Reading Revelation (Part 1): The purposes of Revelation

POST OVERVIEW. The first in a series of posts about ways to read the book of Revelation that make it less confusing and intimidating. This post discusses the purposes for which Revelation was written and how understanding these purposes can help in reading the book.

INTRODUCTION. Reading the book of Revelation is a challenging task for any disciple of Jesus. The visions the apostle John relates to us in Revelation are strange and spectacular, and trying to make sense of the visions and then put them into some coherent picture is difficult work. But, while acknowledging the difficulties involved, I believe the challenge of understanding the book of Revelation is eased considerably when we understand how to read the book. In these posts I hope to offer some principles for approaching Revelation that will make the book much less intimidating.

PURPOSES OF REVELATION

When approaching the book of Revelation, it is important to keep in mind the purpose of the book. That is, what is the book’s function in the God-breathed Scriptures? More than perhaps any other biblical book, Revelation performs a specific function and has a specific purpose. Revelation is obviously the last book of the Bible, and it is last for a reason. As the last book of the Bible, Revelation is intended to summarize and to wrap up what was written previously. But not only is it the last book of the Bible, but Revelation is also the final book. This writing concludes God’s recorded communication to man. In fact, unlike any other biblical book, there are specific curses associated with adding any words to the prophecy of this book (22:18). So, Revelation is intended to summarize and conclude the writing of Scripture.

There are, however, other purposes for this book.

Revelation was written:

  • To fill in the blanks in minor areas where Scripture has previously been (largely) silent. This filling in of blanks left by other Scripture is restricted to areas which do not affect the flow of redemptive history or any doctrines of Scripture. An example would be the appearance of “another beast” (13:11ff), also known as “the false prophet” (16:13), who promotes and magnifies the beast so that he is worshiped. His appearance, though previously unmentioned in Scripture, changes nothing about the flow of the end times or the events of the last day. It is simply a blank which Revelation fills in. So, Revelation fills in some blanks in the picture of Scripture.
  • To add more detail to select portions of Scripture which were previously foggy or vague. Many portions of Scripture have pointed ahead to the events of the end of the age, the very events that Revelation now describes in detail. Some of the previously written prophecies were short on details and so left us with hazy images about what really occurs. Others supplied details that seemed confusing to interpret. Revelation adds some detail to some of these to clarify them. An example would be the binding of the strong man that Jesus mentions in Matthew 12:29. This somewhat vague reference during Jesus’ earthly ministry is made more concrete in Revelation 20:1-3 when “an angel coming down from heaven” (the resurrected Jesus Christ) binds the dragon (Satan) in the abyss for the thousand years. So, Revelation adds some detail to certain events of the end times.
  • To provide information that allows the events of the last days to be placed in order and to “connect the dots.” As presented by Revelation, there are many events that occur in rapid succession in the days just before the return of Christ and on the last day. While many of these events have been presented in the word of God before Revelation, the order of their occurrence and how one event connects or relates to another event has been unknown or uncertain. The visions of Revelation gives information about these end times events that allows the diligent student to discern a sequence to these events that fits them together into a cohesive picture. So, Revelation supplies information to structure the order of the events of the end times.

As stated before, Revelation is intended to summarize the rest of the Bible and to bring the entire story of the Bible to a close. Revelation finishes the project. After this, nothing more needs to be added or done.

AN ILLUSTRATION. Imagine that you are permitted to enter the work room of a master weaver of tapestries. The day you visit, the master is nearing completion of a beautiful and intricate weaving that has taken him months to create. The brilliant colors of the threads blend and interact together to form a breathtaking whole, but you notice that there are some places where there are no threads at all and other places where the weaving appears incomplete and the image in that part of the tapestry is indistinct. Oh, you would gladly pay a fortune for this just as it is, but there is something just a little incomplete about the work. With a tone of utmost respect, you mention your observations to the master weaver. He turns to you and says, “Thank you for your observations, but the tapestry is not yet finished. The places that you mentioned are the very places where I am going to fill in the blanks and where I will add more threads to enhance the detail. When I am finished with those final threads, the tapestry will be beautifully complete and its message and meaning will be clear.”

