The Pagan Path

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

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Messenger of God ( a companion to 'Angels, Unaware' )

In the Hebrew Scriptures, we have many many examples of what has traditionally ( not necessarily wrongly ) been called a 'theophany', or an appearance, usually in human form, of the pre--incarnate Son of God. According to the Westminster Dictionary of the Bible ( Dr. John D. Davis, Princeton,1944 ), it was 'a manifestation of God to man, by actual appearance'. Although many ( theologians and otherwise ) have assigned the appearance of Melchizedek ( who appears only three times in the entire canon of Scripture-Genesis 14:18-20, Psalm 110:4 ( quoted several times by the writer to the Hebrews, in 5:6, 10, 6:20, and 7:17 & 20 ) and in the book of Hebrews ( as mentioned ), as a 'theophany', some debate has been made over the identity ( whether real or imagined ) of this Melchizedek, king of Salem ( Jerusalem ), priest of the Most High God ( Hebrew 'el 'elyown ). Most scholars, the above mentioned included, view this Melchizedek as a real person, a Caananite king who ruled Jerusalem before the Israelite invasion and occupation of the Promised Land. I see this as highly reasonable and probable, but I see too, as the writer to the Hebrews did, that he was a type of Christ, a picture that we can look at and study, in the Old Covenant Scriptures, foreshadowing the revelation of Jesus Christ in the ( made ) New Covenant!

The Angel/angel of the Lord makes many appearances throughout the books of Genesis, Exodus ( once? ), several times in the book of Numbers, and in the book of the Judges. ( He also appears, as we'll see, in the books of Deuteronomy and Joshua, but I'll leave that for later! )

In Genesis 16:7; after the episode where Abram and Sarai, in their impatience and rebellion ( disbelief ) resorted to 'natural' means in order to bring forth an heir from Abram's own loins, decided to have Abram take Hagar ( as wife? ) and produce an heir with her help, and after Sarai, 'repenting' of her decision, drove Hagar into the wilderness; the Angel of the Lord ( ostensibly the pre-incarnate Christ ) revealed Himself to her and promised that her offspring, though not as acceptable as others, would become a great nation as well. Later, in Genesis 21:17, the angel of the Lord once again finds Hagar in the wilderness, she having been sent from the presence of both Abraham and Sarah. As they were about to perish for lack of water, the angel of the Lord reminded her of His previous promise and opened her eyes ( II Kings 6:17 ) and revealed to her the saving presence of water. This messenger, theophany or not, and the evidence could really point either way ( although it is fairly evident that, at the very least, as Dr. Davis points out above, that God manifested Himself to man, 'in actual appearance' ), indicated in a foreshadow, the mystery of the Gospel, which brought the 'Good News' of salvation to Gentile as well as Jew!

I'm sure that all of us are more or less familiar with 'The Burning Bush' incident, recorded in Exodus 3. The Angel of the Lord appeared to Moses, this time, not in human form ( that we can tell ) but as a fire that burned, but did not consume the bush ( see Daniel 3 and Hebrews 12:29 ). From the words of Scripture; I believe that we can be certain that this was a theophany, if for no other reason than that Moses was commanded to remove his sandals, 'for the place where you stand ( is ) holy ground'. As we continue reading, we are assured even further that this was indeed a theophany, and that Moses stood in the presence of the most holy God! ( Much later, in Numbers 20:16; Moses recounted to the king of Edom, through who's land they were trying to pass, that when they had cried out to the Lord ( because of their tribulation in the land of Egypt ), 'He heard our voice, and sent the Angel, and brought us up out of Egypt'. ) We know that, physically speaking, Moses had the great task of leading the children of Israel out of Egypt; his was the hand of God that loosed the terrible ten plagues on Egypt, his was the hand of God that parted the waters of the Red Sea, and brought the tribes out of bondage.

Numbers 22 recounts for us the story of Balaam and his overly wise...........donkey. In verses 22-35, we read how that the Angel of the Lord stood as an adversary ( Hebrew 'satan' ) to Balaam's wicked choice. As the story unfolds, we perceive that the donkey could see this Angel standing in his way, but that Balaam was not able to. The reason for this is revealed in verse 31; 'the Lord opened Balaam's eyes': the donkey was wiser than his master, seemingly, not because of any inherent ability ( note what God did inn verse 28 ), but because Balaam's eyes had not been opened! This is traditionally viewed as a theophany, as well ( and doubtless is ) but this could as easily been a human messenger being used, as Moses was, the mouth and hand of God.

When Joshua was ready to ( about to ) lead the 'children' of Israel into the Promised Land, that he was met with a Man with a drawn sword ( think of Numbers 22:23 and Genesis 3:24 ). This man comfortingly assured Joshua that He was the commander of the Lord's army, not that He was on one side or the other, but Joshua had his eyes opened as to whom this Person was, and gave obeisance, as was proper, and fell to the ground ( bowed ) before Him. This was without doubt a theophany, although it is interesting that the Author here would use the term 'man' to describe Almighty God!

The book of Judges has recorded for us the many failings ( sins ) of the 'children' of Israel, and the numerous times that God raised up a certain person from among them to be His messenger, and to deliver them out of their tribulation. In a little-known ( or repeated ) example of a theophany; the Angel appeared ( chapter 2 ) to remind His 'charges' how He had led them out of Egypt, and 'brought them to the land of which I swore to your fathers; and I said, 'I will never break My covenant with you'. Verse one brings up an interesting question; it reads, 'then the Angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim': why, except that Gilgal was pretty much the base of operations for the Israelite conquest of the land, up till the time of king David even, and assumably the Ark ( of the Covenant ) rested there, would the Author have recorded that the Angel came up from Gilgal to Bochim,? If this Angel was simply the messenger of the Lord, even a mere man, this statement would seem to make more sense, but even so, it may be said with much certainty, that this was a theophany.

