The Pagan Path

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

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


No comments: