The Lamb and The Redeemed

Revelation 14:1-5
The End Times

In my last post, we examined a Summary of Revelation Chapters 11-13 and an Introduction to Revelation Chapters 14-16. In this post, we move on the Revelation 14:1-5 to consider The Lamb and The Redeemed.

“Then I looked, and there was the Lamb standing on Mount Tziyon; and with him were 144,000 who had His name and His Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2 I heard a sound from heaven like the sound of rushing waters and like the sound of pealing thunder; the sound I heard was also like that of harpists playing on their harps. 3 They were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living beings and the elders, and no one could learn the song except the 144,000 who have been ransomed from the world. 4 These are the ones who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins; they follow the Lamb wherever He goes; they have been ransomed from among humanity as firstfruits for God and the Lamb; 5 on their lips no lie was found — they are without defect.” ~ Revelation 14:1-5 (CJB)

Yochanan describes seven visions in this chapter. These visions seem to be given here to provide us with “the big picture,” and the following chapters give us more of the details. As the details unfold in later chapters, we see that the visions presented here do not necessarily appear in chronological order.

The 144,000

Then I looked, and there was the Lamb standing on Mount Tziyon; and with him were 144,000 who had His name and His Father’s name written on their foreheads. The Lamb and His faithful followers are set over against the beast and his followers of the preceding chapter.

  • The Lamb’s followers have His name on their foreheads (v. 1; 7:3-4), even as the beast’s followers are marked with his name (13:16-17).
  • They do not speak lies (v. 5), in contrast to the lying wonders of the beast (13:14).
  • They have not defiled themselves with women (v. 4), in contrast to the prostitution of the beast (17:5).
  • They were faithful to Yeshua in contrast to the adultery of Babylon, which includes the apostate church.

Who are the 144,000? They are probably the same as the 144,000 of Revelation 7:4. As discussed earlier, most believe that the 144,000 are the elect of Israel (most likely Jews) sealed by God halfway through the seven-year tribulation period. They are the firstfruits, in contrast to the general harvest (vv. 15-16). They may be referred to as firstfruits because they were the first to be saved during the Tribulation period.

At the beginning of this chapter, we see the Lamb standing on Mount Tziyon. He is with the 144,000 on the earth. Mount Tziyon is another name for Jerusalem. There are many passages in the Bible, especially in Psalms, which tell us that Tziyon is God’s chosen place on the earth “For Adonai has chosen Tziyon, He has wanted it as His home. This is My resting-place forever, I will live here because I so much want to.”:  ~ Psalm 132:13-14 (CJB) Although this is the only reference to Tziyon in Revelation, it seems to confirm several Tanakh passages that suggest that Jerusalem will be the center of Yeshua’s earthly kingdom when He returns (see Isaiah 2:3-4; Psalm 48:2).

I heard a sound from heaven like the sound of rushing waters and like the sound of pealing thunder; the sound I heard was also like that of harpists playing on their harps. 3 They were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living beings and the elders, and no one could learn the song except the 144,000 who have been ransomed from the world. In the vision Yochanan is having, this particular scene is taking place in heaven as 144,000 have been ransomed from the world. The ministry work of the 144,000 has been completed. We cannot be sure, but we can assume that many of them died throughout this seven year period. Maybe the majority of them perished in the last 3 1/2 years. Whatever one may think as to what happened on earth, this scene in heaven is one of great comfort. We see them all, 144,000 strong, not one missing; they are now safe with Yeshua. What they lived through during their days on earth cannot be fully comprehended at this time, but this much is known, they lived during a time when the worst of hell was unleashed in the land. The world’s reasoning ability is entirely lost regarding the miracle working beast, except those who have come to salvation in Yeshua. Gary Cohen and Salem Kirban relate: [1]

Here we see that these 144,000 who were “redeemed” from the earth are admitted to special heavenly privileges. They alone are here seen able to learn the new song which proceeds from the heavenly harpers. Why are these so privileged, and not others? We are not given the answer. It is God’s sovereign will, we know this, and that is enough. This is a heavenly scene for the four beasts, the twenty-four elders, and the throne belong to the celestial chambers and not the earthly (chapters 4-5). This is part of the Heavenly Mount Tziyon and the Heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22). The words, “redeemed from the earth” (v. 3), also fit this being a heavenly picture.

Verses four and five tell why the 144,000 were so honored in heaven and so privileged: These are the ones who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins; they follow the Lamb wherever He goes; they have been ransomed from among humanity as firstfruits for God and the Lamb; 5 on their lips no lie was found — they are without defect. The 144,000 in this passage stand in sharp contrast to the followers of the beast. Falsehood and deceit will abound everywhere, but the 144,000 keep undefiled. They will live in a time of hell’s greatest lies. Many Jews will identify themselves with the man of sin and idolatry, but the 144,000 follow the Lamb and live according to God’s Word.

The use of the term virgin in verse four carries a deeper meaning than just keeping them physically pure. As is seen in 2 Corinthians 11:2, a virgin can symbolize one who has a sincere and pure devotion to Yeshua. The 144,000 are separated from the pollutions and conceptions of the earth. They are virgins unto God. They keep themselves separated from spiritual fornication and spiritual adultery.

David Stern explains: [2]

These are not male celibates, despite the explicit mention of women. Rather, they are people of both sexes who are faithful to God and his Son, as the rest of vv. 4-5 makes clear. Fornication is a common biblical metaphor for idolatry—for several examples from the Tanakh see Ezekiel 16, 23 and Hosea 1-5.

This is a great message for everyone today. God wants all who belong to Him to live holy lives. The most significant witness and the most awesome power comes from living a righteous life. We need to pray that God will make us a godly people. The harvest is about to come (Revelation 15:1). The 144,000 will be the firstfruits for God and the Lamb. The 144,000 will be the earnest of a larger group of saved Jews who will also participate in the millennial kingdom. In the remaining verses of this chapter, there is a series of messages from what appears to be seven different angels. The events that are described do not follow a particular chronological order. As has been the case throughout this interval period (chapters 10-14), we are only given pieces of the puzzle. But, with each piece of information, we see the picture becoming clearer.

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 14:1-5 [3]

Historicist Approach:

Most Historicists view the 144,000 as the same as those presented in Chapter 7. Recall they saw them as symbolic of the entire true Christian church down through the ages.  Elliott opines that the new song is the blessed doctrine of the Reformation. They also concur with David Stern’s assessment of the term virgins.

Preterist Approach:

 Preterists agree the 144,000 are the same as those presented in Chapter 7.  Recall they saw them as the Jewish Believers who escaped the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE.

Futurist Approach:

Tenney sees this chapter as an illustrative parenthesis. Ryrie opines “this chapter is something like a table of contents of the remainder of the book.” Futurists agree the 144,000 are the same as those presented in Chapter 7. They are divided over the location of Mount Tizyon between its earthly or heavenly location.

Idealist Approach:

Idealists appear to agree with the Futurists as the purpose of this Chapter and the locale of Mount Tizyon. Most, however, seem to favor the heavenly locale as they were ransomed from the worldThey also concur with David Stern’s assessment of the term virgins.

In my next post, we will explore a Revelation 14:6-7 studying The Everlasting Gospel.

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[1] A Layman’s Commentary on Revelation by Don Jones.

[2] Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern

[3] Material in this post is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg. Notations in brackets, if any, are my comments.

Summary of Revelation Chapters 11-13

The End Times

In my last post, we unpacked Revelation 13:16-18 concerning The Mark of the Beast. In this post, we summarize what we have learned from Revelation Chapters 11-13.

Special Comparative Note on Chapters 11-13 [1]

These chapters falling in the center of the Book of Revelation concerns itself with a period of time represented as 1,260 days (or equivalents).  There are widely differing opinions as to what is signified by this time period.

Preterists and Futurists take the period quite literally as they see it as an actual period of three-and-one-half years.  Of course, Preterists apply the period to the past, while Futurists anticipate the fulfillment in the future. Preterists view the fulfillment either as during the time of Nero’s persecution (65-68 CE) or the Jewish War (66-70 CE). Futurists view the period occurring imediately before Yeshua’s Second Coming. Preterists view the first beast as Nero; whereas Futurists view it as a future antichristian and anti-Jewish dictator.

