23 March 2010

Revelation: Part Three

Part Three: Breaking the 7 Seals on The Scroll

The Lamb is the only One worthy enough to open the 7 seals (Rev 5:4-5), so He does and this is what happens when each seal breaks (Rev 6-8:5):

1st seal. White Horse with Rider: Victory—carries bow, crown on head: “He rode out to win many battles and gain the glory!” [we like that one]

2nd seal. Red Horse with Rider: War—“was given a mighty sword and the authority to take peace away from the earth. And there was war and slaughter everywhere.” [we certainly don’t like that one]

3rd seal. Black Horse with Rider: Justice—“its rider was holding a pair of scales” [we hope we’re saved from that one]

4th seal. Green Horse with Rider: Death and the Grave—“These two were given authority over ¼ of the earth, to kill with the sword and famine and disease and wild animals” [we hope never to meet these two]

TIME OUT: Let’s stop after these 4 Horsemen and regroup. God has given power and authority to these four—and that may be difficult to swallow, but if you have a pretty good understanding of the Old and New Testament God [one and the same, never changing, uncreated, all-powerful, just, true, and filled with unfailing love] then you know that He acts on and allows whatever it takes to win back His wonderful children—even this. It will all make sense later (both in the book of Revelation and in life). The only two things that will last forever are eternal souls and the Word of God.

These three things we can know for sure: “For the Lord is good, His unfailing love continues forever, and His faithfulness continues to every generation” (Psalm 100:5).

5th seal. Altar of Martyred Souls: who shout “How Long, O Lord, before You judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us?!”—they are given white robes and are told to rest a bit longer “until the full number of their brothers and sisters had joined them.”

6th seal. Geological Chaos: earthquake, sun goes black, moon turns blood red, stars fall out of the sky, the sky is rolled up like a scroll, and the mountains and islands are moved. In essence, the earth is shaken to its foundations—just to notify all who were not sure: this is the end time.

**Before the 7th seal, 4 angels place the Seal of God on the foreheads of those (his servants) left on earth—a total of 144,000 from the 12 tribes of Israel [12,000 from each tribe]—however, interesting that the tribes of Dan and Ephraim are left out—though they are not listed they are not left out…
quick history catch up!
*original 12 born to Jacob:
Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin
—Levi=God’s priests with no land, and Joseph’s 2 sons replace him in his inheritance—
*12 tribes given camping spot in wilderness and land in Canaan:
Reuben, Simeon, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Gad, Asher, Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali
*In this list (Rev 7:4-8), however, Dan and Ephraim are simply not listed because Levi and Joseph are listed but they are not left out entirely.
*In Ezekiel 37:16-19 God says He will join Ephraim and the Tribes of the North [Dan was the head of the 3 northern Tribes (Numbers 2)] and will reconcile them or join them irrevocably to Judah. So they are not left out, but unnamed perhaps because of this Old Testament Prophesy so that both Levi and Joseph can be listed in this list in Revelation.

** The Multitudes, aka, us: Massive crowd too large to count in white robes with palm branches sing out and worship the Lord; “these are the ones who died in [or came out of] the great tribulation. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white.”—This is the rest of us—the multitudes—who know and believe but are not from a “tribe” of Israel. It says very little about how we “died” or “came up out of” great tribulation; nor does it describe the time of “great tribulation” or suffering at all. What is that about? I want to know more! Is it that we were taken up and those of the 12 tribes listed above are still on earth with the Seal on their foreheads? I’m not sure.

7th seal. Fire and Brimstone: silence throughout heaven for 1 hour; 7 angels with 7 trumpets, another angel with gold incense burner “to mix with the prayers of God’s people as an offering” then to “fill the incense burner with fire from the altar and throw it on the earth”—chaos once more—“and thunder crashed, lightning flashed, and there was a terrible earthquake.” This can be a confusing portrait of events in heaven—sounds a bit more like hell with all the chaos and destruction, the fire and silence from worshiping God, however it is not and Peace will come and reign forever—this simply must pave the way and happen first.

Picture all of this happening—unfolding along a timeline we do not know with events we cannot understand.

