How is Satan “bound”? (Revelation 20:1-3)

INTRODUCTION. According to Revelation 20:1-3, Satan is bound in the abyss for the “thousand years.” But if that is the case, how is he, at the same time, prowling about like a roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8)?

Last Friday evening, during a discussion of the end times, a friend mentioned the consideration that, if Satan is “bound” immediately after Christ’s ascension, then how do we explain verse like 1 Peter 5:8, which speaks about the devil’s ongoing activity during the “thousand years?”

A REVIEW OF THE LAST DAYS

Before we plunge deeply into this controversial text (Revelation 20:1-6) and the equally controversial subject of the “thousand years,” it would be good to review some basics of the end times so that we have a common vocabulary and a common framework. I have expressed my views on these topics in detail in my book, The Last Act of the Drama, which I self-published with Amazon in October 2021, and this review will be based on the explanations in that book.

The last days began with the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ in Bethlehem (Hebrews 1:2). Jesus, the Son of God, performed His earthly ministry, accomplished His work of redemption by His death on the cross, was buried, and rose again from the dead in glorious resurrection. He commissioned His church to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20) and then ascended to heaven to await the Father’s command for His return to end history and judge the earth. Of course, there is no controversy among evangelicals concerning these truths, but there is a great deal of debate about what happens between Jesus’ ascension and His return, especially regarding the end times, the time just before His return.

Since I have written about my view in detail in my book, I will not supply explanations here, but will just present my view, especially as it relates to the “thousand years.” From Revelation 20:1-3, we know the beginning event and the ending event of the “thousand years.” That time period begins when the “angel” “bound him (Satan) for a thousand years” (20:2). Then, when “the thousand years were completed,” “he must be released for a short time” (20:3). This is confirmed in Revelation 20:7, where the Scripture says, “When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison.” So, the beginning and the end of the ”thousand years” are given, but questions remain. When, exactly, does this period occur? What precedes it and what follows it? What occurs during this period? What is the purpose of Satan being bound and what is the purpose of the “thousand years”? Who is this “angel”?

In my book, I explain that the “thousand years” is not intended as a literal 1,000 years but simply suggests a long period of time. I use the term “relatively literal,” meaning that “thousand years” gives us the right mindset. It gets us in the ballpark. The “thousand years” is a long time. The “angel” (Rev. 20:1) is the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ as He is ascending to heaven to assume the throne (See Rev. 5, when He arrives in heaven.) The “angel” must be Jesus, because no ordinary “angel” has the authority to lay hold of Satan and throw him into the abyss. Only Jesus, as God the Son, can do this. Thus, Satan is bound in the abyss for the “thousand years.” The “thousand years” begins with Satan being bound during Jesus’ ascension and ends with Satan’s release “for a short time” (20:3). The “thousand years” is followed by the 42 Months (Rev. 11:2, 3; others), which is followed by the Last Day.

THE OBJECTION STATED

But if Satan is bound in the abyss for the “thousand years” and the “thousand years” begins with Christ’s ascension, how do we explain the New Testament’s references to an active devil during the entire time from the beginning of the church forward? For example, in his first epistle,  the apostle Peter warns that, “your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Why would Peter issue this warning if the devil is bound in the abyss? Jesus tells the church at Smyrna that “the devil is about to cast some of you in prison” (Rev. 2:10). Paul declares that we are not ignorant of Satan’s schemes (2 Cor. 2:11) and devotes a whole passage to spiritual warfare so “you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:10-18, esp. 6:11). How can “bound in the abyss” be reconciled with these passages?

THE OBJECTION ADDRESSED

While Satan is bound during the “thousand years,” he is not bound absolutely. He is not bound such that he is unable to do anything, but the Scripture states that he is bound specifically in his ability to deceive the nations. In Revelation 20:3, we read “he (the angel, who is the glorified Christ) threw him (Satan) into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, SO THAT he would not deceive the nations any longer” (emphasis mine). The purpose for Satan being bound in the abyss is SO THAT (the Greek is ἵνα, which indicates purpose) he would not “deceive the nations.” That is, the devil’s ability to hinder the spread of the gospel among the nations is “bound,” but the Scripture is silent about Satan’s other abilities.

This specific binding of Satan in this way is very strategic for the spread of the gospel among the nations and for the building of Christ’s church (Matt. 16:18). Remember, before His ascension Jesus has commissioned His church (Matt. 28:19-20) and has given the church the mission to “make disciples of all the nations.” When the first of the seven seals is broken (Rev. 6:1-2), the church is pictured as a rider on a white horse whose only weapon is “the bow” of the gospel and who “went out conquering and to conquer.” To enable the church to accomplish her mission of making disciples by proclaiming the gospel, the Lord Jesus removes Satan from the playing field before the church rides out. Jesus commissions His church, then binds Satan in the abyss for the “thousand years,” then sends out His church conquering and to conquer. With Satan bound SO THAT he will not deceive the nations (prevent the gospel from advancing among the nations), the “thousand years” is a period of tremendous gospel advance as the Lord Jesus builds His church through the proclaiming church.