Historicists follow the year-by-year interpretive method and transform the period into 1,260 years.  Those years are then identified when the papacy held sway over the Western church and persecuted its dissenters from around 532 to about 1792 CE.

Idealists take the number as entirely symbolic and see it as representing the entire Gospel Age from Yeshua’s first coming to His second coming.

Summary of Revelation Chapters 14-16 [2]

The Seven Last Plagues

What do these bowls of wrath represent?  When do these events occur?

Historicist Approach:

  • In general, the seven bowls of wrath find fulfillment in the judgment upon the papacy (Babylon), beginning with the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars and concluding yet in the future.

Preterist Approach:

  • The judgments of these bowls are largely against Jerusalem, culminating in its fall in 70 CE, though the fifth bowl touches the Roman Empire as well ~ probably referring to the chaotic state of affairs that prevailed after Nero’s suicide.
  • Alternately, this section says nothing about the fall of Jerusalem and refers strictly to the judgment of God upon pagan Rome.

Futurist Approach:

  • The bowls represent future, global judgments that in their devastating effect are unparalleled in history.
  • These occur at the very end of the Tribulation period, culminating in World War III or the Battle of Armageddon.
  • This war is the last battle fought by mankind and it will be ended by the personal return of Yeshua as He comes to establish His millenial kingdom.

[Personally, it is because of these very views that I align myself with the Futurists.]

Idealist Approach:

  • There is a relationship between the bowl judgments and the trumpet judgments. The former may be a recapitulation of the latter.
  • The principal distinction between the trumpets and the bowls is that the former are partial in their effects and serve to warn the wicked of their spiritual danger, whereas the latter are complete and represent final judgment upon the unrepentant.
  • The same event n history may serve as a trumpet judgment for one person (a mere warning) and as a b0wl judgment for another (a final judgment, resulting in death).
  • The disasters described repeatedly recur history.

In my next post, we will explore a Revelation 14:1-5 as we examine The Lamb and The Redeemed.

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[1] Material in this post is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg. Notations in brackets, if any, are my comments.

[2] Ibid.

The Mark of the Beast

Revelation 13:16-18
The End Times

In my last post, we unpacked Revelation 13:11-15 concerning The Second Beast: The Beast from the Earth. In this post, we move on the Revelation 13:16-18 to examine The Mark of the Beast.

“Also it forces everyone  –  great and small, rich and poor, free and slave  –  to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead 17 preventing anyone from buying or selling unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. 18 This is where wisdom is needed; those who understand should count the number of the beast, for it is the number of a person, and its number is 666.” ~ Revelation 13:16-18 (CJB)

What Does the Number of the Beast Mean?

No one, including this author, really knows the answer to that question.  According to Halley’s Bible Handbook, the number can be the name of a man, or possibly a group of people, or an institution headed by a man or group of men. Neither Hebrew nor Greek has separate symbols for numbers; rather, letters were also used as numerals. Thus, in Greek, A=1, B=2, etc. The letters of the name, when added together, total 666.


Image Courtesy of Google

Emperor Nero (ad 54-68).
Some believe that the number 666
directly relates to the Roman emperor Nero
since the Hebrew script for
Caesar Nero (qsr nrwn) = 100 + 60 + 200 + 50 + 200 + 6 + 50 = 666.

Few things in the Bible have given rise to such speculation as for the meaning of the number of the beast. Each era in history has discovered the name of a leader who is seen as impersonating the ultimate evil of the Antichrist, from the head of the Roman Empire of Paul’s day to Napoleon, to Adolf Hitler.

I remember seeing a bumper sticker years ago claiming that Ronald Wilson Reagen was the beast because his full name had six letters each. I didn’t agree with that especially as my full name has six letters each.

In our time it has been claimed that the mark is a number rather than a name and that this figure is incorporated in the bar codes on consumer products.

Others understand the number symbolically: 6 is man’s number, just short of 7, which is God’s number; 666 is a “trinity” of sixes. The square of 6 is 36; when we add up all numbers from 1 through 36, the total is 666. The significance, then, is that the beast, powerful as he is – and no matter how powerful he may become – is still not as powerful as God.

At the close of chapter 13, Yochanan tells us that the false prophet, who receives his power from the great imitator, Satan, requires everyone to get a mark on his right hand or his forehead. Without this mark, people could not buy or sell anything (vv. 16-17). Remember the seal God placed on the forehead of all the servants of God at the beginning of the Great Tribulation (Revelation 7:3).

Most people are already more readily identified by number than by name, whether it be Social Security number, credit card number, bank account number, or many other computer devices. Recently, there was a news report that a company in Wisconsin was implanting a microchip into employees hands (voluntarily) to punch the time clock, open secured doors and purchase snacks in the break room.

With this conditioning, it will not be all that difficult to get crowds to line up and receive this one number of identity. Most of us don’t remember that during World War II the government gave out ration stamp books that were required for the purchase of certain commodities. Money was not enough; the proper ration stamp was required as well. For example, to buy five pounds of sugar one had to have the ration stamp that entitled him to five pounds of sugar. People today are again being prepared to operate similarly. So where’s the problem? The problem is that this particular mark of identification will be associated entirely with the Antichrist and will give him the additional power needed to manipulate the masses of humanity.

Everyone  –  great and small, rich and poor, free and slave  –  [is forced] to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead. Compare this verse with Revelation 20:4, which says “and,” not “or”: “those who had not worshipped the beast or its image and had not received the mark on their foreheads and on their hands.” This makes a mockery of t’fillin, which Orthodox and Conservative Jews wear in the synagogue on the hand and forehead to obey Deuteronomy 6:8, “You shall bind them [that is, God’s mitzvot] for a sign on your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.”

This mark of the beast (Revelation 16:2, 19:20; also 14:9-11) also mimics the sealing of the 144,000 (7:2-3). Regardless of whether any of the speculations are true or fanciful, the mark points to a time of complete totalitarian control over economic life by religious elements.

David Stern lends some interesting Judaic perspective to the number of its name. [1]

In Jewish interpretation, gematria (the Hebrew word derives from the Greek word geômetria,” which underlies English “geometry”) is a system of deducing the sod (“secret”) of a text by positing a meaningful connection between words whose numbers are either identical or related by simple arithmetic. Example: in rabbinic literature, God is sometimes called the “Place” (“Makom). Why this should be is not evident, so Gematria explains it in this way: the letters of YHVH” – yud, heh, vav and heh – are equivalent to 10, 5, 6 and 5. The sum of the squares of these four numbers is 186, which is the same as the number of Makom” – mem, kuf, vav, mem (40 + 100 + 6 + 40).

The number could be entirely symbolic. The name of Messiah in Greek, Iêsous, equals 888; 7 is regarded as the perfect number; and triple repetition symbolizes absolute ultimacy (as in Isaiah 6:3, “Holy, holy, holy is Adonai of Hosts.”). Therefore 888 means that Yeshua is entirely and ultimately beyond perfection, while 666 implies that the beast in every respect falls short of perfection and is therefore utterly and ultimately imperfect and evil.

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 13:11-15 [2]

Historicist Approach:

Historicists have concurred with Irenaeus in the second century who believed that 666 referred to Lateinos (Greek for Latin).  This naturally points to the Roman Catholic Church. Popes have been known to forbid commerce with non-Catholics.

Preterist Approach:

Preterists insist that the beast is Nero since Yochanan would want his contemporary readers to know who it was.

Futurist Approach:

Many Futurists view this passage of a cashless, worldwide economy which we seem to be heading towards and in fact already rely heavily on credit/debit cards.  No consensus exists for the meaning of 666 other than what has previously been stated above.

Idealist Approach:

Idealists offer no additional insight other than the mark is synonymous with proclaiming one’s servitude to the beast.

