Friday, August 31, 2012

Revelation Bible Study - Lesson 31 - Revelation 11:14-19

The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly. Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!" And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying:
"We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty,
The One who is and who was and who is to come,
Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.
The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come,
And the time of the dead, that they should be judged,
And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints,
And those who fear Your name, small and great,
And should destroy those who destroy the earth."
Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail. (NKJV)

The Seventh Trumpet

Recount the number of woes, trumpets, and seals up to this point. 

We are now about to see the third of three woes, which is part of the seventh of seven trumpets, which is part of the seventh of seven seals. The last woe will contain seven bowls of God’s wrath, which are plagues. This is the beginning of the end. If there has been any doubt about when God’s wrath is poured on the world, it should be removed now. Heaven has said that His wrath has come but more important is that Christ will begin His reign. Unfortunately the nations don’t like it and the beginning of His reign will be with anger and judgment.

What will be the beginning of Christ’s rule over the earth be like? 

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. (Isa 9:6-7 NKJV)  

We are very familiar with verse six since it is quoted many times at Christmas to celebrate Jesus’ first coming. However, I doubt that many people know verse seven which promises judgment or justice as some translations say. At the sounding of the trumpet, the prophecy of Isa 9:7 is about to be accomplished. Jesus is Prince of Peace, but we also have the reality of Rev 11:18 that says the nations are angry. The beginning of His reign isn’t going to be peaceful. 

The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet." (Ps 110:1 NLT)
But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God's right hand. There he waits until his enemies are humbled and made a footstool under his feet. For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy. (Heb 10:12-14 NLT)  

It is clear that David was speaking of the Messiah, Jesus, when he wrote this psalm. Hebrews not only reiterates that Jesus is waiting for His enemies to be made a footstool for His feet, but it adds some insight. Jesus first had to provide a sacrifice for sins that would be a once-for-all sacrifice. That sacrifice has made all believers prefect in Him and so He is also waiting for all who will accept Him to place their faith in Him to be made holy. 

How are Jesus’ enemies made a footstool under His feet? 

Many people believe that it is the job of the Church to make His enemies His footstool. They believe that the only way He will return is for us to preach the gospel to the entire world and subdue it. While I believe we are to preach to the whole world, I don’t think that the Church is God’s instrument to subdue the world. From long ago, God has announced that this was to be His work.  

"I have trodden the wine press alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood is sprinkled upon my garments, and I have stained all my raiment. For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and my year of redemption has come. I looked, but there was no one to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold; so my own arm brought me victory, and my wrath upheld me. I trod down the peoples in my anger, I made them drunk in my wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth." (Isa 63:3-6 RSV)  

When Jesus begins His reign on earth, He will subdue the nations that are His foes. Just as there will be no one who can help Jesus pour His wrath on the nations, there isn’t anything anyone can do to save himself or anyone else for that matter. Jesus has paid the price and has provided our salvation. Only when we accept that it is entirely by His merit and not our own that we can be saved. 

The Lord will stretch forth Thy strong scepter from Zion, saying, "Rule in the midst of Thine enemies." Thy people will volunteer freely in the day of Thy power; In holy array, from the womb of the dawn, Thy youth are to Thee as the dew. (Ps 110:2-3 NASB)
The Lord is at Thy right hand; He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath. He will judge among the nations, He will fill them with corpses, He will shatter the chief men over a broad country. (Ps 110:5-6 NASB) 

These verses also clear up who it is that will establish the kingdom, and how. The Lord will do it. It is at this point in the book of Revelation that He extends the scepter to Jesus and causes Him to rule in the midst of His enemies. We can see that it will take a battle. A description of the troops sounds like glorified saints or angels, but certainly not missionaries. We are now concerned for souls and spreading the word, not physically conquering our enemies. Yet the Lord makes it clear that He will crush and overcome the kings of the earth. 

Is Jesus currently the ruler of this world or is Satan?  

Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. (John 12:31 KJV)
Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me. (John 14:30 KJV)
Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. (John 16:11 KJV)  

Satan is currently in charge of the world. The trumpet announces that it is now given to Jesus. In John, Jesus reiterate that Satan is in charge of the world. However, He also marks Satan’s time as short. His influence is weakened as the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus breaks his power and the power of sin over believers – but not the world. Just as he has no control over Jesus, he has no hold on us, at least as long as we abide in Jesus.

Satan has been condemned for almost 2,000 years; however the sentence has not yet been carried out. The trumpet is announcing that Jesus is now going to carry out the judgment that He announced to the apostles. However, Satan knows the end is near and is coming to do his worst even though he is condemned. 