That is the purpose of Revelation. The masterpiece that is God’s word is almost complete, but there are a few things that need to be summarized and clarified and wrapped up. There are a few select blanks that need to be filled in and some features that require a little more detail. But once Revelation is written, the project is complete.

SUMMARY. Therefore, when you set out to read the book of Revelation, realize that you are not heading off into new and uncharted waters. Quite the contrary. You are not seeking wild and fascinating new doctrines and events and characters, but, instead, you are looking for the final threads from the master weaver that will complete the tapestry that you began sixty-five books ago as you started “In the beginning . . .” In Revelation you will find clarification of some details and the enhancement of some of what was fuzzy, and you will find a Rider on a white horse who is Faithful and True and who is coming from heaven to redeem His blood-bought bride, the church, and take her to the new heavens and the new earth. That’s how to read Revelation.

SDG                 rmb                 9/9/2022                     #568

Ordering of events in the book of Revelation

INTRODUCTION. This post considers the difficulties of interpreting the book of Revelation and offers some guidance for how to place Revelation’s events in the proper order.

One of the prominent features of biblical prophecy is the ambiguity of the timing of events. For example, it is not uncommon for the Old Testament prophets to mix prophecies of the day of the LORD (or “that day”) with visions of Jesus’ first advent or with warnings of the LORD’s coming judgment on the nation of Israel for their disobedience. For this reason, it can be confusing to know how to interpret specific prophecies from the major and minor prophets in the Old Testament.

In the New Testament, the primary example of biblical prophecy is the book of Revelation, and here in Revelation the question of the timing of events is perhaps the greatest difficulty in this very difficult book. In this post, I will offer some thoughts about how to approach Revelation that will hopefully make the interpretation a little easier.

Most of the difficulties of interpretation in Revelation occur in the section from chapter 4 through chapter 20, so I will focus on this section. John received the visions of Revelation while he was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” on the island of Patmos. It is safe to assume that John recorded the visions in the order in which he received them, but, as in virtually all biblical prophecy, the order of the receiving of these visions does not necessarily correspond to the order of occurrence. Rather, it is the responsibility of the reader to discover the order of occurrence through careful study.

THE PAST AND THE FUTURE

To say this another way, in narrative literature and in biblical history, the writing is necessarily in order of occurrence. This is because narratives are describing events that have already occurred and, thus, we expect these events to be written in the order in which they happened. So, John the Baptist appears before Jesus, the crucifixion precedes the resurrection, and the exodus from Egypt occurs before the giving of the Law at Sinai.

By contrast, biblical prophecy is describing events that have not yet occurred. These events will certainly occur at some point in that mysterious place called the future, but when they will occur and in what order they will occur must be discerned from the information we have in Scripture and from logical and reasonable deduction. Revelation, then, is biblical prophecy that demands the application of both interpretive skill and (deep) knowledge of previous biblical revelation to construct the order of events that will take us from Christ’s ascension into the new heavens and the new earth.

KEY POINT. Revelation chapters 4-20 gives the order in which John received these visions, but this is not necessarily the order of occurrence of these events.

AN EXAMPLE FROM REVELATION

In Revelation 6:12-17, we encounter the following dramatic events:

12 I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. 14 The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. 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?”

In Revelation 5, we saw the victorious Lamb (Jesus) ascending back to His throne after accomplishing the work of redemption that the Father had given Him to do (John 17:4; 19:30; Mark 10:45). Then, the ascended Lamb began opening the scroll with the seven seals. At the end of chapter 5, then, we are very early in redemptive history, probably around AD 32. But then suddenly, only a few verses later, with the opening of the sixth seal in Rev. 6:12ff, we read of the cataclysmic events which will occur on the last day.

The following details indicate that these events of 6:12-17 occur on the last day.