In my next post, we will explore a Summary of Chapters 11-13 and explore an Introduction to the Seven Last Plagues contained in Revelation 14-16.

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[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern.

[2] Material in this post is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg. Notations in brackets, if any, are my comments.

The Second Beast: The Beast from the Earth

Revelation 13:11-15
The End Times

In my last post, we unpacked Revelation 13:5-10 concerning The Beast’s War with the Saints. In this post, we move on the Revelation 13:11-15 to The Second Beast: The Beast from the Earth.

“Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth. It had two horns like those of a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. 12 It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence; and it makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, the one whose fatal wound had been healed. 13 It performs great miracles, even causing fire to come down from heaven onto the earth as people watch. 14 It deceives the people living on earth by the miracles it is allowed to perform in the presence of the beast, and it tells them to make an image honoring the beast that was struck by the sword but came alive again. 15 It was allowed to put breath into the image of the beast so that the image of the beast could even speak; and it was allowed to cause anyone who would not worship the image of the beast to be put to death.” ~ Revelation 13:11-15 (CJB)

The second beast was able to influence the earth and its inhabitants to worship the first beast. Can you imagine that this man affected even the rocks (the earth)? HaSatan’s power to deceive is truly frightening.

Yochanan previously mentioned that the first beast seemed to have a fatal wound but had been healed (v. 3). Here we learn that it was the second beast that brought him (the first beast) to life again. The second beast is afterward called the false prophet (Revelation 16:13; 19:20; 20:10).

Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth. It had two horns like those of a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. The two horns represent power; the word lamb denotes religion. This beast, also known as the false prophet is, therefore, to be the head of a world religious system. Like the first beast, who is the Antichrist, the false prophet, derives his power from the dragon, HaSatan. This group of three makes up the unholy Trinity. John Walvoord and Roy Zuck write: [1]

Satan seeks to take the place of God the Father; the first beast assumes the place of Jesus Christ, the Son, the King of kings; and the second beast, the false prophet, has a role similar to the Holy Spirit who causes Christians to worship God. This is Satan’s final attempt to substitute a false religion for true faith in Christ.

It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence; and it makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, the one whose fatal wound had been healed. It is now obvious that the Antichrist and the false prophet have entered into some unholy alliance to deceive the whole world. The false prophet is given the full backing of the Antichrist with the power to compel people to worship him. In this manner, the false prophet imitates the ministry and work of the Holy Spirit.

Observe also the fatal wound that had been healed. As the false prophet continues to relate this episode over and over, it will appear to the world as a whole to be a resurrection from the dead. There is a saying that if a lie is told often enough, it will be believed for the truth. The false prophet will do everything within his power to persuade the people that the Messiah, who is in truth the Antichrist, has arrived.

It performs great miracles, even causing fire to come down from heaven onto the earth as people watch. Clarence Larkin sheds some light on this:

The False Prophet will be a “Miracle Worker.” While Jesus was a “miracle worker,” He did His mighty works in the “power” of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 10:38). Among the miracles that the False Prophet will perform he will bring down FIRE FROM HEAVEN. As we have seen under the work of the “Two Witnesses,” chapter 11:1-14, there will probably be a “FIRE-TEST” between Elijah and False Prophet, and the test as to who is God of Mt. Carmel will be repeated. That Satan, who will then energize the False Prophet, can do this is clear from Job 1:16, where Satan, having secured permission from God to touch all that Job had, brought down “fire from heaven” and burned up Job’s sheep and servants. [2]

It deceives the people living on earth by the miracles it is allowed to perform in the presence of the beast, and it tells them to make an image honoring the beast that was struck by the sword but came alive again.  It was allowed to put breath into the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast could even speak; and it was allowed to cause anyone who would not worship the image of the beast to be put to death. It is interesting that the False Prophet tells the people that they should make an image to the first beast, the Antichrist. However, they all seem to understand that when the false prophet makes a suggestion, it is the same as a command; do it! The image is fashioned and set up in the Temple of God to be worshiped (Matthew 24:15). With the Antichrist, himself, (2 Thessalonians 2:4) and the image both appearing in the Temple of God, this must indeed be the Abomination Of Desolation spoken of by Daniel (Daniel 9:27; 12:11).

Miracles pose two questions: (1) Do they happen at all? (2) If they do, are they signs from God? Whether miracles happen depends on how one defines a miracle. Without entering into subtleties, we can define a miracle as an event outside the ordinary which involves supernatural intervention. Although this displaces the locus of uncertainty onto what is meant by “supernatural intervention,” the Bible, most religions and many nonreligious sources agree that miracles so defined do occur.

The Bible takes some miracles as signs from God, but others are acknowledged as having a demonic origin. Thus the second beast deceives the people living on earth, just as the magicians in Pharaoh’s court deceived him into discounting the God of Israel (Exodus 7:11, 22; 8:3(7); in the New Testament compare Acts 13:6b-9, 16:16-18, 19:13-16). However, God sets limits to demonic and Satanic capacity to perform miracles (Job 1:12, 2:6; Matthew 24:24), just as He did as in Moshe’s day (Exodus 8:14-15(18-19), 9:11; see also Deuteronomy 18:9ff.).

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 13:11-15 [3]

Historicist Approach:

As I noted in The Beast from the Sea ~ Part 1, Historicists have differed among themselves concerning the identity of the two beasts.  Both are identified with Rome, but most seem to identify the second beast with the papacy itself. The Holy Roman  Empire was created to last forever, yet it has not.  However, the papacy is still influential to millions today.

Preterist Approach:

 Preterists advance at least three positions as to the identity of the second beast. The most prominent is this beast represents “the cult of the emperor” in the worship of Caesars.  The two horns like a lamb suggest a religious nature more than a political one.  A third possible identification of the second beast is Israel itself.  [As I do most Preterists interpretations throughout, I categorically reject this position.]

Futurist Approach:

Futurists view the second beast as a religious leader ~ even a counterfeit messiah ~ as opposed to the political character of the first beast. Most suggest the papacy as the likely candidate.  The power to cause the fire to come down from heaven onto the earth is duplicative of the Two Witnesses.

Idealist Approach:

Idealists view most of the imagery of the second beast as duplicative of the Two Witnesses and as a false religion as the servant of the first beast.

[As a side note, Steve Gregg points out that Hollywood is more than capable of emulating the description given of the image of the first beast with animatronics.]

In my next post, we will explore Revelation 13:16-18 dealing with The Mark of the Beast.

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[1] A Layman’s Commentary on Revelation by Don Jones.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Material in this post is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg. Notations in brackets, if any, are my comments.

The Beast’s War with the Saints

Revelation 13:5-10
The End Times

In my last post, we concluded the exploration of Revelation 13:1-4 concerning The Beast from the Sea. In this post, we unpack Revelation 13:5-10 concerning The Beast’s War with the Saints.

“It [the Beast]was given a mouth speaking arrogant blasphemies, and it was given authority to act for forty-two months. 6 So it opened its mouth in blasphemies against God to insult his name and his Sh’khinah, and those living in heaven; 7 it was allowed to make war on God’s holy people and to defeat them; and it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. 8 Everyone living on earth will worship it except those whose names are written in the Book of Life belonging to the Lamb slaughtered before the world was founded. 9 Those who have ears, let them hear! 10 “If anyone is meant for captivity, into captivity he goes! If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he is to be killed!” This is when God’s holy people must persevere and trust!” ~ Revelation 13:5-10 (CJB)

“It was given a mouth speaking arrogant blasphemies, and it was given authority to act for forty-two months. 6 So it opened its mouth in blasphemies against God to insult his name and his Sh’khinah, and those living in heaven. Note the expression carefully; it was given authority to act.  This phrase or its equivalent appears six times in the first seven verses. All the power that the beast displays is derived from the dragon who is HaSatan. It is important also to realize that God Almighty permits whatever power HaSatan has. [See Job 1:12 and 2:6 for God’s authority over HaSatan.]  While it seems that the Antichrist has absolute power (the duration of this power is forty-two months), he will initiate a program calculated to exterminate anyone who will not worship (follow) him. No part of this planet will go unaffected by this dictator and his policies.

