LUCIFER HAD A GREAT FALL! (Rev. 12:1-17)

Revelation: Because the Time Is Near

To listen to or download the audio message of this study click the study title.  Study #16: “Lucifer Had a Great Fall!” (Rev. 12:1-17)

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Imagine the panic that would ensure if thousands of extra-terrestrials suddenly invaded your community, secretly taking over the minds and bodies of leaders in government, business, law enforcement, and education. Sound like the farfetched plot of a low budget science fiction movie like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” or “The War of the Worlds?” It’s not. It’s what is actually going on in every community on the face of the earth. In this case, the extra-terrestrials are not invaders from outer space. Nor are they visible to the human eye. For they are spiritual beings called angels—millions of fallen angels who sided with Lucifer in his rebellion against God and are now fighting day and night to lull Christians to sleep, so we don’t share the truth about Jesus, and confuse the minds of unbelievers in preparation for the coming Antichrist.

Paul warns us in Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

That becomes vividly clear in this week’s study. In Revelation chapter 12, John gives us a glimpse behind the scenes at the power energizing the Beast and his kingdom. We learn that it is none other than “the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan.” He is the one who has deceived man and woman from the beginning and will someday soon day demand the worship of everyone on earth. So be watchful as we study! These facts aren’t just interesting Bible trivia; they’re vital spiritual insights into what’s happening in your community this very moment. And as we unearth what’s underfoot, we need to take action—resisting temptation, praying without ceasing for those who do not yet believe, and sharing the truth with anyone who will listen. This is a war for men’s souls, and we need to be ready. The first thing to notice in this chapter are—

TWO GREAT SIGNS IN HEAVEN

Chapter 12 begins John’s second vision in the book of Revelation. In chapter 1, he was told to write “the things which you have seen, the things which are, and the things which shall take place after these things.” But that writing assignment was completed in chapter 11. The Tribulation came to an end and “the kingdoms of the world” became “the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. So now John is told to “prophesy again about many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.” In other words, he’s to go back and color in the details of the Tribulation by describing its key characters and events. Chapter 12 introduces the first prophecy. Two signs appear in heaven identifying both the villain of the Tribulation and his intended victims.

1. The Sign of the Woman

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Verse 1 begins, “A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.”

The Bible often uses women as symbols of religion. For example, Ephesians 5:26 calls the church the Bride of Christ. On the other hand, Revelation 17 calls the false religion of the Tribulation “Babylon the Great, Mother of Harlots.” But here in chapter 12, John sees “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve staffs.” What religion does this represent? Two details make her identity clear.

First, her clothing. Perhaps you remember the dream of Joseph in Genesis 37 in which he saw the sun, moon, and the stars bowing down to him. There was no question in his or his brothers’ minds what this symbolized. It was a picture of his family, the household of Israel, bowing down to him in the future—once God exalted him to the position of second ruler of the land of Egypt. Here we find the same symbolism, making the identity of this woman clear. It is another picture of Israel, this time describing her future suffering during the Tribulation.

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You can see that even more clearly in the description of her child. Verse 5 continues, “She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to His throne.” This is an obvious reference to Jesus Christ who following His death and resurrection, was caught up to the throne of heaven and who will someday rule this world with “a rod of iron.” Consequently, who must this woman be? Not Mary, because Mary never suffered the persecution described in this chapter. Nor could it happen to her, since she is now safe and secure in God’s presence. Instead, it’s a reference to the nation of Israel through whom the Messiah was given to the world.

Why would focus on Israel at this time? To emphasize the central that she will again play in the divine drama on earth. For the past 1946 years, Israel has been set aside while Christ has built His Bride, the church. But God has not forgotten His chosen people. Romans 11:25-26 says that “hardening in part has happened to Israel,” but that one day soon “all Israel will be saved.” And yet, before that time of blessings can come, another period of suffering is predicted for Israel. That’s symbolized in the second sign John sees in heaven—

2. The Sign of the Dragon

 

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Verse 3 explains, “Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his head.”

Who is this dragon? Verse 9 identifies him as “that ancient serpent called the devil, who leads the whole world astray.” Red symbolizes his thirst for blood. We know that because the same word is used in chapter 6 to describe the “fiery red” horse that brings warfare to earth. Jesus Himself called him “a murderer from the beginning.” (Jn. 8:44) And we find that here as well, that Satan will inspire a future bloodbath of unprecedented proportions, especially for the people of Israel. The “seven heads and ten horns” tell us how he’ll do it. If you compare this to Revelation 13:1, you’ll find that this is a symbol of Antichrist, indicating that it’s through him that Satan will bring destruction on earth. The “seven crowns,” on the other hand, picture the seven world empires that he has controlled in the past, reminding us that if he has been able to do it before, he is more than capable of doing it again.

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Verse 4 adds, “His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth.” This describes the breadth of his power. For who do the stars represent? They are the devil’s partners in crime. For example, we saw in our study of Revelation 1:20 that stars are symbols for angels. John was told, “the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches.” In this case, however, they do not represent good angels, but evil angels who followed Lucifer in his rebellion against God. The Bible also refers to them as demons and unclean spirits. How many are involved? John says one-third of the angels God created. The good news, however, is that there are twice the number of good angels on our side than those on Lucifer’s side.

John continues, “The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born.” This refers to Satan’s desire to prevent Jesus from being born. Who can forget Herod’s attempt to kill the newborn King by ordering that all the baby boys in Bethlehem two years old and younger be slaughtered? But Satan’s plan was thwarted by God when He warned Joseph in a dream to take the Child and His mother into Egypt until Herod was dead. In fact, it was only on the cross that Lucifer’s plan was finally successful—for just three days! There he succeeded in having Jesus crucified, but three days later He rose from the dead, dealing a fatal blow to the devil. Hebrews 2:14 explains, “Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death, He might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil.”

Panorama of Jerusalem old city. Israel

Panorama of Jerusalem old city. Israel

Having failed to kill the Savior, the devil searches for a way to vent his anger. So what does he do? Verse 6 says the target of his hatred is the woman. Unable to prevent the birth of her Child, he tries to exterminate the people of Israel. This began in 70 AD when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, killing and enslaving millions of Jews. It continued during the Crusades of the 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th centuries, when hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered. Hitler killed 6 million more in World War II. Stalin persecuted millions more in the Soviet Union. Now Antichrist will lead the world in another Holocaust greater than that of Hitler. But all these efforts will fail. Why? Because God has promised to preserve the people of Israel forever!

Napoleon was asked by one of his generals, “What do you believe to be the greatest miracle of all time?” The conqueror answered without hesitation, “The Jews!” He was right! More than any other phenomenon in history, the survival of the Jews is proof that the God of the Bible exists. Who would have guessed that after wandering throughout the world without a homeland for 1878 years, Israel would again become an independent nation? But to the world’s amazement, they did so in May of 1948, going on to become the most powerful nation in the Middle East, winning war after war against Muslim nations much larger than they. And at the end of the Tribulation, with all the nations of the world gathered together to destroy them, who would believe that a kingdom would again be born in Israel? But that’s exactly what will happen through the supernatural goodness and intervention of Jesus their Messiah and King.

THE GREAT ANGELIC WAR IN HEAVEN

In verse 7 to 12, John now turns from Satan’s past history of crime to his future activities in heaven and on earth. Make no mistake! There is ferocious spiritual warfare taking place in the heavenlies right now, events about which you and I can only speculate. But at the midpoint of the Tribulation, a great angelic war of unprecedented proportions will break out in heaven, determining not only the final dominion of the angels, but also the persecution and suffering that is about to be experienced on earth.

1. The Description of Satan’s Defeat

Verse 7 reads: “And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth and his angels with him.”

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According to John, the war that is about to break out in heaven will pit the angelic armies of Michael against the demonic forces of Lucifer. That’s appropriate since Michael’s name, which means “Who is like God?” is the perfect answer to Lucifer’s boast, “I will be like the Most High!” This is not the first time the two have met in conflict. Daniel 10 says they once battled over the delivery of a prophetic message sent to Daniel. Jude 1:9 adds that they also argued over the body of Moses. But this will be their last and greatest battle. For verse 8 says at this point the dragon and his angels will be defeated and confined to the earth with no more access to heaven.

This may be confusing to some. After all, wasn’t Satan cast out of heaven ages ago? He was and he wasn’t. According to the Bible, there are several phases in Satan’s judgment, some of which have passed and some of which are yet to come. At his first attempt to make himself equal with God, Lucifer was cast down in the sense that he lost his original position in heaven. This is described in Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28, and here in verse 4. At that time, one-third of the angels sided with him in his rebellion. Jude 1:6 adds, “The angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these He has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great day.” That doesn’t mean that Lucifer has lost all his access to heaven. It simply means that his original power and glory were stripped away from him.

I liken it to former president Richard Nixon who left office in disgrace. At his resignation, he no longer enjoyed the power or privileges of the presidency. But did visit the White House from time to time. And so it is with Lucifer! He no longer has any official position, but he still has access to God’s presence. We find that in the first two chapters of the book of Job. And here in verse 10, we’re told that he still has the ability to accuse us before God day and night.

