Category Archives: Daily Meditations

Revelations from REVELATION [chapter 18]

Babylon the Great has fallen! She has fallen! She has become a place for demons to live, a refuge for every unclean spirit… ~REVELATION 18:2

Here is the big theological picture of chapter eighteen: Preparing the earth for the reoccupation of its rightful King–Messiah, Jesus. All obstructions to the loving, perfect rulership of Christ will be cleared away. They must be. All false gods must and will be kicked out to make room for the one true God.

The term “Babylon” had come to signify any anti-God world system under satanic influence, any culture seduced and animated by evil entities and their agenda. This is what we mean when we say “the way of the world” with a negative connotation. This also sheds light on the title “Ruler of this world” used for the devil in Scripture. It is not that the devil is so powerful that he runs everything on planet earth, it’s simply a way of saying that he is in charge of those who have surrendered to his seduction, knowingly or not, and who have allowed their God-given authority over their own bodies, minds, souls, and domains to be usurped by the great deceiver, and hijacked for nefarious purposes.

Rome was the Babylon of the first century. She had become a dwelling place for demons. Evil was comfortable living there since the leaders and so many others had surrendered to the seduction of unclean spirits and the worldly comforts of excess they provided.

One major aspect of Rome’s evil was that they had turned everything, which the Lord ultimately made and provided, into a commodity. They slapped an exorbitant price on everything they could get their self-serving hands on. There is quite the inventory list of Rome’s commodities in vv. 12-13, which the merchants of the world are weeping and mourning over because Rome is being utterly destroyed for her wickedness. What is particularly sad is found at the end of this inventory list, the merchandise mentioned after cattle, sheep, horses, and chariots–the bodies and souls of human beings.

Rome had turned human lives into a product to be bought and sold.

The language John uses is peculiar. Apparently no one really wrote like this in the first century when speaking of slavery. Ancient writers would indeed say “bodies” as John does, but not “souls”. That is interesting, and poignantly appropriate, isn’t it? With slavery, trafficking, you are disrespecting and disregarding human souls–the whole person. This particular evil is all-encompassing and horrifyingly dehumanizing, as I believe John is trying to convey here. Not only had Rome turned the precious stones, spices, and animals of the earth into their own exclusive cargo for profit–again, all created and generously provided by Yahweh for everyone–but they had even taken God’s uniquely special creation, humans made in His image, and treated them as mere property.

All of this was done under the influence of evil spiritual beings (that’s a Ripple for another day), and therefore must be undone in order for God’s kingdom to be fully consummated and for abundant Life to flourish.

It was serendipitous to come across this verse as we just saw Sound of Freedom in the theater this week. It is one of the most powerful films I’ve ever seen. I was an absolute tear-drenched mess while watching it, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. As difficult as it is, we do need to face the reality and horror of what happens to so many of God’s children. I love this powerful line delivered by Jim Caviezel: “God’s children are not for sale.”

May we each do our part to bring God’s Kingdom into reality more and more fully while we are here, and push back the gates of hell a little farther every day.

Revelations from REVELATION [chapter 17]

I saw that the woman was drunk on the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses to Jesus. And I was completely amazed when I saw her. Then the angel said to me, “Why are you amazed? I will tell you the mystery of the woman...” ~REVELATION 17:6-7

Rome was pretty proud of herself. She thought quite highly of the empire she had become. That’s Roma the Roman goddess up there on the right side of a coin from about A.D. 71. She sits atop seven mountains as Rome was known as “the city set on seven hills”, and this was a picture of world domination. Rome was this great world power in the first century. But John depicted Rome as nothing more than a drunken whore.

Strong language.

While many back then called Rome “the mother of all cities”, John calls her the mother of whores and of the vile things of earth (v.5), characterized by conspicuous consumption and violence. Apparently John was not impressed.

Or was he?