Notice the use of the word blasphemy again. Blasphemy means “curse the name of the Lord” or “evil-speaking” or “slander.” [1] Blasphemy is mentioned in verse one and now again in five and six. This single word conveys how much HaSatan hates God. He attempts to blaspheme and desecrate everything that reminds him of God or His Son Jesus.

The Antichrist was given a mouth speaking blasphemies, exalting himself as God. This compares to the little horn that Daniel had seen, “The little horn had . . . a mouth that was boasting arrogantly” (Daniel 7:8 NLT). He blasphemed God by placing himself in God’s position. “He will oppose himself to everything that people call a god or make an object of worship; he will put himself above them all, so that he will sit in the Temple of God and proclaim that he himself is God.” ~ 2 Thessalonians 2:4 (CJB)

Setting himself up in the Temple is what Yeshua spoke of as “the abomination that causes devastation.” (Mark 13:14 CJB). The Antichrist will unite all nations and all religions under his authority.

It was allowed to make war on God’s holy people and to defeat them; and it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. There have been many persecutions of God’s children all down through the ages. There are horror stories upon horror stories of the attempts to wipe out the true believers of the Sovereign God, but there has never been anything as sweeping in scope as this final war on Believers. Believers numbering in the millions will be hunted down and put to death. Although they will not escape with their lives, they will be victorious even in death. All this will occur in the last half of the tribulation period. Since I believe in the pre-tribulation view of the Rapture, present day Believers will not experience the terror of that time, having been raptured, but God have mercy on those who go through the experience!

Everyone living on earth will worship it except those whose names are written in the Book of Life belonging to the Lamb slaughtered before the world was founded. By this time the battle lines will have been drawn. The vast majority will have aligned themselves with the Antichrist. This verse throbs with the strength that the Believers in Yeshua possess. There is so much persecution and martyrdom that life for the child of God appears unbearable. Yet, it seems to be the rule, that when persecution comes, those tested grow stronger and more devoted. The reference to the Book of Life in this verse is understood to be the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 21:27).

Those who have ears, let them hear! This warning sounds very similar to the letter to the Messianic Communities in Revelation 2:7; 2:22; 2:27; 2:29; 3:6; 3:23; 3:22; however, the difference is that now the warning is general and there is no mention of the church! The church is not mentioned because it was removed at the rapture. At the time of the recorded activities of this verse, the church is in heaven with the Lord. The unsaved world never understands the Believer and his thinking. God would have His children to act in a fashion that the world, which cannot understand spiritual motives, will consider foolish. Believers are to be controlled by divine love; they are admonished to turn the other cheek, to go the second mile, and much more. To the world this appears as weakness, making God’s people seem naive, gullible, and easy prey. The world’s philosophy is based on strength and power; an eye for an eye, a life for a life. The next verse sums up these thoughts:

“If anyone is meant for captivity, into captivity he goes! If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he is to be killed!” This is when God’s holy people must persevere and trust!”

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 13:5-10 [2]

Historicist Approach:

Historicists look to the papacy as this Beast.  As late as April 330, 1922, Pope Pius XI said, “You know that I am the Holy Father, the representative of God on earth, the Vicar of Christ, which means that I am God on earth.” [emphasis added.] The forty-two months as has been previously discussed represents 1,260 years which refer to the period of conflict between the true church and the apostate papal establishment.

Preterist Approach:

Preterists ascribe the worship of the Beast to the Roman Emperors. The war took the form of the persecution of the early church, especially by Nero.

Futurist Approach:

Futurists view the forty-two months as the second half of the Tribulation period. As noted above, the blasphemies are tied in with Daniel 7:8. Everyone living on earth will worship implies compulsory allegiance to the Beast.  All but the Tribulation saints will fall in line.

Idealist Approach:

Idealists view this Beast as the leader of a government which will wage war on the Saints demanding total obedience and worship.  They also consider verse 10 as an exhortation to Believers to patiently endure imprisonment and martyrdom without resorting to self-defense.

In my next post, we will explore Revelation 13:11-15 dealing with The Second Beast.

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[1] The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary.

[2] Material in this post is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg. Notations in brackets, if any, are my comments.

The Beast from the Sea ~ Part 2

Revelation 13:1-4
The End Times

In my last post, we began to unpacked Revelation 13 and learned about the first of two beasts:  The Beast from the Sea. In this post, we will conclude the exploration of Revelation 4:1-4.

“Then the dragon stood on the seashore; 1 and I saw a beast come up out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads. On its horns were ten royal crowns and on its heads blasphemous names. 2 The beast which I saw was like a leopard, but with feet like those of a bear and a mouth like the mouth of a lion. To it the dragon gave its power, its throne and great authority. 3 One of the heads of the beast appeared to have received a fatal wound, but its fatal wound was healed, and the whole earth followed after the beast in amazement. 4 They worshipped the dragon, because he had given his authority to the beast; and they worshipped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who can fight against it?” ~ Revelation 12:18 – 13:4 (CJB)  [Note that I added the last verse of chapter 12 that we discussed last time as more appropriately tied to this passage.]

Then the dragon stood on the seashore; 1 and I saw a beast come up out of the sea. It is interesting to be aware of the placement of Yochanan on different occasions in the Book of Revelation. In Revelation 1:9, Yochanan is seen on the Isle of Patmos. In 4:1, he is caught up into heaven. In chapter thirteen we see him standing on the sands of the sea. In chapter seventeen he is found standing in the wilderness. In 21:10, he takes his place on a high Mountain. Wherever Yochanan is transported, he has a grandstand view of all that is happening in the Revelation God is sharing with him. The mention of the sea is informative, as it represents the masses of people. Revelation 17:15 explains that the sea symbolizes “the waters that you saw, where the whore is sitting, are peoples, crowds, nations and languages. When observing the sea from the seashore, it is apparent that only on rare occasions is it at peace with itself. Much of the time it appears troubled, casting up mire and dirt, continually seething and surging, never at rest. This is indeed an accurate picture of the people, nations, and multitudes of the world. Out of this global unrest, a universal government will arise with one man ruling with supreme authority.

The beast had ten horns and seven heads. The seven heads loaded with blasphemy are explained further in chapter 17. They symbolize seven empires and seven kings that are, or were, under the control of the beast, who receives his power from HaSatan. Yochanan tells us that five (empires/kings) are fallen, one “is,” and one is yet to come (17:10). There is much speculation on the identity of the five that are fallen. Some believe them to be the significant empires that ruled through the ages, including the Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Medo-Persian, and Grecian empires. The one that “is” is thought to be the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire was never conquered; it rotted from within and eventually lost its position of world power.

Others believe that the seven heads represent the five kings who reigned up to Yochanan’s day, the sixth king that was in authority during Yochanan’s life, and a seventh king that is yet to come, which is thought to be the Antichrist.

The beast which I saw was like a leopard, but with feet like those of a bear and a mouth like the mouth of a lion. To it the dragon gave its power, its throne and great authority. Consider the order in which Yochanan speaks of these animals. The leopard (Greece); the bear (Medo-Persia); the lion (Babylon); and the beast (Antichrist). However, when Daniel speaks of them, the order is reversed. The reason for the reversed order is that Daniel is looking ahead to the future, whereas, Yochanan is looking back to the past. This beast, the Antichrist, and his kingdom shall be the embodiment of all these kingdoms combined into one worldwide empire. Gary Cohen and Salem Kirban in their book Revelation Visualized write:

The Beast has the fierce qualities of the Daniel 7’s previous beast nations as Rev. 13:2 shows. It has the Babylonian “mouth of a lion” (Rev. 13:2; Dan. 7:4)—lust to consume victims; great power. It has the Persian “feet… of a bear” (Rev. 13:2; Dan 7:5)—great size; armies able to crush rebellions. It has the Greek body of a “leopard” (Rev. 13:2; Dan. 7:6)—agility, swiftness; a capacity for military mobility and speed of strike. The future Beast will have all of these qualities. And lest we forget, it is a Beast—in God’s sight a monster that consumes rapaciously. Since the Dragon, Satan gives it its power, the Beast—both the empire and the man, Antichrist—will be exceedingly anti-god, against all who turn to God, and wicked in every way. [1]

One of the heads of the beast appeared to have received a fatal wound, but its fatal wound was healed. It comes as no surprise that HaSatan, the great imitator, orchestrates the “death and resurrection” of the Antichrist. A cheap imitation, indeed, but the whole earth followed after the beast in amazement. How easily people are deceived if they don’t know the truth found in God’s Word!

