Why should we study end-times?

            Since the disciple of Jesus is to be living in anticipation of our rapture (or death), why should we study the end-times? Besides the obvious reasons for studying anything in the Bible, there are two prominent reasons for spending time in the eschatological passages of Scripture.

The first reason is that studying the end-times and then seeing these events coming to pass in our lifetime increases our sense of urgency and causes us to work harder. How does that work? Imagine that you are a forty-five-year-old American believer in good physical health. As you look out at the future, you could reasonably expect forty more years before your death. Nothing is guaranteed, but, based on statistics, an expectation that you would live forty more years would not be imprudent or unreasonable. In this case, if you had something that you wanted to accomplish for the Lord or had a special mission that you wanted to complete before you died, you would have a slight sense of urgency, because you felt that you had forty years or so to get it done.

But now suppose that you were that same forty-five-year-old American believer in good health and were studying last things in the Bible and began to see happening on your morning Internet news feeds events that were predicted by the Bible as events of the end-times. At first cautiously and then with increasing excitement, the news articles began to sound more and more like fulfillment of the biblical prophecies and, as your conviction began to grow, you began to seriously contemplate the possibility that you might not quietly live out your days in serenity, but you might be raptured before your physical death or you might even be martyred. In other words, an any-minute return of Jesus would supply a sense of urgency that a “normal” Christian life would (potentially) lack. You would get after your kingdom projects with vigor.

The second reason for spending time in the eschatological passages of Scripture is to persuade us beyond any reasonable doubt that Jesus is certainly coming back. That one day the resurrected Jesus Christ is returning from heaven to earth to destroy all the unrighteous and to judge the world is a lot for a new believer to take in. The events of the end of the age seem so fantastic that they almost cannot be real. Then the adversary, Satan, whispers his doubts in your ear and the world adds its ridicule and scoffing, and the believer who is not scripturally rooted and grounded can become effectively agnostic in their beliefs. Before long, they have abandoned the return of Christ as Christian myth, not realizing that they have unwittingly actually gone apostate. A Christianity without a returning Christ is an anemic fairy tale.

But now picture the believer who has a sure grasp of Scripture and who is not intimidated by the apocalyptic language of end-times prophecy. This disciple reads and studies the whole word of God with prayerful diligence. All Scripture is God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16), and so all Scripture is to be understood and enjoyed in a godly walk with the Lord. Yes, some of the eschatological passages are difficult to understand fully, but they are not inconsistent. Jesus has certainly been resurrected and He has ascended to the Father’s right hand and there will be a day when the Father sends Him back to gather all His people to Himself and to judge all the unrighteous to eternal punishment. All the Scripture affirms this, and the Scripture cannot be broken. God cannot lie, and His Word is therefore always true. Therefore, the disciple of Jesus is to work hard to understand the difficult end-times passages and thereby to become more and more convinced of the soon-coming return of Jesus. The more the disciple studies the Scripture, the deeper the roots go and the more convinced they are of all that the Scripture declares, including the bodily return of the glorious Lord Jesus Christ. Satan’s whispers are ignored and the ridicule and scoffing of the world becomes the noise of fools who are perishing. Christ is coming back, and it could be today, and I am looking up.

SDG                 rmb                 1/6/2021

What if Jesus was coming back in six months?

Today is January 6, 2021. This morning I was planning to continue with another post on suffering, but the political events of the day led me otherwise. With the Democrats winning both Senate races in Georgia, the Democratic Party now controls the White House and both houses of Congress. This means that, when Joe Biden is sworn in as President on January 20, there is no legislation that cannot be passed into law. Based on the radical nature of the Democratic platform, I anticipate seismic changes in the American form of government that will probably include intense pressure of the followers of Jesus in this country. So, while a post on suffering is also appropriate, I decided to write an article on what the believer is to do if we see that the Lord Jesus is coming back soon. rmb

            QUESTION: If you were convinced that Jesus was coming back in, say, six months, how would your life change?

            CORRECT ANSWER: Based on Matthew 24-25, where the disciple is urged repeatedly to be ready and on the alert for the return of Jesus, and based on the witness of the New Testament documents, where Jesus’ return is presented as imminent, the correct answer should be, “Except maybe in terms of degree and urgency, nothing would significantly change.”

NOTES:

  • Plans and strategies that were longer-term (a year or more out) would be evaluated, then either compressed or abandoned.
  • Plans that were deemed still valuable and viable would be ruthlessly prioritized for Kingdom impact and accelerated.
  • Expenditures would accelerate to make sure that I did not meet the Lord with a bunch of unneeded money in my possession.

This question is more important now than ever. Jesus’ coming is certainly nearer now than it has ever been, but maybe, with all that is going on in the world, it is close in absolute terms. The believer is always to be living with their own death or their rapture in view so that they will make the most of the time (Ephesians 5:15-16). If Jesus were going to appear in six months (or if you knew you were going to die in six months), how would you live for the next six months? This is the fundamental question. What is your answer? Are you ready?

SDG rmb 1/6/2021

Psalm 110 – Part 1: The LORD speaks to the Lord

NOTE: This post is longer than most because it is intended to teach how to interpret and understand difficult and complex verses of the Bible. So the purpose is primarily INSTRUCTIVE. rmb

Jesus is the central figure in the Bible. The more a person reads and studies the Bible, the more obvious this becomes. Jesus is the subject of the prophecies and the foreshadows and the types in the Old Testament, as the people of God looked forward to the Messiah’s coming. He is the regal King of the gospels, as He displays His deity through His miracles and His teaching, and He is the suffering servant of the Lord, enduring His passion and dying His sacrificial death on the cross. He is the Firstborn from the dead as He rises victorious from the grave, the resurrected King of kings and the one who ascends to the Father’s right hand. The New Testament looks back to His death on the cross and His glorious resurrection, but the New Testament also looks forward to His Second Coming, when He will descend from heaven as the Judge of all the earth to “tread out the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty (Revelation 19:15).” From Genesis to Revelation, Jesus is the subject of the Scriptures. He is the glorious one, the star of the show.

But even though Jesus is the Person who dominates the Scriptures, it is not always easy to find Him in every passage of the Scriptures. What I mean is that sometimes Jesus is hidden by the mysterious way that a passage is written. Sometimes the Holy Spirit has inspired a passage in the Bible that is loftier than our current thoughts or that stretches our concept of who Jesus is. Because the Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), there will be times when we can understand the words that are used in a passage, but we may not understand the full meaning of what is being communicated. For those passages, we must slow down and dig deeper to find the treasure hidden in the passage. Psalm 110 is such a passage. This psalm was written by King David about 1,000 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and yet it tells amazing truths about the Lord Jesus and about what He will accomplish in His advents.

The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” – Psalm 110:1

ASKING QUESTIONS TO UNDERSTAND THE VERSE

            At a first reading, this verse appears to be a complete mystery. The context of the verse is unclear, and the message of the verse is even less clear. What is this verse about? But before we despair, let’s see if we can ask some questions that may give us at least some direction.

            We have already established that Jesus is the central figure of the Bible. As we answer these questions, we will learn more about Jesus and about the whole flow of redemptive history and will see that this verse has a powerful message about Jesus.

  1. Who is speaking in this verse?
  2. To whom is He speaking?
  3. When does this conversation take place?
  4. What is the significance of “sitting at His right hand?”
  5. When will the promise of this verse be fulfilled?
  1. Who is speaking in this verse? First, we observe that the English text gives the name of the speaker as “LORD,” where the name is all capital letters. Why is this? We must understand that the original language of Hebrew had several names for God. The name translated as “LORD” is the Hebrew word “YHWH” or “Yahweh.” This is the covenant name for God that can also be understood as God the Father. Our God is one God in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the context of this verse, we would understand this “LORD” to be God the Father. So, God the Father is speaking.
  2. To whom is He speaking? Now we encounter another Person referred to as “Lord,” but notice that only the first letter of that name is capitalized. Again, the English is attempting to capture the meaning of the original Hebrew. The name translated as “Lord” is the Hebrew word “Adonai.” This is a name for God, but it is obviously different from the LORD, who is God the Father. David refers to Him as “my Lord.” Who is this? There is only one suspect for this mystery. Amazingly, in this verse God the Father is speaking to God the Son, Jesus Christ. What the psalmist, David, is relating to us in this verse is an “inter-trinitarian” conversation between God the Father and God the Son.
  3. When does this conversation take place? To answer this question, we need to look carefully at what God the Father is telling God the Son. The Father is telling the Son to “sit at His right hand” until some future date. This means that there must have been some time before this conversation when the Son was not sitting at the Father’s right hand. When was there a time when God the Son was not at the Father’s right hand? That time was when the Son was sent by the Father to earth in His first advent. Now the Son has completed His mission and has accomplished His work (John 17:4; 19:30) and He is returning to heaven. What we see, then, is that God the Father is speaking to God the Son after God the Son, Jesus Christ, has finished His work of atonement on the cross, has been resurrected and has ascended back to heaven. Thus, we see that this conversation takes place when Jesus Christ ascends to heaven after His first advent.
  4. What is the significance of “sitting at His right hand?” We have already seen that this verse, Psalm 110:1, is telling us that Jesus Christ, God the Son, has completed His work of redemption and has ascended back to heaven. God the Father is telling Him to sit at His right hand. Jesus is to sit. Sitting is what one did after you had completed your work. To be invited to sit meant that your host was inviting you to rest from your labors. “You have earned a rest. Take a load off your feet!” Jesus had perfectly accomplished His mission and had completed His work, so now God the Father invites Him to sit down. (See Hebrews 1:3.) Jesus it to sit at the LORD’s right hand. The right hand was the place of highest honor. It was the place where the king placed his most trusted and valiant counselors. Jesus, who had always occupied that seat until His first advent, assumes the place of highest honor after His mission is accomplished.
  5. When will the promise of this verse be fulfilled? God the Father not only invites God the Son to sit at His right hand after His ascension, but He also gives the Son a promise, that He will make the Son’s enemies a footstool for the Son’s feet. Up till now we have been focusing on Christ’s first advent, but now the focus shifts to His Second Coming at the end of the age. We know from other passages of Scripture that there will certainly be a time in the future when Jesus will again rise from His seat in heaven and will again come to earth, this time as a wrathful Judge and as a terrifying warrior. All of Christ’s enemies will be trampled under His feet (Revelation 14:19-20; 19:15, 20-21).

WHAT HAVE WE DISCOVERED?

            As we have carefully and deliberately gone through this difficult verse of Scripture, we have been able to discover some powerful truths. We used thoughtful questions to dig treasure out of this mysterious verse and, by bridging between what we already knew and what careful observation revealed, we uncovered new things about Jesus and about the future of the world.

            The Bible is all about Jesus Christ, and we have learned from this one verse of this ancient psalm of David, written a millennium before Christ was born, that:

  • There is evidence of the Trinity even in the psalms.
  • Jesus will be sitting at the right hand of God the Father throughout the time between His advents.
  • There will be a time in the future when Jesus Christ will return to destroy all His enemies.
  • Jesus has perfectly accomplished His mission and His work of redemption in His first advent and is therefore worthy to sit at the Father’s right hand.

Therefore, we can be encouraged as we make our way through our walk through this life, because Jesus is at the right hand of the Father and that He is soon coming from heaven to bring us home to Him.