  • Earthquake – In Revelation, earthquakes always occur on the last day (e.g., 16:18).
  • The events in the heavens and on the earth – sun becomes black, and moon becomes blood (Is. 13:10; Joel 2:10, 31), stars fall to the earth (Matt. 24:29), sky split like a scroll (Is. 34:4), mountains and islands moved out of their places (Ezek. 38:20; Rev. 16:20).
  • Terror among all the unrighteous, hiding themselves in caves and under rocks (Hosea 10:8; Isa. 2:10, 19, 21)
  • The wrath of the Lamb and the great day of wrath refer to the last day when the Lord Jesus returns to judge the earth (Rev. 14:19; 19:15; Isa. 63:3-6).

NOTE: All of these cross-references appear in “last day” passages.

This demonstrates another KEY POINT: When interpreting Revelation, it is the content of the text that establishes its significance and its order of occurrence, not its location in the text of Revelation. Thus, it is the content of Rev. 6:12-17 that makes it certain that the events of this passage occur on the last day.

WHAT THE PASSAGE SAYS, NOT WHERE IT IS LOCATED

What we have learned is that, when studying Revelation, we do not rely on where a given passage is located to determine its occurrence, but rather we must carefully examine what the passage says. It is the content of the passage that is king. We carefully examine the content of the passage and compare it with related Scripture in the previous sixty-five books and with other biblical “clues” in the immediate context to discern when these events occur and thus determine where they fit in the timeline of the end times.

SDG                 rmb                 9/5/2022                     #565

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

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)

“What is a hyacinth breastplate?” (Revelation 9:17)

This post is part of my upcoming book on the end-times, The Last Act of the Drama, and attempts to answer the question, “Do we need to understand all the details to get the meaning of an end-times passage?”

In this chapter, we examine one of the most mysterious visions in Revelation in the hopes of answering the question, “Must I grasp all the details of a passage to understand the meaning of a passage?”

“Do I need to understand all the details to understand the meaning of a passage?”

Studying eschatology can be intimidating because, in any given end-times passage, there may be terms or expressions which we do not recognize and there may be little in the context to enlighten our understanding. Usually in Scripture, the unknowns in the text can be deduced by looking at the greater context or by considering other biblical passages, but in eschatology, there are times when the entire context is confusing and yields no solid, unambiguous starting point. An example would be something like Revelation 9:16-19:

16 The number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them. 17 And this is how I saw in the vision the horses and those who sat on them: the riders had breastplates the color of fire and of hyacinth and of brimstone; and the heads of the horses are like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths proceed fire and smoke and brimstone. 18 A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which proceeded out of their mouths. 19 For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents and have heads, and with them they do harm.

Two hundred million horsemen? Hyacinth breastplates, and fire and brimstone coming out of the mouths of the horses? Heads like lions and tails like serpents? Is the “third of mankind” literal in 9:18? How are we supposed to make sense of all this?

NO NEED TO UNDERSTAND EVERY DETAIL

In passages like this one in Revelation 9, the student of eschatology can take heart, because understanding every detail of a passage is not necessary for understanding the meaning of the passage. It is not necessary to unpack every single symbol in Revelation or Daniel or any end-times passage to grasp their basic messages. The inspired Scriptures have been written so that God’s main message can be understood, even if some of the supporting details remain obscure. So, not knowing what a hyacinth breastplate is will not prevent you from understanding the message of the sixth trumpet warning in Revelation 9.

THE SUBJECTIVE ASPECT OF UNDERSTANDING SCRIPTURE

More, however, needs to be said about this statement to make it helpful in our study of eschatology. For while it is true that understanding every detail of a passage is not necessary for understanding the meaning of that passage, we still need to discover the meaning of the passage. What I mean is that, even if we do not worry about the hyacinth breastplates or “the tails like serpents with heads,” we are still faced with the task of figuring out what in the world this passage means. “Why has God placed this Scripture in His Word?” That is the question that ever confronts the Bible student. What makes understanding eschatology difficult is that it requires greater exegetical skills and a fuller grasp of the entire sweep of the Bible to confidently make decisions about the meaning of these complex passages. So, while God has breathed into His Scripture everything needed to understand it, there may not be enough there for me to understand it. That is, my current skill in understanding Scripture may be inadequate for me to discover the meaning of this passage. This subjective aspect to understanding Scripture comes into play more frequently in eschatology than in other genres of Scripture, because, again, there is generally more skill required in discovering the meaning of end-times passages.