Keep in mind that the Antichrist begins his career as a peacemaker (Revelation 6:2). This may be possible through his ability to settle the on-going Arab-Israeli territorial problem. This peace solution will bring about a seven-year covenant with the Jews (Daniel 9:27) and allow Israel to rebuild the Temple and reinstate religious rituals (Daniel 9:27). However, by the middle of the seven years the Antichrist’s true colors show forth, and although the Jews turn against him, the world, in general, is more and more solidified behind him as his popularity continues to grow.

At this point the Jews, who were merely used as a stepping stone, are blocking his way to unanimous public idolization. He breaks the covenant with them (Daniel 9:27) and sets himself up as a god. At about this time an assassination attempt is made on his life. The Scripture says the beast appeared to have received a fatal wound. The people at large think the assassination attempt was successful and that their leader, the Antichrist, has been killed. HaSatan uses this episode to make the people believe the Antichrist has been supernaturally raised from the dead! While it is known that it is beyond the power of HaSatan to give life, the healing of this wound would be possible for HaSatan. This apparent miracle will cause the people to rally behind the Antichrist even more and set the stage for world dictatorship.

They worshipped the dragon, because he had given his authority to the beast; and they worshipped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who can fight against it? It has always been the desire of HaSatan for people to worship him (Isaiah 14:12-14) and pride has been his problem all along. Today, there are all kinds of cults worshiping the Devil; they eagerly give their allegiance to his Majesty, the Devil. They give their bodies, souls, and all they have to his service for time and eternity. There has never been such a defiant, bold, arrogant, blasphemous age as the one now living. Oliver Greene comments on this subject:

The world is looking for a superman, and this world dictator of the revived Roman Empire will sweep men off their feet. Immediately they will begin to worship him. They will declare that no one can stand against him, that there is nothing he cannot do. What horrible blasphemy! This is the age of personality worshippers… in religion, in politics, in social life and in every other phase of life. This is the age of idols. [2]

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 13:1-4 [3]

Futurist Approach:

Futurists see a beast come up out of the sea as the four beasts of Daniel 7.  The sea is a symbol of Gentile nations.  They have no difficulty connecting the beast to the Roman Empire in light of Daniel 7 and Revelation 17.  Dispensationalism asserts that the world empire of the Tribulation period will be a revival of old, pagan Imperial Rome, under a Roman head.  Ironside describes him as “the statesman of a Caesar, the military genius of a Napolean, and the personal attractiveness of a Chesterfield.”

Idealist Approach:

Idealists tend to share the same views as the Preterists and Futurists concerning the beast and the sea. The dragon gave its power to the beast.  Swete comments that the dragon works through the beast as his agent: the war is HaSatan’s, but the Emire is his tool for waging it. Idealists also support the Preterists view on the fatal wound.

In my next post, we will explore Revelation 13:5-10 dealing with The Beast’s War with the Saints.

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[1] Quoted in A Layman’s Commentary on Revelation by Don Jones.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Material in this post is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg. Notations in brackets, if any, are my comments.

The Beast from the Sea ~ Part 1

Revelation 13:1-4
The End Times

In my last post, we unpacked Revelation 12:13-18 regarding The Woman Persecuted, But Preserved.  In this post, we move on to Revelation 13 and learn about the first of two beasts:  The Beast from the Sea.

Chapter thirteen may well be one of the most important chapters in the book of Revelation! There is a reference to the remaining three and a half years of tribulation in verse 5, and the connection between the dragon of chapter twelve and the beasts of chapter thirteen is disclosed.

It is immediately apparent that the political and economic climate of today is beginning to set the stage for the reign of a world dictator. There is tremendous, and continual worldwide unrest as numerous and varied countries experience vast internal turmoil. There are those who are advocating the belief that the only solution to these economic, political, social and even religious problems is a one world government with a single currency and united action, as is already being adopted in the European community. The book of Revelation reveals that this one world government concept is exactly what will come to pass. With so much unrest among nations in economic bankruptcy, and with no sign of conditions becoming better; the masses of people will welcome a world government which promises that conditions will improve. Somebody (a super-human somebody) will appear on the scene and will gain the attention of the people and provide the leadership anticipated. This exalted leader will be HaSatan incarnate, and the world has never before known an absolute ruler like him. M. R. DeHaan writes: [1]

During this brief time of the world’s greatest sorrow, HaSatan will make his last great attempt to defeat the program of God by establishing his kingdom upon earth. He will seek to do this by instituting two great powers, one political and one religious. These two great powers will be two men, called in Revelation 13 “beasts” because of the viciousness and cruelty of their reign. These two men, representing two movements, will seek to set up a world federation of nations for political reasons and a world federation of churches for religious reasons.”

The Beast from the Sea

“Then the dragon stood on the seashore; 1 and I saw a beast come up out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads. On its horns were ten royal crowns and on its heads blasphemous names. 2 The beast which I saw was like a leopard, but with feet like those of a bear and a mouth like the mouth of a lion. To it the dragon gave its power, its throne and great authority. 3 One of the heads of the beast appeared to have received a fatal wound, but its fatal wound was healed, and the whole earth followed after the beast in amazement. 4 They worshipped the dragon, because he had given his authority to the beast; and they worshipped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who can fight against it?” ~ Revelation 12:18 – 13:4 (CJB)  [Note that I added the last verse of chapter 12 that we discussed last time as more appropriately tied to this passage.]

Once again we are faced with trying to decipher the imagery that Yochanan uses to describe what he is seeing.  We learned the red dragon of chapter 12 is HaSatan. Chapter 13 introduces us to two beasts through which HaSatan establishes control over the multitudes of earth’s people. The first beast which we will explore in this and the next post seems to be a political figure, and the second beast appears to be a religious figure. Both receive their power and direction from HaSatan, the great deceiver, and imitator.

To more fully grasp this imagery, we need to look back to the book of Daniel.  Consequently, I will break this passage up into two parts to keep the length reasonable.

The first beast which rises out of the sea is thought to be the Antichrist. [2] The sea is a symbol for the multitudes of earth’s people. Perhaps this is a hint that the Antichrist will be a politician who ordinarily rises to fame, as many others have done throughout history. This first beast “resembled” a leopard, had the feet of a bear, and a mouth like a lion. This description is similar to those of Daniel’s.

“I had a vision at night; I saw there before me the four winds of the sky breaking out over the great sea, 3 and four huge animals came up out of the sea, each different from the others. 4 The first was like a lion, but it had eagle’s wings. As I watched, its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted off the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man, and a human heart was given to it. 5 Then there was another animal, a second one, like a bear. It raised itself up on one side, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up, and gorge yourself with flesh!’ 6 After this, I looked; and there was another one, like a leopard with four bird’s wings on its sides. The animal also had four heads, and it was given power to rule. 7 After this, I looked in the night visions; and there before me was a fourth animal, dreadful, horrible, extremely strong, and with great iron teeth. It devoured, crushed and stamped its feet on what was left. It was different from all the animals that had gone before it, and it had ten horns.”  ~ Daniel 7:2-7 (CJB)

However, Yochanan’s first beast seems to be most similar to Daniel’s fourth beast, which retains, in some measure, the characteristics of his predecessors. Because the term “beast” is used, it is easy to imagine that its physical appearance is strange and animal-like. However, the resemblance to the leopard, bear, and lion may very well be in nonphysical characteristics, such as being a cunning hunter, someone who camouflages himself well in his setting.