SDG                 rmb                  12/28/2020

To fulfill the Scriptures: Thoughts on Christ’s advents

“How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled? But all this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets (Matthew 26:54, 56).”

            When Jesus was being “betrayed into the hands of sinners (Matthew 26:45),” His disciples attempted to defend Him so that His arrest would not happen. But Jesus told them to put their sword back into its place and consciously allowed Himself to be taken away. Why did He do that? This was done because the Scriptures, written centuries before, must be fulfilled. Not the smallest letter or stroke could pass from the prophecies about His passion and His crucifixion until all was accomplished (Matthew 5:18). In a sense, Jesus was not free to conduct His arrest and crucifixion any way He wanted, because these events had already been scripted in the Law and the Prophets, and the Scriptures must be fulfilled. To know the events that lay before Jesus as He gave His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28) we would need only to carefully study the pages of the Old Testament to see what the prophets had written.

            The point that I am making is that the Scriptures, as the Word of God, will certainly be fulfilled. Every prophecy about the Lord Jesus will be accomplished because these prophecies have been etched forever in God’s Word and are, therefore, manifestations of God’s truth. This has direct bearing on our understanding of Christ’s first advent and especially on His second advent.

AS THE FIRST ADVENT, SO THE SECOND COMING

            As all the Scriptures’ prophecies about Christ’s first advent were fulfilled by the Lord Jesus in the events and circumstances of His earthly life, from His conception to His birth to His earthly ministry to His suffering and crucifixion to His death and resurrection and to His ascension into heaven, so all the prophecies about His Second Coming must necessarily be fulfilled before He will return.

            God’s prophets and His faithful people carefully examined the Scriptures to anticipate Christ’s first advent (1 Peter 1:10-12; Simeon in Luke 2:25-35; Anna in Luke 2:36-38). In the same way, Christ’s people rightly examine the Scriptures to anticipate His Second Coming and to wait eagerly for His return (Hebrews 9:28), when He comes to judge the earth (Psalm 96:13; 98:9) and to bring all His people to heaven.

            In this way, we can get a right perspective on the study of “eschatology,” also known as “last things” or “end times.” It is for the purpose of anticipating our Lord’s glorious coming and for the goal of increasing our eagerness that we carefully study the prophecies of the end-times that God has placed in His Scriptures. As we eagerly anticipate Christ’s coming, our strength to persevere is increased. The prophecies of the time before our Lord’s return include severe testing of the church through persecution and trial. A hope that is fixed on heaven and an eager anticipation of our soon-coming King will hold our feet firmly on the Rock.

            In Matthew 24, it is clear that the Lord Jesus expected His disciples to look forward to His return. He tells them of the events of the distant future (“Behold, I have told you in advance.” v. 25) so that they will know that He is the one who will bring these things to pass, and He tells them, “When you see all these things, recognize that He (the Son of Man) is near, right at the door (v. 33).” It seems to me that Jesus wanted us to be excited about His return, and He put all sorts of prophecies into His Word so that we would have a reason to get excited.

            The Lord has given us His Word, the Bible, so that we would know all He has chosen to reveal to us about the future and about the return of our glorious King. All the prophecies concerning Jesus’ return are “the things which must soon take place (Revelation 1:1).” All the Scriptures about our Lord’s coming will certainly be fulfilled, and when we see all these things, we know that He is right at the door. We therefore study the prophecies of the end-times to glorify God and to strengthen our resolve to persevere.

SDG                 rmb                 12/22/2020

Psalm 110: A brief lesson in Christology

The LORD says to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand . . .”

INTRODUCTION

Thus, David begins Psalm 110, a psalm that held many mysteries for those who lived before the Incarnation. “The LORD says to my Lord.” “Yahweh says to my Adonai.” Right from the start the psalm presented difficulties. God is talking to God. Yahweh is talking to Adonai, so there appear to be two persons here, but the Shammah from Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” So how can this be? There is no clear solution to this puzzle.

            Jesus Himself brings out another conundrum from the psalm, as He questions the Pharisees during Passion Week. At that time, Psalm 110 was accepted by Hebrew scholars as a messianic psalm. The images and the drama of the psalm made it obvious that it pictured the victorious exploits of the Messiah. But the Holy Spirit had inspired David to write a theological riddle. So, Jesus asks, “Whose son is the Christ (Matthew 22:42ff)?” “The Son of David,” the Pharisees reply. The trap has been set and the bait has been taken. Jesus then quotes Psalm 110 and asks the obvious question: “If (in Psalm 110) David calls him (the Messiah) ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?” In other words, “How can the Christ (Messiah) be both David’s son and his Lord?” No answer is offered because no answer is available. The Pharisees have no solution to the riddle.

            But the mysteries are even deeper than that. While the psalm was acknowledged to be about the victories of the Messiah, the only reference for the pronouns “You” and “Your” in verses 1-4 and the only reference for the pronoun “He” is verses 5-7 is “the Lord,” which in Hebrew is Adonai, a divine name of God. Therefore, taking all this into account, from Psalm 110 we discover that the Messiah is the Lord Adonai, but He is also the human Son of David “according to the flesh (Romans 1:3),” a Man like us who “will drink from the brook by the wayside (Psalm 110:7)” to quench His thirst. Sort of like a God-Man.

            Does that sound familiar? It should because Psalm 110 points unerringly to the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, this psalm is one of the most complete pictures of Jesus Christ in both His first and second advents in the Bible. The psalm provides us with a lesson in Christology that is supported by many other Scriptures. The rest of this article will explore Psalm 110 verse-by-verse and show how it reveals Jesus to us.

