Monday, January 7, 2013

Revelation Bible Study - Lesson 45 - Revelation 19:1-10

And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia. And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great. And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God. And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (KJV)

Praise God

The sailors in Revelation 18 were right. They knew that heaven would rejoice when the great prostitute was judged. It’s almost as though the redeemed in heaven are waiting to make sure that God is in control before they give Him this praise concert. I’m sure that they aren’t, but they do praise Him now. This praise is for many reasons. The first can be seen as a preparation for battle.

How has praised been used before to prepare God’s people for battle? How can we use it in our lives?

God is about to finish the work of judging the earth. It will take a battle, and to prepare for the battle, heaven praises Him.

And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper. And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the Lord, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the Lord; for his mercy endureth for ever. (2 Chron 20:20-21 KJV)

Jehoshaphat strengthened the people with two important messages so that they could praise God. The first was that in the battle they were to believe God. God had just promised that the battle was His and not theirs. We will see this in the battle about to come in this chapter. We will follow Jesus into battle, but He is the one that will conquer the enemy.

Jehoshaphat also told the people to believe the prophets and they would prosper. The message of the Lord came to the congregation by a prophet. Our study verses in this lesson tell us that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. When we believe in Jesus, we will inherit the kingdom of heaven. What greater prosperity could we possibly have?

Just as Jehoshaphat prepared for battle by sending singers ahead of his army, Jesus is directing a heavenly choir before He returns to the earth. We do the same thing at church. Before the sermon, which is a battle for the renewal of our minds and the souls of the lost, we praise God. I don’t know if church meetings have always been this way, but it does have precedence.  

And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives. (Mark 14:26 KJV)

This could very well have been a song of praise. Jesus knew that He would need to be prepared for the battle facing Him in the Garden.

Why do we praise God for salvation?

We praise God for salvation because it belongs to Him. He gets the glory because He is the only one who has the power to save. One of the things that can really devastate your witness is if you forget that He saves and that there is a need to save. If more people saw what will happen to Babylon, then they would know that He has directed it, that there is only one solution to the problem, and that it is to turn to Jesus. A way to miss the need for salvation is to think that there are more ways to God than one. This is precisely the reason that the woman is called a prostitute. She has corrupted people and led them to think that there is more than one way. It is also interesting to see that those who claim many ways end up persecuting the true way.

And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. (Acts 17:30-31 KJV)

Why do we praise Him for His judgments?

 There is a lot of meat in these two verses. We can think about how most of the world was left to its own devices for years. Then Jesus appeared and the message of repentance was spread throughout the world. The warning of coming judgment is included but it is judgment with justice. It is right and not flippant. We praise Him for His judgment because it is true and just. The world tries to deny that He will judge at all.

We praise Him for His condemnation of corruption. This is also praise for His holiness because it is in light of His holiness that corruption is shown. His condemnation proves His holiness. You can speak about holiness all day long, but until it is shown by action, it is still theoretical. We think of holiness as something to achieve; a state of being good. However, God’s holiness is a state of purity that is shown in the condemnation of sin. Many people have said, “If there really is a God, then why doesn’t He put a stop to all of this …” What they doubt is the demonstration of God’s holiness. Since we know what will occur in the future, we don’t ask this question. Instead we praise Him. 

Why is it appropriate to praise God for His vengeance?  

It sounds odd to praise God for His vengeance because we have been told so often not to take vengeance. (Rom 12:19) When we take vengeance into our own hands to repay evil, we are taking upon ourselves one of the attributes of God that only He can execute in true fairness because He has perfect knowledge. We don’t see the whole picture. We don’t see how the circumstance fit together to possibly strengthen one person or bring another to Christ. If we took our own vengeance, we would mess up God’s plan. Instead we are to overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21).  

How should we handle vengeance for sins against us? 

Still, we have a desire to see injustices done to us repaid. If we do have that desire, it can’t be a “God will get you for that” attitude. If we are waiting for God to do what we want Him to do, that is only another form of bitterness and unforgiveness. We must totally release the situation into His hands. We have to acknowledge that we can’t see from His perspective and respond as He has directed in love, even to enemies. When His vengeance comes and if it is because of something that has occurred to us because we are one of His saints, we can praise Him with the rest of heaven. 

How can the smoke of Babylon remind us of God and His justice so we can praise Him? 

