The Pagan Path

Those who wonder are not lost; they are trying to awaken! 'The Sleeper must awaken!'

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Joy of Knowing (loving ) God ( and each other ! )

I heard an anagram a long time ago, concerning the word 'joy';

According to this anagram JOY stands for Jesus First
Others Second
Yourself Last

I thought it was kind of a neat little anagram, but really, when you meditate upon it; isn't it so true? In 'real' life; when we take the focus off off ourselves, and our wants and 'needs', and focus on the needs of others, aren't we usually happier? This is not only a good idea, but a biblical principle as well: remember Paul's words in Philippians 2:4; 'Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others'. Speaking from personal experience, many of us ( Christians ) have seemingly lost our joy in life; I believe that this is because we have allowed ourselves to become so 'embroiled' in the 'affairs' ( I say that somewhat loosely ) of everyday life that we have lost our focus. I've used this as an illustration before, in one of my 'Focus on the Physical' papers, but remember what started to happen to Peter when he lost His focus on Jesus, in Matthew 13:25-32; he began to sink and to drown, when he saw the tempestuous waters, and began to think of his own safety, his own life, and forgot about Jesus command to 'Come!'. The command that we, as Jesus' disciples in this present, eternal age ( Luke 18:30, I Corinthians 10:11 ( Hebrews 1:2, 6:5 ), Luke 20:34-36 ) have been given is rather to 'Go!' ( Matthew 28:19 ). Yes; this command has been fulfilled in Christ, in the first century, through His disciples ( Matthew 10:23, Mathew 24:14, Colossians 1:23 ( 1:6 ), but we, as His twenty-first century disciples still have a responsibility to 'Go!', whether it be just into our own 'world', or to foreign lands.To get back to our subject, then, of our lost joy; if we would just first obey Jesus' command to 'seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness' ( Matthew 6:33 ), then everything else will 'fall into place'. I know that I've said this before, but, as it is very important ( and this is as much for me as for anybody ); I say it again: Jesus must be our focal point, and with that taken care of, we can be more free to focus on the things of this life, and what we have been given to do; 'Love God................and your neighbor as yourself'! This means taking action, not just saying 'I love you!'. Remember in Philippians 2:12b, when Paul told the church there to 'work out your own salvation with fear and trembling'? He meant, of course, not that our works contribute at all to our salvation; but simply that by doing good works, we show, or prove that we have been saved. James wrote that 'faith without works is dead' ( James 2:14-26 ). I believe that the same holds true of love: we can tell a person that we love them, all we want, but if we don't show them by working it out in our lives, and proving our love to them, what good is it to them?

Let's explore, for a little bit, what Scripture has to say about knowing God, and why it brings joy.

Deuteronomy 8:5
records that Moses, addressing the children of Israel before his 'departure', told them '
You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you.' By this; Moses affirmed to these typical covenant 'children' that if they were being chastened, it was a good sign that God loved them as sons. ( Hebrews 12:6 ) In Joshua 3:10, Joshua told these same children the proof of God's love for them, and that they knew Him; 'By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Hivites and the Perizzites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Jebusites'. I Kings 8:60 tells us that when Solomon blessed the assembly of the children of Israel, prior to the dedication of the temple; he prefigured the Gospel, saying 'that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no other'. Speaking of the blessedness of the covenant people of God; the sons of Korah wrote, in Psalm 48:3, 'God is in her palaces; He is known as her refuge'. Psalm 100 commands us, 'Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands!', and to 'Know that the LORD, He is God'. Solomon, King of Israel, wrote, in Ecclesiastes 2:26, 'For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight'. Reminding God's people of the covenant blessings that they enjoy; Isaiah writes, 'But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine'.' ( Isaiah 43:1 ) Again speaking of the blessings of the New Covenant in Christ ( Jeremiah 31:31 ), God says of those that He loves, in Jeremiah 24:7, 'Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the LORD; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart' ( see also Ezekiel 34:25-30 ). Looking forward again, to the Gospel, in Ezekiel 36:23, God reminds His covenant people, 'And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD,” says the Lord GOD, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes'. Just prior to His promise of to once again dwell with His people ( John 14:23 ); God spoke, in Joel 2:27, of the blessings of knowing Him; 'Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the LORD your God and there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame'. Jesus said, in John 17:3, speaking of the blessings of knowing God, or rather, being known of Him ( Galatians 4:9 ); 'And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.' Paul, in speaking of the revelation of the Gospel to the Gentiles, told the council at Jerusalem that 'God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us' ( Acts 15:8 ( Acts 28:28 ). In probably my favorite New Testament passage, Romans 8:28, Paul writes 'And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose'. Writing of the joy that we as Christians experience and share, Paul writes, in I Corinthians 2:12, 'Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God' ( Romans 8:15, II Timothy 1:7 ). He further writes, in I Corinthians 8:3, 'But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him'. In Ephesians 3:19; Paul prayed that God would gloriously and continually reveal Himself to His people, that they might 'know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God', 'till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ' ( Ephesians 4:13 ). Of the believers in Colosse, Paul prayed ' that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God' ( Colossians 1:10 ). In his first letter to the Thessalonian church; Paul wrote of his joy at 'knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God' ( I Thessalonians 1:4 ). John wrote, in I John 2:3; 'Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments', and later, 'whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him'. In I John 4:7 & 8, he wrote 'Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love'. Finally, in I John 5:20; he wrote, 'And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.' What joy we should have, knowing that through loving God, we have eternal life! Bcause we know, and are known of ( more importantly ) God; we should the more readily ( and easily ) share this knowledge ( and subsequently, love ) with our fellow man!

In the knowledge and love of God,
and thus able to love the brethren,
Charles Shank

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Studies in the Book of the Revelation of Jesus the Christ the Son of God ( the visions ( the people of God ) Pt 4

Keys to Understanding the Book of Revelation

'Daniel spoke, saying, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea.' As we advance further into the prophet's record of his vision, in Daniel 7; we can see that these winds were metaphorical for the judgment of God being 'stirred up' upon the nations, and through them upon the 'land', upon God's ungrateful and disobedient children, whom He had scattered among the nations. ( Jeremiah 31:10 ( Genesis 11:8 ), Matthew 24:31 )

After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree.

