Saturday, October 27, 2012

Revelation Bible Study - Lesson 37 - Revelation 14:13-20

And I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head, and a sharp sickle in His hand. And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, "Put in your sickle and reap, because the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe." And He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth; and the earth was reaped.

And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. And another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, "Put in your sharp sickle, and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe." And the angel swung his sickle to the earth, and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God. And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses' bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles. (NASB)

The First Harvest

How can we identify the first harvester? 

He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and  a voice from the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;  listen to him." (Matt 17:5ESV)

Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. (Rev 1:7 ESV)

And in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. (Rev 1:13 ESV)

I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. (Dan 7:13-14 KJV) 

As we look at all these verses, we can see that Jesus is the first harvester. Jesus was enveloped in a white cloud from which God spoke. The cloud is a symbol of the glory of the Lord and it represents His presence. Since the first harvester is sitting on this cloud, it indicates that the harvest is in the Lord’s control and He chooses when it will occur. When we studied chapter one, it was clear that these references were about Jesus. He is portrayed as the Son of Man who will be coming with the clouds. We have also studied the verses in Daniel before with the conclusion that the Son of Man who is worshiped clearly refers to Jesus. 

For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matt 24:27, 29-3, KJV)

… so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. (Matt 24:39-42 KJV)  

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thess 4:14-17 KJV)

 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Cor 15:51-52 KJV) 

What are the common elements between 1 Thess 4:14-17 and 1 Cor 15:51-52 that describe the rapture and Jesus’ coming in Matthew 24:39-42? 
What are the differences? 

Coming of the Son of Man (Matt 24:27, 29-31,
Rapture (1 Thess 4:14-17 and
1 Cor 15:51-52)
Coming of the Son of Man
Coming of the Lord
Jesus’ words
Lord’s own words
Great trumpet sound
Trump of God
Quick (flash of lightning)
Quick (twinkling of the eye)
In the clouds
In the clouds
Gathered together
Caught up to Him
Elect gathered, other left behind
Believers will be gathered implies other left
No mention
After the tribulation
No mention
Sun, moon, stars darkened
No mention
Sign of Son of Man will appear in heaven
No mention
People will see Him and mourn
No mention
Angels do the gathering
No mention
No mention
We will be changed
No mention
Dead raised

What is your conclusion? Are these the same events or not? How does this affect the time-line of the rapture? 

 By comparing these two accounts, it appears that they are more likely the same rather than different times. Just because a verse does not mention something does not mean that it doesn’t apply. Just as two witnesses testify to something they have seen, one may leave out some details. It doesn’t mean that an investigator should conclude those details didn’t happen.

I have heard many people distinguish the rapture as a different event from the “coming of the Lord” because this occurs in the air and that when Jesus comes back, He will return and set foot on the earth. However, the description in Matthew 24 seems to support an appearance in the air rather than the time when He will actually set foot on the Mount of Olives. As we study further, it may be apparent how much time takes place between the rapture and when Jesus does touch the earth again.

People who believe that the rapture is a different event from the harvest agree that only the saved will see Jesus at the rapture. By examining the passages as we have, it is apparent that we can’t separate these two events based on this criteria. It is apparent that the whole world will see the harvest and Jesus coming with the clouds, with power and great glory.

At this point, it looks like the harvest mentioned in Revelation 14 and Matthew 24 refer to the rapture. Jesus says that it will occur immediately after the distress of those days. If we believe that the persecution described in Revelation is the “distress of those days” and the events in Revelation 8 describe the time when the sun and moon are darkened, then this harvest is placed near the end of the tribulation. This is at a different time than when we normally consider the rapture to take place.

Why will people mourn when the rapture occurs? 

When the harvest happens, the elect will be gathered and the nations will mourn. They will mourn because they will know without a shadow of a doubt what just happened. People will not scratch their heads and wonder why millions have disappeared. They will know because they will be able to see Jesus in the clouds. Jesus clarifies this when He says one will be taken and one left. They will be working together or doing whatever happens from day to day.  