It struck me that when he sees her, drunk as she is on martyrs blood, that he is “completely amazed” at the sight of her. The Greek word here is thaumazein, and I’ve also seen it translated as greatly astonished, tremendously impressed, and as literally amazed with great amazement. It’s a little ambiguous just how John was amazed at her. One commentary asks, “Was he perplexed and disturbed? Was he baffled like seeing an unusual work of art? Was he puzzled and astonished? Was he impressed?” Since the angel asks in the next verse, “Why are you amazed?” and then offers interpretive help with the vision, we are led to believe that John had at least a hint of admiration for a moment or so. There was at least a shred of awe for a second. How could one not marvel at a sight such as this? (the sight described in verses 3-5)

Even horrible things can be “impressive”. Evil can dress up for a fancy nite out and look seductively attractive.

Do not be fooled.

Take the time and thoughtful energy to look below the surface of impressive organizations or people. I don’t think John was standing there gawking in wonder for very long, for he knew the wretchedness before him, but it is still very easy to get caught up for a moment with something that is beyond what we have experienced before.

I have been looking at cults a lot this year, which has complemented my studies in Revelation quite nicely. In all of the cults I’ve looked at so far, each one does indeed impress me on some level. It’s truly amazing that they were able to build Jonestown in the middle of thick jungle many miles from civilization. Living communally in an austere compound, studying the Bible for hours a day in Waco for so long, making it work as they did, is somewhat admirable. Hillsong’s music really is wonderfully written and quite moving.

Don’t be fooled.

These imposing feats and displays are built on some pretty sandy foundations.

For some reason, we still look to people to follow. We still get fooled by humans who make themselves out to be more than human, and who accept followers, and sometimes even worship, as if they are deserving of being venerated as demigods. At times we are easily impressed with people who are no greater in God’s eyes than you or me. I tell you who is impressive–the Person who made all persons, our Trinitarian Creator, GOD.

Jesus is the one person worth following. Any other human is merely that–human, and just as imperfect and ready to sin as you and I are. Now I would say there are people who are inspiring, but may it appropriately stop there and serve to simply spur us on toward loving God and others more deeply, pursuing Christlikeness more passionately, caring for those in need more often, and following the Holy Spirit ever more intensely.

Soli Deo Gloria

The Blessed Gift of a Lifelong Friendship

Then the father said to him, “My son, you’re always with me. Everything I have belongs to you.” ~Luke 15:31

Today, June 27, 2023, my lifelong friend of forty-four and a half years, Joe Wendel, turns 50. I’ve been reflecting on this verse over the past several days with regard to our unique, enduring friendship.

In fact, this verse was impressed upon me and injected into me last week by Ruach while I was working on the slideshow for Joe’s birthday celebration.

As I was combing thru the plethora of photos spanning a lifetime, I kept seeing all the wonderful people Joe and his wife Julie have spent time with, broken bread with, traveled with. It was quite beautiful to witness the many lives they’ve touched so deeply in one sitting. Yet in seeing all of this magnificence, there was a moment when I had before me this fruit calling forth for me to grab and ingest, fruit from the tree of jealousy and envy. I could easily have found myself going down the dark road of “Hey, we’ve been friends the longest, why do they get to enjoy all this wonderful benefit?” And then I was suddenly stunned by the Holy Spirit and immediately filled with words from Jesus’s parable of the father and two sons. You may remember the end of that story when the elder son was complaining to his father about throwing this huge party for the younger son, stating his case with, “I’ve been serving you all these years!” It was the words of the father’s reply that completely melted me. He said, “My son, you’ve always been with me. Everything I have is yours.”

Tears.

Any hint of jealousy was crushed by the beauty of these words. I knew and felt that the Spirit was conveying to me what Joe has been showing me thru his life and friendship all these years. It was like I was hearing Joe say to me, “Rob, you’ve always been with me. We’ve been with each other thru every major aspect of life, post diapers. Even when we were many miles apart, we were really still together. Everything I have is yours, and I’m not simply talking about material possessions, but everything I am, my heart, has always been totally available to you.”

I just melted. I melted into a gratitude that is beyond what human language can properly communicate. I was overwhelmed by a fresh sense of this friendship that I know is pure, divine gift from our loving Father, and which I do not deserve.

This verse has a newer, deeper meaning to me now. May it move you as well to reflect with sincere gratefulness upon any beautiful, lasting relationship you might be blessed with.

Thank you, Papa Yahweh.

Thank you, Pneuma.