After the children of Israel had repeated their pattern of rebelling against God, then being sold into captivity or being oppressed by foreign nations, upon which they would cry unto the God they had rebelled against, and God raised up a deliverer, several times; we read, in chapter 6, of the Angel that came to visit a lowly ( think Luke 1:26, 27 ) farmer. In verse 11; we read that 'the Angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah'. Unless this was purely metaphorical; why would the translators record that the Angel 'sat' ( Hebrew yashab - to dwell, remain, sit, abide ) under this terebinth? This is without doubt, one of the clearest examples of a theophany, which we will see as we continue. Gideon does not immediately recognize Him as The Angel, however, for though he calls Him 'lord'; he uses the Hebrew 'adoni', which is used of men who have authority, or command, over other men, as in the case of Adoni-zedek ( king of Jerusalem at the time of the conquest of Canaan ), which meant 'the Lord is righteousness' ( Joshua 10:1-3 ), and Adoni-Bezek ( lord of Bezek ), who was one of the first kings that the Israelites conquered in the land ( Judges 1:5-7 ).

( An interesting note to be made here; verse ll of chapter 16 of the Book of Jasher ( righteousness ) reads 'And Adonizedek king of Jerusalem, the same was Shem, went out with his men to meet Abram and his people, with bread and wine, and they remained together in the valley of Melech. ' If indeed it was Adoni-Zedek, and not Melchi-Zedek ( king of righteousness ) that met Abram returning from the rescue of the captives ( Genesis 14:18 ); it would make perfect sense that the writer to the Hebrews ( 7:1-3 ) would write that he was 'without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life'. )

Back now, to the story of Gideon; God begins to reveal Himself to the eyes of Gideon's understanding, I believe, when, rather than answering Gideon's question ( verse 13 ) directly; he simply states ( or answers a question with another question, as Jesus once did did- Mark 11:29, 30 ), in the form of a question, 'have I not sent you?' This should have given Gideon a very good clue as to Whom he spoke, but as the Jews in Jesus' day ( Matthew 16:1, I Corinthians 1:22 ), he wasn't satisfied with this, and asked for a further sign ( verse 17 ). Gideon hurriedly gathered together a small repast ( as a sacrifice, or communion offering? ) and presented it to the Angel, whereupon He 'put out the end of the staff that was in His hand ( Exodus 14:16 ), and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire rose out of the rock and consumed............ ( them )'. Gideon now understood that he had seen God's face, and that he should die ( Exodus 33:20 ) , but God spoke ( from 'Heaven' ) and comforted him saying 'Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die', whereupon Gideon built an altar to the Lord, naming it 'The-Lord-is-peace ( 'Adoni-shalom'? )

We now come to probably one of the most popular stories in the Hebrew Scriptures and also one of the strongest examples that we have of a theophany. After Israel rebelled a few more times, was delivered into the hands of the Gentiles, and cried unto the Lord, who kept raising up deliverers for them; God delivered them into the hand of the Philistines, whom they served for forty years. Judges 13:3 reads, 'the Angel of the Lord appeared to the woman ( Manoah's wife ) and said to her, 'Indeed now, you are barren, and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and bear a son'. I believe that this may have 'rung a bell' with her, for if she knew her history, she would have remembered that the Angel had spoken to her forbear ( Genesis 18:10-14 ) much the same words. Instead, though, she went to her husband and told him of the revelation, and reported that 'A Man of God came to me, and His countenance was like the countenance of the Angel of God' ( verse 6 ). After she had reported this event; Manoah prayed to God that He would again send His Angel ( Messenger ) that he too might see Him, and hear His words. God answered his prayer, and again sent His Messenger, who reaffirmed His words to the woman. When Manoah offered to commune ( verse 15 ) with Him, not yet knowing with Whom he spoke; the Angel of the Lord told him that 'Though you detain Me, I will not eat your food. But if you offer a burnt offering, you must offer it to the Lord.' Before Manoah ( 'rest' quiet' ) offered this sacrifice, he asked the Name of this Angel, whereupon the Angel again answers a question with a question, saying 'why do you ask My Name, see it is wonderful ( pil'iy -wonderful, incomprehensible, extraordinary )? Upon this, Manoah offered the prepared burnt offering, and when the Angel ascended in the fire ( and smoke? ), he realized, at last, that something extraordinary had happened, and cried ( verse 22 ), 'We shall surely die, for we have seen God'! After his wife assured her husband that 'if the Lord desired to kill us, He would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering from our hands'; Manoah realized then, more fully, that God had heard their prayer and accepted their sacrifice when He returned to His glory , using as a 'vehicle' their willing praise. Several months later, according to the time of life, the wife of Manaoh bore a son and named him Samson ( little sun, solar ) which is typical of Christ 'the Sun of Righteousness' ( Malachi 4:2 ), and of Christians, or 'little Christs'.

In the love of Christ,
and in His Kingdom,
Charles Shank

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Studies in the Book of the Revelation of Jesus the Christ the Son of God ( the vision ( 'Manifest are Your judgments, O Lord!' ) Pt 12

Keys to Understanding the Book of Revelation

Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete.

Not to bore my readers with details, but there is so much in this verse alone that could be said. I will however, make just a few comments here concerning the 'seven angels' and the 'seven last plagues'. As we have noted throughout this study; the number 'seven' holds much significance in Bible prophecy. As in the beginning of this lofty book, the letters to the 'seven' churches of Asia were letters written to an actual ( named ) literal certain number of churches ( Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea ), but we can see that this certain number of churches ( why JUST them? ) is indicative of a wholeness, a completeness.

The 'seven last plagues' should immediately bring to mind the ten horrific ( for them ) plagues that God, through Moses and Aaron ( ironically, later, the high priest ) visited upon the Egyptians who were holding captive the 'children' of Israel, or God's covenant people ( typically ). It is interesting to note that the final plague, that became the final, crushing ( Romans 16:20 ( Psalm 91:13 ) blow to the Egyptians, was 'death'! When Jesus died upon the cross of Calvary; He fulfilled, among other prophecies, God's promise to the serpent, in Genesis 3:15, that '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'. Part of Jesus' stated purpose in coming to earth as a Man was 'that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death' Hebrews 2:14 ( Hosea 13:14 ). As we've noted, in some of Jesus final words on the cross, recorded in John 19:30; He cried 'It is finished!'

