The Book of Revelation Revisited 9: Woe to the wicked

The apostle John’s vision changes its view again – now heavenward, but the timeframe remains at the beginning of the second half of the tribulations:

After these things I looked, and behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened. And out of the temple came the seven angels having the seven plagues… Rv. 15:5, 6. NKJV

Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven bowls full of the wrath of God…And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God…and no one was able to enter the temple until the seven plagues were completed. Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying…”Go and pour out the bowls of wrath upon the earth.” Rv. 15:7 – 16:1. NKJV

So, we see that there is a temple in heaven; and we see that God is inaccessible to anyone during the dispersal of His final judgments. Those who are still on the earth at this time, have no escape.

John’s vision expands to straddle both heaven and earth. We get to see the emptying of the bowls, which are God’s final judgments on those who steadfastly rejected Him.

The first bowl produced painful sores over the entire bodies of those who worshiped Satan’s beast. The second bowl pollutes all of the oceans, thus destroying all marine life. The third purifies all the fresh water on earth. The fourth bowl alters the sun – magnifying its heat so that people were literally being burned. Yet they still cursed God.

The fifth bowl is directed at the throne of the beast and his kingdom. It causes great pain to fall upon the devil’s followers and it envelopes this same throne in perpetual darkness. The sixth bowl dries up a section of the Euphrates River, so that the army from the east can cross over to attempt to engage Christ and His Father at the battle of Armageddon. At this point, the dragon, the beast and the false prophet send out demonic spirits to convince the world leaders of other nations to combine their armies with them in this battle on the final day of the tribulations.

Jesus momentarily halts John’s vision to address him directly – imparting a warning for all of us:

“Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.” Rv. 16:15 NKJV

Christ is urging us to stay alert and to behave as righteously as possible until He returns.

Jesus restarts John’s vision, where he sees Satan’s armies gather at the valley of Megiddo in Israel to do battle. In heaven, the last bowl (the seventh judgment) is poured upon the earth:

And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been seen since man was on the earth…The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of His wrath. And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found. And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people… Rv. 16:18 – 21. ESV

The city is Jerusalem, the headquarters of Satan’s false religion (i.e. Babylon). The seventh bowl brings cataclysmic destruction upon the earth, completely changing its surface.

At this point, an angel takes John, (in his vision), earthward and backward in time to show him more of the parts the devil has played in the downfall of man:

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked to me, saying to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.”

So he carried me away the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornications. And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. Rv. 17:1 – 6. NKJV

In the Bible, when the word ‘fornication’ is not referring to sex out of wedlock, it always refers to idolatry, i.e. false religion. It is an institution that perverts the word of God to bring glory to itself. This scripture tells us that all of the earthly governments conspire with false religion to control its constituents.

We see that the ‘harlot’ (false religious institution) has grown wealthy from her association with the world and is literally astride (being supported by) Satan’s beast. So, it is fitting that she bears the cup full of ‘abominations’ (idolatry and all of its related practices).

The names on the woman’s forehead are also revealing. ‘Mystery’ is from the Greek mustering, meaning a ‘secret’ or ‘mystery’ – associated with the silence often imposed in the initiation of shady religious rites. It suggests the occult. ‘Babylon the Great’ (when not referring to the ancient empire that conquered Judah), is always used in the Bible to represent an institution of false religion.

The ‘mother of harlots’ depicts false religion as the pinnacle of earthly evil; and the ‘mother of the abominations of the earth’ tell us that false religion stands for everything that is against God. Finally, we see that false religion is responsible for the deaths of the saints throughout history.

The angel speaks again:

“…I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns. The beast you saw was, and is not, and is about to come out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come.” Rv. 17:7, 8. NASB

The beast was and then was not (is mortally wounded), and it will supposedly come back to life. He will then go to his destruction, because his time on earth is short. Until then, he will deceive all of the people who reject Jesus, i.e. those whose names are not found in the book of life.

The angel gives John further clarification:

“This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; they are also seven kings, five of which have fallen, one is, the other is yet to come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while. As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth, but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction.” Rv. 17:9 – 11. ESV

Some interpret the symbolic mountains to be ancient Rome, other see it as the papacy, and still others believe them to represent all of the kingdoms that will rise up  against God’s children.

