Thursday, June 28, 2012

Revelation Bible Study - Lesson 26 - Revelation 9:1-12

And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key of the shaft of the bottomless pit; he opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth; they were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green growth or any tree, but only those of mankind who have not the seal of God upon their foreheads; they were allowed to torture them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torture was like the torture of a scorpion, when it stings a man. And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death will fly from them.

In appearance the locusts were like horses arrayed for battle; on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, their hair like women's hair, and their teeth like lions' teeth; they had scales like iron breastplates, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. They have tails like scorpions, and stings, and their power of hurting men for five months lies in their tails. They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit; his name in Hebrew is Abad'don, and in Greek he is called Apol'lyon.

The first woe has passed; behold, two woes are still to come. (RSV) 

Star Fallen from Heaven

The book of Revelation is full of symbols and stars are one of them. The context usually gives us clues that reveal the meaning.
What things can you see here and elsewhere in the Bible that will identify this star that had fallen from heaven?

It is obvious that the star that had fallen from heaven is something different from a physical star that fell in chapter eight. This star is immediately personified when he is giving a key. Since he came from heaven, it is possible that he is an angel of some kind. It isn’t clear from the text whether this star is the angel who is king over the Abyss or he releases the king of the Abyss when he opens the shaft. Assuming that the star is an angel, it is doubtful that he is a good angel since it says that he fell from heaven rather than he came forth at God’s bidding, which has been the case of other angels we have seen.

Where in the Bible are we provided with some possible identities for this fallen angel and how do they fit with this angel?

How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.” Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit. (Isa 14:12-15 NKJV)

Son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord God:

"You were the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: …

"You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you.

"… And you sinned; Therefore I cast you as a profane thing Out of the mountain of God; And I destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the fiery stones.

"Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, That they might gaze at you.” (Ezek 28:12-17 NKJV)

These verses were directed to the king of Babylon and the king of Tyre. At the same time God condemned these men, He moved on to explain how Satan had sinned and lost his position in heaven. As he brings these kings to destruction, He also shows how He cast Satan out of heaven. These verses refer to bringing Satan to the depths of the pit. Could this be the angel in the abyss? Probably not, because we know that Satan is still active in the world. Luke 22:3 says that Satan entered into Judas Iscariot. Acts 5:3 says that Satan filled the heart of Ananias (a believer) to lie to the Holy Spirit. If he were locked in the Abyss He wouldn’t have been able to tempt Jesus or control Judas. This star could very well be Satan who is given permission to release the angel of the abyss at this time. The angel of the abyss is probably one of the other demons that Satan dragged down with him. Rev 12:4 gives a description of Satan taking others with him. Rev 9:11 says that the king over the locusts is named Abaddon or Apollyon, both of which mean a destroying angel.

In the description of Satan, what did he have and what was his biggest problem? How do we face the same temptation?

As we look at this fallen star and Satan, it is interesting to note that Satan’s biggest problem is a lust for power driven by pride. He had more than any of us could imagine. He was beautiful, wise, and perfect in all ways. But he wasn’t satisfied with this and wanted more. He was most likely the highest-ranking angel in heaven so the only thing more he could get was to be God. With all his power, he must have forgotten that he was a created being; otherwise he would have understood how ludicrous it is to think he could become more powerful than his creator. I don’t think that we have a very good concept of how insidious pride is until we see what it did to Satan. It should be a warning to us all. Contrast Satan’s desires as well as most of ours with Paul’s.

Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. (Phil 4:11-12 NASB)

Can we say that we are content regardless of the circumstances? We should; we have more than Satan ever dreamed because we are co-heirs of the kingdom of God because of what Jesus has done for us. If we aren’t content, then we have a big hole in our spiritual armor that Satan can use to cause us no end of problems. After all, he is the expert in discontentment.

How much power does Satan have to tempt us and cause problems for us?
What are some things we need to remember when we are tempted?

The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. (Job 1:12 KJV)

The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” (Job 2:6 KJV)

Satan still has much spiritual power as evidenced by Ananias in Acts 5:3. He also has physical power to harm as demonstrated by what he did to Job. However, his power is limited to what God allows. Knowing this helps us when we undergo time of trials whether they are in health, wealth, relationships, spiritual battles, or anything else. Job suffered in all these areas more than most of us will ever face. He struggled with the question of why God would allow this to happen to him since he had been faithful to the Lord. When God revealed Himself to Job, he finally understood that it wasn’t really about him, but it was to bring glory to God. When we trust that our loving heavenly Father is in control of all things, even the hurtful circumstances of our lives, we will not succumb to Satan’s schemes to destroy our faith or our witness.

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Cor 10:12-13 ESV)

We have God’s promised limit on our temptations, but we must be willing to take the way out that He has provided. Most people don’t quote verse 12, but it needs to be remembered because pride in our spiritual strength gets in the road of taking His way out and we end up falling under the temptation instead.

How has Satan’s power been reduced and what will be his future?

Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. (John 12:31-32 NIV)

the prince of this world now stands condemned. (John 16:11 NIV)

He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. (Rev 20:3 NIV) 

Satan had power over death until Jesus was crucified and resurrected. His power has been limited even more now that Jesus lives in us and we know that we have Jesus’ resurrection power living in us (1 John 4:4). We also have the promise that Satan will be bound for 1,000 years when he will be totally incapable of harm to anyone. He will be released, and then forever incarcerated in the lake of fire. The point is that God is in control, not Satan. The verdict over Satan has been given. It is only a matter of time before it is executed. Do as the saying suggests, “If Satan is threatening you about your past, remind him of his future.”

If we successfully resist Satan in one temptation, can we be assured we won’t have to deal with that temptation again? Explain your answer.

And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season. (Luke 4:13 KJV)

This indicates that even Jesus had another contest coming after He successfully triumphed over Satan’s temptations in the wilderness. It was in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was tempted to avoid the cross.

for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me … (John 14:30 KJV)

Jesus was able to win that contest because Satan had no hold on Him and now Jesus is living in us. We need to remember that when he starts bugging us. 

The Abyss

What is the abyss? Who is there and how did they get there?