Other judgments in Lucifer’s career include his defeat at the cross. Colossians 2:15 says Christ “disarmed the powers and authorities” and made a “public spectacle of them, triumphing over them.” His next major loss will take place at the end of the Tribulation and the beginning of the Kingdom when he is confined in the bottomless pit for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3) and no longer able to tempt mankind. And finally, he will be forever damned when he and his demons are cast into the lake of fire which burns forever and ever. (Rev. 20:10) But, again, the primary concern of our passage is his final war with Michael, at the midpoint of the Tribulation, when he is cast out of heaven and confined to the earth.

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What incites such a war in heaven? Some say his hatred of Christ will spur him to make one final assault on God’s throne. But Dr. Warren Wiersbe offers another explanation which may have more merit. After the church is taken up to heaven in the Rapture and the Tribulation is set in motion, the first order of business in heaven will be the Judgment Seat of Christ and rewarding of the saints. (2 Cor. 5:10-11). There the works of Christians will be examined and rewards will be given out. But guess who still has access to heaven? Satan, who will accuse the saints pointing out all our faults and flaws. But Jesus Christ, our heavenly advocate (1 Jn. 2:2), will also be there and stand up for us before His Father’s throne, arguing our case and reminding all of creation that He secured our salvation by His death on the cross. Imagine how furious Satan will be when the church comes through this judgment “without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing!” Warren Wiersbe concludes, “When the accuser of the brethren sees that his tactics have failed, he will become furious and threaten the very peace of heaven.”

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2. The Results of Satan’s Defeat

Verse 10 announces, “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say, ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcome him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore, rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them.”

  • Rejoicing in Heaven

Why is heaven so happy at Michael’s victory? Because Satan, the accuser of the brethren, is no longer allowed to find fault with us. That’s always been one of his most cutting tools. The name devil means “accuser.” And day and night he stands before God’s throne leveling charges against us—if not about our words and actions, then attributing wrong motives to us. The best example is found in the book of Job, where after snooping about the earth, Satan appears before God’s throne. So God asks him to consider his servant Job. Immediately, Satan criticizes him, accusing him of serving God for gain. And he does the same to us today. He accuses us inciting gossip in the church, which ought to make us very careful about repeating rumors that we hear. For in so doing, whose will are we carrying out? Not God’s, but Satan’s! He also accuses our consciences with sins already confessed and forgiven. How do we overcome these painful lies? John pinpoints three keys to victory in verse 11.

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First, “they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb.” In other words, the first thing to do when the devil comes knocking at your door is to remind him that Jesus already shed His blood for those sins, and they don’t have to be paid for again. Our salvation is not based on any good deeds that we have done, but by the finished work of Christ’s grace on the cross.

Just as I am without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me,

And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

Second, “they overcame him by the word of their testimony.” A second fact to remember when Satan comes calling is that his strategy to intimidate us and make us feel unworthy of sharing our faith in Christ. Hal Lindsey issues the following warning:

“The devil will use every clever device he has to keep us from sharing with others what God has done in our lives. A guy who may have been the life of the party and never at loss for words before he trusted Christ can be intimidated by Satan to clam up like a shell when it comes to witnessing for Christ. Grown men will tremble in front of youngsters when asked to give a word for Jesus. Remember Peter in the Gospel of Mark and the young girl who asked him if he’d been a friend of Jesus; Peter not only denied it but swore at her also! The reason this is such a threat to Satan is that God has chosen to give His children the privilege of bringing men into His Kingdom by their testimony—both by what they say and how they live. For this reason, nothing gives Satan more pleasure than to foul up a believer’s testimony in word and life.

So don’t let him intimidate you! The next time the devil comes peddling guilt or fear, remember who it’s coming from, why he’s doing it, and that he is a liar and the father of lies. And remember one more thing. Satan is more afraid of your testimony than you are to give it. For, as Romans 1:16 says, “it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.”

Third, they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. You see, as long as we cling to this life and the things it offers, Satan will render us ineffective by threatening to take them away from us. But when we commit ourselves and everything we own to Christ, it sets us free. So, as Corrie Ten Boom, the Nazi concentration camp survivor, advised, “Learn to hold all things loosely in your hands, so that it doesn’t hurt too much if they’re snatched away.

Heaven rejoices at Satan’s expulsion, but John foresees a very different outcome for those living below on earth—the greatest time of suffering the world has ever experienced.

  • Persecution on Earth

Verse 12 warns, “But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” The word fury is different from the one used to describe God’s anger. This word means a “violent outburst of anger,” like a rebellious child whose will is thwarted. The devil vents his rage by throwing a 3 ½ year temper tantrum on earth. But unlike a child, Satan’s temper can do great harm. For he is a powerful, vicious being capable of terrible destruction. This destruction begins with his persecution of Israel. Verse 13 explains, “When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.”

 

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That raises two questions. Why does Satan hate the Jews? Reason #1 is because she gave birth to Messiah. Satan has always hated the Jews for providing the world with a Savior and means of salvation. Therefore, once his access to heaven is cut off, his first impulse will be to persecute the woman who gave birth to Messiah, sparking a new wave of anti-Semitism, that is beginning even now. Radical Islam’s goal is to destroy both the nation and people of Israel. Even in America, which has long been a safe harbor for the Chosen People, the FBI now reports that 18% of hate crimes are committed against the Jews. Reason #2 is Satan’s desire to prevent the Kingdom from coming to earth. The Bible teaches that in order for the Kingdom to be set up, a Jewish remnant must remain alive to welcome their King and repopulate the earth for God. (Zech. 14:1-4) So convinced that he can keep the Kingdom from coming, Satan will again try to exterminate the Jews. Will he be successful? No! That’s the second point in these final verses—God’s faithful protection of His Chosen People. That’s seen in three ways:

First, the length of Satan’s tantrum. Verse 12 says his wrath is great, “because he knows his time is short.” Or to put it another way, God has him on a short leash. Specifically, verse 14 says he will be allowed to persecute the woman “a time, times, and half a time.” This refers to the 3 ½ years or 1260 days mentioned in verse 6. The point is, Satan is limited in what he can do, and he knows it. He is subject to God’s plans and can only do what God permits.

The prince of darkness grim—we tremble not for him. His rage we can endure. For lo, his doom is sure! One little word shall fell him.

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Second, the place of God’s protection. Verse 14 promises Israel, “two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert.” The wings of an eagle are a symbol of God’s protection. For example, when God led the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt, the Bible says He bore them “on eagles’ wings” (Ex. 19:4) and cared for them in the wilderness as an eagle cares for her young (Deut. 32:11-12.) Hal Lindsey speculates that this may refer to an American airlift which will transport the people of Israel to the ancient fortress city of Petra. But the text gives no such explanation. All we can say for sure is that God will somehow save His people from destruction. Warren Wiersbe cautions, “We do not know where this sheltered place will be, nor do we need to know. But the lesson for all of us is clear: God cares for those whom He wants to use to accomplish His purposes on earth.”

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Third, the destruction of Satan’s armies. In verse 15, John describes a flood of water which the serpent spews at the woman in an effort to destroy her. To what does this refer? Jeremiah 46 and 47 use the word “flood” to describe tow massive military invasions of Israel. So I assume that’s what’s envisioned here. But God will not allow it to succeed. Instead, John says God will cause the earth to open up and swallow “the river that the dragon spewed out of his mouth, “referring I all likelihood to the massive earthquake which will occur in Revelation 16:18 near the end of the Great Tribulation. But will this cause Satan to give up in frustration? No. Lesson #1 in spiritual warfare is that the old serpent the devil never gives up.

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Enraged at his inability to kill the woman herself, verse 17 says he immediately turns to attack her offspring. To whom does this refer? John explains that they are “those who obey the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” In other words, when Satan fails to destroy Israel, he will vent his wrath by persecuting anyone who claims the name of Christ. But will he win? No! Why? Because like us, the devil is only a creature, not the Creator.

C. S. Lewis explained, “The commonest question I’m asked is if I ‘believe in the devil.’ Now, if by devil you mean a power opposite to God and, like God, self-existent from all eternity, the answer is certainly No. There is no uncreated being except God. God has no opposite. No being could attain a ‘perfect badness’ equal to the perfect goodness of God; for when you’ve taken away every good thing (intelligence, will, memory, energy, and existence itself), there’d be none of him left.” The question is if I believe in devils. I do. That is to say, I believe in angels, and I believe that some of these, by the abuse of their free will, have become enemies of God and as a corollary to us. These we may call devils. They do not differ in nature from good angels but their nature is depraved. Devil is the opposite of angel only as bad man is the opposite of good man. Satan, the dictator of the devils, is the opposite not of God, but of Michael.”

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During the Tribulation, Lucifer will lead them in a war against God and His saints both in heaven and on earth. But because he’s a creature and not the Creator, he will fail miserably and be punished forever. In keeping with His promise to Eve (Gen. 3:15), Jesus Christ, the woman’s seed, will “crush” the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15) and we will be free forever! Hallelujah!

(To download the written message of this study for sharing with others, please click this link –Lucifer Had a Great Fall!” (Rev. 12:1-17) Hallelujah!)

