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Revelation 13: Choosing Your Side

Revelation 13 brings us to the beast. I know the interpretation of this can certainly vary depending on your eschatological views, but there is something that stands out to me about who the beast does not have control over.

Rev 13:7  And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.

Rev 13:8  And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

Rev 13:9  If any man have an ear, let him hear.

Rev 13:10  He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.

The world is going to fall in love with the beast, but those were following the Lamb will not be following this beast. In other words, it is not possible to be committed to two masters here. If you are following the beast, that is where you are putting your hope. If you are following Jesus Christ, your hope is in a different place.

Spoiler alert. God wins. As we recognize that there is this ultimate divide between those who are following what is right and those who are following what is wrong, think ahead to the end of the story even though we had not read it yet together. God is going to ultimately triumph and it is not going to end so well for the beast.

Therefore, we are faced with a choice. If what the Bible says is true, it should be rather obvious what side we want to be on. Don’t we want to be on the one that leads to eternal joy rather than the one that leads to destruction? It seems rather clear to me.

Revelation 10: Sweetness and Bitterness

Revelation 10 presents us with an interesting scene. John hears seven thunders, but he does not receive permission to write down what he had heard. Rather, he is told to go and physically consume a scroll held by the angel who had called for the seven thunders to begin. Obviously there are a few questions about what this book is. Let’s take a look.

Rev 10:8  And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again, and said, Go and take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel which standeth upon the sea and upon the earth.

Rev 10:9  And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey.

Rev 10:10  And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter.

Rev 10:11  And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.

We don’t know very much about what the book is, but it is interesting that it tasted sweet but essentially made John sick. Also, we know that immediately after John ate the book, he was told that he would need to prophesy again.

It seems to me that these are connected. The additional prophecy that he was going to give would certainly have some sweet elements, but it would also be better. Although we haven’t gotten to the end of Revelation yet, think about the ultimate sweetness and the ultimate bitterness. Some people are going to be with God forever, and some people are going to be apart from God forever.

As a Christian then, it certainly is sweet that we are going to be with God. There is nothing that could be better than being in the presence of our Savior. However, as a Christian, it should also be disturbing that there are people who will not be able to experience that by their own free will. By not making the right decision, they are choosing a path that will lead to destruction. That should make us sick if we really think about it.

Maybe I am misinterpreting what the book actually is, but it seems to me that it is important for us as Christians to remember that while we are certainly full of joy and excitement, there is a sense in which we grieve for the world as well.

Revelation 4: Centrality of Worship

Now we get to the fun parts of Revelation. Revelation 4 begins with John being told that these are things which must be. John is now having the chance to see the future, and he is told to write it down.

When he first sees is a worship service with 24 elders and four beasts. Although the identity of the elders is not entirely agreed upon, it seems to make quite a bit of sense that they are actual people from earth who have received crowns. That seems to be a reward for faithful humans as described throughout the New Testament. Therefore, it totally makes sense in context that the humans will be casting down there crowns and worshiping God.

The beasts are somewhat more interesting.

Rev 4:7  And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.

Rev 4:8  And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.

Rev 4:9  And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,

Rev 4:10  The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

Rev 4:11  Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

Why these particular beasts? As soon as the beasts began praising God, the elders began to worship as well. Therefore, it seems that there is something about the beasts that leads the people. This is what seems to lead most of my commentaries to conclude that these beasts are representative of the characteristics of the true church.

The church ideally has the strength of a lion, the steadiness and industriousness of what has often times been translated as an ox or calf, the wisdom of humans and the swiftness of the eagle. When the church praises God continually as described in verse nine, the elders who are already in heaven get excited and worship as well.

There is a worship service going on in heaven to begin the heavenly vision of John. Worship is central to existence in heaven.

Acts 27: Demonstrably True

Paul had a remarkable testimony of miracles in his life, and Acts 27 seems to be one of the most significant. Again, Paul was going to stand before Caesar. We have seen that same echoing throughout the past several days, and Paul saw an angel who reaffirmed that destiny. However, the angel also told Paul that the ship was going to be demolished.

Act 27:22  And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship.

Act 27:23  For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,

Act 27:24  Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.

Act 27:25  Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.

Act 27:26  Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island.

Everything happened exactly as Paul described it. That must’ve been some type of testimony for the people on the ship. After all, they knew what Paul had predicted, and they ultimately knew it had come true. Perhaps that is why at the end of the chapter, when the ship was finally demolished, the centurion who was in charge chose to preserve Paul’s life against the advice of some of the other soldiers. In Rome, it was a big deal to have a prisoner escape, so it would have been safer perhaps to simply kill the prisoners rather than allow them to have the opportunity of escape when they got off the boat.

