Running with hope


Demonstrating that you really don’t know what lies around the next corner (literally), drivers heading into downtown St. Paul today see this image of me running around Lake of the Isles.

Five years ago, I would have had trouble running to the end of the block.  But at my prosthetist’s encouragement, I was fitted with a running prosthesis and it has been great fun.  The leg works really well and I have been blessed to have run a couple thousand miles over the past few years.

Running was the one activity that I had missed not having a right foot.  As a teenager I would run the mile course near our house or around the high school track.  To be back on the running trail in this season of my life is an unexpected gift.

But there is more to come, and this is where I have fully set my hope.

Reading through the betrayal and arrest of Jesus last week, these sentences grabbed my attention:

“And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear.  But Jesus said, ”No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him.”  (Luke 22:50-51)

Imagine the scene.  Out comes the sword and in a moment some guy is looking at his ear on the ground.  The ear isn’t just damaged or mangled — it is gone.  What a shock it must have been for him to be separated from his ear.  But it is absolutely no trouble for Jesus to restore it.  He simply touches what was left and:  a new ear!  All of the intricate tissues and ligaments and skin were created anew and it was shaped just right so that sound could travel down his ear canal.

Those of us who belong to Jesus are looking ahead to the restoration of our bodies in the coming age.  He has promised it in His word and has given us demonstrations of His healing power while He walked on earth.  He can replace an ear and He can replace a right foot.  Complete healing awaits God’s children when our bodies are restored in the next life.

I am delighted and thankful to be able to run around Lake of the Isles with my prosthetic leg.  But one of the joys of eternity for me will be putting on a pair of shoes and running with two feet on a heavenly trail.

” . . . set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  1 Peter 1:13

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Letter to Radio Station RE: “Love Has Come” by Mark Schultz


Dave’s Letter to Praise FM Regarding the Song “Love Has Come” by Mark Schultz

Praise FM (95.3) “is a listener supported worship and prayer focused radio station serving the Twin Cities, Central Minnesota, Eastern South Dakota, South Eastern North Dakota and Africa through radio broadcasts, and serving the world through live internet broadcasts.” The following is a copy of a letter sent by Dave to Praise FM concerning the song, “Love Has Come,” by Mark Schultz.

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Dear Alex and David,

I really appreciate Praise FM. I’ve been listening for a little over a year and have found that your station really does usher me into God’s presence. I love to wake up to 95.3. Your ministry has been a blessing to me and a great encouragement to the Twin Cities and beyond.

Because your music and the commentary by the hosts is so Christ-centered, I felt like I wanted to send some feedback about a song that in my opinion does not line-up with the truth of the scriptures. The song is “Love Has Come” by Mark Schultz.

I’ve reprinted some of the lyrics below and want to suggest to you that they more closely resemble Universalism than they do the truth of the gospel. This repeated chorus, concerning the end of the age, is especially troubling:

Every heart set free, every one will see
God is love and love has come for us all

This statement leaves listeners with the impression that the end of the age will be a joyful and happy time for all people. Every heart will be set free when “love” comes for us all.

Jesus taught differently as I am sure you know. “Many” will enter the gate that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:14). Those who do not obey the Son shall not see life, but shall experience the wrath of God (John 3:36). Jesus will send some to eternal punishment (Matthew 25:46). That every heart will be set free at the end of the age is, in my opinion, a dangerously false statement.

This verse also stood out to me:

For anybody who has ever lost a loved one
And you feel like you had to let go too soon
I know it hurts to say goodbye
But don’t you know it’s just a matter of time till the tears are gonna end
You’ll see them once again and in that moment . . .

Again, it suggests to the listener that all people will be saved and reunited with loved ones at the end of the age. In reality, it is true only of those who belong to Christ.

Finally, this repeated verse takes great liberties with Philippians 2:10:

Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess
That God is love and love has come for us all

The text says “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” (ESV) To take the words of a familiar text and insert other words seems like a very wrong use of the Bible.

Thanks for considering my feedback. God bless you as you serve the Lord and encourage His people.

In Him,

Dave

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The lyrics to this song can be seen in full here.

Revelation 20: Post-millennial Viewpoint


Revelation 20: Post-millennial Viewpoint

Dave: January 27, 2010

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 20:1-15

Introduction (by Adam)

On January 27th, our Bible study group met as we usually do on a weekly basis, and studied Revelation 20, the classic text on “the Millennium.” That night three of us took a limited amount of time to present three different views of the Millennium: [1] premillennialism (Rod), [2] postmillennialism (Dave), and amillennialism (myself). This subject of the Millennium requires more coverage than we were able to give it in just one meeting, so we have turned this into a project of sorts, as I wrote in our Introduction and Outline of Revelation 20. That outline provides links to all of our (completed and pending) posts on the subject of the Millennium and Revelation 20. Neither Dave nor I hold to the post-millennial position, but this material is being presented in order to give coverage to multiple viewpoints. Both Dave and I lean toward the amillennial viewpoint. Following Dave’s information below, I will be adding some additional details from Sam Storms, the founder of Desiring God Ministries. Dave’s information will be in black font, and mine in maroon font.

Adam

Postmillennialism

Some helpful definitions:
“Postmillennialism expects the proclaiming of the Spirit-blessed gospel of Jesus Christ to win the vast majority of human beings to salvation in the present age. Increasing gospel success will gradually produce a time in history [which they identify with the “millennium”] prior to Christ’s return in which faith, righteousness, peace, and prosperity will prevail in the affairs of people and of nations. After an extensive era of such conditions the Lord will return visibly, bodily, and in great glory, ending history with the general resurrection and the great judgment of all humankind. Hence, our system is postmillennial in that the Lord’s glorious return occurs after an era of ‘millennial’ conditions” (Kenneth Gentry, “Postmillennialism,” in Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond, pp. 13-14).

“The postmillennial conception of victory is of a progressive cultural victory and expansive influence of Christianity in history. . . . The personal status of the believer and the corporate standing of the Church in salvation is . . . one of present victory – in principle. . . . The distinctive postmillennial view of Christianity’s progressive victory, in time and history, into all of human life and culture, is postmillennialism’s application of the doctrine of Christ’s definitively completed salvation” (“Whose Victory in History?” in Gary North, ed., Theonomy: An Informed Response [Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1991], p. 215).

Key Points:
• Christ will return after the Millennium
• The return of Christ is followed by the final judgment, the ultimate defeat of Satan, and the introduction of the eternal state
• Might be much longer than a literal 1000 years

Some characteristics of the coming Millennium:
• The effectiveness of the gospel will increase
• the vast majority of humanity will be won to Christ
• The world at large will experience a state of righteousness and peace, as will be reflected in economics, culture, politics, and world affairs
• Christian principles will be the rule in the world, rather than the exception
• Evil will be minimal
• Christ will return to a “Christianized” world

Key concept: The Kingdom of God
• The Kingdom is advancing and arriving on earth in degrees
• The advancement of the Kingdom is accomplished by the spread of the gospel
• After the great progress of the gospel, there will be a short time of Satanic activity and apostasy (Rev. 20:3 and 20:7)
Post-Millennium is distinctive in that it is optimistic about the current age.
Some Post-Millennialists believe that the Millennium began with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost; others believe it is on its way.

Key Texts:

[1] Matthew 13:31-33

[Jesus] put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”

[2] Matthew 28:18-20

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

[3] John 12:31-32 (Note: “all people” = “all”; see John 11:50-52)

Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

[4] John 16:33

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

[5] Acts 2:32-36, 41

This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’ Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified… So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

[6] 1 Corinthians 15:20-26

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a Man has come also the resurrection of the dead.For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at His coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

[7] Revelation 11:15

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying,”The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.”

Well-known Post-Millennialists:
• John Calvin
• George Whitefield
• Matthew Henry
• Jonathan Edwards
• John Owen

What aspects of Post-Millennialism are difficult to accept?

What about the Scripture passages above most supports the position of Post-Millennialism?

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The following information comes from Sam Storms, in an article titled “The Postmillennial Viewpoint of the Kingdom of God,” written on November 7, 2006. Sam Storms is an amillennialist who maintains a Historicist viewpoint on most of the book of Revelation, but shares a preterist (past fulfillment) view of the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21). He presents the postmillennialist viewpoint here fairly and quite thoroughly. At the end, he lists some of the weaknesses of the postmillennialist viewpoint, which I believe are important to note:

1. The Kingdom of God – The Kingdom of God, according to Postmillennialism (hereafter cited as PostM), is primarily the rule or reign of God spiritually in/over the hearts of men. Thus the kingdom is truly present in this age and is visibly represented by the church of Jesus Christ. In other words, the kingdom “arrives” and is “present” wherever and whenever men believe the gospel and commit themselves to the sovereignty of Jesus Christ as Lord. Several important features of the kingdom in PostM thought are:

a. The kingdom is not to be thought of as arriving instantaneously or wholly via some cataclysmic event at the end of the age (an event such as the second coming of Christ). Indeed, the very name POSTmillennialism indicates that Christ will return only after the kingdom has come in its fullness…

b. The means by which the kingdom extends itself is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The continuing spread and influence of the gospel will increasingly, and in direct proportion thereto, introduce the kingdom. This gradual (but constantly growing) success of the gospel will be brought about by the power of the [Holy Spirit] working through the Church. Eventually the greater part, but not necessarily all, of the world’s population will be converted to Christ. As Greg Bahnsen explains, “the essential distinctive of postmillennialism is its scripturally derived, sure expectation of gospel prosperity for the church during the present age,” (“The Prima Facie Acceptability of Postmillennialism,” in The Journal of Christian Reconstruction, III, Winter 1976-77, p. 66). This point is best seen in the PostM interpretation of Revelation 19, a chapter which Amillennialists and Premillennialists understand to be a description of Christ’s coming at the end of the age. B. B. Warfield, a PostM, writes as follows:

“The section opens with a vision of the victory of the Word of God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords over all His enemies. We see Him come forth from heaven girt for war, followed by the armies of heaven. . . . The thing symbolized is obviously the complete victory of the Son of God over all the hosts of wickedness. . . . The conquest is wrought by the spoken word—in short, by the preaching of the gospel. . . . What we have here, in effect, is a picture of the whole period between the first and second advents, seen from the point of view of heaven. It is the period of advancing victory of the Son of God over the world. . . . A progressively advancing conquest of the earth by Christ’s gospel implies a coming age deserving at least the relative name of ‘golden,’” (B.B. Warfield, “The Millennium and the Apocalypse,” in Biblical Doctrines, pp. 647-648, 662).

c. At what point, then, does the “millennium” begin? Postmillennialists differ: some say the millennium covers the entire inter-advent age (i.e., the whole period of time between Christ’s first and second comings), whereas others conceive of the present age as in some sense blending or merging into the millennium. In other words, some PostMs see the millennial kingdom as present throughout the whole of the current age whereas others reserve the word millennium for the latter day, publicly discernible, prosperity of the Christian Church.

d. This ever-increasing success of the gospel will bring in its wake a reduction (although not a total elimination) of the influence and presence of sin. Righteousness, peace, and prosperity will flourish. Thus, writes Bahnsen, “over thelong range the world will experience a period of extraordinary righteousness and prosperity as the church triumphs in the preaching of the gospel and discipling the nations through the supernatural agency of the Holy Spirit,” (Ibid., p. 63).

Davis adds this important point: “It should be understood that the postmillennial perspective provides a forecast for the global and long-term prospects of Christianity, but not for the local, short-term prospects of denominations or churches in the nation. . . . [Thus] the merits of the argument for the postmillennial perspective are not to be tied to the judgments about the present or near-term prospects of the Christian church in America.”

e. The gospel will also sustain a positive influence in every sphere of society: the economic, political, and cultural life of mankind will be vastly improved. Therefore, this triumph or victory of the Church in the present age is not simply the spiritual/invisible victories in the Christian’s heart or the internal blessings privately experienced by the Church. The prosperity is such as will be visibly and publicly acknowledged. Every domain of human activity will be renewed according to Christian principles and thus brought into service for the glory of Jesus Christ. As Boettner expressed it above, “Christ will return to a truly Christianized world.”

f. At the end of the present age, that is, after the kingdom has spread visibly and powerfully throughout the world but just before Christ returns, there will be a brief time of increased Satanic activity and apostasy. This final rebellion will be crushed by the glorious return of Jesus Christ to the earth, at which time there will immediately follow the general resurrection, final judgment, and eternal state.

g. “In short, postmillennialism is set apart from the other two schools of thought [premillennialism and amillennialism] by its essential optimism for the kingdom in the present age,” (Bahnsen, Ibid., p. 66).

(NOTE: it should also be mentioned that many PostMs believe as do most Premillennialists that a mass conversion will occur among ethnic Israelites. Of course, unlike the Dispensational Premillennialists the PostM denies that this salvation of physical Israel has for its purpose a restoration of the nation in a future earthly millennium.)

2. Biblical Texts cited in support of Postmillennialism

(1) In the OT – Num. 14:21; Psalms 2:6-9; 22:27-28; 47; 72:8-11; 110:1-2; 138:4-5 (cf. 102:15); Isa. 2:2-4; 9:6-7; 11:6-10; 45:22-25; 65; 66; Jer. 31:31-34; Daniel 2:31-35; Zech. 9:9f.; 13:1; 14:9.

(2) In the NT – Matt. 13:31-33; 28:18-20; John 12:31-32; 16:33; I John 2:13-14; 3:8; 4:4,14; 5:4-5; Acts 2:32-36,41;Rom. 11:25-32; I Cor. 15:20-26, 57-58; Hebrews 1:8-9,13; 2:5-9; Rev. 2:25-27; 3:7-9; 7:9-10; 11:15; 19:11-21.

Storms, in his “Summary of Postmillennialism,” then includes this partial quote from Greg Bahnsen (underlined emphasis added):

The postmillennialist is in this day marked out by his belief that the commission and resources are with the kingdom of Christ to accomplish the discipling of the nations to Jesus Christ prior to His second advent; whatever historical decline is seen in the missionary enterprise of the church and its task of edifying or sanctifying the nations in the word of truth must be attributed, not to anything inherent in the present course of human history, but to the unfaithfulness of the church,” (Bahnsen, Ibid., p. 68).

Storms continues a bit later by naming advocates of postmillennialism in earlier and modern church history:

C. The Advocates of Postmillennialism

Postmillennialism, according to its modern advocates, was far more widespread in centuries preceding our own. Among those whom they say were postmillennialists include, in no particular order, the following: John Calvin(?), Theodore Beza, Peter Martyr Vermigli, Martin Bucer, John Owen, Thomas Boston, William Perkins, Thomas Manton, John Flavel, Richard Sibbes, Samuel Rutherford, William Gouge, Jonathan Edwards(?), Matthew Henry, John Cotton, George Whitefield, Archibald Alexander, Charles Hodge, Joseph A. Alexander, A. A. Hodge, C. W. Hodge, Robert L. Dabney, William G. T. Shedd, Augustus H. Strong, Benjamin B. Warfield, J. Gresham Machen, James Henley Thornwell, Patrick Fairbairn, Robert Baillie, Stephen Charnock, Samuel Hopkins, Robert Haldane, David Brown, E. W. Hengstenberg, John Murray(?), Greg Bahnsen, Rousas John Rushdoony, Gary North, and Kenneth Gentry.