 And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark[a]and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God.

 John is obviously looking at the same scene as in chapter four, when he looked through 'Heavens Open Door'. A 'startling' difference, as you can see, is that this 'sea of glass' was 'mingled with fire'; 'fire' as we have often seen in the Scriptures, specifically the Prophets, and throughout this study, is most often indicative of judgment. John wrote, in I John 5:4a, that 'whatever is born of God overcomes the world', this 'world', in the covenant context, of course, being that 'world' under whose oppression they labored, the Old Covenant economy of the first century. Although this is applicable to us as well today; it is important to our state of mind, and joy of heart, I believe, to realize this historical context, and that these words of comfort ( which should give us comfort, as well ) were meant for a particular audience which was facing a particular situation ( 'the Great Tribulation' ) .

We've already discussed somewhat the significance of the 'harps', but to look at it from a slightly different angle; I'm sure that most, if not all of my readers will remember these words in I Samuel 16:14; 'But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the LORD troubled him': in the following verse, we see that David, the future king of Israel, was employed to 'take a harp and play it with his hand', thus bringing some small comfort to Saul, by the consequent departure of the 'distressing spirit'. The significance of this story, I believe we can see, as relates to John's words above, is that not only were these harps being used to praise and worship God, but also to bring comfort to those saints who had been persecuted to the death, that waited patiently ( Revelation 6:9 ) for the judgment of God, which was about to be ( Greek mello ).

They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: “ Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints![b] Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested.”

' Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the LORD, and spoke, saying: “I will sing to the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!  The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; my father’s God, and I will exalt Him. The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is His name.  Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea; his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea.  The depths have covered them; they sank to the bottom like a stone.“Your right hand, O LORD, has become glorious in power; Your right hand, O LORD, has dashed the enemy in pieces.  And in the greatness of Your excellence  You have overthrown those who rose against You; You sent forth Your wrath; it consumed them like stubble.  And with the blast of Your nostrils the waters were gathered together; the floods stood upright like a heap; the depths congealed in the heart of the sea.  The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; My desire shall be satisfied on them. I will draw my sword, My hand shall destroy them.’ You blew with Your wind, the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters. “Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?  You stretched out Your right hand; the earth swallowed them.  You in Your mercy have led forth the people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength to Your holy habitation. “The people will hear and be afraid; sorrow will take hold of the inhabitants of Philistia. Then the chiefs of Edom will be dismayed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling will take hold of them; all the inhabitants of Canaan will melt away. Fear and dread will fall on them; by the greatness of Your arm they will be as still as a stone, till Your people pass over, O LORD, till the people pass over whom You have purchased. You will bring them in and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, in the place, O LORD, which You have made for Your own dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established. “The LORD shall reign forever and ever.”' ( Exodus 15:1-18 ( Deuteronomy 32:1-43 )

This lengthy quote from 'the exodus' is sung by the first century Christians, as John 'sees', because they have undergone much the same persecution at the hands of the Old Covenant 'children' of Israel, as they themselves had undergone at the hands of their own cruel taskmasters, the Egyptians, and they, as Moses and his 'children' did, rejoiced over  the judgment that God had visited upon His and their enemies.

After these things I looked, and behold,[c] the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened.

In the manner of clarification; John almost repeats himself here, and as we'll see in the last few verses of this 15th chapter of the Revelation, revealing where these 'angels' came from; from the 'temple' in 'heaven'. from the very Presence of God!

'When Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the temple.[a] And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD’s house' ( II Chronicles 7:1 & 2 ( Isaiah 6:1, Ezekiel 43:5 )

You might remember also; John's words very like these, that he wrote in the very beginning of his vision, when he first saw 'a door standing open in heaven'. Now, also in the manner of clarification; John recorded that he saw the Temple itself ( ? ) 'opened' to his wondering eyes!

And out of the temple came the seven angels having the seven plagues, clothed in pure bright linen, and having their chests girded with golden bands.

'Then Moses brought Aaron and his sons and washed them with water. And he put the tunic on him, girded him with the sash, clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod on him; and he girded him with the intricately woven band of the ephod, and with it tied the ephod on him. Then he put the breastplate on him, and he put the Urim and the Thummim[a] in the breastplate. And he put the turban on his head. Also on the turban, on its front, he put the golden plate, the holy crown, as the LORD had commanded Moses.' ( Leviticus 8:6-9 )

'Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.'  ( Revelation 1:12 & 13 )

I'd like to point out here, the very noticeable similarities between John's vision of the Son of Man in Revelation 1 and his vision of the angels that carried the seven last plagues, in which 'the wrath of God is complete' in the passage above. As I pointed out in a recent article, 'Angels, Unaware';

'Traditionally; 'angels' have been spirit-beings that fulfill many different purposes, from guardian 'angels' to 'angels' of mercy. Along these lines; can not human beings fulfill these purposes as well?'

I also stressed the important fact that both the Hebrew מַלְאָךְ ( 'mal'ak' )and the Greek ἄγγελος ( 'aggelos' ) mean simply, 'messenger'. As we read in Revelation 2; John was to relay this information to 'the angels of the seven churches': the question has been raised, 'who were these angels?' Traditionally, I believe, there has been little argument against the view that these 'angels' referred to the pastors, or overseers of these churches. If this is true, then the 'angels' that John saw in his vision ( for remember, it was a vision! ) were just men who relayed God's message to His people, thus the 'angels' in the passage above, bringing ( signs of ) the final judgment of God to bear on the enemies of His people were but men, pastors ( prophets ) even, bringing God's final message of warning ( and comfort ) to His Old Covenant 'children'!

Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever.