And they cried out, saying, "What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?" (Matt 8:29 NASU)

They were imploring Him not to command them to go away into the abyss. (Luke 8:31 NASU)

These two verses have to be taken together to get the full picture of what is going on. The first point is that there will be an appointed time of torture for all demons. That includes a time when they will be sent into the abyss and locked up with Satan for a thousand years. From this account, it seems that Jesus usually sent demons into the abyss ahead of time when He casts them out of someone. In this case, He didn’t. My conclusion is that the abyss is a place where demons are kept from people. It is populated with some demons at this time while some are still free to roam.

For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; (2 Peter 2:4 NKJV)

And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; (Jude 6 NKJV)

The population includes demons that Jesus cast out of people as well as some that have been locked up since they rebelled. These latter ones were angels that sided with Satan and were so bad that they were sent directly to hell and some to dungeons – perhaps to the Abyss. Some may have been of high position and deemed too dangerous to allow them to be free.
The fallen star (most likely Satan) is given the opportunity to release the demons from the Abyss. As they are released, the sun and sky are darkened. This may be symbolic of extreme demonic activity of the last days. These will be days when the light of Jesus is hard to see because it will be blocked by much satanic deception. We can thank God that He has restricted the demonic activity in the world at this time. 


What is the first abnormality that you see in these locusts?

The first strange thing about these locusts is that they don’t do what normal locusts do. They don’t devour all of the grass and trees in sight. Look at Joel 2:1-11 for a description of what an army of natural locusts does. The Lord leads them to bring His people to repentance. He does it by having the insects devour everything in sight. But other than crawling all over people, they don’t actually harm them. These in Revelation are different. They don’t touch the vegetation, but only sting unbelievers.

What could the locusts’ ability to harm only unbelievers signify?

This could symbolize divine protection that keeps believers from falling into the trap of the enemy as indicated in Matt 24:24.

For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God's chosen ones. (NLT)

What could the locusts’ ability to harm so that people seek death but can’t find it signify or be literally?

It is possible that these five months of torment is spiritual when people who are “stung” become demon possessed. That could explain why people seek death, but it eludes them. They could be in such spiritual and emotional turmoil that they want to commit suicide, but the demons themselves ensure that it can’t be done. Demons are not interested in quickly destroying their host unless they think they may lose the person to Christ. There are examples of this in the following verses.

And when he had come out of the boat, there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit …  Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out, and bruising himself with stones. (Mark 5:2, 5 RSV)

"Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; for often he falls into the fire, and often into the water.” And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly. (Matt 17:15, 18 RSV)

You would think that the man living in the tombs would have long since killed himself, yet he was kept alive. The boy in Matthew appears to have epilepsy causing him to fall into the fire or water but it is actually a demon. This demon would also seem to kill the boy, yet he continues to live. If what the locust hoard is describing is actually demon possession, then it supports the belief that a believer cannot be possessed by a demon for it says they can only harm those who do not have the seal of God. Praise God for that!

On the other hand is the possibility that this is as it is described, physical torture inflicted by some kind of mutant ninja locust. Some have speculated that these locusts are mutants, perhaps caused by nuclear radiation. (This isn’t very scientific as mutations from radiation usually kill rather than produce Spider Man or the Incredible Hulk.) Since they are nothing seen on earth, they would have to be supernaturally created – not mutants. They inflict a sting that causes a person such pain that they simply wished they were dead. The source is supernatural since a fallen angel only releases them. Naturally occurring locusts are usually indiscriminate unless God has prevented them from harming Christians.

You increased your merchants more than the stars of the heavens. The locust spreads its wings and flies away. Your  princes are  like grasshoppers,  your scribes like clouds of locusts settling on the fences in a day of cold—when the sun rises, they fly away; no one knows where they are. (Nah 3:16-17 ESV)

How did Nahum use locust and grasshoppers as symbols and how would this fit with Revelation?
What warnings can we derive from this?

Nahum did an interesting turn on locust symbolism. He used locusts to describe the bureaucracy of government and the greed of merchants who only desire riches for themselves. They only see the immediate gain that can be made. They are a torment to the rest of people because they are willing to take what is needed at the expense of the poor. The poor can be left with malnutrition, tormented but very much alive. When the time of accounting comes, they are not to be found.

In our business dealings, we need to be conscious of our impact on others. There may be many things that are legal and proper, but in the long run may have bad affects on others. Waste disposal is an example. For a long time it was perfectly legal to put chemicals in the garbage or down the sewer. This has left people disfigured, tormented, and killed by cancer. Today we know better, but laws had to be made to prevent it.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Phil 2:3-4 NASB)

We need to have an attitude in which we are looking out for the interests of others and these problems would diminish.

While this is interesting and provides a good warning, I don’t think this is a good explanation for the locusts because Christians aren’t harmed. It is obvious from the rest of the book of Revelation that Christians will be greatly harmed by merchants in the last days.

Do you have any other explanations for the bizarre description of the locusts?

I have not drawn anything else from the description of the locusts except they are not in any sense like normal locusts. The hair, teeth, breastplates, etc. all may have symbolic meaning but they don’t relate to anything I’ve found in the Bible. Author Hal Lindsey says that a friend of his was in the Green Berets and after reading the description he immediately thought of Cobra helicopters.[1] The description fits very well with the breastplates and sound that they make. I’ve seen pictures with teeth painted on them and hair painted on them so the image is very realistic. Lindsey’s friend speculates that the sting could be some kind of nerve gas sprayed from the tails. However this is also a stretch to explain what these locusts are. Yet the Lord may indeed have shown something like this to John, who had a hard time explaining what he saw. However, the bottom line is that they don’t harm Christians so this would not support this military explanation.

Why do the locusts only harm people for five months?

I’ve read that claims that these five months are symbolic and each could each represent a decade (50 years being the length of time helicopters have been existence). Since this is part of the tribulation, it makes sense to consider that the five months are exactly that, five months. There is nothing in the context or even other biblical passages to suggest otherwise.

The fact that these creatures, demons, or armed forces have the ability to torture for only five months is puzzling. It is possible that the Lord, even in displaying His wrath upon the lost, stops and gives them a rest to repent before the next woe comes.