And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. (Luke 21:28 KJV) 

What does it mean for us to watch (Matt 24:42) or look up? 

To keep watch is not to see try to see Jesus ahead of time in the clouds and then to shout to people to get ready. We are to watch the signs of the times, the sinfulness of mankind, and the problems sin has caused in the world. We need to be continually shouting to everyone that He is coming, He is coming soon, be ready. When He shows up, there will be no time to get ready. When Jesus comes to us in a cloud, it will be for our redemption. It will not be for punishment, but reward. We will need to pray that we are ready, having the right attitude, and that we have done what we can to prepare others. 

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. (Matt 25:31-33 KJV) 

Explain why these verses do or do not refer to the rapture as well. 

Even though Matthew 25 is part of Jesus’ discourse on end-times, this is clearly a different time than the harvest. It occurs at an unspecified time after the harvest. This verse is talking about the judgment and is clearly distinguished from the harvest because Jesus is sitting on His throne at this time. If we are to keep things in time order, then this is a thousand years after the harvest. Many people try to reconcile this with the rapture and get confused. I have even heard a person who used these verses to “prove” that at the rapture the wicked are actually taken and the saints left on earth for a thousand years. 

Why does an angel need to announce the timing of the harvest? 

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. (Matt 24:36 KJV) 

While Jesus was on earth, He said that He didn’t know when the harvest would take place. I can’t prove it, but I think that after Jesus ascended to the Father, that He knew the time. You will notice that the Son of Man is already on the cloud. He may not know the exact time, but He is ready, He has seen the times or at this point He does know. However, that is beside the point. This other angel has come out of the temple, from the presence of the Father. Of this I am positive, that as soon as the Father revealed the time to the angel, Jesus knew also. The angel announces it to demonstrate that this is the Father’s decision. 

Do you not say, “Four months more and then the harvest”? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying “One sows and another reaps” is true. (John 4:35-37 NIV)  

What is the difference between this harvest and the one in Revelation? 

The time has come; the earth is ripe. We are the workers spreading the Word and seeing people come to Jesus for salvation. The Holy Spirit is bringing in this harvest every day. The harvest of Revelation will be bringing all who are still alive home to heaven. That is why Jesus is the one with the sickle. Only a sovereign God could know when the last person would accept Jesus. Only He could know when no one else would come into the kingdom. It is most likely that from this time on the door has been shut. 

Do you still have some unanswered questions regarding the harvest? What are they? 

I have two questions that I hope to answer as I study this more:
·         How long is there between the harvest of the saints and the harvest of the wicked?
·         Will any be saved between the two harvests?

The Second Harvest

Who is in charge of hell? 

Next, we see an angel with a sickle. I think we get the picture of the grim reaper from this angel. He also takes his cue from another angel who has charge over the fire. Whoever came up with the idea that hell was a place where a bunch of demons were running around poking people with pitchforks never read these verses. Satan is not in charge of hell, God is. He has one of his representatives tending the fire. 

What is the contrast between the earth’s vine and the true vine? 

The second harvest is different from the preceding one. This harvest comes from the earth’s vine.  

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. (John 15:1 KJV)

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. (John 15:5)  

Jesus lets us know that the true vine is not the earth; it is Jesus. The true fruit of the vine is Christians.  

And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. (Gen 4:3 KJV) 

The fruit that we have to offer is not the works of the soil, but works of souls, living sacrifices. The people of the earth are those who are depending on their own works, not the work that Jesus does through us.  

What does it mean that the grapes of the earth are ripe? 

The grapes (people) are ripe. They are filled with sin and corruption to the point that no more can be tolerated. They are at the point where no good can come from them. Much of the next few chapters will describe what will take place as these grapes are trampled. The people left on earth will be very aware of what has happened with the first harvest. They will be furious and yet not realize what will happen next. They will be so full of hate for God that they will think that they will be able to overcome Him physically. Surely the beast with his powers will also encourage this. 