On its [ten] horns were ten royal crowns could be identical to the ten toes of the fourth beast in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Daniel 2:33, 40-43) and the ten horns of the fourth beast in Daniel’s dream (Daniel 7:7, 24). An angel tells Daniel what the ten horns represent: As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise; and yet another will arise after them. Now he will be different from the earlier ones, and he will put down three kings.” ~ Daniel 7:24 (CJB)

Most theologians agree that the ten horns are ten nations that will rise to power in the end times (the restored Roman Empire) and the Antichrist will govern this ten nation empire and through it rule the world. Roy Hilton writes: [3]

What else can all of this mean other than in the Day of the Lord there will appear a person called Antichrist, who will reign over his kingdom in a dictatorial manner? His political reign and rise to power makes a fascinating study. In Daniel 2:31-35 the prophet Daniel is telling Nebuchadnezzar what he (the king) had dreamed. “Thou, O King, sawest a great image like a man. It had a head of gold, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, legs of iron, feet and toes of iron mixed with clay.” These metals represent a succession of Kingdoms that will rise and fall. We don’t have to guess what these kingdoms are for Daniel tells us. “Thou art this head of gold” vs. 38. He was talking to Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon; so the head of gold is Babylon. The second kingdom represented by the chest and arms of silver was Medio-Persian (Dan. 5:28, 31). The third kingdom represented by brass was Greece (Dan. 8:20, 21). The fourth kingdom of iron was Rome. These four kingdoms have come and gone-this is a fact of history. A fifth kingdom will eventually rise which will be a Federation of ten nations signified by the feet and ten toes. They will come together by common consent in an attempt to govern the world affairs of men. This will be a weak unity for Daniel says clay and iron cannot mix together with any strength. Out of this Federation of ten nations a leader will emerge who will be able to exert great power and influence. This leader will be the Anti-Christ (Read Dan. 7:8, 24; Rev. 13:1-10; 17:3).

In my next post, we will continue to unpack Revelation 13:1-4.

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 13:1-4 [4]

As you might imagine, each of the four views has a lot to say about this passage.  In the interest of keeping this post shorter, I will list the Historicist and the Preterist comments in this post and the Futurist and Idealist in the next.

Historicist Approach:

Because of the similarities of this Beast from the Sea with Daniel 7, virtually all Historicists identify this beast with Rome.  The seven heads symbolize the seven hills of Rome.  The papacy has been closely tied to this first beast by most Protestants for many centuries.  [When we get to verse 11 we encounter a second beast from the earth.  Historicists identify both beasts with Rome, and it will be easier to discuss the nuances between the two and the deadly wound at that time.]

Preterist Approach:

Preterists consider the sea as an emblem of the Gentile world from which Daniel’s four beasts arose (Daniel 7:1ff.).  In addition to information about this beast contained later in Revelation 17, most Preterists tie this beast to the Roman Empire and in particular Emperor Nero.  The fatal wound to one of the heads in verse 3 has puzzled many.  At the death of Nero, the Roman Empire was thrown into violent civil war and anarchy.  The recovery of the empire under Vespasian was a marvel to all – the beast of the empire had survived the mortal wounding of one of its heads.  Alternatively, Julius Ceasar has been identified with the wounded head.

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[1] A Layman’s Commentary on Revelation by Don Jones.

[2] I really prefer the title Anti-Messiah but acquiesce to the more common title.

[3] Op. cit.

[4] Material in this post is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg. Notations in brackets, if any, are my comments.

The Woman Persecuted, But Preserved

Revelation 12:13-18
The End Times

More on the 1,260 Days [1]

Again God uses the 1,260-day time period. The 1,260 days of verse 6 are identical with a season and two seasons and half a season of verse 14; the latter means “a year, years, and half a year,” or 3½ years, which is the same as 42 months, which, at 30 days to the month, is 1,260 days. Why three different expressions are used for the same length of time we do not know; there may be shades of meaning hidden from us.

The woman was in the desert 3½ years or 1,260 days. The Holy City was trampled on for 42 months (11:2). The beast lived 42 months after his death-stroke was healed (13:5). The two witnesses prophesied in sackcloth for 1,260 days (11:3). Thus the Holy City was trampled on while the woman was in the wilderness, while the two witnesses were prophesying in sackcloth, while Babylon (the revived beast) was on the throne, all at the same time. The dragon (HaSatan), standing on the shore of the sea, prepares to went off to fight the rest of her children (those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Yeshua). HaSatan sets his sights on all Believers.

The Woman Persecuted, But Preserved

“When the dragon saw that he had been hurled down to the earth, he went in pursuit of the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle, so that she could fly to her place in the desert, where she is taken care of for a season and two seasons and half a season, away from the serpent’s presence. 15 The serpent spewed water like a river out of its mouth after the woman, in order to sweep her away in the flood; 16 but the land came to her rescue — it opened its mouth and swallowed up the river which the dragon had spewed out of its mouth. This spiritual contest that has been going on now for millennia is about to come to a spectacular conclusion. It can be compared to the last half of the ninth inning in a baseball game or the final two minutes of a professional football game. The whistle has blown, and HaSatan has been informed that the last 3 1/2 years are about to begin. Every bit of HaSatan’s energy will be used to destroying Israel, this planet, and all the people who live there. 

The Scriptures tell us that the dragon will bring a flood upon the land in an attempt to destroy Israel. Whether this is a literal flood or a flood of soldiers (HaSatan’s army), the attempt is foiled by God; however, there may be a massive loss of people! Zechariah, chapter 13, may be speaking of this occasion, and if that be true, verse 8 discloses that two-thirds of the nation will be struck down. Many that die could be those of different races living in Israel at that time, as opposed to those who are the blood line of the Jewish nation.

Some theologians believe that Israel’s flight (verse 14) may be made possible by the United States of America; however, this is strictly speculation. But God’s protection of Israel is certainly not dependent upon American support. God’s protection and His methods of protection are completely up to His sovereignty, whether they be natural or supernatural. But God’s divine protection of Israel from complete and ultimate destruction by the serpent is the clear teaching of this text. Before the chapter closes we find the dragon not only warring against the nation Israel but also turning against those Jews who have recognized Yeshua as the true Messiah and have embraced Him by faith.

The dragon was infuriated over the woman and went off to fight the rest of her children, those who obey God’s commands and bear witness to Yeshua.

The rest of her children are Messianic Believers who have come to salvation during the Tribulation. They obey God’s commands, not the 613 mitzvot but the Torah with the necessary changes (Hebrews 7:11, 8:6; Acts 15:22-28; Yochanan 13:34; Romans 13:8-10) that give us the Torah’s true meaning, which the Messiah upholds” (Galatians 6:2).

Then the dragon stood on the seashore; this phrase seems out of place.  You don’t typically end a sentence, let alone a chapter with a semi-colon.   Some versions place this verse at the beginning of 13:1 to accommodate a textual variation, “I stood upon the sand of the sea,” (KJV), referring to Yochanan. But better textual evidence in modern translations affirms the reading, “he [i.e., the dragon] stood.”

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 12:13-18[2]

Historicist Approach:

Historicists are divided over the interpretation of the persecution of the woman. Elliot interprets this as a severe decline in true piety and spiritual state of the church shortly after the triumph of Christianity in the Roman Empire.  The continuing warfare against the rest of her children as HaSatan’s efforts to subvert the doctrines on Augustine and Vigilantius.  Barnes sees the dragon as the papacy.  The woman’s flight is the disappearance into the obscurity of the uncompromised persecution of the papacy. Most view the flood and the earth’s intervention as God’s protection and preservation of the true remnant even against overwhelming odds.

Preterist Approach:

Preterists consider this passage regarding the escape of the Judean Church from the Edomite and Roman invasions during the Jewish War when Believers fled to shelter in the desert caves.  The flood is viewed similarly to the crossing of the Red Sea in Exodus.