Thank you, Jesus.

Thank you, Joe.

Revelations from REVELATION [chapter 16]

Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.” ~REVELATION 16:1

We’ve had the seven seals and seven trumpets, and now the seven libation bowls of wrath are poured out on earth. Here’s a revelation from my studies in Revelation of late: The “recapitulation” view of how Revelation was written says that the seals, trumpets, and bowls are not necessarily different, successive outpourings, but rather a restating of judgments to give different emphases or perspectives. As we go from the seals to the bowls, we see that the judgments grow in scale and potency as John is given new views of them. It’s a little like watching the same event from three different camera angles.

What’s the point?

Well, for us today, we can relax that the message is not about strictly literal, timed out tribulations begging to be predicted with precision, but rather the message is to state very vividly and emphatically that God will decisively and dramatically eradicate evil. God will erase what goes against His kingdom, against Life, in God’s way, in God’s timing. This will happen is the message and the hope for us all.

We must guard against falling into endless and fruitless speculation about how exactly everything is going to go down at the expense of missing Revelation’s potent message and challenge to us. You may remember from our chapter 11 reflection that we said the message and challenge is the call to bear witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, to bear witness to the truth in your own personal context, even if that environment is hostile to that witness.

I also came across this very nice summary in the Dictionary Of The Later New Testament & Its Developments: “John therefore wrote at the behest of the risen Lord to strengthen the faith and courage of believers, to nerve them for battle with antichristian forces in the world and to help them to bear witness to the one true Lord and Savior.”

Apocalyptic language is used to inspire people to act NOW, and oh does Revelation paint inspiring pictures for us! Not only the visuals, but the many numbers used are also dripping with meaning. We have these “three times seven” judgments with the seals, trumpets, and bowls. “Seven is the number of perfection, implying something done according to divine design, the number of completion. Three implies the greatest or ultimate expression of something. So seven times three indicates triple perfection! These judgments describe the complete, perfect erasure of evil.” (from Revelation For The rest Of Us by Scot McKnight with Cody Matchett)

I can see some evidence of this recapitulation theory as each of the seals, trumpets, and bowls lead us right up to the eradication of evil and the establishment of new Jerusalem. In other words, they each take us up to the end. There is indeed a repetitive pattern. Again from McKnight and Matchett: “They are not chronological judgments, where each one follows the other, but are three overlapping revelations of the eradication and elimination of evil from God’s world…We are to see the three times seven judgments as as an indication that God is making the world right by eliminating the arrogant, anti-God, exploitative, dominating ways of Babylon.”

Whatever is not of God, and therefore not fit for the new heavens and new earth, will have to be removed so that the people of God may dwell with Him in heavenly peace.

Human trafficking has no place or use whatsoever in the Kingdom of God, therefore it will be eliminated. Racism of any flavor makes absolutely no sense in the Kingdom, so it is not only not tolerated, but it is destroyed. These, along with murder, theft, greed, selfish ambition, animal cruelty, and the like are as out of place in God’s Kingdom as having an American Ninja Warrior obstacle course set up in the middle of an assisted living facility. It’s of no use to the people who belong there, so it must be torn down to make room for what can actually be used and sincerely enjoyed.


After writing this, I found this very helpful article on the recapitulation thing. And then I found this article posted just last month. Please know that I am in no way saying that this is the way you must interpret Revelation. I’m just seeking to understand it better with the resources before me, none more valuable than the Holy Spirit.

Revelations from REVELATION [chapter 15]

they were singing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb. ~REVELATION 15:3

Verses 2-4 comprise our tenth and final “interlude” found in Revelation. (We have not drawn attention to all ten so as not to muddy the Book of Revelation waters which are already quite challenging to navigate.) This chapter starts out with a magnificent vision of seven angels who were bringing the seven last plagues, but it is quickly interrupted by another sight: the ones who were victorious over the beast, holding harps, standing by a glassy sea mixed with fire, and singing the song of Moses and of the Lamb.