So, will I ever understand all the mysteries?

MYSTERIES REMAIN HIDDEN

The fact is that it may not be possible for us to understand or explain everything that is happening in John’s visions or in Daniel’s dreams. Those details may be things which the Lord, for His own purposes, has chosen to leave hidden from us. Even Daniel, who was specifically gifted by God to interpret dreams and visions (Daniel 1:17; 4:9; 5:11-12), did not fully understand what he had seen, even after he had been given an explanation by angels (Daniel 7:15-22, 28; 8:15-19, 27; 12:8). Humility would say that, if Daniel and John did not fully understand all they recorded, there is a more than even chance that I, too, will need to accept some degree of mystery. For His glory, God has written mysteries into His Bible that may remain hidden or unexplained until heaven, and we joyfully and humbly bow before these mysteries.

RESIGN OURSELVES TO MYSTERY?            

If we acknowledge that mysteries may remain until heaven, does that mean that we give up trying to understand and interpret eschatology? Absolutely not! Despite the effort involved, the disciple of Jesus continues to explore and pray through these difficult passages because these, too, are breathed out by the God he loves and are profitable for equipping him for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

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Why must Satan be released from the abyss? (Rev. 20:3)

NOTE: This article is an excerpt from my book on the end-times, “The Last Act of the Drama,” a guide for the end-times that will be completed and self-published soon. rmb

and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time. – Revelation 20:3

In this article, we find ourselves in the “thousand years” of the gospel age (Revelation 20:3). As we can see from the quote of the verse above, during the “thousand years” the dragon, which is an alias for Satan, is sealed in the abyss so that he will not deceive the nations.

While Satan is locked in the abyss, the church is in a long season of relative peace. For the duration of the “thousand years,” the gospel is being proclaimed and the church is growing as Christ is building His church (Matthew 16:18). This gospel age goes along steadily “until the ‘thousand years’ were completed; after these things he (Satan) must be released for a short time (Rev. 20:3).”

Now, this is something we need to investigate. The gospel age of the “thousand years” apparently does not go on forever, but there comes a time when the “thousand years” were completed. At that time, Satan must be released for a short time. Observe that the Bible does not say that “he is released,” but it says, “he must be released.” In other words, it is necessary for Satan to be released from the abyss when the “thousand years” are completed. But why must Satan be released? That is the question.

In answering this question, we first need to keep in mind that Satan is merely a created being. Because of his arrogant words and because of some of the things he is allowed to do, some Christians can have an inflated view of Satan’s powers, but this is a mistake. Satan, like all created beings, is entirely under the sovereign control of the Lord. That means he is not a threat to the church, and he is certainly not a threat to God. He is brought onto the stage when his character is needed by the Lord, the Director of the drama, because there are some things that Satan is uniquely qualified to do.

Second, we observe that Satan is released from the abyss. Satan does not conduct a successful jailbreak. Rather, he is released. Satan was not in control. He was rotting away in the abyss during the “thousand years” when he was unexpectedly released.

So, Satan must be released because his unique talents and abilities are needed by the Director to take the grand drama of human history toward its scripted conclusion. The Hero of the Drama is preparing to make His final, glorious appearance (Revelation 19:11-16), and all the details must be made ready for His grand entrance. The church must be purified, pruned, and cleansed through the furnace of persecution. Evil and lawlessness must increase so that the unrighteous are revealed and so hatred against the church can abound. The final trumpet warnings of coming judgment must be loudly proclaimed to the unrighteous. Satan must have time to raise up the beast and the false prophet to oversee the proliferation of evil and the persecution of the church. And Satan is the only character in the drama who can accomplish these necessary tasks, so Satan must be released.