The fact that the locusts have a king, and that his name is destroyer, leads me to believe that the locusts are most likely demons. Other explanations simply don’t fit.  

So What?

Summarize what you have learned (from this woe announced by the fifth trumpet) that you can apply to your life.

At this point you may be asking this question. How does this really affect me? Again, it is a huge reminder that God is in control, even over the forces of evil. It is also a warning that pride can interfere with a Christian’s spiritual armor, causing us problems, but not to the point that we can become possessed by a demon. Any who don’t know Christ can be possessed at any time and suffer greatly. Turning our lives over to Jesus is the only way to guarantee our victory over spiritual forces of evil.

May the Lord bless you as you focus on Jesus our Lord.

[1] Hal Lindsey, There’s A New World Coming  (Santa Ana: Vision House, 1973) page 138

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Revelation Bible Study - Lesson 25 - Revelation 8:1-13 Part Two

Seventh Seal

Hail, Fire and Blood

How do you account for this phenomenon of hail, fire, and blood mixed together being thrown upon the earth?
What are some problems with looking for natural causes or completely spiritualizing these events?
So tomorrow at this time I will send a hailstorm more devastating than any in all the history of Egypt. Quick! Order your livestock and servants to come in from the fields to find shelter. Any person or animal left outside will die when the hail falls. (Ex 9:18-19 NLT)
This is a fairly graphic description of the hail that the Lord poured on Egypt. If this hail is large enough to kill people, then it doesn’t take any special imagination to see what John was talking about in Revelation when he describes the hail mixed with blood. The only problem is that the verse says that it is mixed before it is hurled down. That means that the blood is not a result of the hail. The same thing can be said for the fire.
When we think in the natural realm, the fire could easily be the result of lightning, but again the Word says it is mixed, and then hurled down. Our natural tendency is to look at these things and try to put them into a human perspective and remove the power of God, robbing Him of His glory. The other extreme is to spiritualize the events so that they become too remote and lose any practical meaning.
This is what happens when people try to explain how Jesus walked on water. The naturalists have flat out denied it for centuries. At best, they would say that the water was shallow and it appeared He was walking on water. The result is a faith that has no supernatural component. God becomes the embodiment of good thoughts and actions in every person but has no power to save.
On the other extreme, spiritualists would say that Jesus walked on water because He was here in spirit but not physically. In this case, God becomes a high and lofty being who has maintained His separate state from mankind. He can’t save because He hasn’t physically paid the price for our sins.
How is this hail different from that described in Ex 9:18-23? What other event are you reminded of in the Old Testament?
There is one interesting thing about this hailstorm; apparently no one dies as a result. Unlike the plague on Egypt, all the damage appears to be done to vegetation. While it says that a third of the earth was burned up, it goes on to explain that it was a third of the trees and all the grass. Hail, as we know it, would not result in this kind of fire because all the ice on the ground would prevent it.
Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomor'rah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven;
 (Gen 19:24 RSV)

The fire that is brought down appears to be more like the fire that was brought on Sodom and Gomorrah.
When we see events like this, what should we remember about God and ourselves? See Ps 18:12-15 and Isa 28:2.
From the brightness before Him passed His thick clouds, Hailstones and coals of fire. The Lord also thundered in the heavens, And the Most High uttered His voice, Hailstones and coals of fire. And He sent out His arrows, and scattered them, And lightning flashes in abundance, and routed them. Then the channels of water appeared, And the foundations of the world were laid bare At Thy rebuke, O Lord, At the blast of the breath of Thy nostrils. (Ps 18:12-15 NASB)
Behold, the Lord has a strong and mighty agent; As a storm of hail, a tempest of destruction, Like a storm of mighty overflowing waters, He has cast it down to the earth with His hand. (Isa 28:2 NASB)
When I read these verses, I am struck with an awe of the might of God. We are fragile beings but think that we are indestructible. When the forces of nature catch us up, we snap like twigs and are no more. In contrast, the earth is laid bare simply from the breath of His nostrils. It is completely evident that the Lord could accomplish the destruction of the earth with conventional hail, however He has chosen a special hail that is hurled upon the earth. It is forceful, deliberate and there can be no mistake that it has come from Him.

Huge Mountain

Disaster movies abound and many involve approaching asteroids as big as mountains. Sometimes heroes are able to divert the asteroid and other times the story is more about people surviving the cataclysm that results when it crashes into the earth. The authors of these stories often show panic, looting, and mayhem when people find out what is about to happen.
How do you think you would react if scientists predicted a huge asteroid were about to crash into the sea?
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. (Ps 46:1-6 ESV)
As we approach the destruction of the earth, several things come to mind. The terrible time of suffering that comes on people is one. The physical destruction of things of beauty is another. We become so focused on what is going on that we forget Who is in charge. I may sound like a broken record, but then God Himself reminds us many times. Therefore we constantly need to look at these reminders. Many times Christians are ridiculed for turning to God in times of trouble. If that is the only time we turn to Him, then we are the poorer for missing Him in the other times. Ps 46:1 starts by reminding us that He is our refuge in times of trouble and affirms that He is also an ever-present help. This must be firmly entrenched in our minds. If we do not constantly turn to Him for everything, then how will we not fear when we see a blazing mountain hit the sea and a third of it turn to blood? Will we be able to say with the psalmist, we will not fear? We are the city of God and the river is the Holy Spirit. He makes us glad, able to enjoy Him as He dwells in us. Unlike the nations, He will never fall. He may bring an end to the temporal things of life, but what counts is that His people will live forever.

Third of Light

How will shutting off a third of light coming from the heavens affect people? How should Christians react to this or other disasters?