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Cor 4:4 NIV)  

Satan is the god of this age and he has blinded people. This is why they did not repent in the first part of Rev 11.

Judging and Rewards

How are those who are to be judged described and why are they described in this way?
How are those who are to be rewarded described and why are they described in this way?

The time has come for judging the dead and rewarding His servants. Isn’t it interesting that the Lord has divided people into two categories – the dead and His servants?

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, (Eph 2:1 NASU)
When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, (Col 2:13 NASU)  

Over and over, the New Testament makes it clear that all who do not believe in Jesus is already dead, even though they are physically alive. This concept is necessary for unbelievers to grasp so that they will know that they need a Savior, someone to make them alive. 

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26 NKJV) 

The opposite is true for those who believe in Jesus. We are alive and even though we may physically die, we will still live. Jesus’ question of Martha is one that every person needs to answer in the affirmative at some time before they die physically or they will stay spiritually dead forever.

Those who believe are called servants. This is something that must be emphasized over and over again. In a world where people are told that they can believe anything they want, it is easy for us to tell someone that all they need to do is believe in Jesus. While this is correct, the Bible also informs us that belief is shown by obedience (Luke 6:46-49). 

 So you see, faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. (James 2:17 NLT) 

How is it that these judgments and rewards are announced at what we thought was the midpoint of the tribulation? Shouldn’t they come at the end of the tribulation? 

Judgments and rewards sound like something that should be coming at the very end, not at the middle of the tribulation. This announcement could be similar to those we see many times in the Bible when God slips from near time prophecies right to the end. This occurs often when pronouncing judgment on a specific generation. Or, it could mean that it will take three and a half years to pour out His wrath on the earth while His raptured saints are being prepared to take over the kingdom.

We will have plenty of time to talk about the judgment, however it would make sense to stop and review the parables that Jesus told after a long discourse about end-times (Matt 24). The first was told to emphasize staying ready for His return (Matt 25:1-13), the second to demonstrate and emphasize that His saints will be rewarded and that those who disobey will be punished (Matt 25:14-27). The third is a description of the final judgment providing rewards and punishment (Matt 25:31-46).  

What are the rewards and punishments Jesus described in Matthew 25? 

you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master. (Matt 25:23 RSV) … inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; (Matt 25:34 RSV) 

 Jesus is teaching that there will be a time when the saints are in charge over much. This is something that has yet to come and it will be fulfilled on the earth as He has promised. It still boggles my mind to think that there will be a time when Jesus looks at what we have done and actually gives us charge over parts of His kingdom. We won’t see any more details of rewards in the Book of Revelation for several chapters. Before that occurs, there will much detail about the judgment to be carried out on the earth. 

And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. (Matt 25:10-13 KJV)  

When the rewards will be handed out those who were not ready will be barred from the festivities. We will be enjoying the company of Jesus while the rest of the world will be knocking at the door wanting to get in, but it will be too late. I have a feeling that when this announcement is made at the seventh trumpet, there may not be any more opportunities for people to come to Jesus.


How should Christians regard and respect our world?

The term environmentalist unfortunately carries the connotation that the person who is concerned about protecting the environment has made it a political or philosophical issue so that it becomes a religion to him. Many put the environment above the needs of people and essentially worship creation instead of the creator.

This certainly isn’t the attitude Christians should have toward the physical world. The last phrase in Rev 11:18 points out that God is going to destroy those who destroy the earth. If we don’t have the proper regard and respect for God’s creation, then we will undergo His discipline. Those who disregard nature and do not know Jesus will suffer God’s wrath.

Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. (Gen 2:15 NASB) 

The first few verses in Genesis 2 describe the earth and the Garden of Eden when it was first created. Before the fall, man’s job was to take care of the beautiful creation that God had provided. After the fall, it became more difficult, but man’s responsibility to care for creation didn’t change.  

For the creation  was subjected to futility, not willingly, but  because of him who subjected it, in hope that  the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Rom 8:20-22 ESV) 

Because of the fall, all creation started to decay. As Christians, we must understand that while we need to care for our environment, we know that it is in a state of decay. That means that some species will become extinct despite our best efforts. We cannot, therefore, put their preservation above the needs of mankind. We must have the proper perspective regarding man and creation.

That perspective is provided in Psalm 8 as it states that God’s glory is manifested in His creation and mankind has been given dominion over it. But the psalm also put us at a higher level, just below the heavenly being. We don’t want to mess over God’s glory.