Finally, upon his release, notice that Satan is given only a short time (Rev. 20:3). He is not the one who is in control of the length of his performance. Rather, his time on the stage has already been determined by the Lord. He will burst upon the scene “having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time” (Revelation 12:12) to create havoc and destruction. After that short time, according to the script, “he was thrown (ἐβλήθη) into the lake of fire and brimstone (Revelation 20:10).” Satan, the great dragon, performs his necessary role and then is thrown into the lake of fire.

So, in simplest terms, Satan must be released after the “thousand years” because the Lord has need of him. That is the simplest answer to our question.

In Luke 19, as the Lord Jesus nears Jerusalem for His triumphal entry, He sends two disciples ahead to fetch a colt. As the disciples were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord has need of it” (Luke 19:33-34).

That is probably the best way to think of Satan in the book of Revelation. Consider him to be like this colt. He comes onto the stage of the grand drama because the Lord has need of him.

SDG                 rmb                 7/23/2021                   #425

Satan’s activity and God’s sovereignty in the end-times

NOTE: This article is an excerpt from my book on the end-times, “The Last Act of the Drama,” a guide for the end-times that will be completed and self-published soon. rmb

There is no doubt that our world today gives us reasons to fear. A lot of people, myself included, see a marked increase in evil in many spheres and at many levels, and it is unsettling. Things in which we used to trust as rock-solid and unchanging have collapsed and worst-case scenarios are common. Most challenging of all is that the trajectory into the future seems to be for things to get more chaotic and for losses to continue to outpace gains. Yes, the view is troubling and we as believers can be tempted to think that God is no longer in control and that Satan and wickedness have gotten the upper hand.

It is in times like these that we open our Bible and dig deep to find out what God has said in His Word. With regard to what we see in our present times, our Bible gives us a foundational truth that never changes:

Our God is always in absolute control of all things.

But, if God is in sovereign control of all things, why do we see escalating wickedness in our world? How can God’s sovereign control be reconciled with Satan being able to increase evil and lawlessness in the world? Doesn’t a rise in Satan’s work of chaos and strife and violence indicate that God is not in complete control?

The short answer is, “No.” God remains in complete control, but as the world moves toward the end of the age, God will manifest His sovereign control by using Satan’s activity to take history in a new direction. At the appropriate time, God will begin to fulfill all the prophecies about the end-times that are written in His Word so that the world will be prepared for the glorious return of the Lord Jesus.

This means that, as we study the end-times and see Satan and his demons creating chaos and strife, we must maintain a settled view of Satan’s power and his role. Despite his reputation, the Bible reveals that Satan is merely another character on the Lord’s stage. As Judas was chosen as one of the Twelve because the Lord Jesus needed a betrayer, so Satan has been created because the Lord required someone to do the grand evil acts scripted into His great drama. The Lord needed someone to tempt Adam and Eve, and Satan was ordained as the tempter (Genesis 3:1-6). God needed someone to test Job, so Satan was selected for that part (Job 1, 2). Someone was needed to test the Lord Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), so Satan received that part, as well.

So it will be in the future, when Satan is released from the abyss (Revelation 20:3, 7) to play his role as God’s supporting actor and to fulfill everything that God has created him to fulfill in the last act of the grand drama. “The great dragon, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan” (Revelation 12:9) is the actor needed to move history toward the end of the age. In his role, the devil will accomplish exactly as much destruction and lawlessness as the Lord, before the foundation of the world, ordained for him to accomplish, but not even the slightest bit more. Satan will freely choose to do all the evil that the Lord has sovereignly scripted for him to do, and he does not get to adlib. He is an actor on God’s stage, and he enters and exits that stage according to the Director’s precise instructions. He can do no other.

Therefore, we need not be frightened when, as we approach the end of the age, we see Satan doing those things that the Bible declares he must certainly do. He is simply playing the role that God has sovereignly ordained for him to play. The Lord Jesus Himself told us these things would surely take place and He told us these things so that we would not be frightened when they came to pass (Matthew 24:5-13, 21-28). We conclude that Satan acts exactly as God has decided for him to act, completely contained by God’s sovereignty.

SDG                 rmb                 7/21/2021                   #424