FINDING JESUS IN PSALM 110

  • Verse 1 – The Lord is told to sit at the right hand of the LORD because He has accomplished something that merits the seat of honor. Christ is exalted to the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3) because He has accomplished the work of redemption that He was given to do (John 17:4). He is highly exalted as a result of His perfect humiliation by his death on the cross (Philippians 2:5-11). He has been allotted a portion with the great (Isaiah 53:12).
  • Verse 1 – We have already talked (above) about the divine and human natures of the one who is the Lord (Adonai) and yet the Son of David.
  • Verse 2 – A “strong scepter” is a symbol of this King’s power. “The LORD sends forth Your strong scepter from Zion.” This scepter is the gospel that is sent forth and allows Christ through His church to rule in the midst of His enemies, “as sheep in the midst of wolves (Matthew 10:16)”. With the scepter of the gospel Christ will conquer the nations and bring many into His kingdom.
  • Verse 3 – There is a certain day in the future, “the day of Your power,” when His power will be on full display. We know that this will be the day of the Lord, the day of Christ’s return. In that day, “Your people will volunteer freely” and they will be dressed “in holy array.” This is describing the glorified saints arrayed in white robes who will come with the Lord Jesus upon His return. (See 1 Thess. 4:14; 2 Thess. 1:10; Revelation 19:14)
  • Verse 4 – The LORD has taken an oath and has sworn, and when God Himself takes an oath, it indicates the unchangeableness of the promise (Hebrews 6:13-20). This is the solemnity of the oath that the LORD has made to the Lord Jesus. The oath cannot be broken or changed.
  • Verse 4 – What is the nature of the oath? That Christ is “a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” First, then, He is a Priest as well as a King. There were no such kings in the Davidic line, for the priests were descended from Aaron in the tribe of Levi and the kings were from David in the line of Judah. Thus Christ, the Son of God, is the only one allowed to be both King and Priest because He is of the priestly order of Melchizedek. As a priest, Jesus makes intercession for His people. As priest, He is also the one who brought the blood of the eternal sacrifice to the heavenly mercy seat (See Hebrews 9-10).
  • Verse 4 – Christ is a priest forever. The priesthood of Jesus had no beginning and will have no end. In eternity past, the LORD swore with an oath that Jesus was a priest forever. He always lives to make intercession for His people (Hebrews 7:25). His people always have an advocate, a priest to intercede for them with the Father.
  • Verse 4 – For a study of Melchizedek as a type of Christ, spend time in Hebrews 7.
  • Verse 5 – “The Lord is at Your right hand.” Thus, begins the day of the Lord’s wrath. Verses 5-6 speak about the day of Christ’s return in wrath and judgment. We recall from verse 1 that the LORD invited the Lord to sit at His right hand. On the day of wrath, the Lord will still be at the LORD’s right hand as they render judgment to the unrighteous. In Revelation 6:16, the kings of the earth say to the mountains, “Hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne (the LORD), and from the wrath of the Lamb (the Lord).”
  • Verse 5 – “He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath.” From that same passage in Revelation 6:15-17, the Lord shatters kings and the great men in the day of His wrath. Psalm 110:5 is describing the events of Revelation 6:15-17.
  • Verse 6 – The Priest-King of the order of Melchizedek “will judge among the nations.” Can there be any doubt that this is the terrible day of Christ’s final judgment? This is described in Matthew 25:31-46, when Jesus separates the sheep from the goats and casts those on His left “into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (v. 41).” We see a glimpse of this in Luke 19:27 and in Revelation 14:9-11. Psalm 2:9 also mentions that the Son “will break them with a rod of iron and shatter them like earthenware.” Finally, in Revelation 19:11-16 we see the Lord Jesus coming in His final judgment.
  • Verse 6 – “He will fill them with corpses.” In the great day of judgment, there will be many slain by the Lord Jesus as He returns to deal out retribution. In Revelation 19:17-21, the Scriptures declare that the birds in midheaven will feast on “the flesh of kings and the flesh mighty men,” and all of these will be “killed with the sword that came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse.” The one on the horse is the Lord Jesus in His Second Coming. There will be many corpses on that day.
  • Verse 6 – “He will shatter the head over a broad country.” What would it mean for Jesus the Messiah to “shatter the head?” In Genesis 3:15, we read that the Messiah, the seed of the woman, will bruise Satan on his head. Now here we read that the great Priest-King, the Messiah “will shatter the head.” Psalm 110:6 is speaking of how Jesus crushed Satan’s head when He was crucified at The Place of a Skull. We also know that Jesus will finally “crush Satan’s head” when throws him into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).
  • Verse 7 – The final verse may be the most mysterious of all. “He will drink from the brook by the wayside.” From this phrase it is unmistakable that this Warrior is human, for He thirsts and so He must stop by the wayside to drink from the brook. He wields the divine sword of judgment, yet He also needs water to slake His thirst.
  • Verse 7 – There may be more intended from the phrase, “He will drink from the brook.” For we know that, during His first advent, Jesus the Messiah was required to drink the cup of God’s wrath which He was given (John 18:11; Matthew 20:22). We know that, while He was on the cross, the Messiah thirsted (John 19:28). It is possible, then, to understand this phrase as speaking about His suffering in His earthly life. He drank from the brook of suffering that ran by the wayside of His life.
  • Verse 7 – If drinking from the brook does, in fact, point to Jesus’ suffering in this life, then the second half of the verse fits well into Scripture. In Isaiah 53:11, “As a result of the anguish of His soul . . .” Then in 53:12, “Therefore, I will assign Him a portion with the great.” In Philippians 2:8, Jesus was “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” But 2:9, “Therefore also God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name.” (See also Revelation 5, where the Lamb is given glory and honor because He has conquered.) Because the Messiah endured the cross, “Therefore He (the LORD) will lift up His (the Lord’s) head.” And this understanding would bring us back to the start of the psalm when Jesus ascends to the right hand of the LORD.