Reducing the light of the sun by a third will have disastrous effects on the earth. It will also be a significant psychological blow to people when they realize that what they trusted in will be suddenly removed. With the spread of evolutionary theory and the concept of a very old earth, people think that it will continue very much the same way as it has (2 Peter 3:5-6). Those who preach global warming as the end of the earth will be shaken to the core as they see just the opposite happen in a matter of hours.
I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Ps 121:1-2 NIV)
As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease. (Gen 8:22 NIV)
The Lord watches over you — the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. (Ps 121:5-6 NIV)

Just as with the mountains, the sun, stars, and moon can seem unchanging to men. We depend on them and in a sense trust that they will always be there. Indeed, they will, for God promised that we would always have our seasons as long as the earth exists. But the Lord wants us to trust in Him, not His creation. He wants us to look past the hills to the Maker. We have this promise that He watches over us and that the harm He is bringing on the sun, stars, and moon will bring no permanent harm to us. We may have to refocus our attention on Him if we see these disasters arrive, but we will know that it is near the end because of His promise that the seasons will be there as long as the earth remains. As Christians we can look past the temporal things of this life and look forward to the eternal things because He watches over us now and forever.
How might we find spiritual significance in the reduction of light?
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting. (Ps 136: 1 NASU)
To Him who made the great lights, For His lovingkindness is everlasting: The sun to rule by day, For His lovingkindness is everlasting, The moon and stars to rule by night, For His lovingkindness is everlasting. (Ps 136:7-9 NASU)
These verses reaffirm that it is the Lord who has created all things. He has made the sun, stars, and moon to “rule” – to be shown prominently as a reminder to all that He is God. This does not mean that they in any way control us. If a third of the light is missing it certainly suggests that there is the possibility that people will be a third less likely to gaze upon His creation and give honor and glory to Him. I think that the light diminishing by a third is also symbolic of the spiritual trend in mankind. We already know that there are more people born every year than are “born again.” Every year, the Light of the world is being reduced. This disaster is a reflection that humanity is losing its sensitivity to God.
How could diminishing the light by a third actually help people turn to Jesus or grow in their faith?
Violence shall no longer be heard in your land, Neither wasting nor destruction within your borders; But you shall call your walls Salvation, And your gates Praise.
The sun shall no longer be your light by day, Nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; But the Lord will be to you an everlasting light, And your God your glory. Your sun shall no longer go down, Nor shall your moon withdraw itself; For the Lord will be your everlasting light, And the days of your mourning shall be ended. (Isa 60:18-20 NKJV)

Very often, the Lord removes physical blessings from us so that spiritual blessings may increase. As the physical light in the earth diminishes, it reminds me of the promises for the future when the only light will come from the Lord. Whenever any kinds of affliction overcome us, we must focus on His promise. If the rapture doesn’t come when we expect and we actually see part of the tribulation, we must focus on the eternal aspect that He will be our total light. At some point the sun and moon will be gone forever, but we won’t care. Jesus is our sun. When we see all things by His light the shadows disappear as we evaluate everything by eternal perspectives.
We often ask, “Why, God?” when we are inundated with problems and we can’t understand. Why do some people behave the way they do? Why can’t we seem to help them? Why do they even reject the help? And it just isn’t them, but us as well! Why did this happen to me? At these times instead of becoming frustrated, we need to turn to Jesus, who, in His time will give us light and understanding. In the meantime, He enables us to endure patiently with the light we now have. We know He wants us to endure and we do it as we study His Word and abide in Him. As we abide in Him, His light illuminates our way and the reasons for what we consider obstacles become clearer and clearer. As we grow in Christ, our lives will reflect the opposite of the last times when the darkness increases as more and more people reject Jesus.

Three Woes to Come

What is the primary reason these three woes come upon the earth?
Now I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a rich and fertile hill. (Isa 5:1 NLT)
This chapter in Isaiah is a nutshell description of God’s dealing with Judah and Jerusalem specifically and all of mankind in general. Our Lord has given us everything we need. He has provided us with salvation and His Holy Spirit to enable us to live a life and produce fruit like a vineyard. People in many churches are doing this while in others it would be amazing if anyone is actually saved. However, the world in general is ignoring God, rejecting Jesus and has no concept of the Holy Spirit.
What are some of the things that cause us to ignore or reject Jesus? See Isaiah 5:8-15.
Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is no more room, and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land. (Isa 5:8 RSV)
Prosperity has distracted both Christian and unbeliever alike. The Lord promises that the once desired houses will become desolate and famine will be the eventual outcome.
Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them! (Isa 5:11 KJV)
Hedonism (pursuing drink) reaches into every rank of our nation and even our churches. Christian leaders may not be pursuing drink, but many are definitely looking out for their own comfort. God promises that there is no limit to this appetite for pleasure and comfort. It will end in the grave and He will humble us.
Woe to those who drag iniquity with the cords of falsehood, And sin as if with cart ropes; Who say, "Let Him make speed, let Him hasten His work, that we may see it; And let the purpose of the Holy One of Israel draw near And come to pass, that we may know it!" (Isa 5:18-19 NASB)
There is even a woe for those who want Jesus to come again, but for the wrong reasons, not so that sin may be destroyed, not because they hunger after righteousness, but because they simply want to see a perfect life established. These are the ones that followed Jesus only because He fed them.
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink, who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right! (Isa 5:20-23 ESV)
The woes go on and on. It is a condemnation not only for then but also for today.
What is the result of these woes that God has pronounced?
Therefore the Lord's anger burns against his people; his hand is raised and he strikes them down. The mountains shake, and the dead bodies are like refuse in the streets. Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised. (Isa 5:25 NIV)
Think about it. The Lord’s anger burns against His people! How many people will go through the tribulation as unbelievers because people who should have known better (Christians) let themselves become so polluted by the world system that the church is rendered ineffective? The rest of this chapter in Isaiah describes that He will be using other nations to purify His people. It is only through adversity that His Church will be cleansed. When the cost of discipleship is expensive, only the sincere will follow. We need to prepare ourselves for the most costly decisions we will ever make.
Jesus also pronounced some woes in Matt 11:21-24. What surprising concept about eternal judgment do you find in His woes?
Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you. (Matt 11:21-24 NASU)
Judgment is something other than we might first expect. Looking at the fiery lake at the end of Revelation, it looks equally bad for all. But this indicates that it will be far worse for some than other. This isn’t saying that some will escape the flames, but it appears that some will not suffer as much as others. Depending upon the knowledge people have received, they will be judged.
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse. (Rom 1:20 NKJV)
Lest people try to claim that they had no knowledge of God, He has let us know that observing creation should make it evident that God exists. Many evolutionists freely admit that they cling to a faulty theory simply because they don’t want to admit the existence of God. I wonder if it will be even worse for those who have deliberately suppressed the truth. If you are interested in the answer, back up to Rom 1:18 for the answer.
Do you think eternal judgment will be worse for people who cause others to sin? Explain why or why not?
Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the man by whom the temptation comes! (Matt 18:7 RSV)
This is a very brief woe, but packed with much meaning. The world, the system that tempts us and tries to get us off the track, will be judged. But think of the people who cause others to sin, the ones that go out of their way to bring sin into other’s lives. I think of those who develop false religions to divert people from the right path. Others peddle drugs, alcohol, and pornography so that their minds and souls are so clouded that they never even think of getting on the right path.
I was told that during the depression Al Capone had set up many soup kitchens and fed many people. My daughter met one of these people. His admiration was evident in that he spoke well of Capone. He obviously wasn’t thinking about all the people that Capone assisted in going to hell. Jesus makes it clear that there is only woe for these.
Several years ago, T.V. programs like Donahue started becoming open forums for deviants to express and propagate their evil. (I would think that today Donahue would be considered conservative.) They do it under the guise of exploring controversial issues. What will their judgment be?
How will those who practice outward morality but don’t have inward holiness fare?
But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. (Matt 23:13 NASB)
Matt 23:13-39 is a series of woes that are all directed to the teachers of the law and Pharisees. These are different. They are not directed to those who are wicked outwardly but inwardly. They follow all the external, observable conditions of being good people, but harbor sin in their hearts. They are self-righteous and should know better. At this point Jesus closes the circle on all who would come by any other means than Himself. In verses 33 and 34 He asks how they can escape being condemned to hell unless they respond to His message. Instead, they crucify Him.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God's messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn't let me. And now, look, your house is abandoned and desolate. For I tell you this, you will never see me again until you say, 'Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the LORD! (Matt 23:37-39 NLT)
Jesus was speaking to the religious leaders of His day and also about the future of Jerusalem and the Jewish system of worship. The Jewish system of worship has been left desolate because it rejected Jesus as the Messiah.
The woes in Revelation are three. God’s number again. Even as we get into the woes in the next chapter, we need to remember that the inhabitants of the earth can include believers. Some of these woes will be directly executed against the lost, but persecution will be woeful for Christians as well. An example is the persecution the Egyptians inflicted on Israelites when they saw them spared in the land of Goshen at the time of the plagues.
What has impressed you most about the study of Revelation, Chapter 8? What do you need to remember and do as a result?