What has God constantly warned His people would happen if they don’t produce good fruit? 

In Isaiah 5:1-7 and Matthew 21:33-44, God’s people are compared to a vineyard. In Isaiah, when He comes to get the produce, wine, or grapes, He finds bad fruit. In Matthew, His servants are beaten or killed when they come to get fruit. Finally, His Son goes to collect the produce and is rejected and killed. Instead of the wine of His love, He will return with the wine of His wrath (Isa 51:17). In the garden, Jesus agreed to take the cup of God’s wrath. In its place He provides us with the cup of salvation (Matt 26:39). 

What will the reaction of the nations be as predicted in Joel 3:9-16? 

Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong. Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O Lord. Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel. (Joel 3:9-16 KJV)  

The nations at this time will prepare for war against God. It’s as if God is even commanding them to try it! They will have been so deceived by the Anti-Christ that they will readily join the armed forces to do battle. Of course, the Lord will win the battle. Why does Revelation say that the blood will flow for such a distance? It is apparent that all, or nearly all, of the lost people in the world will be gathered together. I don’t know if the flow is like a river or a wave. If it is one solid river then, depending on how wide, it will literally take billions of people to produce that much blood.

It is a rather gruesome thought, but that is exactly what God is trying to get across to us. We are not talking about a slap on the wrist and looking the other way, no winking at evil. This is just punishment for evil. But we need to remember that this isn’t an eternal punishment, but a temporal one. This is the valley of decision. Unfortunately their decision is to rebel against God. 

If this is the end with all Christians removed and all the lost killed in the last battle, then who will be left during the millennium?  

Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger. (Isa 13:9-13 KJV) 

This is a very vivid description of God pouring out His wrath. God provides a parenthetical comment about the last days while He is telling Babylon that it will be destroyed. He says He will make men scarcer than pure gold. The suggestion is that there will be some left. These will be the people who for some reason did not receive the mark of the beast. But they did not do it because they believed in Jesus. It was their stubborn pride or the mere fact that they were in remote areas and could not be reached. Whatever reason, we know some will be left. We also know that in a harvest there is always enough left for a gleaning process. Gleaning was an important part of God’s plan for His people. 

And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the Lord your God. (Lev 19:9-10 KJV)  

From the beginning of God’s Law He taught about gleaning. Many of the events in Revelation relate to festivals such as the festival of trumpets. The symbolism is throughout the book. At a harvest, it is a commanded to leave behind some of the crop. I’m sure that the Lord is going to do exactly that. He will leave some people to populate the world after the harvest. There is also the possibility that even after the first harvest and before the end of the second, some who haven’t sworn allegiance to the Anti-Christ will accept Christ. 

How did God demonstrate this practice of sparing a few when He punished nations in the past? 

And it shall be as when the harvestman gathereth the corn, and reapeth the ears with his arm; and it shall be as he that gathereth ears in the valley of Rephaim. Yet gleaning grapes shall be left in it, as the shaking of an olive tree, two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in the outmost fruitful branches thereof, saith the Lord God of Israel. (Isa 17:5-6)

When thus it shall be in the midst of the land among the people, there shall be as the shaking of an olive tree, and as the gleaning grapes when the vintage is done. (Isa 24:13)  

The Lord has used this principle when He punished cities in the past. He left a remnant behind who survived the destruction. This is the rule but there could be exceptions as in (Jer 49:9-11). However, when it looked like none will be left of Edom, in verse 11 there is an exception. God said He would leave orphans and widows. 

What do you believe is literally happening when the angel puts the harvest into God’s winepress? Who tramples the grapes? 

Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. (Zech 14:3-5 KJV)  

Even though Revelation says that an angel swings the sickle to harvest the wicked it is the Lord who will trample the wine press. Jesus will come to do the battle. It is as if the angel simply insures that those who are to perish will be gathered to the right place at the right time for the Lord’s battle. As the angel does this, God will provide a way of escape for the remnant that will be left behind. Jesus is going to populate the world throughout the millennium with those who escape the last battle.

May this sobering passage help us to share Christ’s love before it is too late. If the rapture occurs only days before the end of the tribulation, may we be strengthened to endure. If it occurs before the tribulation, may we be faithful to help many avoid this horrible time. May all who read this be in the first harvest.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Revelation Bible Study - Lesson 36 - Revelation 14:1-13

Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.

Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, "Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water."

Another angel, a second, followed, saying, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality."

And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God's wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name."

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.

 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, "Write this:  Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Blessed indeed," says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!" (ESV)

The Lamb And 144,000

How did these 144,000 people get to Mount Zion? What does their presence there reveal about God? 

The 144,000 are found on Mount Zion, the city of David, which is Jerusalem. Have you ever wondered how they got there? After all, this is the end times and if they were super evangelists as described by some, the Anti-Christ would certainly not allow them free travel. He would rather kill them on sight. Why would they all head for Mount Zion? I know they follow the Lamb wherever He goes, but why here and now?  

For the Lord hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread. I will also clothe her priests with salvation: and her saints shall shout aloud for joy. (Ps 132:13-16 KJV)  

I think Jesus is marking out His territory, God’s chosen place for His dwelling. In Rev 12:10, it says that the authority of Christ has come. Chapter 13 describes the opposition to His authority and now we can see Jesus making His presence known in the spiritual realm.  

Why would this be a spiritual visit and not a physical visit? 

It is spiritual because His physical return will be accomplished with a much different effect.  

And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. (Zech 14:4 KJV)

Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1:11 KJV) 

The next few verses in Zechariah describe the day that Jesus comes back physically and it simply doesn’t match up with this encounter with the 144,000. Another reason that I think this appearance is spiritual rather than physical is that within the next couple of verses, they are singing before the throne and in front of the twenty-four elders and four living creatures. This couldn’t happen if they were physically on the Mount of Olives as described in Acts 1:11.  

Since the 144,000 are all Jews, what could their arrival on Mount Zion symbolize? 

And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. (Rom 11:26-27 KJV)  

This prophecy could be fulfilled by Jesus’ appearance on Mount Zion. This could be the point in the tribulation when all of Israel is saved and turns to Jesus as their Messiah.  

But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. (Heb 12:22-24 KJV)  

Mount Zion is also referred to as the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. All of us who have been born again have already come to Him in the spiritual realm. The 144,000 that now appear with Him have come to Jesus as well, which means they are all dead. They have been martyred and have completed the number of the fellow servants who are to be killed in Rev 6:9-11. With this, God no longer has any reason to hold back His wrath. 

How can these 144,000 be so pure? 

And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem: When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning. And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence. And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain. (Isa 4:3-6 KJV)  

There seems to be even more in store for the future of Zion. The correlation I see here is that all who remain in Jerusalem will be called holy. It isn’t something that they have done, but they are washed clean and then protected by the Lord. Notice that the 144,000 haven’t been defiled by sexual impurity and no lie was found in their mouths. How can you find that many men on earth that would meet these standards whether they are Jewish or not? No, this can only come because they have been washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. They are in this sense just like any Christian who is in the presence of the Lord after death. See lesson 22 for previous discussions about the 144,000.

Two Names on Their Foreheads

Why would there be both the names of Jesus and the Father on their forehead? 

When we last saw these people being sealed, it wasn’t specified how they were being sealed, just that it was on their forehead. Here we see that it is the name of Jesus and of God the Father. Some people have a concern with the concept of the trinity. They are a little worried that by worshiping Jesus, they are not worshiping the Father. Some are concerned that they aren’t giving proper time to the Father if they worship Jesus. Among Jews who don’t know Jesus, it is more than a little problem; it is blasphemy to worship Jesus. These names let us know that to worship one is to worship both. The beautiful thing is that these are all Jews and they have come to the realization that Jesus and God are one and the same. 