SUMMARY

To summarize, then, when the Scripture says that Satan is bound for the “thousand years,” it means only that his specific ability to deceive the nations is neutralized so that the gospel is free to spread among the nations without Satan’s interference. The fact that Satan is bound does not, however, affect his ability to oppose and persecute the church or to create havoc and chaos in the world or to raise up evil leaders and governments or to create false religions that draw many to destruction.

My next post on this subject will be about Satan’s shifting agenda (or mission) as the Lord brings about His plan for the salvation of His elect.

SDG                 rmb                 3/29/2022                   #508

The 42 months* of Revelation: a crucial end times concept

INTRODUCTION. The book of Revelation is the source of almost all of the Bible’s teaching about the 42 months*. (NOTE: The 42 months* is the name that I give to the time period of forty-two months’ duration that falls between the “thousand years” and the Last Day in the Bible’s end times timeline. It is figurative in duration, meaning that the 42 months* lasts approximately three-and-a-half years. The 42 months* appears five times in Revelation 11-13 in three expressions: forty-two months, time and times and half a time, and 1,260 days.) This post explores how to grasp the concept of the 42 months* and thus how to gain a better understanding of Revelation and the flow of the end times.

THE FLOW OF THE LAST DAYS

First, it is necessary to grasp the flow of the last days. (Much of this material is better understood by referring to my book on the end times called The Last Act of the Drama, available from Amazon.) Because of much well-intentioned but incorrect teaching on the end times in general and on the book of Revelation specifically, many (most?) Bible students are confused by both. To remedy that situation takes some work, but that work begins by understanding the general flow of the last days.

The three recognizable components of the last days are the “thousand years,” the 42 months*, and the Last Day, also known as “the day of the LORD” and “that day.” The “thousand years” (Rev. 20:1-6) begins with Christ’s ascension (Acts 1:9) and is the time when Christ’s church is gathered in as the gospel is proclaimed. This “relatively literal” time period (not literally one thousand years, but rather a very long time) ends with the release of Satan from the abyss (Revelation 20:3, 7). This begins the period of the 42 months*, which is a period of intense eschatological activity that prepares the world for the return of Jesus. Whereas the purpose of the “thousand years” was the ingathering of the elect into the church, the purpose of the 42 months* is to purify and cleanse the gathered church by persecution. The duration of the 42 months* is also “relatively literal,” meaning that it is not a long time like a thousand years, but is rather only a few years, probably less than a decade. The 42 months* ends when the forces of wickedness under the leadership of the beast attempt to annihilate the church at Armageddon (Rev. 16:16). This initiates the Last Day. The events of the Last Day are relatively easy to discern from the Scriptures. Once the Resurrection, the return of Christ, and the temporal destruction of all the unrighteous occur, The wicked are then judged finally and forever at the Great White Throne. This ushers in the new heaven and the new earth when time is no more and the righteous are forever with the Lord in heaven (Rev. 7:9).

THE LAST DAY IN SCRIPTURE

The Last Day (“that day”, “the day of the LORD”) is presented literally and figuratively in many places in the Bible, in both Old Testament and New. The final presentation of the Last Day in Revelation (19:11-21, etc.) serves mainly to fill in the final blanks and to put the last threads in the tapestry and to paint the last paint-by-number voids so that the whole effect is felt.

THE “THOUSAND YEARS” IN SCRIPTURE

The “thousand years” is the normal state of most of the time between Christ’s ascension and His Second Coming. This is the long time of the great ingathering of those who have been chosen for salvation (Ephesians 1:4), the time when the church rides out with the bow of the gospel, conquering and to conquer (Rev. 6:1-2). The Great Commission has been issued by the King (Matthew 28:19-20) and Jesus has also defined the church’s task (Acts 1:8), so that the work is clear. Most of the Bible’s instruction is intended for this “thousand years” as the church is built up and sanctified through the ordinary means of grace.

BUT THE 42 MONTHS* . . .

In contrast with the “thousand years” and the Last Day, the 42 months* are rarely mentioned in the Scriptures and when these events do appear, they are often not recognized due to a poor understanding of the teaching about the 42 months* in Revelation. For example, if the believer does not understand Armageddon from Revelation 16, 19, and 20, then he will not perceive that Ezekiel 38 and 39 foreshadow that event. Another example is the beast who rises from the sea in Revelation 13. If you do not understand the events of Revelation 13, then you will not see that the figures presented in Daniel 7, 8, 9, and 11 are types of the beast and thus foreshadow his activity.

So, to repeat, the book of Revelation contains almost all the Bible’s teaching on the 42 months*. But unless the Bible student grasps that the 42 months* exists as a distinct time period of the end times and unless the student has a general idea of the events of the 42 months*, the book of Revelation is likely to be very confusing.

HOW TO GAIN AN ACCURATE VIEW

The question, then, is, “How is the Bible student to gain an accurate understanding of the end times as presented in the Bible?” In my opinion, this involves a two-step process.

The first step is the more difficult and involves setting aside one’s current understanding of end times and of the book of Revelation. Of course, “your current understanding” is the result of years of Bible reading and so is hard to relinquish, but it is flaws in your current understanding that have produced your confusion about these passages. Rather than trying to correct your current view, the easiest thing to do is to set aside the whole thing for the moment and explore an entirely different view.