The Lord was present before the Israelites in a pillar of smoke. Smoke filled the temple when His glory was there. He appeared to Abraham as a smoking pot. On Mount Sinai, the smoke billowed up while He was there. When smoke is rising, God is at work. In the sacrifices that were presented daily, the smoke ascended to God. For Sodom, Gomorrah, Edom (Isa 34:10), and now Babylon, the smoke is a reminder for which we praise God. When we see the smoke we are reminded of God. We can dwell on His presence and protection or His just judgments. Either way we can praise Him that He has provide a reminder of who He is, His justice, and the fact that He has saved us from the consequences of it. 

What confirmation do we see that assures us that we are to praise God for this judgment? 

If there is any doubt that we are to praise God for His judgment upon Babylon, then look at those who are closest to Him. The twenty-four elders add their “amen” to the praises that have been given. Still if there is any doubt, then a voice from the throne tells us to praise God. Sometimes it seems ironic. When we know God for who He is, when we see Him work and do miracles, when we reflect on our own salvation, He still has to tell us to praise Him. I don’t think this verse was put here to tell those in heaven to praise Him; they are already doing that. It is here to tell us who are reading it down though the ages to praise Him. If we can’t think of anything to praise Him for, then we can at least look forward in time when He will set all things right and praise Him for that. 

What characteristic of God is revealed by the command for both great and small to praise Him? 

Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. (Acts 10:34-35 KJV)

And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. (Acts 15:9 KJV)

Buried in this command to praise God is the truth that God does not consider a person’s position with respect to people or power. These verses bring it out clearly as the Gentile believers were accepted into the Church. Our desire to play favorites based on a person’s power or position is probably one of the hardest things for us to overcome. It comes from our own desire to for position and power. We can look back at Nebuchadnezzar and see how he thought that he was someone important and God brought him down. We can look at David who was a shepherd and God raised him up. Part of the whole problem with Babylon was the importance placed on personal position. God makes it plain we all are to fear Him and give Him glory, whether great or small. 

How does all this destruction bring praise to God? 

We are to praise God for His sovereignty. He reigns, and for that we are to rejoice and be glad. If He didn’t, what would be our lot? Who would truly care? The lost probably wonder why God cares about their rebellion because He is distant from them. Yet even in this we give Him glory because we can see how patient He has been, wanting everyone to come to repentance. He has given everyone more than ample time to come (2 Peter 3:8-9). Because He is sovereign, He doesn’t have to give anyone any time. So, when the lost are finally destroyed, that too, brings glory to Him. It proves His long-suffering and patience as well as His sovereignty.

The Wedding Supper

We are the bride of Christ, the Church universal, what can we do to make ourselves ready? 

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (Eph 5:22-27 KJV)   

There is a paradox in Christian life that is evident in these verses. It is obvious that Jesus is the one that has done everything to sanctify and cleanse us so that we are prepared to be a holy bride without blemish. However, the paradox comes in when we have to submit to Christ as the head of the Church. Is submission to Christ something that we can call getting ready? In a sense, it is but we can’t submit to Him without faith and that is a gift. No one can be part of the Church without submitting to Jesus.

As we submit to Him, He makes us ready. If we try to get ready in our own power and wisdom, we will fail. But He prepares us by His Word. As we immerse ourselves in the Word, He applies it to our lives through the Holy Spirit. This submission is the kind that leads to good deeds.  

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:10 KJV)  

When we are submitted to Jesus and our motivation is correct, our activity has been prepared in advance for us. By the way, there is nothing in these verses that indicate that we will receive glory for what we do or for submitting to Jesus. Jesus will be receiving the glory at the wedding feast. After all, it is His feast; we have been invited; we have been prepared and clothed for it by Him. 

When will the wedding supper of the Lamb occur and who will be there? 

Finally, the time has been announced for one of the major events of the Bible, one that we have been waiting for, the wedding of the Lamb. There has been much speculation about when it would come and what it would be like. It is strange that so little is mentioned about it now. Many guess that the wedding occurs immediately after the rapture. If this is true, then the rapture must occur almost at the end of the tribulation. However, there isn’t anything that precludes the wedding from taking place years after the rapture. The only thing that may cause theological problems is whether or not all believers must be present for the wedding to take place.  