As John continues in the revelation of his vision, we see a similar circumstance: as we've discussed before, briefly, I believe, the Greek word translated 'earth' here, could be as well, maybe better, translated 'land', referring, in the covenant context of Scripture, to the 'land' or people, of Israel. ( Let me make a brief explanation of what I mean by the 'covenant context'; I was explaining this morning to an acquaintance about the fact that the Bible is the record, from chapter 1 of Genesis, all the way through Revelation 22, of God's dealings with His people, from the children of Israel under the Old Covenant, up to the inauguration of the New Covenant in Christ, and the final Revelation of 'the Israel of God'. ( Galatians 6:16 ( Isaiah 65:15 ). I think that most Christians accept this 'idea' ( except for the first several ( 11 ) chapters of Genesis, and all the book of Revelation ) as fact, but most fail to see all of Scripture in the context that I've described above, of Scripture focusing on God's covenant people. ) In Jeremiah 49:36; God, in pronouncing His 'woes' against the nations, says 'Against Elam I will bring the four winds from the four quarters of heaven, and scatter them toward all those winds; there shall be no nations where the outcasts of Elam will not go' ( an interesting note here, is that, in Ezekiel's 'Valley of Dry Bones' prophecy, in Ezekiel 37, these same 'four winds' ( verse 9 ) bring life to God's people ( see also Genesis 2:7, Acts 2:2)

Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”'

We understand now why the 'four angels' ( notice the multiples of four here, as well as in the last study ) were holding back these 'four winds': they were told to 'put the brakes on' the purposed judgment till the 'angels' had 'sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads', or until those that God had purposed to bring into the covenant had been brought in. ( Revelation 9:4 ) When God revealed to the prophet Ezekiel what He was about to do to His apostate children, as recorded in Ezekiel 9, God showed the prophet a vision very similar to John's above, telling the 'angels' ( messengers ) , 'Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it.'

And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed: of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed;[a] of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand were sealed.

As I understand it; there are many out there who believe that this number (144,000 ) is a physically accurate, literal number of the children of Israel, or physical Jews, who will be saved before the end, but I believe that as several other instances in Scripture ( Psalm 50:10, Psalm 105:8 ( Deuteronomy 7:9 ), Jude 14 ( Deuteronomy 33:2, etc. ) seem to point out, this word is not always indicative of a certain quantity, but of, as with the numeral seven, a completeness, a perfection, a wholeness, even infinity. Remember God's words to Elijah, in I Kings 19:18? When Elijah thought that he was the only true follower of God left ( 'and they seek to take my life' ): God told the prophet 'Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him'. Several interesting facts that we might notice in the passage above, in the Revelation; first off, the multiples of the number twelve, again, a very significant number in the prophetic Hebrew Scriptures, along with the number seven, of completeness, wholeness, speaking of God's perfect purpose. Second; my readers may have noticed, comparing the names listed above with passages like Genesis 49, that John not only mentions the children of Israel in a different order, he also neglects to mention the tribe of Dan. Although he does mention the tribe of Manasseh, he doesn't mention the other son of Joseph, whom ( Joseph ) he does mention! ( My understanding was that the tribe of Joseph was split into the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. ) Somewhat confusing, unless you accept the fact that this number ( 144,000 ) refers, not to a certain number of Jews who will be saved, but to the perfection of God's purpose in the salvation of His people, the Church, or 'the Israel of God', as Paul calls them.

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!

Those that I mentioned above as believing in a physically accurate, strictly literal interpretation of Such passages as Revelation 7:4-8, for instance, would most likely argue that this 'great multitude' refers to a different group of people than the prior passage, about the '144,000', but I would like to remind my readers of God's promise to Abram, in Genesis 17:4-6, 'As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.' Although in His first words with Abram, God had promised to make a 'great nation' of him, He promised, in a beautiful prefigurement of the Gospel, to bring forth from him 'many nations', or, in John's words above, 'great multitude..........of all nations'! I believe the John's words above refer to the '144,000' that he mentioned earlier. We've noted before, as in the dreams of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, in Genesis 41:32, that when God purposes to bring something to pass very shortly, He will often repeat the warning twice, in a form of 'biblical parallelism', to show the certainty and imminence of it. ( Genesis 6:13, Matthew 24:38-42 ) Here again, we see the 'great multitude' ( Revelation 5:11 ), praising the Lamb ( Jesus ) and 'Him who sits on the throne' for His wondrous salvation, ascribing to Him all glory and honor!

All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “ Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.

When David, king of Israel fled from his son Absalom; he was inspired to write these words, in Psalm 3:8, 'Salvation belongs to the LORD. Your blessing is upon Your people. Selah' As the multitude above, the angels carry on this refrain of David's. In Isaiah 44:3, God promised, 'I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring' ( Joel 2:28 & 29 ) He also said, in Isaiah 65:8, speaking this 'multitude which no man could number', 'As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one says,Do not destroy it, for a blessing is in it,’ so will I do for My servants’ sake, that I may not destroy them all', and in Ezekiel 34:26, that 'I will make them and the places all around My hill a blessing; and I will cause showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing'. Luke recorded the Ascension of Jesus in the 24th chapter of his gospel with these words, 'Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising andj[j] blessing God. Amen.[k]' ( verses 51-53 ) In particular I would like my readers, to notice the similarities between verse 53 and the 'worship in Heaven' that John records. Finally; Paul wrote to the Ephesian church, 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ' ( Ephesians 1:3 ) The blessings that He received in the Revelation are ours!

Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?” And I said to him, “Sir,[b] you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters.[c] And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

'For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.' ( Matthew 24:21, ( Mark 13:19, Romans 8:35 )

Jesus spoke these words to His disciples after they had asked Him about 'the end of the age' ( Matthew 24:3 ). The Jewish historian known as Flavius Josephus, who defected to the Romans during the Roman conquest of Palestine in AD63-70, referring to the increasing wickedness and lawlessness ( Matthew 23:27 28, II Thessalonians 2:7 ) of certain men, wrote 'God, out of his hatred of these men's wickedness, rejected our city; and as for the temple, he no longer esteemed it sufficiently pure for him to inhabit therein, but brought the Romans upon us, and threw a fire upon the city to purge it; and brought upon us, our wives, and children, slavery, as desirous to make us wiser by our calamities' in the Preface to his 'Wars of the Jews'. Bringing to mind the opening of the third seal, in the previous study, Josephus writes, in chapter 12 of book 5 of this same work; 'For God had blinded their minds for the transgressions they had been guilty of, nor could they see how much greater forces the Romans had than those that were now expelled, no more than they could discern how a famine was creeping upon them; for hitherto they had fed themselves out of the public miseries, and drank the blood of the city', and further, in chapter 1 of book 6, 'It was now a miserable case, and a sight that would justly bring tears into our eyes, how men stood as to their food, while the more powerful had more than enough, and the weaker were lamenting [for want of it.] But the famine was too hard for all other passions, and it is destructive to nothing so much as to modesty; for what was otherwise worthy of reverence was in this case despised; insomuch that children pulled the very morsels that their fathers were eating out of their very mouths, and what was still more to be pitied, so did the mothers do as to their infants; and when those that were most dear were perishing under their hands, they were not ashamed to take from them the very last drops that might preserve their lives: and while they ate after this manner, yet were they not concealed in so doing; but the seditious every where came upon them immediately, and snatched away from them what they had gotten from others; for when they saw any house shut up, this was to them a signal that the people within had gotten some food; whereupon they broke open the doors, and ran in, and took pieces of what they were eating almost up out of their very throats, and this by force: the old men, who held their food fast, were beaten; and if the women hid what they had within their hands, their hair was torn for so doing; nor was there any commiseration shown either to the aged or to the infants, but they lifted up children from the ground as they hung upon the morsels they had gotten, and shook them down upon the floor.'

These 'arrayed in white robes', according to the elder that spoke to John, were those who had obeyed God, and escaped this 'great tribulation' ( Amos 9:4-6, Luke 21:35 ( Matthew 24 ), being warned by Jesus Himself. I believe that this would also include those Christians who had 'overcome', in Revelation 3:4 & 5, as well as those one who all 'died in faith', listed in Hebrews 11. Now they worship God continually before His throne and are eternally in His presence. Some would assert that this refers to our state ( as Christians ) after physical death, but I would like to remind my readers of Jesus' words in John 14:23, 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him' ( Revelation 21:3 ). Referring to these people blessed by the Lord, Isaiah wrote, 'They shall neither hunger nor thirst, neither heat nor sun shall strike them; for He who has mercy on them will lead them, even by the springs of water He will guide them' ( Isaiah 49:10, John 6:35 ). Remember too, what Jesus told the woman at the well in Samaria, in John 4:13 & 14, 'Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life'. In Psalm 36:9, David blesses God, praising Him and saying 'For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light'. The prophet Jeremiah acknowledges this too, in Jeremiah 17:13, when he laments Israels unfaithfulness and apostasy. He writes, in God's words, 'Those who depart from Me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters' ( Jeremiah 2:13 ). Isaiah prophesies of this coming New Covenant in Christ in these words, which should sound somewhat familiar to most of us, 'He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the LORD has spoken' ( Isaiah 25:8 ). More familiar, maybe, are the Lord's words, in Isaiah 65:19, concerning the 'new heavens and new earth', 'I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people; the voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, nor the voice of crying'.

May God bless you with understanding of the truth of His Revelation to us, and, as always, may He receive all the glory, for I want none!

In the service of His fulfilled Kingdom,
and for His glory,
Charles Shank

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Studies in the Book of the Revelation of Jesus the Christ, the Son of God ( the visions ( the seals ) Pt. 3

Keys to Understanding the Book of Revelation

'The whole vision has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one who is literate, saying, “Read this, please.” And he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” Then the book is delivered to one who is illiterate, saying, “Read this, please.” And he says, “I am not literate.”' ( Isaiah 29:11 )

We read in the last study how none was found worthy to loose the seven seals of the book of God's judgment: harking back to a similar circumstance in Isaiah's day, we can see, in the passage prior to the one above, that the reason that no one was able to read the book was that the Almighty had 'poured out'( Hebrew נסך ) on them 'the spirit of deep sleep'. ( Let me emphasize, once again the significance of the 'seven' seals ( as the 'seven' churches ): the idea of a completeness ( Revelation 15:1 ), a finality of God's judgment upon His covenant people )

The first part of John's vision of the Revelation of Jesus the Christ was seen to be in 'Heaven' itself, and the worship that is continually offered there because of the righteous judgments of God. In our previous study we noted at the beginning that a book was revealed in the hand of Him who sat on the throne ( God ) , that John wept because no one was found worth to open the book and to read, and set loose, it's judgments, and that 'heaven and earth' exulted because the Lamb ( Son of God ) prevailed to loose it's seals. As we begin the third part of this study, we see John's witness of the loosing of these judgments.

Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals;[a] and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, “Come and see.” And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.

It is interesting to note here, as we have noted before, the circumstances of John's vision. Taking place in 'Heaven', or the presence of God, one of the four 'living creatures', significant, I believe, of God's children, 'from every nation under heaven' ( Acts 2:5 ), when the Lamb had prevailed to open the book and read it's judgments, called to John, 'in the Spirit', to come and witness the vision. As this first seal is opened; John 'sees' a man on a white horse, armed as it were for battle. Zechariah, in chapter 1 of the book of his prophecy reports 'seeing several different sorts of horses in a vision sent him by God.