Having been over this 'ground' before; I need not say much here, except that I find it rather interesting that the 'four living creatures' that we saw back in the 4th chapter of the book of Revelation ( verses 6-9 ), which seem to be significant of the animal creation of God ( Genesis 1:21-27 ). In part one of this study; I wrote, concerning these beasts, 'The living creatures being 'in the midst of the throne, and around the throne', tells us that not only were these 'cherubim', protectors of God's glory, doing their job, guarding the Holiness, the throne of God, but as His creation, in the 'midst' ( Greek μέσος ), of His very throne, ostensibly ruling with Him, as the Israel of God!' The passage above, from Revelation 15, only serves to bear witness to this truth, because not only were they 'in the midst' of the Throne,but they were ruling ( passing judgment ) along with God, delivering to the 'seven angels' ( Revelation 1:20 ), the final judgment on God's Old Covenant 'children, seven 'golden bowls full of the wrath of God'!

The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power, and no one was able to enter the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.

'Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub, and paused over the threshold of the temple; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the LORD’s glory.' ( Ezekiel 10:4 )

'When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning, then the LORD will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a covering.' ( Isaiah 4:4 & 5 )

'Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain[a] quaked greatly.' ( Exodus 19:18 )

'When Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the temple.[a] And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD’s house.' ( II Chronicles 7:1 & 2 )

Ezekiel recorded, in his prophetic utterance, how the Glory of the Lord came to rest one final time, as a significant prelude to His adverse judgment upon the wicked and apostate house of Judah ( Israel ), and Isaiah comforts His people by His promise that, once this adverse judgment has found it's fulfillment; then, and only then, will God's Presence finally come to it's final rest, once again, in the midst ( Luke 17:20 & 21 ) of His people. At Mount Sinai; God descended in a typical foreshadow of the judgment that He would later pass upon His covenant children as they continually apostatized, and we see chronicled above, that no one, including the priests, were not able to enter the Temple, nor attend to their duties ( verses 4-6 ), until God had consumed the burnt offerings and sacrifice, thus in a type, signifying that the way to His presence had been opened ( Hebrews 9:8 ), which had been accomplished at the cross, but was now manifest through His adverse judgment upon His Old Covenant 'children', in the destruction ( Matthew 22:1-14  ) of their 'fleshly' city ( Hebrews 11:13-16 ( 12:22 )  and Temple.

As we continue in this study; my prayer is that God will use my feeble words, by His Almighty Spirit to reveal to my readers that the judgment is indeed past ( for those in Christ ), and that this book ( of Revelation ) is nothing to fear, but is there for our learning ( understanding ) and instruction on how God  dealt with His ( Old ) covenant people.

In the love of Christ,
and by God's grace and mercy,
Charles Shank


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Angels, Unaware

A little play on words, for sure, but why do so many people seem to be blissfully unaware that we are all angels ( for good or evil ) because I believe that 'angels' are 'simply' messengers of God, 'sent' to carry out His purposes.

Most Christians are familiar with this verse from Hebrews 13:2; 'Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.' ( KJV ), but I believe, as I implied above, that as many seem to forget the fact that they themselves are 'messengers' of God, sent by Him to fulfill a certain purpose, however unbeknownst to them.

Traditionally; 'angels' have been spirit-beings that fulfill many different purposes, from guardian 'angels' to 'angels' of mercy. Along these lines; can not human beings fulfill these purposes as well? Why must 'angels' necessarily be 'spirits, or spirit-beings? I will acknowledge that sometimes, inexplicable events happen in our lives that make us believe in the supernatural all over again, something that just shouldn't have happened ( or been averted, things that make us more aware of the saving Presence of God, making us realize that 'something' is out there ( that we are not physically aware of ), watching over us, caring for us, when it seems there's no help in sight.

Let's review for a bit, what Scripture has to say about these creatures known as 'angels';

To lay a bit of groundwork for the story of Lot's escape from the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah, lets look first at a few passage from Genesis 18. Verse 1a reads 'Then the LORD appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre' and in the very next that 'behold, three men were standing by him' ( I believe, in certain circles, this is taken to be indicative of the Trinity, but this is not the time nor place for any such discussion. ) One of these 'men' was obviously the Leader, for Abraham addresses Him alone as 'My Lord'. In the rest of the chapter follows the prayer of Abraham and his conversation with God, pleading with Him to spare Sodom for Lot's sake. The next chapter opens with the words 'Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening' and the following verses tell how Lot brought these 'angels' ( Hebrew 'mal'ak'-messenger ) into his home for the evening, we read in verse 5, that the men of Sodom came to the door of Lot's home, asking 'Where are the men who came to you tonight?' Obviously, these men ( of Sodom ) saw these 'messengers' as mere men! It could be argued here, that they were mistakenly assumed to be 'just' men, and that may or may not be the case, but Lot does not correct their mistake, saying, in verse 8, 'do nothing to these men', and in fact, the author of Genesis also seems to continue the 'facade', referring to these 'angels', in verses 10 and 12, as 'the men'. In the next few verses then; we see these men warning Lot of the importance of vacating the city, but verse 15 reveals once again that these are not 'just' men, when 'the angels urged Lot to hurry', and in verse 18; Lot referred to them as 'my lords' ( plural ), and in the following passage, to a singular person, who replied, as the Lord ( God ) Himself, 'I cannot do anything until you arrive there' ( V. 22 ) We know that God then destroyed that city with fire and brimstone from Heaven, but I believe that this story makes clear that these angels, though maybe not 'mere' men, were simply messengers of God, sent to fulfill ( by His power ) His will!

When the prophet Daniel received his visions from God; he also received help from a messenger of God, sent to help him understand ( Daniel 9:21 ). He first saw this 'angel' in chapter 8, verse 15, as 'having the appearance of a man'. After this unsettling vision; Daniel made his prayer to God for his people and was sent 'the man Gabriel', whom he had seen earlier, who then comforted him with God's Word. Once again, in the next chapter; Daniel receives comfort from this 'angel' with the 'likeness of a man'! At the end of his vision, in chapter 12 then; we see a 'man clothed in linen' that speaks words of comfort and understanding to Daniel, much like we, as Christians, are to do for our fellow man!

The apostle Paul, in Galatians 4:14; reminded the brethren there, how they had 'received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.' Traditionally, the 'angels' in the first part of the book of Revelation are what we might call their 'pastors', or 'overseers' ( Acts 7:53 ). As I hinted at above; there are many passages in the Scripture that seem to point to 'angels' being super-natural, but in many, if not all cases, a human being could just as easily be the 'messenger', as the power that flows through any being comes from God, and He can do His will just as easily through a mere human being as through a spirit being; witness the parting of the Red Sea, for example!