This is a new tune inspired by the song of victory found in Exodus 15 which was sung after the crossing of the Red Sea. It is not those lyrics exactly, but rather a sort of “greatest hits” of Psalms which extol the character of God. And, unlike the song of Exodus 15, this one is not about triumph over the enemy, but rather is solely praise of God. This shows us that God and Revelation are not simply about revenge and punishment, but always for the hope of the salvation and restoration of all people (see verse 4). “Our God, even in judgment, is always in the business of salvation, bent on the salvation of humankind”, says commentator Wilfrid Harrington.

Another striking observation about this song sung by these monster-conquerors is that there is not one single word about their own achievement. From beginning to end it is all about the greatness of God. Not only are they not focused on their achievement, but they’re not even focused on their suffering. If they did sing about their suffering, it would be understandable, for they suffered greatly. But they sing only praise. This grand praise and attention on Yahweh is refreshing to me. In our culture today, it feels as though we are absolutely obsessed with ourselves. And obsession with self, or other people, is not a recipe for God’s peace. When I look back on the most internally peaceful times of my life, it has been when I am focused on Christ more than anyone or anything else. It is when I am talking with Jesus more than anybody else; when I’m thinking about Yahweh more than anyone or anything; when I’m listening for and to Ruach more than I’m giving ear to anyone else in the world.

There is divine power in praising God, for it is what we were made to do. When our attention is drawn and harnessed toward our Maker, we are at our best, and can be in a state of shalom no matter the circumstances.

Then one of the four living creatures gave the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the anger of God who lives forever and ever. ~REVELATION 15:7

So these bowls…we’re not talking about cereal bowls here. The Greek word used and the OT context tell us that these are bowls used for priestly ritual duties. These are “cultic utensils” as some scholars refer to them, and could be more fully translated “bowls used in offerings”. There are several interesting layers of meaning going on here.

One thing these bowls would hold is wine, as a libation bowl. With this picture in mind, Craig Koester says that “The bowl visions extend the wine motif of the previous chapter, in which Babylon the whore made the world drunk on the wine of her immorality until God gave her the wine of wrath and the ungodly were trampled in the winepress (Rev 14:8, 10, 19-20).”

These ritual service bowls might also hold incense. This takes us back to the incense of prayers back in Rev 5:8, 6:9-11, and 8:3-5, especially since John uses the exact same word and description for these golden bowls here as he did back in chapter 5. It does seem that we are to make this connection that the bowls which contained the prayers of the saints now hold God’s wrath to be poured out. Those prayers are a real part of this apocalyptic unfolding. May we take prayer ever so seriously!

Ritual bowls were also probably used to carry out the ashes and fat of sacrifices. This is interesting indeed, as this symbolism shows that the earth is about to be purified by removing defilement, and sanctified so as to be made ready for the re-occupation by the Messiah. Even though Yahweh is for the salvation of all, in the end true life cannot coexist with destroyers of life. For life to flourish, the environment must be conducive to it.

Revelations from REVELATION [chapter 14]

Then I looked, and there was a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud one like a son of man. He had a gold crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. And another angel came out of the temple, shouting in a loud voice to the one who was sitting on the cloud, “It’s harvest time! Put in your sickle and reap: the harvest of the earth is ripe!” ~REVELATION 14:14-15

Upon first reading, I was taken aback by what appeared to be an angel giving a command to Christ. But after digging below the surface, I learned that the angel is merely relaying the command of Yahweh, for the angel came out of the temple with this message. This makes perfect sense since the word “angel” means messenger.

Much more interesting is that many commentators connect this to Mark 13:32 where Jesus said, “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, only the Father.” Revelation seems to be amplifying this declaration, showing that it really is only Papa Yahweh who knows when it’s all going to go down. So you apparently have complete permission to enjoy a convivial laugh at and with anyone who tries to predict the date for the end of the world.

Another interesting observation is that when the angel does tell Jesus that it is time to start reaping, Christ already has the sickle in His hand. He may not know the day nor the hour, but I think this signifies that He is ever at the ready to do His Father’s bidding. This takes me back to Abraham’s response when God called on him in Genesis 22. “Hinneni” was Abraham’s response in his language, and we could translate that as: “Here I am, your servant. I am at your disposal. Tell me what you want me to do!” Jesus, being one with the Father, was in a constant state of hinneni, as should we be.