CONCLUSION

            Psalm 110 presents us with a powerful picture of Jesus the Messiah in His first advent as the suffering Servant, but also in His Second Coming as the Warrior-Judge. This psalm also highlights the prophetic nature of some of the psalms as clearly foreshadowing future events. Finally, the psalm reveals again the divine inspiration of the Scriptures as these words written by David a thousand years before Jesus’ Incarnation are fulfilled by our great Priest-King.

SDG                 rmb                 10/20/2020

The Eschatology of Isaiah – 27:1 Punish Leviathan, Slay the Dragon

The prophet Isaiah wrote powerful prophecies not only of the events of Jesus the Messiah’s first advent, but also about the events of that day, the final day when the glorified Jesus Christ, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the resurrected Lamb of God, returns from heaven on a white horse (Revelation 19:11ff) to judge all the earth.

It is Isaiah’s eschatology that we have been exploring in this series of studies from one brief passage of four verses, Isaiah 26:19-27:1. Here the prophet tells us of things to come at the end of time. As we have seen in the post of December 1 of last year, Isaiah 26:19 told us about the great final resurrection of the dead when the tomb will become a womb and the dust will give birth to those who will sing for joy. A little later in December of 2019, we examined Isaiah 26:20, where the prophet writes about the time of tribulation of God’s people. We recently (October 2, 2020) examined the next verse in the passage in which the prophet tells us about when “the LORD is coming out of His place,” telling of when Jesus returns. This post will be the final one of the four, examining Isaiah 27:1, which tells of the punishing of Leviathan and the killing of the dragon, and seeing how this relates to the events surrounding the return of the Lord Jesus from heaven.

PART 4 – The LORD will punish the serpent and will slay the dragon

“In that day the Lord with His hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent and He will slay the dragon that is in the sea.”

In the context of this passage that we have studied, in the context of what we can now see as a vision of Christ’s return, the meaning of this verse must be obvious. What to Isaiah the prophet must have been puzzling and mysterious, to us with the New Testament is clear. For Jesus the Messiah has already come to fulfill the prophecies of His first advent and has told us Himself of His imminent return. In the book of Revelation, we read of precisely these events coming to pass at the end of the age, exactly consistent with the other events surrounding the Second Coming of the Lord. Isaiah has already told us of the resurrection of the dead, of the great tribulation that will come upon God’s people, and of the glorious time when the Lord Himself will come from heaven. Now Isaiah tells us what will become of Leviathan the fleeing serpent and the dragon.

  • In that day – What day? This expression, “in that day,” is used throughout the writings of the Old Testament prophets and almost always refers to “the day of the LORD.” So here, Isaiah is making a reference to the day of the LORD, that day when the LORD will return to judge the earth. The prophets describe this as a terrifying day, a day when the unrighteous will find no place to hide and when the LORD will recompense all sin. That is the day tIsaiah intends here.
  • Leviathan the fleeing serpent – Who is Leviathan? Although there are several Old Testament passages that speak of Leviathan, the creature’s exact identity is difficult to determine. The overall impression is that “Leviathan” is a picture of evil, and of threat and destruction. Leviathan is dangerous and foreboding, and his appearance brings with it imminent threat. The background music strikes a minor key. That is certainly the picture here.
  • But notice that Leviathan is no longer the hunter but is the hunted. Leviathan, that creature of chaos and destruction, is fleeing from the LORD’s “hard and great and strong sword.” His imminent doom is certain, for the LORD’s sword never returns to its sheath until it has accomplished its work. The LORD’s sword “will punish Leviathan.” “Punish” describes the reason for the LORD’s sword (to punish for evil), but the effect is the death of Leviathan. The LORD says, “I have created the smith who produces a weapon for its purpose (Isaiah 54:16).” The LORD’s sword is created to kill the LORD’s enemies. When Leviathan is punished, it will certainly be slain.
  • Leviathan is a fleeing serpent and a twisting serpent – Observe carefully the descriptions of Leviathan. Twice he is called a serpent. Now it is time for Bible 101. “Who is the serpent?” This is the one who tempted Eve in the Garden and thus led man into sin. This is the one who is called that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world (Revelation 12:9).” Yes, in this context, Leviathan is another word for the devil and Satan.
  • Leviathan, the serpent, is also the dragon – We know that the Bible is written such that what appears later sheds light on what was written formerly. For example, what was written in the New Testament sheds light on and informs what was written in the Old Testament. Therefore, based on Revelation 12:9, we just confirmed that Leviathan, the serpent, is also the devil, the serpent. Now, from that same verse (Revelation 12:9) we can see that the serpent is the dragon, for it is the dragon who is explicitly identified as the serpent (“the great dragon, that ancient serpent”). It can thus be concluded that Isaiah 27:1 is not about the destruction of two creatures, Leviathan and the dragon, but is actually about the slaying of the one creature, the dragon. And we know from the New Testament that the dragon is a symbol for Satan.
  • OUR CONCLUSION – What we see is that Isaiah 27:1 is prophesying the slaying of Satan on the final day, “in that day,” when the Lord Jesus comes from heaven on the day of His glorious return. And that is exactly what we find described in the book of Revelation. On that day, Jesus returns from heaven on a white horse with a sharp sword in His mouth to strike down the nations. Then “He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty (Rev. 19:11, 15).” His final act of judgment will be “the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where (he) will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:10).” Isaiah has seen the events of the last day.

SUMMARY OF THE PASSAGE

            In this four-part study, it has been shown that Isaiah, the son of Amoz, who lived 700 years before Jesus the Messiah’s first advent, prophesied the events of Jesus’ Second Coming with great accuracy. As we compare Isaiah 26:19-21 and 27:1 with the prophecies of Jesus’ Second Coming in the New Testament, we see the resurrection of the dead, the testing of God’s people, the great coming of the Lord, and the punishment and destruction of Satan all predicted. To me, there are two applications of this.