D. Varieties of Postmillennialism

1. Classical Postmillennialism – See John Jefferson Davis,Christ’s Victorious Kingdom: Postmillennialism Reconsidered (Baker, 1986); Lorraine Boettner, The Millennium (P&R, 1957); J. Marcellus Kik, An Eschatology of Victory (P&R, 1971); and Jonathan Edwards, Apocalyptic Writings, Vol. 5 (Yale University Press, 1977).

2. Reconstructionist or Theonomic Postmillennialism – See the article (Democracy as Heresy)as well as the books in the Bibliography by Bahnsen, Chilton, Rushdoony, North, and Demar [Adam’s note: I’m not sure what bibliography Storms is referring to, as there is none in this post].

E. Misconceptions of Postmillennialism

Why has PostM received such bad reviews? Why has it, at least in the twentieth-century, been so casually dismissed by most conservative evangelicals? The answer is found in taking note of several misconceptions and misrepresentations of PostM.

1. Postmillennialism has been mistakenly linked and often identified with belief in the inherent goodness of man. This has occurred despite the fact that the vast majority of postmillennialists of today (and perhaps even in the past) are Calvinists [Adam’s note: who believe in the doctrine of total depravity]. The result is that postmillennialism has been perceived as teaching that the kingdom of God would be ushered in by human effort alone, independently of the Holy Spirit. Even a scholar as astute as Kenneth Kantzer has recently fallen prey to this error. In his concluding observations to the debate in the Christianity Today Institute, he writes: “The greatest weakness of postmillennialism is its failure to take seriously the biblical pessimism regarding man’s efforts apart from God.” But not one evangelical postmillennial scholar has ever suggested that the kingdom of God can be advanced by “man’s efforts apart from God.” This sort of misrepresentation must end. What postmillennialists do affirm is what they see as “the biblical optimism regarding man’s efforts through God.”

2. Related to the above is the fact that postmillennialism has been mistakenly identified with the notion of evolutionary optimism and other secular notions of historical progress. This view, writes Boettner, “presents a spurious or pseudo Postmillennialism, and regards the Kingdom of God as the product of natural laws in an evolutionary process, whereas orthodox Postmillennialism regards the Kingdom of God as the product of the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit in connection with the preaching of the Gospel.”

3. Postmillennialism has been mistakenly identified with theological liberalism and the so-called “social gospel”. Thus the kingdom it espoused came to be perceived as some sort of secular utopia that replaced the return of Jesus as the true hope of the church… Hope for this earth that is inspired by belief in the power of the Holy Spirit fulfilling the redemptive purposes of God through His church must never be confused with a hope inspired by belief in the power of human legislation, education and moral reform. Not all Christians, though, have been able to distinguish between the two…

4. Postmillennialism has been mistakenly charged with teaching salvific universalism. Whereas postmillennialists do indeed look forward to a day in which vast numbers shall turn to faith in Jesus Christ, at no time do they expect that all will be converted or that sin will be entirely eliminated prior to the eternal state. Evangelical postmillennialists believe no less fervently than premillennialists and amillennialists in the doctrine of hell and the irreversible damnation of those who die without Christ. Let us not forget that Jonathan Edwards, author of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” was himself a postmillennialist of the highest order…

F. Weaknesses of Postmillennialism

1. Postmillennialism minimizes one of the primary experiences that will characterize the church and all Christians throughout this present age: suffering with Christ.

E.g., consider 2 Corinthians 4:7-12. Here Paul “effectively distances himself from the (postmil-like) view that the (eschatological) life of (the risen and ascended) Jesus embodies a power/victory principle that progressively ameliorates and reduces the suffering of the church. . . . Until the resurrection of the body at his return Christ’s resurrection-life finds expression in the church’s sufferings (and . . . nowhere else–so far as the existence and calling of the church are concerned); the locus of Christ’s ascension-power is the suffering church” (Richard Gaffin, “Theonomy and Eschatology: Reflections on Postmillennialism,” in Theonomy: A Reformed Critique [Zondervan, 1990], 212).

See also Romans 8:17-18. How long will this experience of suffering with Christ last? How long will the groaning under the weight of weakness last? According to vv. 19,21,23, it will last until the day of our redemption, the return of Christ. Says Gaffin: “Until then, at Christ’s return, the suffering/futility/decay principle in creation remains in force, undiminished (but sure to be overcome); it is an enervating factor that cuts across the church’s existence, including its mission, in its entirety. The notion that this frustration factor will be demonstrable reduced, and the church’s suffering service noticeably alleviated and even compensated, in a future era before Christ’s return is not merely foreign to this passage; it trivializes as well as blurs both the present suffering and future hope/glory in view. Until his return, the church remains one step behind its exalted Lord; his exaltation means its (privileged) humiliation, his return (and not before), its exaltation” (214-15)… “as Paul reminds the church just a few verses after the Romans 8 passage considered above (v. 37), not ‘beyond’ or ‘[only] after’ but ‘in all these things’ (‘trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword,’ v. 35), ‘we are more than conquerors.’ Until Jesus comes again, the church ‘wins’ by ‘losing’” (216).

Gaffin concludes: “Any outlook that tends to remove or obscure the (constitutive) dimension of suffering for the Gospel from the present triumph of the church is an illusion. The misplaced expectation, before Christ’s return, of a ‘golden age’ in which, in contrast to the present, opposition to the church will have been reduced to a minimum and suffering will have receded to the periphery for an (at last) ‘victorious’ Christendom — that misconception can only distort the church’s understanding of its mission in the world. According to Jesus, the church will not have drained the shared cup of his sufffering until he returns. The church cannot afford to evade that point. It does so at the risk of jeopardizing its own identity” (217-18).

Kenneth Gentry responds to Gaffin by insisting that the “suffering” in view in these texts need not be generalized beyond the experience of the apostles and the first century church. He does not argue that suffering connected with indwelling sin and creaturely mortality will be eradicated, but he does insist that, as external opposition to the gospel progressively diminishes, suffering for the faith (i.e., persecution) will be reduced to negligible proportions.

2. Postmillennialism undermines the NT emphasis on the church’s imminent expectation of Christ’s return. That is to say, PostM undermines the element of watchfulness that is essential to the NT church. See 1 Cor. 16:22; Rom. 13:11-12; Phil. 4:5; Js. 5:8; 1 Pt. 4:7; 1 Jn. 2:18; Rev. 1:3; 22:20.

3. The OT identifies the “golden” age of consummate success and triumph with the New Heavens and New Earth which come only after the millennium of Rev. 20 (Rev. 21-22). [Adam’s note: Storms’ objection in this case is a classic Historicist viewpoint. My view on this particular viewpoint is different, which will be seen in our study of Revelation 21 (pending).]

4. The NT seems to anticipate that the number of those saved when Christ returns will not be as great as the PostM suggests, and that conditions will be decidedly bad, not good. See Mt. 7:13-14; Lk. 18:8; 2 Thess. 2:3-4; 2 Tim. 3:1-5,12-13; 4:3-4. In the parable of the Tares in Mt. 13:36-43 “Jesus taught that evil people will continue to exist alongside of God’s redeemed people until the time of harvest. The clear implication of this parable is that Satan’s kingdom, if we may call it that, will continue to exist and grow as long as God’s kingdom grows, until Christ comes again” (Hoekema).

5. PostM’s interpretation of Rev. 19-20 seems forced and artificial. See the later lesson for an exegesis of these texts.

6. Scripture (esp. the NT) nowhere explicitly teaches the progressive and eventual wholesale reconstruction of society (arts, economics, politics, courts, education, etc.) according to Christian principles prior to Christ’s return. Of course, there may be relative success in this regard in isolated instances…

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All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.

Revelation Chapter 18


REVELATION 18

Dave: December 10, 2009

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 18:1-24

This post begins with a study prepared by Dave, in black font. Dave has asked a number of very good questions. Feel free to take on these questions in the “Comments” section. An additional study has been prepared by Adam, and is in maroon font below Dave’s study.

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Do you see any words or phrases that remind you of other things we have studied in Revelation?

  • An angel with a mighty voice (see Rev. 10:1)
  • “kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality with her” (Rev. 17:2)
  • Babylon was arrayed like the prostitute (Rev. 18:16 and 17:4)
  • The great city (Rev. 11:2, 8; see also 18:2, 10, 16, 18, 19, 21)
  • Babylon was full of the blood of prophets and saints (Rev. 18:24 and 16:4-6, 17:6; cf. Matt. 23:29-38)
  • Babylon’s self-sufficiency is similar to what John wrote of the Laodicean church (Rev. 18:7 and 3:17)

What recurring themes or words do you see in chapter 18?

  • Sexual immorality (verses 3 and 9)
  • Unclean (verse 2)
  • Luxury/riches/wealth ( verses 3, 7, 9, 14, 19)
  • The great city (verses 2, 10, 16, 18, 19, 21)
  • Saints, apostles, prophets (verses 20 and 24)
  • Famine, death, judgment, and morning (verses 8, 9, 10, 15, 19)

What are the major contrasts in chapter 18?

  • [A] Luxury/wealth/riches/greatness vs. [B] plagues/death/mourning/famine
  • [A] Sexual immorality (verses 3 and 9) vs. [B] standing far off (verse 10)
  • [A] Rejoicing (on the part of the saints, in verse 20) and [B] weeping and mourning (on the part of the merchants, in verse 11)
  • [A] Wealth/greatness/industry/splendor vs. [B] desolation/darkness

Do any questions jump out at you when you read Chapter 18?

  • Who is Babylon?
  • If Babylon is a city, why are the seven churches in Asia (the recipients of the letter) told to “come out of her”?  The saints who are being written to are nowhere near this city. Is something else meant other than physically removing one’s self from a particular city?
  • Can the admonition from the voice of heaven in verse 4 have an application to us here in Minneapolis in the year 2009-2010?
  • In verse 7, Babylon declares, “I am no widow…” What is meant by this attitude?
  • Who are the Bride and the Bridegroom in verse 23?

What are some lessons that we can take from Chapter 18?

  • Riches are not a universal indication of God’s approval.  Babylon had great wealth but God brought upon her plagues, famine, destruction, desolation and death.  Her death is celebrated in heaven.  Financial prosperity can be very dangerous.
  • Rev. 18 helps us to persevere when we see the temporary prosperity of the wicked and godless.  See also Psalm 37 and Psalm 73.
  • We need to be wary of our associations.  “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins” (verse 4).

What do we know about Babylon?

  • Her fall is sudden  (verses 10, 17, 19).
  • Her fall is permanent (verse 22).
  • She had been a wealthy, prominent, and influential city (verses 11-17).
  • Other leaders and traders are grieved (verses 9, 11, 15, 17).
  • Holy prophets and saints rejoice (verses 20 and 24).

Which of the above lend credence to Babylon being Rome?

Which lend credence to Babylon being Jerusalem (or Judaism)?

What would you say?

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Adam’s Study on Revelation 18: Posted on January 30, 2010

Revelation 18 concerns the irreversible overthrow of Babylon. In the two previous posts on chapter 17, much has already been said regarding Babylon and her identity. These posts can be seen here and here, and the first one lists 13 reasons for why Babylon is to be identified with 1st century Jerusalem and Judaism. Sam Storms, as most Historicists do, sees Babylon as representing Rome. Still, even though his viewpoint is different than what is being proposed here, he makes a number of helpful observations, including this chapter outline here:

(1) the prediction of Babylon’s fall (vv. 1-3); (2) an exhortation to God’s people to separate from Babylon before judgment comes (vv. 4-8); (3) the lament of those who cooperate with Babylon (the kings of the earth) [vv. 9-10], the merchants of the earth [vv. 11-17a], the mariners [vv. 17b-19]); and (4) the rejoicing of the faithful once Babylon’s judgment is complete (vv. 20-24).

Verses 1-2: In chapter 17 John was spoken to and carried away in the Spirit by “one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls.” Now another angel announces to John that Babylon is fallen, and in her fallen state she is a “dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.” Steve Gregg, on page 424 of his book “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary),” states:

The fact that Babylon has become a habitation of every foul spirit and every unclean and hateful bird (v. 2) is known to be true of Jerusalem, which became overrun by demons, as Christ predicted (Matt. 12:38-45), and which, being reduced to ground level, again as Christ predicted (Matt. 24:2), became the haunt of the desert creatures considered unclean in the Jews’ religion. No such literal fulfillment of these words has been demonstrated with regard to Rome.

Verse 3: Gregg notes that some see evidence for Rome’s identity with Babylon because of the last phrase in this verse: “…and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.” The idea is that Rome was more known than Jerusalem for having “had a major impact upon the world’s economy.” Yet we noted in the previous post that famous historians also spoke of Jerusalem’s political greatness and magnificent structures. It’s also worth noting Josephus’ description of Jerusalem in his introduction to Wars of the Jews: 

“it had so come to pass, that our city Jerusalem had arrived at a higher degree of felicity than any other city under the Roman government, and yet at last fell into the sorest of calamities again” (Wars Preface 1.4).

In our study of Revelation so far, we have also suggested that many of the references to “the earth” in the book of Revelation are not meant to be taken as worldwide in scope, but as dealing instead with the land of Israel/Palestine. We first saw this in Revelation 1:7, a clear throwback to Zechariah 12:10-14. In a 3-part study on this subject beginning with this post, I have outlined nearly 20 instances where this appears to be the case. What is being communicated here, then, is that Jerusalem made the merchants of Israel/Palestine wealthy by what she had to offer.

The first part of verse 3 reads this way: “For all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her…” Is the “sexual immorality” here meant to be understood literally as sexual contact between human beings, or is spiritual unfaithfulness in mind here? The former understanding has led some to believe that Babylon is the United States, because the US is known for exporting pornography around the world. Sam Storms understands it to be the latter, saying this phrase is meant to “portray religious and philosophical idolatry.” This is also similar to our preferred understanding in chapter 14 that the 144,000 “virgins” held such a status not in the sexual sense, but in terms of being righteous and faithful to God. Steve Gregg notes how very similar language was used of Jerusalem before Jerusalem’s fall at the hand of Babylon in 586 BC, and deduces what this means for 1st century Jerusalem even as she takes on the name of her old conqueror (pp. 424, 426):

Jerusalem was charged with committing fornication with the kings of the earth (v. 3) in Old Testament times (Ezek. 16:14-15, 26, 28-30; 23:12-21). The prophet used this imagery to explain God’s reason for bringing judgment upon Jerusalem by the hands of the Babylonians in 586 B.C. It would seem appropriate that the New Testament apostle/prophet would employ the same language in describing a near-identical event, the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.

