement in relation to the second death. We see this church as one that is afflicted and in poverty, yet they are rich. They are slandered (Greek is “blasphemed”). They are about to suffer. Some will be put in prison, some will die, and the others will be persecuted for ten days. Yet, Jesus has nothing against them.

In discussion of the church in Smyrna, I think that what comes to mind is Jesus’ words to Nethanael in John 1:47. “Here is a true Israelite – one in whom there is no guile.” Paul mentions in Romans 22:28-29 that a man is not a Jew outwardly, but inwardly. It is this inward purity that Smyrna is displaying. Notice also that we see Jesus warning Smyrna that they will continue to face persecution. If Jesus has nothing to bring to their charge, it does make me wonder why they must suffer persecution. I think the answer to this might be in suffering for ten days. The Feats of Trumpets represents the return of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 15:52, for example). Many times Jesus’ return is claimed to be marked by a trumpet (Matthew 24:31, 1 Thessalonians 4:16). Ten days after the Feast of Trumpets is Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement. What I think Jesus is expressing here is that Satan is going to persecute this people until the final moment when judgment comes.

The church in Smyrna are told that though they are poor, they are rich. This is a contrast between the church in Laodicea later (3:17). Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians about “just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows”. Paul continues this thought for himself in saying, “Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:5-9). James tells us that it is actually those in humble circumstances that have the high position! (James 1:9). It is in James that we also find the crown of life (James 1:12, but also see 1 Peter 5:4).

There are a lot of Scriptures about this. James 2:5 speaks of God’s chosen-ness upon the poor. Luke 12:21 condemns those who store up for themselves. 1 Timothy 6:18 is a command to be rich in good deeds, and generous and willing to share. Etcetera.

Yet, what everyone wants to know is who the synagogue of Satan is. Personally, I don’t believe that it represents the Jewish people. There is a contrast in the book of Revelations between every single detail. In Revelation 12, we find a woman that flees to the wilderness away from Satan. In Revelation 18, we find a woman that sits upon the scarlet beast. I believe that both of these women are Israel, but there is still a contrast being made. They who call themselves Jews probably really are Jews. Jesus’ statement that they are not Jews is not stemming from the fact that Gentiles in the church are calling themselves Jewish, nor in that Israel has been replaced by the church.

There is a lot of Scripture to give here in order to express this. Let me start with 1 Corinthians 10:21, “No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too, you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.” Notice the contrast: table of the Lord versus the table of demons. This concept doesn’t come from some new revelation, but rather from insight into the Old Testament patterns. Psalm 50:16-23 gives the same kind of parallel. God says to the wicked, “What right do you have to recite my laws and to take my covenant on your lips?” Notice the covenant – of which we read Jesus breaking bread and giving wine in symbol. Yet, the passage ends with God saying that he looks to “he who sacrifices thank offerings and honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.”

If you think that the wicked would be the world out there who don’t know God, you would be mistaken. Take, for example, John 8:39 and 44, “If Abraham were your father, then you would act like him… You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire.” Jesus is addressing the Jewish people when He says this. 1 John 2:19 says, “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” Take this with 3 John 9, where John rebukes a leader, “I wrote to the church, but Diotrphes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us.” Notice that John is not speaking Jews, but of supposed Christians!

Paul warns the church in Ephesus in Acts 20:30, “Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” Jude 4 says, “Certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign Lord.” 2 Peter 2:1-3 also doesn’t mince words when Peter speaks against these infiltrations of false teachers.

Here is where we begin to see the table of the Lord versus the table of demons. In Jeremiah 2:3, we read of a bizarre devouring: “Israel was holy to the Lord, the firstfruits of his harvest; all who devoured her were held guilty, and disaster overtook them.” Psalm 69:17-23 also speaks of David who is being persecuted as a “table set before them” – obviously with intentions to devour the righteous man. Micah 3:1-3 speaks of the leaders and rulers of Israel: “Should you not know justice, you who hate good and love evil; who tear the skin from my people and the flesh from their bones; who eat my people’s flesh, strip off their skin and break their bones in pieces; who chop them up like meat for the pan, like flesh for the pot?” Isaiah 65:11 speaks condemnation to those who forsake the Lord and spread a table to Fortune and mix wine for Destiny. In relation back to that verse in Jude, we read in Malachi 1:7-13 – but specifically in verse 12 – “But you profane it by saying of the Lord’s table, ‘It is defiled!’ and of its food, ‘It is contemptible!’” Hebrews 12:16-17 brings emphasis upon Esau who sold his inheritance for a bowl of soup, and afterward was rejected though he sought the blessing with tears.

It is these, who like Esau have forsaken the Lord to pursue their own stomachs, will hear, “Depart from me, you worker of iniquity”. Their stomachs desire to kill and eat the people of God. They are filled with anti-Semitism and replacement theology. They are filled with hatred regarding the covenant, and thus cannot bear the words of Jesus, “Until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, nor the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law.” They love to quote Paul about how the Law is obsolete, and they love to reference Scriptures that would suggest that we are the new Israel, and in this, they devour the people of God – both Jew and Christian – by teaching what is false and by calling darkness as if it were light.

They who claim to eat at the Lord’s table and yet reject His people – whether in word or in deed – devour them. They are eating from the table of demons, and so shall receive their judgment. They are like Korah who was not content with being separated by the God of Israel unto himself to do His work, but also sought after the priesthood itself. These men are not content to be set apart unto God, and to remain in His love, but must also compete for being the sole beneficiaries of God. It is in Numbers 16:3, 20:4, and 31:16 that the Septuagint calls the very people of God “the synagogue of the Lord.”

The church in Smyrna will continue to be “tortured and refuse to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection.” Now, in my translation of the Greek, you might have noticed that I translated “testing” as “temptation”. To overcome is not simply to overcome a trial, or some sort of “test” by the enemy. We overcome temptation, as Paul wrote earlier in 1 Corinthians 10, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.”

Satan will tempt the saints to the point of despair, and God will allow the Antichrist to even “wear out the saints”. We read in Revelations 13:7 that the Antichrist was given power to “make war with” and “overcome the saints”. That overcoming is about denying the very Christ that is within you.

That way out is an eternal perspective – to “joyfully accept the confiscation of your property, knowing that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.” It was this eternal perspective that causes Paul to say, “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary afflictions are achieving for us an eternal weight of glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporal, but what is unseen is eternal.”

They who overcome this temptation and persecution will be given the crown of life, because they have already entered into that life through the blood of Jesus Christ. They who overcome will not be hurt by the second death, because they will have already died with Christ and been raised unto glorious newness of life. To overcome in this manner is more than just not being cast into hell; it is the eternal reigning with Christ (Revelation 20:4-6).

The second death is found in the Targum (Aramaic version of the Old Testament) multiple times. Deuteronomy 33:6, “Let Reuben live in his age and not die the second death…” Jeremiah 51:39, 57, “Let them die the second death and not live in the next world.” Isaiah 22:14, “This sin shall not be forgiven you till you die the second death.” Isaiah 65:6, 15, “They died the second death.”

We find that the language being used here is terse, and therefore it takes a lot of digging to discover what John is saying. Yet, now that we have unpacked it, we can step back to see that the overall message is that there are people who have persecuted and tormented the church in Smyrna. They have risen up – whether in the ranks of Judaism or of Christianity – as leaders that now oppress the sheep. Jesus tells His followers to continue to bear it, for when He comes, He will judge those wicked servants and cast them into the lake of fire where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. But the righteous will inherit eternal life – the opportunity to rule and reign with Christ as priests before Him forever (see Revelation 20:4-6). To him who has ear, let him hear.