Speaking of 'the sons of the resurrection' ( Luke 20:36 ); Jesus Himself declared that 'when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.' ( Mark 12:25 ( John 1:51 ) Some may argue that we are not 'in the resurrection', that we have not yet 'risen from the dead' ( except spiritually, of course ), and this point can be and has been laboriously argued, but this is not the point here: the point that I have striven to make here, is that biblically speaking, 'angels' are not ( necessarily ) the super-natural ( with literal wings ) spirit-beings that tradition has taught us to envision, but rather that they are 'simply' the messengers through whom God works, showing His power, either super-naturally, or as is more often the case, through ordinary, human means!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Studies in the Book of the Revelation of Jesus the Christ the Son of God ( the visions ( final judgment ( the Lamb and the people of God ) pt 11

Understanding the Book of Revelation.

Then I looked, and behold, a[a] Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having[b] His Father’s name written on their foreheads.

The tendency to look at the passage above in a physically literal way, as with many such passages, has been practiced by many churches, interpreting the phrase 'one hundred and forty-four thousand' as an exact number of persons ( of varying sorts, depending on the church, but, as I wrote several studies ago, in my study of Revelation 7, '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': later in the same study; I pointed out that '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.' Whatever the case may be; I believe that the main thing to notice here, besides the fact that John made it clear that these people were 'standing' with the Lamb, is that they, like those significant Israelites, 'twelve thousand ' from each of the tribes of Israel ( excepting one ), they all bore a special 'mark', or seal. From my previous study, of Revelation 13, we saw how that the second 'beast', from the 'earth', or land, 'causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads'. I noted how that the enemies of God's people were wont to mimic the miracles and attributes of God, whether for the purpose of trying to lessen potency of God's power, or whatever the reason may be; John makes special note here that all of these people had received 'His Father’s name written on their foreheads', thus bearing the 'mark' that signified Life, rather than 'the Mark of the Beast' that led to condemnation, as we read in chapter 13 and will see again later in this study. ( Note that these people also had a 'name written on their foreheads'. )

And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps.

'His brother’s name was Jubal. He was the father of all those who play the harp and flute.' ( Genesis 4:21 )

'Let our master now command your servants, who are before you, to seek out a man who is a skillful player on the harp. And it shall be that he will play it with his hand when the distressing spirit from God is upon you, and you shall be well'. ( Samuel 16:16 )

'So they came to Jerusalem, with stringed instruments and harps and trumpets, to the house of the LORD'. ( II Chronicles 20:28 )

'Praise the LORD with the harp; make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings'. ( Psalm 33:2 )

'Sing to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and the sound of a psalm'. ( Psalm 98:5 )

'I will sing a new song to You, O God; on a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You'. ( Psalm 144:9 )

'Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; praise Him with the lute and harp!'

From these few examples, which, interestingly enough, come mostly from the Psalms of David, a type of Christ; we can see where John might have 'pulled' his imagery from, and where we get the traditional 'picture' of angels ( saints ) flitting about the heavenly realms in white robes, playing harps. ( One thinks of that line from an old hymn, 'a harp, a home, a crown'- When We See Christ ). Besides the fact that the harp is one of the most beautiful-sounding of musical instruments, it is probably one of the most prolific ( or was anyway ) Middle-eastern instruments used for making music; this can be witnessed to by the fact that the Scriptures record it as one of the first instruments ever played in that region of the globe, as seen above, in Genesis 4.

In previous studies; we have noted that, in the Revelation anyway, when God uttered His voice ( from 'Heaven' ); John heard 'a voice like thunder', and 'the voice of many waters'. Not wishing to re-hash too much here, but to repeat a few references; David wrote, in Psalm 29:3, 'The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders; the LORD is over many waters', and speaking of the flood-waters of Noah's day, I believe, in Psalm 104:7, 'At Your rebuke they fled; at the voice of Your thunder they hastened away'. In Ezekiel 3:12, where the prophet finds himself in much the same situation as John, in Revelation 1:10, 'I heard behind me a great thunderous voice'. When this same prophet recorded his vision of 'the living creatures' in Ezekiel 1; he wrote 'When they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of many waters, like the voice of the Almighty', and later, in chapter 43 when God showed him a vision of His earthly dwelling-place, ( Ephesians 2:22 ( I Corinthians 6:19 ) , the Temple, he recorded that 'His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory'. Finally, in a wise man's discourse to his friends, in Job 37:2, the author writes, 'Hear attentively the thunder of His voice, and the rumbling that comes from His mouth'.

They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth.

We are all quite familiar with the many references  that David made to 'a new song', in his Psalms ( 33:3, 40:3, 96:1, 98:1, 144:9, 149:1 ), but a fairly famous reference from Isaiah ( 42:10 ), '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!', comes in the midst of one of probably one of the most well-known passages revealing Jesus the Christ, what might be called a pre-revelation. The 'voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters' that John heard, arguably the same as the 'one hundred and forty-four thousand' that John introduced earlier, now took up that 'new song' that those redeemed ones sang before, and in praise of, the One who sat on the Throne.

John wrote that 'no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand'. In Revelation 2:17; Jesus wrote to the church of Pergamos ( of 'him that overcomes' ) that 'I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it',of which Isaiah had prophesied beforehand, speaking of the inhabitants of the New Jerusalem, saying, 'You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD will name' ( Isaiah 62:2 ). This new name was given to those who believed on Jesus Christ and thus is integrally related to this new song that only a certain few could learn. This new song, obviously in praise of God in Christ, for, not only His redemptive work, but also for who He was, would have only been learn-able by those who were teachable. As with so many today, the Pharisees thought that they had all knowledge, all truth, but because they refused, for the most part, to receive the knowledge and truth that Christ brought, they were not able to learn this new song, or to sing the praises of God in Christ!

