Friday, March 23, 2012

Revelation Bible Study - Lesson 18 - Revelation 5:1-5

Then I saw a scroll in the right hand of the one who was sitting on the throne. There was writing on the inside and the outside of the scroll, and it was sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel, who shouted with a loud voice: "Who is worthy to break the seals on this scroll and open it?" But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll and read it.Then I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll and read it. But one of the twenty-four elders said to me, "Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David's throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals." (NLT) 

God’s Right Hand

What does God’s right hand symbolize for wicked people?

Your hand will find out all your enemies; your right hand will find out those who hate you. You will make them as a blazing oven when you appear. The Lord will swallow them up in his wrath; and fire will consume them. (Ps 21:8-9 RSV)
Be exalted, O Lord, in thy strength! We will sing and praise thy power. (Ps 21:13 RSV)
This is a fitting start to look at the right hand of God. It is a symbol of His strength and justice. When He appears in the last times it will be for judgment against His enemies. The scroll that He has in His right hand contains the details of the punishment that He will inflict upon the earth. We will actually sing and praise His might as it happens just as David rejoiced when he anticipated His coming in this psalm.
Does it seem strange to you to think that we will actually be singing and praising someone who is killing billions of people? Doesn’t it seem to go against everything that Jesus taught? After all, didn’t Jesus protect the woman caught in adultery? Doesn’t He tell us to turn the other cheek? Don’t most people ignore the Old Testament because they abhor the way God had Israel ruthlessly kill off other nations? Aren’t we champions of the unborn who are murdered by the millions each year? Doesn’t our faith teach us that it is wrong to take a life?
Have you ever asked these questions or have you been asked? How would you answer them?


Questions like these have led many people to believe that we should altogether eliminate capital punishment. Many people, Christians included, have gotten the idea that it is wrong to think that the wicked should be punished by death or even worse, a sentence of eternal suffering and pain. But from the beginning of the Old Testament to the end of the Bible, God has shown His displeasure with wickedness and the need to curb it and in the end eliminate it. We indeed need to praise Him for the strength that it takes to stand up to evil and do something. We don’t rejoice that billions die, but that justice is finally accomplished. It is from this lack of praise and an inability to look at things from God’s perspective that people then allow themselves to be caught up in a doctrine that denies the existence of hell and Satan.
Either those who do not understand God’s provision for the punishment will condemn capital punishment or they will demand it without mercy. The Christian walk recognizes the need for governments to curb evil with appropriate punishment (Rom 13:1-6). Contrary to modern thinking, capital punishment is a deterrent to crime because that is what God has said (Deut 19:19-20,  21:21). Personally, we need to remember that we are not the ultimate judge and that we need to forgive and not seek revenge (Rom 12:17-21). We must not confuse our role as a Christian and God’s role as sovereign Judge.
What does God’s right hand symbolize for Christians?

For not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them, but your right hand and your arm, and the light of your face, for you delighted in them. (Ps 44:3 ESV)
There is no fear for God’s people at His right hand. It is a symbol of strength for protection and love as He cares for His own. It was with His right hand He delivered Israel. Likewise, the deliverance that comes in the book of Revelation will rid all evil influences in the world. We need to come to the realization that just as there were many in the Old Testament who perished, there are many who will perish today and even more in the last times. It is necessary for the Lord God Almighty to finish His plan. The seriousness of this is demonstrated in the fact that page after page of the book of Revelation is devoted to describing that destruction. Hell fire and brimstone preaching has its place. It is there because it is in the Word and for some it is the only way that they will acknowledge God.
What does God’s right hand symbolize for the Church?

Kings' daughters are among Thy noble ladies; At Thy right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir. (Ps 45:9 NASB)
My soul clings to Thee; Thy right hand upholds me. (Ps 63:8 NASB)
While this Psalm 45 was a wedding song, we can also see the symbolism of the position of the Bride of Christ, the Church, at His right hand. There are fears and uncertainty at every turn of our lives. If we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we don’t know from moment to moment what will happen to us. We like to feel in control of things, or at least think that the law of averages will work in our favor so that we will be able to accomplish our goals. However, the only hope for real security is that His right hand upholds us when we cling to Him. As members of His Church, when we cling to our God with all that we are, with all of our being, He tells us that He is upholding us with His right hand. It doesn’t matter what will happen or how we perceive it – good or bad – because God is upholding us. The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church (Matt 16:18). As members of His Body, we are eternally secure at His right hand. This is the most secure position anyone can have.
How does God’s right hand relate to our salvation?

Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. (Ps 98:1 NIV)
"Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. "But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." (Matt 26:64 NIV)
Salvation comes because Jesus died on the cross to take our sins, yet there are several places in the Bible that refer to God working salvation by His right hand. No wonder Jesus is at His right hand, for in that sense, Jesus is God’s right hand.

The Scroll

What does the sealed scroll written on both sides represent?

The Word of God has been recorded on scrolls since Moses started to write it down. This scroll could very well represent the unchanging and sure Word of God. The idea that it is written on the outside and inside symbolizes that for some, it is clear but to others, the prophecies are hidden.
Read the Scriptures following this question. What are some reasons that John may have started weeping other than that no one was found worthy to open the scroll?

The entire vision will be to you like the words of a sealed book, which when they give it to the one who is literate, saying, "Please read this," he will say, "I cannot, for it is sealed." Then the book will be given to the one who is illiterate, saying, "Please read this." And he will say, "I cannot read." (Isa 29:11-12 NASU)
A sealed scroll of pending disaster was presented to people in Isaiah’s time. They should have been able to understand its meaning. But they made excuses for not reading it. It was God’s warning and the real reason they couldn’t read it was that they weren’t about to heed what it said. They were rebelling against God. Is it possible that when John saw this scroll in heaven, he thought of these verses in Isaiah? Did he weep because he was afraid that no one would be able to open it and warn the people?
Moreover He said to me, "Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel." (Ezek 3:1 NKJV)
But the house of Israel will not listen to you, because they will not listen to Me; for all the house of Israel are impudent and hard-hearted. (Ezek 3:7 NKJV)
And go, get to the captives, to the children of your people, and speak to them and tell them, 'Thus says the Lord God,' whether they hear, or whether they refuse." (Ezek 3:11 NKJV)
 Ezekiel was in a very similar situation as Isaiah. God’s Word was presented to Ezekiel to pass along to the people, but will they listen? No, God tells him that they won’t listen even though they are not a nation of obscure speech or a difficult language (vs. 6). In other words, it wasn’t their inability to understand the message, but they lacked willingness to obey. Whether or not they listen, it is our duty to tell. The people that are the closest to us – family, relatives, and work associates – are sometimes harder to approach with the gospel message than complete strangers are. Another point is that the scroll in heaven will be opened and many people who should be familiar with its contents don’t know anything about it. How can we warn people of the coming disaster if we don’t take the time to find out what is in it? Ezekiel was told to eat the scroll. The message became a part of him. Was John’s concern that people wouldn’t take the message or those that hear wouldn’t heed the words of the scroll?
But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end, when many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase. (Dan 12:4 NLT)
Daniel didn’t understand what was put in his scroll because it was for different time. This was not a warning of impending disaster for his time, but for the distant future, a time when global travel will be common to many and knowledge has increased. Does this sound like today? Perhaps John was anticipating the return of Jesus and he is weeping because none can open the scroll that reveals the end times. Perhaps he even believes that as a result the return of Christ will not occur. Surely, these are reasons to weep.
Then I said, “Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me;” (Ps 40:7 NASB)
David wrote this prophecy about Jesus, but it applied to his own life as well. He believed that the future was written on God’s scroll and each person is included. The scroll in heaven will certainly affect the lives of billions of people, another reason to weep.
Scrolls were usually written on one side. What is the significance of this one having writing on both sides?