'On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to Zechariah the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet: I saw by night, and behold, a man riding on a red horse, and it stood among the myrtle trees in the hollow; and behind him were horses: red, sorrel, and white. Then I said, “My lord, what are these?” So the angel who talked with me said to me, “I will show you what they are.' ( Zechariah 1:7-9 ) The angel goes on to tell the prophet that these were 'ones whom the LORD has sent to walk to and fro throughout the earth.' Just as these horses represented God's judgment on 'the nations at ease', though they were but the instruments of His righteous indignation, so this horse in John's vision, among other things, represents 'the sent one', the instrument of God's righteous judgment, sent to punish ( and destroy ) the enemies of God's people. as we've discussed before, the 'bow' is significant of strength, whether it be of an individual or a corporate body of people, a nation. Referring to his former glory, before God tested his patience, Job said, in Job 29:20, 'My glory is fresh within me, and my bow is renewed in my hand'. In Psalm 37:15, David prophesies of God's judgment on the wicked, taking away their strength; 'Their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken', while in Isaiah 13:18, we read of the prowess of the Babylonians in their evil deeds. 'Also their bows will dash the young men to pieces, and they will have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eye will not spare children'. In Genesis 49, when Jacob, or Israel, gathered his sons together for a final time to prophesy how God would treat their descendants 'in the last days'; he spoke these words concerning his son Joseph, a type of the Christ, in verse 24; 'The archers have bitterly grieved him, shot at him and hated him, but his bow remained in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel).' ( Daniel 2:1-45, I Peter 2:4-6 )

When He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come and see.”[b] Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword.

When Jesus revealed the second seal of judgment; John again heard one of the 'living creatures' telling him to witness this judgment. He saw a vision, again, not unlike that of Ezekiel's, this time of a red horse, the rider of which was given a 'great sword' with which he was to 'turn brother against brother' ( Matthew 10:21 ( Mark 13:12 ), I John 3:15 ), not to 'bring peace, but a sword' ( Matthew 10:34 ). Before we go much further, my readers may take not that these first two 'seal' judgments are very similar, in effect, at least: might this be yet another example of a 'biblical parallelism', revealing to 'His servant' that these things that he 'saw' were sure and certain, 'soon to be revealed' ( I Peter 1:5 )?

When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come and see.” So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart;[c] of wheat for a denarius,[d] and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.

Along the same lines; a similar circumstance occurred in the days of Elisha the prophet, recorded in II Kings 7, when the armies of Syria threatened God's children. We see that God's righteous judgment on the Syrian army resulted in the children of Israel being able to buy a 'seah of fine flour' and 'two seahs of barley' for a shekel ( Deuteronomy 28:51 ), and in John's vision of the third 'woe' pronounced upon the enemies of God's people is portrayed a like circumstance, known traditionally as the plague of 'Famine', in which, once again, goods are sold at a higher price than normal, and not as readily available as usual. The rider with the scales in his hand brings to mind the occurrence in Daniel 5, in which Belshazzar, a successor of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, one of the enemies of God's people, is apprised of imminent disaster pronounced upon him for his evil deeds. In verse 27, Daniel prophesied to the king 'You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting'. Reminding us, in advance, of God's 'good news' ( Isaiah 49:6 ); I Kings 17:8-16 tells us a story typical of the Gospel message. In verse 9; God told Elisha, 'Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there', and in verse 16 we read that 'the bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry'. In the Old Testament Scriptures, abundance of 'wine and oil' refer most often to blessings of the Lord. In passages like Exodus 29:40 and Leviticus 23:13; we can see that both wine and oil were to be used in offering sacrifices to God. Reminding God's children of Israel of the blessings of obedience to His covenant, in Deuteronomy 7:13, Moses prophesies, 'And He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your land, your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flock, in the land of which He swore to your fathers to give you' ( see also Deuteronomy 11:14 ). Most familiar are David's words in Psalm 104:14 & 15, 'He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the service of man, that he may bring forth food from the earth, and wine that makes glad the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread which strengthens man’s heart', while in Jeremiah 31:12, the prophet speaks of the goodness of God in these terms, 'Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, streaming to the goodness of the LORD— for wheat and new wine and oil, for the young of the flock and the herd; their souls shall be like a well-watered garden, and they shall sorrow no more at all'. Haggai 1:11 records that God withheld His covenant blessings because of the disobedience of His children; 'I called for a drought on the land and the mountains, on the grain and the new wine and the oil, on whatever the ground brings forth, on men and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands', and in the parable of 'the Good Samaritan', as recorded in Luke 10:25-37, Jesus used 'wine and oil' as a healing salve. 'So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him'. When Jesus pronounced this third woe upon His disobedient children; He used the Greek verb ἀδικέω ( which has a meaning, more of 'to act unjustly or wickedly', than of to hurt, or harm ) to allay the fears of His people, telling His servant, as He told Job's 'Satan' in Job 1:12, 'Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person' , in other words, 'thus far you may come ( or go ), but no farther ( Job 38:11 )!

When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come and see.” So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.