As it may be helpful to see what Ezekiel said of Jerusalem some 600 years before Christ’s birth, I will quote a portion of the above-mentioned passage here: “And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed upon you, declares the Lord God. But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore because of your renown and lavished your whorings on any passer-by; your beauty became his… How lovesick is your heart, declares the Lord God, because you did all these things, the deeds of a brazen prostitute…” The greater context of this quoted passage (Ezek. 16:14-15, 30) shows that Jerusalem’s prostitution at that time had to do with sharing in the idolatry being practiced by surrounding nations.

Verse 4: Steve Gregg (p. 428) remarks,

The call to Come out of her, my people (v. 4) not only echoes similar exhortations concerning ancient Babylon (cf. Isa. 48:20; Jer. 50:8; 51:6), but also Christ’s instructions to the disciples to flee from the condemned city at the first sign of its imminent doom (cf. Luke 21:20-23). The epistle to the Hebrews as a whole (and especially passages like Heb. 12:25-29; 13:13-14) constitutes just such a call as that found here.

Dave (above) asked a couple of very pertinent questions regarding this verse: “If Babylon is a city, why are the seven churches in Asia (the recipients of the letter) told to ‘come out of her’?  The saints who are being written to are nowhere near this city. Is something else meant other than physically removing one’s self from a particular city?” Dave is right to ask what it would have meant for the inhabitants of Asia Minor to come out of Babylon, if only the physical city of Jerusalem is meant here. I believe that this was a command to part ways with Old Covenant Judaism once and for all. In the second half of our discussion on Rev. 17:1-6, I wrote, “Babylon represented not only Jerusalem, but also the unfaithful community which had rejected Jesus in order to maintain corrupted Old Covenant practices. Both physical Jerusalem and temple-based Judaism were judged and destroyed in 70 AD.” A more lengthy discussion of these matters can be found at that post.

John does seem to switch back and forth in his speech between the physical representation of Jerusalem (the city) and her spiritual representation (Judaism). This is also done elsewhere in Revelation and other Biblical texts on other subjects (e.g. In Romans 9-11, Paul uses the term “Israel” at times to refer to the geographical nation known by that name, but also refers to the Church by the same term, as in Romans 9:6). In any case, the Lord’s admonition to His people to “come out of her” is probably similar to Peter’s words in Acts 2:40, where it is recorded: “And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this crooked generation.’”

Verses 5-6: In these verses Steve Gregg (p. 430) draws three more parallels to Old Covenant Jerusalem:

[1] The statement that her sins have reached to heaven (v. 5) is an apparent allusion to God’s assessment of Sodom in Genesis 18:21, and Sodom has already been used as a symbolic name for Jerusalem (Rev. 11:8).

[2] One of the provisions of the New Covenant was God’s promise that “I will remember no more” the sins and iniquities of His people (Jer. 31:34). This is one of the “better promises” (Heb. 8:6) by which the New Covenant outshines the first. Contrarily, it can be said of her who related to God on the basis of the Old Covenant, and violated it, that God has remembered her iniquities (v. 5). This was Jerusalem.

[3] That God has determined to repay her double (v. 6) for her sins is another link to Jerusalem and Judah, of whom the prophet said, “I will repay double for their iniquity and their sin” (Jer. 16:18) and, “Bring on them the day of doom, and destroy them with double destruction!” (Jer. 17:18).

Verse 7: Here we read of Babylon’s pride, as she says in her heart, “I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I shall never see.” Sam Storms calls this idolatry and false security, and points out the similarities between these statements and what is written of Babylon in Isaiah’s day: “Now therefore hear this, you lover of pleasures, who sit securely, who say in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me, I shall not sit as a widow or know the loss of children.’” Also, very interestingly, Lamentations, written shortly after Jerusalem fell the first time in 586 BC, begins this way: “How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave.”

One author, referencing the Jewish historian Josephus, writes of the over-confidence of the Jewish people regarding their city and the temple and the bitter anguish they experienced when the temple was destroyed by fire in 70 AD: “No one believed that God would permit His Temple to be destroyed, and when this finally did happen, everyone within the city, men and women, young and old, were crazed with despair. Thousands cast themselves into the fire while others fell on their own swords.”

Verse 8: Just like Babylon in Isaiah’s day (Is. 47:9), the Babylon John was speaking of was to receive her plagues “in a single day”: death, mourning, famine, and burning with fire. It’s well documented that these very things took place in Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD, and I previously wrote in detail about these events here, here, and here.

Verses 9-10: These verses read, “And the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning. Then they will stand afar off, in fear of her torment, and say, ‘Alas! Alas! You great city, you might city, Babylon! For in a single hour your judgment has come.’” George Peter Holford, basing his 1805 account on the writings of Josephus, wrote the following graphic details in describing the burning of Jerusalem’s temple in 70 AD:

The Romans, exasperated to the highest pitch against the Jews, seized every person whom they could find, and, without the least regard to sex, age or quality, first plundered and then slew them. The old and the young, the common people and the priests, those who surrendered and those who resisted, were equally involved in this horrible and indiscriminate carnage. Meanwhile the Temple continued burning, until at length, vast as was its size, the flames completely enveloped the whole building; which, from the extent of the conflagration, impressed the distant spectator with an idea that the whole city was now on fire. The tumult and disorder which ensued upon this event, it is impossible (says Josephus) for language to describe. The Roman legions made the most horrid outcries; the rebels, finding themselves exposed to the fury of both fire and sword, screamed dreadfully; while the unhappy people who were pent up between the enemy and the flames, deplored their situation in the most pitiable complaints. Those on the hill and those in the city seemed mutually to return the groans of each other. Such as were expiring through famine, were revived by this hideous scene, and seemed to acquire new spirits to deplore their misfortunes. The lamentations from the city were re-echoed from the adjacent mountains, and places beyond Jordan. The flames which enveloped the Temple were so violent and impetuous, that the lofty hill on which it stood appeared, even from its deep foundations, as one large body of fire. The blood of the sufferers flowed in proportion to the rage of this destructive element; and the number of the slain exceeded all calculation. The ground could not be seen for the dead bodies, over which the Romans trampled in pursuit of the fugitives; while the crackling noise of the devouring flames mingled with the clamor of arms, the groans of the dying and the shrieks of despair, augmented the tremendous horror of a scene, to which the pages of history can furnish no parallel.

Verses 11-14: Verse 11 is the first of five verses which will speak of the permanency of Babylon’s fall, the others being verses 14, 21, 22, and 23. This lends credence to the earlier assertion that what is primarily being seen here is the fall of Old Covenant temple-based Judaism, even more so than simply the city of Jerusalem. Try and plan as they might, no one has been able to practice all (or even most of) the tenets of Judaism since the complete and final destruction of the temple in 70 AD. John Hagee, Benny Hinn, and others would do well to reconsider the funds they have raised in order to see a Third Temple built in Jerusalem one day. God was serious about dismantling the Old Covenant system, and the New Covenant means a lot to Him too.

Sam Storms points out that in verses 11-13 there is a list of 28 different types of cargo, no longer to be found in Babylon anymore after her downfall. Most shocking on this list is the mention of “human souls” (verse 13), and Sam Storms believes this indicates not only greed but also a brutality of some sort in the pursuit of all the other 27 items. Some object to Babylon’s identity as Jerusalem because they believe these items indicate a commercial center as prominent as Rome, and more prominent than Jerusalem. Steve Gregg answers this objection (p. 436): “[It] may be said that the demands of the passage do not require that the city in question be the greatest commercial center in the world—only that it was a wealthy, cosmopolitan trading city, by whose business international merchants were made rich. These things were certainly true of Jerusalem. In The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Alfred Edersheim writes concerning Jerusalem:

In these streets and lanes everything might be purchased: the production of Palestine, or imported from foreign lands—nay, the rarest articles from the remotest parts. Exquisitely shaped, curiously designed and jeweled cups, rings, and other workmanship of precious metals; glass, silks, fine linen, woolen stuffs, purple, and costly hangings; essences, ointments, and perfumes, as precious as gold; articles of food and drink from foreign lands—in short, what India, Persia, Arabia, Media, Egypt, Italy, Greece, and even the far-off lands of the Gentiles yielded, might be had in these bazaars. Ancient Jewish writings enable us to identify no fewer than 118 different articles of import from foreign lands, covering more than even modern luxury has devised.”

David Chilton further comments, “The wealth of Jerusalem was a direct result of the blessings promised in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. God had made her a great commercial center, but she had abused the gift. While there are similarities between the list of goods here and that in Ezekiel 27:12-24 (a prophecy against Tyre), it is likely that the items primarily reflect the Temple and the commerce surrounding it” (emphasis added). On this last statement, Duncan McKenzie has much to say in his 2006 article titled “The Merchandise of the Temple.” The following is an excerpt from that article:

First; why is John providing so much detail about Babylon’s merchandise? How does it add to what he is telling us? It is my position that this list of items is another example, one of the most extensive in Revelation, of physical referents being given in the midst of a symbol to aid in the identification of that symbol. As I have stated earlier, Babylon was not a literal city (not Jerusalem and certainly not Rome). It was a symbol of a community of people, a symbol of God’s unfaithful old covenant community. This community is being represented by images associated with the Temple and the priesthood. If Babylon were a literal city this list of items would add little to the story being told here. If on the other hand Babylon is a symbol of unfaithful Israel then all of a sudden this merchandise makes much more sense. Quite simply, the “merchandise” of Babylon is the merchandise of the Temple.

Carrington wrote the following on the goods of Babylon, “The long list of merchandise in 18:11-13 is surely a catalogue of materials for building the Temple, and stores for maintaining it” [Phillip Carrington, The Meaning of Revelation, (London: Society for Promotion Christian Knowledge, 1931), 287]…

Of the items which are listed in Rev 18, gold and silver, precious stones, fine linen, purple, silk (for vestments) scarlet, precious wood, bronze, iron (cf. Deut 8:9), marble cinnamon (as an ingredient of the sacred anointing oil), spices, incense, ointment, frankincense, wine, oil fine meal (Gr. Semidalis, used frequently in Leviticus for fine flour offering), corn, beasts, sheep are all found in use in the temple. Ivory and probably pearls were found in Herod’s temple. Although horses and chariots do seem to be incongruous, the Greek word for chariot is rhede, a four-wheel chariot, a fairly rare word which appears to come from the Latin name. The author may be insinuating that Roman ways were introduced into the sacred city [ J. Massyngberde Ford, Revelation, The Anchor Bible, vol. 38, eds. William R. Albright and David N. Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1975), 304-305]. The four wheeled chariots (or carriages as Aune translates rhede) may allude to the wealthy aristocracy that had arisen around the current and former high priests.

The listing of merchandise in Revelation 18 is similar to the listing of the merchandise of Tyre in Ezekiel 27:12-24, as is the lamenting by those who got wealthy off the respective cities (Ezekiel 27:28-36). In Ezekiel 27 the city of Tyre is pictured as a ship (vv. 5-9) that sinks at sea (vv. 26, 32, 34). In Revelation 18 the Temple system of unfaithful Israel is pictured as a city that is overthrown. As Ford noted, the items in Revelation 18 are considerably different with those of the (literal) city of Tyre. Only fifteen of the twenty-seven items in Revelation 18:12-13 are the same as the thirty eight items listed in Ezekiel 27:12-24. [The count changes by an item or two depending on what translation one uses and whether one counts “bodies and souls” as two items or one (i.e. “slaves, the souls of men” RSV)] There is, however, a connection between the commerce of the Temple and that of Tyre. The currency of Tyre was the only currency allowed in the Temple. Thus Revelation 18’s allusion to the commerce of Tyre may contain an allusion to the commerce of the Temple.

McKenzie then elaborates on the ornate decorations in the Temple of Herod, whose lengthy and famous restoration project was only completed in 65 AD, merely five years before it was destroyed. McKenzie also hosts a discussion of the precious metals used in the temple, and cites the writings of Josephus on this matter. He also shows how “Revelation 18:13 consists mostly of items that were used in the sacrifices and offerings of the Temple: cinnamon, incense, fragrant oil, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep.” His take on the mention of “slaves, that is, human souls” in verse 13 is this:

The leaders of the Jewish temple system were enslaving men’s souls by turning them away from Jesus and attempting to keep them under the old covenant. The Temple hierarchy had been in bed with Rome (so much so that Rome even appointed the high priest). The Roman beast was about to turn on the harlot and destroy the whole old covenant system.

Interestingly, McKenzie points out,

Jesus had accused the Jewish leadership of enslaving men’s souls by preventing them from entering the kingdom of God: “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in… Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. (Matt. 23:13, 15).

In Galatians 4:24-25 Paul tells how those under the old covenant were enslaved, as opposed to those under New Covenant who were free (Gal. 4:26-27). This gets back to the parallel between the two women/cities of Galatians 4:21-31 and the two women/cities of Revelation. Just as the “other woman” in Galatians had children who were enslaved (those staying under the old covenant, Gal. 4:24-25), so harlot Babylon had her slaves.

Verses 15-19: In verse 16 we see that the great city “was clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, with jewels, and with pearls.” We saw this same description in our study of Rev. 17:4, speaking of the woman, “the great prostitute” (17:1) and “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations” (17:5). There we noted that “the description of the harlot’s attire (purple, scarlet, gold, jewels, and pearls) was nearly identical to the ephod worn by the high priest (…Exodus 28:5-21).” The same is true here; this is another reference to Jerusalem and the temple priesthood of the Old Covenant.

In verses 9-10, “the kings of the earth” were shown standing afar off and weeping and wailing over the smoke of Babylon’s burning. In verses 15-16, the “merchants of…wares” were shown doing the same. Now in verses 17-19 all the “shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea” mourn in the same manner. Babylon is referred to again as “the great city” (see also Rev. 16:19; 17:18; 18:10, 16, 18, 19, 21). We first saw this title given to Jerusalem in Rev. 11:8, the passage which speaks of the two witnesses who would “lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.”

Verse 19 says that Jerusalem would become “desolate” in one hour. According to Josephus, when Israel lost the Jewish-Roman War (66 – 73 AD), Jerusalem was not merely “taken” as it had been five times previously. Instead this was its second “desolation”:

“And thus was Jerusalem taken, in the second year of the reign of Vespasian, on the eighth day of the month Gorpeius [Elul]. It had been taken five times before, though this was the second time of its desolation; for Shishak, the king of Egypt, and after him Antiochus, and after him Pompey, and after them Sosius and Herod, took the city, but still preserved it; but before all these, the king of Babylon conquered it, and made it desolate, one thousand four hundred and sixty-eight years and six months after it was built” (Wars 6.10.1).