There is yet another interpretation that references the events that were happening in the world about the time John received his vision (90 A.D.). This interpretation says that the seven mountains represent certain world empires: the first five being those that have already fallen – Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persian and Greek. The kingdom that ‘is’ would be the Roman empire during John’s time on the earth; and there hasn’t been a world empire since.

The seventh empire will be that of Satan’s world system (the beast), and the eighth is a representative of the seventh – the Antichrist, who uses false religion to bring himself to power until the time of the mid-tribulations, whereupon he declares himself to be God.

The angel continues to speak:

“The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they give their power and authority to the beast. These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is the Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called chosen and faithful.” Rv. 17:12 – 14. NKJV

The ten horns are ten nations that give their alliance to the Antichrist – promising to stand with him in battle, against the Son of God. ‘One hour’ means that this alliance will be short-lived.

And the angel said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages. And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her with fire, for God has put it into their hearts to carry his purpose of being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. And the woman that you saw is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth. Rv. 17:15 – 18. ESV

When the Antichrist declares himself to be God, he will destroy the institution of false religion, because it cannot support his claim of divinity and keep itself relevant. Until that time, false religion will reign supreme over the world systems.

The ‘city’ is the false religion institution (in whatever form that is going to take).

It’s interesting to note that God uses the devil’s own devices to wipe out false religion. The plot thickens…

Goodnight and God bless.

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The Book of Revelation Revisited – 2

The apostle John begins describing the events of Revelation from Holy Spirit-inspired visions that he received while banished on the island of Patmos, by the Romans, for preaching the gospel.

The first vision shows Jesus as He appears today:

Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair where white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like brass, as is refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. Rv. 1:12 – 16. NKJV

The white hair denotes the wisdom of His Father (Dan. 7:9), the flaming eyes suggest Christ’s omniscience, the feet of brass His omnipotence, the voice of many waters represents His power and authority to speak for God (Ezek. 1:24), and the two-edged sword symbolizes the power of the word of God to seek out the truth. (Heb. 4:12)

Jesus then tells John that He has conquered death and is victorious over the devil. He also explains the symbols in John’s vision that we saw last time (Rv. 1:17 – 20.): the stars being the angels of the seven churches, and the lamp stands the churches themselves.

Next, Jesus gives John the messages for the seven churches – which ultimately are messages for church congregants everywhere, as each church is a reflection of them:

Jesus said that the first church was ritualistic – coming off as a rigid religion, rather than a place of love, where He can be found. His remedy is to return to our initial love and zeal for Him, keeping Him as our center focus. In addition, to repent of all behavior that has diminished that focus. (Rv. 2:1-5.)

It is easy to let our faith-related activities fall into thoughtless robotic habits. We need ‘daily dips’ in God’s word to remind us of the infinite love that the Father and the Son has for us.

The second church is living in material poverty. Christ acknowledges that, but He tells them that their greater rewards come from their spiritual abundance. He also recognizes their suffering from persecution by Satan-inspired detractors of the gospel in the world. Jesus tells them that if they will remain steadfast in opposition in the world’s ways, they will be rewarded with eternal life.  (Rv. 2:8 – 11.)

Not everyone is blessed with material abundance. As long as your lot in life is not due to sloth, you can seek God, knowing that you’ve tried your best, and He will provide what you need. (Mt. 6:25 & 33.) Remember too that the closer you get to God, the more you’ll be attacked by the devil’s minions; but Christ has got your back. (1 Jn. 4:4)

Jesus condemns the third church for polluting their doctrine with worldly behavior and false religion – commanding them to exercise immediate repentance. (Rv. 2:12 – 16.)

The only doctrine that belongs in the church is the Bible. The emphasis on the immediacy of repentance is because you don’t want to be caught up in unrepentant sin when you die or when Jesus returns, because at that point in time, salvation is no longer available.

The fourth church is filled with love, faith and service, but has allowed a satanic false prophet into their assembly. Jesus demands immediate repentance and a full-faith return to Him and His gospel. (Rv. 2:18 – 25.)

You know when there is a fox in the henhouse. It’s when anyone is teaching anything contrary to scripture. They must be uprooted.