The Hebrew Scriptures are filled with examples of the Angel of the Lord acting as a messenger of death, executing God's judgment on the wicked, and even threatening His own people when they required chastening. Most notable of all, of course, were the events of the first Passover, recorded in Exodus 12, where the obedient children of God were divided from the wicked, being saved from death by the significant sacrifice of a lamb, and the sign of blood. 'For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt'. ( verse 12 ) Earlier, in Exodus 4:24; we see that God threatened Moses own 'flesh and blood' when Moses had neglected to give his son the sign of circumcision. 'And it came to pass on the way, at the encampment, that the LORD met him and sought to kill him'. After David had sinned in numbering Israel, in II Samuel 24:16, we read 'And when the angel[b] stretched out His hand over Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented from the destruction, and said to the angel who was destroying the people, “It is enough; now restrain your hand.” And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah[c] the Jebusite.' ( see also I Chronicles 21:15 & 16 ) Isaiah 37:6 records that 'Then the angel[a] of the LORD went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead'. These are the primary examples ( that I could find ) that show God Himself, or His Angel ( usually indicative of the Son of God ) taking an adversarial position, whether it be against His own people, in chastisement, or as the Angel of Death to their enemies. When John saw this fourth 'seal' judgment; he used the Greek ᾅδης , or Hades to describe what 'followed' after this rider. Without getting into a lengthy discussion of what this Hell, or Hades, might be referring to; just suffice it to say that, aside from Greek mythology ( where it referred to the underworld, or the abode of the dead ), it most often, except for Luke 16:19-31, refers to 'the grave', or what naturally follows after physical death ( Matthew 8:22, Luke 9:60 ) My readers may be interested to note, as well, the multiplicity of 'four' in this passage: the rider, in this 'fourth' seal of judgment,was given power over the earth ( Greek γῆ ,or 'land' ), to kill and destroy by four different means. Death by 'beasts of the earth' came in fulfillment of God's promise of adverse judgment upon His disobedient children, as found in passages such as Deuteronomy 28:26, Jeremiah 7:33 ( 15:3 ), and Jeremiah 34:20.

When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.

Acts 7:54-60 records the stoning of Stephen at the hands of an angry and unrepentant Jewish mob. 'When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.' Paul himself suffered persecution and nearly was stoned to death by this same sort of angry Jewish mob, as recorded in Acts 14:19, 'Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead'. Acts 12:2 records that Herod, the false king of the Jews, during his persecution of some from the church, 'killed James the brother of John with the sword'. The whole book of Acts, of course, is a record of these 'birth pangs' ( Micah 4:10, Romans 8:22, Revelation 12:4-6 ) of the church, and gives us somewhat of an idea who these 'souls under the altar' might be, but we might think also of these words in Hebrews 11:13, speaking of those that we call 'Old Testament saints'; 'These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them,[c] embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth'. Although we many not have many examples from the Old Testament Scriptures of these 'saints' being persecuted for their faith; we can see, from Genesis 39:7-20, that Joseph was put in prison as a result of not succumbing to the 'lusts of the flesh', while farther back, in Genesis 4:1-15, we read of the first murder in Scripture, committed because 'By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain' ( Hebrews 11:4 ). The best example that we have, though, is found in Jesus' own words to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:34 & 35; 'Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.' ( especially note verse 36 )

The prophet Habakkuk, in the 1st chapter of his prophecy, and verse 2, uttered much the same words as the 'souls under the altar', in John's vision, when he asked, 'O LORD, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear? Even cry out to You, “Violence!” And You will not save'? In Numbers 14:11, which circumstance led up to the Revelation of Jesus Christ; God first asked this familiar question of Moses: 'How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them?' Again, through David, in Psalm 4:2, He asks 'How long, O you sons of men, will you turn my glory to shame? How long will you love worthlessness and seek falsehood? Selah' Psalm 79:5, a psalm of Asaph, asks this question regarding the desolation of Jerusalem, 'How long, LORD? Will You be angry forever? Will Your jealousy burn like fire?' ( See also Psalm 80:4 ) In Psalm 89:46 and 90:13, we see the psalmists asking the very same question. The prophet Isaiah asked this of our Lord, in Isaiah 6:11, concerning the purposed desolations of His people, 'Then I said, “Lord, how long?” And He answered:“ Until the cities are laid waste and without inhabitant, the houses are without a man, the land is utterly desolate', and finally, after his vision of the horses ( which we mentioned earlier ), in Zechariah 1:12, the prophet recorded that 'Then the Angel of the LORD answered and said, “O LORD of hosts, how long will You not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which You were angry these seventy years?”''. Having discussed the 'white robes' before; we will not dwell long on them, except to remind my readers that they are indicative of being clothed, or covered ( Psalm 132:9 ) with the righteousness of Christ ( Philippians 3:9, Revelation 3:5 )

I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold,[e] there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon[f] became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place.

Prophesying of imminent judgment on Judah and Jerusalem, Isaiah warned his people, 'You will be punished by the LORD of hosts with thunder and earthquake and great noise, with storm and tempest and the flame of devouring fire.' ( Isaiah 29:6 ) Jesus spoke of the 'beginning' of the prophesied 'last days' with similar words, in Matthew 24:7; 'For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences,[b] and earthquakes in various places.' ( see also Mark 13:8, Luke 21:11 ) In a kind of typological preview, or physical picture of this event; Acts 16:26 records that 'Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.' ( Zechariah 9:11, Isaiah 42:7 ) Speaking of the destruction of the adversaries of God people in the coming 'day of the Lord'; the prophet Joel wrote 'The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.' ( Joel 2:31, Acts 2:20 ) Isaiah used similar language in prophesying of the fall of Babylon ( typical of the enemies of His people ), when he wrote 'For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine.' ( Isaiah 13:10 ) In language reminiscent of the 'Creation Account' in Genesis 1, God reveals to the Pharaoh his 'last days', by saying 'When I put out your light, I will cover the heavens, and make its stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light' ( Ezekiel 32:7 ) Again, from Matthew 24, verse 29, Jesus told His disciples, 'Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.' Again from Isaiah's prophesy, in chapter 34; we read, in verse 4, speaking of God's righteous judgment on the enemies of His people, 'All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll; all their host shall fall down as the leaf falls from the vine, and as fruit falling from a fig tree' ( see also II Peter 3:10-12 ) When God revealed to the prophet Jeremiah what He was about to accomplish upon the disobedient children of His people; He used very physical language to refer to the chastisement of His children: 'I beheld the mountains, and indeed they trembled, and all the hills moved back and forth.' ( Jeremiah 4:24 ) When the prophet Habakkuk made his prayer to God, pleading, 'In wrath remember mercy' he noted that 'He stood and measured the earth; He looked and startled the nations. And the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills bowed' ( 4:6 ), and 'The mountains saw You and trembled' ( 4:10 ).