Verse 20: Here we read, “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!” The same indictment was given in Rev. 16:4-6 and 17:6, and will be repeated again in 18:24. This time it includes a statement of justice for “apostles” as well. If this judgment is yet to come, as proposed by the Futurist standpoint, what 21st century entity might be responsible for shedding the blood of the apostles? However, we know, for example, that James the brother of Jesus was martyred in Jerusalem in 62 AD by the Pharisees and Jewish religious leaders, and that Peter and Paul were martyred at the command of Nero as he was instigated to do by the Jews (see our study on Rev. 17:3).

More importantly for our study, though, we have the clear prophecy of Jesus in Matthew 23:29-38 that the martyrdom of the saints and prophets would be held to the account of His first-century Jewish audience: “that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth… Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation…” (Matt. 23:35-36; cf. 2 Chronicles 36:15-16, Luke 13:33-34 and Acts 7:52). This judgment was poured out within the timeframe of the generation that heard Jesus speak these things, when Jerusalem was laid waste in 70 AD.

Verses 21-23: Once again it is said of Babylon that she “will be found no more.” Here this is demonstrated by a mighty angel throwing a great millstone into the sea. Duncan McKenzie comments, “Seeing the harlot as the old covenant temple system helps to explain Revelation 18:21 (that says Babylon would not rise again).  The city of Jerusalem has risen again; the old covenant temple system has not risen again (and won’t).” The angel then recites a list of activities which would no longer be heard or found in Babylon anymore.

This is also parallel to “the great mountain being thrown into the sea,” which John saw earlier in the sounding of the trumpet judgment (Revelation 8:8-9). The similarities are clearly seen when we compare the literary structures of these two passages:

Revelation 8:8

Revelation 18:21a

Revelation 18:21b

“And the second angelsounded, “And a strong angel saying,
and something like a great took up a stone like a great ‘Thus will Babylon that great
mountain burning with fire millstone city
was thrown into the sea…” and threw it into the sea, will be thrown down with violence
    and it will not be found any longer.”

See this post for more details on how the prayers of the saints were answered when the mountain of Jerusalem was cast into the sea: https://adammaarschalk.com/2016/07/25/that-mountain-was-cast-into-the-sea-and-these-mountains-can-be-too/.

Verse 24: Very similar to verse 20, we read here: “And in her [Babylon] was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.” These words are so similar to what Jesus said in Matthew 23:35 that the connection should be unmistakable. The fulfillment of this prophecy simply can not be yet future, in light of what Jesus said in the next verse, nor can it have been fulfilled in any other geographical location other than Jerusalem and the surrounding region. Babylon, that is, Jerusalem and Old Covenant Judaism as represented by her famous temple, were thrown down in judgment in 70 AD, just as Jesus said would happen. When we consider, as we did in verse 3, that the phrase “on earth” (also translated “land”) is a natural reference to Israel, this is further borne out.

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Our study of Revelation 19 can be found here.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.

Revelation Chapter 14


REVELATION 14

Dave: November 5, 2009

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 14

(Notes from Adam are in maroon-colored font; A new section reflecting the Historicist viewpoints of Sam Storms can be found at the bottom of this post, and was added on November 30th.)

Verse 1: Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.

What do you recall from Revelation 7 about the 144,000?
• They are sealed from the wrath to come
• They are servants of God
• There are 12,000 from the 12 tribes of Israel
• They are sealed on their foreheads

Some view the 144,000 from chapter 7 as the same group as the multitude in chapter 7. Can you recall the arguments against this view?

Note the similarity of this verse to Hebrews 12:22 – 23, which states, But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect.” Steve Gregg writes in his book, Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary), that some believe this passage here in Revelation “influenced the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews, a suggestion which, if true, tends to establish the pre-A.D. 70 date of writing for Revelation” (p. 314). Gregg also writes,

The first vision of this chapter, depicting the 144,000 with the Lamb standing on Mount Zion (v. 1), is reminiscent of the second psalm. The psalm speaks of the kings and rulers vainly rebelling against and resisting God and the Messiah, but declares that God laughs at their futile efforts to unseat Him from His sovereign position. God tells them, “Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion” (v. 6). Despite all the efforts of the dragon and the beast to eliminate the church, the Judean believers stand secure with the Lord in victory (p. 312).

Verses 2-5: 2And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, 3and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, 5and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.

What do we learn about the 144,000 from chapter 14?
• They are standing with the Lamb on Mount Zion
• They have the name of the Lamb and His Father’s name written on their foreheads.
• They were redeemed from the earth.
• They (and only they) could learn the new song that was being sung
• They are virgins
• They follow the Lamb wherever He goes
• They are said to be redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb
• In their mouth no lie was found for they are blameless

Q: Who are the 144,000?
A: According to the Pre-tribulation rapture view, they are Jewish believers brought to faith after Jesus returns and removes the church from the earth (How they are brought to faith is a question which naturally accompanies this view, since many who hold this view believe that the restrainer of II Thessalonians 2:6-7 is the Holy Spirit who is removed from the earth along with the Church). Kenneth Gentry, a partial-preterist, says (Before Jerusalem Fell, 1998, pp. 232ff) that the 144,000 are Christians of Jewish extraction:

• Jewish, because they are “in the land**
• Jewish, because they are from the twelve tribes of Israel
• Jewish, because they are contrasted with the multitude in 9-17

**[In our study of Revelation so far, we have suggested that many of the references to “the earth” (also translated “the land”) in the book of Revelation are not meant to be taken as worldwide in scope, but as dealing instead with the land of Israel/Palestine. In a 3-part study on this subjectbeginning with this post, I have outlined nearly 20 instances where this appears to be the case.]

Q: Does the fact that they are termed “firstfruits” shed light on whether they are from the AD 60’s or from a time period yet to come?
A: Yes. As Steve Gregg has written, “That this group lived in the first century is confirmed in another passage, which calls them the ‘firstfruits to God’ (Rev. 14:4). Since the church age has been one long harvest of souls (Matt. 9:37f; John 4:35-38), the ‘firstfruits’ must have come in at the beginning of this time (compare James 1:1, 18, which speaks of the Jewish believers as ‘firstfruits’). If this 144,000 referred to some future group living in the end times (as the futurists believe), one would expect them to be called the ‘last fruits’ ” (Source: See chapter 7 study).

Q: Why might John be bringing up the 144,000 again?
A: Possible answer: as an encouragement to those persecuted by the beast – that they will soon be with the Lord in Mt. Zion.)

Regarding the 144,000, who are said to be virgins: Note that being virgins might not pertain to their marital status or moral purity; rather it might have to do with the fact that they have not been defiled by the harlot, Jerusalem (more on this when we reach chapters 16-18 in our study, or feel free to look here for my personal take on this).

Q: Why does John describe them as blameless?
A: Possible answer: it is because of their redeemed state.

Verses 6-8: 6Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. 7And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
8Another angel, a second, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.”

This is the first mention of Babylon. What do we know of it from the text?
• She was “great”
• She was influential
• She was lawless

Q: Who or what is Babylon?
A: (Preterists are split . . . Jerusalem or Rome; again, more on this in our study of chapters 16-18, but feel free to look here for my personal take on this)

Steve Gregg notes that there are those (like David S. Clark) who believe that the “eternal gospel” here is simply “the announcement of the doom and judgment” which is depicted as soon to fall (p. 320). However, adds Gregg, “most expositors would see this as a reference to the regular message of salvation that Christ told His disciples to preach, and which He indicated would be preached in all the world before ‘the end comes’ (Matt. 24:14).” He quotes from J. Stuart Russell, who wrote:

There is a manifest allusion here to the fact predicted by our Lord that, before the coming of “the end,” the Gospel of the kingdom would first be preached in all the world…”for a witness to all nations” (Matt. 24:14). This symbol, therefore, indicates the near approach of the catastrophe of Jerusalem,–the arrival of the hour of Israel’s judgment.

The following is an excerpt from my term paper on 70 AD, regarding the idea that the gospel was preached in all the world by 70 AD:

…it’s interesting that Paul told his Roman readers that their faith “is spoken of throughout the whole world” (Romans 1:8). In his epistle to the Colossians he also said that “the word of the truth of the gospel,” which had come to them, had gone to “the entire world” (Colossians 1:6) and had “been proclaimed in all creation under heaven” (verse 23). Devout Jews “from every nation under heaven” even heard the gospel in their own languages on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:5).

Do these statements not indicate that Matthew 24:14 had already been fulfilled by the time they were written? The phrase “the whole world” here then must mean what it meant in Luke 2:1 when we are told that “the entire world” was registered in the days of Caesar Augustus, i.e. the known world or the Roman Empire (cf. Luke 11:28, Acts 24:5, Romans 16:25-26). Eusebius (263-339)…said this about Matthew 24:14:

Thus, under the influence of heavenly power, and with the divine co-operation, the doctrine of the Saviour, like the rays of the sun, quickly illumined the whole world; [1] and straightway, in accordance with the divine Scriptures, [2] the voice of the inspired evangelists and apostles went forth through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world;  the Apostles preached the Gospel in all the world, and some of them passed beyond the bounds of the ocean, and visited the Britannic isles (Dennis Todd [4]; [8], 2009).

Verses 9-11: 9And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”
12 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus
.

Q: What is the mark that John is referring to?
A: The mark of chapter 13.

Do you see any contrasts to anything earlier in the book?
• “Forehead” in 14:1 (the foreheads of God’s faithful servants)
• “no rest day or night” in 4:8 (i.e. for the four living creatures, who worship the Lord without ceasing)

Two views of verses 9-12:
• The description of hell awaiting all non-believers
• The violent destruction that awaited historical Jerusalem or Rome; in this regard, Steve Gregg (p. 328) notes that the imagery here (“fire and sulphur”) reminds one of the destruction that came upon Sodom and Gomorrah. He adds, “If one argues that Sodom’s smoke did not ascend ‘forever and ever,’ it should be noted that Jude spoke of Sodom and Gomorrah as ‘suffering the vengeance of eternal fire’ (Jude 7)… [The context in Jude indicates] the visible destruction of the cities as a historical witness to God’s wrath toward sin.”

Verse 13: 13And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”

Why are the dead blessed?
• They experience relief from persecution
• They receive entrance into the presence of Christ

Is it still the case that the dead in the Lord are blessed?

What does “their deeds follow them” mean? And is this still the case?

What is the significance of “from now on”?
[1] From this point in history (70 AD) onward (See Hebrews 9:8, which, according to some interpreters, indicates that the “way into the holy places” was not fully opened as long as the Jerusalem temple–“the first section” was “still standing“). This is not necessarily a typical partial-preterist viewpoint.
Or [2] From the point of death onward

Regarding the first option, Steve Gregg states (p. 332):

It is also possible that the emphasis is upon the state of those who die in the Lord after a certain point in history–in which case, the allusion may be to the change occasioned by the replacement of the Old Covenant with the New. If the fall of Jerusalem has been the subject of this chapter to this point, then it would follow naturally that this passage considers the impact of the Old Covenant’s passing upon the postmortem experience of believers. Remembering that “the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing” (Heb. 9:8), [David] Chilton writes: “By the work of Christ, heaven has been opened to God’s people. The limbus patrum, the afterlife abode of the Old Testament faithful (the ‘bosom of Abraham’ of Luke 16:22), has been unlocked and its inhabitants freed (cf. I Pet. 3:19; 4:6). Death is now the entrance to communion in glory with Christ and the departed saints.”

Verses 14-20: 14Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. 15And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” 16So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped. 17Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” 19So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. 20And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.

Q: What are the differences between these two reapings? What are they referring to?
A: There is a distinction between a “dry” ripening (v 15-16) and a grape ripening (v. 18). See Matthew 3:11-12; 13:31-34. The first reaping is said by some to be a reaping of the righteous; the second of the unrighteous. Others say that both are of the unrighteous. Of the first view, Steve Gregg comments (p. 336), “Many expositors believe that the reaping of verses 14-16 has to do with the salvation of the believers, or their gathering to safety (the escape of the Judean Christians to Pella in A.D. 66-70), while the vintage vision of verses 17-20 depicts the judgment upon the city of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.” He quotes from J. Stuart Russell, who believes that verses 14-16 are “the fulfillment of the prediction, ‘The Son of Man shall send His angels, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds‘ (Matt. 24:31-34), an event which was to take place before the passing of that generation.” Gregg then adds,

Some have thought it strange that Christ, the Lord over all angels, would take instructions from an angel who urges Him to Thrust in Your sickle and reap (v. 15). However, the angel simply represents the church praying in obedience to Christ, who commanded that believers “pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matt. 9:38). In response to the request, laborers are in fact sent and the earth (or land) was reaped (v. 16).

Regarding the harvest of verses 17-20, there is a direct correlation to the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC (See Lamentations 1:15 – 20; This makes much sense if the same imagery used in Jeremiah’s day is used once again when Jerusalem falls for the second time in 70 AD because of Israel’s unfaithfulness–and rejection of her Messiah). The bloodshed foretold in 19-20 is said by Preterists to be fulfilled in the Roman army’s attack in 70 AD. The following information is taken from my term paper on Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD:

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Josephus writes [concerning the Roman soldiers, after they had burned down the temple in Jerusalem], “they ran every one through whom they met with, and obstructed the very lanes with their dead bodies, and made the whole city run down with blood, to such a degree indeed that the fire of many houses was quenched with these men’s blood” (The Wars Of The Jews, 6:8:5).

The amount of blood that flowed, not only in Jerusalem but also throughout the surrounding region, could possibly bring to mind a passage like Revelation 14:19-20, which says, “So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia [about 184 miles].” This was the understanding of John Wesley (1703-1791) who, in his commentary on this passage, wrote:

And the winepress was trodden – By the Son of God, Rev 19:15. Without [outside] the city – Jerusalem. They to whom St. John writes, when a man said, ‘the city,’ immediately understood this. And blood came out of the winepress, even to the horses’ bridles – So deep at its first flowing from the winepress! One thousand six hundred furlongs – So far! At least two hundred miles, through the whole land of Palestine.