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Two Witnesses from Heaven (Rev. 11)

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(To listen to or download the audio version of this lesson, click Audio.)

Have you ever noticed that what you see on the surface doesn’t always match what is happening in the heart? Joe Wagner shared an example in the Reader’s Digest.

He wrote, “I was attending a junior stock show when a grand champion lamb, owned by a little girl, was being auctioned. When the bids reached $5 per pound, the little girl, standing beside her lamb in the arena, began to cry. At $10 a pound, tears began streaming down her face and she clasped her arms tightly around the lamb’s neck. The higher the bids rose, the harder she cried. Finally, a local businessman bought the lamb for more than $1,000, but announced that he was donating it back to the little girl. The crowd applauded and cheered. Months later, I was judging some statewide essays, when I came across one from a little girl who told about the time her grand champion lamb had been auctioned. ‘The prices got so high during the bidding,’ she wrote, ‘that I started to cry from happiness.’ She added, ‘The man, who bought the lamb for so much more than I ever dreamed I would get, then returned the lamb to me. And when we got home, Daddy barbecued the lamb—and it was really delicious!’”

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What motives lie hidden in the hearts of men and women, boys and girls? Only the Lord knows for sure. In fact, quite often what we project on the outside is very different from what is going on in our hearts. That’s why the Lord sets up various opportunities for our motives to be tested and revealed. For example, historically He has placed mankind in a variety of settings—the innocence of a garden, the beautiful pre-flood world of Noah, the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey, now the Age of Grace, and one day the glory of His Kingdom. But in each case, what do our reactions prove? That our problems are not the result of our environment, but the wickedness of our hearts.

That, in a sense, is the lesson of this study. In Revelation 11, God sends two preachers with supernatural powers to proclaim the truth of Christ. But after 3 ½ years of putting up with their preaching, they are killed by the Antichrist, revealing his true colors. He then proceeds to desecrate God’s Temple for 3 ½ years, taking his seat in the Holy Place and claiming to be God. At that point, however, God can no longer put up with him. He sends Jesus back into the world to judge His enemies and reward His saints. Before that happens, however, several revelations are made about those who are facing condemnation. This study is intended to show that those who follow Antichrist are not innocent pawns ignorantly led astray by a charismatic leader. They are active participants in a great sin, willfully rejecting the truth of Christ for a lie. That’s demonstrated by three events that are about to happen on earth. The first event is that—

GOD’S TEMPLE IS DESCECRATED

John describes what he was instructed to do in verse 1, “I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, ‘Go measure the temple of God and the altar and count the worshipers there. But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months (3 ½ years).”

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Verse 1 presents a problem for those of us who interpret the Bible literally. After all, how can John measure a temple that hasn’t existed for 1946 years and still doesn’t exist today? In fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy that “not one stone will be left upon another” and “Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled,” Titus the Roman general laid siege to Jerusalem, marched into the Holy City in 70 AD, and set the Temple on fire, which led the soldiers to pull it apart stone by stone to get at the gold that melted and seeped down into the cracks. This brought an immediate end to the Jewish religious system, because without the Temple, sacrifices could no longer be offered. That’s why pious Jews stand weeping at the “Wailing Wall” today. It is the retaining wall and only part of the original structure that remains. So they sit or stand at the Western Wall, pleading for Messiah to return and restore the Temple and His Kingdom. But, as yet, no Temple has been built. For Messiah came and they rejected Him, and the Temple was destroyed as God’s judgment on their sin.

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So the question is: What Temple is John to measure? The only possible answer is a yet-to-be-built Temple that will be erected at the beginning of the Tribulation. That’s the testimony of both Old and New Testament prophets. Daniel 9:27 says that Antichrist will sign a covenant of peace with Israel for a period of 7 years, allowing them to rebuild their Temple. However, at the midpoint of that period, he will break his treaty and desecrate the Temple. Jesus confirmed this warning of the abomination of desolation that will stand in the holy place. (Matt. 24:15)

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So a future Temple will soon be erected in Jerusalem. Even now there are reports of Temple bonds being sold around the world with stones and Temple vessels being gathered for this huge project. But it’s doubtful that Israel could launch such a project at this point. First, conservative Jews believe that only Messiah has the authority to rebuild the Temple. Second, the Mosque of Omar rests on the Temple Mount, one of Islam’s holiest sites. They believe that Mohammed ascended to heaven from that spot. Consequently, any attempt to alter their holy site could trigger a full-scale war between Israel and their Arab neighbors.

How, then, will the Temple be rebuilt? The solution probably lies in their covenant with Antichrist, the false messiah. In return for certain concessions, Antichrist will become Israel’s great protector, allowing them to rebuild their Temple and reinstitute the practice of animal sacrifices. How far away is this event? It may be sooner than we think. Right after the Six-Day War in which Israel regained control of Jerusalem, Israel Eldad, one of their famous historians, was interviewed by Time magazine. When asked about rebuilding the Temple, he said, “When the Jewish people took over Jerusalem the first time under King David, only one generation passed before they built the Temple, and so shall it be with us!” When asked about the problem of the Dome of the Rock, he replied with a wink, “Who knows, perhaps there will be an earthquake!” What Eldad said in jest may be about to happen—soon!

But the main point of verse 2 is the desecration of the Temple. John is told to measure the Temple, but leave out the outer court, “for it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months.” This was predicted in Daniel 9:27 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4. At the midpoint of the Tribulation, Antichrist, Israel’s great protector, will suddenly become their fiercest persecutor. Indwelt by Satan himself, he will break his treaty, sit as God in their Temple, and lead the world in a Jewish bloodbath of unprecedented proportions.

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Why is this emphasized at this point in the Revelation? Two reasons: First, to show the ripeness of the world for judgment. For instead of helping the Jews, the people of earth will become Antichrist’s partners in desecrating the holy city, revealing an attitude of contempt for God’s holiness and hatred for His people. Second, to emphasize that Christ is their true Messiah and Protector. You see, only someone who owns a piece of property has the right to survey it. So, even though Antichrist appears to have the upper hand, John measures both the Temple, the altar, and the worshipers, symbolizing that they all belong to Jesus and are under His care. By the way, the same action is taken again in Revelation 21:15, where an angel measures the New Jerusalem. John says, “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

David Hocking explains it like this: “Measuring the Temple of God in the Tribulation means that God is going to protect a Jewish remnant. Though He is not going to protect the majority of the nation, God will protect the remnant.”

Jesus promised the same thing. He said, “Unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened . . . I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things are fulfilled.” (Matt. 24:22, 34)

Notice also a second event. Not only God’s Temple being desecrated, but also—

GOD’S PROPHETS ARE EXECUTED.

Who is your favorites super-hero? Superman? Batman? Iron Man? Christians answer differently. I thought of Moses, Samson, and Elijah. But alas, the days of the super-heroes are gone. Or are they? This chapter reveals that the greatest Bible heroes are yet to come! Once the Church is caught up in the Rapture, Christ sends two witnesses into the world with powers rivaling those of Moses and Elijah! Let’s answer five questions about them.

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  1. Who are the Two Witnesses?

Verse 3 continues, “And I will give power to My two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” Verse 5 adds, “If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes out of their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.”

Verse 3 literally reads in the Greek, “And I will give to the two witnesses of Mine.” The construction suggests that they are men John is already familiar with. So who could they be? Many prophecy teachers say they are Moses and Elijah, returned from heaven to give the world one last chance to repent before the end. That may be true. After all, who did John see with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration? Moses and Elijah! (Matt. 17:1-3)

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To support this position, three arguments are given. First, Malachi 4:5-6 says that Elijah will return before “the great and dreadful day of the Lord” to turn the hearts of his people back to God. But then, Jesus said that John the Baptist had fulfilled that prophecy, which means that “Elijah” may refer to the office of prophet rather than the individual Elijah the Tishbite. Second, the ministries of Moses and Elijah were never completed. Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because of his sin of striking the rock (Deut. 34:4-5), and Elijah was later caught up in a whirlwind to heaven (2 Kg. 2:11). So perhaps God will send the two of them to finish their ministries in Jerusalem during the Tribulation. Third, the ministries of these witnesses are similar to those of Moses and Elijah. One of Moses’ miracles was turning water into blood, while Elijah caused the sky to withhold rain from falling on the ground for 3 ½ years.

One fact that argues against this identification is verse 4. They are called “the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord.” These terms were not used of Moses and Elijah, but of Joshua the priest and Zerubbabel the governor who led the Jews in rebuilding the Temple following their exile in Babylon. The best we can do, then, is guess who these two men will be. No one can say for sure until they appear preaching in the streets of Jerusalem.

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2. When will the ministry of the Two Witnesses take place?

Verse 3 is clear. “They will prophesy for 1,260 days.” When will this period begin? Does it occur during the first half of the Tribulation when Antichrist is masquerading as the Savior of Israel? Or will it be during the last 3 ½ years, which Jesus called “the great tribulation?” The fact that verses 2 and 3 use different terms to describe two periods of 3 ½ years, suggest they are different periods of time. The 1,260 days in verse 3 is a time of preaching in Jerusalem which is immediately followed by the “forty-two months” of persecution in verse 2.

