End Game: Part 12, Cosmic Conflict – Revelation 12-14

“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” (Revelation 12:10-11, NIV).

The main figures described in these chapters are commonly interpreted like this: The woman symbolizes Israel. The dragon symbolizes Satan. The man-child refers to Jesus. The angel Michael is head of the angelic host. The offspring of the woman symbolizes Gentiles who come to faith in the Tribulation. The beast out of the sea symbolizes the antichrist. The beast out of the earth symbolizes the false prophet who promotes the antichrist.

These chapters describe a rebellion against God that is certainly of epochal or universal proportions. This world and humanity are the battleground for this cosmic conflict (see Revelation 13:6-8). Some biblical scholars and commentators even interpret the dragon’s defeat and ejection from heaven as referring to the incarnation, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus (cf. Luke 10:18, John 12:31).

Two principles frame this apocalyptic presentation of ultimate evil and rebellion in God’s created order:

  • The events of this world are decreed and managed in heaven. Ultimate control and supreme authority over the universe emanate from the throne room of God, the unseen Kingdom of Heaven where God resides and rules over the universe.
  • The evil that exists in this world is of cosmic proportions. The evil of this world transcends earthly events and its fundamental nature is ultimate insubordination to the dominion of God’s Kingdom and authority. In other words, evil is fundamentally a spiritual issue and must be addressed in the spiritual realm.

Because God’s Kingdom is the ruling power and government of the universe, God’s judicial system requires supreme restitution for the crime of rebellion. God unequivocally meets the legal requirements of His own justice system in Christ. Christ has come to defeat the rebellion of Satan and those of humanity who join Satan in this rebellion against God’s Kingdom: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (I John 3:8b, NIV).

The mastermind of this ultimate rebellion, Satan, has enjoined humanity in his sedition and so we live in a world in rebellion against its own Creator.  This world is a spiritual battlefield in which the lesser forces of evil attempt to thwart the legal rule and reign of the supreme Creator over His created order and over human hearts and souls.

Fortunately, God implemented a comprehensive strategic plan from the beginning of time that provides liberation from this evil spiritual kingdom and membership in the Heavenly Kingdom. The citizens of God’s Kingdom are people who have renounced their citizenship that rebellious humanity retains in Satan’s evil kingdom and have sworn allegiance to King Jesus.

Jesus Christ has come once and for all as a sacrifice to establish a legal precedence in heaven for acquitting human beings who have joined in the satanic rebellion. Jesus will come a second time in authority to judge Satan and his kingdom and to sentence those of humanity who joined Satan in rebellion to God’s Kingdom

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

I John 4:4, NIV

Beyond Logic – A Commentary on Christmas

The word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14, ESV).

Harry Reasoner was a broadcast journalist for CBS Radio in the early 1960s. He teamed up with Mike Wallce in the 1970s to create the CBS news magazine show, 60 Minutes. He later became anchor of the ABC Evening News, but after two years went back to CBS and 60 Minutes where he remained until he retired. Mr. Reasoner died in 1991.

Reasoner delivered a commentary on Christmas on his early radio program that he later delivered to a national audience on 60 Minutes and then later on ABC Evening News. This commentary has been reprinted many times and in several versions.

During this 2020 Christmas season I would like to share this Christmas commentary from the 20th century broadcast journalist Harry Reasoner:

It’s so revolutionary a thought that it probably could only come from a God that is beyond logic, and beyond theology.”

HARRY REASONER
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End Game: Part 11, A New Sheriff in Town – Revelation 11

“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were angry, and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your people who revere your name, both great and small—and for destroying those who destroy the earth.” (Revelation 11:17-18, NIV).

In the series of judgments described in Revelation 5-16– the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls of the wrath of God– there is always a break or intermission between the sixth and seventh judgment (Chapter 7-seals; Chapters 10-11-trumpets; the Chapter 12-14 interlude is before the sixth and seventh bowls in Chapter 16). Revelation 11 is a further elaboration of the interlude beginning in Chapter 10.