Wesley, like many today, tied this passage (Revelation 14:19-20) to Rev. 19:11-21, and rightly so. This is often referred to as the “Battle of Armageddon,” which Tim Lahaye and other Futurist authors generally say will happen in the plain of Megiddo. Author John Noe, on the other hand, notes that what the Bible refers to as a “battle on the great day of God the Almighty” (Rev. 16:14) would transpire “at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon” (Rev. 16:16). In Hebrew it’s actually “Har-Magedon,” as “har” means mountain in Hebrew (“Armageddon” is based on the Greek rendering, since “h” is silent in Hebrew). Therefore, this battle was to take place primarily on a mountain, not in a valley. Noe adds,

The most likely case is that Revelation’s “Har” is Jerusalem. Geographically, Jerusalem sits on top of a mountain. To get there from any direction one must go “up to Jerusalem” (2 Sam. 19:34; 1 Ki. 12:28; 2 Ki. 18:17; 2 Chron. 2:16; Ezra 1:3; 7:7; Zech. 14:17; Matt. 20:17, 18; Mark 10:32, 33; Luke 18:31; 19:28; John 2:13; 5:1; Acts 11:2; 15:2; 21:12, 15; 24:11; 25:9; Gal. 1:17, 18). Jerusalem is also called God’s “holy mountain” (Psa. 43:3) and the “chief among the mountains” (Isa. 2:2-3; also 14:13; Exod. 15:17; Joel 2:32; 3:16-17)… “Magedon/Megiddo” may also be comparative imagery. A great slaughter once took place in the valley of Megiddo (2 Ki. 9:27; Zech. 12:11). Throughout ancient history, this valley was also a favorite corridor for invading armies and the scene of numerous famous battles (Jud. 4-7; 1 Sam. 29-31; 2 Sam. 4; 1 Ki. 9:15; 2 Ki. 9-10; 22; 2 Chron. 35). So much blood was shed in this valley of Jezreel or Megiddo that it became a synonym for slaughter, violence, bloodshed, and battlefield, as well as a symbol for God’s judgment (Hos. 1:4-5). In our day, Armageddon has also become synonymous with and a symbol for the ultimate in warfare and conflict.

In a similar fashion, the word “Waterloo” has garnered a symbolic use. Back in 1815, this town in Belgium was the battleground and scene of Napoleon’s final defeat. Today, we have a saying that some one or some thing has met their “Waterloo.” We don’t mean they have met that city in Europe. We mean, by way of comparative imagery, that they have met a decisive or crushing defeat, or their demise. I suggest Revelation employs the word Magedon/Megiddo in this same manner. History records that a great slaughter took place on a mountain in Palestine within the lifetime of the original recipients of the book of Revelation. In A.D. 70 the Roman armies of Titus totally destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. According to Eusebius, 1.1 million Jews were killed.

This description by Josephus also shows how the fulfillment of this prophecy could have taken place during the Roman-Jewish War of 67-73 AD, regarding which he provides the following account:

Now, this destruction that fell upon the Jews, as it was not inferior to any of the rest in itself, so did it still appear greater than it really was; and this, because not only the whole of the country through which they had fled was filled with slaughter, and [the] Jordan [River] could not be passed over, by reason of the dead bodies that were in it, but because the Lake Asphaltitis [the modern Dead Sea] was also full of dead bodies, that were carried down into it by the river. And now, Placidus, after this good success that he had, fell violently upon the neighbouring smaller cities and villages; when he took Abila, and Julias, and Bezemoth, and all those that lay as far as the lake Asphaltitis, and put such of the deserters into each of them as he thought proper. He then put his soldiers on board the ships, and slew such as had fled to the lake, insomuch that all Perea had either surrendered themselves, or were taken by the Romans, as far as Macherus (Josephus, “Account of the Lake Asphaltitis,” War of the Jews 4:7:6).

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The following notes from Sam Storms are based on the Historicist viewpoint (and are his direct quotes):

Insofar as the majority of chapters 12-13 focused on the persecution of believers by the Dragon (Satan) and his earthly agents, the sea-beast and the land-beast, it is understandable that chapter 14, together with 15:2-4, should describe the reward of the persecuted faithful and the final punishment of their enemies. In other words, “chapter 14 briefly answers two pressing questions: What becomes of those who refuse to receive the mark of the beast and are killed (vv. 1-5)? What happens to the beast and his servants (vv. 6-20)?” (Johnson, 141).

VERSE 1: On occasion in the OT, Zion could refer to the hilly area in southeast Jerusalem, to the temple mount, to the historical city of Jerusalem, and even to the entire nation of Israel. In Psalm 2:6, Zion is the “holy mountain” of God on which he installs Messiah as King. In other words, Zion may be the eschatological city where God dwells with and protects his people. Heb. 12:22-23 (cf. Gal.4:25-27) refers to Zion as the ideal, heavenly city to which believers even now aspire (and in which they hold citizenship; cf. Phil. 3:20) during the course of the church age. In certain texts, Zion is indistinguishable from the redeemed who dwell there (see Isa. 62:1-12). Many contend that it is, in fact, a reference to the new Jerusalem (Rev. 21) which “comes down out of heaven” as a dwelling for God’s people. In any case, it is where the Lamb and his redeemed share fellowship and the authority of the kingdom.

… … Another interesting fact is that the numbering (144,000) is probably used to evoke images of the OT census, which was designed to determine the military strength of the nation (see Num. 1:3,18,20; 26:2,4; 1 Chron. 27:23; 2 Sam. 24:1-9). The point is that these in Rev. 7 and 14 constitute a Messianic army called upon, like Jesus himself, to conquer the enemy through sacrificial death. In the OT those counted were males of military age (twenty years and over). This explains why the 144,000 in Rev. 14:1ff. are adult males, i.e., those eligible for military service. According to Num. 31:4-6, one thousand soldiers from each of the twelve tribes were sent into battle against Midian.

… … Most dispensational, pre-tribulational, premillennialists, i.e., most who read the book in a futurist sense, understand the 144,000 to be a Jewish remnant saved immediately after the rapture of the Church. Many then argue that, in the absence of the Church, they serve as evangelists who preach the gospel during the Great Tribulation… Be it noted, however, that there is nothing explicitly said in this passage about these people functioning as evangelists or being responsible for the salvation of the multitude. (Sam Storms then asks several questions, including: [W]hy would God protect only Jewish believers and leave Gentile believers to endure such horrific judgments?) …[In Revelation] 9:4 we read that only those with the seal of God on their foreheads are exempt from the demonic torments that are so horrible and agonizing that men will long to die. Is it feasible or consistent with the character of God that he should protect only a select group from such wrath while afflicting the rest of his blood-bought children with it? The answer is a resounding No. Therefore, those who are sealed on their forehead in 7:4-8 (and 9:4) must be all the redeemed, not a select few.)

… … Others, such as myself, contend that the number 144,000 is symbolic (as is the case with virtually every number in Revelation). 12 is both squared (the 12 tribes multiplied by the 12 apostles? cf. 21:12,14) and multiplied by a thousand, a two-fold way of emphasizing completeness. Hence, John has in view all the redeemed, all believers, whether Jew or Gentile . . . i.e., the Church. As Beale points out, “if Gentile believers are clearly identified together with ‘the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel’ as part of the new Jerusalem (21:12,14,24; 22:2-5), then it is not odd that John should refer to them together with Jewish Christians in 7:4 as ‘the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel’” (417). Let us also not forget that the “seal” of 7:2-3 is equivalent to their receiving a name. And one of the names written on Gentile believers, in addition to the name of God and Jesus, is “the name of the new Jerusalem” (3:12)! Finally, as noted earlier, in Rev. 9:4 the demonic scorpions are told to harm only those “who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads,” implying that all Christians (whether Jewish or Gentile) have such a seal.

VERSE 3: In 14:1-5 it may be that they are portrayed at the close of history, in heaven, having suffered martyrdom under the beast but triumphant in Christ.

VERSE 4: Others see in the word “virgins” (parthenoi) a metaphor of all saints who have not compromised with the world system or yielded to its idolatry. They have remained loyal as a “virgin bride” to their betrothed husband (see 19:7-9; 21:2; 2 Cor. 11:2)… Note also the many OT texts where the word “virgin” is applied figuratively to the nation of Israel (2 Kings 19:21; Isa. 37:22; Jer. 14:17; 18:13; 31:4,13,21; Lam. 1:15; 2:13; Amos 5:2), as well as the fact that idolatry and injustice are often figuratively pictured as “harlotry” or “sexual immorality” (see Jer. 3:1-10; 13:27; Ezek. 16:15-58; 23:1-49; 43:7; Hosea 5:4; 6:10). Israel’s idolatry was also described as “defilement” (Isa. 65:4; Jer. 23:15; 51:4). This is similar to what we find in Rev. 2:14,20-22. In other texts in Revelation, to “fornicate” (porneuo) and its cognates usually are metaphorical for spiritual apostasy and idol worship (14:8; 17:1,2,4,5,15,16; 18:3,9; 19:2). When these words are used literally, they are part of vice lists (9:21; 21:8; 22:15).

Source: http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/a-study-of-revelation-14-15-part-i/

VERSES 6-7: Is the “gospel” preached by this angel designed to lead to conversion? Or is it simply the declaration of final judgment on those who have rejected it? Those who favor the latter point to what follows: vv. 8-11 proceed to describe the eternal judgment of unbelievers. They also point to the similarity between this angel and his gospel, on the one hand, and the messenger of the three woes in 8:13. Both speak “with a loud voice” (8:13; 14:7) while “flying in mid-heaven” (8:13; 14:6). Both also address unbelieving earth-dwellers (8:13; 14:6)… On the other hand, these verses sound similar to 11:13 where we earlier concluded that the possibility of conversion is in view. Even if the angel is holding out one final opportunity to repent and be saved, the subsequent context would seem to indicate it goes unheeded.

VERSE 10: Second, they will be “tormented with fire and brimstone” (v. 10b). Punishment with “fire and brimstone” is also found in Gen. 19:24 (Sodom and Gomorrah) Ps. 11:6; Isa. 30:33; Job 18:15. The combination of fire and brimstone (or sulphur) as a means of torment occurs 4x in Revelation (14:10; 19:20; 20:10; 21:8)… Moses Stuart contends that “the addition of brimstone to the imagery renders it exceedingly intense, for this not only makes the fire to rage with the greatest vehemence, but is noisome to the smell and suffocating to the breath” (2:298).

VERSE 11: First, the “smoke” of their torment, i.e., the smoke of the fire and brimstone (v. 10) “goes up forever and ever”. See Isa. 34:9-10 for the OT background. It is almost as if there is a smoldering testimony to the consequences of sin and the justice of God’s wrath. The duration of this phenomenon is said to be, literally, “unto the ages of the ages”. This terminology occurs 13x in Revelation: 3x with reference to the duration of praise, glory, and dominion given to God (1:6; 5:13; 7:12); 5x with reference to the length of life of God or Christ (1:18; 4:9,10; 10:6; 15:7); once referring to the length of God’s reign in Christ (11:15); once referring to the length of the saints’ reign (22:5); once referring to the ascension of the smoke of destroyed Babylon (19:3); once referring to the duration of torment of the devil, beast, and false prophet (20:10); and, of course, once here in 14:11.

Source: http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/a-study-of-revelation-14-15-part-ii/

VERSE 14: Whereas some have argued that the “one like a son of man” here is simply another angel, the likelihood is that this is an allusion to Dan. 7:13 and that the exalted Christ is in view.

VERSES 15-16: There is no debate about the meaning of vv. 17-20. Everyone agrees that those verses describe the final judgment of unbelievers only. But what about vv. 15-16?

Those who argue that vv. 15-16 refer to judgment only appeal to the following points: (1) Both vv. 15-16 and vv. 17-20 are a clear allusion to Joel 3:13, a passage that deals only with divine judgment. (2) The “sickle” is more normally viewed as a negative instrument of judgment, designed to inflict harm, not to provide help. (3) The phrase “the hour to reap has come” in v. 15 sounds similar to “the hour of His judgment has come” in v. 7, the latter clearly referring to the eschatological judgment. (4) The image of a “harvest” is common in the Bible for divine judgment (see Isa. 17:5; 18:4-5; 24:13; Jer. 51:33; Hosea 6:11; Joel 3:13; Mt. 13:24-30, 36-43; Mark 4:29).

Those who argue that vv. 15-16 refer primarily to a redemptive ingathering of souls from among the nations at the end of history appeal to these points: (1) The 144,000 are described as “firstfruits”, in the sense that they are an initial redemptive ingathering that anticipates or serves as a pledge of a final redemptive harvest. Vv. 15-16 describe the latter. (2) It is no less the case that the image of a harvest (especially “reaping”) can be used in a positive sense as a metaphor of the gathering of God’s elect (see Luke 10:2; Mt. 13:30,43; John 4:35-38. (3) There is no reference in vv. 15-16 to the metaphors of threshing and winnowing (common images of judgment).

VERSES 17-20: The OT background is probably Isa. 63:1-6.

Source: http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/a-study-of-revelation-14-15-part-iii/

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Our study of Revelation 15 can be found here.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.

Revelation Chapter 11


REVELATION 11

Dave: October 8, 2009

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 11

[Notes from Adam were added on November 3rd and 8th, with Dave’s permission, and are in maroon font.]

Verses 1-2: The Two Witnesses
1 Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, 2 but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. 3And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”

David Chilton comments: “Measuring is a symbolic action used in scripture to ‘divide between the holy and the profane’ and thus to indicate divine protection from destruction (see Ezek. 22:26; 40-43; Zech. 2:1-5; cf. Jer. 10:16; 51:19; Rev. 21:15-16)” [Source: Steve Gregg’s book “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary), p. 220]. Some preterists find this text to be one of the strongest indications of an early date. Examples of this can be seen in the following quotes taken from the Preterist Archive:

[1] Johannes Friedrich Bleek (1870): “As to the time of writing, there are several statements which indicate this with tolerable clearness, and to which we have already referred. In the first division (ch. xi. 1-14)… Jerusalem and the temple are spoken of as still standing.” (An Introduction to the New Testament, 2:226.)
[2] James M. Macdonald (1877):
“It is difficult to see how language could more clearly point to Jerusalem, and to Jerusalem as it was before its overthrow.”, (The Life and Writings of St John , p. 159.)
[3] Bernhard Weiss (1889): “The time of the Apocalypse is also definitely fixed by the fact that according to the prophecy in chap. xi. it was manifestly written before the destruction of Jerusalem, which in xi. 1 is only anticipated.” (Bernhard Weiss, A Manual of Introduction to the New Testament, 2:82; 1889.)
[4] John A.T. Robinson (1976): “It is indeed generally agreed that this passage must bespeak a pre-70 situation.. There seems therefore no reason why the oracle should not have been uttered by a Christian prophet as the doom of the city drew nigh.” (Redating the New Testament pp.. 240-242).
[5] Kenneth Gentry (1998): “If John wrote about literal Jerusalem (“where also their Lord was crucified”)  twenty-five years after the destruction of the literal Temple (as per the evangelically formulated late date argument), it would seem most improbable that he would speak of the Temple as if it were still standing. The symbol would be confusing in its blatant anachronism. The Temple is required to be standing for the symbolical action of the vision to have any meaning. John uses the future tense when he speaks of the nations’ treading down the city. As just stated, this is not a reminiscence of a past event, but rather a future expectation.” (Before Jerusalem Fell, p.175)

David S. Clark (1989) is also quoted in this regard by Steve Gregg (p. 222): “Here is so plainly the destruction of Jerusalem that it could hardly be put in plainer words. It seems evident that there is no getting away from the fact that here we are dealing with the fall of Jerusalem in the year 70,–that all that John has said hitherto was leading up to this great fact,–that here we have the culmination of these prophetic seals, and this is where the first half of the book lands us.”