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 4:16-17 KJV)  

We usually look at these verses and declare that all of the saints will be there. However, this leaves out one important group of Christians, those who were not in the rapture but came to faith in Jesus after the rapture and are still alive at His coming. This is not a problem if the rapture occurs at the very end of the tribulation. If it is earlier, when do they get to be joined with Jesus in His wedding – or do they miss the wedding but it doesn’t affect their eternity? Is there more than one rapture? I can’t answer these questions, but the Word clearly says His wedding occurs just before He comes back to battle with Satan. 

The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen. (Matt 22:2-14 KJV)  

How does this parable demonstrate how people today view Jesus return and the wedding of the Lamb? 

First of all, there are people who simply ignore the invitation for salvation. They don’t even bother to think about or consider spiritual things. However, our God doesn’t give up on them that easily. He sends even more people out to share the good news. This relates first to the prophets of the Old Testament, then to people of today and finally, the situation during the tribulation.

People are just too busy with their life to pay any attention to the invitation. However, some become militant and start to destroy those who are sharing the good news. The prophets were killed, Christians have been martyred down through the ages. They are going to face God’s retribution. Just as the city of Babylon was destroyed, so will all who have rejected the invitation to the wedding feast. 

How do you explain that there will be some at the wedding without the proper clothes and be cast out? 

The parable says that both good and bad have been invited. Revelation says that the bride has made herself ready, so it seems that everyone who actually gets through the door is a Christian. Perhaps the bad have repented and are allowed in. But the puzzle is that among those invited and even attending the banquet is someone who has not been clothed in the proper garments.

I can only say that this must apply to those in the churches who think they are Christians, but are not. The same thought is expressed in the parable of the ten virgins (Mt 25:1-13). Those who are ready and prepared will have entrance to the wedding feast. Those who are relying on their own clothing or thinking they can get in because of those that they know (the wise virgins) will not have entrance.

For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. (1 Thess 5:9-11 KJV)

I need to come back to these verses to emphasize that He has appointed us to salvation. We can encourage each other with this news rather than becoming overly concerned whether or not we are part of the wedding ceremony. If we are eagerly waiting for Him to return, we don’t have a problem. If we are unconcerned or even fearful about His return, then there is something wrong. 

Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning, as though you were waiting for your master to return from the wedding feast … The servants who are ready and waiting for his return will be rewarded. I tell you the truth, he himself will seat them, put on an apron, and serve them as they sit and eat! He may come in the middle of the night or just before dawn. But whenever he comes, he will reward the servants who are ready. (Luke 12:35-38 NLT) 

What do these verses reveal about the wedding supper of the Lamb? 

When it is all over, Jesus will be serving the banquet to his servants. It is an interesting picture. We are not only the bride in the wedding supper, but we are the servants. Just as Jesus came to serve and thereby proclaim the life we are to lead, He still demonstrates that same serventhood in heaven. I can then imagine that we, the bride will also be serving at the wedding of the Lamb.

I can picture a great banquet hall with millions of people. Jesus describes the master as the one who will sit the servants down for rest. How else could all participate in this unless our mighty Savior prepared the food? He will serve them. The relationship that we will have with Jesus in heaven is something that I can’t really quite picture. A great multitude will be shouting praise to God and the Lamb and at the same time He will have us recline at the table of the Lord. 

How was the Last Supper a preview of this event? 

And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. (Luke 22:15-16 KJV)  

Jesus reveals to us that the Last Supper was more than just the means by which He described His death and forgiveness. It is a picture of the feast in heaven. Just as He was with the disciples in the upper room at that time, we too will be in an upper room with Him. It is one that He has gone ahead of us to prepare. When we break the bread and drink the wine, we can also look forward to the day we will be sharing it with Him in heaven. The relationship will be just as it was for the disciples, a face-to-face, knowing, caring, friendship deeper that anything we can possibly imagine here.

What other hints are there in these parables and other verses that we should contemplate about the banquet? 

There is another thought that runs though these parables. One that is not as pleasant for those who aren’t included in the wedding. In most of these examples, even the last supper with Judas, there are those who do not belong. They see what is happening but are eventually excluded. This leads me to believe, along with 1 Thess 4:17 which says we will meet Jesus in the clouds, that the banquet will be held in the air, in plain view of the whole world.

Rev 17:14 says that these who have been rejected will attempt to make war with the King of Kings and all who are with Him. If the lost are gathered together to make war doesn’t it make sense that they would only make war against a visible enemy? In the last half of Revelation 19, the lost are gathered and Jesus is coming from heaven with His army. I believe that army is all the saints who have just finished eating at the wedding supper of the Lamb. Again, what would make the lost gather to fight Jesus unless they could see Him and His heavenly army?