However, there is evidence here. There was something different about Paul and how he received this information. I find it interesting how so many people can miss that about the Bible. The Bible makes claims in many different places about many different things. Did Jesus fulfill Messianic prophecy? That’s just one example, but the Bible is a document that does open itself up to verification. It makes historical claims as well about people and places. Are those claims accurate?

Like Paul in this case, the evidence exists. As we show people these evidences, it might help overcome some of the intellectual barriers to hold people back from believing in Jesus Christ. In our personal lives, it has been said that the most powerful apologetic is the evidence of a transformed life. That type of testimony is powerful. People notice the difference, and they want to know what has changed. God is still in the business of miracles.

Acts 25: Understanding Government

Politics were important even in Israel 2000 years ago. In Acts 25, Paul was standing before Festus, and there were pretty high stakes for Paul.

Act 25:9  But Festus, willing to do the Jews a pleasure, answered Paul, and said, Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these things before me?

Act 25:10  Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest.

Act 25:11  For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar.

Paul understood the legal system. He knew that if he went back to Jerusalem, it would be nothing more than a show trial. He also knew that he did not do anything wrong, so he wanted justice to be done as well as to fulfill the previous prophecy that he would go to Rome. Festus might have been willing to humor the Jewish people for some reason, but Paul knew what he was allowed to do.

Taking this into modern society, there are still governments. We don’t live in anarchy. It seems to me then that we need to be as aware as Paul was. He knew the reality that was around him, and he knew how the government worked. He knew he could appeal, and he exercised that right because he saw the political implications of not doing so.

Obviously, I know that many people are not interested in politics or government. However, I think that one thing we can see from Paul here is that he at least knew and understood the situation he was in and how to make the best of it. As we saw earlier, he understood he had to go to Rome. He was able to utilize even the governmental structure at the time to advance the mission.

What is our job on earth? We are to glorify God in all that we do. If we can do that by working through government, then there’s no problem.

John 11: Missing the Point

Reading about the priests in John 11 makes me think about many people in the world today.

Joh 11:47  Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.

Joh 11:48  If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.

Joh 11:49  And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all,

Joh 11:50  Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.

Caiaphas seems that made a rather wise decision on the surface (please read to the end until you leave me bad comments about how I could possibly say this). After all, in most situations, it does seem to be smart to stop someone who was deviating from Judaism. There had been other situations in the history of the Israel were following God had been challenged and the leadership had to step up and not allow the people to go off in the wrong path. I think about even Moses in the wilderness. Calling for death seems to be too far, but I can at least identify with why he felt the need to protect the people of Israel from a guy who was not only challenging religious authority but also potentially causing problems with Rome. Leadership does have to make decisions at times.

However, the problem is that the priests entirely miscalculated in this particular situation. They missed out on the fulfillment of all of their own prophecies. They missed that Jesus Christ was the one who was crushing the head of the serpent. Jesus Christ was there to change everything, but He was not the problem that the people identified Him as. Judaism did not need to be protected from Jesus.

People today are no different. They might not want to change their lifestyles, and they miss out entirely on the fact that Jesus calls for a radical change. We are not perfectly fine as we are. As much as the priests were missing the Messiah, people today are missing the Savior.

Luke 24: Not Hallucinating

Welcome to Luke 24, the end of another book! I find interesting today that there are times when people assume that people living in the first century were gullible by nature. That is then extended to point out how it is not surprising that they were fooled by some type of apparition. It wasn’t really Jesus Christ, but they were fooled at some point. After all, they were from the ancient world, so people say that they were superstitious by nature. However, that doesn’t seem to be the picture we see here in Luke.

Luk 24:25  Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:

Luk 24:26  Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?

Luk 24:27  And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

I took out this one example of a skeptical audience, but I also point it out because of how Jesus approached the situation. He did not just appear and say that He was Jesus resurrected. However, He used evidence to demonstrate to these two people on the road to Emmaus why Jesus fulfilled all the prophecy set aside for the Christ. Only later did they realize who He was.

There are two options. Both of these people could have had a simultaneous delusion where Jesus expounded on highly detailed prophecy from throughout the Old Testament. The chances of that are minimal. We can even grant that maybe they were both grieving and were hallucinating as a result of that pain. However, they did not even realize it was Jesus at this point as you read further in the passage. The hallucination was therefore not of Jesus, but it was rather of a man talking about Jesus, and why would that necessarily be the result of grief?