The fifth church had lost the presence of the Spirit because of their ho-hum approach of doing church.  Jesus called it a ‘dead’ church. He speaks the remedy, which consists of repenting, returning to the Truth, and then living it out. (Rv. 3:1 – 4.)

Christ speaks only praise for the sixth church – encouraging them to continue on their faithful path, even in the face of persecution, because He will be by their side. (Rv. 3:7 – 11.)

Conversely, Jesus had nothing good to say about the seventh church. It was a place of ‘lukewarm’ parishioners with no spiritual conviction and a misplaced focus on material things. (Rv. 3:15 – 17.)  Yet even with this church, Jesus offered encouragement:

“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.” Rv. 3:18 NKJV

Jesus loves you so much. He cares so much, that if you mess up, He’s going to bust your chops to try to nudge you back onto the right path.

The bottom line with respect to these seven messages, is that Jesus is guiding us in how to build a stronger church by being stronger Christians. We do that by patiently enduring our trials as we wait for His return, using good discernment to separate ourselves from the ungodly, emulate Jesus, keep Christ as the center of all that we think or do, keep the undefiled word of God in our hearts, be zealous for God and His Son, carry the gospel to as many as we can, and repent when we slip and fall.

Our God is a forgiving God – that’s why He sent His Son.

That’s the making of a strong church…

Goodnight and God Bless.

Jesus Contact 20

Spare Me the Religiosity

The first churches established soon after Jesus’ ascension to heaven were simply referred to as the ‘Church of Christ.’ Once men and their egos got a hold of the idea of founding their own versions of churches, denominations were born. Each was / is a reflection of what the founder of the particular ‘religion’ thought should emphasize – usually consisting of man-made rituals and interpretations of their version of Scripture and the additions or subtractions they made to it.

However, adulteration of God’s word goes back even further. Not long after God Himself laid down the Mosaic Law, scribes, Pharisees and the Sadducees mutilated much of the Scriptures with their pagan rituals and rules.

We get to hear our Savior address this when a Pharisee invites Him to dinner. Just before the dinner commences, the Pharisee takes Jesus to task because He did not wash His hands in their ritualistic manner. Bad move on his part. Christ retorts:

…Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside you yourselves are full of greed and robbery and extortion and malice and wickedness. You senseless (foolish, stupid) ones [acting without reflection of intelligence]! Did He Who made the outside make the inside also? But [dedicate your inner self and] give as donations to the poor of those things which are within [of inward righteousness] and behold, everything is purified and clean for you. Lk. 11:39 – 41. AMP

In other words, Jesus was telling the Pharisees to concentrate on keeping their hearts clean. He continues:

“But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it.” Lk. 11:42 – 44. NASB

Jesus is saying that the Pharisees (the ‘religious’) were hateful, corrupt and prideful. Moreover, He said that they corrupt their parishioners as well, just by occupying the same space. (He used the Mosaic Law that forbade coming in contact with a tomb because it defiled that person, as a metaphor for the defilement caused by non-Scriptural religion.)

A scribe (also referred to as a lawyer) was present in this dinner as well. He spoke up against Jesus, telling Him that He was insulting the Pharisee. Another bad move:

“Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them. So you are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your fathers…so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation…Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering.” Lk. 11:46 – 48 & 52. NASB

Jesus is calling the lawyers ‘hypocrites’ for building monuments for the prophets when in fact their own ancestors murdered them. Secondly, He condemns them for hoarding the Scriptures (even though they themselves never heeded them), thus keeping the door of salvation closed to the people, in order to justify their place of exaltation over the laity.

Lastly, Jesus convicts them and the Pharisees for making it impossible for the people to live godly lives by keeping the very instructions from God to do so from them, and for laying the burden of all their man-made religious requirements for being a godly person, upon them – knowing that most of them were impossible to keep. Again, like most things religious, these rules were meant to exalt those that teach it.

So, next time you hear someone tell you that their church is better than another church, or that theirs is the only ’true’ church, or they offer a way other than Christ for salvation (e.g. allowing you to ‘donate’ money to them for forgiveness of sins) – RUN THE OTHER WAY!

The Bible is your complete blueprint for the construction and function of your church, as well as the manifesto for godly living and attaining salvation. A real church follows that. Those are the ones you want to make your Jesus contact with…

Goodnight and God bless.