How are all Christians like the 144,000? 

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:18-21 NIV) 

The Gospel is presented clearly in these verses. Like the 144,000, we have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus. It was established to happen this way before the creation of the world. When we finally believe in Jesus to be our God and Savior, it is only then that we truly believe in God. Anything other than this is not a true (or saving) belief in God. It isn’t Jesus or the Father. It is both as represented by the seal on the foreheads of the 144,000.

First Fruit

What is the meaning of the first fruits in the Old Testament and how are these 144,000 first fruits? 

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land which I am going to give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord for you to be accepted; on the day after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. Now on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb one year old without defect for a burnt offering to the Lord.’” (Lev 23:9-12 NASU)  

The first fruit is a sample of that which is about to be harvested. The lamb to be sacrificed at the same time was to be without defect. The offering was presented openly and visibly, waved before the Lord. Unger tells us that it became a tradition and the harvest could not start until the ceremony of the first fruit had first taken place.[1] The first fruit was brought in a basket and presented to the priest who placed it before the altar of the Lord.

Here we see the 144,000 with the high priest, Jesus who is also the Lamb without defect. Then we see them before the altar. Unger also tells us that when the whole village could not make the trip, they sent representatives with the first fruit, at least 24 people. Only the ones that follow the Lamb can come into the city singing the new song. When the Jews went to Jerusalem with the first fruits, they also sang songs along the way. Ps 122 and Ps 150 are two examples of the songs they sang. Understanding the importance of the first fruits in the Old Testament shows us that this scene from Revelation indicates that the rest of the harvest can now take place.  

The last two chapters of Revelation may mess with our minds as far as timing goes. What clues help us re re-establish the time-line?  

Three Angels

Another angel appears. The previous angel appeared in chapter 11. This shows that the chapters 12 and 13 are parenthetical chapters. They do not occur in the same time sequence but are a “time out” to explain some things that have already happened as well as to introduce more information about the beast and his origin. We are now picking up again with the last of the three woes.

Eternal Gospel

We have been commanded to spread the Gospel. Why would God now use an angel to proclaim the Gospel? 

The first thing of interest to note is that the beast has authority over the people who will hear the first angel’s proclamation of the gospel. God is not going to leave anyone with an excuse. Nor is He going to leave anyone who earnestly seeks Him without an opportunity to come to Him (Heb 11:6). The harvest will not start without fair warning.

We have been told to go to all of the nations and make disciples (Matt 28:19). This is more than just preaching the Gospel. We are to teach those who believe to observe what they have been taught. It is a long-term commitment. This is not the case with the proclamation from the angel. He is proclaiming a last chance to declare allegiance to God. By this time most people will have already made up their minds.  

What is the difference between seeking a sign vs. understanding the signs and how does this relate to the angel? 

A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed. (Matt 16:4 KJV)

The religious leaders were looking for a sign, but they had already made up their minds that Jesus wasn’t the Messiah. The only sign that they were given was Jesus’ resurrection and they even refused to believe that. When this angel appears in the heavens and broadcasts the message, people will reject it also. 

And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? (Matt 24:3 KJV)  

There is a big contrast between Jesus’ response to this question from His disciples and His response to the Pharisees. He went on for two chapters explaining the signs of the end of the age. We should be looking for signs of His coming. We should inquire about the signs we have already seen but we shouldn’t be asking for signs when we’ve already made up our minds that we will ignore them – especially when Scripture is already clear as it was for the Pharisees. 

And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Matt 24:14 KJV) 

This is one of those signs. Many assume that our task is to preach the Gospel to every nation before Jesus will come back again. However, if you look carefully at the task and the weakness of men, we cannot do it.