Then I lifted up my eyes again and looked, and behold, there was a flying scroll. And he said to me, "What do you see?" And I answered, "I see a flying scroll; its length is twenty cubits and its width ten cubits." Then he said to me, "This is the curse that is going forth over the face of the whole land; surely everyone who steals will be purged away according to the writing on one side, and everyone who swears will be purged away according to the writing on the other side. (Zech 5:1-3 NASU)
This scroll carried a curse over the whole land for those who do evil. It was written on both sides, so that no matter how you look at it, the answer for the wicked was the same. The same will be true for the scroll in heaven; no matter how you look at it, the prophecies spell doom for the wicked.
Now when I looked, there was a hand stretched out to me; and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. Then He spread it before me; and there was writing on the inside and on the outside, and written on it were lamentations and mourning and woe. (Ezek 2:9-10 NKJV)
These two instances of scroll with writing on both sides have the same purpose. If the scroll in God’s right hand is follows the same pattern, then it will not contain good news. As we proceed in the book of Revelation, this will be confirmed. Each seal will reveal more woes to come upon the earth.
What might be the significance of the seven seals on the scroll?

In Jer 32:9-15, Jeremiah redeems a piece of property from his cousin. The process is interesting because two deeds were written. One was sealed and put away in an earthen jar to persevere it. The other was an open deed for anyone to examine. It was a custom to write the conditions of the redemption of lost or sold properties on a scroll and seal it. Some have said that the scroll in God’s hand is the title deed to the earth, man’s original inheritance that was lost when Satan deceived Adam and Eve in the garden. Like Jeremiah’s sealed deed, this scroll in heaven is the one that is preserved and provides the conditions for the redemption of the earth.
The men did as they were told and mapped the entire territory into seven sections, listing the towns in each section. They made a written record and then returned to Joshua in the camp at Shiloh. (Josh 18:9 NLT)
There is a parallel between the scroll in heaven and the time that seven tribes of Israel had delayed in taking possession of the Promised Land. Joshua had them map out the land and write it in a scroll with seven parts.
The scroll has seven seals. Since the number seven is associated with God and His perfection, this could indicate many things. One is that since there are seven seals only someone who has the perfection of God can open them.
For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. (James 2:10 RSV)
If a person has committed only one sin, then that person is not worthy to open even one seal. Later we will also see that the seven seals represent the completeness of the judgment of God, for when the last seal has been opened and God’s wrath has been completely poured out, the end will have come. Jesus will then be in control of the earth. All the condition for the redemption of the earth will have been met.

Who Is Worthy

What is needed to be worth to open the scroll?

Why aren’t angels worthy to open the scroll?
Why isn’t man worthy?
The angel asks who is worthy to break the seals and look at the Word of God. It is more than just looking at the Word but is also the idea that the person who takes the scroll must also be able to carry out what it says. This is a dramatic emphasis of the fact that no man or any other created being is worthy. For even the angels in heaven do not venture forth to take the scroll. While the angels don’t have the power to do it, man is even less worthy.
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Gen 6:5 NASB)
 For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. And there is no one who calls on Thy name, Who arouses himself to take hold of Thee; For Thou hast hidden Thy face from us, And hast delivered us into the power of our iniquities. (Isa 64:6-7 NASB )
These verses point out that sin has overtaken everyone. There isn’t a single person who can claim that they have never sinned. If they do, then they are calling God a liar. A new heart has been given to us when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, but there are always inclinations to sin creeping in.

From Isaiah we see that even Christians can blow it and turn away from God. The verse says, “have become” indicating that it is not the way they were in the first place. Vs. 7 says that He has hidden His face, which means that at some time before, His face had shown upon them. There is no doubt that no man could have the perfection necessary to take the scroll, even a man redeemed by Jesus. Whoever takes the scroll must be totally worthy and the first part of worthiness is to be without sin.
The second part of being worthy is the receptive side of worthiness. The person must be worthy of praise, honor, glory, and power. Whoever takes it will be worshiped. He will execute the power and receive glory and praise. This certainly leaves out any other created beings.
And he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." Then Jesus said to him, "Be gone,  Satan! For  it is written,  "'You shall worship the Lord your God and  him only shall you serve.'" (Matt 4:9-10 ESV)
Then  I fell down at his feet to worship him,  but he said to me, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to  the testimony of Jesus. Worship God." For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (Rev 19:10 ESV)
Jesus made it clear that only God is to be worshiped. Satan will accept worship because he is totally sinful. Any creature that is holy will not accept worship but will point it in the direction it belongs.

The Lion of the Tribe of Judah

How do we know that this Lion is Jesus?

Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father's sons will bow down to you. You are a lion's cub, O Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness — who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs  and the obedience of the nations is his. He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. (Gen 49:8-11 NIV)
The Lord gave us a major clues about the Messiah in these verses. From this prophecy, the symbol of Judah became a lion. The prophecy also has other, more subtle clues. His brothers ( that includes us) will praise and bow down to Him. He has power over enemies. Eternal rule will be passed to Him. He will wash His robes in the blood of grapes indicating the vengeance of the Lord, which will appear later in the book of Revelation.
I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star. (Rev 22:16 NASU)
The root of David refers to the fact that Jesus came from the tribe of Judah but also that Jesus is the Lord of David since He predates him. Jesus referred to this when He asked the Pharisees whose son the Christ would be. (Mat 22:41-46). Jesus made it clear that He is the one who is to receive the promises that Jacob talked about in Genesis. Jesus has authority to take the scroll based on His unique perspective of being from David and also the Lord of David. He is the only one worthy of worship because He is God. Only God could both predate and be an offspring of David.

His Triumph

Jesus is worthy to take the scroll because He has triumphed.

Over Death

How has Jesus triumphed over death? What does that mean for us?

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 15:56-57 NKJV)
In 1 Cor 15:42-55, Paul explains that Jesus came and won a spiritual battle. His body died just as Adam’s died. But the result was a new body that is not perishable, one that will live forever. Because He was raised, not like Lazarus, to die again, but with an immortal body, He has conquered death. The reason that it had to be this way is explained also. Only the imperishable can inherit the kingdom of God, only the One who has gone through this is worthy to take the scroll. Paul also explained that we will also bear His likeness.
All of the “little god” preachers probably point to this and say “see, we will be gods because we will be like Him” but they fail to see that this points out that we will simply receive an immortal body so that we will be able to live in heaven in the presence of a holy and just God.
There he will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mockery against his land and people. The Lord has spoken! (Isa 25:7-8 NLT)
Even before Jesus came, God gave us the promise that He would swallow up death. If we are to eventually die and receive an immortal body, we lose fear of death. Why then do we fear anything else that prevents us from laboring in the Lord?
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Cor 15:58 RSV)
Isn’t it wonderful that Paul explained Jesus’ victory over death, not only to tell us what we will become, but also to reassure us that our Christian work is not useless?

Over Temptation

How has Jesus triumphed over temptation and how does that help us?

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (Matt 4:1 NASB)
Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him. (Matt 4:11 NASB)
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need. (Heb 4:15 NASB )
Jesus triumphed over temptation, giving us hope and a pattern to follow to do likewise. If He had yielded, then it would have proven that He had sinned and therefore had to die for His own sins. His death would not have paid the penalty for our sins either, for only a pure sacrifice could do that. He would not have been worthy to open the scroll. His main temptation was to serve Himself and to avoid the cross. It started with Satan trying to get Him to satisfy His physical needs for food by “using” God to provide for His hunger when there was no need to do it. This escalated when Satan offered Him all the nations of the earth (which He will eventually get anyway) if He would worship Satan.
Satan continues to tempt us in the same ways. He wants us to satisfy our cravings and desires outside of God’s timetable or prescribed means of living. We can look to Jesus for the strength to overcome those temptations because Jesus already has triumphed. We can draw near to God in times of temptation to get the help we need from Him.

Over Sin

Since Jesus triumphed over temptations and never sinned, how did He triumph over sin?

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor 5:21NKJV)
All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isa 53:6 NKJV)
And they made His grave with the wicked — But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. (Isa 53:9NKJV)
Which of you convicts Me of sin? (John 8:46a NKJV)
 Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous. (Rom 5:18-19 NKJV )
Jesus knew sin only because God put our sins on Him. He made Jesus to be sin. That means that Jesus experienced sin without doing anything wrong. He experienced separation from His Father and all the other consequences of sin. Jesus didn’t do anything that would cause any of the sins to be accounted to Him. His triumph over sin then is more than what we can do, which is avoiding it. His triumph over sin is removing its eternal consequences and its power over us.