As we continue this study of the book of Revelation; my wish is that God may be glorified through it and that the minds of many of my readers will be strengthened and encouraged, put at ease, so to speak, with the realization that Jesus' Revelation was not, is not, about the end, or destruction of our physical universe; but was, and is, about the revealing of the Son of God, in judgment, proving beyond all shadow of doubt that He was, and is, Who He said He was!

May God bless you through this study,
In His Kingdom,
and for His glory,
Charles Shank

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Are We There Yet??

I've written many words, in several papers, on this subject, and while I'll be the first to admit that I am by no means an authority on this subject; I think that it's abundantly clear that the orthodox church has 'missed the boat', so to speak, on this subject anyway! By making such a heretical statement as this ( 'Outrageous!' you may say ); I am not trying to say that the orthodox, or catholic ( universal ) church, the visible Body of Christ, has been teaching blatant, damning error for these millenia ( although to a greater or lesser extent; I believe that they have, on some other subjects ) since Christ walked this earth. Traditionally, I believe the orthodox church, to differing degrees, has taught that there is an actual place called 'Heaven', basing this largely on passages such as John 14:2, in which Jesus comforts His disciples with 'In My Father’s house are many mansions;[a] if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.[b]', and Solomon's prayer, at the dedication of the Temple, in I Kings 8:30, 'Hear in heaven Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive' ( see also II Chronicles 30:27 ). In the John passage; Jesus uses the masculine Greek noun τόπος to describe 'Heaven', and while it does have a primarily physical meaning; it is also used metaphorically, as 'the condition or station held by one in any company or assembly' ( Hebrews 12:18-24 ): think of Jesus' words, which I've often quoted, in Luke 17:20-21, 'The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’[d] For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you'. As I was saying; traditionally, 'Heaven ( especially in some circles ) is viewed as a place, even physically speaking, among some that I've spoken to, 'somewhere out there', 'beyond the blue', 'just over Jordan', etc.; but my contention is, that as many verses as we can find to support our theory of 'Heaven'; we can find as many, or even more, that say, as Jesus above, 'the kingdom of God ( or 'Heaven'? ) is within you'. Matthew 13:24-49 are some examples of the 'kingdom of heaven' referring, not to a place, but to more of a conditional status. Again, from Matthew 18:23; we see that 'the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants'. An argument could be made, however, that 'the kingdom of heaven is obviously something different than 'Heaven' itself', but I think we can see, from Matthew 19:23 and Matthew 23:13, where Jesus pronounces judgment on the Pharisees by saying 'woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in'. When Jesus speaks, in verse 13, of those striving to enter the 'kingdom of heaven'; He uses the Greek εἰσέρχομαι , which, like τόπος above, has a very physical meaning but is also used metaphorically 'of entrance into any condition, state of things, society, employment'. In Matthew 25; Jesus again likens the 'kingdom of heaven' to 'ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom' ( verses 1-13, which most will agree, speaks of preparedness ) and 'a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them' ( verses 14-29, which speak, not only of preparedness, but of doing what we can with what God's given us ). Paul wrote, in II Timothy 4:18, 'And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom'; is this 'heavenly kingdom' the same as 'the kingdom of heaven'? If it is ( and I would say that there can be no doubt! ), then it is safe to say that 'Heaven' and the 'kingdom of heaven' are also one and the same! To 'wrap up' this little study then; in Revelation 12:10, John wrote 'I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down"' ( Matthew 6:10 )

Again; I ask the question: 'Are we there yet?'

I submit to my readers that we are! You may wonder how I can say this with any certainty, when it seems that sin still runs rampant 'in the world' ( John 16:33 ), sins such as abortion, pornography, rape, and incest, murder, and other such crimes are at their highest rates, genocide in Africa, etc. The key here, is 'in the world'; in the passage above; Jesus comforts His disciples with these words, 'These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will[d] have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.' It is 'in the world' that these things happen, not on the spiritual plane where God resides, within the hearts of true believers. This is where the 'kingdom of heaven' is, not some place that we will go in the future ( when we physically die ), but a 'place' ( Matthew 4:17, Luke 10:9 & 11 ) that came to us, in the form of Jesus Christ, who dwells in our 'hearts' through His holy Spirit! As we saw in the examples above, in Matthew 13, and other places, Jesus' parables of this 'kingdom of heaven' had to do with what we, His disciples, are to occupy ourselves with, whether you believe we are there yet, or not. We are to be acting as 'healing leaves' ( Revelation 22:2 ( Ezekiel 47:8 ), doing what we can with what we have been given, again, whether it be to aid in bringing His kingdom 'on earth as it is in heaven', or simply to further, to build ( up ) His kingdom, through the strengthening and edification of His people.

Another question that I have recently posed is, 'If we are there, should we stop driving?'

The answer to this question is just as simple: 'No!'

In Hebrews 12:22-24; the Author wrote 'you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.' However you choose to read this; it is plain to me that the writer, at the very least, equates Jesus and His blood with this 'Mount Zion' and 'the heavenly Jerusalem'. Since we have arrived at our destination, or rather, our destination has arrived at us; should we just sit back and rest on our 'laurels'? God forbid! As long as murder, rape, and incest, abortion and pornography run rampant 'in this world'; we a Christians, the 'healing leaves' of the Revelation have a duty and a responsibility to 'heal' the nations of these diseases, to do our part to rid them of this sickness that is so pervasive ( and persuasive ) in their lives!

'Are We There Yet?' Through the grace of Christ, yes! 'Do We Stop Driving?' Again, through the grace of Christ; No!

In the service of the King,
and by His grace alone,
Charles Shank

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Studies in the Book of the Revelation of Jesus the Christ, the Son of God ( the visions ( Worship in 'Heaven' ) Pt.2

Keys to Understanding the Book of Revelation

Previously; we studied what John reported seeing when his 'eyes' were opened and he saw into 'Heaven' and Him who sat on the throne there, and the worship that He continually received: now we enter upon a study of the revelation of God's righteous judgment on His Old Covenant children.