But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. (Matt 10:23 KJV)  

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try because He has commanded us to go to all nations.  

Why or why not would this angel be a technological advance of mankind that would enable us to fulfill the sign? 

Some think that the angel that John saw was actually a satellite transmitting the Gospel by radio or TV There is always that possibility, but the text says that the angel flew in midair, which is a pretty specific phrase. If John did see a satellite, I would think that he would describe it as something other than an angel, which generally looks like a person, and would have said in the heavens rather than midair. The other thing is that the angel proclaims this with a loud voice. It is audible to people whether or not they have radios or TVs Sometimes we forget that there are still many people in the world without radio and TV. 

Why is it called an eternal Gospel?

As was stated in 1 Peter 1:20, Jesus was chosen before the creation of the world. The plan of salvation is eternal. It is also called the eternal Gospel because this is what God has been saying all along. The following passages from the Old Testament demonstrate the consistency of the message that the angel is proclaiming.

And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, To keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good? (Deut 10:12-13 KJV) 

We are to fear Him, to walk in all His ways and to love Him. How can you both fear and love someone at the same time? Isn’t this fear our awesome response when we finally realize who He is and who we are not? Isn’t it the knowledge that, if He wanted to, He has the ability to cancel everything and start over? Yet He loves us! Our love and service are based on an awareness of who He is and what He has done for us, not a fear of eternal damnation. This love certainly isn’t a result of our efforts to be good enough for Him so He won’t punish us. Jesus has already taken our punishment for us.  

Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. (Josh 24:14 KJV) 

This kind of fear causes us to toss everything out that comes before Him because we have a desire to serve Him. Solomon echoed Joshua’s words many years later.  

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (Eccl 12:13 KJV)  

Solomon clearly stated that our purpose is to fear God and keep His commandments. Of course the only way to do that is through Jesus. 

This fear God command doesn’t sound like the Gospel that we usually understand. How does it relate to Jesus and the fact He paid for our sins? 

For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. (John 5:22-23 NKJV)

Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. (1 John 2:23 NKJV )

If anyone truly fears God, then he will honor Jesus; he will accept Jesus because the Father has sent Him. If the true motive of people’s hearts is not a loving fear of God, then they will reject Jesus. 

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: (1 Cor 15:3-5 KJV)  

This is the Gospel that Paul preached. Since Christ died for our sins, our fear of Him is not a fear of rejection or condemnation. The fact that this is not that kind of fear is proved by His resurrection and appearance before others.  

And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. (1 John 4:17-18 NLT)  

If anyone fears God only because he is afraid of being punished, then he doesn’t really know Jesus or His love. If they did, they would have confidence that there would be no punishment for them on the Day of Judgment, but rather open loving arms.

Fallen Babylon

How does the second angel declaring that Babylon has fallen tie in with the eternal Gospel? 

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. (Rom 1:18-25 KJV) 

Because God has created all things, because it is evident to men that there is a Creator, He is to be worshiped. This is part of the eternal Gospel. We get into trouble when we turn to other things than Him. It doesn’t matter if it is an image of the beast or an image of any beast. We are without excuse, yet God loves us so much that He is willing to give us every chance. He has sent His messengers, and then He sent Jesus to tell us. Now He sends these angels. Yet these verses say that the desire of men’s hearts is sinful, therefore He will finally give them over to their sin. Babylon is synonymous with sin, especially with the degrading downward spiral described in the verses above and those that follow them in Rom 1:26-32. This lends meaning to why the angel declares that Babylon has fallen. Sin is going to end! 

What else does Babylon symbolize? 

The root word of the name Babylon comes from the Hebrew, which means to confound and refers to the confusion at the tower of Babel. As used symbolically here and other places in Revelation, Babylon has confounded the nations again. This time it has come with false religion and political power.