Futurist Approach:

Some Futurists see this passage as a reminder of Exodus 19:4 and Deuteronomy 32:11-12.  There is a divergence of opinion on the flood.  Some see it as drowning out people out of their wilderness refuge. Others see it as “evil teachings…in contrast to the water of life given by Yeshua.” Still others as the overflowing horde of men and weapons sent after the Jews in the wilderness by the beast.

Idealist Approach:

Idealists tend to support the Futurists views on this passage.

In my next post, we will explore Revelation 13:1-4 dealing with The Beast from the Sea.

Click here for PDF version.

[1] Halley’s Bible Handbook: Deluxe Edition.

[2] Material in this post is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg. Notations in brackets, if any, are my comments.

War in Heaven

Revelation 12:7-12
The End Times

In my last post, we explored Revelation 12:1-6 dealing with The Birth of the Male Child.  In this post, unpack Revelation 12:7-12, War in Heaven.

“Next there was a battle in heaven — Mikha’el and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But it was not strong enough to win so that there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 The great dragon was thrown out, that ancient serpent, also known as the Devil and HaSatan [the Adversary], the deceiver of the whole world. He was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him. 10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, “Now have come God’s victory, power and kingship, and the authority of his Messiah; because the Accuser of our brothers, who accuses them day and night before God, has been thrown out! 11 They defeated him because of the Lamb’s blood and because of the message of their witness. Even when facing death they did not cling to life. 12 “Therefore, rejoice, heaven and you who live there! But woe to you, land and sea, for the Adversary, has come down to you, and he is very angry because he knows that his time is short!” ~ Revelation 12:7-12 (CJB)

War in Heaven

Wow, what is this imagery all about?  This conflict between Mikha’el and his angels and HaSatan and his fallen angels, like so many events described during this interval, does not follow any chronological order. In this particular battle, we are told that Mikha’el and his angels cast the HaSatan out of heaven. HaSatan had already, fallen from his lofty position (Isaiah 14:12), but still had access to the throne of God (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7). But now HaSatan is booted out of heaven entirely and is hurled to the earth. Mikha’el is a warrior angel whose name means “One who is like God.” It is believed by many that his primary responsibility is that of protector of the nation of Israel.

David H. Stern, in his commentary on this passage, has some fascinating background information for us to digest. [1]

In traditional Jewish thought, angels are a Christian invention reflecting a departure from pure monotheism. Angels are frequently mentioned in the Tanakh, although Mikha’el and Gavri’el (Gabriel) are the only ones it identifies by name. Post-Tanakh Judaism developed an elaborate angelology.

At Daniel 10:13, after Daniel had fasted three weeks, Gavri’el explains his delay in coming: “The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me for twenty-one days, until Mikha’el, one of the first-ranked angels, came to my aid, and I was no longer needed there with the kings of Persia.” At Daniel 10:21, Gavriʾel tells Daniel about “Mikha’el, your prince”; and “your” is plural – Mikha’el is the Jewish people’s prince or guardian angel, who fights alongside Gavriʾel against the angels of Persia and Greece. Daniel 12:1, speaking of the End of Days, adds, “At that time Mikha’el, the great prince who stands [guard] for the children of your people, will arise; and there will be a period of trouble greater than any which has been from the time nations began until then; but at that time your people—that is, everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.” (This verse is alluded to at Revelation 20:15 and Matthew 24:21.) Here Mikha’el is seen with his heavenly armies, defeating the dragon.

The aggadah [the legendary and Midrashic material woven about the Tanakh] names many other angels, for example, Rafa’el and ‘Aza’zel, referred to in the quotation from 1 Enoch in 2 Kefa 2:4. Moreover, the tradition expands the roles of Mikha’el and Gavri’el. According to Pesikta Rabbati 46:3, they are two of the four angels surrounding God’s throne; but the Talmud states that Mikha’el is greater than Gavri’el (Bʾrakhot 4b). Mikha’el was the angel who called on Avraham not to sacrifice Yitzchak (Midrash Va-Yosha in A. Jellinek, Beit-HaMidrash 1:38, referring to Genesis 22:11). According to Exodus Rabbah 18:5, it was Mikha’el who smote Sennacherib and the Assyrian army (2 Kings 19:35); the passage adds that:

Mikha’el and Samma’el [identified with HaSatan] both stand before the Sh’khinah; HaSatan accuses, while Mikha’el points out Israel’s virtues, and when HaSatan wishes to speak again, Mikha’el silences him.”

Esther Rabbah 7:12 says it was Mikha’el who defended the Jews against each of Haman’s accusations. When the Messiah comes, Mikha’el and Gavri’el will accompany him and will fight the wicked (Alphabet Midrash of Rabbi Akiva).

“Next there was a battle in heaven — Mikha’el and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But it was not strong enough to win so that there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 The great dragon was thrown out, that ancient serpent, also known as the Devil and HaSatan [the Adversary], the deceiver of the whole world. He was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him.  This conflict between Mikha’el and the HaSatan is but one more battle in the long line of battles that have been fought in the spirit world. One needs to realize that behind every conflict between people there is a spiritual war that has been going on from the beginning. M. R. DeHaan explains it this way: [2]

After man had sinned and God had pronounced the curse and sentence upon the sinner, He turned to the serpent, and through the serpent to the devil, and said: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel (Gen. 3:15). This was the beginning of the conflict, the battle of the ages, in which HaSatan seeks to thwart the purpose of God, set up a false kingdom upon earth, prepare a false church upon the earth and persecute the true believers of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is well to recognize that behind all the wars of men and of nations is the great spiritual battle between sin and righteousness, between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, as described in Genesis 3:15.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying,  “Now have come God’s victory, power and kingship,  and the authority of his Messiah; because the Accuser of our brothers, who accuses them day and night before God,  has been thrown out! 11 They defeated him because of the Lamb’s blood and because of the message of their witness.  Even when facing death they did not cling to life. 12 “Therefore, rejoice, heaven and you who live there!  But woe to you, land and sea, for the Adversary has come down to you, and he is very angry, because he knows that his time is short!” There is definite rejoicing going on in heaven. HaSatan, the accuser of the brethren, is cast down. Even though this battle is still in the future, there is a message worth chronicling for the Messianic Community. The same serpent who accuses the saints in heaven also deceives the nations on earth. It is through HaSatan’s deception that the leaders of the nation’s band together against Yeshua and His people. Believers in every age can expect the world’s opposition, but they can always defeat the enemy by being faithful to Yeshua. Note in verse 11 how the saints on earth won the victory over HaSatan.

  1. By the blood of the Lamb.
  2. By the word of their testimony.
  3. And they loved not their lives unto the death (martyrdom).

As verse 12 closes, HaSatan knows that his time is short!  Realizing that his days are numbered, he attacks Israel and all other believers with a vengeance.

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 12:7-12[3]

Historicist Approach:

Historicists don’t seem very united on this passage. Elliott refers to heretical persecutors arising from within the church and to the Gothic scourge soon to come.  Barnes, however, believes it is referring to the rise of the Papacy.

Preterist Approach:

Preterists seem to think that Mikha’el is Yeshua Himself and pinpoint this heavenly battle at the time of His atonement and resurrection (cf. John 12:31, Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14-15).

Futurist Approach:

Futurists look to Daniel 12:1ff as the same event described here in the middle of the Tribulation. Since he is cast out of heaven, he can no longer accuse the saints there but continues his attack on the Tribulation saints on earth.

Idealist Approach:

Idealists view this passage as the same spiritual conflict as depicted in Revelation 12:1-6 (see my last post) from the heavenly perspective. They concur with the Preterists view of the timing and symbolism of Mikha’el.

In my next post, we will explore Revelation 12:13-17 dealing with The Woman Persecuted, But Preserved.

Click here for PDF version.

 

[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary by David H. Stern

[2] A Layman’s Commentary on Revelation by Don Jones

[3] Material in this post is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg. Notations in brackets, if any, are my comments.

The Birth of the Male Child

Revelation 12:1-6
The End Times

In my last post, we explored Revelation 11:15-19 dealing with the Seventh Shofar.  In this post, we begin to explore Revelation 12 by unpacking verses 1-6, The Birth of the Male Child.