Let’s remember the awe and wonder of all our Lord has provided. Let this help us fix our minds and souls on Him as our ever-present help. Let His light guide us as we avoid the woes and help others avoid them as well.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Revelation Bible Study - Lesson 24 - Revelation 8:1-13 Part One

And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets. And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand. And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake. And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up. And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed. And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter. And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise. And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound! (KJV)

Seventh Seal

Why is the half hour of silence in heaven significant? How does silence proclaim God justice?

We have previously witnessed great shouts and songs of praise to God in the previous chapters of the book of Revelation. This silence is stunning in contrast. Can you imagine what was going through John’s mind when the Lamb opens the seventh seal and there is nothing. There are no sounds, likely no motions as all in heaven pause to see what comes next. Since we have read on, we know that this is ushering in the worst calamities ever to come on the earth since the flood. We can see that this silence is unusual because the Jewish custom is to mourn loudly at the announcement of such a disaster.

Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God; (Rom 3:19 NASB)

The inhabitants of the earth are at their worst. The seventh seal appears to announce the final act of God’s judgment and every mouth is silenced. The awesomeness of this moment is beyond anything that has ever happened before. When God appeared on Mt. Sinai and almost every other place, there was thunder and lightning (Ex 19:16). Instead of thunder and lightning, there is silence. It is this silent introduction to what is called the trumpet judgments that lead me to believe that this is when the wrath of God comes.

If Christians are to be spared the wrath of God according to 1 Thessalonians 5:8, then the multitude in Chapter 7 who have come out of the great tribulation must be the raputured Church.

“I will stretch out my hand against Judah and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will cut off from this place the remnant of Baal and the name of the idolatrous priests along with the priests, those who bow down on the roofs to the host of the heavens, those who bow down and swear to the Lord and yet swear by  Milcom, those who have turned back from following the Lord, who do not seek the Lord or inquire of him.” Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is near; the Lord has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated his guests. And on the day of the Lord's sacrifice—“I will punish the officials and the king's sons and all who array themselves in foreign attire.” (Zeph 1:4-8 ESV)

Considering today’s world, how is God’s judgment on Judah like the one that will come in Revelation?

This tells of another time when the people were told to be silent before the Lord. It was a time of trouble and judgment to be brought upon Judah. Notice the indictment that the Lord brought against Judah. They were worshiping anything and everything except the Lord. Baal was the son of El, the father of the gods and the head of the Canaanite pantheon. He is also designated as “the son of Dagon" They were worshiping a god that was the son of a god yet the father of gods. Does this sound familiar? The same thing is happening today as many in cults and even in mainline denominations who distort Jesus’ identity so that they no longer worship Jesus as the true Son of God. Other people were worshiping things of nature in the same way that much of the world does today. The most insidious correlation between Judah and the world of today is their worship of Molech (Milcom), a Semitic deity honored by the fiery sacrifice of children. Palestinian excavations have uncovered evidences of infant skeletons in burial places around heathen shrines. We don’t call him Molech today as he goes by many names such as “women’s rights,” “pro-choice", “embryonic stem cell research” and others.

Do you realize some scientists are fertilizing human eggs to create embryos for the sole purpose of extracting the stem cells? Each of these embryos has the full potential to become a living, breathing person. They never have a chance. Most abortions are done simply because the baby threatens the parent’s lifestyle. We don’t burn these children; we tear them apart in their mother’s womb before they are born or toss them out of a Petri dish. Molech’s real name is selfishness, that ugly monster within each of us that puts our own desire (rights) above the rights and needs of others. Society normally suppresses him with laws, rules, and regulations. The only real cure is to nail him to the cross when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20 NIV)

The Lord commands all to be silent because He has roused Himself (Zech 2:13). What is one of the reasons He is bringing judgment as described in Zechariah 2:8?