 These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed[c] from among men, being first-fruits to God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no deceit,[d] for they are without fault before the throne of God.[e]

'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.' ( Hebrews 12:22-24 )

In the passage above; we notice the writer to the Hebrews describing the spiritual state, or condition that the people of God have arrived at, through Christ, in the New Covenant. In doing so; he used a type of 'biblical parallelism' that we have encountered before, both in the Scriptures as a whole, and in these studies.

When John wrote that 'These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins'; one might get the idea that John ( Jesus ) was saying that only those who had not been intimate with a woman
could hope to be one of these chosen to sing the new song before the Throne;  (in fact; I believe that some probably have, over the ages, though probably not so much anymore ) but I believe that most Christians have realized, and will readily admit that such is not the case! John, I believe, was simply saying that these had not been defiled by their contact with those 'under' the Old Covenant, 'the ministry of death' ( II Corinthians 3:7 ), but had indeed been redeemed from among men, and become 'first-fruits' ( of the Resurrection ) to God, through the earthly ministry of Christ.

'Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.' ( Psalm 32:2 ( II Corinthians 5:19 )

'He who works deceit shall not dwell within my house; he who tells lies shall not continue in my presence.' ( Psalm 101:7 ( John 1:47 )

'And they[a] made His grave with the wicked— but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth.' ( Isaiah 53:9 ( Zephaniah 3:13 )

Although I believe that no one can truly say that they have never practiced deceit, or told a lie ( however small or 'white' ); we can say, with impunity, that God did not, and does not, impute sin to our account, but transferred His Righteousness upon us thus clothing us with the righteousness of Christ! I believe too, though, that, as with all of Scripture; David's words above were 'geared' more toward a covenantal viewpoint ( see also Psalm 35:20Isaiah 30:10, Jeremiah 14:14, Acts 13:10, II Corinthians 4:1-6 ( Ephesians 4:14 ),Colossians 2:8 ). It goes without saying then, that we are, because of Christ's atoning work, 'without fault before the throne of God'!

Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people—saying with a loud voice, 'Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water'.

 This is interesting: in John's vision now, he describes an ( singular ) angel ( 'messenger' ) bringing ( revealing ) the everlasting gospel to 'those who dwell on the earth'. Again; 'earth' here, might better be translated 'land'. I am reminded of Jesus' sending forth of the disciples to prepare His way ( 'warm'em up, so to speak ). Although the Gospel of Matthew does not record this, as does Luke's, which reads 'After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also,[a] and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go' ( Luke 10:1-20 ), Matthew did record that Jesus 'sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand' ( Matthew 10:5-23 ). In the same chapter; he later told them 'you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. Remember that, back in the first study that we did, on the first three chapters of the Revelation, Jesus called the ministers, or 'pastors' of the seven churches 'angels', or messengers.

Jesus revealed through that 'everlasting gospel' that the time for judgment had come ( I Peter 4:17 ). Jesus said concerning the Pharisees, 'For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.' ( John 9:39 ( Malachi 3:5 ) He said earlier, in John 5:24, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life', so when Jesus said this, He was obviously talking about adverse judgment, in the context of Scripture, the judgment of Old Covenant Israel ( after the flesh ).

And another angel followed, saying, “Babylon[f] is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.

'Babylon is fallen, is fallen! And all the carved images of her gods He has broken to the ground.' ( Isaiah 21:9 )

'Babylon has suddenly fallen and been destroyed. Wail for her! Take balm for her pain; perhaps she may be healed'. ( Jeremiah 51:8 )

In both of the above passages, the first of which this second 'angel' borrowed his quote from, are in reference to the fall of the Babylonian empire at the hand of the Medes and Persians ( ultimately, judgment from God-Jeremiah 50:1-3 ), I believe that it was repeated in the book of Revelation, as a sort of 'code word' for national, physical Israel ( Jerusalem and it's leaders in particular ), referring to the fact that they had done the same things to the true people of God, to the remnant, as Babylon and other surrounding nations had done. Jeremiah described, in the 25th chapter of the book of his prophecy, how God used Babylon to punish His people for their idolatry, by causing them to be led captive to a foreign land away from the Presence of God, which was signified by the Jewish Temple ( Exodus 15:17 ( II Chronicles 7:1 ). As Babylon had carried the physical nation of Israel captive; so the leaders of physical Israel had led the spiritual Israel of God captive, as witnessed by Matthew 23, Luke 4:16-21, John 8:31-36, Galatians 6:12 & 13, Ephesians 4:8, II Timothy 2:26, etc., and would now likewise be judged.  

As I explained above; most Christians understand the cry of this second 'angel' as referring to the actual city of Babylon ( on the Euphrates ) that is located in the present-day nation of Iraq, and that somehow, the re-building, and consequent destruction of this city is what John heard about, but looking at this from a covenantal perspective, or from the view-point that all or most of Scripture had to do with God's dealings with His covenant people, in particular, His Old Covenant children, the physical nation of Israel; I believe that this is not the case. Babylon, to my limited knowledge, had never covenanted with God, though they were a chosen tool of His-Jeremiah 27:6 ), and thus would not be referred to as making 'all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication', speaking, of course of the spiritual fornication ( covenant-breaking ) of which the physical 'children' of Israel ( after the flesh ) were manifestly guilty. In II Chronicles 21:11; we read, concerning king Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat 'Moreover he made high places in the mountains of Judah, and caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit harlotry, and led Judah astray'. God pled with the inhabitants of Judah in Jerusalem, in Jeremiah 13:27, reminding them that 'I have seen your adulteries and your lustful neighings, the lewdness of your harlotry, your abominations on the hills in the fields. Woe to you, O Jerusalem! Will you still not be made clean?' Recounting His love for Jerusalem ( Israel ) in the first part of Ezekiel 16; God reminds His people, in verses 16-30, how they 'played the harlot', first, with the Assyrians, and the offered themselves even as 'far as the land of the trader, Chaldea' ( see also Ezekiel 23 ). In making His case, laying charges against these people, in Hosea 4:13; God reminded them that 'My people ask counsel from their idols, and their staff informs them. For the spirit of harlotry has caused them to stray, and they have played the harlot against their God'.