  • First, I am again convinced of the Bible’s being breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16), for there is no other explanation for the Bible’s supernatural accuracy.
  • Second, it reminds me that there is a final day coming when all the joys and difficulties of all the ages will come to an end. There is coming a day, perhaps very soon, when Jesus will come from heaven with a shout. Jesus will come on a white horse with a sword to judge the unrighteous without mercy. It reminds me that “the Lord is a warrior (Exodus 15:3)” and that His favor will not be extended forever; there is coming a terrible day of the Lord. It reminds me that I have been promised persecution in this world, but that Jesus has also promised me an eternity with Him in heaven. It reminds me that I am to warn the unrighteous of their need for a Savior.

SDG                 rmb                 10/08/2020

The Eschatology of Isaiah – 26:21 The Coming of the LORD

The prophet Isaiah wrote powerful prophecies not only of the events of Jesus the Messiah’s first advent, but also about the events of that day, the final day when the glorified Jesus Christ, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the resurrected Lamb of God, returns from heaven on a white horse (Revelation 19:11ff) to judge all the earth.

It is Isaiah’s eschatology that we have been exploring in this series of studies, from one brief passage of four verses, Isaiah 26:19-27:1. Here the prophet tells us of things to come at the end of time. As we have seen in the post of December 1 of last year, Isaiah 26:19 told us about the great final resurrection of the dead when the tomb will become a womb and the dust will give birth to those who will sing for joy. A little later, in late December of 2019, we examined Isaiah 26:20, where the prophet writes about the time of tribulation of God’s people. Now, about nine months later, I want to examine the next verse in the passage in which the prophet tells us about when “the LORD is coming out of His place.”

PART 3 – The LORD is coming out of His place – 26:21

“For behold, the LORD is coming out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it and will no more cover the slain.”

There are definitely passages in the prophecy of Isaiah that are difficult to understand, but this is not one of them. Just to state the obvious, there will be a time in the future when “the LORD (YHWH) is coming out of His place.” For anyone familiar with the passages in the New Testament that talk about the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, the meaning of this phrase is clear. Isaiah is prophesying the return of the risen Christ at the end of the age to judge the living and the dead (confirm from Matt. 24:30-31; 25:31; Philippians 3:20-21; 1 Thess. 4:14-18; 2 Thess. 1:7-8; 2 Tim. 4:1-2; Titus 2:13; 1 Peter ; 1 John 3: ; Revelation 19:11-21; etc.) Revelation 19:11ff, for example, is virtually identical to Isaiah’s prophecy and will be used as a comparison in the exegesis below.

            Phrase by phrase, the passage in Isaiah 26:21 says:

  • The LORD is coming out of His place. The Bible confirms that, in this instance at least, “the LORD (YHWH)” is Jesus, and that He will be coming “out of His place.” “His place” is heaven. This is exactly what Rev. 19:11 says as heaven opens, and a white horse appears and seated on the horse is the one called Faithful and True.
  • To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity. When Jesus returns to earth from heaven at the end of the age, He is coming to judge the living and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1). As Isaiah says in other words, He is coming to punish the unrighteous for their iniquity. Now is the favorable year of the LORD (Isaiah 61:2) when the gospel is proclaimed and men and women can repent and believe the gospel and be saved from the wrath to come. But when Jesus returns and is “revealed from heaven in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance (2 Thess. 1:7-8);” when “He judges and makes war,” “strikes down the nations,” and “treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty (Rev. 19:11, 15),” there will be no more repentance, but only punishment and recompense.
  • The earth will disclose the blood shed on it and will no more cover the slain. Without going through this phrase word by word, the meaning of this phrase is that, when the Lord returns in judgment at the end of the age, there will be no sin that will not be exposed to the light of God’s holiness and there will be no iniquity that will not receive the full fury of God’s judgment. In this age it can seem that the unrighteous prosper and seem to get away with murder (see Psalm 73, for example). While God’s judgment is delayed, people can believe that sin is not a big deal and that, because punishment is delayed, punishment for sin will never occur. But there is no sin that God does not see and record (Revelation 20:12-13 – “and the books were opened”). Every sin matters to God, because every sin of His people required the death of His Son on the cross, and because every sin of the unrighteous requires eternal punishment. So, there is no sin that escapes His notice. “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, for all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do (Hebrews 4:13).”
  • Because the Lord will return to bring wrath on the unrighteous, now is the day to repent and trust in Christ (2 Cor. 6:1-2). When Isaiah wrote his prophecy about the coming of the LORD in judgment, there were yet 700 years before the First Advent of the Lord Jesus. When Isaiah wrote his prophecy, there were no miracles of Jesus, there were no apostles, there was no perfect Man who fulfilled the Law, there was no cross, and there was no empty tomb, There was no gospel to proclaim that allows sinners to be saved. There was no New Testament which clearly tells of the coming judgment and of the return of the glorious Lord Jesus, and that warns men and women to repent before the time to repent is gone. But we have no such ignorance, and now the time is short. Soon, and very soon, the LORD is coming out of His place to judge. “Behold, NOW is the favorable time; behold NOW is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2).”

What we have seen so far in our reading of Isaiah 26:19-21 is that, even though Isaiah wrote at least 700 years before the New Testament was written, his prophecies about the events of the Second Coming of Jesus the Messiah are entirely consistent with the prophecies of the New Testament. This is yet another confirmation of the “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) nature of the entire Bible, and evidence that the same God who inspired Isaiah in his writings is also the God who inspired the New Testament authors. This should increase still more our confidence in the Scriptures and should persuade us that, when we handle the Bible, we are indeed handling the word of God.

The next post in this series will look at Isaiah 27:1 which will tell us more about the events surrounding the return of Jesus.