Moreover the LORD said to me, “Take a large scroll, and write on it with a man’s pen concerning Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz.[a] ( Isaiah 8:1 )
Now it came to pass in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, that this word came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying: “Take a scroll of a book and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel, against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah even to this day. ( Jeremiah 36:1 & 2 )

Traditionally, I believe, as I've written before, the Revelation of Jesus Christ has been viewed as relating, if not to the 'end' of the physical universe as we know it, then at least to the judgment of the nations, not least of Rome itself, those who persecuted the nation of Israel, as many view it, God's special people, when in actuality, it is yet another ( in finality ) judgment of God upon apostate Israel, His Old Covenant children in type. Let us now return to the throne room where we left John, no doubt partaking in the worship of awe which he observed.

And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals.

In Daniel 12:4, when God was revealing to His servant what would happen to his people in 'the latter days', He told Daniel, 'shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end', and later, in the same chapter, 'Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end'. As we have seen in our studies of Scripture; the number seven, particularly in the prophetic Scriptures, is often clearly indicative of a perfection, a wholeness, a completeness. Several Scriptures that show this are Genesis 4:24 ( 5:31 ), Leviticus 4:6 & 17 ( 16:19 ), Numbers 23:1, 4,14 & 29, Deuteronomy 28:7 & 25, Joshua 6:15 & 16, Judges 16:7 & 13, Ruth 4:15, I Kings 19:18, II Kings 4:35 ( 5: 10 & 14 ), Psalm 12:6, 119:164, Proverbs 6:31, Isaiah 11:15, 30:26, Jeremiah 29:10, Ezekiel 39:9 & 12, Daniel 3:19, 9:24, Micah 5:6, Zechariah 3:9, Matthew 12:45, and 18:22.

Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?

John saw this 'angel' or 'messenger of God', not only as a messenger of God, but as a 'strong, or mighty' messenger of God. Remember that back in Matthew 24:36, Jesus told His disciples that 'of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven'. The angels themselves, 'the spirits of just men made perfect', who dwelt in the very presence of God, were not even able, or as the text says, 'worthy' to 'open the seals', to know the day or the hour, which God the Father had before determined to loose His judgment on the 'world' of Old Covenant Judaism.

When Belshazzar, king of Babylon made a feast for his courtiers, wrongly using the spoils that he had taken from God's temple at Jerusalem, as recorded in Daniel 5; God wrote on the wall of the palace a message of impending and imminent doom upon the kingdom of Babylon. We see, in verse 8 that, 'all the king’s wise men came, but they could not read the writing, or make known to the king its interpretation.' As we continue to read, we find that one was found who was able to read the writing, and interpret the message for the trembling king, for he ( Daniel ) was found worth, by God, to relay God's message to the king. John wrote, above, that 'no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth' was able to loose the seals, arguably, of this same message of impending doom and destruction upon His typical Old Covenant children which Daniel, as in chapter 12 of his prophecy, had been told to 'seal up'; but we will see that One was found worthy, in fact, the very same one whose Spirit had made Daniel able to interpret the 'writing on the wall', as well as many meaningful and prophetic ( revealing ) dreams.

So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read[a] the scroll, or to look at it. But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose[b] its seven seals.”

At the grave-side of Lazarus, as recorded in John 11; we see that 'Jesus wept' ( verse 35 ), not so much because Lazarus had died, but because of the blindness and hardness of heart of His own people ( Romans 11:25 ), most of whom did not believe in His divinity and ability to do as He had promised, not having been found worthy before God ( Philippians 1:29 )! As I said above; One was found worthy to reveal the message of God's judgment, the very One that Jacob had foreseen back in Genesis 49:8-12, the same One that God Himself had promised the serpent in Genesis 3:15, 'And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.' ( see also Romans 16:20 ) Isaiah had much to say concerning this 'Root of David'; beginning in chapter 11 of his book of prophecy, he wrote, 'There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,and a Branch shall grow out of his roots', and 'in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, Who shall stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious', while in Isaiah 53; we find that, 'He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him', and Jeremiah prophesied ( Jeremiah 17:8 ) of those who put their trust in this 'Root', 'For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear[b] when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit' ( Psalm 1:3 ). John uses the Greek verb νικάω here, giving a more literal meaning of 'to conquer', and lending more credence to the fact that this is just more metaphorical language, pointing back to His ( God's ) promises back in Genesis 3:15 and Romans 16:20, for instance, of One to come, who would 'conquer' the enemies, the adversaries ( satans ) of God's people.

And I looked, and behold,[c] in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.

My readers probably are somewhat familiar, anyway, with the story of the typical substitutionary atonement that God made for His friend Abraham when he, in perfect obedience, would have offered his beloved son Isaac as a burnt sacrifice, in Genesis 22:13;

Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.

I'm sure that John, when he set his pen to paper after seeing this vision, was inspired by this story, as well as other Hebrew Scriptures, such as Exodus 12:3-13, when God instituted the Passover sacrifice of a lamb in place of the firstborn of all those who were obedient. Isaiah prophesied of this substitutionary atonement that God would make for His people, in Isaiah 53:7, where God reveals the suffering that His Son would undergo in our place.
He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.

We saw earlier that horns are often indicative of strength, whether that of an individual or a nation. Asaph wrote, in Psalm 75:10, in praise of our mighty and just God: 'All the horns of the wicked I will also cut off, but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted', while Daniel's visions in chapters 7 & 8 of his prophecy are quite familiar to most of my readers as well, as speaking of the strength of the adversaries of God's people ( see also Zechariah 1 ). John saw this 'lamb, as though it had been slain' ( Revelation 1:18 ), and having 'seven horns and seven eyes', indicative of the perfectness and completeness, even to infinity, of the strength, power, and vision of our Lord, Jesus the Christ, the Son of God!