The evidence for the resurrection is of a different type than simply hallucination. Jesus appeared to many people at the same time. If they reported the same story, then the question is whether or not they had separate hallucinations that happened to be the same or they witnessed the same event in reality. One makes a lot more sense than the other.

Luke 19: Prophesying the Destruction of Jerusalem

Luke 19 provides us with what I believe is one of the most convincing reasons that the Gospels were written soon after the life of Jesus Christ.

Luk 19:41  And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,

Luk 19:42  Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.

Luk 19:43  For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side,

Luk 19:44  And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.

In approximately 30 years, the city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. After a siege, the city eventually fell, and this prediction of Jesus was fulfilled.

Here’s my question then. Why do none of the Gospels or Acts mention that destruction? After all, we have Jesus making a very clear prophecy about what is going to happen, and we know that it actually did. It would seem natural to point out that Jesus had it right. That would reaffirm His predictive ability.

Of course, the writers might have assumed that everyone would just put the pieces together. If it was common knowledge that Jerusalem was destroyed, then they certainly could have decided not to mention it.

However, even with that as a possible explanation, there is something else at play here. If the Gospels were written late, then it even seems doubtful that the destruction of Jerusalem would be common knowledge at that point. For example, what if the Gospels were written in 150 A.D.? It is possible that the destruction of Jerusalem might not be common knowledge at that point, and if the writers were trying to build a theology, it would similarly make sense to mention that Jesus made an important prophecy that came through.

As a result, if the Gospels mentioned the destruction of Jerusalem, we would have two very important pieces the data. First of all, it would have to be written after the event had taken place. If they were written late however, it must not have been so late that the destruction of Jerusalem and the circumstances around that would not be common knowledge in the area it was written.

They do not, so our options are somewhat more limited. The Gospels could have been written before the destruction of Jerusalem which supports an early date of authorship. The other alternative is that the Gospels were written at a time and place where this would’ve been an obvious reference and did not deserve mention. Maybe this does not support as early of a date, but it still supports an early enough date for the public memory to hold.

I know that people like to drag the Gospels as late as the middle of the second century, but it simply doesn’t make sense on this one.

Mark 13: The Destruction of the Temple

In Mark 13, Jesus begins to speak about the future. Interestingly, in each of the synoptic Gospels, Jesus mentions the point that the temple is going to be destroyed.

Mar 13:1  And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!

Mar 13:2  And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.

I wonder at this point how many people took Jesus seriously. After all, the nation of Israel was part of the Roman Empire. The Romans were pretty good at protecting their own territories, so barring some type of natural disaster, I would’ve felt pretty safe about the temple standing.

However, after the Jewish rebellion and the siege of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the temple was torn down by the Romans. All that we have left is the Wailing Wall, and that was not even part of the temple. It was part of the wall that went around the temple. The temple was literally destroyed.

After Jesus said this, His disciples pulled Him aside and asked Him what He was talking about. When would all of these things happen?

I think that this is telling for all of us. We think about the institutions that are in the world today. We think about things that will always be there. We simply assume that they will always be there, but we don’t always know the time that God has planned. I would have assumed that the temple was not going anywhere. With the Roman Empire as a protector, no one would have expected that the same would have torn it down the temple approximately 35 years later. However, Jesus knew it was coming. That has to tell you something about His prophetic abilities.

Malachi 4: On the Right Side

Can you believe that we have made it through the entire Old Testament! Thank you so much for all of you who have stuck with me through the entire time! It really does mean a lot

Malachi 4 is a very short chapter, and it is again prophetic. A day is coming when it will be obvious who is following God and who is not.

Mal 4:1  For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.

Mal 4:2  But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.

I specifically point this out as we transition to the New Testament because it seems to resemble many things that we are going to read from Jesus Christ Himself. He spoke about days that were coming where the wicked were going to be cut down and those that feared God would thrive. I know that we might not all agree on when this day is or what exactly is going to happen, but I think that we can agree that God is going to judge.

On that day, our deeds are going to testify against us. We all do wicked things, and we deserve the punishment in verse one. I really wish I could say I was perfect, but I most definitely am not. I wish I could say that I deserve to get into heaven on my own merit, but I do not.

All I am going to be able to say on that day is that my hope is in my salvation through the work of Jesus Christ. I can hold to John 3:16.

Joh 3:16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.