The second step is easier, but is not easy, and that is to carefully read through my book on the end times, The Last Act of the Drama. Starting with definitions of key end-times concepts, the book establishes a foundation for how to view the flow of the end times and then explores many key passages to show how the pieces fit together and form a beautiful and integrated whole. Special attention is given to the interpretation of Revelation so that the Bible student can confidently explain what the major passages mean and can see the sequence of their occurrence. Thus, the end times events are made clear.

SDG                 rmb                 2/21/2022                   #491

The Last Act of the Drama has been published as an ePub!

December 21, 2021. Yes, this is a shameless plug for the JUST PUBLISHED ePub version of my first published book, The Last Act of the Drama: a guide to the end times. This ePub has been a labor of some magnitude as I have been forced to learn all the nuances of Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and how to turn the paperback version of my book into an ePub version. But now, nearly two months after the paperback began to roll off the presses, the digital book has been completed. It should appear on Amazon by tomorrow (?) Simply go to Amazon and type in “roy britton” in the search line. My book should come up.

So, please tell your friends and acquaintances that The Last Act of the Drama is now digital!

For those of you who are not familiar with the paperback version, this book has been written to give the person who is fairly familiar with the Bible, insights and understanding about the main passages in the Bible that teach about the end of the age, a period of time know as “the end times.” This type of study is also known as “eschatology,” or the study of last things. Please consider going to Amazon and buying a paperback copy or getting a copy of the Kindle version today.

If you read the book, PLEASE give my book a review on the Amazon Website.

By the way, below is a link to my Amazon Author Page so you can find out a little bit more about me personally. (I think this link will work. Like most of my efforts at technology, this link is an act of faith!)

https://amazon.com/author/roybrittonrev19

Thank you for reading my work. I hope you are edified and encouraged. rmb. 12/21/2021

For the Son of Man is coming (Matthew 16:27)

This is the final post in the short series, “A life spent for the King,” based on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 16:24-27. The one who desires to come after Jesus must willingly take up his cross and follow Jesus (16:24; October 26). The one who would find meaning and peace and joy in life must lose his life for Jesus’ sake (16:25; October 31). Every person faces the choice of deciding they will live for this life, or they will live for eternity. What will you give in exchange for your soul? (16:26; November 5)

“For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels and will then repay every man according to his deeds.” – Matthew 16:27

This verse is the fitting culmination of Jesus’ teaching, for He now reveals the reason for His implicit warnings and exhortations. Jesus offers salvation now because there is coming a day of recompense and judgment when there will be no place to hide. Soon Jesus will be crucified (Matt. 16:21) as an atoning sacrifice for sinners and His death will finish and accomplish His work of redemption (John 19:30; 17:4). Then He will be raised up on the third day and will ascend to heaven to await His triumphal return.

So, if you desire to be protected from “that day,” then deny yourself now, and take up your cross and follow Jesus (Matt. 16:24). Learn today what it means to carry your cross so that you will not be forever judged on that day when the Son of Man comes.

“For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father.”

Make no mistake about it. The Son of Man is certainly coming on the Last Day in power and “in the glory of His Father” to judge all the unrighteous (Psalm 96:13). It is futile for you to try to save your own life (Matt. 16:25) because you do not have the power. If you try to save your life, you will certainly be consumed in the judgment. But if you surrender your life to Christ, then He will save you and you will find life indeed.

“For the Son of Man is going to come and will then repay every man according to his deeds.”

Yes, He is surely coming to judge the earth. He will tread out the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty (Rev. 19:15). Jesus will judge the living and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1). And how can you be spared this terrifying judgment? For, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). The prophet Micah considered offering rams and rivers of oil, even his firstborn. “Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, in ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul” (Micah 6:7)? Elsewhere, the writer of Psalm 49 acknowledges that he knows of no suitable ransom for redemption. “No man can by any means redeem his brother or give to God a ransom for him. For the redemption of his soul is costly, and he should cease trying forever.” Where then is the answer? What is a man to do on the day of judgment?

The apostle Peter proclaims that there is salvation in Jesus, and in Jesus alone.

“Jesus Christ the Nazarene He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone12 And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:11-12

Peter declares the good news that on the Last Day, at the coming of the Son of Man, there are those who will be rescued. But that salvation must be put into effect now in this life. Therefore, Paul says, “Behold, now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation’” (2 Cor. 6:1-2). The apostle is urging one and all to come to faith in Christ now.

Thus, Jesus tells us what it is to spend our life for the King. We will take up the cross that Christ gives us, and we will follow Him where He leads. We will give our life away for His sake. We will forfeit the treasures and pleasures of this world for the joys and riches of the Kingdom of heaven. And we will do this knowing that, when the Son of Man comes in the glory of His Father with all His angels, He will repay us with all the riches of heaven.

SDG                 rmb                 11/12/2021                 #454

The two witnesses in Revelation 11:3-12 – an interpretation

This post offers a possible interpretation of Revelation 11:3-12 and a way of seeing the significance of this passage in discussions about the events of the end of the age.