Because of this spiritual ( and often, physical ) harlotry; God had determined to pour out His wrath on this apostate, covenant-breaking people, and finally make a complete end of their wickedness 'once for all' ( Daniel 12:7 ). Speaking of His chosen weapon, of Babylon, in Ezekiel 21:31, God told His 'children' 'I will pour out My indignation on you; I will blow against you with the fire of My wrath, and deliver you into the hands of brutal men who are skillful to destroy' ( see also 22:21 & 31 ). The prophet Hosea recorded that God said 'The princes of Judah are like those who remove a landmark; I will pour out My wrath on them like water' ( 5:10 ), and Zephaniah 1:18 reads that, because of this harlotry committed against God and His Covenant, 'Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD’s wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of His jealousy, for He will make speedy riddance of all those who dwell in the land'. Lastly; remember the words of Jesus, God's only begotten Son, in Luke 21:20-22:  'But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.  Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled'. The 'cup of wrath' belonging to the 'children' of Israel, spoken of in the Old Covenant Scriptures, had been filled to the full, and God was now ready to judge!

Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation.

 John now witnesses a third 'angel', this one revealing the 'other side of the coin' of this 'everlasting gospel', good news to some, bad news for others; as Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, 'For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God' ( I Corinthians 1:18 ). The ones that Paul wrote of that were 'perishing' were those first-century Jews that had heard the Gospel, had walked with, and heard the Truth, yet rejected it. The apocryphal book of I Maccabees, which I believe I have mentioned before, gives us an example of those that forsook, of course, at the instigation of the Romans (or the Syrians, as the case may be ) the worship of the true God, in favor of those that were not gods, and indeed, even when Pilate, the Roman Governor, who could find no wrong ( doing ) in Jesus, asked what should be done with their King; they cried out that He should be crucified, and then drove the nails even deeper, signing their own death warrant, when they told Pilate 'We have no king but Caesar!'

Speaking of past desolations of the great city, the prophet Isaiah wrote 'Awake, awake! Stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk at the hand of the LORD the cup of His fury; you have drunk the dregs of the cup of trembling, and drained it out.' ( Isaiah 51:17 ), and in Jeremiah 25:15; God pronounced judgment on the nations, telling the prophet to 'Take this wine cup of fury from My hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send you, to drink it'. ( see also Jeremiah 51:7, Lamentations 4:21, Ezekiel 23:31-34, Habakkuk 2:16, Zechariah 12:2 )

He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.

This, and other such passages have been, and are still used to propagate the notion that the wicked are condemned to consciously suffer enduring punishment, even after physical death. One such passage from the Hebrew Scriptures used to advance this 'doctrine' is one that we should all be fairly familiar with; Daniel 12:2, 'And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt'. Notice that Daniel, or rather Gabriel, does not contrast life and death, but rather life and contempt, or shame. Of those who did not recognize the Body of Christ ( I Corinthians 11:27-34 ); Jesus said, in Matthew 25:46, 'And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.' Again; we see a contrast between punishment and life, not death and life. One possible explanation of John's statement above, 'tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.' is that the unbelieving Jews who had not taken Jesus' warning ( Matthew 24:15-21, Luke 21:20-22. ) were thus trapped in the City ( again, see the writings of Josephus ) and engulfed in the conflagration surrounding Jerusalem and the Temple in AD70. Remember that Scripture compares the destruction of the Temple with that of Sodom and Gomorrah ( Genesis 19:24-28, Deuteronomy 29:23-28, Isaiah 1:9Amos 4:11, Matthew 10:15 ( Mark 6:11 ), II Peter 2:6, Jude 6 & 7 ), which cities were destroyed by physically literal 'brimstone and fire'. Some would disagree; I'm sure, but Scripture tells us ( Matthew 16:28 ( 10:23 ) that, whether Jesus came in what is often mistakenly called His 'second coming', or just in judgment; He was present at the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple!

For just a bit; lets look at John's statement 'the smoke of their torment ascends forever', and note the similarities, again, to language concerning, not only the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah ( Genesis 19:28-'the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace' ( Genesis 15:17 ), but the Presence of God ( Exodus 19:18-'Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain[a] quaked greatly' ( Psalm 68:2 ), and the righteous judgment of the wicked ( Isaiah 34:10-'It shall not be quenched night or day; its smoke shall ascend forever. From generation to generation it shall lie waste; no one shall pass through it forever and ever' ).

Here is the patience of the saints; here are those[g] who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me,[h] “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”

Remember that, back in Revelation 1:9; John comforted the churches, telling them that he too, was their 'brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ', that they were not alone, but that he too, was one of those who waited for 'the kingdom of God' ( Mark 15:43, Luke 23:51 ( Revelation 6:9 ), and for 'the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ' ( I Corinthians 1:7 ). John used the Greek ὑπομονή, transliterated hypomonē, to give the idea of 'steadfastness, constancy, endurance'. Paul exhorted the church at Colossi to 'continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast' ( Colossians 1:23 ), and speaking of the rest that they were about to enter, and which we have entered, in Christ; the writer to the Hebrews exhorted his brethren, reminding them that 'we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end' ( Hebrews 3:14 ). Speaking of Abraham, and his reception of the promise ( Genesis 15, 17:1- 8 ), the Author of the letter to the Hebrews said 'And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise' ( Hebrews 6:15 ). These along with the numerous examples that we read about in Hebrews 11, are those whom Jesus had in mind, I believe, when He gave these words to His servant John, although primarily He may have been referring to those first century Christians who had lost their lives ( physically ) to either Jewish or Roman persecution.

'For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His'. ( Hebrews 4:10 )

In context, I believe, as I have reasoned elsewhere, that the entering of Christ's rest, and thus ceasing from our works, is not speaking, as some have thought, of our physical demise, and entering, as some would say 'our eternal rest', but is speaking, rather, of our becoming 'in' Christ, resting in His completed work, and ceasing from ( trusting in ) our own. Jesus words above, through John, have a more immediate sense, I believe, of giving comfort to the friends and loved ones of those who were physically dieing all around them ( I Thessalonians 4:13-18 ), but referred too, in a more expansive sense, to those who had trusted in Christ,  in the work that He had done, and was doing, and ceased to trust in their own works.

Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.

'Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.’' ( Matthew 13:30 )

Earlier in this Gospel, before Jesus gave His disciples the parable of 'the sower', He told His disciples, speaking of this same 'harvest', 'The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.' ( Matthew 9:37 & 38 ) I believe that what John saw above must have brought to ( his ) mind what God had revealed to the prophet Joel, in Joel 3:13, 'Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, go down; for the winepress is full, the vats overflow— for their wickedness is great', and Hosea 6:11, where God promised 'Also, O Judah, a harvest is appointed for you, when I return the captives of My people.' This 'harvest', as with any judgment, meant salvation for His people ( as in the parable of 'the wheat and the tares' above ), and everlasting destruction for His enemies ( Matthew 22:1-14 ).

And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You[i] to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.

'Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”' ( Acts 1:9-11 )

As we have seen from our study of many phrases containing the word 'cloud' in Scripture, particularly in the Prophets; 'clouds' most often indicate adverse judgment. From the passages above, which, interestingly enough, the latter one is just about the only Scriptural basis that many can find for a ( future ) physical return of Christ, we can ascertain that this One who sat 'on the cloud' was none but Jesus Christ. Interesting too, is the fact that John refers to the One on the cloud as 'another angel', in his previous statement. Now, admittedly; the translators, upon whom the prerogative has fallen, have chosen, in this case, not to capitalize 'angel' here, where in other cases 'Angel' refers specifically ( traditionally anyway ) to the Son of God ( pre-incarnate? ), and 'angel' to 'just' a messenger of God. Just a thought: I'll let my readers 'glean' from this what they will..............

In the parable of 'the wheat and tares', above, in Matthew 13:39; we read 'The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels'. We read earlier, in Matthew 9:26 & 37, and the parallel passage in Luke 10:2 ( 'The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest' ), about the upcoming harvest ( Matthew 21:33-45 ), but Jesus also said, in a related passage in John's Gospel ( 4:35 ), 'My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!'

Concerning God's Old Covenant 'children' of Israel; Jesus spoke this parable, in Luke 13:6-9, 'A certain man7 Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that[a] you can cut it down.' ( see also Matthew 21:19 )

 Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.
And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe

We have another example here, which we have seen much in this book, of a sort of 'biblical parallelism'. I will not endeavor here, other than certain remarks I've already made, to explain why John repeats this scenario twice, but, for whatever reason; he seems to 'see' the same vision here, just revealed in a slightly different way.

Repeating what he had 'seen' earlier, John recorded that yet 'another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle'. Whether or not this was a different 'angel' seems to be  beside the point; by repeating the same event, I believe that John is again emphasizing Jesus words at the beginning of His Revelation, 'the time is near', that not only that it was a definite thing, but that the time had drawn near, it was 'at hand' ( James 5:8 )

'Binding his donkey to the vine, and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, He washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes' ( Genesis 49:11 )

Jacob ( Israel ) prophesied the coming of Christ in judgment of His covenant people millenia before His advent. When John recorded his vision of this 'grape' harvest, one can easily tell that he must have been thinking of this prophesy in Genesis, as well as many others, like Isaiah 5:1-7, 17:6 ( 65:8 ), 24:13, Jeremiah 8:13, 25:30, and Hosea 9:10.

Although John's repetitious statement above is fairly clearly parallel to his previous one; there is one ( at least ) notable difference, this angel 'had power over fire'.

'Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.' ( John 5:24-27 )

'And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.” ' ( John 9:39 )

'“I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!' ( Luke 12:49 )

Throughout our study, not only of the Revelation, but the whole of prophetic Scripture, it is clear that, among other things, 'fire' is often indicative of judgment ( Numbers 26:10, Deuteronomy 32:22, Psalm 46:9, Isaiah 29:6, Joel 2:30, Zephaniah 3:8, II Peter 3:7 ). In a repetition almost, as we have seen, of his previous statement; John makes abundantly clear, once again, that the 'angel' which 'came out of the temple which is in heaven' was none other than Jesus Himself, for only He has 'had power over fire', in context, the judgment, for good or evil, of His covenant people.

'So Moses said to Aaron, “Take a censer and put fire in it from the altar, put incense on it, and take it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them; for wrath has gone out from the LORD. The plague has begun.”' ( Numbers 16:46 )

'Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “ Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.” ' ( Isaiah 6: 6 & 7 )

Although, as I pointed out above; John's extra reference above make it all the more clear that this angel was the Son of God, it is also clear that He was given power for salvation, a judgment for the better, on those who had remained true to the God of their fathers.

Interesting too, is the addition of 'the vine of the earth' and its 'grapes'. In outlining His case against His Old Covenant 'children' of Israel; God recalled, in Jeremiah 2:21, that 'I had planted you a noble vine, a seed of highest quality. How then have you turned before Me into the degenerate plant of an alien vine?' ( Jeremiah 8:13 ) Joel prophesied that God would use the enemies of His covenant people to 'thresh' them, when He said 'He has laid waste My vine, and ruined My fig tree; he has stripped it bare and thrown it away; its branches are made white' ( Joel 1:7 ) Because of their covenant unfaithfulness; God promised, in Amos 5:17, 'In all vineyards there shall be wailing, for I will pass through you,” says the LORD'. All this, and more even, should bring to the forefront of our mind, that this judgment was for or against God's covenant 'children', especially when keeping in mind passages like Isaiah 5:1-7  ( Matthew 21:33-44 ) and John 15:1-8. Lastly; God told the prophet Jeremiah,

'Therefore prophesy against them all these words, and say to them:  The LORD will roar from on high, and utter His voice from His holy habitation; He will roar mightily against His fold. He will give a shout, as those who tread the grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth. A noise will come to the ends of the earth— for the LORD has a controversy with the nations; He will plead His case with all flesh. He will give those who are wicked to the sword,’ says the LORD.' ( Jeremiah 25: 30 & 31 )

In the love of Christ',
and in His service,
Charles Shank