This is food for thought: I certainly wouldn’t build a doctrine around this theory, but we must remember that God has always shown His intentions to men in clearer and clearer ways, finally showing us Himself though Jesus. As we get closer and closer to this event we will understand more and more about it.

When do the blessings for those who are invited start? 

Obviously from the other Scriptures we have read, the invited refers to those who have accepted the invitation. The blessings start when the invitation is accepted, not just at the banquet. Blessed are those who fear Him; they lack nothing. Blessed are those who take refuge in Him. The beatitudes in Matt 5:3-12 are some more of the blessings that we receive: the kingdom of God, comfort, filled with righteousness, shown mercy, see God, called the sons of God. But, least we think this is a bed of roses, persecution and insults are also included. When these come we can only hope and wait for our reward in heaven. There is no promise of a reward now. We can’t always hope that people will understand us either. We can’t expect to get the recognition that we want from people, even those closest to us. We must look to the future for our rewards and recognition.  

Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God. (1 Cor 4:5 KJV)  

At the wedding supper of the Lamb we will receive our praise – from God.

The True Words of God – Spirit of Prophecy

Where can we find the true words of God?

The Holy Spirit is a good answer. The Bible is also a good answer. Have you ever considered that the true words of God sometimes come from us? That would also be a good answer if it is the Holy Spirit working in us. In Mark 13:11 we are told that the Holy Spirit will give us words to speak when we are undergoing persecution for our faith. He will direct us in what to say. 

In 1 Cor 2:6-14, Paul spoke of the wisdom that God had given him and the others who had taught the Corinthians. This wisdom came from the Spirit of God and revealed mysteries that had been hidden to mankind in previous generations. It isn’t anything that can be understood by natural man, i.e. people who don’t have God’s Spirit. Not only does the Holy Spirit provide the true words of God, but He also enables us to understand them.

Even in previous generations, when God spoke by the prophets, the prophets didn’t always understand what God was saying through them (1 Peter 1:10-11, 2 Peter 1:21). What they wrote was a mystery that they longed to understand fully even though they made the very best efforts to understand them. So it is that we now have the Bible completed with the book of Revelation.

The angel announced that those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb are blessed. He adds that these are the true words of God.   

What is so astounding about this proclamation that John attempts to worship the messenger?

All of the other words spoken from God are truth also, but this angel’s announcement is the ultimate purpose and meaning for all that has taken place up to this time. The union of man with God in such a way as we have never experienced before occurs in the wedding of the Lamb. The realization of this caused John to fall to his knees to worship the person who brought this news. The angel prevented him from worshiping the bearer of the news in any way. Peter, Paul, and Barnabas all had the same thing happen to them when they brought the Gospel to the unsaved. Yet this is John, who knew better. This reveals to us that the message and visions that John was receiving were overpowering his mortal abilities. The angel points to Jesus as worthy of worship. 

What is the testimony of Jesus that is the spirit of prophecy? 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1 KJV)

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 KJV)

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6 KJV)

The true Word of God is Jesus. He is the Word and He is truth. He told Pilate that He came to testify to the truth. That is why the angel can say that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. All prophecy of future events should be pointing to Jesus, or at least have something to do with furthering the work of God, which is to point people to Jesus. If it isn’t, then there is a question as to whether it is from God or not.

How does remembering that it is all about Jesus guide our understanding of the Word? 

Since the words are true, it’s not up to us to try to find our own meaning for them, but to understand what He has said. We can get far off track by looking for too much hidden meaning. We can also miss the point simply by not believing what He has said because we can’t see the possibility of it occurring. We need to pay attention to what He said, not our interpretation of what we think He meant. It is easy to do; I have probably done it a half dozen times in the last few paragraphs. The details of the prophecy can also distract us. We can become so absorbed in what is happening, when it will occur, who will or will not be involved that we forget that the purpose is to point to Jesus.

What have you learned from this lesson? 

Let’s be ready to praise God today. We know that these future events are sure; we don’t need to wait until a voice from the throne tells us to praise Him. As we do that, we will be doing our part to preparing ourselves for the wedding of the Lamb and hastening the day of His return. 

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. (2 Peter 3:10-13 KJV)

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