The first time you read through the eleventh chapter of Revelation and read the account of the two witnesses (11:3-12), there will be confusion and mystery. Pretty much guaranteed. What do these two witnesses symbolize and what is the significance of the events that occur in this passage? Where does this take place? When does this take place? How are we to interpret this section of Scripture? I have explored these questions over the course of the last year as I have carefully studied the end-times passages in the Bible, and an understanding of this passage has slowly emerged.

The exegesis that follows will show the meaning of the events at the end of the age. In another post, I will also demonstrate that the persecution of the two witnesses at the end of the age closely parallels the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus in His earthly ministry.

EXEGESIS SHOWING THE MEANING OF PASSAGE

Revelation 11:3-6 – The two witnesses represent the faithful church proclaiming the gospel at the end of the age[i] in the face of persecution and opposition. Note that the two witnesses prophesy (proclaim the gospel) for 1,260 days.[ii] The faithful church is the rightful place where the gospel is proclaimed. The church is the outpost of gospel witness in every location where it exists, giving testimony to Jesus in that place. The two witnesses are called the “two olive trees” (11:4), which are the trees of Jew and Gentile together in the church, according to Romans 11:17-24. The church is the true olive tree. During the days of their prophesying (11:6), they “shut up the sky so that rain will not fall” and they “strike the earth with every plague.” This is a reference to the church’s authority with the word of God, that the church has all the authority of Moses and Elijah, the Law and the prophets. So, again, the two witnesses are the faithful church during the tribulation.

Revelation 11:7

When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them and overcome them and kill them. – Rev. 11:7

First, notice that the two witnesses (the faithful church) “finish their testimony.” There will come a time when the faithful church has accomplished the mission given to her by her King, a time when all the elect have been gathered in, when “this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14). The church has fulfilled its purpose and has finished its testimony. Only then will the beast be allowed to overcome and kill the church.

“The beast” here is the same beast mentioned in other parts of Revelation. This is THE beast, the man of lawlessness, the son of destruction, the second person of the evil trinity. He is allowed to make war on the faithful church and to overcome them and kill them. This event occurs at the very end of the 42 months*. The beast has overcome and killed a significant portion of the visible church, such that the church appears utterly defeated.

Revelation 11:8-10 – There is much imagery in these three verses. The faithful church (“the two prophets” in 11:10) is visibly seen as dead (“their dead bodies will lie in the street;” “dead bodies” is mentioned three times in these verses for emphasis). Peoples and tribes and tongues and nations (the world of the unrighteous) will rejoice and celebrate (11:10) as they “look at their dead bodies for three and a half days” (11:9). The beast appears to have destroyed the church, and the world rejoices and celebrates for three and a half days. Is all lost? Has the church been annihilated? Has evil triumphed?

Revelation 11:11 – This verse is carefully worded to ensure that it alludes to Ezekiel 37:10. After the dead bodies of the two witnesses lie in the street of the great city for three and a half days (Rev. 11:11), “the breath of life from God came into them.” This is certainly pointing to the Resurrection that is described in Ezekiel 37:10: “So I prophesied, and the breath of life came into them.” After this, “they stood on their feet” (Rev. 11:11), which again refers back to Ezekiel 37:10, for there we read, “they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.” What is occurring in Revelation 11:11 is the Resurrection of the dead in Christ that was foreshadowed in Ezekiel 37. Then “great fear fell upon all those who were watching them.” Well, I guess so! The reason great fear fell upon them is that they realize this sudden turn of events spells their doom. The church appeared to be safely annihilated and the beast had won the battle. Then suddenly the world’s victims rise from the dead. The people of the world realize their doom is sealed.

Revelation 11:12 – After the Resurrection, “they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here!’” The loud voice calls to mind 1 Thessalonians 4:16, when there will be “a shout with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God.” These two verses are certainly describing the same event. “Then they went up into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies watched them” (Rev. 11:12). Again, John writes the verse to remind the reader of other New Testament passages. We can see clear parallels to Jesus’ ascension in Acts 1:9, where “He (Jesus) was lifted up while they (the disciples) were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” Also, in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, we read that “we will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” What we see, then, in this verse is the ascension of the glorified saints after their Resurrection.

SUMMARY

The faithful church will prophesy for (relatively literal) 1,260 days in the face of fierce opposition during the tribulation at the very end of the age. When they have accomplished their mission and the preaching of the gospel has gathered in all the elect, the beast will be allowed to kill a large portion of the visible faithful church. The world will rejoice and celebrate since it seems that evil and the beast have had the final victory. The church appears dead and Christ has been defeated. But then, when all appears lost, Christ’s church is resurrected with glorified bodies and stands on its feet as a great army. These ascend to meet Christ in the air in preparation for the final battle and the slaughter of all the unrighteous.

Next time, we will look at how this parallels Christ’s earthly ministry.

SDG                 rmb                 11/01/2021                 #449


[i] This proclamation occurs during the 42 months*, the relatively literal period of time between the “thousand years” and the Last Day. Refer to my book, The Last Act of the Drama, for these definitions.

[ii] Note that 1,260 days is the equivalent of forty-two months, and is equivalent to “time, times, and half a time.” A combination of these three expressions appear five times in Revelation 11-13. Elsewhere I refer to this time period as the 42 months*.