Three additional facts support this position. First, it’s not until the midpoint of the Tribulation that Antichrist turns to attack Israel, his former friend (Dan. 9:27). So it’s logical to assume that the first two targets of his persecution are God’s prophets. Second, the powers demonstrated by these prophets make it impossible for anyone to desecrate the Temple, which means their ministry must end by the midpoint of the Tribulation. Third, in our earlier studies, we wondered how the 144,000 Jews will be converted to Christ. Here is the likely answer. It is through the preaching of these Two Witnesses during the first half of the Tribulation.

 

 

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The clothing of the witnesses also provides a clue to their ministry. Verse 3 says they will be “clothed in sackcloth.” This is a symbol of repentance. For example, when Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah, the entire nation dressed in sackcloth to symbolize their repentance. That’s also the meaning of the “olive trees” in verse 4. As I mentioned earlier, this was an Old Testament reference to Joshua and Zerubbabel. Haggai says that following the Babylonian exile, the people began to rebuild the Temple, but due to opposition they became discouraged and gave up. But God didn’t leave Himself without a witness. He raised up a priest named Joshua, a governor named Zerubbabel, and two cheerleaders named Haggai and Zechariah to lead God’s people in revival. And something similar will occur when these Two Witnesses appear. 144,000 Jews will be converted overnight! The difference is they won’t call for the rebuilding of God’s Temple; they will condemn it. “After all, how can you worship God, when you reject His Son?” In fact, they themselves stand in bitter contrast to the Temple Antichrist has helped to build, demonstrating that the real power of God lies outside not inside the Temple.

3. What will be the reaction to the ministry of the Two Witnesses?

Verse 7: “Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower them, and kill them. Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city that is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was also crucified. For 3 ½ days men from every people, tribe, language, and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.”

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The reaction to the Two Witnesses points to three spiritual facts: 1) The true nature of the world ruler. No longer will he appear to be a man of peace. Now he is called “the beast.” In fact, the word “beast” will be used 36 times in the Revelation to describe his character. His first “beastly” act is the murder of God’s prophets. Indwelt by Lucifer himself, Antichrist will be filled with an unquenchable thirst for worship. So he makes war with the Two Witnesses and kills them. Then, with these two spiritual obstacles out of his way, he enters the Temple of God, takes his seat pretending to be God, and forces the entire world to worship him.

However, even here we are given a clear reminder of God’s sovereignty. For verse 7 says that none of this can happen until the Two Witnesses “have finished their testimony.” That is to say, only after God’s work is completed, is the devil permitted to have his way, and only then for a little while. It’s reminiscent of Jesus’ words, “I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” (John 10:17-18) The devil may think he has the power of death, but not over God’s people. He and his thugs are permitted to do nothing without the consent of Christ.

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2) The true nature of Israel. The spiritual condition of the Jews is seen in what they do about this great crime—nothing! In fact, they break the Law of Moses by refusing to give God’s prophets a decent burial. Instead, they let their bodies lie in the streets of Jerusalem for 3 ½ days, as a sign of their contempt for Christ. How do we know it’s Jerusalem John is describing? Because he says it’s the city “where also our Lord was crucified.” But no longer is it called the holy city. John called it “Sodom” and “Egypt.” “Sodom refers to its immorality. “Egypt” refers to its worldliness. But this spiritual condition will not last long. For the great miracle that’s about to occur in verse 13 will shock the remnant of Israel into true repentance and faith.

3) The true nature of humanity. The age-old debate continues: Is man basically good or bad? The world says that man is born good, but corrupted by society. Of course, the only flaw in that theory is that society is made up of people, and the reason people have a negative impact on us is because man’s heart is “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” (Jer. 17:9) That is never portrayed more graphically than here. For how does the entire planet respond to the death of these two good men?  Verse 10 says they throw a “Satanic Christmas party,” giving gifts to each other in celebration of their deaths. 100 years ago, those who read these verses wondered, “How could the entire world watch their bodies lying in the streets?” But with 24/7 news coverage from around the world, that is no longer a question.

4. How will the Two Witnesses be vindicated?

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John describes two ways the Lord will vindicate His prophets. Each comes as a shock to Jerusalem and the world. First, there will be a miraculous resurrection and ascension of the Witnesses. That is how God vindicated His Son following His crucifixion. Psalms 16:10 promised that He would not suffer “His Holy One to see corruption,” but declared Him to be “the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.” (Rom. 1:4) That’s the same way God will vindicate His Two Witnesses. Verse 11 says while the world is making merry over their deaths, God will breathe into them the breath of life, and they will stand on their feet, and “terror will strike those who saw them.” The world will think they’ve solved the nuisance of these prophets, only to be reminded that there is no final death for those who love Christ. Jesus said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me shall live even if he dies. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26) Then, finally, in a vivid re-enactment of the Rapture, verse 12 says that while all the world is watching, God will call out with a loud voice, ‘Come up here,’ and catch them up in a cloud to heaven.

Second, there will be a devastating earthquake. Verse 13 says “at that very hour there will be a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city will collapse,” and “seven thousand people will be killed.” But tragedy will soon turn to blessing. Verse 13 goes on, “The survivors will be terrified and give glory to the God of heaven.” Who are the survivors? The “remnant” of Jews who remain in Jerusalem. Up until now, they’ve put their faith in Antichrist. But upon seeing the resurrection and ascension of the Two Witnesses and the devastating earthquake that follows, the people of Israel will suddenly realize that what the Two Witnesses have said is true. “We’ve been deceived and following a false messiah!” And in a spirit of repentance, the remnant of the city turns in faith to Christ for forgiveness.

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We’ve witnessed the desecration of God’s Temple and the rejection of God’s witnesses. Now let’s look at one more important event before we finish.

GOD’S SON IS LOVED AND HATED.

Chapter 11 has been a long paragraph describing the events following the blast of the sixth trumpet. Now it closes with the blowing of the seventh trumpet which, releases the final judgments of the Tribulation culminating in Christ’s return to the earth. But, again, as we study this final event, pay close attention to the reactions it receives. For it’s just one more evidence that the world is ready to be judged.

  1. The Reaction of the Saints

The first thing we hear from heaven is the singing of the Hallelujah Chorus, which I consider the most inspiring piece of music on earth. But imagine when the voices of billions of saints and angels join together in perfect harmony to sing this song. There won’t be a dry eye in all of heaven! They declare, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever.” And in one sense, the book of Revelation could end here, because the Tribulation is now ending and the Kingdom of God is finally coming to earth. But, as we learned in our study of chapter 10, the book doesn’t end right away, for John was told to prophesy again about “many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.” (Rev. 10:11). So, once chapter 11 ends, John will go back and fill in the details by describing several key figures and events which were only introduced in the first eleven chapters.

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The second thing we hear from heaven is found in verse 19. It continues, “Then God’s Temple in heaven was opened, and within His Temple was seen the ark of the covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a great hail storm.” In the Old Testament, the ark of the covenant symbolized God’s presence. As such, it was an instrument of both judgment and mercy. On top of the ark was the mercy seat where the blood of the atonement was offered. But where there was no genuine faith, the ark was an instrument of wrath, releasing plagues on God’s enemies. Hollywood tried to depict this in their Indiana Jones film several years ago, and did a miserable job of it, turning the ark into an object of superstition. But here the ark of heaven is revealed in all its glory, and the result is “flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a great hail storm.” These are the bowl judgments of the Tribulation, described in chapters 15 and 16, which are poured out on the world just as Christ is about to return to earth.

2. The Reaction of Sinners

How will the world at large react to Christ’s return? Verse 18 says, “The nations were angry.” This makes no good sense. God has been more than gracious towards them. Not only has He graciously provided all their needs and postponed their judgment, so they can repent. He also sent His Son to die in their place. What more could they want than that? The answer is: Power! Like angry, rebellious children, they want to cast off God’s control and rule this planet for themselves. Revelation 19:19 says at the sight of Christ’s return, the armies of earth will stop fighting each other and, in recognition of this greater “threat,” will unite in one last-ditch effort to blow the Creator out of the sky. But they fail. Verse 18 says, “Your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding Your servants the prophets and Your saints and those who reverence Your name, both small and great—and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”

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Isn’t that ironic? Man has always wanted to rule this planet. But the more he asserts his own self-will, the closer he comes to destroying the very world he worships. Only the return of Christ can save this planet from total annihilation. But man still will not submit to Him!

C.S. Lewis once described the nature of fallen man in biting piece or satire called The Great Divorce. In it, he described a bus trip from Hell to Heaven. The damned were permitted to take a tour of Heaven and even stay if they liked. But alas, the Hellions aren’t comfortable in Heaven! Nothing is to their liking! So, to the sorrow of their heavenly loved ones, each of them gets back on the bus, anxious to return to where he belongs.

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In a similar fashion, this study demonstrates the sad, but perfect justice of God’s final condemnation of the world. For unsaved humanity will never be happy in God’s Kingdom, for they can never tolerate is Christ ruling over them. Revelation 11 gives sufficient proof of that. In verse 2, the Gentiles trample underfoot the Temple of God. In verse 9, they rejoice at the death of God’s prophets. And in verse 18, they turn against Christ in open hatred and rebellion.

The truth is no one likes judgment, least of all the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s why He gives the world chance after chance to repent. But judgment is coming, and when it does, it’ll be well deserved. Our job, therefore, while time remains, is to warn our friends and loved ones of the danger, giving them one last chance to accept Christ’s mercy and repent.

(If you’d like to download a copy of this study and share it with a friend, click Written.)

“A Bittersweet Prophecy” (Rev. 10:1-11)

“REVELATION: BECAUSE THE TIME IS NEAR!”

Study #14: “A Bittersweet Prophecy” (Rev. 10:1-11)

(TO LISTEN to or download the audio version of this lesson, click AUDIO.)

Have you ever listened to the locker room interviews following the “big game?” The winners are delirious with joy, anointing each other with champagne and basking in the thrill of victory, while the losers suffer the agony of defeat.

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That fact came to mind several weeks ago as I watched a sports documentary about the Buffalo Bills, arguably one of the greatest teams in history. The 1990 to 1993 Bills were the only team to play in four consecutive Super Bowls. Sadly, they are also the only team to lose four Super Bowl in a row—to the New York Giants in 1990, the Washington Redskins in 1991, and the Dallas Cowboys in 1992 and 1993. Twenty-five years later, the sting of those losses has faded, but as I listened to the Bills players being interviewed, it was clear that the memory of those disappointments is still very strong. I came away from it wishing, though I was never a Buffalo fan, that both sides could have won. But that isn’t how life works. Whether it’s sports, politics, or spiritual warfare, there are inevitably two sides—the side destined for victory and the side doomed to defeat.

In spiritual warfare, which is the focus of this study, the winners are those of us who love our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. We look forward to His coming with great eagerness, praying “Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” But before we lose ourselves in the ecstasy of that knowledge, let’s not forget that there will also be some tragic losers in that day. Unbelieving friends, neighbors, and loved ones face excruciating judgment, making the Second Coming of Christ bittersweet. In Revelation 10, John describes it as tasting sweet to his mouth like honey, but turning bitter in his stomach. Why? Because the longer he pondered this great revelation, the more he realized that though it means eternal joy and glory for him, it will mean eternal death and damnation for millions who have never accepted Christ.

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This chapter is important to study, then, for two reasons. First, it includes several interpretative problems which could, if answered wrongly, undermine the doctrine of the Deity of Christ. Second, it provides us with a powerful reminder as we look forward to His Return. It reminds us that we have an obligation to do more than enjoy our salvation; we have a duty to rescue as many souls as possible before the fire of judgment falls. Let’s strive for both goals—comprehension and compassion—as we study what John has written.

JOHN MEETS A MIGHTY ANGEL

1. Who Is This Mighty Angel?

John says in verses 1 and 2, “And I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven … and he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land.”

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The first issue to resolve is the identity of the “mighty angel” in verse one. Many commentators say it is vision of Jesus Christ returning to earth. Their reason is the similar description of Jesus in chapter one (e.g., the rainbow on His head, His face like the sun, His feet like pillars of fire). But this claim is both wrong and dangerous. The danger is seen in what Jehovah’s Witnesses do with this verse. They use it as one of their proof texts for denying the Lordship of Christ. They say this “mighty angel” is Michael the archangel who is, in fact, Jesus Christ. In other words, Jesus Christ is not Lord; he is a creature—one of God’s archangels. Given this distortion, we should be careful about identifying this angel as Jesus Christ. Two facts make such an identification impossible.

First, the meaning of the word “another.” John literally describes this angel as “another angel, a mighty one.” The Greek word is allos, which means “another angel of the same kind.” But that isn’t the word John would have used if he were describing Jesus. He would have used the word heteron, which means “another of a different kind.” For the Scripture indicates that Jesus Christ is uniquely different from every other being who has ever existed. For example, Hebrews 1:4-6 says that He is “better than the angels,” and that all the angels are commanded to worship Him. Furthermore, John 3:16 calls Jesus “the only begotten Son of God. That phrase means “one of a kind,” indicating that there will never be another one like Him.

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Second, the timing of the Second Coming. According to Zechariah 14:4, Jesus will “touch down” on the earth in much the same manner as this angel. But the question is: When will He do so? This angel stands on the earth just prior to the blowing of the seventh trumpet, whereas Jesus Christ will return to earth at the end of the Tribulation (Rev. 19:11-14), at which point the Mount of Olives will split in half, creating a new valley and freshwater source, and Christ’s kingdom will begin. Furthermore, when Jesus returns to earth, it won’t be as an angel but with angels surrounding Him like the clouds of heaven. (See Matt. 25:31.)

Who, then, is this “mighty angel?” It is possibly the archangel Michael who is not Jesus Christ, but one of the “mighty angels” of God. Daniel describes him as “the great prince who stands guard over” the people of Israel. (Dan. 12:1) John later describes him casting the devil and his angels out of heaven.

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But here he simply forewarns the Antichrist and his followers that Christ is about to repossess the earth for man. The place where he stands is also significant—“his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land.” In ancient times, the purchaser of a piece of property would show his ownership by putting one foot on what he already owned and the other foot on what he was acquiring. In other words, he is symbolizing God’s sovereignty—that the kingdoms of this world (including both the land and the sea) are about to become the “kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.” (Rev. 11:15)

2. What Does The Angel Look Like?

John continues, “And I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire.” (Rev. 10:1)

Picture5If this is not Jesus, but simply an archangel, then why does he look so much like Jesus? The simplest answer is usually the best. He is ministering in the power and authority of Christ. For example, Jude 1:9 says that when contending with the devil about the body of Moses, Michael did not dare to bring a reviling judgment against him, but simply said, “The Lord rebuke you.” He stood in the Lord’s power and authority. Here that power takes on a visible appearance. That shouldn’t surprise us, for it’s not the first example of its kind. Exodus 34 says whenever Moses entered into God’s presence, his face shone with God’s glory, so he had to veil his face so as not to startle the people. Likewise, the same can be true of us. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “But we all, with unveiled faces, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

Is this happening to you? Are you taking on more and more of the likeness of Jesus Christ? Nathaniel Hawthorne pictured what can happen in his story, “The Great Stone Face.” Once upon a time, there was a kingdom ruled so perfectly than when their great monarch died, the people determined that they would never have another king until they could find a man just like former ruler. Then, to keep his memory alive, they carved a great profile of their king on the side of a cliff. Beneath that cliff lived a little boy named Ernest. His mother assured him that one day another great man like king would come to rule their kingdom. But as the years passed and searches were made, no one like him was found. Then, one day, one of the king’s counselors stopped at the humble cottage at the base of the cliff and listened to a young man named Ernest deliver a discourse to his neighbors. Suddenly, in that young man’s face he saw the likeness of the king! How did the change take place? By meditating upon that great image day by day, as he plowed his field and cult his wood, the little boy grew to be like him, not only in the way he looked, but also in the way he thought and talked.

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This, the Bible says, is our goal as well—to be transformed into our King’s likeness by meditating upon His greatness.

3. What Is In The Angel’s Hand?

Revelation 10:2 says, “And he had a little book open in his hand.” This is the second interpretative question we need to solve. What is this little book in the hand of the angel? Some say it’s a new book that John is about to be given. But a better explanation is that it’s the same scroll we’ve been reading for the last three chapters. However, now that all but one of the seals has been opened, the scroll is described as a “little book open” in the hand of the angel. It is “little” compared to when we first read about the scroll in Revelation 5. Having read and released its judgments, all that remains of it now is the title deed to the earth, which gives Jesus the authority to reclaim and redeem the world for mankind.

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4. What Warning Is Given to John?

Revelation 10:3-4 continues, “and (he) cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars. And when he cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices. Now when the seven thunders uttered their voice, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered and do not write them.’”

Notice two important facts here. First, the roaring of the angel. This is a symbol of God’s power and authority. Several Old Testament passages (Isa. 31:4-5; Hos. 5:14; 11:10; Amos 3:8) use it as a metaphor of His coming in glory. Whereas Satan often roars like a lion to frighten his prey (1 Pet. 5:8), this roaring is a declaration of victory. Standing in the authority of Christ, Michael lets loose with a mighty roar notifying the earth that the King is about to appear.

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The second fact is the sounding of the seven thunders. Why was John forbidden to write what they said? Because there are some things about the future that God wants to keep secret. This should be a warning to those who seek “new revelations” today. The truth is everything we need for “life and godliness” has been revealed to us in the Bible. (2 Pet. 1:3; 2 Tim. 3:16-17) Hebrews 1:1-2 further emphasizes that no “new revelations” will be given beyond what has been revealed through the prophets and apostles about God’s Son. He is God’s final word to mankind. In fact, the book of Revelation issues a strict warning on its final page. “If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book.” (Rev. 22:18)

So be careful about anyone who claims to be receiving “new revelations” from God! The Book of Mormon, the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, tracts left at your door by the Watchtower Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses), and the teachings of Rev. Moon are not new information from God. They are deceptions from the devil designed to confuse your mind and lead you away from the one true Christ.