SDG                       rmb                        10/02/2020

A study of the Judgment in Revelation 20:11-15

This originally was going to be a brief blog on this passage from the book of Revelation, but as is often the case with my writing, I ended up being fascinated with the study and so produced a fairly long piece. I hope that you find it instructive and edifying. rmb 9.16.2020

“So, what happens at the Judgment?” My friend had been having a discussion with his wife in preparation for talking to his daughters about the final judgment. He knew that I was working on a book on the end times, so he gave me a call and posed the question.

“Wow, that is a great question! Let me pull together some Scriptures and make some notes and I will call you back.” So, the stage was set.

This post, then, will be an explanation of what happens at the great white throne judgment described in Revelation 20:11-15.

THE TEXT – REVELATION 20:11-15 (NASB)

11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

UNDERSTANDING THE PASSAGE

Revelation 20:11

            John sees the great white throne with the LORD seated on the throne. In this awesome scene, all creation flees away, trying to get away from the fury and the wrath of God and of the Lamb (compare to Revelation 6:15-17). There is, however, no place to hide. The business at hand is The Judgment.

Revelation 20:12

            Next, John sees “the dead.” This word “dead” is significant because the meaning goes beyond just those who are not breathing. These are the spiritually dead. John mentions “the dead” four times in two verses to emphasize their spiritual lifelessness. At the great white throne, we see the gathering of all the spiritually dead of all time, awaiting their final judgment. That is the identity of “the dead” whom John sees. Regarding “the dead,” consider these verses from the mouth of Jesus:

  • When our Lord was talking to the Sadducees about the resurrection, Jesus quotes from Exodus when God said, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Jesus said, “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living (Matthew 22:31-32).” Jesus is making it clear that these patriarchs, even though physically dead, are spiritually alive.
  • Perhaps more to the point, In Luke 9:60, Jesus calls a man to follow Him, but the man makes the excuse that he needs to bury his father. Jesus said, “Allow the (spiritually) dead to bury their own (physically) dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” It turns out that there are many who, even though physically alive, are spiritually dead.
  • In John 3:18, Jesus says, “He who believes in Him (the Son) is not judged.” That seems straightforward to me.
  • Jesus also taught that those who have believed in Him will not come into judgment. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life (John 5:24).” Two truths are taught by this verse. First, the one who believes in Jesus “does not come into judgment.” That seems pretty easy to understand. But second, those who have eternal life through Jesus are no longer among “the dead,” regardless of their physical state. They “have passed from death to life.”
  • A few verses later, Jesus is teaching about the resurrection and says, “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice (the voice of the Son of God), and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, and those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment (John 5:28-29).” So, we can see that, in the resurrection, the ones who will experience the judgment are “those who committed the evil deeds.”

Next, “books were opened.” What exactly are these books which were opened? It is clear that these books determine the verdict that will come from the throne, for John writes that “the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.” These books, then, are the records of all the sins of each one of the dead who are standing before the throne. They will be judged “according to their deeds.” Their deeds are evil (John 3:19-20’ “their deeds are evil”). Their deeds are their sins, and it is on the basis of these deeds, their “works,” that they will be judged. The time for forgiveness is over. There will be no more mercy or compassion. The offer of the gospel is forever taken away. These have come before the great white throne of the Holy One of Israel with nothing but their unrighteousness and their sins. “There no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but only a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries (Hebrews 10:27).”

THE BOOK OF LIFE (OF THE LIVING)

            But wait! “Another book was opened, which is the book of life.” John does not talk about this “book of life” here, because the issue at hand is judgment and eternal death, but we need to understand what this “book of life” is. First, there are the “books of the dead,” which doom people to the lake of fire (20:15), but there is also “the book of life” (“of the living,”) which admits people into eternal life. The book of Revelation has already spoken of this “book of the living” twice, in 13:8 and in 17:8, so we will take a brief detour to find out more about this book.

  • Revelation 13:8 takes place as the beast that comes up out of the sea is in power and is persecuting the saints. “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.” TRUTH: This verse makes clear that the names that are in the book of life were written there in eternity past and that they were written in the book of life by the Lord Himself. The inescapable conclusion is that those who were going to have eternal life and who were going to avoid the lake of fire were chosen by God in eternity past. This necessitates the doctrine of election (Ephesians 1:4; etc.).
  • Revelation 17:8 also involves the beast and talks about “those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world.” The group in view in both these verses is the people “whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world.” TRUTH: Therefore, the other conclusion from these verses is that, since those in the book of life are known, those who are doomed to the lake of fire are also known from the foundation of the world.

Revelation 20:13

            We find out from this verse where all “the dead” come from. From the previous verse, we know that “the dead, the great and the small,” are standing before the throne, but now we find out that “the dead” come from the sea, and they come from “death and Hades.” This is just another way of saying that all the dead are here. Not one of the dead has been overlooked or has escaped the judgment. Then, once all the dead are gathered, they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. As we have seen earlier, these “deeds” are the sins of the dead who stand before the throne. Their destiny is the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:14

            Death and Hades are irretrievably and inescapably thrown into the lake of fire. Long, long ago, in one of the early scenes of the grand meta-drama, the LORD God had told man that sin would result in death (Genesis 2:17). And so, ever since the fall of man in Genesis 3 death needed to continue to exist because man’s sin continued to exist. Hades is the place where the spiritually dead await the judgment, and so Hades continues to exist until the judgment. But now after the judgment, full payment for all sin has been rendered, either in Christ’s full atonement for all the sins of all true believers in Christ or in the eternal punishment in the lake of fire for all unbelievers. Sin has ceased because there are no longer any sinners. All believers are now glorified and so can no longer sin, and all unbelievers have been thrown into the lake of fire. Death is useless when sin has ceased and Hades has become useless, because all the occupants of Hades have been cast into the lake of fire. Therefore, since they are useless, both death and Hades are cast into the lake of fire.