Smyrna and Philadelphia, the two faithful churches

In the second and third chapters of Revelation, the Lord Jesus speaks to seven churches located in Asia Minor. These seven churches represent all churches that will exist between Pentecost and the Second Coming. Five of the churches receive a rebuke from the Lord and are called to repent, but two churches, Smyrna and Philadelphia, receive only commendation. These two represent the faithful churches in the time between the advents. What can we learn from them?

SMYRNA – FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH (REVELATION 2:9-10)

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write:

The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this:

‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

This church is experiencing suffering and persecution, both physically and financially. They are in tribulation and in material poverty, although the Lord declares that they are, in fact, rich in spiritual blessings. Verse 10 is the key verse.

“Do not fear what you are about to suffer.” Jesus told His followers that persecution is a privilege. In Matthew 5:10-12, the Lord tells us that we are blessed if we are persecuted for the sake of righteousness. Insults and persecution and evil reports are blessings, so we are to rejoice and be glad. This is the story of the entire New Testament. The faithful followers of Jesus will suffer for His name.

In Matthew 10, Jesus teaches the same thing as He talks about the difficult path of discipleship. “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

Peter tells us that we are not to be surprised by fiery trials (1 Peter 4:12). These are normal for the Christian. We are to rejoice when we share the sufferings of Christ (4:13). Are you reviled for Christ? Then you are blessed (4:14). Peter and the other apostles rejoiced when they were considered worthy to suffer shame for Jesus’ name (Acts 5:41).

Because of Jesus, a disciple does not fear suffering, even when confronted with death.

“The devil will cast some of you into prison so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days.” Jesus is speaking figuratively to future martyrs, telling them that they will be tested by prison and tribulation. They will be tested severely, and the aim of the testing is to have them deny Christ and to recant their testimony. With threats of prison and torture and death, the agents of the devil will apply the flame of persecution to those who are faithful to Jesus Christ solely so they will deny Jesus.

“Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” For this church, Jesus’ is almost certainly calling them to endure their persecution until they are killed. This church carries the banner of martyrdom for the persecuted church for this present evil age.

But while the church of Smyrna represents those who are faithful until martyrdom, “being faithful until death” is the required attitude of all faithful churches till the end of the age. The faithful church, and of course, the faithful believer, has unconditionally resolved to be faithful until death. So, Smyrna shows us the suffering church.

PHILADELPHIA – NOT DENIED JESUS’ NAME (REVELATION 3:8-11)

The church in Philadelphia was also undergoing persecution for Jesus’ name, but their persecution was not as severe as that of Smyrna. In the midst of opposition by those of the synagogue of Satan (Revelation 3:9), these believers “have kept My word and have not denied My name” (3:8). Like Smyrna, they have felt the flames of persecution, and, like Smyrna, they have proven to be faithful. “Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing,” that hour which is about to come upon the whole world to test those who dwell on the earth” (3:10).

Notice that Philadelphia was not persecuted as severely as Smyrna, and Philadelphia was spared from “the hour of testing,” yet the church in Philadelphia received the same reward as Smyrna. Both received a crown (Rev. 2:10; 3:11). In His divine sovereignty, God gives to some believers severe testing even unto martyrdom, while for others He spares them from severe persecution and keeps them from the hour of testing. In God’s divine economy, some believers are considered worthy of suffering greatly for the name of the Lord and some believers are given a much lighter cross to bear. Only the Lord knows why.

Your path may be similar to that of the church in Smyrna, such that the Lord gives you severe testing and calls you to be faithful through suffering unto martyrdom. Or He may spare you from the hour of severe testing and may give you a relatively light cross. In any case, there are three things to learn from this study.

  1. Not all churches or believers are commended. In fact, the majority are rebuked and called to repent. Make it your ambition to live a life that the Lord Jesus does not need to rebuke, a life that will give you the reward of the crown of life.
  2. Like the church at Smyrna, all believers are called to be faithful until death. Resolve now that there will be no suffering that will cause you to forfeit your crown. Endure the testing and be faithful until death.
  3. Like the church in Philadelphia, all believers are called to keep the Lord’s word, and to not deny the Lord’s name. Decide now to be obedient to the Lord’s word.

SDG                 rmb                 10/31/2021                 #447

The Messiah’s glorious return in Psalm 110

For the scribes and rabbis of ancient Israel, Psalm 110 was a dense thicket of mysteries. The psalm was rightly perceived as Messianic, but the meaning of the visions in its verses was entirely opaque. Thus, this psalm received little commentary from Jewish scholars in the Talmud and the Midrash.

But since David penned this psalm a thousand years before Jesus, redemptive history has produced the Incarnation, and the crucifixion and resurrection of the Messiah, and divinely inspired prophecies in the completed text of Scripture now give us the end of the story. The net effect is that Psalm 110 can now be seen for what it is, a detailed prophecy of the coming of the Messiah as King and Judge at the end of the age. This post will demonstrate the parallels between Psalm 110 and other end-times prophecy in the Bible.