Yet another fascinating aspect is the dual purpose of the sickle. Jesus’s reaping of the harvest in verse 16 is the gathering of God’s followers into His kingdom. Here the sickle is used to gather and protect, a “salvific ingathering” as Brian Blount says it. But in verse 19 an angel uses its sickle for judgment. This “fifth angel” of Revelation 14 takes those who have allied themselves with the dragon and the beast, and throws them into the great winepress of God’s anger. Sounds like a place I don’t want to be.

What a powerful visual, this “Hinneni Sickle” in hand at all times, ever at the ready to do God’s will, using this heavenly tool to gather and protect those who Yahweh puts in your path in need of compassion and companionship. Also using the same implement to extricate yourself from a harmful situation or toxic relationship which serve the evil one’s purpose to pull you away from Christ and His Spirit. We might also think of using this reaping hook for protecting and preserving good habits, as well as cutting off injurious ones.

May we remain in a posture of listening for Papa Yahweh’s timely command, with our hinneni sickle always in hand.

Revelations from REVELATION [chapter 13]

Then I saw another monster coming up from the earth. It had two horns like those of the lamb, and it spoke like a dragon. ~REVELATION 13:11

In this chapter we have two beasts–one from the sea, and one from the land. The beast from the sea is Rome and its political power. The beast from the earth represents economic and religious forces supporting the cultic empire. Behind the two beasts, empowering them, is the dragon. So we have here an unholy trinity.

This second monster, looking like the Lamb, but speaking like a dragon, shows that there were evil religious forces pushing the agenda of the empire, and also reminds us of Jesus’s warning to be on the lookout for wolves in sheep’s clothing. (I just love that artwork above from the latest album by Ritual Servant, a most excellent Christian metal band with up front Scripture-based lyrics)

This beast from the earth is later called “the false prophet” in chapters 16, 19, and 20. G.K. Beale sums up nicely in his commentary: “A true prophet leads people to worship God, but the false prophet leads them to worship the state (and, by extension, the devil).” This is such a simple test, isn’t it? Does the teacher in question lead and encourage you to follow God? Or someone or something else? This we must ever keep before us.

A person may speak very well, be charismatic and passionate, but who or what are they really leading you to? The speaking like a dragon in this verse reflects the alluring, deceptive speech of satan, the dragon, which led to the sin of Adam and Eve. And later, in the first century A.D., false teachers under the influence of the same dragon were encouraging compromise with the culture’s idolatrous institutions.

I’m thinking a lot along this subject line lately as I’ve been immersed in the story of the twentieth century false prophet Jim Jones. So immersed in fact, that the other day my wife Ana asked me, “So when are you going to come back home from Jonestown?” She knows all too well that when I dive in to something, I take up residence there for a month or two, absorbing every drop I can soak up before returning–hopefully with life lessons learned and wisdom to pass on.

Jim Jones never really encouraged the worship of God, but rather the worship of socialism and of himself. In fact, in an interview the year before his death, he said that he was an atheist and never actually did believe in God. Yet he was ordained in the Disciples of Christ denomination! How can this happen?

When you speak like a dragon.

When you are “gifted” in the way of saying what the people in front of you want to hear. If you are speaking to Bible-based believers, you quote Scripture. When you’re in front of a crowd of non-religious folk who have a heart for social justice, you downplay God, maybe even denigrate the Bible, and talk about how we need to help the downtrodden. This is how the not-so-reverend Jones did it. But not everyone was fooled of course.

The speech of the false prophet may be alluring, but even a mildly careful listen will clue you in on the fact that this is dragon speak, and not truly Lamb-like. Again, the main item you listen for is who they point you to.

By showing us what Babylon is really like, Revelation is asking us: Who do you belong to? Where do your loyalties lie? What are those basic commitments that make you who you are? Does your life bear the seal of God, or the mark of the beast?

Revelations from REVELATION [chapter 12]

So the great dragon was thrown down to the earth… ~REVELATION 12:9

At the high risk of intense persecutions and disruption of life if they showed allegiance to Christ over Rome, the people John was writing to no doubt had to wonder, “What’s the point? Why not go along to get along? Why not compromise with Babylon to make this life much easier and more comfortable?” In the incredible verses of 7-12 we get the answer.