• If Revelation was written in 95 AD, then what temple is being referred to here? Herod’s temple had been long destroyed.
• If the temple here is referring to a temple that is “future” (as futurists believe), why would such a temple be necessary in light of the work of Christ and the new covenant that has replaced temple sacrifices? See Hebrews 9-10. If a new temple is necessary and said to be the “temple of God” in Rev 11:1, this would dangerously minimize the work of Christ.
• Rev 11:2 says that the holy city will be “trampled” for 42 months. This prophecy is remarkably similar to the one spoken by Jesus in Luke 21:24, where it is said that “Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” And Luke 21:24 is commonly believed to be referring to the destruction of the temple in 70 AD.
• The “holy city” is Jerusalem as described in 11:8 [see below].
• 42 months is the length of time that historians say the Roman army attacked and destroyed the city of Jerusalem. This 42 months covers the period from February 67 AD – August 70 AD, that is, from the time that Rome declared war on Israel (and Vespasian marched into Judea, Galilee, and on toward Jerusalem) until Jerusalem and the Second Temple were destroyed. From Scripture we know that Jerusalem had been known historically as “the holy city” (Nehemiah 11:1; Isaiah 48:2, 52:1; Daniel 9:24; Matthew 4:5; Matthew 27:53), and this was still its historic designation despite the fact that Jesus had pronounced it desolate (Matt. 23:38). In 1851, Moses Stuart (Professor at Andover Theological Seminary) made the following remarks concerning Revelation 11:2 and the trampling of the holy city for 42 months, his point being that the mention of “the holy city” also referred to Israel as a whole:

“Jerusalem, as being the metropolis, is, as often in the Old Testament, made the symbol or representative of the whole country or nation. The reader needs only to be reminded, how often Zion and Jerusalem stand, in prophetic language, as the representatives of the Jewish government, polity, land, and nation, in order to accede to the position, that the capitals in the Apocalypse are to be considered as the symbols of the country and of the government to which they belong.

“When John therefore predicts, in Rev. 11:2, that “the holy city shall be trodden under foot 42 months,” this of course involves the idea, that the country of which the holy city is the capital, is also trodden under foot. To make their way to the capital, a foreign enemy, coming (as the Romans did) from the north, must have overrun a great portion of Palestine antecedently to the capture of Jerusalem. The prediction of course includes both, inasmuch as the holy city is made the representative of the country at large.”

Source: Moses Stuart, Hints on the Interpretation of Prophecy, New York: Van Nostrand and Terrett, pp. 115-116; available online at http://www.preteristarchive.com/Books/pdf/1851_stuart_hints_interpretation.pdf

Discussion item: read Luke 21:5-33
• My ESV Bible heading, and the accompanying explanation, claim that verses 20-24 refer to AD 70. If so, how could the rest of the text refer to a future “end times”?
• Could the entire passage refer to AD 70?
• What is the significance of verse 32 to the issue?

I have to admit that for some time I’ve been a bit perplexed over the language used in verses 1-2. I can see the basis for saying that this passage is written as if the Second Temple was still standing when John received his vision (and I believe it was), yet the use of the phrase “temple of God” seems to indicate that the Church is also being referred to here (cf. Eph. 2:11-22; II Cor. 6:16; I Cor. 3:16, 6:19). Therefore it may be that John was (symbolically) measuring the Church which would be trampled (persecuted) for 42 months (see Rev. 13:5-7). Given the similarity between this passage and Luke 21:24, the physical temple was also probably being alluded to. It may be that both ideas were being spoken of in this case (more will be said on this later in this post).

David Chilton may be on to something, then, as in the quote above he referred to a division between the holy and the profane. That may very well be what John is seeing contrasted here. In other words, the desolate physical temple (cf. Matthew 23:38) would soon disappear, and only God’s holy temple (His people) would remain standing (cf. Hebrews 8:13, 12:18-29). I also appreciate what David Lowman (a Presbyterian pastor in Colorado) has said concerning these things:

The measuring of the Temple is patterned, like so much of the book of Revelation, after the book of Ezekiel. In Ezekiel we are shown an angel of the Lord measuring the Temple representing the future for Jerusalem and God’s Holy people after a return from exile. Conversely, John measures the temple to determine its soon coming destruction and its being ‘trampled’ for 42 months…

What John does, though, is give us a beautiful, symbolic picture of God’s preserving work, for only the outer courts of the Temple are seen as being trampled, while the Temple Proper (Holy Place and Holy of Holies) is preserved. This would be God’s remnant preserved through the soon coming wrath and destruction. The physical Temple faced the wrath of God and His judgment, but His true Temple – the Church – survived and thrived amidst the persecution and tribulation…

God here, in this interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpets, is once again showing His protection of His people. He has measured them out and has determined to protect them through the 3 1/2 year time of judgment set against apostate Israel and the physical representation of the old and obsolete Covenant, the Temple.

Kenneth Gentry (p. 174) writes in a similar manner, saying that “the measuring of the Temple is for the preservation of its innermost aspects, i.e., the…altar, and worshippers within (Rev. 11:1).” He adds,

This seems to refer to the inner-spiritual idea of the Temple in the New Covenant era that supercedes the material Temple of the Old Covenant era. Thus, while judgment is about to be brought upon Israel, Jerusalem, and the literal Temple complex, this prophecy speaks also of the preservation of God’s new Temple, the Church…that had its birth in and was originally headquartered at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8; 8:1; 15:2). Notice that after the holocaust, the altar is seen in heaven (Rev. 11:18), whence Christ’s kingdom originates (John 18:36; Heb. 1:3) and where Christians have their citizenship (Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1, 2).

The external court of the Temple complex, however, is not “measured”; it is “cast out”… All the Israelites who refuse the new priesthood of baptism are cast out and their Temple destroyed. The Temple is not destined for preservation, “for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months” (v. 2). The prior prophecy of Christ (Matt. 24:2) absolutely prohibits any expectation of even a partial preservation of the literal Temple. Thus, John reveals both the prophetic certainty of the material Temple’s destruction and the fact of the preservation of His true Temple, His Church, His New Covenant people, His new priesthood [As such, Rev. 11:1, 2 functions in the same way as the “sealing of the 144,000” passage in Rev. 7]. The proper understanding of the passage requires a mixture of the figurative-symbolic and the literal-historical.

Steve Gregg (p. 220) adds these helpful notes,

As at the end of chapter 10, where John’s eating of the book repeats Ezekiel’s action of centuries earlier, here in chapter 11 John is told to do something else that also has a precedent in Ezekiel. In Ezekiel 40-47 a man measures the temple with a measuring rod. In Revelation 11 John himself is given a reed for the same purpose. In both cases, the action depicts the defining of the true spiritual temple in view of the impending destruction of the physical structure in Jerusalem (by Babylonians in Ezekiel’s day, by Romans in John’s).

Verses 3-6: 3 And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. 4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5 And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. 6 They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire…

The two witnesses
• There is all sorts of speculation about the identity of the two witnesses amongst preterists, futurists, and everyone else!
• The reference to the two olive trees and two lampstands is from Zechariah 4:11-14. There the reference is to the high priest, Joshua, and the governor, Zerubbabel. (Read Zech 4)
What do we know about the two witnesses from the text?
• They prophesy for 1260 days (vs. 3)
• They are clothed in sackcloth (vs. 3) (Why? Perhaps because their message is one of impending destruction)
• They have power to harm their adversaries (vs. 5)
• They have power over nature and to strike the earth with plagues (vs. 6)
• They are overcome and killed by the beast in God’s time (vs. 7)
• Their dead bodies will lie in Jerusalem for 3 ½ days (vs. 9)
• Their death will be celebrated (vs. 10)
• They have been a “torment” to those on the earth (vs. 10) How and why?
• God will make them alive again after 3 ½ days! (vs. 11)
• They are taken up to heaven on a cloud! (vs. 12)
• A deadly earthquake fell on the city after their departure (vs. 13)

Explanations given for the identity of the two witnesses:
• Religious and Civic authority (represented by the high priest and governor of Zech 4)
• Moses and Elijah returning to earth
• Elijah and Enoch returning to earth
• James and Peter
• Two people that God raised up for the role

Kenneth Gentry has the following to say regarding their identity and significance:

(1) This is recognized on all hands to be one of the more difficult identifications in Revelation.
(2) Somehow these witnesses relate to Moses and Elijah in that imagery from their ministries appear in the passage (water to blood and drought, v6).
(3) They also related to Zechariah’s prophecy of the gold lampstand and two olive trees in Zech 4:2-3, which speak of the rebuilding of the OT temple under Joshua (priest) and Zerubbabel (governor).
(4) In both allusions we have reference to the original founding of Israel as a nation and the re-establishment of it after the Babylonian exile.
(5) Thus, the two witnesses represent the founding of a new order for Israel upon the ruins of the old, earthly Israel. This is the church of Jesus Christ. Remember: Jesus said he will take the kingdom from Israel and give it to a nation bearing the fruit thereof. (Mt 21:43). Despite the persecution of Christianity it shall arise from apparent defeat.

Tony Denton (www.asiteforthelord.com) offers these interesting thoughts:

Under the Mosaic law, two witnesses were necessary to put any man to death; so, in that sense, God was providing two witnesses against Judah, Jerusalem, and the Temple. These two witnesses would prophesy against Jerusalem and warn the people for 3.5 years.

Not only did sackcloth represent great sadness at an impending disaster due to sin, but also it (typically made of camel’s hair) was traditionally worn by prophets (like John the Immerser); perhaps this was because prophets were practically always warning of these disasters.

The two witnesses comprise one set of two olive trees and one set of two lampstands. So what or who do these trees and stands represent? Briefly…

This is derived from Zechariah 4:1-12 where the reader finds that one olive tree represents the anointed king David, and the other represents the anointed priest Aaron—thus king and priest; the idea here seems to be that Christ’s church (made up of Christians who were/are both kings and priests, Rev. 5:10) would be witnesses of God against Judaism. And…

We already know that individual congregations of the church universal were represented to John as lampstands (Rev. 1:20), they who shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:15).

James MacDonald, in his 1877 book The Life and Writings of St. John, was of the opinion that we don’t have a historical record of the activity of the two witnesses during the Roman-Jewish War because the historians we rely on from that time were either Jewish (Josephus) or Roman (e.g. Tacitus), and none were Christian:

If we had a Christian history extant, as we have a Pagan one by Tacitus and a Jewish one by Josephus, giving an account of what occurred within that devoted city during that awful period of its history, then we might trace out more distinctly the prophesying of the two witnesses. The great body of Christians, warned by the signs given them by their Lord, according to ancient testimony, appear to have left Palestine on its invasion by the Romans . . . . But it was the will of God that a competent number of witnesses for Christ should remain to preach the Gospel to the very last moment to their deluded, miserable countrymen. It may have been part of their work to reiterate the prophecies respecting the destruction of the city, the temple, and commonwealth… The olive-trees, fresh and vigorous, keep the lamps constantly supplied with oil. These witnesses, amidst the darkness which has settled round Jerusalem, give a steady and unfailing light… If these two prophets were the only Christians in Jerusalem, as both were killed, there was no one to make a record or report in the case, and we have here therefore an example of a prophecy which contains at the same time the only history or notice of the events by which it was fulfilled… There seems to be a peculiar fitness in these witnesses for Christ, men endowed with the highest supernatural gifts, standing to the last in the forsaken city, prophesying its doom, and lamenting over what was once so dear to God (pp. 161-162)

Moses Stuart (Professor of Andover Theological Seminary), in his 1851 work Hints on the Interpretation of Prophecy, saw a significance in the number of witnesses chosen by God to prophesy during this time of judgment upon apostate Israel. He remarks, “Two witnesses, and but two, are specified, as we may naturally suppose, because, ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every matter is established.'” This is a reference to Deuteronomy 19:15 (cf. II Cor. 13:1).

Although history doesn’t seem to record the activities of two witnesses as some might expect if this is a past event (and if it is assumed that they are merely individuals), Josephus does record some interesting details regarding the activity of one man, whose behavior shows that he functioned very much as a prophet in the city of Jerusalem. The following excerpt is taken from a term paper I wrote a few months ago:

Jesus, the son of Ananus and a common Roman citizen, came to the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem during a time of great peace and prosperity and began to cry out, “A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, and a voice against this whole people!” He continued to do this for seven years and five months, day and night, in all the lanes of the city, crying out the loudest during the festivals. He was often whipped until his bones were bare, but witnesses say he never shed a tear, only crying out at every lash, “Woe, woe to Jerusalem!” He was dismissed by the Roman Procurator as a madman… [In April 70 AD he was] killed by a large stone flung from one of the Roman engines… Just before he was struck, he cried out with great force, “Woe, woe to the city again, and to the people, and to the holy house! Woe, woe to myself also!”

In verse 6 we read that the two witnesses have the power to strike “the earth” with every kind of plague. Is their ministry worldwide or local? In our study of Revelation so far, we have suggested that many of the references to “the earth” in the book of Revelation are not meant to be taken as worldwide in scope, but as dealing instead with the land of Israel/Palestine. In a 3-part study on this subject beginning with this post, I have outlined nearly 20 instances where this appears to be the case.

Verse 8: We know that Jerusalem is being spoken of because it is said that this is “where their Lord was crucified.” The following details also come from my same term paper:

It’s worth noting that “Revelation 11:8 suggests that Jerusalem’s streets were intact at the time of John’s writing” (Kenneth Gentry, 1998, p. 236) because the dead bodies of the two witnesses were to lie there for several days. If John wrote this in 95 or 96 AD, Jerusalem would have been a wasteland. As Kathleen M. Kenyon remarked [Jerusalem: Excavating 3000 Years of History, 1967, p. 185], “It was two centuries or more [after 70 AD] before human activity began once more to make its mark in the whole area of ancient Jerusalem.” It’s also significant in Revelation 11:8 that Jerusalem is called “the great city.” This is the same title given to Babylon the Great on at least six occasions (17:18; 18:10, 16, 18, 19, 21).

To be called “Sodom,” of course, is not a compliment. When Isaiah was instructed to prophesy against Judah and Jerusalem (Isaiah 1:10), he called the Israelites by the same name because of their apostasy. It would make sense for John to speak of apostate Jerusalem, once known as the holy city, as Sodom, Babylon, and a harlot. Todd Dennis writes, “The image of the unfaithful wife, the harlot, was often used of Israel in the OT. Israel is repeatedly called the wife of God (Jer. 2:2, 3:14, Is. 54:5). But she was an unfaithful wife (Jer. 3:20, Hos. 1:2, Ez. 6:9, Ez. 16, Is. 50:1) behaving as a prostitute (Jer. 3:1-2).