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JOHN HEARS GOOD NEWS FROM THE ANGEL

In verses 5 to 7, the angel announces the most important and welcome news the world has ever heard. Its significance is seen in two ways:

1. By the Oath Taken

Revelation 10:5 continues, “And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land lifted up his hand to heaven and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it.”

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The scene is that of a courtroom. The angel lifts his hand in a solemn oath that what he’s about to say is “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” This should not surprise us. When God first made His promise to Abraham, He took a similar oath. (See Hebrews 6:10.) It’s not that God’s Word was ever in doubt; it’s that you and I are people who are given to doubt. Therefore, to help us trust Him, God puts His messenger on the witness stand, reassuring us that every word we are about to read is faithful and true.

Isn’t that interesting? American presidents will not testify in court during their terms of office because they feel it could be a threat to the independence of the presidency. Consequently, no president in modern history has appeared in court. Even Gerald Ford would not appear in court to testify against his would-be assassin. Instead, he appeared by videotape. But Christ has no such misgivings. The promise which is about to be given is so wonderful that He doesn’t want us to miss a bit of its blessing. He is so patient with our doubts that He orders His messenger to take a solemn oath, swearing to its utter veracity.

2. By the Promise Given

Revelation 10:6 adds, “… that there should be delay no longer, but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets.

The promise at the end of verse 6 is highly significant. The angel swears there shall “be delay no longer.” To what does this refer? He’s promising that the Tribulation is about to end and the long-awaited Kingdom is about to be set up. This is another evidence for the position I’ve taken earlier—that chapter 11 marks the end of the Tribulation and the beginning of the Kingdom. For notice, what does John say will happen when the seventh angel has sounded? “The mystery of God will be finished.” Or as Revelation 11:15 announces, “The kingdoms of the world have become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.”

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You see, down through the centuries, unbelievers have scoffed at the idea of the Second Coming, especially in this scientific age. Corrie Ten Boom told about a heckler who interrupted one of her meetings. He laughed, “Don’t tell me you believe that Jesus Christ is coming back to earth again! Fools have been predicting that forever!” “Yes,” she said. “In fact, I’m more certain of it now than ever. Your very words convince me that His coming is very near.” “What do you mean?” the heckler asked. “Well,” Corrie explained, “you’ve just fulfilled Peter’s prophecy. ‘Knowing this first, that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”’ So, you see, these must be the last days! Because you’re the very kind of person Peter was talking about.” Gulp!

Christians, on the other hand, believe this promise with all their hearts. And yet, even we wonder, “Lord, why so long?” That, you’ll remember, was the cry of the Tribulation martyrs in Revelation 6:10, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?” Now the Lord answers both questions with a resounding, “No longer! There will be delay no longer. They mystery of God will be finished.” To what does the “mystery of God” refer? The word means “a sacred secret” which has been hidden to the world, but has now been made known to the people of God. The specific mystery to which John is referring is the age-old problem of evil. Why does God allow the wicked to prosper and the righteous to suffer? Just as in Job’s case, the answer to “why” is not given, but the final solution is. All sin and sorrow will now be put to an end by the return of the King of Kings!

Consider your situation for a moment. Have you allowed the disappointments of life rob you of your joy? Then arrest that joy-stealer by remembering the coming of Christ. Titus 2:13 counsels us, “Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Why is that helpful? Because when He comes, all tears will be wiped away.

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Oft-times the day seems long, our trials hard to bear, we’re temped to complain, to murmur and despair; but Christ will soon appear to catch His Bride away, all tears forever over in God’s eternal day.

It will be worth it all when we see Jesus, life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ; one glimpse of His dear face all sorrows will erase; so bravely run the race till we see Christ.

JOHN IS GIVEN BITTERSWEET INSTRUCTIONS

Chapter 10 closes with two bittersweet instructions to the Apostle John. First, he is told to eat the little scroll which remains in the angel’s hand. Second, he is told to prophesy again about several key topics and characters that are to be involved in the Tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ.

1. John’s Bittersweet Reaction

Revelation 10:8-10 continues, “ Then the voice which I heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, ‘Go, take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the earth.’ And I went to the angel and said to him, ‘Give me the little book.’ And he said to me, ‘Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.’ And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth. But I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter.”

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The eating of the scroll is important because it pictures God’s attitude toward judgment. In Ezekiel 33:11, the Lord says, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” 2 Peter 3:9 adds, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing for any to perish but that all should come to repentance.” Here in verse 10 that attitude become visible as John eats the “little book.” At first, its news is “as sweet as honey” in John’s mouth, because he realizes that now the righteous will finally be avenged! But as he swallows it, it upsets his stomach realizing that though it means joy for him and God’s people, it also means death and damnation for millions of others.

Let that be your sentiment as you look forward to the Lord’s coming. Be excited about the blessings you and God’s people are about to inherit. But don’t be in a hurry for judgment to fall. Remember, there are multitudes who are to perish without Christ, multitudes who need your prayers. Will you do that for them? More than that, will you make a conscious effort to tell them about Christ’s love? The choice is up to you. Who will be the model for your life? Will it be John? Or will it be Jonah, who longed for God’s judgment to fall.

2. John’s Bittersweet Responsibility

Finally, Revelation 10:11 is a commandment to John, “And he said to me, ‘You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.’” This is the most important verse for understanding the rest of the Revelation. As I’ve said before, chapter 11 marks the end of the Tribulation. As soon as the seventh trumpet sounds, “the kingdoms of the world become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.” (Rev. 11:15) You ask, “Then where do the rest of the chapters of Revelation fit in the chronology of events? Verse 11 is the clue. It reveals that following the seventh trumpet, John is to prophesy a second time.

 

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You’ll remember back in Revelation 1:19 John was instructed to “write the things which you have seen (his vision of the Glorified Christ in chapter 1), and the things which are (the letters to the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3), and the things which will take place after this” (the events of the Tribulation found in chapters 4 through 11.) However, before he can finish the first prophecy, a second assignment is given to him. In Revelation 10:11, he is commanded to “prophecy again about many peoples, tongues, nations, and kings.”

Don’t miss this point! The details in chapters 12 to 19 are not events that follow chapter 11 chronologically. Instead, they are topical studies about key figures and events that will occur during the Tribulation which was just described. John is approaching his work like an artist preparing a canvas. Having sketched the general outline, he is now ready to go back and color in all the details. And again, the reason it upsets him is because of the horror of judgment to come.

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Judgment is always a blessing and a tragedy. For those who love Jesus, it’s a blessing, because of the deliverance it brings us. The Bible tells us that the planet itself will breathe a sigh of relief at Jesus’ return. (See Rom. 8:19-22.) But it won’t be a blessing to everyone. This chapter reminds us that for those left behind at the Rapture, it will be a tragedy of eternal proportions.

The News Tribune printed such a real-life horror story. It described the events following midnight exercises in the Mojave Desert. The men were anxious to get back to base. To remain in the scorching heat ((1200)) and dehydrating humidity (4%) not only meant misery, but certain death for anyone left behind.

080306-M-8774P-051 U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Mendoza, of Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, leads fellow Marines during a live-fire village raid exercise on Range 210 at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twenty-nine Palms, Calif., on March 6, 2008. Marines with the unit are participating in Mojave Viper, the Marine Corps’ premiere pre-deployment desert training. DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Chad J. Pulliam, U.S. Marine Corps. (Released)

DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Chad J. Pulliam, U.S. Marine Corps. (Released)

So the trucks began to roll, carrying thousands of Marines back to the safety of Twentynine Palms Base. Everyone except Marine Lance Corporal, Jason J. Rother. He’d been assigned to direct traffic in the dark. Before the final truck pulled out, he was to be picked up and carried back to the base with the rest of the men. But signals got crossed. No one remembered Rother until it was too late. The Marine in charge of arms reported that his rifle was missing, but the officers assumed that he was AWOL. In fact, it wasn’t until two days later that they decided to return to the desert and search for him.

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Imagine the terror that gripped Rother’s heart as he watched that last truck disappear from sight? As the hours passed, he must have wondered, “What do I do now? Do I stay here and hope they come back for me? Or do I start walking while the night air is still cool?” No knows for sure how long he sat and waited and prayed, but finally he began to hike toward the highway 18 miles away. He made it 17 miles. Then overcome by the heat, he laid down and died.

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What a needless tragedy! What a horrifying way to die! That’s a small picture of the eternally greater tragedy that’s about to befall many unbelievers you know. Christ is about to call His troops home, and when He does, a time of suffering will begin the likes of which no one has ever seen. But you can do something to make the bitter news a sweeter. You can begin to pray for one of the unbelievers in your life, that God will use you to lead them out of danger to safety in Christ. Remember, wherever there’s a spiritual winner, anticipating the thrill of victory, there’s a spiritual loser suffering the agony of defeat. So act now while there is still time. It’s the only thing that makes sense in light of His grace and love.

(To download the written message, click on this link – WRITTEN MESSAGE.)