Because satan has already lost the war.

At the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, war broke out in heaven between the archangel Michael and his angels against the dragon and his angels. Team Michael won, and the devil was thrown out of heaven and cast down to earth. Apparently, before this salvation event, satan had free access to God’s presence in the heavenly realm to accuse the people of God day and nite, an angelic prosecuting attorney if you will. Recall the story of Job and that the Hebrew word satan means accuser.

But after Jesus was snatched away to God and His throne (Rev 12:5), the devil’s range of operation became severely limited. This was very upsetting for him. Since then, satan has doubled his efforts to inflict as much damage as he can on God’s people and throw them off course, knowing that his time is limited and that he can’t take away believers’ eternal destiny with God. (He really thought that whole crucifixion thing would turn out quite differently.) But he does what he can to get as many as he can to choose for themselves to turn away from God, or at least to live a quiet life of drawing no attention to God or the victory of Christ.

Here’s the crux of the passage: the reason evil is at work so relentlessly in the world is not because satan is so powerful, but because he is desperate and losing.

He’s prowling around like a caged lion in his limited domain desperately inflicting damage because he’s wounded and angry, knowing that he lost the war in heaven and doesn’t have forever to do his dirty work.

Not all of the dragon’s damage is obvious tragedy. A significant portion of what the devil does is to breed a sort of cynical complacency. If he can get you to think the fight is not worth it and that the force of evil is just too strong in this life , then he gains a victory (a battle victory, not the war). Better yet, if he can coax you into thinking their’s nothing to fight, then he wins even more ground in this life since non-fighters will be numbed into marching to the beat of Babylon and joining the dragon’s team. Remember our takeaway from last time, that the point of this letter by John was a call to bear witness to the truth, to the lordship of Jesus Christ.

How is your speech or lifestyle giving testimony to the lordship of Christ?

What do your words and life choices say has ultimate place and is in control?

Are you living a nice, quiet life of little to no influence for Christ the Victor?

Or is your life a witness to the redemptive power of God?

The hope is through now knowing that the forces of evil have a definite time limit, are defeatable, and losing, that you are inspired and strengthened to do what John encouraged the seven churches to do in the face of evil–resist. Resist through the blood of the Lamb, the word of your testimony, and loving Christ more than your life (Rev 12:11). For to capitulate is to sign up with the losing side. I love one teacher’s summary of Revelation: “God’s team wins. Choose your team. Don’t be stupid.”


For more reflection on Revelation 12:11 go here.

Revelations from REVELATION [chapter 11]

“Get up,” said a voice, “and measure God’s Temple…” I will give my two witnesses the task of prophesying…The seventh angel blew his trumpet… ~REVELATION 11:1,4,15

The first 13 verses of chapter 11 continue the interlude between trumpets 6 and 7. The big topics covered are measuring God’s Temple, the two witnesses, and the seventh trumpet.

Measuring God’s Temple

A measuring rod is given to John and he is told to measure God’s Temple, the altar, and those worshipping in it. “Temple” in Revelation is an image of the Christian community. Calling the worshipping community a temple was common among early Christians. “Measuring” has OT precedence meaning protection, judgment, or possibly restoration. Here it most likely refers to protection. So John is to mark out where true worship is taking place and show that it is protected.

But in verse 2 he is told to “leave out the outer court of the temple. Don’t measure it.” The outer court represents the vulnerable aspect of the church which will be trampled by the nations for 42 months. The 42 months comes from the book of Daniel and shows yet again that God is ultimately in control, keeping the trampling to a limited time.

This simultaneous “protected” and “unprotected” aspect shows that the church during this time is both threatened and preserved. The people of God suffer, yet keep worshipping in Spirit and in Truth, giving testimony to the reign of God among them. It seems the message here is that the followers of the Lamb are spiritually protected–no one can pluck them out of the Father’s hand, yet physically vulnerable to suffering at the hands of the world. This is an encouragement to stay faithful. But this verse could also mean that there is a group of believers who are spared from the physical savageries, while others must go through and experience the great suffering.