God’s order for the future is Jesus as King and the center of all things. Everything will revolve around Him. The Gentile nations are blessed because of Him (Isa 11:10-12). However, before that time comes, Jesus tells us that the time of the Gentiles will come and they will rule.  

And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. (Luke 21:24 KJV)  

In the Old Testament, Babylon was the first to take Judah into exile and Nebuchadnezzar basically set himself up as God. It was the center of political power and false religion. So the Babylon of Revelation is a religious (Rev 17:3-6), political, and economic force (Rev 18:3). This angel has announced the destruction of this false religion and political system that has been opposing Jesus for centuries. 

How is Babylon’s evil sexual influence related to its false religion? 

From the NIV translation we get a sense of the power of the false religion represented by Babylon. It states that Babylon made the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries (Rev 14:8). The idea of maddening adulteries refers back to God’s concept of what a person or nation does when they leave Him to look for other gods.  

And yet they did not listen to their judges; for they played the harlot after other gods and bowed down to them; they soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord, and they did not do so. (Judg 2:17 RSV) 

There is a long chain of references from this verse that show that this is what Israel did over and over again. Judg 8:27 shows that even Gideon, who had served the Lord mightily, was susceptible and prostituted himself after his conquests. There are many more Old Testament references, but the most common thing about them is that they usually refer to idol worship, which is now related to occultic activity. Astrology is often related to Babylon, the tower of Babel, and is thought to have developed in that area of the world. The Lord is fed up with this junk and has sent His angel to declare that this system is about to fall.

Final Warning

How do we know that if a person doesn’t worship the beast but receives the mark, he will suffer God’s wrath? 

The third angel gives a double warning about receiving the mark of the beast. The first warning makes it sound as if a person must both worship the beast and receive the mark for God’s wrath to be poured out on him. But the second warning clarifies that there will be no rest for them if they do either. Again, it appears that by receiving the mark, a person is identifying himself with the beast and thus worshiping him. 

What is the difference between God’s wrath and His anger? 

In these verses, we have two different words that appear almost the same, God’s wrath and anger. To confuse the issue, some translations reverse the use of the two words or use fury instead of wrath.

Thumos (thoo-mos’); passion (as if breathing hard): KJV-fierceness, indignation, wrath.[2]  

This Greek word for wrath or fury is something that describes a passionate or sudden outburst. In the New Testament, this is the first time it is used to describe God’s wrath. Every previous reference is used to describe man’s wrath or anger and is never used to describe a positive attribute. It is used again in the next few chapters to describe God’s wrath.  

Orge (or-gay’); properly, desire (as a reaching forth or excitement of the mind), i.e. (by analogy,) violent passion (ire, or [justifiable] abhorrence); by implication punishment.[3] 

This word is translated as anger and is something that has been thought over, considered, and more consciously dealt with, including punishment. It is very odd to have both of these words in the same verse related to attributes of God. Since both are used, this angel is describing something more than His contemplated, anger.

Even Christians can experience His anger when we disobey and He has to discipline us. It appears that His wrath is in subjection to His anger for it isn’t until they are mixed that it is poured out. When it is mixed, it is full strength and not diluted. It can be seen that those who taste these combined attributes of God are not His children. 

What does the Bible say about a person always having the ability to repent regardless of his sin? 

There are many verses in the Bible that are intended to assure us that we can repent and be saved. We have Jesus’ words in John 3:16 that promise anyone who believes will have eternal life. We have numerous verses about repentance. Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38) or after healing the cripple at Solomon’s Portico (Acts 3:19) promise salvation. However, there are also a few verses that make it clear, from early on, people make choices that are final in God’s book.  

But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them. (Isa 63:10 KJV)

Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. (Matt 12:31 KJV)  

Both of these verses talk about a sin against the Holy Spirit that turns God against them. Jesus even says that if someone is to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit, then he or she can never be forgiven. A conscious decision to take the mark of the beast is doing just this. Understanding what the mark signifies, worship of Satan and his cohorts as an unholy trinity, reveals that taking the mark as a seal of ownership to Satan closes the door for salvation forever. 