The LORD says to my Lord:
“Sit at My right hand
Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”

This scene takes place in heaven shortly after Christ’s ascension following His resurrection. The Son of God has accomplished the work of redemption which was given to Him by the Father in His Incarnation (John 17:4). His work was finished as He died His atoning death on the cross (John 19:30). He was raised from the dead on the third day and now Jesus has ascended back to heaven to sit at the Father’s right hand (Eph. 1:20-21; Rev. 5:13) to await the time when the Father will send Him back to earth to vanquish all His enemies (Matt. 24:36).

The LORD will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying,
“Rule in the midst of Your enemies.”

Now the time has come! Now the Father has decided that it is time to end the age and to bring a just recompense on all His enemies. And so, the Father hands the royal scepter to the Son and sends Him forth to judge and to vanquish the earth. Then will appear “a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war” (Rev. 19:11). The Son is now coming to tread out the great wine press of the wrath of God (Rev. 14:19-20; 19:15).

Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power;
In holy array, from the womb of the dawn,
Your youth are to You as the dew.

On that day, the day of Christ’s power, the glorified saints (“Your people in holy array”) will return with the Lord (1 Thess. 3:13; Rev. 19:14), and they will “volunteer freely” and will deal out recompense along with their King (Psalm 149:5-9).

The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind,
“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.”

The Lord Jesus has always been Priest and King and Prophet, but here we are allowed to attend the ordination ceremony that took place in eternity past when God the Father anointed God the Son to be a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

The Lord is at Your right hand;
He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath.

This is still on the Last Day when the Lord Jesus returns to judge the nations and to “shatter kings.” “A day of wrath is that day, a day of trouble and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet and battle cry. On the day of the LORD’s wrath, all the earth will be devoured in the fire of His jealousy, for He will make a complete end, indeed a terrifying one, of all the inhabitants of the earth” (Zeph. 15-18). As David and Zephaniah tell of the day of the Lord’s wrath, so we read of that same day in Revelation 6:15-17:

15 Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; 16 and they *said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”

The point here in this verse is that, the day of wrath spoken about by David ca. 1000 BC is the same day of wrath spoken about by the prophet Zephaniah and by the apostle John. This is the day of the Lord.

He will judge among the nations,
He will fill them with corpses,
He will shatter the chief men over a broad country.              

On the day of the Lord, when Jesus returns, He will judge the nations (Matt. 25:31-32). When He comes in power and glory, Jesus will slaughter all the unrighteous (Rev. 19:21) and will destroy kings and commanders and mighty men (Rev. 19:18-19). Again, we see David’s vision of the day of the Lord repeated in John’s vision of the same event.

CONCLUSION

The Person of Jesus the Messiah removes the mysteries from Psalm 110. Jesus is God the Son who sits at the Father’s right hand. Jesus is the one who will rule in the midst of His enemies. Jesus is the one who will lead His glorified saints to victory on the Last Day. Jesus is the one who is a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. Jesus will shatter kings, judge the nations, slaughter the unrighteous, and shatter the chief men on the day of His wrath. “Therefore, He will lift up His head.”            

SDG                 RMB                10/19/2021                 #442

The man of lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2:3-10)

In any discussion of the end-times in the Bible, the conversation will eventually touch on the antichrist. The speculation about the antichrist is often wild and unbridled, conjuring up images and activities that are completely foreign to any biblical text, but in those situations where the speculation is sober and biblically based, attention will turn to 2 Thessalonians 2 and the passage about “the man of lawlessness.” The man of lawlessness represents the clearest and most explicit teaching about the antichrist in all of Paul’s writing, and therefore deserves serious consideration when discussing the antichrist at the end of the age.

In my upcoming book, The Last Act of the Drama, I cover 2 Thessalonians 2 in depth, along with other eschatological Scriptures that highlight biblical manifestations of the antichrist, so this article is not about my thoughts, because they are expressed there. Rather, this post is about the thoughts of Herman Ridderbos, a Dutch biblical scholar, and are taken from his magnificent work, Paul: An Outline of His Theology. Ridderbos carefully exegetes this passage in 2 Thessalonians 2 and gives clear and helpful guidelines for how to understand this evil person who will appear at the very end of the age. I have selected quotes from his writing below that I think are most insightful and helpful in any study of the man of lawlessness. A careful reading of these quotes will give you a solid understanding of the biblical antichrist.

“The most striking thing of course is that this power inimical to God is concentrated here in the figure of what Paul calls the man of lawlessness.” (RMB: It is noteworthy that Paul concentrates all this evil in a single man.) “Furthermore, it is certainly indicated in the denotation “the man of lawlessness” that this man is not merely a pre-eminently godless individual, but that in him the humanity hostile to God comes to a definitive, eschatological revelation.” (p. 514)

Also, “just as Paul places Adam and Christ over against one another as the first and second ‘man,’ as the great representatives of two orders of men, so the figure of ‘the man of lawlessness’ is clearly intended as the final, eschatological counterpart of the man Jesus Christ.” “The coming of ‘the man of lawlessness,’ just as that of Christ, is called a παρουσία. It is marked by all manner of power, signs, and wonders, like those of Christ in the past.” (p. 514) “The man of sin (lawlessness) is the last and highest revelation of man (humanity) inimical to God, the human adversary of the man Jesus Christ, in whom the divine kingdom and the divine work has become flesh and blood. The divine antithesis between God and Satan that dominates history is decided on the human plane in those (two individuals) who as ‘the man’ represent salvation and destruction.” (p. 515) (RMB: Consider the parallel in 1 Samuel 17 when David, the coming king of Israel, fights Goliath, the champion of the enemies of Israel. Each represents their people, such that, as the champion fares in the battle, so go the people. David, as a type of Christ, vanquishes Goliath, who is a type of the antichrist. At the end of the age, the ultimate representatives will face one another, and the man of lawlessness (antichrist) will be finally vanquished by the returning Jesus Christ. That’s Ridderbos’ picture here.)