For thus says the Lord of hosts, “After glory He has sent me against the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye.” (Zech 2:8 NASU)

“Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord; for He is aroused from His holy habitation.” (Zech 2:13 NASU)

The Lord declared to His people that He would protect them and bring destruction on those who have harmed them. Especially, those who treat His people unjustly will need to be still before the Lord. The silence in heaven could be a prelude to the silence of the nations as they won’t have any defense to the charges that the Lord will bring against them. As the trumpets are sounded we can see that God has roused Himself and will deal with all mankind in part based on how we have treated His people, but most importantly how we have related to one particular Jew, His Son.
Zech 2:8 says that the Jewish nation is the apple of God’s eye. This brings up an interesting point that many commentators have made. Throughout history, nations have been called to bring punishment against the Jews. Assyria, Egypt and Babylon are a few. In each case they did not do it in humility (see Jer 50) but were arrogant and enjoyed doing it. These nations were then punished. From then to now, no nation that has been anti-Semitic has stood the test of time. It is therefore thought that whoever befriends the 144,000 mentioned in chapter 7 will be spared death and will enter into the millennial kingdom. But the nations and people who persecute them will not be spared. Mat 25:31-46 is used to support this idea even though the context of these verses indicates that this is a final judgment and the reward is the final reward of eternal blessings, not just for a thousand years. I don’t think this is an accurate interpretation, but is worth mentioning.

Seven Angels

Briefly describe the celestial order of angels, names of angels, and their missions.

For some reason it appears that God has appointed a celestial order of angels. The seven angels that are in Rev 8:2 are referred to specifically as “the” seven angels who stand before God. They are singled out from all the rest.
And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. (Luke 1:19 KJV)

Gabriel is one of these seven. He is especially privileged because he was assigned the once-in-history task of telling Mary that she would bear the Messiah. He also appeared to Daniel (Dan 8:16) and is possibly the one that appeared to him again in Daniel 10 and spoke of another angel, Michael, one of the chief princes. It could be that Michael is also one that stands before God.

But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia. (Dan 10:13 KJV)
There are also angels who are associated with little children (guardian angels) and always have the ability to see the face of God even thought they don’t necessarily stand in His presence. In my novel, 999 Years After Armageddon, The End of the Millennium[1], I have the fun of speculating how this and other angelic activities function.

Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. (Matt 18:10 NKJV)

Then there are some angels that do not stand in His presence. Rather, they come at appointed times to report.

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord … (Job 1:6 KJV)

Cherubim and seraphim are also mentioned many times in the Bible. It isn’t always clear whether they are angels or other created celestial beings. Their duties are various as are their descriptions. Cherubim were appointed to guard the way back into the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:24) and images of them were made to be on the lid of the Ark of the Covenant, worked into the curtains of the tabernacle, engraved on the walls of the temple, and two that were to overshadow the place of the Ark in the Holy of Holies. While some of these looked very much like angels as we understand them, the ones supporting God’s throne in Ezekiel 10 are described like the living creatures in Ezekiel 1. They are also similar to the seraphim in Isaiah 6.

These angels that stand before the Lord are each given a trumpet to blow and announce a new phase in God’s judgment of the earth.
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. (1 Thess 4:16 NLT)

When the Lord comes and raptures the Church we will also hear the voice of an archangel as one of the three ways that He will announce this event. Arch means chief. It may be that one of these seven angels will also have the privilege of proclaiming the rapture. All this is to point out the seven highest angels are used so that we know that what is about to happen is extremely significant. The importance of their previous announcements has shaken the very foundations of man’s history. What comes next will certainly be profound.

Another Angel

Is the angel that offers incense with the prayers of the saints the Angel of the Lord – Jesus? Explain your answer.

Another angel appears and offers incense mixed with the payers of the saints. Because of the prayers that are mixed with the incense, some think that this is Jesus in His role as Intercessor. Most people believe that when the Angel of the Lord appeared in the Old Testament it was the pre-incarnate vision of Jesus. This is also used to help justify identifying this angel as Jesus. Therefore we need to look at least one of these encounters in the Old Testament.
And Mano'ah said to the angel of the Lord, "What is your name, so that, when your words come true, we may honor you?" And the angel of the Lord said to him, "Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?" So Mano'ah took the kid with the cereal offering, and offered it upon the rock to the Lord, to him who works wonders. And when the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar while Mano'ah and his wife looked on; and they fell on their faces to the ground. The angel of the Lord appeared no more to Mano'ah and to his wife. Then Mano'ah knew that he was the angel of the Lord. And Mano'ah said to his wife, "We shall surely die, for we have seen God." (Judg 13:17-22 RSV)

This is the story of the Angel of the Lord that appeared to Samson’s mother and father to announce his birth. We can see that the Angel of the Lord is more than just an angel when we observe Him in this encounter. When they asked His name, He says it is wonderful. The NIV says beyond understanding. Who in the Scripture is named wonderful other than Jesus in Isa 9:6? Another thing is that when they gave the reason for asking His name, it was to honor Him. He didn’t rebuke them and tell them to honor God even though He told them to sacrifice to the Lord (verse 16). He also ascended with the flames of the offering demonstrating that the sacrifice was acceptable to the Lord. Manoah believed that they had seen the face of God when they realized it was the Angel of the Lord. Clearly the Angel of the Lord and God were the same in their mind.
In Rev 8, this angel could be Jesus, except that everywhere else in the entire book Jesus is not hidden but revealed. Revelation speaks of the Lamb, the Lion, and a few other things, but when He is shown it is clearly evident that it is Jesus.

How does this angel remind us of the Trinity?

Since he has been given much incense to offer with the prayers of the saints, he reminds us that Jesus stands in intercession for us. The angel takes our prayers, mixes them with incense, and passes them along to the Father. In this way he also reminds us of the Holy Spirit.
And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Rom 8:26-27 NASB)
Even when we think we know the will of God, we can be wrong. The Holy Spirit cleans up our prayers. This is a great relief to many of us who struggle with knowing how to pray about different situations. We know that even if we pray amiss, the Holy Spirit cleans them up according to God’s will.
Another thing is that the angel himself took the fire from the altar and flung it on the earth. It is as if the beginning of the destruction comes straight from the hand of God the Father. We also have the familiar thunder, lightning, and earthquakes associated with the presence of God. Whether this is Jesus or not, he certainly reminds us of the Trinity, which is exactly what a ministering spirit or messenger is supposed to do.
Compare the use of fire from the altar by this angel with the use in Isaiah 6:6-7.