Over Men

How has Jesus triumphed over men?
That is why the Scriptures say, “When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people.” (Eph 4:8 NLT)
Since the inclinations of our hearts are evil, the only way He can bring us to heaven is to make us captive or slaves to Himself. In this sense He has triumphed over us. We talk a lot about the Father drawing us, being chosen, and even predestined (Eph 1:11). These terms really point out that He triumphs over us when we yield to Him. Make no mistake, there is only one way to heaven and that is through Jesus. We are either going to be His slaves or perish as His enemies.

Over Satan

How has Jesus triumphed over Satan?
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. (Gen 3:15 RSV)
And he said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. (Luke 10:18 RSV)
Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. (John 12:31-32 RSV)
It was predicted from the very beginning that Satan would be defeated. Even before the actual defeat of Satan on the cross, Jesus was able to see Satan’s power broken on earth by His authority before His resurrection. These verses tie together both the defeat of Satan and the fact that Jesus will be taking people captive for Himself.
Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. (Heb 2:14-15 NASB)
This makes it abundantly clear the Satan has been defeated, and that the defeat occurred when Jesus died. As we continue in Revelation, it is clear that because Jesus died He is worthy.
Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. (1 John 3:8-9 ESV)
What works of the devil does Jesus give us the ability to overcome?

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18 NIV)
One of the works of the devil it to produce fear; fear of death is the greatest fear that we have. This is our comfort for any situation that we fear, not just death. The big reason people fear death is that they instinctively know that there will be a judgment and that they haven’t lived a life worthy enough to escape that judgment. When we are saved, that fear is removed because we know we will not be judged by our works, but rather on the fact that God has accepted Jesus’ punishment for our sins so that we don’t have to pay the penalty. That is God’s love for us.
These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful. (Rev 17:14 NASU)
The devil may be defeated, but unfortunately this passage reveals that he doesn’t act like it. Satan’s purpose is still to wreak havoc upon the saints and fight Jesus until he is permanently put away.
Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven. (Luke 10:20 NKJV)
Satan’s defeat is actually incidental. The main point is that we should rejoice because:
1.         Our names are written in heaven.
2.         Jesus draws men to Himself.
3.         We are free from the fear of death.
4.         Sin is destroyed for anyone who is born again.
5.         We are followers of Jesus.

Over the Schemes of Men

How has Jesus triumphed over the schemes of men?

Once again they tried to arrest him, but he got away and left them. (John 10:39 NLT)
Jesus triumphed over the schemes of men when He walked away while they wanted to stone Him. This shows that there is not a realm in which He is not sovereign. It doesn’t matter what anyone says about free will or anything else. The very fact that Jesus could cause people not to do what they eagerly and forcefully wanted, proves that He is in control. One might argue that later they crucified Him and therefore did accomplish their will. But even then Jesus made it clear to Pilate that it was only by the will of the Father that Jesus was being taken.
Jesus answered him, "You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore he who delivered me to you has the greater sin." (John 19:11 RSV)

Over the Law

How did Jesus triumph over the Law?

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Col 2:13-15 NIV)
See also Eph 2:14-16. Before Jesus came, salvation was still by faith in God, however that faith was supposed to be demonstrated by obedience to the Old Testament laws. It was impossible for any human being to live up to every law and the remedy was sacrificing animals – in faith. The religious rulers soon turned the laws into a system of salvation by works. Jesus abolished that, yet there are many religious leaders that have reverted back to salvation by works. Jesus freed us from that once for all.

Over the World

What does Jesus give us because He has overcome the world?

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33 NASB)
Jesus has overcome the world, but it is interesting to note that He didn’t remove us from the world or remove the trouble. Instead, He has given us His peace. The way we can overcome the world is by letting His peace dwell in us.
What is the ultimate purpose in Jesus’ triumphs?

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:21 ESV)
In all of the areas that Jesus has triumphed, the bottom line is the conclusion of this verse. Whether He has triumphed over temptation, death, sin, or Satan, it is always for us that He has triumphed. That is humbling and also reassuring. No wonder that after declaring the worthiness of the Lamb, the elders fall at His feet and worship. What else can we do?
Let’s remember that in Jesus, we are at the right hand of God the Father. We also have triumphed. It is only because He is worthy that we are in this position so let’s live, witness, and worship in accordance to what He has done.

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