Luke is very clear that Jerusalem was to be the place where Jesus would be crucified. In his account of the Transfiguration, Luke says, “Then behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31).

Kenneth Gentry (Before Jerusalem Fell, p. 171) notes that Jerusalem was great in not only its “covenantal-redemptive [i.e. spiritual] signficance,” but also because of its historical fame. He quotes the Roman historian Tacitus who refers to Jerusalem as “a famous city” (Histories 5:2). Gentry adds,

Jerusalem housed a Temple that, according to Tacitus “was famous beyond all other works of men.” Another Roman historian, Pliny, said of Jerusalem that it was “by far the most famous city of the ancient Orient.” According to Josephus, a certain Agatharchides spoke of Jerusalem thus: “There are a people called Jews, who dwell in a city the strongest of all other cities, which the inhabitants call Jerusalem.” Appian called it “the great city Jerusalem.” …More important, however, is the covenantal significance of Jerusalem. The obvious role of Jerusalem in the history of the covenant should merit it such greatness… Josephus sadly extols Jerusalem’s lost glory after its destruction: “This was the end which Jerusalem came to be the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificance, and of mighty fame among all mankind (Wars 7:1:1)… And where is not that great city, the metropolis of the Jewish nation, which was fortified by so many walls round about, which had so many fortresses and large towers to defend it, which could hardly contain the instruments prepared for the war, and which had so many tens of thousands of men to fight for it? Where is this city that was believed to have God himself inhabiting therein? It is now demolished to the very foundations” (Wars 7:8:7).

Verses 9-12: Here we read that the dead bodies of the witnesses would lie unburied in the streets of the great city, Jerusalem, for “three and a half days,” before “a breath of life from God” enters them and they’re caught up to heaven in a cloud. A very natural explanation for “those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations” (verse 9) being present in Jerusalem to see these dead bodies is that this would take place during one of the annual festivals. As an example of this, Luke says that on the Day of Pentecost “there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5). Some of these nations are listed in Acts 2:9-11.

In several places Josephus speaks of dead bodies being left unburied in Jerusalem during the Jewish-Roman War (Wars 4.5.2, 4.6.1, 4.6.3, and 5.13.1). Josephus says this about the death of Niger of Peres which took place in Jerusalem:

“Nor did Niger of Peres escape their hands; he had been a man of great valor in their war with the Romans… he besought them to grant him a burial; but as they had threatened him beforehand not to grant him any spot of earth for a grave, which he chiefly desired of them, so did they slay him [without permitting him to be buried]. Now when they were slaying him, he made this imprecation upon them, that they might undergo both famine and pestilence in this war, and besides all that, they might come to the mutual slaughter of one another; all which imprecations God confirmed against these impious men, and was what came most justly upon them, when not long afterward. they tasted of their own madness in their mutual seditions one against another” (Wars 4.6.1).

In Wars 4.6.3 Josephus describes the fate of many Jews who “deserted every day, and fled away from the zealots, although their flight was very difficult, since they [the Zealots] had guarded every passage out of the city, and slew every one that was caught at them, as taking it for granted they were going over to the Romans.” Josephus adds this:

“Along all the roads also vast numbers of dead bodies lay in heaps, and even many of those that were so zealous in deserting at length chose rather to perish within the city; for the hopes of burial made death in their own city appear of the two less terrible to them. But these zealots came at last to that degree of barbarity, as not to bestow a burial either on those slain in the city, or on those that lay along the roads; but as if they had made an agreement to cancel both the laws of their country and the laws of nature, and, at the same time that they defiled men with their wicked actions, they would pollute the Divinity itself also, they left the dead bodies to putrefy under the sun; and the same punishment was allotted to such as buried any as to those that deserted, which was no other than death; while he that granted the favor of a grave to another would presently stand in need of a grave himself.”

Verse 13: We are told that a great earthquake takes place, causing a tenth of the city of Jerusalem [identified as such in verse 8] to fall, and 7000 to be killed as a direct result of the earthquake. This is said to occur in the same hour as the end of the ministry of the two witnesses. This account from Josephus, (said to take place during the first half of 68 AD, appears to be the fulfillment of this event:

There broke out a prodigious storm in the night, with the utmost violence, and very strong winds, with the largest showers of rain, with continued lightnings, terrible thunderings, and amazing concussions and bellowings of the earth, that was in an earthquake. These things were a manifest indication that some destruction was coming upon men, when the system of the world was put into this disorder; and any one would guess that these wonders foreshowed some grand calamities that were coming (Wars 4:4:5). [Taking advantage of the noise of the storm, some of the Jewish zealots cut the bars of the temple gates with temple saws, allowing the Idumaeans to come in and join them in slaughtering some of the people]. The din from all quarters was rendered more terrific by the howling of the storm. And by daybreak they saw 8,500 dead bodies there (Wars 4:4:7-4:5:1).

Josephus does not attribute a certain number of deaths to the earthquake, and a certain number of deaths to the warfare which took place, but only notes that a total of 8500 dead bodies were discovered the morning after this earthquake. This is remarkably close to the Biblical account. Estimates of Jerusalem’s population prior to its destruction (at non-feast times) range as high as 200,000. This number in 68 AD, however, should have been lower considering that the Christians had fled and the city was in the throes of civil war. Josephus then records that the Idumaeans and the Jewish zealots succeeded in killing Ananus the high priest and his next-in-command, Jesus son of Gamalas (also known as Joshua), showing them much dishonor:

“Nay, they proceeded to that degree of impiety, as to cast away their dead bodies without burial. I should not make a mistake if I said that the death of Ananus was the beginning of the destruction of the city [when the Jews] beheld their high priest, the captain of their salvation, butchered in the heart of Jerusalem” (Wars 4:5:2).

This is not to suggest that Ananus and Joshua were the two witnesses, but it sheds further light on verse 9 which indicates that the two witnesses were also not to be buried (cf. Psalm 79:1-4, where very similar conditions were described by Asaph).

Verses 14-15: 14 The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come. The Seventh Trumpet 15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” 16 And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying, “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. 18 The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.” 19 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.

There is much discussion about the meaning of v. 15. Within the Preterist view, in what way can it be said that “the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of His Christ”? One response is that, with the trampling of the great city and the destruction of the temple, the kingdom of God is clearly shown that it is not a “national theocracy” limited to the Jewish people. The kingdom of Christ is available to all people (as demonstrated by Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles). The Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 21:33-46) is most interesting in this regard. It speaks of the pattern of national Israel and its religious leaders throughout the Old Testament in killing God’s prophets and servants. At last they killed God’s Son, Jesus. When Jesus asked what would be done to the tenants of this vineyard, the chief priests, elders, and Pharisees (vss. 23, 45) rightfully answered, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruit in their seasons” (verse 41). Jesus then speaks of their rejection of Him (verse 42), and declares that the kingdom of God would be taken away from national Israel “and given to a people producing its fruits” (verse 43).

Who is this people? Of course, it’s the Church, made up of Jewish and Gentile believers, among whom there is no distinction made (Galatians 3:28, 5:6, 6:15; Colossians 3:11; I Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 2:13-17). When did this happen, though, that the kingdom was taken away from national Israel and given exclusively to the Church? It can be said that this transaction took place at the time of Christ’s death and resurrection, even at Pentecost when the Church was born. However, the physical manifestation of national Israel being taken out of the way, and the final consumation of the Jewish age, took place when Jerusalem and the Second Temple were destroyed in 70 AD. It’s quite possible that this event was on Jesus’ mind when He said, “And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him” (verse 45). The old covenant was in the process of vanishing away when Hebrews was written (see Heb. 8:13), but at this time it completely vanished away, and remains no more. Now to the Church belongs the kingdom (cf. Daniel 7:13-27).

In the Futurist view, the proclamation in verse 15 heralds the return of Christ and the end of the world. They point to verse 18 as the commencement of the final judgment.

Verse 19: As we saw in Rev. 4:5 and 8:5, the cosmic phenomena in verse 19 mirrors the phenomena that occurred when Moses delivered the Law to the Israelites on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:16). The significance of this parallel is that Jerusalem’s destruction (along with the temple) completed the transition from Judaism (the Old Covenant) to the New Covenant.

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Our study of Revelation 11 (Part 2: Historicist View) continues here. Our Revelation 12 study can be found here.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.

John Piper Hosts “An Evening of Eschatology”


Event: An Evening of Eschatology (The Meaning of the Millennium)
Location: Bethlehem Baptist Church (Minneapolis)

Speakers: Sam Storms, Jim Hamilton, Doug Wilson (Moderator: John Piper)

Date: September 27, 2009

Video Source: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/MediaPlayer/4262/Video/

These men gathered at Bethlehem Baptist Church to discuss the thousand-year reign discussed in Revelation 20.  It was at times serious and intense, and at other times very funny.  I enjoyed watching some heavy-hitters defend their beliefs head-to-head.   Here are some of my jottings from the evening:

-Christ died so that we might die.  He lives so that we might live.  He absorbed our sin and God’s wrath and His righteousness was imputed on our behalf.
-Doug Wilson remarked (15:25 point in the video) that the Millennium is 1000 years of peace that Christians like to fight about.  🙂
-One’s view of the millennium pertains to when he believes the 1000 year reign discussed in Rev. 20:1-6 falls in time.
-Relevant texts regarding the Bible’s use of the word “ages”: [1] Matthew 12:32 [2] Mark 10:30 [3] I Corinthians 10:11 [4] Ephesians 1:21

Some opinions and comments from the speakers:

Doug Wilson:  Ages overlap from Pentecost to 70 AD.  Jewish age ended 70; new age began then.

Jim Hamilton, Doug Wilson, Sam Storms: Jesus will reign on this earth.

Doug Wilson: This earth is longing for the resurrection for the created order – Rom 8

Doug Wilson: Intermediate state – we die and are with the Lord the day of our death – in heaven.  We wait for the redemption of our bodies.

Jim Hamilton (Premillennial View): Revelation shows that there will be a resurrection of believers who reign with Jesus on earth for a thousand years.  JW suggests that their offspring may not be regenerated and could die without Christ in that period.  Then Satan is released, and there is a rebellion, to be followed by the  final judgment, and a new heaven and new earth.

Doug Wilson  (Post-millennial View): The  Millennium is now on the earth.  Jesus will come and judge death at the end of this age.  The dead will be raised; we will be ushered into the golden age.  The progress of the gospel  is apparent here on earth; suffering is abating.  Doug concurred with the Partial-Preterist view that the book of Revelation was written before 70 AD and the prophecies were fulfilled in the destruction of the Jerusalem temple.

Sam Storms  (Amillennial View): The Millennium is vital, but it is in heaven.  Revelation 20 saints are with Christ now and they are in the millennium.  The Millennium is now and it will end at Christ’s 2nd coming.  One problem with the post-millennial view is that suffering continues here on earth (according to Scripture).  Believers who have died are in the millennium now.

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Adam’s Notes

It wasn’t easy to take notes because of the pace of the discussion and the heavy subject matter being discussed. The video of this event is now available (above and on YouTube), and anyone can review what was said during the two-hour long forum.

Participant Millennium View Eschatological Stance on the Book of Revelation
Jim Hamilton Premillennialist Futurist
Sam Storms Amillennialist Historicist
Doug Wilson Post-Millennialist Partial-Preterist
John Piper Premillennialist Futurist (Post-Tribulationist)

Doug Wilson made the point that the years 30-70 AD were the overlapping of two ages, the Judaic (Old Covenant) age and the Christian (Church) age. He likened this transition to the passing of a baton between two runners, where the first runner keeps running alongside the second runner for some distance, before completely letting go of the baton and giving way to the second runner. One relevant text for this idea is Hebrews 8:13. Doug noted that the Christian age began at Pentecost, but the Judaic age only ended 40 years later with the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 AD (See the video, roughly from the 18:30-22:00 mark).

Sam Storms stated that the “millennium” is currently taking place in heaven, experienced by all who have died in Christ and are dwelling in the intermediate state, awaiting Christ’s Second Coming, the Resurrection, and the redemption of our bodies. Thus they are reigning with Christ now, but from heaven and not from the earth.

Doug Wilson, representing the Post-Millennial viewpoint, insisted that the Great Commission will be successful in human history, Christianity will more or less take over the world, and then Christ will return. Some Post-Millennialists believe that a literal 1000-year Golden Age will close out the Church age. Others, like Doug, believe that Church history will simply end in a climax as Christianity progressively permeates the earth more than ever before.

John Piper posted some follow-up thoughts two days after we attended this forum:

For two hours I moderated, more or less, a discussion among Jim Hamilton (professor of New Testament at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky), Sam Storms (pastor of Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City), and Doug Wilson (pastor of Christ Church, Moscow, Idaho).

The discussion was intended to focus on the relationship between the thousand-year reign of Christ mentioned in Revelation 20 and the return of Christ to this earth visibly and physically to reign. This thousand years is usually called “the millennium.” Revelation 20 is the only place in the Bible where the length of this period is mentioned.

A little later in this article, Piper summarizes the three views which were presented that night:

Premillennialism (represented by Jim Hamilton): The return of Christ happens before (pre-) the thousand-year reign of Christ, which is a reign of the risen Christ on the earth.

Amillennialism (represented by Sam Storms): The return of Christ happens after the thousand-year reign, a reign that occurs in heaven, in the intermediate state, and not upon the earth. Those who have died in faith and entered into the presence of Christ share his rule and reign during the current church age in which we now live.

Postmillennialism (represented by Doug Wilson): The return of Christ happens after (post-) the thousand-year reign, which corresponds to the Christian age, and the reign of Christ from heaven leads the church to triumph by and through the gospel to such an extent that the Great Commission will be successfully fulfilled, and the Christian faith will pervade all the cultures of all the nations of men. All Christ’s enemies will be subdued in this way, with the exception of death, which he will destroy by his coming.

Piper acknowledges that his own view is Historic Premillennialism, but adds that he sees Amillennialism as “the next most plausible view.”

*Someone mentioned a few days after this forum that John Piper had prepared 16 more questions which he never got to because time got away from the group.

**Each of the speakers has recommended several resources for further study: See here

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An Introduction and Outline of all our posts on Revelation 20 (concerning the topic of the Millennium) can be found here.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.

Revelation Chapter 7


REVELATION 7

Dave: September 10, 2009/Adam: August 2011

Scripture text for this study:  Revelation 7

Notes from Adam were edited into this post in November 2009, and again in August 2011, and are in red:

Background Note: Chapter 7 is an interlude between the sixth seal (6:12) and the seventh seal (8:1). Revelation 6 ends with a statement that the great day of the wrath of the Lord had come, along with a question about who could stand in that day. That question is answered here in this chapter.