There is a contrast between the uses of the fire from the altar in this case, i.e. to cause destruction on the earth, as opposed to the fire in the altar in Isa 6:6-7 (ESV).
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
The fire of the Lord can be used to cleanse or punish. The coals of Isaiah must be the type of fire we as believers see in 1 Cor 3:12-15 (NIV).
If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
All the impurities of our work and motivation will be burned away. In the case of the earth, there is so much impurity that we will see a third of almost everything being destroyed at the sound of the first four trumpets.


Ezek 5:11-16 describes a time when God pours out His wrath in thirds.
“So as I live,” declares the Lord God, “surely, because you have defiled My sanctuary with all your detestable idols and with all your abominations, therefore I will also withdraw, and My eye will have no pity and I will not spare. “ One third of you will die by plague or be consumed by famine among you, one third will fall by the sword around you, and one third I will scatter to every wind, and I will unsheathe a sword behind them.
 “Thus My anger will be spent and I will satisfy My wrath on them, and I will be appeased; then they will know that I, the Lord, have spoken in My zeal when I have spent My wrath upon them. Moreover, I will make you a desolation and a reproach among the nations which surround you, in the sight of all who pass by. So it will be a reproach, a reviling, a warning and an object of horror to the nations who surround you when I execute judgments against you in anger, wrath and raging rebukes. I, the Lord, have spoken. When I send against them the deadly arrows of famine which were for the destruction of those whom I will send to destroy you, then I will also intensify the famine upon you and break the staff of bread.” (NASU)

Why does the Lord destroy these people by thirds? What does this tell us about the destruction of the earth by thirds in Revelation?

The Lord describes how He will kill two thirds of the people of Israel, a third at a time. He also makes it abundantly clear why. It is because of their vile images and detestable practices. Even the third that doesn’t die will be scattered. The result is that they will become an object of horror to the nations. He did this in a very specific manner and had His prophets announce it so that all nations would know exactly why it occurred and it would horrify them. The same is true in the book of Revelation. The Lord starts with a description of the thirds of the earth that He will destroy. He has given mankind all of history to come to Him though grace. The majority of mankind has rejected this offer and as a result, these things that will happen will bring horror on mankind. The judgments in thirds remind me that He has always provided for a remnant that remains true to Him.
What is God’s ultimate purpose when He brings disasters like this?

“And it shall come to pass in all the land,” Says the Lord, “That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, But one-third shall be left in it: I will bring the one-third through the fire, Will refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them. I will say, 'This is My people'; And each one will say, 'The Lord is my God.'" (Zech 13:8-9 NKJV)
Again the Lord’s purpose is clear. Just as in the days of Noah, He is seeking a people to call His own. He continually has to purge the wicked from among those He has chosen. It is sad to think that only a third of the people at this point in history turned to Him, and even then it is only after they suffered. It is very hard for us to imagine a God who would do something like this.

When people complain about God destroying so many, what must we remember?

We must not forget several things. One of them is the vile and detestable practices that lead up to these things.
And now they sin more and more, and  make for themselves metal images, idols skillfully made of their silver, all of them the work of craftsmen. It is said of them, "Those who offer human sacrifice  kiss calves!" (Hos 13:2 ESV)
They actually had human sacrifices at that time. As we get further into Revelation we will see that the end times will also bring some very ugly and horrifying things. We must not forget His holiness. We must not forget His sovereignty. We must not forget His patience and the gift that He has offered in Jesus Christ and how often it has been rejected and even cursed.
I was reading about how the Jews respected the name of God so much that they were afraid it would become commonplace. They made restrictions so that it would only be used in special places and then finally, it could not be pronounced aloud at all. Now the opposite has occurred. The phrase, “Oh my God” (OMG if texting) has become so common that you see it in the comic strips, on TV, and in movies. Even Christians use it without any sense of reverence to our Lord. The name of Jesus has become so common that people use it as a swear word.
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12 KJV)
How sad that the name by which we must be saved has been brought down this way. No wonder these horrors will occur.

Bitter Water

What does Wormwood and bitter water represent? What is the cure for bitterness?

When they came to the oasis of Marah, the water was too bitter to drink. So they called the place Marah (which means "bitter"). Then the people complained and turned against Moses. "What are we going to drink?" they demanded. So Moses cried out to the Lord for help, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. Moses threw it into the water, and this made the water good to drink. It was there at Marah that the Lord set before them the following decree as a standard to test their faithfulness to him. He said, "If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you." (Ex 15:23-26 NLT)
When the Israelites came upon the bitter water, wood was thrown in and the water became drinkable. This was their first time of grumbling, complaining, and bitterness. In Revelation, a star named “Wormwood” will be thrown into the water and it becomes undrinkable. Wormwood’s Greek definition is:
Apsinthos (ap’-sin-thos); of uncertain derivation; wormwood (as a type of bitterness, i.e. [figuratively] calamity).[2]

Figuratively, bitterness is thrown into the water. What happens to us when we drink from the waters of bitterness? The symbolism here is very potent; people destroy themselves with bitterness. He made the Old Testament an example for us and this is what the Lord can do for our bitterness and problems if we turn to Him. He has given us a wooden cross that produces fresh water when it is thrown into our lives. He will heal us from our bitterness. If we listen to His voice and pay attention to His Word, we will avoid the diseases brought by bitterness. This is in contrast to the rest of the world who reject Jesus and His living water. He will turn fresh water bitter with “wormwood” and destroy many people.

As far as the actual event is concerned, we can speculate on how the Lord is going to do it. Many think it is because we are polluting our ground water with chemical dumps; others think that the great star called Wormwood is actually a nuclear explosion that contaminates the water with fallout. Others think that it could be the result of bio-chemical bombs. Some think it is some kind of asteroid filled with arsenic that collides with the earth. It really doesn’t matter how. It is the result of God’s will.