The Two Witnesses

I had always heard that these two witnesses are Moses and Elijah, or some sort of reincarnation of them. But in my study of this chapter, most all the commentaries I have, and the two podcasts I listened to, are in agreement that these witnesses are not to be understood as merely two individuals, but as representative of the whole church. These two witnesses describe for the reader a mosaic of Israel’s historical figures who embody what authentic faithful witness looks like. They are the two olive trees like Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the priest from Zechariah 3 and 4. They stop rain from falling as Elijah did. Like Moses, they turn water into blood. The fire from their mouths recalls the preaching of Jeremiah (Jer.5:14). Their death, resurrection, and ascension even reflect the very story of Jesus.

But if they represent the whole church, why say specifically two witnesses? Commentator G.K. Beale answers this way:

The OT required two witnesses to establish an offense against the law. Jesus also used the same principle [when he sent] groups of two witnesses. So did Paul. God sent two angels to testify to the truth of the resurrection and to the fact that Jesus would return. Above all, only two of the seven churches in chs. 2-3 escaped Christ’s accusations of unfaithfulness (Smyrna and Philadelphia). That these two churches as representative of the faithful church are in mind is apparent from the identification of the “prophetic witnesses” here as “lampstands.” Thus there is pictured here the faithful remnant church who witnesses.

You might recall from the Revelation 1 vision the lampstands which represented the churches John was writing to. We have allusion here to Zechariah 4 which calls Israel a “lampstand”. The lamps on the lampstand represent God’s presence or Spirit which was to empower Israel. From Beale again: “Just as lampstands were a part of Solomon’s temple, so the church is part of God’s new temple. Accordingly, new Israel, the church, as a “lampstand”, is part of God’s spiritual temple on earth, and is to draw its power from the Spirit, the divine presence, before God’s throne in its drive to stand against the resistance of the world.”

Love that.

A lampstand without a lamp is not effective or very useful for getting around in dark places. A church, the people of God, not empowered or led by the Holy Spirit, is just stumbling around in this dark world like anybody else. But! to operate in the Holy Spirit’s power, we are able to see in the dark with the Light of the world, and to withstand the oppression of antichrist forces.

A little sidenote: one of my favorite OT verses is from Zechariah 4. Verse 6 says, Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.

So at this halfway point of Revelation, it might be good to take a few steps back and get a 30,000 foot view of the overall message so far.

You may have noticed that the word “witness” keeps coming up. Here is my big picture takeaway at this point of my intense study of this book, and it is applicable to all of us who are believers:

It is the call to bear witness with our life and speech to the truth–to the Lordship of Jesus Christ–in our own personal context, even if that environment is hostile to that witness.

It is my hope that you keep this message in mind as we go thru Revelation here, as you read it on your own, or whenever you hear it brought up in a sermon or social media. I pray you can keep this word before you as the charge of Revelation even in the midst of the most ridiculous speculations, predictions, and twistings you may encounter along the way of our journey toward New Jerusalem.

The Seventh Trumpet

The seventh trumpet is called “the third woe” (the first woe being the 5th trumpet, and the second woe being the 6th). And yet the seventh trumpet is the glorious ringing in of the Kingdom of God to fruition, the Reign of our Lord fully realized, the kingdom of our world becoming the Kingdom of our Lord and Christ. Why on earth would this be a “woe”? Well, I guess if you’ve lived according to the satanic principle of self-worship, and therefore personal gain thru whatever means necessary, including abuse and oppression of people and nature, then yeah, the seventh trumpet is gonna suck for you. The reign of Christ messes up the lives of those living for what is not Christ.

But if you are God-centered, and feel that Godliness is the greatest gain (1 Tim 6:6), then the coming of God’s Kingdom is not only welcomed, but pretty freaking awesome.

Revelations from REVELATION [chapter 10]

Then I saw another mighty angel….~REVELATION 10:1

We come to our next interlude. And like the chapter 7 interlude which came after the sixth seal was opened and before the seventh, this one comes after the sixth trumpet is blown and before the seventh trumpet. And also like the chapter 7 interlude, this one is a two-parter, with chapter 10 being the first part, and 11:1-13 being the second part.

Let’s dig in to chapter 10.