 

WHEN NIGHTMARES COME TRUE: The Trumpet Judgments of Revelation 8 and 9

Revelation: Because the Time Is Near

Study #13: “When Nightmares Come True: The Trumpet Judgments of Revelation 8:1—9:21″

(To listen to or download the audio version of this lesson, click Audio.)

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1988 was the year Time magazine marked the beginning of the end. Every year until then, the magazine celebrated the New Year by naming a man or woman as their person of the year and printing their picture on its cover. But in 1988 they departed from tradition and named “Endangered Earth” as Planet of the Year.

They then invited thirty-three scientists and political leaders from 10 different countries to a 3-day conference in Boulder, Colorado, asking them to come up with a plan to save Planet Earth. Pointing to the destruction of the world’s rain forests, the depletion of the ozone layer, droughts in our own Southwest, and killer hurricanes in the Caribbean, Time concluded: “For decades, scientists have warned of the consequences of all this profligacy. No one paid attention. This year the earth spoke, like God warning Noah” of the Flood to come.

Lester Brown of Worldwatch, warned, “We do not have generations, only years, to turn things around.” John Eddy of the Corporation for Atmospheric Research agreed, “We’ve got to get the earth into intensive care, to monitor the vital signs of our planet.”

Of course, since then, fears have skyrocketed. Now there’s the concern of global warming, the melting of the polar ice caps, mammoth earthquakes, and dozens of other signs that the end is near. All of which is promoted by Hollywood on both the big and small screen in post-apocalyptic films and television shows like “The Fifth Wave,” “I Am Legend,” “Oblivion, and “The Last Ship.”

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But our question in this study is not what scientists and politicians think about things, but what does God say in His Holy Word? Are we, as Barry McGuire sang in the 1960’s, on “The Eve of Destruction?” The Bible says, “Yes,” not because of man’s abuse of the planet, but because of his rebellion against God. In Revelation 8 and 9, the Lord Himself describes the future of our planet, and the news is not good. The environmentalists’ worst fears are realized. Earth is devastated by plague after plague, leaving it virtually uninhabitable.

But the cause is not global warming, as some predict; it’s Jesus Christ, our Creator, who has reserved the right to judge this world in righteousness–a reminder that more important than our environmental efforts is the need to prepare ourselves body, soul, and spirit for His Return. To see why that’s important, let me emphasize three facts about His judgment.

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  1. HOW JUDGMENT IS INTRODUCED IN HEAVEN

In a previous study, we learned that the opening of the seventh seal marks the midpoint of the Tribulation and the releasing of seven trumpets of judgment. Now we see that for ourselves. As Jesus breaks the final seal, seven trumpets are handed to seven angels who are about to blow destruction on the earth. And yet, before they do, three merciful events take place in heaven.

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First, there is silence in heaven for about half an hour. Revelation 8:1 says, “When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.  And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.” What is the significance of this silence? John doesn’t say for sure, but I think it’s the “calm before the storm.” In fact, what’s ominous about it is that it’s preceded by billions of saints and angels singing God’s praises around His throne. But when the final seal is opened, heaven falls silent in recognition of the terrible judgment about to strike the earth. It is a moment of reverential silence for God’s majesty and sorrow for those who are about to die.

Second, incense is offered on the altar, meaning that we the Church are praying again. Verse 3 says, “Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand.” For centuries the church has been praying, “Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” But sometimes we wonder if our prayers are doing any good. “After all, the world doesn’t seem to be getting any better!” But here we see that our prayers do make a difference! In fact, not one prayer prayed for the coming of God’s kingdom is ever forgotten by God. He stores up every prayer in heaven and will suddenly answer at the opening of the seventh seal.

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Warren Wiersbe warns, “Like it or not, the prayers of God’s people are involved in the judgments He sends. The throne and altar are related. The purpose of prayer, as is said, is not to get man’s will done in heaven, but God’s will done on earth—even if it involves judgment. True prayer is serious business. So we had better not move the altar too far from the throne!”

Finally, the third thing that happens before the seventh seal is opened is that thunder and lightning pour forth from God’s throne. Verse 5 says, “Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake. Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them.” These final phenomena are not intended to injure anyone, since they do not proceed from the trumpets. Instead, they’re a final warning to those on earth to repent before judgment falls.

The Apostle Peter reminds us, “God is not willing for any to perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Ezekiel 33:11 adds, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die?” says the Lord. The truth is, judgment is coming and sinners will be punished. But we can be pardoned of our wrongs, if we recognize our sinfulness and turn to Christ in faith. That’s how judgment is introduced in heaven. Now notice—

  1. HOW JUDGMENT IS ENACTED ON EARTH

Trumpet #1: 33% of Earth’s Vegetation Destroyed

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Verse 7 describes the blast of the first trumpet. “The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down on the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.” This is reminiscent of the seventh plague in Egypt. When Pharaoh refused to let God’s people go, hail and fire rained down from heaven and destroyed every man and beast left outdoors. But this plague is immeasurably worse, for it falls not on one nation, but on the whole earth, consuming one-third of the trees and all the green grass.

This Greek word for trees refers to “fruit trees,” which means that the world’s fruit production will immediately be cut by 33%. The destruction of all green grass will also bring an end to the world’s daily industry, cripple the world’s meat industry, and destroy the wheats and grains that give us our daily bread. Add to that the fact that 25% of the pharmaceuticals in use today contain ingredients derived from wild plants, and it means the new diseases  unleashed at this time will have little chance of being cured. Even now environmentalists worry about the medical repercussions of the world’s rain forests being destroyed. Biologist Daniel Jantzen of the University of Pennsylvania warned, “I know of three plants with the potential of treating AIDS. One grows in an Australian rain forest, one in Panama, and one in Costa Rica.” Add to this the fact that trees are the world’s oxygen-producers, and it means that mankind is in serious trouble.

Trumpet #2: 33% of Marine Life Destroyed

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Verse 8 continues, “The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.” Exactly what this mountain is, John doesn’t say. It could be a comet, an underwater volcano, or something the world has never before seen. But it brings with it three disasters. 1) A third of the saltwater is turned to blood. This reminds us of the first plague in Egypt, which turned the Nile River to blood and caused all of the fish in the river to die. 2) A third of the creatures in the sea die. Whether this is due to a great explosion or the pollution of the waters with blood, the fishing industry will find itself on the edge of collapse, especially when—

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3) A third of all ships are destroyed. According to the most recent statistics, there are 87,483 ocean-going merchant ships and naval ships on earth. Imagine the economic shock waves if 29,000 of them were suddenly sunk! And what about their cargo? Some of you remember in 1989 when the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound spilling hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil, killing thousands of oil-soaked birds, polluting the coastline, and closing fisheries. That was the result of just one oil spill. Try to imagine the environmental impact if 1/3 of the world’s oil tankers were ripped apart at the seams all at the same time!

Trumpet #3: 33% of Freshwater Destroyed

Verse 10 adds, “The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water— the name of the star is Wormwood.  A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.” Job 9 says that God has named all His stars, one of which is called “Wormwood.” Its mission? To fall to earth at the blast of the third trumpet and poison the freshwater of the world.

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The National Geographic lists 100 principal rivers on earth, ranging from the Amazon (4,000 miles long) to the Rio de la Plata (150 miles long). These and the countless streams, lakes, and springs comprise the lifeline of humanity. But at the falling of “Wormwood,”1/3 of them will become undrinkable. In fact, that’s what “wormwood” means. It means “undrinkable,” but many thirsty people will die from trying to do so, because there is no other source of freshwater available.

How could Wormwood be a literal star? If it were, wouldn’t that mean the end of the earth? Not necessarily. Evolutionary scientists have postulated for years that what killed the dinosaurs was a giant meteor that struck the earth 70 million years ago. Besides, if a meteor entered earth’s atmosphere, chances are it would split into countless pieces, raining down its poison on all the rivers and lakes of the world. But given that this is a supernatural judgment, we don’t have to understand how He will do it, for “with God nothing shall be impossible!”

Trumpet #4: 33% of Light Darkened

Verse 12 adds, “The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night.”

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This is similar to the ninth plague of Egypt, when darkness fell upon the land, except in this case darkness covers the entire earth and lasts not three days, but until the fourth bowl judgment in Revelation 16, when the sun’s power increases scorching everyone who continues to reject Jesus Christ. Nor can this darkness be attributed to an eclipse, because it also affects both the moon and the start. Instead, it’s the cosmic phenomenon of which both the prophets and the Lord Jesus spoke. Joel wrote, “I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.”

If their light is diminished by one-third, it could mean that daylight will only be two-thirds as bright as now—like reading by the light of a 60-watt instead of a 100-watt bulb. Try that tonight and you’ll see the difference. Furthermore, the night will be a third darker than it’s ever been before, throwing the world into a panic. It will also create an energy crisis as the demand for electricity and other light sources increase. And it will lead to an unprecedented crime wave. Jesus warned, “Men loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.” The truth is most major crimes are committed under the cloak of darkness. So, if it remains dark all day long, imagine the immediate rise in robberies, vandalism, rape, murder, and other violent crimes!

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That, then, is how judgment is introduced in heaven and enacted on earth. Now let’s spend our last few minutes noticing how the suffering is exacerbated by hell.