“As Christ is a person, but at the same time one with all who believe in Him and are under His sovereignty, so the antichrist is not only a godless individual, but a concentration of godlessness that already goes forth before him and which joins all who follow at his appearance him into unity with him. (He is now restrained because at his appearance unbelief, lawlessness, and godlessness will attempt to set themselves as an organic unity over against God and Christ.” (p. 516) “Paul does not stop with an ‘it,’ with an idea, or with a force, but the organic and corporate unity of human life finds its bearer and representative, as in Adam and Christ, so also in the antichrist, in a specific person. The antichrist would be no antichrist if he were not the personal concentration point of lawlessness, if he were not the man of lawlessness.” (p. 516)

The end of the age according to Jesus – Part 1

There are several themes that run through the gospel of Matthew, but one of the most prominent of those is the end of the age. With unrivaled authority, Jesus declares the truth about the end of the age and what will occur on that day.

This post will examine Jesus’ explanation of the parable of the wheat and the tares from Matthew 13:37-43, a parable about the and make some observations. Below is the passage from the New American Standard Bible.

37 And Jesus said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40 So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

Observation 1: There is certainly coming an end to this age.

In His first advent, Jesus came as Prophet, Priest, and King. As Prophet, He made sweeping prophecies about the future, which included unambiguous teaching that history was heading to an inevitable conclusion and that He, Jesus Christ, was the one who was in charge of that concluding event. While the Father alone knew the timing of His coming (Matthew 24:36), the King of kings and Lord of lords would execute the conclusion of history.

In this parable, Jesus relates the end of the age as a matter of fact in 13:39, 40. Then in 13:41-43, our Lord gives the details of the how the age concludes, so history will certainly end.  

Observation 2: Jesus is certainly coming at the end of the age.

All of Jesus’ teaching about the end of the age included His coming. The two are so inseparable as to be virtually synonymous. That Jesus is certainly returning to judge the earth is mentioned throughout the New Testament epistles and is one of the central themes of the book of Acts.

In the parable of the wheat and tares, “The Son of Man will send forth His angels.” We know from other end-times passages that He sends His angels while He Himself is descending from heaven to earth at His coming. It is certain that the Lord Jesus will come again.

Observation 3: There are two groups of people, the righteous and the unrighteous, and every human being who has ever lived is in one of these two groups.

As we read this parable, we see that there are “the sons of the kingdom” and there are “the sons of the evil one” (Matthew 13:38). This doctrine is consistent throughout the Bible, from at least Genesis 4 on, that there are those who are part of the kingdom of heaven, and there are those who are evil. In Genesis 4 immediately after the fall, Cain was evil, Abel was righteous. So it has been throughout history, and so it is today. All humanity divides between the righteous and the unrighteous, between the wheat and the tares, and there is no third category.

And so it is for you personally. You are either seen by God as righteous, as “a son of the kingdom,” or as unrighteous, as “a son of the evil one.” The significance of this becomes apparent in the next observation.

Observation 4: At the end of the age, Jesus Christ will admit all the righteous into eternal life in heaven.

The final verse of the parable describes the destiny of those who are seen as righteous. At the end of the age, when Jesus (the Son of Man) comes in His glory (Matthew 25:31), “the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” From other New Testament passages, we know that the righteous will be resurrected with glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15, etc.), and so here Jesus describes them as shining like the sun. Notice where they are shining. They are shining “in the kingdom of their Father.” Of course, this is heaven.

Observation 5: At the end of the age, Jesus Christ will throw all the unrighteous into the furnace of fire (the lake of fire), where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Now we come to the main message of the parable: “Be warned! Hear My words and heed My words! There is a terrifying judgment coming upon all the unrighteous. Therefore, REPENT! If you do not repent, I will throw you in the furnace of fire.”

This parable gives a sober warning about the final judgment of the unrighteous at the end of the age. In fact, a careful reading of the gospel of Matthew will reveal that “the judgment” or “the day of judgment” appears often in our Lord’s discourses. One of Jesus’ main purposes in His prophecies about the end of the age was to warn the unrighteous that a terrifying judgment awaited them. No one who heard Jesus could plead ignorance about the destiny that awaited the unrighteous. The message was clear and was repeated: “You do not want to be at the judgment. ‘That day’ will be an awesome day of fire and judgment. Flee from the wrath to come! Come to Me (Matthew 11:28) and repent (Matthew 4:15).”

In this parable, the majority of Jesus’ explanation (13:39-42) is devoted to telling of the destiny of the unrighteous. The end of the age has come (13:39, 40). The Son of Man (Jesus Himself) is sending out His angels to clear all the unrighteous out of His kingdom (41) and then to throw them into the furnace of fire. The horror of the event is intended to warn the unrighteous to flee from the wrath to come (Matthew 3:8).