We saw earlier in this chapter, that this scroll was 'written inside and on the back', full of the revelation of a righteously angry and just God: Ezekiel 2:9 & 10 record that 'Now when I looked, there was a hand stretched out to me; and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. Then He spread it before me; and there was writing on the inside and on the outside, and written on it were lamentations and mourning and woe'. God then tells the prophet, in Ezekiel 3:10 & 11, '“Son of man, receive into your heart all My words that I speak to you, and hear with your ears. And go, get to the captives, to the children of your people, and speak to them and tell them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ whether they hear, or whether they refuse.' When the 'lamb' took the scroll from the hand of Him who sat on the throne; He thus signified His acceptance of the mission that God, His Father had given Him, to judge the nations ( Psalm 82:8 ( Psalm 2:7-9 ).

Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: “ You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us[d] kings[e] and priests to our God; and we[f] shall reign on the earth.

Thus follows a very worshipful scene, in which the 'host of heaven' joins in adoration, ascribing worth to their God. Besides having 'harps' with which to bring praise to His name, this 'host' also brings manifold 'bowls of incense', which John explains, are significant of the prayers of the saints ( Revelation 6:9-11 ( Ezekiel 37:1-14 ), imprecatory prayers ( Psalm 9:19, 94:2, 109:7, Isaiah 5:3 ) against those who were their adversaries and persecutors ( Acts 8: 1-3, 13:50 ). Psalm 98 starts out, 'Oh, sing to the LORD a new song! For He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory.' In Psalm 144:9 & 10, David wrote, 'I will sing a new song to You, O God; on a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You, The One who gives salvation to kings, who delivers David His servant from the deadly sword.' Psalm 149 brings praise to God for His judgment and salvation; 'Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, and His praise in the assembly of saints. 'We are commanded, in Isaiah 42:10, to 'Sing to the LORD a new song, and His praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you coastlands and you inhabitants of them!' because of the revelation of His Son. I am reminded, as well, of 'The Song of Moses' in Exodus 15:1-17; 'I will sing to the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!, which Moses sang after God's gloriously righteous judgment on the Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea ( see also Revelation 15:3 ). When God instituted His typical covenant with the children of Israel which He had just brought out of bondage; He spoke these words to them, as recorded in Exodus 19:5 & 6; 'Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.' Peter uses similar language in I Peter 2:9; 'But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light' . John further notes that this 'host of heaven' proclaimed that 'we shall reign on the earth'; remember when Jesus had told His disciples, back in Matthew 19:28, 'Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel', and in a parallel passage in Luke 22:28-30, 'But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials. And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.' In the 32nd chapter of his prophesy; Isaiah spoke of the coming 'Reign of Righteousness', saying in verse 1 that 'a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule with justice', while we find in Daniel 7:27, we see that 'Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him'. All this should remind us, of course, of God's words to our first 'parents' back in the Garden, in Genesis 1:28, 'Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: “ Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!"

'But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.'

The Author wrote these words to His people, in Hebrews 12:22-24, reminding them prior to this passage that they had not come to 'the mountain that[c] may be touched', for, as Jesus said in Luke 17:20 & 21, 'The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!;[d] For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you'. David wrote of this 'mountain' in Psalm 68:17; 'The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of thousands; the Lord is among them as in Sinai, in the Holy Place.' In Daniel 7:10, when the prophet had his first vision of 'Heaven'; he wrote 'A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court[b] was seated, and the books were opened', and Jude 14 records that 'Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints"' We have seen, in these and other passages, that the word 'thousand' is often indicative, not always of a literal or certain number but of 'a great number, even to infinity', a limitless number as in Hebrews 12 above, 'an innumerable company': a few examples are Exodus 20:6 ( 34:7 ), Deuteronomy 1:11 ( 5:10 ), Deuteronomy 33:2 ( 17 ), I Kings 19:18, I Chronicles 16:15 ( Psalm 105:8 ), Psalm 3:6, 50:10, Daniel 5:1, I Corinthians 14:19, and Revelation 7:4. The focus here, again, is the worship of an almighty and just God, who had become a man and shed His blood that He might redeem them from the bondage of sin, and that because of that redemption they might once again rule with Him, taking up the reigns of the dominion that He had given them back in the Garden!

And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “ Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!”[g] Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four[h] elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.[i]

In an example of this 'biblical parallelism' of which I often speak, John here reiterates that all God's creation now worships Him, bowing the knee, and praising Him for what He has done. In the previous passage, it was those in 'Heaven', 'around the throne' ascribing worth, and praising God, and in the passage above, he writes that 'every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them'. Paul used this sort of language in Philippians 2:10, writing that 'at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth'. Neither Paul or John were trying to tell us that there were creatures living under the earth ( although it could be argued that those Old Testament saints, or 'souls under the altar' ( Revelation 6:9 ), who had 'fallen asleep' ( I Thessalonians 4:13 ) were 'under the earth' ); just that all creation sings the praises of it's almighty Maker! When John writes of those creatures 'such as are in the sea'; he refers simply to those, I believe, of the nations, specifically those that were outside of the covenant that God had instituted through Moses. ( Psalm 65:7, 98:7, Isaiah 5:30, 57:20, 60:5, Jeremiah 6:23, 49:23, Ezekiel 26:3, 47:8 ( Revelation 22:2 ), Amos 9:6, Habakkuk 3:15, Zechariah 9:4, 10:11 ) Again, as we noted above John repeats his previous assertion in the last passage ( Genesis 41:25-29 ), reporting that 'the four living creatures...........and the twenty-four elders' fell down and worshiped 'Him who lives forever'.

I will stop here for now by saying that I hope that God receives all the glory; I want none! I do hope by writing to begin, maybe, to correct some of the misunderstandings that the church has labored under, concerning this Revelation of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

in His service,
and for His Kingdom,
Charles Shank