  1. HOW JUDGMENT IS EXACERBATED BY HELL

In verse 13 we find yet another evidence of Christ’s mercy. Before He allows the final blasts of the last three trumpets, He sends an angel to warn the world of greater judgment to come. Some versions translate the word “eagle” instead of “angel.” Warren Wiersbe says this may be the living creature before God’s throne with the face of an eagle who is now sent on a final mission of mercy. John says, “As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in midair call out in a loud voice: “Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!”

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The word “woe” is a strong word in Greek—a loud verbal warning that something terrible is to follow. The fact that it’s repeated three times emphasizes that the last three trumpets will bring on the most terrible suffering mankind has ever known. And yet, how many listen and repent? Not many. Why? The explanation is found in the phrase, “inhabitants of the earth.” This means more than “people who live on the earth.” The phrase is used 12 times in Revelation. Each time it describes a kind of people—those who love this world and give no thought to heaven to come. They will therefore die in their sins. In this study, we’ll look at the first two “woes,” because the third “woe” doesn’t come until Revelation 11.

Trumpet #5: Demonic Locusts

Revelation 9:1 begins, “Then the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him.” Who is this “star?” Verse 11 is clear. He’s an angel—“the angel of the bottomless pit,” indicating hell is his home. Have we met him before? Yes, he is the evil one described by Jesus when He said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” (Luke 10:18) At his initial rebellion, Lucifer lost his place as a covering cherub (Ezek. 28:14) who guarded the holiness of God. But according to Job 1 and Revelation 12, he still has access to heaven. He is the accuser of the brethren who accuses us “before our God day and night.” But at the midpoint of the Tribulation, that will end. Lucifer will be permanently banned from heaven, leading him to torment mankind in ways that defy description.

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The torment begins when he is given the key to the bottomless pit. You see, contrary to popular belief, the devil is not the king of hell. Nor does he enjoy unlimited power even in that evil place. For before he can release the demons from the “bottomless pit,” what must happen? Jesus must hand him the key. (See Revelation 1:8.) What then comes out of this pit? Two things: 1) Smoke “like the smoke of a great furnace.” This is a sober reminder to those who scoff at the idea of a literal hell, for both Jesus and John describe it as a “furnace of fire.” In fact, the smoke of this furnace is so severe it pollutes the air and further darkens the sun, which was already darkened by one-third at the fourth trumpet.

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2) Locusts sent to torment mankind. Joel warned in his prophecy, “Blow the trumpet in Zion . . . Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the Lord is coming . . . a day of darkness and gloom . . . a people come, great and strong, the like of whom has never been; nor will there ever be any such after them . . . surely nothing shall escape them. Their appearance is like the appearance of horses; and like swift steeds, so they run. With a noise like chariots over mountaintops they leap, like the noise of a flaming fire that devours the stubble, like a strong people set in battle array. Before them the people writhe in pain; all faces are drained of color.”

Revelation 9:7 adds, “The appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle; and on their heads appeared to be crowns like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men.  They had hair like the hair of women, and their teeth were like the teeth of lions.  They had breastplates like breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to battle. They have tails like scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men for five months.”

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Who or what are these locusts? The descriptions make it clear that they are not ordinary locusts. First, they have a king, something Proverbs 30:27 says is untrue of ordinary locusts. Second, they have stingers in their tails, something else normal locusts do not have. Third, they do not devour vegetation. Instead, verse 4 commands them not to “harm the grace of the earth or any green thing.” For the purpose of their existence is to torment those who reject the Lordship of Christ. What, then, could these locusts be? Demons! That’s evident not only from the identity of their king. The Bible often calls demons “the devil’s angels.” But it is clear from their origin. They come up out of the “bottomless pit.” What is the bottomless pit? It is the prison where Satan will be “jailed” for a thousand years during Christ’s millennial kingdom on earth (Rev. 20:3), and it is also the place where millions of fallen angels, who have never been allowed to roam the earth, are being kept until Tribulation. Peter explains, “God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness . . . reserved for the judgment of the great day.” (2 Pet. 2:4)

It’s frightening to realize that right now, hidden somewhere in the depths of the earth, are millions of vicious demons about to be unleashed on this earth like a massive plague of locusts, tormenting all who reject the love of Christ.

Finally, notice their power. Verse 3 says, “And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. And their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man. In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them.”

Satan is a con artist who tells us that sin leads to happiness. But here is another example of how sin leads to suffering. His demons are not allowed to kill those on earth (Satan can only do what Jesus allows), but are allowed to torment men for five months. This is the normal lifespan of a locust (May to September). How do they do this? With scorpion-like stingers in their tails which inflict such unbearable pain that the victims will want to die, but be unable to do so.

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Hal Lindsey comments, “The sting will be so painful that men will wish they could die. History records that ancient Roman soldiers were famous for their ability to take pain without flickering an eye. But when several of them were stung by scorpions in the desert of Egypt, they screamed and writhed in pain. Scorpion stings are among the most painful wounds a person can endure.”

Finally, notice with me the sixth trumpet judgment and the suffering it brings.

Trumpet #6: Demonic Horsemen

Verse 13: “Then the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar that is before God, one saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.’ And the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released, so they would kill a third of mankind. The number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them. And this is how I saw in the vision the horses and those who sat on them: the riders had breastplates the color of fire and of hyacinth and of brimstone; and the heads of the horses are like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths proceed fire and smoke and brim-stone.  A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which proceeded out of their mouths. For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents and have heads, and with them they do harm.”

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The sixth trumpet releases four angels who are bound at the Euphrates River. They can’t be good angels, since there is no good reason for a holy angel to be bound. Instead, they are four super-demons who will lead an army of death across the earth! Why are they bound at the Euphrates River? Historically, the Euphrates is the natural boundary between Asia and the Middle East—a barrier that any conquering army would have to cross. But more important than that, it has an age-old spiritual significance. This was the sight of the Tower of Babel and Babylon, the “mother” of idolatry and false religion. Indeed, Revelation 18:2 says that during the Tribulation, Babylon will again become “a habitation of demons, a prison for every foul spirit.” The point is, somewhere right now near the ancient city of Babylon, there is a group of demons waiting to be released, so they can lead an army which shall destroy mankind.

What army will they lead? Some say this is a symbolic reference to Russia’s invasion of Israel in Ezekiel 38-39. Others say they’re “the kings of the east”—200 million Asian soldiers who cross the Euphrates to fight in the final battle of Armageddon. But I believe when the plain sense of Scripture makes good sense, we should seek no other sense. Therefore, since nothing in the context suggests a human army (the description sounds demonic), I believe  like the first trumpet judgment, this is another attack by an army of demons who have been bound until now. How many in their army? John is precise. The Greek literally says, “10,000 times 10,000 times 2” or 200 million demonic horsemen. And then, to make sure we don’t spiritualize it, he adds, “I heard the number of them,” indicating that the number is to be taken literally.

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Imagine the destruction that would result if 200 million additional demons were allowed to join forces with the powers of evil already at work in the world! John describes their impact in verse 18 to 19. He says it will lead to three more deadly plagues—fire, smoke, and brimstone. The result will be the death of another third of mankind. In Revelation 6:8, John said one-fourth of humanity would die from the first four seals. In Revelation 8:11, he said “many” more will die. Now, as a result of these plagues, a third of the remaining population will lose their lives. This means at least half the world’s population, or using today’s statistics, 3.5 billion of the 7 billion people on earth will die by the end of the sixth trumpet.

But the saddest fact is how the survivors respond to these judgments. You would think that five months of torment would drive unbelieving sinners to their knees in repentance. But such is not the case. Verse 20 says, “The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.”

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Their sins explain their lack of repentance. “Magic arts” is the Greek word pharmakia from which we get our word “pharmaceuticals.” In other words, the war on drugs will be lost. Those who remain alive will give themselves wholeheartedly to their addictions, seeking escape from the reality of God’s judgment. And in doing so, they will open themselves up to demonic possession becoming slaves to the millions of demons that have been let loose on the earth.

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Now think back on the judgments you’ve read about. It may seem fantastic, but every word is true and about to take place. Will you be prepared for it? Have you bowed your heart in repentance and receive Christ’s gracious gift of salvation?

The story is told of a prince traveling through France who visited the prison at Toulon where the most hardened criminals were kept. Because of his nobility, he was allowed to release one of the condemned men. So he went from prisoner to prisoner, inquiring why they were there. All claimed to be innocent insisting they were there by mistake. Only one admitted his crime. “My lord, as much as I long to be free, I’m guilty. I’ve committed many crimes and have nothing to say except I deserve to be here.” The prince listened and then in a loud voice shouted, “You miserable wretch! You should not be here among these ‘honest’ men. You are bad enough to corrupt them all.” Then, turning to the officer in charge, he commanded, “This is the man I’ve chosen. Release him at once!”

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The same is true of you and me. We have sinned many times and in many ways. We deserve judgment. But God in His mercy is willing to pardon us, if we confess our sin and turn to Jesus in repentance and faith. So, if you haven’t done so, turn to Christ today. Why face God’s judgment, when you can be forgiven and free!

(To download the written version of this study, click Written Message.)