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.

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