Verses 1-3: Here we see that four different angels have been given power to harm the earth and sea. However, with more judgment about to come, another angel intervenes and strictly commands the four angels to hold back this judgment until God’s servants could first be sealed on their foreheads. This intervening angel is said to have “the seal of the living God.” He also comes from the east. Why is that?

One possibility relates to what we know from the history of the Jewish-Roman War (66-73 AD). During the 5-month siege on Jerusalem in 70 AD, Titus made his headquarters on the northern ridge of the Mount of Olives, which was on the eastern side of Jerusalem. Attack plans and strategies were made from this location, which Titus called “Lookout Hill” (Mount Scopus). From there he was able to look into the city over its fortified walls. It was also from there that the famous 10th Legion of Rome used catapults to launch huge stones weighing 75 – 100 pounds into the city (this will be discussed further in our study of Revelation 16), causing much devastation. 

Arethas, the Bishop of Caesarea in the 10th century AD, gave an interesting commentary on these verses:

Here in a suitable manner are shown those evangelists which openly remained among the Jews in the war against the Romans in the avenging affliction of the Lord. For, the four angels saved the guards upon the four corners of the land of the Jews putting to flight their fear, whether it be fear of the certain sufferings and injuries or the unseasonable affliction of the country or of their beloved wives. These things, which were a near threat to Judea, are designated figuratively. But also the winds are to be prohibited from blowing upon the land or upon the sea . Upon the land indeed, lest either they find a small consolation in the time of war against the Romans or the vegetable farmers diligently arise rejoicing because their plants are being refreshed by the blowing of the winds. [Or the land or the sea may designate] the foot soldiers fighting in the war or the navy, since as Josephus says, ships also were used in the attack. For all these misfortunes happened to them.

Source: Francis Gumerlock, Revelation in the First Century, 2012

Verses 4-8: What do we know about the 144,000 from the text?

  • They are “sealed” on their foreheads (verse 3; compare with Rev. 3:12, 13:16).
  • There are 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel.
  • They have been protected from the wrath to be poured out on the earth (verse 3).

Q: Where else does the Bible talk about His people being sealed?
A: Ephesians 1:13-14, Ezekiel 9:4-6.

In Steve Gregg’s book, “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary),” he points to a remarkable parallel event, recorded by Ezekiel, which occurred shortly before Jerusalem fell the first time:

Jerusalem twice fell to invaders because of God’s judgment upon them: first, in 586 B.C., to the Babylonians; and second, in A.D. 70, to the Romans. Prior to the conquest in 586 B.C., God took care to identify His own and to separate them for safety during the holocaust. This fact was symbolically portrayed to Ezekiel in a vision of an angel marking God’s faithful with an ink mark on their foreheads. Following this marking, six angels with deadly weapons were dispatched against Jerusalem to slaughter its inhabitants (Ezekiel 9).

Here a similar vision is given to John prior to the second destruction of Jerusalem in his own day. This time, before the four winds (v. 1) are unleashed upon Israel, God’s servants are sealed on their foreheads for their preservation… Those who survived the holocaust of A.D. 70 were those who possessed the seal of God (Eph. 1:13), that is, the Jewish believers in Christ (pp. 126, 128).

Steve Gregg also wrote about the believers in Jerusalem successfully escaping before Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD, just as Jesus warned them to do in Matthew 24:15-21 and Luke 21:20-24:

Just prior to the siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the Jewish Christians in that city were warned by a prophetic oracle to flee from the city (echoing Jesus’ own warning in Luke 21:20ff). Historian Eusebius (c. 325) wrote: “The whole body, however, of the church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given to men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city, and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan, called Pella.”

The normative view among evangelical preterists is that this 144,000 is a symbolic number representing the full number of Jewish Christians who escaped the doomed city before its destruction. That this group lived in the first century is confirmed in another passage, which calls them the “firstfruits to God” (Rev. 14:4). Since the church age has been one long harvest of souls (Matt. 9:37f; John 4:35-38), the “firstfruits” must have come in at the beginning of this time (compare James 1:1, 18, which speaks of the Jewish believers as “firstfruits”). If this 144,000 referred to some future group living in the end times (as the futurists believe), one would expect them to be called the “last fruits.”

Regarding the escape of believers to Pella (Jordan) before 70 AD, more is written about that here:

https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/16/pp14-abomination-of-desolation/ and
https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/22/pp18-the-historical-events-leading-up-to-70-ad-part-2/
 (includes a map)

The 144,000 are mentioned again in Rev 14:1-4. What additional information about this group do we find there?

  • They have the name of the Lamb and His Father’s name written on their foreheads.
  • They were redeemed from the earth.
  • They are virgins.
  • They follow the Lamb wherever He goes.
  • They are said to be redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb.
  • In their mouth no lie was found.

Q: Who do scholars think that they are?
A:
According to proponents of the Pre-tribulation rapture view, they are Jewish believers brought to faith after Jesus returns and removes (raptures) the church from the earth. Some view the 144,000 as the church.  According to John M. Frame and Vern S. Poythress, for example, the visions of the 144,000 and the international multitude are “complementary perspectives” on the Church. This view holds that the 144,000 and the group in 9-17 are the same people. Why this view is problematic to the leader of this study (Dave):

  • The group in 9-17 is “innumerable”; the group in 4-8 is numbered.
  • The group in 4-8 is from the 12 tribes of Israel; the group in 9-17 is from “all tribes and peoples and languages.

Kenneth Gentry, in his book, Before Jerusalem Fell (1998), says (pp. 232ff), ” The 144,000 are Christians of Jewish extraction.”

  • Jewish, because they are “in the land”
  • Jewish, because they are from the twelve tribes of Israel
  • Jewish, because they are contrasted with the multitude in 9-17

Verses 9-17: John then sees “a great multitude.” What do we know about this group from the text?

  • They are innumerable.
  • They come from all tribes and peoples and languages.
  • They are clothed in white robes.
  • They have palm branches in their hands.
  • They extol God for His salvation.
  • They are seen “coming out of the great tribulation”.
  • They are purified by the blood of the Lamb.
  • They are before the throne of God and serve Him night and day.
  • They are sheltered by His presence.
  • They no longer experience hunger or thirst.
  • They are no longer able to be overcome by heat.
  • The Lamb, who is said to be in the midst of the throne, is their shepherd.
  • He guides them to springs of living water (see John 4:14, 7:37-38; Isaiah 49:10).
  • God wipes away every tear from their eyes.

What is the great tribulation mentioned in verse 14?
A: Here are several views, depending on one’s interpretation of this term:

  • Futurist Pre-Tribulationist view: Seven years of suffering for those “left behind” after a future Rapture of the Church
  • Futurist Post-Tribulationist view: An “end-times” generation will suffer through a future 7-year outpouring of God’s wrath
  • Historicist view: The sufferings of the church from its inception (John 16:33)
  • Preterist view: A 3.5 year period that occurred in history, beginning with Nero’s declaration of war against Israel in February 67 AD until Jerusalem’s destruction in August 70 AD (Matthew 24:21; cf. Daniel 12:1, Jeremiah 30:7). This is our view, and more details can be seen in Part 3 of our series on the Olivet Discourse.

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It may be helpful to further clarify our reasons for believing that the predicted judgments alluded to here in this chapter were to be poured out primarily on the land of Israel. As noted above, one of the reasons Kenneth Gentry gave for seeing the 144,000 as believers of Jewish extraction was that they were shown to be “in the land,” a reference to verse 3 (some translations say “earth”). In our study of Revelation so far, we have suggested that many of the references to “the earth” in the book of Revelation are not meant to be taken as worldwide in scope, but as dealing instead with the land of Israel/Palestine. In a 3-part study on this subjectbeginning with this post, I have outlined nearly 20 instances where this appears to be the case.

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Our study of Revelation 8 can be found here.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.

Revelation Chapter 2 (Pergamum & Thyatira)


REVELATION 2:12-29 (Pergamum & Thyatira)

Dave: July 16, 2009

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 2:12-29

[Notes from Adam were added on October 14th, and are in blue font. They are based mostly on Steve Gregg’s book “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary).”]

Pergamum

  • 190,000 people
  • 65 miles north of Smyrna
  • Capital city of the northern province of Asia
  • Known as a religious hub –
    • Worship of Zeus
    • Worship of Athene & Dionysus
    • Worship of Asclepios
    • Worship of Caesar

Steve Gregg notes that Pergamum (Pergamos) was the oldest city in Asia. It had the second largest library in the world (after Alexandria, Egypt), with 200,000 volumes of books (Steve Gregg, p. 68).

–What was the church praised for?
–Who was Antipas?  (See 1:5)
–What was the church rebuked for?  (See Num 31:16 for more on Balaam)

Sam Storms:

We read of Balaam in Numbers 22-24. Balak, King of Moab, had solicited Balaam to curse the children of Israel who were preparing to cross over into the promised land. But God intervened. Every time Balaam spoke, words of blessing came forth. Moved by greed for the reward Balak offered him, Balaam advised Balak that Moabite women should seduce the men of Israel by inviting them to partake in their idolatrous feasts (which invariably led to sexual immorality). Balaam knew that this would provoke the judgment of God against his people (which is precisely what happened).

What Balaam was to the children of Israel in the Old Testament, the Nicolaitans were to the church of Jesus Christ in the New. Balaam is a prototype of those who promote compromise with the world in idolatry and immorality (see also Jude 11 and 2 Peter 2:15). The Nicolaitans had dared to insinuate that freedom in Christ granted them a blank check to sin. The fault of the Pergamemes was not so much that they had followed this pernicious teaching but that they had allowed it be vocalized in the congregation. This matter of indifference to the licentiousness of the Nicolaitans was of grave concern to the risen Lord.

Steve Gregg views the teaching of the Nicolaitans as a forerunner to second-century gnosticism:

Whether those in Pergamos were teaching false doctrine for pay [as Balaam did], or simply teaching false doctrine, we do not know. What is evident is that sexual immorality and compromise with idolatry were being tolerated and even advocated by some in the church. In the second century, these same issues would be principal features of the Gnostic heretics (p. 69).

–Who are the Nicolaitans? (See note on Rev 2:6 – antinomians?)
–Why does Jesus say “I know where you dwell?”  (Encouragement that He understands our difficulties.)
–To whom does Jesus say He will come?  (to the church, but He will wage war against those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.)
–Practically speaking, what should the elders of Pergamum have done about the false teaching?
–What application is there for our churches?  And for us?

The Christians in Pergamum had sacrificed the ethical purity of their congregation on the altar of “love” and for the sake of some nebulous “peace” they feared to lose. Purity often comes at an extremely high price. But we must be prepared to pay it. Confrontation is never pleasant, but it often reaps a bountiful harvest. By all means, pursue love, but not at the expense of truth or in such a way that overt sin is left to fester and spread in the body of Christ (Source: Sam Storms).

Verses 16-17: Jesus tells the church in Pergamos what will take place in they do not repent for allowing the teaching of the Nicolaitans to remain in their midst. Steve Gregg remarks (p. 69),

Though the whole church is called upon to repent, it is only the offenders against whom Jesus threatens to fight…with the sword of My mouth (v. 16). What form this judgment will take is not specified, though it probably does not refer to the Second Coming, since this church no longer exists.

The same language Jesus uses here will be used again in Revelation 19:15. Jesus then gives several promises to those who conquer, including that He will give them a new name which no one else knows. A similar promise is given to the church in Philadelphia (3:12), where a second name is also promised (the name of God’s city, the New Jerusalem). Another promise given by Jesus here is that He will give to those who conquer a white stone. Steve Gregg remarks,

Much speculation has attended the interpretation of a white stone (v. 17). In one view, it is a token of vindication or acquittal, referring to the [first-century] practice of a judge handing an accused criminal either a black stone signifying condemnation or a white stone indicating acquittal. The message then would be that, though the Christians may stand condemned in the Roman courts, they will be justified at the bar of eternal justice. Another view is that the white stone was a token given to contestants in the Greek games as they completed their race, to be traded in later for their actual awards.

–The white stone . . . sometimes given to victors at games for entrance to banquets
–Where does Satan dwell these days?

Thyatira

–Economically strong, but culturally and politically ostracized.
–What is the church commended for?  (opposite of church in Ephesus)
–What is it rebuked for?  (tolerated heresy and immorality)

Steve Gregg (pp. 70-71) reminds us that one prominent believer from the book of Acts hailed from Thyatira:

Lydia, Paul’s first convert in Philippi, was from the city of Thyatira (Acts 16:14). The purple cloth she sold was a major product of that city… It is known that the city had many trade guilds, and it would have been difficult to make a living without participating in one of them. Yet the guilds practiced idolatrous rites at their gatherings, which Christians could not countenance. Therefore, the Christians in Thyatira may have been hard pressed to support themselves and their families without resorting to some measure of compromise with idolatry.

–Who is Jezebel?  (real person, but name was symbolic – like the symbolism of Balaam)

“Thus, what is meant is that this disreputable, so-called “prophetess” was as wicked and dangerous an influence in Thyatira as ‘Jezebel’ had been to Israel in the OT”  (Sam Storms).

–What was Jezebel doing to oppose the Lord and lead others astray?
–Didn’t Paul say it was OK to eat food sacrificed to idols as long as a brother’s conscience is not harmed?  What is the difference here?
–What will become of her and those she has influenced?
–What assurance does Jesus give to believers in Thyatira?  (He “searches the mind and the heart.”)
–Is the prophetess a believer?  And what about those who have followed her?  (Acts 5, 1 Cor 11:30-32)
–What are the deep things of Satan?
–What admonition does the Lord give to the believers?  (hold fast what you have until I come; conquer; keep my works until the end)
–What does “I will give authority over the nations” mean?  What are these nations?  (See Ps 2:7-9)

Steve Gregg addresses this question by presenting the various ways this statement in verse 26 is interpreted (p. 72):

Here the overcomer is described as the one who keeps My works until the end, with whom Christ will share His own power over the nations (v. 26). The fulfillment of this promise has been variously applied: (a) to reigning with Christ over the unsaved nations during a future millennium (20:4), (b) to participating in the reign of the saints with Christ after death in heaven (another way of understanding 20:4), or (c) to reigning over Christians of lower rank in the new earth, assuming there will be varying degrees of authority awarded to various saints (see Matt. 25:21-23; Luke 19:17, 19; I Cor. 15:41f).

The paraphrase of Psalm 2:9…appears, in context and without punctuation, to apply to the overcoming believer. In the psalm itself, it is clearly Christ who wields the rod of iron (as also in Rev. 19:15), which no doubt accounts for the translators in this case using quotation marks. Citation of the psalm points out that the authority of the exalted believer is not his own, but derived from the authority of Christ.

–Who is the Morning Star?  (See Rev 22:16)
–Do your latter works exceed your first?  Which direction are you going?

Thank you, Jesus, for giving us time to repent!

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Our study of Revelation 3 can be found here.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.