            The lake of fire is the second death. The first death is when a person dies physically. If that person has believed in Jesus, in the intermediate state they are in the presence of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:1-8; Philippians 1:23; Revelation 6:9-11; etc.) awaiting  the resurrection of the righteous, when they will receive their glorified, resurrection body. Thus, the believer never experiences the second death. (Confirm with John 11:25-26.) This passage, however, is about the unbeliever. In contrast to the believer, in the intermediate state the unbeliever awaits Christ’s return in Hades, and, at the resurrection, they will “come out to a resurrection of judgment (John 5:29).” Unbelievers will go from their temporary home in Hades to their eternal home of unending conscious punishment in the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:15

            The judgment is made, and the sentence is passed. The book of life, or “the book of the living,” has been examined. This is the book that contains the names of all those who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. Those whose names are in the book of the living are resurrected to eternal life (John 5:29), but there are many whose names are not there. All those whose names are not found in the book of life are thrown into the lake of fire.

APPLICATION

            All you who are now reading this article on the final judgment are still physically alive. You still have time to contemplate the question, “Is my name written in the book of life, or am I headed for the lake of fire?” Hopefully, after reading this article, you are clear on the two, and only two, options.

  • If you have already placed your faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, then you will never experience the second death (Revelation 2:11; 20:6), and you can be sure that your name is in the book of life. In that case, the application would be to rejoice in the faithfulness of our Savior Jesus Christ.
  • If, however, you have not placed your faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior; if you have not confessed with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believed in your heart that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9); if you have never believed in the Lord Jesus Christ so as to be saved (Acts 16:31), then your current destiny is the lake of fire. Your application is to change your destiny! This minute you can change your eternal destiny. This minute you can believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and trust Him as your personal Lord and Savior. If you do that, “Truly, truly, I (Jesus) say to you, you will not come into judgment, but you have passed from death to life (John 5:24).”

SDG                 rmb                 9/16/2020

The Whole Creation Groans (Romans 8:22)

Yellowstone is one of the most unique and beautiful places on the planet. My wife and I recently returned from our first visit to this amazing place and were treated to one breathtaking view after another. Waterfalls and canyons and rivers and lakes and valleys and mountains flow from one scene to another. Everywhere you look God’s creative genius is displayed and it is mindboggling to think that, since before the creation of the world, these dazzling wonders have all been planned in the mind of our great God. The upper and lower waterfalls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone were designed in eternity past and were then brought into being exactly as the Lord God had conceived them. He planned where every rock would be and then He executed His plan, and the result is a feast of natural beauty perhaps unrivaled on earth. Indeed, this place must be seen to be believed.

And yet, despite the incredible beauty of this place, there is also built into this beauty evidence that things will not always be this way. If you pay attention to the displays at the Visitor Centers in the park, you will see that Yellowstone began as a gigantic volcano, a volcano so big that it makes Mount St. Helens look like a campfire. Each presentation talks about the “caldera” that represents the rim of the original volcanic crater, a caldera that is about 30 or 40 miles from rim to rim. This is sobering enough, but even more unnerving is the fact that this mega-volcano is still active. In fact, one of the most fascinating features of Yellowstone is the abundance of geothermal activities. There are dozens  (and maybe hundreds) of geysers (yes, like Old Faithful), mudpots (steaming hot mud that percolates with bubbles), hot springs (like the Grand Prismatic Spring, that is so incredibly beautiful that it almost seems unreal) and fumaroles (holes in the ground that belch out sulfurous steam) spread all over the vast acreage of the park that are constantly active.

Now, here is my point. As we consider all this geothermal activity, we must also contemplate what all this steam and all these geysers represent. Each geyser that throws boiling steam into the sky indicates a crack in the earth’s crust that allows ground water to leak down to the white-hot magma beneath. The plethora of hot springs, which are as blue as the Caribbean, are hot enough to scald you and appear to be bottomless pools of water going down to some heat source. Walk out into one of the geyser basins and you are surrounded by seething, boiling, steaming evidence of an active volcano. They are beautiful and fascinating, but they are also ominous, because the Lord has promised that one day the world will be destroyed by fire (2 Peter 3:10-12; 2 Thess. 1:7). Today these springs and geysers give us pleasure as we observe their beauty, but they also contain a warning, that there is coming a day of judgment when the natural order will be wrenched out of place. Do the millions of people that come through Yellowstone every year consider the fact that Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Spring are reminders that the Lord could decide at any time to detonate this volcano and end time?

There was one display in one of the Visitor Centers that told about the active volcanos that are scattered across the earth, particularly where the tectonic plates come together. Because of scientific research, we are aware of these active volcanos and we are aware of the tectonic plates that are resting against one another in a delicate balance. As I considered all these geological facts, it occurred to me that all the pieces are in place for the earth to loudly and cataclysmically groan and bring about worldwide geographic destruction. “The whole world groans and suffers the pains of childbirth until now (Romans 8:22),” but there will come a time when the Lord will remove His restraining hand and will allow the volcanos to erupt all at once.

I don’t want to wander much farther off into speculation, but I do want to emphasize the things that I observed in Yellowstone. The Lord has arranged all the pieces for geographic catastrophe, and those destructive forces are displayed in Yellowstone as beautiful geysers and hot springs, but they are also there for those who will heed them as warnings that the time is now to repent and to come to faith in Jesus. The Lord gives us this evidence wrapped in beauty to let us know that the end can come at any time. So as you watch Old Faithful erupt, be sure to consider that you are sitting on top of a giant volcano that the Lord could detonate at any time.

“The whole world groans and suffers the pains of childbirth until now.” – Romans 8:22

SDG                 rmb                 8/30/2019