All of this is why I believe that it is much easier and clearer to detect good and evil and to love the Lord as Savoir forever NOW rather than later—imagine trying to sort out all that in the midst of fire falling from heaven and the end of the physical world/ existence as you once knew it.

Revelation: Part Two

Part Two: Creatures and Worship in Heaven

This part is pretty psychedelic… I really like it! The next section describes all the things/ people/ beings dwelling and worshiping in heaven (chapters 4 and 5).

It is important that we understand the who, what, where, why, and how of heaven and worship. This section paints that picture for us. [This is a brief overview/ outline as you read along chapters 4 and 5; not much commentary but just a basic foundation to build from in future chapters and lessons.]

The Glory of God: “as brilliant as gemstones—like jasper and carnelian. And the glow of an emerald circled His throne like a rainbow” (Rev 4:2-3). Could we even imagine it? Surely there is nothing in this world beautiful enough to encapsulate or compare His glory and beauty and majesty to, so we are left grasping at straws to understand the fullness of this picture and this moment. Safe to say, it’s the most breathtakingly beautiful thing we will or could ever experience.

Spirit of God: “7 torches with 7 flames represent the Sevenfold Spirit of God”—moving and speaking, perhaps, to the world through the 7 churches (also represented by fire/ torch-like structures in heaven) (Rev 4:5). This “Sevenfold Spirit of God” means that the Spirit has been made new or has changed or somehow increased in power. It’s very interesting that the Spirit’s name is different and that the characteristics that describe Him are new.

24 elders sitting on 24 thrones that surround God’s throne and fall on their faces continually in worship—clothed in white with gold crowns on their heads (Rev 4:4).

4 animal-like creatures in heaven that love and worship the Lord: a lion, an ox, a human-faced animal, and an eagle in flight—each with 6 wings and completely covered in eyes (Rev 4:7).

Jesus—the Lion and the Lamb

The Lion: “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory!” (Rev 5:5).

The Lamb: this is Jesus, the perfect Lamb of Atonement; “Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered, but it was now standing between the throne and the 4 living beings and among the 24 elders.” What a strikingly different appearance to the Glory of God—a slaughtered Lamb, covered in blood, yet standing and talking among them. But there’s more: “He [the Lamb] had 7 horns and 7 eyes which represent the Sevenfold Spirit of God that is sent out to even part of the earth” (Rev 5:6), representing the precious pairing of Jesus, the Lamb that was slaughtered, and the Holy Spirit, who is manifested 7x in the end times.

Worship: Harp and Bowl—what’s mentioned here is the “harp and bowl” style of worship that incorporates music and singing with intercession and prayer in the Spirit: “…the 4 living beings and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song…” (Rev 5:8).

Angels in Heaven: “thousands and millions of angels around the throne” worshiping the Lord (Rev 5:11).

The Multitudes, aka, us: “I saw a vast crows, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. There were clothed in white robes and held palm braches in their hands…these are the ones who died in [come up out of] the great tribulation…That is why they stand in front of God’s throne and serve Him day and night in His Temple…He is their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” (Rev 7:9-17)—this comes later in the book—and if you have questions about this, you are not alone!

10 March 2010

Revelation: Part One

Part One: the 7 Stars (Angels) and 7 Lampstands (Churches)

The first part of Revelations (chapters 1-3) is a little head's up for 7 churches of Asia—Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea—dictated to John by Jesus (Rev 1:12-18), and the gist of each message is basically: "God is watching and you have become lax in some way, which if not repented and changed will be your downfall—judgment is coming." The 7 stars represent the 7 watchful angels and the 7 lampstands represent the 7 churches (Rev 1:20). What is interesting to me in this section is how God words his message: the opening and closing of each letter—how He identifies Himself and what He promises to each church. A recurring theme for the ending of all 7 letters is a call for prophets—“anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what He is saying to the churches"—included toward the end of each letter.

Ephesus: "Write this letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus. This is the message from the One who holds the 7 stars in His right hand (God), the One who walks among the 7 gold lampstands (again, God)." The end promises eternal life—"fruit from the Tree of Life in the paradise of God"—as reward for repentance and victory in Jesus (Rev 2:1-7).