“Now a great sign was seen in heaven — a woman clothed with the sun, under her feet the moon, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2 She was pregnant and about to give birth, and she screamed in the agony of labor. 3 Another sign was seen in heaven: there was a great red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, and on its head’s were seven royal crowns. 4 Its tail swept a third of the stars out of heaven and threw them down to the earth. It stood in front of the woman about to give birth so that it might devour the child the moment it was born. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, the one who will rule all the nations with a staff of iron. But her child was snatched up to God and his throne; 6 and she fled into the desert, where she has a place prepared by God so that she can be taken care of for 1,260 days.” ~ Revelation 12:1-6 (CJB)

Up to this point, the Seals and Shofars carried the story forward to the final judgment, dealing largely with the fate of the world. In chapter 12 the writer returns to the starting place and in another series of visions to portray things previously omitted, relating chiefly to the fate of those who refuse to repent.

Before we take an in-depth look at the main characters in this act, let’s briefly identify them.

The Woman

The woman is not Miryam, Yeshua’s mother, but Israel, in its normal sense, the Jewish people, because the imagery is from Isaiah 66:7-10 (also compare Isaiah 26:17, Micah 4:10).  The imagery is like the sun, moon, and 11 stars that bowed down to Joseph in his dream (Genesis 37:9-11). We see Isaiah’s prediction (Isaiah 66:7-8) of a woman (Israel) bringing forth a man child fulfilled.

The Child

The child is Yeshua, the one who will rule all the nations with a staff of iron.  This imagery is taken from Psalm 2, in its entirety about the Messiah, is also quoted at Revelation 2:26-27 and 19:15.

The Red Dragon

The Red Dragon is HaSatan, the Adversary; its seven heads and ten horns also equate it with the “fourth beast” of Daniel 7:7, 24. It stood in front of the woman, opposing Yeshua, ready to devour the child the moment it was born.

The Birth of the Male Child

Now a great sign was seen in heaven — a woman clothed with the sun, under her feet the moon, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.  She was pregnant and about to give birth, and she screamed in the agony of labor. Chapter Twelve reveals the ongoing battle between God and Satan that has been constant throughout history. The writer is exhibiting a panoramic view of the events, people and powers which are involved in this vast spiritual warfare. Yochanan begins with a flashback into history. The only interpretation that makes sense is that the woman in this passage is synonymous with Israel. This interpretation is in keeping with many Old Testament passages. Oliver Greene writes:

The woman is not actually in Heaven—but upon the earth. The sign is in Heaven, but the birth takes place right here on this earth. This woman, clothed in the most unusual attire anyone could ever wear, is Israel. Do you remember when Joseph had his memorable dream in the Old Testament days, he saw the sun, the moon, and stars bowing down to him (Gen. 37). This was a prophetic picture pointing to his exaltation after he had been sold into Egyptian slavery by his wicked brethren. It was also a prophetic picture of the nation Israel. Joseph was sold into captivity, scattered to the four corners of the earth, suppressed and persecuted by Gentiles. Even in recent years, Israel has been persecuted by modern Pharaoh’s, some of whom were Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and Eichman. They did their best to wipe out Israel, but they are gone, and Israel is still here! [1]

The supernatural child which Israel brought into the world had the authority to sit upon the throne of David and to be Israel’s sovereign ruler, but the representatives of the nation rejected their King and brought about His crucifixion. Their rejection has and will continue to bring about unutterable anguish (verse 2). They will finally see the error of their way and turn to Him, crying out for His return and their deliverance.

Another sign was seen in heaven: there was a great red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, and on its head’s were seven royal crowns. 4 Its tail swept a third of the stars out of heaven and threw them down to the earth. It stood in front of the woman about to give birth so that it might devour the child the moment it was born.  Yochanan goes back in time to recount the fall of Lucifer. Originally, Lucifer served God as one of His foremost mighty angels. Because of pride Satan and one -third of the angels in heaven rebelled against God and God cast them down to the earth. (Isaiah 14:12; Ezekiel 28:11-15). After his fall, Lucifer comes to be known by many names; he is given at least seven titles and subtitles here in Chapter Twelve alone.

  1. Dragon (verse 3)
  2. Devourer (verse 4)
  3. Serpent (verse 9)
  4. Devil (verse 9)
  5. Satan [Adversary] (verse 9)
  6. Deceiver (verse 9)
  7. Accuser (verse 10)

It is known from passages such as Genesis 6:1-6; 2 Kefa 2:4; Jude 6; and 1 Kefa 3:18-20, that there were angels who deserted the purpose for which God had created them. Some of these angels, no doubt, are confined to the bottomless pit while others are serving with HaSatan, even now, to accomplish his purposes.

The seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven royal crowns represent HaSatan’s dominion as the prince of this fallen world and efforts toward universal dominion. He is the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4), prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2), and the prince of this world (John 12:31) ~ but he is not God. He is not all-powerful, he is not everywhere, nor does he know everything. He swept a third of the stars out of heaven and threw them down to the earth, which may signify his power to marshal the hosts of the unseen world against the saints of God.

She gave birth to a son, a male child, the one who will rule all the nations with a staff of iron. But her child was snatched up to God and his throne; and she fled into the desert, where she has a place prepared by God so that she can be taken care of for 1,260 days. Yochanan is now looking at events that occurred during his lifetime, while for us, these events are history, having occurred nearly two thousand years ago. This verse focuses on three things about Yeshua:

  1. His incarnation: She gave birth to a son, a male child.
  2. His ascension: Her child was snatched up to God and his throne.
  3. His kingdom: Who will rule all the nations with a staff of iron.

Keep in mind that Yochanan is not concerned with recording a chronological view of history, but that his readers can envision the total picture. The image revealed to us in Chapter Twelve spotlights Israel.

During this interval, we have now been introduced to five of the seven principal characters who play a significant role in the last half of the tribulation. In Chapter Eleven the two witnesses, Elijah and Moses or Enoch are introduced. In Chapter Twelve, verses one through five, there appears a woman clothed with the sun, who is Israel; the red dragon, better known as HaSatan; and a male child, who is Yeshua. Before continuing with the action, Yochanan connects this prophecy so that we will not get lost! Verse six coincides with chapter 11:1-2. The 1,260 days of Revelation 12:6 is the same as the 42 months in Revelation 11:1-2. Before Yochanan introduces the last two characters, the beasts of chapter 13, he recounts a fascinating event that occurs in heaven.

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 12:1-6[2]

Historicist Approach:

Historicists see the first series of visions contained in chapters 4-11 concerned with the outward state of the church.  This second series of visions recorded in 12-19 covers the same time frame interested in the internal affairs of the church.  The woman is the true church. The male child is seen as the body politic raised to a dominant power.  The dragon fits the image of any heathen persecutor, Imperial Rome.  The child was snatched up to God and his throne symbolizes the enthronement of Constantine over the entire empire in 324 CE.

Preterist Approach: 

At this point, two groups of Preterists part company on their interpretation of the material.  One group believes that the remaining chapters through chapter 19 continue the prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem.  The second group believes that Babylon is the city of Rome and that the destruction of Jerusalem is already complete.  There is little disagreement as for the identity of the woman ( a faithful remnant of Israel); the dragon (a combination of all four of the beasts in Daniel 7); and, the male child (Yeshua).

Futurist Approach:

Most Futurists take the woman to be Israel and the male child to be Yeshua.  Since he named in verse 9, there is little difficulty in identifying the dragon with HaSatan.  The prevailing opinion of 1,260 days is the second half of the seventieth week of Daniel 9:24-27 and corresponds to the final three and one-half years before Yeshua’s Second Coming.

Idealist Approach:

Idealists view the main characters of our passage similar to that of the Preterists and Futurists.

In my next post, we will explore Revelation 12:7-12 dealing with War in Heaven.

Click here for PDF version.

[1] A Layman’s Commentary on Revelation by Don Jones.

 

[2] Material in this post is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg. Notations in brackets, if any, are my comments.