Chapter 11 opens with the measuring of the Temple of God. The idea of measuring communicates ownership, protection, and preservation. When this Temple is measured, it shows that God knows its every dimension.

It establishes that God is in charge of all things and all events on Earth now and in the future!

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End Game: Part 10, Good News/Bad News – Revelation 10

“So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, ‘Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey” (Revelation 10:9, NIV).

Inserted between the sixth and seventh trumpets is an interlude in Chapters 10-11. In the series of judgments described in Revelation 5-16– the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls of the wrath of God– there is always a break or intermission between the sixth and seventh judgment (Chapter 7-seals; Chapters 10-11-trumpets; the Chapter 12-14 interlude is before the sixth and seventh bowls in Chapter 16).

In the first part of this interlude John saw an angel he called a mighty angel coming down from heaven. The mighty angel planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land and gave a shout like the roar of a lion. John’s description of this mighty angel–rainbow above his head, face like the sun, shout like the roar of a lion–certainly represents the power of God and dominion over all creation in a way that is distinctive from most other angelic appearances.

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End Game: Part 9, Literally True – Revelation 8-9

“The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the side. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed” (Revelation 8:8-9, NIV).

The devastation caused by the eruption of the Laki volcanic fissure in Iceland in 1783 was felt globally for years after the event. The Laki eruption lasted for 8 months, emitting toxic gases that poisoned crops and killed 60 per cent of Iceland’s grazing livestock. The volcano released enough SO2 to cause acid rain and global temperatures to drop.

The eruption resulted in a famine that killed over 10,000 Icelandic people, roughly a quarter of the country’s population at the time. As Laki’s toxic eruption traveled south, it killed 23,000 in Britain and caused a famine in Egypt. Some environmental historians believe the European famine caused by the eruption may have been a catalyst for the French Revolution.

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End Game: Part 8, Revelation Hermeneutics – Revelation 8-16

Image from Revelation Diagram blog post by Bob Thune, http://www.bobthune.com/2011/04/revelation-diagram/

When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour” (Revelation 8:1, NIV).

At this point in Revelation John has witnessed Jesus open six of the seven seals of judgment seen on the scroll in heaven (Revelation 5:1–5). After the opening of the sixth seal and its consequences, John described the sealing of 144,000 Jewish believers, listed by their tribe. This was followed by a vision of an enormous crowd of people of every possible race and language, worshiping God in heaven (Revelation 7).

Then, the seventh seal was opened.

Now, in Revelation 8:1 there is silence in heaven.

This verse is a pivotal point that affects our understanding of the following chapters–our Revelation hermeneutics (interpretation of the text).

There are at least two ways to read and interpret the remainder of the Book of Revelation.

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End Game: Part 7, The Great Revival – Revelation 7

End Game: Part 7, The Great Revival – Revelation 7

“Then one of the elders asked me, ‘These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?’ I answered, ‘Sir, you know.’ And he said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’ (Revelation 7:13-14, NIV).

The opening of the seven-sealed scroll in Revelation Chapter 6-8 is the beginning of the end of the world as we know it! As each seal is opened, the scroll is unrolled a little more, revealing the series of judgments God has in store.

Revelation 7 is an interlude in the events taking place. This interruption in the apocalyptic events is to explain God’s program of grace and salvation during the coming tribulation. The “pause” may occur before the opening of the seals or after the first six seals have already run their course and before the seventh seal is opened. Either interpretation is consistent with the apocalypse as God’s final altar call.

The winds in 7:1 represent the already started judgment of Earth and the four angels who hold them back pause the Great Tribulation until God’s special servants can be sealed. These four angels appear to be holding back the physical destruction of Earth (or a portion of Earth) that occurs with the opening of the seventh seal.

The identification of the 144,000 in 7:4-8 has been much discussed. Most Bible scholars either regard the 144,000 as the church or as converted Jews who are still identified as Israelites in some manner.