Smyrna: "Write this letter to the angel of the church in Smyrna. This is the message from the One who is the First and the Last (God), who was dead but is now alive (Jesus)." His promise at the end: "But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the Crown of Life...whoever is victorious will not be harmed by the 2nd death" (Rev 2:8-11). More on the “2nd death” later.

Pergamum: "Write this letter to the angel of the church in Pergamum. This is the message from the One with the sharp two-edged sword (Jesus/ God's word)." The end promise of victorious reward: "To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it." Interesting gift. (Rev 2:12-17)

Thyatira: “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Thyatira. This is the message from the Son of God (Jesus), whose eyes are like flames of fire (Jesus), whose feet are like polished bronze (Jesus).” Not the familiar picture of a soft-looking man holding a lamb in your Sunday school class? Check out a similar description in Rev 1:12-18; remember, he’s gearing up for Spiritual Warfare and the end is near. His promise at the end: “I will give authority over all the nations. They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots. They will have the same authority I received from my Father, and I will also give them the morning star!” [a term used to describe Himself later in Rev 22:16]. Pretty destructive imagery all around, but nothing compared to what is to come (Rev 2:18-29).

Sardis: “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Sardis. This is the message from the One who has the sevenfold Spirit of God and the 7 stars (God).” This new identity of the Spirit “sevenfold” is introduced for the first time in the Bible in Revelation. Don’t get too hung up on it, it simply represents a new picture or understanding of the Trinity’s character and power, much like the description of Jesus as a warlord earlier—just one more piece of the whole puzzle revealed to us. Remember, we’re not held accountable for the secrets of God we don’t understand, only for the pieces He chooses to reveal to us and how we internalize them (Deut 29:29). And their just reward: “All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and His angels that they are Mine.” Pretty Powerful. (Rev 3: 1-6).

Philadelphia: “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Philadelphia. This is the message from the One who is holy and true (God), the One who has the key of David (Jesus). What He opens, no one can close; and what He closes, no one can open.” (reference Isa. 22:22 for a reminder on the key of David). Victory’s reward: “Because you have obeyed My command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world… All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of My God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the Name of My God, and they will be citizens in the city of My God—the New Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from My God. And I will also write on them My New Name.” That’s a lot to take in—what a gift! It’s almost like 3 gifts. And here’s another surprising detail: when the Word says He makes all things “new” (Isa 43:19, 66:22, 65:17; Rev 21:1-5; Gal 6:15, 2 Peter 3:13, 2 Cor 5:17, Ezek 18:31, 36:26, Col 3:10) that applies to heaven, earth, Jerusalem, and even the Name of Jesus, as well as you and me in our individual walk with Christ here on earth. Wow. (Rev 3:7-13).

Laodicea: “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Laodicea. This is the message from the One who is the Amen (Spirit)—the faithful and true witness (Jesus), the beginning of God’s new creation (God).” And the final promise: “Those who are victorious will sit with Me on My throne, just as I was victorious and sat with My Father on His throne.” What a comparison. We hardly deserve it, but thank God He doesn’t give us what we deserve. Amen. (Rev 3:14-22).

The 7 distinct ways God uses to identify Himself (and the Trinity) differ in accordance to what He wants the churches to each be aware of—which elements of His character He wants to remind them of and impress upon them; the promises of victory are different, too. He didn’t simply say “I am God…victory means life eternal”—each reward was chosen specifically for some reason, tying directly into the Identity God listed and the “complaints” He has with the church. Interesting that there are 7 continents and listed there are 7 churches--of course, we'll have to quickly set-up shop in Antarctica if we believed that, but I think there's more symbolism going on than simply 7 for 7 [in fact, a whole study could be done on the meanings of the number 7 in the Bible and in Revelation, but that's for another time]. I would really rather be grouped in with the victorious ones of Ephesus, Smyrna, Sardis, or Philadelphia rather than with those of Pergamum, Thyatira, or Laodicea—but that’s not up for me to decide, thankfully.

What an interesting scene of John taking dictation from God the Father Almighty and Jesus Christ as described in all His garb, writing warnings to us of what will be.