What is hell’s purpose and what is it like? 

Jesus made it clear that the original purpose of hell was for Satan. If it were not a place of eternal fire, then He would not have used these words:  

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: (Matt 25:41 KJV)

And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. (Luke 16:23 KJV) 

Hell is also a place of torment. Many say that Luke 16:23 is only in the context of a parable so that it is to be discounted. But we know that Jesus always used real situations in His parables. This was not something that couldn’t happen, but was very possible.

People often say that the reason for the torment in hell is that God is not there. They also say that people who don’t want to be with God get their wish and God lets them go to hell.  

Are these views of hell true? Explain why or why not. 

Again, the parable in Luke helps us understand. This description of hell puzzled me because they could see Abraham even though he was far away. I had always thought of hell as a place where there would be no visibility of God or for that matter, anyone else in heaven. But Rev 14:10 affirms the fact that those who do perish will see God. They will be tormented in the presence of the Lamb. This will make their torment even greater since they will continually see what they missed.  

How do we know that hell is eternal? Will there be any relief? 

The smoke rises day after day for eternity. There will be no coffee breaks as some joke about. There will be no rest.

People just don’t want to believe and accept the reality of hell. They tell jokes about it. They draw cartoons about it. All of these things are designed by Satan himself to ridicule and make the idea of eternal punishment in a hot fire ludicrous. If they can get eternal punishment out of their minds, then they don’t have to make a decision about Jesus. I’ve talked to people about heaven who have stated that since they don’t believe in hell there is no reason for them to believe in heaven or anything else either. They should read these passages.

Patient Endurance

What tells us whether or not there will still be Christians on earth at this time during the tribulation? 

Again, we are warned that it will require any saints who are still alive to have patient endurance. There will be great temptation to succumb to the beast and receive his mark so that they can have the physical pleasures of the world or to escape torture and persecution (1 Peter 1:6-7). They are the ones who keep their faith in Jesus. It is obvious from Rev 14:12 that there are still believers on earth. They will die rather than receive the mark. But when they die in the Lord they will be at rest in contrast to those who have no rest in the fires of hell; believers will rest and the rewards of their deeds will be given to them.

Anyone who dies in the Lord from this point on will be blessed. Again, this shows that there are still Christians or perhaps, that some who have not made a choice to follow the beast will turn to Jesus in faith.

Those who had previously “accepted” Jesus but didn’t have genuine faith will take the mark. This will be in spite of the eternal displeasures that it will reap. They have a choice. 

If you were in their place, would you endure? How are you enduring right now?  

Receiving the mark of the beast seems black and white to us on this side of the tribulation. Our choices aren’t always as black and white. Our marks may be slowly etched on our forehead as we neglect little things in our lives. They may come in horrendous pressures when a loved one suddenly dies or financial ruin crashes in the roof. Haven’t we all known someone who walked with the Lord and then has become angry with God? Do you ever get tired of resisting sin in your live? It isn’t anything like our brothers and sisters in the future will face. The message is the same for us as it is for them. Don’t give up. 

I am tired of resisting temptation
I am weary
I don’t feel good
I need a rest.
This calls for patient endurance for the saints
Don’t give up!
Don’t do it!
This one small sin won’t matter
Life will be better
Who is your master?
You could regret it forever.
This calls for patient endurance for the saints
Don’t give up!
Don’t do it!
There is no relief in sight
I can’t continue to resist
The pain won’t let up
I just want to give up.
This calls for patient endurance for the saints
Don’t give up!
Don’t do it!
You will not be tempted beyond what you are able
You will be blessed
With every temptation, there is a right way out
He will provide the rest.
This calls for patient endurance for the saints
Don’t give up!
Don’t do it!

[1] The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.
[2] Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.
[3] Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.