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End Game: Part 6 Cont., Is the CoronaVirus Pandemic the Fulfillment of Revelation Prophecies? – Revelation 6

“When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, ‘Two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!’ When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth” (Revelation 6:5-8, NIV).

Right in the middle of a devotional series on the Book of Revelation that I have been posting the last several weeks, the world has suddenly been struck with a worldwide pandemic–the Coronavirus and a significant downturn in the global economy.

It almost seems providential that I just posted a devotional on the opening of the seven seals, which reveals a series of worldwide calamities that will take place at the beginning of the end of the world as we know it!

The third seal in Revelation 6 unleashes a rider on a black horse causing economic collapse across the world possibly due to drought and food shortages. During the opening of the fourth seal power is given to the rider of a pale horse over a fourth of the world to kill people by sword, famine and plague!

These prophecies seem to beg the question, “Is the CoronaVirus pandemic the fulfillment of end-time prophecies described in Revelation 6?

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End Game: Part 6, The Beginning of the End – Revelation 6

“Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?” (Revelation 6:15-17, NIV).

At this point in the Revelation story, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, is about to open or unseal a seven-sealed scroll, which is purported to be the title deed to the world. The seven seals are part of a series of end-times judgments from God.

The opening of the seven-sealed scroll in Revelation Chapter 6 is the beginning of the end of the world as we know it!

As each seal is opened, the scroll is unrolled a little more, revealing the series of judgments God has in store.  It’s likely that each of the calamities described with the opening of each seal leads to the next calamity.  Political corruption leads to war, which leads to economic collapse, which leads to pandemics and famine, which leads to the death of many, many people on the earth.

The opening of the first four of the seven seals release what is known as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, because the judgments appear symbolically as a horse and rider bringing devastation in their wake.

The first seal introduces the antichrist onto the scene as a rider of a white horse. He comes under the pretense of bringing peace to the world. He is given a crown indicating he will exercise great authority. But, the bow he holds reveals his intent on conquest.

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End Game: Part 5, The Worthy One – Revelation 5

Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals, and I saw a might angel proclaiming in a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?’(Revelation 5:1-2, NIV).

In Revelation Chapters 4 and 5 John received a sneak-peek into the heavenly throne room of God prior to viewing the apocalyptic events he will describe in Chapters 6-20.

Chapter 4 established that redemption is the grand master plan of God for the universe. Chapter 5 revealed the Worthy Redeemer, the One who consummates the redemption master plan.

Chapter 4 declared the worthiness of God for conceiving the great redemption plan. Chapter 5 proclaimed the worthiness of the Redeemer for accomplishing the great redemption plan!

After seeing God sitting on a throne continuously worshiped by twenty-four elders and four living creatures who surrounded the throne, John noticed that God was holding a scroll sealed with seven seals and with writing on both sides (inside and outside).

The symbolism here is fairly straightforward. The double-sided scroll represents the title deed to the inhabited world with the legal, signed title written and sealed on the inside and the abstract or description of the document written on the outside.

The seven seals signify the absolute inviolability of the scroll. Only the ones who had their seals engraved on a document were allowed to open it. And, the seals had to be broken before the contents of the scroll could be revealed.

The seven-sealed scroll establishes God’s intention to reclaim the world as the final act in his redemptive purpose. And, it becomes apparent that God’s redemptive efforts will include not only the final redemption of His people but also the judgment and overthrow of evil, specifically, the Devil or Satan, who has been in control of the world since the Fall in Genesis 3.

If we stand by this interpretation that the seven-sealed scroll represents the title deed to the world, then the opening of the seven seals represents precursors to the end of the world. God intends to reclaim a world which has been infiltrated by evil and the final stage of this reclamation will come with the climactic events described in Revelation 6-20.

Because it was a double-sided scroll with its description on the outside, John likely understood what the scroll contained. He was, therefore, deeply saddened as it seemed to him that no one had the supreme qualifications to execute it (vs. 3-4).

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