John sees another strong or mighty angel come down from heaven. This is no ordinary angel, as you can clearly detect from the description in the first few verses (in picture form above). The description vividly matches that of none other than the risen Christ Himself. I agree with the interpreters who say that what we have here is “angelomorphic Christology”. How fun is that to say?? The point is not that the risen Christ was an angel and thus created, but rather to associate the risen Christ with the Angel of Yahweh who is God. The Angel of Yahweh visited people in the OT and was the form God took during those visitations. [for example: Exodus 3:1-6]

This “mighty angel” is holding a small open scroll in His left hand which is most likely the scroll from chapter 5 which had those seven seals ripped off and is, therefore, open. The angel figure having his right foot on the sea, and his left on the land connotes sovereignty over all of creation, another reminder that God is ultimately in control of everything.

When he shouted, the seven thunders answered with their own voices. (v.3) The seven thunders could be the very voice of God, with an allusion to Psalm 29–which is a very cool Psalm. Or they could be powerful, heavenly beings.

Just as John is about to write down what the thunders say, he is told by a voice from heaven to seal up what they said and to not write it down. Most say that they were probably uttering another round of sevenfold judgments to come, parallel to the sets of seven seals, trumpets, and bowls, but not to be revealed. This would be in keeping with the four sets of seven judgments of Leviticus 26 that God says He will send against His people if they disobey Him. As one scholar puts it, “The command to seal up what they said interrupts the movement toward increasingly devastating judgments, showing that they represent threats that are not to be carried out.”

Then the angel whom I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right toward heaven and swore an oath by the One who lives forever and ever…(v.5) This is a very direct allusion to Daniel 12:7, some of it pretty much verbatim, where Daniel is referring to “the man clothed in linen.” And what was the oath? That there would be no more time (v.6), or literally “time shall be no longer.” Everything (history and God’s mystery) will be “completed” or “finished”.

Here’s some of professor of New Testament G.K. Beale’s great words on God’s mystery being completed in verse 7: “When the seventh angel sounds his trumpet, the prophecy of Dan. 11:29-12:13 will be fulfilled and history will come to an end…The fulfillment of the prophesied gospel is occurring, and will continue to occur, in a mysterious and unexpected manner from the human perspective….This mystery is that of the cross…John is told that the “latter days” prophecies to Daniel have now begun, and that this has been set in motion through the ‘mysterious’ manner of Christ’s death and resurrection. That is, the prophecy of God’s defeat of the evil kingdom is being ironically fulfilled by this evil kingdom’s apparent physical victory over Christ and the saints.”

The voice from heaven speaks to John again, telling him to go take the scroll from the angel’s hand. So he goes up to the risen Christ in angel form who also tells him to “take it.” This shows us that God’s revelation is not forced on anyone, but must be taken. Then he tells John to eat it, and it tastes like sweet honey in his mouth, but felt bitter in his stomach, just as the angel had promised (and just as Ezekiel was told by God to eat a scroll and it was sweet as honey in Ezekiel 2:8-3:3). The eating of the scroll indicates complete identification with it, ingesting it into your very life and being. It is sweet because it is God’s word, and a privilege to be His messenger. It is bitter from unrepentant response and the judgment it foretells.

Now that John has digested the contents of the scroll, he must now make its contents known to others. This is his recommissioning from the Angel of Christ to prophecy again about many peoples, nations, languages, and kingdoms (v.11). The verb “Prophecy” does not refer only to predicting future events, but also to providing God’s revealed perspective on what is happening in the present.

This RIPPLE has been more along the lines of a traditional Bible study, so I’d like to leave you with one of the very excellent “suggestions for reflection” which Beale provides at the end of each section of his commentary:

On the divinity of Christ. As presented here (10:1-6) and in many other places in the book, the divinity of Christ is a major and consistent theme in Revelation. The divine angel of the Lord, identified often in the OT with Yahweh, is here also identified with Christ, for which idea the commentary provides much support. Has a shallow reading of Revelation, with a focus on misguided eschatology, drawn us away from its presentation of the exalted Christ? What has drawn us to focus on (often poorly understood) eschatological timelines and miss the heart of the book, which is the glory of God and of Christ?