Global War

Many people think that what is happening with the first four trumpets is a global war. They look to Ezek 38 and say that this is the result. Looking back to the preview in chapter 6, we saw a time of peace created by the strong ruler that is followed by a war that could be the one described in Ezekiel.


Looking at Ezekiel 38 and 39, what are the circumstances that will help determine when the war takes place?

I don’t have enough room to get into too much detail, but there are some things that stand out in these two chapters.
Behold, it is come, and it is done, saith the Lord God; this is the day whereof I have spoken. (Ezek 39:8 KJV)
It will surely take place because our Sovereign Lord has said it will. That doesn’t leave any room to wonder if, only when and how.
And I will turn you about, and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you forth, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed in full armor, a great company, all of them with buckler and shield, wielding swords. (Ezek 38:4 RSV)

The Lord is the one who brings about this war. He has set a time and will use the covetousness and greed of nations to start this war. The Lord declares from the beginning that it is because of His sovereign will that this is taking place.
After many days you will be summoned; in the latter years you will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste; but its people were brought out from the nations, and they are living securely, all of them. (Ezek 38:8 NASB)

The time in history, or more accurately, the future is established. This is far in the future for Ezekiel. The people have been brought back from many nations, they have gone through many wars, and now they are living in safety. This cannot refer to the return from Babylon because it says that they will come from many nations, not just one.
And say, “I will go up against the land of unwalled villages. I will fall upon the quiet people who dwell securely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having no bars or gates,” (Ezek 38:11 ESV)
Another very important item is the fact that they will live in safety and unwalled villages. This describes the attitude of the people in Israel, not just their physical security. They are unsuspecting. This cannot even come close to the situation in Israel today. Israel is very suspecting, highly fortified, and certainly not living in safety. This hasn’t described any time in their short modern history or any time in history since this prophecy was made.
 This sheds light on Rev 6:1-2. It has to be at a time when a strong ruler has provided a guarantee of peace in the land that is so believable that Israel would actually disarm. This would place the war before the tribulation or the first half.
And they that dwell in the cities of Israel shall go forth, and shall set on fire and burn the weapons, both the shields and the bucklers, the bows and the arrows, and the handstaves, and the spears, and they shall burn them with fire seven years: (Ezek 39:9 KJV)
And seven months shall the house of Israel be burying of them, that they may cleanse the land. (Ezek 39:12 KJV)
These verses help pin down when this will occur by describing what will happen afterwards. If this were the battle of Armageddon when all ends and Jesus restores the earth for the 1,000-year reign, then there wouldn’t be any need to pick up the weapons to use for fuel. (I will leave the explanation of the renewal of the earth to our study of Rev 20.) There would also be no need to cleanse the land because Jesus would do it.


What nations will be involved in this war?

You [Gog] will come from your place in the far north, you and many nations with you, all of them riding on horses, a great horde, a mighty army. (Ezek 38:15 NIV)
This verse lets us know from where these attackers come. Historians can link the people of Gog (vs. 2) and Magog to the current Russians. While this fits with the direction they are coming from (the north), some try to tie the fulfillment of this prophesy to current events rather on the fact that God can lift up a nation from these people at any time He wants. Also note that many nations join in. They will have many allies who actually join in on the battle. Vs. 38:19-23 describe the events of the war and make it clear that God is in control of the outcome.
And I will send fire upon Magog and those who inhabit the coastlands in safety; and they will know that I am the Lord. (Ezek 39:6 NASU)
God does some amazing things. Nothing happens to people that is not used by God to bring them to Himself or at least make us aware of Him and His glory. This battle will affect many besides those in the battle. The word “coastlands” is thought to describe any who live along the Mediterranean Sea. In a broader sense, it could be any overseas area. This verse is why some authors think that the battle will involve or affect the United States.
We are sitting back in what we think is safety, all the while flirting with abortion, homosexuality as well as many other grievous sins. The plague of AIDS has hit, but the destruction of war has not. We are proud and think we can build a missile defense system to protect ourselves. In reality, we don’t think that anyone would start a war with us. However, if this war were started against Israel by allies of Russia, it is not hard to imagine a scenario where we are all suddenly involved. It could very well be His judgment on our nation.

Two Battles

I will set My glory among the nations; all the nations shall see My judgment which I have executed, and My hand which I have laid on them. So the house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God from that day forward. (Ezek 39:21-22 NKJV)
 Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Now I will bring back the captives of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for My holy name — after they have borne their shame, and all their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me, when they dwelt safely in their own land and no one made them afraid.” (Ezek 39:25-26 NKJV)
“And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,” says the Lord God. (Ezek 39:29 NKJV)
How do these verses in Ezekiel 39 indicate that there the prophecies of Ezekiel 38 and 39 describe two battles?

This is a difficulty that many have with this prophecy. The Lord often tells what He is going to do because of a disobedient people and then slips right into things that can only occur much later, such as after His return. This one is no different. In Ezekiel 39:21-22, He slips past this battle, and goes right on to something that happens just before the 1,000-year reign. Verse 21 is ambiguous enough to apply to this battle before or near the beginning of the tribulation or to the last battle of the tribulation at Armageddon. Verse 22 can only apply to the 1,000-year reign because it indicates that all of Israel will know that the Lord is God.
Ezekiel 39:26 can occur only if all in Israel are indeed Christians, which I think can only happen after He returns and the true gathering of the whole house of Israel will take place, not the partial that we see today.
Ezekiel 39:28-29 clinches the argument because only in the perfect reign of Jesus could all the Jews be assured of coming back to Israel and having His Spirit poured out on them in this way. It becomes apparent that these verses describe the aftermath of a different battle than the one described earlier. The logical explanation is that they apply to the battle of Armageddon, which will be similar to the earlier one.
Our God is awesome! Even in the prelude to His Judgment, we are reminded of the Trinity. We have seen how He has provided salvation and provision for those who walk in His ways. While we rejoice that He will come back again to set all things straight, we also need to be solemn because of the destruction that will come because it will end forever the opportunity of many to turn to Him for salvation.

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[2] Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.