CONCLUSION

The Lord Jesus, who will be the Judge at the end of the age, has given us this parable to picture for us the events of the end of the age. The parable gives the righteous motivation for persevering to the end and warns the unrighteous of the terrifying judgment that awaits them if they do not repent.             SDG                 rmb                 10/11/2021                 #440

For this reason, you also must be ready (Matthew 24:44)

NOTE: This post is an excerpt from my upcoming book, The Last Act of the Drama: A guide for the end-times. rmb

In His teaching on the Mount of Olives, our Lord commands His people to be ready and to be on the alert. “Therefore, be on the alert (Matthew 24:42), for you do not know which day your Lord is coming,” and “For this reason, you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will (24:44).” Regardless of the details, the Lord Jesus will certainly return one day in power and in glory. Knowing this, His disciples persevere in faith and wait for the trumpet sound and for the appearance of the Rider on the white horse (Revelation 19:11-16). Our main “end-times task” is still to be ready when our King comes.

But how is the disciple to be ready for the return of King Jesus? The following are some specific suggestions from my own efforts to be ready during these last days.

GROW YOUR TRUST IN GOD

Grow your trust in God by regularly reminding yourself who He is, what He has done in creation, what He has done in His redemptive plan, and what He has done in your life, not only in your salvation but also in myriad providences and answered prayers and blessings that He has poured out on you.

The goal here is for your trust in God and your experience of His greatness to overwhelm all fears. The LORD declares that He is God, and there is no other. He is sovereign over all things, and that means over ALL things. He has displayed His glory in His creation, which He spoke into existence from nothing (ex nihilo), so that His people would give Him glory and know His power (Romans 1:20). He has conceived and executed His redemptive plan that allows Him to forgive wretched sinners like me. The Lord remains just even though He is the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26). And, if you are in Christ, God has redeemed you and called you by name, and you are forever His child and treasured possession (Isaiah 43:1). God has proven Himself faithful. So then, even if “the mountains slip into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:2) and everything in our world collapses, we will not fear because God is our refuge and strength (46:1). We get ready, then, by making sure that our trust in God will not waver regardless of what happens.

GROW DEEP IN YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF GOD’S WORD

Your Bible is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18). It is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). It is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105). The Bible has been breathed out by the third Person of the Trinity (2 Timothy 3:16) so that His people will be ready for the battle. As the lawlessness and persecution of the end of the age intensify, we must wield the sword of the Spirit with precision and skill. The strategy is straightforward: Know your Bible and believe what it says as truth from God. Know your Bible so well that all fear is consumed in your reverent love of God and your unwavering trust in Him. In this way you will be ready to persevere until the King comes.

GROW IN YOUR LOVE FOR CHRIST’S CHURCH

In His grace, at our salvation, the Lord sealed us with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13) and joined us to the body of Christ, which is the church of all believers in Jesus in the world. Now, as those who have been joined to Christ, we enjoy fellowship not only with God the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ, but also with all the saints who will make up “the great multitude which no one could count from every nation and tribe and people and tongue standing before the throne” in heaven (Revelation 7:9). That worship will go on forever, but now on this side of eternity, we also get to worship with the saints in our local church. And one of the most powerful and effective ways to be ready for Jesus’ coming is to learn to love the saints in your local church. As the end of the age draws near, it is the local church that will provide the encouragement we need to press on. The author of Hebrews says this:

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:23-25

Especially as we contemplate persecution and think about being hated by the world because of our faith in Jesus, the blessing of the local church, of real flesh and blood followers of Jesus who are committed to loving us to the end, becomes sweeter. Notice that the author of Hebrews exhorts “us” to hold fast the confession of “our” hope. We don’t have to go it alone. We will be ready for Jesus because the saints in our local church have continually stimulated us to live out our faith and to persevere. We will continue to assemble as a body of believers because we enjoy our time together and because we need the encouragement, especially as we “see the day drawing near.” So, loving the saints in my local church is part of what it means to be ready.

GENERAL TACTICS FOR THE END-TIMES

Lastly, there are also some other tactics that help me keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and not be distracted and not be “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind” (Ephesians 4:14) of culture and every scheme of the devil (2 Cor. 2:11; Ephesians 6:11). These tactics are not intended to sound drastic or dramatic but are meant to communicate the immense importance of our perseverance. Our enemy is committed to our destruction, and we must therefore be committed to glorifying the Lord through our perseverance in holiness.

  • Expect persecution so that you are not surprised by it (1 Peter 4:12).
  • Prepare for persecution. This may involve envisioning specific persecution and deciding now how you will respond then. Again, the local church would be a tremendous encouragement here as we resolve together now how we will respond then. There is tremendous power in that type of commitment.
  • Commit now to persevere to the end no matter what comes. “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved” (Matthew 10:22). It is only the one who endures to the end who will be saved. Be ready to persevere to the end.
  • Finally, resolve now to die rather than deny Christ. Make that decision now while the skies are still mostly blue. “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

These suggestions should help you to be ready when the last trumpet sounds.

SDG rmb 9/16/2021 #434