The Temple

What is the biggest difference between the temple in heaven and the one that was on the earth? 

When the door of the temple in heaven is opened, it is as if all on the earth could plainly see what it is that God expects. The Ark of the Covenant is on display. The Ark of the Covenant on earth contained the tablets of the Law, which must be completely obeyed in order for anyone to be declared righteous. It is impossible for any of us to keep every law for our entire lives. All it takes is one little white lie to fall into the category of sinners.

For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. (James 2:10 KJV) 

The temple on earth always reminded people of their sins and their separation from God. The temple in heaven reminds us that it is only by the blood of Jesus and His mercy that we can be saved. It reminds us that we now have access to God by the blood of Jesus and we are no longer separated from Him. 

But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. (Heb 9:11-12 KJV) 
Mercy triumphs over judgment! (James 2:13b NIV) 

Jesus has already been in the heavenly temple and has cleared the way for all believers to come to God because He has sprinkled His blood on the mercy seat that covers the Ark of the Covenant in heaven. God’s mercy triumphs over the requirements of the Law as symbolized in the mercy seat covering the Ark of the Covenant.

When the heavenly tabernacle is revealed, it will condemn all who have decided to live without faith in Jesus and all those who have decided that they could live by the law, either the Mosaic Law or the law of their own consciences (Rom 2:12-24). Therefore, the law that is represented by the Ark of the Covenant in heaven will judge them. They will have no excuse since they have had the law within them.  

Some believe the Ark of the Covenant shown in heaven is the one that was lost on earth. How would you explain that this not correct? 

The Ark of the Covenant in heaven is not the ark that was lost when the temple was destroyed as some claim. The one in heaven was there before the earthly ark was made. The temple on earth and all the furnishings were made after the pattern that was shown to Moses. As the Heb 9:11-12 clarifies, the pattern wasn’t simply drawings, but the perfect tabernacle that isn’t man-made. While the earthly Ark was lost or destroyed, the one in heaven has always been there.

How does revealing the Ark in heaven with lightning, thunder, an earthquake, and hail relate to the earthly temple? 

Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. (Ex 40:34-35 KJV)
And the Lord said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat. (Lev 16:2 KJV)  

When the Lord filled the earthly tabernacle even Moses, God’s friend, could not enter it. When Solomon brought the Ark into the temple in Jerusalem, the priests couldn’t minister because of the cloud of God’s glory filling it (2 Chron 5:14). Now His glory is being exposed to all of mankind. The result is the storm of His wrath.

Only the high priest was to enter the holy of holies where the Ark of the Covenant was. If anyone entered at any other time or in any other way, he was to die. If the whole world is now able to see the Ark of the Covenant, then they are about to die.

These are strong arguments that there will not be any more people coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus from this time through the end of the tribulation.

Summary – Preview

God has given us every chance to come to Him. The message has been made plain to all by these last two witnesses. The announcement that the last woe is about to come indicates that there is still some time before the end. In fact He will send three angels to make sure everyone on earth hears the message. His judgment has come upon the world. The next three chapters go into more detail of the last seven years as well as providing a historical summary of the battle between good and evil that has led up to this time. 

What will be the fate of those who haven’t sworn allegiance to Jesus before this time? How are they like many people today? 

Those who haven’t sworn their allegiance to the Lord Jesus by the time the seventh trumpet has sounded may be so hardened that they will never do so. The rest of the book indicates over and over that people don’t repent.

It is also the same with people today who don’t know Jesus and continue to reject Him. These are people who have heard the message many times and have never responded to the Holy Spirit. There comes a point in their life that they will not repent either. They have scoffed too many times at the claims of Jesus. They may have simply said tomorrow too many times thinking they can accept Jesus at their leisure. Like pharaoh of Egypt, their hearts have become hardened.  

For anyone who refused to obey the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God's mercy to us. For we know the one who said, "I will take revenge. I will pay them back." He also said, "The Lord will judge his own people." It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb 10:28-31 NLT)  

Those who reject the testimony of the two witnesses in Revelation will have trampled the Son of God under foot, treated His sacrifice as unholy, and insulted the Spirit of grace. Anyone who has repeatedly rejected the message of Jesus Christ is doing the same thing now! The seventh trumpet may sound for them at any time. While they will always have the opportunity to repent, they will refuse to do so.

If you haven’t turned to Jesus in faith, I urge you to place your faith in Him. Now!

Let those of us who know Jesus continue to do all we can to repeat the message.

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